Travel Photography – Cluj Napoca, Romania

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I’ve just returned from a group trip i organised exploring a little corner of Romania that has been on my bucket list for some time.  Cluj Napoca, the unofficial capital of Transylvania is steeped in history dating back to the Roman Empire and offers a multitude of photographic opportunities.

I’d researched what to expect, areas i’d like to visit in the city, and also a little further afield, with the wealth if information already available on the internet.   One day was used to visit Corvin Castle which had association with Vlad the impaler but the other days were spent exploring the streets and mostly the old part of the city which did not disappoint.

Street photography has always been one of my favourite genres but, make no bones about it, it’s hard work.  Trying to capture spontaneous candid moment or qwerky compositions is no easy task but it gave me the opportunity to work on my zone focusing techniques and also a little shooting from the hip.  Using the Fuji x camera app also got used too.  The light was harsh throughout the day with clear blue skies compounding the difficulties but it was great to be put under pressure and work hard to produce what i think are some worthy images.  Take a look at these and let me know what you think.

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The city of Cluj has a colourful history from the many ruling factions dating back to the middle ages and the Roman Empire to most recently the last Romanian Revolution of 1989 which saw the end of authoritarian communist rule and the ousting of Nicolae Ceausescu after nationwide demonstrations.

The ‘old city’ offers plentiful medieval gothic architecture interspersed with neo gothic and renaissance architecture all within a small area.  With a bountiful assortment of cafes and restaurants you could spend more than a couple of days exploring this part of the city.   The city has a busy bustling feel about it with many cafes and bars in the main square but be a little brave and explore some of the side streets and you will find some amazing hidden gems.  One such place is Roata restaurant which offers local traditional cuisine at an amazingly affordable price.  Again, here are a selection of images from that area.

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Day two saw us heading out on a road trip to Corvin castle briefly venturing off the beaten track for a short distance to the abandoned fortress of Coltesti and then a short walk through the village of Rimetea with its Germanic inspired architecture at the foothills of the Carpathian mountains.

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Corvin Castle was one place I’ve wanted to visit for some time.  It’s association with the story of Bram Stokers Dracula is often misplaced.  The real association is that Vlad III, commonly known as Vlad the Impaler, was imprisoned there for many years and whilst held prisoner the Hungarian military leader who ruled the area, John Hunyadi, executed his father.  On his release Vlad III entered into a political alliance initially but then sought his revenge for his fathers death and went on a killing spree using impalement as his favoured method of execution.

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Photographically the castle is best viewed from the northern side, either at dawn or dusk, but to get a clear view you have to be relatively close so a wide angle lens would definitely be required.  My xf14mm on my Fuji X-T1 was at the very limit of what i could fit in view.  That said i did attempt a few multiple image panoramic shots which turned out ok.  A wide angle tilt-shift lens would have been ideal.

Throughout the trip i was thankful for my lightweight Fuji X gear.  We were out from early in the morning returning to our accommodation late in the evening and much of that time was spent on our feet exploring, apart from the frequent stops at many of the local cafes.  All of the images were taken on my Fuji X-T1 with the XF14mm & 35mm primes and the 18-55 & 55-140mm Zoom lens’ and, when required, supported with the Lee Seven5 Filter system.

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So, that wraps up this little blog please feel free to share this and to leave me any comments or questions.  There is much much more to explore and find in this wonderful city so i’ll be organising another small group trip soon.  If you’d like to join me then please do get in touch.  You can take a look at my website for more from this trip and details of any future tours when they are planned or catch up with me on social media on twitter, Facebook or instagram @robferrolphoto

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Travel Photography – Ukraine & Chernobyl

Ukraine is a country steeped in history and there is much going on in the country today that will be read about in history books in years to come.  Many of us will recall  an event in Ukraine’s history that had a wider impact on much of what was then the USSR and also Europe, that was the 1986 Chernobyl Nuclear Power plant disaster.

