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Alone in the frozen wetlands

A photographic journey into the gorgeous frozen wetlands, following your guts when deciding a new destination, why hiking alone is the best way to connect with nature, unexpected encounters.

Sweden:  Enchanted old dwarf trees in the frozen wetlands

Knuthöjdsmossen Nature Reserve - Gnarly old pine trees

The night before this excursion that I made back in December was a cold cold night. I was in my bed checking the weather forecast that confirmed that the day after we would reach -18 degrees Celsius.

It was late but I couldn't sleep, I hadn't yet been able to decide where to go the morning after although I spent the evening looking at the map and trying to make plans.

As a landscape photographer, making plans on your destination according to the weather forecast is rule number one, trying to imagine the best location given certain weather conditions, whether you want to shoot at sunrise or sunset, what equipment you need, how many layers of clothing, what time you need to set your alarm clock etc ...

Plans aside, it is often my instinct that plays an important role in deciding where to go. I don't know if you can relate to it, but somehow I can feel "that's the place I need to be tomorrow" even if I have never been there. I think it is based both of what you have maybe read or seen about it and the general knowledge of the environment around you, making you able to guess how a place can appear on a certain season and in certain weather conditions.

When that happens I get very excited and even if I have an early start the morning after I usually cannot sleep as I keep dreaming about it.

That's what happened with Knuthöjdmossen, I simply felt it was the right place to visit on a frozen day.

Sweden: Pathway among the frozen fabulous wetlands of Knuthöjdsmossen

The entrance to the frozen wetlands at dawn

Finally the new day had started and I got up at 6 am. Days are are very short here in December and the sun does not rise before 9.30 am. Considering that it would take me an hour to reach my destination I thought I wouldn't need to get up too early. Although, when it is so cold you always have to keep in mind the time needed to defrost your car, provided that you manage to open it which may prove very difficult when it's -18! However, wrapping a towel around the handle of the car often works.

I had a quick breakfast, put on my warmest hiking clothing, collected all my equipment, coped with the hard defrosting process and at last off I went!

The road was covered with frozen snow, the ground was hard and it was feeling somehow slippery under the car wheels, so the ride was not an easy one, it required all my attention.

I am not much of a driver and for me having to reach a destination in such conditions means the adventure has already started! When I go hiking with my partner he usually drives, so I can comfortably sit next to him and enjoy the view. It's with him that I've got to the most unreachable destinations, the ones you need to go off road just to get near the place.

Driving when the road is opening up under your car is not too much fun for me, I don't enjoy off road driving for the sake of it, I am a walker, always been, even when I was living in the city.

But I didn't even want to be limited by my fear and incapacity, at the end of the day reaching difficult places is part of being a landscape photographer, so I had to be able to make it by myself. Eventually, I have done my best to learn and overcome my fears and although I am still afraid every time I'm on a difficult road, I don't hold back.

When I finally arrived to the wetland I was relieved and happy that I got there before sunrise.

I put my backpack on the shoulders and started walking towards the nature reserve feeling great joy and a sense of freedom. That has always been and always will be a special moment for me, leaving the car and starting to walk. The journey begins, all I have to do is walking, observing, listening and breathing.

Ahead of me an unknown path, leading to unknown scenarios in the nature. Alone, in silence, and yet without too many thoughts, just present there in the moment.

I am sure a lot of my fellow landscape photographers know what I'm talking about, because I think that's it, that's why we are doing it. It's the journey, it's the act of walking, the ground under your feet and the scenario in front of your eyes changing while you go ... Most of the time for me is not even about getting there as once you got there it only means that you have to start thinking of getting back, and that's all another story!

When I finally stepped into the walkway leading inside the nature reserve I was simply amazed by the scenario. A vast white place leading your eyes to the horizon, frozen glittering bushes on the ground, old pine trees with gnarly branches and a beautiful movement, frozen ponds you could mirror yourself into, a soft dawn sky with brushstrokes of clouds. The silent wilderness. Frozen, ghostly, beautiful.

Actually I stop writing about it and here are some pictures ....

I don't know if you have ever gone hiking alone, if not I strongly suggest you try it.

It can be a little scary at the beginning if you are not used to depending on your destination and the difficulty of the hiking trail. But with some training you'll eventually learn that you can trust yourself, your skills, your endurance.

There is no better way than hiking alone to connect with the nature of the place your are roaming in. While silent, all your other senses will be more active than ever. You'll notice every details while observing, you'll hear every little sound, you'll smell the air, feel the atmosphere, the change of temperature, of the weather, of the light. There will be a moment when you'll get so totally focused that eventually you'll enter a kind of trance state, and that's when you simply return to be part of nature, an organism among the others. I think it is just a different kind of meditation, instead of sitting and breathing you walk and focus on your steps.

Unfortunately, it does not happen every time you are out. There must be a combination of variables to get you in that state. And it surely does not happen if you, like me, are outside to take pictures and you stop very often.

That day though it happened, thanks to the total silence and isolation of the place.

I thought I was totally alone there, in fact despite the place is located near a little town, the chances to meet someone in the earliest hours of the day, in winter, under those rigid temperatures were definitely little. But eventually, I did. I was not alone. I had just woken up from my little trance state and I was setting my camera to take a picture in front of a pond when I heard someone calling me.

His name was Claes and he also was a photographer, a nature lover and a ice skating instructor, and that day he was there precisely to skate on the frozen ponds. We ended up talking for almost an hour in that cold! We happened to share the same interest for nature and photography and I've always wanted to learn ice skating. Eventually, he asked me to take pictures of him while he was skating, but I did it with his camera and I am sorry that I have not thought about taking a couple of pictures with mine also. It was beautiful seeing him skating on the icy water in the middle of nothing.

It has been a very nice unexpected encounter, one that I will remember every time I'll see Knuthöjdmossen pictures.

It is generally not easy to find people you share a lot with and certainly I did not expect to find one in that isolated place! But that's also the magic of hiking into nature...

Thank you so much for reading.

I wish you a very nice weekend. Till next time!

Love, Simona 🤍🤍🤍


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