Photographing Russian Navy Day In St. Petersburg, Russia
St. Petersburg is a fantastic city, particularly in summer. I was out and about doing some night photography when I found myself by the Neva River just as a flotilla of battleships made their way down the river and out to sea.
I understand the event usually only happens once a year, as part of the Russian Navy Day celebrations. The battleships are too large to pass underneath the bridge pictured above, so the bridge is raised to allow the ships to pass through.
Keeping Cool Around Drunkards
After a pretty warm day it was cool and windy down by the river. It was also crowded with a whole lot of well watered local folk making the most of the evening. One of them was kind enough to butt a cigarette out on my jacket. Actually it burnt a whole right through it. Fortunately, after a few moments of unease, detente was re-established.
Actually the crowd was very friendly but, when alcohol flows, there's always the chance for misunderstandings and this guy had got angry because he thought I was ignoring him. The reality was that his voice was one of many around me at the time and, not speaking Russian, I didn't realize he was talking to me. A third party explained that his cigarette butting companion was actually a keen photographer and was trying to ask me about my then Canon camera.
Tensions always seem to ease when I say I'm from Australia. "No! Not Austria. There are no Kangaroos in Austria" I explain. After a handshake and a hug I was on my way again.
I photographed the statue of the lion, with the raised bridge in the background, just after the flotilla had passed through. It was simply a matter of raising the camera to avoid photographing some of the less inhibited folk dancing around, to the sound of congas. Not quite the bitter/sweet melancholy I'd expected from Russia, but a fun night out just the same.
Russia | Vodka, Loneliness And Regret
I had a walk of several kilometers back to my hotel and stopped to make photos along the way. At one stage I stopped to photograph the desolate night scene you see above. I'm sure it was the state of the old car that drew my attention, as there's a kind of melancholy beauty in such scenes.
After making a few images I was about to pack up my camera and tripod when I was approached by a smiling gentleman who looked like he'd had a fun night at the celebrations. Sadly, I have no Russian and his English wasn't great. Nonetheless he was fascinated by what I was doing and where I was from. He became very emotional when he learned that I was Australian as he had a brother who'd left Russia and ended up in Adelaide many years earlier who he'd lost contact with.
He was very happy to be photographed next to the old LADA car. He made a comment to the effect that this car is Russia, in so many ways.