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

torstai 31. elokuuta 2017

Bad Ass Photographer


Years ago, I got a chance to visit Florida. The local brass band was invited to the Finlandia days at Fort Lauderdale. It was a festival organized by the Finnish immigrants to celebrate their Finnish roots. Unfortunately, the band had no money for such a trip and the members had to pay for their own flights and accommodation. I was on my first year at the university and had no money as you probably can imagine. I somehow managed to get the money together and was able to go with the band. It was once in a lifetime opportunity anyway!

Being a young man, in my opinion I was the best photographer in the whole wide world. Oh yes, I had the SLR and two lenses, too! For the younger readers: before digital cameras were invented, the system was called SLR. Mine was the Olympus OM-10, a legend of it's time. And the lenses were an old Soligor 35mm f2.8 and my precious, the Vivitar 100-300mm f5 zoom lens. To carry all that stuff, I had a huge old aluminium camera bag.

All right, to carry that kind of equipment to the other side of the world, a sturdy camera case seems like a good idea. But nobody told that even in February, to a Finn, the climate in Florida is hot! There was 20 centimeters snow in the ground when we left and when we got out of the plane, the air temperature was nearly 30 degrees Celsius! But because I was the soon-to-be Steve McCurry, I carried the beast all over Florida with me without complaining. Only sweating heavily.

Otherwise the trip went beautifully. Sometimes I was even able to use the bloody bag as a seat when the others had to stand. The gig at the festival went great. We saw lots of places I had only dreamed about: the Disney World, Kennedy Space Center and so on. And I took so many rolls of photos I was wondering what I'm going to eat when I get back home. For the younger generation: film was expensive and developing it costed even more money.

After two weeks in the warmth, it was time to get back. We had a stopover at the JFK airport in New York. It was a domestic flight from Miami to New York and the friendly wings of Finnair would take us back home. But before you can go into a plane going abroad, you have to go through a security checkpoint, right?

The lady at the security desk put my huge camera bag through the x-ray machine. Her face quickly changed from friendly to grim. She pulled the bag back and ran it through the machine again. Then she turned to me and asked: Excuse me, but what is that? She was pointing at the zoom lens.

This was one of my first trips abroad and I hadn't used English that much. I was very, very nervous. The shear thought of the security control was making my knees shake and now the officer was asking me questions in a foreign language. I managed to mumble: It... it's a camera lens.

She looked me and then the lens with a pondering look. She looked back at me and grabbed her radio. I heard her say: Charlie, could you come over here? At the other side of the hall, a door opened and the biggest security guard I have ever seen walked to the counter. For what I could see, he had a gun and all. At this point the great travel photographer was almost fainting.

The big, big guard asked me to open the camera bag. I opened it with shaking hands and sweat pouring in my back. I must have been the most suspicious looking traveler of the day. The security officer by the counter asked the man: Charlie, do you think that's a camera lens? Beside the counter I was nodding like a maniac. Charlie was thinking for a while which seemed to last just about three hours to me. Then he said: Mm.

At that point the first officer said to me: Ok, you can go. You have never seen a skinny Finnish boy carry a huge aluminium camera bag to the check-in so fast.

Olympus OM-10

A couple of words of my first SLR camera body. The Olympus OM-10 was a very popular camera back in the 20th century. It was not too big, reasonably priced and still a very good camera body. Before the digital era started, I carried it to the US, Egypt, Australia and many other places. That camera taught me the basics of the photography. In good and in bad. I still have two of those and I wish I could use them again. Maybe I'll go back to film some day and get them out of the showcase.

You can read more about the camera here.

PS. I wish I had some photos of the Florida trip to share. Unfortunately, I don't have a film scanner. That's why I used a photo from Disneyland Paris. Just add some palm trees yourself.

PS.2. If you want to see the work of Steve McCurry, please check out his Artsy.net page.
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keskiviikko 23. elokuuta 2017

Australia's Public Enemy Number 1


When staying in Australia I read a book about the Aussies and their culture, just to get to know and understand them better. It was my third time in the country, but I thought it wouldn't do any harm if I knew a little bit more. The book was Cultureshock! Australia by Ilsa Sharp. Check it out if you want to explore Australia.

