State Museum of Arts,Tashkent

Tashkent, Uzbekistan, 6 October 2018.

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On our last day in Tashkent we had some spare time before catching the plane and chose to visit the State Museum of Arts.

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Archaeology, Art, Ceramics, History, Landscape, Photography, Tashkent, Travel, Uzbekistan.

Reconstructed face of Neanderthal boy, Teshiktash Cave, Surkhandaraya region.

There was also a Neanderthal skull, 100,000 years old, from the same location.

. Archaeology, Art, Ceramics, History, Landscape, Photography, Tashkent, Travel, Uzbekistan.

Flint tools from 4th Millennium BC, Bukhara region.

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Archaeology, Art, Ceramics, History, Landscape, Photography, Tashkent, Travel, Uzbekistan.

Rock carvings, 3rd Millennium BC.

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Jar handle in the form of a goat, 5th to 4th millennium BC.

This image and the next two are images of objects from the Amudarya Treasure.  The originals are gold but these are replicas.  In 1880, Captain F.C. Burton happened upon some Afghan merchants being attacked by bandits in the roads of what is now Northern Pakistan, and drove off the bandits.  One of the merchants later showed Burton some items he had and Burton was most intrigued so purchased one.  Burton later showed it to Major General Sir Alexander Cunningham, Director General of the Archaeological Survey of India, whose jaw hit the floor.  Cunningham correctly identified it  as a a fine example of Achæmenid Persian metalwork, from a period when the Achæmenid Emprire stretched from Egypt to the Indus Valley.  Together with Sir Augustus Wollaston Franks, a curator of the British Museum, Cunningham scoured the markets of Pakistan and Northern India for several months and succeeded in purchasing 170 items from the hoard.  They are now in the British Museum.  The treasure had been found on the northern bank of the Amyu Darya River (the Oxus in Classical times), in what is now Tajikistan.

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Archaeology, Art, Ceramics, History, Landscape, Photography, Tashkent, Travel, Uzbekistan.

Priest, 5th to 4th millennium BC.

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Bracelet with Griffins, , 5th to 4th millennium BC.

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Ancient individual with Central Asian headgear (didn’t record the label for this one).

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Coins of Greco-Bactrian Kingdom, 3rd to 2nd centuries BC.

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Archaeology, Art, Ceramics, History, Landscape, Photography, Tashkent, Travel, Uzbekistan.

Solar Deity, 1st to 2nd centuries AD, Fayaztepa, Old Termez, Southern Uzbekistan.

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Archaeology, Art, Ceramics, History, Landscape, Photography, Tashkent, Travel, Uzbekistan.

Buddha with monks, 1st to 3rd century AD.

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Cover from reliquary vessel, 3rd to 4th centuries AD, Kara-Tepa, Old Termez, Southern Uzbekistan.

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Hunting scene, mural painting, 7th century AD, Varakhsha, Ancient Sogdian city near Bukhara.

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This is a copy of one of the world’s oldest Korans.  We saw the original at the start of the trip in Barakh-khan Madrasah (in Tashkent).  Photography is not permitted of the original one.  In either case, it is huge.  The original supposedly dates back to the 630s but testing indicates an early 8th to early 9th century date.

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Glazed ceramic, Samarkand, 10th century.

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Glazed ceramic, Samarkand, 11th century.

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Ceramic dish, 10th to 12th Centuries.

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Glazed ceramic, Samarkand, 12th century.

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Armour of one of Timur’s soldiers, 14th to 15th centuries.

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Glazed ceramic, Samarkand, 15th to 16th centuries.

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Chain mail armour, shield and sword, Bukhara, 18th to 19th centuries.

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Archaeology, Art, Ceramics, History, Landscape, Photography, Tashkent, Travel, Uzbekistan.

Embassy from Khiva, in Tashkent, early 19th century.

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Nineteenth century door from Khiva.

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Nineteenth century door from Bukhara.

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Nineteenth century door from Tashkent.

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Military uniform, Bukhara, 1861-1865.

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Archaeology, Art, Ceramics, History, Landscape, Photography, Tashkent, Travel, Uzbekistan.

Siege of Samarkand, 1868.

Russia occupied Samarkand in 1868, which had been held by Bukhara.  The Russian army then left to pursue the Bukharan army, leaving a small force behind to hold Samarkand.  A combined Bukharan/ Kokand force then laid siege to Samarkand.  This is what is shown here.  The besiegers withdrew when the main Russian force returned.

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Archaeology, Art, Ceramics, History, Landscape, Photography, Tashkent, Travel, Uzbekistan.

“Bazaar in Samakand”, 1897.

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“Bibikhonum Square”, Samarkand. 

(See here for my post on its restored appearance).

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“The street of a Central Asian city”, 1896.

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Decorative embroidery, late nineteenth century, Tashkent.

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Saddle, Namangan, Ferghana Valley, late 19th century.

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Archaeology, Art, Ceramics, History, Landscape, Photography, Tashkent, Travel, Uzbekistan.

Emir’s horse-blanket, 1911-1912.

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Jewellery, early 20th century.

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Archaeology, Art, Ceramics, History, Landscape, Photography, Tashkent, Travel, Uzbekistan.

Gidjak and Rubab (traditional instruments), 1978.

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That was the last post on Uzbekistan, apart from monochrome conversion posts to follow.  Particular thanks to Advantour who organised a wonderful custom tour for us at a reasonable price.  There have been 22 posts with 600 images and 15,000 words.  I have updated the index of posts in the Trip Itinerary.

Samarkand to Tashkent

Samarkand to Tashkent, Uzbekistan, 5 October 2018.

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We are en route from Samarkand back to Tashkent, where we catch a plane to Istanbul.  These images are all taken from a moving car.  Some are less than technically perfect, but still included for a feel of the journey.

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Landscape, Photography, Samarkand, Street photography, Tashkent, Travel, Uzbekistan

There were a few military vehicles on the road.  I wouldn’t have taken a photo like this in Ladakh, not that far from the Chinese border, but felt safe to do so here.

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Fruit for sale on the side of the road.

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The truck looks overloaded but perhaps the load is not all that heavy.

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A variety of products for sale on the way.

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.Landscape, Photography, Samarkand, Street photography, Tashkent, Travel, Uzbekistan

I’m not able to translate the signs.

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Stork nests on a telegraph pole.

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Roadside cattle.

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It seems the products are delivered by trucks – or, maybe, a donkey and cart.

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Many people must still be pursuing largely traditional lives because some of the vehicles on the road are less than high tech.

