Great shots and the stories behind them
In August 2019, aerial nature photographer Stephan chartered a small plane to fly over Disko Bay on the west coast of Greenland to shoot meltwater lakes. This image from his resulting series, Blue, has an ethereal, serene beauty. Not much was peaceful about the process of taking it. “You begin with satellite images to plan your flight,” says Stephan. “Then you have to find a plane to get you there. If you’re lucky with the weather and light, you also have to hope that the lakes will be there once you’re in the air. They can quickly disappear if a siphon suddenly opens up deep down in the ice.” If those challenges aren’t enough, taking pictures from a light aircraft has many hurdles to overcome. “You can have a very limited angle of view, “Stephan says, “and you have to compensate for vibrations and jolts. But, for me, the configuration of the Nikon Z 6 and its lenses significantly reduces the number of technically imperfect images in aerial photography. The lens I used here is as close to perfect as I can imagine.”
Z 6, NIKKOR Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S, ISO 200, 1/320 sec @ f/8
In East New Britain, Papua New Guinea, the Baining people have a tradition of masked firedances, a rite of passage initiating young men into adulthood. Harry, a specialist in environmental portraiture and fine-art wildlife photography, is committed to showing “the world as it is meant to be”, and here he had to be on his toes as much as his subjects. “Clearly there is a huge dynamic range between inky shadows and a fire. The dancers moved quickly, so it was important to keep a shutter speed fast enough to freeze the action, and given the low light, this was something I had to monitor constantly. I didn’t mind clipping the shadows as I knew I wanted them deep and mysterious, so exposing for the fire was the best bet in order to maximise shutter speed. The real problem was ensuring there was enough light for the subject. Using a flash was one option but created a bit of an artificial tone to the scene, and I much preferred the rich warm oranges created by the fire. So waiting for the dancers to get close enough to the fire to light their faces was key.”
Z 7, metadata unavailable
The House of City Institutions, also known as City House, is about half an hour’s stroll south of the Hermitage museum in the centre of St Petersburg. “I love the architecture there, it’s my favourite city,” says Stepan, “and this is one of the most impressive buildings.” To capture the 1906 neo-Gothic construction in all its glory, he made his way to the top of the building opposite. “My main challenge,” he remembers, “was to negotiate with the people who lived there and get the keys to the roof. There are no limits if you really want to get a picture. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” That day, Stepan says he had to deal with “tons of cloud in the sky and masses of traffic on the streets. It took me about 12 hours in post-production to clean up the picture. I’m very satisfied with the result.” Before 2020, Stepan favoured rural landscapes over urban. He has embraced the changes forced upon him this year. “The inability to leave my country helped me to see the beautiful things around me,” he says. “I realised that my path is architecture photography. I’ve made a lot of progress. A difficult year, but the best for me as a photographer.”
Z 7, AF-S NIKKOR 16-35mm f/4G ED VR plus FTZ Mount Adapter, ISO 64, 1/160 sec @ f/9
UK / Iceland
There’ll never be an algorithm for luck. Working on sailing expedition and photography workshop in the Greenland Sea, Joe and the passengers and crew of the schooner Ópal were joined for two of their eight days at sea by a gigantic iceberg with an ice arch. “We could never have planned for a perfect arch like this,” says Joe, “but the shot is, of course purposeful. The captain lined up Ópal perfectly and I was taken in a zodiac inflatable boat to shoot from distance. Taking a steady shot while the zodiac bounces up and down is not easy at all.” Wind, rain and a bout of seasickness also had to be taken into consideration. But Joe – real name Joseph Hall – is used to the tougher side of Mother Nature, having swapped London for Reykjavik several years ago. His Icelandic base attracts clients in tourism and fashion, and also inspires him to make impactful work. “The landscape imbues a sense of humility in me,” he says. “As such, I seek a deeper connection to our fragile planet and I seek to inspire and actively assist others to do the same.”
Z 6, AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8G plus FTZ Mount Adapter, ISO 200, 1/1000 sec @ f/2.8
With his lectures, workshops and video tutorials, Kristof has improved the image-making and retouching skills of thousands of people. With one spontaneous and slightly hungover dawn excursion, he boosted his own portfolio while on a skiing holiday with friends last year in Bad Hofgastein, Austria. “It was right after sunrise one morning. The fog was rising and when I walked across that bridge and saw the surface of the water, I immediately knew that this was a shot I had to get. I am still happy now that I got up early and decided to go out. Isn’t the case that unscheduled events can end up being the most memorable?” In fact, Kristof’s photography career was unplanned: taking pictures was just the means to get raw material for his editing work. A most memorable turn of events indeed.
