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Vancouver – Street Photography

As I mentioned in the previous post I went to Vancouver to see family, my mum hadn’t seen my Auntie for a few years so I said I would go out there with her.  I did a fair bit of shooting with Models whilst there, and also as usual Pete and I went out to shoot in the street on a few occasions, a mixture of night photography (Long Exposure/Low ISO and Short exposure/High ISO), some daytime shooting from the hip, and some shooting interesting scenes of people.

So with the night photography, first of all it was raining which wasn’t ideal, but secondly it was late on Saturday night, so lots of ‘merry’ people around but there were a few level platforms I could rest the camera on for longer exposure shots, got some nice light trails when a bus pulled into the shot on a long exposure of the newly renovated, but historic Hotel Georgia:-

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Occasionally though on these walks around the street you seem something really strange, this guy had been staring at the tinted glass for a while on the way down the street and was still there when we got to him:-

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The next main walk around a few days later I had stuck the 50mm lens on the camera because I had been using it with a model earlier that day, ideally I would have liked to use a wider lens, but it worked ok for me, got some interesting results with a lot from the hip, but also some shots I couldn’t resist when I saw an opportunity.  This shot is ne of my favourite shots of the year for me so far:-

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Saw another interesting guy talking to cars:-

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And this crossing place letting the guy know what it thought of his dress sense:-

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I took a few shots that day and on the rainy night, have a look at the rest of them by clicking the thumbnails below to see the full image.

Where am I now?

Well, it has been a while since I wrote in the blog, but I am not really travelling anymore, old news for most of you but here is the round up of what has been happening.

In May were leaving Moscow to move to Hamburg, although a few days before the move Lou got an offer of a move back to the UK with another promotion, so, although we were both looking forward to moving to Hamburg we headed back to Oxford.  Since then I have been planning to open a Photography Studio, which I now have just about got open, it is called PH Positive Studio, and it is in Bicester, Oxfordshire.

Having already said I haven’t really been travelling, I have been back to Moscow once, had a few weekends in Spain and the UK for breaks, and I went to Vancouver.  I will try to write some catch-up posts because I had some fun times, and got some great shots, from shots of my Niece and Nephew playing in the pool in Spain:-

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Although there were a few close calls the camera managed to survive!.

 

My big trip was a holiday in Vancouver to see family, my mum hadn’t seen my Auntie for a few years so I said I would go out there with her.  Whilst there the weather was mostly miserable with some sunny days, but we stayed for 9-10 days so we saw more than I did last year in the few days I was there with Lou.  I did a fair bit of shooting with Models whilst there, and also as usual Pete and I went out to shoot in the street with some night shots on a rainy (going to stormy) Saturday night downtown, and a few other street shooting session.  I will post more about this trip in another post but here is one of my favourite street shots, from the hip, to the side of me:-

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Weekend in Kazan

Kazan is the modern day capital of the Russian Republic of Tatarstan and lies about 450 miles to the east of Moscow where the Volga and Kazanka Rivers meet. Kazan was formed in the early 15th century but became the capital of the Tatar Khanate that emerged from the Golden Horde although it said the the Volga Bulgars also had a settlement on this site for a few hundred years by then.  Ivan the terrible tried three times to conquer Kazan before he succeeded in 1552, at this point the native Tatars that survived the siege were encouraged to become Christian in order to maintain their positions, or thrust into obscurity and possibly even killed.

These days Kazan is mainly made up of a mixture of the Sunni Islam Tatar people, and the Orthodox Russian people with a mixture of Churches and Mosques scattered around the city.  But it is in the Kazan Kremlin where you see both of these types of religious building brought together almost side by side with the relatively new Qolsharif Mosque and the Annunciation Cathedral.

The Qolsharif Mosque is a modern construction that was started in 1996 and was inaugurated in 2005 and is built on the site of the original Mosque that was destroyed when Ivan the terrible successfully invaded in 1552.

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The Annunciation cathedral is worth a look around inside, and on this visit we had a guide who actually explained the make-up of a typical Russian Orthodox Church, how the icons are laid out, and why, it was fascinating.

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Although the photo about was taken using a wide angled lens which distorts slightly, the Soyembika Tower to the left of the shot is actually one of the worlds few leaning towers. As our guide excitedly explained the legend surrounding the the construction of the tower and its purpose is as interesting, if not more so than the rest of the buildings in the Kremlin. The story goes that the last Queen of Tatarstan, Soyembika had refused to marry Ivan the Terrible on two occasions, hence the attempted invasions.  On the third attempt Ivan the terrible succeeded in invading Kazan, and still the Queen was refusing to marry him, but to stop further bloodshed the queen relented on one condition, that he have a building built taller than any other in Kazan, and that he do it in 7 days. Ivan had the tower built adding a new section/storey every day until it was completed on the seventh day, Soyembika climbed to the top of the tower apparently to check he had succeeded then threw herself from the top of the tower to the ground below.

