Olden days - the 4th quarter of 2007


This has to be my most productive quarter. Dang, was I on fire!  (It takes another three months to load, I know...)

  •  25.12.2007 -Happiest Christmas!-

   Hoo hoo hoo! Have you been good girls and boys? Ho ho! I thought as much. Well, me too.  :~)

Surprisingly hasty the last week has been! And I thought I'd tried to get away from all that... It's been ever so fun, though, so I don't mind that much. I've been to the city many many times and I think I've found myself a new hobby. And what a jolly fun it is! Ho ho ho! It's so easy and, moreover, rewarding that I think you all should try it especially in the christmas holidays. Okay, listen up... All you have to do is to buy all the presents as early as possible and then go to the crowdiest part of the city and find all the busiest stores. Now, if you can, try to find a cafe or some such from where you can peacefully observe all the hassle and haste from a safe distance. I assure you, it's surprisingly relieving to find that you don't have to be in their place, that you can just sit back and enjoy the latté. I think the colour photo here (taken by Saul Leiter) almost shows just how nice it can be. Not to mention that the cafes want to empty their bakery shelves for the next few days off - if you insist on helping them out, you can obtain the most delicious Sachertortes and apple pies at half the price...

But wait! I had almost forgot that I was to give you a christmas present of my own. You see, this is one of the ways of giving thanks to each and every one of you who's ever read this website. It's your support that makes me continue to write this diary, after all. Okay, now here it comes. I've postponed this... this presentation for quite a few weeks now and I really think it would fit the light, even humorous tone of the christmas day quite nicely. You see, last week I incidentally mentioned the folly of comparing the cuteness of Julia Stiles and Jennifer Morrison. Well, times, they're a-changing... I don't think it's that daft in the end anymore! For certain, this calls for a brief elaboration.

It is with utmost regard towards the idea of sexual equality that I say that yes, it is quite all right to compare the cuteness of other people. (But please, don't mistake that for cutesiness because they're not the same thing, at all.)

Okay, at this point I had perfectly justified comparing them. Then I noticed that I knew diddly-squat about either Stiles or Morrison! Whom I do know are Nicky Parsons from the Bourne movies and, of course, Dr. Allison Cameron from the House. I can't comment on anyone's looks unless I truly *know* the person, you see. Honestly, I believe that one's appearance pretty much reflects what goes on inside. And vice versa. Therefore, because I simply adore both the characters, I chose Nicky and Allison, instead.

For a moment, now, please forget that "Allison" on the left is wearing an odd uniform. :~)  In the photo she's doing the part in the PC game, Command & Conquer. But she manages to look charming, nevertheless, wouldn't you say? On the right is Jason Bourne and Nicky Parsons. Awww... I know, the dark green coat and red hair... Almost too beautiful. Now, my inner photographer just aches in seeing how the cameraman has clearly misfocused the image of Nicky. But I digress.

Of course, the comparison is purely rhetorical. I don't have any answers but my own and I think I'm going to keep it that way.

But let's do something even more wild! Let's venture a bit further to find if there are other gorgeous female characters out there... One of my absolute favourite tv-series has to be Battlestar Galactica, the new one, to wit. If you're in any way familiar with the series you would be guessing which one I'd pick for our cuteness comparison,  Tricia Helfer or Grace Park. Both wrong! They're not cute at all, I'm sorry to say. They're intelligent, for sure, but at the same time too calculating and cold. That doesn't earn any points in my book, for sure.

Instead, I'm going to introduce to you an entirely different kind of woman, Mary McDonnell, who plays the role of Laura Roslin, former Secretary of Education who quite early on in the series becomes the President. Tough job to be in such a position and not become cold and calculating, you'd guess. It's actually quite enchanting to see how easily she manages to avoid it. She really is one of my favourite characters - surely filled with simple human kindness. And yes, she's old, I've noticed that. But with her charisma and mellowness she could be twice as cute as Allison and Nicky combined.

We've already gotten quite far, don't you think? To the outer space, mind you. Somehow, I have a hunch that we could find someone at least a bit closer. Yes, from a place we all know, or at least most of us. A truly magical place. Yet, it's funny how few have actually seen it... It's Hogwarts, of course, the school of witchcraft and wizardry! After all, Harry Potter series has been one of my favourites, both the books and movies. The characters have obviously become very close. Even on the silver screen some of them seem awfully familiar. And one of them is very cute.

Despite the trickiness of saying this, seeing Hermione Granger's actress, Emma Watson, turning seventeen just before the latest Potter film, the 'Phoenix, I simply have to add her to my short list of the cutest female characters. She really is too bright, quick-witted and pretty not to be in the top four!

So there you have it! My christmas gift to you. The fact that some of the readers would prefer to see male characters hasn't eluded me - well, I only assume girls read this blog, too. I certainly won't promise anything, but *if* I find enough time to make a similar list of "the toughest male characters", I'll do it. It would make a nice surprise for the mother's day. Edward James Olmos would be the obvious choice, yes, but are there others? Well, MacGyver, of course! And Jack O'Neill from Stargåte SG-1 would easily fit in, too. Dr. House would be right at home, without doubt... Right, let's consider it a promise. :~)

Now, I only wish you had the most wonderful and peaceful Christmas Day. All the best!

 

  • 15.12.2007 -Ousshit, se on suomea-

   Laitetaanpa ihan The Joulukalenterin kunniaksi kerranki suomeksi, ja silleen. Joulu taitaa mulla olla muutenki niin jo verissä, että ei haittaa, vaikka sivuilla usein vierailevat ja tietysti englantia puhuvat dpreviewin foorumistit onkin ihan äimänä. Jaa, nytpä mieleni tekevi höpöttelyä...

