Category Archives: Behind the photo

Behind the photo: Jodhpur, Rajasthan, India

Woman at a construction site in Jodhpur, Rajasthan, India. Fuji XT-2 and Fujinon 56mm F1.2

I took the photo above during my 2019 Photo Adventure in India. I was walking around the old city of Jodhpur when I noticed a construction site in a small opening between the buildings. Something caught my attention and at first I couldn’t say what it was. I stopped and looked for a while and suddenly realised that most of the people working on the construction are women. It was a shocking discovery.

The women were moving big baskets with sand and rock on their heads seemingly effortlessly despite the heat. I saw the guy supervising the construction and approached him to ask why so many women work this hard job. He said that he employs women because they are paid less, but work as hard as men and some of them even harder.

He was a bit reluctant to allow me to photograph there, but finally said ok and I moved on the side (considering where the good light is and what will my composition be based on that) and waited for an interesting moment to happen. It came a bit later when the woman in the photo sat to rest a bit. My camera was ready, I picked it up, framed the shot and hoped she will look at some point my way. She did.

Settings: 56mm (85mm on a full frame sensor) ISO 320, F2.8, 1/1250



Behind the photo: Chamonix, France

Aiguille du Dru (3754m)

Aiguille du Dru (3754m), Chamonix, France // Fujifilm XT-2 with Fujinon 23mm F1.4 // F8.0, ISO320, 1/2500

I love mountains! You can probably deduct that by looking at the photos on the website πŸ™‚ One of my favourite spots in the world is the small town of Chamonix, the home of the tallest peak in Western Europe – Mont Blanc, located in the french Alps. It is a town surrounded by tall peaks and glaciers and is a perfect place to do some hiking and take mountain photos.

But this is the thing about mountains – they make you work for the photos you take πŸ™‚ Most people will not go high in the mountains when the weather is less than ideal andΒ  because of that will miss countless amazing photo opportunities.

It was a stormy day with lots of clouds and I decided to walk one of my favourite trails in Chamonix – Grand Balcon Nord. It is a relatively easy trek overlooking Chamonix and most of the valley. The trail is on one side of the valley just under Les Aiguilles de Chamonix. I have been there lots of times and nowadays I will only take photos if I see something really nice.

I was almost at the end of the trek and I was a bit frustrated that I still have not taken any photos. I climbed the final steep part and stood on the small peak calledΒ Signal Forbes (2198 m). I wanted to go down as fast as possible since I expected the storm will start any moment. I picked up my backpack and started descending. At that exact moment the clouds in front of me parted and uncovered one of my favourite peaks – Aiguille du Dru (3754m). The sun was just behind and the light was simply gorgeous. The peak looked breath taking in the afternoon light, surrounded by the stormy clouds. The moment lasted only a few short minutes and then the magic was gone.

This is my favourite photo from this journey and one that already hangs on the wall of my apartment.

Technical data: Fujifilm XT-2 with Fujinon 23mm F1.4 lens andΒ F8.0, ISO320, 1/2500 s.

Behind the photo: Jaipur, India

I am a big fan of Steve McCurry’s work and there is one photo in particular that I love. It was taken in Jodhpur (the blue city) and shows the city photographed form a high vantage point during the “blue hour”. After first seeing it I always wanted to produce something like this, print and hang on my wall. I still have not been in Jodhpur, but I was lucky enough to have visited Jaipur (the pink city). When I was planing my trip in India, I had this idea to make a similar photo and started to research if it was possible in Jaipur. Using Google maps, I found that I can “climb” to Nahargarh Fort in the outskirts of the city and try from there.

Canon 5D Mark III and Sigma 85mm F1.4 lens

It took some time to find somebody to take me at the fort at the right time (just after sunset during the “blue hour”) and during the trip I found out why. The road is bad and the taxi driver had to go quite slowly, it was very dark and since the road was not wide enough at places for two cars, we had to be extra careful. The trip took more time than expected and I missed the perfect light, but I was there and I wanted my photo, so decided to proceed πŸ™‚

I entered the fort and walked towards the highest point on the wall. When I climbed I found out that I wasn’t the only one wanting to enjoy the view πŸ™‚ There were a few young couples having fun and drinking sodas. It was already quite dark and definitely not perfect, but I went for the shot anyway. I didn’t have a tripod, so I tried to fix the camera on the wall somehow, in order to use slower shutter speed without blurring the shot. The teenagers around me spoke Hindi, which I don’t understand, but I can bet their ware laughing on my expense observing me setting up my gear πŸ™‚ It didn’t work out, I couldn’t get the composition I wanted, so I decided to use a different approach. I cranked up my Iso and did a few handheld shots. The photos turned out quite noisy as you can see, but still usable.

Here is one more photo from the same spot on the wall.

Canon 5D Mark III and Canon 35mm F1.4L lens

The resulting photo is nowhere near as good as Steve McCurry’s image, but I still love it.

