Lake Baikal is the largest freshwater lake by volume in the world. But this liquid vastness transforms into an incredible frozen desert each winter. Then, travelling, may it be hiking, ice skating or just driving, gets you to shamanic sacred spots, old weather staions just out of the old USSR world, and a dedalus of ice formation with changing colors. A place where mankind does not really belong.
Caithness & Sutherland
At the Tore roundabout, North of Inverness, you have to make a choice : Turn left and the A835 will take you to Braemore, Ullapool, Scourie, Durness, and the magnificient, rugged county of Sutherland. Turn right and the more civilized A9 will take you through Dornoch, Helmsdale, Wick, ultimately Thurso and the mesmerizing Caithness county. Many years ago (way too many), I turned right and started living and working in Wick then Thurso, spending all my free time hiking, fishing an photographying these two contrasting counties. Days can be bleak in these northern parts of Scotland, but just be patient and you will be rewarded with incredible light, vistas and beauty. Caithness and Sutherland taught me a lot, just as the many beautiful people I met there. The life lessons they taught me are still with me today, and I cherish them just as much as I cherish the simple, pure landscapes I came across in my wanderings.
Bardenas Reales de Navarra
I have been walking the Bardenas Reales de Navarra since 2004. This incredible territory is located some 80km SE of the city of Pamplona, in the heart of the Ebro River depression. What you can admire here is what remains of a huge alluvial deposit after milions of years of erosion: tall cliffs, bad-lands, scrubsaline steppes, mesa shaped highs, deep ravines. To some extent, the place has the looks of southern Utah. Yet, because its soil is mainly composed of marl, the zone is extremely erosive and fragile. Thunderstorms shape the landscape and the changes can be seen on a human scale: a canyon visited in July may have disappeared by September. The hostile climate, though, did not deter people from using this semi-arid zone for agricultural and grazing purposes. Archeological sites dating back to the iron age have been found.The Junta de las Bardenas, in Tudela, administrates the territory, and a lot of good work is being done. Yet, if the days when caravans of 4x4 paced up the place in every direction are now over, we must keep in mind the Bardenas remains a very fragile and sensitive zone that deserves all our care and protection.
The beech forests of the Basque Country
On rare occasions, Nature benefits from the development of human activities. That is the case with the beech forest of Irati, in the heart of the french Basque Country. Overexploited from the middle of the 19th century to the 1950's, Irati is now back on form. Strangely, this is in part due to the construction of roads and tracks giving a better access to the forest. Easy access ended a period of clearcuts. In the 1960's, it was finally possible to administrate the forest in a more responsible, sensible way. Here in the Basque Country you will find some of Europe's largest deciduous forests, of which beech is the main species. Beech is beautiful. It lives up to 250 years old and can reach 40 meters in height. This owesome tree dominates the landscape North and south of the french-spanish border. The forests it forms are marvellous places that will leave nobody indifferent.
Maybe does Naples take its character from its geographical situation: Stuck as it is between the two time bombs that are Mount Vesuvius to the East and the Phlegraean Fields to the West. Naples is full of life, noises, movement, sometimes dirty, but always beautiful. The inhabitants are mischievous, wonderfull descendants of an incredible ethnic diversity that never stopped since ancient times and which offered the city thousands of treasures to be found everywhere. Enough to help us forget the mafia, the other image that comes to mind as you arrive in Naples.
There is something about Italy, and italian cities in particular, that strikes every chord in me. And ever since I first went there with my parents at the age of 5, I have had images of Italy in the back of my mind. With this series, I have tried to recreate these images. They are about this deep sense of harmony and balance I see in these cities, and that transpires from these piazzas, narrow streets, tight waterways or historical sites however crowded they may be at times.
In icelandic, "fjallabak" means "the track behind the mountains". So what is there along the track? Well, quite a few things: volcanoes, fumeroles, glaciers, rhyolitic mountains, canyons, lava fields, hot springs, glacial rivers, black sand dunes, obsidian fields, fields of mosses and lichens, and the lists goes on and on. That is the most incredible place I have ever been to. There is a problem, though: you do not know where to start. You do not even know where the whole place starts, let alone where it goes to or how it is organized. In Iceland, Nature is playing with a gigantic puzzle of which new pieces appear everyday. It is this apparent chaos that is fascinating. It urges you to come back and try to understand, once more, what is going on out there.
Engerdal: into the woods, onto the lakes.
Hedmak : one of norway’s least populated counties. Engerdal: Hedmark’s least populated district. 2196 square km, 1460 inhabitants. Less than 1% of the area is cultivated or inhabited. One third consists of productive forest. The rest is wilderness. In Norway, few districts can boast as many national parks or natural reserves as Engerdal. If you are curious and want to discover these nordic landscapes, between taiga and toundra, so rugged, yet rich in surprises, this land is for you. Characterised by old mountains and plateaus scraped by the long gone ice cap, powerful rivers carving deep valleys, countless lakes and spellbinding pine, aspen and spruce forests, Engerdal is an incredibly well preserved territory that invites you to test your outdoors skills.
Bits & pieces
Fishing? "Many men go fishing all their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after"(H.D. Thoreau). A.K. Best puts it like this: "The fishing was good; it was the catching that was bad", and J. Gierach wrote the following: "Fly fishing is solitary, contemplative, misanthropic, scientific in some hands, poetic in others and laced with conflicting aesthetic considerations. It is not even clear if catching fish is even the point". What I do know is that it does feel good, soothes the soul and I need it.