Master Class
From Russia With Love... Part 2

Last month we left Monte in the middle of Red Square making more great images. We'll pick up there and travel with him on his journey...

I had dinner that night and just about every night at one of Moscow's most exciting restaurants in the heart of the theater district. Before arriving in Moscow I had researched Moscow online and had met Dolf. He told me that he owned a fine restaurant, Cafe des Artistes, and suggested that I come to his restaurant upon my arrival in Russia. He also invited me for an evening at the Bolshoi Ballet. The evening that he took me to the Bolshoi was an evening that I will remember and cherish for the rest of my life.

The theater was magnificent and the ballet was superb! Even without my camera the memories of that evening will be with me for as long as I live. I cried with joy from the moment we entered the Bolshoi Theater until we left following a 30-minute ovation for the stars of the show. The three of us were together, Roustam, Dolf, and I. Dolf seemed to know everyone--or was it the other way around? The theater was filled with exotic people dressed from ermine to jeans (jeans and tees by the finest designers, of course). Faces so varied I could have made an evening of just studying the people around me.

After the ballet we went to Dolf's restaurant. It is truly one of the finest restaurants in which I have ever had the pleasure of dining. The ambiance was out of this world. The food was some of the best I had ever had in my entire life. The Cafe des Artistes is a gathering place for everyone who is anyone living in Moscow or visiting there. The guest book was signed by everyone from heads of state to actors and actresses from the world over. The atmosphere was warm and glowing, lit by small candles scattered throughout. The walls are covered with artists' exhibits that change on a regular basis. I'm hoping that after he reads this article he will offer to exhibit my photographs throughout his restaurant one day.

On my last morning in Moscow I left early to get to the airport in time to return to the US and fulfill my speaking engagement in Philadelphia the day after my return. How dismayed I was when I finally got up to the ticket counter only to find that I was at the airport a day before I was scheduled to go back home. I would not be able to fly before my scheduled departure and there was no one I could contact that early in the morning to pick me up. The language barrier was catastrophic. One of the airport security people were less than personable with me. To say the least, I was not in a good mood. In total frustration I tried to learn how to use their telephone system in the airport and finally got in touch with my translator Nadir a few hours later.

Fortunately, he offered to pick me up within the hour and spend the day with me sightseeing, since the sun had come out that day for the first time in days/weeks/months. I was to leave my luggage in a storage room, but that was a floor lower.

In desperation I tried to manipulate all of my equipment into an elevator, but as soon as I had rolled my cameras and my computer into the elevator the door closed behind me, while I was turning to get the rest of my equipment. The elevator took off for parts unknown. Fortunately, the elevator soon returned and my equipment was still intact! I was finally able to store my equipment, but I had no Russian rubles with which to pay for the storage. I was instructed to go to the bank, but the bank was closed at that time. Eventually, I straightened out all my problems at the airport and returned to my hotel for one more day.

Photos© 2003, Monte Zucker, All Rights Reserved

When we entered Red Square, itself, it was almost deserted. The weather was still cold and gloomy. It just wasn't very picturesque. Even though, I still wanted a record shot to show where I had been. I opened my 28-135mm Canon lens to its widest focal length and waited for a few people to walk into the foreground of my composition to add a little depth perception to the photograph.

As I talked about in last month's column I'll often add a sky or color interpretation to make images that reflect my feeling for a place rather than always relying on what was there. In Photoshop 7 I used a Floridian sky and a colorful overlay on this picture to make it more appealing. I could have left the scene colorless and drab--the way it actually was on that particular afternoon--but, as usual, I tend to fictionalize most of my images rather than going for stark reality. The resulting photograph, I felt, captured the excitement and glow I felt within my heart while standing there in a place where so much history had taken place.

From one of the many vendors who approached us there I purchased a photographic book of Moscow and a souvenir Russian hat for my companion Roustam. It looked so good on him I just had to photograph him wearing it. After all, he is one of Moscow's top professional models.

I took him into a nearby doorway where we were covered overhead and made a few snaps of him with the light coming in from the side. Within seconds I had created this portrait of him that he just had to have for his portfolio. I was kind of thrilled with the photograph myself. Plus, I was pretty proud to be seen in his company, since so many people recognized his face from magazine images in which he had recently appeared.

After a brief nap Nadir took me on a tour of Moscow that I also will never forget. It was sunny and warm at last. Our first stop was at the University of Moscow, one of the most prestigious and gorgeous places of study in all of Russia.

A short distance from the university was a plaza on which hundreds of people were gathered on this gorgeous Saturday afternoon. Countless wedding parties were there to celebrate and be photographed, using the university and a panoramic view of Moscow for backgrounds. I learned that May is a bad luck month for marriages, so April is always full of couples tying the knot. There were musicians, fireworks, souvenir hucksters, and entertainers galore all gathered there. It was a photographic paradise for me and everyone else.
There was literally dancing in the streets.

One interesting thing I noticed was that many of the brides must have spent quite a few hours and many rubles on getting their hair done for their wedding day.

I saw one couple symbolically releasing a pair of white doves. Their photographer missed the picture, but, luckily, I didn't.

Of course, there were countless souvenir stands where even though I didn't purchase anything, I still took some pictures.

Now that I'm looking at these pictures I wish I had bought a few of them to bring home. Funny how when you see so many things like this all at one time they don't impress you, but when you get a few of them home how nice they look!

But for my final thrill of my really last full day in Moscow, Nadir took me to the Kremlin! On the way there, however, I asked him to stop a few times so that I could photograph some of the unbelievable churches. For a more dramatic effect I did alter the contrast a little for this picture and straightened some of the verticals in Photoshop's Free Transform.

I have to tell you that the Kremlin is no disappointment--for historians, art enthusiasts, school children, or anyone! We spent half a day there and didn't see anywhere near what there was to enjoy. All my life I had heard talk of the Kremlin, but never knew anything about what it actually was. The Kremlin is a walled-in area within the inner circle of Moscow that houses the major governmental agencies of Russia. Plus, it is a collection of many incredibly magnificent churches and memorabilia of Moscow's ancient history.

In the Kremlin I entered into a world of fact and fantasy that will be indelibly inscribed in my memory of magical places. I saw sights there that are among the most fascinating glimpses of world history that I think I will ever see in my lifetime.

Churches that are so magnificent inside and out that it staggers the visual senses of everyone who visits there.

Within one of the courtyards I photographed the King's cannon, never used but forever to be admired by students and other visitors from around the world. Here's a close-up of some of the detail inscribed on one side of the cannon.

While walking through the Kremlin a few little girls noticed that I spoke English. They all had been taking English lessons in school and were most anxious to try out their knowledge. I was amazed at how well they spoke. When I understood them and answered them back they went out of their minds with pleasure. We asked a few of them to pose for some group pictures. They understood everything that we were saying. I'm only hoping that I can learn some Russian before I return.

Nadir took a picture of me, so that I could show my friends that I was truly there! The afternoon in the Kremlin was truly another highlight of my life. I took many more photographs there, but had to limit what I'm showing here, because of space limitations.