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

lauantai 28. lokakuuta 2017

Aurora Borealis As Ordered

When I was in Australia, I was showing my photos to my friend. He admired the Aurora Borealis photos I had on my web site. That encouraged me to tell him about the exotic Finland. I told him stories about the Finnish wilderness and tales of the Arctic adventure.

In my stories I was the Finnish equivalent of Bear Grylls. I hunted the Northern lights through the thick snow and extreme frost. The stories in the Jack London books were just walks in a park. And Finland was a place where you can see Aurora even in the bright daylight.

It is true that the Northern Finland is the right place if you want to see the Aurora. However, usually the sky is either too cloudy or the moon is too bright and you just can't see the Northern lights. If you really want to photograph the lights, you are better off in Lapland, the most Northern part of Finland.

And, when you actually see the Aurora at the place where I live in, it's usually a very cold night in the wintertime. If I spot the show on the sky, I usually wear a very, very thick overall, warm woolen hat and gloves and heavy winter boots. Then I run to the front yard with my camera, set the tripod up, and take the pictures as quickly as I can. Then I run back indoors to have something hot to drink. I didn't tell that to my friend.

The reason why Aurora is usually seen on winter nights is simple. The summer nights at North are very light. In the middle of the summer the sun hardly sets. You can't see the Northern lights if the sun is up.

So, I had convinced my Aussie friend about my wildlife skills and returned home. The very next night I went outside for a walk and what did I see! The sky was full of colorful lights. A very spectacular light show was on right at my front yard! And it was November! There wasn't any snow or frost. I could get my camera and tripod and I didn't have to wear anything special. I had all the time in the world to take pictures of the Aurora.

Just to brag a little bit more, I sent the pictures to Australia just to say: See, the Aurora is on almost every day.

Canon EF 40mm f2.8 STM

There was a time when I wouldn't leave the house without this lens. I really love it. It's great for landscape photography, but perfect for travel and street photography. Compared to many other lenses, it's just tiny. And f2.8 is not bad either. It focuses fast even in the difficult situations.

The only reason I'm not using the lens that much any more is that I got it's little brother, the Canon EF 24mm f2.8 STM. That one suits better for landscape photography. But for street photography, the 40mm is still my best friend.

You can read more about the lens here.

tiistai 17. lokakuuta 2017

Romantic Dinner Gone Bad

Imagine a romantic dinner table in a cozy restaurant in Disneyland Paris. The candles are lit and there's subtle music in the air. The light is dim and you're looking at your beautiful spouse right in the eyes. You are holding hands over the table and silently thinking back of all the wonderful years you have spent together. Paris, candlelight, your love, it can't get much more romantic than that.

Me and my wife decided to visit Disneyland Paris for the first time when our kids were three and one years old. We thought it would be a wonderful experience for the kids although they were a bit young.

Everything went as planned and we ended up living at the Sequoia Lodge hotel by the park. The kids were very excited. They saw all these wonderful characters at the hotel and had the time of their life.

We had heard that the restaurant at the hotel was excellent and decided to have a dinner there. I got to the reception and reserved us a table. But, when the evening came, the kids were already tired. They had been all around the parks all day. A dinner at seven o'clock in the evening was a bit late for them.

Call me a bad parent, but we decided to go to the dinner anyway. My excuse is that we had been parents only for a short while. Today I would know better. You don't go to a dinner in a fancy restaurant when the kids are tired and it's almost their bedtime.

The restaurant was just as beautiful as described. There were candles on the tables and romantic music flowed from the speakers. We noticed an elderly couple sitting at a table looking at each other like teenagers on their first date. We got the table right next to them.

So, there we sat in the table waiting for the waiter. Our kids told us very loudly that it's taking too long and they don't want to sit there anymore. They decided to run around in the restaurant instead. After quite a many running competitions, the waiter finally came. We ordered the food and the dessert buffet. Another bright idea!

At this point the romantic mood in the next table was cracking a bit. The couple wasn't holding their hands anymore. They looked like they were concentrating on their meals as efficiently as they could.

When the kids heard there would be a dessert buffet they wouldn't touch their food. All we could hear was: I'm finished already, can I go and get the dessert now, please? We finally gave up and let the kids to have their ice cream and cakes.

Ok, when kids under four get to decide what they want to have for dessert, they actually can't decide. They'll have it all. The kids had massive mountains of goodies on their plates and their faces were filled with joy. Next, they decided to make a world record time of stuffing sweets in their mouths.

