Tõnu Runnel

Tõnu Runnel is an Estonian entrepreneur and photographer.

Veski, Tartu. When sunlight is veiled with fog, shadows disappear. Surfaces appear to be clearer and colors can stand out in their pure form. Only if they are close enough, of course.

PICTURES: Eesti mist through the eyes of photographer Tõnu Runnel

The fog cuts the sight short  –  and substitutes it with imagination. This way, mist expands the space around us, forces our minds to construct objects and narratives beyond the milky and soft, opaque air. Sometimes, the rain and tusk do the job as well. Estonia has a fair share of foggy, rainy and grey weather, inviting photographers to the great outdoors in order to capture those stories.*

Tyre graveyard, Tartu. Once you’ve learnt to notice how mist generates stories, you start wandering to the strangest places during the fog. The stranger the place, the more amplified the adventure becomes.

Tyre graveyard, Tartu. Once you’ve learned to notice how mist generates stories, you start wandering to the strangest places during the fog. The stranger the place, the more amplified the adventure becomes.

Kassitoome, Tartu. Just around the corner from my home street there’s a park with a man-made crater in the middle of it. Kids come here sledging until it turns into a lake and then a lawn in the spring. Or maybe they are gone because, aliens. The place looks like a landing site.

Kassitoome, Tartu. Just around the corner from my home street there’s a park with a man-made crater in the middle of it. Kids come here sledging until it turns into a lake and then a lawn in the spring. Or maybe they are gone because of the aliens – the place looks like a landing site.

Kassitoome, Tartu. May way home from train station goes through a fairy tale place. It’s sensitive to weather just like forest trails — each variation of each season evokes a completely new landscape here. On misty mornings the town disappears from around this forest completely.

Kassitoome, Tartu. May walk home from train station goes through a fairy-tale place. It’s sensitive to weather just like forest trails  –  each variation of each season evokes a completely new landscape here. On misty mornings, the town disappears from around this forest completely.

Nina, Peipsi. The endless lake Peipus disconnecting Estonia from Russia. Hundreds of fishermen settle here on weekends, drilling holes into the thick ice and sitting motionlessly for hours. At the same time kids use the endless ice as their unlimited playground. There’s nothing here — even without mist.

Nina, Lake Peipus. The endless lake Peipus disconnecting Estonia from Russia. Hundreds of fishermen settle here on weekends, drilling holes into the thick ice and sitting motionlessly for hours. At the same time, kids use the endless ice as their unlimited playground. There’s nothing here  –  even without the mist.

Kalamaja, Tallinn. The old sock factory is transforming into art academy — just like the whole industrial neighbourhood around it is being filled up with the creative masses and ultimately gentrified. We tend to look at the demolition, construction and renovation — both houses and roads—as something temporary. Especially here in Kalamaja, contrary is actually true. Nothing stays the same, “ready” state is temporary, constant change is the norm.

Kalamaja, Tallinn. This old sock factory is transforming into an arts academy  –  just like the whole industrial neighbourhood around it is being filled up with the creative masses and ultimately gentrified. We tend to look at the demolition, construction and renovation  –  both the houses and the roads – as something temporary. Especially here in Kalamaja, the contrary is actually true. Nothing stays the same, the “ready” state is temporary, constant change is the norm.

Raadi airfield, Tartu. Soviet military airbase on the outskirts of Tartu. This could be our Tempelhof — an irrational urban playground, a city park without trees but with a lot of solid ground for skating and cycling. But as it is so close to downtown then real estate development projects are already encircling it and putting pressure on the municipality to start cutting pieces out of this playground too.

Raadi airfield, Tartu. A Soviet military airbase in the outskirts of Tartu. This could be our Tempelhof  – an irrational urban playground, a city park without trees but with a lot of solid ground for skating and cycling. But as it is so close to downtown, the real estate development projects are already encircling it and putting pressure on the municipality to start cutting pieces out of this playground too.

Raadi, Tartu. When visiting Estonian National Museum in Tartu, take time to wander in its surroundings too. In addition to the Soviet airfield, there are beautiful mansion ruins amidst a more classical park. Originally it was meant to be covered with high wild grass (think High Lane in NYC) not mowed lawn. Hopefully it will grow back — it would add to an already fairy tale feeling.

Raadi, Tartu. When visiting the Estonian National Museum in Tartu, take your time to wander in its surroundings too. In addition to the Soviet airfield, there are beautiful mansion ruins amid a more classical park. Originally it was meant to be covered with high wild grass (think High Lane in NYC) not mowed lawn. Hopefully it will grow back  –  it would add to an already fairy tale feeling.

Soomaa. The wet fifth season between winter and spring brings a lot of visitors to this swampy region in the heart of Estonia. In some years, they get to paddle past the lone remaining houses, partially submerged in the slow flooding rivers. Water is everywhere — except on this Soviet-era road. Built in a totalitarian way as a mostly straight cut through the landscape, it turned upside down the structure of villages and shut down the old meandering small road between them.

Soomaa. The wet fifth season between the winter and the spring brings a lot of visitors to this swampy region in the heart of Estonia. In some years, they get to paddle past the lone remaining houses, partially submerged in the slow flooding rivers. Water is everywhere  –  except on this Soviet-era road. Built in a totalitarian way as a mostly straight cut through the landscape, it turned upside down the structure of villages and shut down the old meandering small road between them.

Vääna-Jõesuu. The sea doesn’t care that much about the planning, changing the shorelines as it pleases. The beach football matches were going to be awkward that summer. Not many knew about it yet — seasides really aren’t too popular over the cold season.

Vääna-Jõesuu. The sea doesn’t care that much about the planning, changing the shorelines as it pleases. The beach football matches were going to be awkward that summer. Not many knew about it yet  –  seasides really aren’t too popular over the cold season.

