Monday, 25 June 2012

Turkey, Istanbul

Istanbul has to be one of our favourite cities to visit in Europe. The city and the country has a special bond with Paul as he spent 8 weeks traversing the country back in the 80's. 
Although Istanbul is now well trodden with tourism it is still easy to get lost in the maze of streets and away from the hordes of tourists. The majority of tourist sites in the city are located in the area close to the 'Blue' & 'Aya Sophia' Mosques making it easy to do it all on foot. 
Ceiling of the Blue Mosque

Grand Bazaar

10 of the best things to see & do in Istanbul

  1. The Blue Mosque - Built in the early 17th century this mosque is still in use and gets its name from the magnificent blue tiles adorning the interior walls. An amazing place to visit . Entry is free. However please note that the mosque usually closes for about 90 minutes several times a day for prayers.
  2. Aya Sopia Mosque - Amazingly this mosque is over 1,000 years older than the Blue Mosque. It is no longer used as a mosque and is now a museum. Entry is about 20 TL and I think it is closed on Mondays.  Don't even think of trying to get a tripod into this mosque.
  3. Topkapi Palace - A definite must see, not only for all its historical interest, but also it's magnificent views over Istanbul & the Golden Horn. Entry is approx 20 TL and extra if you want to visit the Harem.
  4. Grand Bazaar - the Grand Bazaar is one of the worlds largest covered markets with over 3,000 shops. Even though it is usually swarming with tourists a visit to Istanbul is not complete until you have visited at least once. 
  5. Spice Bazaar -  The colours & exotic aromas here are a treat to your eyes & nasal cavities.
  6. Galata Bridge & Galata Tower - The Galata Bridge spans the Golden Horn. It is the 5th bridge to span this location. Make sure you visit the lower level. The Galata Tower built in the early 14th century is on the north side of the Galata Bridge and from the top offers stupendous views over Istanbul.
  7. Bosphorus Ferry trip -  If you have the time this is a great way to see Istanbul from the water. 
  8. Dolmabahce Palace - An amazing palace located on the shores of the Bosphorus in the Besiktas district of Istanbul.
  9. Basilica Cistern - Dating back to AD532, this underground attraction with its columned chamber is great to escape the heat if visiting in Summer. There is an entry fee.
  10. Chocolate Baklava - You must visit Baklavaci Said at Divan Yolu Cd, No.88, Cemberlitas which is not far from the Grand Bazaar. The chocolate  baklava is incredibly yummy. They also have a shop in Sirkeci but this one is closest to all the main sights. 

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Italy, Naples

Apartment Block in Naples, Italy
Apartment Block, Naples - Italy
Naples is usually just a transit point for many tourists who base themselves in the city while they visit nearby attractions such as Mt Vesuvius, Pompeii, Herculaneum, Capri, Sorrento & the Amalfi Coast. What a shame, as Naples is a wonderful city that is blessed with many attractions and culinary delights. We have been to Naples many times and still have not seen a fraction of what it has to offer. 

This image of an apartment complex was taken in the historical centre of Naples. There is a courtyard at the bottom of the image but we didn't include this in the shot as it was fairly cluttered and we wanted to place the emphasis on the grungy architecture and the wonderfully patterned ceilings on each of the levels.

This image has also been tonemapped using
Photomatix Pro software which is great for bringing out the texture in the walls. Do yourself a favour and visit Naples for a few days and meander all the alleyways in the historical centre and you will find there is an amazing amount of photographic opportunities that await you. 

What's your favourite spot in Naples ? Leave us a comment.

Monday, 4 June 2012

Tunisia, Tunis

Leather Masks in Sidi Bou Said, Tunisia
Leather Masks at Sidi Bou Said
We were fortunate to visit Tunisia on two separate occasions just prior to the December 2010 events that resulted in the downfall of the Ben Ali dictatorship. As we had been to Libya before we thought that the problems may have been caused by us however we have never been to Egypt so we now sleep well at nights knowing that revolutions were not following us around. 

