Interview with Lennart Ootes, photographer and do-it-all (2/2)

by Albert Silver
8/12/2016 – When he first came to Rio de Janeiro, Lennart Ootes explains he was very unsure of what to expect, with a mix of reports of safety issues and postcard views to take home. Needless to say, the truth lies somewhere in between, with a big city's realities and a unique meld with nature. Here he was able to see some of the best Rio has to offer and shares his impressions, some of the things he saw, with a vow to return soon to see more, and a panoply of breathtaking photos.

ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024 ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024

It is the program of choice for anyone who loves the game and wants to know more about it. Start your personal success story with ChessBase and enjoy the game even more.


All photos by Lennart Ootes and Albert Silver (click on them for high-resolution versions!)

Note: many of these images are best seen on a large screen where you can enjoy them in their full glory.

A view of Christ the Redeemer from the top of a nearby mountain

The changing light, as the sun sets, can lead to spectacular images such as above

AS - You travel extensively, all over the world, for your work and in chess, but this is the first time you come to South America.

LO – Yes, it was the last continent on my list to visit… other than the Antarctica maybe. Actually I had planned to come here to Rio for the Olympics, but that fell through when, the week after I bought the ticket, FIDE rescheduled the Baku Chess Olympiad to the same dates as the Sinquefield Cup. And because of that, the Sinquefield Cup moved their dates, clashing with the Rio Olympics, and I had to reschedule my trip.

Although I couldn't do anything about his schedule that had him leaving days before the start of the 2016 Rio Olympics, I could at least memorialize his visit with a photo in front of the Olympic rings on Copacabana beach. You might wonder why the image was framed from an angle: the reason is that with so many taking pictures, it is either that or be inevitably sharing your picture with someone else.

Lennart took this one of me, which gives a better idea what it is like there. Half the avenue to the left was closed off from traffic, allowing pedestrians and cyclists to enjoy it.

AS – What have you thought of Rio de Janeiro?

LO – Coming here, I wasn’t expecting much having read so many stories on theft and pickpocketing and so on.

AS – (in a joking tone) And yet you still booked a ticket in spite of expecting to leave without the shirt on your back?

LO – (laughs) Honestly, I didn’t know much about Rio. I arrived here and you showed me around. On our second day, we went up one of the mountains here and watched a beautiful sunset with an amazing view of Rio. It was so spectacular, the kind I had never seen before.

This very large panoramic image illustrates just a part of the view. Do click on it, and others in this article, to enjoy them to their fullest.

AS – I wanted to show you one of the postcard views of Rio, without being one of the obvious tourist places to visit.

LO – Yes, there was no public transportation to reach it. The sunset there was beautiful, but I had no idea how to capture it best. I learned a new technique: long exposure, and was completely new to it. It made me think about landscape photography.

This postcard image of Rio de Janeiro, taken from Mirante Dona Marta (Dona Marta Lookout) was taken a few minutes after the sun had set, often referred to in photography as the "blue hour". The window of opportunity is fairly short, but can yield gorgeous shots, especially with long exposure. This photo by Lennart was taken using a 20-second exposure. In other words the camera was actively taking this image for 20 seconds non-stop.

This is also a view from Dona Marta Lookout. Toward the center you can make out Maracanã stadium.

Lennart Ootes enjoying the spectacular view with the ever-changing colors as the day ended

LO - So yes, the view was stunning, and despite being winter time, it was 25 C. The weather was great, people are on the beach, and it has been great fun.

The opportunities for colorful images are legion

We were not the only photographers there obviously. One photographer who was there had a massive 400mm lens that allows clear shots from very far, and looks like a bazooka. He was kind enough to let me mount it on my camera and shoot some images with it. As I took photos of Maracanã, filling the screen, a military helicopter suddenly came from around the mountain, catching us all by surprise. I pointed the lens more out of reflex and shot off a few images, the above being one of them.

AS – So your final impressions of Rio have been positive?

LO – Absolutely. I definitely want to come back for Carnaval or New Year’s or some other cool event. I am pretty sure I have only seen the tip of the iceberg of what Rio has to offer.

AS – That is so true, and will leave a lot to enjoy in your next visit. Nevertheless, while you were here you also visited the Foz do Iguaçu.

LO – Yes, there are beautiful falls, a national park, and it is also on the UNESCO list of World Heritage. It was an impulsive thing. It is such a huge waterfall. I’d been to Niagara Falls before, and that was big, but this was bigger. I really enjoyed the scenery there. 

This is the first of several amazing photos Lennart took at the Iguaçu Falls. This particular one was post-processed using a technique called HDR (high dynamic range). It involves shooting more than one image of a scene, with different light metering, and then blending them.

Translated that means one image might be taken dark enough so the sun is visible and not a white glare, but as a result, all the foreground would be so shaded as to be invisible. Then a second image would be for a bright and visible foreground, leaving the sky and sun pure white, since the camera's sensor simply cannot capure such a huge range of light. These two identical images, with different light exposures are then combined to get a best of both worlds with the sun and the foreground well-exposed, resulting in the lovely image above.

The Iguaçu Falls are waterfalls on the Iguaçu River on the border of Argentina and the Brazilian state of Paraná

They are the largest waterfalls system in the world, with a flow capacity equal to three times that of Niagara Falls!

Foz do Iguaçu is home of the Itaipu dam, the world's largest hydroelectric plant in power generation. With 20 generator units and 14,000 MW of installed capacity, it provides approximately 17% of the energy consumed in Brazil and 75% of consumption in Paraguay.

A visit to the dam also allows an epic close-up view of the falls

LO - At the national park, I visited a bird zoo where I could get quite close to the birds. I saw two jaguars as well.

AS – Jaguars?!

LO – They were in the national park, walking alongside the main road. The same road where people were just biking, walking around…

AS – With jaguars running around?

LO – The funny thing is that I had read an article the day before on the British news site The Independent on a sighting of jaguars near a hotel there, and it concluded that it was a once in lifetime thing, and would not be repeated.

AS – Except for the next day apparently, when you spotted them as well.

LO – Right. It was when I was on my way back, in the bus, when I saw them through the window, and thought, “Woah!”

Lennart did more than spot the elusive jaguars, he took their pictures... from the safety of his bus

AS – Wow!

LO – Well, it’s a jungle, and they have living animals… Anyhow, it was a lot of fun there.

AS – Brilliant. Lennart, I want to thank you and wish you the best of luck at the Sinquefield Cup. I look forward to your work and to your pictures.

LO – Thank you, very much.

Born in the US, he grew up in Paris, France, where he completed his Baccalaureat, and after college moved to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He had a peak rating of 2240 FIDE, and was a key designer of Chess Assistant 6. In 2010 he joined the ChessBase family as an editor and writer at ChessBase News. He is also a passionate photographer with work appearing in numerous publications, and the content creator of the YouTube channel, Chess & Tech.


Rules for reader comments


Not registered yet? Register