Tallinn. Cities are less friendly than the countryside during the slush season. Everyone’s personal prohibited space becomes pretty visible and pronounced when it rains. Cars become puddle-induced predators that everyone tries to avoid — even more than other people. But if you let yourself go and start noticing the surroundings, rain also makes the city life especially picturesque.

Tallinn. Cities are less friendly than the countryside during the slush season. Everyone’s personal prohibited space becomes pretty visible and pronounced when it rains. Cars become puddle-induced predators that everyone tries to avoid  –  even more than other people. But if you let yourself go and start to notice your surroundings, rain also makes city life especially picturesque.

Kalamaja, Tallinn. Some houses really aren’t built for the looks. They are so forgettable that even their owners don’t seem to notice them — failing to take care of the drainpipes, boards and doors. But in the end all this forgetting finally turns them into pieces of art. This house is like mist, but with yellow window frames.

Kalamaja, Tallinn. Some houses really aren’t built for the looks. They are so forgettable that even their owners don’t seem to notice them –  failing to take care of the drainpipes, boards and doors. But in the end, all this forgetting finally turns them into pieces of art. This house is like mist, but with yellow window frames.

Kuperjanovi, Tartu. Some houses stun you every time you pass them. Who built this otherworldly wooden castle? What’s the function of this tower? What is it used for now, after the original purpose has been forgotten?

Kuperjanovi, Tartu. Some houses stun you every time you pass them. Who built this otherworldly wooden castle? What’s the function of this tower? What is it used for now, after the original purpose has been forgotten?

Kalamäe, Tallinn. We’ve learned to design and construct decent houses in Estonia, but the landscape architecture is still lagging behind. The spaces around and between houses are not built for humans. They are either for parking cars or just an amorphous, purposeless zone of random fences and lifeless low-trimmed lawn. The only way to spot the difference between some residential developments and prison architecture is by the height of the fences.

Kalamäe, Tallinn. We’ve learned to design and construct decent houses in Estonia, but the landscape architecture is still lagging behind. The spaces around and between the houses are not built for humans. They are either for parking cars or just an amorphous, purposeless zone of random fences and lifeless low-trimmed lawn. The only way to spot the difference between some residential developments and prison architecture is by the height of the fences.

Kuressaare. An old power station turned into a craft brewery, one of the pearls of the remote island town of Kuressaare. Saaremaa, once home to my grandfather, lures me back every now and then. Surprisingly many youngish newcomers from the mainland have settled down here, against the norm of everyone else piling up in central Tallinn. Maybe it’s the remoteness, almost like being in another country, like a smaller version of Estonia. Or maybe it’s just the sheer niceness of this place.

Kuressaare. An old power station turned into a craft brewery, one of the pearls of the remote island town of Kuressaare. Saaremaa, once home to my grandfather, lures me back every now and then. Surprisingly, many youngish newcomers from the mainland have settled here, against the norm of everyone else piling up in central Tallinn. Maybe it’s the remoteness, almost like being in another country, like a smaller version of Estonia. Or maybe it’s just the sheer niceness of this place.

Vaivara, Ida-Virumaa. Estonian electricity is produced by first digging up huge swaths of some of the most picturesque landscapes in Ida-Virumaa, collecting millions of metric tons of dirt-like oil shale and then just burning it all. The byproduct of this hardcore practice is… even cooler-looking landscapes. Unnatural, sure, but after the mines and massive ash-piles have been deserted, new life begins in those artificial hillocks.

Vaivara, Ida-Virumaa. Estonia’s electricity is produced by first digging up huge swaths of some of the most picturesque landscapes in Ida-Virumaa, collecting millions of metric tons of dirt-like oil shale and then just burning it all. The byproduct of this hardcore practice is… even cooler-looking landscapes. Unnatural, sure, but after the mines and massive ash piles have been deserted, new life begins in those artificial hillocks.

Leigo, Otepää. I’m from Southern Estonia, so this Romanticist, painting-like landscape is as stereotypically home-sweet-home as it gets. You can almost feel the typical, undulating Southern Estonian hills beyond the mist on the horizon.

Leigo, Otepää. I’m from southern Estonia, so this Romanticist, painting-like landscape is as stereotypically home-sweet-home as it gets. You can almost feel the typical, undulating southern Estonian hills beyond the mist on the horizon.

Kauksi, Peipsi. Summertime by the freshwater sea of Peipsi. There’s no mist, but the color palette and overwhelming emptiness are similar. The shores of this huge lake that disconnects Estonia from Russia, have been more densely populated than our seashores. The weather here is calmer, less hostile than by the sea in general.

Kauksi, Peipsi. Summertime by the freshwater sea of Lake Peipus. There’s no mist, but the colour palette and the overwhelming emptiness are similar. The shores of this huge lake that disconnects Estonia from Russia have been more densely populated than our seashores. The weather here is calmer, less hostile than by the sea in general.

Supilinn, Tartu. The ever-changing view from my kitchen window. When autumn is approaching, mornings become slower and damper. Yet, this mist has a warm undercurrent, the knowledge that by the end of your morning coffee the sun is going to disperse those low-lying clouds.

Supilinn, Tartu. The ever-changing view from my kitchen window. When the autumn is approaching, mornings become slower and damper. Yet, this mist has a warm undercurrent, the knowledge that by the end of your morning coffee the sun is going to disperse those low-lying clouds.

Nina, Peipsi. The winds on the wintertime Peipsi sometimes pile up icebergs along the coast, creating a miniature Antarctica — if you look from one shore towards the other, invisible shore.

Nina, Lake Peipus. The winds on the wintertime Lake Peipus sometimes pile up icebergs along the coast, creating a miniature Antarctica  –  if you look from one shore towards the other, invisible shore.

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* Please note that this article was originally published on 25 April 2017. This is the third part of the Estonian urban and landscape photo series. The first one, Eesti Blues, was published on 17 January, and the second one, Eesti noir, on 6 FebruaryCover: Veski, Tartu. When the sunlight is veiled with the fog, shadows disappear. Surfaces appear to be clearer and colours can stand out in their pure form. Only if they are close enough, of course.

