Author Archives: vlantukh

And we’re back

After way too much time away, I’m back. New job, new city, new family, and a new puppy! All that is to say that life moves forward but i’m taking a step back, reevaluating some goals, changing the scope of this blog, and giving it another wack. Not out of popular demand, but out of a growing need to step back from the complexities of daily life. Anyway, here we go….



I just sold my d700 and I’m getting a d90.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the full frame, weather sealed pro level d700. I will also miss the dedicated controls and the ISO performance, but I have some plans in development that require some more cash and a lighter camera. That is for a future post though.

I have owned 2 d90 bodies at separate times. They served their intended purpose and were sold. I didn’t think the same would happen to the nicer, full frame camera, but it did. I will own another full frame camera. I just don’t know when and I don’t really need it now.

Furthermore, there is a financial incentive here. The d90 has reached the bottom of its depreciation curve, I think. It can be had used for under $500. That is a steal for that type of capability. It also deleverages me, frees up some cash for other projects, and allows me to take risks that I would avoid with the full frame monster.

I have used this strategy with great success: buy good quality, used equipment. Often times in bulk, always at rock bottom prices. Keep what I want – or what I think I want – and sell everything else at top dollar. This also allowed me to move through pro bodies quit quickly and at little cost to me. I never thought I would use the same formula to walk my way back down the gear ladder though.

The spread between the d90 price and the d700 price will pay for an upcoming trip with Katie. And that’s the whole point: why own top-of-the line gear if you can’t afford to travel with it?

I would rather have a thick portfolio and a well worn passport instead of a heavy camera bag. To me, that’s an upgrade worth making.

Why blindfoto

I have a hereditary eye condition called achromatopsia. You can google it, but I will spare you the boring details.

The short version is that I can’t see very well. Actually I can’t see well at all. My eyesight is pegged at about 20/200 which makes me legally blind. I also have a hard time distinguishing colors and am very sensitive to light. This is all a result of having too many rod cells and not enough cone cells in the back of the eye.

To make matters more complicated, none of the above are correctable by lenses.

The irony is not lost on me. I am an automotive enthusiast when I can’t drive legally and I get payed to take pictures when I have a serious ‘limitation’ that should affect my performance.

I’ll attempt to answer the Defender thing first. I have wanted one since grade school. Back then, a kid was allowed to dream, to have faith in the future of modern medicine, and to put reality out of site and mind. Now, in my late 20’s, reality has set in: I won’t drive a Defender across Siberia. But the dream is still alive and it has flourished. My future wife will have to drive a Defender. It will be in the wedding vows. Its none negotiable.

The photography question is a little different. My dad was a photog back in the USSR. I have fooled around with cameras for as long as I can remember. And as long as I can remember, I have been told that photography was out of my reach and beyond my physical limitations. The problem with such talk is that it lights a fire under my ass.

Then came along the affordable DSLR. That was fuel to the fire. All of a sudden, it was cheap to experiment, to play, and to learn. Digital cameras brought us instant gratification. They also brought instant feedback.

Also, when the camera comes up to my eye, it becomes my eye. It really does work like a visual aid.

So there you have it. I fooled around with a d40, taught myself, tricked some people into paying for my pictures, and never looked back. I have come a long way from a d40 and from those days, but now you know the truth. Don’t tell anyone.

Naturally, when David and Jessie started their journey, I was immediately hooked. He was literally living out my childhood dream. A dream that, from any practical point of view, was unrealistic if not foolish.

This is why, when Jessie got stranded in Atlanta, I couldn’t just sit on the sidelines. Amazingly, David didn’t think I was flat out crazy.

Speaking of David, I’m so thankful for this opportunity. I have seen a glimpse of the love and the support that he has been blogging and tweeting about for months. It is refreshing and quite humbling.

the Defender

Jessie is a Land Rover Defender 90. A purebred, purpose built machine that has extraordinary capabilities and pages of history infused into its DNA.

She is the direct descendant of the original Series 1 Land Rover, an aluminum clad 4×4 built to conquer English farmland in war- ravaged Britain. Land Rover has come a long way since the late ’40s and its top sellers today, the Range Rover and the Discovery, are more comfortable at a country club than an English farm.

