When I wrote my thesis, I thought how I’d never become a Northern Lights photographer. I was already quite tired of the Lights themselves, no matter how magnificent and captivating the experience still is for me (and probably stays like that forever); to watch them dancing up there and lighting up the sky so brightly and magically. Growing up in Lapland (and writing that thesis) the Northern Lights are nowadays as common and known phenomenon for me as the street lights for a city kid. For years, I simply haven’t found the motivation to take any effort for them, because well, been there seen them. Moreover, when it comes to the photographs, I think there are too many Northern Lights photographers (and photographs) out there nowadays; almost like bloggers and blogs (krhm, not to offend anyone though). But despite all this, I chose to break my habit last week. For the sake of change and personal development.
For my friends abroad and down south in Finland, the ones who’ve never seen the lights this magnificent, I’ve taken the effort though, for some time already. The effort of taking a photo or two, and then sharing them in my networks (sometimes the lights even seem to know the right occasion to celebrate**). And slowly I’ve abandoned even the rest of my desire on not to challenge myself with Northern Lights. I’m still not into the “perfect”, most magnificent and sharp kind of pictures though; most of which, by the way, are far from authentic, or at least not authentic in a way the human eye sees the lights in their “natural” condition. No, I’m more into snapshots, even with Northern Lights*.
Last week’s show was beyond anything I’ve experienced in years, and with the bright lights dancing in the sky at least four nights in a row made the job quite easy, as well as the fact that I was still at my parents place, which despite the suburbish’ location has quite nice and wild (remote and dark enough) backyard for these photos. So there I was, staying up late and taking these photos, and since this time it was even amazingly warm (thanks Föhn!), all this did not result with deeply frozen fingers, like it’s the normal case with Northern Lights photographing. Except a little bit frozen they were, but that little damage and suffering was fixed with a simple cup of tea.
When I look at the pictures now, I have to say (warning; a not-so-humble brag coming) that I do think I’ve finally managed to blow some life in my Northern Lights photographs. Or at least to put my own signature style in them. No matter how crabby other people think they are, at least I like them. And I like how they remind me of the time I really needed to look up at the sky and believe that miracles do happen, like Northern Lights do.
I don’t know, maybe we’re always looking for the right place, maybe it’s within reach, but we don’t recognize it. Maybe to recognize it, we have to believe in it.
I hope this works as an example for others too do to try something new and challenging. Here The Economist is talking about it within the literature and language framework, but I think the same model can as well be applied to other fields too. That model of breaking the habit and distancing oneself from the problem to solve the problem and succeed. Or just to help in the simple need for change and development.
*As an anecdote, I would like to tell that (and why) about 99% of the pictures I’ve taken the last 3 years (approximately the time I’ve had an iPhone) and the pictures in my blog have been shot with iPhone 5. Though I have a real camera too, but it’s mostly only for the occasions I need to have pictures with the quality enough for decent prints. And there are couple of clear reasons behind this almost iPhone only occupation. 1) I carry my iPhone everywhere with me (the good camera is too big, heavy and clumsy for that) and therefore iPhone and its photos work as the most effective sketch- and notebook for me. 2) With my iPhone, capturing the instant moments, and sharing them right away when needed, is the most suitable way of working for me –simple, time- and energy saving. 3) I like the way iPhone makes it impossible to pay too much attention to the picture quality and sharpness, and the technology behind those sharper than Victorinox pictures. With an iPhone, I can capture the moments as I remember them – imperfect but with so many meaningful references. With my “real” camera, I easily loose that intuition and spontaneity Henri is talkin about below; the intuition and spontaneity which, according to my own honest opinion too, are the core elements of the greatest photographs. For me the photographs aren’t about photography only. They are about life and things as I see them. About my involvement. Blurry but full of intuition, spontaneity, sensitivity and discipline of mind. Countless attributions and references.
For me the camera is a sketch book, an instrument of intuition and spontaneity, the master of the instant which, in visual terms, questions and decides simultaneously. In order to “give a meaning” to the world, one has to feel oneself involved in what one frames through the viewfinder. This attitude requires concentration, a discipline of the mind, sensitivity, and a sense of geometry.
** By publishing a picture of bright green Northern Lights on the eve of St Patrick’s Day, both Twitter and Instagram, proved how much the timing and references to popular culture / current events matter when it comes to exposure in Social Media. That picture (which btw was of very bad quality, blurry etc.) prompted numerous likes, retweets and endorsements, followed by exponentially increased traffic to my website. Not bad of a casual test and simple snapshot. If this would have been a (part of) real campaign, for marketing or sales purposes, or to gain attention for your cause (and especially if you’d ike to attract attention of Irish population), this would have been a very successful initiative.
***Quotes: Umberto Eco & Henri Cartier-Bresson