Istanbul People

Under summer skies, the Bosphorus becomes a beautiful blue.
I love travelling by ferry across the water.

With 20 million inhabitants, Istanbul is full of interesting people. On a recent trip to the Grand Bazaar, with friends Angela and Füsun, I was fascinated by the Istanbulus going about their daily work. They are great subjects for photographers, and, although there is the occasional one who doesn't want their photo taken, most are only too delighted to be asked.

My companions for the day, Angela and Füsun.

This is a familiar sight in Istanbul, a man carving slices of meat for kebabs.

This man is carrying simit, a crusty bread covered in sesame seeds.

Simit is a popular snack in Istanbul, and there are many 
small stalls selling them, as well as mobile sellers like the two above,
who cater for the market people who cannot leave their pitches.

This lady works in a café in the flower market behind the Spice Bazaar. 
She is rolling out pastry circles, possibly for gözleme 
(rather like a grilled stuffed pancake).

When I took the shot of the lady above, 
the cafe owner demanded to have his photo taken too!

Istanbul is inspiring! I love being here.


A Trip to Büyükada on Market Day

The American Market on Büyükada

It is just a short ferry ride across the water to Büyükada, the largest of the Princes Islands just off the coast of Istanbul, and I wonder why I don't visit more often. This week I went to visit my good friend, Angela, and she took me to Büyükada's weekly market. The market is in two parts, the so-called American market that sells clothes and household supplies, and the fresh produce market. I took my camera, hoping to get some good shots, but the weather was overcast, with a sprinkling of rain, so my photos were only so-so.

Towels and linens for sale

This lady modelled a dress she wanted us to buy.

Many of the stall-holders enjoy having their photo taken

All kinds of fresh produce is for sale

After the market, we went to Angela's home on the island to have lunch. Angela made Börek for lunch, which we ate with salad. Börek is a typically Turkish dish that comes in a variety of forms and fillings. Angela made hers with cheese, eggs, milk, and flavourings, wrapped in a special pastry. I was fascinated to see how it was made, and was so engrossed that I forgot to take a photo of it. I hope Angela makes Börek for me again, as I really need a photo - well that's my excuse, it was rather delicious!

Angela's welcoming front door


The AWAI Workshop, Granada, by Jerry Newsome (Part 1)

I didn't go to Granada with the AWAI Travel Photography Workshop, but Jerry Newsome of Statesboro, Georgia, did. I have asked Jerry to be my guest blogger to tell us about that add-on trip, and to share with us some of the magnificent photos he took. Jerry sent me such a wealth of information, that I have decided to upload his blog in two parts. Here is part one (carry on reading down for part 2).

The AWAI Travel Photography Workshop in Granada by Jerry Newsome

The Alhambra Palace, Granada

Following the photography workshop in Seville, Spain, an optional add on trip to Granada, Spain, was also orchestrated by Jackie Gray and Efrain Prado of AWAI. The add on trip originally was to have gone to Marrakesh, Morocco, but due to the bomb blast there a few days prior to leaving, the destination was quickly changed to Granada. Four members, Jerry, Brent, Simone, and Lynnia continued with the optional trip while the other members returned to their homes. We missed them, their participation, and their camaraderie but the workshop continued and we went to photograph and learn more from Efrain. I was surprised to learn that Granada is a Spanish word for pomegranate and the stylized symbol of pomegranates were everywhere to be seen especially on posts and fountains.

Another view of the Alhambra Palace, Grenada

Our first subject to photograph at dusk was the Alhambra, literally "the red one". It is a palace and fortress complex occupying the top of the highest hill in the area. Construction began in the mid 14th century by the Moorish rulers at that time. Over the years various Catholic and Christian rulers came and went adding their touch and influence.

 A garden of the Alhambra Palce

The complex grew without a formal master plan but always included flower gardens, running water and fountains. Charles V, (Holy Roman Emperor in 1527), incongruously inserted his palace within the Nasrid fortifications. Disruptions, wars and lack of interest eventually caused the complex to fall into ruins and disrepair until it was "rediscovered" in the 19th century by scholars and travelers.

 A fountain and cool, pleasant walkways

Restoration began after the years of neglect. Refurbishing and rebuilding continues today for this major tourist attraction of Spain, especially Granada. The Alhambra is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  It remains one of the country's most significant and well known examples of Islamic architecture, in concert with the Christian buildings and garden additions.

