Weekly Photo Challenge: Peek

At last, I am having a kind of break in my seasonal weekly travel routine, so I can swipe off the dust from my cameras, go through the photos I made it what now seems to be another life, take out my digital brushes and create a little. Also this week’s challenge is interesting.

The theme of this week is Peek. I have this blog for a year and a half, and travelling from my old photos to my more recent ones, I can see how my work as a photographer has changed. I used to (as any other starting photographer) aim at making to crispest, the brightest photos depicting my subject in the most accurate way. A cute small tribute to HDMR. Now, comfortably achieving that, I am moving towards being more creative with my photography. Which, ultimately, means not showing it all, or not showing it that well.

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A girl in the restaurant as seen from the streets of Busan, South Korea

I like this photo (that much that I chose it as a cover for my latest blog post about South Korea) because it makes you pause and reflect. What you see is a girl leaning towards her table (or what’s in front of her), – but then you don’t know whether she is eating, typing on her smartphone or, maybe, drawing or creating some other kind of art. If she is writing, to whom? if she is making something, what is it? In the end, this photo – not that crisp and not the revealing – makes you think more about its subject than would the one processed to the minute details. You pause and spend some times asking questions, guessing, contemplating.

And that is one of the key objectives of the photography, ins’t it?

🙂

Weekly Photo Challenge: Transient

This week’s theme is Transient. Now, “transient” is something I had to look up online even though I often think that I speak better English these days than I do Russian, my mother tongue (a few years back, I had to look up “nimble”, which then made part of our corporate strategy. Speaking of which, corporate strategies in tech are indeed transient but I don’t happen to have a photo of one of them on hands).

Now that I know what transient is (which is “not lasting, enduring, or permanent; transitory”), I have immediately thought of a picture to illustrate it. I took this photo of a girl jumping off the cliff in Kythira, a magical island in Greece, a few weeks ago. The girl was contemplating this jump for quite some time, stumbling, looking unsure into the dark blue water at her feet and her family at the shore. And then she jumped – into the dark blue water and into the freedom. I was as unsure that she would do it as she was herself and, for some reason, was moved by the outcome of this short story – and by the fact that I could capture it with my 50 1.2 lens, which is not exactly the number one choice for action photography. 

Sometimes the world offers us much better shots that we could be dreaming to orchestrate. We should just be there to capture them.

🙂

Weekly Photo Challenge: Focus

This week’s photo challenge, Focus, is asking to share one’s favorite focus (or out of focus) photo. Now, there are two “aha” moments in every photographer’s life: the moment you try your first full frame camera and the moment you get that low aperture lens to play with focus. Focus (or, more precisely, its strategic lack) is what made me fall in love with photography. (Ok, there is a third “aha” moment and that is when you take and process – successfully – your first RAW photo.)

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A cup of Turkish coffee at the Café des Délices in Sidi Bou Said, Tunisia

This photo of a Turkish coffee in a Tunisian cafe is my latest absolute favourite. I love it so much that I am using it as a background photo to my mobile chats, – this and what is means to me (not to mention my favorite color combo of white and blue). And it means… focus. On this cup of coffee, on the moment of pleasure it offers, on a creative break, on living and breathing, in the now. How often we let beauty, taste and creative pass unnoticed, busy with our daily concerns, daily thoughts, daily messages, news and chats.

I keep it precisely where most of this noise is coming from, on my phone, to remind myself. To focus.

🙂

Weekly Photo Challenge: Order

This week’s photo challenge is about Order. Now, order has never been an integral part of my life. It is not something I breathe or create by default. I try to find a system in anything I want to accomplish (because I noticed that things work better this way), and after many years of practicing it still does not come natural to me. Oh well, many people practice public speaking, decision taking and making friends. Order is my thing.

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The Souks of Tunis

This is why I admire order when I see it existing naturally (another reason would be aesthetics). And this is why I always lance a second glance at it: is it really natural? Is there anything that stands out from this even perfection? It warms my heart if I find it. To me, imperfection makes it human. Even more so, unique.

