Sofia photomarathon III: Escape

Venue: central Sofia

Lens: Nikkor 50 mm f/1.4

Music: Pink Floyd – Hey You (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DEDjF2tLbhk)

This is the third out of three posts about my participation in the Sofia photomarathon (scroll down to see them in chronological order). The last theme in the contest was also pretty conceptual: “Escape”. So it can be pretty much anything – a city escape to the nearby mountain, or people running away, some friends were suggesting escaping somewhere up high on a tall building..I liked instead the “escape from reality” idea making use of one of the places we went to for the previous topic in search of “silence”. I thought someone reading books in this isolated place at the library would be the true “escape” photo, but it required submitting a different type of photo for the second topic and we were happy enough with the stopped clock for this purpose.

So we headed back to the library with this idea and then wanted to try some street photos afterwards, just to try the “running away” idea and see what chance brings. And here’s what happened:

dsc_7711
Back to the desk at the library, with my model for day.
dsc_7713
But we wanted a darker photo where you mostly see the reader’s contour and the white curtains are  leading you away.
dsc_7730
And this is the one that we both liked the most.
dsc_7737
But we had to try a few more shots, changing the focus..
dsc_7744
..or the posture.
dsc_7750
Back on the street we saw someone else competing in the photomarathon, and she (the lady on the right, she even had a tripod) used her kids as models to run around.
dsc_7754
So I also tried a few shots, just for fun and not to use them in the competition of course. But still the lady with the camera got pissed and came to complain, so we went on.
dsc_7761
Another randomly spotted thing on the way – a backyard with two old and rusty cars “Moskvich” – the Russian cars that were the only option in Bulgaria during the socialist times, many years ago. An escape in different times..
dsc_7770
And the promised tries for a street escape, but we just couldn’t get it right I think.
dsc_7784
Another try, but we decided that’s not it, and the shots in the library are much better.
dsc_7796
So we headed back to deliver the photos to the contest organizers, but not before taking a few shots on the way – a plane passing by is also a very obvious escape metaphor, even if this one was actually landing.
dsc_7801
And here are some weird windows and graffiti in one of the hipstery streets in town – if you think about it pretty much everything is a form of escape from some angle.
dsc_7805
Even this pipe was trying to escape from the sewers.

But at the end of the day we went for the reader escaping reality photo, which was probably my best shot for the day if I compare the three photos in the different topics. But surely others would think differently, so I again remind you that you can rate all the photos at http://photosynthesis.bg/maraton-glasuvane.html by entering your email and clicking on a photo rating it from 2 to 6 (2 is bad, 6 is excellent).

Sofia photomarathon II: Silence

Venue: central Sofia and the Lozenets neighborhood

Lens: Nikkor 50 mm f/1.4 and Nikkor 24-120 mm f/4.0

Music: Simon & Garfunkel – The sound of silence (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4zLfCnGVeL4)

This is the second post of the photomarathon series (you better check part I below first), where we’re moving on to the second topic: “Silence”. An important detail I should mention already here is that the time of the day allocated for this topic was between 1am and 3pm (the reason I say it here will come later). And everyone I asked was thinking first in the direction of finding some big empty space, like a theater hall, a school, a cinema. I guess people naturally associate emptiness with silence, but at the end of the day that’s not the type of picture we chose, even if we tried plenty of them. The other ideas my friends thought of are photos in a graveyard, or a public library. Meanwhile I realized I have an easy access to huge empty lecture halls at the Faculty of Physics at the Sofia University where I teach, so we decided to head that way, and then on the way back pass by a public library and see if suitable photos can be made there. As the Physics faculty building is further away from the centre of the city there wouldn’t be more time for any extra ideas and places anyway, as we already had less than two hours.

