Bye-bye 2017

Bye-bye 2017

That year was not the easiest one, the amount spent was higher than earned. On the other hand, I have finally have 0 unread in my inbox, and the things will be done soon. Also I believe I have learned something new. The great thing is that year was so rich in impressions, that I even feel April or May were a few years ago 🙂
So I’d like to post two pictures of places which I need to come back to again in the future: Norway beyond the Arctic Circle and region of Dagestan.

Samur forest and Caspian shore

Samur forest and Caspian shore

We all could not wait the trip to Samur forest. Wildlife photographer Valery Moseykin, “Photo Expedition” leader and the author and guide of the first eco-tour in Dagestan, was talking about this wonderful forest with admiration since the very beginning. So with expectations that high, the long way from Mahachkala to Samur river actually looked not that long at all. In addition, we saw endless water space of azure and calm Caspian Sea to the left, and Caucasian foothills to the right. Finally we found ourselves at the southernmost point of Russia, almost at the border with Azerbaijan.
Looks surprising, there is an asphalt road through the south-eastern side of the Samur forest. Locals take it to get to Primorsky settlement which is in 350 meters from Azerbaijan. And this road led us right to the heart of the forest.
As soon as we got out of the car, we saw adorable orchids, a species from Orchis genus. Two other species were hiding in the forest next to the glade.
Fish breeding farm was the next stop. However, we haven′t yet got under the roof as we saw a giant emperor moth, the largest butterfly of Russian fauna. Perhaps somebody frightened it, and it started flying to find a peaceful place for a midday rest.
Then we moved right to the Caspian Sea shore. At that time, the sky began to hide behind some mist and clouds, the wind almost disappeared, and a soft tide was literally pushing Caspian out of time borders. Touching the dark-grey sand, we headed to the north to spot egrets and other wetland birds.
One can move through the forest only by roads and rare paths. There is no other way, trees and everything in between were covered with smooth and thorny lianas. These jungles, an impossible for humans to cross, are home for wild cats and jackals. By the way, their concert starts on schedule—every evening at dusk, followed by cicadas and owls. The latter is quite unusual to hear in coincidence.

Church of Elijah the Prophet in Yaroslavl

Church of Elijah the Prophet in Yaroslavl

You easily may pass by this Church of Elijah the Prophet, once you find yourself at Soviet Square in Yaroslavl, just in 0.5 km from the famous Monastery of Savior Transfiguration (Spaso-Preobrazhensky) in the very city center. You see white-blue-red flags that draw your attention from this church with simple white exterior. Why is it so remarkable?
Well, we know in advance, this church is the true architectural pearl. Still were impressed by its grandeur. And it′s not that much about the church′s conical roof above the bell tower, very typical to Yaroslavl architectural tradition, and not about russian ceramics in church fence decoration, and even not about its festive entrance. What really blows your mind away are frescoes. They span the walls from the floor up to the arched ceiling. Even window sides and church head inner walls are covered with painting despite the fact you see them only at a very low angle. The frescoes are dated to 17th century and not only well preserved, but are also very bright thanks to the last renovation. I use to feel like a time traveller in such places, to feel put back some centuries to the past. However, here everything is too vibrant and bright to be a reality from the past.
Everybody says that the church is big and spacious. I would not say it feels packed inside, maybe you are just so attracted to viewing frescoes that stop thinking about the building′s inner volume architectural solution.
To look at frescoes at the ceiling, you have to throw up your head and even turn 180°! Just don′t feel dizzy!
Carved guilded iconostatis is another one thing on its own. It even claims to be the richest part of the church′s interior. Nevertheless, the combination of pride of this guilded iconostasis with purity of frescoes feels harmoniuos, in contrast to that of newborn russian churches.
For sure, gallery which connects the church with bell tower, and the entrance staircase are covered with frescoes, too. When moved to Holy Protection Chapel, your are impressed with interior one more time. But here you feel the age better due to slightly worse preservation of frescoes. These remarkable paintings were made in 17th century by painters led by Guriy Nikitin and Sila Savin from Kostroma. You may find their mark on the wall, which is quite rare in our churches. It is situated in the left bottom corner under cast iron hedge along the wall, next to the door to Holy Protection Chapel. I will not cite it here—better see it yourself. Church of Elijah the Prophet belongs to Yaroslavsky State Museum-reserve and is opened for visitors during the warm season excluding rainy days.

