Archive for the ‘Photos’ Category

Life Underground

April 28, 2012

Imagine living eleven stories below ground – in an underground cave city with 50,000 of your closest friends.  It would be difficult to envision life in darkness, illuminated only by oil lamps and having to traverse a maze of tunnels and staircases etched out of a soft volcanic rock (called “tuff”).  Co-habitating down there with chickens, horses, and probably a token society weirdo or two, it’s amazing the lengths these Christians went to hide from the Romans in the Byzantine era.  Very narrow and winding hallways made attacks difficult, and large round stones were situated in key doorways to roll and block an intruder from advancing.

Life down below the ground in the Cappadocia region of Turkey included chapels, a school, winery – all of the essentials for life in the 5th Century and each carved out of the rock many levels below ground for its specific purpose.  According to a very knowledgeable tour guide, there is even a honeymoon suite or tiny private nook for newlyweds amongst the group sleeping quarters.

Think District 13 in The Hunger Games, but without elevators, electricity or Katniss.

Any claustrophobes still reading?  Well count me among you (no shame!), and I wasn’t actually aware just how claustrophobic I was until I was faced with climbing seven stories below ground with only one way out and hundreds of tourists blocking that route.  I made it about two levels down before I hit my personal emergency button and exited, leaving James alone with the camera to capture the Kaymakli Underground City.

The one photo I could muster in the Kaymakli Underground City before evacuating for fresh air. Note James is ecstatic, while I am having a panic attack.

When I saw the photos James emerged with, I was glad I didn’t stay and venture where he went – he had to crouch to even get down one winding staircase (those clever Byzantines! If I was Roman you’d be safe!).  Observe:

Long, winding staircase hundred of feet below ground in Kaymakli Underground City.

This could be a private home, a meeting place, a classroom – my guess is a death chamber. Who could live here?!?!

NO THANKS. I’ll just get killed by the Romans instead.

So after this initial panic situation, James was a bit concerned how I might react to the next TWO underground cities he had on the itinerary.  One about 10 times the size of Kaymakli.  Our solution was to find a local guide to take us around and point out what the heck we were looking at down there as well as to provide the quickest escape route possible if necessary.  Luckily, you can hire such guides right outside the entrance of the larger underground cities (Derinkuyu), and we found Mustafa who was happy to show us around for a mere 30 euro (quite a bargain).

For some reason I felt much safer with a local guide, and was able to venture a bit deeper than I had at  Kaymakli, which felt crowded and chaotic.  Derinkuyu was by far the best of the underground cities, but likely because Mustafa really brought it to life by describing the purpose of every nook and cranny in the carved city (including a place to store eggs).  Since this city was much larger, some of its rooms were also quite sizable, and Mustafa (who was well-versed in guiding claustrophobic tourists 8 stories below ground) kept us in the larger areas.

Large dining hall in Derinkuyu.

I can breathe down here…sort of.

Claustrophobia aside – really, this is just incredible.

I haven’t written much about it yet, but the Cappadocia region in Turkey is really one of the most amazing places I have ever seen.  Even traveling to Africa or Australia, I never felt so far from home as I did in this land of fairy chimneys, hidden cave churches and cities, hot air balloon rides and incredible rock formations.  And, this is the map the entire region uses (car rental places, hotels, etc):

Not really helpful and definitely not to scale.

What a fun adventure!  More to come on Turkey and Cappadocia…

Took the (Camera) Plunge!

January 24, 2011

It has been so long since I updated this blog – sad!   As Gilly would say….”sorry.”

I finally bought a new camera after months of research – a real, grown-up one beyond a point and shoot that is still compact enough to take on trips and carry around easily.  I decided on the new Canon G12 – it acts like a digital SLR without all the bulk.  It has some pretty neat features, which I tested out on a trip to Boston in November.

Boston Common in Vivid Color

College brochure material, no?

Fisheye fun

Life in Technicolor

"Old Fashioned" function gives images a dated treatment in 5 different grades

I’ve been having a lot of fun with the G12 and look forward to testing it in international waters…who knows when that will be??  No trips on the docket as of now, but stay tuned!

Micro Four What?

August 25, 2010

For years I’ve debated whether I should buy an expensive, bulky digital SLR camera to improve the quality of my travel photos and avoid this from ever happening again.  But the “bulky” part keeps holding me back.  Besides, with these iPhone images out there, I have hope that a micro SLR is in the works.

Digital SLRs (Single Lens Reflex) have become the industry standard for taking/getting professional-quality photos. But over the weekend I was perusing the latest 2010 Consumer Reports book and came across a product that’s new to me – the Micro Four Thirds.  This type of camera allows you to change lenses – which is key in capturing the type of photograph you want based on your surroundings – and packs the manual functions and other perks of a digital SLR in more compact body.  I asked my Facebook universe – which includes a few professional photogs – if anyone knows the real pros/cons of this type of camera, and got nil.  I’m wondering if this model will take hold in the marketplace or just fade into the ether before it catches on.

