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Bats, Furnaces and Flashlights

It’s always nice to start the New Year with taking some photos. More so, if it involves creating a photo I had in mind for quite some time. I had a chance to spend a few days with my friends in Osrblie, Slovakia. This village, located in central Slovakia, is known for its beautiful nature and FIS Biathlon events. Over the years, we’ve explored the area around the village and found many interesting locations, that also hold some photographic potential. The long abandoned, iron-melting furnace is certainly one of them.

Over the years I kept going back to it in my mind, but the surroundings don’t provide any “grand” photo opportunities. Many years later, during the screening of The Dark Knight Rises I remembered our first visit to the furnace. I looked up through its opening and took a photo of the afternoon blue sky with my friend’s compact camera. Bruce Wayne’s escape from Bane’s prison brought back those memories. I realised I could do it again, now than I have my own camera (and actually know what all those buttons do) and immediately visualised several photos I could take during our next visit. The top idea was to shoot it at night, so the sky would be filled with stars (or star trails) and the walls would be illuminated with light painting.

The first evening of 2013 provided some nice conditions. The moon wasn’t in the sky yet and the sky was filled by stars. With the help of my friends I believe the first effort was successful.

I also took a photo of the entrance. It had to be light-painted as well since it was totally dark. Sadly, the earlier visitors left a considerable amount of tracks in the snow, so the photo isn’t as neat as I hoped for.

I opted not to do star trails this time. The nort star wasn’t located in the opening of the furnace this time. Hopefully its position will be better in another season and I’ll have the opportunity to create another night-time photo.

My Top 10 photos of 2012

As the year 2012 draws to a close, it’s time to look back and evaluate. It was a difficult year. Sometimes I wasn’t able to shoot as much as I wanted. Other times I was facing with “creative block”, feeling I’ve exhausted the potential of places close to my home. And lots of times the weather just didn’t want to co-operate. Nevertheless, there were some successful moments. I won my first award at a photo exhibition, did some upgrading to my photo gear and managed to take these photos, which I can honestly label as my favorite photos of the year.

Stream, High Tatras

Glowing Peak

Hovering

Southern Sky

Jagged Peaks

A Colorful Explosion

First Stars

Evening on the Meadow

Celestial Meeting

Blooming Tree, Stormy Evening

My personal goals for 2013 is to shoot more, be bolder, acomplish the ideas I’ve had in my mind for a while and to improve this “top 10” list a year from now. I wish everyone Happy Holidays and lots of fantastic photos in 2013.

Tennis Classic 2012 – Novak Djokovic vs. Martin Klizan and a bit of insanity

Yesterday I had a chance to attend the 5th annual Tennis Classic exhibition in Bratislava, Slovakia. The line-up for the main singles match was very promissing – the current No. 1 and the winner of the London Masters Novak Djokovic agains the “Newcomer of the Year on ATP Tour” Martin Klizan. Both players are well known comedians. “Nole” Djokovic makes all sorts of pranks on fellow tennis players (both male and female) all the time. Martin Klizan is a player, who doesn’t hesitate to put on a colorful wig (after the successful Davis Cup tie) or large, colorful glasses and a hat (after winning a tournament). Naturally I expected a great show from both of them. Unfortunately, Martin probably left his sense of humor in the locker room yesterday. It seemed he was trying too hard to play regular tennis match (and beat the World No. 1), instead of entertaining the audience. On the other hand, Novak had a lot of funny lines, moments and impersonated several top male and female players (including Serena Williams). In the end, Novak Djokovic not only won sympathies of the sold-out arena, but also claimed the match in two sets 7:5, 6:3.

In the doubles match, Novak Djokovic teamed up with his long-time coach and former tennis player Marian Vajda and Martin Klizan was helped-out by the Slovak Davis Cup hero Dominik Hrbaty. Again, it seemed Marian and Novak enjoyed being on court so much more than Martin and Dominik. The “fun” potential of this exhibition match was enormous, however the evening wasn’t as great as I hoped.

Unfortunately, photographying the event was a nightmare. Apparently, the stars and the moderator weren’t instructed (or simply forgot) there was a booth full of photographers and camera men, who’d love to capture all the official ceremonies. We spent the evening looking at their backs instead. I sincerely hope this won’t happen next time.

The insane moments (I’d dare to call it a momentary lapse of reason) came during the intermission, when the traditional auction of tennis memorabilia took place. The audience bids for tennis rackets and apparel, that was autographed by the stars of the exhibition night. The proceedings usually go to support charity foundations that support underpriviledged kids’ sporting activities and the bids usually end up being several thousand Euros high. Yesterday, the battle for Novak Djokovic’s gear ended at mind-numbing 40 000 Euros. I’m all for supporting a worthy cause, but I honestly cannot wrap my mind around the fact somebody paid so much for a racket, two shirts and a seat in Novak Djokovic’s box on 1 tournament of choice. On the other hand, maybe we’ll see many new tennis stars in the future beause of this generous donation and something tells me the elderly gentleman, who won the auction, will recover rather quickly…

You can find more than 50 photos from Tennis Classic 2012 on my blog: http://hutera.blog.sme.sk/c/313322/Tennis-Classic-2012.html and a selection of my favorite photographs below.

