One-year review – construction time again

Perno Shipyard in Raisio
A long exposure photograph of the Perno Shipyard, owned by Meyer Turku Oy, in Raisio, Finland.

I think I promised one year ago to keep you up to date on how the freelancer life was treating me, but as often happens, when things got busy the blog was the first to suffer.

In case you’re new to the blog, I left my job as a translator in a translation/localization agency almost exactly a year ago and started a business. So, to cut the long story short, things have been busy ever since, and I think this first anniversary is a good time to reflect on how things have gone and where I should head next.

I probably said this a year ago, but I didn’t expect to start working full-time from day one. I thought I would have a lot of spare time and my plan was to do all kinds of things I like, trying to build my business little by little. Having said that, I’m not complaining about getting my business off the ground so easily. Now that things are running smoothly, I could just settle for what I’ve managed to achieve and keep working like I’ve done for the past year – but I tried settling for ten years in my previous job and I know that I couldn’t be happy if I did. I just seem to change things and learn new skills from time to time to keep motivated.

So, what next?

 

Basically, there are two things that I want to do during the next year: I want to grow my business (who wouldn’t) and I want to work on projects I actually like. This past year I have already reached the limit of what one person can do, and I found that a lot of the work I’ve done has been tedious and not something I am really passionate about or want to continue doing.

In regards to my first goal, it is clear increasing revenue by putting in more hours is not humanly possible. Besides, I’m not the kind of person who would break his neck for a few extra cents. I’m also not willing to start hiring people to expand my business, and I’m not even sure how that would play out anyway.

So, there are two things I can do:

  1. Find work that pays more.
  2. Find additional income.

Luckily don’t have to choose, so I’m currently working on both. This also ties in with the second goal I’ve set for the following year – to find customers with whom I will be happy to work and/or find other work that I enjoy. During the past year I have had to postpone a lot of other projects that I would’ve wanted to work on, such as photography, that would not necessarily pay the bills. (I’m also assuming that photographs and travel stories are the main reason you are reading this blog.) The thing is, I’m not that enthusiastic about making more money if it means doing more of the things I abhor, and I realize that the only way to do what I need to be doing now is to cut down the amount of client work and focus more of my time on my personal projects.

One of the ideas that I’ve had for a long time but I always brushed of was making videos. I started shooting video years ago with my first digital camera that had any kind of video function, but apart from a few travel videos that I posted on YouTube years ago, I’ve never really done anything with them. If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I relocated from Central Finland to the city of Turku on the southwestern coast of Finland a couple of months ago. This gave me the impetus to start to document my life and the places I visit here. No need to worry, though – this is still going to be mainly a travel and photography blog. However, making these videos gives me a good opportunity to learn more about filming and editing. Anyway, here’s the first video. Let me know what you think about it!

Autumn at Okazaki Canal

Okazaki Canal

This view of Okazaki Canal was shot at the same spot than the one I posted previously, but to the opposite direction. The A view east along Okazaki Canal on Explodingfish.net shows the view East towards the city while this one shows autumn at Okazaki Canal and a view west towards the Higashiyama mountain range. Because it was early autumn, the trees on the mountains are still green and only a few of the cherry trees along the canal have started changing color.

See this photo on Flickr

Sakunami

We finally arrived in Sakunami a little past noon. Although the distance between Ayashi and Sakunami is only about 13 kilometers, it still took about 20 minutes to get there. When we stopped at Ayashi, I thought it was a quiet little station, but compared to Sakunami it was actually quite busy. Sakunami station was mostly surrounded by fields and forest, and there were hardly any passengers, although there was a taxi waiting for customers in front of the station. It seems that there is a hot spring resort with quite a few hotels and spas in Sakunami, but not having done our homework we had no idea of what the area had to offer.

We had to ask the station staff for directions to our destination, Nikka’s distillery, and while they seemed a little amused to find out where we were going, they were very helpful. A station employee actually ran to the nearest bus stop to check the schedule for us. Because we would’ve had to wait for 30 minutes for the next bus, we decided that we might as well walk because it was only two kilometers to the factory.

While I was talking with the station staff, my sister found out the terrifying secret of the Japanese countryside: there are MONSTERS everywhere! There was a butterfly the size of my palm resting on a phone booth next to the station building, and unfortunately this freak of nature wasn’t an exception in the local fauna. The brushes were bustling with all kinds of bugs from huge spiders to different kinds of beetles. While we were walking to the distillery, we also noticed that there were a lot of hornets about 2 inches long flying around and a lot of dead ones on the roadside. (I read later that they are common in the mountainous areas of Japan.) I was also later told that they cause more deaths in Japan than all the other wildlife combined. Strangely, I had never encountered wasps or other bugs of this size before, even though I have been camping in the countryside and the mountains in Southern Japan.

Here’s a few photos from Sakunami Highway that leads to the distillery:

On Sakunami Highway
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Mt. Kamakurayama
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The mountain above is called Kamakurayama. I read later that it is possible to go hiking there from the hot springs, so it’s a shame we missed that opportunity.

