Use of Flash and the Ethics of Nature Photography

A collage of my bird photos from 2022 – for more, see: https://frans.photo.blog/2022/12/27/selected-photos-from-2022-may-december/

I have been experimenting with ”Taavi Tunturipöllö” (the Snowy Owl toy that Santa brought me) by using a low-powered flash to create more illumination into nature photos taken during the dark winter’s days.

”Taavi Tunturipöllö”
(a toy photo outdoors experiment, using a remotely triggered flash).

Generally, I almost never use flash, as I think that the strong flash light makes photos look artificial, dull and uninteresting, I love the tones of natural light, and I also do not want to disturb the birds and animals that I photograph. However, it can be very dark for really long time over here, and I have found out that there are actually many different ways of using additional light sources — and there even seems to be a sort of “ethics of flash photography” scene that I was not previously aware of.

Today’s cameras are already very good in low light, and there are also now long-range wireless transmitters that allow one to position several relatively weak-powered flashes into the planned scene in advance, thereby creating more natural looking and also non-invasive ambient lighting, rather than suddenly just pointing a harsh flashlight directly at the poor subject. (One can try pointing flash into one’s own eyes to experience how that feels.)

Pointing a powerful flash directly to the eyes and face of a night-hunting predator like an owl can blind the animal for maybe even 5-20 minutes, and make it unable to get food – or even make it fly blinded against some obstacle and get injured or killed.

On the other end of flash-ethics, taking photos that use low-powered flash as a source of fill-in light during the daylight hours seems to be safe – it is just harmless flicker to them, ignored by most birds and animals. Even then, a flash positioned too close can create a sudden fright reaction in sensitive birds and animals.

It should be noted that the presence of photographer already might be the disturbing element to the animal, and the negative effects of a flash are secondary. And this is not even getting into the ethics of other techniques some photographers use, such as using taped bird-song as a lure (which can deplete the bird of energy as it reacts to an “intruder”), shouting or throwing objects at animals to get an eye contact from them (yes, indeed some idiot “photographers” apparently behave like that) or even hunting and chasing sensitive animals with photography drones to get “cool” footage.

Let’s not be that guy.

I will continue doing a bit of research on this topic, collecting some useful resources and links below. If you have some good sources to suggest, please comment below, or send me a line.

I made already one cautious experiment (photo below) where I used a remotely triggered flash in the dark while photographing this Great spotted woodpecker that was visiting a forest-located bird feeding site. In this case at least the woodpecker seemed to ignore the light and returned to the feeding site multiple times regardless of me taking photos. But this required me staying in place for more than an hour in the snow, immobile, so that the bird gradually started to trust that I was (mostly) harmless and that it could come close to me. Note, that there were other feeders also available to it that were not this close, but it chose this one.

Great spotted woodpecker (Dendrocopos major, ’käpytikka’; photographed in late evening in a forest feeding site using remote flash as additional light; the bird showed no signs of reacting to the disturbance and continued to feed.)

References:

”Audubon’s Guide to Ethical Bird Photography and Videography” (Aubudon started their nature and bird conservation activities already in 1896; this guide provides both general guidelines for ethical behaviour while taking nature photos, and information about bird specific situations that require special care):

”How to Be an Ethical Wildlife Photographer” (this guide, published by Amateur Photographer magazine, is a synthesis created by Peter Dench of several existing earlier guides; he points out that while not every photographer can be expected to be a biologist/zoologist, but everyone has the ”duty of care”):

”The Ethics of Wildlife Photography” (this article, written by Jill Waterman and published by B&H, a big photography gear company, highlights that while nature photography is born from love of nature, it is today so popular and increasingly invasive, even business-like activity that it has also dark aspects and bad practices that it is important to be aware of, while promoting the non-harmful and less stressful alternative approaches):

”How to photograph wildlife ethically” (National Geographic is a leading journal of photojournalism and high quality nature photography; this guide, authored by Melissa Groo, discusses the key ethics principles while also highlighing problematic practices, and, e.g., is advising to always ”caption one’s photographs with honesty”, meaning that we openly disclose the techniques we have used to capture that image):

”Does Flash Photography Harm Animals?” (Authored by photographer Will Nicholls, this article tries to discuss few available studies on the effects of flash light – noting that this is a controversial area and that different species appear to have very different sensitivities):

”Is Flash Photography Safe for Owls?” (This article, written by Sharon Guynup and published by Aubudon Society, notes the lack of scientific research on the topic of flash effects, but notes that bright light can lead into temporary ”flash blindness” which can be dangerous to owls and other noctural birds, and flash can also startle or wake sleeping owls, disturbing their rest and daily rhythms – there are just many reasons to avoid using flash photography techniques on owls):

See also:

North American Nature Photography Association NANPA ”Principles of Ethical Field Practices”:

Suomen Luonnonvalokuvaajat ry. ”Eettiset periaatteet”:

Birdlife Suomi ry. ”Havainnoi huomaavaisesti”:

-Any other good sources to add into this list? (Thanks to all experts and colleagues who have contributed and/or commented on this piece!)