Sepä olikin hyvin sanottu! Voisinko toistaa... "Jaa, nytpä mieleni tekevi höpöttelyä."  Vautsi, ehkä voin käyttää sitä jossain myöhemmässä päiväkirjamerkinnässä.

Voe voe, it seems my Finnish has gotten a bit weak, already. Maybe I'll just stick with the London tongue. Now, where was I? Oh, right... Last night I promised to show you the last of the photos from the exhausting photo trip to my parents' front yard. Now, I really liked the green hued monochrome image in the last day's entry, but guess what - I really like this one, too. Choosing a favourite is like trying to decide which one is cuter, Julia Stiles or Jennifer Morrison...

Here it is. Again, I haven't added any kind of blurring or anything. And those bizarre, lovely white christmas lights are due to some optical "defect" of the 35mm f/1.4.  :~)

Mahotonta meininkiä.

 


  • 14.12.2007 -Making photos, yum!-

   It's not seldom that I realize that the final stages in a photographic attempt - "developing" and "making the print" - are often much more rewarding than actually being out there, clicking the shutter. I've no idea why I think so but I just do. Maybe it's due to my timid personality which surprisingly often tells me to "stop tinkering with that camera, you look stupid and the people are watching"? I wouldn't know. But I do know it's not a joke. For instance, last night when I was taking these photos at least a dozen people walked by and I'm pretty sure the sight of a young man crouching low near a hefty tripod and a large camera on top of it isn't too common. And the capacity of most Finnish people for understanding something even a little off the median is known to be very bad.

I'll take that for a part of the answer. But maybe it's also because it is in front of your cozy LCD screen and your favourite Photoshop where you see if your compositions and other artistic choices add up to something. Sometimes they do, other times not. However, it's the times when they do that matter.

Whoops... Speak of the devil. I almost fell in love with this last photo. Got a bit carried away, actually. It took me over an hour honing it, which means that it's way past sensible bed time and my eyes hurt. I've got just one more to finish, one that was but an hour ago my favourite shot of the whole lot. Well, I guess you can hold your breath a day longer, eh?

I quite like this...


 

  • 13.12.2007 -Back and forth-

   Last night I dug up the latest "B&W" photography magazine and remembered that from the very same issue I'd found my new favourite photographer. No, wait... That might be a bit too bold a claim. Let's say that I added him to the short list of my favourite photographers. The simple compositions were most elegant, his prints finely crafted and yet peculiar in a sense as they almost seemed to mimic paintings... Again, I felt a gush of inspiration flowing through me. At the same time - or thereabouts - I also noticed that my stomach wasn't feeling too good and that I'd have to pass going swimming. I guess it was a sign of sorts. A sign for me to go out into the freezing cold and take photographs! And surprisingly, I did just that.

My beaten up 35mm f/1.4 had arrived and I thought it was finally a time to put it to a test. I've missed the nice and comfy perspective that you get with a 50mm lens on a film camera. On my digital Nikon with its stamp sized sensor the 50mm lenses behave like 75mm ones, and that's, well, boring. What's nice, though, is that it means that the 35mm becomes a 50mm! I was all set. I didn't really have to walk far from the front yard to find inspiration... Actually, I noticed that it's better if I didn't. Photographing the way winter introduces itself in early autumns, watching and viewing how it goes back and forth has been one of those things from which I can find a lot of new, interesting faces and features - and why not nice lumps of symbolism to season the soup.

It's really getting late and I've got an early morning tomorrow. That means I'll only post a few photos from today's "photo trip". Tomorrow I'll have more than enough time to convert and edit more. Err... That's "to develop and print" for those of you who speak film. :~)

See you tomorrow! Don't hold your breath... And oh, I almost forgot... The photographer I mentioned, he's A. Aubrey Bodine. Here's one of his photos. All quiet.


 

  • 7.12.2007 -A minute from somewhere else-

   I'm not sure if I should be joyful or wistful. I went to a small concert in a small church where this larger-than-life character sang songs with his ground-trembling yet tender growl that filled the space with not only christmas spirit, but tales, dreams and incredible musical graces, too. Vesa-Matti Loiri is his name, but certainly he wasn't the only one to impress me on that night. The three other players also displayed skills that made me gape and grin time and again. Peter Lerche, who played the electric guitar, had also arranged all the songs and even composed one of them. It's something quite unique to get to watch the person who's actually one of those "behind" the songs come up front and lead the pack.

Pauliina Lerche, Peter's beautiful wife, played everything from violin to accordion - kantele being in the middle. Just before the concert my father told me Maria Kalaniemi had played the accordion in Loiri's band earlier and being a fan of hers I was somewhat dissappointed for a moment not to see her. Not many songs had passed when I'd already changed my mind. The bass player, Kikke Bergholm, was quite talented, too, but it wasn't until the very last few songs they played that made me realize that.

The songs, both the earnest christmas carols and soulful old renderings of famous Finnish poems, sound peculiarly warm and fierce when the band played so close to where I was sitting. It's almost as if they were there to take me away from until that moment so oridinary and mundane afternoon. Perhaps I felt a bit like the boy in The Snowman?

But the last song, the name of which I don't even know and I'm determined not to, displayed Loiri playing the flute with utter loveliness and each of the three players deeply engrossed in their own instruments. It was getting darker every second and the bass felt like it pumped blood through the air with tremendous, Herculean strength, guitar screeching ominously back and forth, echoing. Pauliina's accordion brought a stern backbone to the scene, surrounded it with an inspiring zest and yet created a wild, winding rhythm - like dancer's feet high above the ground. It was all too perfect, everything about it.

But I can't remember much of it, certainly not the progression nor the melody - if it even had that. I'm confident that it was something as beautiful as one can come across. That I will probably never again experience music more encompassing. And I left the church happy.

