Living with nature instead of exploiting it, that’s something we can learn from the Sámi people. These indigenous Finno-Ugric people inhabit Sápmi, which today encompasses large areas of northern Norway, Sweden, Finland and the Kola Peninsula within the Murmansk Oblast of Russia. LUMIX Ambassador Joakim Odelberg travelled to the north to photograph a brother and sister, who have chosen a traditional lifestyle herding reindeer. In harsh conditions, with temperatures as low as minus 34 degrees, he not only put himself, but also his gear to the test. He took the new LUMIX S 70-300mm lens with him. ‘Even in such extreme cold I could rely on my LUMIX S5 and S1H cameras. The new lens definitely earned a place in my camera bag.’
Odelberg lives in Sweden. ‘We have our own indigenous people, but most Swedes don’t know much about their lifestyle. As is the case with a lot of indigenous tribes, they’re neglected by the government. They’re struggling to maintain their traditional way of life. Herding reindeer has become increasingly difficult due to climate change and the devastation of the old-growth forests in the north. This causes problems for the reindeer and other wildlife, as it not only destroys their habitat, but also makes it difficult for them to find enough food.’
‘The Sámi aren’t debating whether climate change is real or not: they see its impact all around them. Winters used to be much colder. There weren’t many days when the temperature rose above zero. Nowadays, they experience more and more days with higher temperatures and more snow melts. When the cold sets in again, the snow and water freeze, creating a thicker ice layer. This makes it harder for the reindeer to reach the moss underneath the snow and ice, a crucial part of their diet.’
Another crucial part of their diet can be found in the forest. ‘Beard lichen, a kind of moss that grows on trees, is another important source of nutrients for the reindeer. Beard lichen can be found in the old forests up north, but these are being harvested, so this food source is disappearing. The old trees are replaced by pine trees, creating a monoculture that destroys the biodiversity in these areas. Although the reindeer and other wildlife depend on these forests, not only for food but also for shelter, the lumber companies and government don’t seem to care. They’re only concerned with short-term profits. And because the trees are planted so close to each other, reindeer even get stuck between them and eventually starve and die.’
In order to maintain their lifestyle, the Sámi have no other choice than to live in harmony with nature as they have been doing for thousands of years. ‘They herd reindeer for their meat and skin. No part of the animal is wasted. They carve the bones and use them as knife handles. This way of living is an example to us all. Instead of buying Brazilian beef that has been shipped to Sweden, people could also consider eating reindeer. If we want to sustain our way of living, we have to make some changes. Eating local produce helps.’
Odelberg was the first photographer to run the new LUMIX S 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 macro O.I.S. (Optical Image Stabilisation) lens through its paces. ‘It’s a great lens, with the O.I.S. and nice bokeh (unsharpness in out of focus area). I used it as a portrait lens to photograph the old reindeer that are kept in the camp. The Sami catch old reindeer and other animals that have broken a leg and wouldn’t be able to keep up with the herd. They use these animals for all kinds of tasks, and although you always have to be wary of their horns and the fact they’re still semi-wild, they’re very friendly creatures. Their noses are really soft! But, back to the lens… I’m very pleased with it, the quality and weight make it an excellent addition to my gear.’
The story of the Sámi is a part of a larger project Odelberg is working on. ‘This project is called Nordic, A Fragile Hope, a collaboration with the Swedish National Orchestra. We’re going to make films about the Nordic region, and the Swedish National Orchestra will perform the soundtracks. I’m really excited about it! For me it’s a way to tell the story, not only about climate change, but also about a more sustainable way of living. I see myself as a messenger, as someone who has a platform to share stories: stories that my LUMIX gear helps me to tell.’
Joakim Odelberg is a well respected conservation photo journalist, producer and underwater filmmaker from Sweden. His devotion to nature, both on land and in the sea, has taken him far beyond Swedish borders and resulted in followers. As an influencer he is frequently booked for lectures in Sweden and internationally, has worked as a popular show host for Swedish SVT’s ”Surrounded By Nature” and is regularly invited as an expert guest on TV4’s morning news show. He is also a Fellow at the highly respected Explorers Club, based in New York and his network of contacts includes the Crown Princess of Sweden, Julian Lennon, Dr. Sylvia Earle, Sir David Attenborough and the astronaut Christer Fuglesang among others.