Archive for September, 2009

Braslavschina – The most amazing place you’ve never heard of

September 28, 2009

Lake

I have just returned from Braslavschina – the region around the town of Braslav and as I mentioned in my last post, all of my expectations have been surpassed. There are plenty of old, traditional villages, wonderful, photogenic people and there are over 400 lakes – almost all of them ridiculously picturesque.

Perhaps it’s some sub-conscious thing about this region being a part of my “motherland”, but Braslavschina has quickly become one of my favorite places in the world. All I need to be happy is – something to photograph, some place to swim and some nice people to chat to. :) I can find all of that here, plus the kind of nature, which I only thought existed in fairy tales.

Ok, so I’ve fallen in love with this place, I really mean it. I’ve even enquired about prices of land and simple houses here and I have  found out that they are ridiculously cheap, at least by Western standards. If I find something suitable, I’ll soon have my own tiny piece of paradise, perhaps even one right on a lake.

Anyway, enough dreaming. Here’s a brief look at what I’ve seen so far. I’m in Minsk for a few days to sort out some paperwork on my newly bought ‘84 Volskwagen Golf II. It ain’t pretty, but it’s cheap, it’ll take me where I want and it’s mine. I’ll be coming back to Braslavschina as soon as I can. I’ve only scratched the surface, as far as photography goes.

Cow-herders-fieldTolik and Vatsik – two cow herders taking a break. It seems like I’ve got this strange attraction to cattle herders and fishermen, wherever I go. More on fishermen in the near future.

HerderTolik herding cows with a whip.

Grandma-at-tableAbove and below are images of kind elderly ladies from two different villages with the same story. In the really traditional villages there isn’t much youth these days and the old are the living, walking, breathing embodiment of the incredible history of this area.Babulya- -Cat

Church A prayer inside a church of the “Old Russian Orthodox” faith. It’s very similar to the “standard” Russian Orthodox religion, but all the prayer’s are written in ancient Russian and read accordingly. Only two people in this village can read them – this “Father” is one of them. The “Old Russian Orthodox” faith is almost extinct in Belarus. The three ladies in the background are basically the only attendees.

Batyushka-Port Father Akim (a very unusual name for Belarus) on his way out of the church.

milkmanEvery morning this man waits by the side of the road to sell is milk to large government-run co-operatives. Here he is returning home after selling the milk.

DedulyaGrandpa Alexei was very shy about being photographed. When it comes to photos initial shyness is a common reaction amongst most of the older people. They’ll usually say something along these lines – “Why would you want to photograph me? I’m not shaven” or “I haven’t even got my teeth”. To me however these faces are amazing, they say so much without the need for words. After a short chat and me explaining what I do everyone usually agrees to have their picture taken.

chainsaw-cutterThe modern way of preparing firewood – with a chainsaw.  The man – Vasily is one the few younger men choosing to live his life in the countryside. He does however work outside of his village, on construction sites in cities as large and as far as Moscow.

PastuxiBack to the cow herders – Tolik and Vatsik having their dinner by the fire. I won’t mention what they were drinking.

VovaVova is another rare find, he is the only young man in his village. The rest have moved out and now live and work in Belarus’ larger cities.  Photographically speaking this is the sort of portrait I am enjoying shooting more and more these days – a shot where the person is surrounded by objects that tell you something about his her life/culture.

Ok, that’s all for now. Needless to say, I can’t wait to go back and shoot some more stuff. I have also filmed some interviews and some scenes that are best communicated through “moving pictures”, but unfortunately my ancient laptop isn’t powerful enough to edit HD video. Well, I guess that’ll all have to wait.

Get Lost Magazine

September 25, 2009

Get-Lost

My image of “Kusti” wrestlers is featured as a double page spread on the inside of this issue of “Get Lost” magazine. Get Lost is a pretty awesome Australian travel publication which takes the reader far beyond the usual tourist destinations. I highly recommend it to anyone who can get their hands on it.

