Adventures of a father and a photographer. Tales about the mystery and excitement of family travel.

perjantai 17. elokuuta 2018

Reindeer Flying Low

I remember a cartoon from the 90's about a clever animal helping Santa Claus and his elves with very serious problems related to Christmas somehow. The animal was called Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and the film was of course based on the popular Christmas song. Unfortunately I have say, if Santa would have to rely on the reindeer when he had any kind of problems, he would be very disappointed. Because - you'll hate me for saying this - I don't think the reindeer was present when intelligence was installed to the animal brain.

How can I say a thing like that? Reindeer is the most adorable animal and they help Santa deliver all the presents during Christmas time! As a Finn, a resident of Santa's home country, I should know better.

But, I know this from personal experience, reindeer seems to be one of the most stupid animals on Earth. Let me explain.

In Finland, the reindeer live up north, in Lapland. They wander in herds there, free, without shepherds. Somehow, the owners can gather them in one place when they want to. But most of the time, the animals can walk about free, anywhere they want. That's why there are big signs warning about wandering reindeer when you head to Lapland.

There's quite a lot of space for the reindeer to wander in Lapland. The distances between towns and villages are long and the roads between them are very straight. And people from the Southern Finland, and other countries too, love to come there to admire the harsh beauty of the nature and wilderness with their cars.

You may have guessed, that's just what I did with my family. Now, when the roads are straight, totally empty and the nearest police patrol is 500 kilometers away settling a pub incident, a certain thought might come to your head. Now that the rest of the family is sleeping, what if, what if you just tried out your family car. Is the number on the speedometer just a marketing trick or does this chitty-chitty-bang-bang really go that fast?

I'm most certainly not encouraging anybody to drive over the speed limit, but circumstances like that might make you feel like Jeremy Clarkson on Top Gear when he's driving the latest McLaren model. I'm not saying I did that, but it might happen that you push the pedal a bit closer to the metal and make the old seven-seater go faster than it was ever supposed to. And just when you're getting the Clarkson grin on your face, all of a sudden from the bushes, three reindeer walk very slowly into the middle of the road.

The reindeer seem to be on their summer vacation because they are most definitely not flying. They are slouching along the road so wide you can't possibly overtake them. You have to come back from the wonderful world of sports cars and slow down until you almost stop. Then, very slowly you pass by the animals who seem to ignore you totally.

You'd think that animals who fly through the night sky on the light speed would know that it's not very wise to spend time on the roads where big cars can go at very high speed. Oh no, the reindeer do this kind of stunts all the time and you really have to keep an eye on them when driving in Lapland.

Canon EF 50mm f1.8 II

Like with many other Canon shooters, this lens was my first pancake. Despite of it's plastic construction and the terrible motor noise, it was a major improvement to the cheap zoom lenses I had. The image quality is great for the price and you can do wonders with the f1.8. The lens was replaced by the Canon 40mm STM lens in my camera bag, but every once in a while I blow the dust from the old war horse and take it for a spin. Surprisingly enough, it's a pretty decent portrait lens on my crop sensor EOS.

You can read more about the lens here.

torstai 24. toukokuuta 2018

Candle Night In Tallinn

Each year, on the 25th of March the people of Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, light candles on the freedom square to commemorate the victims of the Soviet deportations. Although it was a terrible thing, the candle lit square is a very beautiful sight.

I was able to participate the night the other year. I went there with my camera and my tripod to get some night shots, but I had no idea what was waiting for me.

There were twenty thousand candles lit on the square. They were organized in the shape of the Estonian map. But the candles weren't the most impressive thing that night. When I got out of the tram and entered the square, it was almost totally silent there. There were quite a lot of people there and you'd expect to hear a lot of noise. But, it was almost like at a cemetery on a dark winter night. You could see the people, but you couldn't hear them.

The event was very emotional. I took some photos with my 24mm lens, but couldn't quite capture the feeling. I walked away from the square to find a place to change the lens to my Walimex fisheye. I soon found a park bench I could use as a temporary holder for my equipment.

When I was fiddling with my camera, a man came out from the darkness. He was an elderly man walking slowly. He stopped by me and greeted me with a subtle voice. I greeted him back and told him with my very limited Estonian that I'm a Finn and unfortunately can't speak his language very well.

