In August 2018 I received an app from my friend Floor Jansen. She asked whether I could travel to Finland in July 2019 for a photoshoot for her band Nightwish. I could also stay for a couple of days in the “Nightwish Summercamp”. I had to read the message three times before it sunk in what was asked of me. Doing a photoshoot for Nightwish? Me? And a short holiday in a beautiful nature reserve to boot as well? Of course I wanted to do that! With a lot of enthusiasm and disbelief I texted her back.
A month before the photoshoot I discussed with Floor what was required. Were the photo’s for a CD, promotional purposes or something else? And probably even more important; were the photo’s to be taken in a studio or on location? I was informed that the photo’s were meant for a tour poster and possibly for other events as well. The photoshoot would be both in a studio as well as on location. I was also asked if I could bring my own studio equipment, because renting a studio, or even studio equipment locally was not possible. The photo’s were to be taken during the days of rehearsels of Nightwish and it so happened that that was in a nature reserve in the middle of nowhere of Finland. So, with some mild stress I started to think what equipment I needed to pack and how I could get it all in one piece to Finland. I got some help and tips from Foto Gery Heerlen and at the end of July 2019 I boarded the plane to Finland fully loaded.
In Helsinki I met Troy Donockley. He greeted me with “Heya Darling” which made me feel welcome right away. Walking and chatting we made our way to the gate for our next flight for our final destination towards the middle of Finland. Marko Hietala was waiting for us on arrival. Again, there was a warm welcome and after some chatting our suitcases arrived. At least so I thought..Sure enough my suitcase with clothes arrived, but there was no sight of my suitcase with my photography equipment. I thought: This cannot be happening! But after some enquiries (my Finnish is not that great) my suitcase appeared lost.I had to fill in a form and had to describe how the suitcase looked like. My description of a black fabric bag the size of a coffin did raise some eyebrows, but they put it in the system nonetheless. When I told the flight attendant that I really needed my equipment the next day and that I would not be staying in a hotel nearby, I saw some panic in her eyes. However, she told me that everything would be well and that I should enjoy my holiday. It’s not that I had much choice..
After a car ride of an hour, we arrived at the Summercamp. Floor was waiting for me with a cold beer! It was great seeing her again and to be back at the Summercamp. It’s has such a beautiful environment! Floor’s daughter Freja called me immediately and told me to come to the house where I met the mother in law of Floor. She took care of Freja when Floor was working. After hugging all the Nightwish men, I could immediately join them for a homecooked meal. It may have been vegan, but it was delicious nonetheless! ?
During dinner I told them that my photography gear did not arrive yet and that I hoped that we could start on time. Tuomas Holopainen and Floor said to me: “Everything will be fine, we’ll call the airline tomorrow. The bag can’t really be lost and if it would arrive a bit later, we’ll simply reschedule some things. We can do the photoshoot on location first and than we’ll see whether the gear for the studio shoot has arrived or not. Take a glass of wine and enjoy a hot sauna.” These kind words did make me feel a bit more at ease, but still, what if my gear would be damaged, arrive too late or not at all? I did not sleep that well..
The next day I called the airline at 10 o’clock, but since my Finnish isn’t that great I was put through all the time. The Finnish makeup artist Marja offered to call on my behalf and look for my coffin. After a while we finally heard that the suitcase was found and that it was on it’s way to the airport. The airline offered to deliver it on our location, but since our location was difficult to find, we decided that it would be best if we go get that coffin ourselves. However, the band was already rehearsing, Marja would soon start with the makeup and I needed to prepare the location for the photoshoot. So the task fell to the husband of Marja; Jukka. He had to fetch my coffin. The poor man, 2 hours in a boiling hot car, just to fetch some photography equipment.
In the meantime, the preparation continued. Floor and the guys were already applied makeup and I was looking for good locations and configuring my camera. As time passed by I gradually become more nervous. What if it all goes wrong? What if the pictures are not good enough? I would not only disappoint the band, but also my best friend. And afterwards I would be spending 4 vacation days of with them! Luckily I got distracted by the arrival of Jukka with my photography equipment. Nothing was damaged. The photoshoot could continue!