One of the things in the book was that Aussies have a good sense of humor and you can laugh at just about anything. Except Gallipoli! Never joke about Gallipoli! Ok, I understand. That's not a thing to make jokes about. For you who don't know about Gallipoli, read Gallipoli Campaign. I'm sure I won't joke about that with my Aussie friends.

Later, we visited the local RSL, because they had a great club house and an old helicopter on a stand at the yard. It was a Huey from the Vietnam war. It was restored very nicely and the park around it was very moving. The little boys were very excited.

All of a sudden, the 3-year-old says to me: "Daddy, I need to go! I really need to go! I need to go now!" Ok, when he says that, we're in a hurry. I looked around me and estimated the distance to the nearest rest room. That would have been in the club house. We weren't members and I wouldn't have time to explain to the people at the door that we need to be in the lavatory in the next three seconds or there will be a disaster including wet shorts, wet sandals, a wet little boy and probably a wet daddy.

So, I grabbed the boy and started to look for a tree in a quiet place where we could quietly get rid of the problem. There was a path leading away from the helicopter and I started to follow it carrying the boy. The path lead to a very peaceful place with a lonely tree. I thought this would be a perfect place, nobody would see us. I told the boy to take his pants down and do the thing.

While the boy's relief was growing, I took a closer look at the place and the tree. I spotted a sign on the ground. It said something like this: "This tree was brought from Gallipoli and planted here to commemorate..." Aaargh! It's a Gallipoli tree! My son has just peed on the Gallipoli tree!

I picked up the boy and rushed back to the rest of the family looking over my shoulder if somebody had seen us. I was sure there would be a first page story in the local newspaper tomorrow: "Tourists dishonor the Gallipoli tree!".

I'm so sorry! I didn't know it was the Gallipoli tree. The little boy just had to go. We didn't mean to dishonor anything.  Please, let's be friends again, the people of Australia!

Canon EOS 50D

My war horse for a few years now has been the Canon EOS 50D body. It's a wonderful camera. It has an aluminium alloy body, which makes it very durable. It takes 6.3 frames per second, which is perfect for me.

I know the body is old, but I wouldn't want to switch to a newer one. It could have a bit more megapixels and higher ISO numbers, but it's very simple to use and it has everything I need.

You can find more details about the camera here.
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torstai 17. elokuuta 2017

City boy and controlled burn

In the Northern part of Finland, where I live, the farmers still use a traditional farming method called controlled burn. I'm no farmer, I'm originally a city boy, but I think it's all about burning the dead plants on the fields in the springtime to create natural fertilization for the new plants.

Actually, people seem to be obsessed with the burning. Every year, when the first signs of green are visible through the snow, the farmers rush to the fields, pour enormous amounts of gasoline on the fields and set them on fire. I've called the fire department a couple of times when my neighbour's barn house is in flames.

Last summer it started again. I was walking my dog in the backyard when I noticed flames and smoke pilars on the fields nearby. I threw the dog inside and told my wife I was going to go to the end of the driveway to shoot a couple of photos. I took my faithful 24mm Canon lens and the 40mm lens just to make sure, in case the flames would be a little further away.

When I got to the end of the driveway, I put the tripod by the field and took some test photos. I noticed that the flames were a lot further than I thought. There was a beautiful sunset on the photos but I couldn't see the flames or smoke at all. The 40mm lens didn't help either.

I decided to get a bit closer. I walked by the fields, I didn't want to mess the beautiful straight furrows my neighbor had plowed. The Northern Finland is a very flat area and sometimes you forget, how vast the fields are. The smoke and the flames just didn't get any closer, no matter how long I walked.

Finally I gave up. There was a tiny barn house nearby and I decided to take some barns-and-fields photos. The sunset was beautiful, anyway. I took the photos with the 24mm and the 40mm and they turned out ok.

It was time to get back. I looked back and noticed my home was a tiny spot in the horizon. Now I didn't care about the furrows. I just rushed back straight through the fields. Warm bed was a lot more tempting than photographic art!

