In the far northeastern corner of India, they seek their fortune using an unusual method: via Six images: On target for a lucky break
New Year’s Eve – I’ve never been a fan. If there was a bigger gap between Christmas and January 1 I might feel more like celebrating. It might be something to do with self-employment. After a week of eating and drinking too much of all the stuff I shouldn’t be eating too much of, feeling the spare chins multiply and the belt tighten with each slab of chocolate, I’m ready to get back to work. Or more specifically, get back to sending out invoices. But there is no escaping it. It must be faced up to. New Year’s Eve has arrived again. The fireworks are nice though. I do like a good firework. And there is the consolation that every day is getting a little longer and lighter, unlike myself in both respects.
I suppose I should be taking stock of the passing year’s ups and downs, but I find myself looking forward to all the stuff I want to do in 2018. Books to write, trips to take, new friends to make, unanticipated encounters. I can get excited about all that, whatever the date. Just the same, it’s as good a time as any to brag about the adventures I’ve had in 2017. I’ve been to India (twice), to Finnish Lapland (several times), on a working icebreaker in the Baltic, to Japan, to a remote Baltic island with my best friends, all over Europe from Switzerland to Denmark and from Amsterdam to Italy. I have had a book published and held an exhibition of my photographs. Not too bad then.
I just spent Christmas in Venice, a wonderful time to be there. The main tourist spots, such as St Mark’s Square and the Rialto Bridge, were busy, but it was easy to lose the crowds in the deserted back streets and canals. It’s always a challenge to see a place from an original or fresh viewpoint, but it’s a bigger challenge in a place like Venice where the beauty and attractions are so obvious. So I was up early and went out late at night to get some different perspectives. I hope.
While I contemplate the extreme measures needed to shed those superfluous kilos, here’s a quick tour – six views of this extraordinary city.
Lastly, a nod to the wonderful Trattoria Corte Sconta where we enjoyed a brilliant Christmas Day lunch. Highly recommended, but book in advance. This fellow, dressed in festive finery, was having an especially fun time.
Happy New Year!
Father Christmas came to visit our house in 1994 – but he didn’t get a very warm welcome from me.
Christmas 1994, the first in our house, and the first with two little Finnish stepdaughters who still viewed their new foreign stepfather with more than a little suspicion. What better way to break the ice than buy myself a red gown and some cotton wool and dress up as Santa? Pity my wife didn’t tell me she had ordered a similarly attired visitor who rang the door bell before I had time to change into my festive kit. The little girls were happy, but I am annually reminded that, if looks could have killed, the Father Christmas who delivered the presents in our lounge that day wouldn’t be delivering presents anywhere else ever again. Thanks, Santa, for stealing my thunder.
Nothing else this time, just a taste of Christmas in Finland:
Above: Christmas in Helsinki, quickly.
Have a good one, everyone.
A personal recognition of Finland’s big day, December 6, when it celebrates 100 years of Independence. via Celebrating a century of Finland
Beautifully conceived and designed books make great Christmas presents! And I have an idea for one that’s just a little too big for your Christmas stocking… via Singing the praises of the beautiful book
It’s probably hopelessly old fashioned of me but I love books and bookshops. Books in covers, made of paper, lovingly conceived, designed, produced and edited. I feel protected, safe and at home walled-in by them in a bookshop. Especially proper bookshops, where the books are piled high in apparent disorder but whose shopkeepers know exactly where to find the book you might be looking for.
I took to reading novels and guidebooks with Kindle on my iPad for a while, and I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. The most important thing is that people write and people read, and to some extent the format is irrelevant as long as that continues. I would say that the digital format is less conducive to concentration, however. And rumours of the death of the book are premature.
In any case, to my mind the physical, tactile, artifact book is in the top tier of creative production. Books are to keep or, at worst, to resell. Unlike newspapers and magazines, books are rarely thrown out for recycling. Opening a box of new books fresh from the printers (as long as the printers have done their job properly) and inhaling that fresh print aroma is one of the great joys of life.
