Kilpisjärvi Trees

Day and night with a mountain birch

First image, 6.6.2021, 3.45. pm

Sunday 6th June 2021 3.45 pm. I did not plan to repeat this image, I only wanted to make an experiment to improve the test I did yesterday, when revisiting the site where I performed Day and Night with Malla on June 7-8 2014. At that time I was sitting on the rock looking at Malla Fell, and the small mountain birches on the shore are barely visible to the right. By turning the camera just a little they would gain more prominence, but standing next to the birch yesterday I was too tall and dominating in the image. Therefore I wanted to try once more, today, placing the camera a little further away. After some attempts – yes, I did some tests first – I settled on a pose with the smaller birch. And while standing there, looking at Malla, I realized I could actually repeat this image for a day and night, perhaps every second hour to make it easier. They have promised rain for tomorrow, but that would be only at the end…

5.45 pm. Complete silence, no wind, no dogs, no trafic on the road, not even birds. Malla is reflected in the lake, although not visible for the camera. Some kind of insect crawls on my cheek; I resist the impulse to brush it away, and to move my feet on the rock, breathing deeply, twenty one breaths, approximately – to keep the time. When I finish I notice that the camera had moved slightly to the right compared to the first session, despite the fact that I left the tripod on the shore. The framing is actually better this way…

7.45 pm. The light is strong, like a hot summer afternoon, although it is almost eight in the evening. And it is really hot now. The sun will not set here before midnight, or rather hide behind Saana Fell. And up there one could probably watch the sun all through the night. The ice on the lake is gone near the shore, and the water is clear, deep blue in the sun. Some small sounds of birds are audible in the silence now, and an occasional car passed by later on, when I returned to the house.

9.45 pm. The sun is now right above Malla Fell, more or less blinding the camera. And there is a gentle breeze, moving the surface of the lake. In the distance I can hear the cowbells of the reindeers, and a bird which cries with strange wailing sounds. The mountain birches up on the slopes and nearer the house are already shifting into a pale green, the leaves ready to burst any minute. By the lake, where the ice keeps the air cooler, they are slower.

11.45 pm. The midnight sun shines bright above the horizon in northwest, but it is no longer warm. The soft greenish hue of the mountain birches turns orange in its pinkish light. The air is chilly and the surface of the lake is freezing, now again completely still. According the weather report it should be 11 degrees celsius, and the lowest to be expected tonight is around 7 degrees. The sun is supposed to set at midnight, very soon, and rise again at 2 am, behind Saana Fell. These nightless nights are strange, on the one hand weird and on the other hand also magic…

1.45 am. The sun hides behind Saana, visible only as a pale glow in the north and northwest. The northern slope of Malla is illuminated in a pale pink, as are the low mountains on the southern side of the lake, in Sweden. The air feels chilly, and the surface of the lake is frozen at the shore. Some birds are awake with faint cries every now and then. This is as “dark” as it will get, I suppose.

3.45 am. The sun shines bright on the mountains across the lake, and one can see the contour of Saana as a shadow on the shore. Here, in the shadow of Saana there is more light as well, but it feels like a cloudy day, despite the cloudless sky. And no mist, as in some mornings before. The first truck heading towards the Norwegian border is audible from afar amidst occasional birds. And then another one, finally passing the biological station when I return from the shore.

5.45 am. Malla Fell is bathing in light, but the part of the lake that served as its mirror is now mostly frozen and no longer reflects its splendour. It seems to be colder despite the increasing light. No mist this morning, but some clouds from the west. The mountain birches repeat the colours of the mountains in reverse – rather than dark brown with patches of white, their slender trunks are white with patches of dark brown lichen. The birch I am holding on to feels strong, although it reacts to my slightest movement, swaying.

7.45 am. Now the sun shines high above the top of Saana Fell in the northeast. And it feels warm, too, despite being diluted by a thin cloud cover. The ice on the lake, however, has not dissolved, not yet. The traffic on the road is now more or less constant, or rather constantly audible in the distance, with other cars among the trucks. The bird sounds are more or less constant as well, most of them unfamiliar to me. And humans are beginning to move in the yard, a new day has clearly begun.

9.45 am. Warm sun, the clouds are fluffy shreds, more compact only in the south on the other side of the lake. The frost on the water is still there, covering large parts that were open last night. The leaves on the mountain birches no more than twenty meters up on the slopes are now bursting open, but the buds of the ones by the shore are still biding there time. The lake is a giant cooler. When I came down to the shore an off-white reindeer was lying on the path, in the only snow spot left on the grassy slope. Did it prefer the cool cushion of snow, or was it only looking for a place to merge with the surroundings?

11.45 am. The clouds gather, some of them are grey; there might be rain later today, as forecasted. Here the weather changes quickly, but these clouds still look mainly benign. And the sun is warm despite the clouds, the ice cover on the open parts of the lake near the shore is gone now. It is completely still, the mirror is perfect. There is no traffic either, perhaps the truck drivers are taking a lunch break. A crow was jumping on the ice, this time a familiar bird.

1.45 pm. The day turned into a grey one, not uniformly grey, though, because the sun appears briefly every now and then. Mostly the cloudy sky spreads a diffuse pale grey light. I’m standing next to the mountain birch, or a group of them, and look at all the other shrubs around. There are junipers on the ground, and some sort of willow creeping along the rock in front of me, which seems to turn greener by the hour. The turfs of yellow grass have small fresh leaves coming up in their midst. And of course there are various types of mosses and familiar shrubs like cowberry twigs and crowberry twigs, too. The birches are clearly not alone…

3.45 pm. So, here comes the rain, or rather a soft drizzle – the day and night ends as forecasted, although the drops are so few and far between that they are barely visible on the surface of the lake. The sky is grey now, there might me more rain, but it does not feel like a storm coming up. They are not uncommon here, I remember. When I look at the dark brown slopes of Malla Fell, they seem almost to have a hint of olive, a greenish hue, thanks to the birches bringing out their leaves soon. I wonder what the slopes look like in the autumn when they turn orange… But grey is the colour for now, many shades of grey, as they say…

Last image, 7.6.2021, 3.45 pm.

The rest of the images are available on the Research Catalogue, here

By Annette Arlander

One reply on “Day and night with a mountain birch”

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