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.


Chrysomilou Inn

For this blog post, I’ve decided to take a break from my US road trip picture series and talk about a little side project that I’ve started back in October.

If you know me personally or you’ve read some of my older posts, you’ll know that my family’s origins are from the village of Kalopanagiotis, in the heart of the Marathasa Valley. On the off-chance that you have visited this village in recent years, you would have witnessed its transformation into a hotspot for agrotourism. While still maintaining its traditional architecture with its cobbled streets and footpaths, the village is now home to a number of hostels, trendy coffee shops and restaurants and an island-famous spa hotel.

My family claims to have years of experience in the hospitality business. My great-grandfather specifically, was the proud owner of an Inn back in the early 1900s, providing food and shelter to travellers riding through the village on their mules and camels, on their on their way to the northern regions of Cyprus. Now, almost a century later and as a tribute to my family’s origins, my parents have decided to restore this Inn (which later on became my grandparents’ home) into a trendy agrotourism apartment.

The restoration has taken almost a year and we are now at the stage of putting the final touches. Admittedly, my contribution to this project has been minimal. As the family’s designated photographer however, I have been tasked to take a few pictures, so I can decorate the walls and post on our soon-to-be-published website. As a result, in late October I found myself in Kalopanagiotis, camera in hand, on a 3-hour shooting excursion. This picture is one of 5-6 picture frames that will soon be printed on canvas and hanged in the apartment. These traditional door handles are found on almost every door around the village and are truly representative of the village’s traditional character.

Door Handle Spider 1920

Shot handheld with my Canon 60D and Canon 24-70 F2.8L lens at ISO 800, F2.8 @ 1/25sec.

Knock knock…

My apartment is located in Engomi – a relatively small municipality of 18,000 residents, just a short 5-minute drive from the center of Nicosia. Over the last few years, the area has undergone a fair bit of a transformation, with many cafes and hip bars opening in every corner – the result of urban decentralisation that has left the city center almost completely empty.

Despite the new developments, the old part of Engomi situated at the core of the municipality and only steps from where I live, remains relatively intact. The narrow streets and the old mud brick houses give the area a bit of a character, reminiscent of the quiet and picturesque neighborhood it once was.

Every morning as I drive to work, I always pass by this old mud brick house. The front door of this house is literally on the street, and my car is always so close to scraping the door as I struggle every morning to make the tight corner. Its rusty door handle has always picked my photographic curiosity, so I decided to pass by on foot the other day and take a picture.

Door Handle - 1920c

Taken handheld with my Canon 60D and Canon 24-70 F2.8L lens at ISO 800, F5.6 @ 1/40 sec.

Photographing the Milky Way (Part 1)

Last Saturday was a dark moonless night, making it an ideal night for astronomers and astro-photographers, to head out into the wilderness and stare at the night sky. For me this was my third outing of this kind, with the first attempt being over a year ago when I managed to capture the Polaris star trail. Since then I’ve been itching to give astro photography another try, only this time try and capture a near space object such as a star cluster or galaxy. Perhaps the easiest to photograph, primarily due to its sheer size and proximity to Earth, is our own galaxy – the Milky Way.

The picture below shows a portion of the Milky Way, which given the time of the year, its spiral arch can occupy a significant portion of the night sky. Below, is my friend Philippos – a buddy of mine who got me hooked into spending Saturday nights in the freezing cold out in the wilderness! He himself has invested a ton of money to purchase his telescope kit, which we are able to use to take pictures of deep space objects (by mounting the camera directly onto the telescope, effectively replacing the eye piece) and of near space objects (by piggybacking a second DSLR camera on top of the telescope). The telescope itself has an equatorial mount which when aligned correctly, it tracks the rotation of the earth, making both mounting methods quite effective since you are able to eliminate any star trails.

This picture however was taken with my camera mounted onto my tripod, and setting my exposure time to 20 secs. Any longer than that (given that I was using my 24-70 mm lens at the wide angle end) would have resulted in star trails – something that we wanted to avoid. To make Philippos stand out, I asked him to stand still, then used a red flashlight to effectively paint him into the picture.

Suffice to say that with warmer nights to come, I will be giving this technique several more tries. It is by no means an easy ordeal as there are a lot of technical variables to account for (more on that in a future post), so all I can do is read up and practice, practice, practice!

Astronomer - 1920c

Taken with my tripod mounted Canon 60D, and Canon 24-70 F2.8L lens at ISO 1600, F2.8, 20 second exposure.

A seven hundred year-old Oak tree

Situated in the village of Kalopanagiotis, only a 5-minute walk from the UNESCO heritage monasteri of Ayios Ioannis Lambadistis, is a small chapel by the name of Panagia Theoskepasti. The chapel got its Greek name “Theoskepasti” (which literally translates to “covered by God”) from an enormous Kermes Oak tree that has been planted in its yard, almost 700 years ago. Legend says that when the Turks invaded the Marathasa valley in 1571, many women and children found refuge in this chapel. When the soldiers tried to get into the chapel, the enormous tree saved everyone by lowering itself and covering this holy place with its dense foliage.

I have visited this chapel countless times ever since I can remember. Last Sunday however, I decided to take my camera with me in an attempt to capture the magnificence of this tree. With a height of almost 17 meters tall and a trunk nearly 4 meters in diameter, this picture definitely doesn’t do it justice. Perhaps I might make another attempt when I manage to buy myself a wider-angle lens!

Theoskepasti - 1920c

Taken with my Canon 60D and Sigma 3.5-6.3 18-200mm OS lens, at ISO 200, F.8.0 and bracketed at -3/0/+3.

