the sound of the lake

Words & Photography by Gunn Kristin Monsen
15th June 2018

Nothing clears my head as simplicity, beautiful flowers and the sound of the lake.

I have always been drawn to the lake. Growing up spending all my summers at my grandparents place where I could run to the lake and have a swim any time, has made it so natural. The feeling of heather scraping up my bare legs as I ran the few meters to our hidden place. The joy of the fresh water as I entered the lake to swim in the tiny bay with my friend and the amazing feeling of just existing in the moment. Luxury given by nature so generously and consumed and enjoyed totally natural as a child.

Living in Norway means for many Norwegians having the nature’s scenery as a backdrop to our daily life. The mountains, fjord woods, lakes and long coastline are our natural elements. We are so used to it and may forget sometimes the impact it has on our way of living and thinking.  For me a hectic life with no stopping points to catch my breath and the growing feeling of losing the ability to be in the moment, led me to search for the feeling again from my childhood. The beautiful feeling of time just passing as the mind take a break. My surroundings where the same as in my childhood, after settling with my family in the house where I had my summer paradise.  Still the nature had lost its effect on me. Being so consumed in the fast pace of my daily life I had no tools to recognize what was so close.

My turning point was my first yoga class and starting to practice simple breathing techniques in my life. I discovered myself lying in bed, breathing and suddenly really hearing the sounds from the nature right outside my open bedroom window. The singing birds, the leaves rustling in the wind and the gentle sound of the lake so close to our house. It brought me back to my first winter in this house. My husband and I had just moved from the city to my childhood paradise after my grandparents. The winter was so cold, but still we kept the window in the bedroom slightly open for fresh air. My baby girl was in our bed getting breastfeed and then I heard it, the sound from the frozen lake, like a humming song. It was the ice moving and swaying and it all made a sound deep and wavy. So calming and relaxing. The most beautiful soundtrack to a precious moment. How could I have I had stopped listening to that?

Now the summer is here and we have our windows wide open as often we can. Letting the sound of nature surround us, and be the soundtrack to our life. The water sound different now with its merry sounds hitting the stones around the lake. We swim and take a trip in our old rowboat hunting for waterlilies. The most beautiful white flower to be picked at just the right moment before it closes its crowns in the evening. The stillness on the lake and the feeling of running you’re hand through the water as the boat slowly moves along. The seagulls watching us closely to protect their newly hatched babies. All things so peaceful. At the house we move outside to live. We eat in the garden, and forget to check our watches in the light and long summer nights. This summer we have been blessed with warms sunny days and we feel them in our bodies the days the rain are pouring down. We are a strange people here in the north, spending so many days of the year inside waiting for these sometime few, but precious summer days.

I must admit I still have a long way to go in letting myself really benefit from the amazing tool the nature around me is as a calming source. I love my job and could do it all my awakening hours, but to do it well I need time to reflect, getting inspired and letting the stress go. I need time to be creative and to let myself be lost in the process. When the mind is filled with distracting  thoughts this is really hard. So I slowly give myself more space and room to breathe, getting closer to nature again and letting the sound of the lake inspire me to a life with more presence and living in the moment. It’s not easy but I am blessed with the the most beautiful surroundings to help me on my way.

My dream now is to build a studio in my garden. I have this image of the beautiful light from the lake streaming trough big windows in my studio, soft with a touch of blue tones from the water. Even closer to nature and its magic that clears my head time and time again.

© all pictures Gunn Kristin Monsen

More about Gunn,contributor of our NL2, here.

And more of this essay in our NL2 magazine.

 

 

 

a type of quiet we long after

Words & Photography by Mia Nguyen-

There’s a type of quiet I long after. It usually takes place in the early mornings and late evenings. This particular state of calm permeates every living space, making it easier to breathe and be still. The late and early darkness is often filled with tender murmurs of airplanes flying over, a subtle hum from the refrigerator. I’m neither a morning or night person, but these are the feelings that home exhibits after being away and on the road for stretches of time. It’s a calmness that creates a space for reflection.

Finding pockets of calm in daily living can feel precious and rare, especially when living in a noisy city. It’s the moment when the phone buzzes less and the flow of traffic comes to a dead stop. It’s the moment where you can close your eyes and just be left alone. In our busy day-to-day, this slowness in life is often forgotten about. Due to our fast-paced lifestyles we have adapted ourselves to we have to remind ourselves to slow down.

