Swedish motorsport legend Mattias Ekström embarked on an icy road trip through his native Scandinavia recently, which included driving his Audi S1 FIA World Rallycross car under the northern lights for a stunning series of images by sports photographer Jaanus Ree.
Here is all you need to know:
– It has been a fast-paced start to 2021 for Ekström with the 42-year-old making his Dakar Rally debut, where the former DTM and WRX champion got to taste all the highs and lows of the world’s toughest off-road race before bringing his Yamaha YXZ1000R SxS across the finish line in Jeddah.
– In February, the race conditions switched from desert sand to snow as Ekström finished fifth in the WRC3 category driving a Škoda at the Arctic Rally Finland race in Rovaniemi after 15 years away from the WRC.
– He also undertook a road trip to visit snowmobile trickster Daniel Bodin, Olympic slalom champion Frida Hansdotter, MMA fighter Madeleine Vall Beijner and seven-time Sweden Rally winner Stig Blomqvist.
– It was his collaboration with Ree, though, that was the most ambitious task on his wish list as the Estonian snapper not only has an expert eye to capture images of race cars, but also experience in the Arctic Circle.
– Ekström revealed: „I wanted to do a little Arctic adventure. I was lucky that I could visit so many cool people and do things that I dreamt about as a kid. The dream was to see the northern lights, but the weather never seemed to be on our side. We came very close to giving up on seeing it.“
– The location decided on by Ekström and Ree was the town of Muonio in far northern Finland – home of the midnight sun in summer months – and one night during dinner Ekström received a call from a frantic Ree.
– Ekström recalled: „We had a chance of catching the lights between 8pm and 10pm, but at 7pm Jaanus phones. He tells me to drop everything and drive to the frozen lake we had scouted earlier that day.“
– Ree said: „There are two things you have to watch out for. The first thing you need is clear skies and the second is the location where the northern lights will appear. Things are so unpredictable up in the Arctic Circle, all you know for sure is that on a certain day it might happen.“
– The biggest obstacle – outside of driving on a frozen lake – was the fact that Ekström’s rallycross car had no lights which meant the northern lights themselves and Ree’s camera flash were the main sources of light.
– Ekström declared: „I had the lights above me and also the flash from Jaanus’s camera, but it was pretty dark out there most of the time I was driving. At times it was pitch black!“
– Ree, who managed to shoot for three hours in the end, added: „I placed a remote camera in the middle of the frozen lake. Mattias came close to the camera a few times, but fortunately he never hit it. After every two runs I changed the memory card just to make sure we had something, in case the camera got destroyed on the next run. I used sequence shots to create double exposure. In terms of equipment I was using a Nikon D850 and I switched out the lenses frequently during the shoot.“
– The next chapter of Ekström’s career now arrives with the inaugural Extreme E championship, which will race across Desert, Ocean, Arctic, Amazon and Glacier terrains from April through to December.
– He said: „For now, winning the first-ever season of Extreme E is my number one project for 2021. If something else pops up along the road, then we will see. I’m one of those guys who is open to anything.“