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2016 In Pictures

Hello and welcome to another edition of the year-end “best of” blogs, that I regularly submit to Jim Goldstein’s photo blog project. Each year I look forward to see the submitted work and finding a way how to expand and improve my photography. It also helps me to set goals for the year ahead. Last year I decided to change the style of the blog a bit. Selecting purely landscape work has become increasingly difficult for me, because I don’t have nearly enough time for my personal projects as I used to. So instead of presenting three or four photos that could be labeled as “landscapes”, I decided to go month-by month, describe what I had done and pick one or two most interesting photos.

This year I slowly began filling my newly created Travel portfolio, focusing on interesting places in various countries. It is a slow, lenghty process, but I’m quite happy with the photos I produced this year and hopefully 2017 will be just as good, if not better.

However, 2016 wasn’t just about positive experiences. During the year, I had to deal with several copyright infringements and unauthorised usage of my photos from journalists and nation-wide media. I chose to deal with the infringers myself and each time I was shocked by their excuses. Some cases took days to sort out, some took three or four months. In the end, I got my fair share from each of the case, so I’m happy that my time and energy was put to a good use.

 

In January I started out at a local biathlon competition called Viessmann Cup that took place in our national Biathlon center in Osrblie. This is very much a local competition, where old and young, men and women, amateurs and professionals compete together in their respective categories. However, the photo of the month comes from the Titanic: First Voyage, Real Artifacts, Real fates Exhibition. Compared to some other grand exhibitions I saw and photographed, the artifacts were real deals extracted from the wreckage of the most famous ship in human history. I was later complimented for the photos both by some visitors as well as the organizing company.

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In February I started out by shooting the Fed Cup 2016 World Group 2 tie between Slovakia and Australia. Team Australia, led by the feared Samantha Stosur, was a tough oponent for our girls. The matches were close. In the end Australia won the tie 3:2.

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A week later I was shooting Biathlon again. This time it was the 7th edition of 2015/2016 IBU Cup in Osrblie. While IBU Cup is only a “second league” compared to Biathlon World Cup, some top tier names appeared on the start lists. The Norwegian team was incredibly strong. Tiril Eckhoff and Fanny Horn-Birkeland, both World Cup stars, made the appearance in the heart of Slovakia. The overall men’s winner was Matvey Eliseev, who achieved some very respectable results in World Cup in the following races.

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In April our Fed Cup Team had to face Team Canada for the battle to stay in World Group 2. Dominika Cibulkova was in a top form and Team Canada was short of their elite player Genie Bouchard. Those were two deciding factors of the tie and Team Slovakia will remain in the World Group 2. Hopefully we’ll make that needed push and battle for World Group 1 in the following ties. The highlight of April however, was my visit to beautiful Florence in the heart of Tuscany. I was successfully able to merge leisure time with my friends and photography during mornings and evenings. I also managed to write a successful blog about my Florence adventures, however, I didn’t find the time to translate it to English to this day. I’ll try to do it as soon as possible in 2017.

First light on Piazza del Duomo with its jewel Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence, Italy. The incredible size of the cathedral, the closeness of the Baptistery of San Giovanni and the overall smallness of Piazza del Duomo made the shooting incredibly challenging.

First light on Piazza del Duomo with its jewel Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence, Italy. The incredible size of the cathedral, the closeness of the Baptistery of San Giovanni and the overall smallness of Piazza del Duomo made the shooting incredibly challenging.

 

I hope to return to Tuscany very soon to do some further exploring of Florence and visiting other Tuscan towns as well as that incredible countryside. I can already think of several place in Florence I haven’t had the chance to explore during my first visit. You can visit a gallery dedicated to my Florence visit by clicking on either Santa Maria del Fiore photos.

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In the beginning of May I had a chance to photograph the superb Hans Zimmer Live in Bratislava. The photography experience, however, wasn’t anything special. The famous “three song rule” (or one song rule in this case) was in effect and the lighting was (deliberately, I think) the worst of the entire show. In mid-May, I shot some action on the Empire Slovak Open in Trnava – the biggest Women’s Tennis Tournament in Slovakia and at the end of May I went to see the 2016 edition of Rotenstein, a nice Medieval/Renaissance festival held at the castle of Cerveny Kamen in the heart of Small Carpathians.

However, the main highlight of May was my visit to Prague for a short business trip. I also found some time to shoot and this marked my second visit to Prague in as many years, where I had the chance to explore the city. To be honest, I feel the internet is overloaded with the notoriously famous photos in Prague and it’s incredibly easy to follow the steps of thousand other photographers and getting the same photos. So before the trip I was looking around for some different spots I could try to explore. My main inspiration for this trip was the gallery of Ana Pogacar, a talented Slovenian photographer. Her photo of the Charles bridge and its surroundings from Petriny Tower inspired me to walk all the way from our hotel in Old Town to see the Prague from above. In the end I managed to get nearly identical photo – with my composition and lighting being very similar to Ana’s. The weather was a bit hazy so the visibility wasn’t as great in some directions. Prague is often labeled as the City of a Hundred Spires. I counted no less than twenty in this frame so I’m thinking whoever came up with the name under estimated the count a little.

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When I finished shooting on the top of Petriny Tower, I made my way to Prague Castle. The courtyard was filled with people, despite the late hours. Suddenly a young man approached me. “Hello, I have a spare ticket for the jewels exhibition, do you want to go? It’s for 8 PM entrance. We can go in in five minutes” I realized he was talking about the famous Crowning Jewels of King Charles the Fourth. I was a bit surprised and wanted to pay for the ticket, but the man insisted I should join him and his friends for free. The line was pretty long and the approach do the jewel case took about 30 minutes.

Finally I saw the jewels in all their glory. They were placed in a strangely shaped case that was covered in dust, the side glass was wavy and the jewels were harshly lit. At least that was the reality from a photographer’s point of view. Nevertheless it was a wonderful experience to see them in person. These crowning jewels are on display only during special occassions. This time they were displayed to commemorate the 700th anniversary of the birth of Charles the Fourth. I want to thank the young gentleman again for the free ticket and the opportunity to see the jewels in person.

The crowning jewels of Bohemia on display at Prague Castle at the end of May, 2016. The crown, screpter and apple are displayed only on special ocassions.

The crowning jewels of Bohemia on display at Prague Castle at the end of May, 2016. The crown, screpter and apple are displayed only on special ocassions.

 

In June I started to feel a bit melancholic. In the past months I traveled quite a bit and I shot quite a bit of sports but I did very little of landscape photography. The days were getting significantly longer and they were offering quite a lot of opportunities even during work days. I was out there quite a lot, however, the weather simply wouldn’t co-operate. Until one evening… It is a very simple scene of a farmland just outside the village where I live. The Sunset colors were superb and right now I can say this was one of two most beautiful Sunsets I saw in 2016.

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At the end of July I was in Czech Republic again for a one day shooting assignment. In the morning I drove about 350 kilometers to my destination, shot the assignment during the day and drove back home in the evening. During my way back I decided to stop in the picturesque south-eastern Moravian town of Mikulov and make a short visit to it’s famous Sacred Hill. The evening Sun was beautifully illuminating the Chapel of Saint Sebastian and the nearby belltower. There were quite a few people on the hill, some of them even decided to lie in my composition and talk about life and stuff. During the processing of this six shot panoramic (even though it does not look like a panoramic photo) I decided not to clone out the couple.

The chapel of Saint Sebastian and its belltower bathe in a warm Summer evening light. The Chapel was built in 1630 after an outbreak of plague. The adjacent belltower was built in 1632. The present bell is used for celebrational purposes.

 

I spent about half an hour on the Hill, waiting for nicer clouds. I shot several versions of the scene, however, the clouds weren’t improving that much. I decided to go back to the parking lot and continue driving, because I had to cover another 150 kilometers. As I was leaving Mikulov I noticed a dramatic change. The sky filled with cloud and the setting Sun painted the sky with incredible red tones. Unfortunately I was too far away to go back and take advantage of the most beautiful sunset of 2016. The moral of the story: Always stay till the very end.