Tartu Town Hall Square. This laid-back classicist old town is where my Tartu office lies. Nothing beats the foggy weather during the blue hours of short late autumn days. It’s soft, sweet and relaxing for some – and, yes, appallingly morbid for others.

PICTURES: Eesti blues through the eyes of photographer Tõnu Runnel

Estonians cherish their beautiful summer, long sunny days and short fairy-tale nights. In return, most of us are inversely aching about the rest of the year – the dim, wet and somber days of fog and darkness. Then again, the bad weather is as beautiful as those sunny summer days if you only care to look. Here’s a set of pictures of memorable urbanscapes and buildings that I’ve encountered on such dim times.*

Rotermann, Tallinn. This is where I work from on my Tallinn days. Young Estonians bring their foreign friends here and take massive amounts of pics of these surroundings if they want to show off the progressive, modern side of Estonia.

Rotermann, Tallinn. This is where I work from on my Tallinn days. Young Estonians bring their foreign friends here and take massive amounts of pics of these surroundings if they want to show off the progressive, modern side of Estonia.

Rotermann, Tallinn. Repurposed old industrial quarters in a harmonious ensemble with new office and apartment buildings. The fog lets it feel bigger and more powerful than it already is.

Rotermann, Tallinn. Repurposed old industrial quarters in a harmonious ensemble with new office and apartment buildings. The fog lets it feel bigger and more powerful than it already is.

Vaksali, Tartu. The quiet beauty of unclaimed pieces of land in otherwise tightly built up central part of the town. The knowledge of the approaching build up looming in the future adds to the overall aesthetic pleasure.

Vaksali, Tartu. The quiet beauty of unclaimed pieces of land in otherwise tightly built up central part of the town. The knowledge of the approaching build up looming in the future adds to the overall aesthetic pleasure.

Vaksali, Tartu. We don’t actually need that much space during large stretches of our lifetimes. Small houses are easier and cheaper to keep, you are out on the street with just a few steps if necessary and they are just adorable — especially when contrasted by the big houses around them.

Vaksali, Tartu. We don’t actually need that much space during large stretches of our lifetimes. Small houses are easier and cheaper to keep, you are out on the street with just a few steps if necessary and they are just adorable — especially when contrasted by the big houses around them.

A lookout tower on the northern shore of Võrtsjärv. The miniature house-like buildings in lifeless landscapes add a layer of additional emptiness to the already deserted winterscape. The warmth pours into you by just standing and watching this silence.

A lookout tower on the northern shore of Võrtsjärv. The miniature house-like buildings in lifeless landscapes add a layer of additional emptiness to the already deserted winterscape. The warmth pours into you by just standing and watching this silence.

Tartu Town Hall Square. This laid-back classicist old town is where my Tartu office lies. Nothing beats the foggy weather during the blue hours of short late autumn days. It’s soft, sweet and relaxing for some – and, yes, appallingly morbid for others.

Tartu Town Hall Square. This laid-back classicist old town is where my Tartu office lies. Nothing beats the foggy weather during the blue hours of short late autumn days. It’s soft, sweet and relaxing for some – and, yes, appallingly morbid for others.

Telliskivi, Tallinn. This region sees a rapid change, where industrial buildings are taken over by the creative class. The coolest houses are too small for easy conversion, though, and so they stand there, empty and waiting for someone to figure out how to bring them back to life.

Telliskivi, Tallinn. This region sees a rapid change, where industrial buildings are taken over by the creative class. The coolest houses are too small for easy conversion, though, and so they stand there, empty and waiting for someone to figure out how to bring them back to life.

Kalamaja, Tallinn. A single house of a future that never came. A shabby wooden district in Tallinn was destined to be demolished and replaced with the cold brutalist monsters like this. The first one remained the only one. Now alone and shabby, surrounded by all-around renovation, it has turned out to be more beautiful than ever intended.

Kalamaja, Tallinn. A single house of a future that never came. A shabby wooden district in Tallinn was destined to be demolished and replaced with the cold brutalist monsters like this. The first one remained the only one. Now alone and shabby, surrounded by all-around renovation, it has turned out to be more beautiful than ever intended.

Tähtvere, Tartu. The futuristic song festival ground from the 1980ies has somehow survived the iconoclasm of succeeding decades – probably because of lack of funds. Now again it looks stylish, hip and ready for prime time, waiting for Grimes, Peaches and why not Kraftwerk – with a thousand background singers, of course.

Tähtvere, Tartu. The futuristic song festival ground from the 1980ies has somehow survived the iconoclasm of succeeding decades – probably because of lack of funds. Now again it looks stylish, hip and ready for prime time, waiting for Grimes, Peaches and why not Kraftwerk – with a thousand background singers, of course.

Kuressaare. The unexpected fairy tale castle on the sea shore of the beautiful wooden town of Kuressaare deserves thousands of visitors on its grounds all year round. Thankfully both the castle and town are relatively quiet most of the year – and you can often have it all for yourself.

Kuressaare. The unexpected fairy tale castle on the sea shore of the beautiful wooden town of Kuressaare deserves thousands of visitors on its grounds all year round. Thankfully both the castle and town are relatively quiet most of the year – and you can often have it all for yourself.

Karlova, Tartu. Often noteworthy houses survive only because they are left to die. Either the owners are too poor to destroy it through too eager renovation – or the modernist city planning fad was bogged down before taking down the whole district. This is the case here – the Soviet overlords once again wanted some real houses and highways instead of decay and poverty. Thankfully, they faded away soon after.

Karlova, Tartu. Often noteworthy houses survive only because they are left to die. Either the owners are too poor to destroy it through too eager renovation – or the modernist city planning fad was bogged down before taking down the whole district. This is the case here – the Soviet overlords once again wanted some real houses and highways instead of decay and poverty. Thankfully, they faded away soon after.