The return of the culture of blogging?

Monique Judge writes in The Verge about the need to start blogging again, and go back to the ”Web 1.0 era”. My new year’s resolution might be to write at least a bit more into this, my main site (www.fransmayra.fi) and also publish my photos more in my photo blog site (https://frans.photo.blog), rather than just sharing everything into the daily social media feeds. For me, the main positive might be getting a better focus, concentration of the longer form, and also gaining better sense of ”ownership” by having my content on my own site (rather than just everything vanishing somewhere into the deep data mines of Meta/Facebook/Instagram).

The downside is that the culture of Old Internet is there no longer, and almost no-one subscribes to blogs and follows them. Well, at least there will be more peace and quiet, then. Or, will the rise of Fediverse bring along also some kind of renaissance of independent publishing platforms?

https://www.theverge.com/23513418/bring-back-personal-blogging

End of year blog note 2022

There have been many nice things in this year, 2022, even though it feels that it has run really fast. Our Centre of Excellence in Game Culture Studies was operating in full speed, featuring great events like the GameBooks, the game studies spring seminar 2022. The mid-point evaluation of the CoE took place after the fourth year, and we prepared for it carefully. The efforts were rewarded, and the Academy of Finland international review panel gave us outstanding marks on the quality, impact and exceptional scope of our operations. We were awarded with funding for the latter CoE period with glowing marks.

Another big reason for party was that 2022 was also the 20th Anniversary of our Game Research Lab. We started in 2022 when we both initiated a bunch of important game research projects, publications, and also organised the Computer Games and Digital Cultures (CGDC 2002) conference. This was also where I advertised the initiative to establish DiGRA, Digital Games Research Association, which was officially added into the Registry of Associations in 2003 – another reason to have a 20th Anniversary!

Personally, I have continued to be engaged as the professor in the master’s degree program of Game Studies as well as in our doctoral program. I have also continued to work in the editorial board of Pelitutkimuksen vuosikirja (the Finnish Yearbook of Game Studies, the only peer-evaluated publication dedicated to games research in Finnish language). I published a historical and discipline-analytical article about “Game Studies” in the Encyclopedia of Ludic Terms, and also collaborated with Jani Kinnunen and the research assistant Milla Tuomela on the eight Pelaajabarometri (the Finnish Player Barometer survey 2022). There were many people who completed their PhD in game studies, and you can read six “lectios” (public doctoral defence talks) from the Yearbook of Game Studies alone (by Usva Friman, Tero Karttula, Jani Kinnunen, Heidi Rautalahti, Matilda Ståhl and Maria Ruotsalainen). Congratulations to all new doctors!

In even more personal note, I moved to use Apple’s Mac computers as my primary work and personal tools this year, after decades of mostly Windows PC usage. I have been pretty happy with the transition, particularly as the integration with my iPhone and iPad works so well – I have always access to the data and images I need. The user experiences provided by MacOS, iPadOS and iOS are pretty good, the Mac has the best trackpad and gesture control of all computer systems, and iPad Pro has been getting better in multitasking, even if it still has its limitations. But I have not given up other operating systems and hardware ecosystems completely: e.g., this blog post is written under Linux with my HP Elitebook (I just love the typing experience of its keyboard), and in our household, we continue to have several Windows PCs, as the support for gaming is still best in the PC. My family is full with serious gamers (I am the most casual one) and there are multiple things related to graphics cards, operating system updates, various game services, local home networking etc. that I sometimes need to deal with, as the local IT support guy. But I am happy that my family seems to love gaming with Nintendo Switch, as that console needs very little IT support – it just runs fine those Pokémon and Zelda games.

I have also continued my nature and bird photography hobby pretty actively – it provided me with a reason to go out walking and getting some fresh air daily, even if I have scaled down my ambitions with rare species a bit. I noticed that counting the species I had photographed turned the nature and art oriented activity into some kind of competition and gaming exercise. Today, I am happy to try evolving my photography skills with any, even the most common birds, animals, insects and landscapes I encounter and have access to, without extra stress.

There was also the sad day, when we lost Matti, my father, after a long and difficult illness. His funeral was in early December in Helsinki.

By the way, this blog was started in March 2004, and while social media has taken over most of the discussion, sharing and commenting functions already for the past decade at least, I like the leisurely style of reflective writing too much to let this site die. There is still more than a year to the day when I’ll write the 20th Anniversary blog post! (Btw, I needed to get away from the toxic mess that Twitter had become, so I replaced that site with a new profile in the distributed, non-commercial Mastodon network. I also remain pretty active in Facebook, of all places.)

Here are a few photos, at the end of the year – have an excellent New Year 2023!

