Tag: x-t2 (page 1 of 1)

In Borisova Garden

I spent a couple of hours today walking in the Borisova Garden, one of Sofia’s many parks. The park is home to the Bulgarian Army stadium where CSKA Sofia play. Many years ago – 1981 to be precise – I saw CSKA Sofia when they came to Belfast to play my local team Glentoran in what was then the European Cup (now the Champion’s League). The Glens had lost 2-0 in Sofia and no-one thought they had any chance. While CSKA were not one of Europe’s footballing superpowers they were by a long way the best team in Bulgaria – 31 times Bulgarian league champions and 20 times winners of the Bulgarian cup. Despite their underdog status the Glens were 2-0 up with 20 minutes remaining and the game went into extra time. CSKA scored with five minutes left and the Glens were out. CSKA went on to beat defending champions Liverpool in the quarter finals before being overrun by Bayern Munich in the semi final.

So, back to the present, and today I brought a camera with me. I decided this was a day for digital and dusted off (quite literally) my Fuji X-T2. It’s been so long since I used the X-T2 that I had to consult the online manual to remind myself where everything was and how everything worked. I attached the 18-55 lens and decided that even if every picture I took was rubbish and fit only for deletion I needed to take some photographs.

I did end up deleting quite a lot of them but there were a few that were decent and one I quite liked. I thought that was quite a reasonable haul in the circumstances. The sun was shining today and the light beneath the trees was beautiful. I took multiple shots to try and capture it but failed miserably for the most part. This was the only one I liked.

This section of the park is separated from the main part by a road and is more woodland than parkland but running through it are tram tracks. I had noticed these before and assumed they were no longer in use until about a week ago when I saw the number 10 tram heading into the park. As far as I can see the tracks through the park bypass a street that is too narrow for the trams and exit on a wider street further along, but looking at the satellite images the tracks do seem to meander a little through the park as though the planners thought it might be nice to have a few extra scenic moments on your journey. I waited by the tracks to see if a tram would come along and a few minutes later the number 10 showed up.

The park is the site of one of Sofia’s many grandiose communist monuments, the ‘Brotherly Mound’ – a less than inspiring translation of Братска могила. I suppose it could also be the ‘Hill of Brotherhood’. This is a complex monument. While it commemorates Bulgarian partisans who fought against the Nazis during the Second World War it also commemorates the role of the Soviet Union and the Red Army as ‘liberators’ of Bulgaria and the Communist Party as the leaders of the people. Through the inscription on the central obelisk from Bulgarian national hero Hristo Botev it also claims Bulgaria’s communists as successors of Botev’s fight for Bulgarian freedom. Botev led an abortive uprising against the Ottomans in 1876 and was killed in the fighting. The inscription reads ‘Тоз, който падне в бой за свобода, той не умира’ which translates as ‘He who falls in a fight for freedom never dies’.

I believe there were proposals to demolish or remove the monument after the fall of communism but it is still standing though in poor repair. When I was there today there were a couple of floral tributes at the foot of the obelisk, presumably placed there on June 2, the day when Bulgarians commemorate Botev. (The second picture I shot in portrait mode but while playing with it later I decided I liked the extreme angle of this landscape version.)

I have a surprising number of pictures of rubbish bins. I’m not sure what that says about me if anything. Apart from the bright colours and somewhat sculptural look of these three bins I liked the juxtaposition with the very drab and formal sculpture in the background.

This is my favourite shot of the day taken near the CSKA training pitches. You can see the CSKA graffiti on the building in the centre. This is another type of picture I seem to have a lot of. Apparently a cyclist riding through the frame appeals to me. The success of these is largely down to luck rather than judgement. I saw the cyclist coming and got in position. From then on it’s a matter of hoping that you have the right shutter speed for the speed of the cyclist – enough to generate some motion blur, not so much the details disappear. In this case it could have been a little slower but it’s near enough. You also have to be lucky to get the bicycle in the right position in the frame – shoot too soon and half the bike will be missing, too late and the bike will be too central or even leaving the frame entirely. This one was just about perfect. That the woman is fiddling with her backpack as she rides is a nice bonus since it gives her a very dynamic posture.

And finally… just beyond the park exit on Boulevard Tsarigradsko shose is the Eagle Bridge. It sounds quite grand and it has sculpted eagles and elaborate railings. But it’s only around twenty feet long which does spoil the effect. Sofia unlike many cities is not built on a river so what the Eagle Bridge crosses is more of a stream running in a culvert than a real river. This picture is of one of the four bronze eagles that stand at the four corners of the bridge together with one of the large street lights that illuminate the Boulevard. I though they made a nice pair.

Lagan Weir

These two shots were taken from an almost identical location one year apart during return visits to my home town of Belfast in Northern Ireland. I like the similarities – lone man crossing bridge shot from below – but I’m also struck by how different they are and how small changes can change the look of a picture.

