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2020 in Pictures

Welcome to yet another edition of “A year in pictures” blog… Err… Not exactly. I won’t be telling any secrets when I say 2020 was anything but “yet another” year. Plans, hopes and dreams were shattered, businesses ruined and who knows when the situation will be improving into something more manageable again. Heck, even Jim Goldstein’s Blog project isn’t happening this year. One door closes another opens. The past year was supposed to be the year, when we should do some self improving. Since we were at home so much… Well. Not exactly. My whole family was so busy, trying to keep our company running that there wasn’t a day when I got to the office and said “what I’ll be doing today?”.

Nevertheless, I did pick up some skills. I was forced to learn how to do live streaming. In December I did quite serious video production (as in directing about 16 people to make a “documentary/promo video”). But I spent most of the time learning and doing astrophotography. I even did a rather large article in Slovak about it from a “noob” standpoint. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever tried in the realm of photography. Extremely time consuming, extremely frustrating but extremely addicting. I swear it should be on the list of banned substances… Only kidding of course. But the amount of stuff that goes into creating a deep sky astrophotograph is mind-numbing. Mounts, lenses, telescopes, cameras, correctors, flattners, reducers, autoguiding, platesolving, calibrating, not to mention processing. There are many resources all over the web and for good reason.

I probably could do this article month-by-month, like I do every year. But this year I’d rather just pick some of the photos I took and say a few words about them.

I started the New Year right on January 1st with an immensely popular deep sky object. Messier 42, or Great Orion Nebula has to be “the gateway drug” to Astrophotography, since it’s so easy to capture its beautiful shape and colors with just about any camera and relatively short integration time. This is about 1 hour worth of only 1 minute exposures. If only the other deep sky objects were so easy.

In January I also made a trip to IBU Cup in Osrblie. A lot of times my favorite photos from sporting events aren’t the obvious ones. Like this taking-off-the-gloves-while-listening-to-coach. I much prefer it to the obvious skiing or shooting photos I took that day.

The same goes for this photo of Viktoria Kuzmova from February’s Fed Cup Tie between Slovakia and Great Britain. This devil may care ball throw slowly built up into some serious frustration and emotions.

March is when the COVID-19 threat got real. The IBU Biathlon World Cup in Nove Mesto Na Morave was one of the first big events to be hit with safety measures. Spectators weren’t allowed in the stands, which are always packed. It was sad to see the Mass start without the masses in the background, but it was a wise call in preventing the initial spread of the epidemic. I can’t imagine the situation, if about 20 000 spectators from all over the Europe were allowed to enter the arena…

Nove Mesto was also my last opportunity to see the legendary Martin Fourcade in action. He decided to end his fantastic career after Kontiolahti World Cup, which was the only event held after Nove Mesto. I’m glad I hanged around the French team during the zero-in to capture some smiles from the legend.

Getting back to the far away worlds above our heads, mid March is the beginning of so called “Galaxy Season”, a.k.a. “Spring”. As the name suggests, quite a few galaxies get into favorable positions for deep sky astrophotography. Quite a few of them are located in constellation Ursa Major and near the Big Dipper Asterism. The spiral Galaxy M81 (Bode’s galaxy) and starburst galaxy M82 (Cigar galaxy) are probably the most popular targets during the Spring. Again, it’s amazing how much one hour worth of exposures can reveal. Now that I’m capable of capturing much longer exposures than 1 minute, I’m looking forward to considerably improving the photo in a few months.

In April and May, I got back to some locations close to home (since we weren’t allowed to travel far from home anyway), but lighting and clouds situation were straight from 2020 book. Meh at best.

For about three months I had one more reason to hang around our garden besides catching some Sunshine. A family of Long eared owls moved to some of our trees to raise new m embers of the family. This parent took the guard duty very seriously.

Here it’s guarding the surroundings of Thuja trees they used for nesting.

And one of the offsprings when they grew a little and started to explore the surroundings on their own.

