Impressionist Photography – Tallinn, Estonia

A model with a windblown veil
Karen K. with a windblown veil


I just spent another three weeks in Tallinn, Estonia, and after seeing how grungy the city was in March snowmelt (Tallinn is utterly lovely, but the end of winter always looks like nature has a hangover) I decided that moody, blurry black and whites might be a good thing. I saw some gorgeous photos of that sort on Flickr taken using a specialized lens called a “Lensbaby” (manufacturer’s site here if you’re interested), and found a local store selling Lensbaby Originals for about $110 US.

Old Town Hall/ Entrance to Tristan ja Isolde Cafe
Old Town Hall/ Entrance to Tristan ja Isolde shot with a lensbaby

Using a Lensbaby lends itself to what I think of as impressionist photography, full of blur and movement; it is imprecise but full of emotion. The effect is very painterly and somewhat old fashioned; it’s something for portraits and fine art, not stock photography. I’ve been in a bit of a rut, and it fit the bill for getting me out.

Stone towers and woman, Tallinn
Karen poses by Kiek in de Kock tower, Tallinn Estonia

My favorite travel networking group is Couchsurfing, and a sometimes-actress named Karen had posted that she needed a new headshot and some creative shoots before contacting an extras agency in her next city. I proposed trading a modeling session for the headshots, and we ended up spending a very cold and windswept afternoon exploring Tallinn’s Old Town and Toompea Hill fortifications.

I found about four meters of remnant organza in a fabric store my husband had hit for his Viking costuming, and we took it up to an overlook where the wind was blowing straight up a cliff and did wild things to the sheer fabric. We couldn’t keep it pinned to anything, and the wind was so strong it was hard to keep it from doing anything but flying straight out in a tight tube. Karen did an excellent job managing it though, and I’m thrilled with the photos we got.

I read a lot of fiction during my long Moscow transits between home and English students, so I’ve been shooting more with an eye to a project called “Books Not Written” – essentially photos that look like book or movie covers. The one on the right here, of Karen standing by the Tallinn city walls, is definitely going into it – it looks like a mystery novel cover, maybe one with fantasy elements, to me. Perhaps our mysterious heroine is a forensic alchemist?

You can see more photos from these sets in the albums Lensbaby Test and Karen K.

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