Istanbul

Blue Mosque

I recently had the opportunity to spend some time in Istanbul while I was on a trip to Turkey. Often referred to as the Gateway to Asia, at least if you’re coming from the west (otherwise, the Gateway to Europe!), Istanbul straddles the border of the two continents. The Bosphorus provides the natural divide and the bridges across connect the two.

Blue Mosque
A view of the Sultan Ahmet Mosque from a rooftop patio as the sun goes down

An ancient city that’s had a few names before Istanbul (Constantinople, Byzantium), and been at the centre of a few empires, this is a city with tons of things for its millions of visitors to explore.

 

Key attractions include the Sultan Ahmet Mosque, also known as the Blue Mosque. This is an outstanding example of classical architecture that combines Islamic and Byzantine Christian features, among others. Apart from this, you can also find the Hippodrome, the Hagia Sophia and the Topkapi Palace just steps away. So you can cover a lot of ground, so to speak, in this one small area. Well worth it.

 

For a taste of something different, just a short walk away is the Grand Bazaar. This is one of the oldest and biggest covered markets in the world with around 4,000 shops spread over sixty one streets. Shoppers paradise! You’ll not see many markets like that. Just a walk through is an experience in itself, again because of the fantastic architecture, and the busy atmosphere. And if you’re wanting to buy, you can get all sorts of things – clothes, accessories, sweets, furniture, carpets – and they’re keen to make a sale. The whole process of haggling (which is pretty much mandatory) is an entertainment in itself, though it can sometimes be hard to work out how much of a bargain you actually get in the end, assuming you buy something.

 

And then of course, off-the-beaten track of the main attractions are plenty of back streets with small comfortable hotels (I stayed at the Asmali Hotel), restaurants with great food and atmosphere, street-side and rooftop patios, and great views. The locals are great to talk with and really helpful.

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One of the many rooftop patios, looking out over the Sea of Marmara at sunset

There’s no doubt that businesses in Istanbul and other parts of Turkey are hurting right now, and that’s unfortunate. It’s a great place to be, and in terms of security, barring the south-east of the country, I would feel no more at risk than in any other large city, in fact, maybe less so.

Winter Outdoors

Winter outdoors is certainly something you need to prepare for, especially when you’re living in Canada. A climate of extremes, from 30 degrees in the summer to -15 in the winter (that’s in the more moderate Toronto area and not counting the humidity or wind chill), the weather is always the making of a wide variety of outdoor activities.

Sunrise over Frozen Lake Simcoe
Winter outdoors – Sunrise over frozen Lake Simcoe

The kind of outdoors activities that the cold winter kicks off can be quite intriguing. It’s not all skiing, skating and tobogganing, but they do set the stage. I was up and out early one recent morning and took a drive to Lake Simcoe, about an hour away, to see the sun come up across the frozen, snow-covered lake. I’d passed by there a few days before (near Bradford West Gwillimbury) and had an idea of what to expect but I was nevertheless a bit surprised to see the amount of activity going on from well before dawn.

For a good number of people this is primetime for a bit of ice fishing and the place was bustling. Making their way to the lake in their trucks, many bring their snowmobiles, fishing equipment, supplies for the day and of course, there are the numerous fishing huts already out on the ice. Watching all the people in their snow gear (mainly or all men, and a few kids), heading off into the darkness on their snowmobiles or in a snow bus is quite mesmerizing, in spite of the freezing cold temperatures. The shot I took above, shows a hut near the edge of the lake, lit up by the lights of a 4×4 getting ready to head out, just as some light started to appear on the horizon. The sunrise was exceptional that day, with lots of burly clouds lightly illuminated by the brilliant rising sun.

Autumn Colours

The full bloom of Autumn colours highlight my favourite time of year! The natural landscape is bursting with a vast array colours, light mists, beautiful sunrises and sunsets, and comfortably warm temperatures. Well, it was roasting hot outside today, but you know what I mean! September is drawing to a close as we launch well and truly into autumn.

The many tones of yellows, reds and greens offset against a backdrop of blue skies and fluffy clouds, or even turbulent grey skies, are the epitome of autumn colours to me. I have to get out there with my camera to capture the excellent landscape images it offers, and for basking in the great outdoors.