I’m digging the retro vibe of this Olympus model…I may just have to make a trip to B&H to check it out.

Micro Four Thirds...worth the hype? Wait...there IS no hype. Yet...?

Underwater Cameras Suck

May 5, 2010

Well, the disposable ones do (I mean you, Kodak!). Seriously though, we were actually snorkeling in crystal clear water with visibility of 100+ feet, and this is what we got (James was the photographer):

The "best" of the bunch...

There's a turtle in there somewhere. Really! mean you can't see the two turtles near this large coral mass? I swear they were awesome!

Definitely a turtle! I think?

I am sure you can buy a nice digital camera with a clear waterproof case and all, but I think I snorkel once every two years, so is it too much to ask for a disposable camera with a range of more than 4 feet?

I heart snorkeling?

Truly Paradise…Minus a Few Distractions

December 24, 2009

The longer it is sub-freezing and windy here in New York City, the more I am thinking back to one of the most relaxing, warm and stress-free days of my entire life – at the gorgeous Whitehaven Beach in the Whitsunday Islands. The Whitsundays are a cluster of small landmasses about 560 miles north of Brisbane, reachable by plane to Hamilton Island (Exhibit A. – minuscule landing strip below):

With Hamilton Island as our hub, we explored the Whitsundays and its unique offerings…one of them being close-ish proximity to the Great Barrier Reef. But we can’t go to the reef everyday (it wouldn’t be as special, and well frankly, it’s just expensive), so an alternative excursion is to spend the day at beautiful Whitehaven Beach.

If you do a Google image search of Whitehaven Beach (I’ll wait…go ahead), two things you’ll notice right away are bright aqua water and glowing white sand. The contrast between these elements is what makes the 7Km strip so famous. That, and the fact it is located on an uninhabited island (Whitsunday Island) make it all the more exotic. Also, no palm trees…kind of weird!

Approaching Whitehaven Beach....with no dock, also wondering how we get from our large motor catamaran to the beach.

But back to reality! What these pictures don’t show…is that getting to Whitehaven Beach is not always a picnic. In fact, it’s pretty much the opposite – especially when there’s high wind in the open seas, as was the case when we were in town. The FantaSea Cruises trip to Whitehaven starts out with a delicious BBQ on the boat, during which the captain explains that there’s a “bit o’ wind” and that it “may be a rough go” for about “30-40 minutes.” The quotes are meant to imply huge understatements.

Cue Karen and James sharing a booth with a young family whose children probably ate more than their weight in chicken kabobs and then, surprise, are feeling a bit woozy from the rocking of the boat. (Rocking? I mean, Perfect Storm movie-type thrashing in the water.)

Cue the staff handing out barf bags to everyone. Oh fun! I don’t usually get seasick, but even this trip bothered me a little after 45 minutes or so. It was hard to accept that the beautiful ocean could be so brutal when it was hot and sunny outside. But unfortunately, it was a bad scene for the kiddos. The FantaSea staff rolled with the punches and were super personable, acting as though it was just another day for them (one of them commented that the boat that went all the way to the reef that day would be dubbed the “vomit comet” – oh…haha!).

James and I left the indoor cabin for some fresh air (a few older folks had even made good use of their barf bags by this point) and we were enjoying the approach to Whitehaven when we heard a splash and I felt a little spray on my leg. Yup, a little kid had puked up his BBQ right next to me and down the back of FantaSea’s pristine catamaran. Sigh.

But then there was this, and it was all better…

Well…until the ride home. But sometimes you have to suffer for beauty, though when that expression was coined I don’t think they were referring to this particular situation.


Anyhow, we spent the day at Whitehaven taking photos of the beach, of ourselves, of James’ muscles, of my toes in the sand, of the beautiful yachts in the bay, and then of the beach again. We read a little, went for a walk in the perfect sand, dipped in the clear blue water while praying we didn’t get stung to death by jellyfish, and overall just relaxed (except for the worrying about jellyfish). It was probably one of the most prefect days ever!

I wasn't kidding about the pictures of James' muscles! Meet Booth and Oswald, "two deadly assassins."

Some people think all beach photos look the same, but this particular beach is by far my all-time favorite…the pure-white silica sand was so soft, it acted like a pillow. It was so fine – almost like dust – that it blew in crazy formations on the ground (and OK, got stuck to everything in sight, but it was pretty).

Our own private beach for the day...sort of!

Another thing I should mention, which we didn’t get to see because of the tides, is that on the other side of Whitehaven Beach lies Hill Inlet, one of the most famous landscapes in Australia. This aerial shot from Google shows how the water forms beautiful designs in the sand as the tide recedes. If your timing is right, a helicopter over this sight is worth it!

Hill Inlet