 

There's a lesson, too, and it's one that I'm glad to have learned the good way. Judging by the chatter of the people sitting next to me there were many in the concert who surely seemed to be there just for the sake of christmas tradition or because the name, Vesa-Matti Loiri, holds so many fond memories to most Finns. I truly hope that wasn't the case for the majority of the people stuffed inside the relatively tiny - but cosy - hall. But what if others couldn't hear or feel all the beautiful things that I thought were so strong?

Maybe some of us were simply tied up with their chores or run over by the seasonal precipitation? I'm a student and I'm very much able to skip lectures or exams if I simply don't have the time or will to do them. I have a very good summer job and much of the freedom comes with that. So I do know that others aren't as lucky and many can't throw themselves into the music - or any other art, hobby, passion, some such.

These two photographs here, kindly shot by Marc Adamus, tell a story. A very simple one, at that.

Notes to myself... Be and stay sensitive. And quiver in the winds.

Have a nice second Advent Sunday!


  • 3.12.2007 -Something's in the air-

   Christmas! It's only three weeks away! Oh me gosh, what am I going to do? How can I make this christmas more christmasy than last year's? Or those of the past ten years? Could it be possible to regress to the level of a ten-year-old, just for one month... That's the question.

Funny enough, some of you will undoubtedly think it's not much of a job for me, but sadly, that's not the case. However childish my writings here might be, I'm already an adult and finding it hard to stay young and foolish. So, it requires a different kind of approach, then. I'm trying my best to refrain from getting all philosophical again, but let's poke a few holes into some old conceptions and try to take a fresh, more squinted look at them.

Let's say you enjoyed your childhood christmases a lot. And frankly, that's not an overly rare phenomenon. What was it that made you feel so good? Was it that you got all the nicest presents or was it something more spiritual? Did you like the songs that played on the radio or the funny christmas calendar TV-shows? Was it simply nice to have a holiday in the middle of winter and spend all days outside skiing or playing ice hockey? Or did you love the blizzards when it was so cold your fingers lost feeling and yet it felt so warm and fuzzy to come back inside? Go ahead and make up more questions...

I'll have to stay one-hundred-percent honest to myself - and to you - and admit that the presents were a big part of the fun and excitement. A major one. However, the older you grow the less presents you get - that's a familiar story for all of us, I think. What's not quite as fitting is that while my present count has been on the wane ever since I left kindergarten and started in pre-school, it hasn't had any kind of effect on how I feel during the christmas time.

For me, it's about the snow. Huge drifts just outside the window and having to shovel the banks left by plough trucks in order to get to the letterbox and back. Music has always had a strong influence on me and it's not a surprise that listening to christmas songs is another one of my favourite winter activities. And nope, I'm not talking about "Jingle Bells", "Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer" or some such, but the Finnish ones. The real ones if I may say so. If you're a foreigner, I understand that it might be difficult to imagine christmas carols played strictly in minor, but that's more or less the way we do it. Here, just listen to this, a song called "Varpunen jouluaamuna". A faithful translation of that might be something like "A Sparrow in the Christmas Morning". It's a perfect representative of the Finnish carol tradition, especially concidering the somewhat melancholy mood. The singer, Johanna Kurkela, I thought you might want to know, is a close friend of my brother's girlfriend. And boy, does she sing prettily. Please, enjoy.

It's the kind of song that takes over and puts you into sleep. That's not a bad thing, to me, at least. I believe Christmas is about letting go of the routines and watching the time flying past. And to feel that you don't have to participate if you don't want to. That's one of the reasons I don't fret if I forget to buy presents for my friends - which I usually do (nothing personal, guys and girls). I don't like to make check-lists for that kind of reasons. If I don't remember all of my friends and relatives, I'll try to make up for it later. It's really not a big deal. What does bother me, on the other hand, is the fact that everywhere I look I see people getting torn apart in their jobs because December is for some distorted reason the rush-hour of the year. I feel the same way when I see my friends and family strained in their illusion of a silly obligation to writing cards to each and every one of their acquaintances - not to mention wandering around the city to find all the gifts day after day. Don't get me wrong - it's not a bad thing in itself, shopping around, that is, but you'll have to enjoy it and do it because you really want it, not because you feel you're constrained to do it. Think of it this way: would you like to know that the gift you received had caused your friend stress and anxiety in this time of the year? Even just the tiniest bit? Well, neither would I.

There's a lot more to christmas than the gifts. Yet, you can't deny that they still hold a special power. Two years ago I received a letter from a friend of mine who lives quite far away from my hometown, and while I can't reveal the content, I can only say it made an impact that I still remember like it was yesterday. Gifts like that are truly golden. Yet, a good gift can be something that you pick up from a store shelf. There's nothing inherently wrong about it. With just a bit of pocket savings you can make good things to yourself and your friends - or support a charity with a good cause, so why not do it. :~)

As we've now found out, we don't have to be ten-year-olds to enjoy christmas.
Just forget those "must-do" lists and hop off the train. You'll thank yourself.


   A few weeks ago I decided that I would do well to give myself a break and let me enjoy the things that I love the most. Savouring the christmas time and enjoying the company of my friends is only half the... allright, let's say a major part of the story, but a part, nevertheless. It so happens that I simply need photography! No escaping that fact. You might remember that I've been suffering from a mild case of artist's block, no? Well, there are only two prescriptions to it that I know of. One is, of course, to fall in love with photography again. And the other one is... More cowbell!

The second one is a bit tricky, I know, but the first I think I know how to do. I'm practically soaring in gushes of inspiration every time I pick up a good photography magazine, say, B&W, PhotoIcon, SilverShotz or even a National Geographic. This time, however, I took one step further and bought a book. And not just any book, but a collection of the best photos of the best photography community ever, the Magnum (www.magnumphotos.com). The book's called Magnum Magnum (the repetition makes it sound even more impressive, I know) and it weighs around 8 kilos. That's my christmas gift to myself. I won't even open it until the christmas day, of course.

