Saturday, February 28, 2009


Shadow, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

White and green, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Snow cover, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Today was a sunny day. We got some visitors at home (even though we warned of the illness, they still wanted to come). Afterwards, I went for a short walk outside with the youngest children, who enjoyed playing in the fresh snow.

I took some photographs, using the snow and the sunshine as the subject, noticing especially the shadows. It felt good to be out taking photographs once again. It is as if I have become malnourished in "seeing" when forced to be inside for so long. It was a good day, although I'm still coughing occasionally, and I'm not completely recovered from the lack of sleep.

Update: Last Sunday I wrote a few thoughts on Nordic literature, specifially detective novels and science fiction. I noticed that in Finland we do have a bit of original science fiction published. Well, today a read a news item which gives some indication of this. Namely, the novelette "Baby Doll" by Johanna Sinisalo has been included in the 2008 Preliminary Nebula Award Ballot. She is a great writer, and has brought science fiction quite wide recognition in Finland.


Green and gray, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Finally I got a full night of sleep. Well, at least 6-7 hours. I feel better already, and the illness seems to be vanishing also. The cough is bothering sill occasionally, the nose is running, and I don't have much appetite, but mostly I'm feeling almost normal. Perhaps I'm able to do some walking outside today.

During the last few days, I haven't ventured far away from home, a couple of dozen meters only, except when seeing the doctor or shopping to fill the fridge. I haven't taken many photographs either, and those few were mostly taken inside the house or outside in the yard. Here is one such from yesterday, when it was warmer, above 0 °C.

Update: An interesting tidbit about sleep, A Good Night's Sleep Protects Against Parasites: "Animal species that sleep for longer do not suffer as much from parasite infestation and have a greater concentration of immune cells in their blood according to a new study." So, sleep seems to have a deep connection to the physiological well-being. There was an interesting quote from researcher Brian Preston: "Given the declines in human sleep durations that have occurred over the past few decades, there is a clear need for studies that further clarify the immunological significance of sleep."

Friday, February 27, 2009


Dripping, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

The lack of sleep is starting to really bother. I have tried two different medicines for the cough, one prescribed by the doctor, and they don't seem to have much of an effect.

The cough keeps awake at night, except for some rare moments when the cough ceases for a while. Somehow it seems that the cough gets worse in horizontal position, standing or sitting there is not so much coughing.

And the lack of sleep is causing other problems. I can't hold a thought for a long period. I keep forgetting things, even simple ones I have started to do. Thoughts come and go, don't stick long enough to make a memory impression.

I discovered in my bookshelf a novel on this topic, "Sömnlös" (Sleepless) by Barbara Voors. I read (or more accurately, browsed) through the book, which wasn't so bad, but I didn't have the patience to read through the long descriptive passages. I did notice some problems, for example the fact that a quoted letter didn't sound at all like it would have been written by an old man, it was in fact repeating the same phrases and topics as the earlier parts of the book. So, the book probably has big holes in it for readers with clearer heads than I have.

Of course, my problem isn't really insomnia, it is the cough which prevents proper sleep. What the cough stops, I expect to be able to sleep as deep as usually.

The photograph is from today. The temperature rose above 0 °C, and the snow is starting to melt.

Thursday, February 26, 2009


Fresh snow, old ice, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Yet another day with the flu. Including the last night, here is the progression so far: 1) severe headache, 2) sweating, 3) muscle cramps, 4) cough, 5) exhaustion.

I'm feeling extremely tired. It seems that I can't hold a thought coherently for a longer time, instead I slip into a scatterbrained mode which never gets anywhere.

The medicine for the cough didn't seem to have much effect last night. I was kept awake by the cough which affected the whole body. Fortunately I finally fell asleep and got a couple of hours of sleep, until waking up in a half-coherent status.

I haven't been able to read much anything either, in contrast to the early days of the flu when I quickly read several novels despite having high fever. I hope this flu doesn't present any worse suprises.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Drinking all night long

Blurry plant, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Sky stripes, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Yesterday I characterized the first three nights of the illness as distinct phases, like chapters in a book: 1) severe headache, 2) sweating, 3) muscle cramps. Well, the fourth one did have a change once again, namely: 4) cough. And not just any cough but full-body cough which seems to involve all muscles in the body.