I started the August by one-day shooting at Equestrian Festival, held in the superb X-Bionic Sphere arena in Samorin. And at the end of the month, I went to Slovak International Air Fest, which I thought wasn’t as good as the previous edition. The highlight of the month was my half-day visit to Banska Stiavnica. It is one of the most important historic towns of Slovakia and it is the UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1993. Even though it is not that far from my home and my aunt has a weekend house nearby, my last visit to Banska Stiavnica took place eight years ago. I still cannot figure out why it took me so long to go back, but it was great to visit the city once again. The weather was mostly cloudless, but for this rooftop panoramic, some puffy clouds appeared.

The old mining town of Banska Stiavnica is one of the most important landmarks of Slovakia and it is a part of UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1993. The mines around town were rich in silver ore and other precious metals. The town was also a home to first mining college in Europe and the first ever Technical School in the world - established in 1763. This photo depicts a late August afternoon overlooking the rooftops of the historic center of Banska Stiavnica. The metal and wooden rooftops are a necessity due to large snowfall in winter months. The hilltop Calvary, which is perhaps the town's most famous landmark, is visible in the distance.

The old mining town of Banska Stiavnica is one of the most important landmarks of Slovakia and it is a part of UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1993. The mines around town were rich in silver ore and other precious metals. The town was also a home to first mining college in Europe and the first ever Technical School in the world – established in 1763. This photo depicts a late August afternoon overlooking the rooftops of the historic center of Banska Stiavnica. The metal and wooden rooftops are a necessity due to large snowfall in winter months. The hilltop Calvary, which is perhaps the town’s most famous landmark, is visible in the distance.

 

The main street of Banska Stiavnica has many mining houses. Unfortunately a large portion of them is not in a good shape. Some of them however, have been restored and are wonderful to look at. If all the houses were properly restored, the main street of Banska Stiavnica could rival most of the historic towns, including Florence. I don’t think it will happen though, due to lack of funding and many “sins” of the communist regime.

In September I was back in Mikulov, as well as the nearby towns of Lednice and Valtice, for a two day trip. I tried to do as much photography as possible, but the weather was extremely hot and mostly cloudless. This is typical for the late August and early September in this region. This dawn shot of Valtice Castle, which holds the National Archive of Czech wines, was one of my favorites from the trip.

A beautiful and subtle pre-dawn glow on the courtyard of Valtice Castle. It was the seat and residence of the Liechtenstein family. It is a part of Lednice-Valtice Cultural Landscape, that is registered as UNESCO World Heritage Site.

A beautiful and subtle pre-dawn glow on the courtyard of Valtice Castle. It was the seat and residence of the Liechtenstein family. It is a part of Lednice-Valtice Cultural Landscape, that is registered as UNESCO World Heritage Site.

A week later I had the chance to attend the grand opening of Cosmos Discovery Exhibition in Bratislava. Unlike last year’s Gateway To Space exhibition in Prague, which I attended and photographed as well, the Slovak edition had genuine parts from Saturn V rocket and Space Shuttle on display.

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At the end of October, I was photographying the prestigious ATP 500 Erste Bank Open Tennis tournament in Vienna, Austria. Overally I have to say this was a great experience, except for the quality of lighting. In 2016 and on the event of this caliber, I’d expect the light to be as good as it gets, not “butt-ugly yellow”.

In the second part of October and the first part of November, I made several trips to shoot fall colors. I really can’t say why, but I had a feeling that the quality of fall colors was severely lacking this year in Slovakia. The leaves just weren’t yellow enough. They kept a green hue before turning into brown or falling off. This photo from the overlook above the mining village of Spania Dolina was among the better ones I took during my trips. Although the colors in the village itself weren’t as nice as I hoped.

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On the same day I photographed the Kraliky waterfall, located about 15 kilometers away from Spania Dolina. I was really happy with the waterflow that day and I’ll probably take some waders next time to access even better angles.

A colorful autumn at Kraliky waterfall in Central Slovakia. This small gorge is located just outside Banska Bystrica with the 7 meter tall waterfall at its end. The amount of water running throught the waterfall was impressive on this overcast autumn day.

A colorful autumn at Kraliky waterfall in Central Slovakia. This small gorge is located just outside Banska Bystrica with the 7 meter tall waterfall at its end. The amount of water running throught the waterfall was impressive on this overcast autumn day.

Incidentally, my favorite fall photo does not contain any fall colors. On the last day of October, I made my way to Nitra castle. The long opening hours and early twilight hour were the key components in making this photo.

A late October evening at Nitra Castle, Slovakia. The Cathedral of Saint Emmeram dominates the castle courtyard. Nitra castle was once the home to Dukes Mojmir and Pribina during the Great Moravian Empire.

A late October evening at Nitra Castle, Slovakia. The Cathedral of Saint Emmeram dominates the castle courtyard. Nitra castle was once the home to Dukes Mojmir and Pribina during the Great Moravian Empire.

 

The highlight of December was definitely my two days at Biathlon World Cup in Nove Mesto na Morave. In recent years, biathlon became incredibly popular in Czech republic and the total attendance of this four day event was around 130 thousand spectators. Most of the races were scheduled for late afternoon/evening. The artificial lights are always a challenge. The quality and intensity varies on different parts of the track, but they also create the opportunities to capture a different kind of photos. This photo of Norwegian biathlete Tiril Eckhoff is definitely on the “artsy” side, but it’s probably my favorite from the weekend.

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This was only a small glimpse of my incredibly intense year of 2016. Due to some work/study related stuff in the first half of 2017, I won’t be making any bold photographic plans. But each day is not only a challenge, but also an opportunity, so I hope I’ll make most of it. Thanks for your time, I hope you enjoyed my Year-end blog. Feel free to leave a comment or connect with me on Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn or the dreadful Facebook.

A brilliant display of fall colors at the heart of Kvacany valley, Slovakia. Some of the leaves are still green and create a nice color contrast against all the orange leaves around them.

2015 in Pictures

Welcome to another installment of my “Best of” blog for Jim Goldstein’s excellent photo blog project. But first, a following message needs to be said:

I think Jim’s blog project is a great way to demostrate the diversity of our skills and approach to photography. Everybody is free to shoot what he or she likes and what makes him or her happy. I also believe most of us won’t aspire to win any major awards with the submitted photos. However, there are some people, who browse these “Best of” blog posts and expect to find unique, never-before-seen, life-altering photos in each of these blogs. Then they ramble endlessly on their blogs about how most of the presented photos are unoriginal, boring and forgetable. If you are one of those people, let me save you some time. Yes, this blog contains unoriginal, boring and forgetable photos you’ve probably seen a thousand times before. Please close the tab in your browser and move along.

If I had to summarize the year of 2015, I’d say “Incredibly intensive” and “The year of change”. Honestly, I cannot remember a more photographically intensive year than 2015. But most of my photo endeavors weren’t dedicated to my personal landscape projects and were focused on reportage/editorial content. And since this is the “Year of change”, I decided to do this blog differently. Rather than struggling with few landscape photos, I decided to go month-by month and present my key work from that particular month.

Another big change and big project for me is the update of my website. In November, I began to migrate my old website to a more modern theme in order to give it a bit nicer look and some new functions. I decided to split my photos into two parts – Portfolios and Galleries. In portfolios, you can find my best photos from the respective category. Currently the available portfolios are Landscapes and Sports. I’m hoping to add a Travel portfolio early next year. In Galleries section, you’ll find larger number of photos from trips, events or sporting events I attended. I also decided to reprocess many of my photos, because I feel they could look a lot better with my present post-processing skills. Most of the changes are subtle, but it’s important for me. This is obviously another large project, but I’m happy to say most of the photos on my website have been already updated.

At the beginning of January I went to see and photograph the world-famous Tutankhamun exhibition, that was held in Bratislava. As a fan of Ancient Egypt, I really enjoyed this great exhibition about the most famous Pharaoh. The presented setpieces are top class reproductions of the originals. The curator of this exhibiton actually said it’s more enjoyable this way, because the originals are often in bad shape. If you’d like to see more photos from this exhibition, click on the Tutankhamun’s visage.

