Passions

It’s been a while since my last post – closing in on 3 months to be precise. Throughout the 3-year lifetime of this blog, I’ve never managed to skip a month, until now. I would have otherwise been disappointed, if the culprit for my tardiness wasn’t my new passion in life – cycling. Over the last few months, I’ve decided to take cycling a bit more seriously and so I forked out a small fortune and bought myself a new shinny road bike. As a result, all the free time I had on the weekends is now being consumed by riding around and recovering in bed thereafter!

I am not disappointed though for 3 primary reasons. Firstly, it’s something that I really enjoy, which is the main reason as to why I picked up photography in the first place. So I don’t feel like I am cheating, as there is nothing wrong with sharing the love! Equally as important, is that I have now managed to visit places in Cyprus that I had never been to before. Given how I constantly moan on this blog that I need to go out and discover Cyprus, it seems that I have finally found my answer! Last but not least, I am finally learning how to be a morning person! Yes, cycling does that to you. I never thought I would be up at sunrise on the weekends. When I get up I am still really grumpy, but once I hop on that saddle, the sheer feeling of riding in the morning breeze is second to none.

This picture is from my trip to Milos this past May. Nothing beats island sunsets. Perhaps, my next post will be that of a sunrise, from a new place I bike to in Cyprus.

Milos Sunset - 1920c

Shot handheld with my Canon 60D and Sigma 18-200mm F3.5-6.3 OS lens, at ISO 200, F14 at 1/100 sec.

Window into Turkey

The media now speculate that we are closer to a solution of the Cyprus problem than we’ve ever been before. I may not necessarily agree, but I can’t help but wonder how our lives would change if the island is reunified – both Greek-Cypriots and Turkish-Cypriots living together in harmony. Being a post-war child, I have never experienced what that was once like. In fact, from childhood leading into my army years, I was taught to hate Turks and everything they stood for. It is clear to me now however, that if there is any hope for reunifying the island, feelings from whatever happened in the past, must be put aside.

For my summer holidays this year, I decided to spend 9 days visiting Constantinople. Istanbul (not commonly known that this is Greek for “Εις την Πόλη”, or “To the City”), is a remarkable city from a historical perspective. Remnants of the Byzantine era and the Greek influence are abundant in the vast majority of the city’s historical landmarks. What really impressed me however, is the church of Hagia Sophia itself, a former Christian patriarchal church, turned into an Islamic mosque and now a museum visited by over 3 million people every year. Looking around from the inside, one can’t help but notice the various Christian and Islamic religious symbols all blended together. The Christian mosaics on the walls which are now slowly being restored, standing side-by-side to  the Islamic mihrab and minbar that were later added. That made me wonder whether that was simply an analogy of life in the unified Cyprus that some of us envision. Needless to say, I came back with more questions than I had before.

This is picture of the Blue Mosque as seen from a window on the second floor of Hagia Sophia.

Window into Turkey - 1920c

Shot handheld with my Canon 60D and Sigma 18-200mm F3.5-6.3 OS lens, at ISO 200, F7.1 at 1/1250 sec and bracketed at -2/0/+2.

Summer holidays

Summer is in full swing. Time to relax by the beach, swim in the refreshing turquoise Mediterranean waters and enjoy fresh fish under the moonlight. And what better place to enjoy all these, than the beautiful Greek Islands.

Alas, I have different plans this year. Given that I live on an island and I am thus spoiled for choice when it comes to which sunbed I will be lying flat on every weekend, I have decided to spend my summer vacation this year in a more educational manner. I won’t say more; suffice to say however that my camera will get quite a bit of use in the next couple of weeks.

Happy summer holidays everyone!

Pollonia Marina - 1920cPhoto taken in the small village of Pollonia on Milos island. Shot with my tripod mounted Canon 60D and my Sigma 10-20mm F4-5.6 DC HSM lens, at ISO 200, F8, at 6 secs.

Milos Seascapes

Last week I was fortunate to visit the Greek island of Milos for a mini-vacation, where I got the chance to drive around and sample everything this beautiful island has to offer. Being part of the Cyclades, Milos was one of the many Aegean islands formed from the catastrophic eruption of the volcano in Santorini. Its volcanic nature therefore, makes it the home of stunning multi-coloured rock formations and beautiful seascapes.