During the night, I didn't get much sleep at all, but at least I had learned from the previous nights: removing bedclothes when I started to sweat, and drinking water every once in a while. In fact, I have got back 1.5 kg in weight already, and the muscle cramps have almost disappeared.

Today I went to see a doctor, who ordered a blood test taken. Well, at least this isn't caused by a bacterium, the diagnosis was "influensa susp". I got some medicine for the cough which should help sleeping, so perhaps I'll be more coherent tomorrow.

Lack of sleep it starting to have an effect. Yesterday, when I went shopping to fill the empty fridge, I was all the time forgetting things I was supposed to get, and had to go through the list again and again, double-checking, triple-checking, and even then I forgot something.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Three nights

Swag, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Stairs, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

The virus is still going strong, now for the third day. The three nights so far have been different, almost like chapters in a book: 1) severe headache, 2) sweating, 3) muscle cramps.

I think I was mostly to blame for 2) and 3). I should not have had such thick bedclothes when in fever, but I definitely was not thinking clearly. And as for muscle cramps, I think I should have been drinking more water. I have so far lost 4 kg of weight in a week, and most of that is probably due to dehydration.

Today I had a short excursion outside to fill our refrigerator which was almost empty. I took a couple of photographs when out there. The illness seems to be reflected in the images.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Almost ok - but still afraid of the bug

Scratches, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Last night was quite something - I have never sweated so much, not even in sauna. And when the fever went down, it was very cold because of the damp bedclothes. Not something to treasure in memory.

I took a few photos inside the house, just to keep on practising. Here is one which I feel fits the feelings. I focused on the scratches, as I'm feeling quite scratched myself.

You may already have met the do-it-yourself random cd cover meme, but have a look if you haven't. I made a quick try on this, using my Flickr photoset as the source of photos, selecting one of the images (using As I have very little experience of using the type tools in Photoshop, this wasn't so easy, but at least I managed to put something together.

Update: The fever rose again to 38.6°C. It has been interesting to compare the symptoms with my wife, being sick simultaneously. In the "big picture" the illness has progressed more or less the same, but in the details and timing there are differences. This is not one of the brightest topics for discussion, however...

Update 2: I noticed an detailed and interesting posting on What's really in a pilot's kitbag? The writer describes a new type of bag for air travelers: "It includes a fold out section that houses a laptop, which the TSA now allows in lieu of taking the computer out of it's case. Flip out the laptop portion and let it slide through security. It's definitely been a time saver, especially when you have to go through the process two or three times a day." The nuisance of pulling the laptop out of the bag is inconvenient so this is quite interesting. And pilots should know these things best. But what is the connection to photography? The pilot who wrote the posting has an LX3 in the bag as the preferred camera.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Photo Blogging Oscars - "Most photo-bang for the camera-buck"

Sunset in glass, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

1001 Noisy Cameras has given Light Scrape an interesting-sounding award: Most photo-bang for the camera-buck. Thanks! The methodology as described at the site seems sound, at least as good as for the Oscars and beating many other systems by a large margin. (For example, Idols or Big Brother.)

I think it is appropriate to make a posting even today, although I'm still very much suffering from fever and headache, so no photographs taken today. But I did take a few yesterday, an hour or so before the fever rose suddenly to over 39 °C. Here is one photograph from yesterday, a sunset view in reflection.

I haven't been able to do much besides being sick in bed, and reading books when the headache has diminished a little. I finished a Swedish detective novel "Olycksfågeln" (The Jinx) by Camilla Läckberg. I have read earlier two of her books in Swedish, "Predikanten" (The Preacher) and "Isprinsessan" (The Ice Princess), and this one was almost at good, in some parts perhaps even better. The subject was "reality-tv meets CSI" in a small Swedish village. The role of the camera in society was very well analyzed by Läckberg, as also the type of publicity-seeking created by reality-tv programs. (Perhaps I should also analyze my photo blog from this viewpoint, but I don't have the will.)

