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

maanantai 26. helmikuuta 2018

Camera In The Shining Armor

A couple of years ago I was in Australia with my family. My wife had found a beautiful apartment at Gold Coast, Queensland. The location of the apartment couldn't have been better for a photographer! The view from the balcony was just amazing! I spent hours just taking photos of the skyscrapers and the skyline of this great city.

One night our Australian friends came over and I decided to take a portrait of us all on the balcony, with the skyline in night light as a background. I got very excited about the idea and started to set up my gear. You know, wireless remote controller, off-camera flash, lens, camera, tripod... Wait a minute! I actually didn't bring my tripod with me.

I usually leave my tripod at home when traveling. You could say that's a stupid idea for a photographer. But, I've had my issues with the airport security (read more here and here) and I don't want anybody to think the metal tubes I carry with me are some kind of evil gadget for hijacking airplanes and ordering them to fly to Finland or some other God forbidden place.

So, I only had my GorillaPod with me. Those of you who don't know what a GorillaPod is, it's a sort of a travel tripod with legs you can actually bend and twist. Without going into detail, I attached my camera to the GorillaPod which I attached to the back of an armchair. The setup looked sturdy enough for me.

I took some practice shots and when I was happy with the setup, I asked everybody to the balcony for a photograph. Everything went well and even the kids managed to keep smiling for the fifteen seconds I needed for the exposure.

When people were happily leaving the balcony after a successful photo shoot, one of my friends suddenly bumped to the armchair and tripped it over. The camera and the GorillaPod fell to the floor with a loud bang. I was sure that was the end of the photographing for that trip. However, both the body and the lens seemed to suffer no damage at all.

From that moment on, all my camera bodies have worn a so-called camera armor. It's a rubber suit for the camera body. It doesn't actually prevent cameras from breaking if they fall, but they give a little bit of extra cover. And they help with moisture and sand, too.

Horusbennu TM-2537 Travel Tripod

If I took a tripod with me, the Korean Horusbennu would be my choice. I have one and works just wonderfully with landscape photography. It's very light and extremely sturdy for it's size. If I don't travel with plane, I take the Horusbennu with me everywhere.

You can read more about the tripod here.

torstai 15. helmikuuta 2018

Size Does Matter

A couple of years ago I was visiting the Ähtäri Zoo with my family. It was years ago before they got the pandas.

When we were unpacking our magical mystery van at the parking lot, I noticed a brand new SUV parking quietly beside our car. Usually, I don't take any notice of other people's cars, but this one was bright and shiny despite of the lousy weather and the gravel roads leading to the park. And the thing that caught my eye was the driver taking a slim, sleek and fashionable camera backpack from the trunk of the car. It was obviously a recently bought Kata or ThinkTank bag. I took my worn Lowepro messenger bag from our car and lead my family to the park.

In the park, the kids wanted to see the bears. It was springtime and the bears were just waking up after the long winter. When we got to the bears, I noticed a familiar backpack beside me. The man carrying the bag was just taking a huge, white lens out of it. The lens was at least 400 mm long and it didn't have a spot on it's shining white surface. He attached the lens to his camera body with probably only one digit in it's model number.

I had decided to take my 40 mm lens out for a spin. Well, the Canon 40mm STM lens is a very short one even for a 40 mm. And I soon noticed that 40 mm is not quite enough for exciting wildlife photos even if you are at the zoo. The guy beside me was pointing the bears with his monstrous lens and I heard the shutter go "click-click-click", "click-click-click". My camera equipment felt so tiny, but I was taking a photo every once in the while.

Feeling frustrated I took the family to the camping area to have some lunch. And guess who was there too! He had left his camera on the wooden table right next to ours. My camera with it's minuscule lens was hanging around my neck. I pointed the white beast and, with a sad face, told my wife: His is bigger than mine.

Lesson to be learned: When you are going to take photos of wild animals, at the zoo or in the nature, use the longest lens you've got. The results will be so much better. The short lenses are good for family portraits and travel memories. But make sure the family to be photographed consists of humans and not the animals.

Canon EF 70-210mm f4 lens

This is the lens I should have taken with me. The model  is quite old, but it's still producing wonderful photos. The motor makes an awful noise, but it is focusing quite fast for it's age. And, the lens has a slide zoom! I've loved slide zooms since the film era! I got the lens used for 70 euros and it has been worth every cent.