The face of Tutankhamun

In February I was fortunate to attend the Biathlon World Cup in Nove Mesto na Morave, Czech Republic. This was probably the biggest event of the biathlon world in 2014/2015 season, mainly because of recent successes of Czech biathletes. Over the course of four days the races attracted about 100 000 visitors. Biathlon is an overwhelming sport to photograph, even if you’re an experienced sports shooter. It takes considerable amount of time to shoot all aspects of it and impossible to do in a single race uness you have an assistant photographer. Even though I managed to produce only a handful of photos I’m happy with, I’m really happy that I was able to be there. This photo of slightly disappointed French superstar Martin Fourcade is my favorite from that day.

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In March I visited Venice after nearly 8 years. Unfortunately, much of the shooting was disrupted by constant rain and drizzle. Nevertheless, I managed to produce a series of photos, that is perhaps a bit different than I imagined. I also managed to write a somewhat successful blog in Slovak, with roughly 6000 unique visitors. If you’d like to see the Venice 2015 gallery, click on the photo of Gondolas and Isola di San Giorgio. If you’d like you can also read the English translation of my blog here (Long form, approx. 3400 words).

A dark and cloudy March morning in Venice. The sway of gondolas is exaggerated by long exposure. The iconic church of San Giorgio Maggiore can be seen in the backgroung.

In April I photographed a Federations Cup World Group II tie between Slovakia and Sweden. Fed Cup is the World Cup of women’s tennis. This victory photo depicts Anna-Karolina Schmiedlova, Daniela Hantuchova, Jana Cepelova, Team Captain Matej Liptak and Kristina Schmiedlova after they secured the necessary third point. I hope we’ll make it back to World Group I in 2016. During this event, I had the chance to fully utilize the largest addition to my kit – Canon 300mm f2.8 L IS that I purchased in March. You can see the full gallery of 30 photos by clicking on the photo.

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In June I managed to photograph these dead tree trunks in the bed of river Váh. It’s Slovakia’s longest river and has a cascade of 23 power stations. Because of ongoing maintenance on one of the power stations, the riverbed close to my home was partialy dried for several months. These trunks are usually completely submerged in water. The next maintenance will take place in several years. The sunset was quite nice that day as well.

Cold June weather and strong evening wind were the perfect ingredients to this sunset on this temporarily dried out riverbed. These dead trees are usually submerged in the waters of river Váh. Every few years, the maintenance procedures on the nearby power station dry out the river bed for a short period of time. This year however, this is a natural phenomenon. The riverbed has almost completely dried out and even weed is starting to grow through the stones. Váh is the longest Slovak river (403 kilometers) and has a system of 22 water dams with power stations.

In June I also visited Prague for a short business meeting and roughly two days of shooting and exploring the city. It was my third visit to this beautiful, but crowded city. For the first time I was alone and had some time to photograph *properly* at least some of the landmarks. This evening photo of Charles’ bridge, which is overrun by tourists pretty much any hour of the day, got me thinking about iconic locations a lot. I will definitely write a blog about it, once I finish the work on my new website. I uploaded several photos from Prague into a separate gallery. Sadly, it lacks daylight photos. I think the properly done daylight photo with nice clouds is not a bad thing at all. One of my new year’s resolutions is to make more daylight photos. If you’d like to see more photos from Prague, click on the Charles’ bridge photo.

Quiet summer twilight at Charles' Bridge in Prague. The dome of the Church of Francis of Assisi and Old Town Bridge Tower are visible in the back.

During my stay in Prague, I visited and photographed Gateway to Space – an exhibition dedicated to space exploration. It was organized by the same company that organized the Tutankhamun exhibition in Bratislava. My stay in Prague marked the last two days of the exhibition. Nevertheless, the place was packed by the space nuts and fans of space exploration. If you’re interested in seeing more photos from this fine exhibition, click on the photo of the Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV).

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In August I attended the Summer Masters Equestrian event in Samorin. This prestigious event is held in a beautiful, newly built Hippo arena. The races were of high quality thanks to the attendance of many respectable riders and horses, both from Slovakia and from abroad. The photo that stands out for me is the photo of a rising Moon next to a beautiful Horse statue made of stainless steel plates. If you’d like to see the entire statue and some beautiful horses, click on the rising Moon photo. The link will take you to full gallery from this event.

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In September I visited High Tatras National Park. This photo depicts a small waterfall on Studenovodský potok (literally “Coldwater stream). There are several smaller and larger waterfalls on this stream, located near Hrebienok. I made some other photos of the stream, but this is my favorite. I also tried some other compositions further down the stream and will work on them more during my next visit.

The waters of Studený potok (literally Cold Stream) run through a narrow rocky crack in the heart of High Tatras. This stream creates a series of waterfalls, this is the first of three.

In October I made two trips to shoot Fall colors. This photo of tree trunks and branches was made in Kvacany valley near Liptovsky Mikulas. This photo depicts not only the beauty of Fall in this part of my country, but also the reason why I do the landscape photography. I try to capture not only the beautiful scenes, but also the beautiful light. The day I took this was somewhat cloudy. But for a brief moment, the Sun and the clouds created this magical soft light that brought out all the beautiful colors. Moments later, I decided to make several vertical frames for a panorama stitch. But the magical light was already gone. In landscape photography, each minute of the day can be decisive!

A brilliant display of fall colors at the heart of Kvacany valley, Slovakia. Some of the leaves are still green and create a nice color contrast against all the orange leaves around them.

In November I made several trips to Nitra Castle, specifically to shoot this panorama of the castle courtyard. Nitra Castle is one of the most important castles of Slovak history. It was especially important during the Great Moravian Empire and was home to Duke Pribina. The castle is located on a small table-mountain above Nitra and offers some beautiful views of the city. The statue in the middle depicts the late Pope John Paul II, who visited Nitra in 1995. This photo will be a part of upcoming Travel portfolio. I went for the twilight version of the panorama, even though I have an evening photo with a lovely glow on the buildings. But there were no clouds in the sky at all, so I’m hoping to capture the place with some beautiful evening clouds next time I’m there.

The twilight hour on the square dedicated to late pope John Paul II. Nitra Castle is one of the most important castles of Slovak history. It was especially important during the Great Moravian Empire and was home to Dukes Mojmir, Pribina and Rastislav.

My personal project for December was the tiny romanesque church of Saint Michael the Archangel, located near Nitra. In fact, this church is visible from the courtyard of Nitra Castle. At evening, the church is lit by three rather unprofessional, boxy looking lights, that are too close to the building. I decided to include one of the lights into my composition. This rock upon which this church stands is indeed a magical, contemplative place. Especially after the crowds go away. Although these days with the construction of a nearby Land Rover factory, you’re getting quite a bit of rumble during your talks to the heaven.

A cloudy winter evening at the Church of Saint Michael Archangel near Nitra, Slovakia. This tiny Romanesque church is one of the oldest churches in Slovakia. It is also one of the most famous ones. The church lies on a cliff above the village of Drazovce. The twinkling lights of nearby villages and a busy road can be seen in the distance.

So that was my year of 2015. And what are my hopes for 2016? I already have lots of shorter trips planned. I will most probably be traveling to Italy again. And the year 2016 looks promising from the business point of view as well. Thanks for your time, I hope you enjoyed my Year-end blog. Feel free to leave a comment or connect with me on Twitter, LinkedIn or the dreadful Facebook.

A dark and cloudy March morning in Venice. The sway of gondolas is exaggerated by long exposure. The iconic church of San Giorgio Maggiore can be seen in the backgroung.

Rainy Day Blues in Venice

“Ah, Venice!” The famous line from Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade says it all. Staying in Venice is anything but boring. Sailing around in a vaporetto, emerging from the catacombs on a well known piazza or fooling around with Elsa Schneider. The real life Venice is no different. Over the years, I found out many people are prejudiced against visiting Venice. Apparently, Venice is dirty, smelly, and overrun with couples in love. If you’re looking for these things, you will certainly find them here. I much rather search for beauty, uniqueness, history and atmosphere of the place. I first searched for these things in 2007 and in spring of 2015, I had the opportunity to visit Venice again. My visit was, however, affected by almost constant rain. The photos I got on this trip are substantially different than I planned. …

A Salute to Santa Maria

Santa Maria della Salute is probably the most recognizable Venetian church after Saint Mark’s Basilica. During my first visit, it was undergoing a major maintenance and the dome was covered in scaffolding. I was really happy that nothing obstructed the view this time around and I could make a couple of nice photos. At least from the outside. You can take photos inside, but if you want to use a tripod, you need a permission from local authorities. I’ll try to get it next time I’m there.

