One of the main attractions in the Helvetinjörvi National Park in central Finland is the narrow gorge called Helvetinkolu (Hell’s cleft) that leads down to the lake. More about the park and the famous cleft here. Hiking in the area with a friend during the weekend and enjoying the various forest types and many small lakes next to each other was not meant as a working trip, although I did bring my camera. And the small stone with the red arrow, of course.
Seeing the steep slopes immediately reminded me of a project I tentatively started last autumn in Oulanka National Park in the North East (see the blog post “Little Bear’s Trail”), something that could be called the vertical landscape. In order to capture something of that vertical feeling I turned my video camera on its side, and why not? Already Bruce Naumann played with turning monitors upside down. It was only when I tried to show some of the vertical video clips at a screening event that I realized the problem; I could not change the position of the projector for my clip only. Obviously these experiments were stuff for installations only, and partly because of that I did not pursue them any further. Only when I saw this landscape did I change my mind again. Even though there were no rivers or rapids rushing through the gorges here, the shores of the lake were steep. And the cleft Helvetinkolu is vertical for sure.
It looks a little like a gateway, and since the lake is narrow, deep and the water is dark, one could imagine that it leads to the underworld. Sitting in the gorge, which is quite impressive by Finnish standards, since there are no really high mountains in the country, and listening to the wind howling above, I could easily imagine some evil spirit appearing to chase away disturbing visitors like me.
The hiking path called the Little Bear’s Trail is a 12 km circular walk that touches the real 80 km Bear Trail in Oulanka National park. In Finnish it is called pieni karhunkierrosThe huge park is situated quite near the Russian border in Koillismaa (northeastern land) in the northeast of Finland. It is supposed to be one of the most beautiful national parks in the country, and yes, after seeing a small corner of it I have to admit that it is quite spectacular, especially now when the colours of autumn start to spread on the slopes. It has some beautiful gorges and river valleys with rapids that attract people engaged in white water sports. The small suspension bridges swinging with each step are quite scary for a person unaccustomed to them.
I came here following the suggestion of a friend, who thought this would be the right place for a one week hike. I quickly realized that sleeping in a tent in the forest in the autumn, when the nights are dark and chilly, was not such a good idea, especially since I have no experience of hiking or camping since the 1970’s. So I came here like an elderly tourist, staying at a local inn enjoying my warm bed and some good food, and experiencing the park in daytime only. I was not the only one to do that. This weekend the trail was absolutely packed with families and elderly couples who had estimated that the autumn colours would be at their best right now. Two weeks from now, with the first frost, might me even more beautiful, I guess.
I walked the Little Bear’s Trail twice, counterclockwise on Saturday, as suggested by the Forest Department, and clockwise on Sunday, as suggested by the locals. Of course the latter knew what they were talking about. And Sunday morning was quiet, too. I had the wilderness park (what a contradiction in terms!) almost for myself. Performing landscape on a popular trail in a national park is a weird idea, of course. Actually I brought my video camera and my scarf (my costume) with me more in order to reassure myself that I might do something useful, too, and not only enjoy myself by watching the arriving “ruska”, as the autumn colours are called in the north.
I made some small attempts at performing landscape for video camera on tripod, in my usual manner, sitting with my back to the camera, wearing the dark blue scarf of the year. And I quickly realized this was a vertical landscape, with the riverbed in the gorge, the cliffs on the banks, the tall trees. Everything suggested a vertical composition, so I simply turned my video camera sideways on the tripod. The most beautiful views with the rapids down in the gorge were difficult to record, but I made some small attempts anyway, relying on chance, as always. At least the image by Myllykoski, sitting near the water in the shadow of a cliff while the sun sparkled in the whitewater, should be OK. Sitting by rapids could be an interesting series to create, the sound of the water rushing through the rocks is fascinating and the forceful movement of the water is captivating and dramatic. Of course it is very romantic, too, so some form of antidote is probably needed. Or perhaps my presence is enough of an antidote, after all.
I also made some experiments with a small pebble I picked on Harakka Island earlier and painted a red arrow on, somewhat reminiscent of the double happiness sign I painted on a roof tile in Farrera in 1999, which resulted in the video work Double Happiness in Water (2001). This pebble with the arrow I placed in the corner of the image, pointing towards something worth focusing on. I soon realized that the only interesting images were again the vertical ones were the arrow points upward at the view. Much depends on the light, which I never know how to manipulate, I simply take it as given, and occasionally it is marvelous, though most often not.
The images were more of a side effect of this trip, which after all was more about clearing my mind than filling my hard disk with images. Some ideas were emerging, however, grace to the refreshing environment, like experimenting with vertical composition, searching for rapids and playing with the arrow – and perhaps visiting more national parks…