18 Nov 2014

Bulgarian Expedition

I have just returned from a very enjoyable workshop in southern Bulgaria run with my colleague Emil Enchev. This was the first landscape workshop that we've run in this region so, even though Emil knew many great locations, it still had a somewhat exploratory nature about it. As you can see below, we captured a wide variety of images during this nine day trip. We arrived in Sofia and drove south to the Greek border. Most of the workshop took place along the border and we traveled almost the full width of Bulgaria.

The spectacular Sand Pyramids were a location that I knew already from my February workshops, but they looked great surrounded by autumn colour

Our plan was to capture some autumn colour in the landscape and we were not dissapointed. Thankfully the colours were a little late this year, so in most places we had timed it just right. The weather on the other hand wasn't always on our side and we had a lot of overcast and some damp days to contend with. One of the best things about this trip is the variety of subjects on offer, so when the weather was poor we could still find plenty to photograph.

Being autumn we had hoped for misty conditions, but unfortunately we only had two properly misty mornings

The famous Rozhen Monastery surrounded by autumn colour

Away from the main towns and cities life in rural Bulgaria is quite an eye-opener. Many villages are either abandoned completely or inhabited by only a few elderly people. Life here is extremely harsh and the inhabitants were preparing for the onslaught of potentially extreme winter conditions in the mountains. The state of the villages is sad to see, but it does make for some great images that actually tell a story about the place.

Residents of the crumbling mountain villages gather firewood for the winter

Wood is brought down from the forests by donkey, pony and horse and cart - all common sights throughout rural Bulgaria

Hazy conditions allowed us to capture a few layered landscape scenes

Southern Bulgaria has many beautiful stone bridges, many of which are in very remote locations

During the workshop we spent quite a lot of time exploring the old villages, trying to find interesting compositions amongst the clutter of tumble down houses. This is not an area frequented by tourists, so the sight of six photographers with tripods and bags full of equipment bemused some of the locals!

A derelict bee-keepers house hidden in the forest

In some places it looked like a war zone, but these old stone buildings are just crumbling away naturally, aided by the odd earthquake now and then. In their derelict state, covered with vegetation and surrounded by trees and bushes, it seems like they're gradually being absorbed back into the landscape.

The buildings that still have roofs are now used as shelter by livestock and shepherds

A selection of fungi which I have yet to properly identify

During a couple of overcast days we hunted the woods for fungi. Although we had missed the best displays we still managed to find some good specimens. Fungi are a great subject for miserable weather as you can introduce your own lighting effects and spend as much time as you like getting the composition, focussing and exposure just right.

Professor Smart photographing a nice group of mushrooms

We found some great old Soviet era cars rotting away in the landscape

This is an old Moscovitch, complete with donkey, crumbling farmhouse and storks nest!

Livestock roam free all over Southern Bulgaria. We came across a small flock of very noisy turkeys by the roadside and managed to get some nice portraits

Whilst rural life was one of the aspects of rural Bulgaria that we wanted to capture during this tour, the wild landscape was always our main aim. Although the weather conditions didn't allow us to capitalise on this fully, we did manage to capture some fantastic scenes. The potential for next year's workshop is very high.

Our excellent guide Emil (he's the one on the left) - a girl in every port, as they say!

I'm already looking forward to running this workshop again next year. Those who have already registered their interest will receive booking details soon. I expect this trip to become quite popular, so if you're interested in joining us please let me know so that I can add your details to our waiting list.

I'm now off to Northumberland to run another landscape workshop....maybe I'll be lucky with the Northern Lights again?!

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