Just like these jewels at the Souks of Tunis: they all seemingly follow the same design, yet now and then there is a bead of unusual shape, a glimpse of color, a spark of creativity. An individuality.

🙂

Weekly Photo Challenge: Heritage

This week’s photo challenge is Heritage. To me, heritage is much about history and much about culture, – two things that growing up in St Petersburg, home of one of the world’s largest museums and a scene of many, well, interesting historical events, has deeply ingrained into my character. That made me put work aside for a moment and go through the pictures of my recent travels.

As you might have noticed, I like learning new things. A few weeks ago I discovered a new country for me – Tunisia. It’s capital, Tunis, has the world’s largest mosaics collection, Le Bardo. And that’s just breathtaking: hundreds and hundreds of square meters of history laid out in gorgeous rainbow colored tiles, floor to ceiling.

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Which museum have you recently discovered?

🙂

Weekly Photo Challenge: Wish

Looks like Weekly Photo Challenges are the main contribution I manage to make for this blog during this period of my exciting work life, but so it be. Something little often goes a long way, and the pictures I am usually using for these challenges are coming from my trips, – so one more memory knot is one more sip of happiness.

The topic of this week is Wish. Wishes and dreams are very important for me. There were certainly times in my life when wishes and dreams were all that I had. First steps in every of the nine countries I lived, the job searching period in the end of my MBA studies (with my European residence permit expiring), the first time I held a DSLR camera in my hands. Looking back, I don’t think about these experiences as challenging times but as happy moments, when the future I wanted was so crisp in my mind it seemed I could reach out to it and dissolve in this perfect picture. From these experiences I grew to appreciate wishes and dreams of the others.

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One of the reincarnations of Che’s photograph by Alberto Korda: probably, one of the most printed photos of all times

Such as the dream of Che, the Cuban Revolution hero of Argentinian origin, who toured the entire Latam continent, capturing romantically bitter images of his land and promoting his vision of “the new free man”. This “new free man” of Che would be free of any restraints of the government and the state, have access to land,education and medical care regardless of this origin and would possess many other freedoms most extensively captured by Marx and his followers (personally, I am allergic to communism and even socialism, so I won’t go there).

Despite the inclination of my own political views, I can’t help but admire Che’s dream: so passionate, so absolute, so pure. After Che’s meeting with Fidel it became the dream of the Cuban Revolution – and, later, after the regime of Batista had come to an end, – the dream of many other revolutionary movements, in Latin America and beyond, in Congo and Bolivia. And even if the economic success of the Cuban Revolution and the subsequent Castro’s regime poses some questions today, the spiritual leadership of the image that Che painted more than half a century ago remains undisputed.

Such is a power of a wish. Such is a power of a dream.

🙂

Weekly Photo Challenge: Against the Odds

For this week’s photo challenge Against the Odds, I have chosen a picture of French Normandy: a place called Etretat.

I love how nature can speak volumes. I remember in school (I was 10 or so), the literature teacher asked us why an author introduces a description of a landscape to a novel. (Literature is huge in Russian schools and questions like this one are not uncommon.) Most of my classmates came up with straightforward answers that made sense (to describe a setting, i.e. where the scene is taking place, or to communicate a change that is coming, i.e. that it is going to rain). When I was (finally and to my delight) asked, I said that the key purpose of introducing a scene was to describe how a protagonist is feeling at this moment.

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The cliffs of Etretat, French Normandy

While the oddity of this (and several others) cliffs is quiet straightforward, this picture has another meaning to me. It is very personal – and very happy. Normandy is probably the gloomiest region of France. Its most popular place is a city Deauville with its main attraction, casino. Sunny days are very, very rare. Yet when we came there with my parents, the sun smiled at us. Etretat was spectacular for the entire day.

That’s another fact about Normandy: when the sun finally comes out, it suddenly becomes one of the most spectacular places on Earth.