My lack of language skills didn't seem to bother him. He was starting to tell me how he used to work in Finland as a young man. He compared the Estonians and Finns and how we should really be more close because of our origins. He told me that too often the Estonians don't think too much of the Finnish tourists crowding the old town of Tallinn. I tried to answer him with my poor Estonian and told him that many times the Finns too look the Estonians down their nose and that's wrong. We agreed that this kind of events show us that we really should live as one.

There we were, two strangers from different countries, of different generations, speaking different languages, but still united in front of this beautiful memorial.

Minox Digital Classic Camera Leica M3

I've always had a soft spot for the old Leica cameras. Unfortunately, I don't own one, but I got a miniature model of one by Minox. The factory is famous for it's miniature cameras used in the cold war era. One of them was used in James Bond films, too. The factory created miniature replicas of some of the classic cameras in the history of photography. Mine is a Leica M3.

It's quite a funny little toy. Basically it's a tiny Chinese digital camera with a Minox lens, but it certainly turns heads when you use it in street photography. Attach it to a tripod and you might get a few laughs. The picture quality isn't really that good, but it's really a fun gadget to use. You can even get a replica of a Leica flash for it.

Read more about the little beast here.

You can read more about my fisheye lens I used on the memorial night here.

torstai 17. toukokuuta 2018

All That Jazz

My latest passion is the Lomography photography. For those of you who don't have a clue what I'm talking about, please check out this site. In short: Lomography is something like taking snapshot photos with old film cameras. Or with any photographic equipment. The idea is to get somewhat artistic shots fast, without thinking too much and more important: without too much digital post processing. The name Lomography comes from the old Soviet made Lomo cameras with plastic lenses and overall bad construction. You couldn't get a decent photo out of it, but taking photos with it was extremely fun.

And that's just what Lomography means to me: having fun by taking photos. I've shot for several stock photo agencies for years and technical perfection is very important in stock photos. Also, choosing the right camera body, lenses, flashes, tripods and other gimmicks produces the best results. Not to mention subject, angle, color balance and so on.

With Lomography you can forget all about the technical stuff. And you can leave the shutter speeds and apertures for the camera to decide. The world is full of subjects. You can see wonderful photo stories everywhere. And you don't have to think about the sellability of the photos. Just take a camera you can easily carry around and take the photos.

To me, it's like playing jazz music. You know the rules, but you don't have to obey them. Play freely and have fun. The listeners may not always enjoy the results, but that doesn't really matter. Very liberating!

And Lomography helps with stock photography, too. I've taken lomo shots and noticed that these might work as stock photos, too. Then I've gotten back to the location with my DSLR and taken a more rule-obeying photo.

What equipment do I use when taking these Lomography pictures? Here comes the fun part. I have several film cameras that would suit wonderfully for this kind of purpose. But, I've grown up in the time when film photography was the only photography there was. Developing film and printing the photos was relatively expensive. Every time I heard the shutter click, in my mind I saw money fading away.

That's why I don't use film any more. Unfortunately, that's over for me. So, I use my phone camera instead. To me, the phone cameras are pretty much toys, no matter how many megapixels they have. Usually they have tiny plastic lenses and a very small sensor. They are perfect for lomography, don't you think.

However, the phone cameras tend to sharpen the photos a lot and do all kind of software magic to get the photos look perfect. And I don't want perfect looking photos. So, I use a little app to make the photos look more like lomo photos. There are quite a lot of Lomography apps available, but my favourite is the Retro Camera for Android.

When I told this to my friend, he shook his head and said: So, you have a very expensive camera which could take brilliant photos and you use a piece of software to make the photos look crappy? Yes. That's right. You got the point!

You can see my Lomography photos here and here.

Huawei P10 Smartphone

My current phone is the older flagship of Huawei. It has a twin camera with Leica lenses. It should be pretty impressive. And I admit, I like taking photos with it. The camera is pretty fast, too. It's almost as fast as my EOS 350D. And I've always dreamed of walking in the street with a Leica camera with me like Henri Cartier-Bresson. I wonder what the new flagship, the P20 with triple camera is like.

Read more about the phone here.


torstai 3. toukokuuta 2018

The Good, The Bad And The Obedient

I come from a rural town in the Northern Finland. There aren't too many of us living there. Four cars in the same crossing at the same time is called a traffic jam.

