Julian Walter Photography Blog

Life on the London Canals (a preview)

March 2nd, 2021

I spent the winter months during lockdown exploring the London Canals and getting to know the boaters who live on its waters. Here’s a small preview: Riikka and her dog Bowie the Siberian Husky

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Transiberian Story in Conde Nast Traveler

December 1st, 2020

Big thanks to Conde Nast Traveler (US) for featuring my Transiberian story in their December 2020 issue! Special thanks to Betsy Blumenthal for working with me on the text.

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A Winter Transiberian Journey

July 1st, 2020

On a very cold morning at -46ºC (-51ºF) my good friend James and I were dropped off at the station near Yakutsk and were in awe upon boarding the train. The warm colored wood, the water heater, the frost on the windowsills, the outfits of the workers.. It all looked like the set of a beautiful Wes Anderson film.

The city of Yakutsk in the far northeastern corner of Russia only got linked in 2019 to the Transiberian in the south. When telling people our plans, they replied perplexed “You know you can fly right?” That’s when we realized the romanticized image of this journey was mainly held by foreigners. The distances are crazy. It’s almost the same as going from London to San Francisco and takes about seven days when going all in one go.

Our first cabinmate was a gentleman traveling for three days to see his wife and son and was the nicest person you could ever meet: he helped get us dialed into tricks of the train, and insisted we eat all his food with him. He works in Oymyakon mining gold and diamonds, where temperatures average around -40ºC to -60ºC (-76ºF) in the winter, and we later learned he had previously done sixteen years in a Siberian prison for being a ganster in the 90s. Next we had Andre, who woke us up at 10am with a bottle of vodka to share. Another local friend we made took us out to the frozen Lake Baikal from Irkutsk, and was so happy we were visiting he even brought us really thoughtful gifts. Russian hospitality amazed us every step of the way.

During the journey, we were mostly glued to the window as the frigid landscape went by under a beautiful northern midwinter sun. I couldn’t help but think about how I used to think of Mongolia as a “Last Frontier” of sorts, but there’s a whole other world just to the north that has been thriving for generations. Together with the visit to Yakutsk, this remains one of my favorite trips I have ever embarked upon.

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Yakutsk, Russia – The Coldest City in the World

February 15th, 2020

“Ladies and gentlemen, we would like to thank you for flying with us and welcome you to Yakutsk. The local time is 9:30 in the morning, the temperature is 36 degrees below zero.” The landscape seemed totally bleak and white when descending, as if having been frosted over a million years ago and never thawed. However after this announcement, none of the passengers bat an eye, or really seemed to care. I’ve never heard anyone utter this phrase before, and I was nervous, as if my skin would disintegrate as soon as I stepped outside like a vampire in the sun.

Several years ago when I first read an article about the coldest city in the world, I was fascinated, and knew I had to visit so I could create my own stories to tell. Throughout my time there, I realized that the locals are completely unaffected by these kinds of temperatures. Kids played outside, laughing and jostling each other on the icy slides of the main square. People walked through the streets and chatted as if nothing was unusual.

And that’s the point. Nothing is unusual about these temperatures in the winter time for them. They’ve known this their entire lives. Normal temperatures in the winter range between -50°C (-58°F) and -30°C (-22°F) and they say that anything above -40° feels warm.

I found it fascinating to experience this corner of the world. It’s easy to look at a world map and see Russia as a big mysterious land mass, but in the end if you set foot and make some connections, it’s easy to see that there are thousands of normal people living here, where life simply plays itself out in the same ways no matter how frozen the environment gets.

I made some amazing new friends on the first day; and between driving on ice river roads, snacking on frozen horse meat, going out for drinks and parties with young adults our age, the warmth of the local hospitality, and many more new experiences, I came back home with a little piece of my heart remaining in this republic.

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Cocos Island

October 25th, 2019

One year ago I was sent on assignment to Cocos Island, 350 miles off the Pacific coast of Costa Rica.

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Burning Man 2019

September 8th, 2019

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It was all too perfect that flying back into the states on the Thursday before opening, I was dozing off and thought to glance out the window just as we happened to be flying over the east end of the playa. My heart kicked into gear as I knew I’d have a view of the city being built from 30,000 ft up. I wondered if anyone else noticed.

This year rejuvenated me to be out there with a great group of friends as I was quite exhausted going into it for a number of reasons. On the first night I lost my friends but ended up being a positive situation as it immersed me into our new environment with beautiful interactions from total strangers. The reminder that I’ve arrived.. 🙂

One phenomenon I was hugely aware of this year were the “Instagram influencer” types spending so much time crafting their image for a photo opp. I don’t want to be so negative and I can see the irony of me as a photographer making this criticism, but this level of hyperawareness of one’s image is the exact opposite of what Burning Man is about. The point isn’t to show up, take your pictures and show that you “did” Burning Man.

The simple things made it for me this time around. Sunrise with a small crew; cool neighbors; some new encounters; and of course the photography. Working my craft in this environment always makes me fall in love with it again, and for that alone, I’m forever grateful. Welcome home…

Dedicated to Jim Karageorge
August 27, 2019

Travel Editorial for Lufthansa Magazine

October 12th, 2018
I’m not often in front of the camera but every once in a while I’m stoked to ask someone to shoot a photo. This was a great day on a trip I just got back from, shooting travel and diving on this very remote island for a week. My favorite was I had never even heard of this place when I got the call. Thanks to Antonia Schala at Territory Agency in Germany for coming up with the idea and making it happen! Will post photos in a few months when the story is out
Lufthansa Magazine - Julian Walter Photography

Burning Man 2018

September 8th, 2018

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Another year down.. I touched upon this last time, but now that I’ve been a decent amount with my camp, it simply feels like a city we go to visit on a regular basis. We have our friends that we see mostly there. We have our spots we like to visit. It become so familiar in a way, but never ceases to be able to put smiles on our faces.

