Thursday, 18 December 2014

A Shot in the Dark: Late Night Chat

I'm at a quiet corner on a tropical island. Out of the blue, a surrealist scene emerges right in front of my eyes in the darkness of the night. Two men are chatting by the bar that illuminates itself alone in the middle of nothingness. I found myself watching this scene, remaining in the darkness. A warm atmosphere, the roof of the bar is decorated with colorful lights. Nevertheless, an unspoken sadness looms in the air. The men look as if they are exchanging grievances, tranquile, as if they are the only ones left in the whole world.

After a while I came to my senses and took the following photograph.

15mm, f:2.8, 1/13 sec, ISO 800

They say that a photograph is worth a thousand words. To me, this shot is one of those pictures. I, for one wouldn't be able to describe this scene with words.

Handheld as always, without a tripod. Then I postprocessed to jpg using Rawtherapee.

(English text by Banu Büyükkal)

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Images: Greenland

The title may mislead you to think that I set foot in Greenland, I just flew over it. 

This huge island next to the North Pole naturally has no seasons other than winter.  This is a mostly uninhabited frozen country, as it cannot provide a hospitable environment for people to live in comfort. It had pertained to Denmark at the end of an interesting historical chain of events. 

I photographed the big mass of glacier which joins the sea within a narrow inlet on the southern part of Greenland. This is the best image I could capture from behind the many layers of the small window of a plane flying at an altitude of 10 km.

When we go into more detail, we can clearly see the glacier slowly flowing to the sea. The picture below reflects the view formed by the fluid mass making its way towards the sea. 

Even from such a distance, it is very exciting to be able to see this magnificent formation. I could take these shots, thanks to a clear weather

Right after taking the above pictures, I photographed the map on the video screen of my seat. Thus, I can give an idea about the location of these scenes.


These photos were the reward of sitting on a window seat on the flight from Istanbul to New York. I hadn't the slightest idea at the start of my journey that I would be able to capture such shots.

Friday, 10 October 2014

Images: Deidesheim

I had the opportunity of visiting the wine route and the village of Deidesheim during a business trip to Germany. It was a short stay but because of perfect timing - I was there right during vintage season - I had the privilege of enjoying the authentic ambiance of the area.

This part of Germany is within the state of Rhineland-Palatinate. It enjoys a mild climate, quite untypical for Germany. Being close to France and Luxembourg, wine production is the main economic activity of the area. I was surprised to see the vast vineyards stretching for kilometres along the Weinstrasse, that is "route of wine"

Beautiful historical villages come one after another while driving on the Weinstrasse. Deidesheim is such a town resting peacefully on the countryside by the river Rhine.

Here's a typical street view of the town, reflecting the end of a beautiful September day.

Dating back to 13th century, Deidesheim today shines proudly with an historical background.

After strolling the streets of the town, I had the opportunity to dine at the nice restaurant of hotel Deidesheim Hof. Once the favourite place of former chancellor Helmut Kohl, this restaurant enjoyed the presence of World leaders visiting Germany.

 A shot of the restaurant before going inside for dinner.

We had a significant fine-dining experience at Deidesheimer Hof. A nice surprise was the well balanced Pinot noir wine of the area that accompanied our dinner. That was the best German wine I ever tasted.

Let me present a picture of the Pinot Noir grape from the vineyard I visited during the daytime I spent at Weinstrasse. The taste is great even as a grape fresh from the branch.

Grape, once the fruit for the Gods, is a marvel of nature for us to enjoy.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Destination: Athens

Let's talk about Athens, the city that has developed under the wings of Athena, the Goddess and lived its golden age about 2500 years before the present day. This is the city which hosted the Academia of Plato as well the Lyceum of Aristotle.
Athens has shone through during the Antiquity with its opulence and culture, as well as being the cradle of democracy. However, as time went by, the city has gradually come to pine for its long bygone affluent days. Today, Athens houses one third of the population of Greece, with approximately 4 million inhabitants. Now, this is one city that is humming with the cacophony of the crowds, with concrete buildings forming its silhouette; quite a transformation from being the headquarters of Gods to being a living space completely earthly for the mortals.
A quick glance at the map, we see an almost plane settlement which has expanded around the hill at its centre. This hill at the centre is The Acropolis. On this rocky outcrop, stands one of the most well known temples of the world, The Parthenon. On the skirts of the hill facing north, lie two ancient quarters: Plaka and Monastiraki. Right behind them, as far as the eye can see, spreads modern Athens with its roofless buildings.
Looking from a distance, it's not easy to label Athens as a beautiful city. Nevertheless, the historical richness stretching from the Acropolis towards the ancient quarters at its skirts, a very delicious Greek cuisine and rich entertainment possibilities form an interesting attractiveness.
I suggest that we continue with a view from Athens, after so much talk about it.