After a while, there’s always a need to escape to a place with quiet ambiance. Each season, I find myself having a sudden need to escape in an attempt to build new meaning for my creative work. Time starts to stretch and start to weigh like heavy glass blocks when the winter air remains stagnant and unproductive.

On a late November evening in 2017, I took a red-eye flight to Reykjavik from Boston. I had the unique opportunity to return to Iceland for the second time. It’s the first country where I received my first passport stamp and will forever cherish that memory. The purpose of my return was for a photography workshop focused on photographing arctic foxes on the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve of the Westfjords. The northwest region of Iceland is known for its intensity and extreme weather patterns. Life is rugged underneath the Arctic Circle and I prepared myself for the worst by packing clothes I could layer on top of each other for shooting photographs outside for long periods of time. I specifically chose to embark on this trip for its challenges and completely surrender myself to the environmental extremes. I wanted to push myself to the creative limits under harsh conditions. I wanted to go at it alone.

The word bravery is often associated with traveling alone. Bravery itself is a choice we make in order to remind ourselves of our own strength and courage. We are stronger than we think we are most of the time. If I allow the thoughts of fear of failure to seep in for too long, it’s game over. There’s real magic in diving deep into unexplored parts of ourselves and the world. Through this magic, we can find solace and understanding on what we are after and where we are going.

On day one, we packed up the Land Rovers with our equipment and headed to Súðavík, an 8-hour journey from Reykjavik. Just moments on the road, the trip had already surpassed my expectations. The views were nothing but awe-inspiring. Each mile and turn unfolded another natural wonder and a new weather pattern. Over the course of an hour we witnessed a rainstorm, a snowstorm, and vastness of sunlight. The tumultuous experience felt like a kaleidoscope dreamscape. In Iceland, we must surrender ourselves to the weather and adapt quickly to the sudden changes. It is crucial to go with the flow.

The small town of Ísafjörður was dusted in a generous amount of snow. The place resembled a real-life snow globe. As we departed from the marina, we were advised to switch our phones to airplane mode. It was nice to disconnect and say goodbye to the world for a brief moment. Our worlds in the modern age is grounded in staying constantly connected. The thought alone can be overwhelming. Switching off occasionally is essential for sanity’s sake. There’s so much of the world to experience presently.

Life generally slows down in the Westfjords. The landscape of Iceland is defined by its sparseness. The sun doesn’t rise until 10 a.m. or later in the winter. The waves from the water crash onto the rocks with full force. Everything is cloaked in deep blanket of darkness upon waking up and before 5 p.m. The combination of the fast and quiet winter breezes complement the expanse of the fjords.

© all pictures Mia Nguyen

The auroras swayed and danced gently underneath the Northern sky, making it easy to fall in love with every bit of what nature had to offer. Early mornings are bathed with hues of ethereal pink light. The land surrounding the cabin felt like an endless playground, a boundless space for creativity. It was hard to let go and make the realization that we had to leave and go back home.

Building a strong connection with the strangers that came together for this trip was unlike anything else I ever experienced. The experience would have been much more different if we had cell reception. Moments were serendipitous and carefree. People opened up and revealed their truths.

Excerpt from our NL1 magazine

 

 

kerlingarfjöll

Words & Images: Michael Schauer –

There are a few places in this world that look so surreal, you are unable to process that they actually exist just like this. Places that come with all the bells and whistles of a meticulously planned A-list movie production – lights, fog and all of that, yet they… just are. Perfect in their own right.
Iceland is known for its wonderfully surreal nature – be it the volcanic landscape, the enourmous glaciers or the hot spring trails – hence it served as a backdrop for many movies and shows. Game of Thrones, Interstellar to just name two of them.
The black sand beaches and waterfalls alongside the ring road in Iceland tell a thousand stories of beautiful moments and memories with every day the sun sets and rises anew. Yet they have been seen so often.

