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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.

Fed Cup 2014 World Group 1 – Slovakia versus Germany

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

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

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

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

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
























My top photos of 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Storm’s End
Storm's End

The Night of Wonders
The Night of Wonders

Canola Spring

Bales And Stars
Bales and Stars

Cima Cadin Sunset
Cima Cadin Sunset

Averau Sunset
Averau Sunset

Dramatic Monte Pelmo
Dramatic Monte Pelmo

Icy Waters
Icy Waters

Afternoon Light on Tre Cime
Afternoon Light on Tre Cime

The Wheel of Time
The Wheel of Time

Tennis Classic 2013 – The Twilight Edition

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

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

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

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

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

Martina Hingis, Daniela Hantuchova, Gael Monfils and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga

Martina Hingis and Daniela Hantuchova

Gael Monfils, Chair Umpire of the match Michal Varmus and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga










Daniela Hantuchova playing the piano

Charity auction

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.


















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


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).