Piran – The Tiny Jewel of the Adriatic Sea

[…Piran, Slovenia September 2011…]

What better way to spend your early morning than to climb up the hill over the red rooftops and watch the first sunlight touch the face of St. George's church, then gradually embrace the town in a nice, soft and warm light.


Boris picked me up at the airport in Trieste just before 4 pm. I had arranged for a car service knowing that I wouldn’t have made the 3:00 bus to Piran and needed the quickest way to get there before sunset.

It was only 24 miles (40 kms) away, driving along the coastal route, first passing the Gulf of Trieste in Italy then the Adriatic sea as we cross the border of Slovenia. As we pass different towns along the way – Koper, Izola, and smaller towns – I see the same campanile over and over again just like the famous one in San Marco of Venice. The landscape did not change much and had it not been for the border crossing sign, I wouldn’t have guessed where Italy had stopped.
[…Read more about Piran…]

Scenes from Golden Jubilee Bridge

The world's famous clock needs no further introduction.

Light trails at Victoria Embankment from Golden Jubilee bridge.

Crescent moon hovers over the Thames and London's famous icons, the Palace of Westminster on the north bank and London Eye on the south.

The Golden Jubilee Bridges were officially opened in summer 2003 and became a great new landmark for London.

Holy Nikon

I had just posted a couple of images of this scene on Flickr and was saying how blessed my camera is now having dipped it in the holy water of Salisbury Cathedral. I have been to many churches/cathedrals here in Europe but never had any sort of reflections of it from the inside. So this intrigued me.

You must know that Salisbury England is most famous for the Stonehenge, but unlike most, I was more excited to see the church mainly because there was water, and water means reflections. The Stonehenge is just a bunch of rocks in the middle of a great big lawn 🙂 Of course, Stonehenge has more historical origins and has existed way before Christ, that’s why it’s more popular.

The water is actually a full-immersion baptismal font measuring 3-meters wide and holds 3,000 liters of water. It sits at the opposite end of the altar, and you’ll see it just as you enter the church. The challenge for me was how to tackle the wide dynamic range of the scene – the church was illuminated by intense afternoon sunlight and the water vessel was very dark compared to it. HDR photographers would handle this by taking multiple exposures and blend them in post processing, but I’m a straightforward single-exposure photographer. So I used an ND grad to even out the light, but my problem then would be loss of light (2 stops), and although it wasn’t too dark inside the church, it still was not bright enough. Tripods are not allowed in churches, so it was time to test the D700’s noise-handling ability as I cranked up my ISO, going from 1600 to 4000. My comfort level for unsupported handheld shots is about 1/30 to 1/40 sec, so I kept it around that speed.

I’m fairly pleased with my shots, considering the situation and difficult lighting. I like how I kept the details on the arches and pillars and was easy on the highlights on this shot.

Salisbury Cathedral - Reflections on the baptismal font. 1/40 sec, ISO 3200, with 2-stop ND grad filter, water-filled vessel as a tripod.

Twilight Hailstorm at the Docklands

The weather was pretty crazy today. The day started with sunny and clear skies – really gorgeous day, and ended with an unexpected, although brief, hailstorm.

At sunset, as I stationed myself in East India pier looking across the Thames directly towards the O2 Dome, I noticed a reddish cloud moving from behind me and heading straight to the dome. I set up my tripod anticipating a colorful sunset. I took more than a dozen long-exposure shots of the dome using my ND Grads. Shortly right after sunset, while walking around scouting for a different location, hail poured from the skies out of nowhere. Luckily, there was a McDonald’s just down the street to take shelter from and at the same time, grab a bite to eat.

I must say, despite the untimely hail, the weather gods were still considerate because it cleared up for the remainder of blue hour.  Therefore, I was able to do the shots of East India station and part of Canary Wharf’s skyline from Blackwall Way. Perhaps not much of a thrilling view, but I’ll take a little of something over nothing at all.


QUICK TRIVIA on the 02 DOME : In the James Bond film “The World is Not Enough,” the O2 was the structure that aided James Bond in reaching his hot air balloon destination. It was also shown in the background of a sequence in the 2006  movie “The Da Vinci Code.”

