One-year review – construction time again

Warning: Undefined variable $shortcode in /customers/d/8/b/ on line 75
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!

Review: Sleeklens Through the Woods Workflow

Warning: Undefined variable $shortcode in /customers/d/8/b/ on line 75

I recently received a copy of “Through the Woods” Lightroom Workflow by a company called Sleeklens for review. It is basically a set of 80 Lightroom presets, 42 brush presets and instructions on how to use them. Sleeklens is a Danish company and according to them, their products are results of many landscape photographers coming together and giving their input on what they want in a landscape workflow in Lightroom and Photoshop.

I purchased and used a number of different presets and preset bundles, when I first started learning the ins and outs of Lightroom. At first, they were a great tool in learning how to achieve different looks, but after finding my own visual style, I found that most of the presets created by other photographers did not match my vision, and I stopped using them. However, I do think presets are an invaluable tool because they allow you to save your own adjustments for later use and speed up your workflow. Whenever I create a look or an adjustment brush setting that I like and know I will use later, I create a preset from it.

When I was offered a chance to review Sleeklens’ Through the Woods bundle, I was a bit hesitant, because I wasn’t sure if another preset pack had anything to offer to my workflow. I decided to give it a go, however, because unlike many other presets that give you a finished look with one click, Sleeklens’ solution offers an image editing workflow with stackable presets and preset brushes, and because the style of the sample images on their website looked like something I might go for when editing my own images.

I also wanted to review the Landscape workflow from the point of view of someone who is new to Lightroom and using presets, because I wanted to see what kind of results I would get by following the instructions Sleeklens provides with the product.


The installation of the presets and brushes is very straightforward. Sleeklens has provided great instructions and videos describing the process, and I had no problems installing the presets just by watching the videos.

All-in-one presets

The basic LR presets include 12 “All in one” presets that give you a new look in one click. As expected, not all of them suit all images, and some of them didn’t seem that pleasing to me on any of the images I tested them with. Of course, like any other preset, you can use these all-in-one presets as starting points and then use the stackable presets or your own adjustments to find a look that you like. There were a few presets, though, which I liked without doing any additional tweaking, and naturally someone else might prefer entirely different ones. See the slideshow below for the original image and a few examples of the presets I found the best.

[huge_it_slider id=”1″]

Stackable presets and brushes

The real value of the Through the Woods Lightroom Workflow bundle, however, lies in the stackable presets. According to Sleeklens, the purpose of the bundle is to help photographers salvage images that have been underexposed are otherwise not the best they could be. Therefore I also deliberately chose images that I had underexposed to protect the highlights or that were otherwise a bit drab.

First I wanted to try the workflow on an image taken at Himeji castle in Japan, which is slightly underexposed because I was shooting almost directly into the sun, but didn’t want to lose highlight detail in the sky.

I first chose “Dance In the Rain” base preset, which increased the exposure, but left the image looking a bit dreamy. Then I added highlights with the “2-Exposure – More Highlights” preset. The sky was looking a bit colorless, so I chose “3-Color – Deep Blue Skies”, which added a graduated filter with blue tone to the top of the image. Finally, I warmed the image with “4-Tone/Tint – Warm It Up”. Below you can see the before and after images.

Sunset at Himeji - raw imageSunset at Himeji - basic presets

This looks OK to me, but because I wanted to try the brush presets as well, I decided to take the image a bit further. First I added a radial filter with the preset “Light – Subtle Sunset Haze” to enhance the colors of the sunset. Then I wanted to at a bit of punch to the foreground and the trees, so I selected gradual filter with preset “Basics – Subtle Clarity” to the bottom half of the image. I also changed the white balance of the gradual filter a bit colder because I thought the foreground was getting too yellow.