I came, I saw, I left, I won – a report from last week’s park exhibition

Last saturday (23rd june) I attended the 6th annual public exhibition “Fotopark”, held in Bratislava, Slovakia. It was also the 6th time I displayed my work. The name basically says it all – its an exhibition held in park and anyone can show up, register and display their work. The exhibition is a success every year. Despite the pre-vacation date, a lot of photographers show up with their work. I believe the second edition had over 100 collections on display. In order to make things attractive, there are several prizes for the attendees – the prize awarded by grand jury, several prizes awarded by sponsors of the event and of course the prize awarded for the most public votes. The vote is cast by awarding the official red laundry pin to the selected photo. Everybody wants to win of course, but for me, the purpose of the day is to show my work, meet with people I made an effort to invite and of course talk to random people that stop and look at my photos. My report from this eventful day consists of several parts:

I came
The exhibition was held on the same place like every year. The waterfront next to a beautiful park always provides a nice setting. However, the weather wasn’t very co-operative and we had a sky full of heavy rain clouds that would love to destroy every print on display. The weather forecast was not good, which is probably the reason many photographers didn’t show up. In fact I believe this edition had the least amount of exhibiting photographers. Still, plenty of photographs were hung on the nets between the trees. The weather changed to sunny in the afternoon, so the prints weren’t destroyed like in 2009 when it rained all day. I chose to exhibit the following photographs:
Resting Under Stars
First Stars
Hovering
Blooming Tree, Stormy Evening
The Sage
Celestial Meeting
Southern Sky
First Light, First Snow
Heart of Fall

My portfolio was made of two parts – the “normal” part consisted of four landscapes captured during the day or golden hour and the “twilight” part that showed some night time landscapes. “We’d like to see more of these night time photos”, said the grand jury last year, so I provided 5 this year.

I saw
Despite the smaller turnout, I saw plenty of photographs from every possible genre. The bittersweet part was the amount of people displaying landscape photographs. There were only few of us, which probably underscores the bitter truth about landscape photography in Slovakia – that it’s probably a thing for “the little people”. The lanscapes were appreciated by the public, they asked me quite a lot of questions, we talked about places, techniques, the light. But most people involved in photography show little or no appreciation for the countless hours spent in the mud, freezing cold or walking several kilometers to capture something in various lighting conditions. I hope this will change one day because our small country in the heart of Europe offers many beautiful and extraordinary places that were unfortunately affected by the hand of man and in several years or decades, photos of these places will be all that’s left.

The hidden part – I heard
The grand jury made their comments. The night photographs were appreciated, because “not a lot of people do these”. I just smiled and thought to myself they should probably check the internet because there are a lot of great night-time photographer and my humble efforts simply does not match their excellent work. The day shots were commented as “pretty ordinary” The Heart of Fall, which had the most voting pins was commented as something “colorful for the people”. I agree, the fall colors are nice to look at and that was precisely the point why I made that photo. But I feel the color itself can very well be a subject of landscape photos and the vivid colors provided by the season is something people and photographers can and will appreciate. The last comment I got was “the landcape photographer has to pick his light”. This was aimed at some of my photos that had “less that wild light”. Time was a factor and the jury had to judge other collections as well, so I didn’t have the time to react. I believe the light can be as different as people’s personalities. Most people appreciate the fiery, wild sunsets (I’m of course one of them) but some might prefer a simpler, less colorful light. I try to capture as many forms of light as possible. This time, the colors were more subtle, but landscape photography is a life-time committment and sometimes, “the perfect light” just wasn’t provided. I’ll do my best to capture it next time though.

I left
One of the joys of the exhibition is to meet friends and other invited people and show them my prints officially. Of course this is also good for the voting part, since the more invited guests, the more votes for your work. Every year some of my friends and other show up, but I still get a lot of votes from total strangers. This year only my two friends and parents showed up. During the day, an unexpected oportunity appeared to present my work to someone I really wanted to see and who wasn’t able to attend the exhibition. The inner voice immediately made the decision. After the voting pins were collected, I packed my photos and left for a short visit and a private display of my photographic efforts. The grand jury was still commenting, but since I believed my chances were the same as every other year (that means slim or non-existent), I gladly left sooner to do something that meant a great deal to me.

I won
In the middle of short, private presentation, my phone rang. My friend, who was also displaying her very nice horse photos, called – my photos had the most public votes and that I’d won. I was a bit shocked, since it was the first time my photos won something. It was the nice ending of what turned out to be a nice day afterall.