AP cover

As my fellow travel photographer Jeffrey Chapman pointed out to me in the last post, I was also featured on the cover of the “Amateur Photographer” magazine. Obviously that’s cool and I’m pretty proud of the fact. :) The cover image is above.

I am now in Braslav and in all honesty the region has exceeded any expectations I had. I found exactly what I was looking for and I’ve fallen in love with the natural beauty of the place, as well as the wonderful locals.  A few new images will be up online very, very soon.

That’s all for now, folks!

Into the Light: Amateur Photographer Magazine

September 17, 2009

APmag

This month there is a 6 page feature on my work in the “Amateur Photographer” – possibly the longest running photographic publication in the world. The article is called “Into the light” (as you can see above), fitting, considering the recent release of my eBook.

apmag1

I’m excited about this one. The interviewer was great and really tried to get to the essence of what I do from a practical perspective. As a result the feature is a “to-the-point” look at my photography and at how I shoot. I hope they send me a copy, it’s still kinda exciting to see my work in print. The magazine (weekly publication) is available in the UK and Australia, and perhaps in other  English speaking countries.

My website was finally included and there’s even a very quick plug for my eBooks. If you’re a reader of my blog you’ll know that I’ve had a few frustrating experiences with people forgetting to include my website into the magazines, so I’m real glad about everything working out just as I had hoped.

Speaking of the eBooks, I want to thank everyone who bought them over the past couple of weeks and a special thanks to everyone who spread the word about them. The response was even better than the first time. The income will give me the freedom to move around and shoot the subjects that interest me, and that’s all a photographer can ask for.

Right now my wife and I are at her sister’s apartment in Northern Belarus. We’ve stopped here on the way to Braslav – an area which is supposed to have some fascinating traditional (relatively) villages. I’m really glad to get away from Minsk! It takes only a couple of weeks of being in the city to remember why it felt depressing, even when I was a 10-year-old. The overwhelming, oppressing communist architecture and city planning might be fascinating over a short visit, but not if you have to live amongst all that crap. It feels like everything was planned to make the individual feel insignificant. You walk for hundreds of meters from one shop to the next, the streets are wide enough to fit a football field, but at the same time, the apartments in which people live are tiny and stacked on top of each other over 9 stories and more. In short I have no love for Minsk.

On the way to Novopolotsk (where Tanya’s sister lives) I saw the romantic, beautiful side of Belarus – green meadows, stacks of hay, forests and villages. This is what I came here for and this is what I finally have a chance to shoot.

Well, that’s all for now. Tomorrow I’m off to Braslav, I pray to the “photography Gods” to give me what I seek.

“Seeing the Light”: Making the most of available light and minimal equipment – the eBook

September 4, 2009

cover

At long last here it is, my new eBook on working with light! I think the title is pretty self-explanatory. You can see some sample screen grabs below and HERE you can download the sample PDF (845kb).

You can buy it HERE or click on the title image. The price is again US$12. After payment you’ll be automatically taken to the download link.

I wanted this eBook to be useful for photographers of different levels, from those who have just begun to understand how critical light is to photography, to the more experienced individuals ready to dive into the world of artificial lighting and try new things.

The information inside should be relevant to anyone who’s passionate about light, but wants to stay compact – that includes travel and documentary photographers, wedding photographers, portrait photographers and even low-budget commercial shooters.

In short here’s what the readers will learn after going through the eBook:

  • How to create “believable” looking artificial light with a single off camera flash in a softbox or with a reflector
  • How to get the most out of available light – with and without the help of artificial light
  • Gain a deeper understanding of natural light and how it can be used creatively, even in challenging situations
  • How to “sculpt” with artificial and natural light
  • How to light scenes with a flash without killing the existing atmospheric light

All you need to purchase the eBook is HERE.

page1List and explanations of my equipment

page02Breaking down images with descriptions and diagrams

page03 Comparison – Images taken with a flash and without

page04 Diagrams for working with the reflector

page05 Sample images taken under natural light with complete Exif data

If you like the e-book or know photographers who may find it useful – please spread the word. As with the previous eBook all the income from this will be used for good :) – i.e. photography and more travel, which will also result in more photography and more viewing pleasure for the readers of this blog. :)

Use the bar below to spread the word.