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.Landscape, Photography, Samarkand, Street photography, Tashkent, Travel, Uzbekistan

He’s carrying a pole; it’s not to beat the donkey.

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This car wasn’t moving very fast either.

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Ulugh Beg and Afrasiab, Samarkand

Samarkand, Uzbekistan, 4 October 2018.

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This post is from out last day in Samarkand.

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Afrasiab Museum, Ak Saray Mausoleum, Archaeology, Architecture, History, Landscape, Paper Making, Photography, Samarkand, Street photography, Travel, Ulugh Beg Observatory, Uzbekistan

Young woman extracting strips of bark from branches of young mulberry trees.

We visited a traditional paper mill in the village of Koni Ghil, just outside Samarkand.  Paper making in Samarkand dates back to 751AD when the Abbasid general Abu Muslim defeated a Tang Dynasty army with the aid of the Tibetan Empire and the defection of Karluk mercenaries who were over half of the Tang army.   They took many prisoners, some of whom then introduced paper making to the region.  This replaced the use of papyrus and became an export industry to the rest of the Arab world.  The paper-making tradition was lost following the Russian takeover in the nineteenth century and it has been recently recreated. 

(China retreated from the region soon after the Battle of Talas but not due to that, rather due to the An Lushan Rebellion which started in 755.)

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The strips of bark are next boiled for four or five hours.

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They are then pounded to a pulp by a trip-hammer powered by this water mill.  Then they are pressed and dried and finally polished with an agate stone for a smooth finish.

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A local woman welcoming us to the small museum for the Ulugh Beg Observatory.

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Inside the museum, a model of the observatory built by Ulugh Beg in the 1420s.

At the top front of the building is the viewing hole of the astrolabe inside.  The smaller structure on top of the building appears to be a sextant able to rotate, for less precise observations at flexible angles. 

The site is close to the ancient city of Afrasiab (prior to the existence of Samarkand).  There was another observatory here as early as 840AD, of which no trace remains.  Although Afrasiab was the capital of the Sogdians, in the ninth century they had been taken over by the Samanids, based in Bukhara, who featured in a brief renaissance of science and culture, unmatched in the world at that time.  

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Afrasiab Museum, Ak Saray Mausoleum, Archaeology, Architecture, History, Landscape, Paper Making, Photography, Samarkand, Street photography, Travel, Ulugh Beg Observatory, Uzbekistan

Inside this 13th century building was a meridional arc, or astrolabe, aligned north-south, for celestial measurements.  Since they took measurements using 60 degrees instead of the full 90 degrees available, it is also a sextant.  This is clearly not a working model because there is no viewing hole to the sky at the top.  I presume the little vertical windows on the back wall are for viewing the angle cast by the sun.  The rest of the building was rooms for scientists to confer and calculate, maybe even some to sleep in.

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The astrolabe as it survives.

In 1908 Russian Archaeologist Vyatkin discovered the location of the Observatory and excavated the remains.  In particular, he  uncovered the below-ground part of the massive astrolabe, as shown here.  Only the foundations remain of the rest of the building.

As well as being Lord of Transoxiana from 1409 to 1447, Ulugh Beg was a scientist and imported the best scientists available for the observatory. It could accurately measure the length of the year, the local time of noon each day, the altitude of a star and other planets, the period of planets, and eclipses. They estimated the length of the year more accurately than Copernicus subsequently did and the axial tilt of the earth as accurately as modern measurements.  They constructed an atlas of over 1,000 stars, Zij-i-Sultani, the first to be published since Ptolomey and including those stars but with more accurate measurements.  The atlas also included a sine table accurate to six places from 0 to 87 degrees, and to 11 places from 87 to 90 degrees.  The atlas survived for posterity because when the observatory was destroyed, scientist Ali Kushji fled to Constantinople and published it.  It was in use until the nineteenth century.

Ulugh Beg became Emperor when his father died in 1447, but only for two years of turmoil until he was deposed and then murdered by one of his sons.  The observatory was then destroyed by religious fanatics and the scientists fled.  

“Religions dissipate like fog, kingdoms vanish, but the works of scientists remain for eternity” – Ulugh Beg.

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This is a view from outside.  The big black tube is the top of what remains of the astrolabe.  Perhaps that gives you a better idea of the scale of it.

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Afrasiab Museum, Ak Saray Mausoleum, Archaeology, Architecture, History, Landscape, Paper Making, Photography, Samarkand, Street photography, Travel, Ulugh Beg Observatory, Uzbekistan

… as does the view from here.  This also gives a sense of how high the arc of the original version would have climbed to reach the top of the third floor.

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A short distance away, we are near the Mausoleum of the Prophet Daniel (as in Daniel and the lions), sacred to Moslems, Jews and Christians.  Inside, the tomb is eighteen metres long because Daniel is supposed to be still growing inside it.  There are also other tombs of Daniel in seven other countries.  There was no-one stopping me taking photos inside but notwithstanding my religious cynicism, I did not do so because it was clearly a place of veneration for other people there.

Afrasiab Museum, Ak Saray Mausoleum, Archaeology, Architecture, History, Landscape, Paper Making, Photography, Samarkand, Street photography, Travel, Ulugh Beg Observatory, Uzbekistan

The tomb of Daniel is in the background to the right.  However, the line of hills in the background is the edge of the location of the ancient city of Afrasiab.  This was the capital city of the Sogdians, from the sixth century BC to 1220 AD when Genghis Khan razed it, though they were not independent for all of that period. 

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Three hunters, probably Scythians, with horses and lions or leopards.

We next visited the Afrosiab Museum, a short distance from the Mausoleum of Daniel.  Russian archaeologists discovered Afrasiab in the 1880s and the museum includes some of their finds.  It also includes some seventh century murals from the royal palace, discovered in 1965 when building a road. They are from the time of King Varkhuman, and painted between 648 and 651, or shortly after 658.  He ruled a multicultural entity and was nominally a vassal to China but his polity did not last long as his palace was destroyed by the Arab general Sa’id Ibn Ithman between 675 and 677 CE and after that there were no kings of Samarkand.

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Here we see ossuaries and skulls, from the sixth to the eighth centuries.  Some of the skulls exhibit cranial deformations that I had previously associated only with the Maya, but that I discover were performed in many cultures.  This practice was brought to Sogdia by the Yuezhi, who were driven out of China and established the Kushan Empire in Central Asia and India in the early first century.

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Fresco showing the the arrival of a king and a princess to a country church or the arrival of a royal bride.  There are details from this fresco in the next four images.

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In most of these human representations, the eyes may have been later gouged out by Islamic Arabs.

