Note on the language: After Beijing I had quite a lot of feedback that I should blog in English, so I'll have a go at it now. Also, I am confident that anyone reading this back home can more or less follow my shallow stream of conciousness - regardless of the language. And if not, images are what count, not my babbling....

Kielivalinnasta: Pekingin jälkeen sain useita pyyntöjä, että muuttaisin bloggauskielekseni toisen kotimaisen - eli englannin. Toivottasti kukaan ei loukkaannu tästä, kokeilen tätä näin pilottina mm. Vancouveria ajatellen.

Berlin 13th August, 2009 / KK

Thursday 13th Aug. 2009

Got here today, accreditation and accomodation went pretty smoothly (hey, this is Germany, that's how it's supposed to go).

Went to see Usain Bolts pressconference and that was a realitycheck. I somehow have this idea that I am doing journalism - although it's just sports and images, but still. I got to the place, crowded, and I was told to stand on the side, as "photographers were not accredited to this event". A finnish collegue of mine got an even more PC-instructions: "Go stand over there, you are not a person, you are a photographer". And then the lady reminded the entering journalists:" Remember, this is for Puma publicity, not Usain Bolt pressconference".

Right. I'm sure the couple of hundred journalists and and TV-crews had gotten there to do just that: promo for Puma... Besides, who cares who wins men's 100m, it'll only last for less than ten seconds anyway?

So, the place was a zoo. Big bodyguards, lots of hassle. Instructions that we would be led inside for a staged photo-opp .... but all went down the drain. Pressphotographers tend to missbehave when there is a bunch of them together - bloody animals, I guess many would call us.

Usain Bolt shows up in a black car, we flock around, bodyguards push us away, he is hurried inside. We are supposed to stand aside as the "real journalists" enter, but we do not: in true Jamaican spirit we just go with the flow... and I guess they realize there is no way they can throw c. 40 photographers out with any dignity, considering that there are about another 30 tv-cameras pointing at us.

But, this is how it looked like:

Friday 14th Aug. 2009

We had the photographers meeting, so I went to check the stadium. Another realitycheck: this is going to get difficult. Basically we can shoot from the first row and from any vacant seat. There is a small head-on platform which takes some couple of dozens photographers - considering we are here some 300-500 maybe, it's going to be a bit crowded, to say the least. And "head-on" is not really what it is, it is actually situated quite a lot on the side.

No infield entry without written application for it 24h in advance (that's standard procedure), but no entry to the track level either. I guess we were spoiled in Beijing, but boy do I miss that... Check out this image I did there and compare it to luxurious space in one of the images below.

Apart from shooting positions the stadium is impressive. Originally built for the Berlin Olympics (but totally renovated inside), it somehow still has somehow feeling of threatening, monumental power of the old days (two of the images are HDR).

(As usual, all feedback and commentary is highly appreciated; I try to comment/publish it the best I can); see also my actual website.
Saturday 15th Aug 2009

Finally got the games going. Shooting positions are really bad, but I stop whining about it now, one just have to do with what is given.

Karjalainen did not qualify this morning - and also his competition was exactly at the same time when Tyson Gay and Usain Bolt were doing their first qualifications. I would have so much preferred following the 100m but no can do; working for Finnish media means following the Finnish athletes.

Tested (for a second time now) the Nikon 300s. Especially I was interested in the videomode, and all the controls available there. The quality is pretty good, definitely adequate for your standard TV (ENG-work), you can control exposure (+/-), audiolevels manually, etc.

Two things I still need to figure out: rate is 24fps and our PAL-standard is 25. How to convert without having a occasinonal one frame doubling i.e. a small jerk in the final output? I wonder if multipass encoding is the answer... but then, the compression will take forever. Second, can one manually control the aperture? Yeah, I know, RTFM, but I did not have one available... and the guys at the Nikon stand did not know either, but I remember reading somewhere that it could be done, I just could not figure it out on my own.

