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A Birds-Eye View of St. Petersburg

Published: March 27, 2014 (Issue # 1803)



  • Hermitage Pavilion, Pushkin, from 60 meters above, September 2013. “This is probably the best picture I’ve taken so far. There was this thin layer of dawn mist that made everything look like a fairytale,” said Chapple.
    Photo: Amos Chapple

  • Smolny Cathedral, from 40 meters above, October 2013.
    Photo: Amos Chapple

  • Mikhailovsky Castle.
    Photo: Amos Chapple

  • St. Peter and Paul Cathedral, Peterhof, from 60 meters above, February 2014.
    Photo: Amos Chapple

  • Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood.
    Photo: Amos Chapple

You’re a professional photographer, standing in front of the The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood, one of the most photographed churches in the world. Your money shot depends on capturing the church in a way that no one has ever before. With millions of photographs already out there, taken from all angles and times of days, what’s left to do? The answer, according to award-winning New Zealand photographer Amos Chapple, lies in drone technology.

“Using a drone is like photographing 100 years ago where you are like, there’s a nice building or nice scene that hasn’t been photographed before – I can photograph it and it will have value,” said Chapple, speaking to The St. Petersburg Times. “Every picture needs to be different to push things forward somehow but how do you do that when things have been photographed 100 times before? So from this angle [when the drone is in the air] you can literally be taking a picture that has never been taken before – you are able to get right in amongst the buildings.”

The drone Chapple refers to is new technology that, according to him, is causing a sensation in the photography field. “Basically everyone has wanted this for a long time and a company in the U.S. has finally come out with something that is small, self-contained and simple to use. “

Packed away in a small suitcase, the drone is a small, battery-operated quad-helicopter, no more than half a meter in diameter, to which Chapple attaches his small light-weight camera and then controls from the ground. It is also uses GPS technology so “if you want it to go straight up, even if there is wind, it will go straight up,” said Chapple. However, with the ability to fly up to 300 meters, there is always a risk of losing the drone or, even worse, crashing to the ground. “I’ve had a few hairy moments,” recalls Chapple. “I’ve had a drone smash to pieces on the ground here in St. Petersburg which cost me $2,500.”

Chapple has been living in St. Petersburg on and off for the past two years. Having started his career at the New Zealand Herald at 21 as a staff photographer, he quit two years later when he was invited to be part of the UNESCO Our Place project – a five-year job which saw him travel non-stop, photographing all of the World Heritage sites around the world and picking up a few awards along the way such as the Cathay Pacific Traveler of the Year Award in 2009 and Editor’s Choice in the 2012 National Geographic Photo Contest.

It was also through this project that he got his first exposure to Russia. “I came to Russia in 2006, when I was 23, for one month and visited Moscow and really loved the experience and photography. Unfortunately, St. Petersburg had just fallen outside of my reach so I promised myself that one day I would one day go back and live here,” he said.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Friday, Oct. 24


SPIBA’s ongoing “Breakfast with the Director” series continues today, featuring Tomas Hajek, Managing Director of the Northwest Division at Danone Russia. Hajek will be discussing collaborations between businesses from different cultures. The meeting is at 9 a.m. at the Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel and all who wish to attend must confirm their participation by Oct. 23.


Get your gong on at “Sounds of the Universe,” a concert at the city planetarium this evening incorporating six different gongs to create relaxing songs that will transport you upwards into the stratosphere. Tickets are 700 rubles ($17).



Saturday, Oct. 25


AVA Expo, the eighth edition of the event revolving around all things pop culture, returns to Lenexpo this weekend. Geeks, nerds, dweebs and dorks will have their chance to talk science fiction and explore a variety of international pop culture. Tickets for the event can be purchased on their website at avaexpo.ru.



Sunday, Oct. 26


Zenit St. Petersburg returns home for the first time in nearly a month as they host Mordovia Saransk in a Russian Premier League game. Currently at the top of the league thanks to their undefeated start to the season, the northern club hopes to extend the gap between them and second-place CSKA Moscow and win the title for the first time in three years. Tickets are available at the stadium box office or on the club’s website.



Monday, Oct. 27


Today marks the end of the art exhibit “Neophobia” at the Erarta Museum. Artists Alexey Semichov and Andrei Kuzmin took a neo-modernist approach to represent the array of fears that are ever-present throughout our lives. Tickets are 200 rubles ($4.90).



Tuesday, Oct. 28


The Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel plays host to SPIBA’s Marketing and Communications Committee’s round table discussion on “Government Relations Practices in Russia” this morning. The discussion starts at 9:30 a.m. and participation must be confirmed by Oct. 24.



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