How to capture the perfect nature photo in Lapland – tips from a professional photographer

3 minute read

Credits: Aki Mikkola

Rovaniemi-based photographer Aki Mikkola, Instagram’s “Prince of Lapland,” shares where to take the perfect summertime shot.

If photographer Aki Mikkola could invite anyone, living or dead, to accompany him on a summer trip through Finnish Lapland, he knows just who he’d pick – and what they’d do:  

“I’d go aurora-hunting with Freddie Mercury! After party: campfire and guitar,” he laughs. 

Born and raised in Sodankylä, Instagram’s “Prince of Lapland” is famous for his stunning photographs and videos of Finland’s natural beauty, and in particular, the spellbinding Aurora Borealis.  

So, how does he take such amazing shots? In addition to years of practice, Mikkola credits Lapland’s pristine nature and stunning topography for providing the perfect picturesque environment. Here are some of his favourite elements and places to photograph during summertime in Finland’s northernmost region.  

Credits: Aki Mikkola

Photographing the midnight sun

Ask any Finn what visitors to Lapland must experience in summer, and you’ll probably get the same answer: the midnight sun. Mikkola agrees. “During the midsummer,” he explains, “we don’t just have a golden hour; we have golden, soft light for a long time.” 

That’s because during most of the warmer months, the sun never sets above the Arctic Circle, providing nearly 24 hours of daylight. And while most photographers are familiar with Mikkola’s aforementioned “golden hour” – the soft, warm-hued hour before sunset and sunrise – Lapland’s midnight sun takes the phenomenon to a whole new level. 

Credits: Harri Tarvainen

Making use of fjells

According to Mikkola, fells are another must-capture element of summertime in Lapland. They not only offer majestic silhouettes, but also provide great vantage points for taking wide-angle landscape shots. One of his favourites in the Rovaniemi area is Kuninkaanlaavu, or “the King’s lean-to,” which is located on top of Santavaara hill. At just eight kilometres from the city centre, this fell is one of the region’s most photographed spots, offering stunning views of the Ounasjoki River and the villages of Sinettä and Nivankylä. In the middle of town, Mikkola recommends Ounasvaara, situated right next to Rovaniemi and offering amazing views of the city centre and Kemi River. 

If you’re able to venture a bit further afield, Mikkola suggests heading to Pyhä-Nattanen, in Sodankylä. This 500-plus metre-high rocky fell is one of the most impressive in all of Lapland. Topped with massive granite boulders and a small day hut, it offers stunning views of the surrounding area and the rest of the spectacular Nattas fells.  

Or make your way to Saana, another popular spot, in Kilpisjärvi. Hike then climb Finland’s longest set of stairs to the top of the fell, and you’ll be rewarded with miles of uninterrupted views overlooking the “Arm of Lapland.”

Credits : Harri Tarvainen
Credits: Pertti Turunen
Credits: Suvi Mansikkasalo

Capture the many shapes of water

Mikkola suggests also focusing on water. Fortunately, “Finland is the land of a thousand lakes, so there are many options.

One of his favourite water features is just 25 kilometres from the Rovaniemi city centre. Here you can find the Arctic Circle hiking area and the Raudanjoki river that has accessible and photographic rapids, such as Vaattunkiköngäs ja Vikaköngäs. Aki is a big fan of all free-flowing rivers with rapids. “To name one, Tornion-Muonionjoki River is an impressive sight, and its full of salmon, too”  

Outside of the Rovaniemi region, Mikkola recommends several spots. The first is Lake Inarijärvi, Finland’s third-largest lake. It’s located approximately 120 metres above sea level in the northern part of Lapland and features a cone-shaped island in the centre of the lake. Known as Ukkokivi, this island is considered a sacred spot by Lapland’s indigenous Sámi, and thus better left untouched.  

Mikkola’s second pick is Nuvvus-Ailigas, Utsjoki. Finland’s northernmost municipality has a population that’s majority Sámi. Here, visitors will find the famed Ailigas fells, including Nuvvus-Ailigas, which rises an impressive 535 metres above the Tenojoki River and offers unparalleled views of both the water and nearby Nuvvus village. 

Finally, he recommends Pallastunturi, Muonio. Located in Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park, this majestic group of seven fells is recognized as one of 27 “National Landscapes of Finland.” In addition to plenty of hiking trails, visitors will find acres of Norway spruce and expansive vistas over beautiful Lake Pallasjärvi. Capturing the reflection of the fells in the water, Mikkola says, is an added bonus. 

Credits : Samuli Rosenberg, Flatlight Films
Credits: Markus Kumpula, Flatlight Films

Chasing the Northern Lights

Mikkola loves photographing all of Lapland, but his true passion is shooting the Northern Lights. These spectacular polar flares are most active during the spring and autumn, providing a treat for photographers. To find them even on a less-than-clear night, Mikkola suggests hopping in the car and going off-grid. 

“If it’s cloudy, you won’t see [them], but…I’ll drive and find the clear sky,” he says. 

Of course, it’s not only about capturing the breathtaking beauty of the Aurora itself, but about highlighting the surrounding scenery. “I’m not interested in just taking a photograph of the Northern Lights,” he explains. “Everything else has to also be nice.” 

Credits: Asko Kuittinen

See also

Must-visit nature locations in summer Lapland

Summer in Lapland is truly magical and there are many must-see nature locations to visit from national parks to canyons and fells.