Karlova, Tartu. My favourite architectural subgenre – cute houses too tiny for living with your family. Did I forget to mention that it was originally meant for *two* families? One for each one-room storey. Now it’s the entry point into a wonderful secret mini-district with a number of equally beautiful, yet a bit bigger homes.

Karlova, Tartu. My favourite architectural subgenre – cute houses too tiny for living with your family. Did I forget to mention that it was originally meant for *two* families? One for each one-room storey. Now it’s the entry point into a wonderful secret mini-district with a number of equally beautiful, yet a bit bigger homes.

Mändjala, Saaremaa. It’s easy to make a horror movie anywhere in the Estonian countryside during the cold season. Then again, you could also make a feel-good movie right here – it’s only how you manipulate the picture, and your thoughts.

Mändjala, Saaremaa. It’s easy to make a horror movie anywhere in the Estonian countryside during the cold season. Then again, you could also make a feel-good movie right here – it’s only how you manipulate the picture, and your thoughts.

Toomemäe, Tartu. These houses have been a huge, derelict canvas for artists and taggers for as long as I can remember. Prime real estate, just the owners aren’t ready for prime time yet. This and a few other houses in Tartu have massive portraits featuring local heroes on their walled-up window slots.

Toomemäe, Tartu. These houses have been a huge, derelict canvas for artists and taggers for as long as I can remember. Prime real estate, just the owners aren’t ready for prime time yet. This and a few other houses in Tartu have massive portraits featuring local heroes on their walled-up window slots.

Kalamarja, Tallinn. Somehow, we have learned to build houses, but not yet the space between them. Absurdly hilarious fence systems coupled with negative space for parking and lifeless, micromanaged lawns. You can sometimes only tell the difference between jail architecture and nice residential developments by measuring the height of the fences. Until landscape architects are discovered, I and other photographers can enjoy the pure form these buildings and their desolate surroundings pose.

Kalamaja, Tallinn. Somehow, we have learned to build houses, but not yet the space between them. Absurdly hilarious fence systems coupled with negative space for parking and lifeless, micromanaged lawns. You can sometimes only tell the difference between jail architecture and nice residential developments by measuring the height of the fences. Until landscape architects are discovered, I and other photographers can enjoy the pure form these buildings and their desolate surroundings pose.

Raadi, Tartu. The pleasure of comparing the poetic, faded realism to the naive ideals of modernist planning – both necessary ingredients for this beautiful outcome. This beauty is hidden to the muddy backstreets near the former Soviet military zone – a region still almost if undiscovered by the municipality and therefore a great destination for visiting pearl hunters.

Raadi, Tartu. The pleasure of comparing the poetic, faded realism to the naive ideals of modernist planning – both necessary ingredients for this beautiful outcome. This beauty is hidden to the muddy backstreets near the former Soviet military zone – a region still almost if undiscovered by the municipality and therefore a great destination for visiting pearl hunters.

Annelinn, Tartu. I grew up in a similar “mikrorajoon” close to this one. You only have one childhood and it doesn’t matter that much if it takes place in a Soviet modernist dystopia or anywhere else. What I don’t know, though, is why it still attracts me now – is it slight nostalgia or just the promise of impressive shots? Even worse – I actually like it as one part of the complete urbanscape.

Annelinn, Tartu. I grew up in a similar “mikrorajoon” close to this one. You only have one childhood and it doesn’t matter that much of it takes place in a Soviet modernist dystopia or anywhere else. What I don’t know, though, is why it still attracts me now – is it slight nostalgia or just the promise of impressive shots? Even worse – I actually like it as one part of the complete urbanscape.

Sadam, Tallinn. Where else would you expect to stumble upon the Estonian Museum of Contemporary Art – if not in a derelict industrial building destined for demolition (and replacement with posh residential/commercial district)? Hope this one, too, will outlive the current short-sighted overlords and eventually get those posh new houses around it, not instead of it.

Sadam, Tallinn. Where else would you expect to stumble upon the Estonian Museum of Contemporary Art – if not in a derelict industrial building destined for demolition (and replacement with posh residential/commercial district)? Hope this one, too, will outlive the current short-sighted overlords and eventually get those posh new houses around it, not instead of it.

Old Town, Tallinn. For years, I didn’t see the Old Town too much – it was out of my usual routes in Tallinn and seemed to be serving only souvenirs and alcohol to tourists. Now it has changed to the better, offering a lot to both locals and visitors. Also, the visitors seem to be much more diverse. Maybe ourselves, too.

Old Town, Tallinn. For years, I didn’t see the Old Town too much – it was out of my usual routes in Tallinn and seemed to be serving only souvenirs and alcohol to tourists. Now it has changed to the better, offering a lot to both locals and visitors. Also, the visitors seem to be much more diverse. Maybe ourselves, too.

Go out and enjoy the Eesti blues, this is in a way even better than the beautiful summertime – because you can be pretty sure about the exclusivity of the experience – you won’t meet pretty much anyone else.

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Cover: Tartu Town Hall Square. This laid-back classicist old town is where my Tartu office lies. Nothing beats the foggy weather during the blue hours of short late autumn days. It’s soft, sweet and relaxing for some – and, yes, appallingly morbid for others. * Please note that this article was originally published on 17 January 2017.

PICTURES: Eesti autumn through the eyes of photographer Tõnu Runnel

The Estonian summer is a great nostalgic brand, a destination on its own. But once the autumn hits, everyone leaves. Not just the migratory birds and the summer-Estonians of the world, but also those who go to school and work in our few bigger towns. They leave their country houses, put on straight faces and go to meet their new beginnings.*

Paljassaare, Tallinn. In the end of summer, the weather starts to change. More clouds and rain, lower temperatures. Beaches are the first places that get left behind.

Paljassaare, Tallinn. In the end of the summer, the weather starts to change. More clouds and rain, lower temperatures. The beaches are the first places that get left behind.