Erythronium in the wilds of space-time

Erythronium in the wilds of space-time

The Spring in Mountains of Caucasus is bright and very dynamic season. While the snow is thawing, snowdrop flowers appear above it, and other primrose species impatiently follow. When you step down on a knee, you feel admired with these graceful adder’s-tongue flowers. They silently explode like a white flock through last year’s grass together with some subtle fresh stalks. Flowers are truly lost in spring turbulence of space-time. To further underline this, I use to wait for an interesting light angle and make the picture with a vintage triplet lens from post-war Germany.
These Erythronium caucasicum species are endangered plants and belong to The Red Book. However, adder’s-tongue flowers may appear locally abundant in places which are unfavorable for agriculture and other human activities, such as these thorny thickets along a mountain slope.

Kizhi: the hide for Russian soul

Kizhi: the hide for Russian soul

After a few steps on the land of Kizhi island I felt calm and quiet. Wooden buildings around adjust the tourists′ mind in a natural way. This feeling of peace and extraordinarity of the place comes even before you approach the island while the boat glides over the waters of Onega skerries. Open waters of Onega lake were left just after the lighthouse on Garnitsky isle, and then the boat goes through the skerries. “Meteor” moves around another one cape, and then another one village shows, then a leading beacon appears, followed by a nice yellow birch and dark spruce trees, and then again a village with a pier… Then finally Church of the Transfiguration shows off. The church looks like a spaceship at a launch pad, floating in the air. It turns out that the church is under renovation, and some timber layers are excised in a top-down way for a treatment while the top of the church is suspended on jacks. If not this, nothing suggests you that you are actually in the 21th century. Nothing break the silence but the bells which ring from time to time in Chapel of Michael the Archangel at the southern cape of Kizhi island. You won′t notice any power lines suspended on ugly masts. Here are only forests and waters till the horizon, and various clouds are above. You see old wooden buildings from 18th and 19th centuries, and Church of the Resurrection of Lazarus among them suggests even greater age. And let the traffic beacon be next to the Church! It tells us that this place is habitated, ships move by, and the locals continue their fishing. Surprisingly, my iPhone shows full 3G signal. And this is a dream, a dream for the Russian North – the harmony between the tough nature, civilisation and the priceless heritage from the past.

Marble textures in Ruskeala

Marble textures in Ruskeala

Photographers and other tourists are attracted by this half-flooded marble quarry in Ruskeala settlement. However, it′s not as easy to get here as to the north-western part of Ladoga skerries. In fact, Ruskeala is even more to the north than the city of Petrozavodsk.
I would not say I feel very familiar with what Ruskeala quarries may offer for landscape photography. Anyway it′s quite hard to get known to the place in just one day. But for sure I am impressed with various marble textures, patterns and surface types. These things may be photographed from both the boat and land.
There are two two grottos on the Large marble quarry lake, one of which allows you to stand full-length in the boat, while in the other one you take care not to crash your head against the rock ceiling. Locals use to make wedding photos in the large grotto from a motor-powered pontoon. The smaller grotto is much less visited. I was happy to see a small duck there, which slowly moved to the open water and made a nice spot in the image.
There is a path along the lake shoreline which leads you to a vertical mine and a horizontal gallery. Huge depression with an underwater lake is located nearby. Then the path leads to Italian quarry. You may find some artifacts here, like large rocks of drilled and knocked marble, old rusty railway switch, tub wheels, etc. so there is something to explain about for your children.
Smooth walls of Italian quarry demonstrate various textures of marble rock – stripes, twirls, and threads.

Iris flowers in Yamskaya Steppe

Iris flowers in Yamskaya Steppe

The great thing about places you are already familiar with is that you are always aware of what to photograph once you get there. Nevertheless, these places continue to surprise.
It was like that in Yamskaya Steppe this time. Feather grass hasn′t yet started to flower, while all the primroses were gone, but lots of splendid dwarf iris flowers appeared here and there in the steppe.
Colorless droplets after rain made fresh colors of petals look even better. Iris flowers were just perfect at sunset, sunbathing and shaking slowly after short breeze.

Orchids in a spruce forest

Orchids in a spruce forest

Every creature was glad for such a hot summer weather in the very end of May. Most important, orchids were glad, too! I haven′t photographed them for such a long time, especially not far from St. Petersburg.
So today are some photos of lady′s slipper, Cypripedium calceolus, which likes spruce forests on soils rich in carbonates.
The number of these orchids in that particular location is absolutely incredible! And I′m very happy with that, because our orchids are all endangered and in general very subtle and susceptible to human barbarous approach to nature.

Orchis militaris

Orchis militaris

It was a rare week of awesome weather in May. Escaped to photograph orchids for one day and a half. Had lots of fun but payed a high price for that time later… Still it was worth that.
These pretty plants definitely deserve that love and attention with which I approached them. Today′s just one of our local orchid species – Orchis militaris. A tiny flower sitting among spring grasses gives an excellent opportunity to try different angles and coposition. I really love this kind of soft pictures. Below are close ups of the same species inflorescence, just a larger specimen.

