Interview With Michael Lidski

Before reading this interview I suggest reading my Introduction to Interviews with Photographers.

Michael Lidski is a professional photographer currently living in New Zealand. He has lived in several places around the world and traveled in many more. Michael kindly agreed to give me this interview, in which he reveals parts of his life story and also shares his professional opinions on photographic equipment that he uses, all this together with many examples of his beautiful photographs.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I am proud to present you – Michael Lidski !

Self portrait by Michael Lidski. Click on the photo to enlarge.

Tell a little about yourself. Where are you from?

I am from USSR (remember, once upon a time there used to be a USSR?) – and left it when it was still called a USSR, albeit falling to pieces.

Photo by Michael Lidski. Click on the photo to enlarge.

I was born and grew up in the city of Kiev – the Mother of Russian cities, today it is the capital of Ukraine, which is trying to be an independent country.

Photo by Michael Lidski. Click on the photo to enlarge.

I am Russian by language and culture. It always was a bit of a love-hate relationship, because on one hand Russian culture, especially Russian literature is great and I’m proud of it, but on the other hand, while living in USSR, I always wanted to leave it, because I considered it a totalitarian police state inhabited by a rather barbarian people.

Photo by Michael Lidski. Click on the photo to enlarge.

Doctor Zhivago’s self-sacrifice always seemed wrong to me, because the people whom it was supposed to be for were unworthy of it. One of my favorite jokes about Soviet Union is about a young guy who appears in court for killing an old woman in the street at night to rob her.

The judge says:
– Young man, how possibly could you have killed a poor old lady – and for what?! For just one rouble you found in her purse?!
The defendant replies:
– Well, your honour, look at it from my perspective: 5 old ladies buys a bottle of vodka, ey!

Unfortunately, it seems that the only thing that changed over there since then is the price of vodka.

Photo by Michael Lidski. Click on the photo to enlarge.

This is the miners wives’ strike – their husbands didn’t get paid for several years. Translation of their banner: “Independent Ukraine has everything but God, Truth and Honor”.
Having been forcibly stripped off my Soviet citizenship (and having had to pay for that, too) – no great loss, by the way – I immigrated to Israel when I was 29 and spent the next 15 years there…

Photos by Michael Lidski. Click on the photo to enlarge.

…unsuccessfully trying to become part of the great Zionist idea for the first 10 years and then for the next 5 years trying to figure out where to go to have a normal life. I traveled quite a bit in the meantime…

Photos by Michael Lidski. Click on the photo to enlarge.

…gaining some ideas about how different can life be in different societies. Maybe, like Bulgakov’s Master, I haven’t earned the Light, but have earned my Rest – New Zealand became my Eternal Refuge, and here I am today…

Photos by Michael Lidski. Click on the photo to enlarge.

…living in a place probably as close to paradise as one can find on Earth, in the city of Christchurch:

Photo by Michael Lidski. Click on the photo to enlarge.

The following image has nothing to do with me, it is a humorous portrayal of New Zealand by an artist whom I would like to thank for using his work:

Click on the photo to enlarge.

How did you get involved in photography and how long have you been into photography?

I became interested in photography quite early, my first works were published 25 years ago, when I was studying to become a biologist. By 1990 I became a pro photographer instead, working at the ‘Radyans’ka Ukrayina’ state publishing house (department of artistic postcards, calendars and photo albums).

By now I have more than 3.000 images & 500 articles published in various books, magazines, newspapers, calendars, postcards, etc. Artworks in private collections in Christchurch, London, San-Francisco, Tel-Aviv, Jerusalem and Kiev.

What was your first camera?

I got my first camera as a birthday present when I was 7 years old, it was an ‘Etude’:

Click on the photo to enlarge.

and it was the worst camera ever made as far as I can tell, no way it could take photos!

What projects are you involved in nowadays?

I am currently doing several different things in terms of photography:

1) Private customer orders, like portraits, events, technical photography, etc. Those are mostly rewarding in terms of $$$.

Photo by Michael Lidski. Click on the photo to enlarge.

here you can see more examples

2) Digital art based on photography:

Photo by Michael Lidski. Click on the photo to enlarge.

My canvases exhibited (and occasionally even sold) in art galleries; here you can see more examples of my digital art.

3) Nature photography: Critters, Landscapes, Nature, and I love doing it. I also love shooting Cities

4) Last but not least – studio photography (it’s a fairly recent thing for me and I’m enjoying it!):

Photos by Michael Lidski. Click on the photo to enlarge.

