All images by Joni Niemela. Used with permission.
When it comes to images of the night sky, photographer Joni Niemela draws inspiration from the great Ansel Adams who states that you don’t just shoot a photo; instead, you create one. Joni has been shooting for the Northern Lights and the night sky for a while and his work elicits a painterly and beautiful look that is very unique in many ways.
Most of all, Joni is artistic and believes that technical know-how should never limit you.
Phoblographer: Talk to us about how you got into photography.
Joni: I’ve always lived close to nature and enjoyed it. I wanted to be able to save those moments and photography was a logical choice to do this. Since then I’ve been fascinated by how the light affects its surroundings and all of those details we can see around us.
Phoblographer: What made you want to get into photographing landscapes and the sky.
Joni: Most of my work consist of details in nature and the world in macro scale. Landscape and starry skies with northern lights have also always interested me. It’s just amazing to see all of those stars covering the night sky and it’s a great opportunity to show this also to other people through my images because not everyone is able to see that.
Phoblographer: Lots of what’s involved with shooting the night sky is not only judging the weather but scouting the locations. So what typically makes you choose the locations that you do when trying to photograph the sky at night?
Joni: Well my main focus has been to capture my local area (Southern Ostrobothnia in Finland) into photos. I try to find places which have those main features like lakes, forests, old barns on large fields etc. Sometimes I just want to concentrate on the stars and northern lights itself so then I just find a place that has a wide view for the sky and away from the light pollution.
Phoblographer: You do lots of long exposure work when shooting the sky, but when you go about doing this, how does your mind come up with creative ideas to get jaw dropping images and balance that side with the technical know-how? Most people usually lean towards one or the other. How much research and time usually goes into the creation of these images? You usually have to wait for a combination of lots of things to happen.
Joni: I usually have some kind of image on my mind but most of that idea completes when I’m actually there taking the photo. Technical know-how won’t usually prevent me to create the images I want. Some photos can succeed immediately and others just won’t work at all no matter what. So it’s just matter of trying different things at different times and if it works that’s great. And this applies to all kind of photographic work of mine.
Phoblographer: Do your images tend to come out more when you shoot or when you post-process? What do you find yourself often doing to your images?
Joni: Someone (read Ansel Adams) said that “You don’t take a photograph, you make it.” And I totally agree with this. Of course you have to try to make most of the scene when taking the photo but that’s just part of the process – at least for me. Post-processing is equally important and fascinating phase and most of my work come to alive at this stage as it allows me to actualize my creative self one step further.
I usually like to experiment with colors and lately I have been more and more interested in creating monochromatic and toned images.
Phoblographer: What gear do you use? How do you feel it helps you create better images?
Joni: I use Pentax K-3 and Nikon D800 at the moment with a set of lenses ranging from wide angle to telephoto and macro. Of course better gear will allow you to produce technically better image but it can’t create working compositions, moods and other elements for your photos. So in the end it’s just a tool as the paintbrush is for a painter.