Comments on Tampere University Research Strategy Panel, 23.9.2022

I prepared some comments for the research strategy focused panel discussion which took place in Tampere today. The actual discussion was lively and diverged slightly from these notes of mine, but gist of the comments below are still relevant. Thanks to all fellow panelists, and to Professor Johanna Kujala who acted as the Chair, and whose questions gave direction to the panel.

Meaning of the university strategy?

It is the umbrella – a way to ascertain that there is a shared vision of the direction where we are heading in this university. It is mostly relevant as a very general level communicational tool about our identity as a university. It is also useful in some cases where you need to communicate the general character and direction of the university to some outside stakeholder, funding organisations, etc. The crucial problems we have faced are not really at the level of strategy, but in the level of ‘tactics’ – how the strategy is actually implemented in practice. If the university makes radical cuts to the key support service personnel, and decides to give away university buildings, it directly hits into the ability of research and teaching staff to do high quality teaching and research. Constant structural changes, managerial language and tactics also have negative impacts to the trust, sense of community and commitment of staff, which are keys for making strategy real and operational, not just a nice decorative element.

Is it ok for Tampere University to be in the “middle-class” as a research university?

There is important foundational work particularly in education of new generation academic professionals, experts and knowledge workers that our university needs to fulfil for the Finnish society. We cannot simply discard those needs, and just put all our resources to doing cutting edge research in areas where we could have potential for it. We can aspire to do our best with the resources that we have. There is an underlying, urgent need for research funding reform in Finland; meanwhile, there is room for using external research funding and basic funding (which just about covers our basic teaching and admin costs) more smartly. I particularly see potential in providing early stage career researchers more opportunities for creating new university courses from areas that they currently do research on. Investments into building the foundation in education and research are crucial for the long-term goal of making the whole university prosper. I am not in love with the various common metrics-based rankings of which universities are best, and which are mediocre. The reality is more complex and nuanced.

What is the unique profile of Tampere University, and where we should aim in next 10 years?

From my perspective as a researcher of culture and society, Tampere is internationally known and special as a leading centre for studies into technical-cultural changes, societal transformations, new media, games, health and multidisciplinary innovation. In 10 years, we can aspire to have achieved significant outcomes and contributions by building on the existing strong areas, but also expanded and provided opportunities for growth in new excellent openings of research.

How about the role of societal impact vs scientific quality?

I believe we can combine the scientific and societal impact, and that is also the strategy that our Centre of Excellence in Game Culture Studies follows. We work in close contact and collaboration with cultural and societal stakeholders in our area (e.g., game museums, game developers, player organisations, libraries, grant organisations, ministries, educators, etc.) and implement research in a manner that both produces new insights and breakthroughs in science, theoretical and historical frames for understanding the new phenomena, as well as practical interventions that hopefully contribute to ongoing changes in game culture and society in a positive manner. (See the CoE-GameCult Impact Stories for more of our work in areas such as: game cultural literacy and agency in society; play in public spaces; getting ‘demoscene’ recognized as UNESCO cultural heritage; well-being and e-sports; opportunities for inclusive game creation.)

Balance between teaching and research?

Research-focused professors can of course be relieved from teaching altogether. However, I think that contact with students and professors is highly beneficial for both. As I already implied above, one way to balance teaching-research workloads is to actively engage the project researchers, PhD researchers and young postdocs into teaching – preferably from their own research areas, so that the teaching is enriched by the latest work in the field, and young researchers will get important teaching experience into their portfolios and skill base.

How can we get the best people to come and stay at Tampere?

If we create an academic environment which we ourselves enjoy and thrive, it will have positive impacts on our output, as well as to the manner we communicate to our international colleagues. One of the key elements in creating sustainable excellence in research is stability and continuity. We need to have trust in organisation to continue developing university into directions that make sense to academic experts working in the fields where we specialize, and create prospects and outlooks that span decades, rather than a year or two. This is crucial for good people with their families taking the risk of taking root in Tampere. Strategy thus needs to emphasise the value of our working staff and put the people first.

Role of multidisciplinarity?

Multidisciplinarity can take many forms, and it can lead into a confusing cocktail of slightly incompatible approaches and elements, as well as to genuinely transformative science and scholarship. The contemporary world is complex and, in many cases, the joined expertise of researchers coming from several fields is needed to gain a comprehensive picture, develop new methodologies, and to make sense of this all. However, true multidisciplinary excellence is based on solid foundation in disciplinary excellence: the collaborating experts need to have excellent background in the theories, methodologies, tools and implementations of their own, native fields, before they can play reliable roles in multidisciplinary collaborations. We cannot disregard the foundations, as those are needed to train people for working in inter- and multidisciplinary world.

Strategic roles of basic vs. external funding?