As for video, compared to Canon 5D mrk2 the quality is inferior... but for the work I do, who cares? 720p resolution is more than enough when it gets compressed - whether one works for the web or TV. Yes, I do know: no full frame, controls for exposure are more limited, etc., but there is one major, major advantage: it does not take forever to edit the material. I tested with four superimposed videotracks in the latest version of Final Cut Pro, using Apple ProRes 422 (LT) codec on my 17" MacBookPro: RT set for unlimited, you could cut without rendering easily. Rendering the final package took about the same time as the screentime; compressing it to H.264 (with settings used for MTV3 news back home) took about twice the lenght of the screentime. Not bad, I think.
Tomorrow I will walk to the Canon counter and get a 5Dmrk2 and test that; maybe drop everything on the same timeline with the Nikon stuff (and see if I can jam my computer completely). I love that camera but so far I have not been been able to establish any kind of reasonable workflow to work with the video. But then again, I have not tested editing it in these two new codecs the last update on FCP got (Apple ProRes 422 LT and Apple ProRes 422 Proxy).

I got my two 1Dmrk3's mirrorboxes changed just before coming here (hopefully it was a final hassle with this model) - thanks to Mika in Jastekniikka for doing a good job. I have not microadjusted any lenses, but after one day of working with 600/4 and 70-200 lenses, they seem to be right on. And I had forgotten what a reallly clean sensor means...
Sunday 16th Aug 2009

Shot the morning 3000m steeplechase session, Keskisalo barely made it, he was fifth in his own group. Apart from that nothing to write home about. Tested the Canon 5Dmrk2 - with the new firmware - and I was impressed. Usability, button placement, interface, all worked. Very intuitive to use for a photographer. Video quality at 1920x1080 /30fps H.264 is so amazing. Hooked it into a 600mm lens and the ease you could control the depht of field blows your mind. Along with the aperture you can manually control the shutterspeed and the sensitivity of course. Three parameters you can play around with and you get immediate visual feedback on the screen. Nice.

What really is a bummer - and with capital letters - is the fact that the generated file is so-oooo hard to edit. I could not edit it with any RT (real time) settings confortably without prior rendering on my laptop. Rendering of one minute took about eight minutes which is definitely not acceptable for the work I do. One should maybe develop a workflow where the material gets automatically downscaled before it is imported to FCP, but I have to think about that still. Besides, that would strain the computer and CPU/GPU to the same extend than rendering so there's nothing really to be gained there.

Editing in LT and Proxy flavors of the Apple ProRes422 had no significant effect on the time issue.

Bottomline? There isn't one really, depends what one is after. In a years time I'd say both manufacturers will bring either firmware updates or new models, which incorporate full manual controls and more importantly, more variation in the framesizes and framerates.

Iltalehti had a nice little surprise this morning when I flipped their pages open on my browser: the cover and the first spread was basically my images from Osaka, two years ago. As a photographer I shouldn't be happy when text is superimposed on my images, but I gotta admit: it looked pretty damn good. Good job, I like the total symmetry of the pages, real nice.

If you're interested, you might want to check this audioslideshow I did that night, exactly 2 years ago.

It's funny, writing in English: suddenly you realize that there might be people reading who do not live in our country, know the newspapers by name, nor any other household names and I find out that I have to take that into account. Also I just realized, I can not make fun anymore (in a good way) about the big boys (Abraham Getty, Paul Reuters, Gunter DPA, etc.) nor about the Swedes (there is this brotherly love/hate-relationship between our two countries), because somebody might actually - not likely though - read my commentary and take it seriously. Would be embarrasing to say like "can you believe what that Getty guy did..." and then run into him on the coffee line next morning.

Monday 17th Aug. 2009

So the main highlight is over. And as expected, Usain Bolt ruled. New WR 9,58. Totally unbelievable. I shot from head-on, with 600mm. No raising hands, no jubilation, no nothing... Checked todays papers back home and they went with agency pics: pointing by the clock, extreme wide doing his hand dance at the 200m starting point, etc. In a way, it's frustrating, you work all evening and you get very little; on the other hand, that's just how it is and nothing really one can do about it. And, no way I would like to be there working there with a red bib, trying to keep up my speed up with Usain - and shooting pictures at the same time. Then trying to beat all the other guys as who gets his stuff out first. That's just not me.

But, here's what I saw last night - which is nothing really. The only 2 images I really actually like are of Tyson Gay: one where he is leaving the stadium (with the other girls) and the profile of his face between his hands when he his concentrating for the start.

Actually, just realized something when looking at the images: see the image I shot from my position - the guy holding his camera highest up - and see the image on on this spread. To quote late Robert Capa: "If your images are not good enough, you are not close enough". Yup, don't I know it...

First time these games I had goosebumps. I never thought it possible: Yelena Isinbajeva failed three times in a row.

I realize I am a big fan of hers, never thought of that one before, either. I've shot her couple of times earlier, so I more or less know her routine.