Now, did you get a glimpse of the famous quote up there?  I mean the sci-fi novelist Joe Haldeman's words "Critics talk about art... Artists talk about brushes." from one of his works. How should I put it... Well, I decided that I needed some new brushes. Three, to be precise. Naturally, I'm talking about photographic lenses - manual focusing ones at that. I turned Björn Rörslett's website upside down in order to find reliable information on and reviews of some of the fastest old lens designs in particular. So, I ended up buying an ancient Nikkor 35mm f/1.4 from a nice little antique shop in somewhere around Oregon, United States, a Nikkor 25-50 f/4 from a bigger shop in Atlanta and a Nikkor 50mm f/1.2 from a Japanese fellow. So, if I don't deliver in the future, it won't be because I didn't have enough brushes. :~)

It's easy not to understand the excitement I feel because seldom does a non-photographer have an interest in blocks of glass and metal. Collectors of antiquities might have some idea, but perhaps not close enough. However, I need you to appreciate the thrill just a little better. And I've found a great way to show you just what I'm talking about. Watch closely...

It's like there's something in the air. 

All the images were taken from www.TimeCatcher.com with kind permi... uh... non-forbiddance from the TimeCatcher team. Photos belong to guys named Jay Patel, Marc Adamus, Darwin Wiggett, Ian Cameron and Adam Burton. Thanks!

 

  • 24.11.2007 -Colours In Rainbows-

   I'll take it back, allright! A couple of weeks ago I did say, in a way, that Radiohead is a dull band. Well, as a defence I can only say that at that time I hadn't heard their new album, In Rainbows. And besides, that's the past. Now, come to think of it, I must admit there's been few albums in the past ten years that have had such an impact on me. I don't really understand what it all means but I still enjoy it - maybe the intrigue stems from the unknown.

Anyway, I'll cut to the chase and present you one of my favourite songs on the album, Reckoner, played live by the Radiohead:

 

   Oh, shoot, it must be getting late. Hey, you there, what's the time?  *silence*  Oh, I almost forgot! It's the time to announce the Finnish Vuoden Luontokuva 2007, but of course!

Okay, now *bear* with me. Simply stating the winner and showing you the photo would be quite a run-of-the-mill drama. The way we proceed is that I'll show you the winners of each category (the names of which I don't remember and will not ever try - suffice to say that there's nine of them). So, take a look at here: The Winners of Each Category

Pick your favourite and then try and guess which one really won. A tough one, I'll tell you that...

Yes, the answer is... okay, now, this babble is only to ensure that your eyes don't wander around and you don't spot the answer by accident. As this is already dragging on to the third line of the paragraph I can tell you that it was the one with the running bear, the one called takaa-ajo. I might as well also point out that the photo of Mick Jagger in the diary entry back in 31th of October was borrowed from art.com. Well, I think there's enough red herrings to catch.

This was the winner of 2006. I still think it deserved the prize.

Vuoden Luontokuva 2006  -  'Lumisade' by Esa Mälkönen

 

  • 17.11.2007 -I'm the lightbringer-

   Wow... That's got to be the most flamboyant heading I've ever written! And technically speaking it's one hundred percent wrong, too. But let's forget about the trivialities and focus on the matter at hand - and make no mistake about it, it really is quite as elevated as the heading describes.

Get ready boys and girls... It's now official. I've gone mad.

It's true. I've lost all of my marbles. There's no hope for me. Why? Well, I base that observation on the fact that I've recently bought two Nikkor lenses that some photographers nowadays would consider antiquities. And now, at this moment, I'm contemplating on buying one more. And why? For they are the true lightbringers.

Enter Nikkors AI 35mm f/1.4 and AI-S 50mm f/1.2. They're oldies but goodies. Really, the former is supposedly around five years older than I am. And the design of the latter is almost as old as my father. They weigh a ton because they're chock full of glass, don't focus at the press of a button and are probably the most worn-out lenses I'll ever get to use. So why did I want them, then? It's simple, really. They are some of the sharpest, best built, most vigorous and beautiful lenses mankind has ever created. This, honestly quite abused-looking lens here is the 35mm prime - funny enough, the photo shows the very sample I bought from the States. But hey, you know me - it's what's inside that counts.

Not impressed, huh? It looks a bit modest, I know, but that's everything I want from a lens. Here's a telling story... I still remember when I was in Oxford, having a night out with my friends and the D70 accompanied by the humorously massive 17-35 f/2.8 hanging on my neck... There were these three blokes elatedly strolling around the town - their favourite football club had obviously won 5-0. When they saw me one of them instantly gave a laugh and shouted "look at him, he's got a huge lens"! I mean, that's the one and only time in my life that I've actually been happy for shooting with such a humongous lens. The only one - honestly. And yes, these are the chaps from Oxford! Man, I really love that photo...

Oh, but I digress! Back to these lenses and what they'll enable me to do. So what's the talk about them "bringing the light", you ask. Well, normal cameras and lenses more or less stop functioning when going gets tough - or, specifically, when the lights are out and the sun happens to be on the other side of our planet. And that's one of the times when I think the philosophy "less is more" is more than spot on. Less light quite often translates to more atmosphere. I love opening the shutters - that's window shutters - in the middle of the night only to see the charmingly dim street lights and the shadows they throw. This is even more true in the wintertime. What you need is a lens with large aperture, say, an f/2.8 or even f/1.4, which is often synonymous with a huge front lens element - you know, to gather all the light. The photo of the three Brits was actually shot at f/2.8 and ISO 1600, which is the maximum sensitivity of the D70 sensor. Now, had I wanted a shorter shutter speed, I would've ran out of options as it would've been impossible to do without serious underexposure. Or let's say that if the lighting hadn't been as ample as it was - and it really was, but still bordering on being too low for my camera and lens - I'd have had to throw the camera back in the backpack. Now that's why I want the 50mm f/1.2. I could've cut the shutter speed in one fifth of that.