So that was the plan, and here’s the photos I took and why I chose the one you see on top:

dsc_7622
This is one the big “aula” – the auditorium in the Faculty of Physics. Looks quite miserable to be honest, it’s part of a building from the 60’s with a typical socialist architecture.
dsc_7629
Another photo of the auditorium, I decided to put some actual physics formulae on the blackboard to make it more realistic, but you can’t see much anyway.
dsc_7632
A closer view to the front side of the auditorium, but it keeps being pretty ugly I think, so we decided that it was not the right place, even if the topic does fit well.
dsc_7636
On the outside of the auditorium I accidentally spotted an old clock that didn’t seem to work and made a few pictures of it, not yet thinking properly how to fit it in the topic of “Silence”.
dsc_7648
We checked out some smaller lecture halls, but those were as old-school as the big auditorium, so we decided to let go of the idea and check out the public library.
dsc_7662
But right at the entrance/exit of the stairs at the Faculty of Physics we spotted a cupboard with some very old physics instruments and an old clock. They seem to have been arranged as a sort of museum exposition, which is pretty nice.
dsc_7680
So at that point we decided this old stopped clock is worth taking a picture of for the topic. After all it shows 10:27 so it was obviously stopped as the time for taking photos was between 1 and 3 pm as I stressed in the beginning.
dsc_7681
And after several experiments with the focus and angle we decided this is the photo that best fits the “Silence” idea.
dsc_7692
And then we went back to the centre and entered the Sofia public library on Slaveikov square. The building and the books inside are much older than the socialist times, and for this reason way more beautiful.
dsc_7693
And this empty desk around the bookshelves at one corner of the library was such a relaxing and silent place, that we thought we found the perfect shot.
dsc_7696
After trying several photos here I think we decided that this is the one we want. So we were satisfied we have several good shots and decided to head back and hear the next topic.
dsc_7703
On the way out I took some more shots of the place, which is quite nice and quiet indeed.
dsc_7709
And these are the stairs of the library, which are also very nice and “silent” except for the mirror they put downstairs that breaks the symmetry due to its tilt.

And so in reality my favorite photo from the series is probably the empty desk in the library, yet in the end I decided to officially submit the old stopped clock. The reason you’ll see in my next post, as it turned out a similar library photo would fit perfectly not only the topic of “Silence” but also the third topic in the photomarathon. I remind you that my three photos from the marathon are now also part of an online competition that everybody can vote in if interested – http://photosynthesis.bg/maraton-glasuvane.html – just enter your email address, confirm it and then by clicking on a photo you can rate it from 2 to 6 (2 is bad, 6 is excellent).

Sofia photomarathon I: One more time

Venue: central Sofia

Lens: Nikkor 50 mm f/1.4

Music: OneRepublic – I lived (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hWuRA_JvCR8)

This is the first in a series of three posts, each of which describes two hours of my participation in the Sofia photomarathon (http://www.photomarathon.bg/en). The rules were simple – you have 6 hours and three topics that get announced in a space of two hours. So you’d hear the topic, think and shoot as many photos as you like, come back for the next topic…and in the end of the 6 hours you can only submit three photos, one for each topic. So you not only had to come up with an interesting concept for a photo, but had to choose exactly one photo, which is not so easy. Fortunately for me I had an amazing teammate and a vast group of friends giving me ideas, so I was really happy with the outcome and most importantly it was great fun! I will tell you about each topic and our creative process in a separate post to keep it simple.

And so the first topic is… “One more time”. And the clock is ticking! I think the most discussed idea with this topic was going to a bar and having someone order a cocktail “one more time”, but eventually we went for something better, I think. In any case, our three main ideas that we went on to pursue were: finding kids on swings pushing each other; finding an ice-cream place with kids ordering some at the time; going to a bar for a drink (that we’ll take a picture of). And on the way there came other possibilities as often happens, so here’s my selection of best photos on the topic:

dsc_7494
On the way to the swings we saw someone sweeping the street the old-school way, so we thought it might also fit the topic somewhat.
dsc_7510
At the swings in the park in front of the national theater. There were a few kids with their grandmother, and they were very relaxed and nice and were quite positive when we asked them if we can take some photos.
dsc_7517
And the little girl was so amazingly genuine that if she keeps it up this way she’s gonna be an actress one day.
dsc_7525
So I took quite a lot of photos as I felt that’s the real thing, that one of these will be our pick for the topic.
dsc_7537
And the girls kept having fun and not minding the camera at all.
dsc_7540
And eventually this is the shot we chose as you see also on top, but of course I’ll show you all the best ones so that everybody expresses their opinion.
dsc_7546
The little girl was totally in her element.
dsc_7551
And the last photo of the series, at which point we thought we have enough material.
dsc_7576
But a few steps away from the swings there were people playing backgammon on one of the benches in the park, and I just couldn’t miss the opportunity. The rolling dice actually make the perfect “one more time” photo I think.
dsc_7578
But eventually the reason we chose the kids is that they feel more alive, maybe a better executed dice game photo would have really made it to the top, so it is partially my fault.
dsc_7589
Next stop was the ice-cream place. We went to my favorite one on Vitosha street and I took the raspberry flavour, to try out some photos with it (and then obviously eat it, it was delicious).
dsc_7598
But there was a family with their kids and we asked them to take some pictures.
dsc_7603
The kid was super nice and posing with pleasure, but we thought that the father actually spoiled the photo as he was too close. I was too shy to actually dare asking him to move aside for a second, so the photo didn’t make it to the top.
dsc_7606
Yet another ice-cream place.
dsc_7613
And a cocktail with tea and rum, it was a bit chilly this day so I felt like something warm. Anyway the people at the bar were not very understanding and were pissed at me taking photos around, so I stopped and didn’t produce anything memorable.
dsc_7618
Just this photo with a cappuccino and the grog
dsc_7619
And the last randomly seen shop on the street before heading back to hear the second topic.

So stay tuned for the next two topics, which I will be posting in the next two days, and let me know if you think I didn’t choose the best photo in this round and you prefer another one. My three photos from the marathon are now also part of an online competition that everybody can vote in if interested – http://photosynthesis.bg/maraton-glasuvane.html – just enter your email address, confirm it and then by clicking on a photo you can rate it from 2 to 6 (2 is bad, 6 is excellent).

Still life without woodpecker

Venue: Vitosha mountain, Sofia

Camera & Lens: Nikon D750, Nikkor 50 mm f/1.4 – here at aperture f/1.8 and shutter speed 1/3200s, ISO 100

Music: ERA – Ameno (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RkZkekS8NQU)

Two weeks ago I went on a small hike and a picnic with friends up on Vitosha mountain and of course I brought my camera with me. Here is the photo I like the most, and I feel it brings something new to this blog – it is actually the first photo here that shows no people or objects that are man-made. In the same time I think I managed to put a bit of a mystical and darker feel to it, showing the grass on focus lightened up and the darkened silhouette of the pine tree up the hill (which I obtained using some of the standard Photoshop preset filters). I am not really sure if the photo has the same feel to everyone, but I decided to call it like this for its abstract nature and the book I’m currently reading. Probably after processing this image I realized I also enjoy trying some more conceptual photos, and you’ll soon see plenty more photos with an abstract theme.

A wedding in Sofia

Venue: Sofia centre and Vitosha

Lens: Nikkor 85 mm f/1.8

Music: Eric Clapton – Wonderful Tonight (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vUSzL2leaFM)

This photo-post is not exactly matching any of my previous categories, but no photographer portfolio is complete without some wedding photos, right? I was a guest at a wedding of family friends, so my role was mainly to have fun and celebrate their love, but I also took some time taking some amateur photos in the few moments when the crowd of officially appointed photographers was not completely covering the view to the bride and groom. So here are some chronologically ordered photos, telling also the story of the modern Bulgarian wedding traditions.

