I recently explored a part of Kyrgyzstan that was very much undiscovered. For 6 days I explored the south shore of Issyk Kul lake (one of the biggest lakes in the world). As you may have seen on my previous series about Kyrgyzstan, the country has a wide variety of landscapes ranging from glaciers, lakes, high mountains and canyons. You can find it all in just this one country. For this trip, however, we focused mainly on canyons, most of which were totally unexplored, even by the local population.
Exploring places that are non-existent on the Internet is very challenging. I scouted most places with google earth. During this small trip we came upon many interesting structures and canyons. We mainly scouted during the day and shot during the good light and the night. It’s amazing to capture places that have never been shot (or even seen) before. Lots of these places do not even have official names. We had great fun making up names for the different structures and canyons that we discovered along the way. The thought of giving places names and hoping that people will utilize them years from now is exciting. ‘The Iceberg, ‘Mars Canyon’ and the’ Canyon of Forgotten Rivers’ are just some of them.
For the night shots we scouted interesting shapes and structures of canyons during the day, planned the shots with apple like PhotoPills and came back during the night and early morning to get the milky way shots. During this season the milky way core only rises above the horizon about 4 in the morning, so to get these we had to get up very early and spent some hours in the cold. It was great to walk around in pure darkness with around -10 degrees Celsius. There was not much wind so it was not too cold. It was like walking on another planet between all these interesting red rocks with my flashlight.
As mentioned before, this trip was focused on the Canyons on the shore of Issyk Kul Lake. Kyrgyzstan has so much to offer and I am already looking forward to going back in June.
For now, please enjoy this unique canyon series that consists for the most part of drone imaginary, abstracts and night photography.
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The Night Explorer
We found this rock during a daytime scouting session in an area that we later called Mars Canyon. This canyon has a great variety of interestingly shaped rocks. This rock being one of them. We named it ‘The Iceberg.’ I discovered that the Milk Way would line up in this shot in the early morning so we later went back at around 4 AM to shoot it again.
The Canyon of Forgotten Rivers
This huge canyon reaches as far as the eye can see with an amazing backdrop of 5000+ meter peaks as a backdrop. It’s really impressive. Walking on ground level will easily get you lost. We named this canyon the Canyon of Forgotten Rivers because these canyons were probably shaped from all kinds of little streams that once came from the glaciers into Issyk Kul Lake which you can see on the top left.
This was again a rock we scouted during the day. The structure looks like fingers pointing up in the sky, so we named this rock ‘The Fingers’. This is a star trail image taken over a period of 30 minutes.
A canyon we explored near the end of our trip. It cannot be seen from any road and is located deep into some mountains on the northwest of Issyk Kul lake. It’s size is impressive. This is just a very small part of the canyon. Look on the bottom right where you can see our SUV parked, to have a bit of sense of scale. This canyon has a wide variety of colors. It looks amazing from the sky.
A daytime aerial of (as we named it) Mars Canyon. This canyon has a bunch of epic shapes that we later also shot during the night time. We could access it via a ‘road’, that was actually not a road but a dried up river (see it on the right).
It was the end of winter during my visit and there was still snow in some areas. The melting of the snow in these areas takes long as it’s still around -10C degrees during the night, but above zero Celsius during the day. I saw this interesting snow pattern that mirrored the rock shape in front. Taken at 12mm and getting very close to the foreground I shot this mirrored composition with the sun just peaking through.
End of Day
The last light hitting the ridges of the endless canyons.
Sunset at the shore of Issyk Kul lake with endless shapes and canyons reaching as far as the eye can see. It was a very clear that day. You can see the huge mountain backdrop in the distance. An impressive sight.
An aerial view of Mars Canyon that offers a wide variety of canyon scenery. In this part there was still quite some snow creating an interesting contrast between the red shapes.
Flying the drone in extreme conditions. It suddenly started to snow while we were exploring deep into a canyon. Flying the drone and shooting some photos and videos with these ‘unique’ conditions was great to see. Luckily the drone survived!
These canyons come to life during the night. By playing with light and shadows all these structures start to look like creatures.
A black and white abstract of the textures of the canyons.
We found a lot of interesting shapes and textures that looked particularly interesting from the sky. This one reminded me of a dragon.
The same location as picture ‘The Night Explorer’, taken during a different time of the night. We went back here because I saw that the Milky Way lined up with this composition around 4 AM in the morning.
Details of the shapes of Mars Canyon.
The Endless Veins of the Canyon of Forgotten Rivers after sunset showing beautiful contrast with the red shapes and snowy mountains in the back.
In Skazka aka Fairytale canyon there are lots of interesting shapes along with foreground to play around with.
When I flew my drone over canyons, I found lots of interesting shapes (some of them I scouted via Google Earth). This one reminded me of a footstep.
Red and black canyons forming a nice contrast with a swirling river/road in the middle of nowhere. We used dried up rivers as roads to reach some of these canyons.
Black and white abstract of an interesting shape seen from the sky.
Seeing the milky way rise in the Fairytale canyon at 4 AM was a magical experience.
A close-up shot of another canyon rich in details and colors.
Top-down view of the Canyon of Forgotten Rivers.