New Day Rising

I got myself involved in a project where we’re writing a digital textbook for guidance counseling studies in the Finnish senior high school level. Being an author with a seriously tight deadline has meant that I haven’t been shooting much of anything. Blogging even less…

But I’ve been listening to a damned fine new album by the fantastic Von Hertzen Brothers and I think I’m going to want to spend a few moments blogging about it (instead of working on the next chapter of the book). New Day Rising was released this past March in Europe and in the US & Canada and it’s super good!

Kie Von Hertzen

Kie Von Hertzen

This is the brothers’ sixth studio album and it’s definitely getting them a lot of praise. Well deserved praise, I’d like to add. With the help of producer Garth “GGGarth” Richardson and Randy Staub the brothers have created an album that definitely sounds like them, but perhaps in a bit more straight forward fashion. It doesn’t include all the songs we heard on the pre-listening gig last year (see my previous blog post about it here), which is a shame, but of course totally understandable. The raw material the brothers played on that Magnus’ Day gig was streamlined and pruned into what we now hear on New Day Rising.

Mikko Von Hertzen

Mikko Von Hertzen

The band has been labeled a prog rock band, and even though their previous albums may actually be more prog, there are still plenty of prog elements in the brothers’ music. Surprising hooks, complex rhythms & melodies and so on. I guess the simpler pop-rock songs like Hold Me Up are a sign of the Canadian producer’s influence, a sign of the brothers’ wild ideas being reined in a bit. On a gig in Turku Mikko (the lead vocals, the middle brother) actually told us that Hold Me Up is considered the “universal hit track” of the album. Sure, it’s perhaps one of the “easiest” songs of the new album, which still doesn’t mean it’s a simple one.

Von Hertzen Brothers, Klubi, Turku 18.4.2015

Von Hertzen Brothers, Klubi, Turku 18.4.2015

“Easy” and “simple” are never good words when trying to describe VHB’s music. What I’ve always loved about the band is that they never underestimate you, their listener. The music has layers upon layers of elements that demand you to concentrate on listening.

Jonne Von Hertzen

Jonne Von Hertzen

On this album, for instance, I find that the staggering work of Mikko Kaakkuriniemi on the drums demands attention. I’m blown away by some of the more complex tracks – the man is a machine! At the same time the brothers have added weight to some of the guitar & bass sounds, as well. And it all sums up to an album that is in part heavier than anything they’ve played before and on the other hand, in part just as quirky and / or serene as ever. The vocal harmonies are also just as smooth as before, which is fab, as that’s definitely one of the most enjoyable parts of VHB’s music.

IMG_4908My highlights for the album are, first of all, Trouble. Which is a song that reminds me a bit of Dream Theater (the opening of the track and some elements of the video) and a bit more of the Queens of the Stone Age song Someone’s in the Wolf. Haunting, eerie, alluring, powerful… I haven’t got enough of adjectives to describe how much I love this song. Definitely number one for me on this album. Check it out!

Other highlights? Well, I do love the quirkiness of Dreams, with lead vocals by Kie Von Hertzen. Seriously, how could I not love a song in which Kie promises to learn how to pole dance to spice things up? Priceless! (Plus the track just happens to have the easiest sing-along bits which have been great fun on the gigs.) Only downside to this particular song was when on the gig in Turku Mikko couldn’t manage the whistled parts, because he was smiling too much. We all got a huge giggle out of it, when he tried to whistle his little tune and failed miserably. And laughed at his own attempt. I think this will teach him a lesson – whistled parts don’t go well with VHB, because they’re just too happy on stage. But I’ll gladly skip any and all whistling in favor of the wide smiles and genuine happiness we all see on stage when the band performs. I’ve been reading the works of Sir Ken Robinson for my book project lately and using his terminology, I think it’s safe to say that the brothers have found their Element in music and their Tribe in VHB. Yeio!

IMG_4997Third highlight that deserves a special mention is the beautiful Hibernating Heart. Once again the brothers have created a song that sounds like it should be listened by the sea. I’m almost forced to hold back tears every time I hear this song, especially on gigs. There’s just something so touching about it. It’s the Down By The Sea or Separate Forevers of this album. Just lovely.

