The AWAI Travel Photography Workshop, Seville (Day 2)

The first session on the second day was on Adobe Lightroom, the software developed especially for photographers to work a little magic on their images. We all came prepared with a copy on our computers, and spent an absorbing hour while Efrain gave us an overview of this complex program. Class over, we walked to the Plaza de Toros de la Maestranza, the Bull Ring, for our next photo shoot.

The elegant baroque exterior of the Plaza de Toros de la Maestranza

This is the bull ring made famous by Bizet's Carmen and dates from 1761, although the magnificent complex we see today was gradually built up over the following 120 years. We joined a tour so that we could visit the museum, and to gain entrance to the bull ring itself as there was no fight on that day. The arena is huge, much bigger than the one in Ondara, where Clare and Jane played in the Ondara town band. It is also more oval than round, which is unusual for a bull ring, and it is higher in the centre, to give the toreador a downhill run to the safety of the barricade.

The pristine splendour of the bull ring.

Puerta del Príncipe (the Prince's Gate), 
with beautiful 16th-century iron doors.

The Plaza del Toros museum displays artifacts collected through the ages, depicting celebrated toreadors, their costumes, historic posters, and even the heads of heroic bulls. There is also a small chapel, where the bull fighters go to pray before they face the bull, and the possibility of death.

Matadors' uniforms, displayed in the museum

This was a bull of note, killed in a memorable fight in 1915.

The dome of the toreadors' chapel

Our next shoot of the day was at Seville's Gothic cathedral, and from the bell tower of the Giralda Tower. The foundations of the cathedral were laid in 1248 on the site of the Almohad Mosque, after the reconquest of the territory by the Spanish following the Moorish invasion. All that is left of the mosque is the Giralda Tower, from which the Muezzin made the call to prayer. The access to the bell tower is via 35 ramps, rather like the ones in the Aya Sofya, although not as steep. The reason for ramps, rather than stairs, was to enable the Muezzin to ride his horse to the top of the tower for the five-times-a-day call to prayer.

The entrance to the cathedral's Patio de los Naranjos, the Orangery.

Ornate roof detail in Seville's Gothic Cathedral

A cherub from one of the many chapels

The Plaza de Toros de la Maestranza, 
as seen from the top of the Giralda Tower

The view down Mateos Gago, where we often ate in the evenings. 
Our hotel swimming pool can be seen on the left.

In the evening, after a relaxed dinner, Sue and I sat on the rooftop bar of our hotel and sipped a cocktail, while gazing out over the cathedral and the tower - such an amazing view!

This is the other side of the tower from my previous image on day one.


The AWAI Travel Photography Workshop, Seville (Day 1)

The rooftop bar at the Hotel Doña María

I am now back in Istanbul, having had a wonderful time in Seville attending an AWAI (American Writers and Artists Inc.) Travel Photography Workshop. There were only seven people in our group, which meant that we had lots of individual help from our Guru, Efrain Padro, a professional travel photographer and writer. We were also blessed to have Jackie, from AWAI, who organised everything with such efficiency. Those few days in Seville changed me from a would-be photographer into someone who has mastery over her camera, who can now take professional standard photographs (well almost!).

We stayed at the Hotel Doña María in the old historic centre of Seville, facing the Cathedral and the famous Giralda Tower. The Hotel was originally a XIV Century palatial mansion, belonging to one Samuel Leví (that should amuse the Zimbos among you). This particular Samuel Levi was an advisor and confidant to King Peter I, "The Cruel". One of the features of this hotel is its rooftop bar and swimming pool with a stunning view of the Cathedral and the Giralda Tower.

Not that we had much time to admire the view! We spent an exhausting, but thoroughly enjoyable, time learning about photography, and travel photography in particular. Our first full day began with a classroom session on composition and checking our understanding of the various camera functions. We then set off for our first shoot, in the Reales Alcázares (Royal Fortresses). This began as a fortified palace, built for Abd al-Rahman III (891-961), in 913, and was gradually added to, over the centuries, by the many monarchs that followed. It now is the official residence of His Royal Majesty Juan Carlos when he visits Seville.

An inner courtyard, showing the decorative stonework.

The Ambassadors' Room, decorated with gilded cedar wood.

The Reales Alcázares has many rooms, patios and halls, in many different architectural styles, reflecting different periods from ancient Islamic to Neoclassical. There is also an array of beautiful gardens and fountains, so we had lots to photograph. The seven of us workshop attendees spread out in every direction to see what we could achieve in the short time available. To his credit, Efrain managed to find each one of us in that vast space so that he could check our images, and critique them, enabling us to benefit from his considerable experience.

