“Capturing” the Russian Culture

When I first arrived in Russia, I wasn’t struck by immediate beauty like my recent visit to Rio de Janeiro. There were no beaches, no mountains, no natural beauties. The people weren’t initially particularly friendly either.

But the culture has grown on me a lot, and as I’ve begun exploring through the city of Orenburg with local Russians, I’ve come to love it for its inviting nature, its unique architecture and its rich culture.

Below are some photos of the city that I’ve come to love.

The urban sprawl with high rise buildings throughout the city.

The urban sprawl with high rise buildings throughout the city.

A famous park and statue in the City Center.

A famous park and statue in the City Center.

The streets of Orenburg near the City Center.

The streets of Orenburg near the City Center.

Nathan and I in front of a Moscow Cathedral.

Nathan and I in front of a well-known Cathedral.

The Cyrillic script depicted above the city's shops and restaurants.

The Cyrillic script depicted above the city’s shops and restaurants.

A light pink government building that sits on the pedestrian walking street.

A light pink government building that sits on the pedestrian walking street.

An animal statue filled with tradition -- locals come by and place their hands on its mouth for good luck.

An animal statue filled with tradition — locals come by and place their hands on its mouth for good luck.

A nearby village, Orenburg's equivalent of a middle class suburb.

A nearby village, Orenburg’s equivalent of a middle class suburb.

An old Soviet fighter jet that now sits on display at an outdoor military park.

An old Soviet fighter jet that now sits on display at an outdoor military park.

The war memorial at the outdoor military park that honors fallen soldiers throughout the 20th century.

The war memorial at the outdoor military park that honors fallen soldiers throughout the 20th century.

Scenes from Above: Rio de Janeiro

The geological diverse area of Rio de Janeiro boasts oceans and mountains, rivers and valleys. We got to tour the highest heights in the area, which gave us some of the prettiest views I’ve ever seen.

Here are some of the shots I got.

The cluster of buildings is set against the large mountain range.

The cluster of buildings is set against the large mountain range.

This inlet houses several rows of buildings.

This inlet houses several rows of buildings.

Christ the Redeemer sits on top of the mountain in the distance.

Christ the Redeemer sits on top of the mountain in the distance.

The England Training Facility lies on the outskirts of the city, bordering the water.

The England Training Facility lies on the outskirts of the city, bordering the water.

The gang in front of the Rio background.

The gang in front of the Rio background.

For more of my shots, check out my Flickr Set.

Not Downtown. UpTown.

Contrary to most cities, Charlotte’s central city district is called “Uptown”, not “Downtown”. And I guess it earns the distinction as the downtown is pretty different from most.

It’s got a pretty unique culture and it’s very diverse. There are some aspects that remind me of Washington, D.C., with big bank skyscrapers intermittent with some museums and art galleries, shops, sports stadiums and fresh food markets.

Some cool spots: the Seventh Street market, with fresh produce and epicure cuisine; the Bank of America building, which can be seen above the rest; the Mint Museum of Art, with a luxurious restaurant, a cool lobby area and some unique art; and Amelie’s French Bakery — who needs Starbucks when you can have genuine, fresh brewed coffee with French pastries!

Here are some shots I took in the city:

Night Photography: Charlotte

I love shooting night photography with a slow shutter because there is a beauty to the light in the darkness. It’s vivid. It’s high contrast. It’s everything I love about photography.

Here are some examples of night photography in the famous Uptown district of Charlotte, North Carolina.

Old Town Charleston

I got in a conversation with a friend about Charleston, a city with a Southern flair, old architecture and a vibrant hipster culture. If it weren’t for the high property rates and vast dividing line in the city between the poor and filthy rich, I would totally try to find myself down there later in life.

Caught in my memories of the memorable visit, I dug up some old photographs to recreate the beauty of the city.

Life through the Lens (Pt 4): Connecting Cross-Culturally

Who said you have to travel to experience other cultures.

At Virginia Tech, we’ve got people from virtually every other country and region, studying, working and growing in the humble homely environment of Blacksburg, Va. Who would have thought!

My photo story captures the essence of the annual International Street Fair, which celebrates this abundant diversity and welcomes the less-than-averagely diverse Southwest Virginian crowd to join in this cultural embrace.

There is something truly extraordinary when people are exposed to the unexposed and barriers are broken.

Life through the Lens (Pt 3): The Changing Landscape of Basque Country

I learned a lot about other cultures when I visited Basque Country — a region of Northern Spain and Southern France that is vying for independence — in January.

It wasn’t just other cultures though — it was the changing landscape of culture in general.

This culture was so unique because it’s so old, yet so perseverant. The language Euskara doesn’t resemble any other one on planet; it’s miles away from both French and Spanish. Historians date it back more than 6,000 years ago!

While this culture is changing with the times, it’s valiantly trying to hold onto what makes it so special. I tried to capture this story of its struggle for survival, for sustenance, in my photography when I went there.