Dramatic Perspectives

Breathtaking shots of glaciers, deserts, oceans, and canyons – in his pictures, Slovakian photographer Filip Kulisev (Master QEP, FBIPP), winner of several international photography prizes, captures the most beautiful places on the planet. Wide-angle lenses, such as the new ZEISS Distagon T* 2,8/15, accompany him on his tours into the wilderness.

Aurora borealis near Tromsoe, Norway, by Filip Kulisev (Distagon T* 2,8/15; f/3.2; 30 sec.; ISO-400)
Aurora borealis near Tromsoe, Norway, by Filip Kulisev.

For shots of the aurora, Kulisev recommends using a digital SLR camera and ZEISS lenses with manual focus. Photographers who prefer using autofocus lenses should turn the autofocus function off. The reason for this is simple: the aurora borealis glows at an altitude of between 80 and 600 kilometers, a range in which no autofocus can achieve reliable results. Fast lenses are a must in this low-light setting. Thanks to their outstanding performance, even at full aperture, the Distagon T* 2,8/15 and T* 2,8/21 lenses achieve outstanding rendition of detail. Their high speed also allows shorter exposure times. The shorter the exposure time, the clearer the lines, curtains, and dashes in the aurora will be, whereas if the exposure times are too long, the picture tends to blur and the exciting details are lost, Kulisev explains.

Aurora borealis near Sommaroy, Norway, by Filip Kulisev (Distagon T* 2,8/15; f/2,8; 30 sec.; ISO-400)
Aurora borealis near Sommaroy, Norway, by Filip Kulisev.

Several factors determine the individual exposure time: the luminosity of the aurora itself and the ambient conditions, in particular the amount of natural light available from the presence of the moon. And of course, the natural setting is crucial, for example whether the framework is formed by a bright, snow-covered shoreline, or a dark fjord with black rocks. In any case, patience and perseverance are always called for. Even a professional like Filip Kulisev needs to experiment before shooting a picture of the aurora. He generally starts with a low exposure time, and then builds it up in increments of seconds.

As well as some stunning photos, Filip Kulisev has also brought back some spectacular time-lapse videos of the aurora that he filmed in Norway. Digital SLR cameras (DSLRs) are excellent for taking shots at intervals that can later be combined into time-lapse sequences. The results are quite stunning:

Timelapse-Video – at Tromvik, Norway (Distagon T* 2,8/15):

Timelapse-Video – at Sommaroy, Norway (Distagon T* 2,8/15):

Timelapse-Video – Grotfjord, Norway (Distagon T* 2,8/21):

Technical details for the time-lapse videos

The time-lapse videos were made with the camera mounted on a high-quality tripod, with a timer remote control. The photographer used his hat to protect the camera from the freezing cold, to prevent loss of battery power. The tripod was loaded with weights to give it additional stability. Each video comprises around 200 images, each shot with an exposure time of between 20 and 30 seconds. The remote release was programmed for a two-second pause between every two frames. One recording cycle took a total of around two hours. The images were then combined in postproduction to generate a video.

Filip Kulisev is a master of panorama photography. The unique backdrop of the fjords of northern Norway provided him with a wealth of dramatic perspectives, of which he made some impressive recordings using the new Distagon T* 2,8/15. He will be returning to the far north in June, heading to Spitzbergen to board the expedition ship Akademik Vavilov to photograph polar bears, whales, and glaciers. Once again, he will be packing his new ZEISS super wide angle lens, which he is very impressed with.

Grotfjord, Norway, by Filip Kulisev (stitched together from eight individual images taken with a Distagon T* 2,8/15)
Grotfjord, Norway, by Filip Kulisev (stitched together from eight individual images taken with a Distagon T* 2,8/15)

Stitching: high resolution and brilliant clarity

With panorama shots, Kulisev utilizes what is known as the stitching technique, for which he often uses the Planar T* 1,4/50 ZE lens, or the Macro-Planar T*2/100 lens. Up until just a few years ago, the only way to achieve landscape photographs with high resolution was to use large-format systems. Today, thanks to modern processing software, it is possible to achieve excellent imaging quality with much smaller and lighter digital equipment. In this case, the photographer takes a sequence of individual photos section by section, and later combines them all into a larger image on the computer. Typical applications are panorama images or general views of large objects, for example architectural images. Filip Kulisev exhibits the large-format landscape photographs he created using stitching techniques. Visitors are frequently amazed at the exceptional clarity and resolution of the images.