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Birds (swans?), possibly for sacrifice.

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Detail of camel saddle.

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Part of the saddle of the elephant.

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Ambassadors from Chaganian (south of Afrasiab, central figure) and Chach (modern Tashkent).

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Turkish (Turkic?) dignitaries, one of them is labeled as coming from Argi (Karashahr in modern Xinjiang).

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Left hand group: Tang Dynasty emissaries carrying silk and a string of silkworm cocoons;

Right hand group:  Sogdian chamberlains and interpreter introduce Tibetan messengers.

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Women on boats, probably local Turkic aristocrats copying the fashions of women in Tang China.

Tang Dynasty China was a major force in Central Asia during this period and Sogdia may have shared a border with them at this time (the border fluctuated).

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.Afrasiab Museum, Ak Saray Mausoleum, Archaeology, Architecture, History, Landscape, Paper Making, Photography, Samarkand, Street photography, Travel, Ulugh Beg Observatory, Uzbekistan .

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A duck – a sacred bird of the Zoroastrians.

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Model of eleventh century kiln.

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Ceramic plate from 10th to 12th century.

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We are away from the museum now and still had some spare time so we headed for a small mosque in the country.  I do not know the name of the village.

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The minaret of the mosque.  I could remove the wires, but they were there.

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Some kind of restoration exercise in the grounds of the mosque.  I do not remember the details.

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This is the mosque and we are definitely not in the city.  It was small and unassuming and the locals, who were not expecting us, were polite and friendly.

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Later in the evening, since we were staying very close to it, I decided to go back for some night-time exposures of Gur Emir, Timur’s Mausoleum.

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.Afrasiab Museum, Ak Saray Mausoleum, Archaeology, Architecture, History, Landscape, Paper Making, Photography, Samarkand, Street photography, Travel, Ulugh Beg Observatory, Uzbekistan .

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Afrasiab Museum, Ak Saray Mausoleum, Archaeology, Architecture, History, Landscape, Paper Making, Photography, Samarkand, Street photography, Travel, Ulugh Beg Observatory, Uzbekistan

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Lockdown is for the Birds

Brisbane, Queensland, 1 to 6 August 2021.

(Click on any image to see it in a larger size.).
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 Australia, Brisbane, Butcher Bird, Kookaburras, Landscape, Magpie, Nature, Photography, Queensland, Rainbow Lorikeets, Travel, Wildlife

Butcher Bird.

At the end of the last post, we had stopped off in Brisbane for a couple of days en route to a photographic tour in North Queensland, when our progress was arrested by a sudden seven-day lockdown.  So we spent the next seven days with our friends Jim and Milena in their new home, and with the birds that either visited or lived there.

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The same Butcher Bird from the verandah (also then next two images).

.  Australia, Brisbane, Butcher Bird, Kookaburras, Landscape, Magpie, Nature, Photography, Queensland, Rainbow Lorikeets, Travel, Wildlife .

. Australia, Brisbane, Butcher Bird, Kookaburras, Landscape, Magpie, Nature, Photography, Queensland, Rainbow Lorikeets, Travel, Wildlife .

.  Australia, Brisbane, Butcher Bird, Kookaburras, Landscape, Magpie, Nature, Photography, Queensland, Rainbow Lorikeets, Travel, Wildlife

Back inside, with Percy and Polly (Rainbow Lorikeets) and Milena.  One of the lorikeets is interested in learning how to use the coffee machine.

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The other, not so much.

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On the verandah again, two Kookaburras.

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Juvenile Magpie soaring up for food.  this one has a damaged foot.

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Juvenile Magpie on the rail (the adults are black rather than grey).

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The Australian Magpie is not related to the Eurasian Magpie.  It is related to the Butcherbird, though.

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Kookaburra.

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Though we were in a city, we were able to go for a brief walk in a forest nearby.

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Inside with the lorikeets again.

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They are very fast inside the house and challenging to photograph.

Ironically, I had brought a Nikon D850 and 300mm f2.8 lens (plus teleconverters), specifically for photographing birds in flight, mainly from various bird hides I expected to encounter.  I did not anticipate the my BIF photography would be indoors.

These indoor images were all taken with a Fujifilm X-E4 and a 27mm f2.8 lens (40mm full frame equivalent), heavily croppped.  I couldn’t predict when and where they were going to fly I needed loose compositions.  They are all on 1/2,000 sec because the lorikeets are very quick and light levels were quite low so they are all on high ISOs, more that two thirds on 6400 or 12,800.  As well as that, this was a new camera and when I had set up Custom Quick Menus, I hadn’t realised that as well as the values on the Quick Menus, there were also many other values I needed to set or they would revert to the original camera defaults.  This meant I was shooting JPEG instead of RAW so many of the images are lacking highlight or shadow detail.

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This might represent an interesting lorikeet decal on the splashback except that it was a bit too transient for full appreciation at the time.

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Lorikeet and Jools.

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Percy and Polly powering past.

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Also a Budgie, even more elusive on the wing.

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… and here playing hide-and-seek.

.  Australia, Brisbane, Butcher Bird, Kookaburras, Landscape, Magpie, Nature, Photography, Queensland, Rainbow Lorikeets, Travel, Wildlife

Back on the balcony, an adult Magpie in midair leaping for food, plus a Butcher Bird.

.  Australia, Brisbane, Butcher Bird, Kookaburras, Landscape, Magpie, Nature, Photography, Queensland, Rainbow Lorikeets, Travel, Wildlife

  … Coming in to land ….

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Magpie pair.

.  Australia, Brisbane, Butcher Bird, Kookaburras, Landscape, Magpie, Nature, Photography, Queensland, Rainbow Lorikeets, Travel, Wildlife .

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Again, a lorikeet as an interior decoration….

.  Australia, Brisbane, Butcher Bird, Kookaburras, Landscape, Magpie, Nature, Photography, Queensland, Rainbow Lorikeets, Travel, Wildlife .

. Australia, Brisbane, Butcher Bird, Kookaburras, Landscape, Magpie, Nature, Photography, Queensland, Rainbow Lorikeets, Travel, Wildlife .

. Australia, Brisbane, Butcher Bird, Kookaburras, Landscape, Magpie, Nature, Photography, Queensland, Rainbow Lorikeets, Travel, Wildlife .

. Australia, Brisbane, Butcher Bird, Kookaburras, Landscape, Magpie, Nature, Photography, Queensland, Rainbow Lorikeets, Travel, Wildlife

Jim with Percy and Polly.

