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Flagship of the Aral Sea fishing fleet. Photo © Bjorn Holland

Flagship of the Aral Sea fishing fleet - Bjorn Holland, 2008

1 October 2013

This is the Karakalpakstan once the flagship of the Aral Sea fishing fleet. She was named after the north-western autonomous republic of Uzbekistan.

I took the photograph during a self-funded trip to Uzbekistan, and whilst my visit to the Aral Sea was certainly one of the highlights, it was also a rather saddening experience.

The Aral Sea used to be the fourth largest lake in the world. However, due to non-sustainable agriculture (trying to grow rice, melons and cotton in the desert), the giant lake has been in constant decline since the 1960s. It is now less than 10% of its original size and considered one of the worst man-made environmental disasters on the planet.

One of the places I visited was Muynak which used to be a thriving port and lakeside resort. The view from the harbour today is of the rusting hulks of stranded Soviet-era trawlers and of desert. The lake itself has disappeared completely from view, and can only be reached after a rough two or three hour drive through the sand dunes.

Whilst in Muynak, I was invited to stay with a local family who introduced me to one of their neighbours, called Mahmoud. Mahmoud’s father worked as a cinema projectionist in the days when the fishermen spent long periods of time out at sea and a weekly visit to the mobile cinema was a welcome distraction.

One night, during a full moon, I climbed down the old harbor wall onto what was previously the sea floor where I took night shots of the abandoned fishing boats.

I’ve always been fascinated by night photography. So wherever I go, and by whatever means I travel, I carry a small but sturdy carbon fibre tripod and a strong torch in my camera bag.

For this image I combined the light of the full moon and some “painting with light” using the torch. The exposure was 3 minutes at f8 at 100 ASA, the lens a 24mm wide angle on a Canon 5D.

Bjorn Holland is a freelance photographer based in London. He specialises in travel, landscape and editorial photography. Initially from Germany, he’s been living in the UK since 2000.

Bjorn began his photographic career working as a professional retoucher. In 2002 he graduated with a BA in photography and was one of the Metro Imaging Student Award winners. He retains a keen interest in digital imaging, and when not behind the camera works as a freelance retoucher and photoshop tutor.

Photographer since 2002, EPUK member since 2011.

See more work by Bjorn Holland

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