Taxi Tours Poster
Taxi Tours - 2010
Tunisia is a small North African country of just 165,000 sq. km (64,000 sq. miles) that lies on the Mediterranean Sea and is sandwiched between its much larger neighbours - Libya & Algeria. The southern part of the country is predominantly made up of the Sahara Desert and therefore extremely arid.  Although the coastline has numerous sandy beaches & resorts such as Sousse, Monastir & Hammametthe main 3 attractions that entice visitors to Tunis would have to be Carthage, Sidi Bou Said & the Tunis Medina (fans of the Star Wars films would probably differ as many locations were used in Tunisia).
Ancient city of Carthage, Tunisia

Blue Door in Sidi Bou Said, Tunisia
Colourful door in Sidi Bou Said
Carthage - The ancient city of Carthage is located about 17 kms (11 miles) from the capital city of Tunis. The Presidential Palace also sits overlooking the ancient site of Carthage and as we we there prior to the revolution, 
were instructed that no photos were to be taken in the direction of the palace. Quite frankly, there really isn't much to see here. As interesting as its history is on paper there really isn't that much left compared to other archaeological sites in the Mediterranean such as Pompeii, Ephesus & Leptis Magna. A visit however to the Carthage National Museum which is not far away is well worth a visit not only for its contents but for its splendid views over the city of Tunis. 

Sidi Bou Said - The quaint small town of Sidi Bou Said is about 20kms (12miles) from Tunis. This seaside town is a major tourist attraction due to its white-washed houses and brightly coloured blue doors. It also has a reputation as a town known for its artists. It's an interesting town to visit but try to visit when there are no cruise ships in port as it gets swamped by tour groups. You can get great view of the Mediterranean Sea & Bay of Tunis from the top of the hill. Well worth a visit is  a traditional home that now has been converted into a museum. It is a fascinating look at traditional life in the 18th century. There is also a small souk and souvenir stalls selling the traditionally made bird cages which are extremely popular. Don't forget to haggle.

Alleyway in the Medina, Tunis - Tunisia
The Tunis Medina
Tunis Medina - Probably the most authentic Tunisian experience of the 3, as you can easily lose yourself in the myriad of alleyways lined with vendors selling just about anything to the enthusiastic tourist. If you get off the beaten track you can find many of the shops that the are frequented by the locals when purchasing items for their everyday needs. Helen was sure that I had managed to get us hopelessly lost here but my ability to navigate back to our starting point impressed her. At least this time I was right !!!

We highly recommend a visit to Tunisia and we would definately love to get back there to photograph & experience more of the country. 

Our Tips:

  1. Like any bazaar, medina, marketplace always carry your bag at the front of your body. This makes it a lot easier to get into the small shops. Never ever carry anything in your back pocket. This is where a sling camera bag comes in handy.
  2. Be prepared to increase your ISO settings in the Medina to allow you to get a good depth of field with a fast shutter speed. Taking photos in the narrow Medina, like any marketplace where there is limited light and huge amounts of contrast is very challenging. Be patient.
  3. Concentrate on capturing portrait/candid people shots or colourful images of souvenirs & wares.
  4. For images taken elsewhere make sure you carry a polarizing filter/ND. These will be particularly useful in Sidi Bou Said, for example, if you want to shoot with a wide aperture in bright light for portraits. As most of the buildings are white it could also cause your camera meter to underexpose images so maybe consider overexposing the shots a little (do a few test shots and look at your histogram. If the meter is underexposing then it will start to bunch up to the left of the histogram. Adjust your exposure compensation dial until the tones start to move back towards the centre of the histogram. Overexposed images will start to bunch up to the right).
  5. Try some HDR shots at Carthage as they allow tripods to be taken in. On a bright sunny day you may want to hand-hold your HDR shots but if time permits put the tripod to work.
We do not have our Tunisia gallery up and running on our website yet however you can follow us on Twitter (@widescenes) or Facebook (WideScenes Photography) to hear about  the latest image galleries to be included on our site.

What's your favourite place in Tunisia? Leave us a comment.