Little children behaving like wild men next to your table might not exactly be what you had in mind when talking about romantic dinners. The elderly couple in the next table seemed to be desperately looking for a waiter.

Another interesting fact you probably didn't know if you're a new parent: if a kid eats a pile of dessert in a very short time, the food will be vomited on the plate when you least expect it. That's what happened to us, too. All of a sudden, the younger one sat on her chair totally covered by vomit.

At this point I noticed two things. First, my wife grabbed both of the kids in her armpits and headed to our hotel room leaving me a comment about this beautiful dinner and instructions to handle with the payment. Second, the elderly couple had got their check and were leaving almost as quickly as my wife and the kids.

When everything had calmed down I sat at the table with a plate full of dessert leftovers. Suddenly, a waiter appeared and asked if the kids would like to have some coloring pens and an activity book. I took a slow look at him and then the messy table and told him that he was a bit late.


tiistai 10. lokakuuta 2017

Heavy Weaponry For Peeling Oranges

Years ago I went to Egypt with my wife. It was one our first trips together. We thought Egypt would be a very exotic place for a young couple like us. And it was too. But, I almost ruined the trip on the first steps.

A friend of mine had recommended a Leatherman tool for me. The tool was pretty new thing in Finland back then. He told me that he always carried one with him. It was very, very handy in many ways. For example, he said, it was a perfect travel companion, because you could peel oranges with it when you're sitting under a palm tree in a beautiful tropical resort.

Well, I don't need much encouragement when it comes to buying new gadgets for myself. Although the tool was expensive, I bought one and kept it in my car in case I ever drove to a place where I could for example peel oranges with it.

Ok, I was at the airport with my wife, ready to fly to Egypt. All of a sudden I got a stroke of genius. There must be heaps of oranges in Egypt! After all, it is a very warm country. I told my wife I have an excellent tool in the car, which is going to be very handy on the trip. I grabbed the Leatherman tool into my pocket and off we went to the security control.

Airport security controls have been quite stressful situations to me since I traveled with my Vivitar lens in the US. This time I took a shorter lens with me to avoid any extra excitement at the airport. The security officer, a very polite Finn, told me to empty my pockets. I put the contents of my pockets through the x-ray machine and it happened again! The officer asked me: What is that? I explained her, that the object is a multi-function tool and I'm taking it with me to peel some oranges.

The officer told me very politely but sturdy that I was not allowed to take such devices on board the plane. I could either leave it at the airport or put it in a special box going to the cargo bin. I couldn't leave the tool. They would've trashed it and I wouldn't have anything to peel oranges with. So I packed the tool in a little brown cardboard box and the officer sent it to the cargo bin.

My wife wasn't too happy when we finally got to the plane. However, she got happier when we got closer to the destination, the warm and exotic Egypt. We landed on the small Luxor airport and went to get our bags from the cargo bin. We got the bags and I got my little brown box, too. Everybody was happy.

The happiness was soon over when an army officer stopped me. He had all the things that made me shake in my pants: the beret, the mustache, the angry look and two men behind him holding assault rifles. I had seen enough American films in the eighties to know that he was at least a colonel and I was in deep trouble. I know Tom Cruise would have handled the situation a bit differently, but I was scared to death.

The colonel didn't speak much English but he seemed to be very interested in the little box I was holding. I offered to open the box for him very eagerly, but when I started to open the lid, the colonel shouted: No! and the men behind him raised their weapons. With a shaky voice I told him there was only a Leatherman tool inside the box. The colonel had never heard of such a tool and the look on his face was not very encouraging.  I repeated: A Leatherman tool, a Swiss army knife, for peeling oranges.

The colonel seemed to think very carefully about my words. After a few, very long minutes he said: Ok, you can go. He probably thought I couldn't do much harm if I only had an orange peeling device in the box.

And by the way, the Leatherman tool was never used for peeling oranges. I put it on the bottom of my bag for the rest of the trip and never took it out. And I've never taken it with me abroad since. Not even if there would be oranges to peel in the destination.

Vivitar 70-210mm f4.5-5.6

I mentioned I had a shorter lens with me on this trip. The lens was very handy, despite of it's focal length, it is very compact and lightweight. Just perfect to shoot the temples and tombs of the Kings' Valley.

What makes the lens interesting is the push-pull zoom. I personally like it. It's easy and fast to use. I wonder why they don't make lenses with push-pull zooms anymore.

You can read more about the lens here.


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