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February 9, 2011

Kite Skiing with the Nokia N8

Happy New Year! Well, happy February anyway! I would like to start my first blog in 2011 with some statistics about the weather in Finland. This may sound odd in a photography blog, but this will soon make sense I promise. On average in Helsinki we get rain on about 191 days in a year and average temperatures in Finland are 6.5 degrees Celsius. We have cloudy days 65-85% of the year and that means in the worst case we have 54.75 days of sunshine in a year. Sounds good doesn’t it! This is also the reason why my New Years blog piece arrives in February. I have been waiting for the sunshine from Christmas to shoot this piece, and last weekend I finally woke up to bright light coming through my bedroom curtains. First I was pretty sure I got a stroke while sleeping and I’m waking up on a surgeons operating table but no – it really was sunshine!

So, faster than you can say “auto white balance” I rang up my good friend Juuso and we headed to the frozen sea bed in front of Helsinki to shoot some kiteskiing. Since this is my first blog piece of 2011 I thought I would go through some of the tricks and tips presented in earlier blog pieces.

The first picture here is captured using the method presented in the portrait piece last October. The key thing here is the silver reflector I used to reflect some of the sunlight back to the subjects face. Since the sun is directly behind Juuso in this picture, without the reflector, we would have got just a black silhouette, but with the reflected light coming from down left, the end result is this nice moody and contrasting image. I wanted to add a little bit of a dynamic feeling to the image by boosting up the contrast a little and framing it more or less exactly opposite to what is usually recommended in portrait photography. Normally, one should allow some space towards the line of sight of the subject, but here I think this controversial framing actually adds a little something to the image. Remember though, you first have to know the basic rules of composition and then you can start to break them.

The second and third images follow the tips mentioned in my action sport piece. Here the key thing to pay attention to is the very low angle from which the images are captured. I did this for two reasons. The first reason was to add more drama; secondly, it was to hide the tree line in the horizon. Actually if you look at the images they do look like they have been captured somewhere in Iceland glaciers, not 150 meters from Helsinki. Also, another thing to consider is the lower right corner of the first image. I intentionally framed a little bit of ice there to bring more depth to the image. Here the block of ice is approximately 10cm from the lens, so it gets really blurred. Actually, looking at the picture now there could have been even more blurred ice in the corner! I also boosted up the contrast to make the sky really deep and contrasting. I really like how the clouds pop up from the deep blue sky.

I tried to incorporate something from the scenery piece, and the one thing I wanted to point out from that piece was the leading lines composition which I personally really like. In this image I wanted to use the ski tracks in the snow to draw the attention to the skier who otherwise would stay hidden in the dark corner of the image. I also spent quite some time trying to get the kite to be directly in front of the sun, but this time I didn’t quite achieve that. Although I am rather happy with the result the way it is. Another tip familiar from the landscape piece is to shoot when the sun is low, meaning early morning or during the evening. It really brings out all the structure in the snow.

I think that in this type of photography it’s really important to show both, the skier and the kite in a single frame to give the viewer a good idea of what this sport is actually all about. On that note, I also wanted to add one more image to show some details about the kite and how it is controlled. I think it really adds up to the overall set to include at least one image showing the complete “package” and one image showing some interesting details of the sport.

So, to wrap up my first blog piece of 2011 let’s quickly go through the tips:

1) In portraits, using indirect light from reflectors or other light sources can really contribute to the picture.
2) Don’t be afraid to break the rules of traditional photography (Well I’m using a phone to shoot these so even the equipment is not that traditional!).
3) Look for leading lines, not only in landscape shots, but also in portrait and action shots.
4) Incorporate details into your image sets.

…and the lessons learned during this photo shoot:

1) In Finland it’s not just cloudy and cold. It also rains a lot.
2) If you want to shoot action sports, choose surfing in Hawaii!

Happy snapping!
Ari Partinen