Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Black and white (almost)

Winter landscape, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Trees, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Branches, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Here are three photographs taken today. It wasn't quite as dark at noon as it was yesterday, but not bright either. There are little colors except for shades of gray, but so it goes this time of the year. Yes, and the last photograph is black and white, not much difference with the original scene.

I'll be traveling a bit with the family, so there will be a pause in posting here. We'll see next year - I hope it will be a good one.

Embracing the grayness

Snow, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Snow on trees, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Snow, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

I just couldn't avoid posting these photographs. The grayness of the overcast winter weather is overpowering - but then I realized: why fight it? Instead, better embrace it. Welcome, grayness.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Snow play - 105 minutes and 965 kcal

Red bus, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Fence, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Today was a snow day. First, building a snow castle with the children. Then we went to a nearby hill to ride on a sled downhill. I used the Polar heart-rate monitor once again, and it seems that snow play is good exercise, burning 965 kcal in one hour and 45 minutes.

Here are two images taken today, both containing a bit of red. It should be getting colder soon, so perhaps blue sky and sun will appear one of these days.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Grayness of winter

Snow landscape, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Once again this was an overcast day. We got some (very wet) new snow, and waterdrops we dripping from tree branches. It should be getting colder tomorrow, but the clouds will not go away. Oh when do we get bright sunshine and blue winter skies?

Saturday, December 26, 2009

More snow (as if we didn't have enough already)

Water and snow, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Today we got about 10 cm of snow on top of the previous layers. And there was a hard biting wind as well. Had to shovel snow for 35 minutes this morning, that was a big amount of exercise to start the day.

I hope the snowfall lessens a bit. Blue sky and sun haven't been visible for a while.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas flowers

Lily, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

It has been a tradition in our family to get some white lilies for Christmas. They smell nice, and provide a feast for the eyes with their delicate tones.

With this photograph I wish to the readers of this blog a relaxing Christmas time and Happy New Year 2010.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Memories of tomorrow

House, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Lights, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Birch, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

I got a nice Christmas card from Shanghai, having in it the following text: "May the good times and treasures of the present become the golden memories of tomorrow." A very nice wish.

I was very pleased today, making and eating a Finnish Christmas dinner. This year we didn't have ham on the table, instead we had turkey which tasted very nice. Some year you get to eat the traditional Christmas dishes so much that you are fed up with them, but not this year. A very pleasant dinner indeed.

Here are three images taken today, when we went for a walk with the wife to burn some calories. Plenty of snow on the ground. It is getting colder, temperature is no longer near 0 °C.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Please no more snow

Branches, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Helsinki view, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

I shoveled snow again this morning, about 15 cm worth of it, in 30 minutes. I'm getting tired of this, but fortunately there is forecasted a break in the snowfall for 2-3 days, over Christmas.

Here are two photographs, the first taken today with the LX3, the second taken earlier this week using the Nokia E90 phone, from the 6th floor of a building in the center of Helsinki. I was surprised at the image, it is not completely impossibly bad. (Although I did have the usual problems in framing and shooting, the shutter lag being something random between 1-3 seconds.)

I started today a new blog, in Finnish, titled Valopolku ("lightpath"). I'll write there information technology related short texts, but not very often, once a week or less is the plan. Have to see how it goes.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Taste of fresh fluffy snow

Blue moment, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Path, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Winter fields, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

We had a walk (46 minutes, 353 kcal) with the wife and discussed at one point the taste of the fresh (and very fluffy) snow. (Note to kids at home: Don't eat snow.) The taste experience is quite interesting, having more to do with air that a heavy thing like water. Well, I guess it consists of 99 percent air.

Here are three images taken during the walk. We have indeed snow. The fluffy kind.

Monday, December 21, 2009

20 cm of new snow - 42 minutes and 507 kcal

Winter landscape, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Snow over stream, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Yesterday we got over 20 cm of snow, and I did a lot of shoveling. I used the Polar heart-rate monitor to see how demanding it is - and it was. I worked for 42 minutes, of which 41 were in the region of very demanding physical activity. Averate rate was 132, max 151. All in all I used up 507 kcal according to the monitor.

Here are two images from today. We got some more snow, but not so much as yesterday. But more is on the way on Wednesday.

Today was the shortest day of the year - sun visible for only 5 hours 46 minutes. Now were are on the track for more light each day. Great!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Cold and warm

Red, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Jari Sillanpää in concert, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Well, the weather got warmer, but it is very windy and there is snow coming. Temperature is -5°C, so it is safely below the freezing point, promising a white Christmas.

Here are two photographs, one from today, the other from earlier this week. We went with the family to hear Jari Sillanpää sing Christmas songs. I had the flu then, but it was not so bad any more, and it was very nice to be there with the family. I took some photographs with the LX3, with manual focusing and no flash, so it didn't disturb anyone (for all practical purposes the camera is silent when shooting).

