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  • Writer's pictureKaisern Chen

St. Petersburg Connection

Updated: Dec 13, 2021

It started in December 2016 when I was traveling to St.Petersburg, Russia with my wife and friends from Thailand. It was a short trip full of fun of course, but I thought it would be even more fun to shoot some portrait of local St. Peterburg girl, so with only one day left in the city, I started to work through social media with some model friends.

Natasha Barduk's name came up, and we exchanged some messages for the kind of pictures I wanted to take, for her and myself, and we set for the night of December 9, 2016, as I am leaving St. Peterburg to Moscow the next day.

The plan was almost perfect except I forgot that we had booked our tickets for the Swan Lake at Mariinsky Theater and I would rather not miss the show with our group. So an urgent change is needed, and Natasha was very kind to agree to come in the early morning of the next day to my hotel room, at 6:30 am, before my check out of the hotel at around 8:30 am, besides she has the day job to attend.

Although I have a comfortable room in my hotel, a junior suite with a small living room, bedroom, and bathroom, but did not have sufficient lighting gear. I did have a rather modest SONY HVL-F32M shoe-mount flash with me for my SONY A7RII and a relatively weak LED so I will shoot with SONY A7RII instead of Leica M Edition 60 that I also brought with me in the trip which has no rear screen to check my exposure or sync with the flash.

After the unforgettable show at Mariinsky Theater and returned to my hotel room late in the night, I messaged Natasha "... please bring some options of your underwear and a piece of fabric can be used as photo background just in case..." She replied, "OK, see you tomorrow morning." I walked around the hotel room and thought of some shooting options and then told myself, "should be fun," then I went to bed.

I believe in spontaneous in shooting portraitures. The picture will always come out as a result of chemistry between me, the photographer, and the person I am shooting, and I don't expect a miracle every time. So I was very relaxed, and I hope my easiness will also help the person I am shooting. Natasha rang my doorbell exact at 6:30 am wearing her coat and a large tote with a curtain she took off from her apartment and told me I hope it is good enough as a photo background, wow, she is determined, I thought.

We chat a bit, and 5 minutes later I start to shoot, while my wife began to pack things for getting ready for checking out. There are a sofa and a floor lamp in the small living room of my suite, and the only open space without much obstructions and it was where I started to shoot.

I was using SONY A7RII with G Master 24-70/2.8 zoom lens to have more control on composition in tight space, with HVL-F32M flash tilt to have flashlight bounce off the ceiling, using all the elements visible, using low shutter speed and after some tries, arrived at this image.

Natasha Barduk, St. Petersburg Connection

... and the shoot goes on

Natasha Barduk, St. Petersburg Connection

Natasha Barduk, St. Petersburg Connection

Natasha Barduk, St. Petersburg Connection

Natasha Barduk, St. Petersburg Connection

St. Petersburg Connection, part II

I returned to St. Peterburg again in August 2018 to join two of my very best friends - the great Steve McCurry who is working on his assignment there and Yury, one of Russia's best, to photograph around the beautiful former capital of Russia.

It went without saying a wonderful photography time with best friends in beautiful St. Petersburg in early autumn days, and I thought why not to have a sequel of my St. Peterburg Connection project, so I went on referencing with my model friend. This time, Tanya Rodnaya's came up, a lovely young model of St. Peterburg origin.

So on August 19, at Hotel Astoria, my St. Petersburg Connection Part II went on.

Tanya is very young, so I started to shoot some long shots to get her into a rhythm and get relaxed.

Tanya Rodnaya, St.-Petersburg Connection II

Tanya Rodnaya, St.-Petersburg Connection II

Then I moved to a more intimate pose to have her laid on a sofa as to connect to the shots I made with Natasha Barduk of my first St. Petersburg Connection back in 2016.

Tanya Rodnaya, St.-Petersburg Connection II

Tanya Rodnaya, St.-Petersburg Connection II

Tanya Rodnaya, St.-Petersburg Connection II

More are coming.

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