It was difficult to find lockdown information at this time as the Queensland Government told people not to ring them and if you did, you could wait for a long time and then drop out.  Eventually, we worked out that we were free to fly back to the ACT, even while the lockdown continued in Brisbane.  Jools did so first, I did so after receiving an email from the ACT Government advising against further travel. 

Now Queensland is out of lockdown and we are in lockdown in Canberra.  The main problem is New South Wales, which failed to lockdown for ten days after their first case and is now spiralling out of control with over a thousand cases per day.  (That won’t sound high if you live in Montenegro, Malaysia or Miami but is the highest we have seen in Australasia).  (The other problem is the low vaccination rate, due to the incompetence of the Federal Government).  Fortunately it doesn’t seem too bad in the ACT and we may be out of lockdown in a couple of weeks, though the situation remains precarious.

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Digital Photography

 I gave some of my old cameras and lenses to a friend who was a professional photographer in the film era but lost his equipment through fire and theft and has not photographed for many years.  So this is a brief summary of what has changed.  Hopefully it will be of interest to others as well.

This article doesn’t include an introduction to Photography.  You can find one here.

Digital photography is far more accessible than film was.  It is simple and cheap if you just buy a camera with a kit lens and set it on Program mode (or use a phone), blast away, and upload JPEGs to Facebook .  But to do it seriously is both much more complex and much more expensive than it used to be.

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Carillon, Canberra 1988, Part of French contribution to Bicentennial, 5×4 film.

(Click on any image to see it in a larger size.).
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Index

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Exposure

Red crested cranes in river before dawn, Hokkaido, 2012.

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In the film days, you used a film which was a given ISO (originally called ASA) and now you can select an ISO for each shot.  But there’s more to it than that:

You can shoot JPEG or RAW (or both).  JPEG has your settings baked into the image and you degrade it if you later edit it.  Photojournalists may shoot JPEG so they can quickly deliver final images to their editor but for most people in most situations, shooting RAW is preferable.  JPEG has a limited gamut (sRGB) whereas RAW captures what the camera can (approximately LAB gamut).  This implies processing and more on that later.

Film had a rounded shoulder in its transition from highlight detail to overexposure, or from shadow detail to underexposure, but for digital, the transition is much more abrupt, so you need to be more careful about overexposure in particular.

The histogram is an invaluable aid to exposure.  It shows the tones, shadow to highlight, left to right in a box.  The shape of the histogram can vary but a line on the right edge is overexposure; a line on the left edge is underexposure.  Usually you want to avoid that but sometimes underexposure doesn’t matter and sometimes specular highlights make the right edge of the histogram irrelevant (eg live music).

In general you want to expose to the right – in other words, not have any blank space on the right of the histogram.  This is because detail captured decreases exponentially from the right of the histogram to the left.  In other words, the detail is in the highlights, not the shadows.  There’s a complication here though because the histogram on the back of the camera shows an sRGB image but as long as you’re shooting RAW you have something like an extra two-thirds of a stop of highlight detail available.  (It is a good idea to set the camera histogram to show aRGB but it still doesn’t make much difference).

You can also set the camera to bracket exposures where the contrast range may be too wide for a single exposure, and combine them later in processing if required.  Three exposures two stops apart is perhaps a good place to start for this.  I often leave the camera set for exposure bracketing when shooting landscapes on the fly because I may not pick when I actually need to bracket.  In many cases I may find it was not necessary so I delete unwanted images.  Others may prefer to be more economical in their culling and shoot single images where possible.

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Shutter

Cape Nelson 1987, Arca-Swiss 5×4″,90mm Linhof Angulon, f6.8, 4 hours, Fujichrome 50

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With film, the rule of thumb for minimum hand-held shutter speed was the reciprocal of the focal length (eg 1/100 sec  for 100mm lens).  The greater acuity of digital means you may need to add a stop or two (eg 1/200 or 1/400).  This changes again with more modern lenses and bodies with image stabilisation (vibration reduction).  It varies by individual though so the best way to understand what shutter speeds you can hand hold at is to do tests by focal length.

With DSLRs (apart from very cheap ones where this may not be available), for maximum sharpness in landscape images, you should use a tripod and lock the mirror up and use a remote release (or the self-timer).  Or even better, you can use live view which focuses directly onto the sensor with the mirror up.  (… though there are some limitations in the early implementation of this in the Nikon D3 for which this is written so that it may be advantageous to use the self-timer).

Mirrorless cameras of course do not have a mirror to flip but there can still be shutter slap to reduce sharpness.  This can be avoided by using electronic shutter except for artificial light or some cases of marked subject movement.

One of the few advantages of film was with star trails because you can hold the shutter open as long as you like (8 hours was the longest I did).  With digital cameras you are limited by battery often to 30 minutes to an hour, though with the phenomenal battery of the Nikon D3 this may be as much as 6 hours (I tested but don’t remember my findings clearly).

Nightscapes with stars in focus weren’t common in days of film (or maybe I just wasn’t aware).  For a starting point on exposure and shutter speed, refer the NPS Rule.  Phone app PhotoPills can do NPS calculations and also display where the Milky Way will be on the view through your phone.

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Filters

Lake Hume, 2006 (6×17 Film)

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There was much more use of filters in the days of film.  This included skylight filters and coloured gels (for commercial portrait photographers) to modify the colour balance of the film.  This is no longer required because you can either do it in camera or in post-processing.

UV filter are not required in most circumstances.  They don’t really protect lenses (though lens hoods do) and can accentuate flare.  The exception when they can be useful is for sea spray and desert sand storms.

Polarising filters are not much required in general landscape photography any more.  They can overpower skies and you can adjust those in post-processing.  They still have their uses though for dealing with reflections in water and for enhancing colour in forests, especially wet ones.  For DSLRs you need circular polarisers though instead of the old linear ones, though linear ones are fine for mirrorless cameras.

Apart from polarising filters, the most likely filters to use these days are neutral density filters, so you can get a daylight exposure of say five minutes for smooth clouds and water surfaces.  You may also need a dark cloth over the camera to prevent light leaks.  This can look impressive and I do it occasionally though I also find it a fashion trend tending to a bit of a cliché and generally prefer to do my long exposures without filters after dark.

When shooting black and white film, filters translated the colours in different ways.  You can still do that if you are using a Leica Monochrom or when using inbuilt filters while shooting JPEG in mono, but there is little point if you are shooting RAW.  You end up with a colour image and while you can still apply mono camera settings to it, you have much greater power for monochrome conversion in post-production.  It can be useful though sometimes to set your camera for a mono display to aid your composition even if your objective is not monochrome.

