The most interesting picture is in the open air

Valery Kovalenok is famous in Sharkovshchina. Should you wish to have a family portrait, passport photo, or as is popular now, put your own picture on a mug or a T-shirt, he’s the person to go to.
By Irina Svirko

Valery Kovalenok is famous in Sharkovshchina. Should you wish to have a family portrait, passport photo, or as is popular now, put your own picture on a mug or a T-shirt, he’s the person to go to. Valery is the photographer at the local service centre, but this isn’t the only thing he is renowned for.



Valery is also a professional photographer of animals. His models are birds, animals, insects and plants. But it is birds that are his main passion and it’s from them that his business began. He became interested in ornithology as a child, and loved nothing more than to watch the wagtails and larks, from this he began to photograph the birds and it soon became his hobby. Long-eared owls, goldfinches, woodpeckers, robins and chaffinches, nuthatches, white grouse and golden plovers… Valery can talk about birds endlessly. In the district of Sharkovshchina there are almost 230 different species. He can recognise them all both by their appearance and song. He knows where to find each species and how to attract them to his camera with a particular call. He much prefers to watch the birds in their natural habitat of the forest, on a bog, river or meadow.

In order to produce a special picture, extreme patience, stubbornness, and even humour are required. Once he made a nest in order to photograph a black stork. As a public inspector for wildlife protection and a member of the APB-BirdLife Belarus public organisation he has acquired many similarly useful skills. He waited for the stork for three years, until it finally found and adapted his nest. On one occasion he discovered a new nest of white-tailed sea eagles containing a young chick. The sea eagle is an extremely rare species, the largest bird of prey in our latitude. The wingspan of the adult bird reaches almost two metres. Valery had to climb 20 metres to the nest in order to ring the baby bird, which was strong, and tried hard to defend itself, Valery was scratched and pecked. He was rewarded several weeks later however, by the sight of his ringed bird flying confidently over the forest. This autumn Valery’s picture became a real sensation at the First Republican Championship of Bird Photography.

Another first for Valery was the lucky capture by his lens of a great black headed gull, the first of its kind to be officially seen in the region. Valery is a common entrant to other ornithology competitions for photographers, winning first prize last year at the national event. I ask him what the winter holds for a wildlife photographer now that the animals have left for warmer climes or hibernated? The main thing, he replies, is to enjoy the time spent deep in the forest where other types of winter wildlife can be found. Now is a good time to look for elk and, during the long winter evenings, he embroiders beautiful landscapes and still-life pictures. Some may find this unusual in a man, but he enjoys all manner of creative crafts. He carves animals, grows flowers in the kitchen garden and arranges photo-exhibitions. His works are published in newspapers and magazines and he is particularly proud of his involvement in the creation of two banners located on the road from Sharkovshchina. The poster is decorated with his original pictures: raspberries and a circlet of snowdrops in the shape of a heart around the well-known slogan ‘I love Belarus’.
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