The 4th round of 2019/2020 IBU Cup biathlon season takes place in Osrblie, Slovakia. Due to instatisfactory show conditions, the individual races held on Friday 10th January were shortened for both Women (12,5 kilometers) and Men (15 kilometers). In Women’s short individual race, Ekaterina Glazyrina claimed the first place. Endre Stroemsheim claimed the victory in Men’s short individual race. Slovak biathlete Matej Kazar (bib 66) chose the event in Osrblie as a farewell event from his long biathlon career.
Welcome to another edition of „A year in pictures“ blog. Recapping the year for Jim Goldstein’s annual blog project has became a great tradition that I intend to keep no matter the circumstances. Once again though, I won’t be following the guidelines to pick 5 or 10 best photos, but instead I will do a month-by-month recap. It is my belief this way gives a better overview of the whole year.
Last year, I wrote that 2018 was a busy year. This time I’ll say the 2019 was absolutely insane year, and not in a good way. If you asked me, what I was doing for the first three months in our family business, I honestly couldn’t tell you. I simply cannot recall anything else other than senseless repetitive stuff, doing and redoing things over and over again. This carried out through the rest of the year. There was very little time for anything other than work.
Last year I was also negative about the photography business – taking a turn for the worse. Being negative and cranky towards the end of the year is also a tradition of mine. I hate to say it, but I was 100% right. This year, it went straight to hell. Although the number of paid assignments I did was approaching 70 with some new and fresh ones, it was very frustrating. Everybody talks about the upcoming crisis. In my opinion, it has already hit. With the advent of social media, the proper photos are among the first that are cut. The usual excuses are “we don’t need that covered”, “we’ll just use some from social media” and “we can only pay [insert a demeaning sum, that hardly covers the cost of transportation and cost of business, not to mention the time, talent of photographer and gear cost]”.
I made plans for January to shoot winter scenes in Banska Stiavnica. I have discovered a reliable webcam overlooking the city, I saw beautiful scenes made of fresh snow on it. But due to extremely demanding schedule in our office, I wasn’t able to make the trip. I can only hope I will be able to make it in the first months of 2020. Unfortunately, that is the dark side of business. If you have an activity that pays and you’re on a deadline and the other activity (photography) doesn’t pay, then it’s clear which one has the priority.
In February, I was shooting 2019 Davis Cup Qualifiers between Slovakia and Canada. This was the first time teams played under the new Davis Cup format (qualifiers in February and the final tournament of 18 nations in November). The Canadians arrived with young stars Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime. The matches were close with Canada claiming the spot in the finals. One of my favorite shots seems like a trivial one. If you know, what you’re doing and take your time, it’s easy to get the nice game play photo with the ball right on the racquet. But to get a line judge’s head inside the racquet, carefully observing the ball – that requires one of those “happy accidents” Bob Ross always talked about in his videos.
Towards the end of the month, I was visiting my friends in Trnava and went to explore the evening town afterwards. After I took some photos, I packed my gear and got ready to leave, as the blue hour was over. But as I passed the narrow street leading to the Church of Saint Nicolas, I saw a huge Moon rising next to one of its towers. So I unpacked my gear again and took a photo. Later I learned that this was called a “Super Snow Moon”. This will serve as a substitute for March photo, since I did not have any time what so ever to take personal photos that month.
In April, I shot a Fed Cup tie between Slovakia and Brazil, which was a farewell tie for Dominika Cibulkova. It wasn’t clear until later in the year, that it was also one of her last matches. In May, she played her last match at Roland Garros and in Fall she announced her retirement from professional tennis.
I always try to capture shots from different perspective. If you take your time and spend some time tucked away in the dark corner and away from most photographers, there is a good chance you will get them. Like this “to be or not to be” shot of Team Brazil’s leader Beatriz Haddad Maia.
I also spent most of the month shooting a long term local project. I’m not ready to reveal its nature yet, but from the material (both still and video) I got in April I feel it will be possible to realize my initial vision. We’re still several years away from it though.
April also brought a welcome personal change. After six years of “suffering” and “torture”, I finally had my dental braces removed. It was a very long journey and since it was more or less a medical necessity, I had to do it. But it’s nice to be finally free and have a bit nicer teeth as well.
