Thursday, 30 September 2010

Young Turks

The Egyptian Obelisk at the Hippodrome © Steven Lee

Revealing the interiors of the the magnificent Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia Basilica is a real challenge, but our participants sailed through their tasks today with flying colours.

We set mini tasks ahead, the first was setting manual exposure controls with an external light meter and judging exposure values and combination manually instead of relying on the built-in meters in our cameras.

The Blue Mosque was already teaming with visitors from all over the world and by 10am the queue of tourists groups circled the huge courtyard as we photographed the amazing minarets and arches within it. The mosque was built on the commission of Sultan Ahmet I in early 1600's and remains one of the most famous in the world, with the interior dome and walls completely tiled with the signature Iznik floral tiles.

Inside the Blue Mosque © Steven Lee

Young Turkish women strolling outside the Blue Mosque gardens © Steven Lee

Following a light lunch at a roadside restaurant alongside the Hippodrome, we set off for the Hagia Sophia. Built as a church around 530 AD by Emperor Justinian, this 1,400 year old building is one of the world's greatest architectural achievements. In the 15th century the Ottomans converted it into a mosque but some important religious artwork and mosaics still remain under its huge dome.

Hagia Sophia © Steven Lee

It is often said that the reward at the end will test your patience. How true is this. Photographing in crowded places where everyone is aiming their cameras at similar targets only result in repetitive imagery. The challenge is to find that sweet spot where hand, eye and heart unite in an instant to make that special photograph. Try and try, often the moment is elusive. Surprises also come in small and large doses. After spending and hour inside the Blue Mosque and another good hour at the Hagia Sophia, a few of us developed 'shutter fatique', and could shoot no more, including myself.

The results of the group after Day 1 shooting astounded Andy and I. Our Young Turks have surpassed even themselves. And you know who you all are.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Merhaba! Istanbul

Merhaba! Istanbul.

The group has finally assembled at the Garden House hotel in Sultanahmet, despite a few of us having literally to traverse across the world from Asia to be here, and some traveled through Europe by bus and plane for 12 hours due to the Belgian air strike yesterday.

Most fittingly, East meeting West in this magnificent city. The Sultanahmet area is the old part of the City where narrow cobbled streets crisscross in a tightly packed half a square mile, just south of the Blue Mosque and the Haghia Sophia. We are literally a couple of hundred meters from the Hippodrome, the oldest part of Istanbul, built in 230AD, during the reign of Roman Emperor Septimus, and made famous by Charlton Heston in the flick Ben Hur racing horse drawn chariots.

The hotel has a shady dining courtyard, and we had our intros over drinks coupled with a make-shift slide show projected onto the off white plastered perimeter wall, to the amusement of the local staff.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Bokeh or not?

Voigtlander Nokton Classic SC 35mm F1.4

I recently purchased a used fine sample from eBay for the M8 and had a street shoot walkabout in the narrow streets of Granada and Malaga in Andalucia. This diminutive lens impressed me with the colour rendition and compact size, the smooth focussing and also the precise aperture clickstops. Its a highly usable lens for street photography.

The moggie picture was taken wide open at F1.4 focussed on it's eyes. Click on the image to enlarge it.

The above bus stop picture was taken in Malaga at noon, at F3.4. The lens is crisp and contrasty, although my sample was a SC, single-coated version.

The view of the Alhambra Palace in Granada was shot through a finely restored Moorish double arch window showing a flat field with virtually no distortion. The plasterwork and windows aren't entirely level as this is a medieval construction, restored over centuries.

Although not intended as a full review of this compact lens, I can totally recommend it as an all round standard lens for the M's.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Istanbul : East Meets West

In 2 weeks time, I will be in spending 5 days in the great city of Istanbul, Turkey along with Andy Craggs and our workshop participants.

I visited Istanbul in 1998, on a 10 day tour which took me to the shores of Gallipoli, where many casualties were taken during WW1 when the British and French army joined by their Australian and Kiwi counterparts fought the Ottoman Turks which failed. This Campaign was made into a movie of the same name and launched the career of a very young fresh actor called Mel Gibson.

I also visited Izmir further south, Ephesus, and Pamukkale, with the amazing white terraces of calcium carbonate cliffs.

I am really looking forward to seeing and photographing Istanbul again, with a fresh eye on things. The city is the literally split up between Europe and Asia, and sits on the tip of the European continent. The busy Bosphorus river is the lifeline of Istanbul as it brought in trade by sea from places as far as China and India during the Ottoman years and also beyond that, when it was the centre of Christianity founded under Emperor Constantine. Not surprising since it was also known as The Second Rome.