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

torstai 13. syyskuuta 2018

Big City, Small Camera

About 15 years ago, I was in London. I participated in a educational event for three days. In the evenings I rushed to downtown London to see and photograph all the world famous sites.

I wish I had had my current equipment with me back then. My digital camera was the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LC20. In the early years of the 21st century, a two megapixel digital camera was quite all right. There were quite a lot of five megapixel cameras on the market, but they were well over my budget.

So, I carried the little Lumix with me around London. I saw the Big Ben, St. Paul's Cathedral, the Thames, Tower Bridge, Harrods, Madame Tussauds and all. I tried to see as much as I could in three days! When I finally got to my hotel room in the night, the blisters on my feet were very painful.

One day I managed to get in at Westminster Abbey, on a guided tour. In the beginning of the tour the guide told us that we are not allowed to take photos inside the abbey. The look on his face told me that he knew the sentence had no effect at all. People in the group were all getting their cameras ready. I think somebody even took a picture of the guide himself.

As the tour went on, the more and more shutter clicks were heard. People were taking enormous amounts of photos inside the iconic place, me included. The frustrated guide tried to stop us again and again to no effect.

When the tour was almost over the guide showed us the final architectural details and tried to get us outside. When people were not so effectively trying to hide their photographic equipment, the guide got tired and said: Ok, but just one more. Immediately, at least forty camera lenses were pointed at him and the beautiful abbey and the sound of the shutters filled the air.

Velbon Ultra Stick L50 Monopod

Because I was photographing the sights in the evening, I really would have needed some kind of support for my camera. Unfortunately, the only tripod I owned was the Focal model I had purchased in Florida and that one was too heavy for the trip. Later I got my hands on the Velbon monopod which would have been perfect for the evening trips to the city.

The monopod is very light, easy to use and easily extendable. You just twist the tubes and you have a 155 cm tall support for your camera. I must say, the monopod doesn't give too much support for a heavy DSLR, but for a point-and-shoot or a mobile phone camera, the stick is just perfect. I got myself a Chinese plastic mobile phone holder just for the monopod. The stick has a standard screw on top of it, so you can attach almost any kind of camera or adapter to it.

Read more about the monopod here.

You can read more about the Focal tripod here.

You can read more about the little Lumix with the Leica lens here.

torstai 6. syyskuuta 2018

Fields Of Gold

Harvest is always very interesting time in the rural Finland. There's quite a lot of traffic on the road when farmers are transferring their machinery from one field to another. The huge harvesters fill the narrow roads and the tractors are forming long queues behind them.

Usually the harvest goes on at the same time with the migration of the large birds. The fields are full of swans, cranes and geese. So, the bird watchers and photographers create another threat for the traffic.

And of course, the actual fields of gold are a wonderful subject for photography. Photographers like me park their cars by the fields and run by the straw bales to take idyllic pictures.

One day, I was doing just that. I parked my old car by a beautiful field and took my tripod and camera bag out to the field. Literally. On that particular field, the farmer had wrapped the bales in yellow plastic. I thought the bales looked just lovely, almost like Easter eggs.

I set up my gear and took some photos with small aperture and low angle. I was so artistic I thought I would be the next Ansel Adams. Concentrating on my picturesque photography I didn't notice that a pickup truck came by and stopped behind my car.

Suddenly a man in wellingtons and overalls was standing behind me. He didn't look too happy. I scared so much I almost jumped in the air (and I was on my knees taking the low angle art photos). The man seemed to be the owner of the field and he thought I was some kind of government inspector. My camera with the tripod looked like a metering device to him.

When my pulse calmed down I managed to explain that I'm only taking photos. I'm not an inspector of any kind. I didn't mention anything about artistic approach to photography. The farmer seemed to be content to my introduction and mentioned that there are all kinds of inspectors around in this time of the year. I believed him and told him so. Just in case I also told him that I'm going to photograph some bales on the next field too. That didn't bother him at all as long I wasn't an inspector.

Another reason to carry your printed portfolio in your camera bag. Just in case somebody thinks you're an agricultural inspector.

Lensbaby Scout with fisheye optic

I've always been a big fan of all kinds of peculiar photography devices. Well, Lensbaby Scout is a very interesting little device. You can use it with different kind of optics like fisheye, soft-focus and pinhole. I have only the fisheye optic. But what makes the Scout different from the other lensbaby products is the fact that it doesn't bend. The other products are typically tilt-shift lenses.

You can get very interesting effects by using the fisheye optic in the Scout. Basically you get a very wide angle photo with round edges. I used to do quite a lot of fisheye photography with it before I got my hands on the Walimex fisheye lens. With that one you get rid of the round edges.