At the end of May, we took a three day business trip to Prague. I tried to spend as much time shooting as possible between the business commitments. Sadly, there wasn’t any hotel free for a group of 20 people closer than 40 minutes walk from the historic landmarks. In recent years, Prague has been overrun by tourists. Some stats say the annual number of domestic and foreign visitors is approaching 8 million and it shows. The people are everywhere and the hotels are full. So I spent A LOT of time walking during this trip.
I spent the first evening near Saint Vitus Cathedral inside the Prague castle. The castle has a long opening hours during the summer months and there are only a handful of people there compared to day hours. Highly recommended if you want to get nice photos with hardly any people.
On second day, I got lucky. My plan was to stop at the House of Black Madonna to shoot the famous Lightbulb Staircase. But as we were leaving the conference (later than planned), we got stuck in a traffic jam for good hour and half. All of us then walked for 45 minutes to Old town to have dinner and we were passing the House long after its supposed closing hours. After dinner, I headed to Old town again and decided to stop by the House. To my surprise, it was opened for some evening presentation. So I got my photo after all.
In June, I tried to take advantage of long days and chase storms after long work hours. I was only partially successful. One of my more successful attempts brought me to a patch of land close to our village. It has been mentioned in a chronicle as an ancient land and a war was fought on it. I’ve been visiting it for years, but it didn’t occur me to shoot it from this angle until now. One of the basic rules of landscape photography is to be familiar with the places within walking distance from your home. They might be mundane, but they still can bring you a nice photo.
In July I made a decision to upgrade my main camera. After 7 years of service, my aging Canon 1D Mark IV was upgraded to Canon 5D Mark IV. And what a frustrating experience it has been ever since. I can fully confirm the well known truth – “Once you go 1-series, you can’t go back.” Yes, the 5D Mark IV produces nicer and larger files. But what are the good files for, if the camera struggles with Autofocus and isn’t as responsive as the top of the line camera introduced in 2009 (5D Mark IV was introduced in 2016). I chose two days at X-Bionic Summer Tour as the opportunity to get to know the camera. First time I was extremely disappointed. After tweaking the autofocus, the second day was more successful. The camera is definitely capable of producing excellent in-focus photos. But in lots of cases, it produces series of completely out of focus photos that are simply baffling to me. One of my favorite photos from the event was taken after the first CAI2*-H4 Combined carriage Marthon in Slovakia.
At the end of July and August I shot two Europa League 2019/2020 matches in Dunajska Streda and Bratislava for a foreign agency. This came as a complete surprise, since I don’t specialize in shooting football/soccer and doing agency work (delivering files ASAP and not having enough time to provide properly processed photos). Shooting visitor team also means less opportunities to capture the action, since they mostly concentrate on defending on the other side of the pitch. After the stressful evening hours, I’m quite pleased how I handled the matches. Especially the second one between Slovan Bratislava and PAOK FC Thessaloniki provided quite a lot of interesting moments – including scantily clad pitch invader. I will provide the shot below the “injury photo” with a mild NSFW warning. Overall, I think it was a nice new experience. However, at the time of writing this blog, I’m still not prepared to call it a 100% success until all aspect of it are resolved.
The photo of a pitch invader was quite in demand afterwards, since I was one of the handful domestic photographers, who got the shot (since almost every other domestic photographer was on the other side of the pitch.). Again, the photo can be considered mildly NSFW.
September was also a very busy month for me, not having nearly enough time for personal projects (and if I did, the weather just wouldn’t cooperate). Again, the photo I’m most happy with was created within walking distance from home. One of the fields was flooded by a torrential downpour. After the water dried, it left a large area of deep brown mud. I always wanted a nice detail photo of dried mud with deep cracks, but I didn’t have an opportunity to shoot one until now. All I had to do was wait for the right light. It took me three attempts, but I finally got the look I wanted. The Sun dipped below the horizon and thanks to the cloudless sky I got an amazing purple glow.
I may be repeating myself, but October was also extremely busy month. This time, I also got the time to squeeze some personal shooting between the work and paid shoots. At the beginning of the month, I visited Trnava once again. My goal was to try the new camera and see how it will handle some scenes that are challenging to capture. The narrow street, leading to Church of Saint Nicolas isn’t particularly challenging to frame. But the new camera produces significantly nicer files with more dynamic range and tonality. An HDR file was still required to maintain details around lanterns and to get the highest possible quality, but the result is well worth the “effort”. And the HDR workflow has one additional benefit. In most cases, it removes unwanted people from the frames, even though the street was surprisingly quiet that evening.
