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UCSD senior travels the world taking photos for fun

By Linda McIntosh


Michael Nekrasov is only 21, and already he’s a world traveler with thousands of photographs to prove it. Nekrasov’s photos cover 27 countries in several continents. Not bad for someone who started globetrotting only six years ago.

Urged by his friends, Nekrasov has sold dozens of photos and set up an online gallery at


Nekrasov’s first serious encounter with photography happened when he was 15 and his aunt gave him a small camera to take pictures with on a trip with a friend to France and England.

But Nekrasov was disappointed with the results and has been experimenting ever since.

“When I go to a place where I know there are hundreds of pictures, I want to look for something different to focus on - it’s almost like a scavenger hunt - every place has so many hidden jewels,” said Nekrasov, a UCSD senior with a double major in math and computer science who lives in Carmel Valley.

When Nekrasov takes pictures of a popular tourist site, he’s out to get a new perspective on it. He photographed the Great Wall of China in the early hours of the morning at a spot few people get to see.

“While tourists are getting the standard shot, he’ll climb out everywhere to get something that captures the feeling of the place. He was nearly killed more than once for a good picture,” said Brain McMahon, a UCSD senior studying computer science who has traveled with Nekrasov.

Sometimes that lands Nekrasov in trouble, on the edge of a cliff or in the middle of a lightning storm. McMahon shared a tale about the time his buddy was photographing clouds at sunset while a storm was brewing over Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado.

“We climbed a rock and went to an outcropping so he could get the right light,” McMahon said. “Then the storm was coming over us, but it’s always ‘one more picture.’ ”

Nekrasov continued the plot: “We got the shots when the lighting was perfect. But we had to outrun the lightning storm.”

Nekrasov said he spent hours braving the damp cold to take photos of colorful canyons and pools at a tunnellike area carved out of rock, known as the “Subway” at Zion National Park in Utah.

“With my camera, I feel that I am reaching out into the scene,” Nekrasov said.

Since his first trip, which took place during vacation break from Torrey Pines High School, Nekrasov has captured scenes from around the world in more than 60,000 photographs.

Nekrasov’s online photo gallery includes pictures taken while backpacking throughout Europe in 2008 with McMahon, visiting countries such as Italy, France, Greece, Germany and Switzerland.

A section of the gallery is devoted to the British Isles, which he calls, “Adventures in the UK.” Most of the photos were taken while he studied abroad in 2007 to 2008 in Edinburgh, Scotland. Another section focuses on Scandinavia, with shots that Nekrasov took in Sweden, Norway and Finland.

A large section of the online gallery features pictures of the United States, including Hawaii. Most were taken during Nekrasov’s cross-country road trip to the East Coast last year, and a half-dozen trips along the California coast and up to the Pacific Northwest from 2004 to 2008.

Driving up the coast of California has become a yearly journey for Nekrasov since he was 16 years old.

“I love the ocean ... the dynamics ... the way the fog rolls in and the sunsets,” Nekrasov said.

Nekrasov has kept a journal of his travels and plans to publish a travel book with his photographs, but time is scarce now between his studies, computer consulting work and travels.

Nekrasov’s most recent photographs come from his trip this past summer to Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan and mainland China. They can be viewed at

Nekrasov traveled to Taiwan on an internship as part of UCSD’s Pacific Rim Undergraduate Experience. Nekrasov used cameras to measure the fluorescence in coral reefs and helped develop a system for scientists to study in real time the fluorescence given off by coral.

“I like to apply technology to nature,” Nekrasov said.

After he graduates next summer, Nekrasov plans to continue to do computer research in the field and keep photography as a hobby.

“I’ll always take my camera with me,” he said. “Through the camera, I can examine in more detail what I can’t see with the naked eye. I feel a little lost without it.”