Travel Photography – Ukraine & Chernobyl

Ukraine is a country steeped in history and there is much going on in the country today that will be read about in history books in years to come.  Many of us will recall  an event in Ukraine’s history that had a wider impact on much of what was then the USSR and also Europe, that was the 1986 Chernobyl Nuclear Power plant disaster.

Having been involved with the Chernobyl Childrens Lifeline Charity, you can read more about this here, for a number of years a few of us decided we would like to experience their side of the story, learn more about their every day lives & struggles and to also visit the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant itself.

Travel photography is something I’m aiming to do a lot more of as having spent much of my earlier working years traveling the world, sadly the photography bug had not yet bit.  Its now time to put that right. So, what more of an excuse could one want, to do a little travel photography, and explore somewhere were there is a personal connection?

I’ll be honest and say that I didn’t do much research before heading over to Ukraine and was somewhat unsure if there were any constraints with regards to photography etc.  I suppose that a little bit of me still thought of it as being very much a controlled state.  As a youngster growing up in the eighties i felt somewhat intrigued and mystified by the old Soviet cold war era and some of that mystery still lives with me today.  In reality though i couldn’t have been further from the truth.  Ukraine is a bustling country eager to have its own unique identity, with symbols of patriotism almost on every corner, and many a stranger happy to say hello and chat, with the obvious language barrier though.

For the trip i had a reasonable luggage allowance so took a full compliment of gear including my two Fuji XT-1’s, the xf18-55mm & xf55-140mm zoom lens’ and also the xf14mm, xf35mm & xf56mm primes.  I’ve got to say though, that i found myself mainly using the 18-55mm which is totally opposite to the way i normally work when shooting weddings etc where the primes are the only lens’ i use.  The 18-55mm, with its image stabilisation, is such a versatile lens and coped well with the many situations i found myself.   There is one thing i will add though and that is that the airport security was a nightmare.  Every item of photographic & electronic gear had to be taken out of my rucksack and placed in a separate tray for the x-ray scanner.  It was a lengthy process and chaos of re-packing everything while you have the constant stream of other peoples stuff pushing you along was a bit of a nightmare.

Anyway, gear aside, i wanted to experience, or at least see, the Ukrainian way of life.  In particular that of the more rural setting where many of our visiting children come from.  We were lucky to see many aspects of their lives from the hustle and bustle of the town markets to the self reliant lifestyle many lead with their own small holdings.  People from all walks of life, complete strangers, were happy to welcome us with open arms as if we were family, an experience that was overwhelmingly humbling.

The trip would not have been complete without a visit to the infamous Nuclear Power plant of Chernobyl.  Reactor number four catastrophically exploded on 26th April 1986 and immediately changed the lives of thousands of people and sadly, to this very day, still affects the lives of many more thousands.

The exclusion zone can only be visited by prior booking a guided tour.  There are a number of companies on the internet selling tickets but its only once you arrive at the first 30km check point that you realise just how much of a tourist attraction this place has become.  With the mystery of the many abandoned villages and the stories they hold to the somewhat imposing steel structure that now covers the reactor, who wouldn’t want to visit the site of the worlds worst nuclear disaster?  I know, its not for everyone, but it was a very emotional experience thinking of the time when many people gave their lives to avoid an even greater explosion and thus saving the lives of many and even the existence of the European continent.

So below is a pictorial collection of my visit, from the humbling family encounters, the emotional visit to a local orphanage and to the poignant visit to Chernobyl & the abandoned city of Prypiat.  If you’d like to know a little  more about my visit please do leave me a comment or get in touch.  You can also find a Youtube travel blog i made here.  Finally, more of my work can be found on my website which you can find here.  I’ll look forward to sharing images of my future travels with you soon….Rob

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Monuments from the Soviet era celebrating the defeat of Nazi Germany.

Soviet symbols celebrating WWII victory

Monuments from the Soviet era celebrating the defeat of Nazi Germany.

Kerosene rail station

Korosten, an important rail hub in the Zhytomyr region. Fire crews from here were some of the first to attend the Chernobyl Nuclear disaster.

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Busy markets in Korosten with Salo (cured fat) in abundance.

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There were wild dogs everywhere, some quite placid while others harassed the busy shoppers.

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Children in a local school were intrigued by their foreign visitors.

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Typical rural houses in Ukraine.

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Chernobyl and the queues of tourists waiting for their guides.

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Items discarded in a village that was hastily abandoned shortly after the nuclear disaster.

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Nature rapidly reclaiming what it once owned.

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The city of Chernobyl.

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Our guide showed us how the background radiation levels fluctuated within relatively short distances.

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Childhood toys lay abandoned in a village near Chernobyl.

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The infamous reactor 4 at Chernobyl, now with its new steel confinement.

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The road to Prypiat. The city that offered a new beginning, and new hope and a new life to many. A city that only had a life of 16 years.

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This amusement park was never used. It was due to be opened on 1st May 1986, just a week after the nuclear disaster.

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The Soviet Duga 3 ‘over the horizon’ radar close to the Chernobyl Nuclear power plant.

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Soviet military wall painting.

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An abandoned Soviet missile bunker.

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Soviet era newspapers pasted to the wall of an abandoned missile base.

 

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2 thoughts on “Travel Photography – Ukraine & Chernobyl

    • Thank you Damien. I appreciate you taking the time to take a look and for your kind comments. Ukraine is a beautiful place and i’ll be looking forward to returning sometime soon. 🙂

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