As I said, the serious problem we have is that the research in Finland has excessive reliance on external, competitive project-based funding, as compared internationally to other countries with leading-level science. The resources put into endless rounds of application writing are hitting us hard and taking the key staff away from doing the actual research and results. This is something that universities should more actively push into the public discussion and political agenda. With more long-term, solid basic research funding we could achieve more, and make more sustained contributions to both science and society. Such persistence and continuity are crucial for truly high-quality research achievements. As to the current situation, we can do our best to align and use the basic funding in a manner that supports concerted and long-term efforts in building staff, teams and research agendas that carry over short, externally funded project periods.

Basic research vs. applied research?

I see fundamental or basic research and applied research best as mutually supportive: the other provides the foundation from where to make more focused and applied research interventions into innovative directions. In our field, the interventions and interactions with multiple stakeholders provide us with better, and more in-depth knowledge about the ongoing developments, allowing us to make better theoretical and fundamental research. On the other hand, the sustained interactions “in the field” are also crucial for the dissemination and quality-control of our outputs.

How about global challenges and trends (sustainability, internationalization, digitalization) as keys to our future strategy?

If we do not shy away from societal discussions, those development trends will inevitably be informing and integrated into our research and daily work in multiple ways. Strategy should not try to force everyone to study the exact same topics and themes, but a good strategy is inclusive and diverse enough so that it can show how multiple disciplines and academic fields of research can all make valuable contributions, in their respective areas of expertise and application.

More information about the current Tampere University strategy and values: https://www.tuni.fi/en/about-us/tampere-university/strategy-and-key-information.

Transition to Mac, Pt. 2

I got the first part of my ‘Transition to Mac’ project (almost) ready by the end of my summer vacation. This was focused around a Mac Mini (M1/16GB/512GB model), which I set up as the new main “workstation” for my home office and photography editing work. This is in nutshell what extras and customisations I have done to it, so far:

– set up as the keyboard Logitech MX Keys Mini for Mac
– and as the mouse, Logitech G Pro X Superlight Wireless Gaming Mouse, White
– for fast additional ssd storage, Samsung X5 External SSD 2TB (with nominal read/write speeds of 2,800/2,300 MB/s)
– and then, made certain add-ons/modifications to the MacOS:
– AltTab (makes alt-tab key-combo cycle through all open app windows, not only between applications, like cmd-tab)
– Alfred (for extending the already excellent Spotlight search to third-party apps, direct access to various system commands and other advanced functionalities)
– installed BetterSnapTool (for adding snap to sides / corners functionality into the MacOS windows management)
– set Sublime Text as the default text editor
– DockMate (for getting Win10-style app window previews into the Mac dock, without which I feel the standard dock is pretty useless)
– And then installing the standard software that I use daily (Adobe Creative Cloud/Lightroom/Photoshop; MS Office 365; DxO Pure RAW; Topaz DeNoise AI & Sharpen AI, most notably)
– The browser plugin installations and login procedures for the browsers I use is a major undertaking, and still ongoing.
– I use 1Password app and service for managing and synchronising logins/passwords and other sensitive information across devices and that speeds up the login procedures a bit these days.
– There was one major hiccup in the process so far, but in the end it was nothing to blame Mac Mini for; I got a colour-calibrated 27″ 4k Asus ProArt display to attach into the Mac, but there was immediately major issues with display being stuck to black when Mac woke from sleep. As this “black screen after sleep” issue is something that has been reported with some M1 Mac Minis, I was sure that I had got a faulty computer. But as I made some tests with several other display cables and by comparing with another 4k monitor, I was able to isolate the issue as a fault with the Asus instead. Also, there was a mechanical issue with the small plastic power switch in this display (it got repeatedly stuck, and had to be forcibly pried back in place). I was just happy being able to return this one, and ordered a different monitor, from Lenovo this time, as they had a special discount currently in place for a model that also has a built-in Thunderbolt dock – something that should be useful as the M1 Mac Mini has a rather small selection of ports.
– There has been some weird moments recently of not getting any image into my temporary, replacement monitor, too, so the jury is still out, whether there is indeed something wrong in the Mac Mini regarding this issue, also.
– I have not much of actual daily usage yet behind, with this system, but my first impressions are predominantly positive. The speed is one main thing: in my photo editing processes there are some functions that take almost the same time as in my older PC workstation, but mostly things happen much faster. The general impression is that I can now process my large RAW file collections maybe twice as fast as before. But there are some tools that obviously have already been optimised for Apple Silicon/M1, since they run lightning-fast. (E.g. Topaz Sharpen AI was now so fast that I didn’t even notice it running the operation before it was already done. This really changes my workflow.)
– The smooth integration of Apple ecosystem is another obvious thing to notice. I rarely bother to boot up my PC computers any more, as I can just use an iPad Pro or Mac (or iPhone), both wake up immediately, and I can find my working documents seamlessly synced and updated in whatever device I take hold of.
– There are some irritating elements in the Mac for a long-time Windows/PC user, of course, too. Mac is designed to push simplicity to a degree that it actually makes some things very hard for user. Some design decisions I simply do not understand. For example, the simple cut-and-paste keyboard combination does not work in a Mac Finder (file manager). You need to apply a modifier key (Option, in addition to the usual Cmd-V). You can drag files between folders with a mouse, but why not use the standard Command-V for pasting files. And then there are things like the (very important) keyboard shortcut for pasting text without formatting: “Option + Cmd + Shift + V”! I have not yet managed to imprint either of this kind of long combo keys into my muscle memory, and looking at the Internet discussions, many frustrated users seem to have similar issues with this kind of Mac “personality issues”. But, otherwise, a nice system!

