Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Yellowstone 2019

For the past few years a group of friends have visited Yellowstone in the winter in hope of photographing the illusive wolves.  This years the boys are going but since I am the elder statement and due to the COV-19 and been high risk, I will not be attending.  Therefore they will return from the 2020 trip with photos packs of wolves making several kills.

Last year as in 2018 we were lucky to capture of the big horn sheep during the rut.  In 2019 we found an area outside the park where the sheep were congregated having orgy and not disturbed by the on-lookers.  The males measure each other and have crossing of the weapons, rested and ate grass before they went for another just.

When they got a scent in the air of a female the chase started and there were no rules; all in love and war is fair. The victim got chased by several males and assaulted but there were always the other knights wanting to get the princess. No chivalry here…Sir Lancelot was far away and Guinevere had to fend for her virtue. But eventually she gets seduced in the fly. 

Meanwhile Sir Lancelot is at the castle wondering as to where his dame has gone. But the other great predator raises his hands happy to have captured the action.

You always find moose and are buffaloes the most numerous that one is tired of photograph but there is always the itinerant bullfighter taking a shot at the approaching beasts.  The bison have very strong necks that allow them to push the snow like bulldozers to get to the dry grasses bellow. They move with the snouts buried in the snow as they move the heads side to side by walking. These beasts are most majestic to photograph in the winter because the contrast of the white snow and the dark brown hairs.


Coyotes are also common and I noticed thru time after many visits, that they have habituated to humans so they are easy to photograph. They develop a technique of walking in the edge of the snow-plowed roads and when they hear a sound, stop, and jump head first into the snowbank hoping to catch a mole…not too efficient since they have to try several times.


During this trip I finally got a beautiful red fox in winter and this one gave me several poses; probably best photo of this trip.  They also behave as the coyotes searching prey as they move under the snow--stop, listen and jump--many tries before they catch a meal. 

The elk are ubiquitous and males’ moves in groups separate from the females who move younger ones.  I would say that they have a roughest time in the winter searching for the scarce food and in constant alert from attack by the wolf packs. They are majestic animals and move with elegance in the snow.

Pronghorns move in herds and are usually shy and always moving around so there is no place in the park where they will always be found.  These not the ones that I say when I see them “that’s OK, I get them later”.  They will not be there next time so I shoot them when I see them.

There is always the human factor; the professional photo guides keeping a sharp eye on his clients.  Meanwhile inexperience winter drivers dig the car out of the ditch. But I would say the dominant two-legged ones are the most numerous year round are the wolf watchers.

These are traditional spots that I have photographed every time I visited in winter, my dying tree that I photographed for 10 years, the scarecrow snowman and the Trading Post. I will know from my friends if the tree is still standing.

But who can leave Yellowstone without a couple of landscapes shots; this is really a winter’s photographer paradise but an American Serengeti is not as some refer to it. 

And don’t forget, nothing is complete till the fat raven calls…never more, never more. 

Friday, October 23, 2020

Hudson Yards, New York City 2019

For a decade I had gone to the Big Apple during the month of October and due to the COV-19, the tradition was not continued in 2020. New York City is always a transitional place that tears down the old and at times transforms it. During the past few years PhotoPlus has enhanced my reasons to visit it but in 2020 it was cancelled.

Hudson Yards is a new development inaugurated in March 2019 in the West Side of the City.  It consists of the East and West Yards with the former inaugurated in March 2019 and the latter to be completed by 2025 if ever due to the present COV-19 impact in the economy.  It is a privately developed complex (if you want to believe that since about $6 billion came from various governments’ tax breaks).  It was built on a platform over the yards and tracks of the various railroads servicing the city, a great engineering accomplishment.

The Vessel is an artistic/architectural marvel that has no practical purpose other than an attraction to anchor the whole Hudson Yard’s complex. It can be visited for free and to reach the top there is a 2500 spiral staircase but for the faint at heart there is also an elevator.  I would have named it the beehive instead that I saw under its construction and couldn’t figure out what it was going to be. It is a marvelous structure but underwhelmed by the surrounded edifices; it would have been more awesome if located in an open space just next to the Hudson River.

The Shed also part of the Yard’s complex is a movable cover that when opened forms a 2-storied space called the McCourt designed to hold open space events with a seating capacity of 500.  It is mounted on 8 wheels that carry the weight of a steel/plastic shell of 8 million pounds and can be retracted in about 5 minutes.  Second image below shows the roof of the Shed looking up to surrendering buildings that host apartments and office spaces.

Neiman Marcus was the anchor retailer for the complex with a 50-year lease that just operated for just 16 months since it went bankrupt due to the COV-19 impact and the transition to E-commerce.  At the time of the visit there was a large display of mannequins…a shame to see it all gone.

