Kolga Tbilisi 2021 Photo Competition Winners Highlight Georgian Talent

The Kokga Tbilisi Awards, now in its 20th year, is the largest and most prestigious photo competition in the country of Georgia. Not to be confused with the state of Georgia, the awards intend to link international photography to Georgia. The organizers of the Kolga Tbilisi photo competition have been hosting the presentation of the […]

Kolga Tbilisi 2021 Photo Competition Winners Highlight Georgian Talent

The Kokga Tbilisi Awards, now in its 20th year, is the largest and most prestigious photo competition in the country of Georgia. Not to be confused with the state of Georgia, the awards intend to link international photography to Georgia.

The organizers of the Kolga Tbilisi photo competition have been hosting the presentation of the winners in Cologne, Germany as part of its intent to foster the international position of Georgia. This year’s competition was judged by an international jury: Vanessa Winship and George Georgiou, both photographers from the U.K. were joined by Tina Schelhorn, the curator of the Galerie Lichtblick, Kolga Tbilisi Photo in Germany, Stefen Chow, a photographer from China, and Jens Friis, a publisher from Denmark.

This year’s competition broke out into five categories: Documentary Series, Reportage, Conceptual Photo Project, Best One Shot, and Mobile Photo – One Shot.

Entry fees were used to fund for the winners’ prize fund, a total of $6,500. The winners in the first three categories received $1,500 each, the Best One Shot winner received $1,000, and the Mobile Photo – one shot category winner received $500.

Below are the winning images from each category.

Documentary Series

Photographer Emily Ducke was crowned the winner of the Documentary Series category for the series titled “The River Between.”

“The Ket River was once a major Siberian thoroughfare. Though serpentine and relatively small, it connected two of Russia’s biggest river basins, the Ob and Yenisey. In a region where extremes of weather turn overland roads from inaccessible ice to muddy rubble and back, and where driving distances are measured in days and weeks, the corridor the Ket River created was a key resource.

“But when the Trans-Siberian railway was built, at the start of the previous century, west-to-east traffic on the Ket River – the farmers and traders and Tsarist troops – began to dwindle.

“Fewer and fewer travelers needed the Ket, and today its banks are home to just a few scattered and solitary settlements.”

KET RIVER, Russia – July 06, 2016. Ksenia stands in smoke to escape swarms of mosquitoes after a swim. Her family left the regional capital of Tomsk just a few weeks before. They moved to live on an isolated weather station on the banks of the Ket River, exchanging urban comforts for the liberty of a life in the wild, away from the world.
UST-OZERNOYE, Russia – July 06, 2016. Ksenia’s parents, Yevgeny Sadokhin and Olga Voroshilova, pose for a portrait. The family left busy, urban Tomsk for the banks of the Ket River, to man an isolated meteorological station with no phone signal and no internet line. For them, the Ket River’s remoteness offered the promise of personal freedom.
AIDARA, Russia – July 24, 2016. A boy on a motorcycle moves cows from one pasture to another near the village of Aidara.
AIDARA, Russia – July 18, 2016. Stepan Borisov, right, and Antonina Borisova sit with their granddaughter in their home in Aidara. The community of about 150 people is made up mainly of Old Believers, a religious group that has historically settled in Russia’s most remote corners to avoid persecution. They live by the strict rules of their faith.
KATAYGA, Russia – January 18, 2018. Smoke rises from chimneys in the logging settlement of Katayga on the Ket River banks, as the temperature on a January night dropped to minus 40 degrees Celsius.
KATAYGA, Russia – January 17, 2018. Workers in the Katayga settlement prepare logs for transportation. There is no bridge across the Ket River near Katayga. Loggers must wait for winter temperatures to turn the river into a solid, icy road in order to finally stack the lumber on trucks and send it across the river for distribution.
UST-OZERNOYE, Russia – July 05, 2016. Father and son pose for a portrait at their riverside home. They live a reclusive, hermetic life on the Ket River, fishing and growing their own food.
KATAYGA, Russia – July 10, 2016. Worshippers gather after a Sunday service at the Russian Orthodox church in the logging settlement of Katayga. In the absence of a priest, who did not make the six hour journey by river and road to Katayga that day, mass was led by Marina Prosukina. The religious duties she performed are normally reserved exclusively for men. But such strict rules could not withstand the remoteness of Ket — and so, along the river, a different kind of freedom was formed.
UST-OZERNOYE, Russia – July 07, 2016. Ksenia throws feathers into the air as she explores houses abandoned along the banks of the Ket River, her family’s new home as of a few weeks before.
NARYM, Russia – January 10, 2018. A man heads home after ice-fishing on the Ob River, near the mouth of the Ket River. After the construction of a canal in the late 19th century, the small and serpentine Ket River linked two of Russia’s biggest river basins, the Ob and Yenisey. As a result, it was a crucial transport corridor, and a busy route — until the Trans-Siberian Railway was built.
BELIY YAR, Russia – November 21, 2020. Boats stand on the shore of the Ket River. Residents cross the river by foot in winter, and by boat in summer. But for several weeks in autumn, when the river ice is forming, and again in spring, when it is thawing, the Ket River becomes impossible to cross. Some villages get totally cut off.
KATAYGA, Russia – January 19, 2018. A resident of the logging settlement of Katayga marks the religious festival of Epiphany, on a day when temperatures dropped to minus 45 degrees Celsius, with a traditional, icy dip.

