Saturday, January 31, 2009

Enjoying a sunny day

Bench, right, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Moon and Venus, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

It was cold today, about -15 °C, and sunny. We enjoyed the sun by going outside, first at noon and again later at sunset. I took photographs mostly of the children, but also a few landscapes. Here are two pictures from today, noon and sunset.

Burned during the night

Abandoned, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Vantaankoski rapids, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

While reading the local news today, I noticed that an old abandoned mill had burned during the night (news item in Finnish), due to arson. Fortunatelly nobody was hurt.

When fetching my car from service on Monday, I happened to take a photo of this particular mill, which is situated by the Vantaankoski rapids. I didn't realize it was a mill, though. In retrospect this is of course obvious from the placement of the buildings beside the rapids.

I was originally planning to see whether there would be nice ice formations to photograph, but no such luck. Then I noticed these buildings and took a few photos of them, although it was quite a gray day. There were other buildings in the area as well, and one of them had long curved icicles hanging from the eaves.

I had plans to visit this place in spring, thinking that there would be much to explore in better light than we have now in the middle of winter. It is sad to see such attitude towards old buildings as demonstrated by this arsony.

Update: While ironing my shirts, I thought further on this. In a way this is the other side of Medusa's head - photography freezes time, and you can't return to take photographs you did not take earlier. Each moment in time and place is unique. The burned mill is a demonstration of this. Perhaps I could have taken better photographs of the mill, today it is too late. Now there is the burned mill to take photographs of - and what comes after that?

Update 2: For a moment, when reading the news this morning, I even had a thought that perhaps someone saw my photograph of the mill and thought that it was a perfect place for arsony. But no, that is not feasible, especially as I didn't provide any instructions on where to find it. On the other hand, when location-based photo tagging becomes commonplace, there might be something to this. Take a photo, put it on the net, and the viewers can find the place on a map. But I think this could be more of a good than bad thing, for example when traveling to a strange city and wanting to know how it looks there. Although there are some implications for misuse of the data as well.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Photography and physics/statistics

Oak branches, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Neon sky, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

I'm following quite a few photography blogs, and often there are surprising finds, sometimes related to photography going into an unexpected direction and depth, and sometimes not about photography at all but still very interesting. Here are two recent examples:

The photo shown here was taken today. A rare thing for me, but I felt that this works best as a black and white version. Not very original, but there was something fascinating about the three oaks.

Update: I added another photo, to show the nice sky we had today after sunset - even though the sun was not visible because of the thick cloud cover, some of the colors got through.

Red and green (and white)

Red fence and snow, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Snowing, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Finally it is weekend. This was an exhausting week, not only at work but also at home with the children being sick one after another.

Here are two photos from today. We managed to take a short walk just before and after sunset - although the sun was not visible behind the thick cloud cover. In the first photo I removed a slight blue color cast and brightened the dark tones a bit. This is a bit different that in the reality, but not far away, and I took the liberty of a bit more post-processing than I usually do. The second photo is slightly cropped, but only a little. There was a bit of snowfall which smoothed the landscape in a pleasing way.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Quick and dirty in Helsinki

Helsinki harbour view, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Helsinki harbour, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Dirty snow, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Today was a day of meetings and proposals. Namely, the deadline for several calls of the Academy of Finland is tomorrow, and I have been discussing about a dozen different proposals. And then there are other things happening which don't care about that deadline but instead obey their own rules.

During the morning I was in a meeting in the center of Helsinki, and being a bit late I decided to skip lunch, and survived the day on two sandwiches and coffee. Instead of lunch, I took a couple of hasty photos from the parking lot. When returning to work, I noticed the dirty snow on the street. This reminded me of a photo of snow in Beijing, China - the snow there was completely black thanks to pollution. We don't have it so bad, fortunately.

Yesterday I was quite stressed out, and even had some negative thoughts about photography, particularly the obligation to your audience. In fact, thinking about the audience - the 100 or so daily visitors - makes me feel good, as there seems to be something I'm able to provide to the world with my writing and photography, even though I'm doing this mainly for myself.

