Photographic Process: I'm Only Happy When It Moves

Breidamerkursandur is the black sand beach near Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon. I'm brave to say it's one of the most incredible places to photograph that is furthermore easily accessible. It is the contrast between the volcanic black sand and crystal-clear to turquoise colors of icebergs that makes it feel otherworldly and extraordinary. In this post, you will find the detailed description of my photographic process - from content considerations all the way to the post-processing workflow.

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Long Exposures with Phase One IQ250 (Part III)

I would definitely use a better weather when shooting Phase One IQ250. I only had couple of days on Isle of Harris with this chubby baby. Not enough. The very most of time spent either drying it or admiring its design. Or, testing the wi-fi connected to my iPad and Capture Pilot app. This is by the way a lovely feature.

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Isle of Harris with Phase One IQ250 (Part I)

I have been using Phase One backs since 2009 when I got lucky with a reasonable price on refurbished P30. Back then, I intended to get rid of the digital SLR that I carried as a back up for my film medium format camera so that I can entertain one system only. I ended up with Hasselblad H1, on which I could switch the Phase One with a film cassette. It is a very handy set up that contains one medium format body and three lenses only, but allows shooting film or digital as desired. With some alterations, I enjoy using it until now.

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Photographic Process: From Snapshot To Artwork

Okay, I'm perhaps exaggerating on both ends here but all I am trying to show in this post is my photographic process of getting from the first brief snapshot of subjects that grabbed my attention to the final image I am very satisfied with. I explain working with the composition and other considerations, out in the field. Ota and I attended the workshop with Bruce Percy couple of weeks ago. We spent couple of mornings and evenings photographing Bay of Laig on the Isle of Eigg. I packed my stuff and slowly headed for breakfast when I noticed interesting sand waves created by the low tide water. Also, some nice heavy clouds started to group above Rum on the horizon.

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Empty (Landscapes)

I took it very light with my blog (and imagery) lately. Partially because it’s low season for my kind of photography. And, the summer is definitely not my favorite part of the year in general. The sun rises way too early and it is moving way too fast for my Linhof (and my age) to catch up. Also, it’s been extremely hot over here in Prague so my basement workroom provided for a good (cold) place to sleep rather than servicing its usual duty as a landscape photography meditation center. Another reason behind the silence is my ‘civil’ life. Too many changes have been occurring around here; I’ve gone through one of the busiest period in my daily work that included lots of travel. I could not refrain from watching the political turmoil in Czech, which by the way is one of the weirdest thing I have seen ever since I remember following the scene – one of the cleanest prime ministers they (we) ever had got naively swept by his own efforts to make the politics less corrupted... What a world we live in.

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Twenty Four Trees and More

Near Rostock, that day I have been looking for a perfect shoreline that I could spend a good time with, but I happened to discover an amazing forest to photograph instead. I walked through it, stubbornly hoping that the coastal views my map would suggest are going to be worth it. Only at the cliff, enjoying the visual range of few kilometers, I found out that it looked the same way as those I shot this morning, previous evening, previous morning, pre-previous evening... Turning back though, this is what I saw:

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Baltic Sea with Phase One IQ140

This past weekend I spent couple of interesting days in eastern part of Germany, by the Baltic Sea. I did not expect more than just locations scouting and (mainly) testing my Phase One IQ140 digital back. I've owned it for few months but did not have much time to find out what it can actually do. And I can say now it can deliver a lot, much more than the P30 I used before. I'm still waiting for my slide films to be processed but unlike anytime before, I don't need to wait to see them in order to publish a note as I'm happy with what I captured digitally. Or, perhaps, following the announcement on Velvia discontinuation, I should rather feel that way. I have not done any explicit tests but the bottom line is that, compared to P30, the Phase One IQ140 made a tremendous progress when it comes to colour rendition. It's been showing a character, a sense to capture much less instantly and eventually show what has really been happening out there in the atmosphere.

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Photographing Northern Lights in Iceland

This past winter provided some excellent opportunity to get photographing northern lights in Iceland as we could have witnessed strong solar activity capable to produce fantastic performance of green dances up in the sky. We believed Landmannalaugar to be one of the best locations to shoot it. Deserted and wild, very remote and hard to visit. Actually the only way to get there, with a little bit of luck, is to hire a guide with a special truck and naval GPS as roads are invisible - covered by thick plates of snow and ice. We agreed with Stefan from Icelandic Mountain Guides to drive us there. One video is better than 1000 words, so check out below how beautifully it all looked like. And yes, many thanks to Dead Can Dance for their Frontier (Demo) that plays out there instead of our small talks, car sounds and winds.

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The Ultimate End of Fuji Velvia?

At the end of July, the scary news from Fujifilm discontinuing Fuji Velvia flashed through various websites and blogs. I first saw it in British Journal of Photography. Although at this stage it more affects my future ambitions to move towards true large format as 'only' the production of Fuji Velvia 50 in 4x5 format is to be halted (and the full range of Fuji Velvia 100F that I would not connect to at all anyway), it really sounds like the beginning of the slow end of the legendary inverse material. Will it mean anything to me? Yes and no.