Incidentally, large apertures dictate that the photos have a very thin plane of sharp focus. Everything else is blurred. Again, less can be more. Here's a photo taken by either Ralph or Kylie Whitten with the 35mm f/1.4. This is exactly what I'm talking about.


During the writing of this entry I decided that buying
these lenses isn't so barmy after all. Thanks, folks!
I'll just head back to eBay...

 

  • 8.11.2007 -First snow!-

   Today it happened! Just while I was sipping coffee at the University Central Coffee Republic (okay, I don't really know its real name) it flashed before me - the first snowflake of the winter. It didn't stop there. Several others were on their way, too. I almost felt like having a philosophical moment.

I'm so happy! I'm always happy when it snows. Not even a Radiohead song can touch me when I see fingertip sized snowflakes drifting down in a slight breeze - that goes to show what an incredible power it has on me. Anyway, my day was saved. We went to eat and I thought I'd snap a few shots with my camera phone.  You'd think our University was a busy one and you wouldn't be far off. Still, I was hard pressed to find anyone walking out there to fill the frames. Was it too cold?

One thing to note is that this is quite a late time for the first snowfall. Last year we saw it many weeks earlier. Of course, I have it all written down so you can check for yourself. Look at the end of October and you'll find it: 4th quarter of 2006.

Unlike the last time I didn't have my trusty Nikon available - I've borrowed it to a friend - so I had to content with my SonyEricsson W880. By the way, let me get technical, just in case you were in the false belief that camera phones will some day replace real cameras - the small size is strictly against all the laws of physics. My camera phone has a 2 megapixel sensor and no autofocus. Image quality is non-existent if the sun doesn't shine, as the noise and especially the over-the-top noise reduction algorithm turns everything into a mess. Decentered lens element makes the other side of the image very blurry, beyond sharpening. The tiny sensor gives a nice psychedelic effect, though, as the other side turns reddish in low light. It's a flaw, nevertheless. Other manufacturers deal with the same problems - some even add a few of their own. To see what Nokia camera phones do to bright colours is to feel pain. Samsung G600 has great colours but a horrific lens and the new G800 updates the lens but suffers from noise and muddy colours. They both might as well have 2 megapixel sensors instead of 5 because the lenses simply don't deliver. Now they're just stuffing the sensors chock-full of pixels because the number is what customers care about, not the real life image quality. There's a reason why the best cameras are huge. ;~)

Still, I love camera phones, no matter how crappy they are. My brother has a huge phone with a capable camera boasting 3,2 megapixels. SonyEricsson, too. He took nice photos on our trip to Beijing and even made prints of them. He didn't mind the questionable quality (to my eyes, at least) and not having needed to haul around kilos of photographic equipment like I did (actually, he did too as he helped me carry all the gear). In the end, it's about getting a shot with so-so quality or not getting it at all. Naturally, I'd take the former every time. :~)

You might not guess it from these two blue shots but it was actually quite  bright when I got home. I noticed that the phone camera still needed such a long exposure that all the images turned soft due to my hands shaking. I then decided to make it work for me - I experimented on different motions. And here's what I got. As I said, the red edges actually brought something extra. No post processing has been made on these other than minor contrast and exposure tweaks.

Besides, if you don't want to see the colour discrepancies in your images, you can always turn them black and white! A tip to remember, for sure.

PS:  I'm now off to bid on an old manual focus Nikkor 50 f/1.2! Here's a photo of the lens. Ain't it a beauty? If I win it under 300 euros, I'd have to consider it a steal... ;~)

 
 

  • 31.10.2007 -A rolling stone always smiles-

   The air seemed like it was about to be ever so slightly brighter... 

Ever since I heard the philosopher Jagger's wise words from the late 60's - you know, when he said "you can't always get what you want but if you try sometimes you might find you get what you need" - I've had a more positive view on things. The fact that it was Dr. House who made the quote might've influenced my reaction, too, but it's not the point. The best thing about the quote is that, first, House said it so it must be true, and second, it got me thinking that maybe it's better to have what we need rather than what we want. Right. Let's get philosophical...

If I started counting how many times I've lost something that I've wanted and made a list of those occasions, I would in turn be quite delighted making the list of things that I would've lost had I not earlier lost the things that I'd wanted. Simple as that. Losing can sometimes be winning. We just don't know when. If we try, we just might find that in the end we've gotten some of what we've always needed. And that's exactly what I want.

 

  • 28.10.2007 -Our trip to UKK-

   Last week I made a promise and in spite of recent, unfortunate events, I was to keep it. In a way... See, as I don't haven't found any of the writings that I wrote on the trip I can't be accurate enough to say anything for sure. That's why I'm simply publishing the photos. You can always find the link in the "Photogråphs" section. Anyway, here they are: Our Journey to UKK

  

  • 18.10.2007 -Photographic goals?-

   Short story extra short. I've got a plan! Regarding photography, I mean.. It seems that - and I heard this term a minute ago - I've hit an artist's block. One can't be creative *all* the time, so one must have these breaks once in a while, it is said. Now, how am I to shake it off? I thought that if I leave it as it is and just wait for the inspiration and motivation to return, I'd have a long wait ahead. That's why it's important for me to make a plan and simply push myself in the right direction.