Kazan is a mix of old architecture that has been well preserved and renovated (probably for the *ahem* ‘Millenium celebrations’ in 2005), and some really run down buildings that are either in the process of being renovated, or being allowed to become derelict to the point of falling down.  The people though are very nice, they were polite, courteous, and welcoming and seemingly didn’t care that you were obviously foreign (in some other places we have visited in Russia the people have sometimes been very inquisitive about why foreigners want to visit there).

On the whole it was well worth a visit, a weekend is probably enough time, but be sure to go to the other old areas of the city that have mosques scattered around, we only got a short look at this part of the city and would like to see more of it.

I am trying out using a gallery slideshow below instead of the usual gallery, if you can’t see it go here to see the gallery as a webpage.

 Weekend in Kazan

Golden Ring Cities – Sergiev Posad

Sergiev Posad is the closest of the ‘Golden Ring’ cities near to Moscow, of the Golden Ring we have already visited Vladimir and Suzdal.   We hadn’t been to the Golden Ring in winter, Sergiev Posad is the closest to Moscow, and also looks amazing in the winter so a group of us decided to visit for a couple of days.

We had booked to stay in a Dacha that actually turned out to be an old brick building that was in the town and it turned out had, in the last few years been devastated by fire.  The lady who ran the Dacha, sveta had a breakfast of Blini made for us when we arrived on Saturday morning which we ate before heading off into the forest. Our driver drove us to the edge where horses that were pulling sleds were waiting, we mounted the sleds and away we went into the fantastically wintery forest:-

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We arrived into a clearing in the forest where there was a fire burning, and Sveta’s son waiting for us with drinks, and later sausages to cook over the fire.  There was a bank of snow that had been built up in the clearing and small sledges that resembled dustbin lids that people used to sledge on in the old days in the UK:-

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Weirdly they also had a little cubbyhole dug out of the slope with a bearskin laid out which was a bit strange, but all the same it was interesting.  After riding around the forest on the horse-drawn sleds and eating and drinking we headed back to the Dacha, after a short rest we headed off to the Monastery that is the main attraction of Sergiev Posad.  The monastry, ‘Trinity Lavra of St Sergius’ is the spiritual home of the Russian Orthodox Church. It has developed from the original 14th Century wooden collection of building that formed the original monastery founded by St Sergius to the fortified monastery in place since the end of 17th century.

Inside the monastery walls there are many cathedrals and churches of varying age and appearance, they make an visually stunning set of buildings that were hugely busy even in the middle of winter with the snow coming down heavily:-

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After an hour or two the light was failing so we headed back to the dacha where Sveta had prepared traditional food starting with Borsch which was delicious. The dinner was followed by some quiet time for me as the girls used the Banya in the house and  jumped into the snow outside afterwards, and following this some entertaining traditional Russian Karaoke (sic).

The next day after breakfast we headed out and notice a nearby building on fire with firefighters seemingly keeping it from affecting nearby houses and controlling the fire enough to let it burn itself out, turns out the wooden house was abandoned and filled with trash:-

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We wondered around the town and into a museum about the home life of Russians that had lived in Sergiev Posad, it included traditional clothes, the setup of the houses, and working equipment made of wood to make clothes and rugs.  It was actually fascinating as one of the curators spoke excellent English and talked us through the place, it turns out she was a passion for textiles, and eventually found out she and her mother showed their handmade traditional dolls worldwide.  Another museum that was pretty interested was the actual Toy Museum, although without a guide as such we were limited to looking at the myriad of toys from throughout the ages, and got to pay with some traditional wooden toys.

All in all the weekend was great, glad we visited in the winter as the place looked amazingly bright, on the other hand it didn’t really stop snowing the whole time we were there.

As always with the gallery below please click the thumbnails to see the full image.

Studio Nudes – Adriana

The final part of the session with Paul (Following on from  the previous portrait post, and Lingerie Post) was the Nude section, half of which looked pretty uncomfortable for Adriana until Paul got her a cushion to put under her back (she was bent backwards over the arm of the chair).