The second shot is taken from a few feet to the right of the first which changes the angle of view, as does the use of a different focal length. The first was shot with a 69mm equivalent focal length, the second I no longer know since it was shot on film and I appear to have misplaced the notebook with that information but I think it may have been 24mm. That’s another difference right there – one on digital and one on film. The final and most significant difference is in the light partly a result of the time of day and partly of the weather. I like them both. On my next trip, whenever that may be I’ll be back in the same spot.

Sofia Metro

I’ve taken very few photographs of the Sofia Metro which is surprising given that metro systems are one of my favourite subjects. Of those few these are the only two I thought worth keeping. The first is the Serdika station in central Sofia, the second is one of the underground walkways at the NDK station.

Haarlem Part 1

When the busyness of Amsterdam becomes too much, a fifteen minute journey by train brings you to Haarlem. A small city of around 150,000 people Haarlem has a beautifully preserved and pedestrianised centre focused on the Grote Markt, only ten minutes walk from the railway station.

During the Dutch Golden Age Haarlem was home to Frans Hals and Jacob van Ruisdal and his uncle, Salomon van Ruisdal. Jan Steen also lived and worked in the city for ten years. More recently Haarlem was the birthplace of Harry Mulisch, generally considered one of the greatest Dutch writers, and of Corrie ten Boom whose family sheltered Jewish refugees and Dutch resistance fighters in their home in the city during the Nazi occupation. The ten Boom family home is now a small museum honouring the family.

Beyond the central square are narrow side streets where centuries old buildings stand alongside more modern constructions. A little further out Haarlem’s canals are lined with pleasant and well kept buildings – mostly business premises and people’s homes.

The canal above leads to one of Haarlem’s best known sites, the De Adriaan windmill. Originally built in 1779 the windmill burned down in 1932. Plans to rebuild were drawn up but construction did not start until 1999 and the windmill finally re-opened in 2002.

Haarlem Part 2

The Grote Markt in Haarlem is dominated by the Grote Kerk or Sint Bavokerk. There has been a church on the site since at least the 13th century but this particular church dates mostly to the 15th and 16th centuries. Franz Hals and the van Ruisdals are buried beneath the floor of the church, among other Haarlem worthies.

The interior of the Grote Kerk is impressive, the two standout features being the beautiful wooden ceiling and the magnificent organ. The organ was originally built in the 1730’s and was at the time the biggest in the world. Mozart, Mendelssohn and Handel have all played this organ.

Delft Part 1

Amsterdam is known as the Venice of the North and like Venice is struggling to cope with the numbers of tourists, now approaching 19 million every year. In 2019 Amsterdam struck a deal with the the Dutch capital Den Haag allowing the latter’s tourist agency to set up at Amsterdam’s Centraal railway station in hopes that some of those 19 million might be persuaded to spend part of their holiday outside the city.

The problem is that the Netherlands is small and the Dutch public transport system is superb, so it is a simple matter to stay in Amsterdam and take day trips to the many surrounding towns and cities, including Den Haag which is less than an hour away by train. While this gets us tourists out of town by day we flood back in like the tide by night. On a trip to Amsterdam to visit friends I discovered the value of the city as a base for exploring more widely and while I did not make it to Den Haag on that occasion I did visit Delft and Haarlem. Here are a few pictures from Delft.

Delft Part 2

Mention Delft and many people will think of the famous blue pottery from Royal Delft which has been in production for more than 350 years. Delft is also the seat of the House of Orange and burial place of William I, Prince of Orange, leader of the Dutch revolt against the Spanish Habsburgs in the 16th century. Delft’s most famous native son is probably Johannes Vermeer. Vermeer was born, lived and died in the city, and is buried in the Oude Kerk. In addition to his well known portraits he also painted two views of the city.

Like many ancient European cities Delft is dominated by churches. Delft has two grand structures, the Old Church and the New Church. The Old Church or Oude Kerk dates from 1246 with the massive tower a 14th century addition. The foundations were not sufficient to support the weight of the tower and as you can see from the picture below the lean is very evident. The straight turrets, rebuilt at a later date, make the tilt of the tower even more noticeable. Vermeer is one of the 400 people buried in the church.

Delft Part 3

Work on the New Church, or Nieuwe Kerk, which stands in the Market Square opposite City Hall, began in 1381 and the tower was completed in 1496. With subsequent rebuilding and expansion the church was only finally finished in 1655. The tower is the second highest in the country at 356 feet. There is a very steep and narrow staircase you can climb that leads to a platform offering spectacular views over the city and the surrounding countryside. The mausoleum of William I, Prince of Orange lies within and in the private crypt the kings and queens of the Netherlands are buried, along with other members of the House of Orange.

The viewing platform is on the next level above the clock face and and is a great spot for taking photographs of the city.

Delft makes a wonderful day trip from Amsterdam. Travel time by train is around one hour and trains stopping in or connecting to the city leave Amsterdam Centraal every 10-15 minutes. If time is short another option is to combine Delft with a visit to Den Haag which is only a fifteen minute train journey from Delft.