Winter on St. Petersburg’s Neva River

There's something about the tone of this photo of a tree on the banks of the Neva river that really captures my memory of the Russian winter.
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A solitary tree, bare of leaves in winter, on the bank of the Neva River in St Petersburg. Taken from near the Hermitage Museum. (© David Coleman)

I took this black and white shot of a tree on the banks of the Neva River in St. Petersburg back in the winter of 1997. There’s something about the tone that for me really captures my memory of the St. Petersburg winter. Having grown up in Australia, I was not at all used to the kind of bone-chilling cold of a far northern winter. That said, I loved my visit to the city. While much more European than Moscow, it was nevertheless a fascinating place. One of the things I hadn’t realized until visiting was just how much the city was infused with water. There are apparently more bridges in St. Petersburg than Venice (or any other city, for that matter). Although I confess I didn’t count them to verify, it is very much a city of waterfronts, which isn’t something I expected.

This particular tree is part of a row of trees lining the waterfront outside the Hermitage, the massive and renowned museum.

At the time I was there, Russia was still very much reeling from the end of the Cold War. Day-to-day life for the average Russian was grim. Shop shelves were often bare and buildings neglected. I was talking to some university professors who hadn’t been paid in almost a year–something that wasn’t at all uncommon for anyone on the government payroll.

This shot was taken with Nikon FM • 50mm f/1.8 • Ilford HP5.

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