Nature Photos Update

During the Spring Term of 2022, I have taken (according to my last count) photos of 129 different species of birds. Here is featured a selection, along with some random other samples of my nature photos. Excellent summer, everyone!

Transition to Mac

Apple’s M1 Processor Lineup, March 2022. (Source: Apple.)

I have been an occasional Mac user in the past: in 2007, I bought a Mac Mini (an Intel Core 2 Duo, 2.0 GHz model) from Tokyo where I was for the DiGRA conference. And in November 2013, I invested into a MacBook Pro with Retina Display (late 2013 model, with 2.4GHz Core i5, Intel Iris graphics). Both were wonderful systems for their times, but also sort of “walled garden” style environments, with no real possiblity for user upgrades and soon outpaced by PC systems, particularly in gaming. So, I found myself using the more powerful PC desktop computers and laptops, again and again.

Now, I have again started the process of moving back into the Apple/Mac ecosystem, this time full-time, with both the work and home devices, both in computing as well as in mobile tech being most likely in Apple camp, at some point later this year. Why, you might ask – what has changed?

The limitations of Apple in upgradability and general freedom of choice are still the same. Apple devices also continue to be typically more expensive than the comparably specced competitors from the non-Apple camp. It is a bit amusing to look at a bunch of smart professionals sitting next to each other, each tapping at the identical, Apple-logo laptops, glancing at their identical iPhones. Apple has managed to get a powerful hold on the independent professional scene (including e.g. professors, researchers, designers and developers), even while the large IT departments continue to prefer PCs, mostly due to the cheaper unit-prices and better support for centralised “desktop management”. This is visible in the universities, too, where the IT department gets PCs for support personnel and offers them as the default choice for new employees, yet many people pick up a Mac if they can decide themselves.

In my case, the decision to go back to Apple ecosystem is connected to two primary factors: the effects of corona pandemic, and the technical progress of “Apple silicon”.

The first factor consists of all the cumulative effects that are results from three years of remote and hybrid work. The requirements for fast and reliable systems that can support multitasking, video and audio really well are of paramount importance now. The hybrid meeting and teaching situations are particularly complex, as there is now need to run several communications tools simultaneously, stream high-quality video and audio, possibly also record and edit audio and video, while also making online publications (e.g., course environments, public lecture web pages, entire research project websites) that integrate video and photographic content more than used to be the case before.

In my case, it is particularly the lack of reliability and the incapability of PC systems in processing of image and video data that has led to the decision of going back to Apple. I have a relatively powerful thin-and-light laptop for work, and a Core i5/RTX 2060 Super based gaming/workstation PC at home. The laptop became underpowered first, and some meetings are now starting maybe 5-10 minutes late, with my laptop trying to find the strength needed to run few browser windows, some office software, a couple of communication and messaging apps, plus the required real-time video and audio streams. And my PC workstation can still run many older games, but when I import some photo and video files while also having a couple of editing tools open, everything becomes stuck. There is nothing as frustrating as staring on a computer screen where the “Wheel of Death” is spinning, when you have many urgent things to do. I have developed a habit of clicking on different background windows constantly, and keeping the Windows Task Manager all the time open, so that I can use it to immediately kill any stuck processes and try recovering my work to where I was.

Recently I got the chance to test an M1 MacBook Pro (thanks, Laura), and while the laptop was equal to my mighty PC workstation in some tasks, there were processes which were easily 5-10 times faster in the Mac, particularly everything related to file management, photo and video editing. And the overall feeling of responsiveness and fluency in multitasking was just awesome. The new “Apple silicon” chips and architectures are providing user experiences that are just so much better than anything that I have had in the PC side during the recent years.

There are multiple reasons behind this, and there are technical people who can explain the underlying factors much better than I can (see, e.g., what Erik Engheim from Oslo writes here: https://debugger.medium.com/why-is-apples-m1-chip-so-fast-3262b158cba2). The basic benefits are coming from very deep integration of Apple’s System-on-a-Chip (SOC), where in an M1 chip package, a whole computer has been designed and packed into one, integrated package:

  • Central processing unit (CPU) – the “brains” of the SoC. Runs most of the code of the operating system and your apps.
  • Graphics processing unit (GPU) — handles graphics-related tasks, such as visualizing an app’s user interface and 2D/3D gaming.
  • Image processing unit (ISP) — can be used to speed up common tasks done by image processing applications.
  • Digital signal processor (DSP) — handles more mathematically intensive functions than a CPU. Includes decompressing music files.
  • Neural processing unit (NPU) — used in high-end smartphones to accelerate machine learning (A.I.) tasks. These include voice recognition and camera processing.
  • Video encoder/decoder — handles the power-efficient conversion of video files and formats.
  • Secure Enclave — encryption, authentication, and security.
  • Unified memory — allows the CPU, GPU, and other cores to quickly exchange information
    (Source: E. Engheim, “Why Is Apple’s M1 Chip So Fast?”)

