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Pavel Kosenko

Author's blog about photography

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Russia

ORWOCHROM and other Soviet-era slides


As Iwas preparing for the “Retro Color. Technologies and art” lecture, I stumbled across a remarkable branch where people put up scans of old color film from home archives. Some pictures are so heart-warming, I couldn’t resist getting a selection to wax nostalgic about. Unfortunately, I don’t have old color film of my own, although even back then I took, developed and even printed images in color. Here you get mostly ORWO from the German Democratic Republic, incredibly popular in the USSr in the 70s and 80s. There was actually very little alternative for color, except SVEMA and sometimes KODAK, if you could get it. Here I was more interested in color than mementos, but it’s still an impressive selection.

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White Balance


“White Balance” serie
Malozemelskaya & Bolshezemelskaya Tundra
Nenets Autonomous District, Russia
(c) Pavel Kosenko, 2013-2015

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Dalniye Zelentsy


A semi-deserted locality in Murmansk Oblast on the shores of the Barents Sea. Now there is not even a road leading to it, while some 30–40 years back it used to host the Murmansk Marine Biological Institute. I’ve been there in 2009, with a car from Moscow. It took me 2 days for the first 2000 km, and 6 more hours on an off-roader across tundra for the last 30 km. Now, 5 years past, I recalled that trip in relation to the new Russian Oscar–nominated movie “Leviathan” that was shot on location in those exact places.

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Arctic experience in photography


Arctic experience in photography

While preparing for the trips to the Arctic Circle I was thinking a great deal about what kind of photo equipment to take with me. On the one hand, I wanted to take as little cameras and lenses as possible because it’s quite difficult to carry several cameras in severe climatic conditions, let alone changing the lenses which is practically impossible. On the other hand, travelling with only one camera, even if it is expeditionary one, is also risky – what if it gets broken or, for instance, all the batteries, including spare ones, go flat?

In the end, mostly by intuition, I chose two cameras: ‘big’ Canon 1D X (lens 24-70 f/2.8L) and ‘small’ Fujifilm X-Pro1 (lens Fujifilm XF 18 mm f/2 R X-Mount). I was tempted to take a film camera as well, just in case, but I decided to confine myself to the excessive reserve of power: I took 2 batteries for the big camera and 5 for the small one. Moreover I had an iPhone but it turned out absolutely useless at 53°C because 100% of battery had drained in 2 minutes.

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Landscape photography


At some point I was shooting mainly landscape photos. Now, with the time passing, I rarely like any of those, but some still stand out. Like this simple one, taken at the location, where the “Island” movie was shot on the shores of the White sea, next to Kem town (Russia). The photo is taken back in 2009.

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From my window


I really like the stereotypes of foreigners about Russia – the snow, bears crossing the streets and people in national costumes drink vodka straight from the bottle :) But you know … sometimes reality is almost like that! Of course, you can’t see bears in the streets – because bears live at least 10 thousand kilometers from Moscow. And no national clothing can be found except in museums – Russians prefer Gap, Levi’s, Calvin Klein, and similar brands. And we also drink vodka sometimes, but more often Italian, French and Chilean dry wine (red, of course, from the decanter). But what one can not take away is the snowing! For example, a couple of days ago we had a monthly norm of snow falling in one single day. This is how it looked from the window of my house:

And two days later:

In general this is a very curious, but after traveling halfway around the world, I like more and more to shoot from the window of my flat on 7th floor. For example, here’s one more view two month ago:

Summer Tundra bird’s-eye view


Photos tundra made ​​a week ago from a helicopter in the Nenets Autonomous District, Russia.

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How to catch 200 deer in an open field without killing one


Do you know what it a “bull”? It’s a reindeer. They stand in separate herds, or right next to chums in a small corral. By the way, do you know what corral is? It’s an enclosure for deer. It is usually quite large, with enough space for conducting veterinary and zootechnical treatment. Sometimes small corrals are made up for the “bulls”, so that they are always within reach. Large ones are made up rarely, usually twice a year – in the spring and summer, for the piece count (corralization) and marking the herd. Otherwise, deer graze in an open field, procuring reindeer moss with their hoofs within 3-5 km from chum. And do you know what is a “piece”? It’s a part of a herd that departed the main group and went roaming God knows where.

It’s not difficult to trace the “piece” and get it back to the herd in winter. Deer rarely go further than 5 km within one night, which, compared to the size of tundra is just a block away. It’s more complicated when a “piece” joins the herd of the neighboring brigade, since it’s hard to separate them without a corral. Even if there are 10 heads in the “piece” it’s quite some problem, what to expect, when there are 200…

It does occur quite rarely. The “pieces” sometimes do leave the herd, it does indeed happen. But the probability that it would come across another herd in the vast territory of tundra, is very small. Moreover, the migration routes of deer are predetermined and mutually agreed upon in advance. But it does happen every now and then. And if it does, want it or not, the brigades need to catch the “alien” deer and get them back to their herd.

To witness this large scale operation you need to have quite some luck. Matvey, our guide in tundra, said that he has seen it for the first time in the last 10 years. Usually you catch deer for meat, and you only need just 1-2 heads. It takes some 10-15 minutes, maybe even less. Thus, the major part of the photos documenting the process are set acts. Photographers simply do not have enough time to get good photos within such a short period of time, and ask reindeer herdsmen later on to pose, as if they are noosing with tynzyan (Nenets noose for catching deer). I have seen myself a few times how this kind of set acts are taking place.

This time, though, the situation was completely different. The process of catching 200 heads, took… 2 whole days! Not counting an extra day for the preparations. Both me and Sasha Sorin had a chance to watch this process for 5 hours, and even to participate in it. We could have continued to take part, but we were tapped out by then – running in banks of snow, sinking into it up to your waist is quite tiresome.

So, here are some photos from the large scale deer catch. With some comments.

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Eveno-Bytantaysky National District (Sakha Republic, Russia)


Let me share with you 18 photos I took in Eveno-Bytantaysky National District (Sakha Republic, Russia) last month.

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Yakutsk, Russia. The 7 most impressive moments of the trip


It is the first time that I had the chance to go to the place where cold is permanently present. A couple of weeks earlier, several of my colleagues and I have been contacted by representatives of the two ministries of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) – the Ministry of Federal Relations and Communications, and the Ministry of Business and Tourism. They invited us to take part in a big festival called “Winter starts from Yakutia”, which is held in early December each year.

This is not just a celebration, but also one of the key brands of Yakutia. With this event the real winter starts, when Russian Father Frost from Great Ustyug comes to visit the Yakut Lord of Cold, Winter and the Kingdom of Permafrost whose name is Chiskhaan. Together they (drink vodka) celebrate the coming of Symbol Cold, which then starts its pre-new year’s trip through Russia.

Of course, I accepted the invitation to discover Yakutsk with pleasure and don’t regret it at all. On the contrary! This was an amazing trip with great people, bright impressions and intensive events. I am not very good in relating the complete sequence of events, and I don’t really like doing that, but I would like to share with you some of my personal impressions.

Below you will find 7 of the most impressive moments of my trip to Yakutsk. They are not shown in order of importance, as it is quite difficult to classify them. They come in the order in which they came up to my mind when I wrote this article.

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