One of the reasons I find myself continuously drawn to Baikal is the abundance of creatively photographic opportunities available, even if you choose to avoid the well-known landmarks and typical views. Two years ago, I was so captivated by the frozen lake that I completely forgot about the images I had seen online of the iconic spots. However, due to the significant increase in tourist traffic, it has become nearly impossible to find solitude in those popular places, especially during the best times of the day. As a result, despite visiting Baikal three times, I never managed to capture a single photograph of Ogoy Island or the Shamanka viewpoint.
However, there was one morning when I made a rare exception. It had snowed heavily throughout the night, making it potentially dangerous to drive on the snow-covered ice in the dark for a sunrise shoot. Nevertheless, my driver, displaying remarkable bravery, was willing to give it a try. Although I felt somewhat limited in options, as the lack of diverse backgrounds compelled me to rely on structures and patterns in the ice to compose my images, I was pleased to discover that I had the entire lake to myself. It seemed as if there was not a single soul around, just me and the lake covered in ten centimeters of pristine snow.
I decided to venture towards Ogoy Island, renowned for its distinctive “dragon-like” head shape. We arrived early in the morning, and as the engine came to a halt, I cautiously stepped onto the untouched snow. It was an incredible sensation to once again find myself alone, embraced by the chilling wind. The vastness of the space and the silence enveloped me. The rock formation felt as if it belonged to me, and in return, I felt a connection to it. After an hour of patiently waiting, the first light of dawn began to grace the horizon. I positioned my camera to capture the classic composition, exaggerating the tip of the rock with my wide-angle lens from Rodenstock. While I considered other options, I was determined not to disturb the pristine foreground with my footprints—a decision that proved to be wise, as I would later discover.
I must admit that the composition itself may appear rather straightforward. However, the fresh snow covering the ice lends a sense of cleanliness to the scene, creating a slightly unusual perspective compared to the typical photographs taken in this location. Additionally, I was fortunate with the light, as it slowly emerged, offering soft pastel tones during the sunrise.
After a long wait, as the sun gradually crossed the horizon, I captured a couple of exposures. Later on, I experimented with different angles and viewpoints, inadvertently disturbing the snow around me. However, it was this particular composition that best showcased the shape of the rock, which was crucial in this particular situation. During post-processing, I adjusted the contrast using curves and added a subtle touch of vibrancy to the sunrise colors with the assistance of luminosity masking techniques.
In the end, despite the challenges of crowded tourist spots, I managed to find a moment of solitude and capture a photograph that embodied the unique beauty of Baikal, all while preserving the untouched serenity of the natural environment.