I'm currently reading "Svart Stig" (Black Path) by Åsa Larsson. I have read two previous novels in the series, "Solstorm" (Sunstorm) and "Det blod som spillts" (The Blood Spilt). What interests in these book is the description of life in the northern Sweden. Larsson has a special style, bringing to life the harshness of the environment which both presses down and lifts up those who live there. But unfortunately most of her books have a "big-bang" ending, which I don't much like. It is probably so also with "Svart Stig".

It is interesting that there are so many detective novels published in the Nordic countries, especially Sweden. Perhaps it is an indicator of the type of society here - in a very chaotic society there wouldn't be need for such books, I feel. But there are also differences between the Nordic countries. Hardly any science fiction is published in Sweden, but here in Finland we do have some, of high quality.

Update: I thought I should note that I have now taken 30,692 pictures with the LX3. Earlier, I reported of problems with the camera (lens getting stuck etc.) but since then the camera has performed flawlessly. And no memory card errors either, perhaps this is due to switching to shooting jpeg instead of RAW+jpeg. I have decided to wait a bit before rushing to buy another camera (another LX3 or a G10 perhaps). On the other hand, SoBoMo '09 is approaching, so perhaps it would be good to get a spare camera just in case.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Being in love with a washing machine / Being in 39 °C fever

Machine, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

I was planning to write today a light (perhaps even humourous) posting, on the topic of washing machines, something like this:

Some time ago I discussed the use of the word "friend" in the English language compared to Finnish, suggesting that here in Finland you don't become a friend except by a long-lasting mutual reliance on the good-will of the other (and vice versa). I got some interesting comments on this topic, so now I'll try to attack the word "love". As an extreme and terrifying example someone might say "I just love McDonalds".

But in Finnish, the word for love, "rakkaus", is not easy to use at all. In fact, it is perhaps one of the least used words in the Finnish language. Typical story about this tells of a couple having had 50 years together, and the wife says one day to the husband: "Why don't you ever say you love me." The answer: "I said it when we got married. I'll let you know if the situation changes." Also, as two additional tidbits or points of evidence on the matter, there is the use of the word in UK, for example in shops: "Here you are, love." As a concluding remark, I think that the phrase "In love with a washing machine" would make an excellent subject for a short story or novel, combining Kafka with hard-core science fiction.
But alas, this came not to be, as almost all (or perhaps all) of the photographs I took failed. Also, during the evening my sore throat and headache got much worse, I had the shakes, and discovered that I have a fever of 39 °C. But after taking some medicine against the fever, I felt a bit better and decided after all make a posting here today.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Spending the day in a shopping mall

Steps, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Today we spent most of the day in a shopping mall. It was tiring, but sometimes you need to do things like this. I would have preferred going for a walk outside, but on the other hand today was a clouded day, so at least there was no sunshine wasted.

I took a couple of photographs at the mall, both abstract (trying to get nice compositions of the architecture and decorations) and street photography. Not much success with this, I'm afraid, but at least there was a bit of photography exercise even today.

Update: I started to answer a comment by Markus Spring on "political" photographs, and this got me thinking a bit further on the topic. What is the difference between "political" photography and photographs that express opinions?

For example, I have strong opinions about certain subjects (such as science), but they are not popular topics, so it is probable that these opinions wouldn't be "political" in the sense of interesting a great many people (and thus, they wouldn't interest politicians). And trying to express these opinions in photographs doesn't seem a worthwhile cause. (Even if I had the skill.)

On the other hand, there certainly are subjects which are popular but not necessarily political. For example things which provide enjoyment - beauty - for the viewers.

But perhaps there is a politial viewpoint here as well. Presenting (or trying to present) beauty may be a conservative viewpoint: being satisfied with things, enjoying the world as it is, not promoting a change.

Update: I continued the reading spree today, starting and finishing Joseph Wambaugh's "The Golden Orange", a film noir style novel about an alcoholic ex-detective with lots of twists and humor in the dark plot. It was good, but I felt it could have been better, as some of the characters were just caricatures, entertainment for the masses. But the good parts (with real human feelings) were really good. Now I'm reading "Thicker than Blood" by M. A. Newhall, a novel written online using Creative Commons licensing. I'm not yet sure how good the book is, but the first two dozen pages are not bad at all.