The Defender does not share these same traits. If the Range Rover is your rich uncle, the Defender is your rude, odd, war-torn great uncle that no one talks about but everyone secretly admires.

Indeed, once you get past the lunch box styling, the ever-present mechanical gremlins, and the total disregard for occupant comfort, there is much to be admired in the Defender.

Since 1948, these 4x4s have plowed fields, served in covert military missions, carried humanitarian aid to remote destinations, and explored the farthest corners of our world. Commandos dropped them out of airplanes, the British crown and the Pope himself used them for protection, and frontiersmen the world over cooked meals on the trucks’ front grill. It has been estimated that this lineage of Land Rovers were the first automobiles seen by a third of the world’s population.

This history lesson is vital to understanding and appreciating Jessie. This is what she is: an uncompromising, unapologetic thoroughbred. She is designed and outfitted for overland travel. She is engineered to perform in the harshest conditions.

Now I don’t know David’s reasoning behind settling on a Defender, but I am not surprised that a Defender is the vehicle he has come to depend on. Many explorers, nomads, and travelers put their trust into that aluminum box on wheels and, if history is to repeat itself, many more will.

Jessie’s ride

We are saddled up and headed to the other side of town. Jessie is getting her batteries charged as she awaits our arrival. Matt is having dinner with his wife, also waiting our arrival.

Speaking of Matt, I know he is bringing a ThinkTank full of goodies so I decided to leave my camera at home. I’m tweeting, blogging, and taking pictures with only the phone.

Jessie's ride

Jessie’s ride

Jessie is going home

Sometimes, we are presented with opportunities that we would be stupid to walk away from.

When the dust had settled after David duChemin’s accident in Italy and it became clear that so many prayers were answered regarding his recovery, I started flirting with the idea of taking Jessie, his right hand drive Defender 90, back home to him.  The idea was out of reach, I thought.  Sure, I had met David, but I doubted he would remember or care about who I was.  And then there was the whole delivery of Jessie thing.  David had outfitted the Defender for overland travel, sold or stored most of his worldly possessions, and moved what was left into a vehicle with only a 92 inch wheelbase.  To think that he would trust me with what was left of his “stuff” was kind of unthinkable.

I took the shot though.  I reached out to David with a vague plan and a promise to deliver.  To my astonishment, he agreed!  I spent several weeks arranging the ever-moving puzzle pieces.  The goal was for a expeditious trip that was also cost-effective.  I secured a truck, a trailer, some local volunteer photographers and friends – with immaculate driving records, mind you – and now it is go time.

My buddy Matthew Druin and I will be documenting the trip via our blogs and, of course, twitter.  We’ll use the hashtag #jessietrip to track our progress.  Join us.  Keep us company.  Keep us awake!

As a long time Land Rover fanatic and an almost successful photographer,  this is an opportunity, a little mini adventure that I just couldn’t walk away from.

A day at the Ranch

Earlier this summer, Katie and I drove up to Wears Valley Ranch in Sevierville, Tennessee to take some pictures for the Ranch and for their summer camp director and our good friend, Seth Houser.  Wears Valley Ranch is a year round boarding school environment for children from families in crisis.  These 100+ acres at the base of the Smoky Mountains are a refuge for at-risk kids.  It’s also the place where Katie and I first met in the summer of ’04 when we volunteered as camp counselors.  This little slice of paradise has a special place in our hearts.  Check out their web page:  And if you have kids and are interested in summer camps, the summer camp program,, is honestly world-class.

Needless to say, we don’t need much persuasion to take a day out of our increasingly hectic lives to spend a day at the Ranch.  So with cameras in hand, we made the trip.

This assignment was actually more challenging than I expected.  Lots of outdoor photography under a cloudless sky is always hard.  The goal was to create photos for the Ranch that illustrate the facilities and can be used for promotional material.

The second objective was to capture the entire Houser clan together before everyone scattered all over North America.  This was also challenging because large group shots are difficult by definition.  Add some tired and uncooperative infants and toddlers, and the level of difficulty skyrockets.

We also took this opportunity to use “Frankenstein,” a two flash, one 60 inch reflective umbrella setup that includes some jerry rigged brackets to hold both flashes on one umbrella adapter.  I’ll have to write a post on that later…

Difficulty level aside, it is always a pleasure to give back to an organization that lives for such a powerful calling.