Thessaloniki Waterfront

Visitors to Thessaloniki, Greece, enjoy its waterfront and the promenade extending about 12 kilometers along the Thermaic Gulf. The widest part of the promenade is the 4.5 kilometer stretch in front of the White Tower, which is the only 16th century tower remaining of the Byzantine city walls.

White Tower on Thessaloniki Waterfront

Locals spend their evenings here, strolling, buying snacks (popcorn, roasted ears of corn, cotton candy) from carts, riding bicycles along the dedicated lane, fishing, and enjoying the sunset while sitting on low walls.

Snack Cart on the Thessaloniki Waterfront

A horse pulling an open buggy trots along the waterfront.

Horse Cart on Thessaloniki Waterfront

A young couple provides an impromptu dance exhibit to music from their boom box.

Tango on the Thessaloniki Waterfront

The balloon lady with her enormous floating colorful cloud walks this stretch of waterfront all day and meets tour boats as they return to tempt the children as they disembark.

Balloon Lady on the Thessaloniki Waterfront

Also popular are the “bar boats” that offer a free 30-minute cruise around the bay with the purchase of a  beverage (alcoholic, coffee, or water) on-board for a slightly-higher price of 5 to 10 euros.

Bar Boat on the Thessaloniki Waterfront
Bar Boat at Nighttime

Not even a spectacular sunset slows the steady stream of pedestrians and bicycles, but some turn to admire the sinking sun.

Sunset on the Thessaloniki Waterfront

As night falls, we say goodbye to the lights on the water and in the sky as we return to our apartment for our last night in Thessaloniki.

Night on the Thessaloniki Waterfront

These photographs were taken in early October 2016 in Thessaloniki, the second-largest city in Greece. Thessaloniki is also known as Thessalonica and Salonica.



Zeus or Poseidon: a Magnificent Statue

Last month we visited the National Archeological Museum in Athens, Greece. One of the major attractions is a statue of a Greek god posed mid-stride to hurl a weapon. This statue was  recovered in 1928 from a shipwreck off Cape Artemision in north Euboea, Greece. Because the weapon itself was not recovered, it is uncertain exactly which god is represented. If the weapon was a thunderbolt, then this is most likely Zeus, the god of sky and thunder who lived on Mount Olympus as king of the gods. If the weapon was a trident, then this is probably Poseidon, god of the sea (and brother to Zeus). The museum believes that Zeus is the more probable answer.

This statue was created in bronze around 460 B.C.E. in the Early Classical (Severe) style.  The beauty and detail of the statue is amazing and seems so advanced for something from a far distant past.

Hunter’s Supermoon October 2016

Tonight we photographed the October full moon, or Hunter’s Supermoon. The lunar perigee of this full moon (222,365 miles from the earth) occurred at 8 pm EST today, 16 October 2016. After waiting for the cloud cover to move, this photo was taken at 8:04 pm EST.

Hunter’s Supermoon

Specs: Canon EOS Rebel SL1, ISO 100, f/8, 1/80 second, 250 mm, using a tripod.

Honor Guard: Greek Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

The Evzones are an elite ceremonial unit that guards the Greek Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. They wear a striking uniform based on that of anti-Ottoman insurgents who helped free Greece from Turkey in the 19th century. They parade with highly exaggerated precision movements that, combined with the uniform, seem quite exotic.

We were at the Tomb (which is in front of the Parliament building on Syntagma Square in central Athens) to observe the hourly changing of the guard, which occurs on the hour and takes approximately 10 minutes. During the other 50 minutes, the guards stand motionless while tourists take turns standing beside them (no touching, no saluting) for photos. What follows are a few images from the change ceremony, showing the departing guards from the previous hour.

The change begins
Steps to imitate horse’s pawing
The guards march towards each other
Pose 1
Pose 2
Pose 3
Pose 4
Pose 5
Pose 6

The slow-motion pace at which the guards move is hard to convey using still photographs. We normally don’t like video, but feel it is necessary in this case. The following video has been edited from the original ten minutes to a little more than two minutes and SPED UP to be 1.5 times faster than real time. This video shows the arrival of the guards for the next hour.

The Best Approach to the Nighttime Eiffel Tower

Last Wednesday, we had an overnight layover at Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport and decided to visit the Eiffel Tower for a photography class assignment. We took the RER B light rail  train for a 50 minute ride from Terminal 2 of the airport to Paris’s Denfert-Rochereau station, switched to Line 6 of the Metro towards Charles de Gaulle – Étoile (“Étoile”), and exited at the Trocadéro stop about 15 minutes after the switch (a lot of information but useful if a reader wants to do this, too). This excursion cost 20 euros ($22.50 USD) per person (round trip including Metro), which seemed to us like the cheapest trip to Paris we could take.

There is no bad way to approach the Eiffel Tower in Paris, but there is a best way. That is to start from the Palais de Chaillot, walk through the Jardins du Trocadéro, cross the Pont d’Iéna (“Jena Bridge”) and finally reach the base of the tower. This is a magnificent walk during the day and even more impressive after dark — Paris is the city of light. The photos below show the Eiffel Tower from various vantage points on our walk.

