Category Archives: Photography

shooting the streets of Helsinki

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Practising street photography. According to my  teacher, this photo has a perfect golden cut! That was nice to hear, even if while shooting you don’t think about these things… at least I don’t.

So, I’m back & blogging. The last couple of weeks have been quite hectic. We spent the first days of May on a holiday in Berlin – a wonderful, lively city  of culture I want to visit soon again! Truly, this place has something, maybe because of its harsh history… don’t know.

Further, last weekend I participated a course on Street Photography. It was a great, eye-opening experience and at the same time very intensive, as we both studied theory and history of this interesting genre and got to explore the streets of Helsinki by ourselves by taking our own street photos.

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These two guys were on their way to a ice hockey match and looked just great. The theme for our photos was intimacy and we had to find repeated colors around, so here we go…

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One of the tricks of street photography is to use reflections: on showcases, windows, wherever you can find one.

On the second day of the course everyone “had to” choose 12 of their photos to be shown and commented by the others. I was a bit nervous, as I love photography but haven’t really studied it. Also, I feel that my knowledge of the technical stuff is very limited. So it was wonderful to receive some positive feedback, – like everyone did, of course. Our teacher was gentle with us, even if we all got homework to learn more about focusing and camera technology. Something you easily forget especially while taking photos on the street where situations normally are over in just a few seconds or minutes.

But in photography, if you don’t control your camera perfectly you might miss The Perfect Picture just because your camera’s settings are wrong. And that feels bad.

In street photography, another trick is “repetition”. Here’s an exercise about that – I found even 3 pairs at one shot!

I liked the ensemble of the soft colours: on the girl’s cuddly blouse, the tram and the showcase behind. But damn it, the photo is not sharp!

So, my goal for this spring and summer is to really learn how to use my camera – and this can only be done by practising: taking thousands of photos. Our teacher said that for every 1000 photos he takes there are 100 OK ones and 1-2 excellent ones. So even professionals have it tough.

My camera is nothing special, it’s a basic system camera by Sony with a lens of 18-200. For me it’s just fine. Some of the participants of the course were showing off with their big expensive cameras but in the end, looking at our photos, all of them seemed quite the same level when it comes to the common problems of focusing and limiting the image right.

One of the themes given for our photos was “intimacy”. For me, these girls offered a good example. And it was a chilly Saturday night.

Anyway, I felt happy when the teacher said that I really control the composition and color, as these are the two aspects I’m really interested in – not only in photography but in all arts, interior design etc.

All in all, street photography truly is a new discovery to me. When I travel, I love to take photos of people and the little incidents and situations happening spontaneously on the streets, but I’ve never analysed the concept further.

There is a long and vivid tradition of street photography with its conventions, rules and heroes. Now I just want to learn more. I guess this is what happens when a course has been successful – it makes you feel that you know so little but in a positive way – and it gives you the basic tools to go further and discover a new, interesting world.

Here’s a couple of links for street photography beginners like me…

  • Matt Stuart, who is one of the most appreciated and well-known street photographers of our days. He really has captured some legendary moments!
  • Hannes Heikura, a modest guy and a great Finnish photographer (not only “street” one) who mostly works for Helsingin Sanomat, the major Finnish newspaper.
  • Shoot the street, a webpage I came across, promoting street photography.
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Helsinki: design, design and sponsored beer!

Last Thursday my dear friend, who owns a growing illustrations agency here in Helsinki, published a book! The book is called “Keltainen Kaupunki“, The Yellow City, and it features seventeen Helsinki themed stories by prolific Finnish authors. These stories are illustrated by some wonderful illustrators from my friend’s agency.

This year Helsinki is the World Design Capital, and the book project is part of the year’s events. Honestly, I don’t know how many people know about this year outside Finland (and Helsinki) but at least inside the design quarters of Punavuori, Helsinki, it certainly is a big thing. A couple of my friends are working in the Design Capital office, so I’ve stayed more or less tuned on what’s going on. And the good thing is that many young, prominent artists get new opportunities thanks to this special year. I only hope the good things shall continue in the years to come…

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A new, still unfinished gallery in Jätkäsaari, Helsinki. Looks good!

Anyway, it’s always a pleasure to attend an opening or a publication party of any big project: observing the relieved faces of the people, happy of the luckily finished cooperation and, for us visitors, sharing their joy and catching up with old friends. The party was organised in an old factory compound in Jätkäsaari, the newest neighbourhood to-be here in Helsinki, at the moment still under construction. But there’s already some vivid cultural activity going on there.

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Carlsberg, good bread and cheese - all you need for a good party. Well, maybe some wine too...

My friend was even lucky enough to get the Danish beer Carlsberg as sponsor. To accompany the beer, we enjoyed some big fresh bread with cheese and grapes. Basic but so good – both for your eyes and palatals. Here’s another blog entry about the event – and the beer – by one of the illustrators of the The Yellow City.

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There was also a DJ playing some smooth music and on the second floor we could visit a photo exhibition about Finland – the big images looked great in the empty, unfinished loft space and some of them were quite impressive…

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Yes, in Finland people like to be naked. Sauna and all. A work from the photo exhibition in Jätkäsaari.

All in all, it’s great that interesting cultural things are going on in Helsinki. And what’s even better is that my friends are taking so active part in them! These moments I feel so proud of my city.

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Soulless supermarkets make your Monday blue

OK, Mondays are always bad but today was especially horrible. Getting up from bed was almost impossible, it was cold outside and I just missed the tram to work. The day continued with meetings without meaning, dullish routine tasks and a strong feeling of I WANT TO GET OUT OF HERE AND TRAVEL TO A PARADISE ISLAND – NOW!!!

Well, a miracle didn’t happen so I tried to cheer myself up with some shopping – a trick that never works. Well, I found a skirt and a shirt  that I “really need”.

The anticlimax of the day was a visit to our supermarket, Alepa, where I stopped for some milk and fruit. The visit made me angry. Why? Because the Finnish supermarket scene is overdominated by a couple of companies and because of that we have no choice but to consume overpacked, tasteless products – produced sometimes too far from home. That’s so wrong!

A typical Alepa in a suburb of Helsinki. Grey. Credit: Alepa (I guess?)

Alepa belongs to Helsinki Cooperative Society Elanto (HOK-Elanto), which tells on its webpage that it “provides benefits and services for residents of the Greater Helsinki area.” The idea of 55 000 member-clients who own the company is nice. But of course it’s not that simple. They give us the typical green S-cards and small discounts but for that we suffer controlled prices and limited (bad) selection. I guess all the Alepa’s across Finland are packed with the same products. All this is just… sad.

Supermarket blues. Credit: HOK-Elanto

Only in Helsinki HOK-Elanto has over 300 stores. That’s a lot for for a relatively small city.

Of course, in old times everything was better. Many foreigner complain about these monopolized supermarkets (with a reason!) but before also we used to have small, cozy specialized shops for meat, milk, bread… like they still do in Southern Europe etc. It’s a tragedy that we have almost lost all that now – for a lot worse!

Even HOK-Elanto shops used to look nice. Customers buying meat in 1954.

Pharmacies used to look like this.

HOK-Elanto bread shop in 1930s. With a style.

More photos on Helsinki City Museum webpage.

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