Archive for the 'Istanbul' Category

Going for gold in Istanbul

Interior View of the Mustafa Pasha Pavillion at Topkapi Palace, Istanbul


This is the Mustafa Pasha or Terrace Pavillion at the amazing Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, Turkey. It also seems to be known as the Sofa Pavillion, and the word Kiosk is often used in place of Pavillion. Little know fact: the work kiosk comes from the Turkish köşk, meaning pavillion. Neat.

Topkapi Palace was the main residence of the Sultans of the Ottoman Empire from the mid-1400s to mid-1800s or so. It became a museum in the 1920s when Turkey became a new state. It’s a huge complex with a large amount of impressive and well-preserved Ottoman architecture.

This particular room was built in the Rococo style in the 1750s to give the Sultan of the day and his friends a comfy viewing spot for the events in the gardens below. Probably on their sofas, hence the one name of the room. Or on their ottomans, perhaps? Ottomans on sofas? This view gives a good idea of the opulence of the palace. I don’t think they believed you could overdo gold.


HDR Stuff

I was glad that this shot worked out well. The  room was closed to the public, and I could only get to view it through the windows from outside. Tripods were banned in the palace complex. I held the camera steady against the glass and set the shooting speed to high for a fairly well aligned handheld HDR bracket set of three (-2, 0, +2).

This is also for me a rare example of processing with Nik Software’s HDR Efex Pro. I quite like the software, but don’t find it as intuitive to use as Photomatix Pro. HDR Efex Pro has the cool feature of control points, which allow you to set a point on the photo from which you can set the amount of exposure level or saturation or sharpness or whatever in a certain radius from the point, and it auto-detects edges to contain its effect. It seems to do a good job of it, but often feels a bit fiddly to me. It is on my agenda to fiddle with more though, because it feels pretty powerful, and I’m sure there are some very good effects to be had, pun not intended.

The Blue Mosque

The Blue Mosque, Istanbul


This is the world above Istanbul.

In the old city of Sultanahmet the streets are thrumming with tourists and markets and restaurants and vendors at most times of the day or night. This lively ground level is replicated up in the sky, where every hotel jostles to have the highest roof terrace with some view of the minarets and the sea. This roofscape is the world that tourists inhabit for breakfast and dinner and sundowner drinks, and perhaps reach a vague nodding acquaintance with their counterparts on the adjacent roof terraces.

This was the view from our particular terrace one beautiful dusk in autumn last year. That’s the Blue Mosque in the background, just a few minutes walk away. A benefit of staying this close to the Blue Mosque (apart from it being one of the great buildings of the world, of course) was waking every morning to the beautifully evocative call to prayer. There are apparently some 3,000 mosques in Istanbul and it’s quite impressive when they all start the call just before dawn. It makes you remember that you are somewhere very exotic and far from home from the moment you wake up each morning.

Bosphorus Dawn

Sunrise over the Bosphorus and Golden Horn, Istanbul, Turkey


OK, confession time.

I’m not very good at getting up early. You can’t persuade me to actually go to bed in the early hours, but by the same token, you can’t get me up very easily either. Which is a pity, because look at this dawn light. All this spectacular light is just out there waiting for those crazy enough to get up that early. Which is usually other people. I took this shot at dawn on my third day in the strange and wonderful city of Istanbul, which meant getting up quite a bit earlier, wandering up to the newly found tram station, buying a tram token (called a jeton in Turkey) from the awesomely named Jeton-matik machine, remembering which direction the tram travels in and which station to get off, all while lugging my camera bag and tripod, and all before dawn. It was only the thought of breakfast and strong Turkish coffee that kept me going. But totally worth it!

This shot was taken from the Galata Bridge, where the Golden Horn meets the Bosphorus. This area is crazy with commuter ferries in the day, but was quite calm at this time. That’s the Bosphorus Bridge in the background, which connects Europe with Asia. And that’s Istanbul, one foot in Europe and one in Asia, one in the Roman Empire and one on some other planet entirely. It’s an amazing place, and in some other life I’d be moving there. Or maybe this one, some day?


Before and After

I think this Before and After is really cool. All those crazy colours you see in the final version? They’re all there in the before version, I haven’t added any colours, but you can see that they do look a little pasty. The camera is seeing all the stuff that’s there, but it’s not doing a very good job of capturing it well. By taking a range of several bracketed exposures I have a sequence of images where each part of the scene is captured with optimal exposure in one of the images, capturing the light and colour as it should be, but just for that small portion of the image. Then all that remains, and this is the fun part, is to get the best parts from each image, combine them into one master image, and then amp the hell out of the colours and detail!

Don’t even think of shooting in JPEG if you want to do this, you need to shoot in RAW. RAW files store just ridiculously more data and colour information than the equivalent JPEG would. Then multiply that amount of data by the number of bracketed shots you are combining in your HDR, and you get the vast amounts of recorded data for the scene that allows you to pull the best exposure and colour from every part of the image.

What I also like about this is that you can see the stunning things HDR can do with water, skies and reflections. The natural reflections in the water are turned really punchy, and the blown out detail in the sky is brought back. Those are the kind of things that can make an HDR image jump up, slap you in the face, and make you go ‘woah!’

Before version of Bosphorus DawnSunrise over the Bosphorus and Golden Horn, Istanbul, Turkey

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