Vlad Kryhin lives in California – a place he loves because of the sheer diversity of its landscapes and ecology, something Vlad knows more than a little about! He originally came to California from Belarus, on the other side of the world, and has seen most of the sights in-between these two places.

We spoke to Vlad about learning to be a photographer, what makes a great Instant image, and some of the sights he has seen…

Fotolia: Hello, Vlad, can you tell us a little bit about yourself, where you’re based, and what you do for a living?
Vlad Kryhin

Vlad Kryhin: Sure! I am a software engineer living in Silicon Valley in California. I was born in Belarus, a small European country in the former Soviet Union, and moved to the USA several years ago.

I found that the San Francisco Bay Area is a great place and just few hours drive away from so many scenic locations like Yosemite National Park, Napa Valley, Lake Tahoe, Big Sur, Death Valley, Joshua Tree National Park etc. Plus, San Francisco, with its endless line of various events and overall lifestyle, adds a lot of cultural diversity to my life.

Fo: What, in your opinion, are the vital ingredients for a fantastic photograph?

VK: To make a fantastic photo you would need several things to come together at the particular moment. Some people call this luck, saying that you would just need to press a button to make a masterpiece if you stumble upon something extraordinary. But you should have studied at least some of the basics of photography beforehand to make a better (or even just “good enough”) picture.

Even if you take photos with a cellphone you need to at least position the ‘phone at the correct angle and frame the scene properly. And of course you would need to take an advantage of the light conditions, or catch a particular live moment in people lives.

Fo: What’s your favorite theme to photograph and why? Have you always enjoyed photography as a hobby?

VK: I only started to regard myself as photographer a couple of years ago. I really discovered that photography is a mixture of art and creativity with patient attention to technical details.

First, I started to take pictures everywhere I traveled – and I like to see new places so I had taken a lot of photographs. But it’s in my nature to always try to be better in everything I do, so I realized that there was room for improvement.

I started to learn by taking more pictures, reading books on arts and technical aspects of photography, browsing online forums, taking courses, etc. Now I know that it takes a lot of knowledge and development of technique to make your photographs different from average shots.

Fotolia’s strict rules for accepting photographs actually helped me a lot during this initial learning curve, and this also means that your pictures represent the best collection of images.

So, I still enjoying taking pictures of astounding nature scenes but whilst travelling I started to look into photographing people. I consider this the next step in my artistic career because of the challenge of reflecting human moods and expressions in a photograph.

Fo: How did you discover the Fotolia Instant App? Have you found it useful?

VK: I was a Fotolia contributor already when I received an email announcing the Instant collection and decided to try and uploaded few pictures that I had taken during my last adventure. Now, when photographing with a DSLR I often take a couple of pictures with an iPhone, to capture the mood and environment of the place or even to try and capture same scene that you take with regular camera.

The advantages is that you can upload these pictures with the Instant App immediately, while DSLR raw images usually need to wait to be edited and uploaded – sometimes for a few months.

Fo: Can you pick your favorite image from your Instant portfolio and tell us a bit about it – where you were and why it’s your favorite?

Vladpic1VK: One of the favorite ones – even it is minimal in composition is the one that indeed creates particular atmosphere and put you in the certain mood.

This shot was taken in a remote rural area of Moldova. There is an ancient monastery that has caves carved from the rocks monks using their hands.

On the top of that cliff rock there is a small church for the local parish. And people can reach this church either by walking or on the bike. It’s a local landmark and a place to hang out, and youngsters come here to enjoy the view, take a picture, and talk, etc.

I was approaching the church when I noticed that one person had left his bike on the ground and stepped away to chat with folks from the neighboring village. I realized that this sort of represented the quintessential atmosphere of the place.

I would say this mood and composition was applicable to country areas in any European country, but especially Eastern Europe, in countries such as Ukraine, Belarus, and Moldova. The emptiness and minimalism of the middle-of-nowhere, a church, a bike…

Fo: Your Instant profile includes an astonishing variety of locations in the subjects – where is the most inspirational place you’ve visited?

VK: As I mentioned before living in San Francisco Bay Area and travelling around gives you an access to any type of landscapes you can imagine: ocean, rivers, lakes, forests, mountains, deserts, valleys etc. Going in absolutely any direction for couple of hours gives you access to a variety of awesome scenes.

I also love to hike.  I’ve been to the top of Half Dome in Yosemite, hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, and to the top of Mount Whitney – the highest peak in California and its contiguous states. So all the wonders of nature that I have seen are truly inspiring.

At the same time, you can take pictures in cities like San Francisco and capture moments in people’s lives. Also, many places made a big impression on me when I traveled there: Rome, Vienna, London, Venice, Kiev, and Moscow – Eastern Europe is very inspirational. Any place you visit can inspire you at a particular moment, and you don’t always have a regular camera out and ready at that moment.

Fo: What advice would you give to anyone using the Fotolia Instant App?

VK: Well, the best advice is to try and avoid uploading average pictures. Fotolia don’t accept non-creative pictures of flowers, food, etc.

But creativity doesn’t come as an applied filter – it has to be a great combination of unusual light, appropriate angle, environment and artistic editing.

Another good piece of advice is to capture a mood with your photo, to say something with it. This is a real challenge.

Fo: Can you give us a little bit of detail about this image, such as where you were and how you managed to take such a fabulous shot?

morning in the mountainsVK: On 4th of July weekend I visited Yosemite National Park to hike for couple of days, and looking for better angle for the shot with a large camera I sat down on the edge of the cliff to gain a bit stability since I did not want to be in danger while shooting balancing on the brink.

At the same time, I looked at the valley below and thought it was too dark at the bottom to make a good shot. And then, looking down, I realized that I was wearing same boots that I had when I hiked Half Dome – which is just sitting in front of me now!

So this shot recalls my achievement from a few years ago, and hopefully will inspire anybody who looks at the picture to go there, too. This photo conjures up a specific atmosphere and spiritual mood for me.

Fo: Have you noticed some of your images selling better than others? Has this influenced which photos you upload?

VK: I’ve noticed that creatively edited pictures with great light conditions sell better. Also, I’ve noticed that images picturing life moments – people, expressing a mood – sell better.

And that definitely influences the subjects of the pictures I take, and my editing style. Now, I try to say something with the photos I upload to the Instant collection, not just to capture scenic views.

I hope this will help Fotolia contributors to be more inspired and creative, and to take advantages of the great features of the Fotolia Instant App.

Fo: What a lovely sentiment, Vlad! Thank you so much for your time and your advice.

You can see (and buy!) more of Vlad’s great global images on his Fotolia portfolio or on his Facebook page.