But I also recognize in myself a certain weakness for situations when I'm being helpful towards others. The need of being needed is a fundamental part of me, and I guess most human beings, so when there is something which seems to help others, I sometimes get too involved in it and forget other things which may be not so rewarding in the "I am needed" department. So, I need to be careful here, not to get too much carried over in this feedback cycle of providing something to the world and fulfilling the personal need of being needed (or at least recognized) in the process.

But even though I currently have very little time for photography, it is still great fun.

However, I'm a bit worried about my LX3, though. It is giving memory card errors almost daily (with several different cards, so far fixed by inserting the card again into the camera), and I'm imagining there are other signs of wear as well: the zoom is no longer functioning as smoothly as previously, and the casing of the camera is flexing a bit. I have so far taken about 27,500 photos with it, so perhaps some wear and tear is expected, but I hope the camera will survive a lot longer than this.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Photographer's obligation

Church, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Today I ran into Paul Maxim's posting Branching Out, in which he disagreed with Mark Hobson's views on subject matter:

I enjoy reading Mark’s blog, and I agree with him on a lot of issues, but his insistent implication that photographing in “iconic” locations is a waste of time is arrogant and silly. In Mark’s mind, photographing a plateful of garbage in his sink apparently has more value. In all fairness, maybe to Mark it does. That’s fine. But to tell the world that any image taken in a national park (or other such place) is of no value because it’s been done “a zillion times before” is horse pucky.
The topic of what to photograph is related to the matter of a photographer's obligation to the audience. If I post a photo of a certain subject - say a specific tree - would it be fair to the audience to post another photo of the same tree tomorrow, and the day after tomorrow, and so on? Or should I change the subject? In fact, what kind of obligation a photographer has towards the audience. For example, does a novice/amateur/half-skilled photographer such as me have any obligation towards the readers of this blog?

This discussion is now close to getting off-topic, but here is the thing: if it is easiest for me to take photos of the nearby subjects, and I feel that I can develop my skills this way, and I want to post these things on the web just because I like to do so, do I generate an obligation through the process of publishing my photos? And what kind of obligation that might be?

Coming back to the subject matter, I don't seek "popular places", but I'm not againts taking photos of them either. I'm in a fortunate position (considering the situation these days) of having a job, and as it is nowadays, it is a quite demanding job, so photography is something I do for balancing the work and the family. What I don't need is another set of obligations from those viewing my photos.

So, is there any way of escaping such an obligation? Not thinking about it is not a solution, now that I have realized that I may have an audience which expects something from this blog. On the other hand, I don't want to spoil a good thing. The good thing about photography is going out and having a walk in the nature, taking photos, having a look at them to learn to do it better next time, and writing whatever I happen to think at the moment to this blog.

According to the web statistics, there are on average 100-150 visits to this blog daily, and about 40% of you are returning visitors. This is quite a lot, and in fact makes me ponder heavily how I should feel about this blog. It is not so lightweight thing any more, although I want to keep it as informal and easygoing as possible. And most of all, I want to preserve the possibility of failure, or experimentation, and of not being perfect.

I guess most visitors here have their own blogs and perhaps even photo galleries. How do you feel about this?

A gray, gray, gray day

Dirty, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Today was another in the series of gray days, only more so. I wasn't much inspired by photography, except for trying to take motion-blur photos while going downhill in a sled.

All those photos failed because I was using too long exposure - 1/4 to 1/2 seconds - making everything a uniform blur. Perhaps 1/50 to 1/10 seconds would have been better, but then there is the problem of holding the camera properly, and also the loose snow which was streaming towards the camera. So, I limited my experiments to one time only.

This photo shows a bit of the grayness of today. The snow is also getting dirty, it is no longer fresh-looking. And all colors seem to be washed out because of the snow and the heavy cloud cover.

I hope it will get better tomorrow, but it seems that there will be clouds, clouds, clouds.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Flickr = contact sheets?

Fields and a pylon, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Crooked icicles, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

I have been using Flickr for storing my public (non-family) photos since last summer. At some point I realized I was using Flickr for a different reason than many others. For me Flickr is about storage, not about exhibiting or presenting my photos. Thus, I'm not selective in what I upload, I just put there the good along the bad. (But I do make a coarse preliminary selection, discarding the technically failed photos, so I'm not posting 50 or 100 or 200 photos to Flickr daily, only a few dozen.)

I find it regrettable that few photographers publish their failed photos. It would be possible to learn from them. The perfect or good ones don't provide this learning experience.

