Europe 10 2009: Our final day and a moment to relax

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Our final day in Bulgaria would have one final destination: the beach. Before we left though, I wanted to take photos of some more artwork in the  apartment, my favourite of which is one of Desi’s paintings:

Desi’s dad also had many works up on the walls, all made of wood. Here’s one of my favourites (more in the gallery below):

We then headed out to a beach with Nasi, somewhere in the Balchik area. The beach was calm and not too busy, and the sun was nice and warm. We browsed a local bazaar before heading to the sand, and had one of the first moments of relaxation on our adventure – one of the last moments. Desi’s dad was nice enough to drive us all to the beach and wait for us until we were ready to go. It was a lot of fun – Desi and I played in the sea, so did Desi and Nasi while I relaxed in the sun. It was a wonderful visit to the beach, I just wish we had more time!

We went back to the apartment and had lunch – so much good food that kept coming. I was full, but there was so much. We gathered our things and headed to the airport for our departure… where the adventure continued!

We were late. We thought we were on time (my fault, I think) but we were a half hour late for check in, and when we went to the check-in desk the attendants had already left. Uh oh! We looked around and saw absolutely no one. Desi spotted a lady in a back room at a desk and asked about boarding passes – the lady said boarding was done and the attendants had left. Desi’s response probably saved us, simply saying that this was impossible and they needed to come back.

Within 5 minutes the attendants came rushing back, scolded us a little for being late and told us to hurry. We got our boarding passes, ran through the security checks asking with panic to cut the lines or we’d miss our plane. We got through everything okay and the bus was still waiting for us. Phew!

The plane was fine, we landed in Vienna a few hours later and found our hotel just across the street, 2 minutes walk from the airport terminal. Early the next morning, we were waiting for our plane and it was overbooked – we decided to wait and get home 6 hours later with a stop-over in London and put 300 Euros each in our pockets. We arrived very late on the 11th at Toronto Pearson International Airport, and ended our adventure.

I must say, it was the best thing I have ever done. I know Desi would agree with me as well. We learned and experienced so very much, and took some major steps towards our future. I could not possibly speak more highly of this journey, and we definitely wish to continue these worldly adventures in the future.

Thanks to everyone who has followed this series of posts and enjoyed it – there will be more to come! I will be posting certain series of photos over the coming week or two. If you haven’t seen it already, check out the Europe 2009 page with all of the post links and a map with all the photos on it.

Every day is an adventure. 🙂

August 9 2009: A Bulgarian Concert

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Winding down our trip, but still a full agenda! On this day, we went to visit Desi’s aunt again, and got to see her cousin Krisi who wasn’t there on our first visit. It was great to share the stories of our trip across Europe with everyone!

We then went out to shop for souvenirs, to the internet café, and I think I decided to call my grandparents during the day at some point – just to say hi. I think I tried to get ahold of a few people, but some weren’t home. Desi did the same, but only got ahold of Geri to say goodbye.Before we knew it much of the day had passed and we were on our way to a concert!

Nasi had told us about this concert and asked if we wanted to go, which we certainly did. The concert I can only really describe as an orchestral rock variety hour. So much fun!

The concert was very well done, and had little skits in between the musical performances. The musical performances were great and fully orchestrated with performers and musicians. Definitely one of the most interesting concerts I had ever been to. Desi even translated some of the lyrics for me. 🙂

Here’s the crew that went to the concert! The unfamiliar faces are Mitko and Mariela, good friends of Nasi and Nasko (Nasko’s taking the photo – great job!):

We had a great time, and after the concert Desi bought some freshly fried mini doughnuts to try – and they were delicious. Nasi and Nasko were kind enough to drive us there and back, and we would see Nasi again on the next day – our final day of adventure. 🙂

A Very Merry Christmas!

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Christmas is always a busy time of the year for Desi and I; It’s also one of the most rewarding times of the year for both of us. We’d like to wish everyone  a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Our journey started from Toronto, heading up to Sudbury for Christmas Eve. A small amount of snow and fog had fit the night before, whcih made many of the trees glow in the sunlight. I stopped on the side of the road to capture this up-close:

The trip up was uneventful, and we were greeted with a new section of Highway 69 – making our travels a little faster. I had brought a few photobooks to share, and I think it was a hit:

We also brought the albums containing all of our Europe photos, which Desi guided Grandma and Katie through:

It was such a wonderful evening, as it always is. I’d never miss it for the world. The dinner was fantastic as always, as was the gift sharing:

Desi and I had such a wonderful time and want to extend our sincerest thank-yous to everyone. Christmas Eve continues to be one of my favourite days of the year – with good cause. Thanks everyone! We were sorry we had to leave early, but we needed to be back in Toronto before midnight. Desi’s family tradition is to have a feast just after midnight, and exchange gifts then. It really couldn’t have worked out better as we didn’t have to choose one place over another – we were able to be everywhere when we needed to be. 🙂 This Christmas Eve was one of the best ever!