This time she just failed so totally. First attempt 475 then twice 480. God, I realized I was holding my breath when I was shooting her last attempt.

I made this sequential gallery playing on the right. I also made a Finnish version for Iltalehti with captions and headers.

No point really redoing it here in English, I let the images tell the tale. The legend got beaten.

This time I had no time to do audio - and the fact that she did not get any result at all meant that she would not come to the pressconference either, so that was that.

But, I think it works pretty well like this also.

Tuesday 18th Aug. 2009

Best images. Right, several days gone by, it's time to show what I've got. Here's about a dozen of images I have liked -for one reason or another. (Captions appear if you bring the cursor over the image). UPDATED 20th AUG.

Somebody suggested I should set up RSS-feed. Good idea, thanks for pointing it out, I see what I can do. If not now, it'll definitely be running in Vancouver. As you notice, I do not use any blogging software, but GoLive CS2 (moving to Dreamweaver after these games) so I am not really sure how that is done. But I'll look into it.

Wednesday 19th Aug. 2009

The famous shoelaces - I mean, famous in Finland. Jukka Keskisalo (3000m steeplechase) had his right shoe untied thru the competition. I did not notice it, but Mika Kanerva of Aamulehti came and told it when I was editing and sure enough, I did have a pretty decent image of it.

In a way, I felt bad for Mika: my image on the cover of Aamulehti next morning; but he had the cover of Iltalehti sports section, so that was good.

This is how it should be between photographers, but being freelance, one gets too easily very self-centered and egoistic.

Mika also saved my butt two years ago in Osaka, when my computer broke down the day javelin qualifications were on. I could not edit any video, but he had two macs with him and lent me one. I definitely owe him a beer or two now...
OK, on web-stats and my choosing of English: (and talking about being self-centered... ;-)) It's always nice to notice that people read - or at least take a peek at what you do. This page had some 1200 hits yesterday, the Isinbajeva-sequence in Finnish had some 12 000 viewers - well, what do you expect, just look at her... One has to be visually blind not to appreciate her.

It'll be interesting to see if the people who have found this come back, regardless of language barrier ("London Dialect" as my good friend Vesa Koivunen called it in his blog). Let me know if it really bothers you, then I'll reconsider. I see some 82 000 hits (different viewers) from Finland on my site this month, mosty naturally from the Madonna concert 6th August in Helsinki (c. 53 000). Total number different viewers in August alone is approaching 100 000.

So majority is definitely Finnish... but I just think about all the friends and family living abroad, people I meet on the job, lots of whom I know follow what I do and don't necessarily speak our language.

And, I've had couple of really nice mails from people I've never heard from before. I wonder if Valentin in Belgium or Andrea in Italy just googled or how did they find this... Anyway, thank you for your kind words.

"Perhaps it was time to lose, perhaps God wanted to tell me something, it is just that I'm not sure what."

Jelena Isinbajeva after her defeat

Thursday 20th Aug. 2009

I realize I have to be careful when doing HDR (or pseudo HDR) images for newspaper use. They just don't look so good when printed on the page. I have to sit down with the guys who prepare the images for printing and see if there is anything we can do. I really like this image I took of our javelin team yesterday (they were a bit camerashy and I barely made them stop when I encountered them on the street).

But when I saw the printed (or PDF of the printed) page I was a bit dissapointed. The saturation, the "movieposter" -feeling, the sunrays were gone... Live and learn, we have to work on this, as this image for instance is very difficult - if not impossible - to achieve otherwise. (It's a three exp. pseudo-HDR thru RAW process of a single exposed frame). I have hunch where the problem in printing might be, but there is very little I can do about it here, except trying to provide as good originals as possible and hope for the best.
I have had a bad habit in the past of being very - and too - critical about the use of imagery, but this time I have kept my mouth totally shut and with a reason: overall Iltalehti has done a good job in their layout so big thanks to everyone working in Helsinki.

On the right are the tearsheets from today and yesterday. Good work guys.

Talking about use of images: I almost peed in my pants when I saw the front page of Aamulehti this morning. Well, it's the first time I ever made the cover this way... But I guess actually storywise, it's pretty good, the image I was shooting there was then used in the sportspages.

I did send an SMS to the picturechief ... and I could just hear him laughing behind his answer: "Well, you're just barely covermaterial..."

My students in the Tampere University are so-ooo going to sneer on me on this one...