Two ND Grads stacked on top of each other plus a small aperture gave me a long-ish exposure - in this case, 5 seconds. The grads gave me this nice, rich color in the sky and smoothness in the water. F/22, ISO 100, 5 seconds.

I love it when buses come just at the right time, almost at my beck and call. This one came towards the end of my exposure, and saved an otherwise mundane scene. Part of Canary Wharf's skyline can seen in the distance. F/13, ISO 100, 20 seconds.

The East India DLR station. A nice full moon appeared through the clouds right after I had already packed up for the night. 'Would've been nice if I was able to include it in the picture. It will match those pretty "stars" that I've created using a small aperture. F/16, ISO 100, 25 seconds.

Night in St. Paul’s

I still can’t believe I live so close to London.

It had rained most of the day so it was not the best night to take photos. I still liked how most of my shots turned out though, and I’ll be posting my twilight (or what’s supposed to be twilight) shots later on, including those of the Millennium bridge – a very challenging bridge to shoot because it moves all the time – it is in fact also nicknamed the Wobbly Bridge.

Meanwhile, here’s some night shots I’ve taken of St. Paul’s Cathedral. Light trails is a popular subject for night photographers, one that I love taking shots of as well. The exposure can be tricky at times, but with practice as with most everything else, it can be perfected. I think I have found my comfort zone as far as exposure time is concerned, but what I think makes a light trail image successful is perfect timing. Buses make nice light trails, but since their light streaks extend higher than regular cars, I try not to overwhelm the scene with the streaks and give ample window to still see the subject behind them, as what I did with these St. Paul’s images. It definitely takes some patience, and sometimes luck, but it’s always fun to do especially in London where double-deckers are all over the place – that’s twice the fun!

I was happy to see how the first image below turned out. It was my last shot of the day, and was talking on the phone while I took the shot – one hand on the trigger, one holding the phone – who say’s you can’t multi-task while doing long exposures? I especially liked the image when I realized that the bus with the trails is a number 26 bus, which incidentally is the same number of the bus I took a photo of while in Valencia, Spain earlier this year. Number 26 seems to be a fortuitous number for me, so now I’m looking forward to shooting more number 26 buses, by accident.

This was my last shot of the day. I took 10 shots of this scene, strategically positioned myself a few feet from the bus stop at the end of the curb. Not bad of a shot, I think, considering I was talking on the phone as I took this shot. I also liked how I was able to include another bus on the other side of the street, and nicely placed in the scene too! Sometimes you just get lucky. I just wished I had done this at blue hour, but that's for next time.

More light trails. Fun fact about St. Paul's Cathedral: Prince Charles married the late Princess Diana here, and more recently, the Queen celebrated the Golden Jubilee and her 80th birthday with thanksgiving services in this place of worship.

Almost wrapping it up after a shoot at the Millennium bridge, I stopped to take a shot before crossing this street to the cathedral. I think it's pretty cool how I got both red and green crossing lights in one exposure.

View of the Thames, Vertical

Just wanted to post this vertical version of the same scene I had posted on Flickr. I’m still amazed how I was able to still take sharp photos considering how windy it was on the bridge that night. There’s some motion blur on the spinning wheel and the bobbing boat on the foreground, but the rest of the scene stayed sharp.

While shooting that night, I was talking to this other photographer who said he had vertigo and was having a tough time looking over the bridge and was paranoid about someone pushing him over anytime. It reminded me of the frightening experience I had  in Stockholm when some odd woman stood beside me while I was on the bridge in the dark by myself. I did not have such feelings while shooting from Waterloo Bridge because there were a lot of people around. I guess that’s one thing good about touristy London – there’s safety and comfort in numbers.

LONDON EYE TRIVIA: The London Eye is a 443-ft tall Ferris wheel on the banks of the River Thames. It is the tallest Ferris wheel in Europe, and the most popular paid tourist attraction in the United Kingdom, visited by over 3.5 million people annually. When erected in 1999, it was the tallest Ferris wheel in the world, until surpassed first by the 520-ft Star of Nanchang in 2006, and then the 541-ft Singapore Flyer in 2008. It is still described by its operators as "the world's tallest cantilevered observation wheel" as the wheel is supported by an A-frame on one side only, unlike the Nanchang and Singapore wheels.

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