Z 7, NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/4, ISO 100, 1/800 sec @ f/4
Tali and Claudia Pelosi are a sister duo who create stunning wedding photos with a style self-described as documentary with a sense of fashion. This shot, taken in Cap de Formentor in Mallorca, Spain last year, was part of their work as Nikon Ambassadors. “We love this picture so much. The colours, the mood, the romantic attitude. It was at the end of the day, the sun setting with the most beautiful glow of colour, which highlighted her dress.” Before coronavirus, Tali shot weddings all over the world. Their field of photography was hit hard by coronavirus restrictions – perhaps hardest of any – and continues to be so. Even where weddings are permitted, with smaller guest lists, would-be newlyweds are waiting until rules are relaxed to invite. “Given the global situation,” the sisters say, “we are blessed to have been able to take a break in a rather comfortable position. We recharged our batteries and are ready for new magical weddings to come.” It’s a sentiment, it’s fair to say, shared by everyone, getting married or otherwise.
Z 6, AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8G plus FTZ Mount Adapter, ISO 400, 1/8000 sec @ f/5
It’s a classic situation many of us can relate to: people hanging out get a little bit bored, out comes a camera and silly posed pictures are taken. But if the person behind the lens is, say, Nikon Ambassador Little Shao (aka Thinh Souvannarath), a man equally at home shooting racing planes for Red Bull or breakdancers on backstreets, then the daft snap is elevated to something special. These flying fellows are Shao’s holiday buddies, in a villa in the south of France, who are as deep into hip-hop culture as he is. (Or perhaps not as deep: he gave up a career in finance to shoot professionally full-time after the shots of his crew that he posted online led to acclaim and job offers.) “We love trying to find new ways to defy gravity,” he says, “and trying to find new forms and compositions in what we do.”
Z 6, AF-S NIKKOR 105mm f/1.4 E ED plus FTZ Mount Adapter, ISO 400, 1/1000 sec @ f/2.8
“I always have my camera in the car with me, even if I’m just driving to the grocery store,” says Lina, who shoots Nordic nature and wildlife, and leads workshops and expeditions on the same subjects. In July this year, she was driving through Grimdalen, in the Folldal district of Eastern Norway, on a photo-finding road trip, with no particular goal in mind. A squirrel ran in front of her car with something in its mouth, so she stopped to see what it was. “I didn’t know that she was holding her baby until I checked the screen,” says Lina, “because I was too busy trying to not disturb.” Which was no mean feat, given the rush of adrenaline that comes when you’re lining up a special shot. “Thankfully, I managed to sit completely still, and they sat in this tree for a little while before running off into the forest. It was a really special moment and I’m so glad that I had my camera.” As is everyone who sees this terrific photo.
Z 7, AF-S NIKKOR 500mm f/5.6E PF ED VR plus FTZ Mount Adapter, ISO 2500, 1/400 sec @ f/5.6
When a two-week break in Egypt turned into a five-month stay because of coronavirus travel restrictions, Kirill and his wife made the best of it. “I was diving a lot and my wife, Olya Raskina, who is a professional windsurfer, was windsurfing every day. So I came up with an idea for a special project where I could combine both.” Sinking the windsurfing gear took Kirill a few weeks to perfect. Scuba gear could not be rented under COVID-19 rules, so every dive was a free dive. “Plus,” he says, “Olya was smiling on almost every picture, and she said she drank a lot of sea water. It was challenging for both of us but something good came out of it.”
Kirill has been shooting action sports and travel since he turned pro in 2004, and has worked for clients including Apple, Adidas, Red Bull and Toyota. He is still driven by the thrill of discovery. “I love to show people new things they’ve never seen before,” he says. Another job well done here, then.
Z 7, NIKKOR Z 14-30mm f/4 S, ISO 500, 1/640 sec @ f/10
The rules of self-portraiture, Sarah says, are simple and never change. “You need to find the right spot where the focus will be and then mark that spot on the ground. Or you can use something that’s already in shot to remember where it is.” For this particular example, made last winter on Pakarang beach in Khao Lak, Thailand, patience was also required. In a beautiful place on a warm evening with a pretty sunset, of course Sarah had to let several other people enjoy the view and then get out of shot. It was the dramatic cloud formation that first caught her eye, as she sat on her board in the water talking to other surfers, and she knew she had to capture it. Back on the beach, the wet sand perfect for mirroring, she set up her tripod and with remote in hand, her moment arrived. “Afterwards, I sat on the beach for a while, enjoying the rest of the sunset, then went out for dinner. Looking at this photo, I always get such a good feeling, remembering everything about what came before and after it.” Isn’t that what makes photography special for photographers?
Z 7, AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8 ED VR plus FTZ Mount Adapter, ISO 250, 1/200 sec @ f/5