Saturday, August 27, 2011

Taking Suggestions ...

A Sunday free.  Nobody is complaining about that.  It turns out that my piano teacher has fallen ill this morning so I will be delaying the piano shoot until next weekend.  That means I have a Sunday to explore Sofia.  Now ... what are the options?  Well, a few days ago I came up with some ideas to photograph some of the local life.  Here are the choices of photos that my brain is working on at the moment ...

1.  The Lozenets Restaurant - this is a quaint, cheap, friendly little place around the corner from my house.  The food is delicious and the company is always good.  The wait staff is incredible and has even offered to take us out to Chalga sometime this year.  Now that could be a photo shoot!

2.  Our Local Fruit Market - Bulgaria is full of fresh produce markets.  The most amazing thing about Bulgaria is that they actually have fruits and vegetables that go in and out of season ... who has ever heard of that?  I can only conclude that this is a positive thing.  I would imagine that food from these markets would be healthier than the food shipped across, over and through countries in other parts of the world.

3.  Local Transportation - the trams in Sofia are a fun, efficient and picturesque way to move around Sofia.  They run many different routes including through the heart of the city and up into the urban wooded areas.  Some night black and white shots may look good and I was also considering some sunset, throught-the-trees images.

4. On The Way To Work - I haven't forgotten about my addiction to Parks, although Beglika Fest did distract me for a while.  I am still considering waking at an ungodly hour to see if I can capture some images of unique souls navigating through the woods.

My final thought is related to this link ... HERE

Basically, it is a contest to capture an outdoor area image that shows the character of a place.  I have been mulling my brain to try and thing about what outdoor image would best define Sofia and/or Bulgaria.  If you have any suggestions, please leave a comment.  I am open to anything!

Piano Studios

So, I finally peeled my face out of Lightroom and managed to post all of the Beglika pictures up on Flickr.  I've posted almost everything that I thought that was presentable.  There were a total of 794 pictures taken, so filtering through them and processing the half decent ones has taken a while, but I think it was well worth it.  After taking a break and looking at the pictures, I was pretty happy with the results.  My only concern was that the pictures in the set called "Aerial Elastic" looked a little over processed.  I played around with the settings but the problem was that they came out of the camera pretty much looking like you see them there.  I'm not sure how I feel about the look.  If you have any thoughts on them I would love to hear it.  I think my brain thinks "Hey, light shouldn't be coming from over there!" but I am such a anti-photoshoper that I can't completely embrace the look.  Anyhoo, thoughts welcome ... all kinds of thoughts ... good and bad.

Some good news ... actually great news!  After presenting to my parents today for our school's Open House, I managed to bump into an former colleague.  After catching up, she told me that she was opening a piano studio and asked if I could take some images of her new studio to get her business off the ground.  I'm going to go for it tomorrow and post the images here so stay tuned.  I'm thinking that it is going to be incredibly challenging due to the lack of available light but we might be able to do some creative shadow and shade work.  It could be a flop, but either way I'll post the best of the images here so don't forget to check back.

Time to wrap it up as we are off to Lozenets Restaurant for some delicious food and beer.  If you are looking for some cool photo ideas, check out this strobist article.  The photographer works with the theme of water.

Strobist Article: Click here!

Mmmmm, time to fill da belly ...

Monday, August 22, 2011

Beglika Fest 2011

First, and foremost, I need to say a huge thank you to my incredible wife who helped me with all of the work this weekend.  There is no way that I could have captured the variety of images without her assistance, energy and support.  I am a very lucky man.

For those who are new to Bulgaria, Beglika Fest is an outdoor festival that caters to both young and old.  It is an outdoor festival that stretches over the course of an entire weekend.  Participants are encouraged to camp in nearby campgrounds to allow easy access to the festival.  During the course of the weekend a variety of workshops ranging from martial arts to laughing classes are offered on a daily basis.  During the evening a main stage opens to allow international bands to showcase their musical talent.  For more information about the festival, click here.

Beglika Fest 2011 was a hands down, outright, over-the-top success.  This being my first trip to the festival, I can say that I was curious, if not a little anxious, as to what the weekend might entail.  Since my Bulgarian is quite weak, I thought that speaking only English would be a huge disadvantage.  This couldn't have been further from the truth.  I could never have imagined that I would meet such friendly, outgoing and generous people.  From the early morning wake ups in the martial arts camp to the afternoon comedy shows and well into the night with the live music and fire dancing displays, I have never met such a warm and friendly group of people.  They welcomed Elise and me with open arms and bent over backwards to help us feel comfortable.  My second huge thank you goes out to them.  Thank you for creating the atmosphere that you created ... you know who you are.

Below you will find some images with some descriptions of the people in them.  I hope that the information helps you to gain a deeper understanding of the atmosphere of the festival and the people that live in Bulgaria.  Expats and Bulgarians alike, the people living in Bulgaria make it what it is today.  Please enjoy the images and information.

Note: for all of the wonderful people that I met at the festival, please follow my Flickr stream to see more pictures of the festival.  Please feel free to download and use any of the images that you see there.  To help speed up the upload time, I have made the images slightly smaller.  If you would like larger images with better resolution, please get in contact with me and I can give you better quality file.  You can look me up on Facebook under Damon Rickett.