I’ve seen two of VHB’s New Day Rising Tour gigs. One in Helsinki, in the legendary venue Tavastia and the other here in my home town of Turku, in Klubi. Both gigs were excellent, but I have to say the Turku gig was the better of the two.

IMG_5062Tavastia’s gigs (out of which I saw the first one) were at the beginning of the Finnish tour and Turku’s turn was almost a month later, towards the end of the spring tour, before the band headed out to the UK and other parts of Europe. And the difference was noticeable. In Turku the band seemed more at ease with the songs and I guess the smaller venue made the experience more intense for us in the audience. Ok, I’ve got to say I was in the front row for the Turku gig (thanks to having a photo pass but the venue not having a photo pit) and quite a bit further back for the Tavastia one. In my experience the positive energy of the band is best observed from the front, instead of hanging around in the back rows.

IMG_5033I remember hearing Mikko ponder out loud on stage that perhaps they should pay more attention to their looks on gigs. They used to wear random (but cool) t-shirts and jeans, but on this tour someone has clearly made a design decision. For Mikko it means a white suit and for the whole band, white tech. White Sennheiser mics, white drums & keyboards etc. Very sleek.

The set lists for the gigs of this tour have been a delightful combination of all the new songs and some of the best and most beloved old ones. This results in almost 2-hour sets. I’m not complaining, at all. The more the better, that’s how I see it on VHB gigs.

IMG_4871To sum it all up, I’ve got to give the new album a full 10/10 on my personal scale, it’s just that good. And I’m darned, if I can’t see the band in the summer (they’re doing several Finnish rock festivals, I’m trying to get to go to Provinssirock to see them and Muse!), but live in hope that after the summer’s festival season there’s going to be a bit of an autumn tour… Pretty please, broz?

(Photos taken on the Turku gig, with the permission of the band’s manager Virpi Immonen. Many thanks for the photo pass!)

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Empowering photographs

Today I took what I hope is the first step on a road to combining my passion (photography) with my profession (counseling). I took part in an introductory course / lecture on a photo therapy method called Empowering Photography. The method has been developed by Miina Savolainen (Finnish art and social educator and photographer), and it’s basically a way to look at another human being in a respectful way, to help them feel appreciated and loved just the way they are. (Check her website for more info, I’m not going to go into detailed descriptions of the method here, not yet anyway. I’ve got a lot to process myself, first.)

I have been dreaming for a couple of years about taking a year-long course on this method and learn how I could use it in my work, both in a pedagogic and in some ways also a therapeutic way. I don’t know when I’ll have the money to attend the course, but I’m hoping it won’t be in too distant a future. In the meanwhile this one single day got me thinking about a lot of things. About a lot of things that have to do with how I view myself in photos (and in life!), about how photos have a strange and magical power over us – if we let them.

One of Miina’s most poignant comments was that a photographer does not really know what the subject will consider a good or empowering or healing or even meaningful picture of themselves. Usually it’s the photographer’s vision that is visible in the end result, not the subject’s. Whereas in this method, the photographer has to shake off all their own ideas of how a photo should look, and they should let the subject decide, let the person in front of the camera tell their story and guide the process. That way the person will be able to show how s/he sees his/her own personality.

Other people’s interpretations of a person may be so totally off that the person becomes almost invisible. With this method, the person gets the chance to change that. The photographer has to really listen and understand how the person in front of the camera wants to be seen. There’s a lot of respect, vulnerability, appreciation in the process.

It all feels so difficult to put in words… Perhaps I should’ve pondered about this a bit more before starting to type… I think I’ll need to get back to this, later. Especially since I’m also attending a short course on photo therapy this coming February here in Turku. I’ll probably have a LOT to say about all of this while I learn and process it all.

Anyway, there was a photoshoot about a year ago that I always thought I’d post about, but somehow it’s just slipped my mind. But now a few words (and pics) about it seem appropriate.

It was a shoot where I was the subject, not the photographer. Many of you may know that it’s not always easy to be in front of the camera, if you’re used to being the one hiding behind the lens. I had a bit of that going on, but since this was definitely a unique opportunity, I went for it.

