St. Basil's Cathedral in Moscow from 1984.

A chance to tour St. Petersburg (then Leningrad) and Moscow in 1984 while I was a student in Germany was not to be missed.

Our group of students was led to museums, which I and a few others skipped to take in the REAL city sights. St. Basil’s Cathedral is of course THE sight in Moscow.

The subject: St Basil’s Cathedral in Red Square in Moscow, Russia, is what you think of when thinking of Moscow, right? A colorful and polished clump of towers and bulbs in vibrant colors, right? Red, yellow, blue, all looking good enough to eat, right? But it wasn’t always so.

The inspiration: When we passed through Moscow in 1984, St. Basil’s Cathedral was a spectacular sight, yes indeed. But brightly Disneyland-esque and just as polished as a Mouseketeer would have it? Hardly. The gold shone underneath the grime, and the reds were more brick-like in color. Nevertheless, it dominated the expansive square and was a sight to behold.

Artist’s tools: I shot slide film back then on my old Nikon FM SLR. Oh, I loved that camera. All manual, interchangeable lenses, a no-fuss mechanic, and a super compact and durable body. Too bad it was stolen a few years later. With my background in journalism and influence from photojournalism, I tended to shoot strictly wider angle. Without remembering exactly, this could have been an 18mm lens, although I sometimes switched out to a 50mm.

I recently found my trove of slides from that trip to the Soviet Union in 1984, and we scanned them all the best we could, thus the slightly grainy appearance. That’s what happens when slides are left unprotected for 30-plus years! But the “vintage” look is rather quaint, and all I had to do with tone down the exposure a bit on this close-up shot of the spires. Why ruin the vintage look.

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