 The beauty of the Hudson Yards is that it can be reached by the High Line created in 2009 from the elevated tracks of the abandoned of the NY Central Railroad. It is mostly a park along and its paths older and newer buildings are located.  It is about 1.5 miles and meanders along the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center and the Hudson Yards Development (both pictured above) and ending at the Whitney Museum at the north end. Below an image of one of the building walls decorated with street art and next a row of bikes taken down from the High Line,

 Trees and grasses are planted along the trail and in sections some of the original tracks are still visible. Some small ponds were also included as well as benches for taking a short rest.  It is a photographer’s paradise from the views provided from the trails with a variety of view to include city landmark buildings such as the Empire State building and of the Hudson River. At times cultural attractions are available such as peddlers selling their paintings, photos and textiles and an occasional performances.  Ran into a group of photographers from Roanoke, Virginia. They were taking a rest, and reviewing the loot of free items given away by the various vendors in PhotoPlus 2019. I took their address and promised to send them a picture…as usual I lost it.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

TURKEY 2019 PART 3, the end.

MIDAS MOUNDA 2700 year old burial tomb in Gordion, the ancient capital of the Phrygian Kingdom.  It dates from the middle period (ca 730 BCE) and is the second largest in Anatolia. King Gordias tied a knot (Gordian knot) to the yoke of his wagon and the myth goes that whoever could untie it, would become the ruler of Asia.  Along came Alexander the Great    (336-323 BCE) who defeated the Phrygians and undid the knot with a single stroke of his sword. Another version is that he just pulled out the peg holding the end of the knot.

Excavated in the 1950’s the archeologists found bronze artifacts, iron drinking cups, pottery, furniture and textiles. It is not confirmed that Midas was buried there but probably his father Gordias.  Midas in mythology was the one converted into gold anything he touched into gold; so he had the “golden touch.” All myths have a related basis and it happens that the river Pactolus was rich in gold deposits and it was used in Gordian coinage.

Past the green gate (above) there is a long tunnel that leads into the burial chamber. Once inside there is not much to be seen but the tomb made of large timbers held in place by  steel retainers.  From the timber dating it was determined that they were cut around 740 BC. The original funeral burial with the artifacts can be seen at the Museum of Anatolian Civilization in Ankara.

Just crossing the road from the entrance to the tumulus is the Gordion Museum where the oldest world’s mosaic is preserved; notice the geometric patterns are not depicting landscapes or people.  Next a carved stone marking an historical event or a Roman Tombstone with a figure of an angel.

Gordion was the capital of the Phrygian Empire between 750-600 BC and built upon the ruins of a Hittite city.  The Phrygians were an early Iron Age civilization who controlled most of western Anatolia during the 9th to 8th centuries B.C.  The river Sangarios (Sakarya) sediments buried parts of the ancient walled city but were excavated and some of the major remains can be seen below. With the arrival of Alexander, the city passed thru a Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman periods to present Turkey.  Battles during the Turkish War of Liberation (1921) took place in the area where remnants can still be found.  Images of the citadel are below and in the first one in the center of the horizon Midas Mound is visible.


MOUNT NEMRUTA place I always wanted see and finally got there; just like in Gobeklitepe 20 years late. It is the burial site of Antiochus I King of Commagene (69-36 BCE) and son of King Mithridates - I previously mentioned him in this saga. He built this extraordinary monument on top of a 50 meter high tumulus on top of the Mount…imagine the manpower required to bring all the materials up just by looking at the tourist trail below leading to the top.

One reaches the West Terrace first where one is greeted by the head of King Antiochus – just behind the head of the eagle. The images below show a better perspective; one in color and the other in black and white. This site is an extreme challenge for photography because of its location, number of tourists and accessibility. It is composed of a West side - the most accessible because it will be an afternoon climb and a spectacular sunset view- and an  East side is the sunrise and to get there one must start an early morning low temperature climb about 3 AM and will have to make special arrangements with the Park Guides to lead you there people. I gave up the intention of doing the morning climb and photographed the East Terrace in the PM.

Still on the West terrace, heads from the right are Zeus, Apollo (center), and the goddess Commagene at the left. Notice that both the East and West terraces depict slightly different versions of the same deities. 

I found the East Terrace the most spectacular where a row of thrones with decapitated seated royals is seen; notice the heads at the foot of the mound…not to mention the tourists. The thrones from left to right represents those of Antiochus I Theos, the King of the Commagene, Goddess Commagene, Zeus, Apollo and Heracles…note that these statues were given different names through history. At the end of the row of thrones there were a lion and an eagle guarding the site.

Next is a public domain photo from a 1890’s German expedition showing that the head of Commagene still in place. Notice the man standing next to the head of Heracles in the left lower corner.  Archeological restorations can also be seen of the thrones as well  as a wooden sidewalk to make the area easily accessible to the public (compare to above image).

