My spring in Suomenoja

Beware, this is a long story. This is the tale of a known place discovered again, explored and enjoyed in new ways. I’m flying today to Lapland and Varanger, for two weeks of birding and photography. Talk to you soon!

I discovered Suomenoja when I was still a student in Helsinki, three years ago. I actually do not remember how I came to know about this pond, but I was amazed by the quantity of birds, and the proximity with the exciting Horned grebe (Podiceps auritus). I was so enthusiastic I wrote a “Focus” article about this species… before you click here, be warned: I was a very early beginner at bird photography, so the photos you will see there are, well… not up to the standards I keep nowadays, let’s say.

I went again last spring, but only once: it’s a bit far from where I live (1 hour, bus or bike). In addition, I wasn’t very comfortable with the shooting method I should employ. You see, in bird photography, eye-level shooting is often primordial, to ensure connection between subject and viewer. Problem: all the target birds in Suomenoja (grebes and ducks, essentially) are waterfowl, so they glide on water, and unfortunately, water is often at a lower level than ground. There’s no way to shoot standing: one should go on their belly, close to the water’s edge, but even that’s not enough. The ideal, and that’s something I’ve dreamt about, is a floating hide, to go into the pond and have the camera just above the surface. I’m not equipped for that (yet), so the shore would have to be.

Northern shoveler (Spatula clypeata)

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Snippets of autumn

Today, I would like to share with you a few more pictures of last autumn. Overall, I didn’t spend much time outside, for it rained a lot, especially… on weekends, of course. However, I spent a weekend at a friend’s cottage near Riihimäki.

We stopped in Hyvinkää, a small town.

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Teijo

Flashback.

October last year. Not so long before, I was visiting Lapland with friends from France. There, the woods had gleamed of the many colors of autumn. Then we had flown back to Helsinki, to find that autumn had arrived there as well. A few weeks later, my friend Hauke was visiting Finland, for his graduation. We had met at Aalto University 3 years prior, and so a chapter was closed.

After the party, he stayed at my place for a couple of days. As often when I have guests, I suggested a little adventure; that’s how we found ourselves westbound, in a rental car, for a walk in Teijo National Park. This is a forest-and-lake area (like many in Finland, let’s be honest), which emblem is the Grey-headed woodpecker (Picus canus). We didn’t see that bird, but we had a good hike.

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Wildlife Inspired

Photographers, like all artists, need inspiration. It can be the National Geographic contributor, it can be the anonymous bird shooter on Instagram. It can come from the colours, it can come from the composition. It can be in your field… or not. It doesn’t matter, as long as this person’s photographs touch you and push you to try new concepts and improve.

I, myself, have my own sources of inspirations. My “heroes”.
Ray Hennessy is one of them. A bird photographer from New Jersey, he has always captivated me by his advocacy of “small in the frame” and backlit photography for birds. He always has stunning compositions, he always has stunning lighting, and he really tries to think of creative ways to show his birds. I have followed him for a couple of years now, and it’s always a pleasure to see his daily post.

Recently, he and his fellow photographer Scott Keys started live discussions, on Facebook first and now on Youtube. The principle is very simple: they choose a topic (How to approach wildlife, How to post-process bird pictures…), they talk about it, showing their own photographs, and they answer questions you can ask via the online chat. Those videos are pure gold, they contain a lot of useful info for any beginner wildlife photographer, and I have hugely benefited from them. I cannot watch them live (hello time difference), but they are quickly available afterwards on their Youtube chain, aptly named Wildlife Inspired. Sometimes, they invite friends to talk about specific topics.

The last talk was named “We were all beginner wildlife photographers once”, and it covered basic but often overlooked aspects of wildlife photography: light, background, perspective, to name a few. Before the show, they announced they would review two portfolios, and prompted us to apply for it. I applied, without too much hope (it only happens to others, you know).

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