Monday, October 1, 2012

Everything Returns to Dust

Please note:  All images in this post are low resolution in order to protect my intellectual property.  If you would like any of these images in higher resolution, please contact me.  Also, please click on the image to see a more accurate preview as the images do not appear properly on this page.

I've been bothering Elise to get in a car with me and drive out to Shipka to see Buzludzha for quite some time.  To be honest, my lack of organizational desire has led to me postponing this trip ... until now.  Last weekend we decided to rent a car, throw the bikes in the back, drive out to Buzludzha and investigate the monument.

I'd heard a lot about the concrete flying saucer but not much about the surrounding area.  After arriving at the Shipka IT Hotel in Shipka (which is an incredible place to stay) we realized that the Buzludzha monument wasn't the only attraction in the area.  Shipka boasts three main tourist sites.  There are a few different Thracian tombs, a beautiful church to commemorate the Bulgarian/Russian joint effort to overthrow the Ottomans and then, of course, Buzludzha itself.

Conversations with the owner of Shipka IT Hotel gave me a basic understanding of the history of the monument.  Initially constructed in homage of communism, the flying saucer shaped design was intended to celebrate the communist party's presence in Bulgaria.  It was initially constructed in exquisite splendor with an intricate metal roof, adorning tower and detailed fresco-like tile designs inside the building.  Initially, an illuminated gem like ornament was intended to adorn the peak of the tower so that the monument would be visible in other countries.

In its glory days, the monument was beautiful.  Since the fall of communism though, the monument has descended into disrepair.  The welds attaching the metal roof were cut one night by thieves who waited until for an intense storm to blow the roof off of the building.  They then used a massive amount of man and mechanical power to remove the valuable components of the monument.  Over the years, the monument has been slowly pillaged of all of its contents.  Now, only the the inner guts of the building survive.  The monument is officially closed off to visitors but a few access points allow entry to the interior.

Venturing into the innards of the building rewards the visitors with a first hand view of the beautiful tile work and an amazing panoramic of the surrounding mountain ranges.  It is no wonder that the architects chose this as the location for their crowning communist achievement.

Since then, the Buzludzha monument has turned from the most impressive jewel in the Bulgarian crown to a local watering hole for Bulgarian teenagers.  During our visit visitors drove up to the mountain to appreciate the view and enjoy all the natural beauty that Bulgaria has to offer.  We were passed more than once during our visit by mountain hikers, tipsy teenagers and solemn senior citizens, all having different reasons for ascending the mountain that day.

Currently, Buzludzha is the gathering place for a communist party reunion to celebrate the founding of the Bulgarian  Social Democratic Party.  The event takes place every year on July 30th.

The photography in this post falls into 3 categories which I will discuss below.

Interior HDR

The photos of the interior of the building were taken with the 17-40mm at f8.0, ISO 800 on a tripod.  For the panoramic photos, the tripod and camera were panned across the building to create 3 bracketed exposures at each of the 4 panning positions.  Multiple exposures were combined using Photoshop HDR.  The HDR photos were then merged into a panoramic photo.

Sunset Photos

These photos were taken with the 17-40mm at f16.0 with intention of creating a sunset time-lapse   A few technical difficulties resulted in me creating sunset images.  They were taken in a bracketed exposure sequence (+/- 2.0 stops).  I used the properly exposed photo in combination with Lightroom to create the images you see below.  I attempted to create an HDR sunset but after experimenting with some different settings, I preferred the original image over the HDR image.The aperture of f16.0 caused the star sparkle of the sun to become more pronounced over the land.


The star trail video and photo were created by visiting the monument at 2:00am and taking one photo every 30 seconds with long exposure noise compensation turned on in the menu.  The camera was mounted on the tripod and allowed to fire for just over an  hour by using a remote trigger (while I slept in the car).  The photos were then combined using Starstax and LRTimelapse (freeware available online).  The non circular star trails are planes that flew overhead during an exposure.


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