It might come off as ironic that the road leading up to one of the most unique and surreal places starts right where one of Iceland’s most iconic natural tourist attractions lies. Right next to the famous Gullfoss waterfalls a barely noticeable road – the F35 leads the way to Iceland’s cold and barren heart, to a radically different landscape. A few miles into that road, the lush green quickly dwindles and the colors of the land begin to take on earthen tones, a familiar but fascinating dress allowing a glimpse into what is yet to come. It is sparkled with sapphires as we pass the lakes Sandvatn and Hvitárvatn while the wind is getting harsher and temperatures begin to drop under the zero degree celsius mark making it all too clear that this is a different Iceland than the one we left behind at Gullfoss. A few miles after that, the road vanishes. All that you can follow now are the gravel tracks between the piles of rocks left and right which barely leave enough space for two cars to pass each other, let alone the enormous Arctic Truck models with wheels taller than a grown adult.

After entering the gravel road a gauntlet of bumps and potholes begins, a challenge for every car and driver but reviving and a more than welcome relief from the always straight and always crowded ring road. For two full hours there is nothing but the gravel on the road and the dust left behind.
But then… it is there. Kerlingarfjöll lying right before the eyes. The most surreal landscape leaving an impression never to be forgotten. Sulfuric steam boils out of the countless hotsprings, clouding the place in an everlasting fog and the same earthen colored gravel hills but now smoothly polished from a receding glacier, divided by rivers, paths and a small bridge. It is a painted world. You are alone in wind and silence. It is exalting.

© all pictures Michael Schauer with kind permission

Essay of our NL1 magazine!

a glimpse of the world…..

Words & Images by Elmoon Iraola-

I grew up in Northern Norway in a little town named Kirkenes, which is only a few minutes away from the Finnish border. Kirkenes is surrounded by a beautiful nature and flourishing wildlife. The winter there is long, and at times harsh to be honest. The days feels shortened due to the absence of daylight. Despite this, there is a beauty in the serenity and peacefulness winter brings, unlike anything else. And let’s not forget about the northern lights, the captivating aurora borealis. Seeing the lights high above your head dancing with such grace almost makes you believe in magic. This reveals how beautiful the world truly is.

Spending my youth up in the North gave me unique experiences and treasurable memories, but this would just be the starting point, as my hunger to discover the world increased with the years and I moved to the capital city, Oslo. I was honestly curious about urban life which gave the feeling of “rush” in the daily life. Shortly after, however, I began yearning back to nature and its calmness. I firmly believe that the landscape of my hometown had a greater impact subconsciously than what I initially thought. I had sincerely developed a higher appreciation for being out in the wilderness than ever before, but my studies forced me to stay in the big city. This is the reason why I’m inspired to explore new places, in Norway and beyond.

So I decided to discover more of the vast landscapes in the West of Norway, that is known for its many fjords, and that’s for a good reason. Glaciers, the creators of the deep and captivating valleys carved out these creations through erosion over several decades. After experiencing everything from the mesmerizing fjords, the powerful Vøringsfossen and to the turquoise waters in Lovatnet, I went on to explore Lofoten and Senja in the North. Standing before the mighty Segla in Senja and the mountains in Lofoten left me in total awe. There is nothing more powerful than to stand amongst these giants. The overwhelming feeling of humbleness is almost addictive to put it mildly. Nothing makes me feel more grounded, calm and connected to nature. But the most powerful experience so far is without doubt my visit to Iceland and the Faroe Islands last year. The first visit made such an impact that I simply had to return shortly after. The raw, unique and fierce landscapes stole my heart away and left me completely speechless.

Witnessing Drangarnir in the Faroes for the first time was such a surreal moment for me. On the day of the hike it had been pouring rain all day with fog so thick that you couldn’t see much of the surroundings, and there was no stopping the wind. My friend and I concluded to venture on with extreme caution. I found the last part of the hike to be somewhat sketchy as the trail was extremely slippery. The view we were rewarded with was inarguably worth the difficult hike. Finally, seeing that place with my very own eyes was a special moment which I find challenging to describe. The emotions I was experiencing standing there before Drangarnir are inexpressible.

© all pictures Elmoon Iraola with kind permission

Excerpt of our NL1 magazine.  Take care! Melanie Kettner

in the deep north is a place

Words & Images Linus Bergman-

In the deep north is a place. A place very different from others. This is a place where rock formations, hundreds of meters high, meet the sea.
It’s a place where nature almost feels untouched.
In summer the sun never leaves, in winter it never shows. Blizzards of snow. Rain running wild. Foxes playing in mountain corners. Deer carelessly walking man’s road.
Some people call it home, some people call it a dream.
This is the place known as, Lofoten.