I was offered the possibility of having my picture taken in a studio, by a pro photographer, in whatever style I wanted to. I would get two edited pics at a very reasonable price (and extra photos for a small extra fee, if I wanted to – well, I ended up wanting…) and yay! I had never had my picture taken in a studio, just for fun. It’s a whole different thing to be photographed for graduation or something, for an “official” portrait. This time I thought I wouldn’t want to be the “good girl” of those (dull) portraits.

I went and bought a Venetian mask that would go nicely with my purple velvet cape. Yeah, I’m a fantasy geek at heart, so I actually do own a full length velvet cape… I thought I’d like to have a bit of a dark mystery thing going on.

Photo by Timo Mäkipää.

Photo by Timo Mäkipää

Well, first of all, I do have to say it was incredibly fun to be in front of the camera. The photographer, Timo Mäkipää, had plenty of time for each of his subjects (there were a few of us ladies having our pics taken on that same day) and it was fun to not only pose but also observe him at his work.

Photo by Timo Mäkipää

Photo by Timo Mäkipää

And if there’s something I am willing to say about the pics is that they really were empowering. They were also hitting surprisingly close to their target, in the sense that just about 40 hours before they were taken, something really incredible had happened to me. Something that shook my world on a very personal level. And it still continues to shake, in a very positive way. The images now, in some sense, represent my confusion and perhaps a need to hide my emotions from the outside world for a while. The inner turmoil is visible to me in the pics, perhaps not to the outsider viewer.  Or what do you think?

Photo by Timo Mäkipää

Photo by Timo Mäkipää

The main point of the method of empowering photography is that you, as a subject, define how you want to be seen. What you choose to show to the world about you. And even though our little photoshoot a year ago (almost exactly – only a few weeks short of a year now) wasn’t a therapeutic session as such, it sure as heck gave each and every one of us women a moment in front of the camera, when we were heard and seen just the way we chose to. That’s a powerful gift a photographer can give a person.

Which then got me thinking about my own photography, my past and future clients… But that’s another post, I think. This has been a rambling mess already, no need to make it even worse!

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Crop of 2014

Once again I notice I have been a very lazy blogger. It was quite a topsy-turvy year, 2014. I didn’t shoot as much as before, but now that things are finally settling down in my life, I hope to have a bit more time for photography again. Not to even mention promoting my photography, ahem… (On a sidenote – I did activate my Instagram account this year, feel free to follow. I’m under the username “yavannie” and post rather random iPhone shots.)

What made me sit down and start typing today was the example of quite a few of my photographer friends. They’ve followed in the footsteps of Ansel Adams, who famously said: “Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop.”

I don’t think I can do this so that there’s one picture per month, but let’s see if there could be 12 per a year.

For January, I choose this, from my first photo walk of 2014. Simple, minimalistic, symmetric. Became surprisingly popular in Flickr (22,000+ views, I was rather stoked about it, as this was the first time a photo of mine got such huge numbers of viewers) and I sold a print of it, too.

Power Lines

Power Lines

For February there’s no contest, if a photo needs to be personally significant. As in “important to me”. It’s the first smile my nephew (born on 1st of Jan, 2014) gave me – he’s posing like a pro and melting his aunt’s heart. Technically, not a brilliant picture, but my gosh, ever so significant. (There would’ve been another shot that is even more significant, but since it wasn’t taken by me, it’s not included. Very good things happened to me in February!)

My charming nephew

My charming nephew

In March I was already shooting film with a lovely old Yashica-A. But since I made a whole separate post about those shots, I’ll pick a foggy (digital) favourite of mine for the third image.

Misty river

Misty river

April wasn’t much of a photo month for me, apparently. I can’t say there were any really significant shots that would deserve to be showcased. We’ll hop along and see if May helps – June definitely will.

I didn’t get to do as much of rock photography in 2014 as I would’ve liked. Sure, mostly it was because I simply didn’t have as much time for gigs as during 2013, but partly also because the online rock mag I write & shoot for (Stalker.cd) has other people covering gigs in Helsinki and I can’t always travel to Helsinki for a concert. No time, no money. That’s why May’s significant shot is from the album release gig of the excellent Brother Firetribe. They played their first gig after a long break and the guys were absolutely brilliant to watch and listen. Their positive energy filled the venue to the brim, it was awesome. My only regret was that my equipment isn’t always up to the task when forced to shoot from a distance. But still, this shot shows the enthusiasm of both the band and the audience. A fab evening with BFT, for sure. Here’s the review I wrote about the gig.

