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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.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

2015 in Pictures

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

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

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

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

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

The face of Tutankhamun

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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