Below a photo of the row of heads looking North. In the first image, the head next to the eagle is that of King Heracles followed by those of Apollo,  Zeus, goddess of Commagene and King Antiochus I at the far end.

Next same as above but looking in the opposite direction; notice that there is an eagle head at this end too.

Returning to the West Terrace, tourists  congregated to watch the sunset while a wedding party made a video and another visitor dreams of having been a Commagene princess in her previous life. This a site that if I had a bucket list it would have been #1. 

PIERNE. This Ionian city located near where the Meander River enters the Aegean Sea is located on of Mykale Mountain and requires a stiff trail climb to reach it. It is near Miletus and founded by the Hittites but not at its present location that was buried by sediments carried by the Meander River. Greeks arrived around 1000 BC and it was rebuilt by Alexander the Great as a planned city.  Below are the remnants of the stage and to the left several doors that of rooms where the actors prepared for the shows. 

The theater has preserved its Greek origins although it was modified during Roman times and estimated that it could accommodate about 5000 people. Notice that some seats are decorated with Lion’s feet and reserved for the eminent citizens of the time. 

It is a best preserved of the old Greek cities and the second most studied one after Pompeii and built of marble from the quarries in Mykale. Built in two terraces and supplied water by an aqueduct from the nearby mountains and distributed thru the city by clay tiles that still can be seen. Below is the Temple of Athena’s built around 335 BCE paid for by funds provided by Alexander the Great and classified as in the Ionic style. The columns were reassembled in the 1960’s but one of the sections was forgotten so they stand shorter than originally constructed. 

And the next image is that of the Bouleuterion equivalent to a Senate Chamber or City Council Hall in current times and in the background is the cliff side of the acropolis.

SANLIURFA. The original name was Urfa but in 1984 changed to the present name by adding “sanli” meaning glorious because of its role in the Turkish War of Indenpence. It is one of the oldest cities (back to 9000 BC) in the Crescent of Civilization at the crossroads between Mesopotamia and Anatolia. Starting at the Hazreti Ibrahim Halillah, the cave where legend claims that Prophet Ibraham Halilullah was born in secret from King Nimrod is below. The king was warned of a new leader to be born so he ordered to kill all the newborns…this story sounds familiar. . It is said that the water is among the healthiest but I would not drink it.

Nearby are the Sacred Fish Ponds (Balikligol) formed when King Nimrod burned Prophet Ibraham for preaching about a monotheistic religion.  God intervened and a storm lifted Ibraham in the air and where he landed the fire turned into water and the embers into fish. Believers feed these holy carps but if they are killed, the perpetrator will go blind…didn’t see any blind people.

Above and below is the Rizvaniye Vakfi Mosque and Madrassa an important place where pilgrims gather on their hajj to Mecca.

The area around this complex is full of people just having a great time, some just watching tourists going back and giving killing stares. But needless to say during all the time in Turkey never had an unfriendly episode; on the contrary everyone was welcoming.


Around the ponds are small shops mostly selling textiles and food. Below where the building with the Turkish flag is hanging, and to the left, where people are congregated, assortments of colorful scarfs were waiting to be purchased.

The Mevlid-I Halil Mosque is the oldest of the Mosques in Urfa (short for Sanliurfa); it originated as a pagan temple, a synagogue, then transformed into St. Stephon Church during the Byzantine period (150 AD) and finally into a mosque built in 1523.  The cave of Ibraham is next to it and Mevlid means “Holy birth.” 

Below to the left is the Wudu (washing place) with two minarets in the background and Urfa Castle is where the Turkish flag is flying.

Walking down the streets towards the bazaar where lots of people conducting their daily business crowd the street. One cart pusher is selling cantaloupes while another is bagging what looks like colorful mushrooms.

The Firfirli Mosque also known as the "new frilled mosque" because of its gothic style decoration was formerly the Armenian Church of the Twelve Apostles.   By the end of the first World War Armenians were thrown out and the church turned into a prison and later converted into a mosque in 1956.

The Sanliurfa Museum was inaugurated in 1969 and is a magnificent architectural building and the warden of unique archeological treasures. Its geographic location in a rich historical area gives it advantages as a leader of archeological excavations providing with an extensive collection of artifacts from antiquities. 

The Haleplibahce Mosaic Museum also here stores the largest collections of mosaics in the world; these can be seen from above from the elevated passageways seen in the image below. Mosaics were made from mostly square cut stones from the Euphrates River. Some of the mosaics depict the earliest representation of the Amazon warrior women (first below) followed a wounded lion and then carpet with a copy of a mosaic that can be seen hanging from the wall in the photo above.

The Urfa Man is the oldest man-size statue that has been found and is 6 feet tall and the eye sockets are filled with square pieces of quartz. Found in Balikligol near Urfa and dated back to 9000 BC and contemporary with Gobeklitepe. Another stone statue that attracted my attention since it resembles the totem poles of the Northwest Coast USA Indians.

