If you’ve ever read my blog you know how much I like to travel. It combines both of my loves, photography and eating. Traveling is a way I can learn new things and experience the world around me to, hopefully, enhance myself and therefore bring something to those around me.
Istanbul is a place I’ve wanted to visit for as long as I can remember. But living in the US for the first 29 years of my life, Istanbul was just a little too far to travel, especially when there are so many other places to see first; Florence, Porto, Paris, etc. But, last week, I finally made it. And I am so thankful I did. Istanbul is unlike any city I’ve ever been to. In fact, it is unlike any city anyone has ever been to, because Istanbul is totally unique in that it’s the only city that spans two continents, Europe and Asia. On one side you have the European Istanbul, then you cross the Bosphorus and you arrive in the Asian side of Istanbul.
When I asked a friend my wife met in London, Mustafa, who invited us for Turkish coffee in his workshop in Istanbul, if there were any differences between the people and culture of the Asian side versus the European side he said, “No, not really. We are one Istanbul. There are no differences.” And my wife and I found that to be true.
Istanbul is one of the friendliest places I have ever been to. The people actually look you in the eye and say hello to you. And unlike Marrakech, blogged recently, the people don’t want anything for this help. At first my back was up every time someone asked if we were lost. I was thinking, “Yes, but you’re going to make us follow you and then ask us for money and then say it’s not enough, just like in Marrakech.” I was completely wrong. Whenever my wife and I went anywhere we had people falling all over themselves to help us. And do you know what they wanted? They just wanted you to smile at them and tell them where you were from. That’s it. Oh, I did collect a few business cards from people who owned rug shops, but it wasn’t heavy sales. They simply said, “I have a rug shop. Here’s my card.” And left it at that.
As well as being the friendliest place I’ve ever visited, Istanbul is one of the prettiest. History is everywhere you look. Stand on any rooftop terrace and you see mosque after mosque after mosque, as far as the eye can see. Go a bit higher and you see the Asian side of Istanbul, the Bosphorus in the middle. And I couldn’t help but to think of all the traders sailing from Asia to Europe and crossing the Bosphorus on their way. There’s a reason Emperor Constantine wanted that land so much. In my mind, it is perfect. For the first time in a very long time I found myself not wanting to leave. I wanted to move there and live near Mustafa and drink Turkish coffee with him and his friends all day long. I wanted to take endless ferry rides across the Bosphorus exploring the ancient streets of Istanbul. I truly fell in love.
The one complaint I have is this; the food in the old town, Sultanahmet, is notoriously expensive and poor quality. And this held true when I visited. It’s like Venice in a way, they know people are going to visit anyway and they know they’ll be hungry and have to eat. So the prices are sky high and the food is less than average. In fact, as soon as my wife and I returned we visited our local kebab shop and found it to be much better and far less expensive than any kebab shop we visited while in Istanbul. Yes, yes, I know what you’re saying right now, “But there are far more things to eat in Istanbul than kebabs.” Yes, that is true, there is traditional Ottoman and Turkish food, but we tried those as well and found them all to be subpar in the Sultanahmet.
If you go to Istanbul, don’t worry about trying to find the best restaurants to eat in, just visit to see the beauty and marvel in a city that has been the home of four empires.
I just returned back from a week in Marrakech. What a strange and magnificent city. At first I was not sure whether I liked it or not. A first for me. Normally I arrive in a city and I know instantly whether I would go back again. But, to be honest, I didn’t know until I got home and looked at the below photos that the answer to that question is, yes, definitely yes!
Marrakech is a rich and vibrant city with culture literally oozing out of every street corner. The people are warm and unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. For example, my wife and I took a taxi from our hotel to Hotel La Mamounia for an afternoon on their terrace. When we exited the taxi the driver said to us, “I hope to see you again, Inshallah.” Normally, if I get more than a grunt from a taxi driver I’m happy.
This kind of affection was evident all over the city. And it didn’t matter how much money the people had either. Every person from every walk of life acted warmly towards me and my wife.
The city itself is not what I would call the cleanest city in the world. Let’s be honest, there is rampant poverty in Marrakech. But there is also incredible wealth. Two of the best hotels I have ever seen La Mamounia and the Royal Mansour are in Marrakech. They are not just hotels, they are palaces.
I enjoyed La Manounia and Royal Mansour as much as I enjoyed the main square. The food in both places is amazing and the atmosphere is second to none. I highly recommend it.
Here are some photos from my trip.
Edinburgh has always held a special place in my heart. I first saw this ancient city in 2001 and have been meaning to go back ever since. So in July when I was offered a free trip, I jumped at the chance.
Unfortunately this has been one of the wettest years on record and it rained most of the time. However, when the sun did come out I was able to capture some superb images of Edinburgh Castle, The National Monument, etc.
All of the images below were taken with my newest lens, the Canon 35mm f2.8 pancake. A great little pocket lens that was strapped onto my Canon 1Ds Mark II for the entire time.
This, above all, is my favorite bit of kit. It is light, mobile and creates stunning images. It reminds me of the street photographer days when zoom lenses were relatively unknown and most people shot with rangefinders that had minuscule lenses.
The images below show that an 8 year old digital camera and tiny prime lens is sometimes all you need.
There is one city on Earth that gets my creative juices working over time more than any other. And that city, not surprisingly, is Paris!
It is the world’s most visited city and for good reason. With more beautiful scenery and architecture than nearly anywhere else, the entire city is like a giant postcard, just waiting for photographers to capture its glory.
I have been to Paris four times and each time I wish I had more days to photograph all the things I couldn’t get to. Every time I go I tell myself that I’m going to shoot the real Paris. The Paris that isn’t publicized to everyone. The streets of Paris. But this never happens. I end up taking the same photos I always do. Not because I lack originality, but because when I get to Paris, those famous sites take hold of me and don’t let me go.
Oh, I’m sure that with a few more visits the novelty will wear off and I’ll finally discover some remote areas of Paris that tourists either don’t know about, are too scared to go to, or just don’t venture out to because, like me, they are transfixed by The Louvre, The Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, The Seine and all the rest.
On this occasion, my wife and I traveled by car and ferry from West Sussex for a short weekend that included all the usual sites and a special treat, the Tour de France.
I have watched The Tour de France since 1999, the first year Lance Armstrong won it. I have been captivated by it ever since. So it was a very special moment for me when I was standing there, (for four hours), waiting for the riders to arrive onto the Champs Elysees. And to add to the pressure, Bradley Wiggins, the first British winner of the Tour in its 99 year history, was on target to win. But, the pressure eased on the rider’s 2nd time around and I captured the below images.
I look forward to photographing this grand city in the near future, when maybe, just maybe, I’ll get to capture it’s true heart and soul.
My wife and I celebrated our belated wedding anniversary with a trip to magical Venice. A place I had been before but never photographed. So I was very keen to see what I could do with that ancient city.
The results speak for themselves. I have to say, although I am confident in my abilities as a photographer, the setting helps a great deal. I saw a photograph with every corner I turned and every ancient, rusted, crumbling building I beheld.
Venice is a truly magical city with endless photographic opportunities. Here are some of my images:
All of which can be purchased by visiting Chartfords.com.