The Aerial Elastic

This is an image of one of the more popular events at the festival.  I am unsure as to the material used for the rope, but from what I observed, this workshop focused on balance and acrobatics.  People of all ages took turns walking across the thick, elastic material you see at the bottom of the image.  Some of the more advanced participants and workshop instructors displayed their aerial abilities by launching themselves well above the ground and landing back on the balancing line.  I unfortunately captured this image just before I left and did not get a chance to find out the young man's name in the photo.  If he is out there and sees this image, please get in contact with me so that I can include your information in this post.

More Photos: HERE

Natural Nectar

As many of us know, bees are equally important as the are endangered.  With that in mind, it would be impossible to take a relaxing summer drive in Bulgaria and not come across a bee farm producing honey.  What makes this honey so special is that it is produced using an all natural process.  No pesticides are used in the raising of these bees and the honey is pressed without the use of metal objects to help preserve the taste.  Also, an herbal tea is used to remedy many of the infections that plague western bee farms.  In a time where grocery store items are plastered with the misleading "organic" label, this quiet little bee farm seems to be doing everything just right.  I have to admit, I am not a honey connoisseur, but even I could taste the difference between this honey and the grocery store bought variety.  Oh, and one other little secret to add, the honey is so good that she often dips into her own product.  As we were setting up for this shot, she ate almost a whole bowl!  You can contact these environmentally friendly honey producers at 0885583269 or  Oh, did I mention that they make their own hand made clothes as well?

More Photos: HERE

A Little Something For Everyone

Beglika Fest is nothing if it is not diverse.  The people attending range from the youngest of infants to the oldest of adults.  This festival has something for everyone.  Cumbo Circus is a comedy group that draws an audience for both children and adults.  Although mostly children occupy the first few rows, the older attendees are equally enthralled by the magic, comedy and humor of Cumbo Circus' productions.  When I was invited to shoot this event, I had no idea that I was to be pulled up on stage as an on stage volunteer.  I can say from a first hand vantage point that these shows are a delight to watch and even more fun to participate in.  If Cumbo Circus is ever in your neighborhood, don't miss them ... even if you don't have kids. Their web address is 

More Photos: HERE

Our Kind and Generous Neighbors

Upon stumbling into the camp late Friday afternoon, we arrived to see that most of the tenting locations at Beglika Fest were taken.  We quietly set up our tent next to another group of tents near a glad of sheltered trees.  The group of tents turned out to belong to the martial arts performers and Kami, the gentleman that you see in the photo above.  Kami (short for Kamram) is an Iranian refugee that is living in Bulgaria.  He spends his days teaching martial arts to a group of young Bulgarian enthusiasts in Sofia.  His students range from PhD engineering students to fine arts majors at Sofia University.  Kami and his group gave regular martial arts displays throughout the weekend that highlighted their expertise in their area.  After getting to know Kami spending a few breakfasts and afternoons with Kami and his group, I was personally able to observe his calm demeanor with his students and his zen-like approach to his practice.  Both Elise and I were lucky to have picked the group of tents that we did.  You can contact Kami at the following website

More Photos: HERE

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Privacy in public places

So, I was perusing the Strobist website today and noticed a commentary on this YouTube video.  I agree with the artist that taking photos in public places is completely legitimate, but I question his statements about making money off of the photographs.  Whether he was convicted or not, I don't think I can agree with using images of people for income without their permission.  Check it out.

However unethical I feel that this practice might be, I have to admit, it made me think about setting up the same scenario in Bulgarian parks.  Early morning images of people using the parks to get to work could look fantastic.  The idea is percolating slowly.  As it does, I can sense a strange addiction to Bulgarian parks developing deep in my soul.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Afternoon in the Parks

Parks in Sofia are a fantastic place to just sit and people watch.  Dog walkers, joggers, bike riders all use the parks to get a bit of exercise and enjoy the outdoors.  This shot was taken with my new camera equipment in a park very close to my house as we walked through.  The light in the parks can be gorgeous during sunset.

Beglika Fest 2011

After scouring the local scene for things to get my mitts on before school starts ... I've found Beglika Fest 2011!  Beglika Fest is a yearly festival held about 2 hours south of Sofia.  The festival features local and foreign bands and workshops with an environmental focus.  I'm going to be doing my best to get down there and capture some images of the festival in full swing.  Stay tuned for upcoming images after the weekend!  Here is a link to the festival if you are interested in attending.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Wild Horses

The Rila Mountains are an expansive mountain range about 2 hours outside of Sofia.  The 7 Lakes and the Rila Monastery are two attractions of the area, along with the wild horses that roam the mountains.

In the Grass at South Park

South Park is a beautiful, green, open space that Sofians use to exercise, walk and get away from the big city.  Spring brings a variety of insects to the park as they pollinate the numerous flowers blooming in the area.

Alexander Nevski

Alexander Nevski - A Sofian centerpiece built by the Russians in memory of the 200,000 soldiers who died fighting for independence during the Turkish War.