Vitosha Boulevard is a pedestrianised zone in downtown Sofia lined with shops and restaurants which spill out onto the street. On the weekends it’s packed and probably the busiest street in the country. Despite this I find it hard to photograph since visually it is chaotic. On Saturday past while walking down Vitosha I noticed these two plant holders in the shape of stylised human heads.
I had noticed them before without really noticing them, if that makes sense, and thought they might give a little shape to the chaos of the street. The opposite side of the street where I’m shooting from has the same raised flowerbed and lamppost design that you can see here. So I sat down on the edge of the flowerbed where I was slightly hidden by the lamppost and waited for the passing stream of people to walk into my frame. Most of the shots I got were down to luck. It was too bright to see clearly who was coming before they entered the frame, and the slight delay in focus and shutter release with my LX5 makes the timing of shots difficult. Here are a few of the shots I most liked.
Even though this last shot totally overwhelmed the little sensor in my LX5 with the direct sun on those spectacular orange trousers, I liked the way this turned out. The bright colours of the two nearest the camera and that tattooed arm give it a real punch despite the technical flaws.
I think I took about 40 shots in total and deleted most of them, but here are the rest of the ones I kept.
I’m too eclectic of a photographer to have a style, but there are certain practices that I return to regularly. Probably the most common of these is to find an interesting backdrop and take up a position nearby where I can photograph people as they enter into the frame. This brightly painted complex of electricity distribution boxes, overlaid with graffiti and old posters, worked well with the vivid red wall in the background. I took a few shots and this was the best of them.
I took this with my Panasonic Lumix LX5, my current representative of a camera range I’ve always liked ever since I picked up the earlier LX3 in 2009. Using it a lot over the last few days I have begun to wonder if I really need anything bigger. There are some constraints of course. Despite the little sensor performing well most of the time it is limited in difficult lighting situations (though Lightroom can compensate for a lot.) The biggest issue is speed – both the slow autofocus and shutter lag make it very challenging to take this kind of picture if the subject moving into the frame is moving at anything more than walking pace. I tried a few shots against this backdrop with cyclists, trams, and electric scooters moving into the frame but never got the timing right and ended up with the subject either too far into the frame or already leaving the frame.
It’s a shame Panasonic never consistently followed up the small sensor LX range. The LX10/15 looked like a potentially viable update at one point but it seems that Sony owns this market with the RX100. I did have one of the original RX100s but eventually sold it primarily because of the slow lens. I’m occasionally tempted by the RX100 Va but that near $1,000 price tag holds me back.
Like many places Bulgaria has gone through a cycle of shutting down, opening up, shutting down again in response to COVID-19. The restaurants and cafes, after a long period of being shut down, were allowed to reopen at the beginning of March only to be shut down again three weeks later. At the beginning of April they were allowed to reopen outdoor areas. These folks were taking advantage of the fine weather on a weekday evening to have a drink and a snack at the Imperial Gastrohub on Graf Ignatiev Street.
The Avlabari district of Tbilisi was the centre of the city’s sizable Armenian community though their numbers have fallen dramatically over the years. Just one street away from this building on Vakhtang VI Street is the Presidents Palace, built at considerable expense during the tenure of Mikheil Saakashvili. Aesthetically, this old sagging balcony propped up on its steel supports makes a great picture, particularly with the compression effect of a telephoto lens, but I wouldn’t like to live in it. It seems the President’s ambitions for the neighbourhood didn’t extend beyond the grounds of his palace.
I grew up in Belfast in the 1970’s and 1980’s — not the best of times. The city was divided with neighbourhoods demarcated by natural barriers like the River Lagan or artificial ones like the many peace walls, over 100 of which still stand.
Neighbourhoods were also marked out by flags, painted kerbstones and murals painted on gable end walls. Most of these murals ‘celebrated’ the alphabet soup of competing paramilitary organisations of the time. Later, with the end of the conflict in Northern Ireland, these murals designed to intimidate and threaten became an unlikely tourist attraction for curious visitors.
While many of the paramilitary murals remain there have been attempts to persuade our resident artists to move away from depictions of masked men with guns and create a less divisive and less militant style of mural. On a recent trip back to the city I took a walk along the Newtownards Road which runs from the city centre to the eastern suburbs.
The lower part of the Newtownards Road in particular is a strongly Loyalist neighbourhood and has an abundance of murals both old and new. Here are a few of them photographed on a typically grey and wet Belfast day.
St Nedelya Church, Nikon FM2n, Nikkor AI-S 105mm f2.5, Kodak Ektar
Vasil Levski Boulevard / Nikon FM2n, Nikkor AI-S 85mm f2, Kodak Ektar