Exiting the Trocadéro metro stop, we round the corner of the Palais de Chaillot for our first view of the Tower. Here we see some statuary beside the Palais de Chaillot with the Tower’s on-the-hour light show visible beyond.

Exiting the metro

Walking down the first set of steps from the Palais de Chaillot, looking over the Jardins du Trocadéro, we see the Tower more completely.

Below the Palais de Chaillot

Continuing down the second set of steps, we see the statue of the seated woman who has watched over the Eiffel Tower for many years. The blue search lights from the top of the Tower can be seen in this time-lapse photo. The blue arc of light is the trail of a flying toy being demonstrated by one of the many souvenir sellers in this area.

Seated Woman

Waiting to cross the street, we photograph cars on the Avenue de New York as they enter and leave the Pont d’Iéna.

At the Pont d’Iéna

Once on the other side of the Avenue de New York, we set the camera for a time-lapse view of the Seine beneath Pont d’Iéna, reflecting the lights of the bridge and Eiffel Tower.

From across the Seine

Crossing the Pont d’Iéna, we see a horse sculpture sitting atop a pylon (Arab Warrior by Jean-Jacques Feuchère).

Horse Statue on the Pont d’Iéna

Finally across the Pont d’Iéna and Quai Branley, we look up at the Eiffel Tower from near its base.

At the Base of the Eiffel Tower

On past trips, we have walked under the Tower. Unfortunately, since the terrorist attacks, a rather ugly makeshift security barrier has been added around the base of the Tower and we decided to forgo the security search needed to enter the area under the base. (A few weeks earlier, we had entered through security from the Champ de Mars side. The only positive effect we saw was that the trinket sellers were absent inside the secure area.) By setting up a tripod beside the barriers, we did get some scrutiny from a uniformed guard, but he did not question or approach us.

Finally, we leave you with a short video of the Eiffel Tower light show.

We hope you have enjoyed this nighttime visit to the Eiffel Tower. We will be posting more pictures and stories from our earlier September stay in Paris.

Mona and Me: Tourists Turn their Backs to Fine Art

We had a stopover in Paris in late September and spent an afternoon in the Louvre. Every visit has a mandatory stop in the salon where  La Gioconda (Mona Lisa to her friends) is displayed. We are used to finding hundreds of tourists gazing on the painting through their camera’s view finders, hoping to get a shot of the top of the painting above the dozens of other tourists ahead of them with their cameras. This year, we found a new phenomenon. A significant number of tourists spend their time facing away from the Mona Lisa so they can include her in selfies. Great art inspires!

Mona and Me

Meteora Starry Night

Meteora Starry Night

I have wanted to photograph star trails, but we live in an area with frequent clouds and significant light pollution. However, last week we were in Meteora, Greece (there will be more about that in other posts), staying in a room with a balcony which was directly adjacent to the massive rock pillars that make this area a tourist attraction. After dark the first night, we saw the stars and they were magnificent. This was clearly a photographic opportunity.

We selected Canon 100D cameras for this trip because of their small size and weight. I mounted one on a travel tripod and attached a 10-18mm EF-S wide angle lens to make some test shots.  It was totally dark, so autofocus wouldn’t work. It was so dark, in fact, that it was not possible to focus through the viewfinder. Taking a good photo would involve trial and error.

I wanted to take my photograph at ISO 100 to minimize sensor noise and to make as long an exposure as was practical to accentuate the star trails. The camera was put in manual mode with the ISO at 12800 to find feasible exposure times and apertures. Even though the sensor noise at this ISO would render the photos unusable, test shots taken at this ISO allow equivalent exposures at ISO 100 (the best on my camera) to be computed.

A second of exposure time at ISO 12800 is the same as 128 seconds of exposure time at ISO 100. Since the Canon 100D has a relatively small battery, I decided to limit the final exposure time to one hour, which meant the ISO 12800 exposure needed to be around 30 seconds. The exposure time on the camera was set to 30 seconds and a series of test shots was made at varying apertures. Using the display on the back of the camera to evaluate shots, I decided that f/5 gave me the best results. (I actually would have preferred at least f/8 but that would require me to take a longer shot or increase my ISO and I didn’t want to do either.)

Having determined the exposure parameters, the next problem was focusing the camera. I wanted the rock pillars to be in sharp focus to give a clean edge for the star trails. However, since it was pitch black except for the starlight, it was impossible to focus. An attempt to illuminate the rock pillars with a flashlight — a trick which sometimes works — failed because the pillars were too far away for sufficient illumination.

Since we had the room for one more night, we waited for daylight and carefully focused the camera on one of the pillars. To keep this setting, I taped the focus ring in place with gaffer’s tape (no sticky residue when it is removed) to keep the focus from changing. That night, the camera was set up in the same spot and an intervalometer was used to control the exposure time. The photograph shown here was the result.

Settings summary: Canon 100D, f/5, ISO 100, 3540 seconds, 10mm focal length