Update: I have been reading Joseph Mitchell's 1992 collection Up in the Old Hotel and Other Stories, one of the most intense books I have ever encountered. I don't mean action, I mean intense as "packed with details about real people and real life in New York". Although the book is classified under fiction, it is reportage of the highest order. For some reason, the writing reminds of photography, perhaps because of the huge amount of visual detail, or perhaps because of the subject matter. I think you could call this "street writing" (cf. street photography). In fact, he was married to a photographer, Therese Mitchell.

Update 2: I found another connection with Mitchell and photography: "When Diane Arbus was scouting for freaks to pose for her in the late '60s, she called Mitchell, whom she considered an expert on the subject. The courtly Mitchell spoke to Arbus at length but didn't open his address book for her. Their tendencies as artists were almost diametrically opposed. Arbus could take even an innocent young girl and bring out something ghoulishly lonely about her; her work with more unusual subjects also highlighted their freakishness, even as it humanized them. Mitchell, however, possessed a natural empathy, approaching even his more unusual subjects without condescension. As a result, he could get very private people to open up to him. His idea of research seems to have been to hang around a scene for five or 10 years; when he wrote his pieces, one of the marvels was how effaced the reporter was, often to the point of invisibility."

Saturday, December 19, 2009


Fir, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Leaf, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

If there is such a thing as a 24-hour flu, I just had one. Well, I suffered of it longer, but the fever, headache and other significant symptoms took about 24 hours only. Some of it still lingers but its is not too bad. It seems to go round in the family, almost everyone is having some of the symptoms.

The weather has been cold, around -20 °C most days. Now it seems to be warming up a bit, but not too much for the snow melt away. In fact, some more has been promised. Real winter weather for once during Christmas.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A 52-minute walk: 425 kcal

Helsinki view, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Biomedicum, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Box, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Today I had two meetings in Helsinki, the first at Palace and the second at Biomedicum. I happened to have the LX3 with me so I took a couple of photographs when parking the car. It was nice clear weather, -10 °C.

Late evening we went for a walk with the wife. I used the Polar heart-rate monitor watch once again. I so happened that the walk took exactly the same amount of time as yesterday, 52 minutes.

But today we walked much more slowly, so it was a surprise that the watch reported that more energy was consumed during the walk: 425 kcal instead of 385 kcal. But after thinking about this a bit, the explanation may be self-evident: when taking it a bit more slowly the body is better able to burn fat, thus the result of the exercise is better.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Three-hour meeting: 438 kcal

Movement, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Branching, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Lights, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Today I got an early Christmas present - a Polar heart-rate monitor watch. (Everyone at our company got one.) I put the monitor on at 8 am and took it off at 8 pm.

Every once in a while I switched on the monitor and checked the results, for example after climbing the stairs etc. (Immediately after the climb the rate was 120, after sitting in the chair for one minute it went down to 48.)

During the afternoon I was in a long meeting and the heart-rate monitor happened to be on all the time. In two hours 48 minutes the watch estimated that I had used 438 kcal of energy.

Late evening we had a walk with the wife, and I switched on the monitor. During the 52 minute walk I used 385 kcal of energy according to the watch. Not bad for getting into shape (and perhaps losing a bit of weight as well).

I'm not sure whether I'll continue using the Polar watch regularly, but it is a rather nice device, after you get it set up properly. Fortunately, I had some expert instruction on this earlier this year, so there were no problems today.

Here are three photographs taken during the walk. It was cold, about -16°C, a nice winter night. There was a little bit of cloud cover forming up, reflecting the city lights in the west and south directions, and perhaps we will get some more snow during the night.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Blue moments - and so cold the fingers freeze

Blue, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Blue water, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

I guess I have been complaining a lot recently about the darkness, the wetness, and the clouds hanging above. Well, that has now changed, we have clear sky and currently it is -16 °C outside. No need to complain any more... And it is indeed a nice change.

Here are two images taken today during a walk with the wife. I have shown photographs of this same landscape earlier here at Light Scrape, you may want to compare the difference that a cold weather makes. Quite a change. (The first image is towards north, the second towards south.)

By the way, there has been some nice discussion going on at Paul Lester's blog, for example the little gem below.

Top three things to improve your photography:
1. Take lots of photographs
2. Look at lots of others’ photographs
3. Repeat

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A tale of red and white

Fence, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Pier, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

A touch of snow, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

White and red, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Today I happened to take quite a few photographs with red and white colors in them. White is easily explained by the fresh snow, red perhaps because I was looking for colors, and trying to catch any which could make a photo. And indeed, red and white go nicely together.

Even though it was once again clouded, it was nice to be outside in the middle of the day. Length of day was today 5 h 53 min. The dark time is no longer lenghtening rapidly. Soon the days will start to get longer, slowly at first.

