Photographer of the Month: Simo Vilhunen

June 2017

We’ll be featuring a new guest photographer every month, with their top 3 photo picks and professional tips.

 

Documenting life with a personal touch

 

I am originally from Espoo, a city neighbouring Helsinki on the southern coast of Finland. I moved to Rovaniemi to study at the University of Lapland back in 2007. I was – and still am – a passionate snowboarder, which for sure was the biggest reason why I moved up north. But snowboarding is definitely not the only reason why I’ve stayed.

I consider myself lucky to live, have found love, raise my kids and to live through the mundane as well as the truly above ordinary here in Lapland, Finland.

I have been skateboarding and snowboarding for about 20 years now. Both of those activities tend to be all-consuming, cult-like, more like a lifestyle than just traditional sports. Both also make your eyes work constantly, looking for features in your surroundings to make use of. I think the visual aspect of different tricks, movement of the body, using the environment creatively and the culture of documenting either mold your brain or maybe just simply draw a lot of creative people into skateboarding and snowboarding. Those activities turned me into a photographer.

Here are my top 3 pics with tips:

1. THE PERFECT TRIP

 

Hetta-Pallas trail is a real classic in Lapland. Me and a bunch of good friends got to experience it in all-time conditions back in September 2015. Fall colors were vibrant, days so sunny and warm we could hike in t-shirts and auroras were dancing above our camp every night. Just unbelievable, unforgettable stuff!

 

I like images that tell a story and take you to a certain place and moment. Just imagine yourself laying there by the fire, belly full, gazing at the curtains of green and purple with a new adventure awaiting in the morning!

 

Tip: Use a camera you enjoy shooting with and feel comfortable taking with you. I’ve found the sweet spot between size, weight, usability and image quality in Olympus mirrorless system cameras. I wouldn’t have got this image if i had a heavier, larger camera. I certainly would have left most of my lenses and the tripod home to leave room for other gear – like some of the other guys did. The cliche rings true: “the best camera is the one that’s with you”.

2. THE SKINNY DIP

 

My favorite photos are personal. My kids, my wife and friends who are not camera shy are my favorite subjects, and if I can pair them with beautiful surroundings, all the better!

 

This is from a late July road trip I did with my wife. Actually, checking the date, it was our wedding anniversary! We drove by Lake Iso-Vietonen in beautiful evening light and just had to go for a dip. There is a great sense of freedom in Lapland. When you live here, it’s so easy to go for little getaways. I think adventures with your loved ones are just the best. I also think photography itself is a perfect excuse to go out, explore new places and do stuff.

 

Tip:  Don’t be afraid to be personal. I find a lot of the images I see in social media kind of generic and lacking in personal touch. Technically fine, but boring. I wonder if people pay too much emphasis on the opinion of other people or are afraid of being judged? I’d like to see people taking more risks, trying new things, turning visions into work and sharing the images they really like – not the ones they predict will get the most likes.

3. The powder hound

 

This is a favorite because it represents my ideology of shooting action so well. I really wanted to have the rider close to the lens in the foreground and also wanted to use a wide angle lens to show the scenery. You actually don’t see too many similar photos from the backcountry, and I’m glad this one worked out so well! We had zero expectations of getting a photo on this greybird, flatlight day in Pyhätunturi, January 2015.

 

Photographing backcountry snowboarding is challenging, because there are a lot of things that need to go right: composition, lighting, focus, freezing the motion in just the right moment. Also, the rider needs to perform, and of course you first need to find a location with good snow and terrain.

 

Tip: Compose before executing. Shooting action such as snowboarding or skateboarding is always a team effort. The photographer and rider both need to succeed for a good shot. This following tip is for action sports especially, but very useful for other shooting situations as well.  You need to communicate and plan together what is going to happen, when and where. The photographer needs to find an angle and compose before the action happens. If you are trying to shoot on the fly and compose as the action happens, you will most probably blow it or end up with weak images.

 

When I am working on the composition, I usually think more or less in thirds: what’s going to be in left, centre, right – top, middle, bottom – foreground, middleground, background? When you have everything thought out, you have a much better chance of getting the shot you are looking for, because you can concentrate on just the execution. Sometimes it’s better to use burst, if your camera is fast enough and you don’t need flash. Usually there is at least one good frame.

Photo by

In a nutshell:

Name: Simo Vilhunen

Age: 31

Based in Rovaniemi, Lapland Finland

Occupation: Marketing Specialist at Advertising Agency Seven-1.

Fun fact: Did not know anybody from Rovaniemi when first drove up north with a mattress tied to the roof of his car, but found his then-future wife within a week.

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