Sakunami Highway
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The distillery is just around the corner in the image above. Despite all the bugs it was a pleasant 20-minute walk to the distillery and although we spent a good amount of time goofing around and taking photos of the insects and other stuff, we managed to get there well before the bus. If you want to see the route to the distillery yourself, check the map with the street view below (turn left on the highway and head towards the big mountain):


View Larger Map

A bumblebee on a Tansy

A bumblebee on a Tansy

Bumblebees are busy little fellows and surprisingly fast when you try to capture them. I wasn’t even using a proper macro lens, but the depth of field was still narrow enough to make it difficult. After an hour of trying, this was the best image I got. I took this on the same evening as the previous fireweed image.

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A fireweed flower on a meadow

A fireweed on a meadow

First of all, Happy New Year!

This image of fireweed flowers caused me some grief because I wasn’t sure what to do with it. The original framing left too much space around the flowers and there was nothing in the image to catch your eye. After trying a few different cropping options, the square format solved the composition problem. I then started to experiment with a new texture pack I got a couple of days earlier to see if I could add interest to the image with it. I applied the texture on the entire image and then painted a part of it out to reveal one flower that was in focus. This helped to draw attention to it, tone down the colors and to give the image a more serene look. If you like this one, I have uploaded a few other images from the same shoot on my Instagram account.

I was first going to write a longer recap of last year, but I think it’s better to just get it over with by saying that in terms of photography 2013 was a good year for me. From all the good things that happened last year, I feel that there are two thing worth mentioning. First of all, I redesigned my website completely. It’s not finished yet and I plan to keep improving it this year, but I like the new layout and larger photos better. Secondly, I some of my images are now available for licensing. It’s something I’ve thought about for a while, but last year I finally made it happen. At this point my images can be licensed from Getty Images and Alamy. I’ll keep growing my portfolio on both sites but I’m also planning to add more licensing options on my website when the time allows.

I’m not going to make any promises for 2014, but I would like to make this blog more active and post images to other social media sites more regularly. In case you didn’t know, you can also follow me on Google+, Tumblr, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

If you’d like to see more images than the ones I post on this blog, follow me on at one of these social media sites. I like to keep my feeds more interesting by uploading different images on different sites and most of these images never find their way to this blog. I know some of you might already follow my personal Facebook page, but I have also created a new Facebook page for my photos. It gets updated more frequently than my personal page and contains more images.

Well, that’s it! I wish you all a good year and hope I’ll see you here also in 2014.

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Quiet sunset at Lake Tuomiojärvi

Summer evening at Lake Tuomiojärvi

A simple click of Lake Tuomiojärvi I made during an evening walk. It’s a shame I didn’t take more than one photo of this beautiful scene, but then again, this one photo is all I need to remember the moment.

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Autumn leaves in the wind

Autumn leaves in the wind

Here’s one more autumn image to start the week. One of my goals this autumn was to photograph leaves flying in the wind. There was a strong wind on the morning I took this photo and I knew it was probably one of the last days before all the leaves were gone. I saw these trees next to our office and started working on different angles. I finally settled on the one you see above and began to wait for a gust of wind that would blow some leaves off the trees. It turned out to be more difficult than I thought and I kept missing the shot because of the slow response time of my phone camera (I’d left my DSLR home in the morning). I stood there a good while, trying to anticipate the right moment until I finally got a couple of promising images.

I took the one I liked best and blended in a couple of leaves from another shot to fill some spots in the sky I thought were too empty. I’m not sure if this was really necessary, but it made the image look more balanced to my eye. I then finalized the image by increasing color contrast and adding some vignetting to the corners in Nik Color Efex Pro. Although this might sound like a lot of post-processing work for a mobile phone image and the image was by no means bad out of camera, these final post-processing steps really made the colors pop – and more importantly – they made me happier about the image. Even if you’re not shooting in raw, there’s a lot you can do to improve your images afterwards with software such as Snapseed, Lightroom or Photoshop, and I see no reason to settle for what the camera offers you.

See this photo on Flickr

License this photo on Getty Images

The first spring flower

New life

This image of a coltsfoot in spring forest is one of the older photos I’ve been post-processing recently. It was taken on the same evening as the series of spring leaves I’ve been uploading on my Tumblr blog. Originally this image had warmer light and it was a bit soft, so I accentuated the details on the flower and the piece of wood next to it and adjusted the white balance to make the ground look desaturated. I also added a lens blur filter on the background to give a “Lensbaby” look.

As a side note, I’ve started adding selected images to a new stock agency called PicsaStock. It’s a startup that specializes in mobile phone photography. This is one of images available on my PicsaStock gallery.

See this image on Flickr

License this image on PicsaStock

A bohemian waxwing eating a rowan berry

A bohemian waxwing eating a rowan berry

To continue the bird theme of the previous image I posted, here’s an older one from last winter. Unlike the last one, this image hasn’t been modified if you don’t count slight cropping. A flock of waxwings were feeding right next to the road one morning last October and provided a good opportunity to get some close-ups. I haven’t seen any this year, but perhaps it’s still too early. This autumn, there haven’t been as many rowan berries as last year either, but hopefully there’s enough to attract a few waxwings to our neighborhood.

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Misty sunset at Lake Palokkajärvi

Sunset at Lake Palokkajärvi

I think misty nights like this are one of the nicest things about Finnish summer. In this case, I don’t even regret that I didn’t have a DSLR with me because the mobile phone did a fairly good job in capturing the scene.

I created the image by merging three exposures in Photoshop and removing some unwanted elements, after which I applied some noise reduction to it in Lightroom.

See this image on Flickr