Two weeks later, I took the free time between two whole day shoots to visit Banska Stiavnica again. I expected there will be some fall colors and I knew my schedule will be very busy, so I made the trip. For half a day, the weather was miserable. I used the time for some exploring and found this overlook of the old town. As the weather started to improve, I walked back there to witness the beautiful colors all around the town.
At the beginning of November, I had a paid shoot near the town Bojnice. It has probably the nicest castle in Slovakia and last time I visited was in 2008. Luckily, the shoot wasn’t a whole day affair, so I made a short drive there afterwards to shoot the castle during the blue hour. Unfortunately, the lighting of the castle and around the castle was so bad, the photo required exposures several minutes long. Worse than that, I couldn’t even see the composition, both in viewfinder and on Live View. So it’s a little tighter than I wanted. I will be back to improve it, hopefully sooner than in 2030.
December was, once again crazy hectic, so aside from a number of paid shoots, there wasn’t any time for personal projects.
And that was my year of 2019. Considering how it went, I’d rather not set any particular “grand” goals for next year in order to avoid disappointment. Was your year as bad as mine? Will 2020 be better? What are your photography plans? Let me know in the comments. Happy new year!
Photogallery from Europa League 2019/2020 Play Off between SK Slovan Bratislava and PAOK FC Thessaloniki. The match was played on August 22nd 2019 at Tehelne Pole in Bratislava, Slovakia. I was tasked to cover PAOK FC players (played in black jerseys during the match). The game was intense and we even get to see a pitch invader in 2nd half. The home team scored a goal in the extended time and won 1:0.
Slovak International Air Fest is the largest air show in Slovakia, that usually takes place at the end of August. This year saw the change of date to first weekend of August and the return of world-famous Frecce Tricolori acrobatic group from Italy. Other than that, the performances were a little disappointing compared to previous editions.
The multi-week X-Bionic Summer Tour, held in beautiful X-Bionic Equestor Sphere in Samorin always offers great equestrian events. This year for the first time in Slovakia, the CAI2*-H4 Combined Marthon took place over several days. A grand finale with 6 carriages took place on July 28th. My photos are from July 21st and July 28th. If only the weather was as great as is the norm in Samorin…
On April 20 – 21st, Team Slovakia played against Team Brazil during the 2019 Fed Cup Play Offs. The winning team would secure the position among top 16 Tennis teams of the World. It was also the last Fed Cup tie for Dominika Cibulkova. She decided to retire from Fed Cup and other team competitions in front of the home fans after playing in Fed Cup for 14 years.
Results: Dominika Cibulkova : Carolina Alves – 6:1, 6:1. Viktoria Kuzmova : Beatriz Haddad Maia – 6:3, 6:3. Dominika Cibulkova : Beatriz Haddad Maia – 7:6, 6:0, Viktoria Kuzmova, Rebecca Sramkova : Carolina Alves, Luisa Stefani – 1:6, 3:6.
On February 1st and 2nd, the new format of Davis Cup was played for the first time with 24 teams competing for a spot in newly established Davis Cup Finals held in Madrid. The Canadian team led by rising star Denis Shapovalov and playing captain Frank Dancevic faced Slovak team for the first time in almost 22 years. Bratislava saw 5 high quality rubbers played on clay over the two days with Felix Auger Aliassime securing the win for Canadians in the deciding 5th rubber against Norbert Gombos.
Results: Filip Horansky : Denis Shapovalov – 4:6, 5:7, Martin Klizan : Felix Auger-Aliassime – 7:5, 6:3, Martin Klizan, Filip Polasek : Felix Auger-Aliassime, Denis Shapovalov – 3:6, 7:5, 6:3, Martin Klizan : Denis Shapovalov – 6:7, 4:6, Norbert Gombos : Felix Auger-Aliassime – 3:6, 4:6
Welcome to yet another edition of “A year in pictures” blog, that I’ll be once again submitting to Jim Goldstein’s annual blog project. Continuing the tradition from the last few years, I won’t be picking a handful of best photos. Instead I’ll do a month-by-month recap. In my opinion, this gives a better overview of what I was up to during the entire year. I’ll be providing links to larger galleries from various events, so feel free to check them out as well. You are also welcomed to explore my Landscapes and Travel portfolios as well as Galleries section, where I provide pictures from events I attended without too many words.