Reportage

Photographer Alessio Paduano took top honors in this category for his series documenting the Coronavirus pandemic in Italy.

“February 21, 2020 is a central date for the Italian story related to the new coronavirus. On this date, several cases of coronavirus emerged in the Lodi area of Lombardy: these are people who do not come from China, a new outbreak whose extent is still unknown. The infection has spread to Italy, especially in the North, but also begins in other regions. On March 9, 2020 the Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, during a speech to the nation declares the entire Italian territory a “protected area”. On March 11, 2020 “World Health Organization” general director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus announced in the Geneva briefing on the coronavirus epidemic that Covid-19 “can be characterized as a pandemic situation”.

“Italy remains one of the deadliest hot spots of the coronavirus pandemic. As of March 5, 2021 more than 99,000 people have died in the country, according to Johns Hopkins University.”

Nurses take care of a patient who lie in bed inside the coronavirus intensive care unit of the “Papa Giovanni XXIII” hospital in Bergamo, Northern Italy on April 17, 2020.
A nurse takes care of a patient who lie in bed inside the coronavirus intensive care unit of the “Papa Giovanni XXIII” hospital in Bergamo, Northern Italy on April 17, 2020.
Isaia, 80 years old and suspected covid-19 positive is visited by nurses of the Italian Red Cross after an emergency call in Ranica, province of Bergamo, Northern Italy on April 11, 2020. Before the emergency call, Isaia had had a high fever for several days.
Workers carry a coffin before recovering a person’s body during the coronavirus emergency in Naples, Italy on April 1, 2020. Although the person did not die from coronavirus, the work of funeral agency officials is among those most at risk during this emergency, as often can find in contact with corpses of people who died by coronavirus and the risk of contagion is very high.
Maria, 87 years old and suspected covid-19 positive is transferred to the hospital after an emergency call to the Italian Red Cross for experiencing respiratory problems in Villa di Serio, province of Bergamo, Northern Italy on April 12, 2020.
Maria, 87 years old and suspected covid-19 positive has a respiratory crisis before being transferred to the hospital after an emergency call to the Italian Red Cross for experiencing respiratory problems in Villa di Serio, province of Bergamo, Northern Italy on April 12, 2020.
Barbara, 37 years old and suspected covid-19 positive is visited by a doctor of the USCA special care unit of ATS Bergamo after an emergency call for experiencing respiratory problems in Brignano Gera d’Adda, province of Bergamo, Northern Italy on April 17, 2020. The doctors of the USCA special care unit performs home visits to patients infected or with symptoms of Covid-19.
A patient lies in bed inside the coronavirus intensive care unit of the “Papa Giovanni XXIII” hospital in Bergamo, Northern Italy on April 17, 2020.
Father Marcello (left) and Father Mario Carminati (right) bless the coffins of coronavirus victims inside San Giuseppe church in Seriate, province of Bergamo, Northern Italy on April 15, 2020.
Giorgio and Elisabetta witness the cremation of their relative through a monitor inside a video room of the crematory in Naples, Italy on March 27, 2020. Due to the coronavirus emergency it is no longer possible to celebrate funerals inside churches and funeral processions are prohibited. In the case of cremation, relatives can greet the deceased for the last time through a monitor that shows when the coffin is introduced into the crematorium.
Alessandra, 51 years old and covid-19 positive is visited by a nurse of the Italian Red Cross after an emergency call for experiencing respiratory problems in Scanzorosciate, province of Bergamo, Northern Italy on April 19, 2020.
A funeral agency employee is seen inside the mortuary of the “Pesenti Fenaroli” hospital in Alzano Lombardo, Northern Italy, on April 13, 2020.

