Samur forest and Caspian shore

Caspian Sea shoreline
Caspian Sea shoreline. EF 17–40mm f/4L USM,  f/9 ISO 200 1/200″.

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.

Ophrys oestrifera, botfly orchis
Ophrys oestrifera, Ophrys oestrifera. EF 180mm f/3.5L Macro USM,  f/11 ISO 200 1/13″.

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.

Saturnia pyri, giant emperor moth Sturgeons at the fish breeding farm
Saturnia pyri, giant emperor moth. Sturgeons at the fish breeding farm. EF 17–40mm f/4L USM,  f/9 ISO 200 1/200″.
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Erythronium in the wilds of space-time

Эритроний в дебрях пространства-времени | Erythronium in the wilds of space-time
Erythronium in the wilds of space-time. Meyer-Optik Görlitz Trioplan 100mm f/2.8,  f/2.8 ISO 100 1/100″.

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.

Iris flowers in Yamskaya Steppe

Iris flower
Dwarf iris flower, Iris pumila. Sigma 150mm f/2.8 Macro EX DG HSM,  f/4 ISO 500 1/200″.

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.

Iris in Yamskaya Steppe Iris in Yamskaya Steppe
Iris at sunset in Yamskaya Steppe. Sigma 150mm f/2.8 Macro EX DG HSM,  f/4 ISO 200 1/100″.
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Orchis militaris

Orchis militaris
Orchis militaris, military orchid. St. Petersburg region. Sigma 150mm f/2.8 Macro EX DG HSM,  f/4 ISO 200 1/125″.

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.

Close up of Orchis militaris inflorescence Close up of Orchis militaris inflorescence
Close up of Orchis militaris inflorescence. St. Petersburg region. Sigma 150mm f/2.8 Macro EX DG HSM,  f/13 ISO 200 1/8″.


Oro. EF 17–40mm f/4L USM,  f/11 ISO 200 1/50″.

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.

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

Flying whooper swans
Flying whooper swans.  f/10 ISO 640 1/1000″.

Finally, swans have arrived. And another and another new ones have been arriving.

Whooper swans flying low above the water
Whooper swans flying low above the water.  f/10 ISO 640 1/1000″.

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.

Whooper swans fly in a flock above Gulf of Finland
Whooper swans fly in a flock above Gulf of Finland.  f/10 ISO 500 1/500″.

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.

Whooper swans in the early morning
Whooper swans in the early morning.  f/9 ISO 500 1/1250″.

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.

Whooper swan flapping
Whooper swan flapping.  f/9 ISO 500 1/800″.
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