A photo of my setup:

New nature and sports releases

I’m happy to announce several new releases from nature and sports world. Several weeks ago, I posted three photos to the night and twilight category – “The Sage“, “Southern Sky” and “Celestial Meeting“. Today I added two nature photos – “Idilic” and “Blooming Tree, Stormy Evening“. I also added few of my favorite photos from several recent and older sporting events – “The Flag Ceremony“, “Bad Luck” and “Warp Speed“. They are also included in a slideshow on the “Sports Corner“.

Fed Cup 2012 World Group 2 – Slovakia:France

Lots of tennis and lots of photos. I spent the last weekend in Bratislava at the Fed Cup tie between Slovakia and France and witnessed some nice matches. In the end, Slovakia won the tie 3:2, secured the april play-off spot and will have the chance to advance to Fed Cup World Group 1, which we lost rather unfortunately in a tie against Serbia last year. France was a formidable oponent even though both Daniela Hantuchova and Dominika Cibulkova are much higher in the rankings than French players who play in Fed Cup. But rankings make little or no difference in tennis team competitions like Fed Cup or Davis Cup and it showed in the very first match. Daniela Hantuchova (no. 20) spent three hours battling Pauline Parmentier (no. 62). In fact, all singles matches were close even though score might not show it. I had a good time, but I have to seriously consider upgrading and/or adding some gear. A small fishing stool for sure, a new camera … that too 🙂

The results:
Daniela Hantuchova : Pauline Parmentier – 5:7, 6:1, 9:7.
Dominika Cibulkova : Virginie Razzano – 4:6, 4:6.
Dominika Cibulkova : Pauline Parmentier – 6:3, 6:4.
Daniela Hantuchova : Alize Cornet – 6:3, 6:4.
Magdalena Rybarikova, Jana Cepelova : Virginie Razzano, Kristina Mladenovic – 1:6, 2:6

The photos can be found on my Slovak blog afte following these links:
Photos from Sunday: http://hutera.blog.sme.sk/c/288649/Fed-Cup-SlovenskoFrancuzsko-Nedela.html
Phots from Saturday: http://hutera.blog.sme.sk/c/288521/Fed-Cup-SlovenskoFrancuzsko-Sobota.html
Photos from Friday Draw Ceremony: http://hutera.blog.sme.sk/c/288325/Fed-Cup-SlovenskoFrancuzsko-zrebovanie.html

My November Tennis Adventures

I spent a good portion of last week on tennis courts on major Slovak tennis events. The Slovak Open is often labeled as small Grand Slam, since both men and women play their tournament on the same week and in the same facility – The National Tennis Center. In 2007 the men’s tournament in Bratislava won the award for best hosted event on ATP Challenger series circuit. We Slovaks were delighted to see our own Lukas Lacko to win both singles and doubles competition. Due to the bad economy, the women’s ITF series event has lower prize money and it’s not as attractive for top players as it used to be, but the players who entered still provided some decent matches. The first seeded Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine claimed the title.

Photos from singles semifinals and doubles finals (Saturday): http://hutera.blog.sme.sk/c/281076/Slovak-Open-2011-Sobota.html
Photos from singles finals (Sunday): http://hutera.blog.sme.sk/c/281167/Slovak-Open-2011-Finale.html

The biggest tennis event of the season was scheduled on monday. The fourth annual Tennis Classic had the most special guest – current World no. 1 (as of November 21st) of women’s singles ranking – Caroline Wozniacki, who played a singles match against the Slovak no. 1 Dominika Cibulkova. With no points at stake, both players concentrated on providing as much fun and laughter as possible. Especially Caroline was a riot! Girls were later joined by the famous tennis entertainers Henri Leconte and Mansour Bahrami for a crazy mixed doubles match.

Photos from Tennis Classic 2011: http://hutera.blog.sme.sk/c/281351/Tennis-Classic-2011.html

Davis Cup – Slovakia:Ukraine – Day 3

The last day of Davis Cup tie often promises dramatic, close matches. The tie between Slovakia an Ukraine was no exception. The duel of team leaders Martin Klizan of Slovakia and Sergij Stakhovsky of Ukraine provided close games with many nerve-wrecking points. The key moments came in the third set. Martin Klizan managed to come back to what appeared to be a lost third set – he was losing 2:5 in a tie-break and still gained the set, eventually the whole match and deciding thid point for team Slovakia. The final score was 6:4, 3:6, 7:6, 6:2. In the last singles game, Pavol Cervenak of team Slovakia defeated Artem Smirnov in straight sets. Photos from the last day of Davis Cup tie on my blog: http://hutera.blog.sme.sk/c/275806/Davis-Cup-SlovenskoUkrajina-Nedela.html