In June I made several trips to a big poppy seed field, located about 15 minutes from our house. Unfortunately, the sky never really co-operated. When the sky was “dark and dramatic”, there was also wind that ruined the foreground. When the foreground was nicely lit by the setting Sun, the sky was Meh… It was 2020, what could you do?

When the sky didn’t work, I tried to be creative and made this poppy abstract.

In July I returned to Banska Stiavnica for a day, mostly as a tourist guide for my cousin. She said she never visited the town before, so we made a one day trip. This time around, there were some decent afternoon clouds when looking at the rooftops from the Old Castle.

And they got even better into “my kind of light” teritory when we took a look at some more rooftops.

September is really not a prime time to capture the Messier 16 (Or Eagle Nebula), but I wanted to try and capture it before it disappeared for the upcoming 9 or so months. I used a dedicated cooled monochrome astrophotography camera and focused on the Pillars of Creation. It is one of the most famous objects captured by Hubble Space Telescope. I used RGB filters to create a color photograph and added some Luminance data to enhance the details. Now I really wish I wasn’t intimidated by the whole “mono” process and used the camera more. Especially during the hot Summer nights. We’ll see when I’ll have to return the camera to the kind gentleman who lent us some of his equipment to try out.

What about the rest of the year? Well. At the end of September everything went to hell. The COVID situation started to worsen rapidly. The countermeasures, lockdowns and full scale testings were happening at the worst possible time for fall colors photography. And since September we’ve had 5 (yes, five) evenings or nights without clouds and with favorable Moon phase for astrophotography. Infuriating, isn’t it? Well, that’s 2020 for you and the weather forecast for the upcoming days isn’t any better.

So I’m going to say this in the most polite way possible. 2020 and your shenanigans, leave now and never come back! Thank you.

2019 in Pictures

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.

A "Super Snow Moon" rises next to the tower of Basilica of Saint Nicolas in Trnava, Slovakia on the evening of February 19th, 2019.

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.

A handful of visitors enjoy a quiet evening at 3rd courtyard of Prague Castle, which is dominated by Saint Vitus Cathedral. This beautiful Gothic Cathedral is the largest of its kind in Czech republic. It was my first visit to Prague Castle during the long opening hours and I really enjoyed the place without the crowds.

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.

The house of Black Madonna is a prime example of cubist architecture, designed by Josef Gočár in 1911. The spiral staircase is one of the many cubist treasures hidden both inside and outside of the building. When looked at from the proper angle, it indeed looks like an incandescent light bulb.

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!

2018 in Pictures

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.

The very calm and very cloudless twilight hour at Podersdorf am See Lighthouse, Austria. Podersdorf Lighthouse is located on the shore of Neusiedler See, a large lake on Austrian-Hungarian Border.

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:

Church of Saint Michael Archangel Cloudy Evening

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.

An incredible display of storm light between two summer storms on a golden wheat field. The setting Sun formed a beautiful double rainbow just as another storm was approaching my location.

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!

A funny moment of horse teeth cleaning during X-Bionic Summer Tour 2018, held in beautiful X-Bionic Equestor Sphere in Samorin, Slovakia

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.

A brief warm sunrays hit the famous towers of Cinque Torri mountain on a cloudy september evening. The beautiful sunset light lasted for only about a minute, then the opening in the clouds closed and never reappeared that day.

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.

A morning panorama of Banska Stiavnica, a very old mining town located in Central Slovakia and a part of UNESCO World Heritage Site. The displayed town landmarks are: Old Castle (Right), The Church of Saint Catherine (Center) and Evangelical Temple (Left)

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.

A misty but warm November afternoon at one of the hiking trails in Malé Karpaty (Little Carpathians), Western Slovakia. At around 600 meters of elevation, the mist rolled in with ocassional Sun shining through the top of the trees.

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.

A large amount of snow falls into a deciduous forest close to my home. A long lasting snow cover has become a rarity in our part of country, so I seized the opportunity and went to make the photo as soon as possible. It was actually still snowing!

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!

