For my photos I like to do some suffering; I push myself to take them. If I just stop my car, get out and take photos from the side of the road, I never appreciate the images as much as the ones where I have to climb a mountain on skis. The weather and the suffering add to the value of the image, at least for me.
Jaakko’s photography career started with his love for the outdoors. Growing up amongst the spectacular landscape of northern Finland, Jaakko grew to love exploring the world around him through hiking, skiing and mountain biking. Like many, he took a camera along to record his adventures with his friends.
“Each time I went out my enthusiasm for photography grew,” Jaakko says. “Then I got a new camera and everything started to get a bit more serious. Now I think it is 50/50; the photography and video work that I do goes hand in hand with my passion for the outdoors.”
It isn’t an easy thing to do. Physically taking photographs at temperatures that can be as low as -35 degrees can be a real challenge. Even the most basic things like operating a camera with gloves can be difficult, but what many photographers won’t realise is that you may even need to consider how you breathe!
“I usually use two gloves,” Jaakko explains. “I try to keep the bigger gloves on as they allow me to control the basic features of the camera - the aperture settings and the AF point, and of course the shutter button. Then if I really need to handle the camera I take the bigger gloves off and underneath I wear smaller gloves that are very thin and tight on the skin, making it much easier to handle the camera. It’s important to find proper gloves that suit your needs when shooting in really cold weather; you have to remember that the camera itself is magnesium metal - if it is -30 degrees then the camera itself can be extremely cold to touch.”
In such cold weather, it’s important not just to prepare yourself, but also your camera. When you’re in such cold conditions you can’t even breathe on the camera as the moisture in your breath can almost instantly freeze on the screen, EVF or the surface of a lens.
Some photographers will keep their camera under their jacket, but then you need to be careful of the moisture that may form from the sweat of your body. That moisture can freeze quickly when exposed to the extreme cold conditions; it doesn’t stop when you come inside so you need to leave your camera and lenses inside your backpack to allow the air inside the bag and the cameras to gradually acclimatise. There is a lot to consider, but for me it is now second nature.
Jaakko tells us that for him, one of the most important elements for shooting in extreme cold is having the right equipment. “I always use the Sony α7R III and the Sony α9 cameras and have never had any problems shooting in the cold,” he tells us. “I have shot at -35 degrees and the new NP-FZ100 battery for the cameras is still working and allowing me to shoot. I remember the first winter when I started using the cameras, it was -25 with the wind chill easily taking it to -30, and I was still able to just keep shooting away.”
“I find that my two cameras complement each other really nicely,” he continues, “and they’re both great cameras to have with me. With the α9 I can get the best possible speed with 20fps and fast autofocus, so when I need to capture action, I use this. If I’m shooting landscapes, or landscape scenes with a mountain biker or skier in them, then I’ll use the α7R III and its 42.4 megapixel sensor to capture more detail. It also leaves me plenty of detail in case I need to crop when I am editing or if I simply want to make a very large print from a photo."
As for lenses, Jaakko has a range that he uses in order to help him to capture his images in such extreme conditions. “There are a few key lenses that I use, he says, “the 70-200mm f/2.8 G Master, 70-200mm f/4, the Sony Zeiss Sonnar 55mm f/1.8 ZA and the 16-35mm f/2.8 G Master. I love the Zeiss Sonnar 55mm f/1.8 ZA lens, as it’s really sharp and beautiful, particularly for portraits, and the 16-35mm is a great lens at every focal length, I really enjoy using it. They provide everything I need when I’m outdoors shooting.”
When I’m mountain biking or running, I take the f/4 as it’s lighter and smaller, and it’s a big reason why I originally started used the Sony Alpha series - I realised the size and weight saving I could make on my backpack and it’s actually made skiing and mountain biking much more fun as it’s nowhere near as heavy! When it gets to winter it’s obviously a lot darker, and I need the largest aperture possible, so that’s when I switch to using the 70-200mm f/2.8 GM lens as it can capture more light.
Extreme weather and lighting conditions might put off some photographers but, for Jaakko, this is all part of the enjoyment. “The weather and light don’t stop me,” he tells us, “I’m living inside Arctic Circle, so we have a couple of hours of sun in the midwinter, but sometimes we don’t have sun at all. What we do have is really nice lighting conditions. The so-called Blue Hour actually lasts for several hours here in Winter, and it’s great for mixing with artificial light, even just the light from the headlamps that a skier or mountain biker may be using.”
Jaakko concludes: “I really like the area here because the lighting conditions vary so much; summer is light all the time and golden hour lasts all night, and then in winter we have a long blue hour that lasts for several hours. Usually the mid-winter skies are a really beautiful pink, and then of course we have our auroras, the Northern Lights, which are incredible to capture during winter.”