Just after arriving to the island for the very first time. These sights showing Helsinki cityscape with some of the well known Helsinki landmarks felt unreal.
The trip from the nearby dock to the island was a small adventure by itself. It was really fascinating to watch how effortlessly this versatile vehicle could move over the water and ice when driven by skilled driver. The ride was over in just few minutes.
Being on the island for the very first time, and realizing there is no going back before the scheduled pick-up after 7 days, felt oddly relaxing. The sights were amazingly beautiful, air was fresh and the cabin was really comfy looking.
This traditional looking cabin served as my headquarters while being on the island.
Katajanokanluoto island is about the size of a half soccer field, 5000m2. It looked much bigger on the spot than from the distances I had seen it before.
After circling the island few times I went to check out the cabin. Outside very traditional, warm and comfy looking cabin surprised from the inside. White painted walls, stunning board floor, minimalistic interior design with some beautiful art pieces took me far from the traditional cabin views.
Just few hours after arriving I knew that I would enjoy my stay. The versatile presence of nature felt wholesomely good. It is really empowering to watch the madness of the city from just a few hundred meters distance and feeling mentally really far away from it. Time and events of the world lose their significance. Observing nature and surroundings felt much more important.
One of the many crow encounters.
Crows of the island were shocked about my arrival. At the beginning even opening the cabin door got them bolting to another side of the island. Day after day they approved me better. When watching swans I experienced beautiful moment of trust. The crow flew and landed between me and the swans just under 10 meters from me. It groomed its feathers like it even didn't notice me.
Besides the crows, blackbirds, common goldeneyes and swans inhabited the island in winter time. Later came mallards, white wagtails and geese. Lots of geese.
Swans swimming against the foul wind in freezing conditions.
Weather conditions varied rapidly. Snow blizzards came without warning and cleared in just minutes.
Winter seed heads between the setting sun and ice.
Ice circumstances and weather conditions varied rapidly throughout the day. Night time coldness halt the sea entirely while the warmth of the morning sun revived it back alive bringing chunks of ice from the distance.
As the day progressed, ice gathered on the shore. Changing ice formations, clouds and the tones from the setting sun made sure that all the nights looked different. Snow blizzards arrived in just minutes. Often making it literally snow from left to right. The wind was very piercing and combined with coldness, it effectively revealed the weak spots on clothing. Weather conditions were generally favourable and I had the chance to enjoy sunny moments almost every day.
Ice formations after sunset.
A trawler in mist few moments before sunrise.
Helsinki shoreline in the sunset.
I spent most of the time exploring and photographing the island. Quilted trousers were needed even in temperatures around zero. Especially when observing birds. I never felt outstandingly cold. First night I heated up the fireplace. After that I slept without heating. I got used to the coldness really quick. Only the first moments after waking up and getting out from the sleeping bag felt harrowing. "Washing" myself with the snow and bathing in the sea filled with ice cubes were the most shivering experiences. Coldest temperature was 12 celsius degrees below zero.
One of the many beautiful sunrises.
My morning routine was to get up without hesitating, get the clothes on and go outside to take photos for 2-3 hours until the sunrise. Then I ate breakfast and took nap. After that I continued enjoying the fresh air outside and taking photos for the moments after sunset having just few lunch, warming and resting breaks in between the shoots.
On the first six days preparing food took huge amount of time. I prepared warm meal with stove using wet wood three times a day. Every time it was a great challenge and I got well-needed practise of patience and fire starting skills. After first trip I took my portable stove with me so the meal preparation were much easier and less time consuming.
Living on the island was really relaxing, healthy and full of well being. Keeping the mobile phone silent and living without grid electricity and computer ensured uninterrupted living. Days went by on a flow state taking photos and doing small tasks. Sleeping difficulties were gone and I slept better than ever. Usually starting around 10 pm.
Geese with landing gears on.
Kaivopuisto toned by the sunset colors
Barnacle geese couple and night fog.
The birds and the moon.
Silja Line cruiser passing the island.
The cruisers passed the island from just a few hundred meters of distance. Bigger ships could be felt as a low frequency rumbling but overall they made quite little noise and operated just few times a day. The motor of Suomenlinna ferry kept oscillating noise which could be heard every time in advance. Cabin fever hit me so I felt the urge to go to the shore watching, wondering and photographing the ships passing the island. I can imagine ending up on many photos and videos taken by tourists. Katajanokanluoto island is pretty popular subject of photography for the people going to Suomenlinna and back.
First six days on the island was over in an instance and completely without the present of homesickness or getting bored of the scenery or daily routines. I was surprised how quickly the ordinary hastes and stress were gone. Small challenges on the island life: trying to keep the drinking water in a liquid state, using a pit in the snow as a fridge and maintaining warmness by clothing, were just the right kind to keep mind stimulated and to give continuous rewards from the small succeedings in day.