This time we started with the high-key look utilising all the lights and with Adriana in a comfortable position:-

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Adriana then changed position  to the one that appeared really uncomfortable with the lighting changed once again to give her the appearance of a darker skin tone:-

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Paul then gradually took the lights away, and changed some positions of the lights and after a few shots I took one of my favourite shots of the day, the background light spilling onto her face looks perefect to me.:-

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Adriana once again changed position to sitting on the chair and gave another great shot that was more low key and Adriana was a little more comfortable but more demur:-

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The light was pretty consistent after that so we tried a number of poses, and finally I really liked this one, and I left this one without converting to Black and White:-

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The one consistent thing I did notice during the nude shots was Adriana’s expression was always very serious without looking uncomfortable which I liked.

The full gallery of the images is below, just click on the thumbnails to see the full, uncropped images:-

Studio Portraits – Adriana – Lingerie

Continuing from the previous post the session with Paul and Adriana moved on to Lingerie shots of Adriana following a similar pattern of experimentation with the light, this time with a window blind as the background.

The lighting varied from a single light with no fill light like this black and white image:-

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Paul encouraged me to try shooting from different heights to see the effect, in the shot above I was kneeling down on the floor looking up at Adriana, then for a couple of the shots I got even closer to the floor.  Showing more of her legs from very low down as in the shot below is very flattering and makes Adriana’s legs look longer:-

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From here Adriana sat on the chair and we began to change the lighting to get some more interesting looking shots, again I got a great low-key shot with just the background brolly moved slightly so that it was also spilling some light to camera left onto Adriana:-

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We moved along taking more shots, including some with gels on a light behind the blind until we moved on to Adriana using the chair as a prop rather than sitting on it.  Out of these shots I really like the one below, I like the way your eye draws in from the bottom left up the two arms to the face:-

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Again all the shots, good or bad, good or bad lighting are in the gallery below, click on the thumbnails to show the full image.

Studio Portraits – Adriana – Headshots

Last week I went to Paul’s Studio in Reading, UK to get some one-to-one lighting tuition with Paul for around 3 hours.  Of all the tuition/workshops I have taken previously this was the most intense but also the most enjoyable.  The session was split into three parts, head and torso, Lingerie, and Nude.  This first post is concerned with head and torso shots.

On first impressions Paul was an amiable guy with a very personable manner, this first impression did not change as the session progressed as he answered any questions I had and helped by directing the model where necessary.  The session started out with a brief chat about the lighting we would be using, then we got down to the headshots of Adriana, adding and taking away lights to show the effect each light had on the final image.  I had initially thought I was purely interested in contrasty low-key images like this:-

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This however would have been impossible without building up an understanding of how to control the light and the effects that, adding, removing, tweaking the lights.  I found the practical demonstration of using white or grey backgrounds to achieve many shades from pure white to almost black to be very useful, although I was aware you could do this, showing how, and explaining why was great for me.

It was difficult for me to pick out my ‘favourite’ portrait shots, I like the contrasts in the image above, the fresh high key images like this:-

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We did a lot of moving the lights around and changing the modifiers along with the use of gels on the background like this:-

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I found the range of looks you can achieve with the lighting in the studio to be fascinating and has lead me to want to experiment with my own studio lighting more.

Here are the all of the shots from the session that I liked, some are much better composed than others, but as this was a tuition session I have posted the full range of shots I took:-

Travel Photography – Yekaterinburg Part 2

The next day we went for a walk down the river Isset from the original wooden dam (albeit with newer stone facing) that we saw on our first day here (see previous post), it had a slightly eerie look in places as steam was coming from the river, warmed and mostly melted from the warmer water coming from the dam and run off from the city.

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Walking down the bank from the historic centre we got closer to the pub we visited the previous night but first we came across some old machinery left from the industrial days and on it soem very cool, very simple, very sweet chalked on graffiti.

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After walking around the back of Doctor Scotch there is a surprising site on the river bank, a monument to the Beatles, in fact the only one of its kind in Russia, very strange to see it here, but we were assured it is due to their popularity in the area at the time, and the amount of bands produced here in soviet times.

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Walking down the River was an interesting mixture of old and new industrial buildings, offices, parks shrouded in snow and even the new Presidential residence referenced in the previous post. As we got closer to the dome of the circus the river had more and more mist lingering over it and out of the mist appeared ghostly looking ducks, I am not one for photographic birds too often, but these looked interesting appearing from the mist>

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We did eventually arrive close to the circus and as the sun was behind it I got a good chance for a silhouette of the suspended circus dome with the contrasting sharpness of the skyscraper in the background.

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After crossing the road ridge by the circus we walked around to a park on the opposite bank where there was some great warm sunlight filtering through the trees so I took the opportunity to take some portrait shots of Lou even though the snow on most of the park (apart from the footpath) was a foot or so thick.