2
The guests waiting for the bride and the groom in front of the municipal building where the official marriage took place.
5
Here they are, ready for the ceremony to take place – it literally took 5 minutes, they signed a paper and it was over.
6
After the signing we could congratulate the happy couple and the families and take some candy from the bridesmaids.
7
Some of the congratulating cards were super fancy, coming with a smartphone app and a small funny cartoon with a bride and groom.
8
Not unexpectedly there were dozens of people taking photos with all kinds of cameras from professional to good amateur to smartphone ones.
10
The next part was the marriage “before God” in one of the central churches in Sofia – St. Sofia, one of the oldest and most beautiful churches that actually gave the name to the city that grew around it.
11
The orthodox marriage ceremony takes quite a while with plenty of things from the bible that they cite in a hardly understandable medieval Bulgarian and Slavic.
12
Part of the ceremony requires the bride and the groom to wear crowns that they interchange at some point.
13
And there were plenty of priests around with different looking clothes, so it was hard to understand who is the main boss around.
14
At the end of the ceremony they had to go around the table several times, and then were officially proclaimed husband and wife before God.
17
After the marriage it was time for the next event – baptism, in the shiny vessel in front of the old lady.
18
Love is all around, even in the puddles of water outside the church.
19
Time for the actual wedding – the party! It took place in a restaurant up in Vitosha mountain and as usual started with some traditional Bulgarian music and dances – the “horo” is the typical round dance where people dance around hand in hand.
21
The bridal bouquet, which she will throw to someone later on..
23
But first some more Bulgarian traditions – the best man is supposed to get to the centre of the room in a dancing style and there are the defenders that are on the brides’ side that try to push him away, and eventually accept some bribes to let him pass.
24
The next tradition is breaking the “banitsa” – a salty pastry with cheese and eggs, that the bride and groom have to try breaking, fighting for the bigger part.
25
And the bride gets the bigger part, meaning that she’ll be in charge of bringing money in the house. Not sure if that’s a good thing, but she does look happy about it.
26
The typical wedding photos with friends and family and the bride and the groom in the centre, the official wedding photographer had to make hundreds (if not thousands) of these.
29
The younger generation also dancing horo in style.
31
But the older generation was leading the way, while listening to the live band that was one of the surprise presents at the wedding. They were really really good.
32
Time for less typical, but still old-school music, dancing on some classic rock songs of Whitesnake, Foreigner and AC/DC.
33
Moving on to the next big event – throwing the bridal bouquet, a way to figure out who will be the next girl to get married. So you can clearly see some excitement radiating away from the single lining up.
34
And the winner is…
36
And the party goes on! Sometimes the photographer is the most interesting one to capture on the photo.
37
Yeah, I bet you can’t guess what is going on here! The groom is trying to take the stocking of the bride, to use it as the male analog of the bridal bouquet in choosing the next groom. But they did put on quite a show first.
38
As the night went on the view from the terrace to the city below got more and more beautiful and people apparently started forgetting their drinks outside.
40
Unfortunately I had only taken my 85mm zoom lens that is not good for panoramic photos, but it was still worth taking a photo of Sofia, even if I only managed to squeeze in the central bits of the city here – my home is somewhere on the left side. Incidentally there was a football game that evening so you can even see the stadium on the far right well lit. The home team of Levski Sofia won.
42
In the meantime the party inside was still going on – and there’s no better end of the wedding night than seeing the younger people taking over.

The dusty window

Venue: A friend’s top floor apartment, central Sofia

Camera & Lens: Nikon D750, Nikkor 50 mm f/1.4 – here at aperture f/7.1 and shutter speed 1/200s, ISO 100

Music: Tangra – Fortune / Тангра – Богатство (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KRe_NNFOAas)

This weekend I will slightly bend the “single photo” idea of the category, by presenting you with two different photos of a “single thing”, only changing the focus from the dusty glass of the window to the roofs beyond. I myself have a problem choosing which one I like more and which one tells which story, so I thought it’s fair to let you decide. The photos are taken in the centre of Sofia, in an old building from the beginning of the 20th century, in the top floor apartment of a friend who needed someone to water his plants while having fun at the beach. So I took the opportunity to make some photos through the window, as the place (and the window itself) really looks like it’s been preserved exactly the same in the last hundred years, and what is even more amazing, the view to the nearby houses also looks like it hasn’t changed much. The only noticeable “modern” thing that came into live in 1953 are the four big floodlights of the national stadium “Vasil Levski” that you can probably see better on the lower photo. The people that know where the stadium is will realize you’re looking at the very centre of Sofia, which has gone through huge changes in the last century and that’s why I was quite amazed to realize this particular angle of view to the city has been preserved through time. So for me both photos bring a sense of timelessness and longing for some older times, just like the song I chose to go along with them.

So now I leave it to you, please let me know with your comments which one you like more?