Rio de Janeiro by Filip Kulisev, from City-Kalender 2012.  For this work, Kulisev was awarded the leading Slovakian prize for calendar photography (“Naj Kalender”) for the sixth time in succession. (Stitched together from seven individual pictures taken with a Planar T* 1,4/50.)
Rio de Janeiro by Filip Kulisev, from City-Kalender 2012. For this work, Kulisev was awarded the leading Slovakian prize for calendar photography (“Naj Kalender”) for the sixth time in succession. (Stitched together from seven individual pictures taken with a Planar T* 1,4/50.)

Changing perspectives

“The art of landscape photography and wide-angle photography consists of changing perspectives in a creative way,” Kulisev reveals. It is necessary to find out whether a motif is best presented from above, from the side, or from below. Kulisev has undertaken many a climbing trip in the past in order find the right angle. Equally important is to emphasize details in the foreground, which lend the image spatial depth and an appealing 3D effect. With regard to lighting conditions, Filip Kulisev loves the times just before sunrise and sunset. “When warm light bathes the landscape in breathtaking colours, you can get some incredibly beautiful images,”, he says enthusiastically.

For a globetrotter like Kulisev, seeing as many countries in the world as possible is no longer an ambition; on the contrary, he is repeatedly drawn back to places he already knows, with the aim of capturing their images even more successfully the next time. Again and again, he is attracted to the vast expanses of Alaska, or to the natural beauty of Dominica, an island in the Antilles in the eastern Caribbean, and also to the Hawaiian island of Kauai. With its fabulous bays and the sheer Na Pali coastal cliffs of almost 1,000 meters (3280 feet) high, Kauai probably has the most beautiful rugged coastline in the world. Kulisev can find a high concentration of spectacular subjects here, ranging from gorges, plunging cliffs and jungles to waterfalls and deserted beaches.

Na Pali Coast, Kauai, Hawaii, by Filip Kulisev (Distagon T* 2,8/21)
Na Pali Coast, Kauai, Hawaii, by Filip Kulisev.
Spany Falls, Dominica, by Filip Kulisev (stitched together from nine individual pictures taken with a Distagon T* 2/28)
Spany Falls, Dominica, by Filip Kulisev (stitched together from nine individual pictures taken with a Distagon T* 2/28).
Wrangell-Saint Elias National Park by Filip Kulisev (stitched together from three separate pictures taken with a Planar T* 1,4/50)
Wrangell-Saint Elias National Park by Filip Kulisev (stitched together from three separate pictures taken with a Planar T* 1,4/50).

Australia and Tasmania also boast unique natural beauty. Kulisev will be returning there in the autumn. Whether the outback, rainforests with trees up to 50 meters (164 feet) high, or the celebrated limestone stacks of the “Twelve Apostles” in the Port Campbell National Park – for Kulisev, the incredible contrasts in scenery on the “fifth continent” are an inexhaustible source of inspiration. He will be following well-trodden paths for five weeks, and bringing back new motifs and perspectives from the fabulous locations there. Stitching opens up entirely new possibilities for him to photograph his favorite places to date at an even higher level of quality.

New book ZOOM to be published in September 2012

But before Filip Kulisev leaves for Australia and Tasmania in October, he will be heading to Iceland at the beginning of September, where, at this time of year, the tundra (well away from the tourist routes) can be seen in its most splendid colors, and when the aurora borealis season begins – a real insider tip. The Photokina fair in Cologne is also on the agenda for September, as is the launch of his new book, ZOOM as part of an exhibition with the same name which will take place in the castle in his home city of Bratislava. ZOOM gives a fascinating glimpse behind the scenes of his work over a long and successful career. In the book, he describes in detail how his pictures were created, and the personal impressions and experiences associated with each of them.

Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone National Park (USA): photograph from the new book ZOOM by Filip Kulisev, which will be available in September 2012.
Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone National Park (USA): photograph from the new book ZOOM by Filip Kulisev, which will be available in September 2012.

More information on Filip Kulisev can be found on his website:

http://www.amazing-planet.com

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