You can read more about the lens here and here.

perjantai 2. helmikuuta 2018

Snow How

Last year Finland celebrated the 100th anniversary of the country's independence. This year Estonia will have it's own celebration. Last summer the Finnish institute in Tallinn, Estonia organized a photo competition for Finns and Estonians. People would show in their photos how they see the neighboring country. The Finns should take photos of Estonia and the Estonians photos of Finland.

I was lucky enough to have sixteen of my photos chosen to the finale of the competition. Eight of them were chosen to the exhibition now on display in Helsinki, the capital of Finland, after touring in Estonia. The exhibition opened last week and I was invited to the ceremonies.

I don't get invitations like that too often so I decided to go. I live 500 kilometers from Helsinki, so I decided to fly there. After all, flying is much more comfortable and faster than driving, although I would have to drive 100 kilometers to the airport.

The weather had been beautiful, a little bit of snow, but not too cold or too slippery. I thought I'd get to the airport with my car, fly to Helsinki, walk a little bit in the city, maybe have a delicious meal and get something nice to get back home for the family before the party would begin. Great plan, but I forgot about the Finnish winter. It usually doesn't respect anybody's plans.

The departure day came and the weather wasn't so pretty anymore. It was snowing heavily and the weather was warm enough to make the snow wet and extremely heavy. Early in the morning when I got the kids to school, the driveway was clear and I could get out easily. My plan was to leave at noon, so I could get to the airport in time.

By noon, the driveway had turned into a big white field of snow. There were no car tracks in sight. Luckily, my neighbor has a huge tractor with a snow blower designed for the heavy stuff. You know, the monster kind of machinery. I called him and asked if he could come urgently to open up the road. He said he'd be happy to, but he had some kind of trouble with the blower. Once the machine was fixed, he would come to rescue. I was watching the clock and thinking about the speed I would have to drive to the airport. Maybe I would have to be like Juha Kankkunen in the winter rally in Sweden.

Fifteen extremely long minutes had passed when I saw a tractor pushing through the snow. The enormous machine was throwing the snow all around. I felt saved! I grabbed my camera bag and rushed to the car. The tractor was still finalizing the yard when I drove away like a maniac.

I had to keep up the speed not to miss the plane. I didn't feel like Juha Kankkunen or Tommi Mäkinen and my car is hardly a WRC model. But, all the trucks were struggling to get on in the blizzard and were driving very, very slowly in front of me. There was no possibility to pass them, because I hardly saw where I was driving. Partly because of the blizzard and partly because I was sweating so bad the car cabin was turning into a sauna.

When I finally got to the airport, I was only five minutes late. I thought maybe they would still let me in to the plane. After the security control, I noticed the board of the departing flights. The flight was late for an hour because of the bad weather! I had made it!

I spent the time at the airport photographing the machinery and personnel trying to cope in the terrible weather. After all, planes are late but they will fly in snow storms too. At least in Finland they do. Finally, everything was ready and the plane took off. I got to Helsinki safely, but after a slow train ride to the city center, there was only ten minutes time left before the opening ceremonies would begin.

Finns are used to snow, but Helsinki is a big city in our scale. And when it snows in Helsinki, the city is in chaos. The public transport doesn't work and people are trying to get to their destinations anyway they can. Lucky for me, I didn't need a taxi or a bus to get to my destination. It was only ten minutes walk away from the railway station. So, I waded through the snow to the final destination. No delicious meals, no shopping, no sightseeing, just piles and piles of wet snow.

I was so hungry at the exhibition I ate at least a kilo of the nibbly things. The organizers must have thought my photography business wasn't doing too well, I hadn't eaten for a month at least. And, as expected, the return flight was an hour late, too. So, when I finally got back to home, through the snow, cold air and snow plowers terrorizing the roads, it was already midnight. But, I got home safe and sound, hungry and exhausted, but I made it!

Tamrac 5542 Explorer 42 camera bag

I have been a Lowepro man for years. Last year I needed a smaller bag than my Lowepro Nova 160 AW and I decided to try out Tamrac. The bag is just what I needed. It carries one camera body, two lenses and a flash or a small video camera. That's exactly what I need on trips when I don't have to carry every single gadget I own. And the bag has a great street credibility, too.

I'm not sure if they still make the 5542 model, but you can read more about it here.


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