Yevhen Samuchenko: Ukrainian Photographer Reveals Breathtaking Secrets of Mother Nature
Yevhen Samuchenko is a renowned award-winning Ukrainian photographer whose artistic vision captivates audiences worldwide.
Samuchenko’s work serves as an exploration of the intricate and ever-evolving interplay between humanity and the environment.
With a keen interest in aerial and night sky photography, the slower pace of these styles allows Samuchenko to connect with the universe on a deeper plane, a theme that can be seen interwoven throughout his works.
Can you tell us a little about yourself and how you got into photography?
I was born and live in Odesa (Ukraine). I am still here during the war with my family.
I made my first steps into photography at the age of twelve when my father presented me with my first film camera. This was a very simple camera.
A few months later, I confidently developed my film; I covered the windows in the bathroom with a blanket to prevent flare and I didn’t allow anyone to come in while I prepared the pictures for printing.
Soon my parents bought me some simple printing equipment – for which I am still grateful! I watched in amazement as an image appeared on a white sheet of photographic paper, in the dim red light. I felt like a wizard.
It still seems like a miracle to me!
But at the age of fifteen I took a break from photography, and it wasn’t until I turned 34 that I picked up a camera again. Only now I had replaced my old film camera with a DSLR.
It was at this point that I finally understood that photography was my real passion, which later turned into a profession.
You use a creative pseudonym – could you tell us more about it?
The story of the appearance of the pseudonym of mine is quite personal, and I am not ready to share it yet.
I will say, though, that the pseudonym contains a derivative of the word ‘love’.
Can you show us some of your favourite images and tell us why you chose them?
I have a lot of artwork that I consider successful, so this is never an easy task. However, here are some of my favourites.
I took ‘Calmess of Eternity’ in the Himalayan mountains, at 4450m in altitude. I had gone to Gosaikunda Mountain Lake two times, but only one night was successful for me in capturing this shot with a clear starry sky and snow-covered mountains.
The above picture was taken at Diamond Beach in Iceland.
I was incredibly lucky to find this huge piece of ice with a natural hole in it. I noticed it in the evening, and the next morning I came here again to take a sunrise shot through the hole.
‘Two Ice Creams’ came about when I saw these columns covered with ice in the sea during a coastal walk one evening near my house. I thought to myself it would be great to take a picture with an ND filter to add an atmosphere of complete calm.
There was very little time left before sunset, and I happened to be without my camera.
I had to rush home to get my gear. Literally jumping into the car my kit, within 15 minutes I arrived back at the scene. I managed to take a couple of shots with an ND filter before it got dark and the light completely changed.
This photo was taken on the Black Sea coast. I needed the shadows to fall strictly perpendicular to the water, so I went to this location for several days at specific times.
The idea was just to film a random person running. But one day I was lucky as people with dogs came to the beach, allwoing me to take this composition.
‘Under Aurora Bridge’ was not an easy photograph to take. It was a stormy night, the sky was constantly overcast, and sometimes it snowed heavily.
I went out to shoot three times in one night and came back with nothing.
But on my last attempt I got lucky – for half an hour, the clouds parted and the Northern Lights shone in an incredible arch shape.
Many of your images are aerial testaments to the world from above. Do you imagine a composition or idea before you send a drone up?
Yes, I almost always do this.
When you already have a lot of aerial photography practice, it’s easier for you to imagine how different landscape will look from a height.
Some ideas are born long before takeoff, and some appear after a ‘reconnaissance’ flight to search for interesting and unusual elements.
It usually takes me me twice as much time for preparatory flights than for the main shoot.
What is one tip you would give to photographers who want to get into aerial photography?
I would tell photographers to remember that just taking a picture from a great height doesn’t mean it will be a worthwile photo unless there is a special element in it.
You are unlikely to take a better photo than Google Maps if you do this.
Plan the shot ahead of time.
Look for the ‘protagonist’ of your aerial photograph. It can be any element of the landscape, a person, or, for example, shadows. And it’s around this ‘hero’ that you can build your composition.
Your work explores the constant shift in relationships between man and nature. What inspired you to capture images that show these connections?
I believe that it is the fragile beauty of nature that you want to cherish, and observing how people change when they consciously contemplate this beauty.
In my opinion, in this dialogue with Mother Nature, a person can draw not only inspiration but also an incentive to change their life, which is often not noticeably wasted on unimportant things.
You’ve also mastered night photography, capturing beautiful starscapes. What challenges do you face when photographing the night sky?
The main problem faced by a starscape photographer is that, at night, the camera becomes blind.
Those standard camera functions that every photographer is used to and that work great during the day do not work so easily at night, like autofocus or built-in exposure metering.
Therefore, the photographer needs to adjust all the settings manually. It takes a lot of practice and experience.
In general, it is also more difficult to think over the composition at night, so I often plan it in advance during daylight, if possible.
As a judge and winner of several leading photography competitions, what elements in an image do you feel make or break a winning composition?
I believe that there is no concept of a winning composition. It seems to me that photography should be considered as a combination of subject, light, and composition. And also the story and the energy behind it – this is one of the most important factors in successful photography.
In my opinion, if the photographer manages to feel connected with their subject, whether it be a landscape, a portrait, or a reportage, then at the moment the button is pressed, the picture is filled with additional energy.
It is these photographs that stand out strongly against the general background and basically lead the photographer to victories.
Your images now take on a new urgency, as they showcase the natural beauty of a war-torn Ukraine, tying into your book ‘The Beauty of Ukraine’. Can you tell us more about how you hope your images will be received by viewers around the world?
The publication of this book is a very important stage in my life. Many of the landscapes shown in it no longer exist in that form. They are distorted by explosions or completely washed away by flooding after the dam of the reservoir was blown up.
It’s very hard to comprehend.
The nature and people of my native country suffer greatly from the war.
But, despite the fact that the book in some way documents landscapes that are no longer, I want the viewer to see the beauty of the Ukranian landscape first and foremost.
We love your series of images from the pink salt lakes of the Kherson region. What inspired this project?
Thanks for the kind words about this series. I was inspired by the unusual view of this place, where Mother Nature painted her pictures with salt and water.
The first time you see the pink salt lakes of the Kherson region in Ukraine it feels as though you are looking at another planet. During the summer months, microscopic algae cause the water to turn pink and red.
The view from above is literally out of this world, which is why I chose to use a drone to convey the atmosphere of this unusual place.
Unfortunately, this region is now occupied.
What role do you feel nature photography will have in a future increasingly driven by instant gratification and platforms that push video-first content?
I think that nature photography will not lose its value, despite these circumstances.
Indeed, in the depths of the soul, a person has an inner feeling of beauty, and therefore many subconciously feel the falsity of artificially and hastily created visual content.
I would compare photography with the paintings of the classics, which, centuries later, have great respect and influence on people.