Meelva, Räpina. The landscapes start to go through dramatic changes. The fog visits more often, the fields turn gold. Yet the trees don’t yet give in staying as green as ever. Some evenings are still relatively warm, the days are still long. It’s still kind of a summer in case it isn’t raining.

Meelva, Räpina. The landscapes start to go through dramatic changes. The fog visits more often, the fields turn gold. Yet the trees don’t yet give in staying as green as ever. Some evenings are still relatively warm, the days are still long. It’s still kind of a summer in case it isn’t raining.

The Old town, Tallinn. The rain isn’t bringing escape from the heat anymore. Instead, it makes you think about cardigans, gloves and curling up indoors, in front of fireplaces. The universally shared feeling that this year, summer almost didn’t get started before it was already over.

The Old town, Tallinn. The rain isn’t bringing escape from the heat anymore. Instead, it makes you think about cardigans, gloves and curling up indoors, in front of fireplaces. The universally shared feeling that this year, summer almost didn’t get started before it was already over.

Rotermann, Tallinn. Soon enough, outdoor restaurants fall into desolation. Restless people proclaim to move to the Mediterranean – or Bali – and leave this upcoming hell for good. How could you survive seven months without sipping your morning coffee outside, on the balcony? No more shorts? Come on.

Rotermann, Tallinn. Soon enough, outdoor restaurants fall into desolation. Restless people proclaim to move to the Mediterranean – or Bali – and leave this upcoming hell for good. How could you survive seven months without sipping your morning coffee outside, on the balcony? No more shorts? Come on.

Supilinn, Tartu. But not all is lost. The autumn is not so much about the endings as it is about the new beginnings. The autumn is the time to rouse from the midsummer laze, move back to towns, back to work. Schools claim our children – the traditional start of school on 1 September is like an unofficial national holiday. Everything is new.

Supilinn, Tartu. But not all is lost. The autumn is not so much about the endings as it is about the new beginnings. The autumn is the time to rouse from the midsummer laze, move back to towns, back to work. Schools claim our children – the traditional start of school on 1 September is like an unofficial national holiday. Everything is new.

Lake Meelva, Põlvamaa. And on the weekends you can head back to the countryside. There are all those new activities waiting for the adventurous. The forest berries and mushrooms you used to pick with your grandmother. Remember those? For years you didn’t care. Now, a bit older, you gather your friends and go wandering in the autumn forest anew. In a few years, you’ll be bringing your kids along.

Lake Meelva, Põlvamaa. And on the weekends you can head back to the countryside. There are all those new activities waiting for the adventurous. The forest berries and mushrooms you used to pick with your grandmother. Remember those? For years you didn’t care. Now, a bit older, you gather your friends and go wandering in the autumn forest anew. In a few years, you’ll be bringing your kids along.

Meelva, Räpina. And all that food that gets ripe in the end of the summer and the beginning of fall. The abundance of fresh ingredients demands our attention. As the weather grows colder, we gradually rediscover ovens and long-baked foods.

Meelva, Räpina. And all that food that gets ripe in the end of the summer and the beginning of fall. The abundance of fresh ingredients demands our attention. As the weather grows colder, we gradually rediscover ovens and long-baked foods.

Kirna, Alam-Pedja. Slowly, more colours seep into the landscapes. One by one, the different botanical species decide, enough is enough, and let go. From green to red and brown – under the blue array of clouds – the whole palette is out there.

Kirna, Alam-Pedja. Slowly, more colours seep into the landscapes. One by one, the different botanical species decide, enough is enough, and let go. From green to red and brown – under the blue array of clouds – the whole palette is out there.

Toome, Tartu. Then the leaves start to turn in tides – the golden apex of the autumn is upon us. A dreadful time for all the diligent park supervisors who try to mitigate everyone’s awe with their gasoline-powered leaf blowers. That’s the actual beginning of the autumn –  the first loud scream of the first blower when first yellow leaf falls from in the park.

Toome, Tartu. Then the leaves start to turn in tides – the golden apex of the autumn is upon us. A dreadful time for all the diligent park supervisors who try to mitigate everyone’s awe with their gasoline-powered leaf blowers. That’s the actual beginning of the autumn –  the first loud scream of the first blower when first yellow leaf falls from in the park.

Karlova, Tartu. I wandered into this courtyard and complimented the locals for the beauty of it. Their tired response: “Yeah, right, it will be November in no time" – alluding that this all is just deceptive pre-rot. Yes – all those leaves are beautiful only until it’s not your responsibility to clean this mess up after the show.

Karlova, Tartu. I wandered into this courtyard and complimented the locals for the beauty of it. Their tired response: “Yeah, right, it will be November in no time” – alluding that this all is just deceptive pre-rot. Yes – all those leaves are beautiful only until it’s not your responsibility to clean this mess up after the show.

Kassitoome, Tartu. It’s not a very long show. Not every year the fall of the leaves is accompanied by the sunny weather. But then they get in sync and it will be really powerful, like a bunch of dragons lying in their piles of gold.

Kassitoome, Tartu. It’s not a very long show. Not every year the fall of the leaves is accompanied by the sunny weather. But then they get in sync and it will be really powerful, like a bunch of dragons lying in their piles of gold.

Karlova, Tartu. Everyone jumps on this short golden period with their cameras – it really is beautiful. There’s more you can do with the autumn colours than just shoot the golden dragon piles. A touch of yellow is enough to give quite a different look to your ordinary scenes too.

Karlova, Tartu. Everyone jumps on this short golden period with their cameras – it really is beautiful. There’s more you can do with the autumn colours than just shoot the golden dragon piles. A touch of yellow is enough to give quite a different look to your ordinary scenes too.

Lake Meelva, Põlvamaa. The winter draws closer and the nature falls silent. No need to join the nature and start hibernating, though. Instead, it’s the best time to wander in the woods and marshes – the mosquitoes are gone, it’s quiet and inviting outdoors.