Brother Firetribe at Virgin Oil Co., Helsinki

Brother Firetribe at Virgin Oil Co., Helsinki

Ah, June. One of the best months of my life. Why? I spent half of it in Rome! The first time ever visiting the Eternal City – and I got to spend two weeks there, wow. It was overwhelming, awesome, incredible, fantastic. So much so that after my trip I couldn’t even go over my photos properly, I had totally OD’d on Rome. I still have the photo book (and blog post) to do… Hahah! Two significant shots from June. A quirky one and a lucky one. Love them both. They’re the best bits of Rome for me.

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Who wants straight lines anyway?

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Not all with wings can fly

In July I did get to shoot the DBTL rock festival in Turku and my very first wedding, which were both hugely significant to me in different ways. But I’m still going to go for a shot of some really beautiful noctilucent clouds I caught on a beautiful July night. It has a strong personal significance and I suppose it’s not too bad as a photograph, either. Heh.

Two hours after sunset

Two hours after sunset

August photo is of my nephew again. Sorry to be predictable, but he’s just been a perfect little model for his aunt to learn some infant photography. In available natural light. While he keeps crawling around. But mostly he’s just intensively observing me and the weird black object covering my face. Now, at one year old, he spots me with a camera and he just can’t take his eyes off it. He’s going to be a photographer – or a model, for sure! As for this shot, it’s uncharacteristically serious, but I just can’t get over his eyes. He’s so intent, so thoughtful, so present. I’m happy I caught this moment.

Serious

Serious

September was, once again, the month of morning mists and my second annual sunrise photoshoot trip to Mathildedal. I wrote a separate post about it, so suffice it to say here that I’m so going to do this again in 2015.

Mists of Mathildedal

Mists of Mathildedal

October. A very stressful month at work in 2014, but there was a balancing factor. Fall vacation. Which, quite unbelievably, I spent in Greece. Sailing in the Aegean Sea, island hopping in the Cyclades. I never thought I’d get to experience something like that. It was, without a doubt, one of the best weeks of my entire life. (And it deserves a separate post, I’ll get to it eventually, I’m sure.) I could pick several significant shots from that trip, it was hard not to get good shots when the surroundings were what they were. But out of all, I chose this one to be the significant shot. It’s from a day when we sailed from Mykonos to Finikas Bay. Or, well, sailed is an incorrect term here. It was flat out windless all day, so this leg of the trip was completely engine powered. My fellow crew member Wille (an experienced sailor, whereas I am a complete newbie) stood watching the still sea, I had to snap a shot. You know, sun setting, calm seas, silhouettes… I just love it.

Without wind

Without wind

In November I got the camera out twice. Which should tell you volumes of my November. It was dark, depressing and in no way photographically inspiring. Work was a hassle, I was tired all the time and hated the rainy blackness of it all. Blah. No significant shots of any importance. So, let’s move on to December.

December was significant in the sense that I got myself a new camera. In order to survive a wedding photo shoot in January (potentially just as wet and dark as in November…), I had to upgrade. Bring on a brand new Canon 6D + a Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 lens. I need to sell a lot of prints and book plenty of shoots before they’re paid for, but in December I’ve been getting acquainted with my new gear. Which is why the significant shots aren’t photography master pieces as such, but significant steps technically speaking.

Nostalgy

Nostalgy

NYE in Helsinki

NYE in Helsinki

So there. My crop of 2014. I’m pleased with the year, even though I didn’t photograph as much as during the two previous years. However, this year included two amazing trips full of photo opportunities, my first wedding shoot, plenty of fun with film cameras and on a highly personal level – a man who patiently waited for me to catch some of these shots. And if that’s not a good year, I don’t know what is. Oh, wait. 2015 will be even better!