It was once known for its fishing. Nowadays the biggest income is tourism. Which is not surprising, cause it doesn’t matter how many times you travel to this place.
The tiny red cabins, with the snowy mountain peaks as a backdrop. With four seasons in a day.
It will make you speechless.
Every time.

I visited this place many times in summer, experienced the serene beauty of the midnight sun, before deciding I wanted to know what’s left when the tourists are gone. What I noticed through the years, is that the place has lost its empty roads , as they are often too crowded with cars and tourist buses even in winter.

Lofoten is still a place that is distant but not unknown to people throughout the world. In a way, it remains mysterious. Lofoten has not yet been a part of commercialization as much as other parts of the world. I hope this stays that way.

Not that I mind and don’t want people to experience this beauty, but I have a belief that we need places like this, that are not yet “normalized” and explored fully. Land that can be a part of one’s fantasy. For young people to still be able to dream of exploration like I did in my younger years, to realize that the world is still a place for which questions can be asked. This may be its greatest value for the generations to come.

I grew up imagining our world as still unexplored. I loved to hear stories about adventurers and places untouched. I used my fantasy to travel to distant places. As I became older my thoughts went from Tintin to explorers like August Andre, Henry David Thoreau, John Muir and thinkers that made me realize that the world within is just as big as the one “out there”, like Lao Tzu.

Recently while writing in my journal, I got an understanding of why I choose to travel to this far away places, why I sit in the car for 30 some hours alone. It’s stillness. It’s silence I’m looking for, and not the silence you imagine while standing alone on a mountaintop, but rather the silence and stillness within oneself. Even though one can find it anywhere, I noticed for myself that these trips to Lofoten and places similar give me a chance to experience myself.

Oslo, big cities are common at this stage of life. Music, cars, people, advertisement and phones are all a part of our daily and usually hectic life. While they are useful, it’s easy to switch on autopilot, forgetting that moments in a room alone while doing nothing, or standing in nature with no thoughts,  are necessary for our souls. These moments let us become a bigger part of ourselves. As the Nordic paradise has done for me.

So the “Nordic Paradise” is a project for which I hope people can take a break, maybe for minutes, maybe for hours, to experience silence for a brief moment.

© all pictures Linus Bergman

Essay of our NL1 magazine!

the endless shapes of nature

Images: Gustav Willeit. Words: Gustav Willeit & Melanie Kettner-

“For after all what is man in nature? A nothing in relation to infinity, all in relation to nothing, a central point between nothing and all and infinitely far from understanding either. The ends of things and their beginnings are impregnably concealed from him in an impenetrable secret. He is equally incapable of seeing the nothingness out of which he was drawn and the infinite in which he is engulfed.”- Blaise Pascal

Gustav: The sublime according to Immanuel Kant is the sense of awe that man feels when faced with the greatness of nature – when it shows its more peaceful side, but even more so when unleashing its dreadful forces, making each and every one of us feel our smallness, our extreme fragility, our finitude. Yet at the same time, right when becoming aware of that, we intuit the infinite and realize that our soul is capable of far more than our senses can grasp.

Gustav: The mountains, depicted in their architecture of incredible variants and infinite chromatic shades, unveil another essential yet invisible element: silence – the kind of silence inviting the viewer to listen to it. This silence is not disturbed by the presence of the human figure, which is placed in these landscapes like an attempt to present a familiar and graspable element. Yet the effect is quite the contrary: the human figure is not reassuring but escapes reason by raising a feeling of senselessness.The choice of composition is expressed in a harmony of lines and volumes. The shots are set in the wild lands of the North: the dimensions broaden, vast deserted areas stretch among rocky formations. A straight line is separating the plains from the mountains. The latter rise towards the horizon, which is still intangible, seeing it as a chromatic distinction from the sky is impossible.

Melanie: Silence. Probably the most important inspiration we can get from the encounter with nature. Due to the outer noise around us we aren’t capable anymore to find our inner silence regularly, a place where we can find some quietness, peace and regeneration. We do need this silence more than we know. Often these days people fear the solitude and stillness. We should face them, as we need to be in harmony with our own strong parts that foster us best. We don’t get to know them if there is too much noise around us.