I took three photos of Santa Maria during the first evening. The first one is probably the most famous view of Gran Canal from Ponte dell’ Accademia bridge. You can take a photo of this scene anytime of the day, but after sunset it really comes alive. The Gran Canal is the throughfare of Venice. Just swap the tarmac for waterway and cars for boats. The evening rush hour looks like this:

The famous view of Gran Canal from Ponte dell' Accademia is captivating any time of day. But I feel the most interesting is just after the sunset during the "rush hour". The last light of the day is still visible in the sky, the city ligths come alive and the boats create those fantastic long streaks of light.

Before I made the “rush hour” photo, I also made this photo of the Santa Maria waterfront. The incredible crowds that visit the church during the day was already reduced to a handful of people, sitting or standing on the steps.

A quiet cloudy March evening at Santa Maria della Salute - one of the most famous churches in Venice.

Eventually, everyone went home or to the hotel. It kind of pays off to be a starving photographer for a while.

A late, cloudy March evening on the canal steps leading to Santa Maria della Salute, one of the most famous and most beautiful churches in Venice.

The next morning I made another photo of Santa Maria. This time from the other side of Gran Canal.

Santa Maria della Salute, one of the most famous churches in Venice at dawn.

Hommage á Michael Kenna

In case you’re not familiar with Michael Kenna – he’s a British photographer famous for his black and white landscape photographs. He still shoots film, most notably on Hasselblad medium format, which natively outputs photos with square aspect ratio. I own one of his photo books, Mont Saint Michel, which was published in 2007 and depicts this breathtaking island located in Normandy. In one of the interviews, Michael stated that he doesn’t like to shoot scenes and sceneries with people that much and this is one of the reasons why he prefers to work at night. In the last 30 years, he frequently visited Venice as well. In 2010 he published a book of his venetian photographs, simply called Venezia. I hope I’ll be adding this book to my shelf soon.

However, I must add, that you probably have to be “in the mood” for viewing Michael’s photographs. Thanks to the dark, night sky and black and white rendition, I find his photos somewhat bleak and depressing. Nevertheless, they can be inspiring and often times offer a completely different view on the places that are mostly overrun by tourists. During my visit to Venice, I made two photos as homage to Michael’s work and will also present some other photos in black and white.

The first photo depicts a winged lion, located on one of the columns next to Doge’s palace. The dark morning sky made a perfect backdrop to this photo, that Michael himself made as well.

Homage to Michael Kenna 1. Michael Kenna is one of the premier black and white photographers of 20th and 21st century. The main ingredients of his well know body of work are the square format, useage of black and white film and photographying predominatnly at night. This often leads to bleak but many times thought-provoking images. He photographed the city of Venice fairly extensively over the past 30 years. The winged lion of Piazzetta San Marco appears on one of his photos. The bleak, cloudy morning and impending rain ispired me to do this homage to his work. My version is slightly different. I took it from another angle so the other wing is visible as well. And naturally I left it at the standard 3:2 ratio instead of square format.

The scene captured on the second photo is located just a few meters away. The second column on Piazetta San Marco houses a statue of Saint Theodore, who was the patron of Venice before Saint Mark.

Homage to Michael Kenna 2. Michael Kenna is one of the premier black and white photographers of 20th and 21st century. The main ingredients of his well know body of work are the square format, useage of black and white film and photographying predominatnly at night. This often leads to bleak but many times thought-provoking images. He photographed the city of Venice fairly extensively over the past 30 years. This is another scene from Piazzetta San Marco from the bleak, late March Morning in Venice. The statue on top of the column depicts Saint Theodore with the spear, slaying a dragon. I positioned myself to include the nearby buliding as well. The statues on the balcony are the perfect spectators to this heroic act.

Incomperhensible Bridge of Sighs

Bridge of Sighs (Ponte dei Sospiri in Italian) is a covered bridge that connects the Doge’s Palace and a nearby Prison. It was built around the year 1600. The legends of old say the condemned saw the last of Venice through its windows and they could do nothing but “sigh” at the loss of their freedom. Some modern legends say that eternal love will be granted to those who kiss under the bridge during a Gondola ride, during the sunset, while the toll of Saint Mark’s bells can be heard…. Oohkay…. These says, the Bridge of Sighs is one of the most popular attractions of Venice. And to this day, I cannot understand why…

For starters, the bridge is not that beautiful. It’s rather short and located in a narrow, dark canal. However for some reason it attracts throngs of tourists every day. And for some reason, each and every one of them needs to make a selfie with the bridge, using their own hands. Or worse – selfie sticks. I had to do it differently. I arrived to the bridge in early morning. Luckily, there’s no signs of tourists at 5:15 AM. I made the first shot. And I was instantly disappointed. The canal under the bridge was dark and murky. I quickly came up with different composition and included the banister, that prevents all those tourists ending up in a canal every day.

Bridge of Sighs (Ponte dei Sospiri in Italian) is a covered bridge, that connects Doge's palace (the left building) with the prison. It was built in the year 1600 and it is one of the most viewed landmarks in Venice. I must say I'm baffled by its popularity. It's located above a narrow canal, in the shadow of Doge's palace and not "stunningly nice". Nevertheless, millions and millions of tourists stop there for a long while and take the picture. This is how it looks without the crowds.

The tiny barred windows offer nothing but a glipse of the beautiful Venice. Or not, if the poor bastard was condemned on a rainy day. Looking out of the windows I could see the rainy weather, Venetian lagoon and parts of San Giorgio Maggiore. And I did sigh. Despite the rain, throngs of tourists were making selfies with the bridge.

Vast amount of grills and bars almost block the view from the inside the Bridge of Sighs. Taken on a rainy March day, the Ponte della Paglia is nevertheless crowded by tourists. The church of San Giorgio can be seen in the distance.

I don’t have to be interrogated in the facilities of Doge’s Palace, nor thrown into the rocky prison next to it to admit I don’t have that much talent for photography. For the last photo of Bridge of Sighs, I borrowed the composition from Italian photographer Paolo de Faveri. He too created a very similar looking panorama of Ponte della Paglia, Doge’s Palace and the Bridge of Sighs. Even the the weather, during which both photographs were made, was very similar. However, there are some differences. I positioned myself a little differently and on my photo you can see through the arcade under Doge’s Palace.

Taken on a rainy March Morning, this panaorama depicts Ponte della Paglia on the left, the Doge's palace in the middle and Ponte dei Sospiri - Bridge of Sighs on the Right. This view was inspired by very similar photo of Italian photographer Paolo de Faveri. There are some subtle differences. The archway of Doge's palace is visible and if you're lucky, you can even catch a glimpse of "The Doge's Ghost" walking under it.On the full size photo, you can even see “The ghost of Doge”. It’s a silouette of a man, who took a shelter there from the horrible rain.

The beauty of Murano glasswork

If you’re planning to spend more than one afternoon in Venice (yes, there are many travel agencies in Europe, who offer 1 day or 1 afternoon trips to Venice), you must definitely visit the Glass museum – Museo del Vetro, on the island of Murano. The artisans on Murano island are renowned for their top quality glass work. In past, many glass working techniques have either been invented or perfected on Murano. Perhaps the most famous technique invented here is called “milk glass”.

I’m not sure if it was because of the constant rain or the distance, but there was hardly anyone in the Glass museum. The journey from Saint Mark’s square is quite tedious and takes approximately an hour. But it’s well worth it. You’ll find many stunning examples of glasswork spanning many centuries, including chandeliers, glasses, goblets, decorations and of course vases.

The glass workshops on Murano island, close to Venice, were the leading manufacturers of high quality and cutting-edge glass ware and artistic objects. Today, the fine examples of their work is displayed in the Museum of Glass, or Museo del Vetro.

