Details of Finlandia-talo

Finlandia-talo (Finlandia Hall) is a prominent landmark in Helsinki city, Alvar Aalto’s last masterpiece, and the center of an ambitious urban plan never implemented.

2017 will see Finland celebrate its 100th birthday, and to start the year, many events were organized in Helsinki on New Year’s Eve. Among those, one looked particularly appealing: a free visit to Finlandia-talo, a congress and event venue designed by the maestro himself: Alvar Aalto, maybe the most famous Finn in history. I didn’t know that visits were organized regularly, so it seemed like a unique opportunity, and I was really happy when the woman at the desk added a line for me, even though the visitor list was supposed to be already full. I’m not going to give you a historical overview of the building; instead, I’ll show some visual details and tell some anecdotes that our friendly guide showed us.

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Colors of winter

When people think about the Finnish winter, their first thought usually is: “snow”. And then, when they get to know the country a little bit more, especially the south of it, they think: “grey”. Yes, snow but not enough to cover everything, and then it melts quickly, creating this depressing pools of slush stirred by the passage of cars and buses. Not to mention the clouds.

I totally understand this feeling: I love snow, I love to see it fall and hide the roads, and attenuate all the sounds. I love the sight of a city wrapped in a blanket of peace, and I always get distressed when temperatures rise again. When snow stops falling, I hate to see those endless, boring grey skies, and I start dreaming about sunny days. Or more snow. Usually I dream about a return of the snow.

When I went to Kontiolahti to view the Biathlon World Championship, I saw a wonderful sunset over the frozen lake, and it was a revelation: there is beauty out there, waiting for me!

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Tallinn, pearl of the Baltic

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This was one of the few sunny week-ends of these past weeks. On Saturday, a freezing walk in the forest didn’t yield the expected results in terms of photography, as there were very few birds around (some Blackbirds (Turdus merula) and a Great spotted woodpecker (Dendrocopos major)), and I was too cold to stop and take my time. I walked, blinded by the rays of sun reflecting on the frozen ground. Behind the trees, I spotted a herd of Roe deers (Capreolus capreolus).

On Sunday morning, I was in the bus when I saw the horizon turn a deep orange, beyond the city. I met Patrick in the tram to the harbour, a curious coincidence that made us laugh since I had told him on the phone that we would meet “inside”… the ferry terminal, of course. So we met a bit earlier than expected, on our way to the harbour. I got a really smart smartphone this autumn only, and it was my first opportunity to use a digital ticket. So I scanned my phone, and it worked. Aah, technology…

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Kaisa Talo in black & white

Kaisa Talo is the Helsinki University Main Library. Located in the city center, inches from the Senate Square, it was opened in 2012, taking the spot of the shopping center Kaisa. The buiding houses the collection of the Faculties of Arts, Law, Theology, Behavioural and Social Sciences. It’s a relaxing place with an original architecture. Like any real library, it’s fairly silent… it looked like a pleasant place to study, and a friend of mine confirmed that.

On one side of the building, there’s this large U-shaped window, with balconies facing it from each floor, a bit like an old theater room. In the shot below, I tried to include both the street outside, with the tram tracks and the zebra crossings, and the students at the balconies, oblivious to the world rumbling outside their cage of glass and metal.
Composition was made tricky by my limited range; I wish I had a shorter focal length available for indoor shots, but for now, I do with what I have. The window let in a lot of light, so I didn’t have to use extreme settings for shutter speed and ISO, but I wish I had overexposed a bit, for I lack details in the dark areas, and bringing them up creates a lot of undesired noise (I shot in Aperture Priority mode).

18 mm on a cropped sensor - f/8.0 - 1/125s - ISO400

18 mm on a cropped sensor – f/8.0 – 1/125s – ISO400

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Up Is Down

Hello, I’m writing this article in Munich Airport. I’m waiting for my plane to Helsinki, where I have found a software developer job. I’m looking forward to this third living experience in Finland, and I’m already dreaming of snow, owls and nordic lights. However, that’s not my main topic today, because I still have tales of heat and sun to share (by the way, the weather forecast in Helsinki, for the coming week, says cloudy, 3ºC… brrrr!).

Before we start, though, I suggest you put this song, taken from the Pirates of the Caribbean OST, on:

One afternoon, I went with my mom to Lumbin, in the Grésivaudan valley. Some shopping was on the table (gloves and waterproof clothes, you know), but we also decided to go to Saint-Hilaire du Touvet via the funicular. This cable car system was opened in 1924, mainly to serve the sanitariums built on the Plateau des Petites Roches to house tuberculosis patients. I don’t remember when I was there for the last time, but it was ages ago, it seemed.

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Unterlinden Museum

I spent the last week-end in Alsace, visiting family with my parents. All my close relatives live there, so we usually spend time with them, seldom going out to visit this beautiful region. This time was different though, as we went to the Unterlinden Museum, in Colmar. It was the first time my cousin and I visited this place, but although my parents, uncle and aunt had been there when they were kids, the recent renovation made it feel all new for them as well.

The highlight of the visit is the Retable d’Issenheim, a majestic painting from the 16th century, which contains several layers that unfold like a book. It’s a piece of religious art, made for sick people to pray. It was originally located in the Monastery of St Anthony (Couvent des Antonins), but was moved during the Revolution. Read more about it here.

Retable d'Issenheim, pic by grego1402 via Flickr

Retable d’Issenheim, pic by grego1402 via Flickr

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