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Slovak Open 2013

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

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

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Minimalist fall

It’s that time of year again… Many people take the time away from their jobs to do some traveling and to capture great fall sceneries. For me, the fall has always been quite a busy time. This year’s no different. After completing my PhD. degree I have to start from scratch away from the university. Unfortunately, the traveling to great locations to capture fall colors had to be postponed once again. Starting a new business project consumes enormous amount of time.

I’ve tried to capture at least some fall colors close to home. I don’t think the fall season is particularly pretty in my area. The forests aren’t old or tall enough in this area and the colors aren’t as vibrant. Nevertheless, the fall season provide some beauty here as well. I focused mostly on details (intimate scenes and details) and used my Canon 70-200 f2,8L telephoto zoom for most of the photos.

(Click on the photo to see larger versions)

Monet’s Backyard
Monet's Backyard

Leaf on the Bark
Leaf and the Bark

Forest Floor
Forest Floor

Pond Reflection
Pond Reflection

Forest Blur
Forest Blur

Davis Cup – Slovakia vs. Sweden

For the last three days, I spent photographying the Davis Cup tie between Slovakia and Sweden. The Swedish team won several Davis Cup trophies in the past, but now it’s only a shadow of it’s former greatness. The tie took place in National Tennis Center in Bratislava and the stage was 1st round play off of Europe/Africa group. It’s the third league of Davis Cup competition. The 3-day weekend consisted of two parts.

Hail to the Heroes

Just before the doubles match on saturday, the arena saw a nice celebration. The Davis Cup Heroes of the past – Dominik Hrbaty and Karol Kucera received the ITF Davis Cup Commitment Award. This award is being presented to the players, who have represented their country in 20 or more Davis Cup ties. The award couldn’t be in better hands. Both Dominik and Karol played in many memorable Davis Cup ties and managed to reach the Davis Cup Final in 2005.

Saved by the bell

Several years later, both teams struggle in the Europe/Africa zone. The ranking difference between the Slovak and Swedish players indicated a relatively easy tie in favor of our players. However, the Swedish players fought for every point in every match and showed, that one shouldn’t put too much stock in ATP ranking when it comes to Davis Cup. In the end, we barely managed to win 3 matches out of 5. We lost the 2:0 lead and we got the necessary 3rd point in the very last match. The attendance turned out to be “quite nice” (pun intended) despite the relatively unattractive Europe/Africa tie. The results can be found on the official Davis Cup website.

During the weekend I posted 3 photo blogs from each day on my slovak blog: photos from Friday, photos from Saturday, photos from Sunday.

My favorite photos are below.

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Slovak International Air Fest 2013

Last summer holiday weekend was dedicated to planes, both old and new. The the two-day Slovak International Air Fest 2013 was held on Sliac Air Force Base in the heart of Slovakia. Over the years, I have attended and photographed several air shows. I was looking forward to this one, because there were some planes I haven’t seen since I was a little kid (most notably the Su-27 Flanker).

The weather on sunday was far from perfect. There were clouds and rain till the mid-day and partly sunny on the afternoon. Photographying planes agains the sky full of heavy clouds is extremely challenging. The most important thing is to use positive exposure compensation, otherwise the planes would end up completely dark. I used anything from +2/3 to +1 2/3 exposure compensation. Despite the challenging condition, the most of the photos ended up looking good after the shadows/highlights adjustment in Lightroom.

I posted quite a lot photos on my slovak blog: http://hutera.blog.sme.sk/c/336553/Medzinarodne-letecke-dni-SIAF-2013.html and some of my favorite photos are posted below:

MiG-29 Fulcrum – Slovak Air Force
MiG-29

MiG-29

F4D Corsair – Red Bull “Flying Bulls”
F4D Corsair

P-51 Mustang
P-51 Mustang

World War One Dogfight – Sopwith Strutter and Fokker e.III
Prepping Up

World War 1 Dogfight

Blanik Glider
Flying around in a Blanik

F-16 Fighting Falcon – Royal Netherlands Air Force
F-16 Fighting Falcon

Patrulla Águila – Spanish Air Force
Patrulla Águila

Su-27 Flanker – Ukrainian Air Force
Su-27 Flanker

La Traviata – an open air opera in Lednice

In the middle of August 2013, I attended the 4th annual open air opera in Lednice, Czech republic. These events are being held each summer in the courtyards of beautiful Czech and Moravian castles. This year’s, the opera of choice was Giuseppe Verdi’s La Traviata. The tragic lovestory (as is the norm with operas) features Violetta Valeri, the famed Parisian courtesan and Alfredo Germont, a young bourgeois from provincial family.

