Maëlick in the North

Toy Photography in Northern Finland, Sweden and Norway

Photography Diary – September 2020

September has been busy.

Mostly, busy with work. But in between work, I found time to escape Oulu and go enjoy Ruska in Lapland.

At the beginning of the second week of September, I decided to head to Kilpisjärvi for a long weekend. Just when all the birch started to turn yellow, there was a window of decent weather forecasted for the next few days.

Although the trip felt too short, it was totally worth it. I’ve been able to test the new camera I bought for hiking in a real situation, and confirm that buying it was the right choice as it saves me lots of space and weight in my backpack. (That said my backpack was still as big and heavy as usual as I ended up filling it up with more toys than needed…)

I came back with almost 4000 raw files and it took me almost two weeks to finish the first round of post-processing. However, this doesn’t amount to anything close to 4000 photos. Overall photography has been difficult, sometimes even frustrating. Still, what matters is that I learned a lot from this trip.

Travel and toy photography

This trip confirmed an intuition I had about my toy photography.

A few years ago, I used to consider myself as a “travel toy photographer“. Even after moving to Finland and starting to take most of my photos in my “extended backyard” (the lake and forest at the end of my street), I was still taking photos that relate to travel, adventure, and wandering.

However, traveling, at least when it involves hiking in the wilderness, has somehow become incompatible with my photography. I need to stop and take my time for toy photography. It is quite challenging when I’m in a new place.

During both this trip and the previous one during midsummer, I haven’t taken a lot of toy photos. The first day is actually often devoid of it. It’s only after getting used to the place that I can go into the mood and flow for toy photography. (Then it becomes difficult to stop.)

Capturing Ruska

As I said, this trip has been challenging and frustrating when it comes to photography. Capturing the beautiful colors at this time of year is tough. At least without going for a panorama of a grand vista.

Without toys, woodland photography is hard. It’s a challenging composition exercise where one needs to find order in something that is very chaotic and messy.

When adding toys, it’s a different challenge. There is a difference in scale between a tree and a toy. What you see as a human being and would like to express doesn’t always easily translate to the scale of toys. Thus, it’s fairly easy to take a photo that in the end will look like any other photo taken during the summer. Making Autumn part of a toy photo is something I’ve been struggling with for years now.

A LEGO birch tree with autumn colors in front of Malla nature reserve
My attempt at making a photo that is about Ruska and nothing else.

Experimenting with camera movements

Except for the last day, I didn’t take that many toys photos on this trip. Most of the raw files on my camera were due to panoramas which quickly fills up the memory card.

However, feeling unable to express with my camera what I had in mind, I ended up experimenting with intentional camera movement, also known as ICM.

This is something I had experimented with before. The first time was in Japan. Later, I also took ICM photos in Oulu and Norway. But this time, I didn’t come back with a few intentionally blurry photos, but hundreds of them.

An intentionally blurry photo of birch trees in Autumn during twilight.
One of the many blurry photos I brought back from Kilpisjärvi.

Stuck in Arctic Paradise

More than two weeks later, I still think about that colorful paradise several times a day. No doubt Ruska in the fells is a strong rival to winter’s beauty.

A grand vista panorama over Kilpisjärvi.
Arctic Paradise

I wish I could manage to find time to go to fell Lapland in September every single year. And be able to spend more than a few days there. But September is always such a busy month at work that it is not easy.

At the time of writing this, the Ruska is in full bloom in Oulu. Unfortunately, because of work, I haven’t had enough time and energy to enjoy them as much as the previous years. It’s quite ironic that September has been one of the best months of 2020, even though I didn’t take that many photos in the place where I usually take most of my favorite photos. I still have hope that it will be better in October…

(EDIT: being completely stunned by Ruska, I completely forgot to mention SiPgoesVirtual2020, Stuck in Plastic’s first-ever virtual toy photography meeting which took place on the first weekend of September. That was also a blast. You can read about it here, here, and here. And also read the two collaborative blog posts that we wrote during the event here and here.)

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