Melanie: “our soul is capable of far more than our senses can grasp”, Gustav has written. This is so true.We often underestimate our own capabilities and inner or outer resources. And at the same time we overestimate the power other persons have on us with words or deeds as well and what an impact difficult experiences have on us too. We can learn a lot from nature in this sense. Nature is regenerating soon, nature has a strong will to fight, nature is full of pride and self-esteem. We should concentrate and trust on our positive energy without focusing too much on bad events, bad news, fears, future.

© all pictures Gustav Willeit

Excerpt of our NL1 magazine

the way we look on it

Images Jon West & Words Melanie Kettner-

Life challenges us all from time to time, some of us have to overcome harder defiances than others. In the end, changing perspective becomes the most important tool we can use to adjust to life changes, that we can not avoid. Jon’s breathtaking earth images are the perfect symbol for this attitude we can adopt. As I psychological coach I often changed the seat with my client, sometimes literally. It all depends on how we look on occurrences. We let them do us harm, because we loose control over our own habitual thinking. The seize of an incident is defined not by itself, but by the way we look on it and the way we reflect on it.

Our thinking mostly follows automatic patterns, it’s not easy to learn to make them conscious and to stay aware of these self-acting responses. Interestingly human beings all have the same thinking patterns often dictated by fear and insecurity. To control them gives us a device to value an event more objectively and to detect the real dimension of it.

From Jon Kabat Zinn I learned meditating. He often gives the advice to imagine ourselves sitting beneath a waterfall with its random noise. The “noise” modern society forces on us is difficult to bear at times. We often don’t notice it anymore. It’s the speed of our day, of the news  flashing by and the social media that overstrain us unnoticed. When we pause for a moment and step aside, we can sit in the nearness of the waterfall, but not right in the middle of it anymore. The noise will become more at distance and weaker.

“We all tend to fill up our days with things that just have to be done and then run around desperately trying to do them all, while in the process not really enjoying much of the doing because we are too pressed for time, too rushed, too busy, too anxious? We can feel overwhelmed by our schedules, our responsibilities, and our roles at times, even when everything we are doing is important, even when we have chosen to do them all. We live immersed in a world of constant doing. Rarely are we in touch with who is doing the doing.”

― Jon Kabat-Zinn, Full Catastrophe Living

Changing perspective moves problems away from us we cannot deal with at the moment. It enables us to approach the issue from a calm, peaceful state of mind, that will ensure that our decisions will be wise and our soul will not be tormented senselessly. Basically, mindful meditation means a state of being, rather than a state of doing.

© all images Jon West

Essay of our NL1 magazine!

moments that capture you

Words & Images Josh Kempinaire-

I’ve always been attracted by the North. I can’t really explain why, but I know that I like the cold, the snow, the soft light. That doesn’t mean that I don’t want to got to Africa or South America, of course I do. But if you ask me to choose one destination for the rest of my life, I would on the spot say Norway, Iceland, Alaska or Greenland. That sounds weird for some people, but if you have ever experienced the peace you find up in the North, you definitely understand my point. Nature there never stops amazing me. From a small tree in a forest to a majestic rock in Norway, it always makes me realize how beautiful our planet is. We are maybe not living in the coolest world ever in terms of politics but that’s not the subject here. Nature is beautiful, nature nearly seems to be unreal and nature is what I’m living for.

I would not consider myself as a professional photographer, more as an adventurer. I don’t travel to take pictures, I take pictures because I’m traveling. I want to explore the world. While writing this I realize that it’s really hard to express how I feel about that, because I can actually not spend a long time without shooting. So, is it the feeling of having a camera in my hand that I miss? Or just the feeling of being in the mountains? I would say I need the mountains, but honestly I don’t know. I graduated from high school three years ago and I immediately had a yearning for traveling. So, I bought a van, actually an old delivery car that I turned into a van, and drove all the way from Switzerland to the North Cape in Norway. I’ve never felt so free since then. That’s why I’m now thinking about living for my two passions: Adventure and Photography, nothing more. I’m not interested in living a “normal life” that our society suggests us to live. I don’t want to make crazy money or to drive a fancy car. I don’t need it. And even if my future is still quite uncertain, I know what I want to do: I like challenges and I think I’m ready for this one.