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Other Camera Operations

Bearded Dragon, Mt Ainslie, Canberra, 2019 (focus stacked)

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I have already mentioned automated exposure bracketing. 

You can also generate panoramas either hand-held (for distant panoramas) or on a tripod with varying degrees of complexity and expense for additional equipment. This requires separate exposures and overlapping by about 20%.

Another option is focus bracketing – combining multiple exposures at different point of focus to get a greater depth of focus than would be possible in a single exposure, especially but not exclusively for macro.  Stopping down to f8 or f11 helps.  On older cameras like the Nikon D3 you have to set the focus manually but many more recent models have various forms of semi-automatic focus bracketing.

All these operations require post processing, and I will cover that under the Processing section.

There is also the option for time lapse photography and video but since I have not done these I will do no more than mention them.

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Lens Calibration

Deception Island, 2011.

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DSLRs have a sensor that records the image and another sensor for autofocus.  If the two get out of whack for a particular lens and camera, the lens may be consistently front-focusing or back-focusing. 

Your camera may be able to record correction values for each lens.  This will not be the case though if you have a lower-range model and most cameras can only record one value for a zoom lens.  You determine those values with a testing utility.  I use FoCal; others may consider Lens Align simpler and cheaper.  Some people don’t bother.  It’s not an issue for mirrorless cameras (or when using live view on a DSLR).

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Tripods and Monopods

19 Twenty at the Abbey, Canberra, 2020.

Compared to the film days, tripods can now be carbon fibre as well as aluminium (or wood).  Aluminium tripods are cheaper but carbon fibre ones are the way to go where possible because they are lighter, more durable and more vigration resistant. Cheap tripods are still counter-productive but I suspect they’re not quite as rickety as they used to be.

For a detailed review of tripods and monopods, see this site.

Also here is a review of a new version of my favourite ball head, from Acratech.  Its open design makes it ideal for outdoors, beause it is easy to clean and doesn’t get grit around the ball.

 

Planning

Crested Tern, Montague Island, 2019.

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You can use applications to plan landscape excursions.  For example, The Photographer’s Ephemeris allows you to see the hours of different measures of twilight at a particular date and location, and you can even determine when the sun will peek out over a mountain at sunrise to illuminate your subject.  (The latter capacity does take time and dedication though).  I’ve already mentioned the phone application PhotoPills.

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Processing

Verraux’s Sifaka, Madagascar, 2015 (IR)

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If you are planning to shoot JPEG-only, with all the shortcomings that entails, you will still need an basic photo editor/ image database such as ACDSee Pro.

Most people will want to shoot RAW and that implies post-processing with a RAW processor and a pixel-level image editor.    In general I recommend the Adobe Photographic Plan for $14.29 per month.  This is primarily the desktop-based Lightroom Classic plus Photoshop and includes various capacities for processing on the web including on phones or iPads.  I often use FastRawViewer for the initial cull; it is quite cheap and the only way to get an accurate histogram of a RAW file.  Lightroom Classic is a very good RAW Processor, an excellent image database, very good for printing and has many other capabilities that alternatives do not.  It is also very good for very quick adjustments.

Note that image selection requires some processing including exposure correction and perhaps some cropping.  Lightroom‘s Auto Tone gives a very quick starting point.

However, I also use Capture One and often edit in that.  It is a superior editor, particularly for layers, masking and control of colours but is not as good as an image database and does not have many of the capabilities of Lightroom.  The learning curve is steeper than Lightroom though. You can buy it subscription of stand alone and it costs a little more than the Adobe Photography Plan.

Other alternatives for RAW processing are Luminar, On One Photo Pro and DxO PhotoLab.  I haven’t used any of them but according to reports I have read, Luminar and On One are not really options but DxO might be.  If you’re not subscribing to Adobe, you still need a pixel based editor which is likely to be Affinity Photo.  It is quite cheap and capable though not as powerful and Photoshop.  For example, only Photoshop has the capacity to invent missing data using content aware fill.

It requires care to make a choice of RAW processor though because if you change your mind your capability to export processed files to another application will be very limited.

I also sometimes use TK Actions which operates inside Photoshop to adjust images using luminosity masking, in other words, particular tonal ranges of an image.  This can be very powerful but is extremely complex and requires experience in Photoshop.

You can do mono conversions in Lightroom or Photoshop but Nik Silver Efex Pro is more powerful and I find Capture One is better again.

There is a variety of ways to do HDR processing which can be quite realistic, not the garish results that Photomatix used to champion.  The easiest way is in LightroomPhotoshop is a bit more accurate, especially if you have registration issues or moving objects between the frames.  There are also various manual ways to do it in Photoshop and there are various third party applications, of which I occasionally use SNS-HDR.

Panoramas you can also do in Lightroom or Photoshop.  My favourite utility is AutoPano Giga but it was bought out by GoPro and closed down, so you can’t buy it any more.  The best high-range utility is now probably PTGui though there are many other simpler ones.

You can process focus stacks in Photoshop (though not in Lightroom) and the main third party programs are Helicon Focus and Zerene Stacker which usually work better than Photoshop unless you have registration issues (eg from shooting hand-held).  I prefer Zerene Stacker as it has better editing capabilities.

I have much more detail in A RAW workflow … and Alternatives.

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Computers

Moai, Ranu Raraku, Easter Island, 2011.

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Assuming we are talking desktop computer, the main requirements for an up-to-date machine are lots of RAM (at least 16GB), adequate storage and processing on M.2 NVMe SSDs. 

Photographic monitors are important especially if you intend printing or to have images printed.  Eizo are the best, NEC nearly as good and somewhat cheaper (though Image Science no longer recommends them because NEC Australia does not guarantee against dead pixels) and some Benq monitors are good and more affordable.  All other monitors are likely to be a compromise.  Large monitors are good; 4K is not necessary.

Backup is also important.  You should have three copies of your images, including a remote copy which can be in the Cloud.

I have written a few articles on these matters:

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Printing

Aboriginal concert, Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies, 1984?, IR colour film plus sabbatier effect.

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Digital printing has greatly improved since the days of the fume room.  You don’t need to dodge and burn each print, you do that to the image before you print it and then when you get it right it’s repeatable.

(There is one minor annoyance in terminology though.  Dodging in Photoshop is making parts lighter whereas burning is making parts darker.  That’s because the early Photoshop designers were black and white printers, which is a negative to positive process.  When printing Cibachrome it was the other way round.  Dodging made parts darker whereas burning made parts brighter.  Printing from slides was a positive to positive process.  And so is digital processing, so the terminology is the wrong way around.)

