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.

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Toronto Center Island nature

For anyone wondering where this blog’s header image originates from, well here is the entire non-cropped colour picture. This image was taken back in 2008 on Center Island in Toronto. I am fairly fond of this picture, particularly because it was one of the very first (yet decent) pictures I took when I started experimenting with HDR photography. I am usually good at archiving my pictures, but for the life of me I can’t seem to find the original RAW files, so sadly the EXIF data is pretty much gone.

On another note, it seems that I am heading back to Myanmar in a couple of weeks, only this time I am making an effort to do some sightseeing both on the weekend before, and on the weekend after my work week. More specifically, I am planning on visiting Bagan (an ancient city in the Mandalay region of Burma), and Bangkok (on a 2 day layover on my way back home) to take a train tour on the famous bridge of the river Kwai. Admittedly I am pretty excited about the photo opportunities of both these destinations, especially given the fact that my camera has not gotten much use over the last 5-6 weeks. Stay tuned!

Ferris Wheel

Continuing with the series of posts from my recent trip to Myanmar, this is a photograph taken at sunset at Inya Lake near the center of Yangon. Luckily I had taken my tripod with me on the tour bus, on the odd occasion I would need to take a landscape picture in low lighting conditions (very nerdy I know). I guess lugging it around with me sort of paid off with this HDR picture I took of a young couple watching the Ferris Wheel at sunset.

Shot with my Canon 60D and Sigma 18-200 F3.5-6.3 OS lens at ISO 400, F4.0 at 1/40 sec, exposed at -2/0/+2.

Rusty Truck

Another rusty truck left abandoned in a field near Kalopanayiotis. Cars in such an advanced state of decomposition make great subjects for photography , and especially HDR photography. What is mind boggling in Cyprus however, is the sheer number of such cars that are simply dumped by their owners wherever they feel like, rather than being taken in for recycling.

Shot with my Canon 60D and Sigma 18-200mm F3.5-6.3 IS lens, at ISO 100, F5.0 and bracketed at -2/0/+2.

PS: I will be away on a business trip for the next two weeks and most likely unable to post on my blog. What I can say however, is that I have really high expectations from this trip photography-wise…stay tuned!

Camping in the Okanagan Valley

Shortly after his retirement, my dad decided to hop onto a plane and fly to Canada for a short visit. At the time my brother was living in Vancouver so I decided to hop onto a flight from Toronto and meet them there for the weekend.

What better way for 3 guys to spend a weekend than head out to the Okanagan Valley for some wine tasting and camping out in the woods! The scenery in that area is truly breathtaking. Looking back, one of the great things I miss about Canada is the nature in British Columbia – it really is second to none.

This picture was taken somewhere near the town of Merritt. I remember we were driving around to find a campsite and came across this view. I yelled at my brother to stop the car, I jumped out with my camera and took a quick snap of the lake.

For anyone wondering – no it didn’t rain that night! Somehow we got really lucky!

Venice of the North

Last summer I had the opportunity to visit Saint Petersburg, Russia. A few months prior to my visit, I got a chance to also travel to Moscow and based on that experience my expectations were somewhat reserved. Don’t get me wrong – Moscow is a great city with lots of historical sights, museums and a great nightlife, but its shear size, traffic and pollution don’t rank the city in my top ten list of so-called “exotic” destinations.

Upon arriving in Saint Petersburg I was pleasantly surprised. A beautiful city, full of parks, canals and bridges (342 to be exact!) – it truly lives up to its name as being the “Venice of the North”. Its position, so far north of the equator, means that roughly between the end of June and early July you experience the so-called “White Nights” where the sun does not descend enough for the sky to go dark. Unfortunately, I got there in August but even then, the sun would only set at roughly around 11pm.

This is a picture of the Church of the Savior on Blood – one of the many city landmarks. The picture was taken from one of the nearby bridges at around midnight.

Shot with my Canon Rebel XTi and my 50mm F1.8 prime lens at ISO 200, F13 and bracketed at -2/0/+2.

Rusty old bus

This is a picture of an old Ford bus which has been left abandoned for years now on the side of a street in the village of Kalopanayiotis. As a kid I used to spend weeks at a time in the summer with my grandparents at our cottage in Kalopanayiotis. In fact on numerous occasions I had to take this type of bus (if not this actual one) to and from Nicosia. It definitely brings back old memories so every time I walked by it, I always felt that I had to return one day with my camera for a capture.

Rusty cars in general are best captured in HDR as the technique highly exaggerates the texture and creates somewhat of a surreal look which was what I was aiming for. It also worked really well with the texture of the tarmac, which I used as a leading line in my composition.

Taken with my tripod mounted Canon 60D, Sigma F3.5-6.3 18-200mm lens, at ISO 100, F22 and bracketed at -2/0/+2. Processed in Photomatix with some adjustments to levels and curves in Photoshop.