Author Topic: Photographing in Russia - Tips & info  (Read 929 times)

Cindy Miller Hopkins

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Photographing in Russia - Tips & info
« on: September 15, 2008, 08:53:11 PM »
Photographing in Russia

I just returned from a splendid trip to Russia. I shot over 5,000 frames in 14 days and that was with 80% crummy weather. Who knows what would have happened had the weather been stunning! That being said, I did come across a few photographic challenges that I thought might be of interest to any Spirit of Photography users if a trip to Russia is in your future plans.

Moscow – First off there is LOTS to see and do in Moscow, but the most visited places are Red Square & the Kremlin. Both are well worth the visit culturally & photographically. Camera’s are allowed everywhere in Red Square EXCEPT inside Lenin’s tomb (where NO bags or jackets or cameras are allowed). Cameras are allowed inside St. Basil’s but there is a “camera fee” of 100 rubles (about $4.00 US) to shoot. The Kremlin is a different story … First off, because it’s a government facility, there are NO backpacks, or ever large purses allowed on the Kremlin grounds. You will also need to go past an x-ray station before entering. So, keep you stuff at the hotel or check your items in the lockers provided ($2.00 US fee). The “official” rules are no “PROFESSIONAL” cameras or lenses over 70mm. I was unaware of the “official” rules and the guard did not like my Nikon D2x with 18-200mm lens and forbid me to photograph on the grounds. He did cut me a break and did not make me check my camera. I returned the next day with a Nikon D200 and 18-200 lens and walked right in without any problem. There is no fee for photographing but there are NO photos allowed inside ANY of the buildings. This is strictly enforced and those trying to “cheat” a photo had to delete all photos on the camera. BAD news for those of you who shoot a point & shoot with a 4GB card …this could be your entire trip! So, you might be able to get away with it … but hardly worth the risk … especially in Russia where the rules change every day.

St. Petersburg – You could spend a week just in St. Petersburg and never run out of things to do. Between the museums and the palaces, I guarantee you will be in GOLD and art overload. Again, all of the major museums & palaces (IE: The Hermitage, Peterhof Palace, Catherine’s Palace, etc.) do not allow ANY bags or coats. Rather than spend you time standing in line in the coat room ….leave your stuff on the bus, in the hotel, or elsewhere whenever possible. Some places have a small camera fee, but some are free. I suggest to always a few hundred rubles in your pocket just in case. NO flash or tripods are allowed in any of the major attractions.

Elsewhere in Russia – It seems that once you are out of the MAJOR cities they are much more lax about photography. Many of the other main attractions in Uglich, Yaroslavl, Goritzy, etc. were pretty easy to deal with. Even in the UNESCO sites, photography was allowed inside 16th century churches and palaces. Again, some charged a small fee. What I didn’t expect was that in MANY historic churches flash WAS allowed. I just couldn’t stomach flashing 14th century icons and paintings, so I opted to just use a high ISO instead. But, many people were using flash. One pointer … unless REALLY talented with flash, the high ISO photos will come out better anyway. Many of the very old manuscripts are under glass and icons & gold will always just bounce back any camera flash. TIP - When photographing the paintings and icons, walk around to find the “sweet spot” with as little glare as possible.

TRAVEL TIPS: Take extra CF cards and batteries and don’t forget to bring a power converter. Bring layers to dress in. In late August, early September we had 80 degree sunny weather and 38 degrees and rainy weather all in the same week! Be prepared for rain or snow any time of year. When it comes to weather in Russia … consider what the locals say … “We have two kinds of weather - 6 months of anticipation and 6 months of disappointment”  :-\

I will post some of my favorite Russia images in the travel section of the Gallery if anybody wants to take a look.

Any questions? I will be happy to try and answer them for you. Please keep in mind that I will be leaving on a photo assignment on Sept. 20 for 10 days - but will answer what I can before & after return. Happy shooting.

Cindy