Before I became a photographer I was working for not-for-profit organisations as I believe in helping the community and those in it. Now that I run my photography business I also participate in my own not-for-profit projects as my way of giving back to the community. I like to let others know about people doing wonderful things and to inspire us to do the same.

It was a warm early August night in Helsinki when I returned to my hotel in suburban Käpylä after photographing a wedding. It was still light because that is what it is like in Finnish summer very light till late! As I looked out the window I noticed a small outdoor cafe with a group of people having a lovely time with the music pumping.  I was hungry so I made my way over there and that is when this little place captured my heart. The people serving me were so warm and helpful, even allowing me to take my plate back to my room so I could eat my cake there – I was very tired from the wedding. I decided to return that night with the plate and get something more – I was addicted to the atmosphere they had created there. Their little cafe was made up of lovely people but also a lovely mix of vintage plates, cups, saucers – so colourful and you could see they had been well loved. It made you feel like you were at home enjoying a coffee but in the wonderful parkland surrounds of  Käpylä with all your friends.

I had to take a flight the next day to Sydney and the cafe was not open. This made me sad as I felt I had made some lovely friends and wanted more time there. So I came back the next year to Helsinki and I spent a few days hanging out with the owners of the cafe and speaking to the people enjoying their services. The customers had told me that the cafe was the best thing for the neighbourhood as there had been nothing previously to encourage this kind of social interaction. It had brought so many people together in the area and the cafe also ran markets in the adjoining park and craft classes too! They don’t make money from the cafe, they make everything affordable so everyone can visit and have a coffee and a lovely little treat! My favourite was the ice cream!

It seems though that the local government are putting up the rental prices A LOT and the cafe may not be able to run anymore. But the community have rallied together and with crowd funding have raised money to make an offer to the government to buy the cafe. Let’s hope it is enough!

It is a shame that something that brings the community together in such a positive way is challenged in this way. I wrote this post so people could see that even someone from Australia has been affected by the wonderful community spirit and kindness of those who run the cafe. Perhaps the government will see that this is more important than an increased income.  You can follow Käpylän kiska’s Facebook page here. I want to thank Topi, Vito and Jaakko for allowing me to photograph them and sharing their stories with me.

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I took lifestyle portraits in the snow with a gorgeous couple to celebrate their engagement last month. Over two days there was a snowball fight, sledding, snowshoeing, more snow fights, hot drinks by an outside fire, lots of amazing meals over an inside fire, relaxation in a gorgeous log cabin, exploration of the mountain in pure mist and lots of exploration through the surrounding snowy forest. It is a place I will never forget. We had perfect weather – the first day was misty where the mountain looked quite ghostly and the next day was clear and showed off the surrounding forest and the northern lights. I cannot wait for you to see the difference in the photos because of the weather!

My favourite thing to do is be around people. I love seeing them happy and experiencing different things. Lifestyle portraits are about highlighting people’s lives and the things that make up their experiences. I aim to ‘fit in’ with my clients as much as possible like I am an old friend/part of the family. Mia and Riikka recently got engaged when they travelled to South Africa together. I met them at a wedding in August last year in Helsinki and you could see their wonderful connection even just as guests. Mia’s family owns a cabin in the gorgeous area of Finnish Lapland called Pyhä so we spent  a lot of our time in and around the cabin.

I love the snow. I think everything looks so pretty with fresh snowfall. Some may think it is funny that an Australian is so drawn to a snowy winter as we never really get to experience it in Sydney. I am drawn to Finland, it is my second home. I love seeing how the Finns lifestyle is so different to ours. The snow also seems to bring out the inner child in people with snowball fights being a very popular activity for young and old!

I had one chance to see the Northern Nights during my one month stay in Finland. The weather was very overcast so I feel very lucky that the day they appeared was when I was in Lapland! And they appeared at 6.30pm! (usually it is around midnight or later they appear!) We scrambled out of the cabin with tripod in hand and looked up at the sky in awe and then suddenly I realised I had to go into action to capture them as they were moving around the sky very quickly! As I fussed around trying to set up the tripod I remembered what I had said to Mia that morning “wouldn’t it be awesome if the northern lights appeared above the cabin, that would make an awesome shot!” And so they did and I was just ready in time to capture them! WOOOHOOOOO!!!!  And then in 5 minutes they were gone again. We were VERY lucky!

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An Australian bride and a Finnish groom decided to have their wedding in an open air chapel in the middle of Finland at the end of January. It was cold, especially for the bridesmaids in their strapless dresses. But it was not as cold as the minus 35 degrees they had the week before we all arrived at the wedding location. So we were lucky to get minus 5 – 0 degrees. Very lucky!   The day before the wedding it had snowed and the sun was out and there were clear blue skies. It was truly magical! I have included some photos of this day below so you can see what I mean by magical!  Julia, contacted me almost 2 years ago for their amazing wedding and from her very first email I was excited beyond words!  She told me that from after looking at my photos and my blog that “I just feel like you really love Finland and the main ‘theme’ we want to shine through is that we love Finland too!”

The day of the wedding we experienced a beautiful sunrise and the sun shone on and off throughout the day. The trees had lost their snow because it had rained overnight but it was still as beautiful as ever. Finland really knows how to do winter! I believe the best part of the day (besides the fun at the party) was the first time Julia and Antti saw each other – their true emotions came out – happiness, tears of joy and true devotion to each other. It was a beautiful moment and I feel very privileged to have been there to experience it. I hope you can feel the moment in the photos I captured of them by the lake.

There are many logistics to think of when having a snow wedding outside – someone has to clear snow off the seating logs in the open air chapel, you need good shoes for getting through the snow, you need to wear thermals under your dress/suit and you need to transport the less able guests around and make sure the roads are cleared of snow! It is all worth it, of course, to have such a beautiful celebration in a winter wonderland.  The day was also celebrated indoors with delicious reindeer and salmon and traditional berry sponge cake. There were fun games played and the bouquet and garter toss was done on an indoor basketball court!

The next day was spent playing games outdoors and on a scavenger hunt. The day was finished off with cooking sausages by the fire, having a sauna and an icy swim. It was a great weekend and Julia and Antti did well to bring all their Finnish and Australian friends and family together in one place!

Dress: Maggie Sottero / Hair Artist: Tiina Pekkala (Groom’s sister) / Make-up Artist: Eeva Pekkala (Groom’s sister-in-law) / Venue: Partaharjun toimintakeskus / Suits: Dressmann / Bridal shoes: Nokian Hai / Bridesmaids dresses: Light in the Box / Invitations: Designed by the Bride / Cake: Partaharjun toimintakeskus / Snowflake necklace: Inarin Hopea / Flowers: Väisäsen Kukkakauppa ja Hautaustoimisto

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