This is the ornate central courtyard of the Ben Youssef Madrasa in the Marrakesh old town.
I’ve uploaded a photo of this little church before. It’s constructed with a traditional turf roof. After poking my head inside I decided it could be cool to get a shot of the altar looking up from the ground. I sat down right next to the door and started trying to take a picture from the ground. I had to go lower than my tripod would allow so I was hand holding my camera and trying to line up the pews and the floorboards symmetrically. It was pretty tricky and I was in a pretty awkward position. At one point the door opened and someone came in. I was pretty embarrassed to be caught by a stranger in this odd position on a church floor. I was relieved when the person who came in to join me was my travel buddy who was used to me being in odd positions by then.
Failed trip into the Alps!
It seems like wherever I go, my first attempt to really strike out and take some photos failed. In Iceland it was trying to get to the most westerly point in Iceland, to photograph puffins, in one night. Today, it was an attempt to drive up a valley in the alps to see some snow-capped mountains. We set out too late, despite our careful sunset calculations and barely made it into the mountains as the sun began to drop. A great opportunity presented itself, a castle atop a hill lit beautifully by golden light but we couldn’t get off the highway to get down to it. By the time we came to an exit we decided we were too far along. By the next exit we decided to hop off and drive on the smaller roads so if any opportunities presented themselves we could actually stop. This meant guessing which roads to take. I guessed wrong and we began winding our way up a mountain with no easy way to turn around. Eventually, we got turned around and back down into the valley. By now the sun was on the verge of disappointing and panic had set in. We dashed back to the original castle. Trying to find a vantage point we parked in a town. Just as we were headed to a good view it was like a light switch had been flicked and the castle was blanketed by the shadows of the mountain. It was still a great drive, it’s just a bit disappointing coming back without a single photo!
Today’s Photo: Alice Bel Colle
My morning was much more successful. The hotel has a handy guide with a brief summary of all the surrounding towns. Alice Bel Colle caught my eye for its purpose built mound with a 360 degree view of the surrounding landscape. We rose early and made our way there. Once atop the mound we weren’t disappointed by the view, though the heavy cloud cover wasn’t ideal.
I spotted a rift in the clouds with a bit of pink light coming through and realized I could frame it up just behind this church. I shot 3 exposures at -2, 0 and +2 which was plenty to cover the range in the scene as the clouds dampened the light considerably.
After climbing up the stairs at the rear of Prague castle, you are confronted by two armed guards flanking the entrance to the citadel. Their stern expression making it unclear whether it’s accessible so long after dark. As you move closer, they don’t react so you stroll casually past. Suddenly, you realize you’re inside the normally crowded castle, surrounded by silence. As you approach the back of the St. Vitus Cathedral it looms ominously, in Gothic glory. As you take it in, a couple breaks the silence strolling through the courtyard and out the other side.
Progressing around the cathedral you find a small, late night tour group of 4 or 5 people. The guide speaks quietly with no need to strain to be heard over the bustle of the daytime crowds. Soon, you’re at the intricately sculpted doors of the building, now closed to visitors. The lack of tourists allows you pause to soak in the scene. Snowflakes begin to fall around you, appearing from the dark sky and disappearing as they contact the paving stones. The silence is broken once more. This time, by the rhythmic sounds of four soldiers, stepping in time, as they exit through the archway behind you.
After making your exit, you enter a smaller courtyard. In here a lone soldier patrols. Marching in a tight square, right in your path. You carefully time your walk so you don’t interfere with his. As you exit the compound the city opens up in front of you and you make your decent.
Prague Castle and St. Vitus Cathedral were not where I planned on ending up this night. I set out for a panorama of the city. In my search, this is where I arrived. It was well worth the trip. Having it to yourself, as opposed to surrounded by the tourist hordes really is a great experience. The absence of people also allowed me to attempt to capture the grandeur of the church’s original doors, below.