Wandering cow

Turkish cow

7 Day Nature Challenge. Day 7

As we are the Wandering Cows, I thought it would be appropriate to finish off the challenge with one of our brethren, posing here in the Kaçkar Mountains of North East Turkey.

Thank you Joanne from Coffee Fuels My Photography for nominating me to do the challenge. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it, although it did require a fair bit of discipline to sit down and get it done before taking off on holiday.

Spotted Cow

B&W Turkish coffee shops

Preparing tea

My photography friends are still in Turkey and posting pictures on Facebook. I’m envious that they’re there and I’m not with them. One of the things I loved about the trips were the coffee house breaks, which were photo opportunities in themselves. There was always coffee and tea on the brew. And there were always people playing cards or backgammon or okey (a game which looks like a cross between rummy and mahjong).




Snap chat. Learning from old snaps.

Shop Girl

It’s instructive to look back at your old snaps and learn from them. I reviewed at a set of people images I took from my first Turkey photography trip.

They’re serviceable, but they would’ve been much better pictures if I hadn’t I zoomed in, lopping off the top of heads. I seem to have had a tendency to get in for the portrait without noticing much else around. Apart from the man reading the book and the shop girl at the doorway, the images don’t have much in the way of context. Even in those two, I could’ve stood back a bit further. I haven’t given you much in the way of a story … although the Lollipop Boy’s story is pretty self-evident ! He would’ve benefited from more of the wonderful wall texture in the background. I needed to give him more space.

So, my lesson here is to remember to stand back and look at what else is around. Have you learnt any lessons from your own pictures?

~ Spotted Cow

Lollipop boy


Bearded man

My friends are in Turkey

Evil eyes

My Journey Anatolia photography friends are in Turkey right now. There is one photography trip every year and I’ve been to Turkey with them 3 times in the last 7 years, all on different itineraries.

I’m obviously not there this year and I’m watching enviously as they post their daily phone images on Facebook. I know that the really good stuff will come after the trip when they’ve reviewed their takings and put in some processing time.

These guys changed my photography enormously.  I look back at the images from my first trip when I fancied myself as someone who knew a thing or two. Honestly, the overall quality was poor, terrible even. There were the odd ok images and I’ll post them here next time (as something to learn from!)

~ Spotted Cow

Daily bread

Daily BreadYou can always tell where a bakery is from the wafting scent of freshly baked bread. A Turkish baker let me take pictures of him working in his shop, which was barely larger than the work table that you can see in the pictures. It was a difficult space to take photographs because there was hardly any standing room.  The light was very low and most of the shots were taken with a 3200 ISO setting.

His “actual” shop was the window ledge where he displayed all the made loaves. I’ve been watching the Great British Bake Off and I’m always amazed by the goods that come out of the oven.  My own oven is under-utilised.

~ Spotted Cow

Wife supervising the bakeInto the oven !Loaves of bread

Weekly Photo Challenge: Nighttime

Mist in the valley

It was a bit of a challenge, finding an image for the Nighttime theme of the Weekly Photo Challenge because I seldom take pictures when the light goes down. This one was taken as night was about to fall, with the mist clearing in the valley so that I could just see village lights on the other side.

Below is the same valley during the day – taken from the same vantage point, but in a different direction – from my earlier post, Picture Postcard Pokut. Between the morning picture below and the evening picture above, the day was a white-out.

~ Spotted Cow

Pokut. Above the clouds.

Goodbye Summer

Summer Holidays

I’m hanging onto the warmth for as long as I can. London has had a fantastic summer this year and I’ve been on three (!) holidays, which is very indulgent.

There was the May week to my friend D’s remote village of Esparragosa de Lares in Spain. Then, two weeks on a Turkey photography tour in July. And finishing off with a super hot August Seville flamenco and eating week. They were all very different trips and I thoroughly enjoyed the variety. Click on the tags to read the posts.

Since I’ve taken all my annual leave in the summer months, I am now chained to the office desk until Christmas when I see my family. However, not to worry. There’s plenty in and around London for weekend diversions. Coincidentally, there are 3 B’s on my list – Brighton (sea air), Bletchley Park (code-breaking, espionage and Enigma machines) and ballet at the Royal Opera House. Stay tuned.

Out-of-town readers, if you fancy a London weekend, they’re giving one away on the London’s Autumn Season video on the Visit Britain website. Come visit !

~ Spotted Cow

Istanbul 2/3rd day

New Mosque sign

This is what I’d do on a roaming around day in Istanbul if it’s a repeat trip. It’s a two-third day because I walk everywhere and inevitably I’m shattered by the time it’s mid-afternoon. So, here’s my top 5, assuming you’ve already visited the granddaddies, i.e. the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sofia.

1. Coffee and cake at Edebiyat Kiraathanesi. In my case, it’s tea rather than coffee. But here’s what swings it. They have a 100-page cake menu, in addition to the rows of lusciously glazed tarts and cakes that line their shelves. You’ll need all that energy to fuel the walking.

2. Shopping at the Grand Bazaar.  You can get all your Turkish souvenirs here. There’s a lot of tat, but there’s also interesting and good quality stuff. On my last trip, I bought some beautiful hammam towels to use as rugs to wrap up in the British winter.

3. An aromatic stroll through the Spice Bazaar.  I always pick up some chilli flakes – pul biber, which I think is the medium heat one. They vacuum pack it for you so that the clothes in your suitcase don’t end up smelling of chilli.