Friday 21st Aug. 2009

Man, did I get pissed this morning when I opened the computer and here's why. I did this thing on Tommi Evilä, Finnish long-jumper. It was pretty hard to do, as there was this fence in between. Shot with 70-200mm, vertical frames, trying to maintain focus thru-out the sequence and I had one shot at it, his first jump, six frames total.

Then what does the byline in the paper say? "IMAGEMANIPULATION" with my name next to it. And even worse, in Finnish it is phrased in genetive form, i.e. "KK's imagemanipulation" and not in the normal byline-form " XX by KK".

Personal pride aside, takes totally all the credibility out of the image. Maybe journalists should sign their own work by "Lies and hearsay by Yours Truly"?

I don't think I lose my credibility because of something like this, but the paper does, big time. And at times like this - i.e. total redistribution of media markets which is going on - printed media should be extracareful - to actively look for new forms of expression, find new ways to compete with other forms of media, and not deliberately piss in their own pants.
OK, let's take a little lighter tone... You know, I've said before that one of the best things about being a professional photographer is that you can look at pretty girls and say it's "only professional interest..."

No, seriously, one of things I've noticed has changed is that one sees light differently, just appreciates the forms and the tones it takes. And sometimes the best images are not of athletes, but of something else. In Beijing I remember the little girl in the yellow raincoat.... and here, it is the image below. Sun was just setting outside the stadium and a volunteer, maybe fifteen, the last rays touching her face, sitting down and taking her break. A beautiful girl, beautiful light.

Darkened the background little, took the mid-tone contrast down to draw attention a bit away from the freckles, added a pinch of soft-mask to the background. I just liked it... and maybe I am also tired of shootint Usain Bolt every day ;-))

Friday 21st Aug. (continued)

I'll post this immediately as I am a bit proud of this. Finnish javelinteam made history and all four guys fought their way to the final on Sunday. Five minutes after the qualifications were over, I had this slideshow out and about - i.e. playing on Iltalehti's front page.

Saturday 22nd Aug. 2009

Last weekend I was really happy when I saw the papers in the morning. Today - I''ll be silent. You do the math.

Got couple of emails in the evening and during the night. Two good friends of mine - a photographer and a graphic artist - who both work in the media, each sent me one. I 'm sure they do not mind if I paraphrase their words here to illustrate a point:

"I did not like that, just webtricks, no focus on images". This is the photographer. Ok, fair enough.

"Perfect javelin display in the net, amazing stuff, how did you pull that off? This is what people want to see. Your personal touch gives a true sense of presence." This is the graphic artist.

Point being, people look at different things, focus differently. Personally, I try to see the final outcome as single entity, not just collection of pictures showcasing me as a photographer. Use sound, layout, presentation - whatever I feel suits the case in hand - and whatever I master. In this aspect I have to give credit to Iltalehti: they have let me play around quite freely. I don't think there has been one single time they have refused something I have tried, usually for the first time for me as well. 360° degree of the Lahti skijumping hill was a case like that and when I did the javelin final in Osaka, that was for the first time as well.

Printed media is in crisis, we all know that. Some might not have realized that this has very little to do present global economic crisis - the recession is working as a catalyst only. Simply put: once the economy recovers - be it this year or the next - the printed media will continue its steady downhill.

What has this got to do with anything and how does that relate to what I do? Well, the above mentioned slideshow is just a tiny example of my personal fight against that: trying to come up with forms of expression that people might appreciate , develop workflows which enable me to get my work out practically the moment I hook my laptop to the ethernetwire. Something for my client(s) that their readers might appreciate, something different, something original. A competitive edge in a tiny, tiny scale.

But in a way - and let's throw in some big words now - one feels a bit like Don Quijote - and yes, I know, he was crazy too. Big windmills, slowly doing what they have always done. An idiot banging his head against the status quo. But, honestly, I feel it has to be done. We have to try new things, new forms of visual expression. Try and fail - try and sometimes succeed.

I threw in Cervantes already, so keeping up the same frame of mind, let me now quote Lord Alfred Tennyson's Ulysses:

Come, my friends,
’Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

Today is obviously my showing-off-lit-quotes -day, but damn, this guy knew how to write... And though he wrote that about 150 years ago, it is so to the point. To strive and to seek...

I agree, though, that too much bells and whistles is - by definition - too much. It's a thin line, "writ' in water" as Keats said. Focus is off the image. Four 320px images vs. a single 780 px image. No question there, the latter showcases the photographer better. But is that what one should be after? Showcasing the individual photographer?