2017 in Pictures

Welcome to another installment of year-end “best of” blog, that I will be once again submitting to Jim Goldstein’s annual blog project. I will once again do month-by-month summary of my year instead of just randomly picking the best photos of the year. As I predicted in my last year’s summary, 2017 was extremely demanding due to non-photo related work. The studying and various examinations affected the first four and last two months of the year. Because of this, I didn’t planned any big photo trips or projects and took it pretty much step by step as the opportunities came.

I’m also slowly updating my landscape and travel portfolios which you’re welcomed to check out.

I started the year of 2017 at the end of december 2016, when I shot the biathlon races at Viessmann Cup 2016 in Osrblie. The weather and lighting conditions were excellent and most of our top biathletes were present.

In February it was once again biathlon time. This time it was IBU Cup 2017 in Osrblie. The main star of the event was norwegian biathlete Tarjei Boe, who was making his return to professional sport after a series of injuries and general exhaustion. He managed to claim 2nd place in a rather dramatic finish. At the same time, our Davis Cup team was playing against Team Hungary. I decided to spend half a day at biathlon rather than three days at tennis. The overall atmosphere surrounding our Davis Cup team was very tense even before the event. And I also had some other paying events lined up so I was able to do more, in less time and with no moody tennis players involved.

Other february events include Lucie Safarova meets the press at Empire Tennis Academy and IBU Youth/Junior World Championships, that were relocated to Osrblie at the last minute.

Towards the end of March, I finally found some time for landscapes, specifically night time photography. I felt like I needed a set of training wheels, because I haven’t done it in quite some time. I also wanted to reshoot a scene I’ve done in the past. This time I managed to get much nicer photo. Even though the color version turned out nicely, I’ve decided to present it in black and white, because I don’t have a nice black and white “nightscape” photo in my portfolio yet.

A monochrome rendition of a lone tree under the dark starry sky. A LED flash light was used to lightpaint the tree and foreground.

In April I went to shoot the Fed Cup tie between Slovakia and Netherlands. Unfortunately our girls weren’t able to secure the place in 2018 World Group 1, as the Dutch won the tie 3:2.

Prior to Sunday’s matches, Daniela Hantuchova received Fed Cup Commitment Award as the first female tennis player from Slovakia. It is awarded to players who have shown long-standing dedication to Fed Cup competition and played a minimum of 20 World Group ties or 40 ties at any level of the competition over the career. Daniela has played in Fed Cup since 1999 and led the Slovak team to Fed Cup Victory in 2002. This was Daniela’s last appearance as a Fed Cup player. She decided to retire from professional tennis in June. We’ll get back to that later.

Empire Slovak Open 2017 that took place during May saw the next superstars of women’s tennis. Marketa Vondrousova of Czech republic (won) and 16-year old Anastasia Potapova of Russia (lost in semifinals) are the names to remember and watch in near future.

In June I made several attempts to get some nice pre-harvest landscape photos. Most of the attempts were ruined by strong wind. This one turned out nicely.

A rare wind-free moment of the Spring season of 2017 on the wheat field just before the Sun dips under the horizon.

In July, I was once again back at Osrblie, this time for Summer Biathlon Championships of Slovakia on roller skis. Like every year, I also visited the X-Bionic Summer Tour in Samorin. This premier equestrian event stretched over two weeks and I felt the quality suffered considerably. The main project for the month however, was my two day visit to Banska Stiavnica. Much of my trip was affected by rain and bad weather. Nevertheless I did some scouting for future visits. I’m planning to visit the town in winter time soon. You can visit my Summer gallery by clicking on the photo.

In August I did a really nice photoshoot with Swiss Tennis Star Belida Bencic. One of the nicest mornings of the year I must say. I also attended the opening of a highly controversial “Body:The Exhibition” in Bratislava. The exhibition is highly polarising each time it appears in Central Europe. I actually didn’t know about the opening until I got an invitation from the organisers. I went to see it and make an oppinion about it. After I published my photos, I faced a lot of hateful comments, insults, false claims and accusations. This is probably the last time the exhibition takes place in Central Europe. Several countries have banned such exhibitions to take place via laws. For me it was shocking and revealing at the same time. But one time visit was enough.