🙂

Weekly Photo Challenge: Shadow

My life between cities, countries and airports, with 2.5 flights per week on average (my normal life, that is), doesn’t leave me as much time as I would love to have to put my hands on the ton of fantastic shots of Cuba and Mexico. Well, luckily Weekly Photo Challenge is a much more manageable task than filtering through 2400+ shots.

This week’s topic is Shadow. There is a lot, in fact, I can write about shadow: every photographer can. If light is fundamental to a great photo, shadow is something much more elusive and far less controllable – yet sometimes even more important to capture the mood. You can measure the light and its sources in very precise units – but there is no scientific method to control shadow: its depth, color, its light (shadows also have light, what do you think)? Shadows are elusive, too. Shadows have character. They are like cats: you have them here and now, you half-press your shutter button – and off they go before you complete your work. That’s why shadows, to me, are much more magical than the light. I love them, I flirt with them, I constantly chase them with my camera.

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Havana, Cuba kissed by the first rays of light

Here is what I have on my first sunrise in Havana: shadows fill it with sheer magic. They hide the imperfections, help the mystery of the night prevail for yet another moment and set the stage to the first rays of sun. To me, Havana is most beautiful when the sun just rises (or starts setting down).

After all,

There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.

– Leonard Cohen

Remember?

🙂

Weekly Photo Challenge: Solitude

The theme of this week’s photo challenge is Solitude. Now, solitude is something that almost never happens to me (or to most people today, for that matter). Except for the time I spend in the air or when I am one on one with nature. One on one with nature is a special type of solitude: more profound, more spiritual, the one asking good questions and the one answering them. (Plus, it does not get ruined by empty time-killing airplane conversations thrown by people who just can’t tolerate being in their own company.)

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A teenage boy leading the caravan of camels in Morocco desert

Somehow being in the nature makes you feel alone even if you are surrounded by people – and think about things that really matter. That means, about 90% of your usual every day thoughts: work, getting from A to B, grocery list, to do list, goals list, any other task that list can be made of, – fade away. You understand what’s important and that important is few. Much fewer than we normally think. You finally hear “less is more”, and hear it in your heart.

I took this picture in Morocco desert, listening to the well-rhymed steps of the camel that was carrying me – so soft that they seemed to be sinking in the sand, – and the steps of all the camels behind it, in the caravan. There were at least ten people behind me, and I could neither hear them or feel their presence.

🙂

Weekly Photo Challenge: Repurpose

First, the theme of this week’s Photo Challenge has caught me off guard. I mean, “Repurpose“?.. But then it has dawn on me: Cuban cars! As I have just wrote in my 10 Facts About Cuba You Did Not Know (And You Should), Cuba is full of gorgeous, colourful, shiny American cars of 1920-50s, brought to the island before the embargo. In fact, many of them hit Cuban ground before their official appearance on the American roads, because their manufactures were using Cuba as a trial driving range before the grand opening at home.

These cars are impeccably maintained – or at least they look so. However, with the embargo in place from 1962, how do you maintain all these classic beauty? You repurpose. Car reparation became a special art in Cuba, the one people are proud of, – and rightly so. Anything goes: spare parts of not affected by embargo Mitsubishi, Toyota and even less compatible oeuvres of Soviet making. In fact, often the only thing left from old American cars is their shiny, seemingly untouched by the time, frame.

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Streets of Havana, Cuba, filled with fully operational cars more than half a century old

The very purpose of these cars has evolved over time as well. From means of transportation (and, without a doubt, demonstration of social prestige of their owners half a century ago) they have evolved to ta lucrative tourism revenue stream. Almost all of these cars are now private taxis. With the official taxi business (embodied by new “cool” air conditioned Chinese and Korean cars) owned 100% by the state, such as almost any business on the island (in fact, even hotels are at least 30% owned by the Ministry of Defense), classic cars is almost a unique private business in Cuba. How cool is that? Investing in beauty (and being creative in maintaining it!) brings dividends over time.

So much about conventional wisdom, uh?

🙂