Exploring is not only about going to crazy remote and unknown places, it’s about going to places that you personally don’t know. I never mind if somebody tells me that a place is “too famous” or “so touristic”. If I guess it’s beautiful and I’ve never been there, I go. I would say that exploring is about leaving your comfort zone. Actually, I was afraid of being alone in a dark forest, when I first planned my tour in Norway, it was more than a exploration tour for me. I think people are just stuck in a vision that link the word “exploring” to “fame” and that’s why many people are not doing it. They just think that they are not good enough to climb the Everest, but they are probably brave enough to spend their first night under the stars in a dark, unfriendly forest next to their house. I’m passionate about mountains and my heart belongs to the ocean, so I had to leave.

The mountains are majestic, we owe them respect, they go through all kind of weather and millions years after, they are still there. You can’t conquer a mountain; maybe it allows you to climb it. When I’m hiking to the top, I realize that I’m only a small human being that is irrelevant in this nature. I’ve still never climbed a high peak until only a few months ago, I was really afraid of the height. I started to climb with friends to get rid of this fear and I have a new challenge now, I would like to do some alpinism in a near future. Then I will really be able to tell how I feel about mountains.

I can easily compare the ocean to the mountains: peaceful and powerful at the same time. They control everything, they are everywhere around us. But there is something more that I can’t really explain. I feel just so good when I swim inside salty water. And more than that, it’s the texture of the water that I like more than anything else. Every wave is unique, like every moment in life. They all looks the same but if you watch closely, they are all different, the power is different, the colours are different, the shades are different. Regarding life, every minute is different. Even if you think you are in a routine, there are still moments that will pop out of your life and these are the ones you have to enjoy.

© all pictures Josh Kempinaire

More of this essay in our NL1 magazine.

the power of a wave

Words & Images Matthew Leonard-

Growing up in a city in England I visioned the sea in a different way to which I do now. Back then I saw it as a non-inviting, closed-up and dark place. It was somewhere I’d rarely venture into, either out of fear of the depths, currents or the cold. My connection with the sea back then was at a distance. It was something I loved to visit and photograph, but rarely enter. Working in London I never got to see the sun set by the sea, or hang out on the beach with friends. Everything was urban, yet I was desperate to be in the country where I loved to take photos the most.

After moving to Australia, the sea opened up to me. It’s colours, warmth and wildlife draw you in. The surf culture here encourages people to respect the ocean but to enjoy it also. It teaches you the power, danger and fun of the waves. Before surfing I was unaware of the power of the sea. From the shore, it would appear you just fall into the wave and emerge straight out the other side as easily as you entered it. But in reality, your body is tossed around like rag doll. Arms and legs flung uncontrollably. I’ve had my heel bend back and hit my head just from the power of the white water. With all this in mind you’re constantly aware of potential rocks and sandbanks you might crash into. You try to protect your head with your hands, if the wave lets you. Time slows whilst you’re under the water and a sense of loneliness hits you as you get swallowed up. To me, the power of a wave is one of the reasons I surf. Feeling the power of a wave push you through the air whilst your board glides and carves its way through the water is a sensation known only by those who surf. It’s the sensation that keeps all surfers coming back to the waves.

After I began surfing it was only a matter of time before I began photographing it. I have always been obsessed with surf and underwater photography. The only consistent thing with the sea is that it is forever changing, and therefore no picture is ever the same. Combining this with the artistic flare of a surfer is what draws me in. As a photographer I am not after the perfect surf technique, or a manoeuvre that would score a 10/10 on a judging panel. I’m after a picture that captures emotion, energy, patterns and colour.

© all pictures Matthew Leonard

For me, living by the sea is a way of stepping away from the daily routines myself and so many other people are used to. It was about escaping the big city and the 9 to 5 and changing it for a life that has more freedom. I wanted a life that focused less on how much time you spend in the office and more on the time you spend outdoors with your friends. Back in London, I had to dedicate one weekend to seeing my mates and the next for escaping and spending time in the country. Where as here, I can do both nearly every day of the week.

More of this essay in our NL1 magazine!