Blog posts


Leaving Kazakhstan (or not)

This is a (nearly) aerial view of Almaty at night, as seen from about 10,000 feet, on the road to Kosmostansia and Big Almaty Peak.
I have a long painful story to tell, but it hasn’t ended yet, so here is a brief version:

I spent Thursday packing in preparation for leaving Kazakhstan. I had a ticket on the Friday early morning flight from Almaty to Kyiv on UM Air. 3:30 am departure. But when I got to the airport at 1:30 am, there was no sign of the flight. In fact, no sign of the airlines.

After some asking around, I finally learned my flight was cancelled. Not ‘cancelled’ in the usual sense, due to bad weather or equipment failure. Cancelled. Period. UM Air used to fly 3 roundtrip flights a week, Ukraine to Kazakhstan and back. Now they fly twice. Friday is the unlucky day that got cut from the team. I’m the unlucky guy who didn’t know. Sure my ticket says Friday, but that doesn’t help much if there is no one to take it from me. Next flight: Sunday. So much for my plans to visit Chernobyl on Saturday.

Then I ran into problems caused by the fact that I had left behind all my remaining Kazakh tenge. And I had no more minutes on my cell phone. Eventually I made it back home (glad to still have a home to return to, since Amy and Jacob don’t leave until Tuesday), climbed up the four flights of stairs with my four heavy bags and went to bed.

And now it is Sunday morning. My new flight, also scheduled to leave at 3:30 am, is currently 8 hours delayed. The plane is still in Kyiv, as far as anyone can tell me.


Although I’ve had mixed feelings about leaving Kazakhstan, I’ve discovered that there is nothing like getting stuck somewhere 2 days longer than you’d planned to make you eager to leave.



I just returned from a fascinating week in the Semey Polygon, the former Soviet nuclear testing zone. I'll get some pictures up eventually. The next 2 weeks, I'll be traveling: Kyiv, Chernobyl, Frankfurt, Boston, Detroit, and Ann Arbor, before we finally land back in Madison in early September.

So don't expect to hear from me for awhile.


Chernobyl panoramas

Boats used in the clean-up after the Chernobyl nuclear accident in 1986 were too radioactive to continue using. Now they are rusting away in the Chernobyl former town harbor.
The experience of visiting Chernobyl is hard to capture in a photograph. Everywhere you look, there are buildings crumbling, courtyards becoming forests, abandoned vehicles, rusted out and stripped of spare parts. It can be creepy, walking through apartments where families once lived, bits of clothes and furniture still scattered about. It can be remarkably tranquil, walking down a once-main street with moss growing on the pavement and no sounds but the birds.

Photographing the absence of people is like photographing radiation: it is tough to show what you can't see.

I wanted to show people what the Chernobyl zone actually looks like now. I decided I needed to step outside of the usual 35mm rectangle to do it.

So this summer I have been working with web designer Dave Menninger. We've created a web page with a series of panoramas showing Chernobyl and Pripyat, the town where Chernobyl workers once lived:

We'll continue to add new panoramas to the page as we have time to work on them. Let me know what you think.

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