I was scrolling through Tumblr a few months ago and discovered the beautiful photography of Finnish artist, Mikko Lagerstedt. His work, while very interesting and unique, still manages to convey an absolutely breathtaking aesthetic. An aesthetic that is at times surreal and haunting, but all the while maintains a certain kind of complacency; Perfectly depicting the mystical, almost zen-like stillness of things like solitude and the sweeping splendor of the Finnish countryside. His work, in my opinion, rivals that of top cinematographers and does an outstanding job of capturing the dichotomy between the vast expansive ether that is space and the subtle, but grounded, beauty of our own pale blue dot. Mikko was nice enough to do a print interview for Inside the Rift and discuss some of his inspirations, hobbies and offer a few tips to up and coming photographers.
Prox: Tell us about yourself. Where did you grow up and how long have you been working in photography?
Mikko: I was born in a small city called Kauhava in Southern Ostrobothnia, Finland. I moved to Kerava to study layout design in a school in Porvoo. It was something I thought I would be interested in and graduated with good grades, but I never thought it was the thing for me. I have photographed over six years and for the past two years, it has become my profession.
Prox: How did you originally get into photography? What did you do before you decided that this was your passion?
Mikko: My first real encounter with my passion sparked when I was driving to my relative's cabin one rainy day when the sun was about to set. I saw this beautiful landscape filled with fog and sunlight, and at that moment, I made a decision to capture those wonderful sights. Somehow I knew this was the right medium for me. After years, I think I have found my style in photography. Before I ever started photography I was into graphic design and wanted to pursue a career in it.
Prox: One very distinguishing feature that I noticed is that you are self-taught. Why did you decide to skip art school and teach yourself? What sort of resources did you use to learn how to do this?
Mikko: I first started in December 2008 and for the first couple of months, I tried to photograph everything. I never knew that photography would be anything other than a hobby. I wanted to create photographs, but had no idea as to what kind of pictures I wanted to capture. After the first six months, I looked back and tried to figure out what kind of photography inspired me the most. I loved atmospheric moments in dim light. After I learned my style, my approach to photography has moved toward the things that I find inspiring in a particular time or moment. I try to keep an open mind in photography; you never know where you might find inspiration.
Prox: What equipment and software are you using at the moment?
Mikko: My gear includes Nikon D810, D800, and various lenses. Mostly I use Nikon 14 – 24 mm f/2.8 and Nikon 16 – 35 mm f/4.0 VR lenses. I also have a Sirui Tripod and bunch of accessories I tend to carry with me in a Lowepro Pro Tactic 450 W camera bag. I have the Adobe Creative Cloud Photography plan, and mostly I use Lightroom to edit my photographs. Occasionally I also use Photoshop.
Prox: How important is it to have adequate materials in your opinion? Do you feel that someone needs to have high-quality equipment to produce works like yours?
Mikko: Gear is important, but it’s not something you have to invest a lot of money in. When I first started, I was using equipment that was quite cheap, and I still think that with that gear I have captured some of my favorite photographs.
Prox: Are most of your photographs taken on Finnish soil or do you travel to other countries from time to time? What is a country that you are excited to shoot in, in the future?
Mikko: Yes, most of my work is from Finland. I have traveled more recently, and I’m currently planning to move to southern France with my wife. I’m excited to start exploring the beautiful country of France once we get there.
Prox: Who are some of your inspirations from photography and film?
Mikko: My main sources of inspiration come from nature, movies, and music. Whenever I feel uninspired, I try to go out to explore new places I haven't been to before. Even if I end up with no photographs I am satisfied with, at least I have spent time in nature and outside in the fresh air. I enjoy the work of Joel Tjintjelaar, Brooke Shaden, and David Baker. I love to watch series that are atmospheric and thrilling, such as The Killing and Breaking Bad.
Prox: Is there a reason that you choose to primarily shoot nature landscapes instead of say, cityscapes or any other subject(s)?
Mikko: Nature has been a big part of my life, and I love to be out in nature. I feel more comfortable to take photographs of landscapes, but I have also occasionally captured city life.
Prox: Much of your work is very ethereal; It’s almost mythic in structure and beauty. Why did you choose to go for a more magical aesthetic?
Mikko: I’m not sure if I ever made a decision to choose a type of photography. I have always tried to listen myself and create work that inspires me. I want to be true to myself and never force myself to do one type of photography.
Prox: How does inspiration work for you? Do you ever begin with a specific idea in mind or do you just cooperate with nature?
Mikko: Usually, the ideas come to me when I'm out shooting and experimenting. Sometimes I have a vision on how I would like to take a photograph and go with it, but most of the time I try to capture the emotion of a moment and place. I try not to overthink my process.
Prox: Which piece is your favorite and what is the story behind it?
Mikko: Moody Water is one of my favorite shots. I was photographing in Tuusulanjärvi, Finland and saw this lonely fisherman alone in the mist covered water. The moment, timing and light was just perfect. The photograph drove me forward in photography. I also won second place in the Nikon Photo Contest with the picture.
Prox: The “Alone” photo set is particularly somber and haunting. Is there a particular reason you decided to create this series?
Mikko: I never had the vision to create this series, however once I looked back at my work after a year, I saw a connection in it and wanted to create this kind of series. When I look back at the series, I feel that it was created from my sub-conscious because I lost my best friend when I turned 20.
Prox: Are there any non-camera based art forms that have had an impact on your work?
Mikko: I still enjoy to watch graphic designers work, and it may have some impact on my work.
Prox: What are some of your favorite hobbies?
Mikko: Walking in nature with our dog is one of my favorite hobbies. I’m also very interested in health and self-improvement. I also enjoy cooking.
Prox: What are some recommendations that you would give to beginners or photographers who haven’t quite broken through yet?
Mikko: Don’t get carried away with other photographers work, try to find your niche and interest in photography. Trying to copy someone popular, doesn’t give you your vision. Go out and experiment, eventually you will see a connection to your work. Then just pursue it!
You can view and purchase more of Mikko’s wonderful photographs here.