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After a walk down the bank of this side of the river bank into the historic centre we met up with Luba from Yekaterinburg for you for a trip out of the city to Ganina Yama where the last Tsar and his family were dumped into a mineshaft initially after being killed in the city.  On the way we stopped at the old Yekaterinburg Train Station which was a beautiful old build with an interesting and detailed statue outside.

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When we had driven to Ganina Yama we found a working Monastery made of wood with a small permanent contingent of monks and the monastery has 7 separate Churches in the grounds, one for each member of the family that were killed.  One of the other things you can see here is a fascinating outdoor photo exhibition of family photos taken by Tsar Nicholas II’s family themselves which was fascinating, especially the similarity between the top half of Tsar Nicholas’ face and that of President Medvedev.  The churches themselves looked amazing bathed in the late afternoon glow as you can see.

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Listening to what happened at the time made for a pretty solemn walk around the site, as although this was the initial ‘burial’ site the bodies were moved soon afterwards to Porosenkov Ravine, although the location was not officially recorded, clues to its location were found in the Bolshevik records.  The remains found at the second site were confirmed to be at least relatives of the Romanovs by DNA from the living descendants of the Tsar his wife including the British Royal Family.

After walking around the while for a while we drove to the Europe/Asia border marker which although it looks pretty subjective now, at the time it was first defined the line also marked a separation of completely different ecosystems.

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After some really tasty Shashlik at a small place not far from the marker we headed back to the city where we left our guide and our driver and we had another look at the religious ice sculptures in the grounds of the Church on the Blood which are fascinating to see, especially at night, and especially this ice model of the church itself.

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For the rest of the shots on this second day of the trip just click on the thumbnails below to see the full images and if you hven’s seen it please see the first part of this two-part story.

Travel Photography – Yekaterinburg Part 1

We were looking to travel somewhere at the last minute for the weekend,somewhere for the two of us to get away alone so we consulted our list:- Murmansk – Too cold and dark yet, St Petersburg – been too many times, Sochi – Too much rain, and Yekaterinburg – cold but not too cold and sunny for most of the weekend.  It just so happened that I had recently made contact with a private tour guide based there and was available this weekend and although flight times were odd we booked it.

Although barely getting a (positive) mention in many western guide books it holds a special place in the hearts of Russians as the place where the last Tsar and his family were killed by the Bolsheviks, and subsequently revered as Saints of the Russian Orthodox church.

We arrived just before 5am on the Russian Budget airline, Air Express which was an experience, loud drunk people carrying on the previous night’s party,  but luckily the flight only lasted for 2 hours.  First impressions of the city even at that time was a city that was more modern and industrialised than Moscow, most apartment blocks on the drive into the city looked shiny and new with not so many of the old Soviet style blocks.  First impressions of the people were also positive, a taxi driver who didn’t want to take us for as much money as possible, and the hotel reception staff and security at the Grand Avenue Hotel who were kind and courteous.  The receptionist almost apologised we would have to pay 50% of the standard room charge to check-in that early in the morning which was expected and we were glad we could check-in at all, 5 hrs later we had eaten breakfast at the hotel and were ready to explore on our own for a few hours before we met with the guide.

Wondering around with or without researching ahead of time is pretty much how Lou and I usually get to know a new place and so we set off for a walk and as the hotel was conveniently located on Prospect Lenina we were soon in the thick of things.  In the main square opposite the Regional government building an ‘Ice’ city had been constructed and with the low winter sun passing through it looked fascinating, but not as much as at night time as we would find out later.  Just a little further down Prospect Lenina and we came to Ulitsa Vaynera, a wide pedestrianised street that the locals like to think of as their Arbat (as in Moscow), as people enjoy the walk down this street often clutching mobile phones:-

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We spent quite a while wondering up and down this street before deciding to head back to the hotel to meet out guide for the afternoon, Luba from ‘Yekaterinburg for You’ (which you can find on Facebook).  After metting with Luba we took a walk down the dam that we had seen previously between the city’s lake and the continuation of the River Iset, she explained that under the dam was an 18th Century hydro electric plant constructed from Larchwood that once powered the first Iron production in the area.  This plant had been decommissioned but is now working again using the original workings that were found to be still intact due to the resilience of larchwood.  From here we walked past the statue of Popov, widely believed in Russia to be the ‘Inventor’ of radio, although Marconi and Tesla were working on it at the same time he still credited inside Russia as its inventor.