This is a view of the Acropolis from Monastiraki quarter. One can see the Parthenon right en face, situated on the Acropolis. Just below are the picturesque houses of the historical quarters Plaka and Monastiraki. Monastiraki is the centre of the neighbourhood bearing the same name. Once, there really was a monastery here, now only its name survives. The church whose little dome appears at the left bottom corner is thought to have been once a part of the monastery. The edifice at the centre of the picture is the Tzistarakis mosque. The minaret of this mosque, today converted into a museum, has tumbled down long time ago. The building across the mosque is a subway station.

When we take a closer look at the Acropolis, both the grandeur of the hill and the colourfulness of the houses in the quarters at its skirts become more manifest. If you look at the photo below more carefully, the tower-like stone building with a canopy might catch your eye. This building, called the Tower of the Winds, has been built by the astronomer Kyrestes in the first or second century BC. There are bas-relieves on each façade of this octagonal construction depicting the wind blowing from that side symbolically. The building has been designed to function as a water clock as well.

Now that we are this close to the Acropolis, come, let's visit it. The main entrance is to the west of the hill. The temples of Propylaia and Athens built in the fifth century BC make up the two sides of this entrance. By the way, it would be amiss of us not to mention the Herodes Atticus Odeon, situated at the southwest of the hill, which we shall pass before arriving here. This beautiful theatre constructed in the second century BC has been restored in the 1950’s and stands proud in the present day.

As we climb up from Herodes Atticus Odeon, and pass by Propylaia mentioned above, we reach a plateau on the hill. Here, the Parthenon welcomes you with all its glory. This temple erected in the fifth century BC, is the creation of the architects Kallikrates and Iktinos. In order to get a better idea of its age, we can put it this way: when Hagia Sophia in Istanbul was built, it has been there for about 850 years...when Istanbul was conquered by Mehmed the Conqueror, Parthenon had been standing erect for the past 1900 years! The temple dedicated to the goddess Athena, the guardian of the city still watches over Athens from the Acropolis as the symbol of the city.

This building has functioned as a mosque under the Ottoman rule, and later, as a gunpowder storage during the siege by the Venetians in the 17th century. The Venetians, upon realizing this, have cannoned the temple, exploding the stored ammunition and causing great damage to this construction which has endured the wear and tear of centuries. Today, restoration work started many years ago still continue, Sadly, it's not possible to efface the traces of the destruction of war: the interiors and the roof of the building have been destroyed completely.

I present you the Parthenon of today, approximately 2500 years after its construction.

After visiting the Parthenon and the other beautiful edifices accompanying it, the view of modern Athens that surrounds you down the hill inevitably catches your eye. It's right here that you encounter the non-esthetic side of Athens. When you look past Plaka and Monastiraki situated at the skirts of the hill, all you see is a concrete jungle. You can observe the demarcation line where the historical part ends by the vanishing of the red roofs and start of the white concrete buildings with terraces. The rest consists of this white concrete.

This division is quite clear in the picture above. Right in the centre of the photo is the beforementioned Tzistarakis Mosque. The green belt right below the mosque is Hadrian’s Library, with only a couple of its walls standing today. Below the library, one can see the Fethiye Mosque and again, the Tower of Winds.

Let's take a closer look at Fethiye Mosque. This mosque, built in honour of Mehmet the Conqueror’s visit to Athens has been constructed using natural materials. It has a distinctive appearance, keeping its respect to its environs. The tiles covering the main dome and rest of the roof create a beautiful harmony with the walls of the building made up of natural stones. Despite its modest size and structure, it keeps up with the historical small churches scattered around the city.

Continuing on to the east of Fethiye mosque, you start getting lost in the narrow streets of Plaka. Beautiful buildings, intertwining streets, cafes, restaurants welcome you here. The main square of the neighborhood is (Plateia) Lysikratous.