They have vast fields in the Northern Finland. And vast fields require vast ditches. All of a sudden there was one in front of me. It was pretty dark and I didn't know if I could get to the other side of it with dry clothes. There was no other option than to follow the ditch and hope it would get a little bit narrower later. Luckily, after about 15 minutes of walking, the ditch turned right and formed a place where I could jump over. I found a Tarzan in me and jumped as far as I could. I got to the other side with dry clothes and dry camera gear.

After the ditch I only had to cross another field and I found a road. A paved road! A road to home! I was saved!

At home my family was fast asleep. My adventure had lasted two hours! Next time I have this brilliant idea to immortalize traditional Finnish agriculture methods, I'll take with me the longest lens I have, an extender and a car!

Canon EF 24mm f2.8 STM

A couple of words about the lens I was using on my adventure: the 24mm pancake lens for crop sensor cameras by Canon. I bought the lens at a web shop when I was in Australia a couple of years ago. The price was a little bit over 100 euros. I already had the 40mm sibling of the lens and I loved it.

When the lens finally arrived, I took some landscape photos with it and fell in love immediately.The lens is very fast and very sharp for the price. And it's tiny! Somebody said it turns the DSLR to a point-and-shoot camera. That might just be correct, but in a good way. You get great photos and you don't have to carry heavy lenses around. I never leave the house without the lens!

More details about the lens can be found here:
Dpreview.com: Canon EF-S 24mm F2.8 STM
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keskiviikko 16. elokuuta 2017

Dangers of night photography



I was traveling in Spain with my family a couple of years ago. Costa Del Sol is really a place to visit. I hope to get back there soon.

One night I was taking the garbage out and I noticed a scooter parked outside a football stadium. The street light was creating beautiful lighting with reflections and shadows over the bike. The street was empty, I was all alone. A perfect night photo! Unfortunately I had left my DSLR indoors. I only had my phone with me.

I took a photo of the scooter with my HTC Desire Z's camera. The phone was state-of-the-art back at those days. But I had forgotten the flash on! All of a sudden the whole street was filled with light. I damned my memory and quickly turned the flash off. I was preparing myself for a serious night photo session with the phone.

Suddenly I heard somebody shouting behind me. I paid no notice and kept taking photos. Then I noticed the sounds were coming closer. A big Spanish guy was approaching rapidly. At this point I realized the guy was shouting at me. He came to me and started to speak Spanish quite loud. He seemed to be very annoyed by something.

Now. I have a very limited vocabulary of Spanish. I can greet, thank and say good bye to people. That clearly wasn't enough in this situation. I didn't understand a word what this huge, angry man was trying to tell me. I tried to ask if he spoke English, but he didn't even understand the question.

The man kept pointing me and the scooter. I was getting very anxious, but managed to understand that he wanted to know, why was I taking pictures of the bike. I used all my language skills to ensure him that I'm just a photographer. I showed him my phone and made gestures like I was taking pictures.

The man seemed to calm down and he stopped the Spanish word flow. I was sweating nervously in the Andalusian night and wondering, what might come next. Suddenly the man said something like 'OK' and walked away. My relief was enormous.

I think the man was the father of the bike's owner. He might have been worried that I was going to steal the bike or something. Anyway, I didn't stay to find out, but ran to my hotel room.

If only I had had my portfolio and my camera with me. I would have been a much more convincing photographer.

HTC Desire Z

Just a few words about this old phone.It was my first Android phone and I was immediately very impressed. I was a bit suspicious about the touch screen usability at those days and wanted a phone with a keyboard. The HTC Desire was the only one with a keyboard sliding under the phone. Very handy when writing messages!

But the best thing about the phone was the camera! It didn't have too many megapixels (5), but the camera app was very fast. And the phone even had a special button for the camera shutter. It worked almost like a point-and-shoot-camera!

And the phone is very durable. I still have it. The Gorilla glass has very little marks of usage. And the phone has been through a lot! Although it has the Android version 2.3 I still think I could use it as a spare camera.

More details about the camera - I mean phone - here:
HTC Desire Z

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