There is also a great variety of papers with a wide range of effects, quite unlike the limited range for black and white let alone colour in the film era.

You don’t get good quality prints from Harvey Norman, Office Works or similar places and custom prints are not cheap.  Even if you intend to mainly get prints made by a custom printer, it may be worthwhile to also do your own, especially if you will print more than a few.  Then you will have a better understanding of preparing images for printing on different papers and after all, arguably, if you get someone else to make your prints, they aren’t entirely your own work.

I have also written a range of articles on printing:

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Comments

Pimilea Physodes, Australian National Botanic Gardens, 2020.

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Your comments are welcome. 

  • Have I missed something? 
  • Do you have a different point of view?
  • Would you like more information on something?

At the water’s edge

Brisbane, Queensland, 31 July 2021.

(Click on any image to see it in a larger size.).
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We are on our second day in Brisbane, staying with friends, en route to Northern Queensland, or so we thought.

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Australia, Brisbane, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Queensland, Reflections, Skywalk, Travel, Wildlife, Yachts

Though inside Brisbane, we are on a scenic drive that goes in part through a national park, and we are looking down some distance at a house on farmland.  It appears to be the mansion of a drug baron.  Perhaps a nineteenth century drug baron.  Probably opium, in that case.

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Near the road, we noticed this compact granny flat.  Specially adapted for natural air conditioning.

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And in the distance there are these massive ancient megaliths.  Some of them may be more than a hundred feet high.  How they carried the stones there is a mystery.

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It’s not fire season yet so this was presumably burning off.  These days severe bush fires can occur even in winter though.

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We proceeded on to Wynnum, where we visited a cafe and then wandered out onto the pier.  Beside the pier, this I believe is a gazebo martin (though usually known as a tree martin).  I tried to get them in flight as a test of camera settings for that purpose but they are very fast and I did not succeed.

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Wynnum pier.  The martins were building a nest in the roof of the right-hand gazebo.

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Next we visited the nearby East Coast Marina and I photographed some of the yachts sailing around and in or out of the marina, from the end of a pier.

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Also, a couple of dragon boats.  Going out…

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…then coming back in.

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Small yacht returning to the marina.

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Two launches and a yacht coming out.

The red sign at the left is not blank on purpose for the benefit of people who cannot read, rather it is a marker for the dredged channel.  The water can be otherwise quite shallow around here.

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A launch and a windsurfer exploring the possibility of flight.

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I think the same windsurfer.

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A small flotilla of launches coming in on the channel. 

You can see the channel marker in the mid background (in itself an indication the water is not as deep as it may seem).

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There was a parasurfer there as well.

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We are now around behind the marina and a paddle-boarder is proceeding out.  He may not require as large a mooring as those catamarans.

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The boat at front in the middle is an old pearling lugger with a Maori name, which may indicate it was used by Maori divers.

. Australia, Brisbane, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Queensland, Reflections, Skywalk, Travel, Wildlife, Yachts

We are now a bit further south at Cleveland Point.  There are a number of cormorants on this tree.

. Australia, Brisbane, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Queensland, Reflections, Skywalk, Travel, Wildlife, Yachts

With a slightly different angle, I am now shooting into the sun.  It is still a colour image but the extreme contrast has wiped out the colour.

. Australia, Brisbane, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Queensland, Reflections, Skywalk, Travel, Wildlife, Yachts

This is the old Cleveland Point Lighthouse, no longer in use.  It has an unusual design and was built in 1865.  It is a State lighthouse for local navigation so was not amongst the Commonwealth lighthouses I photographed in 1987 (Lighthouses tab, at top of page).

Half an hour after I took this photo, Brisbane went into a sudden COVID lockdown for at least seven days.  We worked that out later when we drove past a pub that had no patrons.  No flight for us to North Queensland early morning the day after next.

Fortunately, we were able to stay with our friends for the duration.  The lockdown did end after seven days but then there was a North Queensland lockdown for another three days.  That also ended after the three days and I would have waited and kept on going but I received a letter from the ACT (Australian Capital Territory) Government advising against further travel.  The problem was New South Wales where COVID was out of control by Australian standards because the NSW Government waited for 10 days before locking down.  Had I kept going I risked an ACT lockdown and either having difficulty returning or returning to 14-day hotel quarantine (as opposed to the much more benign home quarantine).

 

So after five days, I abandoned the North Queensland trip and returned to Canberra.

. Australia, Brisbane, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Queensland, Reflections, Skywalk, Travel, Wildlife, Yachts

Meanwhile, we stopped for the sunset at a beach a bit further south near Victoria Point.

. Australia, Brisbane, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Queensland, Reflections, Skywalk, Travel, Wildlife, Yachts

… as the light slowly receded.

MacLeay Island in the background and South Stradbroke Island beyond that.

. Australia, Brisbane, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Queensland, Reflections, Skywalk, Travel, Wildlife, Yachts .

.Australia, Brisbane, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Queensland, Reflections, Skywalk, Travel, Wildlife, Yachts .

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An obliging pelican swam up and posed for me.

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The light was getting very low and although I was using a lens with good image stabilisation, that does not compensate for subject movement and I underestimated what shutter speed I needed so the pelican in this image is not actually in focus.  (I decided to show it anyway because of the feel and the colour).

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A last image in the gathering doom….

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Then when we got back home, I went to change lenses on my cameras for more compact storage and discovered I was missing a lens – actually the new lens from my recent post on Setting Up the X-E4.  It had fallen out of my bag.

Clearly it wouldn’t be there the next morning so notwithstanding the lockdown, I went back to try to find it.  I thought it had probably fallen out of the bag when I bent down to take a photo using a small post as support. 

When we got back to where we had been, I immediately saw it on the road where the car had been parked.  It had fallen out when I got the bag out of the car, about eighteen inches to two feet.  Fortunately I hadn’t run over it.  It was unmarked, had no apparent ill effects and still worked fine including autofocus.  (Phew!)

Mount Tamborine

Brisbane, Queensland, 30 July 2021.

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Infrared, Landscape, Mount Tambourine, Nature, Photography, Rainforest, Skywalk, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

Just before dawn, we headed off on our flight from Canberra to Brisbane, the first step of our journey to North Queensland.

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… though as it turned out, we would not get to North Queensland, rather turned back due to COVID lockdowns.

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We met up with our friends Jim and Milena, and later headed for Mount Tamborine.  This is a view looking inland over the plains.

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… and over farmland.