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Lofoten Reminiscence - Rocks and Cabins

As it happens to happen every summer, I did not manage to do much photography related stuff over the last two months. Way too many things have been going on in my other lives that kept me very busy but eventually also let my eyes rest from looking at images, my mind from creating them and my legs from walking for getting them. So I guess I'm checking in fresh and with a long to-do list. To start with, I have been browsing through some older photographs from Lofoten made last winter. I got attracted by the below two that I thought the comparison might have been interesting. Both were shot from the bridge over the bay near Hamnoy, with the difference of few hours, couple of hundered meters and the media used (here, because I process digital files other way and time than film, I only now realized the two were created one after the other).

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Beach Graphics

I have been silent to this blog in the recent weeks. Too hot in my roof workroom, too much football (the most of it quite crapy though), too much happening in my non-photographic life that proved to be no less important than images. But now, it's time to catch up fast. It's raining in Prague now. Pleasing more than 20 degrees difference from how it was in Bratislava today - 41 Celsius when I sat into the car this afternoon. I went through some storm drama on the highway that somehow associated my thoughts with two things. One is the concert of Soley, one of endless musical talents from Iceland, whose concert in Prague was cancelled earlier this month (sadly) and I'm still left with the ticket (I will survive till the next one hopefully). So I'm playing her now while the soft rain kisses the terrace of my house on the background. It always amazes me how deep the music of many Icelandic artists I get to discover over time (and trust me, it's so many of them) connects with their landscape and its mood. Try this one while looking at photographs below, for instance. And be patient for a minute (or rewind :-)).

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Black and White Magazine

Few days ago I found out that my portfolio from Iceland won the Excellence Award in yearly portfolio contest organized by well respected Black and White Magazine in USA. I am really excited about it and it is just great motivation for my future work and development. So here are few photographs which were published in the Special issue at the end of May 2012.

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Lesnicke Sedlo, the Place of Infinite Inspiration

I certainly do not remember when exactly my fondness for this place evolved, but for more than 20 years I have been taking there everything I loved at a time. It started with my bike when I was a teenager, followed by couple of girlfriends that qualified worth showing them around. I then drove my first car there to see how well it can handle the steep curved road that leads up there. In recent years, I have spent endless hours wandering round the place with all my cameras I owned so far. And finally, few weeks ago I brought my kids there to witness a joy in their eyes that would help me recall my first visit thus the beginning of my passion. 

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Linhof Techno at the Equator

I have been married for 10 years. It was impossible to imagine back then but it actually got to this point much faster and easier than expected. What's even more intriguing is that my own wife has been married for 10 years, too! Happily, I have no doubt. So I thought these were two excellent reasons to leave kids behind and spend few days in Seychelles together. And one thing that I made sure not to leave behind had been my Linhof kit. La Digue, one of many islands belonging to Seychelles, looked like the perfect place for the trip that would combine lots of hideaway resting and a little bit of photography. In this scope and order, dear Mrs Potomova. :-)

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Black and white workflow – Part 2

Few months back I wrote first part of this black and white workflow tutorial and I really did not expect that it would take me so long to come up with part two. So here it is:) As I said last time I prefer to have just simple grey files as a starting point.  It helps me to select only the strong photographs, which I really want to present.  I can imagine that everybody has their own system how to mark and rate photographs so just only briefly about my way.  All photographs, which I convert to black and white get red label (number 6 in Lightroom) and during the selection process I do rate individual pictures with stars and one star means that this picture is ready for further adjustments.

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Sony NEX-5n - More Than a Scrapbook

As I slowly climb my learning curve with the technical camera, I'm being introduced to its stumbling blocks of various kind. One of them, and quite major, is that I find difficult to compose and eventually focus with a wide angle lens in low light conditions. The converted reflection of a scene on the ground glass is simply too dark to work with it. Also, when I want to preview how the image might look like, there is no viewfinder for almost an instant feedback. It obviously takes considerable amount of time to set the system up, put a dark cloth over my head and see what the final result could look like. If I don't like what I see, I need some 5 minutes to pack it back. For these reasons, I decided to look for a small camera to use for sketching designs and previewing scenes.

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Film or Digital?

Film or digital? Both!

Whenever I'm out with my Hasselblad putting it up for a shot, I keep asking myself this particular question. The beauty of my setup is that I can switch between the two within seconds. No more I spend removing the film cassette and replacing it with Phase One digital back (and okay, placing a crop mask on the ground glass). I'm actually fortunate to have a choice, which is exactly why I designed my kit this way.

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Photo of the Week - September 26, 2011

The longer I do have photography as a hobby, the more it represents an open dialogue between me and nature, rather than speed and quantity oriented picture taking, how It used to right at the beginning of my photography journey. I am personally trying to develop my own active dialogue with nature, but in the same time I am trying to hear or better to say observe ongoing dialogues between other different nature objects and I put myself in the position of distant listener, who does not want to interrupt ongoing discussions.

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Ice Cave Patterns

We usually shoot our Earth in its various forms and fashions from the ground. Those happier of us get up in the air and photograph from there. But there's an incredible beauty below its surface, too. In Slovakia, we're lucky to have as many as 2,400 caves (wikipedia) of which about 400 have been explored. One tenth of them is open for public. I rather believe that these are the most picturesque and fascinating. Because five are included in UNESCO World Heritage. :-)

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