Huge, green hedges line the walkways

Generalife, the name of the garden area, is said to mean Garden of Paradise. The garden area has few replicas of living creatures such as statues of humans or animals but is filled with huge green hedges, verdant covered walkways, flowers, fountains, and flowing waterways throughout. Eight centuries of Muslim rule provided abundant religious calligraphy on the walls and pillars of the buildings and palaces . "Allah is great",  "There is no conqueror but Allah" is inscribed over 9,000 times along with other verses from the Q'uran.


 A beautiful waterfall in the Alhambra gardens

Opportunities to photograph are endless.  One has to concentrate on specific themes and leave others out to do justice, with the workshop in the amount of time we had.  Alhambra and Generalife have inspired almost countless works in music, art, books, and other genres over the centuries Two examples. In 1922 M.C. Escher's produced works after studying the Moorish use of symmetry in the Alhambra tiles. In astronomy there is a main belt asteroid named Alhambra.

The AWAI Workshop, Granada, by Jerry Newsome (Part 2)

The statue of Washington Irving in Granada

One of the main travelers and writers who popularized Alahambra during the 19th century was Washington Irving. (1783-1859). A commemorative plaque also adorns the wall of the room where Irving lived and wrote when he stayed as a guest in 1829. When Irving first arrived in Granada he is reported to have said, "...a most picturesque and beautiful city, situated in one of the loveliest landscapes that I have ever seen." (Jones,Brian Jay. Washington Irving: An American Original. NY 2008 ISBN 978-1-55970-836-4.) Irving also served as ambassador to Spain (1842-46) He was the first American author to achieve international literary recognition and to live from the proceeds of his writings while introducing the site to Western audiences. (Tales of the Alhambra) A statue of Irving is on the walkway out side the walls of the fortification on the way leading from the town Plaza Neuva to the Alhambra complex.

Me, sitting on a bench near the statue of Irving, 
and the waterfall shown in part one of this blog

The area is made for walking (or not). Benches are abudant on the walkways and within the complex. The bench on which I am sitting is near the waterfall and the statue of Irving. Efrain, Brent, and Simone loved to walk everywhere. Lynnia, Jackie and myself would ride the bus up the steep hills to the destinations but everyone would walk back down through the twisting passage ways. When the workshop was over I stayed an extra two days touring the city and photographing the narrow streets with their shops, the cathederals, and nightlife. One would have to spend many days or weeks photographing it all.

  A bull-fight in Seville
Following Grenada, I returned to Seville for two additional days. I wanted to attend and photograph one bullfight along with other sights I missed the first four days. The bull fight was very colorful and much more ritualized than I had expected. One bull fight turned into six bullfights in little over two hours. There was a large crowd that cheered loudly. An earlier photograph in Elizabeth's blog shows the arena where the spectacle took place.

 A female matador

No longer are matadors (killer of the bull) only men but now a few women have taken up the cape. A female matador did her part on this day. Seville is an ancient city with much history and many old landmarks to photograph. The bull fight will not be for everyone but as an American I wanted to see what it was like along with other controversial subjects.

The matador entices the bull

A picador, ready for action

Following the bullfight I found the "mushroom", the derisive nickname given to an ultra modern structure near the Alamada De Hercules. The "mushroom" is unlike anything else in Seville, I spoke to many locals and none of them liked that structure but it is a major and popular meeting place. Many young people were camped out there and held rallies during the Spanish elections which took place while I was there.  

The ultra modern structure near the Alamada De Hercules


The AWAI Travel Photography Workshop, Seville (Day 4)

 The workshop participants
Back Row from the left:Jerry, Lynnia, Lee, Jackie (our organizer and administrator), me and Efrain (our guru)
Front row from the left: Simon, Sue and Brent.

Our last day at the AWAI Travel Photography workshop began with a class session on Selling to Magazines. The idea being that we could develope our art well enough to sell our travel images to the print media. Efrain has been published many times, and showed examples of his published work. Although this was meant to be encouraging, after seeing his lovely photographs, one can't help wondering if it really is possible to be that good. Still, as I keep telling myself, I could have another 30 or 40 years ahead of me to practice, so why not give it a shot, I should at least try!