Today I continued reading the book "On being a photographer", the chapter on using contact sheets. This chapter is of course outdated nowadays, a thing of the film era.

But then I realized that perhaps I'm using Flickr in the same way as photographers were using contact sheets. In fact, the writers of the book recommended sharing contact sheets. Not only do they provide insight and inspiration for other photographers, someone may discover something worthwhile in the discarded photos.

The two photos here are from the opposite ends of my current photography. The first (from today) has a "beautiful" landscape and a touch of color on the sky. The second (from yesterday) is coarse and ugly, depicting decay.

I'm sort of interested in developing this second type of photography, but would the photos be less interesting for viewers then? Some kind of beauty is needed to catch the eye, and that is hard to get with subjects such as this one. Or - more probably - I just don't have the skill.

At home

Tree above, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Wave motion, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Tracks, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

To complement my photo story of work, here is another from today, about the evening activities with the family.

Today the mystery of the the blue spot on the sky was solved, at least it think so. I had become too fixed on looking at the clouds and how the city lights are reflected from them to consider other sources of light. The blue spot must be the moon, slightly shining through the thick cloud cover.

Update: I just realized I didn't do any post-processing for the photos from today, apart from combining the two traffic signs into the same image. Partly it was due to lack of time, partly it was due to trying to get it right in the camera, partly perhaps being lucky. I'm no longer shooting 200 photos per day, usually it is in the 50-100 photos range, sometimes much less.

A day at work

Sun and smoke, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Pasila, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

EIT, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

So far, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Today afternoon there was a rare glimpse of sun visible. I took a photo of it from a parking lot, on a way to a meeting in Pasila, Helsinki, to discuss EIT. Pasila is a part of the city I don't much like, it is full of office buildings and traffic and not much nature.

Here is a little photo story from today, a bit of symbolism thrown in for a good measure.

Monday, January 26, 2009


Icicles, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Snow on wall, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Here is another pair of photos from today. Is order/disorder a relative concept?

Photobook from Blurb

Young snow, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Snow embrace, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Today I got from Blurb the photobook I made, using recent landscape photos as material. The book was good quality, the colors seemed to be just right. I had both very light and very dark photos in the set, and both succeeded well. Not bad at all. Next time I know a bit more, but at least technically there doesn't seem to be any problems in producing good-quality photobooks with the Blurb system. And it was really easy and fast to do, a good quality software.

I have been thinking about the next project, but so far I haven't had time to start to work on it. Perhaps one photobook per year might be a good rate. On the other hand, it is really so easy that I could do the next one quite soon.

These two photos are from today. Somehow I felt that they belong together, although I don't know why.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

A tale of snowmen

Snowmen, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Little snowman, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Big snowman, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Today the temperature rose above 0 °C, and the snow started to melt into water... Drip, drip, drip. But it was also a day full of snowmen and other such things the children made. (Ok, also the adults, I at least.) Here are a few photos of such found (and made) things. It is very difficult to get snow show up properly in photographs, but I'm slowly getting some practise in it, using iPhoto, Photoshop and Lightzone, sometimes all three programs.

Update: I finished reading through the photography book by Martti Lintunen ("Baabelin kuvat", images of Babel). It was a short one, and perhaps would have merited a more thoughtful reading, but somehow I felt the material a bit too familiar, except for a couple of deep and excellent points about photography, how it is used in society.

Now I'm reading the book "On being a photographer", which is a discussion between two photographers, David Hurn and Bill Jay. Perhaps there is a bit too much of mutual commendation, but mostly the book contains deep thoughts about what it means to be a photographer, not just to look like one.

The importance of subject matter is discussed in a unique manner: how restricting your attention can make you grow as a photographer, even though you might think the opposite. If you don't emphasize the subject, you end up in navel-gazing. Going this direction you find photographers who develop a "style", differentiating themselves this way, without a subject their care deeply about. But in this kind of photographs you find only emptiness. Great, deep thoughts, but perhaps too lofty for an amateur. But then you can look up what amateur actually means - "lover of".

Update 2: I ran into a posting on style on Andreas' blog, it provides good links and another viewpoint to the topic of subject-oriented or style-oriented photography. (This was posting number 419, I have a quite long way to go in reading them all...)