Does it enable you to relive the moment any better? As a whole, as a viewing experience?

You'll be the judge of that. Here's the original slideshow one more time and below my standard 14 images in one frame (some contrast added), in random order.

Sunday 23rd Aug. 2009

I promise, no more quotes, no more big words flying around. Just images. Last day of the games and I am ready to go home - I'm sure we all are.

As my paper does not come out on Sundays, I had practically a free day yesterday. Shot only one image, but I like it. Different, suits actually to what I said above: "Ready to go home". He looks that way.

Had some time to walk around in the city, surfed the net a bit, trying to see what's been going on back home while I've been away. I briefly mentioned my good friend Vesa Koivunen earlier - I call him the number two sportsphotographer in Finland (and I'm sure he returns the favor) - and his blog (in Finnish) is sometimes pretty interesting reading.

I saw he had been busy shooting motorbikes - his passion, I know. I really liked the images in this audioslideshow he had on display: his touch in potraits with saturation taken down, the use of moderate shutterspeeds to show the speed; I'm pretty sure he used strobes to light the bikes flying against the sky, but you really cannot tell... Worth seeing, definitely.

- -

Aamulehti did a nice thing this morning, they gave a full page to Mika's and my images from here.

No real story, just images with short captions from us. Personally, I think my own images do not actually merit this kind of space this time - they are somehow too clean, too detached - but it was a really nice gesture from Aamulehti to give such credit to our work.

If you want to read the captions, you can see the page in PDF.

Today is the big day: 16.20 local time the four Finns are in the javelin final. Historic moment. If they all make it to the fourth round, it'll be a blast: Finland against the rest of the world.

I better get myself to the stadium well in advance. Two days ago I almost missed it, since they changed the starting time and I had no idea of it. Almost lost my accreditation, when I went infield on my own, following the others already there. A definite no, no...

I have also applied for an infield position today, but I'm not sure if I get it. In Beijing I didn't...

Sunday 23rd Aug. 2009 (continued)

What an anticlimax! Fifth and sixth - Pitkämäki and Ruuskanen that is. Wirkkala and Järvenpää out after the first three rounds. Had all kind of multimedia plans - and all went down the drain. Did my trademark, a sequence-image of Pitkämäki. Played around with shadows, that's all. Well, good news: I will get to bed early tonight.

Monday 24th Aug. 2009

I cannot but smile when I saw the covers this morning Face it, a photographer gets his reward when his images get shown. Sure, this is a job and a profession, but it is also a passion for me. I simply love images.

Especially I am content that Lapin Kansa shared my vision: that is how I thought yesterday it should be shown. A big "thank you" to Rovaniemi.

The pages beyond the cover... well, it is hard to fill 4-6 pages (which were planned for success) with nothing.

Maybe we should have done the classic Aftonbladet/Expressen trick: show a blank spread with a black frame and as small text in the corner: "These pages were reserved for the Finnish Javelin Success. Didn't have any."

Or, even better: take the shadowimage, make it centerfold and with a gothic font write to lower corner: "To remember Finnish track and field in Berlin 2009".

Please note: my sympathy is totally on the side of Tero Pitkämäki. The moment he stepped on the field, you could see that he was really sick and taking that into account his performance was extraordinary. "Not to yield" i quoted earlier. He didn't - and one cannot but admire that.

Time to pack bags and go home. I want to thank you all for sharing these games with me - it has been fun and an honor for me. Thank you for the encouraging emails I've got, they mean a lot when your world is diminished between a hotelroom, the stadium and a computerscreen.

I will not know the webstats until tomorrow, but the visitorslist on my server (August) broke 100 000 couple of days ago, so I have to be content. Over 3,5 million views of images... naturally a lot of these come from the Madonna concert and the WRC I did, but still; makes you humble - and happy.

As I said, time to wrap it up and go home. Sports fade to the background... and I am thinking: "Tonight I get to kiss goodnight my two year old son and five year old daughter as they are sleeping when I get home".

2nd Sept, 2009


Got home and have been busy getting back to business as usual.

I decided to give WordPress a go, and started a dedicated blog which I will try to update to my best abilities as often as I can. Depends naturally on the feedback I get, what do I do, etc. So please visit it, it is in English in order to reach a bit wider.

The last chapter of this blog will be written there - and I hope to get some dialogue. Maybe...?

Porvoo 2nd September, 2009 / KK