However, Murano glass can take many forms and shapes.

An unusually shaped Murano Glass on display at Museo del Vetro

Between February 9th and 30th May, you could visit an exhibition dedicated to well known Murano artist and sculptor Luciano Vistosi. Vistosi learned the art of glass making in his father’s workshop. Later, he focused on creating high quality glass artwork that reflected the latest trends in design. Vistosi passed away in 2010 and over the years, his sculptures were photographed by the premier Italian photographers. Here are some of my photos of his sculptures:

A piece of modern art made of Murano glass displayed at Museo del Vetro on the Murano Island. The author of this sculpture is Luciano Vistosi

Most people would probably consider this to be too “artsy fartsy”. However, the sculptures are incredibly detailed, with amazing textures. When they are properly lit, one could spend many hours photographying the lightplay in the countless number of compositions. If Vistosi would be able to visit his exhibition, he’d be greatly displeased by the amount of dust on his sculptures. During the post processing, I had to remove a considerable amount of dust particles from the surface of the sculpture.

A piece of modern art made of Murano glass displayed at Museo del Vetro on the Murano Island. The author of this sculpture is Luciano Vistosi. The details of these scupltures were breathtaking.

At the end of my visit to the Glass museum, I was slightly disappointed. I’d discovered a beautiful brochure about the history of glass making on Murano at the museum’s book store. However, it was only in Italian. When I asked the vendor about the English version, his only words were “Sorry, sold out”. Another reason to return….

The details of Doge’s Palace

Doge’s Palace is a center of political, social and cultural life in Venice. More than a milion tourist visit it each year. At first glance, the building looks quite ordinary, especially from a distance. But upon closer inspection, you’ll find lots of fine and memorable details. Inside, you’ll find stunning art pieces, beautifuly crafted ceilings in almost every room and one of the largest chambers in Europe. Because of on going maintenance of Saint Mark’s Basilica and constant rain, I decided not to do many grand views of the Palace. I focused on smaller details instead.

Porte della Carta is a ceremonial entrance to the palace. It’s a shame that it’s somewhat hidden between the Palace and the Saint Mark’s Basilica. This Gothic masterpiece was built by Italian sculptor Bartolomeo Bon between 1438 and 1442. The statues of Doge Fracesco Foscari and Saint Mark’s Lion are the centepieces of the gate. It is lit by a couple of spotlights during evening hours.

Porta della Carta

The arcade under the Doge’s Palace is swarming with tourists during the day. But you make it there early in the morning, it’s usually completely empty. But once I snapped away a few photos of this classic composition, the cleaning brigade started their daily routine. All those broken selfie sticks and umbrellas need to be cleaned before the littering tourists come again. This vicious circle cannot be beaten, unfortunately.

The arcade of Doge's palace is usually full of people during the day, waiting to get inside. It is peaceful and empty during the early mornings.

The facade of Doge’s Palace contains several statues and reliefs. The most accessible is located on the corner of the Palace, next to Ponte della Paglia bridge. If you’re standing on the bridge, you can almost touch it. If you find the gentleman on the left a bit “under the weather”, you’re correct. This relief depicts the biblical scene called Drunkeness of Noah.

Drunkness of Noah

The famous arcade on the first floor is probably one of the most memorable aspects of the Palace.

Doge's Palace Arch Detail

Once you get inside, you’ll find many breathtaking paintings and absolutely incredible ceilings in almost every room. This photo of a ceiling is from one of the smaller rooms in the Palace.

Doge's Palace Ceiling

In addition to all those ceilings and paintings, the Doge’s palace also has a large selection of old letters, peace treaties and naval maps. They all show how important the Venetian republic was back in its day. But like most of the exhibits, no photograph can truely show their beauty. You have to see them in person!

Island dreaming

The monks dedicate their days to contemplation, meditation and prayers. One of the most important monasteries in Venice was established in 10th century on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore. Over the centuries, this benedictine monastery became one of the most important religious and cultural places in Italy. In 19th century it fell to ruin and was used as a military warehouse for some time. It was restored in mid 20th century and it’s now the headquarters of Cini foundation.

For us photographers, the time for contemplation, prayers and meditation comes during the so called blue hour. It’s a part of the day, when the sky turns dark blue. It usually happens about an hour before the sunrise and an hour after sunset. If you want to capture the blue hour in the morning, be prepared to wake up early. The summer mornings are especially difficult. Sometimes, being on the spot at 3AM might be too late, depending on the weather and clouds in the sky. During my visit to Venice, I managed to capture the island of San Giorgio Maggiore during the rain-less blue hour.

Dark heavy clouds create perfect conditions for the blue hour at Isola de San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice

The most notorious view of the island must contain the Gondolas. This six second expousre shows the movement of Gondolas and their “parking poles” by incoming waves from the lagoon.

A dark and cloudy March morning in Venice. The sway of gondolas is exaggerated by long exposure. The iconic church of San Giorgio Maggiore can be seen in the backgroung.

It was raining the next morning, but the view of the island from Ponte della Pagila is worth seeing in any weather.

Rainy dawn at Isola di San Giorgio Maggiore, as seen from Ponte della Paglia.

Maybe I was bothered by the constant rain, maybe we could plan the sightseeing part better. But to this day I have not visited the island itself. The visit of the monastery is one of the top priorities for my next trip to Venice, whenever that might be.

If you’re allowed to shoot, make it count

Venetians are the people of many talents. It certainly took a lot of talent and courage to build this magnificent city and to create a powerful navy that ruled the Adriatic sea. Nowadays they tempt you with countless museums, art shows and culinary experiences found in the most unexpected places. And they make your life a misery by constantly forbidding the photography. Especially in the mask shops. The mask is a tangible product. If I take a photo of it, I will hardly run back home and make an exact copy of it. Luckily, renowned mask workshops allow visitors to photograph the displayed masks. All you need to do is be polite and ask beforehand.

A wide selection of masks from the prestigious mask workshop, that supplied several pieces to Stanley Kubrick's final movie - Eyes Wide Shut. The masks served many purposes in Venetian republic and they were even used by doctors as a form of protection during the plague. After the fall of Venetian republic, the craft was almost completely forgotten until the 1980s. After the revival of Carneval, mask workshops were established again and had to re-learn the process of mask making from the ancient records.In past, the masks were used primarily for the famous Venetian carnival and other forms of entertainment. But they also served as a protection for doctors in times of plague or other highly contagious diseases. That is why the mask with large beak is called “Il dottore“. After the fall of Venetian republic, the craft of making the masks was forgotten. In the 80s, the tradition of Venetian carnival was reinstated, but the process of mask making had been forgotten. The workshpos had to be reopened and they also had to dig into the archives and re-discover how to make the masks for this ocassion. During my trip to Venice I visited two renowned workshops. The first workshop pioneered the rediscovery of the process of mask making. They also issued a nice brochure about the Venetian masks that I purchased. The second workshop, pictured above, offers a beautifully decorated, high quality masks. Both workshops supplied various masks for Stanley Kubrick’s last movie – Eyes Wide Shut. I won’t tell you the names or locations though. I’d take the fun out of researching and exploring Venice.

Another well known spot is the second-hand bookshop with a gondola bookshelf. When I asked about making some photos, the owner just waved his arm and continued his conversation with his acquaintance. Since it was early afternoon, my guess is, he had answered this question for 287th time that day.

The famous Venetian bookstore with gondola serving as a bookshelf.You can find lots of interesting books in this “dump”, both old and new. I found an unopened book from Taschen, dedicated to some classic painter. It was exactly 1 cent dearer compared to the official Taschen webstore. I was amazed, because everything needs to be carried by boats and by hand in Venice. When I first published the Slovak version of this blog in June, some shark from an investment group gave an interview, where he stated that Austrians don’t know how to do business properly in their ski resorts. His investment group owns majority of ski resorts in Slovakia and if you’ve ever ski both in Austria and Slovakia, you’d laugh him out. The prices and services in Slovakia are terrible compared to Austria. I wonder what he’d say about the prices in this bookstore….