Having been involved with the Chernobyl Childrens Lifeline Charity, you can read more about this here, for a number of years a few of us decided we would like to experience their side of the story, learn more about their every day lives & struggles and to also visit the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant itself.

Travel photography is something I’m aiming to do a lot more of as having spent much of my earlier working years traveling the world, sadly the photography bug had not yet bit.  Its now time to put that right. So, what more of an excuse could one want, to do a little travel photography, and explore somewhere were there is a personal connection?

I’ll be honest and say that I didn’t do much research before heading over to Ukraine and was somewhat unsure if there were any constraints with regards to photography etc.  I suppose that a little bit of me still thought of it as being very much a controlled state.  As a youngster growing up in the eighties i felt somewhat intrigued and mystified by the old Soviet cold war era and some of that mystery still lives with me today.  In reality though i couldn’t have been further from the truth.  Ukraine is a bustling country eager to have its own unique identity, with symbols of patriotism almost on every corner, and many a stranger happy to say hello and chat, with the obvious language barrier though.

For the trip i had a reasonable luggage allowance so took a full compliment of gear including my two Fuji XT-1’s, the xf18-55mm & xf55-140mm zoom lens’ and also the xf14mm, xf35mm & xf56mm primes.  I’ve got to say though, that i found myself mainly using the 18-55mm which is totally opposite to the way i normally work when shooting weddings etc where the primes are the only lens’ i use.  The 18-55mm, with its image stabilisation, is such a versatile lens and coped well with the many situations i found myself.   There is one thing i will add though and that is that the airport security was a nightmare.  Every item of photographic & electronic gear had to be taken out of my rucksack and placed in a separate tray for the x-ray scanner.  It was a lengthy process and chaos of re-packing everything while you have the constant stream of other peoples stuff pushing you along was a bit of a nightmare.

Anyway, gear aside, i wanted to experience, or at least see, the Ukrainian way of life.  In particular that of the more rural setting where many of our visiting children come from.  We were lucky to see many aspects of their lives from the hustle and bustle of the town markets to the self reliant lifestyle many lead with their own small holdings.  People from all walks of life, complete strangers, were happy to welcome us with open arms as if we were family, an experience that was overwhelmingly humbling.

The trip would not have been complete without a visit to the infamous Nuclear Power plant of Chernobyl.  Reactor number four catastrophically exploded on 26th April 1986 and immediately changed the lives of thousands of people and sadly, to this very day, still affects the lives of many more thousands.

The exclusion zone can only be visited by prior booking a guided tour.  There are a number of companies on the internet selling tickets but its only once you arrive at the first 30km check point that you realise just how much of a tourist attraction this place has become.  With the mystery of the many abandoned villages and the stories they hold to the somewhat imposing steel structure that now covers the reactor, who wouldn’t want to visit the site of the worlds worst nuclear disaster?  I know, its not for everyone, but it was a very emotional experience thinking of the time when many people gave their lives to avoid an even greater explosion and thus saving the lives of many and even the existence of the European continent.

So below is a pictorial collection of my visit, from the humbling family encounters, the emotional visit to a local orphanage and to the poignant visit to Chernobyl & the abandoned city of Prypiat.  If you’d like to know a little  more about my visit please do leave me a comment or get in touch.  You can also find a Youtube travel blog i made here.  Finally, more of my work can be found on my website which you can find here.  I’ll look forward to sharing images of my future travels with you soon….Rob

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Monuments from the Soviet era celebrating the defeat of Nazi Germany.

Soviet symbols celebrating WWII victory

Monuments from the Soviet era celebrating the defeat of Nazi Germany.

Kerosene rail station

Korosten, an important rail hub in the Zhytomyr region. Fire crews from here were some of the first to attend the Chernobyl Nuclear disaster.

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Busy markets in Korosten with Salo (cured fat) in abundance.

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There were wild dogs everywhere, some quite placid while others harassed the busy shoppers.

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Children in a local school were intrigued by their foreign visitors.

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Typical rural houses in Ukraine.

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Chernobyl and the queues of tourists waiting for their guides.