The underlying architecture of Apple Silicon comes from their mobile devices, iPhones and iPads, in particular. While mainstream PC components have grown over the years increasingly massive and power-hungry, the mobile environment has set its strict limits and requirements for the efficiency of system architecture. There are efforts to utilise the same ARM (advanced “reduced instruction set”) architectures that e.g. mobile chip maker Qualcomm uses in their processors for Android mobile phones, also in the “Windows on Arm” computers. While the Android phones are doing fine, the Arm-based Windows computers have been generally so slow and limited in their software support that they have remained in the margins.

In addition to the reliability, stability, speed and power-efficiency benefits, Apple can today also provide that kind of seamless integration between computers, tablet devices, smartphones and wearable technology (e.g., AirPod headphones and Apple Watch devices) that the users of more hybrid ecosystems can only dream about. This is now also becoming increasingly important, as (post-pandemic), we are moving between home office, the main office, various “third spaces” and e.g. conference travel, while also still keeping up the remote meetings and events regime that emerged during the corona isolation years. Life is just so much easier when e.g. notifications, calls and data follow you more or less seamlessly from device to device, depending on where you are — sitting, running or changing trains. As the controlling developer-manufacturer of both hardware, software and underlying online services, Apple is in the enviable position to implement a polished, hybrid environment that works well together – and, thus, is one less source of stress.

Luontokuvat, nature photos 2021

I selected some of my favourite nature photos of 2021 / Alla on valikoima omia suosikkejani luontokuvista vuoden 2021 varrelta.

Happy New Year 2022! / Onnea uudelle vuodelle 2022!

Avoimen tieteen palkinto 2021

Eilen Turussa Avoimen tieteen syyspäivillä Pelikulttuurien tutkimuksen huippuyksikölle myönnettiin Avoimuuden edistäjät -palkinto 2021: https://avointiede.fi/fi/ajankohtaista/avoimen-tieteen-palkinnonsaajat-2021

Tässä on lyhyt kiitospuheeni tilaisuudessa: Haluan Pelikulttuurien tutkimuksen huippuyksikön puolesta lämpimästi kiittää saamastamme tunnustuksesta!

Meille Pelikulttuurien tutkimuksen huippuyksikön tutkijoille tieteen avoimuus on itseisarvo. Kyse on sekä pyrkimyksestä tuoda tekemämme tutkimustyö mahdollisimman laajasti saataville ja tunnetuksi, myös eettisestä valinnasta: haluamme edistää tieteen tasa-arvoa, madaltaa raja-aitoja ja sitoutua laaja-alaiseen yhteistyöhön.

Umpiossa tai kapean tiede-eliitin piirissä pysyttäytyminen ei sovellu pelikulttuurien tutkimuksen tekijöille siksikään, että tekemämme tutkimus on jatkuvassa tiiviissä vuoropuhelussa ympäröivän yhteiskunnan kanssa. Tutkimme ajankohtaisia ja moniulotteisia ilmiöitä ja pyrimme ymmärtämään niitä merkityksiä, mitä liittyy peleihin, pelaamiseen (tai pelaamatta jättämiseen), pelien luomiseen, tuottamiseen, seuraamiseen ja niiden ympärille kehittyneisiin moninaisiin ilmiöihin – eri ihmisryhmille, eri aikoina ja erilaisissa kulttuurisissa konteksteissa.

Huippuyksikön strategiassa pyritään löytämään oikeat tavat julkaista ja vuorovaikuttaa aina kunkin tutkimuksen ja tarkasteltavan ilmiön erityispiirteistä lähtien. Avoimuus on meille myös moninaisuutta ja erilaisuuden kunnioittamista. Tuemme esimerkiksi uusissa tutkimuskanavissa julkaisemista, sekä englannin lisäksi myös esimerkiksi suomenkielistä tieteen tekemistä – vertaisarvioitu Pelitutkimuksen vuosikirja on syntynyt huippuyksikön tutkijoiden aloitteesta ja on edelleen meidän toimittamanamme ainoa suomenkielinen pelitutkimuksen tiedejulkaisu. Yhdessä nämä erilaiset toimet edistävät bibliodiversiteettiä: monikanavaista ja monimuotoista julkaisukulttuuria, missä kullekin osatutkimukselle ja julkaisulle pyritään tunnistamaan sille paras yleisö, ja oikea, spesifi julkaisukanava.