The famous Venetian bookstore with gondola serving as a bookshelf.Some day in distant future, an investment group will purchase this bookstore for sure. There will be admission and security. But until then, the store and its books is under protection of this guy…

A black cat guards the books in the famous venetian bookstore.

We are human and the well known fact is – humans make mistakes. It’s not that hard for me to admit I made a mistake here and there. Even though I was allowed to photograph in these shops, I did not do everything possible to make the photos of highest quality. Certainly, taking my time and working on tripod would’ve resulted in higher quality photos. But, I have yet another reason to return there.

Gondolas – a Venetian necessity

You cannot make a photoblog from Venice without the Gondolas. Period. This incredibly elegant boat made of eight kinds of wood consists of approximately 280 parts. And these days, the perfect romantic getaway in Venice apparently MUST include a ride on the Gondola. Well, I beg to differ…

If I was the Shakespeare in Love, or the Venice’s own Cassanova, I would not waste my money on this ride. Apart from considerable sum of money being lifted from your pocket, you often get an off-key version of ‘O sole mio. A song from Napoli. I’d rather take my love to experience the outstanding cuisine, beautiful atmosphere of some Venetian restaurants and to taste some excellent wine. You can find lots of wonderful restaurants in Venice, but also lots of awful ones. But I’m not going to talk about the food now. This is a “Photoblog”, not “Foodblog”. Some day, I might write a few words about my gourmet adventures in Venice. But back to Gondolas.

The front metal, S-shaped part of Gondola is called Ferro da Prorà. And it’s not just for show. Its purpose is to counter-balance the gondolier, standing on the far side of the boat. The six “teeth” in the front part represents the six parts of Venice. The lone tooth pointing backwards represents the island of Giudecca. The three ornaments between the front teeth represent the three venetian islands – Murano, Burano and Torcello. This centerpiece is beautiful in every kind of weather.  

Ferro da Prora is the S-shaped front piece of Venetian Gondola, made of Iron. It is an essential piece of Gondola, because it balances the weight of a gondolier. The six teeth under the main blade represent the six districts of Venice (sestrieri). Three ornate pieces between the teeth represents three main venetian islands - Murano, Burano and Torcello.

Mysterious and Green – such can be the mornings in the canals of Venice. Especially after the heavy rains.

Long exposure of a gondola, tied to a pole. The waters were particularly green after a long rain and the color was further enhanced by circular polarizer.This “dreamy gondola” was in fact my last photo of this trip. However for the grand finale, let’s get back to the place ruled by two species – pigeons and tourists.

Rainy Day Blues

Saint Mark’s Square, or Piazza San Marco, is the main square of Venice. During the day, it’s mostly overrun by tourists. During the night, it’s under the dominion of pigeons. Just after dark, another kind of creature can be found here – a caste of people making their living by selling selfie sticks, umbrellas and glowing propellers. Depending on if it’s raining or not and what other attrocious souvenir is currently “in”. But is it possible to be completely alone here? Take a look at this photograph and see for yourself:

Rainy dawn at Piazza San Marco, Venice

Most people don’t realize this, but Saint Mark’s Square actually consists of two squares. The more interesting one, with the Doge’s Palace and the overview of Isola di San Giorgio Maggiore is called the Piazzetta. On that dreadful morning, hectoliters of water were pouring out of the sky, but that didn’t stop me from making the photo, that has eluded me for the past several days.

Very rainy March dawn at Piazzetta San Marco.

It might seem that I was completely alone on Piazetta that morning. But there was another photographer, standing just outside the frame. However, he was vastly better equipped for this kind of weather than me. So I made a mental note – never leave a hotel in Venice without an umbrella!

Epilogue

My visit to Venice in March was imperfect, just as this blog is imperfect. Why? For starters, there are only 29 photos in it. It would be nice to have a round number, don’t you think? I think if I included a photo of the musical quartet, that was making a nice atmosphere on Saint Mark’s square during the first evening,would kind of ruin this set. I also think the rainy message from the heavens speaks clearly: “You’re not done in Venice.” So far I’ve spent seven days in Venice and there’s still so much to see and experience. In another words – there are always good reasons to return to Venice.

My top photos of 2014

It’s that time of the year again and I’m once again contemplating my best photos of the year for Jim Goldstein’s “Best of” project. When I first went through the photos I took in 2014 I thought “It’s getting harder and harder every year.” The troubles of ordinary life finally caught up with me. During my studies at the University, I had quite a lot of free time and was able to shoot quite a lot, even during the business hours. When I began my doctoral studies and was inducted into our family business, the free time for shooting nature and landscapes was suddenly a rare comodity. And now, when I’m fully involved in our family business and have a side-project on my own, I find that I have very little time for the landscape photography that relaxes and stimulates me. This year I’ll be presenting only a handful of photos I shot during the year and I’ll try to explain why I chose them.

My top photos of 2014

I took the photo titled “Canola Star” on a very cold and windy April evening just outside the village where I live. It was one of my first real landscape attempts with the Canon 16-35 f2,8 L II lens I purchased at the begining of the year. This lens is famous for its great rendidion of Sunstars. A small opening in the heavy clouds appeared at the perfect moment and I was able to photograph the Sun just before it disappeared behind the horizon.

Very last sunrays of the stormy day fall on the rolling hills full of canola.

Another spring-time photo is titled “The Stars are Blooming”. I took it at the end of March on a dusty road close to my home. I took almost identical photo last year, but the tree was completely leafless. Once again, I waited for the cloudless and moonless evening and when I arrived to the familiar place, I noticed that the cherry tree was already blooming. I also wanted to capture more of that amazing purple sky, so I once again used the Canon 16-35 II. My small but very powerful LED flashlight provided the intensive light during the long exposure. I think the lighting came out a bit too strong this time, particularly on the grass at the base of the tree. But I already have the same scene lit in a more “mellow” way, so I think the more powerful light suits the whole idea of “spring awakening” more.

The Stars Are Blooming

The photo titled “Waterfall and Ladder” was taken in one of the most beautiful spots in Slovakia – the Kvacany valley. I stopped there on my way to a photo shoot at the begining of October. Unfortunately I only had a couple of hours to walk through and photograph the beautiful Autumn colors and to get to this small waterfal, which I haven’t visited for five years. When I got there I noticed it hadn’t changed a bit since my last visit. I think I could’ve positioned myself even lower and even closer to the water to get a bit more dramatic perspective, but at least I have a reason to go back there as soon as possible.

Waterfall and Ladder

My most popular photo of the year is called “A Clash of Fronts”. I took it in June, which is probably my favorite time of the year because of the stormy weather. And I just love the fields full of wheat. On this day, I originally went to a different location, but quickly decided to move to a spot I know very well. I spent several hours there, waiting for the perfect light and I must say it did. I was totally amazed by the contrast between the warm orange clouds coming in from the West and the dark blue clouds coming from the East. The beautiful warm light was also present on the wheat field. I decided to upload this photo to my 500px account. To my surprise, it recorded more than 4 000 views and lots of votes (my photos usually record less than a 100 views and only handful of votes and comments).

A Clash of Fronts

I took the photo titled “The Peak of Fall” on the same day I took the “Waterfall and Ladder”. To be honest, I think the real peak of the fall in Kvacany valley came a few days earlier, because the leaves already started coloring themselves into brown tones instead of red. It was also very windy that day (it’s visible in the top right corner of the photo). However, I’m very happy with this busy forest compositon and it motivates me to go back next October and spend more than a handful of hours in this beautiful place. During my brief stay in Kvacany valley, I also experienced this classic “pro photographer” tale – Me with my big professional camera on a tripod and a large group of German tourists, who stopped next to me and started taking pictures of the place with their cellphones and compact cameras. I was photographying the forest with my pro gear, so it must be something special :).

Peak of Fall, Kvacany Valley, Slovakia

My last “top photo of 2014” is called “When the Wind Reigns”. I took this photo the next day after my very successful outing that produced “A Clash of Fronts”. I decided to explore the new location about 20 kilometers from my home. When I arrived to the location, I discovered a large wheat field with some rolling hills. Once again, the weather was very windy and created some amazing evening light and clouds. I also have a vertical composition of this scene in my archive, that shows the movement of the wheat more. But I just love the expansive view of the horizontal oriented photo and the beautiful cloudy sky.