 

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Autumn Colours of Ontario

 

I took a few shots last week when I was near Cambridge just over a one-hour drive from Toronto, to the west. There I could hike around and appreciate the first significant sign of the autumn colours. Most interesting was the contrasting farmland with beautiful rich golden tones, tinged with reds and sitting alongside deep green fields. There’s just something warm and soothing about it all. It’s also exciting to watch the rapid development in the season even though winter looms ominously in the not-too-distant future.

Autumn in Ontario
Autumn in Ontario

 

These are a sample of what I’ve done so far to record and show off the autumn colours for this year. Not quite in full seasonal bloom yet but getting close. I like these because they look so bright, clear and simple. I’ll be posting more images in the coming weeks so please come back to take a look. Remember too that you can order prints of any of these images, framed or unframed. You can contact me for prices and orders by clicking on the “Contact “tab at the top of this page.

Autumn in Ontario
Two Trees

 

Autumn in Ontario
Blowing in the Wind

 

I also saw some very atmospheric autumn colours shots taken by photographer Rob Stothard in Richmond Park in London earlier this week. Morning mists, roaming deer and tranquil waters. Click here to view them. Beautiful.

Photography Workshops and Community Projects

Photography workshops and community projects can work hand-in-hand to achieve common goals.

We all know how photography is used for recording and communicating information about anything and everything, from the mundane to life-changing events. The weather, selfies, travel, birthdays, weddings, funerals, to mention just a few. It’s also widely used as a marketing tool for fashion and any massive range of products. There are though, other ways and contexts for applying photography as a tool, ways that can reflect other life experiences, environment, health etc.

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For example, I recently taught a series of six photography workshops as part of an inter-generational project that brought together male youth and older men in north-west Toronto. The workshop was organized and hosted by Rexdale Community Health Centre. The idea was to introduce the two groups to a new interest and skills in a shared learning environment.

Although the equipment we had was minimal and had limitations, we were able over the six workshops to cover camera and photography basics, composition in different settings and subjects, and hands-on work. Most of the group had little or no experience of taking photographs and it was great to see how they became engaged in the subject and have those with some experience share their skills as the project evolved.

The workshops ended on a high note with requests for more workshops like this, and we’re not done yet. To wrap things up a small exhibit is in the pipeline to show some of the work the group produced, an opportunity for them to show what they’ve learned and how things look from their own perspective. I’ll post details when they’re firmed up so watch this space for part 2.

Photographing Buildings

Photographing buildings can produce material for marketing, highlighting architectural styles, recording personal, community and cultural history as well as plain old showing off all sorts of patterns, shapes and colours. I love photographing buildings all sorts of buildings and architecture but scouting around old and derelict buildings for interesting images is one of my favourite activities. I recently posted a link on my Facebook page to a set of photographs from an urban exploration of empty buildings in downtown Detroit. Even through the rubble and the decay you could see the splendour, vibrance and richness of days gone by. Buffalo is another city that has a lot of empty buildings that speak to a once thriving industrial era that saw the construction of some massive and grandiose buildings.

Buffalo Central Terminal
The Main Concourse at Buffalo Central Terminal

As you can see from the picture above, one of these is Buffalo Central Terminal, which is currently undergoing some restoration. Opened in 1929 it’s a 17-story Art Deco building designed by the architects Fellheimer & Wagner for the New York Central Railroad. The sheer size of the building is awe-inspiring and a walk through it gives you a sense of how busy it used to be, with its ticket desks, newspaper stands, central clock and high ceiling and doorways.

Hallway in Buffalo Central Terminal
Down the dark corridor
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A View from Outside

Buffalo City Hall is another mammoth building and a fine example of Art Deco architecture with it’s red brick and ornate decor, and this one is also currently in use. In fact, it’s quite a busy place, housing the mayor’s office, council chambers and so much else.

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One of the very ornate elevators in Buffalo City Hall

While some of these remarkable buildings around the city are still in use, and some are being restored, there are many  – factories, mills, houses – that are left empty and are presumably destined for demolition. A sign of how much the city has changed.