After everyone was made pretty by Marja, we went outside towards our first location. An old dilapidated barn used for storing wood. Floor had been so kind to do a preliminary investigation and she came up with this location. It was perfect as background! After everyone had taken their positions and Marja and I had taken care of some details, the photoshoot began. And what a joy it was for the mosquitoes! There were entire legions. I believe that everyone had at least 5 bumps after our first location. The second location was 3 minutes further away. It was a beautiful rock formation at the other side of the camp. Here as well people were instructed where to stand and yes, the mosquitoes were present here as well. But that was to be expected 3 metres away from the lake. After some switches in positions I was done. The band seemed surprised that is was finished already. A photoshoot normally took a lot longer with them. However, I was sure I had taked good pictures, so I saw no need to prolong the outdoor photoshoot. The band was applied another layer of makeup, because with 30 degrees Celsius their eyeliner was floating over their cheeks. In the meantime I was setting up the studio in a small abandoned house. There was a terrible moldy smell, but it was the only suitable location for a photo studio. The band entered the house and was again surprised. This time because of the background, a black/grey spotted canvas. This happened to be exactly what they had in mind. Fortunately, because it was the only canvas I had.
We first decided to to some individual shots, eventhough it was not really necessary. However, I remarked:”We’re here, all dressed up. So why not?”. This seemed to convince the band and one by one I got them in front of my camera. After the individuel shots it was time for the group picture. In a studio it’s a little bit more difficult than on location. At least for me. Especially when the singer is the tallest of them all and the gitarist is about 50 cm shorter. There is also an unwritten rule that the singer is often in the middle, so that is what I was going for as well. At least at first. All were in a good mood, silly things happened, tin cans of Lonkero were distributed and everyone was at ease. Makeup artist Marja again helped me fantastically and before I knew it, the studio session was done as well. The last photo was enthusiastically celebrated with some more Lonkero and a lot of hugs from the band. I believe they were happy that it was all done ? And to be honest, I was as well, because now I could enjoy my holiday in peace. That evening we followed the same ritual as all the evenings that would follow: Wine, food, sauna, a fresh dive in the lake and some more wine. All accompanied by fantastic 80’s hits and magic tricks from Troy.
The next day the band wanted to see the photos. Together we watched the raw photos on the TV. Very scary, because in photoshop you can still make things “more beautiful”. And after repeating for about 5000 times that these really were just the raw versions, I assumed the band would understand. With a knot in my stomach I started the computer and the photos came by 1 by 1. It was completely silent ….. For a moment I felt panic: “Oh God, why does nobody say anything? Are the photos not good? Why did I think I could handle this? ”And then drummer Kai Hahto said: “That’s really cool!” And Tuomas and Floor who sat opposite of me immediately agreed . Pffffff what a relief!
The favorite photos were noted, the knot in my stomach was gone and I got a glass of wine from Floor. Believe me, wine has never tasted so good! And from that moment on, the holiday had really started!
The following days were incredibly laid back, the band rehearsed every morning and afternoon and I therefore had time to enjoy the sun and nature. And to spend a lot of time with Floor’s daughter, my “niece”, and her mother-in-law. And all that in my comfy jogging suit. Once again I realized how lucky I am. Few people get the chance to photograph a famous band, then celebrate a 4-day holiday with them and enjoy their secluded Summercamp. And all that with my best friend in my favorite country Finland!
After a few relaxing days I unfortunately had to pack my suitcase again. I had a ridiculously early flight, so at 7 a taxi was waiting for me. I had said goodbye to everyone the night before, so I tried to put my coffin and suitcase in the taxi as quietly as possible. The taxi ride lasted an hour and the Finnish taxi driver was a bit too happy so early in the morning. But I was able to learn some Finnish again. The flight to Helsinki was nice and fast and it was nice and quiet on the plane so I could sleep for a bit. Once I arrived in Helsinki, I decided to take the bus to the citycenter and walk through my favorite city. After all, I had to kill 6 hours before my next flight. After a delicious lunch at Senaatintori, a visit to the market and the shopping street, I took the bus back to the airport. A bought lots of salmiak licorice and Salmiakki (vodka with salmiak taste) and then I really had to go home.
The flight to Düsseldorf was very restless. I had 2 children sitting behind me and a mother who apparently had a real vacation and was turned “off”. I decided not to get agitated, my vacation wasn’t entirely over yet. Arriving in Düsseldorf, my parents were already waiting for me. Fortunately, my suitcase with clothing soon arrived, but where was my coffin with my photo equipment? Not again! My fellow passengers eagerly grabbed their bags and soon I was alone, without my coffin. So I went to the counter for lost luggage again. Déjà vu…
Thanks to Tom Schuijt for the english translation.