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Gerd Ludwig  National Geographic photographer, speaker, teacher, author of several photo books, most recently "minus 2/3" and "Sleeping Cars"

In Starocherkassk on the banks of the Don river, Cossack picnickers engage in lighthearted folk dancing and refuel with a robust meal – and lots of vodka. Starocherkassk, once the capital of the Don Cossacks and their cultural center, today is a small farming village.

@thephotosociety @natgeocreative #Russia #Starocherkassk #Cossacks #Donriver #picnic #accordion

Sifting through my archive, I  rediscovered this photograph of artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser taking a bath in his makeshift tub in the native forest of New Zealand.

On assignment for a joint book project in 1978, I had spent a couple of weeks with Hundertwasser at his huge, rugged and remote property in the Bay of Islands, an area on the northeast coast of the North Island of New Zealand.

Friedensreich Regentag Dunkelbunt Hundertwasser (1928-2000), born Friedrich Stowasser, was a world renowned eccentric artist, architect and environmentalist. Concerned early on about the environment, he designed houses with grass roofs, undulating floors, and onion-shaped domes. In his art and architecture he used bright colors and organic forms, was fascinated by spirals, and considered straight lines as ‘immoral and godless’. @thephotosociety #hundertwasser #newzealand #artist #bathing

In 1987, just one year after the Chernobyl accident, Anna Avramenko, returned to Opachichi, the village of her birth inside the Exclusion Zone. When I visited her in 2011, she had accidently spilled boiling hot milk onto her left leg and was waiting for the doctors to visit. Her neighbors who had come for a visit could only wait helplessly with her for an ambulance to make its way through overgrown roads from the Chernobyl hospital some 15 miles away.

It’s 40 roughly years ago that the Chernobyl nuclear power plant went first online, but it’s reactor #4 blew up in 1986 after operators botched a safety test. Of all manmade environmental catastrophes in human history, Chernobyl is considered to have caused the most lasting impact. Approximately 350,000 people were forced to evacuate after the explosion.
But, disaster be damned, a couple of hundred elderly people have retuned and live surrounded by devestation. At first Ukrainian officials discouraged them, but they soon turned a blind eye, allowing them  to stay, realizing that  they prefer to die on their own soil rather than of a broken heart in anonymous city suburbs.

@thephotosociety @natgeocreative @natgeo #Chernobyl #Ukraine #returnee #radiation #contamination #disaster #nuclear #Exclusionzone

After a sunset bath, a Cossack horse and rider rear from the waters of the fabled Don River; the River’s namesake, the Don Cossacks, settled the fertile river valley in the 16th and 17th Centuries.

In his great novel, And quiet flows the Don, Mikhail Sholokhov depicts the lives, struggles and fate of Don Cossacks during the First World War, the Russian Revolution, and Russian Civil War. Three decades later Sholokhov was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature for this novel.  @thephotosociety @natgeo #Russia #donriver #Cossacks #horse #bathing #rider

An empty music festival, cleared by heavy rain and cold temperatures. At dawn, drowning his sorrow, a lone holdout seeks solace in a bottle of liquor.
In Russia, several music festivals follow in the footsteps of the legendary, but now defunct Empty Hill Festival, which used to attract up to 40.000 visitors annually and mimicked Woodstock. One of the successors is the Byt Dobru (Good for Everybody, Be Good) festival, which is being held in different locations every year to reduce the damage and stress on the environment. This year’s festival will take place in August near the town of Balabanovo, 90 km from Moscow. Over the course of 3 days, several bands play on multiple stages in forested areas as the predominantly young visitors camp out in tents.

Generally the festival gives off a feeling of being thrown back to the hippie days, but two years ago cold temperatures and near constant rain turned the areas in front of the stages into unpleasant mud fields.

@thephotosociety @natgeo @natgeocreative #Russia #bytdobru #musicfestival #mud

Halos of a mural frame the heads of two priests while they are preparing for the Holy Communion during Mass at the Assumption Cathedral in Moscow’s Kremlin. These preparations take place at the Holy Table, considered the most sacred part of any Orthodox church. It is located inside the altar behind the Iconostasis, an area only those who receive the specific blessing of the priest or Patriarch may enter - which I managed to get due to the tireless efforts of my researcher.

The Cathedral of the Assumption (or Cathedral of Dormition) is the Kremlin's oldest and most important church. The cathedral’s stone foundation was laid in 1326 but its main construction took place between 1475 and 1479.

@thephotosociety @natgeocreative @natgeo #Moscow #Russia #russianorthodoxchurch #assumptioncathedral

A domesticated feral pig seemingly enjoys being examined by three young Munduruku boys in a small settlement along the Canuma river in the Brazilian Amazon.

