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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 Ive 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

Youre 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, whats 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, theres a nice building or nice scene that hasnt 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. Ive had a few hairy moments, recalls Chapple. Ive 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 Editors 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

Thursday, Aug. 28


Learn more about the citys upcoming municipal elections during the presentation of the project Road Map for the Municipal Elections being presented this evening in the conference hall on the third floor of Biblioteka at 21 Nevsky Prospekt. Steve Kaddins, a coordinator for Beautiful St. Petersburg, which gives residents an online forum to lodge complaints about infrastructure problems in the city, will be on hand to answer any questions. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. and is open to all.



Friday, Aug. 29


Park Pobedy will feature the sights and sounds of the world outside of Russia during the Open Art International Festival today. Taste foreign cuisine, learn how to make tea like the Chinese or relax in a hammock during the free event. Although entrance is free, you must register beforehand if you wish to attend.



Saturday, Aug. 30


Break out the tweed and channel your inner Englishman during the English Hunt Picnic this afternoon organized by the Bagmut stables from Krasny Bor in the Leningrad Oblast. Equestrian stunts, English archery and classic hunting fashion will all be available to visitors hoping to live like the characters in Downton Abbey if only for a day. Tickets for the event cost 7,900 rubles ($219.40).


Bookworms will have their chance to swap out well-read classics for something new for their bookshelves at Knigovorot, a free book exchange that will be held in the Yusupov Garden on Sadovaya Ulitsa today. Come for the chance to get a new book or take the opportunity to discuss the literary merits of your favorite authors with fellow fans.



Sunday, Aug. 31


The Neva Delta International Blues Festival wraps up this afternoon on Vasilevsky Island with a concert featuring not only some of Russias best blues bands but international stars as well. Admission is free for all three days of the festival, which begins on Aug. 29, and the shows starting at 5 p.m. each day.



Monday, Sept. 1


Today marks the beginning of Lermontov-Fest, a fall festival celebrating the life of one of Russias most remarkable poets who, in a fate eerily similar to Pushkins, was killed in a duel at the age of 26. Organized by the Lermontov Library System, the next several months will see art exhibitions, concerts and public lectures focusing on the Lermontovs short yet prolific career. Check the Lermontov Library Systems website for more details.



Tuesday, Sept. 2


Join expats and practice your Russian during the Russian Clubs weekly meetings every Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. The club is free to participate in although you need to be a registered member of Couchsurfing.



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