Conceptual Photo Project

The Conceptual photo category hosted two winners: Jennifer Crane for her series “Outlaw (and other failed portraits)” and Andrea Pietro Signori for “Suspended: The rural life of Syrian refugees in Marjayoun in the middle of the Lebanese crisis.”

First, Crane’s series:

“I consider the portrait as a trace of the body or performance for the lens. Since its inception, the photographic portrait has been used to honor or vilify the human subject. Initially my interest was in exploring family portraits this led to further explorations into portrait photographs in the public context such as museums, institutional archives and in the news media. In these images I pose my own body before the lens using a long exposure of several minutes rather than the conventional fraction of a second. They are made using wet collodion one of the first photographic processes that requires the light sensitive emulsion to stay wet while exposure is made resulting at times in presence of liquid residue markings that interrupt the surface of the image and draw attention to the materiality of photograph which in most portraits remains invisible. Through the creation of this fictional archive I seek to engage with issues of surveillance, memory, authenticity and archival practices.”

And next, Signori’s series:

“The crisis that has hit Lebanon put on knees Syrian communities. This is the case of Marjayoun where about 5000 Syrian refugees live since the war broke out in Syria in March 2011.

“Along the border between Lebanon, Israel and Syria, 860 families live in 74 informal camps.

“The families are often numerous, with many children whose majority was born in Lebanon.
They live on agriculture, serving as laborers in the service of Lebanese landowners. The salary ranges from 4000 to 5000LL which is gradually losing purchasing power. As reported by Avsi, one of the NGOs in the area, people are suffering the consequences of the heavy inflation. Since the revolution broke out the official exchange rate of 1$=8000 LL (variable every day) has been joined by a parallel market.

“The concept involves the use of nylon used to cover furniture during the move. I wanted accentuate the refugees status, the political and work suspension and the expectations, by Syrian refugees, to come back home.”

They are among the few to have a house that belongs to the owner of the countryside, granted in exchange for work. Ahmad and Lamia are cousins. They have lived in Marjayoun for 9 years. Their home in Syria was destroyed.
Marjayoun, Marjayoun district, Lebanon.
January 15, 2020
I gave directions to the subjects to pose for a portrait

Syrian refugees in Lebanon for several years
Marjayoun, Marjayoun district, Lebanon.
January 16, 2020
I gave directions to the subjects to pose for a portrait

Hamid has not received UNHCR support for 4 months at the time of the photo shoot. He has been residing in Lebanon since 2017. He Lived in Raqqa when a bomb destroyed their home. He has had a heart attack and therefore cannot work or buy the medicines he needs
Marjayoun, Marjayoun district, Lebanon.
January 16, 2020
I gave directions to the subject to pose for a portrait

Children, like their parents, work in the fields. There is a bus service for transportation to school locations (lessons are often organized in tents) but many families can not pay for the service.
Marjayoun, Marjayoun district, Lebanon.
January 14, 2020
I gave directions to the subjects to pose for a portrait

They arrived in Lebanon in 2011, at the start of the war in Syria. In 2013, Siham’s husband was in their tent, sick. He was making tea and our son accidentally started a fire. For 20 days they moved from one place to another, because the army did not allow them to camp permanently
Marjayoun, Marjayoun district, Lebanon.
January 15, 2020
I gave directions to the subjects to pose for a portrait

As a result of his father’s difficulties, Abbas cannot pay for school transport by spending much of his time looking after his father
Marjayoun, Marjayoun district, Lebanon.
January 16, 2020
I gave directions to the subject to pose for a portrait

Best One Shot

Photographer Caspar Claasen took top honors in this category for his photo below titled “Grandmother’s Hug.” No additional context for the photo was provided.

