Viktor Lyagushkin Photography

Viktor Lyagushkin is one of Nikon’s European Ambassadors and National Geographic photographer. Viktor was born in 1971 in Moscow, Russia. In 1993, he graduated from Theatrical Academy in St-Petersburg, Russia, specializing in scene design. For 20 years, he has worked in magazines as a designer, journalist, and photographer. He has won many international photo contests and organized exhibitions in multiple cities in Europe and America. Viktor’s work has appeared in over 1000 publications in the world’s most prominent magazines and newspapers. Viktor became a professional photographer in 1998. Since 2003, he has been holding an underwater camera in his hands. Since 2011, Viktor has been contributing to National Geographic Magazine: Georgian, Russian, and other editions.

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Above: Two Words - White Sea: A scuba diver swims under the ice hummocks of the White Sea. Tides here are so strong that they break 1,5m ice and create majestic sculptures.

Below: Orda Cave: The most extended underwater cave in Russia, the second in Eurasia, with regards to length, and the world’s greatest underwater gypsum cave. This gypsum cave is unique for its low water temperature (+5C), and contains enormous volumes of underwater passages and spectacular visibility. Orda cave is the largest gypsum cave in the world.


Above: Way of Water // Underwater Yoga Pool: Ancient yoga practices for divers and swimmers “And now a long wheezing breath, make it last as long as possible!” — two-time world champion and record holder in freediving Natalie Avseenko shows yoga asanas to her freediving class in Moscow and explains how to breathe. Natalie’s school is called Plavita Sadhana, and along with the usual freediving exercises, she uses yoga techniques. Plavita Sadhana means the way of swimming in Sanskrit. She studied special exercises from the world-famous yogi from Kiev Andrey Sidersky, who collected ancient practices and organized them into a in a single system. Later, Natalie enriched the knowledge with her own experience.

There is a parable about a man who asked his master of yoga to teach him, but he was too weak to do a set of exercises from prana yoga. So the master ordered the new student to train in the water. Because of the hydro-weightlessness, water is much delicate for a body, but it is stricter for breathing, because it is impossible to breathe underwater. Andrey Sidersky came up with a set of exercises in 70s, for athletes and scuba divers. Exercises have become popular, and now many professionals teach their students according to Mr. Sidersky system: Freedivers and swimmers, scuba divers and underwater hunters. In-water and underwater yoga techniques — proper breathing and asanas — help the practitioners to adjust their mind and body before immersion. The master himself believes that yoga is much more than exercises: “We cannot control, for example, our heartbeat, but we can breathe arbitrarily and our body can take arbitrary poses. That’s all we have. Our breathing and body position is the only way to communicate with the Universe. ”

Below: Sea Angel - White Sea: This is a sea angel (Clione limacina). This beautiful creature enchants me. They are carnivorous and eat their relatives’ the free-swimming sea butterflies. In the Russian language sea butterfly is a «морской черт» = “sea devil”. Thus, sea angels hunt and eat sea devils. Sounds funny, doesn’t it? Sadly, reality is boring: it’s just a sea slug which learned to swim using its flap as a wing.


Above: Diver under the stars - Blue lake: Blue Lake is a beautiful karst spring which is in Kabardino-Balkaria in the Caucasian mountains in the South of Russia. Blue Lake, located in Kabardino-Balkaria in the Caucasian mountains in the South of Russia, currently holds the record for being the deepest karst lake-source in the world, measuring 235m in length, 130m in width, and 258m in depth. It shares the title of the deepest karst lake with the Red Lake (Crveno Yezero, Yugoslavia). The amount of water which comes out of the lake is immense. The water carries up about 35 – 50 m3 of dissolved rocks daily. This proves the existence of a deep and significant cave system in the lake.

Below: In the Exhibition - White Sea: A diver swims in the exhibition Underwater Art by Denis Lotarev. Denis Lotarev - a unique artist, who paints pictures under ice on the white sea.


Above: White Sea: Caprellas, also known as skeleton shrimps, (see small critters on the kelp) are hilarious animals, but tiny: they grow up to a maximum of 6 centimeters long. They are very social and active as they live and eat and fight with each other without stopping. An “alien starship” is a Bolinopsis infundibulum, the common northern comb jelly. Bolinopsis doesn’t sting. It is a carnivore, floating under the ice, and eating everything it may catch, even other comb jellies.

Below: Saint Dolphin - Black Sea: Bottlenose Dolphin is the most common representative of the Delphinidae family. Bottlenose dolphins inhabit almost anywhere in temperate and warm waters – from the Falkland Islands in the south to the coast of Greenland in the north. In the Black Sea there is a special situation as it is a home to an endemic subspecies of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus ponticus), which is called by all Black sea peoples with a name originated of Greek language – “afalina”.

