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Alexander Safonov

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japan mon amour #2 [Nov. 20th, 2012|08:45 pm]
Alexander Safonov
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Phoenix hall at Byodo-in temple, Uji, Japan



Canon EOS 350D + Canon EF-S 10-22mm

Wikipedia reference


Byodo-in temple is the only surviving authentic example of Heian architecture style in Japan. Phoenix hall on the image above was built in 1053, which makes it 950+ years old and one of the oldest surviving wooden buildings in the world. Being one of the most iconic Japanese cultural properties it was placed on the 10 yen coin - symbolizing it's importance. Inside Phoenix hall sacred image of Amida Buddha is kept, which can be viewed only during designated hours - and it is not possible to take photographs of it.

I made many, many photos of Byodo-in during different seasons. This one is one of the best, which I took in April, just before sakura blossoms...
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japan mon amour #1 [Nov. 19th, 2012|12:29 pm]
Alexander Safonov
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Autumn walk in Koko-en garden, Himeji, Japan



Canon EOS 350D + Canon EF-S 10-22mm

this is three exposure image tonemapped in Photomatix and color corrected in Photoshop

Wikipedia reference

These days I'm barely interested in top-side photography, my mind is fully occupied by underwater activities. However while living in Japan since 1998 to 2009 I used to take a lot of pictures of this incredibly beautiful country, using different processing techniques for final presentation. Sometimes I feel nostalgia about that I consider one of the my favorite places in the world - especially during autumn, time when Japanese landscapes are especially beautiful. I decided to publish sequence of old photos I took at different years in new 1150 resolution - diversifying my photo stream a bit with completely different theme !

Image above is taken in Koko-en - beautiful landscape garden in the town called Himeji. It is not very old garden, actually it was created in 1992 by Kyoto university professor as his project of bringing several traditional styles into single place. Result is quite impressive and barely carries any kitschy qualities often characteristic for modern replicas of old style...
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pinnipeds week #5 [Nov. 11th, 2012|06:35 pm]
Alexander Safonov
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Galapagos fur seal at Cousins Rock, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador



Nikon D300 + Nikkor 12-24mm, strobes Sea&Sea YS-250 x 2

Location on Google maps

It is very confusing sometimes to distinguish between "sea lions" and "fur seals" - many divers mix these two names often. Well for normal people it is really not obvious that the difference is - both belong to eared seals family, appearance is very similar, how you can distinguish between two ? I had chance to feel the difference by myself during my trip to Galapagos, there I was able to see "real" Galapagos fur seals, as opposed to Galapagos sea lions, which are often called by wrong name. "Real" fur seals I met were smaller then sea lions, fur was much thicker, head is shorter, but eyes are bigger - it was interesting to learn that fur seals are more nocturnal animals then sea lions and prefer stay out of the sun during daytime - very suspicious character ! In Russian "fur seal" sounds like "sea cat" - and I felt that fur seals are more like cats comparing to sea lions - more careful, more stealth and nocturnal - eyes are big and very attentive too ! And they are not as big fans of modeling for camera as their lion relatives - but I still captured a few images of them, like one on the top of this post.
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pinnipeds week #4 [Nov. 5th, 2012|01:11 pm]
Alexander Safonov
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Cape fur seal and the diver, Cape Town, South Africa



Location on Google maps

Wikipedia reference


Another lighthearted image from the diver and seal interaction theme ! This time it's seal and Steve Benjamin whom photographed this funny scene just minutes before ! Seals are very entertaining and funny during dives, and most importantly they don't stink underwater ! ^_^
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pinnipeds week #3 [Nov. 4th, 2012|03:39 pm]
Alexander Safonov
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Cape fur seal checking diver (myself), Cape Town, South Africa



