Antti Viitala: Capturing the Aurora Borealis in Black and White

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All images by Antti Viitala. Used with permission.

“Most of the Aurora Borealis are green and every one and his brother is shooting the phenomenon in color,” says photographer Antii Viitala. “I wanted to do something different.” That’s the inspiration for his series that we found on Behance.

Antti is a Finnish-born photographer who splits his time between Helsinki and Cape Town, South Africa. He’s a photographer who doesn’t like to be cooped up in a studio. Rather, he prefers to shoot on location with available light. He draws inspiration of the old masters, yet keeps a firm grasp on modern technology, which helps him elicit the finest of nuances.

His clients have included Marie Claire, Bridgestone, GE Money, Finlandia Vodka, Finnair and Scandinavian Airlines. But for this, we wanted to talk to him about his creative insight for these photos.

Phoblographer: Talk to us about how you got into photography.

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AnttiI bought my first film camera at the age of 15 with the money I made out of working in a greenhouse during a summer break from school. Later I started working for few photographers and ended up as an assistant in a big commercial studio for few years.

During the years of assisting I founded my own company and saved money to buy a good 35mm film camera + lenses. Finally I rented a small space and started a studio + darkroom on my own in Helsinki.

For the last 20 years I have based myself in Cape Town, South Africa during the winter months of Northern Hemisphere. Cape Town suits me well since I tend to shoot using available light and try not to use any additional lights – especially flash equipment.

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Phoblographer: What attracted you to shooting landscapes and the night sky?

Antti: I did a 9 day trip from Helsinki to Lofoten Islands (Norway) in a mobile home with two friends of mine. We ended up sleeping next to Andenes beach, and luckily the Auroras showed up that night.

Phoblographer: Many images that we see of the Aurora Borealis are in color–bright beautiful color. So what gave you the idea to render the scenes in black and white (with a sepia tone)?

Antti: Most of the Aurora Borealis are green and every one and his brother is shooting the phenomenon in color. I wanted to do something different and with the my roots and passion in the traditional film, print and darkroom the choice was obvious.

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Phoblographer: Lots of black and white photographers consider the contrast, shadows and highlights carefully when they create and image. But besides composition, what was going through your head as you created the images and do you feel that you achieved the creative vision that you had in your head?

Antti: I did not want to point the camera up to the sky and just show the Auroras. I wanted to show horizon, beach and the reflection on the sea surface to anchor the Auroras to the surrounding environment.

Phoblographer: Some of your images highlight the reflections of the phenomena onto the water while others highlight what’s really going on in the sky. What influenced the creative decisions made in your head for those compositions?

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Antti: I shot hundreds of images during the hours from sunset to 4 am.There were about 40 images in the final edit and the five photographs that ended up in the final series show what I intended to show without too much of repetition.

Phoblographer: What do you want to do with this series?

Antti: I will keep on shooting more Auroras in the similar manner and see if I get a body of work worth publishing in a form of a book or exhibition.