Imagine what it would be like to escape the stress and commotion of everyday life for a few days, breath in the fresh winter air of the forest and meet its four-legged or winged inhabitants eye to eye - when you take on the role of wildlife photographer.
"Most people who come here, are here to find the winter
landscape", says Conny as he carefully blows on the hot coffee in
his cup. Conny is a wilderness photographer. He is stationed in
Kalvträsk and specialises in the golden eagle. He has become famous
for his extreme close-ups of these majestic birds.
"If you are careful, you can get really close", he says and describes having photographed eagles with a hand-held camera, while standing as close to them as barely half a metre - when using a wide-angle lens.
"Normally we shoot from a distance of six or seven metres - using a telephoto lens - if we are shooting portraits, but it's just as important that we're able to offer the opportunity to photograph these animals in a real winter environment."
Wildlife photography is not easy. It requires a great deal of
preparation and knowledge about both animals and the natural
"At present, I have three hides for eagles."
Conny says that his biggest hide is at the foot of Vitbergen Nature Reserve.
"Made of timber, with a toilet and a stove and room for four photographers. So, it never gets really cold, no matter how severe the winter weather gets."
He takes out his phone and shows a portrait of a golden eagle with hoarfrost covering its plumage.
"You can only take a picture like this when it's -35 degrees outside." Conny explains that one of the hides is brand-new.
"It's in the middle of a 200 year old forest, on a sand ridge between a lake and a swamp. There are no roads. You need a boat or a snowmobile to get there."
Golden eagles are very territorial and do not like to let other
eagles into their area.
"However, when it gets cold during winter and food becomes scarcer, many eagles travel further to find something to eat." Many years ago, Conny photographed a young golden eagle from one of his hides. The eagle was ringed and Conny managed to photograph the ring, which revealed that the bird was from Finland.
"The eagles from the territory viciously attacked the bird, and when I saw it trotting across the swamp, badly injured, I thought 'that's probably the last I'll see of it'. But one morning, eight years later, I saw an eagle perched on exactly the same branch as the young golden eagle had used. You know, golden eagles have their favourite branches. However, this time, two eagles were perched in the tree. 'That can't be possible', I thought. But it turned out to be the same bird, who had now found a mate and was visiting the same spot again."
"Experiences with wild animals are difficult to direct", I say with a smile.
International nature experiences
The photographers who visit Conny are usually ambitious amateur
photographers and are often as knowledgeable, if not more so, than
"I guess you can call them semi-professionals", says Conny. They are incredibly dedicated and know how to appreciate the moment at which everything falls into place.
In the same way as Spitsbergen, the Great Barrier Reef, and Yellowstone have done, Kalvträsk, in its own way, has gained the attention of photographers from all over the world thanks to the unique nature experience on offer. And it is the combination of extreme close-ups and magnificent natural settings, alongside Conny's extensive expertise which brings many visiting photographers to this small village.
"Almost everyone is also struck by how dark it can get in the forests up here."
And the darkness here is not such a problem. In recent years, there has been increasing demand to shoot the northern lights for night photography.
"Because there's very little light pollution where we are, the conditions for photographing the northern lights, the starry sky and the whole Milky Way, actually, are fantastic." Conny places his empty coffee cup on the table. He has been in civilisation long enough now.