Superb shots and the stories behind them
F. Dilek Uyar
As a former category winner of National Geographic Travel Photographer of The Year, F. Dilek is no stranger to nature’s beauty. She shoots all over her home country, while also working as a lawyer. Lake Tuz, in central Turkey, about 150km south of Ankara, is, she says, “a natural photo studio.” For most of the year, the lake is shallow enough to be crossed on foot and sometimes coloured bright pink by a high content of rose-coloured micro-algae, an important food for the flamingos that live here. But as well as being photogenic, the lake is also vital for the local economy. The water is hypersaline, saltier than ocean water, and over 60 per cent of Turkey’s salt is farmed from the lakebed in summer, when water levels drop to reveal a thick mineral crust. Framing the salt farmer in this shot, against the backdrop of Mount Hasan, went exactly to plan. “I was so happy,” F. Dilek says, “because I think it’s important to take a photo in your mind before you get to your location.” Advice that rings true, wherever that location may be.
D810, AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8E ED VR, ISO 31, 1/400 sec @ f/9
Inspiration can come from anywhere, even negative experience. In 2015, after his marriage broke down, Simon, a commercial and art photographer, was staying with a friend in his home city of Manchester. In a time of personal change, he embraced the literal and metaphorical power of dawn and began exploring the regeneration of the city. “I love being out at that time of day,” he says. “The stillness, the quiet and the ethereal atmosphere always makes me feel as if I’ve briefly stepped through the back of a wardrobe into an alternative world.” This was the birth of Simon’s Not Quite Light project, with photos in the half-light of dawn and dusk, which has led to commissions, exhibitions and arts festival appearances. This particular shot was taken on a rainy summer night while wandering the streets of the Prenzlauer Berg district of Berlin. “I usually work with a tripod and long exposure, so this picture took me back to ways of working when I did more reportage for magazines. It’s handheld and very much in the moment. The challenge was to mix the shadows, highlights and colour.” He rose to that challenge impeccably.
D810, AF-S NIKKOR ED 24-70mm f2.8, ISO 4000, 1/60 sec @ f/4
In May 2019, Sven was commissioned to shoot the terminal building of Lennart Meri Tallinn Airport. “Since the client was the airport, everything went smoothly with flight control,” he says. A special licence was needed to fly over the terminal in a helicopter, but the greatest challenge was getting as many planes in shot as possible. “So the airport communicated with the airlines to ensure they would have the planes docked at dawn, which was 3:17am that day,” Sven says. That left a window of a few hours before the first take-off. Sven leaned out of the helicopter as it made its opening flyover, but something wasn’t right. “I spoke to the airport representative alongside me, who made a quick phone call to ask someone to switch on all the terminal lights and illuminate the planes.” One of the most remarkable requests for ‘more light in shot, please’ that
a photographer could possibly make, with a terrific result.
D850, AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8E ED VR, ISO 3200, 1/80 sec @ f/2.8
On assignment in Mali last year for helicopter industry bible Vertical magazine, Lloyd’s main aim was to capture this Royal Canadian Air Force CH-47F Chinook in a brownout landing. “Imagine trying to park a car with your eyes closed,” Lloyd says, since pilots who stir up huge dust clouds during a brownout lose most or all of their visual references. “In a way, it’s a typical air-to-air image of a helicopter. My biggest challenges were the heat, between 45-50°C, and the crews and aircraft being called away on a real mission. The helicopter I was in had the doors off and the air was coming in thick and hot, like a hairdryer on warm blowing in your face.” The RCAF was taking part in Operation Presence, Canada’s international peace-keeping mission and Lloyd, despite many years as an aviation photographer, was taking his first shot in a theatre of operations. “I think this picture gives you get a sense of the harsh environment in which these crews operate.” We think so, too, Lloyd.
D810, AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8G
ED VR II, 200 ISO, 1/200 s à f/10.
“Early in my career,” Levon says, “I remember being told I had to specialise in one thing so that clients understand what they are buying. More than 23 years on, I realise that that’s not necessarily true.” The London-born photographer has shot sport, portraits, documentary and editorial, with the results appearing everywhere from magazine covers to museum collections. One of his personal projects involves a self-built Blackburn Pendulum, which creates harmonic motion. Suspended on the device, a couple of feet above the camera on the floor of Levon’s studio, is a tin can with a hole in the base and an LED inside. Start the pendulum swinging, and in a blacked-out studio, over a 17-minute exposure, a pattern emerges. “Every project I work on has some kind of technical challenge that needs solving and this is certainly an important part of the process,” he says. “My personal work is always much slower and more considered, because I have the luxury of time unavailable in commercial commissions. I’m at a stage in my career now where my personal work accounts for at least 80 per cent of my time and income. The aim is to reach 100 per cent and just get paid for whatever I want to shoot.”
