Bulgaria: a twilight walk gone wrong

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During our month-long visit in Bulgaria, Desi and I often went for walks in the evening. The air was warm, the streets were busy and the atmosphere was fantastic. I had a few ideas for good photographic locations during our trip (one was detailed in a recent post about Buzludzha), and I had already taken a good number of night and twilight images along the coast.

There are two canals that run further inland to give greater support to the local industry, and a bridge that runs over each one. The ships that line the canals range from fishing boats to tankers, and the textures of the hulls and the overall landscape screams “take my picture!”. I assumed twilight would be a great time to take these images, as reflections in the water surface would really pop. So off we went, and came across the first bridge fairly quickly:

The scene was beautiful, but this wasn’t the location we set out for – we were heading towards the larger bridge and a more expansive view. The road under the bridge was dimly lit and eerily silent. A small restaurant was vacant and bus stops seemed abandoned. As we continued on our journey, a warning sign jumped up and… barked at us. Guard dogs! Thankfully behind a fence, and then the reality of where we were set in. Along the canal, there must be storage facilities for goods in shipment, and other similar businesses that need protection from thieves. I was hoping that we wouldn’t encounter any further troubles, but I was wrong.

As we neared the end of the road and the beginning of the canal, we noticed two cars pull out of a property in front of us. Employees heading home, no doubt, and they were not our direct concern. The indirect problem here is that the property gates were open – and the guard dogs spotted us. Desi noticed them first, and as soon as I caught glimpse we turned around and walked as quickly as possible away. I was quite adamant NOT to run. Under any circumstance, do not run… a hard thing to do when guard dogs are running at full speed in our direction. Running would only make us more interesting to them and give an incentive to chase. The dogs stopped roughly 100 feet / 30 meters away from us, let out a few more growls, and pursued no farther. A narrow escape, and enough adventure for us for one evening. There were four dogs, by the way – big ones.

So we headed home, quite shaken by the experience and didn’t feel safe until the streets became familiar. We never attempted to photograph that canal again – the story was worth more than the pictures.

However, there were many photographs made during twilight in the city of Varna on other occasions. A safer journey was one to the lighthouse:

While this end of the pier was mostly in darkness, no dogs lurked around the corner. It was quiet and peaceful, and Desi and I shared stories while I set up for some night photos – it was a wonderful time. Next to the lighthouse was a small harbour containing a random assortment of ships. Ranging from fishing boats to cruisers, and many sailboats (some with wooden hulls), the sleeping harbour begged to be photographed:

We also traveled down to a populated and lit area near the marina, where people were fishing well into the night. Careful not to get in the way of any casts or step on any of the incredible long fishing poles, I found a spot to set up the camera to take a picture across the bay:

This picture shows the industrial and commercial capacity of one small area of the city. No less than 20 cranes can be seen, ready to be woken up at daybreak to keep that part of the world moving.

Our twilight walks did not only bring us along the coast of the Black Sea, but also through the various pedestrian streets of the city itself. I usually carried my camera with me just in case of an unexpected photograph, like this:

Street performers are common on the streets of Varna. We enjoyed traditional Bulgarian music on a few occasions, and always gave a few leva (Bulgarian dollars) if the performance was good. On a few evenings, we noticed a traveling fire dancer had set up in one of the central squares. I asked if I could take his photograph, and to my surprise he spoke very good English. He asked what I was going to set the shutter speed of the camera to, so that he could match his motions to get better results in the picture. The communication paid off, and I ended up with some great shots.

Another night brought me to surprised curiosity when I looked at the sky above the largest church in the city. The sky contained moving, swirling specks of light, directly above the church. Desi informed me that they were birds, and as we got closer I started to make out the details of seagulls flying in circles. Likely attracted by the night-time lighting of the building, the birds stayed there on most nights. If I knew where to look, I could even see them from our apartment. As a photographer, I thought the scenario would be perfect for a long exposure, showing the flight path of the birds over 30 seconds:

When I first posted this image online on Google+, someone commented that I invented the genre of photography called “bird painting” (thanks PandT Davis). I doubt I’m the first person to do this, but I’m glad that photographically creative moments like this happened at random.

There are many more adventures to write about from our latest adventure in Europe – hopefully I can post more soon. 🙂



  1. Desi
    September 2nd, 2012 | 4:19 pm

    Traveling and going for adventures is so easy with you Donny.
    Thanks god you knew what to do when the dogs chased us because I was ready to run (so scary)! Thank you for taking such beautiful pictures of Varna. I love looking at them and am sure everyone will enjoy it too!
    Love u <3

  2. Helen Komarechka
    September 3rd, 2012 | 6:23 pm

    Donny the pictures were gorgeous and the story was great. Kept me at the edge of my seat with the dogs. Good story teller.

  3. Cindy
    September 10th, 2012 | 10:27 am

    Wow, I love those pictures with the reflections in the water. The crane picture tells such a tale of the area.

    You have an amazing talent for telling stories, with your photos and your words!

    The bird painting is awesome too!


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