When The Wind Reigns

These are purely landscape photos I consider my best of the year. However, I took more photos that are either travel oriented or they are landscape photos, that showcase my vision but somehow they “aren’t there, yet”. Nevertheless, I decided to present them in “honorable mentions” section.

Honorable mentions

At the end of May, I spent a few days travelling through Slovenia with Rob Tilley. I fist met Rob in person the year before in Moravia. At the begining of 2014, Rob contacted me again and asked if I wanted to join him for a few days during his travels through Slovenia and Croatia. I even invited my “non photographer” friend to join us on this Photo trip. I think we successfully inducted him into the photography world and showed him a different side of traveling. During our brief stay we visited the city of Bled and it’s beautiful lake, Triglav National Park, the ancient city of Ptuj, Maribor and we ended up in the beautiful port city of Piran. During our exploration of Triglav, we briefly met Slovenian photographer Luka Esenko, who was leading a photo workshop in the Vintgar Gorge. I wrote an extensive blog containing 40 photographs from our trip on my blog in Slovak language. I even promised Rob to translate it into English and post in here on my website, but I just haven’t gotten around to do it yet. However, the photos can be enjoyed regardless of the language, so if you’re interested in seeing them, you can see them on my blog in Slovak language.

This photo displays the beautiful main square of Piran. It was taken on our last morning in Slovenia, just before 5 AM. The time is even visible on the church tower. The city of Piran looks a lot like Venice, except it has no canals. It was a shame we didn’t stay longer, because this city is definitely worth exploring. But in my case, it’s “only” 600 kilometers away, so it’s not that difficult for me to go back there. All I need is time and some budget for traveling…

Dawn in Piran, Slovenia

I took the photo titled “Cosmic Whirlwind” in June. This massive dead tree is located on the edge of a forest about 15 kilometers from my home. Unfortunately, due to the busy surroundings, I can only include the top portion of the tree in the photo. I visited this location earlier during almost full Moon night and the quality of the light was amazing. However I did not do a long exposure that time. Couple of days later, I returned to do a hour-long exposure and I hoped that the Moon will once again provide the interesting light. Sadly, the Moonrise didn’t happen until Midnight, so I had to use the flashlight to subtly illuminate the tree. I even hoped some small clouds would appear to add some dramatic streaks, but they didn’t happen either. I still think this photo is worth presenting and I’ll be visiting this location until the photo fully matches my vision.

Cosmic Whirlwind

We visited High Tatras couple of days before Christmas. We stayed at Strbske pleso, which is a beautiful alpine lake, but it’s covered with hotels, pathways and a sky jumping bridge. I discovered a nice view of this trio of moutains called “The Crown of High Tatras” several years ago and I try to photograph them whenever we are around. Unfortunately, the weather almost never co-operates during our stay in High Tatras. I call it “My curse of High Tatras”. We were staying in one of the hotels right next to the lake, so I was looking forward to photograph the mountains in morning light. During my outing, I got several nice “pre dawn” and morning photos. This photo shows the beautiful morning light on the trees in front of the mountains, but only the very highest peaks are illuminated… So I think my “Curse of High Tatras” has not been dispelled yet…

Crown of High Tatras, Morning

The “other stuff”

As some of you know, I’m also a sports photographer. I even present some of my tennis photos here, but for the lack of time I didn’t update my “Sports section” in a while. So if you’re interested in seeing my sports photos, I’ll redirect you to the galleries of Tennis Arena Magazine. This year I did quite a lot of shooting that included a Fed Cup Tie between Slovakia and Germany, Davis Cup tie between Slovakia and Austria, Davis Cup between Slovakia and Latvia, some editorial stuff (The Fashion line of Dominika Cibulkova, The Wimbledon-grade grass court in Bratislava), the Tennis Champions exhibition that featured tennis stars John McEnroe and Ivan Lendl, the annual ITF tennis tournaments in Trnava and Bratislava and the Tennis player of the year Ceremony. I also began shooting some architecture assignments and I hope I’ll be doing more of them in 2015.

I wish everyone Happy and productive Year of 2015! I hope I’ll be able to do more landscape photography and more traveling and I hope I’ll be able to share more photos in “My top photos of 2015”.

Empire Slovak Open Trnava 2014

Last weekend I attended the 6th annual Empire Slovak Open ITF Women’s tennis tournament in Trnava, which is the largest women’s tennis tournament held in Slovakia. There were some promising names in the tournament’s lineup and I was looking forward for some outdoor shooting for a change. The variable light can be a bit of a challenge though. The harsh mid day light will guarantee very fast shutter speeds, but may introduce all kinds of over- or under- exposure problems. And the evening light can create some fantastic shadowplay on court. I really enjoyed working the light on this small center court.

The weather can also be the biggest hindrance to an outdoor sporting event. The singles finals between Anna Karolina Schmiedlova of Slovakia and Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova of Czech republic had to be interrupted because of rain. Because of the downpour, the match had to be postponed till monday afternoon. Anna Karolina Schmiedlova (with her electrifying glare) claimed her biggest tournament win to date after a two-set victory.

Here are some of my favorite shots I took during the three days I spent in Trnava, the rest can be found in a dedicated gallery on Tennis Arena: http://www.tennis-arena.cz/empire-slovak-open-2014-v-trnave-2023cz

Anna Karolina Schmiedlova – The 2014 Champion
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Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova – The runner-up
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Lesia Tsurenko
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Stephanie Vogt and Saisai Zheng – The doubles champions
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Margarita Gasparyan with Evgeniya Rodina – The doubles runner-ups
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Nighttime shooting in Prague

At the begining of April, I spend a day in Prague. It was my second visit to this city full of historical monuments. Unfortunately, both of these trips weren’t focused on photography. Nevertheless, I hoped I’d manage to take at least some photographs in the evening and morning.

The key to evening photography in the city is timing. The city monuments must be photographed when the monument’s lights are turned on and there is still some color and light in the evening sky. Unfortunately, the evening shooting turned into nighttime shooting thanks to some hindrances along the way to the Old town. I took my first photo shortly before midninght and the sky was almost completely black. Despite this shortcoming, the photos I took are worth sharing and will serve as references for my future visits. I was also very surprised by the large crowds, that roamed the nighttime Prague on a weeknight.

This trip was also a good oportunity to test the Canon 16-35 f2,8 L II ultra-wide lens I purchased a few months prior to this trip. The lens performed very well. It’s known for its fantastic rendition of “star bursts”. This effect naturally occurs, when the light coming from a small source passes through stopped-down lens. Most of the modern lenses have 8 aperture blades, that create 8-point star bursts (as can be seen on the last photo in this post, taken with Canon 24-70 f2,8 L). However, the Canon 16-35 II has 7 aperture blades, that create wonderful 14-point star bursts. The only negative aspect of Canon 16-35 II was the flaring, that can be seen on some photos.

Astronomical Clock

Astronomical Clock

One of the many marvels of Prague is the ancient Astronomical Clock, located on the Old town square. I wanted to replicate a photo I saw on some website dedicated to travel photography. It included the Astronomical Clock and the towers of the Church of Týn in the background. While the angle is slightly different and the buildings are “collapsing”, the ultra-wide perspective created my favorite photo from this short trip.

Charles’ Bridge and Prague Castle

Charles' Bridge and Prague Castle

Beautifully lit Prague Castle after midnight, as seen from the Charles’ Bridge.

 

The lights of Charles’ Bridge

Lights of Charles' Bridge

The lights of Charles’ Bridge and the Old Town Bridge Tower.

 

Late night at Powder Gate

Late Night at Powder Gate

The Powder gate is one of the original Gothic towers of Prague’s Old town and it’s located within short walking distance from the Old town square. It was used to store the gunpowder, hence the name.

 

Powder Gate and Lights

Powder Gate and Lights

 

Charles Bridge Towers and Prague Castle

Charles Bridge Towers and Prague Castle

Two towers of Charles’ Bridge, located on Mala Strana with the Saint Vitus Cathedral and Prague castle in the distance.