Update 2: Well, I finished the book "Thinker than Blood" and it was ... juvenile. After a somewhat promising beginning it deteriorated into a shamble: holes in the plot, badly motivated characters, stereotypic science fiction elements, and plain bad writing. But there was some promise as well - it is as if a bunch of well-meaning teenagers had tried to write a novel together, but nobody was in charge of the big picture.

Update 3: Andreas has been active in commenting my postings, and has reminded me of what I was thinking a few weeks ago. At that point, I was reading the book "On Being a Photographer". Finally I was much disappointed with it. However, the book "The Life of a Photograph" by Sam Abell was revelatory, telling (and mostly showing) of how to "make" photographs instead of "taking" them. I'm not sure if you could say Abell has a style - but he does have a way of combining rough reality with beauty, human beings with landscape, snapshot aesthetics with well-developed documentary thinking. In this light, the discussion in the book "On Being a Photographer" seems almost trivial.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Exhausted by a short walk

Gate, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

I managed a short walk outside today, but even that was quite exhausting. This week hasn't been too good - especially as I'm on vacation and there were plans for traveling etc.

I took today a couple of photographs, but it was not inspiring at all. Here is one of the images, signs of decay perhaps? I tried to make an abstract photo of a very concrete subject, but I feel this doesn't work out too well. Being very abstract and concrete at the same time, that is an interesting thing to explore, but there should be some visual beauty as well, and here is very little of that.


Trees and lights (blurry), originally uploaded by jiihaa.

I'm still weak from the stomach bug, but the worst seems to be over. I couldn't spend much time in vertical orientation yesterday, but horizontal was mostly fine, except for occasional waves of pain in the stomach. During the night I also had a bit of fever and headache, but that also seemed to come in waves. I have tried to drink a lot, which seemed to help.

There was not much else to do, so I continued reading books. I'm currently 3/4 through the book "The Chinese" by Henning Mankell (original title "Kinesen", I'm reading the Finnish translation).

There are surprising similarities with "The White Tiger", though more on the subject matter and not so on the plot - poverty, climbing to the top of the society (China vs. India), revenge. But Mankell is not as convincing as Aravind Adiga in describing a completely foreign society. (Or course, Aravind Adiga lives in India, so that explains a lot.) And Mankell seems to have quite a strong political agenda and thus many of his characters don't quite seem human, more like caricatures and puppets.

The photograph is once again from Tuesday, just after sunset when the sky gets colorful.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Being sick in bed

Old leaves in winter, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

I got some kind of stomach bug, making it hard to stay up, so I have been most of the day in bed, going to the toilet every so often. I managed to read two books, first the science fiction (and satirical) novel "Atom" by Steve Aylett (in a Finnish translation), and then "The White Tiger" by Aravind Adiga. Atom was at first promising, and then turned out boring. The White Tiger seemed at first pretentious, but then it got much better, showing places in India few authors try to describe. I noticed on wikipedia that Adiga has a second novel out, titled "Between the Assassinations". I wonder whether that is as good?

I didn't take any photographs today, the image shown here is from yesterday, when it was sunny.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Is there good photography which is not political?

Taking photographs, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Paul Maxim has written interesting mini-essays, for example on the use of visual metaphors in politics. I posted a comment on this, being interested in the use of politics as an example of interpreting photographs. Is politics becoming relevant once again? Or is politics just a topical example of how photographs define the reality?

But what about those photographers who are non-political, at least in their own opinion? What other defining contexts are possible (or relevant) today?

Continuing the analysis, Paul Maxim made a rather strong statement: '... as soon as you express an opinion (photographically or otherwise), you are, in a sense, being “political”'.

This brought to mind some of my own ideas on photography, which I no longer believe in. At one point I claimed - rather naively - that none of my photographs are political. But nowadays I'm not so sure. Perhaps mine are just bad photographs. Or perhaps I don't have any opinions, or the skill to express opinions via photography. I hope it is just a question of skills.

Further in this direction, there arises a question from almost the opposite side on the matter: Can there be good photographs which are not political?

