Finnish photographer Jani Riekkinen discusses his favourite places to shoot and how the beauty of nature inspired him to start taking photographs.
What inspired you to start taking photographs?
I have always enjoyed hiking in nature, so I started thinking that it would be nice to start taking photographs of all these beautiful landscapes that seem to be forever changing as you move through them. I also sketched and drew a lot as a child and teenager, and I was pretty good at it, but then my love of sport took over and drawing was left behind. When I suffered several injuries I had to take time off from sport and I found myself returning to my sketching and drawing in the form of photography. I watch a lot of movies and have always found the different kinds of visual imagery fascinating. I’m a self-taught photographer and it is not my day job, but I have a dream that someday it will become my full-time profession. I have now been photographing seriously for four years.
What has been your favourite location to shoot?
I haven’t yet had the opportunity to travel with photography in mind, but in the future I plan to travel solely with the purpose of visiting interesting places to capture them with my camera. My job doesn’t afford me a huge amount of vacation time, but so far, the most interesting place I have visited has been the astoundingly beautiful Lofoten Islands in Norway. I spent two weeks there last summer, and there are so many amazing mountains rising straight from the sea. You can hike up to the mountains through the bright summer night if the weather permits, but you have to be careful because the weather can turn bad so quickly. I also find the Finnish National Parks such beautiful and atmospheric places to shoot; my favourite is a place near me called Torronsuo National Park, Southern Finland. It is mostly wetland and in late summer when the nights have cooled down you can usually see moody fog floating across the landscape early in the morning. The fog and the sunrise here are my favourite things to photograph; being alone in the silence watching the sun come up over the wilderness makes my soul feel at peace somehow. All the stress and hurry of daily life get left behind, and it is because of this that the wetlands have a special place in my heart.
What images have been your most significant so far?
It´s hard to say if my images are significant, but I’m always pleased when I feel I have managed capture the atmosphere of a location. In my opinion, capturing the right atmosphere is the hardest thing in landscape photography, but it is the one thing every good photograph needs. One image where I think I succeeded in capturing this is one I took in Lofoten Islands, Norway. I shot the image in the middle of a bright summer night; I had been hiking for hours and hadn’t found anything special. I was driving back to my rental cottage when I saw this idyllic looking pond right next to the road. A moody sort of fog was spreading over the water, and there was this little rustic wooden boat floating on the smooth surface. The mountains in the backdrop of the image gave a calmness, a tranquility to the air. When I took this image I felt satisfied; I felt I had taken something significant. But I’m still searching for that perfect photograph.
What reaction do you aim to inspire in people when they view your images?
I hope to inspire people to go outside more, and to move away from their computers and TV’s. It is so important that people see the real beauty in nature; that they experience the raw, changing landscapes we live in. I would hope my images inspire people to have a greater appreciation of nature. I think that these days you can see so many younger people moving out into nature and taking a greater interest in the world around them. I hope that I can, in some way, contribute to this inspired interest in exploring, and caring for, the world we live in and the nature surrounding us.
How would you say social media contributes to your work?
In my opinion, the impact of social media is huge. It´s almost the only channel I use where I can show my images to others. Putting together a real photography exhibition is a big job and needs a lot of funding behind it to ensure you have enough photographs to display. As I’m doing this as a hobby and do not generate income from it, I find that all the likes and comments I receive on social media help me improve my skills and techniques in my photography. Being messaged privately with positive feedback or comments about my images is always a good feeling. It’s always nice to know when someone has appreciated your work. I mainly use Instagram these days to showcase my photography, but I do get annoyed when I have to crop the images to a specific ratio. To me, this ratio isn’t always the best way for me to display my landscape photography, so I will need to make my own website shortly. Having said that, I do use Instagram as a tool for inspiration and I love to follow other photographers and see what they are doing with their images.
What camera equipment and gear do you use?
I´m currently using a Fujifilm X-T2 mirrorless body and I have Fujinon XF10-24mm, XF18-55mm and XF55-200 lenses. I also have Samyang 12mm manual lens, a Sirui Tripod and Formatt-Hitech filters. I use a mirrorless camera because it´s lighter to carry and nowadays their performance is more than sufficient for me.
Where are you excited to photograph in the future?
I have plans to go to either the Swiss Alps or Italian Dolomites; I haven’t been able to choose between them yet. It´s always inspiring to go to new places to photograph. However much I love Finnish nature, it’s still an amazing feeling to visit a new country and to see new landscapes with all these mountains surrounding me. I feel like I’m being born again and I always feel inspired with so many new shooting ideas; sometimes it is difficult to calm down and find the compositions because I feel there is so much to photograph. In this situation it is best to take it easy and just enjoy the view, and soak in the atmosphere of the country or landscape.
What advice would you give to other photographers who are just starting out?
Firstly, just to go outside and take lots of photos. Try to figure out which settings work well with which landscapes or light and when you gain a bit more experience, try and always shoot with manual mode, especially when you are photographing landscapes. It is so important to take the time to choose the right settings for the location you are in, and to learn how light behaves on which settings. Landscape photography is ideal for this; you can take your time as there is never any real hurry. If you are visiting a new place for the first time, try and plan ahead where you are going to be and what you are going to shoot. It is always good to know where the sun is rising or setting. I always find that in photography it is so hard to always be in the right place at the right time. It’s also good to learn how to use the camera that you have, and it doesn’t matter which camera you get, or how expensive it is. The best time to shoot landscapes is early in the morning when the sun rises, and you can get beautiful results with sunsets too. I don’t like shooting in daytime light as it is usually too heavy for me. I like to use a tripod for my landscape shots, as it makes the images much sharper.