Mobile Photo – One Shot.

Photographer Zuka Kotrikadze won this category with her photo below titled “The Tsereteli Station.” No additional context for the photo was provided.

To see the entire set of finalists and peruse the competition as a whole, make sure to visit the Kolga Tbilisi Photo Awards website here.


Image credits: All photos individually credited and provided courtesy of the Kolga Tbilsi Photo Awards.

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Laowa Argus 33mm f/0.95 CF APO Review: So. Much. Bokeh.

Venus Optics’ Laowa lenses have been growing in both notoriety and popularity over the last few years thanks to their nearly constant stream of new and interesting optics for a wide variety of mounts. The company’s latest is backed by the high-quality promise of its new Argus line: the Laowa Argus 33mm f/0.95 CF APO […]

Laowa Argus 33mm f/0.95 CF APO Review: So. Much. Bokeh.

Venus Optics’ Laowa lenses have been growing in both notoriety and popularity over the last few years thanks to their nearly constant stream of new and interesting optics for a wide variety of mounts. The company’s latest is backed by the high-quality promise of its new Argus line: the Laowa Argus 33mm f/0.95 CF APO for APS-C systems.

The incredibly fast $500 50mm equivalent manual lens boasts an Apochromatic (APO) design — which should prevent or correct any chromatic and spherical aberrations — and is targeted at video shooters using APS-C systems. APS-C sensors generally means smaller optics, but the Argus bucks that trend and is by no means small. Weighing in at 590 grams (~20.8 ounces), you’ll definitely notice it making your camera a tad front heavy when attached on pretty much all modern APS-C cameras.

As for using with it, since my own work focuses mostly on still images instead of video (and PetaPixel as a whole focuses on still photography first and foremost), this review will be mostly from the perspective of a still shooter.

Build Quality and Design

The 33mm Argus is a great feeling lens with a solid metal build and mount giving it a “high-end” feel. Even though this lens is meant for smaller APS-C systems, the lens looks and feels just like its bigger cinema counterparts. The lens itself is quite sturdy with a smooth “clickless” aperture and focus ring, a sleek blue ring at the end of the barrel, and is finished with a rectangular lens hood for a little cinematic flair. The focus ring has just enough tension to feel a little resistance when making adjustments, while the aperture ring is left feeling slightly looser by comparison. Overall though, it’s wonderfully machined and feels great.

The only thing that threw me off on the aesthetic was the lens hood. Maybe my review sample is an outlier, but for some reason, it just does not sit symmetrically on the lens. That is to say, it sat just ever so slightly skewed to the right, and while this had absolutely zero impact on the shots I took, this tilt just kicked my OCD into overdrive and drove me crazy every time I had it mounted on the lens. It bothered me to such a degree that I just did not end up using it.

Focus and Aperture

Like many of the Laowa lenses in Venus Optics’s lineup, the 33mm f/0.95 Argus is a manual focus lens only. After weeks of using and testing cameras that specifically tout the speed of their autofocus systems, using this manual lens was actually kind of refreshing. Enabling focus peaking is a must when shooting at such wide-open apertures as the f/0.95 offered here, but even then, simply breathing can make you miss the shot so, be prepared to fire a few extra frames in order to assure you’ve nailed that perfect focus.

A bit of a frustrating point with this lens is despite the large and smooth focusing ring, there is an excessive amount of throw in it.

I practically have to stop and take a break every time I’d adjust from near to far focusing. You effectively have to rotate the focus ring almost entirely around (270 degrees) to go from the close 0.35 meter to infinity focus. If this were in a cinema rig that takes advantage of a pulling unit, this wouldn’t be an issue, but most shooters will definitely have to take two twists when quickly adjusting focus distance and likely you’ll miss some key moments if you’re shooting anything that’s not sitting still.

The extra pull does have some usefulness when you’re focusing up close as it allows you to really fine tune things, but if you’re using it as more of a walkabout lens, get working on your forearm strength.