Julkaisujen avoimuuden lisäksi strategiamme siis kattaa myös pyrkimykset avata tutkimusaineistoja ja dataa mahdollisimman laajalti hyödynnettäväksi, sekä suuren joukon erilaisia kumppanuuksia ja tapahtumia, joiden avulla tähtäämme entistä vaikuttavampaan, avoimempaan ja relevantimpaan tutkimukseen. Olemme esimerkiksi vuodesta 2009 lähtien säännöllisesti toteuttaneet kansallisen Pelaajabarometri-tutkimuksen, jonka perusteella olemme voineet julkaista avoimesti perustietoa siitä, kuka pelaa, mitä pelaa, kuinka paljon – kaikki sellaista tietoa, jota on aktiivisesti hyödynnetty pelillistyvästä yhteiskunnasta käydyssä julkisessa keskustelussa, mediassa, ja esimerkiksi pelejä koskevan mediakasvatuksen linjauksia pohdittaessa.

On hyvä nostaa esiin yhteistyön merkitys tälle työlle. Kansainvälisen tiedeyhteisön lisäksi tärkeitä kumppaneita löytyy kotimaasta, esimerkiksi useiden tahojen yhteistyönä ja joukkorahoituksen tuella perustetusta Suomen pelimuseosta. Tässä yhteydessä kuuluu lausua kiitos myös kaikille näille toimijoille: tutkijoillemme, opiskelijoille – koko suomalaiselle pelikulttuuriyhteisölle!

Nyt meille myönnetty tunnustus toivottavasti tekee pelikulttuurien tutkimusta entistä laajemmin tunnetuksi, ja tarjoaa meille lisää mahdollisuuksia edistää tieteen, kulttuurin ja yhteiskunnan avoimuutta ja tasa-arvoa. Kiitokset!

Lisätietoja / more in English:

Adding Full-Frame to the Toolkit

Aglais io, the European peacock/neitoperhonen (an EOS R5 test).

With my focus on nature and bird photography, I have long preferred APS-C format cameras, due to the better “reach” (narrower field-of-view, with the same optics) that is important for photographing shy, far-away birds and animals particularly. Said that, several producers, Canon included, have put most of their research and development efforts into the full frame camera systems. I discussed the Canon EOS R System earlier in this blog (in February 2020), and while at that point I was committed with the EOS M line of APS-C cameras and lenses, I was also growing frustrated at the bad ergonomics and other limitations of EOS M cameras. However, there were also several downsides as well as possible long-term benefits in the more “professional” full frame EOS R System that left me hesitant at what to do in the long run. This summer, after rather lengthy consideration and research, I finally made the leap into the new, “full-frame era”. Or, more appropriately (as will explained below), I just decided to add one more tool into my toolkit.

EOS R5, with Sigma 150-600 mm C (shot late at night, with my EOS M50 and the old Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM).

When EOS R5 camera was introduced in summer 2020, much of the attention was focused on its amazing 8K video capabilities. However, as I am not a cinematographer, my interest was at the side of still image photography. The main “sales points” of R5 in this area include a 45 megapixel, full-frame sensor, up to 20 fps speed in continuous shooting (electronic shutter, and up to 12 fps mechanical), a built-in image stabiliser (up to 8 stops, with some selected modern lenses), and – perhaps most importantly for me – a really good autofocus system trained with machine-learning to pick up the shapes and even the eyes of animals and humans alike. There are additional benefits when moving from smaller, APS-C cameras, such as a really nice, deep grip to hold on (with M50 only two or three of my fingers, in addition to thumb, can touch the small body while carrying it), the full set of three rotary dials (enough for setting dedicated controls for both ISO, aperture and shutter speed, each with a dedicated physical control), longer-working batteries, better weatherproofing, dual card slots, less noise in low light, etc., etc. It is also worth noting that R5 uses the same processor (DIGIC X) as the more expensive, professional flagship DSLR camera EOS-1D X Mark II.

Muscicapa striata, the spotted flycatcher/harmaasieppo (testing R5 in a low light, fast situation inside a forest).

There are also significant downsides in a full-frame camera system, when compared to APS-C ones. The financial one is the most obvious: this is a much more expensive camera than any I have owned before. It is also worth noticing the camera body is just the first part of the investment, as the new, R system lenses are also generally expensive. They are robust, of high optical and physical quality, large and heavy. Going to a casual camera walk or run around a new city while on tourist mode, I will definitely rather prefer carrying the compact EOS M50 (387 g), coupled with e.g. the small and light EF-M 55-200 mm (260 g), rather than R5 (738 g) and RF 70-200 mm F2.8L IS (1070 g); there is also several thousands of euros/dollars price difference. Not to discuss the price and weight of any full-frame glass which reaches into the 400-600 mm area, which is where the true bird and wildlife photography generally tends to start. Thus, to sum up, I will not give up my EOS M camera and lenses anytime soon. There are uses and needs for both the large and the compact system. A serious R Series camera and lens setup is something that you would particularly take out when you are working for some particular, photographic goal or project. (This is why some people are actually paid to use these things. That is what “professional” means, after all.) The small system is good for those long walks.

