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A visit to Chernobyl and Pripyat by Viktor Nemeth

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Today Viktor Nemeth (flickr stream) will share his some photos from his trip Chernobyl and Pripyat (click for larger view):

Certainly - the gear were: Nikon D600, Nikkor 16-35/4, 50/1.8G, 70-200/2.8 VR2. Also took a Sigma fisheye which I didn't end up using at all.

As for the story itself, I'll make it a bit long and then you cut it if you'd like to...

So the only official way in to Chernobyl is via an organized tour that is done by one of the accredited agencies. Your details, such as passport number, name, etc needs to be provided weeks in advance and the Ministry of Interior or whoever does a whole lot of checks on you. The trip itself starts around 9am and the minibus is loaded w/ tourists. There are apparently 8-9k people brought into the zone each year. There are options for single or small-group tours as well but they cost a fair bit more.

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The drive to the area itself was reasonably uneventful, we were being shown a variety of documentaries, and once we got to the boundaries of the Zone, had to cross three police/military checkpoints where documents were checked.

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The area itself is dangerous but not due to the radiation. That's pretty much harmless to the tourists as we spend little time in places. The more problematic issue is the lack of maintenance and the outcome of that. As it can be seen on some photos the floors and ceilings have collapsed and hardwood floors feel almost mushy soft when stepped on. There's a certain danger of falling through a hole that didn't previously exist. Broken glass and metal are also ever present, so sturdy shoes are useful to say the least.

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Tours are showing the 'popular' sights to people. You'll see that most of my photos resemble familiar ones from online, which is primarily because there are only 7-8 specific buildings that are shown to tourists. Wandering around in the residential areas is sadly not permitted any more.

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As for the gear, a full-frame camera is ever-powerful and with the 16-35 VR lens it's a great companion for indoor shots. I had issues with the oil spots on the D600, many of which can be observed on the photos. All photos were shot in RAW and most of them had some level of vibrance reduction in PS. I tend to like that effect, adds a certain amount of drama perhaps. All media is/are subjective anyway...

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If you have an interesting idea for a guest post, you can contact me here.

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  • Paul Deavall

    Reminiscent of the game Call of duty. Wonderful irredecent colour and DOF, Good work!

    • umeshrw

      Many photos reminded me of that. Especially 2nd and 6,7 th.

    • JXVo

      …I feel like I’d know my way around….

    • http://randomphotosfromengland.wordpress.com/ nemethv

      thanks :)

  • zone

    wow! brings out the death …

    (not of D600, you cynics)

  • Michiel953

    It took a while for me to grasp how you’d approached this subject, which has been done almost to death since the guided tours started. Usually too much drama added.

    I got to like and appreciate the soft, withdrawn colours that these images show; they lend a restfulness and peace that is very appropriate.

    Thanks for sharing!

  • AM

    It’s sad that people will find any way to make a profit out of a tragedy.
    I’m talking about the tour agencies, local government, and every single POS making money off this tragedy.

    • Dyun27

      They’re just making the best out of a horrible situation. People want to see it, so there is a market for it. It’s good to see it to remind people to never let it happen again. According to your logic no tours of most places could ever be “right” since most places around the world gained their fame through tragic loss of life. There’s few historical attractions without that part in their past. I’m glad someone can take me around, teach me some of the history and let me appreciate the human condition.

      • AM

        Why don’t they clean up the area and build a memorial or a park or whatever instead where anybody who feels like it can go and visit for FREE?
        But no, that probably won’t be as attractive, so let’s just let the place rot to hell, feed human morbid curiosity, and make a couple of bucks in the process.

        • n11

          Build a memorial park? Well that takes money and they wouldn’t get anything from it.They still need to guard the entire friggin’ city, so some revenue should be made from that.It’s not like they’re charging you to attend a funeral so don’t over-dramatize it.

        • Aeroengineer

          Before you criticize perhaps you should consider a few facts: a 30 mile radius of land is contaminated and unsuitable for habitation, remediation is very expensive (TMI was much less catastrophic and cost nearly $1B), and Ukraine’s per capita GDP is 7% that of the USA.