Lake Meelva, Põlvamaa. The winter draws closer and the nature falls silent. No need to join the nature and start hibernating, though. Instead, it’s the best time to wander in the woods and marshes – the mosquitoes are gone, it’s quiet and inviting outdoors.

Lake Meelva, Põlvamaa. You can have it all – the entire lake. The whole forest. All the streets in a village. No one is usually there – except you. And it’s more beautiful than ever. If only there were more light, more hours in a day. By the end of November, it’s starting to get dark already after three o’clock in the afternoon.

Lake Meelva, Põlvamaa. You can have it all – the entire lake. The whole forest. All the streets in a village. No one is usually there – except you. And it’s more beautiful than ever. If only there were more light, more hours in a day. By the end of November, it’s starting to get dark already after three o’clock in the afternoon.

Vaksali, Tartu. When the leaves are gone and the snow hasn’t arrived yet, the cityscapes go through an intermission that is hard to swallow for many of us. But, somehow, some parts of the town actually become more picturesque during this time. The old wooden districts, where houses aren’t disconnected from the street by large gardens, turn on their most painting-like faces.

Vaksali, Tartu. When the leaves are gone and the snow hasn’t arrived yet, the cityscapes go through an intermission that is hard to swallow for many of us. But, somehow, some parts of the town actually become more picturesque during this time. The old wooden districts, where houses aren’t disconnected from the street by large gardens, turn on their most painting-like faces.

Juuru, Raplamaa. And there it is. The first snow sometimes covers the gardens already in October, but most years, the truly frosty winter doesn’t arrive before January. It’s a long and dark November and the many following months. Still – with the occasional colder weather every now and then there’s a higher chance of seeing the sun.

Juuru, Raplamaa. And there it is. The first snow sometimes covers the gardens already in October, but most years, the truly frosty winter doesn’t arrive before January. It’s a long and dark November and the many following months. Still – with the occasional colder weather every now and then there’s a higher chance of seeing the sun.

Mardu, Soomaa. The late autumn is a fine time. If you feel the cities turning too gloomy, get out every now and then. Take your friends and discover the woods – it’s the opposite of gloom there.

Mardu, Soomaa. The late autumn is a fine time. If you feel the cities turning too gloomy, get out every now and then. Take your friends and discover the woods – it’s the opposite of gloom there.

* This is the fifth part of the Estonian urban and landscape photo series, originally published on 5 December 2017. The first one, Eesti Blues, was published on 17 January, the second one, Eesti noir, on 6 February, the third one, Eesti mist, on 25 April, and the fourth one, Eesti home, on 6 June

Cover: Narva-Jõesuu. Without people, the modern urban architecture and cityscapes are sometimes hard to distinguish from prison complexes. Still – as in this case there are no barbed wires and the sea on the backdrop so aptly symbolises freedom, this time it must be a beautiful, brutal city park. Add just the right kind of turning of the weather and you get a magnificient photographer trap.

Supilinn, Tartu. The Japanese moment of Estonia — instead of the cherries blossoming — the apple trees signal us the beginning of summer. We move outdoors, to cook and to eat, to read and to sleep. This is a rooftop terrace on top of a wood shed—summer literally throning above winter.

PICTURES: Eesti home through the eyes of photographer Tõnu Runnel

Thousands of Estonians of the worldwide diaspora are flocking towards their tiny home between the Baltic Sea and Lake Peipus every summer. More locally, those living in the cities and towns move to villages and summer houses – almost like a great seasonal migration between the summer and winter pastures.

Estonia lies so far north that during the brief summer we don’t see much darkness. As if it’s just one very long day filled with near-constant light – and flies past in an instant.

Here are some pictures from the places that feel like home to me.

Supilinn, Tartu. When temperatures start to rise, clothes fall off and windows fly open. There’s really no time to waste — each warm day is counted and skis are already lurking behind the door. Soon it would be too hot, but occasional rain and thunder bring temperatures back down to bearable levels.

Supilinn, Tartu. When temperatures start to rise, clothes fall off and windows fly open. There’s really no time to waste  –  each warm day is counted and skis are already lurking behind the door. Soon it would be too hot, but occasional rain and thunder bring temperatures back down to bearable levels.

Supilinn, Tartu. As grown-ups retreat indoors and sit on window sills during the powerful summer rains, kids remain outside — this is their kingdom now.

Supilinn, Tartu. As grown-ups retreat indoors and sit on window sills during the powerful summer rains, kids remain outside  –  this is their kingdom now.

Supilinn, Tartu. Singing with joy in his natural habitat—water. Another situation that makes one sing at home besides bathing and showering is cooking — if you take it slowly enough.

Supilinn, Tartu. Singing with joy in his natural habitat  –  water. Another situation that makes one sing at home besides bathing and showering is cooking   –   if you take it slowly enough.

Supilinn, Tartu. Everyone wants to have their own home. Built by yourself, with your own hands. It can be small—it can be really tiny — but it’s yours and yours only. Home is where your bed is.

Supilinn, Tartu. Everyone wants to have their own home. Built by yourself, with your own hands. It can be small  –  it can be really tiny   –   but it’s yours and yours only. Home is where your bed is.

Annelinn, Tartu. I grew up in Soviet modernist projects like this one. Not quite as dense and a bit more green, but the overall feeling was similar. You can’t do much here outdoors — therefore many spend as much time in their small summer houses (dachas) in the countryside. Both the houses and the pavement radiate heat — so it gets pretty hot here. And it‘s actually oddly enjoyable.

Annelinn, Tartu. I grew up in Soviet modernist projects like this one. Not quite as dense and a bit more green, but the overall feeling was similar. You can’t do much here outdoors   –   therefore many spend as much time in their small summer houses (dachas) in the countryside. Both the houses and the pavement radiate heat   –   so it gets pretty hot here. And it‘s actually oddly enjoyable.