Vyborg castle, RAW

This photo of the Castle in Vyborg (Viipuri) is ten years old right now! It’s incredibly far ago!
I have thought about this, and got three ideas.
First, this was taken with a low-end Canon EOS 350D with kit lens, and it worked… sometimes! To tell the truth, I held another kit copy few times, and that one was just crap.
Second, it’s a great fun to get back to your own pics at some time – and dig out some interesting missed thing.
Third, ten years ago I was unable to process this as I wished, or did not understand how to do that, and abandoned that. With digital technology, we got an almost time machine when one can return to old shoots with new software and squeeze out a whole new level of quality from the old RAWs!

Oro

Oro

It’s morning dawn. Sun starts to climb up. The air is filled with reverberating silence. It is not just the silence, it’s like when you hear somebody, from somewhere. In addition, it smells something strange. You do not get used to it overnight sleeping in the tent. Some unusual mix of salt and organics. The landscape, absolutely flat, is seen through for tens of kilometers, if only you are not in any relief depression. These lonely trees which give a subtle shadow – seem to be the only thing that adds a diversity to the landscape. The others are at least in a few kilometers from here. Isn’t it an emptyness? True! It’s desert. Still, you feel the presence of somebody. Indeed, an amazing feeling.

Swan fights | Gulf of Finland, Lebyazhje, April 2016

Whooper swan fights | Gulf of Finland, Lebyazhje, April 2016

Finally, swans have arrived. And another and another new ones have been arriving.
A week after the first spotting I made the ride to Lebyazhje once again to spend bight and meet birds early next morning. The good thing is that there are no people at the shoreline in the morning, especially on Monday. Another one advantage is cold air. Means that photographs would be sharper when taken without miracles and warm uplifting air streams which literally ruin the image.
At sunrise, I got out the car and was standing at the ruined pier, looking through a binocular here and there. A mammal passed by in the water, guess it was something like an otter. A number of cornorants were shitting sitting on a large boulder in two hundred meters from the shore. In this empty morning silence I finally saw some swans to the west and two groups to the east.
Swans did not show too much of activity in the morning. They were waking up and stretching, and did their lazy float from bays where they had spent the night. Some of them could flap once or twice while stretching, but that was rare. When swans started feeding, a standard view you got was their white bottoms popping out from water like pyramids. And here is another one of this kind – swans′ bottoms with a cargo ship in the background. Ducks float nearby silently and impressed. I wanna pass by in a kayak and pinch one′s bottom! A girl, preferrably, but how to guess? They all look similar… Those with short necks or having ground too far try to dive deeper, so their feet appear above water like if they were trying to grip the air and push themselves towards bottom. So while swans were feeding, I walked along the beach and reached the beam of rocks which used to be occupied by seagulls. Okay, there were seagulls sitting on rocks, just as usual. Swans were floating on shallow water nearby. Good, let them float. I wanted them to get accustomed to my presence. So I sat on a dry trunk near water edge, put on my hood, checked e-mail and replied to a few calls. Meanwhile, swans started to gather near those rocks. Hot tempered ones started a squabble. Everything starts when swans gather into a large group, and the most active ones begin to shout loudly – to whoop. That′s why they are called whooper swans (Cygnus cygnus). Well, boys start to whoop loudly. Their necks are straight, their heads are pulled up – which one is higher? Wings are fully spanned, and swans flap them against water. Shiny sparks are all around wings, necks and strong black feet under bright spring sun – girls must be excited!
First clash seems to be harmless, however the faster one tries to bite the opponent′s tail. The winning swan secures his victory by a few full wing flaps. Then all birds get calm and continue feeding. Retired ones or just a couple of more sedate birds stand on a dry rock, clean their feathers and observe the area from above. One more flock arrives from the west. Little by little, almost all the swans in the area gather on the shallow water just in front of me. And when there is a lot of them, it provokes the craziest ones to get up to mischief 🙂
Swans may gather into a group of 10–12 and again start whooping, flapping and try to bite one another′s tail. Here′s one such moment – swan approachers the neighbour and tries to bite from behind. Few minutes later everybody go calm down but some still whoop and swim towards neighbours with their necks tilted. If a neighbor dives down to eat algae, it looks like he is out of the game. The “squabbler” has then to swim by – the clash is cancelled. Suddenly two swans approach from quite far away, tilt their necks aggressively, and whoop loudly. As a response, four swans from the main flock go to meet these “aggressors”. They whoop too, tilt their necks and span their wings to demonstrate force. One more clash happens, water drops are everywhere, splashes, wing flaps, everything goes so fast that I lose the track of things, and cannot see where are the “friends” and where are the “foreigners”. Again everybody get calm, and swans feed for almost one hour. Sometimes one could try to provoke the others, but haven′t seen any support, shuts up and dives to feed. Finally one managed to stir up the others, and one more clash happens.
My shoutcaster swan clash commentator talent reached its limit by now, so I′ll just put the photos chronologically. The good thing is that you may see how things develop naturally, so no need for comments.
Finally, here are some wallpapers for those who liked whooper swans. iPhone 5S, iPhone SE, iPhone 6, iPhone 6S и iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6S Plus are supported.