4. People-watching on the steps of the New Mosque. The “New” Mosque dates from the 16th century. It’s a good place for taking a breather and watching the children feed the pigeons.

5. Walk across the Galata Bridge and grab a fish sandwich for lunch. Locals cast their fishing lines off the bridge at all times of day, and you can grab one of the famed fish sandwiches on the opposite bank. Either get one from a stall or sit down at an open air restaurant and be served. You can guess what I chose !

All the photos here were taken with my phone camera because I wanted a carefree day. The results weren’t a bad compromise.

~ Spotted Cow

Strawberry tartHammam towelsSpice BazaarPigeons at the New Mosque New MosqueFishing off the Galata BridgeFish sandwich

Hang Ups

Kitchen bits & pieces

We were invited into a few homes when we were travelling around northeast Turkey and I thought I’d show a few stills that I took of the things that people hang on their walls.

I took the photos initially because the wood and the stone had lovely texture. When I got home, I realized that I had amassed a small collection of hanging articles. Apart from the usual kitchen paraphernalia that you’d expect, I also spotted a kind of rotary blade and some snorkel masks (bearing in mind that we’re in the mountains).

~ Spotted Cow

Rotary blade Pot & pan Decorative wall railSnorkel masks

Three is a good number


As you know, I’ve been posting stories and pictures from my Journey Anatolia photography trip to North East Turkey. The trip is for all levels of photography and every evening we submitted an image for the Photo of the Day discussion. I enjoyed these sessions because I could reflect on the day, look at other people’s pictures and think about how I might shoot differently.

One of my takeaways was that whenever an image came up that had three people or objects, the concluding comment post-discussion would always be “… and three is a good number”.

I hadn’t thought about that. But of course, you get the optimal balance and asymmetry with having three objects. Three reasons are better than two when you’re arguing a case in point. Goldilocks and the Two Bears wouldn’t be quite the same, would it? Unlike the Rule of Thirds, it’s not a rule of thumb as such. But if you are fortunate enough to have three things in your picture, the composition looks a little bit more even … in spite of three being an odd number. Go figure.

~ Spotted Cow

Lady in doorwayThree ladies on a pilgrimage

Weekly Photo Challenge: Dialogue

Mountain goats This Weekly Photo Challenge proved to be less straightforward than first met the eye. I thought it should be an easy one. After all, I take lots of pictures of people and some of them talk to each other. Then I read the script and realised that it’s meant to be photographs that talk to each other or relate in some way because they have a recurring theme.

I’ve gone with sibling kinship – goats and children.

~ Spotted Cow

Wheelbarrow siblings


Making a call

Three ladies on a pilgrimage

These three ladies with their walking sticks look like they’re on a pilgrimage. You wouldn’t be wrong to assume that, except that they aren’t in search of a holy order. They’re walking a kilometre on the road out of their village – the high pasture Mereta Yayla – so that they can get a mobile phone signal. I guess when you’re blessed with spectacular mountain views, you can’t have everything.

~ Spotted Cow

Off to make a call

Mereta Yayla

Vegetarians look away

Slaughtering a cow

In the high village of Amlakit, we came upon a family who were slaughtering a cow out in the open and preparing it for the breaking of the fast. It was the month of Ramadan. The two ladies wielding their knives were in good spirits, in contrast to the bloody cow’s head they were skinning. The bags in the corner were filled with the cow’s innards and whatnots. There was a pot bubbling in the background. Neighbours came to watch and give their two cents worth of advice.

Contrary to what you would think, it didn’t smell and there weren’t flies. It’s a revelation for someone like me, who lives in the city and buys meat in neatly wrapped polystyrene containers from the supermarket.

~ Spotted Cow

Two ladies preparing the cow Watching neighbours

Picture Postcard Pokut

Pokut. Above the clouds.

We stayed in the high village of Pokut at 1900m for one night, in a cosy wood cabin guesthouse called Plato ‘da Mola. You only have to stumble out onto the front terrace to get this superlative view. They told us that they only get about 8 days of full sunshine a year and so I felt quite privileged.

The photo was taken first thing in the morning, and it gives the impression that we are above the clouds. By afternoon, the clouds rose to engulf the entire village and its surrounds. The mist was so thick that you couldn’t see anything more than a foot away. There was nothing to do after that but read and chill out and wait for dinner.

~ Spotted Cow

Pokut in the mist

Seeing Double

IMGP3844We had the morning in the village of Kavrun, and I ran into the twins in an empty tea house that smelt of freshly hewn wood. It was Ramadan and few people were out and about. I had a few minutes of confusion before I worked out that they were twins. Have you experienced that? It turns out that they were the sons of the proprietress of the tea house. Look at their piercing eyes. They’re almost hypnotic. In retrospect, perhaps I should’ve chosen this image for the day’s Photo of the Day discussion.

I chose instead to submit a close-up of a woman’s hand with henna detail on her nails. There was quite some deliberation from the group as to whether I should’ve included the partial other hand in the composition. They concluded that it would’ve been better without. But I’m a stubborn cow and I still like it as it is.

~ Spotted Cow

Hand with henna detail

Weekly Photo Challenge: Silhouette

Trees in the mist

We spent a lot of the time in the middle of the clouds when we were high up in the Kaçkar  mountains. Many days were misty, and we could barely see the silhouettes of the trees lining the road. At first I didn’t like photographing in the mist because it obscured everything. But after a fashion – and watching what the others were doing – I came to appreciate its ethereal beauty.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Silhouette

~ Spotted Cow