Ukrainian photographer Serhii Miroshnyk on capturing life under a macro lens

His photograph of a green beetle resting on an acorn beat out 60,000 entries to win the Wiki Loves Earth prize this year. Sophie Holloway speaks to Miroshnyk about his fascination with tiny treasures, the war in Ukraine, and summers spent at ‘dachas’ in the forest

Thursday 04 January 2024 06:09 GMT
Ukrainian photographer Serhii Miroshnyk won the international Wiki Loves Earth competition 2023
Ukrainian photographer Serhii Miroshnyk won the international Wiki Loves Earth competition 2023 (Serhii Ruban)

Inspiration is all around, or so the adage goes. It’s certainly true of nature photography. The ordinary bluebottle or whiskered dandelion can take on otherworldly qualities when captured by the right person. Serhii Miroshnyk is one of those people. This month, the Ukrainian photographer won Wiki Loves Earth, an international photography contest now in its 10th year, which received over 60,000 entries from 50 countries. His winning entry, of a common tiger beetle resting on top of an acorn, was captured using a macro lens.

Macro photography is a wizardry of sorts, capable of making the tiny titanic: a dew drop clinging to a leaf, a caterpillar curled up in the bark, or in Miroshnyk’s case, the glinting exoskeleton of a beetle magnified.

Miroshnyk first picked up a film camera when he was at school. Growing up in Kyiv, he was surrounded by creatives. “At that time, my friends were people who drew, wrote poems, learnt to make translations of literary works,” says Miroshnyk. His father – who painted in his youth and played guitar – helped cultivate his creativity but after graduating from art school in 1986, Miroshnyk abandoned the art world altogether for 20 years. He didn’t pick up a camera again until he was almost 40. “At the age of 38, I had this inexplicable, obsessive desire to buy a digital camera and start taking photos again,” Miroshnyk explains. He turned to books by the American photographer, Scott Calby, which brought him up to speed with the technicalities of digital photography.

It wasn’t until 2014 that Miroshnyk began exploring the possibilities of a macro lens, after meeting fellow Ukrainian photographer Serhii Golubenko. “I was captivated by this genre of photography,” he explains. That captivation grew stronger with time. Today, he names Vyacheslav Mischenko as one of his key influences, another macro photographer from Ukraine who won the Discovery of the Year prize at the 2014 International Photography Awards. “Macro photography allows us to see what we cannot see in everyday life, to move into the wonderful world of insects and flowers,” writes Mischenko. “Early in the morning, when I am somewhere between dream and reality, a viewfinder creates a sense of presence in some incredibly beautiful and mysterious world.”

Miroshnyk tends to take his photos in forests near where he lives in Kyiv. Occasionally, he’ll stay overnight in a faraway dacha, which are seasonal homes in rural idylls that resemble something like a cottage out of a fairytale . His winning photograph of the beetle was taken in the Kyiv nature reserve – a context that brings with it an acute awareness of the natural world’s increasing fragility.

Miroshnyk’s long career in nature photography has taught him a robust sense of patience, as well as a sensibility to the whims of the natural world. “I know what time of year and where to find a particular flower or insect,” he says. “Each has its own habitat and time of life.” Wind speed, humidity, time of the day – these are all factors he must consider before setting off with his camera.

He enjoys a broad variety of subjects, not just the little wonders of this world. Miroshnyk is also a gifted landscape photographer, having produced spectacular images of the Carpathian mountain range in Central Europe as well as the golden woodland of his home country. He hopes to visit Iceland one day, to connect with nature in what he believes to be its purist form. “Iceland is the place where I dream to go to feel the power of huge waterfalls, majestic mountains, the eternal glaciers of pristine nature,” he says. “I want to get in touch with its pristine nature.”

The war in Ukraine has inevitably had a huge impact on the lives of artists. “Regardless of whether you are a salesman or a photographer or a cook, if you are a patriot of your country, you will go to defend your homeland,” says Miroshnyk, who volunteered as a soldier in 2022. He was later wounded and suffered a concussion, which took him out of action entirely.

The winner of Wiki Loves Earth 2023 (Serhii Miroshnyk)

“I know many photographers who are on the frontlines now, defending their country,” Miroshnyk says. Since the beginning of Russia’s invasion, he adds, photography bans have been implemented across the country, limiting the creative scope of photographers. The ban includes such subjects as military personnel, equipment, government buildings and the sites of missile strikes. Despite the war, however, the country’s arts scene has not come to a complete standstill. Photography exhibitions and competitions continue to take place amid the fighting.

“You could say that photography has absorbed me completely,” Miroshnyk says. “I can’t imagine myself without it. I’m always trying to convey peace, calmness, contentment and love for the environment through my photography.” The microscopic perspective, he says, offers a new entry into the natural world. Miroshnyk’s photographs are a part of that; it’s hardto walk away from his work without a new childlike awe at the world around us – not least the tiny wonders that inhabit it.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in