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

maanantai 29. lokakuuta 2018

Seat By The Exit


I love going to the movies. The big screen experience is still something else than watching the movie at home, no matter how big your TV screen is. All the sounds and even the smell of a movie theater can really take you to another world!

Unless you are in the theater with somebody who doesn't care if he ruins the other people's experience. Once, I went to see a James Bond movie. Behind me sat a couple of ladies and one of them was explaining what is going to happen in the movie to the other one. During the whole movie, I heard behind me: "Now he's going to jump into the car. He'll drive down the stairs. Soon the car will break in two" and so on. I can't imagine why she was doing that. She had obviously seen the movie before. But why would she come back with a friend and ruin her and all the other people's movie experience. I thought maybe her friend was blind. But why would a blind person come to the movies?

Another time, I was in the movies watching a comedy. I can't remember the title of the movie, but I surely can remember a guy sitting in front of me. He was breathing very heavily, almost like falling asleep. He was laughing very loudly, but every time, in the wrong place. At some point he started to comment the movie in a loud voice. But the comments were just bizarre. Almost like they had nothing to do with the movie. Soon after that he actually fell asleep and started snoring. It was pretty obvious he was very drunk. But why would you come to the movies, when you cant' remember anything of the movie afterwards?

Ok, years of parenting have taught me a little bit of the etiquette of going to the movies. We were at the Warner Brothers Movie World at Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia. They have a 4D theater there and the show at the time was a cartoon starring Wile K. Coyote and Road Runner. They had all kinds of special effects like water spraying to your face and shaking seats. I went to see the movie with my two sons, then five and two years old.

When you go to the movies with the kids, always stay near the exit. Because, at some point, you will hear a small voice saying: "Daddy, I need to go." No matter how many times you go to the rest rooms before the show, it is going to happen. It is, trust me. But, when you're sitting by the exit, you can leave and return without disturbing the rest of the audience too much. Hopefully.

Well, this particular theater didn't have a lavatory, but a very polite representative of the staff told me that if we sat in the back row and right in the corner, we could get out fast and find the facilities right outside the building.

And yes, just about two minutes before the end of the movie, the little sound was heard. We rushed to the exit and got out. Just a little bit of light got into the darkened theater. And as our eyes were getting used to the light, I suddenly noticed we had bumped into Batman! He was on his way to the main street of the park. We just stared at each other for a while, before we had to rush to the toilets. I had no time for autographs.

Joby Gorillapod For DSLR

I'm always very careful when traveling with a tripod. They are very cumbersome to carry around, especially if you have kids with you. If you have to choose between carrying your child or carrying a heavy tripod, you really don't have to think about it. That's why I hardly ever carry a tripod on my travels, especially if I'm going on a plane. The security people might have something to say about aluminium tubes in your hand luggage. And I've had my way with the security people.

That's why I prefer all kinds of weird tripods without any metal tubes. For example, the Joby Gorillapod models are just great. They are lightweight and really sturdy when attached correctly to a steady support. I've had an incident with a Gorillapod, too, but in general they are just ideal for travelers.

But if you have a DSLR, choose the most sturdy model of the Gorillapods. You can read more about these gadgets here.



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torstai 13. syyskuuta 2018

Big City, Small Camera



About 15 years ago, I was in London. I participated in an 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.
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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.
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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.
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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.

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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.
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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.
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Seat By The Exit

I love going to the movies. The big screen experience is still something else than watching the movie at home, no matter how big your TV ...