Tähtvere, Tartu. Back in the day streets here were filled with kids. Now families are smaller and children have calendars full of expensive hobbies, organised by their parents. They don’t have as much time to slack off as we did a few decades ago. Even birthday parties aren’t usually held at homes but at some rented event location. Therefore seeing a swarm of neighbourhood kids like this at someone’s home is a pretty special occasion.

Tähtvere, Tartu. Back in the day, streets here were filled with kids. Now families are smaller and children have calendars full of expensive hobbies, organised by their parents. They don’t have as much time to slack off as we did a few decades ago. Even birthday parties aren’t usually held at homes but at some rented event location. Therefore seeing a swarm of neighbourhood kids like this at someone’s home is a pretty special occasion.

Annelinn, Tartu. Old family photo albums mostly have pictures of birthdays, weddings and funerals. People are stiff, looking into the camera. Everyday domestic life is a rare find. My photo stack is pretty much the opposite. So here’s one family photo as it’s supposed to be.

Annelinn, Tartu. Old family photo albums mostly have pictures of birthdays, weddings and funerals. People are stiff, looking into the camera. Everyday domestic life is a rare find. My photo stack is pretty much the opposite. So here’s one family photo as it’s supposed to be.

Supilinn, Tartu. Around the world home means Sunday morning with pancakes and coffee. Local speciality is to have the cakes thick and small — made with sour milk or quark.

Supilinn, Tartu. Around the world, home means Sunday morning with pancakes and coffee. Local speciality is to have the cakes thick and small   –   made with sour milk or quark.

Supilinn, Tartu. Around the world home means Sunday morning with pancakes and coffee. Local speciality is to have the cakes thick and small — made with sour milk or quark.

Supilinn, Tartu. Well, this photo is an over the top cliche of the idealised summer day in Tartu. Just counting the characteristic elements makes you wonder whether it’s staged or a real thing. The only error is the pair of mass-produced beer bottles. Surely it would be a commercial if those were local craft beer flavours instead.

Supilinn, Tartu. Supilinn has it’s fair share of cats looking out of the worn-out window frames. This one guards a travelling art exhibition set up in someone’s nice little home — and becomes itself inspiration for subsequent pieces of art.

Supilinn, Tartu. Supilinn has its fair share of cats looking out of the worn-out window frames. This one guards a travelling art exhibition set up in someone’s nice little home   –   and becomes itself inspiration for subsequent pieces of art.

Kalamaja, Tallinn. When moving to a new place, one needs to make it feel like home. Peeling off a layer of shabby decoration in order to replace it with one of your liking reveals another and below it another layer of previous similar attempts. So far for me every little peel-off has resulted in a total teardown. And right before the start of reconstruction it tends to look most picturesque.

Kalamaja, Tallinn. When moving to a new place, one needs to make it feel like home. Peeling off a layer of shabby decoration in order to replace it with one of your liking reveals another and below it another layer of previous similar attempts. So far for me every little peel-off has resulted in a total teardown. And right before the start of reconstruction it tends to look most picturesque.

Meelva near Räpina. In southern Estonia smoke saunas were as important parts of the households as showers and baths are now. Now old ones are being restored and some new ones get built.

Meelva near Räpina. In southern Estonia, smoke saunas were as important parts of the household as showers and baths are now. Now old ones are being restored and some new ones get built.

It’s a much tougher task to heat one compared with modern saunas with chimneys   –   first you burn wood for hours and then you ventilate it for half that time. There is no way to increase the temperature after venting. But then again, this slow and diligent process is part of the appeal.

Raekoja plats, Tartu. We spend so big part of our wake time at work that it should feel like home. Better yet — build a kitchen and invite friends over if you can.

Raekoja plats (Town Hall Square), Tartu. We spend a big part of our time at work that it should feel like home. Better yet   –   build a kitchen and invite friends over if you can.

Kulgu, Narva. Some older Soviet-flavored couples keep peace in their marriages so that the lady is in charge at the apartment whereas the husband keeps tinkering at the garage—whenever the weather is fine enough. The garages are clustered into blocks away from the house. Slowly each garage becomes kind of a summer house and the cluster around it starts to look like a village — inhabited exclusively by men.

Kulgu, Narva. Some older Soviet-flavoured couples keep peace in their marriages so that the lady is in charge at the apartment whereas the husband keeps tinkering in the garage  –  whenever the weather is fine enough. The garages are clustered into blocks away from the house. Slowly each garage becomes a kind of a summer house and the cluster around it starts to look like a village   –   inhabited exclusively by men.

Meelva near Räpina. Most of the Estonian villages are sparsely populated. Instead of cramming houses into one place and tilling the fields around it, each house was surrounded by it’s own fields and woods when possible. You often don’t see any other house than your own.

Meelva near Räpina. Most of the Estonian villages are sparsely populated. Instead of cramming houses into one place and tilling the fields around it, each house was surrounded by its own fields and woods when possible. You often don’t see any other house than your own.

Supilinn, Tartu. For those who don’t migrate away in August, a peaceful time begins in the Fall. There’s no rush, no need to fill up your calendar with friends, events and almost obligatory enjoyment. Now you don’t have to worry about the unforgiving pace of time anymore. You can just work, learn or hibernate. Finally you are free again.

Supilinn, Tartu. For those who don’t migrate away in August, a peaceful time begins in the autumn. There’s no rush, no need to fill up your calendar with friends, events and almost obligatory enjoyment. Now you don’t have to worry about the unforgiving pace of time anymore. You can just work, learn or hibernate. Finally you are free again.

I

This is the fourth part of the Estonian urban and landscape photo series. The first one, Eesti Blues, was published on 17 January, the second one, Eesti noir, on 6 February, and the third one, Eesti mist, on 25 April.

Cover: Supilinn, Tartu. The Japanese moment of Estonia  – instead of the cherries blossoming  – the apple trees signal us the beginning of the summer. We move outdoors, to cook and to eat, to read and to sleep. This is a rooftop terrace on top of a wood shed – summer literally throning above winter.