Luckily during this half a year I've concieved literally dozens of photo ideas that I consider surprisingly good. It's easier to unleash your imagination when you don't have to worry about realizing it, I reckon. Besides, I haven't had much chance to get out in the open air to do what I want. One can't do much for the weather, either, and many of my recent ideas rely on that. Note to self: learn not to depend on something with a mind of it's own! Putting aside everything that I can't control, it's time to focus on what I can. So here we go - this is my list of things to do in the next six months:

1.)   Update this site's photography section! I'll add the photos from the trip to UKK by the end of next week, so that means 28.10.07 is the deadline. It will hold.

2.)   Buy the Epson R2400 so I can get down to learn it thoroughly and finally manage to achieve decent prints! I've felt ever so frustrated with printing labs doing their extremely mediocre work. I've pretty much lost my will to hone and obsess over my photos simply because I know I'm not getting out what I'm putting in. Garbage in, garbage out. Good stuff in, good stuff out - that's what I want.

3.)   Buy a new raw converter - preferably RawMagick Lite so I can feed the Epson with the best images I can possibly conjure. I want to make my flaws show. I want to be embarrassed by how sloppy I am with my exposures and technique. That's how I want to learn this. :~)

4.)   I will forget everything I've written above until I've managed to execute at least two of the photography projects I've come up with. If they're not good enough, I'll come up with something better. There's absolutely no need to gather expensive gear to help you if you don't know what you're doing! I'll need to watch Ergo Proxy a second time so that I can begin to fulfill the vast gaps in my general knowledge and explore that ocean of allegories once again. I will also have to explore the work of others to find again those things that spark my senses and imagination.

So what are those projects? Will you believe me if I say they're there and that's it? Of course not - I'm not that honest, anyway. ;~)   Well, it's of the utmost importance for me to write this all down in black and white in order to, first, remember it, and second, make a promise to all of my friends so that I will feel obliged to do it. Here's something concrete...

1st photo idea  -  a series where I try to depict a bit of how I see trust. Trust in myself, trust in other people, and finally, trust in the world, the nature. I'm thinking a beautiful landscape, maybe northern Norway, and if not that, Lapland will do. Perhaps myself in it, wearing funny outfits - preferably at least one photo where I'm wearing the orange wool cap that says "LOVE" over and over again. You've seen it once, actually, on these pages... Go ahead and try to find it!

2nd photo idea  -  a series of portraits of my friends. That's really not an overly ambitious project, but certainly new for me. I'd want to do it for two reasons. First, to get my friends involved in my photography and possible igniting a new hobby in them. Second, to learn how to use light, both natural and artificial.

There you have it. Two one-hundred-percent honest and doable ideas with a strict deadline, the end of March 2008. Those are promises, and not like the ones where I say "okay, I'll be there in ten minutes" and arrive after half an hour. Not like those, remember. This time, I plan to fulfil them. Let's see how well I do.

 

PS: A bit of continuation to last week's subject, sharpening. I've managed to get a hold of a real world image straight from the new 12mp Nikon D300. Alas, the jpeg image was taken with the Nikkor 18-200, which, while very handy and all, isn't very strong when it comes to high frequency contrast - the apparent sharpness, that is. And the photo I saw must've had zero sharpening as well as a de-centering issue on the lens. Talk about bad luck! I can only imagine what would be achievable with a raw file... Anyway, I've taken a small crop of that image (at 100%, or in actual-pixels-size, whatever you wish to call it) and used my humble and, in fact, in some ways quite weak post-processing skills to try to enhance upon it. This I did to show you how to resurrect a truly hopelessly soft image.

I put it through a series of contrast alterations, seeing as it was overexposed a bit. First, I pressed Ctrl, Alt and number one (in some keyboards it's the button on the left of it, I'm not sure), which selects all the light parts of the image. Then I pressed Ctrl, Shift and "I" to inverse the selection. Then I used the simple USM with strength at 20 and radius at around 50. The shades will go darker. After that I sculpted a simple S-curve in the curves tool. These two are perhaps the most instant yet crude ways of giving an image a bit of film look. Iliah Borg's 32-bit Lab USM trick (radius at 0.3 pixels) finalized the image.

So, if you've ever come across one of your images that look like the one on the left, don't worry. But one thing to remember is that never think of it as cheating. These tricks aren't there to repair the damage you do when taking the shot. A bad lens is a bad lens is a cheap lens, there's nothing you can do about it. But you can usually salvage something with judicious post processing. What you should also do is learn not to add any blurriness on top of it. That means you've got to pay attention to everything from correct bracing and knowledge on the relation between focal length and shutter speed. Regarding low contrast there's not much you can do when you're shooting, except that you'd do well to expose-to-the-right and adjust the image later in the raw converter. You won't hear me teaching how to set your camera to produce great straight-from-the-camera jpeg-images. That's not how I see digital imaging.  :~)

PPS: Again, remove the /Nikon-D300-sharpness-full.jpg  -line from the end. It's not exactly the same image - you'll see the difference more clearly when you look at the writing. Googlepages.com, as perfect as it has been in my use, always wants to compress the images once more, perhaps so as to restrict bandwith usage. Luckily we now know how to get around it.  :~)

PPPPPPPPS: Please, don't judge the D300 by that photo. It would be waste of your time. If you want to see real life test shots taken by a real photographer, check these out:
http://www.makofoto.cz/aktuality/nikon_D300.htm
 


 

  • 11.10.2007 -Most embarrassing thing-

   Ever!! The magazine didn't publish my photos at all.. *blushes red*  I don't know what happened. They did tell us they'd use at least one, after all. What makes it all the more funny, however, is the fact that they actually wrote in the margin: "photo: Janne Mankila"! And no photos to be found! I don't mind, though, as there's still hope that other magazines will publish some of those photos since a new tournament is already under way in the same place and the organizers will provide the papers with the same images. No one's going to notice. :~)

But now, as promised, it's Top-Photo-Tip-Top-Time! Sharpening is today's word.

