Elizjum – Capturing life in Paradise

By Joke Van Damme | Posted at: September 17, 2022

In ancient Greece, the Elysian Fields represented the closest thing to heaven. It was a paradise where the most heroic and virtuous souls would reside after they died. But you don’t have to die to experience paradise, say Polish nature photographers Lukasz Boch and Marcin Baranowski. In fact, it’s often right around the corner. That’s why they created ‘Elizjum’, a place to share the magic of Polish nature through images and stories, and exchange knowledge about the art of nature photography.

Family life

“Most people are unaware of the wealth and beauty hidden in a nearby forest, backwater, or even a small brook. They know all kinds of exotic animals like elephants and lions, but very little about nature around them, the plants, the rivers and birds. That’s why we want to share more than just beautiful pictures”, says Lukasz. “The stories are just as important.”

Lukasz and Marcin create intimate portraits of several bird species by showing their family life: from birth and nourishing their chicks in spring to sometimes migration in autumn. “Spending long weeks with these families, we participate emotionally in the lives of these creatures”, Lukasz continues. “I often camp out for weeks to stay close to the nests and see what happens. I believe that we can bring people into that moment and let them experience what nature is about. Each picture becomes an emotion, an experience. It heals and creates respect for life.”

Herons and terns are two beloved subjects. “We always laugh and say we found the herons in Mordor. It’s this very smelly island, where you constantly hear thousands of birds screaming, with poop and fish everywhere. I stayed there for 8 days and climbed a dead tree to a height of 50 m, to find a position in which I could photograph several families.

Terns have a beautiful courtship and very funny, charming little chicks. We look for colonies every year to spend time with and try to make campers and fishermen aware of their presence and vulnerability. The floating hides allow us to picture them on a sand island, on gravel and in rivers. They’ve had a rough time the past year, with many storms and minks destroying the nests.”

Fascinated by forests and stars

I made the astrophotography images near the border with Belarus, during the beginning of the migration of refugees into Poland, in August 2021. I was interrupted by soldiers, interrogating me about what I was doing. Luckily they decided to let me be. I shot the fields and the skies separately with a long exposure time – sometimes even 5 minutes – and afterwards, I compiled up to 20 images into 1. This creates a very lucid view of the skies.

The river in the woods was shot during the last full moon before easter. We call it ‘warm full moon’, it’s the start of spring.

And I shot the fireflies in an ancient forest on a summer night. I took photos in stacks. The camera photographed one forest area for a specific period, and later I combined these photos with the pictures detailing the texture and close surroundings of the trees.

The biggest challenge was to picture the forest. I wanted to show the fireflies as they were seen, clear dots of light. But a short exposure to freeze the fireflies prevented me from exposing the forest to light. So I took a series of photos of the trees in the evening when I still had some light. Then I waited for the fireflies without moving the camera. In the end, the image you see here was created from over 350 photos.

Alone with the cranes

The cranes are a story of aesthetic minimalism. For 3 weeks, we go out to a big lake in Pomerania, where the fog is different every day. There’s something incredibly calming and magnificent about watching these cranes from the water. They are one of Jan’s favourite species; we’re taking him with us to photograph the cranes this fall. He’s really improved our possibilities as nature photographers with his gear; we hope he will enjoy it!

Copyright: all images by Elizjum – Boch y Baranowski

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