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The weather seems to have been changing considerably and is not quite how I remember it, though perhaps that is the infrared sensor and processing.

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Infrared, Landscape, Mount Tambourine, Nature, Photography, Rainforest, Skywalk, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

We stopped at a cafe for lunch.

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And then we headed for the Mount Tamborine Skywalk, so the remaining images are from there.

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The bunga bunga pines are towering over the rest. 

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Infrared, Landscape, Mount Tambourine, Nature, Photography, Rainforest, Skywalk, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

Eastern yellow robin (male).

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These two images looking straight down at some distance.

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Setting up a Fujifilm X-E4

 

Briefly breaking from my photographic posts on travel, here is a post on how I set up a Fuji X-E4 camera I just bought.  The purpose is to demonstrate how by applying yourself to setup, you can get a very simple camera that can perform complex tasks.

I got my partner Jools a Fujifilm X-E4 as a birthday present and after it arrived I decided to get one for myself as well.  It will replace one of my X-T2s (a top model in its time) because it has full current Fuji functionality.  It will also replace my X100s, which is a sophisticated coat-pocket fixed lens camera, as the X-E4 is about the same size with the kit lens.

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The two X-E4s, one with kit lens.

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Curiously, Amazon describes the skill level for this camera as “Novice” whereas Ted’s Cameras describes the skill level as “Semi-Professional, Enthusiast”.  Essentially, they are both wrong but especially Amazon.  True, you can set the camera on “P” and just press the button and get it to work pretty well.  But the camera also has all the capabilities of the top model X-T4, which has more than twice the number of buttons and dials and which is twice the price. The main drawbacks are there’s only one SD card slot instead of two and it’s not water sealed.

The point is you can have it both ways.  You can have a very simple and compact camera that is very easy to operate and yet can do all the complex things with little effort.  You just need to spend some time setting it up to your own requirements.  What I have to say will also apply to other current Fuji models as well, and much of it to previous models and even other camera marques. 

This is just about setup, not a camera review, so if you don’t already understand the functions and operations of the camera and want to, see this review from Greg Cromie, or others on the web.

The X-E4’s lack of external buttons and dials has led me to customise it in ways I have previously ignored – specifically LCD screen swipes, Q Menu and My Menu.  I set it up so that in most cases I don’t need to specify individual menu choices – just the type of shooting I am doing.  That makes it very easy to use.

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X100s vs X-E4.

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General Setup

One of the first things I did was to change the default setting for Touch Screen Mode (AF/MF  SETTING > TOUCH SCREEN  MODE) from TOUCH SHOOTING to OFF.  The default setting meant that every time you accidentally touch the LCD screen it takes a photo, which is just crazy.  (Another potential option is to set it to AF but then if you touch a point on the screen to autofocus, you have to turn the camera on and off to get AF back to the shutter button).

Then I set default menu items using Photography Life’s Recommended X-T4 Menu Settings.  The functionality of the two cameras is the same though the interfaces are very different.  Most default items also don’t need to change.

After that I went through the manual and identified all the settings I might want to change while operating the camera and wrote them down.  I then identified which I could specify in the various ways to customise the camera.

  • Swipe actions are on p257 of the manual
  • Possible Q Menu items are on p251
  • Actions for the three customisable buttons on p254
  • Most actions are available when you set up My Menu options, apart from Setup Menu options.

So I’ll show you how I set up my camera.  Bear in mind these are my own idiosyncratic choices and I have distinct preferences as to how I use the camera.  I only shoot RAW, so JPEG-only settings are not required.  I also don’t shoot flash or video.

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Swiping right for Colour Balance (while taking a picture of a CD cover).

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Swiping

There used to be four directional buttons on the back of the camera that were customisable but they are gone and instead you can have certain functions appear when you swipe up, down, left or right.  To set them up you go to the menu on the back of the camera and select SET UP> BUTTON/DIAL SETTING > FUNCTION (Fn) SETTING.  This command also applies to the three customisable buttons but we’ll come back to that later.  I set mine up as follows:

  • Swipe left: Performance
  • Swipe up: Histogram
  • Swipe right: Colour balance
  • Swipe down: Virtual horizon (Electronic level)

For example, swiping for colour balance is useful because you can see the colour of your scene change as you change settings.  Similarly, you can also set the Q Menu background to transparent (SET-UP > SCREEN SET-UP > Q MENU BACKGROUND). 

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Q Menu

The Q Menu (or Quick Menu) appears on the LCD screen on the back of the camera when you press the Q button on the top of the camera.  You can have up to seven custom Q Menus plus the default Q Menu.  They can have 4, 8, 12 or 16 options though effectively one less because one is for navigation.

In my case I found 8 was the useful number.  No matter how many Q Menus you have, the items will always be the same (eg ISO might be choice number 3) but each item can have different values on the different menus.

You can set your custom Q Menus up so that either the camera saves values you change for the next time you turn it on, or so it reverts to the initial value. (Set IQ > AUTO UPDATE CUSTOM SETTING to ENABLE or DISABLE).  This choice only applies to custom Q Menus; the Default Q Menu always autosaves changes.  So if all you want to do is change values on the fly as required, perhaps you don’t need to specify any custom menus and can just use the default Q Menu.

I chose DISABLE.  So instead of changing the values of settings for different circumstances, I set up different custom Q Menus for different purposes, expecting to change the Q Menus and not the values of the items.  First I will show you what I set up, then how I went about setting them up.

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My Q Menu setup for Birds in Flight.

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Q Menus I Set Up

My Q Menus are an example, not really something to copy.  Contemplate your own preferences.  Your needs and priorities will be different.  Also, don’t worry too much about the detail just now.  The principles of the process are what is important.

My purpose, again, is to have a range of menus for different purposes that I just need to select and need not alter.  So I set up custom menus for these purposes:

  • Landscape/ General
  • Interior
  • Wildlife
  • Mono
  • Time Exposure

In more detail, these are the values I selected for each setting.  (I really only needed one less setting.  White balance stays at auto, I have also have it set by swiping, so it is mainly there to make up the numbers).