Rising above the Steppe

Rising above the Steppe

These touching pasqueflowers, which appear in abundance above the dry grasses of Yamskaya Steppe, call for an individual approach. No doubt, you are going to photograph them counter-lighted to highlight their fur-like downiness. To make the picture more complex and more diverse than made by macro lens on its own, I have put a teleconverter coupled with an extension tube between camera and the lens. That brought more air into the frame and made the bokeh deeper. In addition to that, I have installed a macro flash, which I rarely do. However, its lights were directed not to the flowers, but to grass in the foreground, to highlight a few bright spots there, and therefore add more volume to the scene.

Flowering Phalaenopsis

Flowering Phalaenopsis

I love to photograph beautiful creatures. Orchids are, no doubt, one of the most mesmerising beauties one can find in nature. While I can tell something about the inspiring orchids in wild nature, or describe their inhabitation landscape, it′s hard to add something about those from the indoors. Better see and keep calm.
But let me break a silence for a moment. When indoors, slow in pace and thoughtful shoot is in favor, and the lack of the wind facilitates making very deep photographs using focus stacking technique. Now I′m back to silence.

Secluded landscapes

Secluded landscapes

Forest floor and forest glades at islands in White Sea are the kingdom of lichens. If you sit down on your knee to approach them, you will see that Stereocaulon lichens actually look just like the well-known forest but in miniature. I kept this thing in mind for a few rainy days thinking how to photograph such a macroscape.
I came back later to this great place of multilayered lichen jungles and was immediately attacked by a cloud of mosquitos. I could not even think about any photography before getting back my repellent cartridge which I had lost a week before. Luckily, I have found it, with just two dents on it – the woodpecker′s curiosity. Only after that I was able to actually start sweeping out pine needles from the area and begin shooting.

Remove from EXIF – removal of lens and camera info from an image file

Remove from EXIF – removal of lens and camera info from an image file

It happens that you would like to avoid leaving information about which camera body and lens were used to create a photograph. These data could be removed from EXIF while keeping all the other metadata like location, aperture, shutter speed, etc. – with help of exiftool, a command-line utility to manipulate EXIF.
To make life easier, I created a small service application for macOS available from context menu. You right-click the image and select which information to remove from EXIF.
To have the same thing on your Mac, create an Automator Service named Remove from EXIF….workflow in the following folder.

Image Geotagger

Image Geotagger

The solution is made as OS X workflow and appears in Finder context menu. So it’s very easy to georeference your fresh or old images. You have not even to remember the app name 🙂
Basically, it is straightforward and self-explanatory, however, I’d comment on the workflow logic.

Swans arrived!

Swans arrived!

I haven′t visited Lebyazhje for several years since started organizing Macroclass in Belogorie. So I wanted to devote more time to my home region this srping. Finally, I was here again, in this place which I′m familiar with. And swans arrived, too! Hooray! See you again, my dear flyers!

Meet the new style of Macroclass

Meet the new style of Macroclass

I came to an idea that letter elements of the logo should resemble different kinds of close up photography subjects – living creatures, and the logo as a whole to be of irregular shape or, better word, asymmetrical.
Letters of the word Macro (Russian equivalent: Макро) were drafted as: a snail, a dew droplet on a grass, a male beetle antenna, Polytrichum common moss spore holder, and a sundew leaf. Making the final draft, I’ve rejected sundew leaf for its complexity (hence, low scalability) and just put a general floral pattern. The word “class” (Russian equivalent: класс) is rendered in a school handwriting style, since our Macroclass workshops are both creative and educative.

How to sync your Mac desktop via iCloud

How to sync your Mac desktop via iCloud

I’m pretty sure you once had been in such a hurry in the end of a working day when someone gave you a file from USB stick or e-mailed it. You just did nothing but put it on your desktop. Okay, but how to take it back from the office computer?
You can sync your desktop contents through iCloud Documents!
Bonus: since iCloud free space is just 5Gb, you are not going to litter your desktop with huge files 🙂
How to set it up? Quite easy! Continue reading…