First, the bad news... I've tested everything I'm about to show you in my Photoshop CS2. So if anyone's got a version older than that, I can't guarantee compatibility, sorry. Then the good ones - these tricks really work! At least on the screen. You'll note that Dan Margulis' method has been left out. No practical reasons for that, other than that it was difficult to understand particularly in which stage of post processing to do it and I wasn't overly impressed by it.

First of all, you might want to start reading these short instructions first:
Out of Gamut, by the late Bruce Fraser:
How and where to use UnsharpMask (USM)
A Two-Pass approach
A Three-Pass approach

When you look at Bruce's samples on the three-pass routine guide you will probably think that after the output sharpening the image looks grossly oversharpened and pretty much destroyed... I was told by Bruce's colleague, Andrew Rodney, that the method is a result of arduous testing using high quality Epson printers and papers and that we shouldn't trust our monitors too much - it doesn't reflect what we get in the print, which is why we're trying to learn these tricks in the first place. Now, if you've been following this journal closely you might know that at the moment I'm *saving* for an Epson. It means I can't verify the validity of Bruce's methods, but I have every cell in my body telling me to trust him. He was one of the most respected experts of this field in the world.

If you wish to forget such a lengthy sharpening method and call it a day... Well, luckily for both of us, you don't have to! Glenn Mitchell has to put all the basics of Bruces three-pass routine into a handy three-in-one java script that you can run in Photoshop. Download the three java files into your CS2\Presets\Scripts folder, that's all. Remember to read all the instructions so you know what's happening to your photos. Here you go:
http://www.thelightsrightstudio.com/TLRProfessionalSharpeningToolkit.htm

Fun's not over yet, buddy! What I've got to show you is a simple photoshop action that will make a huge impact on your images. This is Iliah Borg's handiwork and you can download the zip file through here. 
http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/read.asp?forum=1021&message=25030463
And before you ask, yes, it's better than the oridinary USM.  What it does is it converts the image into LAB space (don't worry if you don't know what it means) and into the mysterious 32 bit world (ditto) and then does the sharpening.

If you want to control the radius of the sharpening, you can do it by 'opening up' the action in its window and simply check the empty box next to the line where it says Unsharp Mask. Easy! And you can change the amount simply by altering the opacity of the "layer 1".

I made a comparison table for you - there you go! (and after you click it to enlarge it, remove the /Tarkennus-Test-full.jpg babble in order to see the original, "almost uncompressed" version - I have no idea why the site works like this and I don't know any remedy for it)  It's a crop from a D70 raw image, shot with the Nikkor 20-35 f/2.8 at f/8, converted in ACR and here viewed at 100% (so you see actual pixels). Pay close attention to the subtle shades in the bush and how the normal USM destroys the tones. Looking at the screen I can say that the 32 bit method gives a lot more natural look to the image. The conversion from 8 to 32 bits is there to reduce or better control the sharpening halos, after all. There is one problem, however. If we abide by the Bruce's three-pass sharpening, when do we use this, then? I'm not sure what to tell you and Iliah, for some reason, remains strangely hush-hush. I'd use it in the last stage, prior to printing or alternatively when you're sharpening web-sized images. I'll definately try it out when I get the first chance. Hopefully soon!


Happy bööfdei, Kaisa!!!
You'll never guess what I got you for present... What? You think it's the Ultimate Rambo Collection? Wrong, silly.. Conan the Barbarian? Nope, although I'm sure you'd love that.. It starts with an 'I' and ends in an 'N'. Trust me, you'll like it. ;~)


PS: The red faced painting guy above was borrowed (indefinitely) from JupiterImages website. They didn't charge me so I thought it's free... Is it?

 

 

  • 4.10.2007 -I've forgotten photography!-

   All this time blabbering about everything that hasn't got to do with photos! Something's must be wrong with me. I won't fret, though, as I think I already know the reason. I've noticed this summer that I've all but forgotten about my own photography. That shouldn't have happened! Really. But I know the reason, too. It's the overjustification effect (Wikipedia lesson here). I've gotten myself involved in semi-professional photography which has probably led my subconsciousness to think that it's money that drives the passion - and hey, it's definately not what I bought my cameras for. Some people might get me wrong, so I'll just add that I really enjoyed photographing the local bowling club's anniversary (photos here) and I've truly enjoyed the benefits from the gift token I was handed in return for the job well done. But as more offers pour in I've gotten a bit feverish... I do enjoy it, in a way, but I feel as if it's taking away the childish joy from simply playing around.

On my latest assignment just over a week ago I was to photograph a poker tournament. As much as I was sweating before the gig I liked the responsibility and challenge. And it's definately a bonus that with the help of the pay check I can finance a small part of my next investment - Epson R2400 printer, here I come!

Anyway, it's only fair to show what I did there, right? For those interested in texas hold'em, please enjoy the atmosphere. My first touch with the game was when I saw the new Bond movie, Casino Royale, so needless to say, I'm not a huge fanatic. Luckily, the hall was so packed that it was tough not to get caught up by the atmosphere. It wasn't there for me, exactly, as the huge flash and equally sized lens on my camera certainly made me quite an eye-catcher anywhere I went. That's the same reason it was next to impossible getting candid shots of anyone.

Top-Photo-Tip-Top-Time! So, if you get yourself into same kind of situation, turn off the flash and up the sensitivity. No one's going to hear a gentle flick of a mirror and people won't lose their eyesight because of your earth-shattering and jaw-stuttering blast of white light.