So, you can imagine that driving a car in Australia, in one of the big tourist centers might be a bit of a challenge for me. Not to mention driving on the left side of the road. The navigator's voice kept telling me: Keep left, keep left!

But there we were. Driving a rental car at Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia. I must say, it went surprisingly well, although I'm not exactly Dale Earnhardt.

We enjoyed the roads going by the beach. They were reasonably quiet and driving was easy. But the Gold Coast Highway had more lanes than my home town has roads. That's why I was trying to avoid the highway as long as I could.

One day we were coming back from the mall (and what a mall it was! Just about as big as my home town!). We were supposed to drive to the terrible highway, but I decided to cross the highway and drive to our apartment via the quiet streets by the beaches. It would be slower, but far less terrifying.

I managed to choose the right lane for crossing over the highway. When the light turned green (by the way, my home town doesn't have traffic lights),  I zoomed over the twelve lanes of the highway. And success, we got to the other side and I could see the ocean in front of me.

Just when I felt like a winner, I heard a horrifying sound from behind. A siren! I was sure I had made a mistake and now the police was here to get me! And believe me, I had seen the Australian police officers! I didn't want to mess with them!

Sweating, I pulled over. The siren was getting louder and louder. Then, I looked back and saw my son playing with his new fire engine. He had gotten it out of it's box and was trying out the buttons. Never have I been so happy to see a noisy toy truck!

SJCAM SJ4000 Action Camera

This GoPro Hero copy from China proved to be a very handy little action cam on our trip. I'm not exactly Action Man, so GoPros go a bit over my budget. But I decided to take this little toy for a ride. And it did everything I could imagine. I dived into the pool with it, I sunk it to the ocean and the image quality was great for the price. And I can use it back home, because it endures very cold temperatures and snow, too.

The only thing is the low level of the recorded sound. But what can you expect when the camera is well covered with the water-proof housing.

You can read more about the camera here.

tiistai 24. huhtikuuta 2018

Man Of Steel

My grandfather was a very tough man. He was in the WWII fighting in the front line. When he returned from the war, he founded a building company with his brother. They built almost all the public buildings in their home village in the Central Finland.

Grandpa didn't have a sick day in his life. Still in his nineties, he used to take long walks and have a look at the surroundings and the houses many of which he had built himself.

When Grandpa was turning 85, he decided to paint the roof of his house. All his children were of course against it. The house wasn't very tall, but if a senior would fall from the roof, the implications would be severe, for sure. The whole family tried to stop him, but he was very determined to get the roof in top shape before his birthday.

When the big day was approaching, Grandpa decided to take action. When nobody was watching, he took a ladder and put it against the wall of his house. Then he opened a couple of cans of paint and put them on the ground beside the ladder. For a reason unknown to me, he then decided to climb to the roof.

Yes, you guessed right: What happened next is that he fell from the ladder. You'd think that when an 85-year-old man falls from the roof, he'd go into pieces. But, Grandpa fell on his knees like a cat. There was nothing wrong with him after the fall.

The only damage done was that his left hand had sunken in one of the paint cans. His hand and part of his arm was now painted green. And his wrist watch was ruined!

Now the family didn't have to think what to buy him for his 85th birthday!

Olympus OM-10 and Vivitar 100-300 zoom lens

At that time I had my first SLR camera and only one lens with it. Because of that I was of course the male equivalent of Annie Leibovitz and decided to take a portrait of my grandfather. I decided to use natural light and brought Grandpa out to sit in the garden.

Unfortunately, I didn't realize that the lens was quite long and didn't suite very well to my purposes when I tried to take a close-up portrait of him. I didn't master all the brilliant portraiture techniques. Grandpa was a bit puzzled when I ran far away from him, to the driveway, to get the picture. Instead of making an intimate study of an old man's face, I decided to try to fit him in frame from head to toes. Not a very successful idea, unfortunately.

But, I still have the photo and his watch to remember him by.

You can read more about the camera, the lens and my adventures with them here and here.

And by the way, the man in the photo is not my grandfather, but another hard-working senior.

maanantai 26. helmikuuta 2018

Camera In The Shining Armor

A couple of years ago I was in Australia with my family. My wife had found a beautiful apartment at Gold Coast, Queensland. The location of the apartment couldn't have been better for a photographer! The view from the balcony was just amazing! I spent hours just taking photos of the skyscrapers and the skyline of this great city.