As I mentioned above, the aperture ring is clickless which is ideal for video and will work great if the lens is mounted in a focus pulling kit or gimbal, but as a photographer, it was incredibly easy to accidentally shift the f-stop without immediately noticing. There were countless times while using this lens that I would set it to f/0.95 and it would shift to f/1.4 or f/2.8 by accident and I wouldn’t see it until I reviewed the shots. While I can see that having a clickless aperture is hugely useful in some cases, I think Laowa would have been better served giving us a click and de-click switch to make the lens more versatile like Sony does with its lenses. When in permanent de-clicked mode, it just feels like a cinema lens and not one that is tailored for photographers, which is a shame given the quality of images (more on that below).

Image Quality

How does this lens perform, especially considering the APO designation they claim? While we have not directly compared it yet to Mitakon or 7artisans rivals, from what I did shoot with the lens I found it to be surprisingly good, especially wide open in hard lighting situations. It was rather windy when I did some of the floral shots so nailing the focus was a challenge wide open, but the images were still pretty sharp and clean in the corners stepped up to f/2.8 but beyond that things got a little soft.

Does it perform the best here? No, but let’s be real: people don’t buy f/0.95 lenses for sharp images edge to edge at all apertures. They buy them for that super dreamy bokeh to draw attention to a subject that is very likely more centrally located in the frame. If it’s decently sharp there, that’s a win when the quality of the defocused area is nearly as important as what is in focus. While you can stop down with a lens like this, it’s not why you get one.

And speaking of those defocused areas, the bokeh on this lens is the reason to get it: it’s so dang nice. I did not notice any glaring rings or harsh spotting and only appreciated a soft, buttery goodness that the bokeh-addicts will absolutely love. I can see the Argus being used to create some incredibly dreamy portraits and even more interesting texture-driven and printable works of art.

The Apochromatic design of the lens supposedly ensures less color fringing and a much better color performance overall when compared to other fast lenses of similar focal length and aperture. This does not mean it will be sharper, only that you can expect better color accuracy in those extra shallow depth of field moments. Will there be vignetting when shooting wide open? Absolutely, but nothing unfamiliar and unexpected from a lens this shallow. The difference from the center to the corner edge is maybe about a stop of light when shooting closer objects and about two stops when shooting wide open for “landscape” images, but in both scenarios, the loss is easily recoverable in post.

Sample Images

Things I Liked

  1. Gorgeous bokeh
  2. Solid metal body and lens hood
  3. Smooth focus ring
  4. Sharper than I expected
  5. Chromatic abberation was minimal
  6. Great when set in a focus/aperture pulling kit for video
  7. Affordable price for a nifty fifty equivalent lens at f/0.95

Things I Didn’t Like

  1. Heavier than I expected for an APS-C lens
  2. Clickless Aperture ring seems like a cool idea, but is frustrating in practice
  3. The amount of focus throw is almost obscene
  4. Crooked Lens hood drove me crazy
  5. Great for video, iffy for still work

Super Bokeh, But Is It Useful For Still Work?

The Laowa Argus 33mm f/0.95 CF APO is the company’s first entry in its series of “high quality” lenses under the Argus branding. It seems like a fantastic lens for videographers and is definitely a good sign of things to come from the company. While there are a few things I did not enjoy about this lens — the tilted lens hood, the amount of focus throw, and the “loose” aperture ring that would occasionally mess up my shots — I still think it can be a fantastic addition to have in your APS-C kit. This opinion leans even more positive if you’re a video shooter. For photographers specifically, its quirks can be annoying, but perhaps worth it for the bokeh it produces.

Are there Alternatives?

This lens is rather unique in its positioning with its only real rivals being similar lenses from Mitakon and 7artisans which have pretty good reputations for the most part. Venus Optics claims its control of aberrations is superior and has many samples to back that up, but it will be up to you to decide based on the images I show here and any samples the company has shared.

Should You Buy It?

Yes, for the most part. If you are a hybrid shooter that does both video and stills, then the Laowa Argus CF 33mm f/0.95 APO lens would definitely be a welcome addition to your kit for only $500. On the other hand, if you focus solely on stills, there are other options out there with autofocus that will treat you better for “in the moment” and action-based shooting situations. You’ll just have to settle for f/1.4 or f/1.8 and miss out on some of that extra bokeh found here.

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