So far, I’ve seen and photographed three operas in Lednice – Nabucco, Carmen and La Traviata. I must say this year’s production had the most talented singers. Miroslav Dvorsky, the Slovak tenor, sang the role of Alfredo. The role of Violetta was sang by Michaela Katrakova, the young soprano from Czech republic and I must say her performance was excellent.

The stage desing was seriously lacking though. There were only a couple of pilars on both sides and the entire middle section had nothing but black drapes. I think it looked very amateur-ish and it was also very challenging to photograph. Nevertheless, I managed to capture quite a few nice photos (click on the photo to see larger version).

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Grand Prix Bratislava 2013

Last sunday I attended Mercedes Benz Grand Prix, the 48th annual show jumping event held in Bratislava, Slovakia. This prestigious 4-day equestrian event is usually held at the end of july or at the begining of the august, which means the most harsh sunlight during the day. The extreme heatwave, which has been torturing us for the past few weeks, made the shooting conditions even tougher.

Sunday saw two show jumping finals and one dressage show during the intermission. The dressage show featured four Lipizzaner horses, which is a breed closely associated with the Spanish Riding School of Vienna, Austria.

As I mentioned earlier, the shooting conditions were tough because of the harsh light and unbearable heat. There was some strong backlight during the morning and extremely strong light during mid-day dressage show. Towards the end of the day, the clouds covered the sun completely, so the end of the day was over-cast. Most of the riders were dressed in contrasty clothes, so the positive exposure compensation was needed at times. I also did considerable amount of shadows and highlights recovery in Lightroom 4.4. I was also happy with the AI Servo performance of my 1D Mark IV and I feel I finally figured out how to use this great camera.

More than 40 photos can be found on my blog:http://hutera.blog.sme.sk/c/334578/Grand-Prix-Bratislava-2013.html. I also posted some of my favorite photos in higher resolution below.

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Nocturnals in the Light of the Day

This weekend, I attended the 7th annual Fotopark Exhibition, held in Bratislava. As the title says, it’s a photo exhibition held in a park. I covered the last year’s edition and my rather surprising win in the last year’s report.

A slight change of the scenery

The exhibition is traditionally held in a big park on the waterfront of the river Danube. A few weeks prior to the exhibition, Bratislava suffered a large-scale floodings. Because of this, the exhibition was moved to the less affected part of the waterfront. There were around 50 photographers showcasing their work. A different setting and a smaller amount of photographers resulted into the intimate atmosphere of the event.

You can’t please everybody

Last year, the jury said I should focus more on the night photographs, since not many people do that. I took their advice and put together a portfolio of night and twilight photographs I captured earlier this year:

The Night of Wonders
Purple Nights
The Wheel of Time
Obscured by Clouds
On The Cross-Road
Twins

During the day, I talked with quite a few people who were quite taken with my collection. I was the only one who showcased this kind of photos. I got lots of technical questions which I tried to answer as clearly as possible. I hope I inspired at least some of the visitors to try it themselves, even though it’s quite hard to get the night photos you’re at least partly happy with.
When the jury came to evaluate my work, they said something in line of “yeah, it’s quite good, better than last year, but we’d like to see something more extreme”. They were talking about the ridiculously visible Milky Way photos, that are very popular these days (That might change soon. Ian Plant has a different opinion about them). I answered this kind of phots are almost impossible to get in western Slovakia because of light pollution. I’m also not a big fan of “unrealistic” photos that are obtained by using astro-trac for several minutes to capture the Milky Way and then blended together with the regular twilight photo. The jury’s answer was “but the viewer doesn’t care about these things”. I guess you can’t please everybody.