Moral of the story: Always be prepared to improvise. There is no right or wrong way to achieve a specific result.

Behind the photo: Lisbon, Portugal

It was a very hot summer day in Lisbon, Portugal and I was waiting for some friends on a square somewhere in the city centre. It was boring to wait and too hot to do something meaningful, so I sat on a bench and stared in the ground bored and sweaty.

Photo workshops in Brussels

Photo: Fujifilm X100S

It wasn’t long after that when I realised that the people walking around me were casting interesting shadows with the help of the setting sun. I decided to try and get an interesting photo with the shadows. The next 15 minutes I stared at the ground waiting for the photo. People walked fast and even thou I had some interesting photos nothing came close to be worthy of saving. It wasn’t going to be easy to get something nice. I started to look at the people and tried to visualise how the shadows will be when they get closer to me. This gave me a few moments to actually think about my composition before I had to press the shutter. I was getting more and more frustrated and suddenly it felt like I am losing a game πŸ™‚ Long story short after almost an hour I had a few hundred photos from the exact same spot of the square with useless photos and just one that I was proud of.

Moral of the story: Challenging yourself to work towards specific image / goal will be of tremendous help with mastering your photography technique.

Behind the photo: Agra, India

In 2014 I was hired to photograph a wedding in Mumbai, India and since it was my first time there I decided to stay a bit longer and travel. I have always been fascinated by the photos of Steve McCurry, who has an amazing collection of photos from northern India, so I decided to head there. One of the places I visited was the city of Agra and of course The Taj Mahal.

Every time I travel I try to think of a small photography project to do. It keeps me focused and I generally go back home with better, more interesting images. During my trip in India my photo project was: The Dogs of India. So, naturally I wanted a nice photo for my project from Agra as well. And what better place to do that than the majestic Taj Mahal πŸ™‚ I had very little expectations that I will manage to get the photo I wanted, but anyway I spent a few hours there looking for it. Taj Mahal is a magical building and honestly the photos don’t do it justice.

There were a few dogs walking around the area but nothing caught my attention at first. I was almost on my way out when I noticed a dog happily sleeping just at the right place πŸ™‚

I needed a few moments to decide my composition and the above photo was ready πŸ™‚ You can check my full project here: Dogs of India

Moral of the story: Challenging yourself to get a particular photo or working towards a particular goal is a great way to train yourself to find interesting images everywhere. When searching for a photo be open minded and don’t give up fast! Personal projects are a fantastic way to practice!

Behind the photo: Chamonix, France

Ok, this is an old one! It was 2007 and me and my wife were on a backpacking trip in the Alps. We started in Chamonix and decided to spend a few days there climbing, hiking and enjoying the jagged mountains before we headed to Switzerland. “Death capital of the world” – that is what people call Chamonix and it sounds quite scary for a place that holds such an immense beauty. It is a small town in a valley in the base of the highest peak in Western Europe – Mont Blanc.

Photo: Canon 40D and Canon 70-200 F4L / Iso 100, 172mm

Hiking all day really makes you tired, so after an early dinner on that day we decided to head back to the hotel and sleep. We were walking the main street filled with restaurants and shops. It was getting darker and already had my camera in my backpack. Suddenly I looked up and saw that the last light from the setting sun was hitting one of the peaks above and it looked magical. I got my camera as fast as I could and put on my Canon 70-200mm F4L that I used to carry around everywhere back than (no joke, I even climbed a few 4000m peaks with this one in the backpack). The moment lasted less than a minute – the clouds moved and the light was gone. I was so excited that I couldn’t keep my hands from shaking and the resulted photo (as nice as it is) came out a bit blurry πŸ™‚

Moral of the story: always keep your camera close. You can never be sure when you will get a great photo opportunity!Β 

Behind the photo: Varanasi, India

Varanasi blew me away the minute I stepped out of the train. I honestly think it is probably the most amazing place on earth. It is hard to describe the crazy cycle of life and death that is on every corner in the city. It is believed to be one of the oldest continuously inhabited places on Earth and it probably is. On top of that it is every photographer’s dream – strolling the steps (ghats) around the Ganges river will transport you back in time and will leave a lifetime lasting impression in you. If I can quote Lonely Planet’s travel guide – Varanasi is the India of your imagination.

Photo: Fujifilm X100S

I spent a few days there and got back home with a mountain of photos. But not just a small mountain – imagine something close to the size of Mont Blanc πŸ™‚ The photo above is one of my favourites from the trip. It was early morning and I was strolling along the river for a hundredth time in searching for interesting photos, when I saw these man wash their clothes in the river. I wanted to get a photo with a nice angle, something interesting to tell the story and started walking around them. I tried a few photos, but wasn’t satisfied by the result and decided to sit down and observe a bit. After a few minutes I realised it will be really cool to try and frame them using the clothes line they were using. I climbed a bit higher, waited for a few more minutes and suddenly one of the men made my wish come true πŸ™‚

Moral of the story: Slow down, observe and always try to get an even better shot!