Walking to the streets of Plaka from the Lysikratous square seen above, do not hesitate to enter any restaurant that catches your eye if you feel hungry. All the delicacies of the Aegean cuisine shall be awaiting you. I have to tell you that the standards of the Greek cuisine, which is very similar to Turkish mezes and seafood served at the Aegean coast, are very high. Sitting at a table adorned with delicous food is an important part of social life here. Being able to eat such elaborate dishes for quite reasonable prices makes me a little jealous. You have to spend more on the other side of the Aegean and sometimes settle for lesser taste.

Let's return to our tour of the city. Wandering around the narrow streets of Plaka is a very pleasant experience. The only problem is the chaos in areas where there is heavy traffic. I give as an example, Kapnikarea street leading to the shopping area. In this narrow street, heavy pedestrian traffic is interlocked with cars on the road. Fortunately not all streets are like this, some are even closed to traffic.

In spite of the chaos of the street, once you raise your head up the view of the Acropolis instantly impresses you.

Ermou street, which we can designate as the border of Plaka and the new city, is one of the most lively shopping centres of Athens. Being quite long, Ermou becomes a pedestrian street as it approaches the main square of the city, Syntagma. Don’t get surprised if you encounter a historical church right in the middle of the street while you are walking. Panaghia church, built upon an ancient temple, is one of the oldest churches in the city.

The pedestrian part of Ermou includes a small square and the tiny Panaghia, built in the 11th century. Photography enthusiasts will readily tell you that it's challenging to take photos when there are dark shadows and overly lit areas, just like in the photo above. The shadows turn out very dark or the lit areas very bright if you can't perform good adjustment and post processing. This is the best I could do.

When you keep on walking through Ermou, you end up in the famous Syntagma square. The heart of Athens, maybe even of Greece beats here, because the Greek parliament is located at the square. Among the buildings surrounding Syntagma, which is a grand square, are famous hotels of Athens. One side is occupied with the colossal parliament building. 

After seeing so many examples of aesthetic and traditional architecture, the building didn't impress me much. In the main entrance, columns have been utilised as if just for the sake of it. When you look at the building as a whole, something is not easy on the eye. Talking about placing the columns, there’s much to learn even from the only wall left standing of Hadrian’s Library built in the second century BC.

Now that we have returned to historical buildings, let's keep going that way and arrive at the antique Agora. Agora is the name given to the quarter that serves as the centre for political, social and commercial gatherings in antique Greek city states. The Agora is a buildings complex, completed in the 600’s BC, sort of a campus. In the interior part, we encounter the stoa of Attalos (stoa=portico, cloister), a very impressive building reconstructed faithfully to the historical, partly using the original materials. This long and narrow building was once designed as a portico housing commercial shops, but today it's been converted into an imposing museum. 

At a different corner of the Agora, stands one of the best preserved buildings from antiquity: the Hephaisteion Temple. 2500 years old columns still hold the construction bold upright. Look closer and you can see that some of the stones forming the columns have become slightly loose. I suppose this is a result of the many earthquakes shaking the region in times past. Nevertheless, the temple is still proudly erect.

Agora, located at the skirts of the Acropolis covers quite a large area. Right across, the active social life in Monastiraki keeps on at all hours. When you complete your journey to the past, you only need to take a few steps to have a nice cup of coffee or a delicious meal. Adrianou street welcomes you upon departing the Agora.

Aside from these areas, the most popular parts  the city are Gazi and Psyri. Until recently both were considered suburbia, however now these serve as the most important spots for the nightlife of Athenian youngsters. 

Another important place that can be reached by an half-hour drive, or preferably by the subway, from the city centre is Piraeus. I did not have a chance to visit Piraeus which can be considered the coast of Athens. This harbour is at the top of my list for the next visit, and of course followed by the islands easily reached from Piraeus.

I conclude my impressions of Athens with a night view of Monastiraki quarter which we have seen in the first picture. After the sunset, the Acropolis alight stands proud, being the residence of Athena watching over the mortals crowding the city. On the other end, the streets are filled with people oblivious to this vigilance, busy with their own affairs. 

(English text by Banu Büyükkal)

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

An attempt for a new beginning

My original blog is available here: pirekare

Pirekare is "pi r squared" in Turkish.

I hope to present my posts in English soon.

Update: Posts start appearing with the help of friends. Destination: Athens is the first one and I hope to move fast.