On the first day of our arrival, we ran into some bad weather. The photographic instinct in me however, saw an excellent opportunity to head down to the beach for a couple of shots. The picture below is from the beach of Sarakiniko, on the north shore of the island. As I was exploring the lunar-like landscape of this particular beach for a photo opportunity, I accidentally stumbled onto this amazing sight. I immediately set up my tripod and screwed on my 10-stop ND filter, in an effort to slow down my shutter speed and capture the motion of both the waves and clouds. The strong winds made the task harder, as I had to firmly hold down the tripod to avoid any camera shake.

Sarakiniko Rock - 1920c

Shot with my tripod mounted Canon 60D and my Sigma 10-20mm F4-5.6 DC HSM lens, at ISO 100, F10, at 6 secs, with a B+W ND3.0 filter.

Monument Valley

Right on the border between Arizona and Utah, lies a vast region with a plethora of sandstone rock formations, known as Monument Valley. The scenery is easily identifiable – the movie set for many Hollywood western productions and blockbusters such as Back to the Future III and Forrest Gump. Today, this region is inhabited in majority by the Navajo Native Indian tribe. This tribe made history in World War II, as the Navajo language (due to its uniqueness and complexity) was adopted for radio communication by the US forces.

The Valley was the first overnight stay on our 2-week US roadtrip. Naively, we did not make any hotel reservations, thinking perhaps that there would have been plenty of last-minute accommodation available in the area. Much to our surprise this wasn’t the case; in fact, we realised at 11pm that not a single room was available within a 2-hour driving radius! After many failed attempts talking to Booking.com operators and researching online, the front-office manager at the Hampton Inn felt sorry for us and suggested that a friend of hers might have a room for the night at her B&B home.

In a scene that resembled nothing less than a move thriller, we drove to the Navajo reservation camp at midnight, in the middle of a rain storm. Looking back through the rear-view mirror, I could see the sign of worry drawn on everyone’s faces, as we drove in muddy roads through a bunch of old trailers and makeshift shacks.

Worry turned quickly into a smile and a sigh of relief, once we were greeted by a friendly Navajo lady, who welcomed us in her pyjamas to her recently renovated home. After giving us a short tour, she mentioned that she had to leave early in the morning to go to work. Worried not to wake us up, she politely asked us to leave the money on her kitchen table and lock the door behind us on our way out. She had known us for less than a few minutes, yet she was kind and courteous enough to treat us like family – a trait that one doesn’t come by often and a gesture that I will never forget.

Monument Valley - 1920c

Shot with my tripod mounted Canon 60D and my Sigma 10-20mm F4-5.6 DC HSM lens, at ISO 100, F8.0, at 1.6 sec, exposed at (-2/0/+2).

Vanishing Act

I am not a morning person. In fact, I am the kind of guy who looks forward to that extra hour of sleep on the weekends and certainly dreads waking up in the wee hours when forced to take a morning flight. This poses a bit of a problem when it comes to photography. Not only do I miss out on the opportunity to take a decent picture at sunrise, but also miss out on the only time of day when one can avoid crowds at a famous tourist attraction.

The former, I can’t really do much about. It is no coincidence that I take most of my pictures at sunset. For the latter however, there is a surprisingly simple solution. The key to this David Blaine-style trick is the camera’s shutter speed. Slow the shutter speed enough (upwards of 15-20 seconds) and anything that is moving within the frame, will not get recorded on the camera’s sensor. It is that easy!

Here is a picture of the famous Louvre Museum in Paris. It was a busy Wednesday afternoon at the museum and swarms of people were wondering around the plaza near the famous glass pyramid entrance. Eager to take a picture, I decided to mount my camera on a tripod and closed my aperture down to F14. This gave me a meter reading of 25 secs – long enough to make everyone not standing still, disappear!

Louvre - 1920c

Shot with my tripod mounted Canon 60D and my Sigma 10-20mm F4-5.6 DC HSM lens, at ISO 100, F14, at 25 sec.

La tour Eiffel (Part 2)

Below is the second picture taken of the Eiffel tower – this one from a lower vantage point and in black & white. From a composition perspective, I tried to center the tower dead in the middle, to give the picture a bit of balance and symmetry.

Eiffel Tower 2 - 1920c

Shot handheld with my Canon 60D and my Sigma 10-20mm F4-5.6 DC HSM lens, at ISO 800, F6.3, at 1/30 sec.