The Northen Lights: An Adventure on Wheels Under the Northern Lights

Pilot Mattias Ekström and photographer Jaanus Ree had their sights set on the Northern Lights. This is the story of how a series of stunning images were captured.

It has been a very fast start to the season for Mattias Ekström, since the year started with his debut in the rally Dakar Rally. Former champion of DTM y W He was able to test all the ups and downs of the toughest rally in the world before taking his Yamaha YXZ1000R SxS to the goal in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

When January was behind, conditions changed from desert sand to snow, when Ekström raced the Arctic rally from Finland. After all, the Swede has never been afraid to mix the elements. A fifth place in Rally3 after 15 years out of the WRC was the high point for most of those who went to the Arctic, but not for Ekström…

Mattias Ekström
Photo: Jaanus Ree / Red Bull Content Pool.

That's because racing the Arctic Rally was only one stop on Ekström's journey through his native Scandinavia. A trip where he visited the crazy snowmobile freestyler, Daniel Bodin; to the slalom champion, Frida hansdotter; to MMA fighter Madeleine Vall Beijner; and the seven-time Rally Sweden winner, Stig Blomqvist. Even some huskies and reindeer joined in the fun.

“It all started when I decided that I wanted to do a little adventure in the Arctic”, reveals Ekström. “I took some time to plan the things that I really wanted to do. I was lucky to be able to visit so many cool people and do the kinds of things I dreamed of as a child. ", account. The most ambitious goal on Ekström's wish list was to drive his Audi S1 ​​World Rallycross under the northern lights and photograph it all. Will it be possible?

"During the whole trip, the dream was to see the Northern Lights, but time never seemed to be on our side", Ekström admits. "We were about to give up seeing her", remember. It's just that things are so unpredictable in the Arctic Circle.

To carry out the project, the most important call Ekström made was to a renowned sports photographer, Jaanus ree. The Estonian photographer not only has an expert eye for capturing racing cars, he is also experienced in the Arctic Circle. “There are two things to pay attention to”Ree explains. “The first thing you need is a clear sky and the second is the place where the northern lights will appear. Things are so unpredictable there that the only thing you know for sure is that it can happen on a given day. "

Mattias Ekström
Photo: Jaanus Ree / Red Bull Content Pool.

The place chosen by Ekström and Ree was the Muonio town, in the extreme north of Finland, home to the midnight sun in the summer months. One night at dinner, Ekström received a call from a frantic Ree. "Tonight we thought we had a chance to see the lights between 20 and 22, but at 19 Jaanus called", Ekström remembers. "He tells me to drop everything and drive to the frozen lake we had explored earlier that day."

Everything was in its place. Ekström and his Audi S1 ​​were in position, Ree had his camera ready to shoot, and the Northern Lights were shining on them both. But there was still a problem. Ekström's rallycross car had no lights. How could I see where I was going? “I had the lights of the Northern Lights above me and also Jaanus's camera flash, but it was pretty dark most of the time I was driving”, remember Ekström. "Sometimes it was very dark."

Not only was the pilot concerned about the lack of visibility, so was the photographer. "I placed a remote camera in the middle of the frozen lake and hoped that Mattias could somehow avoid colliding with it"Ree said. “Every two passes I changed the memory card to make sure we had something, in case the camera was destroyed in the next pass. Mattias got close to the camera a couple of times, but fortunately he never hit her ". Ekström and Ree's luck held for over two hours, during which time they combined to produce some of the most impressive images featuring a rallycross car ever seen.

Mattias Ekström
Photo: Jaanus Ree / Red Bull Content Pool.

“We were on the frozen lake for about three hours before deciding that we were done. At that very moment, the Northern Lights disappeared ", remembers Ekström. “The following afternoon the sky was gray again. We were very lucky to have that one night with a clear sky ”.

Having previously photographed in the Arctic, in the fields of windsurfing and golf, Ree had a clear idea of ​​the tools he needed to get the job done. "I used sequence shots to create a double exposure"Ree said. “As for the equipment, I used a Nikon D850 and changed lenses frequently during the session. I also used two portable flashes, both Elinchrom ELB 1200 ”.

Having fulfilled his childhood dream of racing under the Northern Lights, Ekström is now focused on his latest all-new project. The Swedish sprinter, with a huge appetite for adventure, has signed up to compete in the inaugural Extreme E championship.

"At the moment the plan is to do a good job in the Extreme E, that's my priority this year", Ekström revealed. “If something else comes along the way, we'll see. I am one of those guys who are open to everything. For now, winning the first season of Extreme E is my number one project for 2021 ”.



Automundo is the blog about news from the automotive industry, motorsport and the culture of the region. Director: Diego Durruty.

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