Since the dawn of time, we humans have been referring to the sky and the celestial bodies for guidance. The stars have been with us all along, and some parts of the world are blessed with dancing lights. Photographer Mika Suutari has dedicated her art and passion to the night.
Here's our exclusive interview with Mika Suutari, at Lomography Magazine.
Hi Mika, welcome to Lomography Magazine! Firstly, what's with the nighttime that makes you so inclined to take photographs during this time of the day?
I've always liked the mystical things - horror, fantasy, sci-fi and post-apocalyptic movies, books and such. Occasionally I tend to listen to pretty heavy music too.
The night is full of these mystical things: full moon, the mist that rises on the fields during the dawn or at new moon, the bright Milky Way with hundreds of millions of stars and so on.
I really enjoy these moments being alone in the nature in the middle of the night. It's really therapeutic too, as it clears my mind from everyday things. I can't really say which is more important to me - photographing or these calm moments alone in nature! Sometimes I forget the camera and just admire the stars in the sky, waiting to see a glimpse of a shooting star or catch the northern lights in all their beauty.
Paint us your ideal sky -- what does it look like? What are the colors, the shapes of the clouds?
Obviously, it's the night sky! ;) The night sky has lots of options to shoot: the bright sky with stars, full moon, and the northern lights. If you're lucky, you can also catch a shooting star to the right spot in the photo. Humankind has always been inspired by the stars in the clear night sky and studied them for thousands of years. It's full of stories and mystique, and therefore it's especially inspiring for me too!
As a nighttime photographer, what are the things you usually see that can't be seen during the day?
In the night everything seems so different. As you can't see really far, you tend to visualize things somehow differently. It feels that all your senses are really awake too! Personally, while in the dark, I tend to hear the sounds of the surrounding nature more clearly and try to get an expression of these things that I can't really see by listening. Actually, I've been scared really well few times, as I've been so focused in photographing that I haven't spotted wild animals getting close early enough. In these occasions, I'm not sure which has been more scared: the rabbit or myself! :)
If you could photograph one thing forever, what would it be?
I think that I'll always continue to photograph during the dawn and at night. At this time it feels really weird to take photos during the day time - I just can't find the inspiration to shoot anything during the day as everything feels a little bit dull to me. But things change and evolve, and perhaps at some point, I'll come up with a great inspiration for a day-time project too?
What do you usually use in your work process (in photography)?
My process of taking photos at the night usually follows technically the same pattern. If I'm shooting the landscape and the stars, I focus on the front with the help of a flashlight and the camera's live view feature. I usually take a photo of the front with a long exposure - especially when there's no moonlight - and then shoot the stars separately and combine the two individual photos in Photoshop. At full moon, there's so much light that I can use low ISO sensitivity and relatively short shutter times. I use Photoshop and its pretty basic features for the postprocessing and I don't really think that post processing is one of my strongest sides.
Where do you draw inspiration from? Whom are your muses?
Books, movies and other's photos are the greatest inspiration to me. Especially inspiring are all the mists and fogs on the Autumn mornings, and I find the Autumn to be the greatest time for photographing. All the colors and dark tones, leaves falling from the trees and the dark misty nights make the Autumn really picturesque time for me.
I don't have a specific photographer that I would really like over the others. I actually tend to like and remember single great photos over the photographers. Lately, I've followed Nate Bittinger as he has a lot of great ideas in his photos.
If you could work or collaborate with any photographer, who would it be?
I'm so used to photographing alone and doing things my way that I think it would be hard to see myself collaborating with another photographer. Perhaps it would be nice to explore the very darkest spots together with someone like Nate Bittinger though! :)
What do you usually do during your downtime? Any on-going project, or other plans you're keen to work on?
During the summer for example, when I'm not that actively taking photos (the summer nights here in Finland are very bright), I try to go through the old photos from my hard disks and do some cleaning. I'm always on the look for new nice spots for some Autumn photographing too.
Recently I haven't been photographing that much as I've had problems with the gear and some challenges in finding new inspiring things to develop further and utilize in my photos. These moments tend to come and go every once in a while, so I guess they're good for catching some breath, searching for inspiration and to plan for next great moves?