D850, AF-S NIKKOR 24mm f/1.4G ED, ISO 100, 17 min @ f/8
This is Homage To My Grandfather, by landscape photographer Simone, in honour of a man who sacrificed much, in hard times, to provide for his family in the Swiss Alpine canton of Appenzell. “The mountains are symbolic of a hard life, but they are also a place of beauty,” says Simone. At this exact spot, they also seem intimidating. “I know these regions well and I love my life, so I don’t do anything if the risk is too big,” she says. “These Pulsatilla flowers were in an area just above high cliffs. I tied my dog by the trail and crawled, with shaking knees and my equipment, onto a little ledge.” She took several images at various focal lengths, then used focus-stacking in post-production to create the final image with its epic depth of field, at once intimate and spectacular. Grandpa would be proud.
D810a, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm F2.8G ED, ISO 200, 1/500 sec (flowers and mountains) and 1/200 sec (sky) @ f/11
This is Greg. He was homeless when Lee met him by chance on the street in Seattle. “I’m looking for a connection,” says Lee, of meeting potential portrait subjects. “A moment of instant recognition in a stranger’s eyes, and I had that immediately with Greg. I saw him across the street and ran across to say hello.” Last year, Greg published a book, Portraits, which contains 220 images of homeless people taken in several countries. In London in 2008, he took his first: a long-lens image of a homeless girl in a doorway. She challenged him over it and the conversation “changed his life”, he says, driving him to raise money and awareness of homelessness through his photography, which he combines with work as an accountant. “My images are entirely spontaneous,” says Lee, “Nothing is planned. If anything, I have to react to the emotion in front of me. Portraits should be a work of art, that reflect the personality or emotion of the sitter, uniquely. For me, this portrait of Greg simply does that.” Indeed it does.
D810, AF-S NIKKOR 24mm f/1.4G ED, ISO 100, 1/125 sec @ f/4
Workers at the Karlstad foundry in Sweden have 90 seconds to pour 130 tonnes of molten iron at 1340°C from four huge containers into a cylinder cast. The tension, heat and hostile environment of this process were captured by local photographer Fredrik for a personal project about life and work at the foundry. His day job is shooting news and sport, where timing is everything, as it was here. “They work with the cylinder mould for five weeks and schedule one day for pouring,” he says. “I waited for three hours to get the this shot. I’m in an elevated position and my camera is on a tripod. I used the delayed shutter function in the camera to eliminate shake. I couldn’t change lenses because of the dirt. The environment is dangerous. When the liquid iron is poured, sparks fly around everywhere.”
D850, AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8E ED VR, ISO 200, 1/40 sec @ f/4.5
The fishermen on Lake Inle in Myanmar are iconic photo subjects, thanks in no small part to their unique, one-legged rowing style. Steering the boats across the lake with one leg frees up their arms to cast nets over the shallow water. “I honestly took this because of all the photos I’d seen of them before,” says Chris, a documentary photographer whose first professional gig was also waterborne: working on a cruise ship. “I hadn’t seen anything superlative and wanted to create something beautiful that would paint them in an almost mythic light.” The fishermen, says Chris, earn as much posing for photos as they do catching fish. “When we approached this fisherman, Wunna, to request his permission, he was gracious and requested a fee. For 15 minutes, he struck graceful poses on the edge of his boat as the sun set behind us. I had to choreograph three boats to get this shot: mine, Wunna’s and one with friends as assistants. Communicating across language barriers with hand signals and smiles was like herding cats, but so much fun.”
D750, AF-S NIKKOR 50mm 1.4G, ISO 125, 1/180 sec @ f/4
The Female Bikers Initiative (FBi) have one goal: to bring life-saving health and hygiene to the women in West Africa. Anne shot the group in 2019 in Lagos, Nigeria, for her series High Speed Ladies, on a day when the FBi had organised a free cervical cancer screening in the city. “One woman dies of cervical cancer every hour in Nigeria, and the ladies of the FBi want to fight this. I wanted to take a group picture of the bikers, as well as showing the difficulties that women attending screenings have to face. I really like the serious and cool surrounding atmosphere. They told me that people admire them but don’t want their daughters to be like them, as they are seen as too rebellious. I think you can tell when you look at the picture how little they care about that.”
Z 7, NIKKOR Z 35mm f/1.8 S, ISO 200, 1/1000 sec @ f/2.2