The photograph shown here is from today. We had a nice amount of sunshine, in many ways this was an excellent winter day. I even managed to do some cross-country skiing today.

Taking part in SoFoBoMo '09

Look, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

I registered today for SoFoBoMo '09 (The Solo Photo Book Month), although I don't have yet a good idea for a book of photographs. There is a tentative idea for exploring certain aspects of photography at lake Lammaslampi here nearby, but I'm not yet certain whether I can make that work. Well, if that doesn't work, then I have to find something else, don't I?

In any case, what I should try to do is to use this as an opportunity to develop as a photographer, to move from single photographs (which don't really have much of an idea in them) to a whole book. This is a big step. I have done a photobook with the Blurb system, so technically there isn't much of a hurdle, but going deeper into the meaning of photography, that is the tough part.

Monday, February 16, 2009

An excursion to Hakunila

Jesus loves you, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Barn, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Riding, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Hakunila mansion, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Today we went for a walk in the Hakunila fields and forests. It was clouded, which made all colors appear subdued, as if a grey layer of dirt would have been spread over everything. This affected the choosing of subjects for photograps as well.

What it is about medical treatments?

Hand wash, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

For some reason I have always had an uneasy feeling about medical treatments, especially those that involve cutting, needle, or blood. I have never fainted, but I haven't felt too good either. These days I'm being a bit stressed by this thing, as our youngest daughter needs to have eyedrops several times a day, and she is not very co-operative when she is tired. Although there is no need for cutting or needles, still this thing is an awkward thing for me to do.

I'm sure giving eyedrops is really easy do properly, but then you need to be a person who doesn't have this unease about treatments. Well, perhaps this is just a question about practice, but I suspect otherwise.

I'm sure the world has lost an awful doctor in me, you just don't know how lucky you are.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Time goes slow in a hospital

Hospital waiting room, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Moves, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Left + right, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

I spent today most of the daylight time visiting a hospital. There was yet another complication after the flu, and I had to get antibiotics for one of the children. It was remarkable how much time it took just to see a doctor. Of course, it was Sunday, and the flu, slippery sidewalks etc. caused extra work, but still.

Here are a few photographs from the hospital visit. When we were leaving, I noticed a half-empty bottle of booze near the entrance to the emergency room. I think it was not there when we arrived. Apparently someone had a bottle with him/her, but didn't dare to take it to the hospital.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

A walk by the frozen sea

Signs, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Pine by the sea, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Frozen harbour, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Today we had a walk in the Uutela forests by the sea in Helsinki. It was rather cold, so we didn't stay long, but at least it was bright and the sun even peeked from between the clouds.

Here are three photographs from today. I'm not sure, but I think that the stag and cross sign refers to St. Eustace - something I managed to find with the Google image search.

Update: As noted in the comments, this is the Jägermeister logo.

Friday, February 13, 2009

On snap judgements

Tree shapes, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

I have been really busy this week. And the flu that bothered the family members has given way for additional complications, such as ear and eye infections, so it has been a dark week in many respects.

The image shown here is from Thursday night, taken hastily when going for a walk to get some exercise. The streets are icy and slippery which isn't at all nice for walking.

It seems that many things have gone for the worse in the short time. But I expect things will soon brighten up again.

One aspect of the hurry has been the tendency to make snap judgements at work, not always so successful. But fortunately I also managed to do successful damage repair, after noticing that I had completely misunderstood a situation. Sometimes it is hard to admit that you were completely wrong, but I have noticed that this is the best thing to do almost always. Admit failure, beg for forgiveness, and move forward.

Sometimes it is even so that the situation works out better this way, even compared to the "do it right at once" scenario. Being able to risk failure is one thing, but then you need to be able to admit being wrong and willing to fix things. When you are in a hurry, this can be difficult, but there is no other way.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Street views

Clouds over Helsinki, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Reflections, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Today was yet another busy day at work. These photographs are from yesterday, while I was in Helsinki. I haven't done many urban landscape photos, but I feel these two are not too bad. I did some processing in LightZone and some cropping to bring out the colors and the subject better.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Favorite thing you miss

Sunset street, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Winter moon rising, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

These are photographs from yesterday. I'm not sure whether I'm able to produce any today. It was a hectic day, first a long meeting, and then a series of short meetings and some e-mails to get things moving/settled.