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PICTURES: Eesti noir through the eyes of photographer Tõnu Runnel

The feeling that the day is ours, whereas the darkness of the night belongs to someone else. We are strangers in those realms. Yet the lack of light is almost constant in the late autumn and early winter for those confined to the office space during the short hours of daylight.

Here’s a set of pictures of memorable buildings and landscapes that I’ve encountered in the Estonian darkness over all four seasons.

Rotermann, Tallinn. What once was the coolest cinema in town has slowly become a city planning error. The deserted factory zone, once hidden behind its empty backside, has now been renovated into one of the crown jewels of Tallinn, a city inside the city. The cinema now looks out of place, having not anticipated the phoenix rising behind its back. The strange ramps for both humans and cars beside it cut Rotermann away from the rest of the city.

Aparaat, Tartu. The now demolished courtyard houses of a factory looked more like half-conscious machines  –  as if a scene from a Simon Stålenhag painting. The former factory around the yard now houses restaurants, studios and offices of the creative class – just as you’d expect.

Pelgulinn, Tallinn. The wooden residential districts of Põhja-Tallinn are some of my favourite parts of the town. Human-relatable size of the streets and houses, a photo waiting to be taken on every corner, in front of every house. It takes some time walking around to start noticing the noteworthy compositions in the setting that looks banal and ordinary on the surface.

A courtyard beside the Town Hall Square of Tartu. This beautiful small square lies between my Tartu office and a nice little restaurant. A tree in the courtyard turns the space into a thing in itself, rather than a piece of land forgotten behind the walls of the surrounding houses. The growing trend of decorating the trees with lights and flags adds a finishing touch to it.

Balti jaam, Tallinn. The fog is somehow especially fitting for a train station. Probably the steam engines form cheesy films, where someone is leaving into the dark by train. In a paradoxical way the feeling of darkness gets amplified by the spotlights and the feeling of depth gets amplified by the fog that cuts short the visible distance.

Balti jaam, Tallinn. There are no real passenger lounges anymore at the main train station of Tallinn. Nor do the platforms with beautiful futuristic streetlights offer much protection from the rain and wind in case your train is late.

Tähtvere, Tartu. An ice skating rink in the winter and a song festival ground in the summer, this Soviet-era colosseum stays empty on most days. Like a landing space ship, its roof  – built both to enhance the acoustics and protect from the rain  –  hovers above the place.

Rotermann, Tallinn. Probably the coolest office I’ve had  –  from the outside at least. The red-eyed terminators are switched on in the dark after everyone has left. The towers sit atop of an old stone building, making the whole scene one degree more bizarre, as if they’re just resting for a while.

Lohkva, Tartu. The amount of light emitted from this industrial scale cucumber farm on the edge of the town makes Tartu visible over long distances during the night time. Coupled with the huge chimneys of a heating and electricity plant beside the farm, it feels like a military-run research facility from the X-Files.

Telliskivi, Tallinn. The dystopian landscapes of the half-deserted industrial zones in Tallinn are well suited for shooting sci-fi or post-apocalyptic movies. As the real estate prices rise and residential and soft commercial areas keep encroaching closer, the industry moves away and leaves us without some strange yet undoubtedly enjoyable spaces.

Uus Maailm, Tallinn. You don’t get to witness demolition of huge buildings in city centres too often. A significant piece of Soviet-era architecture, belonging to the ministry of finance, was “reconstructed” to house a lot more government officials.

Vaksali, Tartu. A relic of the czarist era, the majestic railroad station of Tartu stayed in a bad shape for many years before opening up once again to the passengers just a few years ago. Almost all railroad stations in Estonia  – most of them wonderful pieces of architecture –  have either stayed empty or changed their function to something unrelated to travel. The once busy stations of Tallinn are now poorly planned retail spaces, leaving the Tartu station the crown jewel of the revitalising rail transport.

Tartu Town Hall Square. The Mediterranean-looking bank building from the 19th century that no one misses to notice at the central square of Tartu. Its Neo-Renaissance style must have felt kitschy to the contemporary progressive minds. But as it often goes  –  time washes schmuckiness away and now everyone sees it as a valuable piece of beautiful architecture.

Tallinn Old Town. The urban spaces with small enough buildings and narrow enough streets often feel cosier after the night has fallen. The street lights carve warm, inviting pockets into the darkness. The fresh snow brings a lot of extra light so the remaining shadows look more friendly.

Käsmu Captain’s Village. A former lighthouse facing the sea in the north and glowing from the faint midnight light of the midsummer. This is the smallest house I’ve spent a night in –  yet it’s big enough for Aarne, the keeper of the Maritime Museum behind it, to sometimes live and work in during the warmer months of the year.

Supilinn, Tartu. The view from my kitchen on a still winter night. Standing on a slope of a hill with a wide view over the gardens, sheds and neighbouring streets, my windows are an ever changing canvas. The fog, snow and rain clouds can each drastically alter the mood of this picture.

Mardu, Soomaa. We are drawn to the light in the night time  –  just like the insects. During the Midsummer Day festivities, bonfires are lit all around Estonia. Sometimes other, stranger art performances with the light and smoke from the burning wood take place. Like this one, during the Concert of the Beginning of Mosquito Buzz. Yes, it’s a thing.

Meelva near Räpina. Humans always bring light with them  –  you can therefore never experience total darkness in the inhabited places  –  except maybe during some odd blackout. Yet there are enough remote corners of Estonia to get away and listen to the total silence of the moonlit nights.

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This is the second part of the Estonian urban & landscape photo series. The first one, Eesti Blues, was published on 17 January.

Cover: Vaksali, Tartu. Some foggy mornings bring so little color to the surroundings that it’s later hard to distinguish by the photo whether it’s the moon or the sun. Fog is like a little night  –  it too cuts the vision short, undersaturates the colors and makes you feel like a stranger.

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