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Items discarded in a village that was hastily abandoned shortly after the nuclear disaster.

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Nature rapidly reclaiming what it once owned.

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The city of Chernobyl.

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Our guide showed us how the background radiation levels fluctuated within relatively short distances.

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Childhood toys lay abandoned in a village near Chernobyl.

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The infamous reactor 4 at Chernobyl, now with its new steel confinement.

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The road to Prypiat. The city that offered a new beginning, and new hope and a new life to many. A city that only had a life of 16 years.

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This amusement park was never used. It was due to be opened on 1st May 1986, just a week after the nuclear disaster.

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The Soviet Duga 3 ‘over the horizon’ radar close to the Chernobyl Nuclear power plant.

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Soviet military wall painting.

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An abandoned Soviet missile bunker.

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Soviet era newspapers pasted to the wall of an abandoned missile base.

 

London and a mixed bag of Photography

Last week I ventured off on a day trip to London.  It had been a while since my last visit and I was long overdue a day of ‘me’ photography.  I had no real agenda and no expectations of what i would find or photograph, but, as London is place where you can find and photograph anything and everything, i was more than confident of getting something ‘in the bag’.

With that in mind it did make me take a little more kit that I really should have, but, with the light weight of the Fuji XT1 and its complement of amazing lens’ it wasn’t a real issue.  I did however make a return trip to the car shortly after parking at the rain station to dump my tripod as a last minute decision to leave this behind.

Monday morning in London was manic, it’s manic every morning to be honest, but this particular Monday was the day after the London Marathon.  The cleanup process was still in full swing and there were stacks upon stacks of those meal barriers everywhere, but, the cleanup team must have been very hard at work all night restoring the city to its normal self ready for there Monday morning onslaught.

I love the huge diversity London offers and it’s great to see all the tourists taking in the sights but i’d wish they would leave those blooming selfie sticks at home.  Having nearly had my eye taken out on a couple of occasions was beginning to wear a little thin as they waved them around with little or no regard to those around them.

All-in-all though it was a great day where i photographed ‘that’ anything & everything, from some of the iconic buildings, life on the street, life under the street and even those blooming tourists with their selfie sticks, lol.  The weather was very changeable with some heavy rain showers but it certainly did not stop play, moreover, it helped create a winning image, more about that a little further on.

Again, the Xt1 was a dream to work with, occasionally shooting from the hip and zone focusing for the street shots – but i must admit that i still need a little more practice at this technique.  As for that tripod i left behind, i didn’t even miss it.  I photographed a few long exposure images, some in excess of 75 seconds, all helped with the Lee Seven5 filter system, and just used what was available such as walls and even the pavement.  It helped me compose some great images with a low perspective and the freedom of working without a tripod was very liberating.

The week ended on a high by me submitting an image into the Fujifilm_UK #fujifridaychallenge, with the weeks theme being reflections, and having my entry chosen by renowned Fuji X Photographer Paul Sanders as the winning image.  As mentioned above, the image was taken just after a heavy rain shower and i was in an area of high-rise office blocks, with a view of the Shard in-between, and the wet pavement in combination with the glass sided buildings created an amazing reflective scene.

Anyway, I hope you like the images i’ve added below.  Please do feel free to share the blog and leave me a comment and if you missed my last blog post on why i moved to the Fujifilm X system you can read that here.  Thanks, Rob.

London Photography by Rob Ferrol

There’s more to London you know.

News reader on the streets of London by Rob Ferrol

News reader ready for action

Tourists in London posing with selfie stick

Grrr, the curse of the selfie sticks.