Everchanging ice formations.
Barely hanging in there.
Amazing colors of the sunset with the Katajanokka terminal and the Helsinki wheel.
Ice crystals on the window.
Next trip happened few weeks later. I got a lift from the same hovercraft business but this time the vehicle was a self made hovercraft. This sportier looking vehicle turned out to be as stable as the one before and again the trip to the island was successfully over in just a few minutes.
This time the sea was partly open. The weather shifted between snowy cold and warm. First signs of spring were there. Plants sprouted, the smell of sea was present and the bird count increased day by day. In morning and night, It was fascinating to observe the creation and the melting of the ice on sea.
I enjoyed my stay on the island more every day. Some were wondering how I manage to get along on the island but being there my only concern was returning to city life. In an apartment building and in the city, concerns of humanity are present all the time. Schedules, noise pollution and conflicts. On the island these worries seem distant. Lack of disturbances and other people, created stronger sensation of being in charge of one's well being.
Shapes of nature.
Cloudy sunset, winter seed heads and icy surface.
The art of rock stacking.
Next time I did just a quick maintenance break on mainland. Washing clothes, copying data from the memory cards, charging batteries and preparing food. I returned to the island with a small motor boat. The remnants of winter were gone and replaced by the spring livelihood and lightness. Few times I could bathe in the sun shirtless. Birds were also on a spring mood. Moment after arriving I witnessed the weird mating rituals of mallards and observed how the canada geese and the barnacle geese were fighting for their territories.
Canada goose attacking its smaller cousin the barnacle goose.
Canada geese couple mating rituals in the beam of the Suomenlinna church.
In the beginning the bigger canada geese didn't tolerate their smaller cousins at all. They did numerous random attacks towards them. With the tiring tactics and the bigger count, barnacle geese invaded numerous spots from the island gaining majority.
In a late evening moment the cliff on the island was a war ground. As usual one of the defiant male canada goose shooed away the barnacle goose couple that had come too near. This time barnacle goose had some reinforcements. Other barnacle goose couple joined the fight and the four smaller geese scolded the bully with their aggressive pecking. The canada goose escaped dragging its neck to the pushes just to bluster and peck its mate. That night the victorious barnacle geese cackle more confident than ever before.
There were a greylag goose nesting on the island too but for some reason other geese didn't seem to notice it at all.
The american mink.
In the morning of the returning day I saw something in the corner of my eye. It was an american mink with a fish on its mouth. The mink leaped under the tarps of the dock. I got little bit closer to wait and after a few minutes its curiosity won. The mink came back to stare me a while. This time without its fish.
After returning from the next maintenance break the atmosphere was quite different. Geese had formed their territory and maintained it with aggression. Barnacle geese had eggs on their nests and they were really defiant towards me. At first I had to gain back my routes by walking them with a broom. Numerous of mean stares, hissings and fake attacks later I took over their respect and could walk on the island again. It was a game of patience.
Foggy day and the building sites of Kalasatama.
Low flying mist cloud limited the visibility for just 20 meters.
Katajanokanluoto isolated by the fog.
In that week the weather conditions varied from stunningly clear and warm sunny days to cold and misty. There were gorgeous sunrises and sunsets. Few times on the middle of day a low flying mist cloud arrived from horizont covering everything. The visibility were limited for to just twenty or so meters. It is a surrealistic experience being on the island in the Heart of Helsinki and not seeing or hearing anything besides the foghorns echoing in the distance.
From the start to finnish of the trip, same basic routines and thoughts repeated themselves. Nevertheless the adventure changed its shape and developed by time. In the beginning the snow and ice dominated landscape. The wintery peacefulness was something truly spectacular and unique. Observing the form shifting ice and getting by on the cold, felt an adequate thing just by itself. Later when animal and human contacts got more frequent, it brought hecticness to living. Advancing spring, enjoying the sun and watching birds gave lots of joy. I really felt that I was at the mercy of the nature.
One of the most unique features in photographing on the island were its limitations. Many times there is a bit restlessness about whether you are on the most photographic place or not. On the island the subjects and the spots were limited. To get versatile photos I really had to challenge myself and think the photo expression again and again.
A beautiful symmetrical sunrise.
The cabin and the city in distance.
Textures of the sea.
All in all, the adventure was one of the greatest I've experienced. Well being, peacefulness and the absence of stress and restlessness felt really good. I returned the island for october and christmas week. Spending 34 days on the island in 2018.
Photos from october and christmas:
Geese escaping the winter.
Watching after the young ones.
Fishing all the way.
Clouds and the cabin.
City in the distance.
The cabin and the stars.
Nature and people.
My timelapse compilation from the Katajanokanluoto island (YouTube).