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Kamchatka — wild, beautiful and unexpected: experiences from an Israel-based photographer

19/07/2018

Uri Magnus is a 33-year-old photographer and surfer from Israel, he specializes in marine and sports photography. Bored of perfect tropical landscapes, Uri decided to head to Russia for the first time, to explore it off the beaten track: not strolling round Red Square, but catching cold ocean waves in Kamchatka.

  • Uri Magnus
    Photographer and surfer from Israel

    For years I’ve been traveling in search of the most beautiful and exotic places to sail, surf, and dive: not only as a professional sports photographer, but also as a huge surfing fan. Having traveled to all kinds of interesting places round the globe, from the Maldives and Sri Lanka in the Indian Ocean, to Costa Rica and the Caribbean Islands, I set myself the challenge of taking a trip to the Kamchatka peninsula to try something completely new: an adventure far away from the tropics, in the northeast of Russia.

My friends were surprised to say the least when they heard I was planning a trip to Kamchatka: only a few even knew where it was, and the rest were utterly confused. Why would I decide to go there? I first came across Kamchatka at a well-known photographer’s exhibition. I decided there and then that I had go to Kamchatka to see it for myself. On this trip, I wanted to combine immersing myself in the wilderness with surfing in icy waters off secret beaches, as well as meeting and getting to know the local surf community.

I went on a two-week summer tour of Kamchatka. As a surf photographer and an experienced skipper, I’m used to checking weather forecasts constantly, but in Kamchatka the weather changes in a heartbeat all the time. Bright sunlight gives way to gloomy clouds in a matter of minutes, storms blow in as if from nowhere. For that reason, at times we had to change our plans at very short notice. One day, we went to the Mutnovsky volcano to see its glaciers and lakes, but on the way there, right in the middle of the road our car got stuck in the snow, and so we had to go back. One thing I came to understand on the trip was that sometimes all you need for a beautiful photo or the best surf is luck, as well as bit of help from Mother Nature. In these parts, you just have to accept that nature reigns supreme, so your trip might turn out to be not quite what you’d been expecting. “For most of my stay on the peninsula, the Kamchatkan skies were overcast. But on the very last day, I got to see one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen in my life. As I fell asleep in a tent under the stars, with the Milky Way across the night sky, I realized how awesome and totally unforgettable this whole experience was.

One of the most vivid impressions I brought back from Kamchatka was of the wildlife. During a two-day catamaran tour on the Pacific Ocean, we were lucky enough to meet a pod of orcas (killer whales) and take tons of photos. Then I spent 4 days on Lake Kuril, I watched bears fish and got to take phenomenal photos, of course at a safe distance of 10-50 meters. It was such a fantastic and rare privilege to see these massively strong animals, they didn’t seem to fear us or show any signs of aggression. I can’t recommend going to Kamchatka enough– when you go there, make sure you spend at least a couple of days on Lake Kuril. For me, this is one of the most fascinating places on the peninsula. Whilst I didn’t need a visa to go to Russia, visiting and photographing Lake Kuril meant special permits were required. Taking an organized trip with a professional guide has huge advantages. Our guide took care of everything – us, our documents and our accommodation.

Meeting and getting to know the local surf community exceeded my expectations! I felt like I was part of the family and not a guest. We went exploring the coast together in search of beautiful, wild beaches with great surf. The sheer energy of Kamchatka’s nature, coupled with the feeling of community I felt with like-minded people made me so happy. What other motivation would I need to come back here again? The only slight problem for me was my command of the Russian language. I guess it would have been easier for me to get to know people and to understand the local culture if I could speak some Russian. “There’s nowhere else on Earth quite like Kamchatka. It’s truly unique. I found I had a profound experience there. Traveling there will be fascinating for anyone like me who loves to visit pristine wilderness and breathtaking landscapes. Kamchatka is wild, beautiful and unpredictable.”

© Uri Magnus / Instagram — @urimagnus / Facebook — uri magnus photography / www.polmagnus.com

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