Software entrepreneur, world traveller and photographer Yaroslav LK shared some of the breathtaking views of Kiev from above, told us about drone photography, city restrictions and legislation and his favourite spots in Kyiv.
Yaroslav, tell us a few words about you, what do you do in life?
I’m a 28 years old, born in Kiev and for the past 8 years I’ve been working in the software industry. As an IT security engineer, software developer and eventually project manager. I mostly collaborate with US companies looking for dedicated R&D departments in Ukraine. At this time I’m involved with a major player in the real estate crm software market. My job is mostly remote and being engaged during the US East Coast working hours, I have a lot of opportunities to practice my creative hobbies— through writing, photography and at times — filmmaking.
How and when have you discovered photography?
I’ve started casually photographing about 13 years ago. My first camera was an all-auto Hewlett Packard (yes, they made digital cameras back in the days) point-and-shoot, sporting the considerable at that time 3.2 megapixel sensor. It was used for documenting family trips and most of the year was just collecting dust. Fast forward several years and photography started becoming very trendy, all of my friends were buying DSLR cameras. With prices for quality equipment dropping significantly in the 2008–2010 period I took the plunge and got one of the Canon entry level DSLRs. It was still an automatic affair, I never got into the more intricate details of photography. Casually snapping vacations, my first car, adventures with friends — I dared not venture into the more sophisticated genres.
I guess at this point I gradually started getting interested in the gear, in the cameras more than in the actual activity of going out and photographing. Countless days were lost to scouring review sites and videos about all of the new stuff that was regularly churned out by the likes of Sony, Fujifilm, Canon, Nikon, etc. The onslaught of new mirrorless cameras that were powerful, compact and beaufiul led me to acquire a Fujifilm X-E1 kit. From this point my real interest in photography began. Street photography, fashion, stunning travel shots — were all pursuits that I took on over the past 5 years, as I was searching for the niche that would be my passion.
Honestly I can’t say I’ve found it. For me photography is first and foremost a hobby. I don’t plan to earn money on it and that permits freedom in shooting whatever I am interested in on a given day. The latest photographic endeavour that I discovered is aerial photography.
What are the peculiarities of taking pictures with drone? Do you have to ask for permission when taking photos within the city?
Drones are an amazing piece of creative technology. 3 years ago if you wanted to get a viewpoint of a city from high above your only chance was renting a helicopter. Depending on the place that would cost from $1500 to $5000 an hour. Today, lest than an hour’s flying cost will get you a device small enough to fit in a large pocket, but technologically advanced enough to enable capturing stunning cinematic 4K video and A1 or A2 sized prints. All this in a package that can be controlled by a child after a brief training session.
The first drone I bought was used just for video. Only during the past several months I uncovered the amazing potential for photography that it had as well.
A modern drone is very easy to use — you place it on an even surface, tap a button and it’s in the air. After that you control the speed, direction and height — all with just 2 control sticks. If you don’t touch the sticks — it stays put, at the location where it is. If you lose your connection to it — the drone will fly back to the point from which it took off. You have a high definition live video feed of what the drone’s camera sees. It’s like a camera viewfinder — you look into it, compose your image and shoot.
The only thing complicated about drones is the laws and regulation that govern their usage. They vary greatly by country, but Ukraine’s policy is on the more liberal side. Essentially there are no regulations specific for unmanned aerial vehicles of small size. Although there is talk about mandatory registration and strict limitations on usage — at this point in time you can practically do anything you want without asking permission. As long as you apply common sense — don’t fly within 7–10 km of an airport, don’t fly too high, and make sure your drone won’t fall on people and vehicles beneath it — you should be able to excercise your creativity to full extent.
What are your favorite spots in Kyiv?
I can’t say I’m too crazy about the actual city center — Kreschatyk street, Independence Square or the prestigious Lypky area. I’m more a fan of the nearby outskirts. Not too close, but within reach — like the upper part of Antonovych street, filled with numerous cozy restaurants and cafes, serving a variety of cuisines, but being universally great places to just sit by the window, watch the world walk by, while you are editing some photographs or catching up on some work e-mails.
I love the Botanical Gardens near the Kiev National University — my childhood afternoons were often spent strolling around them and they haven’t changed since then, so it’s kind of a nostalgical landmark for me.
The Left Bank is generally less lively, but some areas — like the Rusanivska Embankment is a great place to take a walk, have a picnic or visit one of the many great restaurants that have opened in the last year or two. Out of all Kiev’s regions — this is probably the most improved one in recent times.
And finally the Podil area, combining turn-of-the XX century architecture and modern steel and glass building appearing overnight, it’s diverse nightlife, great food and proximity to the Dnipro river.
What other cities would you recommend for traveling in Ukraine?
For a more gothic/medieval feel — I would recommend going to Lviv, as it’s a city with beautiful streets, friendly people, wonderful coffee and chocolate. A more relaxed, almost meditteranean vibe would be found in the south — in Odessa, a port city, extremly popular during the summer months.
But there are so many less know marvels in Ukraine. We are an enormous country filled with amazing nature and centuries of history. Sometimes the best trip is to rent a car and just drive off, following the landscapes. I like to do just that and every time it yields new experiences and stunning views. Especially as the roads are being significantly improved and driving isn’t much of a challenge anymore.
Unfortunately my travels have been taking me abroad recently, but I plan to take several trips throughout the country, on the brink between Autumn and Winter, in an attempt to capture this inter-season beauty of Ukraine. My first direction would be to the East, to Kharkiv and Dnipro, major towns, that I have not been to before.
Photographers whose works you admire?
I follow dozens of photographers all over social media, as new talent in our time and age appears so often. But if I had to chose 3 I would name these — Fred Mortagne, a French photographer that I adore for his abstract compositions, how he carefully combines people and landscapes into amazing stories — often just for the beauty of it. Secondly — Chien-Chi Chang, a Taiwanese documentary photographer. I love his depictions of very subtle issues of the modern world. He does not tackle the most bleeding issues, but the finer details of humanity that he explores — the distance between people in our age, the way we travel, life in remote communities — really ticks for me. And finally — a Ukrainian photographer, a recipient of the Leica Oscar Barnack award. He also works in a documentary genre, but his ability to get very close and intimate to people and places thatmost of us wouldn’t even imagine is second to none. And of course really glad that my countryman has acheived such high acclaim in the global photographic industry.
What is the place of photography in Ukraine in your opinion?
Although, in Ukraine, photography is regarded as an art, thanks to the many galleries and temporary exhibitions on the matter — I doubt that apart from a few brilliant people, anyone can earn a living doing non-conventional photography. I mean apart from fashion/product/wedding/portrait photographers. Experimental and documentary niches don’t pay at all and for ones interested in them, having a permanent job funding these endeavours is a must. I look forward to the day when we will have widespread grants and programs that would allow the creatives around us to fully realize their potential.
Facebook: Yaroslav LK