It would be interesting to try out the other optics in the Scout.

You can read more about the Scout here. And more about the Walimex fisheye lens here.

torstai 30. elokuuta 2018

One Million Mosquitoes Can't Be Wrong

Ah, the nightless night! Above the Arctic Circle the sun really doesn't set at all in the summertime. I was traveling with my family at Ylläs, the Finnish Lapland last summer and testified the white nights with my own eyes.

It's quite strange that in the middle of the night it's as light as in the daytime. At 11PM I was walking with my dog and the sun was as bright as in the middle of the day! And it was warm! Almost hot to me. It was +28 degrees Celcius! In the warmer countries it usually gets cooler when the sun sets, but if the sun doesn't set at all, the air is just warm all night long.

And I live in the Northern part of Finland, although the Arctic Circle is way up in the North. The sunlight in the middle of the night was still something I hadn't experienced in my life.

But, with the light comes a bit of a nuisance. There are literally millions of mosquitoes up there in the summertime. They are everywhere! And they get everywhere! And they bring their friends and family too!

I thought a small lake by the Ylläs fjell looked beautiful on this nightless night. What a gorgeous photo it would make. I stepped out of my car and I was instantly surrounded by just about two million small friends. The Aussies have a gesture called 'the Aussie wave'. At the moment that was hardly enough, I needed a gesture I could call 'the Finnish windscreen vipers'.

But I was the lucky one. I could drive the insects away with my other hand while the other one was holding the camera. There was another enthusiastic cameraman on the beach, too. And he had a drone with him. He began to fly his toy over the lake and in seconds there was a black cloud around his head. But he couldn't hush them away because he had to steer his quadcopter with both hands!

I managed to get my shot of the lake, but when I was looking at the photos back home, I noticed a big black thing in one of the shots. One of the mosquitoes was very eager to get his photo taken.

Olympus 28mm f3.5 lens

I have a soft spot for the old manual pancake lenses. They are very sharp and cost almost nothing. I have a Olympus OM-to-Canon EOS adapter and I have been using my old Olympus lenses on my EOS bodies with success. I recently got the 28mm Olympus lens from eBay, because I wanted a wide angle manual lens for my landscape photography. I knew the old Olympus lenses are great and managed to get this one under 30 euros. And the lens exceeds all expectations! It's a very sharp lens! I could use it in street photography, too!

You can read more about the lens here.

And you can read about my adventures with the Olympus lenses here, here and here.

torstai 23. elokuuta 2018

That's Going To Cost You In Twenty Years

A few years ago we were visiting Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia. The kids were quite small then. The girls were seven and five and the boy was only one year old. I used to push him in the stroller around the city. He had a long baby hair, too.

In my earlier blog posts I've told you, my reader, that Finns are not very social compared to the Aussies, for example. There are areas in Finland where you are not supposed to talk to strangers. People won't greet each other in shops or train stations. And saying something to a stranger on the street is considered as very strange behavior.

To me, the Australian way is a lot better. I loved it when people would say 'Good morning' or 'G'day' when I was walking to the shop or packing the car in the garage. It took some time to get used to that. It did feel a bit awkward when the shop clerks would call me 'love' or 'darling'.

One day we were walking from the playground to the apartment with the kids. My wife had stayed in the apartment with our friends. So, I was walking alone with the girls and the boy in the stroller.

Suddenly, a total stranger comes by and says to me: 'That's going to cost you in twenty years'. The comment came as a total surprise to me. I didn't know what I was supposed to do or say. All I could do was laugh uneasily.

The comment kept bothering me all the way to the apartment. When I was trying to find my keys at the door it suddenly struck me: She thought I had three daughters! And in twenty years they would get married and who's going to pay for the wedding? Father of the bride of course!

Viltrox JY610C Flash

 I've had many Yongnuo flashes in my camera bag. They are excellent value for the money. They have all the gimmicks a proper flash should have. But I wanted to have a smaller flash to go with me on my travels. I was looking for a flash that would be as small as possible but still have E-TTL control. That way the flash would be perfect on a trip where you cannot carry a lot of stuff with you and the TTL system would make sure the lighting would be as good as possible.

The Viltrox JY610 is just that. The flash unit is very small and very light. And it has the E-TTL control, too. It doesn't even cost much. I got mine well under 20 euros. So it doesn't matter if the unit breaks down, you can easily get a new one.

I'm so satisfied with the flash that I prefer it to my bigger units.

You can read more about the flash here.


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.


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Big City, Small Camera

About 15 years ago, I was in London. I participated in a educational event for three days. In the evenings I rushed to downtown London ...