Padlocks left by lovers

Lovers locks

A newly married couple on Westminster bridge, london

Just married

big ben London with blurred London bus and jogger

Lunchtime rush hour at Westminster bridge

stormy clouds over westminster by rob ferrol photography

Stormy clouds over Westminster

London bus blurred with motion as it passes red london phone box by rob ferrol

elderly females taking a cigarette break

Fag break

two males outside bookshop in london by rob ferrol

Another fag break

lonely female in cafe by rob ferrol

Deep in thought

 

london city skyline in black and white by rob ferrol

London city skyline

long exposure of tower bridge by rob ferrol

Tower Bridge long exposure

st pals cathedral by rob ferrol

St Paul’s from Millennium bridge

statue of fire fighters and st pals cathedral by rob ferrol

Firefighter statue near St Pauls

shard reflections on a rainy day in london by rob ferrol

The winning shot

Mystical Marrakech and beyond.

I’ve been lucky enough to do a fair bit of travelling over the years.  Unfortunately much of this was before the photography bug had bitten me.  Anyway, having planned a surprise birthday treat for my daughter i figured that this would also be a fab opportunity to try my hand at a little travel photography.

I’d visited Morocco some 15+ years ago and had many fond memories of the culture, people and lifestyle of this amazing country.  The sights, smells & tastes of the spice markets & street food were a bewildering attack on all of your senses and i was excited to experience these again, with my daughter, and this time with my camera in hand.

I was also keen to pay a little attention to the amazing architecture that still exists in this country, some of which has not changed its appearance for hundreds of years.  From the mystical medina of Marrakech’s old town to the long abandoned Casbah’s on the edge of the Sahara desert there was certainly plenty to capture our attention.

For the trip i travelled light from a photographers point of view, with just 2 Fuji XT-1’s and a small selection of prime & zoom lens’. The cameras were amazing to work with, especially in the tight confines of the Souks.  I was able to work relatively unnoticed and if you’ve ever been to Marrakech you’ll know how difficult it can sometimes be photographing on the streets.  Many people dont like having their photograph taken and those that do often come asking for money for the privilege.

Marrakech itself is a city that is full of life, it never seems to sleep.  That said, it’s at night that it seems its liveliest.  We travelled in July and, true to our expectations, the heat of the day was pretty much unbearable, hence the reason many stay indoors during the day and emerge at night when the temperature had dropped a little.  Talking of the temperature, towards the end of our stay the temp was 45 degrees Celsius and with the heat index of the stiff Saharan wind this felt more like 49 degrees celsius.   Anyway, the buzz of the Medina at night, especially on the Jemaa El-Fnaa is a must for any traveller to Morocco but watch out for the Snakes & Monkeys!!

So, enough of the blurb heres a selection of images from our trip which includes Marrakech and our excursion through the High Atlas Mountains to the edge of the Sahara Desert to visit the ancient Casbah’s of Telouet and Ait Ben-Haddou.

Moroccan Flag.

The Moroccan Flag. The green pentagram represents the 5 Pillars of Islam.

With Snake charmers, Monkeys, food & entertainers the square of Jemaa El-Fnaa (square of the dead) is a full-on sensory overload but certainly a must see!!  The Koutoubia Mosque, the largest in Africa, sits close by to the west of the square and if the towering minaret doesn’t grab your attention the call to prayer certainly will.  Views of all the activity are best viewed from one of the many cafes that offer roof top terraces and one of my favs was the Le Grande Balcon Du Cafe which offered panoramic views and there most amazing spot for capturing the sunset, but get there early to secure your space.

Morocco, Marrakech, Jemaa El-Fnaa, Sign

The tanneries are somewhat of an experience and if your a little sensitive to strong odours then maybe its not for you.  But, if you do visit you’ll be given a bunch of mint leaves to ward off the smells a little and a whistle stop tour finishing of being taken to see the “finished products” AKA the leather shop.  Here you will experience the most amazing display of leather goods but also the most amazing level of pressure sales you’ll probably ever come across.  Don’t be forced into buying if you dont want anything but if you do, be sure to bargain hard and firm.

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The tropical gardens, Jardin Marjorelle, offer some respite from the madness of Jemaa El-Fnaa with their abundant collection of exotic Cactus and other plants & palms set around the deep blue of the buildings that were once an artists studio.  Until 2008 the gardens were owned by the designer Yves Saint Laurent.

