Kusama at HAM

HAM, like Helsinki Art Museum. Sorry, we’re not going to talk about food 😉

kusama

…or maybe we are?

Tennispalatsi hosted a retrospective exhibition on Yayoi Kusama, “one of the most famous artists in the world”, though I had never heard about her. We visited the museum on New Year’s Eve (after Finlandia-talo), as it was free during the evening. Before going upstairs. to the bigger hall, we got introdued to Kusama’s life by a slideshow presenting the most important events of her life.

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White wings of Hanko

Hanko, a small and isolated town, is located at the southernmost point of mainland Finland. When we told our colleagues that we would go there in winter, Miguel and I saw bemused expressions on their faces: “Hanko, now?”, “There nothing to do in Hanko in winter”… Not something to scare us, of course. I’m quite amused when I do something people wouldn’t even consider, even more so when I enjoy it!

Miguel had downloaded an app for geocaching, so immediately after leaving the train, we began our quest, and found a capsule in a tree, where we wrote our names. Alas, after finding a second one next to the water tower, our other targets remained invisible. Now, though, we can say we have done geocaching.

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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!

kontiolahti-3

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From sunrise to sunset by -20°C, part 1

Mr. Winter this year is lunatic and, to be honest, rather frustrating: one day it snows (a lot), and you start believing in the possibility to go skiing, finally… except that the day after, the temperature rises above 0°C, and everything melts. Everything? No, some parks and sidewalks resist eternally against the pervading warmth, but trees are bare again, and streets are slushy brown. It’s not fun.

Purple hour

Purple hour

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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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Happy birthday Finland!

Today, on Independence Day (Itsenäisyyspäivä), Finland celebrates its 99th birthday!

Sweden started to colonize Finland in the 12th and 13th centuries, and until the beginning of the 19th century, Swedish was the official language of the country. From this era, Finland kept Swedish as its second official language, and 5% of the population still speaks Swedish natively. Under the Swedish rule, Finns suffered from the many wars Sweden and Russia waged on their territory, and a “spirit of Finnishness” started to grow. “We are not Swedes, we do not want to become Russians, let us therefore be Finns”, Adolf Ivar Arwidsson (1791–1858) said.

Helsinki Cathedral

Helsinki Cathedral

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Winter fantasy

This article is a collection of pictures from the last snowy days before the “heat wave”… since then, it’s rained a lot, but the memory of this lovely time is still alive and well.

My commute between home and the office goes through Keskuspuisto, the central park of Helsinki, and often in those days I did it walking, enjoying the scenery. That was a powerful relaxing tool, especially after a tense day at work.

keskuspuisto

One day I got lost, but ssshhh, don’t tell my colleagues… Continue reading