Sunset at Himeji - raw imageSunset at Himeji - preset brushes


As you might’ve guessed I liked this preset bundle a lot. I wasn’t expecting to find it very useful because I have developed a good workflow over the years, but it turned out to have a lot of tools that I can incorporate in it and will use in the future. “Deep blue skies” and “Subtle clarity”, for example, became my instant favorites because often they produced great results with a single click. I found it a bit confusing though, that unlike other non-brush presets, the Deep blue skies preset uses a gradual filter, which I would’ve logically grouped with the brush presets. I didn’t figure how it worked and how to adjust it at first, because I was looking at the sliders in the development panel.

There were a couple things that I kind of missed in this workflow bundle, that I would like to see. Firstly, a because lot of these presets are designed to lift shadows and introduce a lot of noise, I would’ve liked to see a few noise reduction presets in the workflow as well. A few basic settings of different strengths would have been enough to speed up that part of the workflow as well. The other set of presets that would also have been great is sharpening. There is one sharpening preset, but it seemed a bit heavy-handed, so a couple of more options would have been nice. Nevertheless, I would recommend this workflow, if you want an easy way to bring out the best in your images or just want to try new ways to style your images. I think this bundle would be especially helpful for those new to Lightroom or post-processing, as it will give you an opportunity to see step by step what sliders and settings each preset changes.

The Through the Woods landscape preset bundle is available for $39 on
Sleeklens has also a lot of other Lightroom preset bundles available. For more information, see their preset store or find them on Pinterest.
Finally, if you’d prefer to let someone else take care of the post-processing of your images, Sleeklens has a service for that as well.

Here are a few before/after comparisons of images I edited with this workflow. I tried editing these images using the presets without making any other modifications to show you what you can get, if you don’t want to do any additional adjustments to the presets or other settings.

Cloudy day at Itsukushima ShrineCloudy day at Itsukushima Shrine

A shrine island on Lake ShikaribetsuA shrine island on Lake Shikaribetsu
Autumn at Obihiro RiverAutumn at Obihiro River
Forest walkForest walk

Disclaimer: Sleeklens kindly provided the preset bundle for review.

Turn and face the strange

Warning: Undefined variable $shortcode in /customers/d/8/b/ on line 75

Morning mist at Jyväsjärvi in Finland
A misty and foggy morning at Lake Jyväsjärvi, Finland

First things first: the giveaway has ended and I have picked two winners who will receive the prints. It was great to see so many people participating!

If you are following me on Instagram, you might already have read about a recent change in my life. I wanted to blog about it earlier, but things have been rather busy for me during the past four months. Anyway, to cut a long story short, in mid-May I found myself in a situation where it seemed better to leave my job and start my own business. I had thought about it for a while, so it wasn’t a hasty decision, but when the time to decide actually came, it felt like I was jumping out of a moving train to catch another one.

Now, four months later I know I made the right decision, and although I’m very happy about how things have turned out, I’ve also been busier than ever before. Unfortunately this has also meant that I haven’t picked up a camera as often as I used to since what I do now is not photography-related.

I took the image above was taken on a foggy morning almost a year ago while riding my bike to work. Just a few minutes after I took this, the fog became so thick that it was difficult to see the other shore or even a few meters ahead. I didn’t have a DSLR with me so I just used my phone to take the photo and edited it in Lightroom afterwards.

I’m thinking of writing another update when I’ve spent a full six months as a freelancer. Is there anything in particular that you’d like to read about? Meanwhile, I’ll try to update this blog more often from now on!

The mirror pond at Kinkakuji

The mirror pond at the Kinkakuji temple

Here’s one more image of the Kinkakuji temple in Kyoto. I wanted to post this separately as I felt that the Kyōko-chi pond (the Mirror Pond) deserved attention. The reason the pond, designed in the Muromachi period, is called the name Mirror pond is that it reflects the Golden Pavilion. It contains 10 small islands, which according to Wikipedia represent famous places in Chinese and Japanese literature, and it seems that the surroundings of the pavilion were built according to descriptions of the Western Paradise of the Buddha Amida, the largest islet representing the Japanese islands.

Even though you weren’t interested in the history of the pond, there’s no denying that the golden pavilion wouldn’t be half as spectacular without the carefully designed pond that really makes the building shine.

