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Of Land and Sea: Nature of Portugal

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Most travellers of Portugal know Lisbon, some go to the Algarve in the south. Mainly for classic beach vacations in holiday resorts. Not as well known though is the natural part of the country.

Laying open to the grand Atlantic Ocean, the Portuguese coast seems endless with steep cliffs and beautiful sand beaches. As the sea is in the west, the sunsets are especially beautiful and vivid. At this time of the day sailing ships tend to roam the horizon, even enhancing the kitschy scenery. Probably you will have a companionship of seagulls around you, they seem to enjoy the sunsets as much as the humans.

Even less known is the “hinterland”. Especially the north of the country offers a lot to the backpacker with high mountain ranges and magnificent castles. The weather tends to be a bit cooler in these regions, perfect for a hike in the evening. So what are you waiting for? The adventure awaits!

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On a Farm in the Midst of the Sea

In the midst of the Atlantic Ocean between the land masses of North America and Europe there are some sprinkled islands of volcanic origins called the Azores. If you want to find them on a map you probably need a pair of glasses. While they seem to disappear in the vast blue surrounding them, the inhabitants are there withstanding the forces of the ocean for many hundred of years already, living mostly of agriculture carried out on the rich volcanic soil of the islands. Products from the Azores like milk and cheese are well known for their quality in mainland Portugal, to which the nine islands belong politically. Also there is some tourism. Since 2015 Ryan Air is operating flights to the islands from Lisbon and Porto. Together with a friend we seized the opportunity and took a flight to the main island of São Miguel. We travelled the island by bike and by public busses mostly. Cruising through green landscapes and passing by cattle, visiting small villages and meeting friendly people. Always on the canvas of a vast endless ocean.

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Discovering Cyprus

Last time Cyprus was featured it was all about a divided island. Though the political situation is complicated for sure, I recommend to visit both parts of the island. So I won’t differentiate between the Turkish and the Greek parts in the following gallery. The pictures 5, 6 and 7 need some background: After the Ottoman conquest of Cyprus former Gothic Cathedrals were converted into Mosques. Interestingly some where not destroyed and just minor changes were made (like the destruction of angel figures due to the ban of images in Islam) and the altar was displaced within the church, so the believers would be able to pray in the direction of Mekka. According to Ottoman traditions the former Cathedrals were equipped with carpets and the inner church was painted white. Though inside as well as outside you still see the Christian heritage. The clean and bright style of Islamic religious decoration combined with the dark and serious Gothic style makes for a thouroghly fascinating combination.

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Lisbon in Focus

When people ask me about the craft of photography – and by no means I want to claim to be an expert – they usually first ask about my gear. I get it, the gear is important. Of course you want to have a DSLR to get a good quality shot and have a lens with a wide spectrum to catch it all. Post-processing is part of it too, some lighting improvements and tone adjustments. But that’s not what it is really about. You can get good equipment nowadays for less and less money, and that’s cool because it allows more and more people to express themselves creatively. But what I like about photography is to get to look closely, find interesting subjects, uncover the hidden things in daily street life. Basically photography – or the kind photography I like – is focusing, finding beauty in common things and following their geometry. The gear helps, but the work is done by the eyes. The result is joy, and maybe some interesting shots (among many many hundreds).

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Greek Series: Santorini Sunsets

So finally, here comes the last part of my photographic journey through Greece in September 2013. It all started in Athens, where we found a lively metropole thorn between an ancient and heroic past and a troubled but somewhat forward looking present. Then the road trip through the Peloponnes began, which would lead us through places of myths and of nature. Later we left mainland Greece and continued our road trip on high sea, heading to the famous Cyclad islands. We experienced the young and open island of Mykonos, paid a short visit to the ancient Delos, but the highlight for me was Santorini without a doubt. It is such a photogenic island, it almost suspends any belief. And beyond being just photogenic, it is truly beautiful. And the most beautiful thing about it is something I didn’t show you yet. The sunsets here are out of this world, as kitschy it may sound. So I think that’s the way to end the series and say goodbye to Greece for now.. by showing you some of my favorite moments on Santorini at sunset.

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