Once in the literary quarter the road names change to suit and you see a sweeping statue of Pushkin, and again this statue seems more modern that its counterparts in Moscow and St Petersburg:-

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From here, on the way to the Church on the Blood you can see how far it is to Moscow in the old Russian Versts:-

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The Church on the Blood was built in 2003 on the spot where Tsar Nicholas II and his family were killed by the Bolsheviks before fleeing the advancing White Army, the Tsar and the four members of his immediate family were made into saints and this is their church.

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After a walk around the outside the Church looking at the religious ice sculptures we wandered down towards the Afghan war memorial that is shaped like a black tulip with a large simple statue of a soldier sitting in the middle.  Nearby are two points of interest, the former KGB buildings where the families of KGB officers lived and Luba told us that the lower and underground floors had the ‘offices’ of the KGB and therefore the interrogation rooms.  The second place is the War Museum  wich we didn’t really have time to see, but outside you can see the a similar missile battery that brought down the U2 spy plane in 1960.  After a brief coffee and snack we said goodbye to Luba for the night with some suggestions of places to eat and drink that night we went for another walk to the ice city to see it at night time.  There were a lot of people there but it looked great all lit up and this year the theme celebrates the anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s first space flight.

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Although it has chilled down a little to -26C by the early evening and not having a tripod with me I did get a chance to take some night shots on the way back to the hotel such as this water tower, one of the historic buildings of the original settlement.

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Also this building was Sevastyanov’s House, a businessman who made his fortune during Gold Rush in Yekaterinburg at the beginning of 18th century, until recently it was also the President’s residence in Yekaterinburg until a new residence was built in the summer of 2010.

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Later that night we took the suggestion of eating and drinking at Dr Scotch, a ‘Scottish style pub’ whatever that means, although the food was delicious and the odd music mix of 80′s and 90′s ‘classics’ worked.

As usual you can see more photos in the gallery below, click the thumbnails to see the full shot.  And read part two here.

Holiday Family Portraits

After the nightmare scenario over the Christmas holidays in getting from Moscow to Spain via UK the long way it was great to see family and family friends. I took my camera around with me a lot of the time, first to Noche Buena, the night before the traditional Christmas day with family and friends, I really like this shot of my Mum, Brother, and Lou enjoying themselves and semi-posing at the last second:-
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I also took a few that were candid as the night went on including this one of Family friends Gunter and Anna-Maria trying to squeeze a last bit of gin from the bottle:-

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I haven’t spent Christmas morning with my Nephew and Niece before so I took the camera with me whist they unwrapped some of their presents, and although my nephew was still a little shy it was great to be there with them.  Here is my Nephew distracted whilst playing on the Wii:-

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My niece is less self conscious and was happy to have her photo taken even when her Daddy was playing with her:-

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On Boxing day we went up to see my brother’s new family house and land partway into the renovation and managed to get a great shot of the four of them at the top of the hill that their olive and almond groves sit on:-

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Finally on one of the last few days in Spain my brother was playing with my nephew and I got this cute shot of the two of them:-

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You can see the rest of my informal family shots in the gallery below, as always click the thumbnail to see the full shot.

Wildlife photography – Predators of Europe

I booked this workshop a while ago via Tatra Photography aiming to learn some new skills, as wildlife photography isn’t really a speciality of mine. The booking process went smoothly, and as the time of the workshop approached Matt let me know that the professional photographer who would be leading the workshop was Chris Weston.  I knew I had heard the name before and an hour or two of research showed me why when I saw some his amazing work.

After arriving into Prague, and meeting up with the rest of the group we were driven to the Guesthouse in Neuschönau which was at a surprisingly high standard considering the cost of the workshop, the briefing for the next day was short and to the point then we were left to eat and socialise for the rest of the evening.

The reserves we were going to in the Bavarian Forest all have huge reserves for the animals, large enough for them to exhibit some natural behaviour, however the animals do all have their food provided by park rangers.

Arriving at the first of the reserves we went to in the Bavarian forest, the weather was great if a little gloomy and I was beginning to wonder if my 100-400mm f’/4 – 5.6 was going to get me decent results without cranking up the ISO too high.  The first enclosure was the bear enclosure where unfortunately a large part of the viewing area was closed for repairs however within about 30 seconds I had done what I had failed to do in 2 weeks in Kamchatka, see a bear. I was pleasantly surprised how the camera coped with the higher ISO I needed to use and got some decent enough detail such as these Bear paws with those huge claws:-

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I must admit to being a bit trigger happy trying to get a decent shot of the bears that I really liked I actually really liked this shot of the bear hiding behind a bush:-

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Not the typical Bear photo I know but I do have a few of those too that you can see in the gallery below.  Making our way through the reserve we arrived at the Wild boar enclosure which was a bit different as you can get very close as you are in the open enclosure itself which allowed me to get very low to eye level with the boars. This close contact was great, to be able to see the babies copying the larger adults foraging for food close by and amongst us:-

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Whilst the contact was great, when you see the teeth on some of the medium sized boars (the big males stayed back) it was definitely enough to make you keep an eye on where the boars were as soon as they got relatively close:-

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They did eventually come in very close, I was down low but had my feet forward so its investigations were limited to chewing on my boot, another had one try to chew on his knee, and another had a boar try to get into his bag at his lunch.