What gives you inspiration in photography and how do you keep creative and improve?

Difficult question. First and foremost I would like to say that my beautiful wife is my inspiration – I couldn’t live without her! Second – I would say that the most important thing in photography for me is not to register the reality, but rather to express myself through portraying it. Like an artist expresses himself in his paintings, like a composer expresses himself in his music, like a poet expresses himself in his poems. Only sometimes I think that ‘inspiration’ is more like a transmission of a divine ‘radio’ signal, for which an artist simply serves as a receiver. I am like a camera obscura, a pinhole through which the divine light passes into this world…

Photo by Michael Lidski. Click on the photo to enlarge.

…creating images for people to admire. At least I hope I am…

What do you like to shoot the most?

I am always concentrating on what I’m shooting and processing now. My most recent shoots were a young couple double portrait session done in the studio and outdoors, a shoot of rare birds from a boat in the ocean, and a landscape session in a remote location which was difficult to access.

What equipment do you use?

Canon 5D, Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 1Ds Mark III, Canon 15mm fisheye:

Photo by Michael Lidski. Click on the photo to enlarge.

Canon 17mm TS-E L:

Photo by Michael Lidski. Click on the photo to enlarge.

Canon 85mm F1.2 Mark II L:

Photo by Michael Lidski. Click on the photo to enlarge.

Canon 28-300mm IS L:

Photo by Michael Lidski. Click on the photo to enlarge.

Canon 200mm F1.8 L:

Photo by Michael Lidski. Click on the photo to enlarge.

Canon 2x TC:

Photo by Michael Lidski. Click on the photo to enlarge.

Kenko automatic extension tubes:

Photo by Michael Lidski. Click on the photo to enlarge.

My additional equipment includes:

Canon Speedlite 580EX Mark II flash, UNI-LOC tripod MA2300, 3 ancient Broncolor studio lights, ring flash diffuser for macro, a small and a large (14 inch) beauty dishes, flash remote cable, Manfrotto flash bracket, LowePro SuperTrekker back pack.

Now, that’s rather dry – what should I add? From my perspective, there is no ideal camera as of today. We are talking strictly Canon here, and should probably start with why. Wide format gives better image quality, but is rather limited in it’s use due to available focal lengths of lenses and the absence of higher ISO, not to mention the prices and weight/size.

Nikon D3x is not a bad camera, but I would never switch because of the lenses Nikon doesn’t have (2 of which I own and enjoy). Cropped (castrated) sensor cameras have image quality visibly inferior to full frame. Of course, it would be nice to use different formats, cameras and systems for different purposes, like, wide format only in the studio, etc., but that’s just too expensive. So that limits us to the cameras listed, right? Of those I’m not happy with either one, because 5D is ancient (no highlight tone priority, no usable ISO 6400, slow AF), 5D Mark II has issues (noise and banding at base ISO visible in post-processing, red/inky blotch colour issue, slow AF), and 1Ds Mark III is in respects inferior to 5D Mark II (monitor, higher ISO) – so I’m anxiously waiting for Canon 1Ds Mark IV, which I’ll buy as soon as it comes out.

I hope I won’t have to wait much longer. Well, bodies come and go but lenses stay, as they say, so about the lenses: my fisheye is a very sharp lens, but not an L lens due to inferior build quality (went to warranty repair and back recently), disgusting chromatic aberration and – oh, I wouldn’t mind if it could focus closer, but there is no alternative. Of course, there is a comparable Sigma, but it is not better than Canon…

17mm TS-E is an awesome lens, very sharp, easily usable handheld with liveview in spite of no AF, the one and only wideangle.

28-300 is surprisingly good optically for its zoom range and very versatile.

85/1.2 is bloody awesome, same as the 200/1.8 – unique bokeh, creamy, beautiful – and razor-sharp where the focus is:

In this thread on dpreview forum you can read (and see examples) about my Holy Grail – Canon 200/f1.8 L series lens

And finally, if you had only two tips to give to a beginner photographer what would they be?

A) Choose a different profession which would guarantee you a well-paid, reliable regular job and let photography be your hobby.
B) Have fun while you are young!

Thank you Michael for this wonderful interview. Personally I enjoyed it very much, and I am sure that all my readers will!

Good luck to you in your present and future projects!

Cheers,

Greg.

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