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September mists

It’s that time of the year again. Almost every morning I wake up and see that the world is covered in mist. On some mornings it’s just wisps here and there, on some mornings it’s difficult to see more than a few meters ahead of you. I love how mist makes the world look so soft and mysterious. And the quality of light is usually amazing on misty mornings. Photo opportunities fly by as on weekdays I drive to work and am not allowed to stop by the roadside for shooting some frames…

EmergingWhich is why it’s also that time of the year again when I go sunrise crazy on weekends. Well, perhaps only once or twice, but anyway. Yesterday I did what is now a two-year-old (this being the second year…) tradition. Woke up at 4 am, packed a breakfast picnic and my camera gear in a bag, drove an hour and greeted the sunrise (at 6.35 am) with a click of the shutter. Got some really nice pics again, so I’m thinking this whole waking up at ridiculous o’clock is still worth it. Next year I may have to change location, though. We’ll see, come next September and the first weekend of it.

Still lifeBut this year’s morning trek location was the nature park around Lake Matilda, in Mathildedal. Which is in Teijo. Lovely surroundings, easily accessible trekking paths. This year I didn’t get quite as lost as last year when I had to take the really long way back to the car, but I did hike somewhere around 10 km in any case. The sound of silence and of nature waking up, the perfect stillness of the moment… My soul’s at ease on these mornings.

IMG_6601Go and catch a misty sunrise! I guarantee it’s worth the early wake up!

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No photography allowed

Summer vacation is long gone, and I’m getting back on track of “normal” life. Work, less free time, gigs that are not in a festival tent, going to the gym (or so I hope…) and why yes, blogging! I’ve got several posts I’ve been meaning to write for ages, but this one was born thanks to a very special gig I went to last night.

I’ve written about my favorite band, the Von Hertzen Brothers, before. They’re the first band I’ve ever interviewed and one of the most gracious bunch of guys I’ve met during my rock photography adventures. They kindly allowed me to shoot their whole gig in the photo pit after the interview, for example. I was thrilled to pieces, as you can guess. I had accreditation, there was no hassle with photo releases or suchlike. It’s the small circles in Finland, I guess.

My only shot from last night. It's the VHB patch I have on my jacket!

My only shot from last night. It’s the VHB patch I have on my jacket!

I hope things aren’t going to be changing in the future, when VHB is concerned – I think they’re heading for bigger circles in the near future and I hope they’ll keep the no-fuss, cordial approach to fans and photographers alike.

Last night I went to Helsinki, to the legendary Tavastia club. VHB was offering us fans a very special treat with their “Magnus Day Celebration”. All of the men in the Von Hertzen family have Magnus as their second name and celebrating the name day of Magnus, it’s their family tradition. This time around we fans were invited, as members of the extended family, you could say.

What’s the big deal, you ask. Well, let’s see. Everything!

The band is putting together their next album practically as we speak. It’s due to be released in March 2015. They just announced yesterday that they will be joining forces with some major music industry names for this one, namely producer Garth Richardson (Biffy Clyro, Rage Against the Machine…) and mixer Randy Staub (Metallica, Alice in Chains…). The band will travel to Vancouver after the pre-production phase is finished and they will put together what I’m expecting to be the album of 2015 (for me, at least). And it will cost them dearly.

Which is why they did a bit of auctioning yesterday, selling some unique pieces of VHB memorabilia to support their album production. Kie’s guitar, Jonne’s bass, few original photographs, some artwork related to their previous album, a couple of demo cd’s. I’m guessing the brothers are feeling rather happy at the moment, since some of the fans had come in packing. Packing thick wads of cash. (Me? Not so much. Pennies, really.) The auction raised probably a bit over 10 grand for the band (I lost count somewhere after 7000 euros), as the prices of the items certainly didn’t stay at what opened each bid (200e). Most items ended up costing anywhere up to 2000 euros – which is effectively what I would love to have now to buy me a nice and shiny Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 lens to use on gigs…

Anyway, after the rich fans had had their opportunities to support the band financially (us poor ones just paid for a ticket that was a bit more expensive than regular Tavastia tickets), it was time for the main event. The first live performance of 16 new VHB songs. Out of which many (I’d love to say all, but they’ll probably have to cut something out) will be on the new album. I have never heard a band do this before. Performing the whole new album over half a year before the release date! I’m sure it’s been done somewhere by someone before, but this was a first for me.

Which is why the title of this post. No photography / recording songs allowed during the gig. I was happy to see people honoring the band’s genuine and 100% understandable wish in order to keep the new songs a secret from the wider public. No cameras, no smartphones, only the band’s official photographer shooting some frames with his pro Nikon. You couldn’t mistake his purpose, he was working for the band. (Sure, I wish I could do that one day, too, but it’s a distant wish for me, really.)

