To be alone with nature on a quiet night and be able to grasp even a fragment of this surreal beauty is an invaluable experience. Mikko Lagerstedt is on a special mission to capture emotions inherent in places.
A more recent project of his has been stunning astrophotography, an ode to the poetic nature of the night. As a photographer, you might not even know what it is you’ll capture on your camera, but the end result will encourage others to pay attention to nature’s gifts. There is much of the unexplored hidden in the quiet hours of the night.
Could you share a little bit about your background and your career as a photographer?
My very first burst of inspiration and step towards photography came to me when I was driving on a summer’s eve in 2007 to my relative’s cabin. After a rainy day, the sun started shining, and the fog was rising in the fields. I just had to stop and watch this beautiful moment, and then I realized that I want to start capturing these kinds of moments.
I bought my first camera in December of 2008 and started to photograph everything. First, I learned how to use the camera and about the technical side of photography. I also started to learn how to post-process my photographs and ever since I have photographed my way to this point. Of course, there have been times I haven’t shot a lot, but now I want to keep on moving forward.
How did you become interested in astrophotography?
I first tried night photography back in 2012 and was in awe of how many stars you could capture with your camera. Back then I photographed a lot of different views and didn’t focus on one type of photography. I still love the feeling as you wait and see how the images will turn out when the camera is capturing the landscape. When you photograph at night, you can capture a particular atmosphere in your photographs. At night, everything looks different, and it inspires me to photograph unique looking landscapes. Specific aesthetics appeal to me when I shoot at night.
Where were most of your images shot?
Most of my photographs have been shot in Southern Finland.
What do you like the most about what you do?
I love to spend time in nature and be inspired by the beauty and complexity of the universe.
Gear is very important in the work that you do. What equipment do you use now and what equipment did you start with?
Mikko Lagerstedt: I first started with Nikon D90 and a couple of lenses, such as a 10-20mm wide-angle-zoom. These days I use Nikon D810, D800 as my primary cameras and three different lenses: Laowa 12 mm f/2.8, Nikon 14-24 mm f/2.8 and Sigma 20 mm f/1.4.
What are some basic necessities for shooting during the night?
For any astrophotography, planning is one of the most crucial parts because the final picture comes down to the things you have to figure out beforehand. Weather forecast, location scouting, and lunar phases are all vital parts of this process. Ideally, we need a place with low light pollution — far enough from a city so it won’t affect your star photograph. The weather should be clear, and the moon should not be visible in the scenery so it won’t influence the final image when we try to capture the Milky Way. A sturdy tripod is also key to getting long exposures.
Your images are stunning, what kind of work goes into producing the final results?
Mikko Lagerstedt: About 80% of my work is post-processed in Lightroom, and it all depends on the picture, and how long does it takes to process the image. Some might take just a couple of minutes and others might take hours including combining multiple exposures in Photoshop.
Do you have a favourite image from your portfolio? If so, is there a story behind it that makes it special?
I have few that I feel are my favorites. One of the first favorites that I took was Moody Water. It is a favorite because the light, atmosphere and moment were all so perfect that I can still remember how peaceful the scenery was and feel the humid air. It also was one of the first photographs I took that was truly unique to myself.
Do you have any other creative pursuits besides photography?
I don’t have anything that I would call a pursuit. However, I’m interested in self-development.
What do you hope to achieve with your body of work? Do you have a message as a photographer?
I love to capture the moment as I felt it. I want to inspire people to go out and get excited by nature.