Readers Shoot Back: Sergey Zaytsev

You can easily kill an afternoon scanning the excellent work that readers upload to the site's Flickr group. Every now and then one will really stop you in your tracks, as did photographer Sergey Zaytsev's homage to Georgia's Queen Tamar, seen above. Very cool that it was done with more creativity than dollars (or lari, I should say?) and with a strong historical inspiration, to boot.

Would it surprise you to find this was done with a Nikon D300s and a few bare Cactus KF36 Vivitar 285 knockoffs? 'Cause that's what he used.


Zaytsev, based in Russia, specializes in portraits and some of the most creative wedding work I have seen in a long time. I love that the diversity of readership of this site is so broad, and am very pleased to occasionally cross-pollinate you guys' brains with the work of other readers.

(Also, is that an awesome avatar pic or what?)

Back to history class. Queen Tamar was the first woman to rule Georgia and in doing so presided over the apex of Georgia's Golden Age around the turn of the 13th century. As such she was a natural inspiration for Sergey's portrait.

If you are looking for a little creative seed, try cracking an art history book. Or even a normal history book, as did Sergey. All those books you probably overpaid for in college and have rarely opened since can be a gold mine for ideas.

By riffing on themes or people, it gives you a path to proceed. I.e., how would you photograph [insert historical or other inspiration here] were they around today, in 2013?

Sergey's portrait above is actually a composite of six pictures, with the actual portrait part being the bottom center of two stitched rows of three. Here's how it splits up:

Long-time readers will recognize this technique, also having been exploited (in more detailed posts) by photographers such as Ryan Brenizer and Jarek Wieczorkiewicz.

It essentially turns your camera into one with a medium format chip. (Seriously, there's a lot of real estate to be had there) and as Ryan has shown, can also emphasize the narrow depth of field afforded larger chips.

The lighting, courtesy the afore-mentioned Cactus KF36's (don't even think about it) is actually very cool and contributes to the crisp, three-dimensional look of the photo.

Sergey has one firing straight-on, just a little higher than her face. The others are working as side fill, coming in at right angles. The backlight is courtesy the sun. You can see the setup here:

Also, you can see how a couple of speedlights can drastically alter the look of the ambient by allowing you to dramatically underexpose it.

Zaytsev brings a similar unique, hard/overlit approach to much of his wedding work, also frequently choosing to create top-view, 360-degree panos to very cool effect. To see more of his work, click thru to his Flickr stream.

Photos ©2013 Sergey Zyetsev. Used with permission.


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Blogger PP Rey said...

I want to thank you David for this post, the more I study the more I learn that yes having good equipment will help, but first of all creativity is the key. Thanks for let me understand the work of such a talented people like Sergei.

Living in Cuba bring some material limitations as you know and this talented artist doesn´t need a full frame or latest gadgets to conquer.

Thanks ones more.

July 03, 2013 1:16 PM  
Blogger David Hobby said...

Hey Rey-

Good to hear from you. And yes, while you may be limited in the gear dept., Cuba is an amazing visual tapestry in which to work and shoot. I totally fell in love with the place.

And that is worth all of the fancy gear in the world...

July 03, 2013 6:45 PM  
Blogger Larry said...

Another great learning post - thanks.

July 05, 2013 11:06 AM  
Blogger Jason said...

one of the most creative things in this video/post is how he used some rope to tie his light stand to a rock.. I constantly lug sandbags when I dont need them only to find when I do, I either do not have them or do not have enough of them.. I have tied stands to trees, made sandbags out of rocks/bricks and cloth/carpet from dumpsters etc. Improvising on location and getting the shot doesnt always have to be done with a camera!

July 05, 2013 5:32 PM  
Blogger Gil Aegerter said...

Fantastic image. What was he using to fire the strobes?

July 06, 2013 12:52 PM  
OpenID crackleflash said...

I think it said Cactus triggers.

July 07, 2013 12:16 AM  
Blogger brett maxwell said...

I see there's two lights in the key position, any clue why? Perhaps one zoomed out for broad coverage and one zoomed in on her face?

July 07, 2013 12:21 AM  
Blogger Gary Dates said...

This reminds me of how subjective art is. I was captivated by this image, but my wife Lucille looked at it and said, "Yuk. That's really ugly." Not sure what I'm trying to say here. Maybe that there's no objective standard by which to judge a photo. As someone fascinated by the use of flash to augment ambient light, I was drawn to this image. Lucille, not so much..... :)

July 07, 2013 3:10 PM  
Blogger Keith Highley said...

Great post! Love the photo you've broken down. Big thank you for sharing.

The 360 panos on Mr. Zaytsev's flickr page are amazing. Any idea as to an online resource to learn the technique?

July 12, 2013 12:13 PM  

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