Overall it was a very busy year, both in photography as well as other work areas. Some of the photo assignments were by far the biggest I’ve done so far. On the other hand, I have a lot of bad taste in my mouth. Things are changing and it is a change for worse. Virtually every aspect of photography business took a turn for worse and a lot of outlets either just don’t work anymore. But it has became a tradition for me to be negative this time of year, so the only thing that I can do is wait how it will all turn out.
I started off the year at IBU Cup Biathlon in Osrblie. The biggest star of the event was Simon Fourcade, the older brother of Martin Fourcade. Martin is already among one of the best biathletes of all time, so chances of him appearing at lesser competitions is next to none. So it was nice to get the next best thing in Fourcade family and a first place for Simon too. The weather was unpleasant, but that’s Murphy’s law. When you need to be out and shooting, why having a nice sunny weather, right?
February was incredibly hectic. On some days I’d really appreciate the ability to split myself and being in two or even several places at once. But I still found a bit of time for personal photos. At the beginning of the month I was invited to Prague for European premiere of the Mummies of the World exhibition. Since this was only a one day trip because of scheduling, I only had about two hours to explore the city afterwards. The evening panorama of Prague Castle and Charles’ bridge was done to death, but I’m still happy I got my own version.
Few days later, I was shooting the Fed Cup tie between Slovakia and Russia. The Russians arrived with a team full of “young guns” including Anna Kalinskaya, pictured below.
At the end of March, I made a trip to Austria’s Neusiedler See, which is the largest endorheic lake in Central Europe. One of the most famous locations on its coast is a town of Podersdorf and its small but very picturesque lighthouse. I have seen quite a few photos from this place, but I never visited it until now. The weather was very sunny for a March and rather cloudless. When I arrived there, I realized the marina and lighthouse is definitely a morning location, but there are some nice photos to be captured at sunset and after sunset too. The lake was incredibly still and the evening turned out quite nice.
One day in April, I escaped our office a little earlier and made a short trip to the famous Church of Michael Archangel in Nitra-Drazovce. This tiny romanesque church is one of the oldest churches in Slovakia and stands atop a cliff above the village of Drazovce. The cloudy weather looked promising and I arrived just before the amazing early evening light. There was a lady taking some pictures and was ready to leave, when I told her that the Sun will shine in a little while. Her impatient husband insisted on leaving… Few moments later this happened:
It’s always worth waiting. If I already made the effort getting there, why leave after several minutes. Spend some time, be patient and maybe the luck will bring you the right moment.
In May I spent a total of nine days as the tournament photographer for Empire Slovak Open, which is the biggest women’s tennis tournament in Slovakia. The 10th edition has attracted some famous names, including former World no.2 Vera Zvonareva and Andrea Petkovic, whom I had the chance to not only photograph, but also do an interview. Being super smart and honest, Andrea’s answers did not disappoint. There are many nice photographs from this event, so my random photo of choice is the two time finalist Veronica Cepede-Royg in the heat of the battle.
June is traditionally associated with stormy weather and I was always on the lookout for photo opportunities. Unfortunately, by far the most impressive stormy light happened while I was on a photo assignment. As I finished, I took the tripod and drove to a location I haven’t visited in a while. Even though the best part of the stormy sky was gone, I still like the nice light and green color in the foreground. I also like the leading lines the dirt road provides. Hopefully the sky will fully provide next time I’m actually available for shooting.
In early July I returned to almost exactly the same spot (can you spot the common element of the two photos?) to capture the passing storm above the wheat field. The sun from the west created beautiful golden tones and the massive black clouds looked really menacing. Suddenly a double rainbow appeared. This is probably my first proper rainbow photo with nice composition and light. I’m very happy that I managed to capture this. I’m also happy that I wasn’t struck by lightning 15 minutes later as the second storm started to brew above my head.