But you know what? This was the second gig I was on within the past couple of weeks when I hadn’t even brought a proper camera with me. Just my phone, of course, but yesterday, no frames. It feels surprisingly light to leave the DSLR behind. Plus it’s a funnily retro feeling to be on a gig where NOBODY is holding up their phones / tablets / p&s cameras / whathaveyous. People were actually listening. Concentrating on experiencing the music then and there. Perhaps with their eyes closed, perhaps swaying to the rhythm, but not singing along as nobody knew the lyrics to the songs!

We photographers who shoot rock (or any kind of) concerts know that seeing a gig through a viewfinder isn’t as intensive an experience as it is without a camera. Or, rather, it’s an intensive experience of a very different kind. Especially on gigs where you have to nail the photo stuff during the two / three first songs of the set list. You really don’t get to enjoy the music, as you’re struggling to keep up with the musicians bouncing hither and tither, keeping an eye on pyrotechnic devices (the joy of shooting heavy metal gigs…) and lighting and so on. You just can’t enjoy the music like you do without a camera.

I shot a lot of these "meta shots" on The Rasmus' gig during the DBTL festival. This is what it is these days.

I shot a lot of these “meta shots” on The Rasmus’ gig during the DBTL festival. This is what it is these days.

Which is why I was able to soak in the new music with an open mind, really enjoy and concentrate on the first taste of the new VHB.

It was a glorious taste, too. The band opened the set with two songs that would fill stadiums. A tidal wave of guitar & bass virtuosity left me staggering. Holy moly, this stuff REALLY rocks! Throughout the gig I felt like the brothers were getting more out of their guitars, the arrangements felt “wider” somehow, in the sense that in many songs their sound was more massive than before.

VHB is usually defined as a prog rock band. This time around they are that, but they are really so much more. Some songs were stupendously complex prog pieces (even more so than on the earlier albums), some were delightfully straight forward rock pieces, some had a dash of pop in them, or a bit of country or a twist of funky jazzy stuff. My mind was officially blown and I was throwing all labels in the trash bin, as I don’t think this music should be labeled – it should be listened. You make of it what you will. But the brothers will throw so many notes at you that you’ll be struggling to cope with them for a while, it won’t be an easy listening album. It will demand your attention, it will not fade into the background, it will not be played in an elevator in a shopping mall. And I love that about the Von Hertzen Brothers. They aren’t going to underestimate their audiences. They never have, in my opinion. But the new album may be a whole new level of “Whoa!” for us.

It’s difficult to say, based on this one listen, what they’ll pick for the album. I’m definitely hoping that the bassist brother Jonne’s songs make the cut. His pieces were a fascinating trip to a slightly different kind of place, a place where there’s bass delay and lots of bass distortion! I hope the song that was cut out of their previous album makes it. It had a Nine Lives sound to it, but with added power. I wish the Superhero song makes it, as it was a rather fun piece, kinda reminded me of Always Been Right.

Ok, honestly? I want a frigging 16 track album! No cuts!

Yeah, the gig was well worth traveling to Helsinki on a midweek evening, traveling back to Turku by bus in the middle of the night (lightly dozing off while sitting cramped in my seat), getting home at 4 am on a Wednesday morning, sleeping for 3 hours and going to work.

Final thoughts on this matter? I can’t wait for the album and even though I will be packing my DSLR this Saturday when I go on a cruise ship to see VHB play there (old songs), I will make an effort to enjoy more concerts without a camera in the future. You should do that, too!

A collage of shots from VHB's NYE gig of 2013-2014. Just so you can see them in this post.

A collage of shots from VHB’s NYE gig of 2013-2014. Just so you can see them in this post.

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Going down the analogue path

Cool kids shoot film, a very cool friend of mine said. I didn’t think I was cool, but look what happened! I got my hands on a cute little Yashica-A (and more recently borrowed a Minox 35L from my dad) and it’s been love at first frame. Which was in February. I’m genuinely sorry for not posting in ages – I went through a rough patch and the little Yashica, among other things, has helped me get back on track.

In any case, it’s been enormous fun to shoot 120 film (with 12 frames per roll – it’s not very cheap, either) and even fun to make mistakes. Double exposures, mostly.

