Photography Hints for Russia
As always, be thoughtful when taking photos of locals. It’s always more appropriate to make a request first and if the individual prefers not to be photographed, show consideration for their privacy. A generation of residing with the KGB might cause older locals to be apprehensive about being photographed, although a sincere offer to forward on a print of the photo can relax your subject up. Bear in mind that many Russians will be sensitive if you photograph ‘embarrassments’ such as run-down-housing and other signs of social decay.
There are some structures in Russia where extreme caution should be exercised when considering photographing it. Stations, airports, officiallooking buildings, security, and anything military related are all considered structures that should not be photographed. This rule should also apply to the people associated with the structures. It is not unusual for visitors to be arrested for innocently taking photos of such places.
Some other structures, such as churches and museums may also forbid photography – especially flash photography. You may also be requested to pay a fee for the privilege of taking snapshots in these structures.
Except in the case of planned performances, always remember to ask before taking a photograph of a particular individual. It is rare but the individual may request payment prior to agreeing. In this case it is recommended you do not pay for, nor take the photo. Plenty of photo opportunities will come up and at no cost. The paying of photos whether for money or gifts only encourages commercialisation and inhibits spontaneity and hospitality.
When photographing wildlife, never surround a single animal or group of animals. Try to form a semi-circle to leave an unspoiled background. Never harass wildlife for the sake of photography. Remember that photography isn’t over when your shutter clicks; retreat from your subject in the same way you approached.
Respect the rights of other photographers. Allow others to get a clear shot before walking into their view. Also, be aware that those with video cameras are recording sights and sounds.
Protecting your cameras
To keep cameras dry in the Zodiacs, you can use float bags (available at good camera stores). These durable, waterproof bags come in all sizes and can be inflated to ensure your camera will float if it falls in the water. Alternatively you could put your camera in a plastic bag or use a waterproof case that floats; there are many brands and sizes available. These cases seal and have foam lining for extra protection. A supply of zip-lock plastic bags is recommended as extra protection for camera and personal effects.
When going from the air-conditioned ship into humid, warm air, condensation can develop on your camera and lens. To prevent this, place your camera and lens inside a plastic bag, expel the air and seal it. Be sure to keep your lens cap on so that the condensation will occur only on the camera body. In about 10-15 minutes, you camera should be acclimatised.
If using digital cameras, you’ll need to store the images, either on your laptop computer, or a digital storage device, that can carry the images until you get back to your computer. There are no facilities on board to download and store images.
Handy Hint Checklist
- Read and bring your manuals
- Bring lens paper and cleaning fluid
- Pack spare batteries, film/tape/memory sticks
- Pack electronic flash/tripod
- Soft cloth for cleaning lens
- Waterproof bag
- Identify subject (look for interesting behaviour as well as beauty)
- Frame shot carefully
- Open aperture 1 stop in bright light and glare.
- Close aperture 1 stop when subject is dark.
- Increase shutter speed when shooting from moving ship or Zodiac
- Focus carefully and hold camera still.
- Respect the rights of people, wildlife and fellow photographers