I must say that I'm not too keen on developing a style, but I'm not also really committed to "subject-oriented" photography. I'm shooting what appears in front of me. Is that a bad thing? Perhaps, at least it is not so deep as when you start to develop your photography around a specific subject, learning it, knowing all the time more about it.

Is camera a Medusa's head?

Red and gray, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Leaf flower, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Red barn, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Yesterday I finished reading "The Genius of Photography" book. It was revelatory, finishing with art photography and using photography in concept art. Today I started reading a book written by a Finnish professional photographer, Martti Lintunen ("Baabelin kuvat", images of Babel).

Lintunen has covered a range of things, from the starving and aids-ridden poor in Asia and Africa to the cream of the crop society, such as the British royal family.

The first chapter had several memorable quotations, for example the short discussion when Lintunen was finally presented to the Queen, given strict orders only speak when spoken to, and only give direct answers. "So you are the Finn?" the Queen said. "So you are the Queen?" Lintunen said. End of discussion.

Also, Lintunen was asked why his photos of the royal family were different than anyone else's. "I shoot them like horses. And some look like it also." That was the end of questioning about his secrets.

The key theme of the book seems to be the problematic relation of the camera to the world. Lintunen writes that he sometimes feels that he is carrying a deathly Medusa's head around his neck.

A very interesting book about photography, however only available in Finnish. I'll continue reading and perhaps post some more quotes here.

The photos here are from today, the theme this time is "gray, brown, red and white". Should be apparent in the photos.

Update: Another interesting comment of Lintunen, about the Fishermen on Stilts in Sri Lanka. Apparently there are a only a couple of men doing this thing in Sri Lanka, and they are pictured in all tourist guides and most magazine stories - and the fishing they are doing is not really fishing for fish, it is fishing for photographers.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Blue spot on the sky

Treeline, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Houses, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Curves, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Snow, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Today we had cloud cover at night, and the fresh snow reflected the city lights upwards into the clouds. The colors of the clouds were a bit more subdued than sometimes, but there was something I haven't seen previously this winter, a bluish spot of color. I'm not sure where it comes from but it was bright and stayed in place. Here are some photos, all showing the same blue spot on the sky.

Skiing on fresh snow

Skiing, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Skiing blur, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Skiing tracks, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Karelian hot pot, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Today was for me the first day of skiing this winter. It was clouded but not too dark, and the temperature was -2 °C...-3 °C, excellent for skiing. And we had Karelian hot pot to eat. Here is a little photo story from today.

Friday, January 23, 2009

The four stages of sunset

Last sunlight, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Winter plants, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Blue sky, white snow, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Tree line at sunset, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Here is a little photo story from today, from the last sunlight to the moment the night sky finally appeared.

Update: Perhaps I should have left in the last photo the yellow colors cast from the streetlamps on the snow, now it is perhaps not apparent that the sun has set and we are in the artificial light time of the day.

Finally a winter landscape

Open water, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Birches and a pine, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Five, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Now we have a real winter here in Finland, a lot of snow on the ground, and temperature nicely below freezing. The trees are beautiful with the fresh paint of snow, and we even had a colorful sunset. What more can a photographer wish for?

Thursday, January 22, 2009


Winter plants, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Fallen reeds, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

These two photographs were a bit of enigma for me. First I was going to delete them. Then I thought they were beautiful. And finally I couldn't decide.

On investing in equipment

Brown and golden, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Fresh snow on trees, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Bird-watching tower, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

We are getting another 5-10 cm of snow today, so now we have a real winter landscape. After work I made a short visit to the Elfvik park at the Laajalahti bay. Here are a few photos from the visit. It was snowing and close to sunset, and thus there was little available light.

Today appeared my column in the printed MikroPC magazine, discussing investments in information technology (in Finnish, "Tietotekniikka on parasta käytettynä"). I used cameras as examples (Panasonic LX3, full frame DSLRs, Panasonic G1 etc.), pondering the reasons and requirements for getting a new camera.

It was interesting to see Paul Butzi discuss a related subject in the posting The trailing edge. My column was about investing wisely. Paul discusses the benefit of using the previous generation of technology: tested, reliable, affordable. The current technology is good enough, and thus there is no reason for an endless cycle of upgrades to the newest technology.