Journalist & nature photographer Kimmo Ohtonen
Kimmo Ohtonen is a Finnish reporter, author and nature photographer. He is known for his various programmes and books on nature and his charitable stunts for the benefit of nature and child protection. Kimmo lives in Helsinki with his wife and their dachshund Alma.
Kimmo, you are by profession a journalist, writer and a nature photographer. You are also known for various nature-related programmes. What was it about nature that drew you in?
Nature has been close to my heart ever since I was a kid. Although I never studied biology, nature has featured in my life throughout the years. Nature is interesting in and of itself, but also for its thousands of stories and as a source of inspiration.
You have had various charity projects, many of which had strong nature-related themes. In the autumn of 2012, you swam across the Saimaa lake system to raise funding for the preservation of the Saimaa ringed seal. What inspired you to embark on this vast journey?
I was taking a leisurely swim one summer evening, when suddenly the idea of the Swim for the Seal came to me. I had for some time wanted to do something fun to help the Saimaa ringed seal, and so the thought just bubbled up. The whole point was to do something I didn’t really know how to do. So I practiced swimming for 13 months before the actual 11-day swimming marathon.
In your book debut, Karhu Voimaeläin (The Power of the Bear) you focus on the bear, an animal with an important role in Finnish mythology. Can you tell us a little bit about this book and your relationship with the bear?
The book focuses on my lifelong relationship with the forest and its king or queen the bear. For me, the forest has always been a place where I feel safe and free. When I was 9 years old, I encountered a bear in the woods surrounding our summer cabin and have ever since followed in the footsteps of this magnificent animal. In my book, I wish to shed light on the secret life of the bear as well as tell my own story alongside that of the bear.
In 2016, you authored a documentary series titled Katoava Pohjola (The Vanishing North) in which you cover topics such as the impact of climate change on Finnish nature. What kind of impact does climate change have on nature in Finland, now and in the future?
Climate change is already affecting Finnish nature in many ways. Early winter months are milder and see less snowfall in large parts of the country. Many animals that have adapted to northern conditions, such as the mountain hare, suffer from this. More generally, animals such as the Saimaa ringed seal and many others that need snow and ice to live have suffered from the effects of climate change. Weather conditions seem to become increasingly unpredictable, which will continue to challenge us in the future. In addition to climate change, the volume of plastic waste and the sixth wave of extinction are great concerns for nature and thereby for our own future.
How would you describe Finnish nature?
It is the single most important thing we have to share. We often forget how spectacular our natural environment still is. We have the sea, lakes, forests, fells and marshlands. The remaining wilderness should be preserved and we should think about our nature as a whole, applying the ecosystem model.
When you photograph Finnish nature, what is it that you wish to communicate with your pictures?
I try to capture the many voices of nature and thereby make people view things from nature’s perspective. I also want to display the complexity of nature and reveal the secrets of various animal species and individuals.