The first photograph is interesting because of the lighting - this was the blue moment at sunset, thus the shadows are blue. Also, there was strong artificial lighting which colored the street in a warm hue. The photo was taken handheld with the LX3 (1/10 seconds at ISO 400), and the result is quite good for a compact camera.

The second photograph was taken well after sunset, when the moon had risen. This is a long-exposure photograph from the shore of the lake Lammaslampi. The artificial light generated a "green belt of light", as there seemed to be a kind of haze (perhaps little snow particles) near the other shore.

After this little photography part, perhaps you permit me to discuss a different topic. Namely, a favorite thing I like to do but seldom can. I'll return to photography at the end.

Today noon I made a short five-minute speech, from memory, without having any notes or PowerPoint slides or anything like that to help. And I suddenly realized how much I like making speeches.

Nowadays you typically give more or less routine PowerPoint shows, or you engage in negotiations and discussions, but seldom is there a real opporturnity to speech-making.

Making a speech is exciting because you have to focus on the message, to understand both the overall structure of your message and the little details you use to drive the point home.

I used to be quite shy, and afraid of situations requiring public speaking. This changed when I started to lecture and arrange 1-3 day intensive courses for researchers. The participants were motivated, you knew a lot of the topic in question (I hope so!), and there was a lot of room for developing the presentation as the courses were organized many times in succession.

I have never got over the initial tension before the act of speaking, but I have grown to like it, even relish it. It is like the excitement of riding a bicycle through a difficult strech on the forest path, or when skiing downhill a demanding slope.

And today I realized that this thing is missing. I'm no longer organizing courses or making speeches. Instead, I'm a slave of PowerPoint. Some part of me is becoming malnourished.

What I remember most from the lecturing is the clarity and the calmness. For example, when I was teaching Fortran 90 programming, I had a lot of practice in the basic presentation. When I started to lecture, it seemed that time slowed. I got calmer and extemely patient. When explaining some detail of the language I could look at the participants and monitor how the message got through, whether I needed to explain more or to speed up. There was no hurry, everything was clear, and I had all the time in the world to make things understandable. Questions, comments, additional examples, everything flowed smoothly and effortlessly. I suspect that even my pulse went down during the presentation.

Now all this is missing, and I'm not sure if I could get it back. But the speech today reminded me of this forgotten thing.

But where is the connection to photography? I have a suspicion that photography may be a way of compensating for the loss. It is a way of trying to reach the focus and calmness which I felt when lecturing. Some say that this is "the flow", when your skills come together and you forget about yourself.

I'm not sure whether any of this really is true. Perhaps I was an awful lecturer. But I suspect I was actuallly good at it, and the feedback from that goodness is missing. I don't know. Perhaps I'm able to find something similar in photography within a few years.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

An experiment in black and white

Pylon, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

I'm not sure it there are separately black and white photographers and color photographers, but nowadays black and white is not so popular. Perhaps it has something to do with the digital, it seems that it is really difficult to get the tones right, especially so that the shadows have something besides just blackness. Every once in a while I have tried to take black and white photographs, but rarely has there been anything worthwhile. Of this photograph here I'm actually a little bit proud. It is more a photograph "made" than "taken" - I got exactly the framing I wanted, and it also got the tones about right with a little bit of tweaking in LightZone. (Although the blacks may be a bit too black.)

Young promising Finnish photographer

Yellow blur, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Yellow and red blur, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Room lights blur, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

These three photos were taken by a young Finnish photographer who has a unique style and technique. I was really surprised to see these photographs, and couldn't let be posting them here, as I happen to be related to her. She has developed an interesting motion blur technique, capturing everyday scenes from a rare perspective. The style involves rapid circular movement in the surrounding space, that this whirring around and pressing the shutter button. She is our daughter, four years old, using my old Ixus 400 as the camera. Unfortunately she dropped the camera and it no longer works due to the lens being stuck. Her other photographs were also interesting, showing extreme closeup self-portraits and closeups of various furniture in our house.