The museum holds reproductions of the monoliths from Gobeklitepe and original artifacts.  Carvings in the stones are easier to see here than at the original site. Below is one of a pair of cranes near water (represented by the zigzag lines). One appears holding a stick standing in top of the other suggesting that they mated and are building a nest.

Han-EL Barur Caravanserai is near Sanliurfa and dates back to the Asyyubids Christians (circa 1219 BCE); the word barur means goat manure in Arabic.  The story goes that the owner supplied the caravanserais with accommodations and dried grapes and used to say “after me people would fill this place with goat manure.”    

The underground dwellings were large and allowed for inhabitants to stand erect. Some are still in use but mostly as animal enclosures or storage. Shelving was built into the walls and inscriptions were carved on the walls.   

I traced one of the walls graffiti depicting goats but the others may be just plain writing or celestial monsters. Most walls have similar decorations.

SIRINCEAn old orthodox village in the top of a mountain preserves the typical Greek house of the pre-Turkish War of Independence of the 1920’s.  It is really the epitome of a tourist town with not much to offer in the way of ancient archeology. A small place of about 600 locals that I bet get overwhelmed by the daily influx of tourists exponentially.


What it has to offer is a refuge of the daily drives and timetables and sit down and relax, eat from a variety of fresh fruits and have ice cream melting before you can eat it…it gets hot in the summer. It is also famous for its wines. Besides tourism it also produces honey, olive oil and wines…did not see any cheese.

The main streets are bordered by a continuous row of stalls peddling souvenirs but mainly food and candies.  I bought just out of guilt, these sellers reminding me of spiders that patiently for a fly in the web. In this case the flies are two-legged.

The village was originally settled by liberated Greek slaves and suffered during the period of population exchanges between Greece and Turkey.  As a result it reached a state of abandonment that was reversed in the early 1990’s when homes began to be renovated into B&B’s, small hotels and restaurants. These were expecting an economic surge in 2012 when the Mayan Apocalypse was to take place, since the village was considered a “Doomsday Safe Heaven because it has “positive energy” and about 60,000 cultists were expected. But only a few showed up.

SOGMATAR. Two carved figures are located in the Sacred Hill, the bust of a woman (Moon Goddess) at the left and a full bodied man in the center. In top of the man’s head is scallop shell symbolizing the sun god Shamesh. There is an underground temple with reliefs of human figures and stars.  It is estimated at one time the hill served as an astronomical site and of planetary worship. Sogmatar is derived from the word matar meaning rain.

A Syriac writing on top of the hill dates the statues to 476 in the Seleucid calendar (164-165 AD) there are several translations and one is below is one.

“I am Tridates, the son of Arab Governor Adona. I built this altar and pillar for Marelahe on February in 476, for the lives of my master King and his sons, for my father Adonna's life, for my own life and for the lives of my siblings and my children.”


Nearby was a school closed at the time but the caretaker allowed us in to use the loo. Very nice and clean - a recent construction since I read in another blog from the early 2010’s as to the poverty of the area and the dilapidated state of the school.  The area is still poor but the children look happy - entertaining themselves with watching the tourists but well behaved…did not ask for baksheesh.

STRATONIKEA. This site went thru variations in the spelling of its name and once named Hadrianopolis…yes, in honor of Roman Emperor Hadrian…the one that built the wall in England to keep the savages out. It is dated back to prior to 260 BC during Seleucid times and named after the wife of King Antiochus II Theos. It reminded me of Aphrodisias where I visited more than 20 years ago when still people lived among the ruins.  It is still the case here but appears that encroachers are abandoning the archeological site or pushed out. Below are examples of what I am talking about.  Second image below shows how an ancient marble entrance was recycled into a gate. 

Next two photos further document the present of modern structures among the ruins and the third one show marble stones stored probably for further site reconstructions…what a jigsaw puzzle to put together. 

The Roman period brought prosperity to the town as shown by the theater that could accommodate around 10,000 spectators. The rows of seats as can be seen below collapsed during an earthquake but otherwise is good state of preservation.

Below are images of the Gymnasium dating back to 200 BC, notice the circular wall in the rear and the roofs of contemporary homes; these are currently occupied.  It is the largest one from the Ancient Period perhaps due that at one time was a center of gladiators training and retirement if they lived that long.

Below is one of the walls of the Agora or interpreted by others as the Bouleuterion that are still standing massive marble blocks. Here ends the longest blog that I have uploaded.  Lessons learned from this trip is that one must research the places to be visited before one arrives there.  My failure to to so caused me to miss photos of major items of interest in many of the sites visited.

Finally, you may find that images may show the best quality and the reason is that I had seen some been uplifted from the blogs and been sold by others.  Also some of the photos are in Black & White to introduce more contrast and detail.