Protaras Pier

March was a relatively short month work-wise, as we were lucky to have 3 back to back national holidays fall on Mondays. Unfortunately however, the first 2 of those long weekends were spent by most people (including myself) at home, glued to our TV-sets, following minute by minute updates of the events that have taken our economy back a good 40 or so years. Unable to see a minute more of yet another incompetent politician being interviewed on TV, I decided to get out of town this past weekend and seek an outlet from this really depressing environment.

On Sunday afternoon, I found myself gear in hand walking down the Sunrise beach boardwalk in Protaras. To my excitement I saw this pier extending into the sea, and without a second thought I started setting up my tripod to take the shot. The outcome is the following image, the result of a 4 minute and 10 second exposure! Luckily, the people on the pier were not standing still so they were not recorded as part of the image. On the downside, the heavy dust in the atmosphere at sunset completely masked any movement of the clouds.

Shot with my tripod mounted Canon 60D, Canon 24-70 F2.8L lens, at ISO 100, F16, 250 secs. For this shot I mounted both my circular polariser and ND 3.0 lens to effectively get a 12-stop reduction in my shutter speed.

Protaras Pier - 1920c


A couple of weekends ago on a Sunday afternoon, I decided to drive to the village of Koshi near Larnaca. The area surrounding this village is now the home of a couple of wind farms, making the location ideal for some windmill landscape shots. I rarely go out on my own to shoot pictures, but I must admit I found this experience greatly relaxing as I took the time to drive around and get acquainted with the area looking for the ideal composition.

The result of this short expedition, is the photograph below. For this picture I busted out my circular polarising filter. For anyone unfamiliar with this piece of equipment, this filter enhances the colours of the image, giving a bit more contrast while at the same reducing glare/reflections. It works best when the scene is side-lit such as in this case.

Shot with my tripod mounted Canon 60D and Canon 24-70 F2.8L lens at ISO 100, F11 and 1/100 exposure. Come to think of it, given that I was using a tripod and this was a landscape picture, I could have pushed my aperture down to F16 to increase sharpness. Not sure what happened there!


Long Exposure – Taking the shot

Continuing from my last post on Long Exposures, here is a picture of my actual set up (taken with my smartphone camera), and the final result. One of the problems with using a 10-stop ND filter is that there will inevitably be a slight distortion in the temperature of the picture. This can be overcome by shooting in RAW and fixing the White Balance during post processing, which is what I did in this case. I also made a slight adjustment in contrast to arrive at this end result.

Set up:

Set up

Final shot:

Petra tou Romiou - colour - 1920c

On a side note, the large wave I was talking about, came out 5 secs after I took this picture, so you can see how close I was to disaster!

Shot with a Canon 60D and Canon 24-70 F2.8L lens at ISO 100, F22, 30 sec exposure using an N 3.0 B+W solid filter.

Long Exposure – First attempt

This past weekend, Daria and I decided to spend the weekend in Pafos. I thought this would be a great opportunity to head to Petra tou Romiou (the famous birthplace of Aphrodite), photograph some rocks and give the “Long Exposure” technique a try. I wasn’t planning on getting any great shots – if anything, this was going to be an educational trial run to figure out how to properly use my 10-stop ND filter.

For anyone not into the photography technical jargon, the purpose of a solid ND filter is to slow down the camera’s shutter speed, allowing the photographer to capture movement. So if your camera’s speed reading is for example 1/100 sec, placing a 10-stop filter on the front of the lens (which looks like a black piece of glass), allows you to slow down your speed by 2^10, giving your therefore a 10 sec exposure for the same aperture.

Below is the result of my first attempt. In this case I managed to get a 40 sec exposure time, which ended up completely blurring the water to the point where it came out looking like mist. I can’t say I am ecstatic with the picture content-wise (afterall this was a technical exercise and less so a creative one), but if anything I have some key takeaways for next time I give this a try:

  1. You must have patience…and a lot of it! Since this particular filter is a solid black piece of glass, the only way to dial in the right camera settings, it to manually focus before putting on the filter, take a reading, do some math to figure out the final shutter speed and then screw on the filter.
  2. You need to have a lot of motion going on to make this worthwhile. Unfortunately the weather was pretty good (yeah photographers are weird this way), so there were no clouds in the sky. Moving clouds and water make great elements to photograph using this technique.
  3. If you have someone with you, make sure they are patient too! Yeap, enough said about Daria! 🙂
  4. Watch out for the waves! That might sound like common sense, but I am almost fell for that one! I placed my tripod really low in a dry area on the pebbles, but at some point a huge wave came out and almost swept my gear. I managed to get my feet completely soaked, but at least the camera and tripod get to see another day.

Needless to say I will give this technique another go. Anyone know where I can find a pier or a lighthouse here in Cyprus?

Long Exposure 1st attempt - 1920c

Taken with my tripod mounted Canon 60D and Canon F2.8L lens at ISO 100, F22, 40 sec exposure (with B+W ND 3.0 solid filter).

A 94-year old face

One can look at a portrait of someone and immediately sense the hardship of that person’s life and wealth of experiences. This is my grandmother, who is about to turn 95 in a few months and is every bit as energetic and well spirited, as she was 35 years ago when we first met. Unfortunately last week she lost her balance and fell, ending up in the hospital for a fairly minor and routine procedure. Surprisingly enough, this is the first time ever in her life that she had to see the inside of a hospital as a patient. But even laying on a hospital bed recovering from her operation, her spirits are still high and her mind 100% there. Wishing her a fast recovery and many more years of good health and happiness!

Giagia Eleni