The elegant tapestry room. On the right is Lynnia (one of our group), photographing the exquisite tiling along the walls.

This fountain, showing Mercury the winged messenger,  
is in the Jardin de la Alcubilla (Garden of the Reservoir), 
which dates back to the time of Charles V.

After a quick lunch, we were back in the classroom for a group photo review. We each had to choose 3 images for Efrain to appraise on a large screen. This was a little nerve-wracking, but Efrain was kindness itself (although we discovered that when he used the phrase, "This is not your best work.", it was time to junk that particular photo).

The Plaza de España is built in a semi-circle, 
with a diameter of 200m.

Our afternoon assignment took us to the Plaza de España, built for the Ibero-American Exposition of 1929, to showcase Spain's industrial and technological exhibits. Today, it houses government offices in magnificent splendor. Those who had tripods were encouraged to bring them along. This was my first time using a tripod. At first I must have looked strange as I battled with the contraption, but gradually I felt more comfortable as I moved around. The resulting shots were impressive as I was able to achieve perfect focus (for once in my life - ie no camera shake!).

Here, Efrain is advising, Brent, one of our group.

The canal is a great place to go boating.

After a quick dinner, we were out again with our tripods, taking photos of the Giralda Tower, lit against the evening sky. Here the tripods were essential, as long exposures were needed to compensate for the fading light. So ended day one, well almost - we still had to download our photos and get our kit ready for the next day. I went to bed exhausted, but happy. What of the next day? Wait for my next post!

The Giralda Tower at night.


International Tulip Festival, Istanbul, 2011

The tulip festival attracts many visitors, and is a great place for a picnic

Istanbul is awash with Tulips at this time of year, and has been every spring since 2006. It is the time of the International Tulip Festival. Millions of tulips are planted all over the city, in parks, avenues, road verges, and traffic circles; in fact anywhere there is a space for them. One of the best displays is found in Ermigan Park. This is one of the largest public parks in Istanbul, covering 100 acres. So, one Sunday, Sue and I took our cameras and headed off across the Bosphorus to see for ourselves.

I loved these gorgeous pink tulips

Why tulips especially, one may ask? Although today tulips are usually associated with Holland, they only arrived there in the 16th century from the Ottoman Empire. Evidence of the early existence of the tulip, called "lale" in Turkish, can be found in the many Ottoman paintings and decorations that survive in Istanbul.

This tulip with the pointed petals is called the Sultan's Tulip

The bridge over a river of grape hyacinths, edged with tulips

More of the River of Flowers

The tulips usually bloom from around the end of March, or beginning of April, and last for several weeks. The display in Ermigan Park is amazing in the colour and variety of tulips, as well as the design of the tulip beds.

A tulip bed in the shape of a butterfly

Ermigan Park, Istanbul, is the place to visit in the spring.


...to resume: Polo at Ellerston

Neil (extreme right) played for the winning PIM team.

When we returned from Melbourne, there was another Ellerston polo tournament. This time, Neil played in the 8 goal tournament for the PIM (Paradice Investment Management) team , and we were so proud when his team surged to victory in the final against RBS Morgans.

 This was the best pony of the match

Stomping in divots in between chukkas. Katelyn is running 
across the field, 4th from the left.

Normally, after polo games at Ellerston, a machine comes out to smooth the divots kicked up by the horses, but this time there were so many matches that people power was needed. Katelyn was delighted to be allowed on the field and took the opportunity to race off across the grass with a little friend. They thought it was hilariously funny when they had to be caught and brought back.

Katelyn, thoroughly enjoying herself.

Laura and Suzi enjoying the polo.

Suzi, Neil and Katelyn live in idyllic surroundings on the Ellerston property, but it has its drawbacks. I looked out onto the patio one day and saw the cat attacking a large, writhing snake. Later, we found a dead baby snake that we presumed the cat had killed. General consensus was that it was a tiger snake.

 The long drive to Suzi's and Neil's house.

The baby Tiger Snake

These are very aggressive venomous snakes with a potentially fatal bite. They generally give birth to between 12 to 40 live young, so its brothers and sisters were somewhere nearby. It's no wonder that Suzi doesn't allow Katelyn to play in the garden unless strictly supervised!

Katelyn is such a happy child

She loves playing on a slide

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I couldn't resist this one!