      • tertius_decimus

        Tourists who can buy their entry to this attraction may think they’re paying homage to the tragedy of Chernobyl but don’t let everyone be fooled: they’re doing this for bragging rights, just to spread some cheap thrills among their friends who’ve never been in the city once lost. Why then every post-apocalyptic tourist thinks he has to ride here with load of photo equipment? And why nobody tries to connect with people who lived here to tell a story?

        Automotive sport is popular for same reason. Who talks of breakthrough in sports? Meh… rather panem et circenses.

        • http://randomphotosfromengland.wordpress.com/ nemethv

          True, but then most of mainstream tourism is about the experience rather than a real ‘connection’ with whatever’s local in that sense. Also laws are different. Eg. if such thing happened in the UK the local health&safety laws would defitinely prohibit tourist tours into the area till eternity. Eastern Europe is less anal on the matter for good or ill, that’s up to you to decide.

  • Глеб Похитонов

    Chernobyl is undoubtedly a legendary place, but in the 30-60 km from Moscow could have done such photographs:https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.111253352283353.17445.100001960674525&type=1&l=22522b9bdc This abandoned Soviet camps for children and resorts.

  • george

    I suppose the guy ended up with the first “glow-in-the-dark” camera upon his return :)

  • El Aura

    Showing always the same buildings should reduce the risk of something collapsing above or below you, otherwise people tend to wear helmets in locations where something might fall on you.

    • http://randomphotosfromengland.wordpress.com/ nemethv

      Dunno, some of the wooden floors didn’t look or feel safe to me…

  • AlanDoyle86

    Really nice set of shots.

    Chernobyl and to a greater extent Pripyat, are by far some of the most surreal and haunting places Iv visited myself.

    If anyone is interested here’s a link to my own shots: http://www.flickr.com/photos/45103502@N08/sets/72157624695266503/

    The first lot (2010) were taken with a D90, the second set (2013) with a D7100…A D600 would have been nice though! :)
    - Maybe next time ey!

  • 0mni

    an unique place from where you’d don’t want to take any souvenirs except photos ..

    • tertius_decimus

      Unique? You know nothing about CIS, sorry. Whole former USSR except big cities like Moscow or St. Petersburg is such a “unique” place.

      • 0mni

        lol))) I live in Ukraine. And you’ll dont want any souvenirs from Pripyat just because almost everything man-made is still radioactive. In lots of places gamma-activity is 1000 times higher than normal. Some of freinds were in Pripyat last year and I know the situation and what to find there not by rumors.

        • tertius_decimus

          Okay, I get that. My apologies.

  • DJN

    Those doll shots are just creepy

  • Huan Yang

    silent hill…….

  • http://zhovtenko.net/ Vsevolod Zhovtenko

    Here are some panoramas I took in Chernobyl and Prypiat area, enjoy!

    http://zhovtenko.net/index.php/photography-by-vsevolod-zhovtenko/articles/18-prypyatchernobyl

  • Spy Black

    I have my doubts about the radiation safety. People will say anything to make a buck.

    Nice shots though.

    • Mike

      I’ve seen some documentaries on Chernobyl. Apparently some very stubborn people still live within the danger zone. No issues. They have also taken samples of wildlife (which is thriving in human absence). Elevated radiation in tissues but no cancers. Life adapts.

  • Foolishcfo

    Thanks for sharing you photos. Very interesting.

  • tertius_decimus

    For many westerners Chernobyl may seem like an interesting place to visit, but for us, mere CIS-inhabitants, it’s just pain in the ass. You can find dozens of such abandoned places literally everywhere, especially in Donbass. Nothing to see here, honestly.

    • oops

      Like Detroit…

  • White Russian

    Wow, Sochi looks horrible. I feel bad for the Olympians that have to sleep there.

  • EJ

    This is definitely worth seeing. All the haters, you’re jealous… not that I want to go here any day soon. Saw the movie, “Chernobyl Diaries” last night and recognize the May Day ride in the 7th picture. That was one scarey movie.

  • neversink

    Good post… Good photos….
    The horrors of human stupidity live on….
    Thanks for sharing….

  • Gregor

    great pictures, ugly hdrs…

    • http://randomphotosfromengland.wordpress.com/ nemethv

      no hdrs ;)
      i took the vibrance down to -40 or -80 depending on the shots.

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