So I was thrilled this week to learn that my latest book, Suomenlinna – Islands of Light, is being entered in the Most Beautiful Books of the Year awards in Finland by the publisher, Docendo. This is the kind of book that wouldn’t work well on an iPad. It’s a book for browsing at leisure in a way you couldn’t really do on a digital screen. Bear in mind too that Finland was rated as the World’s Most Literate Nation in 2016, so it should know a thing or two about what makes a good book.
The honorary awards (no cash or other prizes are handed out) are judged by the Finnish Book Art Committee, whose aim is…
…to draw attention to the book as an artistic whole. When choosing the Most Beautiful Books of the Year the Committee tries to find works in which form and content support each other as well as possible. The starting point for evaluating works is the overall graphic design, beginning with the typography and ending with the finished printed product. As well as classical printing skills, the Committee values fresh and new creative solutions.
The beauty of book, which is a collection of photographs of Helsinki’s most atmospheric and historic quarter, its UNESCO World Heritage-listed sea fortress, is largely thanks to its designer, my friend Ea Söderberg. She also designed my eBook, Motion Pictures – a travel photographer’s companion. OK, so I’ll snatch some of the credit for the contents. Especially since I’ve spent countless hours out there in all weather. But I can’t design books. That is a different talent with which Ea is blessed. The shots here are from the book.
Obviously I’m not going to wind up without urging you to consider Islands of Light for your Christmas shopping list. Not as a stocking filler, unless you want big book-shaped stockings, but as a full-blown gesture-of-love top-class gift! You can order it online at this link or contact me directly if you have any trouble getting your hands on a copy! And wish me luck in those awards.
In my latest blog, I’m offering you some samples of the most extraordinary natural phenomenon you are ever likely to see: the Northern Lights or aurora borealis. If you have never seen the aurora, you’ll wish you had!
It’s a glum wet day in Helsinki and I intend to brighten up your virtual inner sky by sharing some photos of the Northern Lights, or aurora borealis. The techies among you will know that this wondrously surreal phenomenon – for my money the most profoundly moving, beautiful and enchanting on or around the planet – is the result of collisions between charged particles released from the sun with gaseous particles in the Earth’s atmosphere. I don’t really care what causes them, but I thought I’d better let you know that. While you’re watching them, you won’t care either, you’ll just gawp in wonder. You’ll feel like laughing. It’s too ridiculously amazing to be true.
I first heard about the Northern Lights in a song by the 1970s band Renaissance. “The Northern Lights are in my mind, they guide me back to you,” their beautiful woman singer sang, to an irresistibly catchy tune. I had no idea what she was on about then. I thought she might be singing about the nighttime attractions of Blackpool or some other northern English city. Now I know what they were on about, I wonder why there aren’t more songs about it.
The first time I actually witnessed this awesome – and I really do mean awesome – natural phenomenon was on a frozen lake in Finnish Lapland in about 1984, when I jumped around in the company of two other more-than-slightly intoxicated Englishmen, like children on a sugar rush at a magic show, shouting and pointing at the sky in mesmerized disbelief, wondering if our drinks had been spiked.
You can’t just see the Northern Lights and tick them off your list. Once you’ve seen them, you have to see them again. And again. It becomes an obsession. I’ve got three Apps on my phone and another one on my iPad telling me when a ‘performance’ might be possible. I’ve flown to Lapland and travelled to remote locations to freeze under starlit skies with the sole intention of watching the aurora. I wander around bumping into trees by the river near my Helsinki home, staring at the sky, in the often vain hope of photographing, or just catching a glimpse of the curtains of colour being shifted around the sky by some giant unseen hand.
So that’s another confession off my chest. If you’d like to share my obsession, assuming you don’t already, you need to be a long way north, the sky needs to be clear, and it helps to get away from urban light pollution. And although it’s great fun to photograph them, try to remember not to get too obsessed with photographing them. Submit to the spectacle. Be transfixed!
The Alaska Geophysical Institute has quite a good site here, with regional maps giving predictive information: http://www.gi.alaska.edu/AuroraForecast But unlike some of the tourists who flock to northern Finland with a sighting at the top of their list, don’t assume that you can flick a switch on any given winter’s evening to make the aurora appear.
Oh and that song by Renaissance – you’ll find it here:
Social Media presents a dilemma to creative professionals. You can’t live with it, you can’t live without it. – via My name is Tim, I’m a Facebook-aholic