Behind the photo: New York, USA

New York is probably one of the most photographed places on Earth and coming back home from a trip with interesting and unique photos can be a challenge. It was my first time there and I was literally blown away by the architecture, the colours, the busy streets and the countless photo opportunities. I have always wanted a print with New York’s skyline, so I decided that a trip to the Statue of Liberty will give me a perfect opportunity to get the shot I wanted.

Photo: Fujifilm X100S

We were on a moving ferry, so I had to constantly look for a good angle. The skyline looked quite nice, but I felt that the shot will be “sterile” and kinda boring. I started looking around for an interesting way of framing the photo, but I just couldn’t “make it work”. Then I realised there are quite a lot of birds flying around the ferry and decided to try and get a few of them in the frame. I framed the skyline the way I wanted it and started waiting for the birds. There was of course a big chance that I will not be able to get the shot just as I imagined it, it’s not like I could tell the birds what to do, but my experience is that if you are persistent enough, you will eventually succeed. It took me around 10 minutes to get the result I hoped for.

As you can see in the photo I managed to get my skyline and also not one, but two birds in the frame πŸ™‚ I am quite happy with the final result and feel that the birds give the picture the much needed final touch to create a stronger moment.

Moral of the story: Take your time when taking photos. Find your frame and stick to it until you make it perfect.

Behind the photo: Kitzbuhel, Austria

I love skiing and as a professional photographer I find it a great way to get closer to the mountains and find beautiful spots for pictures. I was recently on vacation in Kitzbuhel, Austria and as usual I had a camera with me at all times (yep even when I was skiing). This time it was my favourite travel camera – Fujifilm X-Pro2 and my Fujinon 35mm F2 WR lens (50mm equivalent on a full frame sensor). It is a great travel kit especially if you plan on taking lots of photos outside (even in bad weather), since both the camera body and the lens are water resistant.

Kitzbihel, Austria / Fujifilm X-Pro2 with Fujinon 35mm F2 WR / Iso: 200, F16, 1/1600, Exp. Comp.: -1.0

So, this particular morning I was skiing alone and there were very few people on the slope around me. It was easy to stop and take pictures whenever I found an interesting subject or nice light, or even better – both. The sun was slowly going up and the light was near perfect. I was skiing on one of the longest runs in the area and after I got to the bottom, I sat on the lift to get back up. A few minutes after we started I saw a great photo opportunity that I unfortunately missed, since my camera was in my backpack (big mistake). I barely managed to not go crazy during the long ride up and after reaching the summit, skied as fast as I could back down, hoping I can still manage to get the shot I imagined. I took my camera out and got on the lift again this time ready to get the shot! I wasn’t sure if I would have the same conditions, but I held my breath and “prayed”.

As you can see from the result I was lucky enough that the sun was still in the right place. I was sitting in a moving lift, so I didn’t have lots of options composition wise. I tried to visualise the shot before I reached the spot, I set my camera and I was ready. I knew I wanted a dramatic looking photo, so I chose to underexpose the scene to preserve the highlights.

For those of you who are interested here are the camera settings: Iso: 200, F16, 1/1600, Exp. Comp.: -1.0

Moral of the story: Know your settings and keep your camera close. And please don’t give up trying even if it looks very improbable that you will get the shot you imagine.

Behind the photo: Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, India

Visiting the remote city of Jaisalmer was one of the best experiences during my trip to India. It is not part of the usual tourist routes (the small city is locates in the Tar desert about 30km from the border of Pakistan) and the easiest way I found to get there was a 14 hour train ride from New Delhi. Traveling with a train in India is an adventure that you can’t explain with words, you have to experience it for yourself πŸ™‚ Anyway I arrived on the train station in Jaisalmer and managed to find the guy who was supposed to take me to my hotel. During the check in I found out that the biggest attraction in the city (and the reason most people come) is the camel safari in the Tar desert. I couldn’t say no πŸ™‚

During a camel safari in the Tar desert close to the city of Jaisalmer, Rajahstan, India. Photo: iPhone 4s

During a camel safari in the Tar desert close to the city of Jaisalmer, Rajahstan, India. Photo: iPhone 4s

Our group started the same day 3 hours before the sunset. After an hour in a couple of 4x4s, we arrived at the point where we were supposed to start the actual camel safari. For some reason I was the first one to have been assigned a camel and as I found out a bit later – the most unluckiest one. My camel had a bit of a “temper”, just enough so that I can honestly say that this ride was the first and the last one I will ever take on a camel’s back!

In order to save the memory from the journey I wanted to take a photo and since getting out my big camera while riding proved impossible, I took one photo with my iPhone 4s. It is an old phone and the camera is not particularly good, but I love this image.

The moral of the story: The best camera is the one you always have with you!