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Here’s the little darling

It’s been nice to notice that the basics of photography I’ve learned with a digital camera, have really made a difference. A few years back I wouldn’t have known how to expose shots correctly (which explains all the horrible pictures I’ve shot throughout the years with my p&s cameras, before I knew anything…) but it’s not an issue now. The issue is that I’m just the worst person to judge distances… Anyway, the Minox is coming with me to Rome (with two rolls of 36 exposure films) and I’m looking forward to capturing some of the Urbs Aeterna on film. (600D is also coming, but it’s just such a huge hulk compared to the tiny Minox that I might just leave it at the hotel on some days.)

Here are some of my Yashica shots, however. We’ll get back to Rome when I’ve returned from there.

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Morning by the river

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Quiet

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Look twice

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Joyrides

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Breathe

Those are some of the better frames out of the four films I’ve shot with the Yashica so far. There’ll be more.

I hope to see you all around a bit more this summer, just not while I’m in Rome or in Stockholm. But I’ll be on vacation in any case and this year my vacation does include my very first wedding photo shoot plus at least one rock festival I’m going to attend with a proper photo pass, so I can shoot all the gigs. Ought to be fun, that.

 

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Best of 2013 – Gigs Top5

I promised I’d post a bit about last year’s gigs and give you my Top5 from 2013. Well, I’ve thought about it rather long and hard, but finally was able to make a list of sorts.

First, some stats.

All in all I saw about 40+ different gigs, by at least 32 different bands. I didn’t go to that many festivals this past year, which is why the number of gigs & bands is a bit smaller than expected. I saw two bands more than twice, but most bands only once. I’m hoping to see at least as many gigs in 2014, one way or another.

And then for the Top5. Let’s do it the countdown way, from 5 to 1.

5. The Blanko – Virgin Oil, Helsinki on Aug 23rd

This gig was the album release party for The Blanko’s second album, Into The Silence. The Blanko is one of my favourite bands at the moment, a true hidden gem in the Finnish rock scene. I’m hoping they won’t stay hidden for much longer, they’d deserve to be “found” by a lot of people.

Pauli (guitar, vocals), Eicca (cello, featuring artist) and Jakke (drums) rockin' it. The bassist (at the time) Marko didn't fit into the shot...

Pauli (guitar, vocals), Eicca (cello, featuring artist) and Jakke (drums) rockin’ it. The bassist (at the time) Marko didn’t fit into the shot…

Pauli is a fantastic guitarist and his performances are a joy to watch & listen.

Pauli is a fantastic guitarist and his performances are a joy to watch & listen.

I was there covering the gig for Stalker.cd, the online rock mag I occasionally write & shoot for. I had interviewed the vocalist & guitarist & songwriter Pauli Hauta-aho, who is a really nice guy btw, via email just before the gig and was really looking forward to hearing the new album live. I had, naturally, been listening to the review copy of it for a few weeks already. It was sounding staggeringly good.  The gig was nothing short of excellent – the band even had Eicca Toppinen (of Apocalyptica) visit the stage, as he features in one of the songs on the album.

I had a great time on the gig, as I did on all the gigs of The Blanko I saw in 2013. This is one of the bands I saw several times. Three times, to be exact. But out of those three performances this was the best. A new album full of new material, performed for the first time (for the most part) – there’s just something special about gigs like this.

4. The Magnificent – Firefest X, Nottingham, UK, on Oct 18th

I guess I don’t need to say much about this gig, as I already posted a whole separate post about it after my UK Tour. But in case you missed it, The Magnificent is a band where a few friends of mine play. They got the honour of opening the Firefest X in Rock City, Nottingham. I combined the festival with a visit to London and Cardiff and had the best of times.

My friend Sami is the bassist of The Magnificent. His green bass is called "The Riddler".

My friend Sami is the bassist of The Magnificent. His green bass is called “The Riddler”.

The gig deserves its place in my Top5 for many reasons. It was fun, full of positive energy and quite possibly the only live performance ever from them. (I’m still hoping it isn’t so!) I got to shoot the whole gig through and I must’ve looked like an idiot in the photo pit, smiling widely through the whole 30+ minute set. There aren’t many gigs that give me such a high, but since this did, it’s on the list.