Location on Google maps

Wikipedia reference

During recent few months many asked me to post some photos of myself - so I thought I can use pinnipeds week to satisfy this popular request ! Taken by my good friend Steve Benjamin it shows how underwater photographers miss sometimes their subjects in action. Kind of "where r u looking, pumpkinhead ? I'm here !" type of scene. Well what do you expect, I'm blond underwater photographer after all ! ^_^
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pinnipeds week #2 [Nov. 3rd, 2012|03:34 pm]
Alexander Safonov
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Cape fur seal playing at Pyramid Rock, Cape Town, South Africa



Nikon D300 + Nikkor 10.5mm, Pro One dome port, strobes Sea&Sea YS-250 x 2

this image is 15% cropped from the bottom and right, exposure correction in Adobe Lightroom, some scatter removed in Photoshop

Location on Google maps

Wikipedia reference


Cape fur seals - always happy to chew your strobes - and fins too ! Cape Town became one of my favorite destinations - there I can spend virtually unlimited time with these wonderful creatures.
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pinnipeds week #1 [Oct. 24th, 2012|10:16 am]
Alexander Safonov
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Galapagos sea lions playing in the shallows, Gordon's Rock, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador



Nikon D300 + Nikkor 12-24mm, strobes Sea&Sea YS-250 + YS-110

Location on Google maps

Wikipedia Reference

Shooting sea lions is pleasant and productive activity for underwater photographers - these natural born models are happy to pose very closely for lens, often providing opportunity to witness all kind of funny situations between them. To socialize with sea lions there is no need for long search and tracking activities, chasing animals in currents or other difficulties and risks - maybe just they will bite your fins or strobes gently from time to time. Biggest problem in addition to memory card limited number of frames (and of course strobe's battery resource) was presence of significant amount of scatter in the water - typical for Galapagos shallows. I had to work on solution by playing with strobe configuration and position relative to sun, so all these scatter does not appear much in the lit up shot.
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south african baitball team #5 [Oct. 19th, 2012|04:30 pm]
Alexander Safonov
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Sailfish hitting baitball, Wild Coast, South Africa



Nikon D300 + Nikkor 12-24mm, strobes Sea&Sea YS-250 x 2

Location on Google Maps

Wikipedia Reference


Sailfish is the most exotic baitball team member. Always at odds with other species, it's possible to film it only during short quiet periods when sharks and dolphins take a break from continuous attacks and leave for few minutes. Sailfish stuns school of sardines with it's big beautiful fin and captures individual fish afterwards with quick precise movements.
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south african baitball team #4 [Oct. 12th, 2012|12:40 pm]
Alexander Safonov
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Diving cape gannet, Wild Coast, South Africa



Nikon D300 + Nikkor 12-24mm, strobes Sea&Sea YS-250x2

location on Google maps

Wikipedia Reference

Another important member of South African baitball team - cape gannet ! Big flocks of birds follow dolphins pods, and typically photographers would chase those flocks to locate action in open ocean ! ^_^

shooting diving cape gannets is not trivial task, they enter water at speed sometimes exceeding 60 km/h, making loud low frequency boom noise, and it took few attempts before relative success. Approach finally used - while sitting in the bait ball once sound of bird entering was heard I was stretching camera with fixed parameters on my hands and making 360 degrees turn, hitting trigger every time spotting bird next to my port. This is one of the resulting images.
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south african baitball team #3 [Oct. 4th, 2012|12:15 pm]
Alexander Safonov
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Oceanic blacktip shark and the bait ball, Wild Coast, South Africa



Nikon D300 + Nikkor 12-24mm, strobes Sea&Sea YS-250 x 2

Location on Google Maps

Wikipedia Reference


sharks are another important part of South African baitball team ! ^_^ There are a few species present on bait balls - but most representative one - oceanic blacktips, most common sharky sight on the Wild Coast.

Movement and shape of a bait ball is designed by nature to confuse sharks, this is why they spend most of time there in seemingly disoriented state. It takes a lot of passes through it for shark to finally sense individual fish and start feeding - when this happens something clicks in it's head and it switches into very aggressive and dangerous frenzy state. But even before this happens movement of shark and bait ball reacting to it produces beautiful sights of natural geometry.
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