Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Turka, foothills of the Carpathian Mountains

Above: Star trail exposures taken on top of Mount Baldy in Turka, Ukraine on the Polish border. To shoot this, you'll need: 1. a reliable tripod, 2. a camera that can expose for at least 30 seconds, 3. a wide angle lens, 4. a cable release cord or remote, 5. a cigar, maybe a beer, warm clothes and free time. 
I exposed these using my D300's 'Multiple Exposure' option, allowing me to take up to 10 exposures at 30 seconds each and then combining them in-camera to make a single 5 minute exposure. Quite efficient. If your camera can also shoot at intervals, it will save you the trouble of having to press the shutter each time, which can shake the camera and ruin the image(I had several failures). If you have a cable release, this will solve all of your problems. I didn't, so I used the 'shutter delay' option, which delays the shutter by a second after the mirror is raised in order to reduce shake. This also let me press the shutter release each time without shaking the camera. This is surprisingly easy to do once you get the hang of it, like fireworks photography. Dress warm.
I swear I'm sitting in someone else's spit, but in the freezing wind on top of this mountain, I don't really care. Puffing my cuban, I force my icy hand through 7 layers of clothing and light a match inside the tupperware container I use to transport cigars. Yura takes his first-ever puff of a cigar, and in the near pitch-blackness of the Ukrainian night, over the howl of inhumanely icy wind, I swear I can hear him smile.
"Dobry," he say, his face glowing orange with each puff. 
Hearing my camera click as the shutter ends another time exposure, I roll back and press the shutter release. I'm trying to nail the star trails on my left, but the men are getting restless in this terrible cold. 
"We go sleep now?" Yura suggests for the fifth time. Yura, a diminutive(nickname) form of Yuri(Ukrainian for "George"), came grappling up the mountain with a machete he must have borrowed from Rambo(he actually made it himself, which made me even more afraid of him), full camouflage, two sleeping bags, pork fat and potatoes in a tiny sack. Brett and I, being Americans, weren't going to put up with any of this 'amateur' B.S. No, no. 
In addition to my 20 pounds of camera gear(body, 2 lenses, flash, video camera, tripod and tripod head), we managed to pack enough clothing for a week, a pot, food for 4 days(we stayed for 1 night in the woods), a frisbee, sleeping bag, hand sanitizer and three cuban cigars. I can hear my scoutmaster saying "be prepared," and "laugh and scratch," his unique term for "goofing around." Laughin' and scratchin' was exactly what we did around the fire when Yura's brother Sasha arrived. 
Sasha brought a bottle of wine and promptly announced he was going to boil its contents. OK, Sasha, I just digested half a pound of pork fat. You do what you want. 
They cook the wine with cinnamon and squeeze an orange into the pot. The spicy, aromatic liquid that came rushing over my tongue a moment later like a pack of wolves redefined my reasons for coming to Ukraine. It was possibly one of the most thrilling things I have ever tasted, best described as a liquid form of Thanksgiving turkey, stuffing, cranberries and jello mixed with real eggnog on a Christmas morning.

Insides burning from the hot wine, I curl up in a wheel rut and flatten out on the ground to hide from the wind. I'm surprisingly warm, and although Sasha reiterated that he'd prefer we come down the mountain and stay another night in their house, we stubbornly stick to our mountain defenses. The tent we have is only for two people, and we learned later that night why they don't usually squeeze 3 people into a two-man tent. I never thought spooning could be considered a survival method. 

Taking full advantage of the crystal clear, moonless night on top of a mountain, I reach over to the camera and click the shutter again. I pray the wind won't shake the camera, and roll into a ball. Sure is cold. 

1 comment:

Christina said...

So glad you enjoyed this place.
we use to frequent turka and the train station there , before we were on our way further into Karpaty villages to visit my grandparents for the weekend, about another 25 km further..

Not sure where you are now with your travels, but all the best!