Delichon urbicum, the house martin/räystäspääsky (a collage of shots testing the animal AF tracking of R5 with a very fast moving, flying bird).

In the actual bird photography, comparing ASP-C and R5/full-frame in the field, there are similarly plusses and minuses. The main strength (and one of the key reasons why I made this investment in the first place) of R5 is that the large, 45-megapixel sensor coupled with the image stabilisation and powerful AF system allows taking more, and more sharply focused images to start with. With very fast-moving objects like flying and bush-jumping birds, only a small fraction of photos is generally usable. A fast-shooting, fast-focusing camera-and-lens system makes a great difference in an actual wildlife photography situation. There is a “crop mode” in R5, which will narrow down the field of view into the same as the APS-C camera (applying Canon’s 1.6x crop factor, in-camera). But the full-frame image of R5, when cropped so that it would represent the same field of view as my old M50 APS-C camera is “only” 17.3 megapixels (my much cheaper M50 has 24.1 with that same field of view). However, the experience of shooting birds and wildlife with R5 is indeed better than M50: it is much easier to keep e.g. a flying falcon or swallow within the large image frame of R5, and the powerful AF system does a really good job in keeping the bird sharp in the image – as long as the photographer is capable of taking care of the targeting and composition at somewhat decent level.

Asio otus, the northern long-eared owl/sarvipöllö (it was almost completely dark, at midnight, at this point – testing the animal AF tracking of EOS R5 at the ultimate ISO 51200, f/6.3, 600 mm focal length, exposure 1/2000 s.).

In the 45-megapixel images there is room for cropping in many different ways. The optical quality does not magically change, of course, with the upgrade of camera body if one is still using same lenses as before; though, the reduction of noise and better low-light capabilities mean that it is possible to shoot birds with even pretty “slow” lenses (like my Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 C DG OS HSM), while going rather high ISO sensitivity values, and still come up with frames that can be used, particularly if software tools like Topaz DeNoise AI and Sharpen AI are applied in the postproduction. The main benefits of this upgrade from a crop-camera to a full-frame one in the end come from multiple areas, mostly ones related to the art and craft of composing and creating images, while it needs to be emphasised that the baseline optical image quality remains at the domain of lenses used.

A far-away osprey (Pandion haliaetus, kalasääski) fishing – EOS R5 does excellent work in tracking in harsh light, yet my zoom lens is also showing its limitations here, at this distance and with a lot of cropping applied.

There is apparently an interesting learning curve that comes with the transition from Canon’s entry-level into a full-frame/professional cameras. After couple of weeks, my automated procedures and reactions are still largely coming from the APS-C world, and, for example, I even still occasionally try to find the power switch from the old location (at top right; in R5 the switch is at top left). There are no pre-programmed “easy” photography modes such as the sports, macro, or portrait modes in the EOS R5 (there is the fully automatic, “smart” A+ mode, however). The idea seems to be that a photographer who wants to use a “pro” camera must understand the underlying logic of photography technique enough, and be able to set up different aperture, exposure etc. priorities according to the subject matter, scene, and desired effects.

It is nice to have a fast-focusing camera when e.g. a flock of Eurasian oystercatchers (Haematopus ostralegus, meriharakka) suddenly appear overhead.

The full user’s manual for R5 is 921 pages, and I have the feeling I have only just scratched the surface of what this camera can do, and how it should be set up. But I have at least started personalising the main settings, such as customising three back buttons for quick access into my three key wildlife focusing modes: animal-eye autofocus, spot AF, and single-point AF. The logic here is that when I can see the animal/bird relatively clearly (or, e.g., when I try to photograph a flying bird), I use back-button AF technique first with the AF-ON button set for “Eye Detection AF”. Secondly my asterisk (AE lock) button is now set for spot AF mode, and the last (AF point selection) button for single-point AF. These two are normally used when the focused subject is half-hidden, hiding among branches as is often the case; after the initial AF lock, the system usually is able to follow by tracking, so the focus stays locked, when the target has initially been pointed and identified. For this initial selection, there is both a joystick and a large LCD touchscreen that can be used for moving the focus point around. Currently, I find myself using the touchscreen more.

Falco tinnunculus (the common kestrel, tuulihaukka) – again, it was great to experience how effortlessly EOS R5 was able to keep the focus on the far-away falcon, while it was hunting.

There is more learning to be done, and I expect the possibilities opened up by the new system to challenge me for several years to come, in search for both better – or just more interesting – pictures and more improved photographic techniques and new ways of photographic thinking. However, my old cameras and lenses still remain in my toolkit, and they also have their times, places, and uses.

This common sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos, rantasipi) was captured late night while at lake with SUP / paddle boarding – this time again with my lighter EOS M50 camera.

Have a happy photographic summer!

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