2018 – A Year of Photography

2018 was an incredible year for photography. I learnt a lot and am forever grateful that I managed to spend so much time with nature. With each sunset, sunrise and starry night burnt brightly into memory, I will move forward with a goal to experience them all over again in 2019. Below are photos from each month in 2018.

January:

Above: As far as I can remember, January was a mixed month. It had its share of awesome winter sunsets, but there were many overcast days too. I also visited Tampere and managed to photograph some of the city.

February:

Above: In February, I started to focus on night skies. Star trails were something that I wanted to work on, and I spent many nights waiting for hours in very cold weather. The experience was worth it, and now I have a greater understanding for this kind of photography.

March:

Above: March was an experimental month. I bought an old Kodak Brownie camera at a local second hand store and got into using film. It was a side of photography that I had not explored since childhood. It was both fun and challenging. Don’t know when I’ll get into that again but it was definitely a good learning experience.

April:

Above: April had a nice variety of scenery. The lakes were thawing, and that created some really cool-looking shapes of ice to use as an interesting foreground element. I remember the crunching sound of the ice under my boots when walking on the shores.

May:

Above: In May, I visited a summer cottage and spent time with family. I good time and a change of scenery. ”Misty Lake”, was also taken in May. One of my more popular photos.

June:

Above: June was a month with sunny nights, swimming and sauna. I spent a lot of time again with family and exploring new areas. ”Midnight Full Moon”, was my most popular photo from this month.

July:

Above: July was a quiet month. I wasn’t feeling very inspired but still managed to get a few shots. ”Unwinding”, was definitely my favourite from this month. It was something different from my usual ”rock & water”, vibe. A lot of swimming and raining that month.

August:

Above: I visited Helsinki. Next time I visit I want to try some street or cityscape photography. There were also preparations for a light show at the Art Museum in Joensuu, and I grabbed a shot while they were doing the testing.

September:

Above: September, you cheeky bastard. This was a month that I will never forget. I saw the northern lights for the first time and worked a lot on photographing the Milky Way. Many nights were spent waiting by the fire for the dark after twilight. I also started to think more about cityscapes that month.

October:

Above: If September was a cheeky bastard, October would be his outright vulgar older brother. The aurora was back again that month, and it was an even more amazing experience seeing them for the second time. I also got a great chance to do some foggy cityscapes and woodland photography. Definitely my favourite and most memorable month of the year.

November:

Above: Not as good as the previous months, but still an interesting one. It’s always nice to see how the lakes freeze over and create interesting shapes along the shore. I should have definitely taken more photos that month, but the few that I got were decent enough.

December:

Above: December was a quiet end to the year. Only a few photos from the outdoors, since I spent more time on other types of photography. Hopefully next December will be better.

 

So that was my photography for 2018! I hope that my photos have been interesting to look at and give you an idea of what the Finnish nature is like. I also hope that I can bring some new and fresh ideas to the table and expand my knowledge even further in 2019. Enjoy your new year and thank you all for the support!  🙂

 

Above: See you out there in the snow 🙂 My first photo of 2019.

 

A Night with the Lights

I’ve wanted to see the northern lights for as long as I’ve seen pictures of them, and last month I managed gaze upon the aurora for the first time, even getting a photo or two. Ever since then, I have been determined to witness them light up the skies once again, hypnotising all measly human beings that gather below.

The Trip:

Since it was a nice Sunday afternoon, I decided to take a cycle from Joensuu to Kontiolahti. I left at around 16:00 in order to get there before sunset so that I could think about how and where to compose my shot. There was this amazing little place on the lake with a single tree standing alone amongst some rocks. I had been there once before, but I thought that this could be a suitable place for the night. I set up my camera and took a few test shots. Then I waited.

By the time the sunset was ending, I could already see hints of aurora in the sky (at around 19:00). I knew that I could be in for a treat. I let time do its thing, and at around 20:30 I phoned a relative who was waiting for the show in Joensuu to find out if they could see it too. We had both seen some aurora, but it was still calm. We finished our chat, hung up the phone, then I looked up at the sky and immediately it started. It was mind-blowing. Aurora stretched far across the sky from one side to the other. Below are some photos from around 19:09 to 20:35.

Above: A hint of aurora at 19:09.

Above: Aurora at 20:14.

Above: Aurora at around 20:30.

Around: Aurora at around 20:35.

At around 21:30, many other people and photographers started showing up, eager to enjoy the show. The previous lights had faded, but they could return at any moment. Everyone and their grandma’s cousin were looking at the sky, setting up their camera or just relaxing under the glow. I knew it was an excitement shared by all. I took a few more photos from that area and then decided to explore some more.

While exploring the area with a torch in hand, I managed to lose a glove in the dark. A minor setback, but well worth the trouble. Below is a photo from the second shoot.

Above: Aurora at 22:25, and someone arriving late to the party.

After all of this, I decided to start making my way home. It was getting late but I just couldn’t help stopping along the way to take more photos. Below are some from the way back.

Above: Aurora at around 23:00.

Above: Aurora at 23:41.

Above: Aurora at 0:19. Close to Lidl in Pilkko, Joensuu.

I eventually got home at 01:00 with a memory card full of photos, one cold hand and a satisfied smile on my face. It was a great night, and hopefully the lights will return again soon to tilt our necks and please our eyes. It’s been great to see all the pictures from all over the country, both north and south.

What I’ve Learned:

Keeping an eye on the forecast is a must. I use apps like My Aurora Forecast (for aurora predictions), and Clear Outside (for checking cloud cover etc.). Both work fine but obviously aren’t always completely accurate. Reading about the kp index is a must as well. Once you know when it could occur, it’s only a matter of finding a suitable location for viewing. It’s best to face north, be away from light pollution (city areas), and wear enough warm clothing to keep yourself feeling warm and patient. I sometimes take a flask of hot water for tea as well as some food for the gullet when I’m out for long periods of time.

Technique:

I’m still getting the hang of this, since this was only my second time photographing aurora, but I’ve found the settings to be similar to the ones used in astrophotography. For most of these photos I just focused on infinity. With others I took two photos, one focused on the foreground and the other on infinity. I then blended them together in Photoshop. I mostly left the aperture wide open, which was f3.5 in my case. The shutter speed is going to vary depending on your camera and lens, but I tried to keep it under 15 seconds. Keeping the shutter speed short is going to prevent stars from trailing in your photos. Personally I’m not always fussy with that, but I like to get them pin-sharp if possible. My ISO stayed between 800 and 1600. I used a Nikon D7100 (crop sensor) with a Sigma 10-20mm, as well as a tripod. Anyways, feel free to drop me some hints if you have any 🙂

Hope to see you all out there next time!