This year was a bit odd to start as we were met with a sign that said the side we usually camp on was completely full. We still took a drive around there and saw numerous turnkey camps that were still completely devoid of people. Burning Man has so much beyond the typical “come and have your experience” event. The special vibe survives off of people contributing, and it blows me away how many people don’t think there’s anything wrong with showing up all taken care of seeing what they can get out of it. If you’re an adventurer you wouldn’t hike across a mountain range and say “I wish they built a gondola through this”. Burning Man is the same and should give you some struggles to work through in order to come out stronger and appreciate the highs even more.

Enough complaining…

I thought a lot this year about what can not be captured with still photography. This is my medium of choice, but it has its limitations. There is no way a photographer can capture the cacophony of sounds that we constantly experience every minute of every day. My dad asked me upon returning this year how the noises don’t all blend in together. If you’re at one stage or art car with a good system, that’s all you’ll hear. But as soon as you step away, the rest start to filter in. If you’ve been out all night and go deep playa for a sunrise, you can close your eyes and hear at least a dozen different systems booming the air in your direction, and there is something so beautiful about it that is impossible to forget. The vibe is what I aim to capture the most as I believe it is still one of the most difficult aspects to show. I like that my photos are intimate and show a wide array of emotions from this city’s inhabitants. But even with all you can capture, a single photographer can never catch it all. I’ve come back from a burn and felt like I saw almost everything, only to realize afterward that I never got to lay eyes on one of the most prominent art structures that is being talked about the most. Scott London, an amazing long time Burning Man photographer that I’ve recently become friends with, comically said to me “You know, when another photographer shows you a great photo they captured, the only thing you can say is ‘F you..’ “ because we’re clearly just going to be jealous that we didn’t capture the same thing.

Anyway, this burn was special for me because I’ve had a lot on my plate this year and it was great for me to be able to disconnect. In a way I had a bit more introverted of a social experience at times as I was very happy to step back and admire scenes on my own, even during my camp’s bigger party nights I would float off the dance floor and wander for a few minutes in admiration of the beautiful city we everyone built. One of my best friends Tyisha was an incredible rookie this year, getting very involved with her camp before the burn. She had a tearful moment while we were out on the playa as she looked around and was in complete awe at what we had all created.

The moments you experience are priceless. Whether it’s as simple as the ice cold lemonade stand that roped you in on the hottest part of the day, running into friends you haven’t seen in years, meeting and chatting with one of your favorite DJs because he complimented your friend’s space suit (we love you DJ Dan!), your best friend setting up a deep playa oasis to cool people off, the ecstatic moment DJ Kramer bumped Lola’s Theme during Distrikt’s week-closing set, or watching a hundred foot tall wooden man explode and burn in the middle of absolutely nowhere with all of your friends, they’re all meant to be highlights of your life and help you grow.

Burning Man is not for everybody, but if you come with the right attitude and think of ways you can contribute, even if it’s small, it will help us all maintain this city and make sure it stays extraordinary. You’ll understand why everyone says to you upon arrival: “Welcome home”

Freedive Training in Roatan | Honduras

March 3rd, 2018

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I was in the beautiful island of Roatan in Honduras for a friend’s wedding and was able to meet with a local freedive instructor (Morgan Guille at www.roatanfreediving.com) who invited me to join as he did some training with Iru Balic (Venezuelan freedive champion). It was amazing to see some real experts hone their craft together and be able to capture a few moments.

Burning Man 2017

September 11th, 2017

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It’s the Fight Club mentality. Ditch your amenities, be uncomfortable, beat yourself up a bit. It’s just a week after all. Many people question this pilgrimage but if you have gone and connected then you understand it too.

We set out once again for this beautiful patch of land in the northern Nevada desert to be immersed in an environment with thousands of other like minded people to see how we can warp our perception of the world we live in.

It is said every year that Burning Man has changed. People who haven’t ever attended come up with an absurd idea that it has become “commercialized”. Of course it has changed. It started off with fifteen guys on a beach in San Francisco, and now 32 years later, over 60,000 people watch a gigantic man burn in the desert 300 miles away. There will always be tourists. I’ve only gone consecutively since 2011 and I can feel a change, but I’d also bet that some veteran burners gave up on the event that same year when I arrived wide eyed and beaming with excitement. It’s the gentrification effect. The change is hard to swallow, but realize we were all new at one point.

I can say with confidence that before my first time in our beautiful city, I was a fairly straight-lined in-the-box thinking person. This festival has changed me for the better and I’ve become a much more creative and colorful person because of it. With every year there is definitely a noticeable increase in newbies, but I believe the core burners and vibe of the event still remain strong and maintain the principles of the gathering. And with all the virgins, the silver lining is that if the same thing can happen to these people as what happened to me, then I believe ultimately this community is still making the world a better place.

Whether you’ve been or not, I hope you enjoy a glimpse into how I chose to spend my time this time around. Welcome home.


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