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Reflecting on our photography and looking at the “bigger picture”.

September 3, 2009

Make-up-Expert

As I sit and type this blog entry in the lounge room of my wife’s parents’ apartment and wait for the “higher powers” (not supernatural ones, just ones with connections) to tell me when I can go out and photograph what I want, I realize – I haven’t shot anything meaningful since I left India. That was in March!

I’ve had an unusually long break.  When I travel, which is most of the year – it’s intense photography virtually every day, but for the past six months I’ve barely lifted my camera. While I’d like to photograph non-stop, all year-round, I have come to appreciate my time away from shooting. I try to utilize this time in the best way possible. For me that means marketing my work, sorting through thousands of photos to find ones which I will submit to contests, magazines and to Getty Images. This is also the time to learn more about photography, to read blogs and to look at other people’s work.

By doing things photography related, without actually shooting I’m able to distance myself from my own work a little, and by looking at all the other photography out there, I’m able to see where my images fit in the larger scheme of things, to see what role if any my photos play in the world so saturated with imagery. The time away from shooting allows me develop a self-awareness that helps one grow and evolve as a photographer or artist.

I really like what Alexei Brotdotovich, one of the first photography theorists said in regards to evolving as a photographer. I don’t remember  the quote exactly, but it was something along these lines:

Once you develop a style and become known for a particular kind of work – turn in the other direction, stop being formulaic and re-invent yourself”.

The phrase is very idealistic and conflicts with commercially motivated things like branding and the importance of developing a particular style that sets you apart from others, but there’s wisdom here.  Personally, I wouldn’t go so far as to turn in a completely different direction, but I do try to change the way I shoot and the way I approach photography every now and then, sometimes fairly dramatically.

My hope is that people will still find a common thread throughout my work, but I don’t want my photography to be consistently predictable, I don’t want the viewers to be able to  pin down my images to some formula. A sort of semi-self-re-invention may even go down well with clients or editors. While they may not be pleased by a a completely off-the-wall new body of work, an element of surprise within limits might be very welcome.

An interesting “re-invention” quote that comes to mind is from one of my favorite filmmakers – Wong Kar Wai, whose visually distinct work has gained him a huge following over the years and started new industry trends.  In one interview a couple of years back Wong said – “Too many people are making Wong Kar Wai films these days, I’ve got to make different kinds of films now”.

Here’s a real example of an artist who’s reached a great level of success and fame, but is thinking of changing the formula that has made him what he is. That’s inspirational. In this case the artist is not bound by his work, he is a master and not the slave of his own creations, because he isn’t afraid of creating something new and different. Sure there’s a risk and the possibility of failure, but there’s always the chance that something amazing and genius will evolve from the new approach and to me that is much more exciting than repeating the same known formula time and time again.

Hopefully, in about a week, everything will be sorted out, as far as my plans to go out into the countryside and photograph in villages. In the meantime I might just put my own thoughts into action and shoot some stuff I usually wouldn’t, right here in the city. One thing for sure – all this time off is making my head swell with ideas!

Check this blog tomorrow, if everything goes as planned, the new eBook on light will finally be released.

“Color” Magazine Excellence Award Winner

September 1, 2009

awardwinner

Some of my images (8 over six pages) from Rajasthan should appear in this month’s issue of “Color” – a magazine from the same people who publish “B&W ”. I won some sort of excellence award (along with 15 other people) and while I don’t know what  this actually means, I thought I’d share the news nevertheless.

The publication seems like a really good idea, but geez, their website really needs to get with the times! “B&W” can occasionally be pretty darn good, so if this is anything like it, then please buy the issue and tell me what you think. I believe it’s available in the US, don’t know where else.

A featured article with my photos and an interview should also appear in the September 19th issue of “Amateur Photographer” – one of the longest running photographic publications in the world. By the sound of it, they’ll even include my website details! That will be a first in a long time. “Amateur Photographer” is available in the UK and Australia, that I know for sure, perhaps it’s also available in the US.


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