Jardin Majorelle Marrakech

The alleyways of the souks are a maze and getting lost is all part of the fun.  Almost anything is on sale from skins to bones and treasures to tatt.  If you can’t find it in there then i dont think it exists. Be prepared to haggle and walk away if you dont get the price you like, very often they will chase you and agree to your offer.  Their sales patter/technique can sometimes appear aggressive but dont let that stop you bargaining.  Also watch out for the ‘ever helpful’ guides – young males who seem to be everywhere to help guide the lost looking tourist.  As we found out they can, and will, lead you the wrong way, or the long way (but not always though) and expect a little payment at the end. Having already visited the Souks of Fez one thing i did notice in the Souks of Marrakech was the abundance of mopeds.  The booming things were everywhere, even in the most crowded of places they were intent on pushing their way through and on the quieter alleyways they seemed to travel at some speed so do watch out for them.  It’s something that i do not recall being an issue in Fez.

Medina & Souk, Marrakech, Morocco.

The Palais La Bahia, Palais El Badi and the Medersa Ben Youssef each display fine examples of Moroccan architecture from the ages.  With intricate mosaics, carved cedar wood and the finest moulded plaster walls that any modern day architect would find difficult to emulate.  Listen for the Storks nesting on the walls of the Palais El Badi, they make the strangest noise at dawn & dusk.

Morocco, Marrakech travel photography by Rob Ferrol

We ventured out to the edges of there Sahara desert passing through the high Altas mountains, along twisting roads and the Tizi n’Tichka, the highest mountain pass in North Africa, to the Casbah’s of Telouete and Ait Ben-Haddou, the latter of which has been the backdrop of many films including The Mummy, Gladiator and the more recent The Game of thrones.  Although we didn’t make it to the Sandy “dunes’ part of the Sahara, which was another days travel away, with was certainly very barren and a world away from the hustle & bustle of Marrakech.  We even had time for a Camel ride but thats another story 🙂

"Berber TV"  at the Casbah of Telouet.

“Berber TV” at the Casbah of Telouet.

Morocco is truly an amazing place and has much to offer any traveller, certainly more than one visit could cover anyway, so im hoping to make a return visit myself sometime soon.  If you’d like to experience a different lifestyle & culture then be sure to put it on your bucket list.  As always, if you enjoyed this little blog please do leave me a comment and also feel free to share it on your social media sites.

http://www.robferrol.com

Inspiration

I often trawl the net in search of inspiration and browsing the photo streams of my Flickr contacts is a fantastic starting place, but, inspiration not only comes in a visual sense but also a written one too. To get this double pronged boost you have to see an individuals website, blog or book and there are many fantastic examples to be found on the Internet. There are a few thought that I’m constantly drawn back to, one of which exhibits the stunningly fantastic work of bruce Percy. http://www.brucepercy.co.uk/index.html

As a photographer based in Scotland he is perfectly placed with an abundance of stunning scenery on his ‘doorstep’ and he shows it at his best, but he doesn’t stop there, his adventures around the globe prove that he is a photographer who is just a capable out of his comfort zone.

His images have a sublime mesmerising dreamlike feel to them, the sort of image you can just look at for ages but if you download his free video podcasts from iTunes you’ll be in inspiration heaven. Be inspired at http://www.brucepercy.co.uk/index.html

Dreaming

Well, the David Noton Roadshow is over. I have now just spent the last 24 hours dreaming of distant travels to tropical locations searching for the mesmerising vista and waiting for the right light.

What a stunning evening it was! His images looked fantastic on my screen and in the pages of the book I purchased, and got signed by the way, but to see them projected on a large screen was something else. An awe inspiring evening that gave most people in there itchy feet, me included. I dream of visiting the places he has been, let alone returning with an awsome set if images. He gave a facinating insight to his life as a Travel & Landscape photographer backed up with some behind the scenes stories, anecdotes and some amusing un-published images.

It was a pleasure to meet the man, and his team, behind the images that give me so much inspiration.

Well, who knows, one day eh?? Looks like the dreaming will continue for a little while longer though!!