1.1 SetupAfter planning the move for years, some 18 months ago I moved to Helsinki, the capital of Finland. I traded my idyllic rural cabin in the woods (Sätös, Outokumpu) and my car for a nice urban apartment which offers the absolute dream of mine: great central location; quiet on the inside; busy on the outside.
This move was largely (but of course, not alone) motivated by the immense number of photo opportunities that would arise from being in the heart of a 1.5-million people metropolitan area.
I had my good-sized honey moon period with the city but of course things cooled down come first winter, and now Corona has kept things down-low.
Now, I don't know. I visited family in Iisalmi and I was quite nostalgic about "rural" living again.
1.2 Cost of LivingThe gap in CoL and real estate between the capital region and Northern Savo is vast.
In Helsinki real estate, the price of a square meter (around 10.8 sqft), in those neighborhoods I'd prefer to live in, is approaching €10k. In Kuopio the prime spots command something like €2.5k a square meter.
In Helsinki I live on rent because of flexibility and financial situation. I hit quite a jackpot with my current apartment but of course in one sense you are always throwing money away when you rent from somebody.
This difference, on a yearly basis, could fund quite a bunch of camera gear or something else altogether.
1.3 The old joy of street photographyIn my Sätös days street photography was something for which I had to travel 30 or 70 miles to get to a nearest larger town. This system was kind of nice in a way. I'd pack my Billingham a bit more full, bandaids, whatnot. Make a day out of it. Have burgers and coffee on the go.
These days the city begins from my doorstep, I don't buy coffee or have burgers. I eat and drink before I leave, or after I come back. My Billingham is not as packed – even though old habits die hard, and there's a box of band-aids and some ibuprofen packed in even though my typical walk is hardly more than 90 minutes on the average.
1.4 An interesting factoidWhile the greater Kuopio only populates some 120 thousand people as opposed to the Capital region's 1.5 million, Kuopio's comparatively small center is peculiarly active and alive and dense.
Due to urban planning and zoning restrictions, the population density in Kuopio matches that of Helsinki!
There are other factors in play as well. For example Helsinki has several market squares and their activity thus is scattered around. Kuopio has a clear distinct winner for a market square.
1.5 What is my real calling?Indeed, didn't I move to Helsinki to pursue greener street photography pastures? So what's this new situation then?
Corona or no, for supposedly being a street photographer wannabe I haven't spent exactly too much time on the streets. If I lack the passion to try, wasn't it more productive for my time for me to admit this and pursue these other styles that I enjoy doing, and often post on these forums.
If street photography was not the focus of my style, suddenly it would make sense for me to relocate so that my resources (time and money) were best utilized towards these goals.
1.6 The fourth season!Southern Finland doesn't see a proper, snow-clad winter landscapes every year.
1.7 The dream and the realityHelsinki offers, like any big urban city does, culture, people, activities, night life, fine dining, happenings. Do I partake to any of this? Not really. It's like I bought a big V8 and then just let it run idling.
What I do enjoy are the numerous cityscapes and seascapes and easily-accessible nature reserves in all directions around me. But I have to wonder if it's worth the small premium I pay.
1.8 Vehicular lifestyle again?Introducing a car with all the taxes and maintenance and gas to the cycle would most definitely bring Kuopio and Helsinki very close together. Very close!
After all, a big piece of rationale for me was to calculate what it cost me to operate a car in a cheap environment, compared to just going car-less in Helsinki. It goes almost even.
But then again, I'm not thinking about a house in the woods, I'm thinking a small apartment in a city. The costs are lower overall. And to balance that, the costs of car ownership have gone up.
There's a lot to dislike about cars in general – taxes and expensive gas was not the only thing I was glad to get rid of. Unreliability (surprise bills from the shop), inflexibility in urban situations, having to find free parking.
In rural situations cars are of course invaluable and most wonderful. Lately I've seen cars romanticized by landscape-shooting Youtubers, who pretty much represent the car as a part of the toolkit you can use to take ace photographs.
Say, why don't I just rent one when I think I could do a week of driving. In general car rentals in Helsinki are about 100 € (per week) cheaper than in Kuopio.
Especially when considering that wintertime means it'll be pitch black outside before I get out of work so what use will that thing be for me for half of the year?
One alternative would be to locate not in the center but nearby. This way the nostalgia of driving to shoot streets would be back. But at the same time, it's a hassle. It's unwanted factors and complications.
1.9 Financial considerationsThe rent I currently pay would pay off a decent apartment in Kuopio center in 10, 15 years. In Helsinki my financials would not allow a reasonably large loan to buy an apartment here.
At the same time, I don't exactly live at a loss currently either. I'm able to save up pretty nicely. My absurdly cheap lifestyle allows for Leica cameras and decent-sized savings off of a mediocre income.
Just can't help thinking that instead of saving X money each month I could be saving X plus rent money minus loan interest minus "condo fees". That is, I could be saving considerably more than I do now.
Mortgage interest rates are super low currently, to boot.
1.10 The financial corollaryA low-expense domicile allows more frequent domestic trips, or foreign trips for that matter. Experiencing or revisiting an old place is more fun this way anyhow.
1.11 Any place is goodI tend to subscribe to the idea that every scene, no matter how mundane or boring, will contain a good photograph in it.
With this in mind, Kuopio or something similar will have a life's work in it for a shooter who sees it.
1.12 ConclusionThis is like GAS but this time with relocation woes.
Like with any decision, it should be carefully considered and then left for further consideration. But each passing month is like throwing money away, living on rent like that.
I'll sprinkle a selection of shots I've taken in Kuopio over the years. I haven't even been there that many times. My filing suggests 6 or 7 trips since 2016 when I started photography.