Update: The Canon S90 had been tested by DxOMark, here is a comparison with the Panasonic LX3. There is a clear advantage in sensitivity, but the color depth and dynamic range are about same. Pity about the usability problems with the S90, it does have an advange over the LX3 in the sensor.

Thursday, December 10, 2009


Tree, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Snow trails, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Pond shore, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

For a couple of weeks, we have taken 0.5 - 1.5 hour walks after dark with the wife on most weekdays. This had been good, especially as I have been eating more than I should, perhaps one symptom of the winter darkness.

Today we got some snow, and the landscape changed once again. And it seems that the weather will remain cold enough for the snow to stay at least for a while.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

My dream camera: LX3 but four stops better

Cube, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Lights, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

The title is a bit of a joke, but there is some background to it. During the Finnish winter nights (which currently starts at about 3 pm) I need to use a mini-tripod because the exposures are typically in the range of 4 to 8 seconds (ISO 100 and f/2.0).

To be able to shoot handheld the camera should be able to provide 1/4 to 1/8 second exposures with quality similar to LX3 at ISO 100. Thus, four steps improvement needed: (almost) noise-free ISO 1600.

Panasonic GF1 with the 20 mm f/1.7 pancake lens comes close, but with a problem: the lens does not offer image stabilization (and there is none in the body). Thus, you would need to shoot ISO 3200 and 1/20 second with this camera. And ISO 3200 is not noise-free, at least based on the sample images available.

So, for now, I need to use some kind of support for taking photographs with the LX3. I'm not willing to carry a normal tripod, so a mini-tripod has to do the job, together with whatever local things are available: poles, rocks, heaps of snow etc. And this limits the opporturnities for photography quite a lot. On the other hand, you need to develop ways of coping with this, and that is in itself a quite interesting way of looking at the world.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

It feels like Thursday

Brown flowers, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Lights, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Today I forgot what day it was several times, feeling that it is late in the week although it is only Tuesday. Probably due to extremely busy two days at work.

Here are two photographs, one taken in daytime and another at night.

By the way, several reviews of Canon S90 have appeared, here is a quote: "There's a temptation to be disappointed with the Canon S90, mainly because our expectations are too high. [...] the Canon S90's lens and sensor combination do some amazing stuff in low light [...] Unfortunately it's not a complete coup thanks to the wayward rear Control dial and the slow zoom control. These two foibles make setting exposure and zoom level almost unbearable most of the time, such that I missed 60 percent of the shots I'd have been able to get with other cameras."

So all doesn't seem to be rosy with this camera. Pity, it would have been good to have so good usability with the S90 that Panasonic would be forced to keep on improving the LX3 as well.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

No end to the wetness (length of day: 6 h 8 min)

Water, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Swing, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Three, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Once again, a wet day. Here are three photographs taken a bit after noon. Once again it was so dark it was difficult to take sharp photos handheld, typical exposures were 1/4 to 1/10 seconds at f/2.0 and ISO 100.

I have been reading books on photography, the other is about street photography and the other about life on the shores of Finland. Both are in Finnish: Tilannekuvauksen opas - Amatööristä akrobaatiksi by Jouko Leskelä and Itämeren rannalla - Valokuvaajan meriselityksiä by Markku Saiha. Both are excellent, but the first is more about photography and the second more about life.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Dark even at noon

Fire truck, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Ditch, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

We went for a walk today at the forests near lake Bodom. It wasn't raining, but clouds were thick and it was so dark that it was hard to get sharp photos handheld in the forest. While we were leaving, some firemen had arrived, perhaps for doing some exercises.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Decrease in IQ (because of being busy)

Glass, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Rocks, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Here are two photographs taken today. There was a little bit of snow on the ground, which made the landscape much brighter than it has been so far.

And now - some non-photography related thoughs, so you might want to stop reading here.

I might have mentioned that we got a new microwave oven at home. The previous one was 16 years old, and when it was on, our wireless net (wifi/wlan) stopped working. With the new one, no problems whatever with the net connection. Although I don't think the leaking radiation was dangerous, better safe than sorry.

And then to IQ. I was really busy at work this week. Meetings after meetings, dozens of emails to answer, discussions one after another, phone calls to make, driving from one place to another, from ministries to universities to cabinets, lunches in a hurry.

This morning I even forgot my work laptop at home because of being in a hurry. Similar things happened all the time during the week. Sometimes I felt that I wasn't able to think much at all, that my IQ had dropped by half. Not good.

Today I read an article I had written a month ago. It was fine. In fact, I felt that i wouldn't be able to write anything like that if I would have needed to. Going rapidly downwards, that is how it feels. Everything feels complex, and it is hard to get a grasp at anything.

And next week will be even worse than this one was.