Finnish landscape poll

I was reading the latest Suomen Luonto (Finnish Nature) magazine that I brought with me from Finland. They had polled a number of Finns to find out what Finnish landscape they think is most beautiful, and the landscapes on offer ranged from seascapes to mountains and old industrial towns to farming. The winner was a winter landscape from Oulanka with the river still running open while the forest around was covered with snow. The only human trace in the picture was a bridge across the river in the distance.

While I don’t disagree with the results, the photographer in me started to wonder how much the people’s choices were affected by the pictures themselves and not the landscape as such. Some of the pictures were good, and others weren’t, but at least they were all taken by the same photographer. The winner was a good picture. Maybe it would’ve been would’ve been more fair for the sake of the landscape to present four pictures of each, from each season? Or show the same landscape but pictures taken by different photographers?

And some of the pictures weren’t representative of the place at all, for example the picture from Punkaharju showed a trail going through a pine forest. Yes there’s a lot of pine forest in Punkaharju, but the place is really known for the narrow strip of land that runs between lakes. Not to show any water in a Punkaharju picture is letting it down a little bit, especially when the viewer has to use the picture to decide if the landscape is beautiful or not. Likewise, Olavinlinna was photographed from a strange angle. The picture shows the entire castle, but it’s the view from the lake that most people never see when they visit the castle or drive by. The towers have to be prominent in the picture, otherwise it just isn’t Olavinlinna as we know and love it!

On the other hand, maybe I missed the point. Maybe the emphasis wasn’t as much on the geographic location than the landscape for the sake of itself. Pine forest is pine forest is pine forest. But in that case, why pick out the 27 ”national landscapes” and take unfavourable pictures of them?

Finnish landscape
Finnish landscape (stitched from 5 horizontal frames)

As for myself, I would say that the most beautiful Finnish landscape is the alpine tundra in Lapland in the autumn, even if I don’t have any personal experience of it and it doesn’t really even represent typical Finnish landscape. What is typical Finnish landscape for me is forest and lakes and the particular landscape that I mostly identify with is the above lake scenery as seen from my parents’ cabin. Every time I talk about growing up by a lake, this is the scenery I’m thinking of. It is not grand or out of the ordinary, but it is forever etched in my mind from all those summers I spent at the cabin as a child…

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