At the end of the month, I made the annual trip to beautiful X-Bionic Equestor Sphere in Samorin for the Summer Tour 2018. Due to scheduling conflict I wasn’t able to attend Saturday races with the popular night session, but I managed to capture this funny moment of teeth cleaning. One of my favorite equestrian photos to date!
August was a slow month for personal projects. The only notable one was the Summer biathlon championships of Slovakia on roller skis. Unlike last year, none of the members of men’s and women’s “A” team were present.
At the beginning of September we made a short family trip to Cortina d’Ampezzo and the surrounding areas. This was a photo oriented trip with proper location planning, unlike my solo trip to the same area of Dolomites five years ago. You can plan all you want, but you have to have a lot of luck in landscape photography too in order to capture beautiful light. This photo of sunset light on Cinque Torri, captured on the very first evening in the area, is a prime example. It lasted less than a minute and I was extremely lucky that I was all set up and ready to capture it. The moment was so short I was unable to do a panoramic view I was planning to capture. It is probably my favorite photo of the trip. To this day, I haven’t processed all of the photos I took. A dedicated gallery or even a blog from this trip will definitely follow in 2019. In the mean time, you can see some of the photos in my landscape portfolio.
In mid-October I made a one day trip to Banska Stiavnica. This historic town is located in central Slovakia and since 1993 it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Some time ago, I decided to photograph the town in all seasons. I made the first trip last summer. The calvary complex (one of the landmarks of the town and one of the largest of its kind in Europe) was undergoing a major restoration. I decided to postpone the project until the restoration was complete. The day I picked was perfect for autumn colors. The weather was decent in the morning and got worse in the afternoon. I still managed to get some nice photos and I’m looking forward to be back. Hopefully this winter. You can see the full gallery from my visit here. One of my favorite photos of the trip is the morning panorama of Old Castle and surrounding rooftops.
At the beginning of November I made a late attempt to capture the remains of autumn colors in Little Carpathians. Until then, the weather was either not good for forest photography (mostly strong wind) or I was busy shooting paid work. That day the weather turned out great. There was almost no wind, it was partly cloudy and as I was gaining elevation, the forest turned into this foggy marvel. I like the forest pathway, the fallen leaves and of course the fog that seem to make the forest stretch to infinity.
In mid-December, an unexpected white stuff started falling from the sky. Such an odd feeling, I almost forgot what it’s called… I woke up to a beautiful morning. Everything was covered in thick layer of snow and more of it was still falling from the sky. I was slowly getting ready for the last event shoot of the crazy streak, that started at the end of November. Then I decided I just had to take advantage of these conditions and I headed out to a forest I had not visited in several years. The time I had was limited, but I managed to found this composition, which works well as a single photo. But I like it even more as a panoramic view.
On 29th, I made a trip to Osrblie to end the year with some biathlon shooting. It was one of those days, when things just were not meant to be. The races were tightly scheduled, the weather, while nice, was more difficult to shoot than last year’s “blizzard edition” and stuff just wasn’t happening. I guess one has to just accept those kinds of days and move on.
So that was my year 2018. I’m already looking forward to 2019 and I’m once again with a bit of fear what it’ll bring. I hope you had a great year of 2018. Thanks for reading this far, let me know in the comments how was your year of 2018 and what are your plans for 2019!
Photogallery from 2018 Viessmann Cup Round 1 in Osrblie, Slovakia. Around 90 biathletes in 11 categories competed in sprint on December 29th, 2018.
Personal notes: Sometimes you go in with the best intentions and things just… don’t work out. Despite the nice early afternoon weather, at times I found it more difficult to shoot than last year’s “blizzard edition”. Not much (capture-worthy) was happening on the track, the scheduling was way too tight so moving around was difficult at best. And my gear’s ability to produce decent results was a no show as well – probably still finishing the Christmas dinner leftovers. As they say: on some days, it’s indeed no picnic.
In mid-octobe 2018, I made a one day trip to Banska Stiavnica to see how the city looked during the peak of autumn colors. I was not disappointed. This time, my focus was on photographying the morning views of Old Castle and city itself, the well known antiquarian store on the main square, the underground “Love Vault”, which was featured on BBC International and of course the newly restored calvary complex, that was listed among the World’s Most Endangered Cultural Sites. I hope to be back to our UNESCO World Heritage Site jewel soon, hopefully during the upcomin winter season.