Christmas Day was even better. Desi and I left early to exchange gifts at home with mom and Walter. Everyone was so happy, joking and laughing. It was Christmas morning exactly as I remember it, and even better. Desi’s mom and brother came for lunch, and we had a great time. It was the first time they had visited, and the first time our two families had any conversations at length. Definitely not the last though, as they are welcome any time. We took a great photo of everyone before they had to go:

Thanks to everyone we saw, and everyone that thought of us during this wonderful holiday. Desi and I wish you the very best for the next year!

August 8 2009: Dobrich and the Sea

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Nearly at the end of our journey, but there is always more people and places to see. We started this day with a trip to a nearby city, Dobrich. Desi has an aunt and uncle, Denka and Paraskev, and a cousin Iskra that we went to visit. It was great to meet them all, we shared quite a few laughs and stories even with the language barrier. Desi mentioned that it was nice to see that they are all doing well and in good health, and I agree. 🙂

They also showed me a neat little tradition with my coffee cup. Flip it upside down when it is done and wait for ti to dry, then look at the pattern created in the remnants of the coffee to tell your fortune. Interesting tradition that I was more than happy to try:

It was a wonderful visit and I’m very glad to have met them all (more photos in the gallery below). Great people,  which doesn’t surprise me at all. 🙂

After we arrived back in Varna, it was time for a walk to try and locate some souvenirs. We walked through a few bazaars and didn’t find exactly what we were looking for, so we continued on down to the seaside. As we were getting closer to the sea, we came across the same Roman bath ruins that we had seen much earlier in our trip, as they are right next to the church where Nasi was married. It was too late in the afternoon to walk through them, but I still got some nice photos:

We continued our walk to the sea, and the weather was perfect for it. There were small holes in the pier wall that you could see through to the other side, just like this one:

The port was quite busy with commercial and industrial ships, which you can see a little in the above photo. Here’s a better look at the ships you’ll find in the port:

As we continued our walk down the pier, Desi and I noticed a ship docked close to us that was unlike any of the others. Completely wind-powered, a very old ship that was complete with pirates (or people dressed as pirates) onboard:

We most certainly had to check this out – there was no way I was passing up visiting a pirate ship on the Black Sea. We approached them and Desi kindly asked if it was alright for us to take photos. The answer was a resounding “YES”, and they took it even further with costume:

They gave Desi a beautifully elegant dress from the period to wear – she was ecstatic as was I was – she looked stunning in it, even with pirates and pistols! They didn’t have anything for me though, but that’s okay – I came prepared wearing my red and white striped shirt – good enough for me!

This ship is a party ship, as best I can tell. The center of the main deck is a long table with drink holders. This is likely a ship that you can rent for the evening:

Such a fun and unexpected thing to find – certainly one of the highlights of the day for us! We continued on down the pier, where you could easily spot fishermen on the wave breakers overlooking the commercial port:

We made our way all the way to the lighthouse at the end and stopped for a moment to enjoy the evening sun. It was getting late and we needed to meet Desi’s dad for dinner so we had to hurry back to town. Before we left though, I snapped one final photo:

We had a great meal. We ate at a restaurant just next to the one we ate at on our first evening in Varna. Great food and a great way to wind down another busy day. We stopped at the internet café on our way home, and called it a night. Only one more full day to go before we were home-bound, but our adventure still continued. 🙂

Seeing more of a snowflake: Focus Stacking

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Macro photography is definitely one of my favourites, but it can be tricky. The area of focus is so thin that it can be frustrating at times, especially with my new lens. I looked online for help and wow did I find it.

The kind folks at Digital Photo Experience answered my e-mail in their latest podcast, linking to a tutorial showing exactly how to get better focus in post-processing. Thanks to Juan and Rick for their help!

The idea is to take the photo at different focus points, and then combine them into one image afterwards, gathering all the detail from the various images. I happened to take numerous photos of one of the snowflake from the below post. Here is the “before” image:

and here is after:

Photoshop did a great job, but I did have to clean it up a bit. This photo was hand-held, so not only did it align all of the images but it added all the focus to one single image. I didn’t have images that spanned the entire snowflake, so the edges are still blurred. Now that I know how to do this however, I know what I need to get it perfect.

This was definitely a “wow” moment for me. Thought I’d share 🙂

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