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

tiistai 14. marraskuuta 2017

Finland, Finland, Finland

Finland isn't probably the first country in people's mind when they are making the vacation plans. When they think about Finland - if they ever do - it must be like in the Monty Python song. But the first things probably in their minds are sauna, winter and Northern lights. As a Finn, I can tell you, it's not always like that. But sometimes, life in Finland is about those three things.

I live in the Northern part of Finland, in the countryside. In the middle of nowhere, you could say. We have an outdoor sauna, too. Now, you may be thinking about something like this, but it's just a little hut in the backyard, takes hours to heat up, but we like it. It's very relaxing to sit in there, without phone, internet, TV or even radio.

A few days ago I was sitting in the sauna minding my own business (read: trying desperately to think ways I could get somebody to buy my photos). It was already winter, and there was a little snow on the ground. The night was chilly, but not freezing. Quite nice for us Finns.

All of a sudden, my son ran to the sauna shouting: Daddy, daddy! I got alarmed, maybe something had happened at the house! I grabbed my bathrobe and ran to the boy. He was pointing to the sky. Northern lights! he shouted with enthusiasm.

And indeed! The Aurora Borealis was all over the sky! The flames were extremely bright and not even the moonlight could dim them. Usually, you cannot see the lights if the moon is bright. But now the whole sky was on fire. The flames were of all sizes and colors.

I was watching the show in awe when I noticed my wife had joined me. She asked, what was I doing here without my camera. I told her that I was just enjoying the show. She said: Don't just stand there with your mouth open, get your camera now! You can't see this kind of Aurora every night!

She was right! I ran to the house, got my camera, the fisheye lens and a tripod. I set the camera on manual, aperture to 8 and shutter speed to eight seconds. Then I started to shoot the sky like a maniac. I ran around the yard in my bath robe with the camera and tripod and took as many photos as I could. If the neighbors saw me, they must have confirmed their doubts: I was completely insane.

But on that night, it was just like in the Finnish tourism brochure, winter, sauna and the Northern lights.

Walimex Pro 8mm f3.5 Fisheye lens

This lens is most likely the same as the Samyang 8mm fisheye lens with another label. There seems to be quite a lot of them around with different labels. I found it cheap in Italy and I must say it's quite a lens for it's price.

I love the way you can get creative with the fisheye. If you focus nearly to infinity and set the aperture to 11, you can get pretty sharp pictures, if you got enough light. And even in the dimmer situations, the lens performs beautifully.

The lens is always in my camera bag. There are countless possibilities for that kind of lens.

You can read more about the lens here.

torstai 9. marraskuuta 2017

Hard Rock and Dangerous Women

This happened a long time before I had any family of my own. I was on a business trip at Lappeenranta, a small town in the Eastern Finland. I drove there very early in the morning and had a long day with the customer. In the evening I was exhausted.

I had booked a hotel at Hotel Lappee right in the middle of the town. It might have been the best (and only) hotel there at the time. I was so tired I walked straight to the reception desk without looking around.

Behind the desk was a lady who gave me the passenger card. I filled the form as quickly as I could hoping to get to my room to get some rest. The lady took the card, looked at it and started to look for the key for my room.

Then all of a sudden she asked me: Are you going to have some sleep tonight? Ok, I was in my early twenties at the time and my weary brain started to work on overload. What does she mean by that question. I'm at a hotel and I've reserved a single room. Presumably I am going to sleep in that room. But there is a woman, flesh and blood, asking me a question like that!

After a moment, which felt like a year to me, I managed to mumble an answer: Um - yes. The lady had found my key and while handing it to me she said: If you are, I'd like to remind you that we have Uriah Heep performing at the main hall tonight.

That was hardly the answer I had expected. What are the chances that a legendary British hard rock band would be performing in a remote Finnish town in the middle of the week. And at the same night I was staying there.

But now I looked around in the lobby and saw the big posters of the band all around. It seemed to be true. And, when I finally got to bed, I found out that they really were playing just under my room. I was never a fan of the band, but I could hear the lyrics quite clear. If I knew any of the songs, I could have sung along.

After one of the worst nights of my life, I must say, I'm most likely not going to become a fan of the band. Sorry, Uriah Heep.

Focal 20-08-86 tripod

I got the tripod in a camera shop at Miami, Florida. I didn't have a tripod at all and at that time camera gear was a lot cheaper in the US than in Finland. So, I dragged my fellow travelers around Miami to find me a cheap but sturdy tripod. We finally found the Focal and I was very satisfied with the price-quality ratio.

I have bought several tripods after my first one, but I've still got it. It's still very good with for example action cameras like the SJCAM SJ4000.

There's a photo of the tripod here.

And you can read about my adventures in Florida here.

lauantai 4. marraskuuta 2017

Daylight Saving Time Or Not

In Finland we have rules for everything. We probably have rules how to obey rules, too. We love to make rules for just about everything. Without rules you can't do anything. And we obey the rules to the point. If somebody doesn't play by the book, he's an outcast, a hooligan, most likely a dangerous criminal.

I would very much like to be a bit rebellious and sometimes disobey the rules. Don't get me wrong, I'm no Johnny Rotten. I would just like to walk my own path and never mind the rules somebody else has made. However, all too often, that little voice in my head tells me I can't do that - in Finnish.

What happens when people who have all these rules go to a place where the rules, if they exist, are just something you obey if it suits you? Usually that leads to a catastrophe of some kind, but me and my wife decided to give it a go and traveled to Egypt.

The first clash of the cultures was at the airport of Helsinki. Our departure date was the first day when the whole Finland had changed from the daylight saving time to the normal, dark winter time. Some of us had probably woken up exactly at 4 AM, because that's when you're supposed to adjust your clocks. So, at the airport I decided to ask the person behind the ticket counter if Egypt had the same time as Finland. In other words, if they had the daylight saving time or not.

The very friendly person behind the counter didn't know, but she asked her Egyptian colleague, but the Egyptian officer didn't know either. I was a bit puzzled. Of course they have to know if they use the daylight saving time or not. For heavens sake, how can the tell the time if they don't know that!

The Egyptian officer must have seen my face with the dropped jaw. He leaned towards me and told me that the clocks in Egypt are adjusted if the imam tells people to do so. He will shout from the minaret when it's time to change from the daylight saving time. The answer wasn't quite the one I had expected. A simple yes or no would have been something I had in mind.

On that trip we learned that time and rules are very different in different countries and cultures. I think Egypt lives in the so called African time, the time doesn't have such a great meaning. Or maybe Egypt has a time of it's own, I haven't been to the rest of the African continent. Anyway, my very precise Swiss made watch was pretty much useless in Egypt, daylight saving time or not.

And you can read more about the flight to Egypt here.

Soligor 35mm f2.8 

This is the short lens I had with my Olympus OM-10, the long one was the Vivitar 100-300mm . I got it second hand at a camera shop in my home town. I didn't know much about lenses back then. But I consider myself lucky when I got a lens this good for my OM-10.

However, when I attached the lens to my DSLR I was very disappointed. I thought I had a wonderful, reasonably fast pancake lens I could use to shoot the Northern lights. I got the Aurora all right, but the the photos were full of mysterious circles. I couldn't edit them away with any of the photo editing software I had. Maybe the lens has some kind of fungus or haze nowadays. Or maybe it just doesn't fit to the digital cameras.

I might give the little lens another go some day. I served me faithfully on many of my journeys.

You can read more about the lens here.

And you can read about my adventures with the Vivitar zoom here.

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