Landscapers rule

Last year I wrote about the position of landscape photography in Slovakia. I have a feeling most professional jurys consider landscape photography as a second-class “art” that’s just there to please amateurs and uninitiated. The jury’s primary argument is, that there’s so much landscape photography in the world that no one’s original anymore. The competition is simply too great and therefore it’s pointless to showcase photos that aren’t unique, out-of-this-world etc. I’m very happy to report that the photo set that received most votes awarded by the visitors were landscapes. The jury also awarded the honorable mention award to the photographer who presented his mountain photographs from High Tatras National Park. Perhaps this is a sign of changing times and over time landscape photography will eventually get more recognition.

Final thoughts

Seven years is a long time. I’ve made a tremendeous progress since the first edition and I’m always looking forward to see complete strangers admiring my humble efforts and talking with about my photos. I’m not sure what I’ll be exhibiting next year, but perhaps I should make an effort to seek out another exhibitions and try something new in addition to this traditional exhibition.

Me with my collection of photographs. Photo courtesy of Andrea Hulalova
21s

Linde Grand Prix CSI*

This saturday I spent an afternoon shooting the Linde Grand Prix CSI*, which is a equestrian showjumping event held in Pezinok, Slovakia. The riding grounds in Rozalka had two different sand courses. There were several competitions held on saturday, including Medium Tour, Big Tour and Kids competitions.

The weather was cloudy, with only brief hints of sunlight towards the very end of the day. This kind of weather is a blessing and a curse at the same time. The colors provided by this kind of weather are generally nice, however one has to endure a never ending marathon of exposure compensation to avoid either under-exposure or over-exposure. Another disadvantage of overcast days is the need to use higher ISO sensitivities in order to achieve fast shutter speeds.

Below are some of my favorite photos from the afternoon. You can find 30 additional photos on my slovak blog: http://hutera.blog.sme.sk/c/329344/Medzinarodne-paralelne-parkurove-preteky-Pezinok.html.

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The Progression of Days

The older I am, the more I notice the sad, “grown-up” truth: most days just blend together and whizz by you. The things unrelated to photography just start to pile up. Whether you’re dealing with everyday problems, how to keep your business running, personal tragedies, “might-have-beens”, or you’re trying to guide those you’re responsible for, the less time and energy you devote to seeing and appreciating the light around you. I can honestly say I hardly remember the last day I saw (and successfully photographed) a stunning sunrise or sunset.

But then there are days, when you feel the reward came straight from the Heaven. It was the first week of August 2008. The weather was unusually mild and the sky was filled with puffy clouds every afternoon.

Progression of the Day (1)

Progression of the Day (2)

The real drama came the next day. After puffy cloud afternoon, I witnessed everything from menacing storm clouds to subtle blue and red colors of impending dusk.

In the Eye of the Storm

Progression of the Day (3)

Progression of the Day (4)

Progression of the Day (5)

Progression of the Day (6)

I always do a lot of contemplating during my outings. Sometimes, even after a healthy dosage of fresh air, my mind is a bit tired. But during days like this, the mind automatically leaves the difficulties of the ordinary world behind. All you can do is to appreciate the stunning light, draw as much energry from it as possible, and (of course) to capture it the best possible way.

Daniela Hantuchova in Fed Cup

This weekend, the first round of 2013 edition of Fed Cup (the most prestigious women’s team competition in tennis) will take place all over the world. I decited to dedicate a few photos to the player that started it all for me. Eleven years ago I watched Daniela Hantuchova in a nerve-wrecking final match against Conchita Martinez of Spain. I became a fan and dreamed that once I’ll be able to photograph such an event. We’ve been waiting for another title ever since. But over the years, I’ve been able to take some nice photos of Daniela in various Fed Cup ties. Good luck against Serbia this weekend!

2012 – vs. France

2011 – Players Party – vs. Serbia

2007 – vs. Czech Republic

2007 – vs. Serbia

2011 – vs. Czech Republic

2010 – vs. China

2011 – vs. Czech Republic

2012 – vs. France

2009 – vs. Belgium

2011 – vs. Serbia

2007 – vs. Serbia

2009 – Training – vs. Belgium

2011 – vs. Serbia

2007 – vs. Czech Republic

2009 – vs. Belgium