Czech journalist and amateur photographer Petr Kubát bought his first professional camera in 2013 to take pictures of his new-born son. Within weeks he was hooked, moving from family pics to landscape and architecture photos. In 2016 The Guardian picked one his photos for its Best Photographs of the Day collection. Now Kubát has a photo exhibition in his home town České Budějovice.
Dreamy images of towns at daybreak or dusk, chapels nestling in the picturesque South Bohemian countryside, forest streams tumbling over rocks and clouds reflected on the water surface -Petr Kubát’s photos are powerful and haunting images of places that are close to his heart.
A journalist with the Mladá fronta Dnes daily, Kubát says he discovered his passion for photography relatively recently and more or less taught himself after buying his first professional camera.
“I can’t say that I was fascinated by photography since early childhood or that the love was instilled in me by my father or grandfather. I would take holiday pics like everyone else and I liked taking pictures of architecture but I wasn’t very good at it. It wasn’t until our son Lukas was born that I decided to buy a quality camera for family photos. And soon I was really into it, buying books about photography, watching instruction videos and so on. I was totally hooked and within a year or so I had created my own style – I knew I wanted to do landscape and architecture.”
Like so many others Petr Kubát started out by putting his photos on social networks for friends and followers and as more and more people started liking his work he gained the self-confidence to expand, putting his work on special photo sites. It was at one of those sites that The Guardian discovered his collection of dawn and dusk photos of places in Ceske Budejovice and selected one for its Best Photographs of the Day collection.
“These photo banks or photo sites helped me get noticed. One of the best known is 5000 PX which is used both by professional and amateur photographers to exhibit or sell their photos. That’s where my Ceske Budejovice collection got noticed by an editor from The Guardian and how it ended up on Best Photographs of the Day. To me that was absolutely incredible news.”
České Budějovice in South Bohemia is Petr Kubát’s home town and he knows it like the back of his hand. He captures both familiar and hidden spots at a time when few people are around –at daybreak and dusk in order to capture the special magic that the changing light creates. Typically his photos have an aura of gold or rosy-purple shades.
“Despite the technology available nowadays, light is still the most important thing when you are looking to make a great photograph – you need light and composition. When those two factors come together you can capture something special. That’s why I take photos just before or during sunrise and when dusk is falling. The hour when the sun rises and sets is dubbed the “golden hour” for good reason – everything is basked in a mellow golden glow and when the sun sets over the horizon you get what we call the “blue hour” when everything is tinged with rosy-purple colours. Those are my favourite times of day.”
His current exhibition of photos – most of which are from South Bohemia and in particular his home town Ceske Budejovice – is now on show at Fér Café in the said town. Kubát, who only set up his own photo web page last year is still modest about his talent and says it was fans who led him to show his photos at a proper exhibition.
“I think the decisive factor was my fans and followers who look at my work on my website and social networks. I would get a lot of positive feedback and many of them would say they enjoy seeing my work online, but it would be so much better to see the pictures on a bigger scale at a proper exhibition. I already had a small exhibition in Český Krumlov, but never one here. So that’s how I come to be exhibiting at Fer Café. I like the atmosphere of the place and I think the photos look very good here.”
Visitors to the café can admire his collection of South Bohemian photos – the town of České Budějovice, Český Krumlov and Hluboká chateau as well as photos of the surrounding countryside. Kubát says he goes off the beaten tourist tracks to find gems that are hidden deep in South Bohemia.
“I have found so many beautiful spots in South Bohemia that I didn’t know about and that deserve to be captured on film: wonderful landscapes, nestling villages, churches and wayside shrines. It was thanks to my passion for photography that I discovered the Falls of St. Wolfgang near Vyšší Brod that’s a great place when you want one of those autumn pictures of water with the leaves turning red and yellow. I like taking pictures of sleepy villages and one of my favourite pictures is one of a lake with a village on each side linked by a fairy-tale bridge. I managed to take a night photo of that in the spring of last year, when the conditions for it were just right.”
Many people who see Kubát’s photos want to know to whether –and to what extent - he enhances them with the help of an online editor. Here’s his answer.
Petr Kubát’s photo exhibition –called simply South Bohemia – is on show at Fér Café in České Budějovice until the end of February.
“I do. Especially with landscape pictures online editing is important. You have to find the right tools to enhance your photo to perfection and bring out the things you want. It is very important not to overdo it, because you want it to still be a photograph. But some online editing is very important – I would say that nowadays you can’t produce a top quality landscape photo without it.”