The Munduruku live by hunting, fishing, gathering, and agriculture. Historically a people with a warrior tradition, today the wars they wage are to guarantee the integrity of their territories, threatened by pressures from the illegal gold-panning and hydroelectric projects.

@thephotosociety @natgeocreative #Brazil #pig #Munduruku #Canuma #Amazon

On July 6th many citizens of Kazakhstan flock to their  capital to celebrate the Day of Astana. The city of Astana - handpicked in the 1990s by President Nursultan Nazarbayev to be the new capital of Kazakhstan - “is brash and grandiose, and wildly attractive to young strivers seeking success” (John Lancaster). In just 25 years the place has become a futuristic city, risen from a forsaken landscape and post-Soviet rubble.  It has exploded in population and is now the country’s second largest city, home to more than 1 million people and an avant-garde architecture.
The Baiterek monument and observation tower (in the center) has become the symbol of Astana and was supposedly  sketched out by President Nazarbayev himself.  It is a modernistic representation of an old Kazakh myth, depicting the tree of life and a golden ball that symbolizes the a golden egg laid by the legendary bird, Samruk. However, some of Astana citizens jokingly call it 'Chupa Chups' because of its similarity to the popular lollipop.  @thephotosociety @natgeotravel @natgeo @natgeocreative #Astana #Kasakhstan #modern #architecture #Baiterek

The Crimea is known for its beautiful landscape and pleasant climate. At 1,234m, Ai-Petri is not the highes mountain in Crimea, but with its sparkling white limestone peak and jagged "teeth" it is certainly one of the most spectacular. Made of the weathered remains of a huge coral reef formed millions of years ago, when this area was under the sea, the limestone here is exceptionally dense - hence its longevity.
@natgeo @natgeocreative @thephotosociety #ukraine #russia #mountain #landscape #view #Ai-Petri

At night the monument to Marshal Zhukov casts an eerie shadow onto the wall of the State Historical Museum in Moscow. In honor of the 50th anniversary of the Victory in the Great Patriotic War, the Russian term for WWII, the monument to Marshal Zhukov was officially established on May 8, 1995. Visible through the Resurrection Gates is Saint Basil’s Cathedral on Red Square.
@thephotosociety @natgeo @natgeocreative #MarshalZhukov #Moscow #StateHistoricalMuseum #Russia

At the La Gacilly-Baden Photo Festival in Austria a visitor admires of a huge photograph by Paras Chandaria, depicting a giraffe in a nature reserve outside Nairobi, Kenya.

Until September 30th, photographers from all over the world show fascinating work in 35 outdoor exhibitions focusing on geography and the environment. Roughly 2000 photographs in total are displayed in an open air gallery of 2.5 miles length, transforming the gardens, alleyways and squares of the city of Baden into a picture city.

The festival La Gacilly-Baden Photo marks the beginning of a pan-European collaboration between the French photo festival @lagacillyphoto, the Austrian photographer and publisher Lois Lammerhuber and the city of Baden. In 2004, Jacques Rocher set up a photo festival in his birthplace of La Gacilly, Brittany. From his conviction that it is our duty to search for humanistic and sustainable concepts for dealing with nature and living together in peace, he has shaped the festival into an event combining photojournalism, documentary and artistic photography with social relevance. From now on - with a time delay of one year - the exhibitions will travel from La Gacilly, France to Baden, Austria.

@thephotosociety @paraschamdaria #Baden #Austria #photofestival #LaGacillyBadenPhoto

An alien landscape in Southern California. The mixture of extreme salinity, a high concentration of nutrients from agricultural run offs, algae pigmentation and pollutants turn the water in areas that were once part of the Salton Sea bright orange.  A victim of geography and hard-ball politics, the Salton Sea is California’s largest, most troubled lake. It lies 227 feet below sea level with no outlets and very thirsty neighbors, including a billion dollar farm economy in the bone-dry Imperial Valley, more than 100 golf courses in the adjacent Coachella Valley.

With two feeder rivers and no outlet, the water level depends on evaporation, which in return increases the Salton Sea’s salinity. Now a concern is looming. Already 30% saltier than the Pacific Ocean, the salinity in the Salton Sea is expected to further increase, potentially killing all of its life and turning it into a biologically dead sea.
Over the last 15 years I have made numerous trips to the Salton Sea, photographing for @natgeo, German Geo, for personal projects, and teaching photo workshops on location there.

@thephotosociety  @natgeocreative @natgeo #SaltonSea #California #environment

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