The Museo de Artes y Costumbres Populares
(Museum of Folk Art and Costumes)
in the María Luisa Gardens

A ceramic pottery decoration in the park

For this day's shoot, we went to the Parque de María Luisa Gardens. The great thing about the Doña María Hotel, where we stayed, is that it is within walking distance of many of Seville's famous landmarks, so we had no problem in getting around. The park used to be part of the private gardens of the Palacio de San Telmo, where the Infanta, María Luisa Fernanda de Orleans, Duchess of Montpensier, lived. In 1893, she donated the land to the city of Seville, and it was used as the site of the Iberoamerican Exhibition of 1929.

This unique ceramic frog fountain is one of the features of the park.

The park covers a very large area, so they have 
these pedal-power carts for rent

The Jacaranda-lined avenues of Seville reminded me of Harare.

On our return to the hotel, we had our last photo review with Efrain, before going to pack, and get ready for the evening's entertainment. This was our farewell dinner in Tablao el Arenal. This is a restaurant with a Andalusian Flamenco show. We were entertained in true Sevillian style by a troup of true gypsy flamenco musicians, singers and dancers. Unfortunately they do not allow photographs, but it was a fun way to end our far-too-short a stay in Seville. We did, however, all come away with a whole new perspective on the business of travel photography, and a determination to practise hard to improve. I found the whole workshop so stimulating and informative that I have signed up to go on another one to Venice in September. Not that I really need an excuse to go Venice. Watch this space!

Efrain encouraged me to be more adventurous in my photography.
This is my last shot of the Giralda Tower, showing the Weather-vane on top.

Seeing the horses and carriages reminded me 
of the Princes Islands, Istanbul


The AWAI Travel Photography Workshop, Seville (Day 3)

 The Mequita Cathedral Tower

Our third day at the AWAI Travel Photography Workshop took us to Cordoba, only 45 minutes away from Seville, on Spain's slick, fast train (AVE). In existence since Roman times, Cordoba is a city with a long and rich history. It was once one of the greatest cities of the medieval world, on a par with Constantinople. Our first photo shoot was at the Mesquita Cathedral.

The interior of the cathedral is vast, and has 850 columns supporting pink and white striped arches. Someone remarked that it looked like candyland!

Part of the ornate roof of the cathedral

In the 6th century, this was the site of the Visigoth Basilica of the martyred San Vincente. After the Islamic invasion, the Great Mosque of Cordoba, La Mesquita, was founded in 785. It was gradually enlarged over the following 200 years, resulting in a mixture of architectural styles encompassing Roman, Gothic, Byzantine, Syrian and Persian features. After King Ferdinand III reconquered Cordoba, in 1236, it was rededicated as a Christian cathedral

This was in one of the side chapels, dedicated to St. Thomas the Apostle

After regrouping outside the Mesquita cathedral, we crossed the ancient Roman bridge to photograph the city from the other side of the Guadalquivir River. Although the present bridge probably bears no resemblance to the original one, there has been a river crossing here for over 2000 years. To get to the bridge, we passed through the Puerta del Puente (entrance to the bridge), designed by the architect Hernan Ruiz in 1572, during the reign of Philip II, (1556 to 1598).

View of Cordoba from the other side of the Guadalquivir River
(The Puerta del Puente can be seen towards the centre of the photo)

The Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos, 
The Palace of the Christian Kings

With no time to waste, we had lunch in a delightful restaurant, where we shared plates of tapas, before meeting for our next shoot at the Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos, the Palace of the Christian Kings. The palace is noted for its beautiful gardens and inner courtyards, developed over many hundreds of years. We all disappeared in different directions to find our iconic shots to take back for Efrain to critique. I must confess to finding this a little stressful, although Efrain is kindness itself when suggesting improvements to our photographs. It's just that none of us wanted to hear the dreaded words, "This may not be your best work, however...".

The immaculately laid out gardens of the 
Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos

The prettily decorated narrow streets of Cordoba,
during the Festival de los Patios

Our last shoot before leaving Cordoba, was among the narrow streets filled with flowers for the Festival de los Patios. This is an annual festival, where householders compete for awards for the best patios and window arrangements. Homes are usually open for public viewing, but our arrival coincided with siesta time, so the patios were closed. We did, however, have the chance to admire and photograph the beatiful window decorations.

We had a wonderful day, and tired, but happy, we returned to Seville to edit our photos and report back to Efrrain. Time was running out, we only had one more day. Time was passing too quickly.

That evening in Seville, there was a procession through the streets as the marching band played. Quite beautiful!

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Press Centre
I couldn't resist this one!