The end of summer means another edition of Slovak International Air Fest at Sliac air force base. This year I particularly enjoyed the group flying on World War One aircraft replicas, including this beautiful Sopwith Strutter.

September was a particularly busy month for photography. We took a short family trip to High Tatras and did a fair amout of hiking there. One day we decided to take a rather long hike to Velke Hicovo Pleso. It is one of the many glacial lakes in High Tatras. During the 17 kilometer trek I took this photo of a stream. The mountains provided a nice background element.

Thanks to ample rainfall in High Tatras, one of the streams in Mengusovska dolina (Mengusovska valley) turned into a nice flowing waterfall.

My favorite photo of October was made in Trnava. The most famous view from the city is of a narrow historic street with the Cathedral of Saint Nicolas at its end. I promised my local friends I would make this photo as well. It became a running joke as I promised them at least five or six times. I finally have one for my collection. The capture wasn’t as easy as I thought. There were quite a number of people wandering up and down the street. Luckily with long exposure and their dark clothes, none of them ended up in the frame.

An Evening view of the Basilica of Saint Nicolas. Built between 1380 - 1421 AD, it's north tower houses one of the largest bells in Europe. Because of large number of churches,Trnava is nicknamed "Little Rome".

The main event of November was Daniela Hantuchova’s farewell match. As I mentioned earlier, Daniela decided to retire from professional tennis in June 2017. Among the guests were Kim Clijsters (Daniela’s long time friend from the tour), German tennis star Tommy Haas and Slovak Davis Cup legend Dominik Hrbaty. After her last singles match against Clijsters, Daniela’s eyes filled with tears. It was both sad and precious moment for sure.

In December I didn’t have a lot of time to spare. But  I had to take the opportunity and capture the very first snowfall of the season in our area. I had this composition in my mind for some time and I even managed to fit the Moon into the frame. I was lucky as the moonrise started even before the sunset and I was able to capture it with a nice blue sky. Sadly the snow didn’t last. As I write this article, the weather resembles spring rather than winter.

The winter is indeed coming, as the first snow of late autumn of 2017 covers the fields around the lone tree. A waxing gibbous moon hides in the Belt of Venus, just above the Earth's Shadow. Captured about 15 minutes after sunset.

I’ve decided to add one more photo at the last minute. I’ve shot it mere two days before the end of the year during the outstanding sunset at Spania Dolina. This picturesque mining village is charming during any time of the year. This was my first visit in winter and I was treated to a superb sunset. I’ve decided to share the earlier “yellow” version.

An incredible display of sunset colors at the famous overlook of Spania Dolina. The entire valley received a decent snowfall the very same day. Spania Dolina is a famous mining village in Central Slovakia. The hill in the middle of the village houses the Church of Transfiguration.

Towards the end of the year, I had a chance to go back to some of my old photos. I reworked the photos from Open Air Operas of Carmen and La Traviata I shot back in 2012 and 2013. Especially the ones from Carmen were in dire need of fixing. It’s amazing what you can do with proper tools and experience. All you need is your old archived RAW files.

So that was my 2017. It was different and challenging but it’s finally coming to an end. Here’s hoping that 2018 will be better in every way. I’ve made a honest-to-God, proper “to do” checklist of the photos I’d like to do in 2018. Let’s see if I’ll make at least some of them.

Thanks for reading. I hope you had a wonderful year of 2017. Let me know about your achievements in the comments below!

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.



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.



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.



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.



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.



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.



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.



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.



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.


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.

One Mistake of Martin Fourcade

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.


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).


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.


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!


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



Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova – The runner-up




Lesia Tsurenko



Stephanie Vogt and Saisai Zheng – The doubles champions


Margarita Gasparyan with Evgeniya Rodina – The doubles runner-ups

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.