The main focus of my trip came next, the wolves who at first were mostly sleeping and for the most part blended in really well in the bushes, trees, and rocks in the huge enclosure, after an hour or two waiting around the wolves were going to be fed.  At this point the wolves scattered to the far side of the enclosure as naturally they avoid human contact.  But they come closer looking for the ranger’s van to leave after leaving the food whilst eying the food:-

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Chris explained to us that the wolves will feed in strict hierarchy with the Alpha Male then Alpha female feeding first, followed by the Beta Male and Female and at this point the main body of the Pack, the Subordinates are not allowed to feed until the Alpha gives them approval to begin feeding, then finally the Omega wolf feeds last if the Alpha male allows it. It was interesting to see the body language of the wolves whilst they were feeding with some of the lower ranking wolves quickly jumping at the food after gaining approval and then skulked off constantly looking back (presumably for threats) with its tail between its legs:-

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A quick look at the bears on the way back out of the reserve was well worth it as the cubs were playing, it does look pretty brutal but all part of the cubs growing up strange though that one minute they look very cute and seconds later brutal and fast:-

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Back at the hotel Chris spent a couple of hours talking about his approach to photography, much of what he said re-enforced what I am learning on my course, I won’t go into it too much but check out these tuition sheets on Chris’ site.  The next day we went to another reserve for the morning where there were a few lynx living together in the same large enclosure, they were pretty shy though as it was raining a lot, and although I started off seeing the wolves in this reserve I returned to lynx to try and be patient and eventually I got a few shots even if they are a little noisy:-

20101116 untitled 934 Wildlife photography   Predators of Europe

After a few hours we went back to the first reserve to check out the bears again, it was raining pretty heavily and was pretty dull, but eventually the cubs decided to play in the water and we were able to get slightly closer, the weather conditions leant themselves to getting some action shots with slower shutter speeds:-

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The other thing it gave me a chance to do was play around with the video function of my camera:-

The final day was spent at the second reserve again and I spent most of the time with the wolves in different areas of their enclosure, the light was a lot better, and the wolves moved out of the trees much more:-

20101117 Bavaria 1213 Wildlife photography   Predators of Europe

We also saw much more of the pack together whether in groups or just in pairs:-

20101117 Bavaria 1251 Wildlife photography   Predators of Europe

20101117 Bavaria 1260 Wildlife photography   Predators of Europe

They also came much closer to the edges of the enclosure, perhaps curious about us, but not sure:-

20101117 Bavaria 1266 Wildlife photography   Predators of Europe

One of the wolves we noticed was injured and was constantly on the move, and was probably the omega or at most a low ranking subordinate, you can see its wound on the neck whilst it was taking a drink from a puddle here:-

20101117 Bavaria 1311 Wildlife photography   Predators of Europe

You could see some of the aggression building that could result in those injuries:-

20101117 Bavaria 1403 Wildlife photography   Predators of Europe

Overall I was very pleased with the workshop, I did learn new things and perhaps approach my other photography from a different perspective, both from Chris and from other people at the workshop.

As usual click the thumbnails below of my favourite shots to see the full sized image:-

Golden Ring Cities – Suzdal

Suzdal is perhaps one of the most interesting of the ‘Golden Ring’ cities North East of Moscow, and one of the oldest remaining towns in Russia with records showing its history dates back to at least 1024 AD.  During the soviet period the city made the majority of its income on tourism and, although following the collapse of the USSR the city experienced a dip in tourism this is being revived.

You can get a train over to Suzdal, but our day trip was a present so we got a coach as part of a tour with almost exclusively Russian tourists, the guide was very animated on the long 4 hr journey, but she spoke too fast for me to catch too much of her Russian.  When we arrived at Suzdal we collected the English Speaking guide that became our persona guide as we were the only English Speaking people in the group, she was very knowledgable and explained much of the history and patiently answered any questions we had.

On the way to the first stop of the day it became clear that much of the architecture (apart from the churches and cathedrals) were made up of one and two storey high wooden houses, but none over two storeys as this was prevented during the Soviet period to preserve the character of the city.