Five views of the Golden Pavilion

The Kinkakuji temple in Kyoto at sunset

There’s a time for words and a time for images, and now’s the latter. I already wrote about the Rokuonji temple in a previous post so I won’t go into detail about its history anymore. Instead I decided to show the temple’s main attraction, Kinkaku, the golden pavilion from different angles that you see when you walk around the pond and the temple area. I was extremely lucky that the evening when I visited the temple turned out so beautiful. I hope you enjoy these images!

The Kinkakuji temple in Kyoto at dusk

Reflection of the Kinkakuji

Kinkakuji seen from behind

Side view of Kinkakuji

Sunset at Kinkakuji

The Kinkakuji temple in Kyoto

After a quick tour at the Nijo Castle, we headed to the final destination of the day, the famous Kinkakuji temple or the Temple of the Golden Pavilion. The official name of the temple is Rokuonji, but Kinkakuji has become the more common name for it. it is probably one of the most famous buildings in Kyoto, and also one of the city’s World Heritage Sites. And like many other temple’s in Kyoto, Kinkakuji too was burned down by a monk, although the arson at Kinkakuji took place as late as the 1950s.

The top floor of the Pavilion is covered with leaf gold, and the architecture of each floor is different. There’s a detailed description of the temple in Kinkakuji in Wikipedia, so I’m not going to copy and paste the article here in its entirety. What I like about the temple site even more than the temple though, is the garden around the temple. If you happen to go there when the number of tourists is low, it is a quiet and relaxing environment. We visited the temple in early October and entered about 15 minutes before the closing time, which meant that most of the visitors had already left and because the trees had not yet changed to autumn colors, it wasn’t the peak tourist season. We walked around the area taking photos until a guard ushered us out, but it wasn’t until 25 minutes after the closing time that we actually left the area.

I’ve also visited Kinkakuji in winter (early February), and because Kyoto gets a bit chilly in winter (not really, if you’re a Finn), there weren’t a lot of visitors then either. It also happened to snow that time so I got to see Kinkakuji covered in snow. So, although Kyoto’s temple’s are beautiful in autumn and the climate is really pleasant then, I wouldn’t shy away from visiting Kyoto during other seasons either.

A classic view of Kyoto

A view of Kyoto

This image was taken at the Kiyomizudera temple on a path that leads from the Oku-no-in hall down to the Otowa waterfalls. It’s one of the views of Kyoto that most visitors probably photograph (just do a search for “Kiyomizudera” and “Kyoto cityscape”), so I wanted to try to make my version a bit more personal.

The image was taken at noon and the light was a bit hard, so I softened in by applying one of DxO’s classic film presets on it. I then added a couple of paper textures on the sky in Photoshop and a third texture with a warm tone on the foliage to soften it a bit more. I don’t remember an image of this view with similar treatment or tones before, so I’m quite happy with the result. I might even end up printing this for my study.

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 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


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
See this photo on Flickr

Mt. Kamakurayama
See this photo on Flickr
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
See this photo on Flickr

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

Endless horizon

Endless horizon

I know I promised to upload travel photos, but I stumbled upon this image from the flight from Helsinki to Paris and wanted to upload it first. I didn’t actually get to see Paris, but we had a short layover at Charles de Gaulle airport when we visited Japan in 2009. I was going to delete this image first because I had much better images of clouds with more texture and a few where the landscape was visible, but then realized that it kind of resembles Hiroshi Sugimoto’s seascapes and that I could actually take this image into that direction.

I didn’t do much processing on this image, as it was quite abstract as it was, but I did emphasize the original mood by removing Clarity in Lightroom and increasing the exposure in the center of the image to soften the horizon line.

If there’s anything to be learned from this, it’s that it might be a good idea to let your images sit for a while instead of rushing to upload them to the Internet as soon as you get home. It’s also a good idea to wait until deleting images that at first seem like failures. After a while, when you’ve got over the initial excitement or disappointment you feel towards your images, you’ll be able to look at them more objectively and you won’t be held back by emotional baggage when processing them. I often find that only then I can get really creative with my images.

See this photo on Flickr