Monday, February 9, 2009

A walk at night - taking photographs of ordinary things

Marks in snow, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

View under the trees, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Moonshine parking, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Tree shapes, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

To end the day, here is a little photography story from today. I tried to see commonplace things with fresh eyes, but I'm not sure if I succeeded. In any case this is a motivating thing to do, trying to look at things a bit deeper, to think about them a bit before taking photographs. For example, in the second photo I combined a bit of motion blur with preciseness to achieve a bit of a fairy-tale feeling.

Why I needed to take 30,000 photographs - and may need 30,000 more

Two benches, five birches, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Snow, ice and birches, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Ducks and melting ice, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Today was a sunny day, after a rainy day which melted a lot of the snow and made streets extremely slippery when the temperature slipped again below 0 °C. But it was bright, and as the sun stays up quite long nowadays, I stopped after work for a moment at the Laajalahti bay to take a few photographs. Here are three of them, in which I tried to catch the brightness of the sunshine on snow.

The Laajalahti has become a sort of laboratory for me. I return there every few weeks to try to see whether I can discover something new, see the landscape with new eyes. This is one of the most familiar landscapes for me as I lived for years in the campus area while studying, and also my work career has mostly been in this area. Thus, I can test myself in trying to see with fresh eyes things which are familiar and commonplace.

My hypothesis is that photography can be a way of seeing things which are not usually seen even though they are visible for all to see. This is of course not a novel idea, and many photographers have progressed far on this road, but I have only recently realized that there is a route this way.

I have been thinking about why I have been taking so many photographs during the last six months, and whether it has been of any use at all.

I haven't reached any final conclusions, but I have a feeling I needed to take all of these photographs to start to see beyond the surface of things. During the last dozen years of so I have become so insensitive to seeing and so fixed in routines that I need a massive dose of taking photographs to be able to see what is in front of me.

I suspect I'm not through with this, but I'm slowly improving. One of the recent revelations was the book "The Life of a Photograph" by Sam Abell, which showed in photographs and writing what it means to "make" photographs instead of "taking" them. And how basic, ordinary subjects of photography can turn in skilled hands into poetry, showing the viewers what it means to be human.

I'm very far away from that target, but by practising I hope that I'm able to see better, and thus at least better appreciate photographs taken by others.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Embracing the grayness - and thoughts on SoFoBoMo 2009

Lovin' it, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Car wash, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Shades of gray, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Today was a gray day, and what can you do? I tried very hard to turn the grayness into an advantage, to embrace it, to enjoy it. But no. However, here are three photos at least touching on grayness, if not embracing it.

I have been reading with interest postings about the SoFoBoMo project in 2008. What got me started was Andreas' posting #611 - I have now read (or at least looked at) all of Andreas' postings starting from #1 and ending in #611 - and this one was a good summary of the experiences of making a photo book. And the resulting book is excellent.

It seems that some photography bloggers are now getting interested in the topic, perhaps already preparing for SoFoBoMo 2009. Martin Doonan helpfully provides a nice collection of postings on the topic. He also links to several of the SoFoBoMo 2008 books, with concise commentary. I explored a few of the photobooks, and some made quite an impression, for example these:

It would be nice to try out something like this in 2009, but I'm not sure if I can get started with it. I know how to make POD photobooks, that is not the problem, but here I would like to make a more ambitious design, with a coherent structure and topic.

And what software should I use for this? I have Pages on my Mac, but it doesn't seem to be especially well suited for making photobooks. I could do it with LaTeX (going relatively low-tech), but I would like to have a more visual way of doing it.

Well, perhaps I have already decided to take part in SoFoBoMo 2009, and this thinking is an indication of impatience in getting started.

Update: My column on making photobooks appeared on Monday (in Finnish, Netti toi kirjapainon kotiin), and this is apparently a hot topic, I already got several comments and questions on this. Related to this, I noticed an interesting comparison of online book-making services Lulu, WeBook, Blurb and Qoop.

Update 2: Andreas is apparently also preparing for SoFoBoMo 2009.