The PHOTOTEAM.PRO has published a printed book dedicated to the afalinas in Russian “Быть дельфином” (Being a Dolphin), also an iBook named “100 Facts About Dolphins” in English about bottlenose dolphins.


Above: We are the same blood - White Sea: Natalie Avseenko had a dream to swim with white whales, but they are rare and friendly animals which only live in the cold northern seas. She trained a lot, learning to swim in freezing cold water. Usual people can only survive for 10-15 minutes in temperatures below zero degrees. But there are techniques on how to train yourself and feel comfortable under these conditions. Natalie is an experienced freediver and yoga expert, so she created her own schedule of trainings. Usually belugas and other whales and dolphins dislike scuba divers because they wear a lot of iron and synthetic materials that sea creatures dislike touching. They prefer to interact with freedivers, because they look like whales and glide smoothly. The only barrier between these sea creatures and freedivers is their wet suit, made of neoprene. That is why she thought white whales would be more friendly and confiding with a naked human. They would trust him (or her) that they ‘are of one blood’.

Below: Aspiration to light - Pool: Dolphins and people have been familiar with each other for a long time, but this acquaintance has many faces. I was looking for a suitable image that would capture an idea of the complexity of the relationship between humans and dolphins, and my vision of the future development of these relations. This is one of the usual tricks showed in dolphinariums. I had an idea to capture life in captivity with dolphins’ eyes and found that a lot of things looked different from out of the water.


Above: Spring sun - White Sea: There are a few legends about white whales. People say that St. Zosimus, the founder of the Solovetsky Monastery, sailed to the island on Beluga’s back. Also, there is a legend that sailors, who had not stepped on the solid land for many months, in their madness thought Belugas were beautiful naked girls. White whale is a large animal about 500 kg in weight and 3-6 meters length. Even a newborn white whale weighs in at 50 kilograms. Half the weight falls on the whale fat: percent of fat in whales’ body varies with age from 42 to 48 percent. For comparison, for a human, such a fat percentage would mean massive obesity. Humans normal fat rate is around 25-28 percent.

Below: Seagull - Lazurny Quarry. Nizhny Tagil, Urals, Russia: Seagull is a film project where a person would fly like a bird under the ice.


Above: Lady of Order cave - Orda Cave: It’s an art project by a world champion of freediving Natalie Avseenko and PHOTOTEAM.PRO in Ordynskaya Cave next to Perm City, Russia. Natalie had a series of freediving sessions in one of the largest gypsum caves. It was dark and cold (the water temperature was around +5C, the outside temperature was -35C), there was no chance to access the surface and take a breath as there was a roof above her head at all times. Natalie, holding her breath and overcoming all the challenges she faced, acted as the spirit of the cave who was kind, with a big soul, caring... There is a legend that there is a Lady of the Cave who is exquisite. The lady is taking care of all the divers entering that incredible “natural cathedral”.

Below: Workplace - Tver Quarry: A freediver sits at an office table under the ice of Tver quarry. The underwater world of the quarry is sparse, so divers sank lots of stuff, giving them something to look at and make their dives more interesting.


Above: Gods are Looking at Us from the Sky - Lazurny quarry - Nizhny Tagil, Urals, Russia: Lazurny is an old quarry. Abandoned many years ago, the ground waters slowly filled it. That is why we see a strange underwater landscape with pine trees and bushes that remain green for many years. Thick ice grows over them as they seem to reach for the sky. In this image, you can see circles and rays on the ice sky created by man. People removed the snow from the ice in such a strange manner to help divers find their way back home to the exit. You may see a safety group standing beside the ice hole: they help control the situation and assist if there is an emergency. In this meaning, they are real ‘gods’. The water temperature was about +4C. The trees grow at about 30 meters, but the quarry itself is over 60 meters deep. To ensure the growth of the underwater trees, local divers take extra careful care of this unique place.

Below: Fregate Oleg - Baltic Sea: The flagship of the Emperor Alexander II. It sank in 1869 and lies on an even keel at a depth of 60 meters. The ship sank during a training exercise in less than 15 minutes, keeping all its weapons and interior articles intact. Authorities consider this wreck as a historical object of special value and have forbidden any dives on it.

How the photos were created

Lady of Orda Cave


On The Edge




Below: Why Swans need a long neck - Blue lake: It was very difficult to take these pictures. Swans are naturally shy and they continuously watched what is going on under water. Swans are not afraid of people on the surface, but when they saw the photographer underwater, they swam away every time. Victor had to change from his open water equipment and use a rebreather. This type of underwater system does not exhale bubbles, giving him an opportunity to come closer to the birds. Even after that, Victor had to spend about a week to let the birds got used to him.