Ooh, but I have other matters to discuss! You might've noticed that I haven't spoken about archery since July. My right elbow was injured somewhat while shooting in the beginning of August and has effectively kept me away from the range. Blessed be our fysiotherapist, Outi, at the University health care! She found a cure and I think the hand's already getting better. It was merely tightness of the muscles, but I got the impression it was quite bad. Sincerely speaking, I'm extremely lucky to have the help of such people available.


I've got to go now, I'm almost asleep! Next time I'll probably be talking about... video games, music or how Lost has lost me, big time. Come to think of it, I used to love that show and now I'm just baffled. This third season is quite challenging, to say the least. It's a nice series, yes, but it seems they leave me little choice... I'll have to start the search for the perfect television art from the nearest capable film store and I don't think I wouldn't go wrong by picking up the Long Way Round, the complete BBC series. I wrote about it a couple of weeks ago, in case you missed it. Wait, that wasn't the exciting part... Careful now as I'm about to reveal the news to you... They've done it again!!

I doubt I was the only one hoping for McGregor and Boorman to do another journey, another series. But where do you go when you've just travelled across the whole wide world? This time they forgot east and west and decided to travel south - all the way from Scotland to South Africa. I've recently pre-ordered the DVD set and it should be here before Christmas - what jolly fun it will be!

And one thing... Don't worry about all this raving about rebels and such. It might come across as mere humour, but I do feel I have a lot to say about the matter and how it relates to my personal views in general. I'm still intent on making sense of it all. The last diary note was but warming up, mind you! ;~)

Piece of art, this photo... Boorman on the left... Like art, but better?

PS: Seriously, though, I do have a few clever sharpening "actions" (that's like a macro or short-cut, so to speak, to be used in Photoshop) up my sleeve and I'm willing to share them with you next time. I should point out that they're not my conjurings, but the result of the co-operation from Dan Margulis, a well-known photoshop expert, and Iliah Borg, the other author of the most sophisticated raw image converter there is, the RawMagick (that's not an exaggeration by any means). Iliah and I have been discussed a bit about the techniques used and how to get the best out of them. Don't worry if this sounds tough, as it isn't. Until next week... Act sharp!

 

  • 25.9.2007 -House on wheels-

   Pun definately intended! Actually, this week's topic isn't House (the tv-show) but rather what cars mean to me in general. By now it must've become quite obvious to even the most occasional readers of this journal that I do have a deep affection for them. That's something I've always taken as one of the most mundane features in me - it isn't exactly unorthodox behaviour, now is it? However, at times I'm being reminded that looking at cars with a healthy interest just isn't normal. That it's just a primeval instinct for a boy to dream about cars and drool over them. And that's just poppycock!  :~)

The person I was referring to just happens to be one who's helped me open my mind a bit and encouraged me to trust my own opinions first, no matter how silly they are. Anyway, that is the exact reason why it strikes me odd that such a person can't see the rationale behind my interest in cars. Heck, many people can't!   *knuckles crack*   Right-o, I'm now going to try and find the right words to turn all your dull prejudices upside down.

Imagine Star Wars... Now, take Han Solo. You know him, you do, Harrison Ford played the part! What was he? A bounty-hunter, that's what he was. Try it - as the word rolls off your tongue you can almost sense the thrill and excitement: freedom at your fingertips, that is. And he was a true rebel, if not *the* true rebel. I've thought about this many times and come to the conclusion that it's something you obviously can't do unless you have a vehicle of some sort. Remember James Dean and Steve McQueen? Yes, they had motorbikes. But that wouldn't work in space, obviously, as they can't go faster than light. So, what Han Solo had was the Millennium Falcon. A space ship, capable of travelling the Kessel Run under twelve parsecs! Wow!  ...  *silence*  ...  Why is it that I feel someone might've missed my point here? Okay, suffice to say that it's incredibly fast. And what a rattletrap it was. The magic was that Solo combined his ethereal cool with something that had the same kind of outdated ruggedness and charm. Clearly there was a link between the 'rebel' and his 'bike'. Clearly, that's what ignites a spark inside a young child - such as me, over a decade ago, when I was twelve. And my brother. All of my friends, too. But the truth is that Millennium Falcon, as we all know, existed a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away... And that's why we'll never see one in real life. Hence, we must have cars and motorbikes. Makes sense - I know!

You all saw the last episode of House, right? Okay, I'll just take that granted. Now, wasn't it probably one of the coolest moments in modern television when after the long and arduous operation, in which he was putting in line the life of a 9-year-old, he and his cane strolled down the street and bumped into a bike shop? After moments of hesitation he finally asked if he could take one for a test drive. He got onto the bike and sped towards the horizon... Emmy-award-stuff or not, House instantly became my number one idol. One curious fellow he is. So was it that he let himself be a child once more? Or perhaps he realized that being a child isn't exclusionary to growing old?

I think it's only fair for me to have a relaxing moment of regression. Here we go! 

Some of you quirks of nature *might* remember me raving about the new Fiat 500 a long, long time ago. I really did and still do! However, it wouldn't be right fit for a rebel like me to have one of those, now would it? It's too small and hey, let's not even talk about how many parsecs it would take to get from Oulu to Neverland in one! For that kind of journeys I'd need a tough motor.. Something that outruns the real 'Falcon. A 2.0 litre diesel engine from Ford/PSA, now there's a piece of art. Three point five Kessel Runs with one tank, now that's ecological, too. Saving the world has never been easier. Okey, let's stay focused - I'm serious about this. We shouldn't forget that the chassis is even more important. I need something that's as compact as a Tie-Fighter yet handles like an X-Wing. It has to look like a space ship, a bit rough and ugly, too, but in a good way. I know just what I need. It is called... Volvrrrrooooooommmmm!


That's the spirit!