3. Royal Republic – Klubi, Turku on Dec 12th

This Swedish band is a hoot. The first time I heard their song “Full Steam Spacemachine” I was sniggering to myself thanks to the saucy lyrics. Ever since I’ve wanted to see them live on stage, because their music is just brilliant party stuff. Ridiculously energetic, saucy like heck and well, just a whole lot of fun. If you like Danko Jones, you might like the Royal guys, too.

When a friend of mine told me they were coming to town (I hadn’t noticed it yet myself), I immediately went and got a ticket. And boy, was it worth it. Rarely do I laugh so much on gigs, but this – oh my. The singer Adam is a gorgeous (ahem) and hilarious rocker with such a stage presence it was just incredible. He had the audience wrapped around his, heh, little finger in no time. He teased, he mocked, he joked – and we loved it.

I didn't take that many pics on this gig, as I wasn't working. This was purely for my own entertainment. But you know, I can't resist in any case.

I didn’t take that many pics on this gig, as I wasn’t working. This was purely for my own entertainment. But you know, I can’t resist in any case.

In the rock scene there are too many bands that take life too seriously. The Royal Republic guys don’t. You don’t have to worry about the quality of the music, though. They take that very seriously, but once they’re in front of an audience, they are a riot. I would see them again in a heartbeat, because they were one of the absolute highlights of my rock year.

2. Von Hertzen Brothers – Cardiff Globe, Cardiff, UK, on Oct 20th

These brothers play my soul’s music and I just love them. I saw them six times this past year, and since the last gig was the New Year’s Eve gig, I can say I both finished 2013 and started 2014 with them. I can’t get enough of their live performances.

Jonne, Mikko and Kie Von Hertzen in Cardiff Globe.

Jonne, Mikko and Kie Von Hertzen in Cardiff Globe.

Out of all their performances I saw this year I will choose the Cardiff one for this list. Not because it was any better or worse than the other stellar performances I saw this year, but because I was in Cardiff! And because I got to talk to all the brothers after the gig, as it was a small venue and I was one of the very few Finns there. I loved every single second of the set and since the Globe wasn’t much of a photo friendly place (awful lighting, just awful), I snapped perhaps 15 frames (mostly utter crap) and concentrated on partying. A guy next to me commented after the gig, laughing, that he had felt such good vibes from both the stage and from me. Heh. Well, that’s me. I’m just so utterly happy on those gigs.

1. Muse – Olympic Stadium, Helsinki on July 27th

THE gig experience of the year, hands down. I am a fan of Muse but had never managed to get tickets to one of their concerts in Finland. They usually always sold out before I realized I should perhaps buy a ticket. But not so this time.

I bought tickets to myself and my brother, as a Christmas present. I would get to see a great gig and spend some quality sibling time. Win all around.

I haven’t seen that many world class / stadium filling bands (Iron Maiden is perhaps the biggest name I’ve seen performing in the Olympic Stadium in Helsinki), but as far as huge gigs go, this was incredible. I was totally in awe of the whole set up, with the hundreds of screens and whatnot. Oh, and the huge hot air balloon lightbulb! That was spectacular.

The concert was mind-blowing. There’s just something about a huge stage, massive light displays and a roaring audience. Not something one comes across too often when going to small venue gigs… Heh.

This is the best I could do with my old camera. The pyrotechnics in the lovely, light & warm July night...

This is the best I could do with my old camera. The pyrotechnics in the lovely, light & warm July night…

I wasn’t allowed to bring a DSLR to the stadium, understandably, so I resorted to my old Canon Powershot. I had totally forgotten how to get the most out of it and the results were super crappy, but oh well. I had a brilliant time and it was a perfect Christmas present for me and my brother. He had a good time as well, even though he doesn’t know Muse’s music as well as I do.

So there. Those are my Top 5 gigs of 2013. I’m looking forward to 2014, as at least one of my fave bands, Brother Firetribe, is going to be releasing a new album and touring again, after several years of silence. Strangely enough, only Dream Theater tickets bought for the year so far, though. We’ll see how things go.

Next post will probably still be something of 2013, as I’ve been asked to do a “Crop of 12” post from last year. More about that later. I hope you’re all having a great start to 2014 in the meanwhile.

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