Friday, 9 March 2012

In icy waters

At Suininkikoski, east of Kuusamo, where a lake ‘empties’ into a fast flowing river open water can still be found. The last morning of my trip we went to this place to look for Dippers (Cinclus cinclus/Waterspreeuw). About 5 birds were present, one of them was even singing in these icy waters.
Again, many thanks Olli for taking me around, your help was much appreciated! I would also like to thank Jari and Leena of Finnature for making this trip possible on very short notice. I will definitely come back to wild Finland!

* Canon EOS 5D Mark II with 17-40mm/f4 @ 40mm; ISO-100, f16, 1/6s; from tripod.
* Canon EOS 5D Mark II with 500mm/f4 IS; ISO-400, f5.6, 1/250s; +1 stop; from tripod.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Day in a hide

Another day in the Oulanka forest hide; Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos/Steenarend), Black Woodpecker (Dryocopus martius/Zwarte Specht), and Siberian Jay (Perisoreus infaustus/Taigagaai). Before today this could have happened only in my dreams!

* Canon EOS 5D Mark II with 500mm/f4 IS; ISO-320, f4.5, 1/800s, from tripod.
* Canon EOS 5D Mark II with 500mm/f4 IS; ISO-320, f5, 1/500s; from tripod.
* Canon EOS 7D with 300mm/f4 IS; ISO-400, f8, 1/320s; from beanbag.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012


A magic day! In the afternoon we went to Kuntivaara, a hilltop east of Kuusamo, facing the Russian border. It was quite an adventure to get here by snow scooter. The idea was to photograph the sunset and the shadows of the rising moon on this snow-covered fjell. But things got even better; around 22.30 PM, quite as a surprise, the “rewontulet” (Finnish for Northern Lights) came. The greatest lightshow on earth in this spruce candle paradise was awesome! Something divine was writing in the sky, and the old snowy trees (and me!) were watching the play silently.

The Aurora Borealis (named after the Roman goddess of dawn, Aurora, and the Greek name for the north wind, Boreas) or Northern Lights are a natural phenomenon that has been surrounded by mystery and intrigue over the centuries. In the Middle Ages, auroras were commonly believed a sign from God. Amerindians call this phenomenon the “Dance of the Spirits”. The Sami people of northern Scandinavia tell of a lovely tale that when a Fox runs across the snow field his tail brushes the snow and produces sparks which are the Northern Lights.
We now know the scientific reason behind this natural light show. Auroras are associated with the solar wind, a stream of ionized particles (mainly protons) flowing outward from the Sun. The Earth’s magnetic field traps these particles, many of which funnel down and accelerate toward the poles. Collisions between these ions and atoms (oxygen and nitrogen) in the upper atmosphere, above 80 km, cause energy releases in the form of auroras.

How to photograph the Northern Lights? Basically you need a long exposure and wide-angle lens to capture it. The best results that I achieved were by using 5 to 20 second exposures. If I used longer the stars began to trail (google the “500 rule” for more information), which I didn't like. I set my camera to ISO 800 and worked with a relatively small aperture of around f/4.0 to f/5.6. You need a sturdy tripod for the job and I used mirror lock-up to combat any vibration once the shutter has been released.
On the moonlit photo Mars is visible left of the main tree, and in the vertical Northern Lights photo Jupiter (left) and Venus (right) are visible just above the horizon at low altitude.

* Canon EOS 5D Mark II with 17-40mm/f4 @ 19mm; ISO-400, f9, 1/60s; +0.3 stop; hand held.
* Canon EOS 5D Mark II with 17-40mm/f4 @ 25mm; ISO-800, f11, 25s; from tripod.
* Canon EOS 5D Mark II with 17-40mm/f4 @ 22mm; ISO-800, f4.5, 6s; from tripod.
* Canon EOS 5D Mark II with 17-40mm/f4 @ 17mm; ISO-800, f5.6, 15s; from tripod.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Top gear

What is this skillful Hawk Owl (Surnia ulula/Sperweruil) hunter fast, the speed at which they fly is amazing. After hard work I managed to get a few decent shots during this mid-week. Here are 3 of them. The first 2 are more or less classic ones; perching in a frost covered pine, and hunting above the snow. The third photo, taken with a 100mm lens, shows the bird in action in its typical ‘clearing-in-boreal-forest’ territory. While photographing Hawk Owls, we often heard migrating Pine Grosbeaks (Pinicola enucleator/Haakbek), a first spring sign here.

* Canon EOS 7D with 500mm/f4 IS; ISO-200, f7.1, 1/400s, +0.3 stop; from tripod.
* Canon EOS 7D with 70-200mm/f2.8 IS II @ 170mm; ISO-400, f5.6, 1/3200s, +1 stop; hand held.
* Canon EOS 7D with 100mm/f2.8; ISO-400, f5.6, 1/2500s, +0.3 stop; hand held.

Monday, 5 March 2012

White, whiter, whitest

I am very happy with today’s photo session of the Willow Grouse (Lagopus lagopus/Moerassneeuwhoen). I like the all-white winter plumage with that small fierce-red eyebrow patch of the ♂. How to find a Willow Grouse in a snow white landscape? Look for something that is whiter than white! It is that easy :-).

* Canon EOS 5D Mark II with 70-200mm/f2.8 IS II @ 150mm; ISO-400, f6.3, 1/1000s, +1 stop; hand held.
* Canon EOS 5D Mark II with 70-200mm/f2.8 IS II @ 90mm; ISO-400, f7.1, 1/640s, +1 stop; hand held.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Oulanka National Park

From 4 to 9 March I stayed at the research station of Oulanka National Park in the north of Finland (Kuusamo region). This beautiful taiga forest interspersed with frozen lakes (ice thickness over 60 cm!) and wild rivers is situated just south of the Arctic Circle not far from Russia. It is the coldest place in Finland; this week early morning temperatures dropped to -25⁰C (this winter it was even below-40⁰C). I was the guest of Olli Lamminsalo, a knowledgeable guide and very friendly person.
Life is not so ‘polished’ here, rather plain and basic; that is why I like it so much!

* Canon EOS 5D Mark II with 70-200mm/f2.8 IS II @ 200mm; ISO-250, f9, 1/125s; -0.3 stop; hand held.