Lonely Planet Writer

Have Star Wars spaceships been spotted flying across Helsinki?

A mysterious series of images have appeared online that seemingly show a selection of famous aircraft from Star Wars, such as X-wing Starfighters and the iconic Millennium Falcon, flying over snow-dusted landscapes near Helsinki. And while you could be forgiven for thinking that the characters from the legendary Galaxy far far away have travelled to Earth, the incredible images are actually the work of Vesa Lehtimäki, a talented scale model-maker and photographer.

The Millennium Falcon over Helsinki.
The Millennium Falcon over Helsinki. Image by Vesa Lehtimäki

“I have always loved movies, but it’s the technical side of them that fascinated me most. When my friends were fans of rock and roll bands, I was a fan of Industrial Light and Magic, the visual effects company founded by George Lucas in 1975. I imagined what it would look like when the spaceships and characters would be made fit in the barren northern tundra landscape. With my photographs, I have been able to revisit my childhood dreams, and modern ones, with today’s gear. Most of my spaceship images were taken within 500 metres from my home, which is about 20 minutes by bus from the centre of Helsinki. We live in this weird slot in the middle of everything, next to the central park, with no buildings in sight,” Vesa told Lonely Planet Travel News.

“Field of Dreams”, taken at a disused football pitch near the photographer’s home. Image by Vesa Lehtimäki

Vesa began building and photographing scale models in 1980, but found that the quality of cameras and equipment at the time was restrictive. It was only in 2009 that he began experimenting with macro photography, working seriously on intricate projects. All of the models featured in the photographs were built be Vesa himself, modified from commercial plastic injection kits and rare resin replicas. Each one requires a lengthy amount of time to build, before they are fitted with LED lights and fibre optics, as well as final flourishes that are made from scratch, such as brass landing gears for the cockpit interiors.

"A Day in Winter" saw Vesa shooting a road during a blizzard.
“A Day in Winter” saw Vesa shooting a road during a blizzard. Image by Vesa Lehtimäki

“Many of these photographs dream of traveling, one way or another, regardless of location where they were shot. We have four seasons of the year here, plenty of sunshine in the summer as we’re on the 60th parallel north and winters are dark and snowy after a wet fall. There have been Novembers on record with only 15 minutes of sunshine all month. It’s dark, rainy and cloudy. With a hometown like this, I don’t necessarily need to travel for a change of weather, it keeps changing on its own. But when I do travel, I take photographs with this project in mind,” Vesa said.

An X-wing fighter being filled up with gas near Vesa's house.
An X-wing fighter being filled up with gas near Vesa’s house. Image by Vesa Lehtimäki

Some of the scale models from the shoots are the exact same size as the replicas used during the filming of Star Wars, and Vesa estimates the correct angles needed to create the illusion, with the images being edited in Photoshop during the post-production phase.

The Millennium Falcon passing through Washington, DC.
The Millennium Falcon passing under a bridge in Washington State. Image by Vesa Lehtimäki

Vesa also photographs LEGO figurines in a number of interesting and whimsical poses at different locations, and is currently working on another figurine project featuring travel. More of his work is available on Flickr and Instagram.