Luka Esenko allows his surroundings to influence him when capturing photos. He prefers to photograph at the moment based on what is in front of him and doesn’t spend his time pre-visualizing a location beforehand. Looking at his photos, however, you may think otherwise. His images are filled with towering snow-covered mountains, pristine lakes surrounded by inviting woodlands, and jaw-dropping landscapes aching to be captured by a photographer with a keen eye like his.
Luka feels that observing the landscapes around him and being able to capture and convey a bit of what he sees through his photos is the ultimate reward. “My approach is usually impressionistic. I capture what catches my attention when on location.” It’s for these reasons that he chooses to make minimal edits, saying, “…just a little touch of editing, to emphasize what I have felt or seen when shooting.” The landscapes speak for themselves.
Luka is heavily inspired by his surroundings. He grew up immersed in photography; his father had a darkroom in their home where he became acquainted with film photography and processing at a young age. When he was in his twenties he purchased his first digital camera (a Nikon D70s) and this was when his photography began to take off. However, it isn’t always Slovenia that steals the focus of Luka’s work; his first job as a tour guide allowed him to travel to more than 50 countries in Europe, Asia, and Africa towing his camera wherever he went.
Nonetheless, Slovenia remains a focus of his work. “I believe the environment where you live and spend the most time influences your shooting style a lot. In Slovenia, we have beautiful nature, stunning mountains, bucolic villages, and hilltop churches. This reflects in my photography. If I lived in London or New York City, I’d probably do more street photography [or] cityscapes.“
When asked about what he loves most about Slovenia he answered, “I really love the fact that I can get to beautiful mountains, forests, or rivers in less than an hour’s drive. Slovenia has all [of] this. And I also appreciate the diversity of photographic subjects. I don’t know of any other place in the world with so many and [such] diverse photo locations in such a small and easy to travel place as [in] Slovenia. The third thing, [though] not photography related, is food and wine; I like to enjoy life.”
Taking stunning photos isn’t all this photographer does. He has led various photo workshops about photo location scouting in Slovenia and Croatia and born from these seminars was the idea of Digital Photo Guides which led to the founding of PhotoHound. PhotoHound is a web and mobile community where photographers can share and explore the best photo locations around the world. This community has also implemented a set of Responsible Photography Principles in order “to educate photographers on the impact we have on the environment and local cultures.“
One of the challenges Luka says he faces as a photographer in the digital age is exposure.“Nowadays there are so many amazing photographers that [it’s] harder and harder to stand out. We are bombarded with a huge amount of imagery every day. We have to keep searching for new ways to promote our work and find business. Digitalization also brings new opportunities and the market is bigger than ever. It is up to us to recognize opportunities.“
Despite some of these challenges, Luka has been able to share his work through a variety of platforms and publications. In addition to numerous books and printed magazines in Slovenia, he has even had several photos published in National Geographic magazine. After several successes in photo competitions, his photos have been shared and exhibited all around the world. “Some of the cool places include the United Nations building in NYC, Ljubljana Airport, Kew Garden in London, [and] The Amsterdam botanical gardens.” His most recent success is a category winner in “The Garden Photographer of the Year.”
With the wide appeal of Luka’s images and the international audience he has found through his success as a photographer, we asked him when image theft first became a problem for him.“Very early on! I believe it was worse in the beginning when the concept of using photos without compensation was more common than nowadays. Today, more companies and individuals are aware of the photographer’s rights. [It was also] much harder to find and act upon illegal uses [previously].”
“I rarely acted upon image theft in the past as it wasn’t worth my time. I was maybe able to deal with image theft in Slovenia, but internationally it was not possible. [It was] too expensive and time-consuming.”
Luka found Pixsy through a recommendation of a friend. He told us, “I love the feature [which] finds all cases where a particular photo is published and how easy and quick it is to identify illegal uses of my [imagery]. Automation is also a huge time saver. Once you upload the image and input the relevant information, [it’s] saved for all future cases. I review [my] matches every month or two and this is enough for me. Pixsy allows me to deal with image theft in almost every case.”