I have been photographing birds since 1978 and it has been my profession for over 30 years. Bird photography is my passion and I think birds are beautiful. Their lovely feather patterns and fascinating behaviour makes me going back to nature again and again. I get still excited when I am able to be in nature with my camera even when I have done it for four decades.

My best bird image is yet to be taken! I aim to show the beauty of the birds, but also that of the surrounding nature. I love to share my images with wide audience and by doing this, I hope people understand that nature is beautiful and worth protecting. Nature is the place where I am happiest.

Whooper Swans in Hokkaido, Japan
E-M1X | M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-100mm F4.0 IS PRO
14 mm | 1/90 s | F6.7 | ISO 200

Backlight is the nobility of lights

Without light there would be no life and no photographs. Light is also the essential element for beautiful bird images. I love backlit images, even though they might hide some of the beautiful feather details of the birds. When sun is low on horizon and light has some reddish colour, I am ready to sacrifice some beautiful details for an atmospheric image.

To get even deeper colours to the image, I often underexpose. Although nowadays cameras have great automatic functions for measuring the light and for exposing the images, I still use manual settings (M) to expose my images over 90 % of the time – like I did 40 years ago! In this way I have the full control. When shooting into the light I sometimes use an extension for my lens hood, which is easy to craft out of dark cardboard. With this extension you could shoot almost straight to the setting sun without the reflections in the lens.

Black Grouse lekking in Utajärvi, Finland
OM-1 | M.Zuiko Digital ED 150-400mm F4.5 TC1.25X IS PRO
229 mm | 1/8000 s | F8.0 | ISO 3200
Siberian Jays in Kuusamo, Finland
E-M1X | M.Zuiko Digital ED 150-400mm F4.5 TC1.25X IS PRO
250 mm | 1/6400 s | F8.0 | ISO 800

White-tailed Eagle in Hokkaido, Japan
E-M1X | M.Zuiko Digital ED 300MM F4 IS PRO
300 mm | 1/10000 s | F5.0 | ISO 1600

Extreme conditions- extreme images

I love winter and especially snowy and harsh conditions. I live in Finland which is a great country for snowy images, since winter is with us almost half a year. But one of my favorite winter photography tour destinations is Hokkaido in Japan. Birds in Hokkaido are beautiful and also approachable, which makes the work of photographers easier. Winter conditions can be really harsh there, but it is great place for snowy images and therefore I visit Hokkaido every winter. Whooper Swans, Red-crowned Cranes and Steller´s Sea Eagles are some of the highlights of photography tour there.

Varanger fjord in Norway is also great place for photography in early spring when King Eiders are still in harbours and Puffins are arriving at the seabird colonies. I visit there every March. In all these places photographer will sometimes get harsh weather - heavy snowfall with hard wind. Perfect conditions to test different exposure times to see how it affects to the image. Remember, when there is a lot of snow flying in the air, too long exposure time might hide the subject completely. Also autofocus might be challenging in those conditions and sometimes manual focusing is the only way to get sharp image!

Golden Eagle in a blizzard, Utajärvi, Finland
E-M1 Mark III | M.Zuiko Digital ED 300MM F4 IS PRO
300 mm | 1/125 s | F4.0 | ISO 3200

King Eider in snowfall in Varanger, Norway
OM-1 | M.Zuiko Digital ED 150-400mm F4.5 TC1.25X IS PRO
500 mm | 1/1600 s | F6.3 | ISO 3200
Ravens in heavy snowfall, Utajärvi, Finland
E-M1 Mark III | M.Zuiko Digital ED 100-400mm F5.0-6.3 IS
276 mm | 1/160 s | F6.3 | ISO 1600

Bird in a landscape

To make a beautiful photo the bird doesn’t always have to be very big in a frame. Very often I try also show the surrounding nature around the bird. Zoom lenses are ideal for this purpose. I love zoom lenses for more flexible composition while you are out in nature. Zoom lenses are so versatile and two of my favorites are the 40-150mm f2.8 and 150-400mm f4.5. With fixed lenses you are stuck what you have and only way to change the composition is to use so called leg zoom (walk closer or further) and very often it is impossible!

Golden Eagles in snowy landscape, Utajärvi, Finland
E-M1X | 114 mm
1/30 s | F2.8 | ISO 800
Great Grey Owl in heavy snowfall, Ruokolahti, Finland
E-M1 Mark III | M.Zuiko Digital ED 100-400mm F5.0-6.3 IS
400 mm | 1/500 s | F8.0 | ISO 1600

Snow as background or foreground

Snow is a great background in bird photos as subjects stand out clearly against the white. I use snow also quite often as a foreground and it gives nice artistic touch to the otherwise simple bird images. Exposing the image with snow is easy – you just have to make sure that you are not over exposing the snow. Keep your eye on histogram while you are shooting!

Goshawk at Villa Finnature, Muhos, Finland
E-M1X | M.Zuiko Digital ED 150-400mm F4.5 TC1.25X IS PRO
256 mm | 1/50 s | F4.5 | ISO 3200
Willow Grouse feeding, Lapland
OM-1 | M.Zuiko Digital ED 150-400mm F4.5 TC1.25X IS PRO
500 mm | 1/2000 s | F5.6 | ISO 1600

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