PSX_20160824_164554

Burgas and the Black Sea

Venue: Burgas, Sozopol, mostly Pomorie

Lens: Nikkor 24-120 mm f/4 VR – mostly using the 24mm end

Music: Stefka Berova and Yordan Marchinkov – 20 km away from Burgas / Стефка Берова и Йордан Марчинков – На 20 км от Бургас (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=prZusXxGBmc)

As every single year in my life, I spent some time on the Bulgarian seaside this summer. I usually go to the southern part, around the Gulf of Burgas, and this time was no exception. I took it as a proper vacation going to the beach and having fun with friends, so I only took my camera on several occasions and my photos won’t be really representative of the Black Sea cost or even of my own vacation. I particularly regret not taking my camera on our boat trip from the port of Burgas to the tiny island of St. Anastasia, which has a really cool story during the communist years and has recently been turned into a beautiful place to watch the sunset over the city with the help of some EU grants.

What I will show you instead are a few photos of Burgas and Sozopol, our main spot for the vacation, together with quite some photos with boats and setting sun from Pomorie, thus covering the whole Gulf of Burgas from its northern to southern end.

PSX_20160819_125303
The central parts of Burgas as seen from one of the landmark buildings – hotel “Bulgaria”, a socialist style hotel in the very centre. You can even see the boat competition that was taking place that afternoon. Just before the sea you can also spot the trees of the “Sea garden” park, which is a very nice place to bike around.
PSX_20160819_125626
The view from the last floor of our “hotel”, or rather family house, in Sozopol. The old town of Sozopol is on the opposite side of the bay on the picture, and is a good place for a nice dinner and a walk around the freshly (re)built old fortress along the sea.
PSX_20160819_130037
The opposite side of the roof, with a good example of the “growth mistakes” along the Black Sea when tourism suddenly exploded and lots of buildings were started and never properly finished. Not that the sunset over the sea can ever really be spoilt, fortunately.
PSX_20160819_130303
A third angle from the top floor, this time showing distantly some buildings (e.g. the one with a non-religiously looking cross on top) which are off-limits as they are part of a still existing military area on one side of Sozopol (even if we don’t really have an army anymore).
PSX_20160819_130716
The next day’s sunset from the top floor, revealing the actual purpose of the last floor – providing the laundry with a good panoramic view during sunset.
PSX_20160819_131057
The central beach of Sozopol and another view to the old town in the evening.
PSX_20160819_131256
On one the beaches near Sozopol, Gradina. This is in the Kite bar – a very popular beach bar with a cool DJ party on some of the afternoons.
PSX_20160819_131443
Back to Burgas – the famous “bridge” of Burgas, linking the central part of the park with…the sea. In most other parts of Bulgaria people call this construction a pier, but the locals insist very strongly on calling it the Bridge.
PSX_20160819_141401
In Pomorie, passing by a not very fancy restaurant with a good sunset view.
PSX_20160819_141533
Time for some more iconic photos – a boat on the sea during sunset with the Bulgarian flag.
PSX_20160819_141720
Some boats off the port of Pomorie, with the other side of the gulf streching to Sozopol on the background.
PSX_20160819_141946
A postcard style attempt from me – I really like the little seagull passing by the sun in the moment I took the picture. No Black Sea postcard is complete without an old fisherman on a boat and a seagull, after all.
PSX_20160819_142134
Here is a closer look of the old fisherman from the previous photo, and very appropriately the name of the boat in Bulgarian means “seagull”.
PSX_20160819_142719
Time for some boat pictures – all boats in Bulgaria need to be registered in some port, and “Пм”, or “Pm”, clearly stands for Pomorie.
PSX_20160819_143141
More boats and more sunset.
PSX_20160819_143742
A particularly nice boat I think, and funnily the boat on the right side has the name that translates as “The White Stripe”. I doubt they actually thought of the famous band with the almost exact same name.
PSX_20160819_144046
Another postcard style photo with the boat and the seagull and the sunset. In the back you can also see one the huge modern hotels built in the beginning of Pomorie, for the richer Russian tourists.
PSX_20160819_144254
A street cart selling various fruits and vegetables, in particular peaches from Pomorie as the sign suggests.
PSX_20160819_144617
The last pink clouds from the sunset over Pomorie and some fancy lamps used by a fish restaurant next to the walking alley. With all its paradoxes and problems, the Bulgarian Black Sea cost is not that bad I’d say, and is never easy to leave for me.