The first main stop was at the Museum of Wooden Architecture, this was a place where examples of wooden Churches, and homes were moved from other parts of the country during the soviet period.  The quality of construction, and the often spartan yet functional homes were fantastic see, and all the while our guide was explaining why they were constructed as they were, and the areas of importance within the buildings:-

20101023 Suzdal 004 Golden Ring Cities   Suzdal

Outside of the Wooden Architecture museum it was a great spot to get a good view of part of the Suzdal Kremlin:-

20101023 Suzdal 033 Golden Ring Cities   Suzdal

The next stop was a brief stop to see a panoramic view of Suzdal and I managed to get this great panoramic shot:-

20101023 Suzdal 040 75 pano 950x164 Golden Ring Cities   Suzdal

When we got to the next stop, the Monastery of St. Euthymius we had a little walk around the huge walls towards the river, where once again there was a panoramic view (although more difficult this time due to the position of the sun), this time of the Posaad:-

20101023 Suzdal 083 96Pano 950x296 Golden Ring Cities   Suzdal

Once inside the 14th Century Monastery there was a lot to see, far more than the time we had allowed for, there are many Museum Churches and Museums, including one relating to the use of the Monastery in Soviet times as a Gulag for political dissidents.

Whilst we were there we were treated to both a Choral ensemble in one of the churches and a bell-ringing display from one bell ringer controlling many bells on his own.

The last stop of the day was the Suzdal Kremlin, which was slightly disappointing as there isn’t too much to see there, certainly we were only taken inside one of the buildings, but the main Cathedral, Cathedral of the Nativity looks stunning from the outside and well deserving of its UNESCO heritage site status.:-

20101023 Suzdal 157 Golden Ring Cities   Suzdal

We were then given some free time to wander around before the trip home, we used this time to buy ourselves some miedovukha, which is the Mead that Suzdal is also famous for.  The journey back was again long, but the traffic was lighter so we made it back to Moscow in around 3 1/2 hrs, but still best to take a book with you!

As always please click the thumbnails to see the full photo in the gallery below:-

The Streets of New York part 2

Upon our early morning return to New York we went straight out of the hotel for a walk around New York, we were staying in Chelsea so we headed towards Union Square to grab some breakfast and a walk around the market. On the way we did a bit of shopping and spotted this tiny dog being made to carry luggage, we saw a quite a few dogs of varying sizes with similar ‘saddlebags’ on in both New York, and vancouver.

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We got to Union Square and after grabbing a cold drink we walked around the farmers market giving me the opportunity to take some shots of some interesting characters cuh as this girl with a dragon Tattoo up her back -

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Ok, so technically not a a dragon, more of a peacock or phoenix, or some other kind of bird. On the walk back around to the hotel to drop off our shopping I was reminded of the plethora of old shop signs in New York; Old lit up ones, ones painted directly on the brick, and ones like this that are on wooden board -

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After finally checking into our hotel we jumped on the subway to Canal Street and after a walk in the area we headed through Little Italy.  There were lots of people around so it was very difficult to take many shots, but I did catch these waiters having a heated discussion outside on the street -

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After meeting twitter friend Jane who happened to be in the city at the same time as me for drinks that night again the next morning we woke a little later and decided to do a touristy thing, walk the Brooklyn Bridge. Walking down the road to the right subway line we looked through a gap in the buildings to see the top of the Empire State building -

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A few minutes after this we saw the flatiron building whilst crossing the road -

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After a short ride on the subway we got to the Manhattan side of Brooklyn Bridge by City Hall, it was a beautiful day so the bridge was packed with tourists. I found it weird how made people decided to walk on the cycle path side, especially considering these cyclists are equally stupid by pedalling as fast as they can, possibly so they can have an excuse to swear of people.  On a night day like this, you do get a great view of the downtown skyline  -

20100905 NewYork 051 The Streets of New York part 2

Bustling along the bridge many people were surprisingly polite when you were taking a photo,  moving around the shot and generally not pushing into you, however with this many people it was hard to get decent shots of the bridge itself, I did like this on though -

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When we had crossed the bridge we went for a walk around DUMBO and the Brooklyn Bridge park, and saw some great old graffiti in streets that are still being renovated like this -

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After a walk back over the bridge we came across some guys trying to photograph and film a guy doing a jump off some steps of the Tweed Courthouse building on his skateboard, the guy you can see with the camera was screaming at people walking past and around the shot because they, in his opinion were ‘all that is wrong with this f***ing city’.  The arrogance of the guy is the sort of thing that gives photographers a bad reputation they were taking over the whole (very wide) sidewalk in front of the building, and the steps up to the building -

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We wandered back up through Chinatown and Little Italy again on the way back to the hotel to have a drink in rooftop bar before leaving for the airport, although we didn’t think much of this so called boutique hotel, the rooftop ‘Glass Bar’ was excellent.