One night our Australian friends came over and I decided to take a portrait of us all on the balcony, with the skyline in night light as a background. I got very excited about the idea and started to set up my gear. You know, wireless remote controller, off-camera flash, lens, camera, tripod... Wait a minute! I actually didn't bring my tripod with me.

I usually leave my tripod at home when traveling. You could say that's a stupid idea for a photographer. But, I've had my issues with the airport security (read more here and here) and I don't want anybody to think the metal tubes I carry with me are some kind of evil gadget for hijacking airplanes and ordering them to fly to Finland or some other God forbidden place.

So, I only had my GorillaPod with me. Those of you who don't know what a GorillaPod is, it's a sort of a travel tripod with legs you can actually bend and twist. Without going into detail, I attached my camera to the GorillaPod which I attached to the back of an armchair. The setup looked sturdy enough for me.

I took some practice shots and when I was happy with the setup, I asked everybody to the balcony for a photograph. Everything went well and even the kids managed to keep smiling for the fifteen seconds I needed for the exposure.

When people were happily leaving the balcony after a successful photo shoot, one of my friends suddenly bumped to the armchair and tripped it over. The camera and the GorillaPod fell to the floor with a loud bang. I was sure that was the end of the photographing for that trip. However, both the body and the lens seemed to suffer no damage at all.

From that moment on, all my camera bodies have worn a so-called camera armor. It's a rubber suit for the camera body. It doesn't actually prevent cameras from breaking if they fall, but they give a little bit of extra cover. And they help with moisture and sand, too.

Horusbennu TM-2537 Travel Tripod

If I took a tripod with me, the Korean Horusbennu would be my choice. I have one and works just wonderfully with landscape photography. It's very light and extremely sturdy for it's size. If I don't travel with plane, I take the Horusbennu with me everywhere.

You can read more about the tripod here.

torstai 15. helmikuuta 2018

Size Does Matter

A couple of years ago I was visiting the Ähtäri Zoo with my family. It was years ago before they got the pandas.

When we were unpacking our magical mystery van at the parking lot, I noticed a brand new SUV parking quietly beside our car. Usually, I don't take any notice of other people's cars, but this one was bright and shiny despite of the lousy weather and the gravel roads leading to the park. And the thing that caught my eye was the driver taking a slim, sleek and fashionable camera backpack from the trunk of the car. It was obviously a recently bought Kata or ThinkTank bag. I took my worn Lowepro messenger bag from our car and lead my family to the park.

In the park, the kids wanted to see the bears. It was springtime and the bears were just waking up after the long winter. When we got to the bears, I noticed a familiar backpack beside me. The man carrying the bag was just taking a huge, white lens out of it. The lens was at least 400 mm long and it didn't have a spot on it's shining white surface. He attached the lens to his camera body with probably only one digit in it's model number.

I had decided to take my 40 mm lens out for a spin. Well, the Canon 40mm STM lens is a very short one even for a 40 mm. And I soon noticed that 40 mm is not quite enough for exciting wildlife photos even if you are at the zoo. The guy beside me was pointing the bears with his monstrous lens and I heard the shutter go "click-click-click", "click-click-click". My camera equipment felt so tiny, but I was taking a photo every once in the while.

Feeling frustrated I took the family to the camping area to have some lunch. And guess who was there too! He had left his camera on the wooden table right next to ours. My camera with it's minuscule lens was hanging around my neck. I pointed the white beast and, with a sad face, told my wife: His is bigger than mine.

Lesson to be learned: When you are going to take photos of wild animals, at the zoo or in the nature, use the longest lens you've got. The results will be so much better. The short lenses are good for family portraits and travel memories. But make sure the family to be photographed consists of humans and not the animals.

Canon EF 70-210mm f4 lens

This is the lens I should have taken with me. The model  is quite old, but it's still producing wonderful photos. The motor makes an awful noise, but it is focusing quite fast for it's age. And, the lens has a slide zoom! I've loved slide zooms since the film era! I got the lens used for 70 euros and it has been worth every cent.

You can read more about the lens here and here.

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Reindeer Flying Low

I remember a cartoon from the 90's about a clever animal helping Santa Claus and his elves with very serious problems related to C...