 

Guardians of the Bridge

Guardians of the Bridge

Two towers of Charles’ Bridge and two of the many statues placed among the bridge.

 

The Church of Saint Nicolaus

Church of Saint Nicolaus

The church of Saint Nicolaus is located within short walking distance from Charles’ Bridge. The buildings are “collapsing” due to uncorrected ultra-wide perspective. The streaks of light on the road were caused by passing taxi cab during the long exposure.

Charles Bridge Dawn

Dawn on Charles' Bridge

I returned to Charles’ Bridge only a few hours after I took the photo of the Church of Saint Nicolaus. Unfortunately, the morning was gloomy and didn’t provide any spectacular morning colors.

 

Gloomy morning at Charles’ Bridge

Charles' Bridge Towers, Prague

 

I’m already looking forward to my next visit to Prague. Hopefully I’ll be able to spend much more time doing photography.

Fed Cup 2014 World Group 1 – Slovakia versus Germany

First two weeks of february 2014 were all about tennis. Both Slovak Davis Cup and Fed Cup teams hosted their oponents in Bratislava. The women’s Fed Cup World Group 1 tie against Germany was certainly more prestigious one. Both teams had some amazing players in their line-ups. Team Slovakia consisted of 2014 Australian Open finalist Dominika Cibulkova, two-times Fed Cup Heart Award winner Daniela Hantuchova, Magdalena Rybarikova and Jana Cepelova. The Germans arrived with World No. 9 Angelique Kerber, former Top 10 member Andrea Petkovic, Julia Goerges and doubles specialist Anna-Lena Groenefeld. The Germans were supposed to be even stronger, but Wimbledon 2013 finalist Sabine Lisicki was not able to play due to injury.

Although the Germans won the tie 3:1, the matches were very close. In the opening match, Dominika Cibulkova won the first set against Andrea Petkovic 6:2. In second set tie-break, Dominika was trailing 1:6, managed to come back and lead 7:6, but Petkovic managed to win both tie-break and the match. Daniela Hantuchova then lost her match to German No. 1 Angelique Kerber in two sets. The first set was decided in tie-break and Angelique Kerber needed 11 points to secure the first set.

The Sunday’s battle of the leaders was again decided in tie-break. Angelique Kerber managed to win against Dominika Cibulkova 6:3, 7:6 and the German team advanced to the Fed Cup World Group 1 Semifinals. In the last match of the tie, Magdalena Rybarikova and Jana Cepelova secured the only Slovak point after a three set victory over Julia Goerges and Anna-Lena Groenefeld. Luck was certainly on the German side this time, maybe because they played like a team, did their pre-match ritual like a team and celebrated the victory like a team.

The results:
Andrea Petkovic defeated Dominika Cibulkova 2:6, 7:6, 6:2
Angelique Kerber defeated Daniela Hantuchova 7:6, 6:1
Angelique Kerber defeated Dominika Cibulkova 6:3, 7:6
Magdalena Rybarikova, Jana Cepelova defeated Julia Goerges, Anna-Lena Groenefeld 4:6, 6:3, 10:7

Some of my favorite photos from the weekend are below (click on the photo to see slightly larger version).

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My top photos of 2013

The end of the Year is near and for the second time I’m putting together a list of best photos that I took over the past twelve months. I have to say the year 2013 was extremely challenging, but definitely better compared to 2012.

I had to finish my dissertation in Business Diagnostics in the first half of 2013. During this time, I decided to focus more on night photography. Most of my light-painting experiments turned out to be quite nice, and I showcased a small night-time portfolio on the anual Park exhibition. I finally got back my freedom on 4th of July, when I finished my doctoral studies.

During the May I met with Rob Tiley, the Seattle-based photographer, who was visiting Central Europe at that time. Rob had contacted me a few months before his trip via Twitter and suggested we should meet during his stay in Czech Republic. We’ve set the meeting place in south-east Moravia near the town of Kyjov, as was suggested by Rob’s friend, Mrs. Jana Vanourkova. The three of us met in the morning just outside of Kyjov and began to explore the countryside a bit. Unfortunately, the weather was not that great for photography. The photo of canola on the rolling hills was probably the only photo I was happy with. Nevertheless, I admire Rob’s dedication to photography and his will to work with every kind of available light. I was very happy to meet both Rob and Jana, even though I wasn’t able to fully enjoy the meeting due to dental difficulties I had around that time. I hope we’ll be able to meet again sometime.

The highlight of the year was my solo trip to Dolomites, Italy at the end of august. I spent four wonderful days in and around Cortina d’Ampezzo. My original plan was to travel sometime in september, but I had to travel sooner because of the job interview at my Alma Mater (which didn’t go well anyway). The weather was pretty ok for photography and I’m quite happy with the photos I took. Hopefully I’ll be able to get back sometime, preferably towards the end of september. The weather and light should be even better for photography.

Unfortunately, the fall season once again passed by so quickly. Due to business/work obligations I didn’t do any serious shooting during the fall. But, there’s always next year…

I also spent some time photographying tennis, equestrian events and theatre. Feel free to explore my blog to see the photos from these events.

Here are my top 10 landscape photos of the year 2013. Clicking on the photos will take you to the respective portfolio pages, where you’ll be able to see slightly larger versions.

Storm’s End
Storm's End

The Night of Wonders
The Night of Wonders

Canola Spring
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Bales And Stars
Bales and Stars

Cima Cadin Sunset
Cima Cadin Sunset

Averau Sunset
Averau Sunset

Dramatic Monte Pelmo
Dramatic Monte Pelmo

Icy Waters
Icy Waters

Afternoon Light on Tre Cime
Afternoon Light on Tre Cime

The Wheel of Time
The Wheel of Time

Tennis Classic 2013 – The Twilight Edition

Yesterday, I attended the 6th annual Tennis Classic Exhibition in Bratislava. This year’s participants were the former leader of WTA Ranking Martina Hingis from Switzerland, the French ATP tennis players Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Gael Monfils and the Slovak tennis star Daniela Hantuchova.

Because of the odd choice of lighting, I gave it a nick name “The Twilight Edition”. The lights were a lot dimmer than usual and they also used various colored spotlights. This created an intimate and visually interesting atmosphere for the fans, but it was a nightmare to shoot it due to darkness, changing lights and changing white balance.

The exhibition consisted of three matches and a charity auction. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Gael Monfils played the first singles match. Tsonga won the match in three sets. Daniela Hantuchova and Martina Hingis then played the short singles game. Hingis won the match 11:9. The traditional auction took place during the intermission. All players donated their autographed racquets, apparel and various other prices. The proceedings will support various charitable causes.

The mixed doubles was the last match of the exhibition. Even though Daniela and Martina started with their chosen partners, they ended up playing together and won the match. During the match, all players had microphones on them. I must say I’m not a fan of this “feature”. A lot of times, the words players say are pretty much inaudible. Two years ago, all the talking was downright annoying. This year it was surprisingly natural and it wasn’t very distracting. The hightlight of the mixed doubles was Daniela Hantuchova playing the piano.

My favorite photos from the event are below (click on the photos to see larger versions) and the whole gallery can be seen on my Slovak blog: http://hutera.blog.sme.sk/c/343916/Tennis-Classic-2013.html.

Martina Hingis, Daniela Hantuchova, Gael Monfils and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
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Martina Hingis and Daniela Hantuchova
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Gael Monfils, Chair Umpire of the match Michal Varmus and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
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Daniela Hantuchova playing the piano
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Charity auction
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Slovak Open 2013

I spent the weekend photographying the 14th annual Slovak tennis championships. This tournament is regarded as one of the best ATP Challenger Series tournaments. Even though it’s not in the same league as big ATP tournaments, it offers some interesting matches each year. Until today, no player managed to win this tournament twice. Slovak tennis player Lukas Lacko (who managed to win the tournament in 2011) defeated the defending champion Lukas Rosol of Czech Republic in three sets 6:4, 4:6, 6:4. Henri Kontinen and Andreas Siljestrom became the doubles champions.

I’ve published more than 80 photos from saturday’s semifinals and sunday’s final on my Slovak blog and my favorite photos from the weekend can be found here (larger versions available after a click).

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