As usual in the Gallery below, click on the thumbnail to show the full shot, including a shot of me playing the fool in the rooftop Glass Bar -

The Streets of Vancouver

When I got to Vancouver after the few days in Victoria I met my cousin that I hadn’t seen since I was 3yrs old, but we have been in touch via Facebook for a couple of years now, and he happens to be a great Photographer.  Well Pete is really into Street photography and has a habit of being able to ‘shoot from the hip’ very well, something I haven’t really attempted much less been successful at.  On a trip to Steveston I caught him trying to shoot a photo of me in this manner but I got in there first with this shot:-

20100903 Vancouver 269 The Streets of Vancouver

A wonder around Steveston resulted in a few shots of people selling the day’ catch from their boats, and some of the workers on the huge trawlers offloading their nets:-

20100903 Vancouver 262 The Streets of Vancouver

Another interesting area to walk around in Vancouver is Granville Island, lots going on, lots of interesting people to snap, l started to use a shorter lens walking around Granville Island though, I was going to use an ultra-wide but I didn’t want the distortion.  This approach gave some decent shots of people who didn’t notice, or is they did it was at the last minute, like this lady:-

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Or even this one, I spotted the lady trotting across the street and took the shot to include the people in the background, but the light was catching her nicely:-

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The next day we wandered around downtown and I got another great reflected shot of another art deco building in a mirrored building opposite, and after lunch a walk around Gastown with Pete brought a new set of people to shoot, I was beginning to love both shooting from the hip and direct shots of people, and not just women as might think so far, there was even this guy doing some kind of craft:-

20100904 Vancouver 502 The Streets of Vancouver

At dinner before we got our flight back to New York I did manage to get a few shots of the family too whilst they we chatting away to each other, and the sun was shining through the window at a great angle, this one is a shot of my Aunt:-

20100904 Vancouver 527 The Streets of Vancouver

There are many more candid street and architectural shots from this trip, but as usual you will have to click through the thumbnails in the gallery below to see the full shot.

Victoria – Whales, Seals, and Sealions

We flew into Victoria from next to Vancouver airport on a little seaplane which was pretty cool, with some interesting views, this trip was mostly about visiting a friend of ours from Uni days who lives there but we had to wait for him to finish work so we mainly wondered around a bit.  After trying and failing to go Whale-watching the next day due to bad weather we did finally make it on the day we were due back to go to Vancouver.  We went out on a very fast boat with Sea Fun Safari,  so we could stay out in the areas where the Orca were feeding and travelling for long than most of the other boat, however you can’t get too close so the 100-400mm lens came in pretty handy as did having the 5D MKII with me (to minimise noise for the often High ISO needed to get the fast shot, and for the full frame for effective cropping).

Ok, I know strictly speaking the Orca are Dolphins but are obviously known as killer whales, and we did get to see a Humpback whale a couple of times too, that is actually what we saw first, we were told that you can time their little dives and deep dives to within a few seconds, however they do obviously move in the meantime.  I love it when they are about to deep dive and the tail comes up out of the water like this:-

20100901 Vancouver 010 Victoria   Whales, Seals, and Sealions

A few minutes later we saw our first orca, although when they are feeding, and also travelling they don’t stay on the surface too long, and done of them wanted to play, so about the best shot I got was this:-

20100901 Vancouver 033 Victoria   Whales, Seals, and Sealions

After another encounter with the humpback whale several miles away we went to see the seals and sealions who were apparently all male as they were the ones that failed to mate at the breeding grounds and so had come here to do what men do – fight!

20100902 Vancouver 138 Victoria   Whales, Seals, and Sealions

We ended up seeing Stellar and Californian Sealions with the Harbour and Elephant Seals, including one seal that looked like it had lost out in a fight with a sealion or an Orca, you will have to through the shots below to see that one. I found it fascinating to see the birds scavenging when one of the seals or sealions killed something in the water, the got kind of frenzied:-

20100902 Vancouver 079 Victoria   Whales, Seals, and Sealions

On the way back to Victoria Harbour we even came across a few Transient Orca who were just visiting the area, it is apparently unusual to see them in the same water as the local ones and they really don’t get along very well.  It was a great trip out and the guy who took us out was very knowledgeable, if you are in the area I would recommend using the guys at Sea Fun.

As always in the gallery below click on the thumbnails to see the full picture.