Landscape/ General

  • ISO: Auto (Max to 12,800; Minimum shutter speed 1/15sec)
  • White Balance: Auto
  • Self-Timer: OFF
  • AF Mode: Single Point
  • Shutter type: Electronic
  • Focus Mode: Single
  • Film Simulation: Provia (Standard)

Interior

  • ISO: Auto (Max to 12,800; Minimum shutter speed 1/15sec)
  • White Balance: Auto (may need to change to suit lighting)
  • Self-Timer: OFF
  • AF Mode: Single Point
  • Shutter type: Mechanical (to avoid banding)
  • Focus Mode: Single
  • Film Simulation: Provia (Standard)

Wildlife

  • ISO: Auto (Max to 12,800; Minimum shutter speed 1/15sec)
  • White Balance: Auto
  • Self-Timer: OFF
  • AF Mode: Zone
  • Shutter type: Electronic, Mechanical if problems with motion
  • Focus Mode: Continuous
    • Not in Q Menu but set in Menu: AFC Custom Settings: 6: 2/ 1/ Centre
  • Film Simulation: Provia (Standard)

Mono

  • ISO: Auto (Max to 12,800; Minimum shutter speed 1/15sec)
  • White Balance: Auto
  • Self-Timer: OFF
  • AF Mode: Single Point
  • Shutter type: Electronic
  • Focus Mode: Single
  • Film Simulation: Astia – Yellow filter

Time Exposure

  • ISO: 160
  • White Balance: Auto
  • Self Timer: 2 seconds
  • AF Mode: Single Point
  • Shutter type: Electronic
  • Focus Mode: Single
  • Film Simulation: Provia (Standard)

 

How to set up Q Menus

First go to SET UP> BUTTON/DIAL SETTING > EDIT/SAVE QUICK MENU.  Here you set the number of menu items you want (4, 8, 12 or 16) and then continue to specify what these menu items should be.   Next exit from the menu, press the Q button for the Q Menu and specify the values for the items of the default Q Menu.

Then you may want to specify up to seven custom Q Menus.  The easy way is to hold down the Q button with the Q Menu showing.  You can give each custom Q Menu a name and also set default values.  Remember to save the values as you go, otherwise you won’t get what you thought.  You can later change your custom Q Menu values using the same method.

For X-E4 and X-S10 only:  As well as the values that appear in the Q Menus on the back of the camera, each custom Q Menu also a whole range of default values that you set with the long press of the Q button.  So if you don’t set these here, settings that you have set in the Main Menu but don’t appear on the Q Menu screen on the back of your camera will change to their original defaults.  For example, I didn’t initially realise this and my Main Menu setting of RAW for Image Quality changed to the original default of JPEG (Fine) whenever I accessed a custom Q Menu.

 

Setting Up “My Menu” Items

You bring up the camera’s menu by pressing the [Menu/ OK] button and you can specify additional menu items under “My Menu”.  Putting menu items in My Menu saves you having to search through all the menu items when you need them.  Set up your My Menu with SET UP> USER SETTING> MY MENU SETTING.  You select the items from there.  Most menu items are available as long as they are not in the Setup Menu.

These are the options I set up for “My Menu” items:

  • AE BKT SETTING
    • You can press the Drive/ Delete button and select exposure bracketing.  Then when you press the shutter button your bracketing behaviour is whatever is set in this menu setting.   So you can set that up here, and may change it for different circumstances.
  • FOCUS BKT SETTING
    • You can specify to take a focus bracket from the Drive/ Delete button but you specify what happens in this setting and in the case of the Auto option, you also set it going from inside the setting.
  • AF-C CUSTOM SETTINGS
    • This is how the camera focuses in continuous focus mode, which you may want to set up and leave, or you may want to tweak for different situations.
  • RELEASE/ FOCUS PRIORITY
    • Setting whether AF-S and AF-C takes the photo when you press the shutter or wait for the camera to lock focus first. You may want to set this and forget it but I may want to experiment, for a while at least.
  • AF+MF
    • I have the camera to override autofocus when you turn the manual focus ring on the lens. I have this here in case I want to change that.

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Nikon D850 vs Fujifilm X-E4.  You might notice one is a little larger.

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Customising buttons

There are only three buttons you can customise on the X-E4.  I left the Q button to bring up the Q Menu and the AEL/ AFL button for exposure/ focus lock but set the front button (by default ISO) to VIEW MODE SETTING.  This is how the LCD screen and the electronic viewfinder operate.  Usually I leave it at Eye Sensor, but sometimes (eg in an audience) I may want to turn the LCD screen off and just use the electronic viewfinder.

I first tried setting VIEW MODE SETTING to be a swipe on the LCD screen.  This is an option you can set but it shouldn’t be because it doesn’t work (or at least, not for long).  Swipe to make it the electronic viewfinder and the LCD screen turns off and you can’t swipe to change it again. Instead, you have to find the menu item and change it there.

 

Loose ends

I would have liked to set performance on the Q Menu to Boost/ Low Light for wildlife and use it as Normal otherwise, because Boost increases the drain on the battery.  But it’s not available as a setting for the Q Menu so I set it to (Left) Swiping.  Previously I had self-timer there but I have that on the Q Menu anyway.

 

Outcome

It took a lot of thought and effort but I’ve ended up with a camera with full capabilities that is nonetheless very easy to use, either as a general camera or as a coat pocket camera.

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Comments are welcome. You may have a different view, I may have made a mistake, or you might like more explanation of something.  Bear in mind I’m about to be travelling so my response may be slow.

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Normal service resumes after this post with travel posts, though I may not post for a few weeks while travelling.  I will probably resume posting with North Queensland, then return to the last few Samarkand posts…..

 

North Queensland Itinerary

30 July to 15 August 2021.

(Click maps for a larger size if they are too small to see).
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Jools and I are planning to fly north to North Queensland for a couple of weeks. This would be quite a change from the currently cold climate of Canberra. 

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Current Queensland border closures.

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However, it all depends of COVID restrictions and border closures.  Australia is pretty much closed to the outside world so we can’t leave the country and there are also restrictions for internal travel.  Queensland currently has closed its borders to New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia but not the Australian Capital Territory (Canberra).  New South Wales is experiencing an explosion of the COVID Delta variant (by Australian Standards at least, 172 new cases yesterday), whereas Canberra hasn’t had a locally spread case for over a year.  We just have to hope that the borders will stay open for us at least for the next three days until our planned departure date.

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We are intending to fly north to Brisbane, stay with friends for a few days, then fly to Cairns.

Edit:  We got to Brisbane and then were caught in a snap 7-day lockdown.  Towards the end of that, Jools had already gone back and I was contemplating going on despite a 3-day North Queensland lockdown when I received an email from the ACT Government warning against further travel.  So I came back as well.  I was concerned I might have to come back to hotel quarantine.  ACT is now in lockdown so we’re now in lockdown there.

Hopefully we’ll be able to do the trip at a later date, perhaps next year.

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From Cairns, we drive south to the Atherton Tablelands, staying in rainforest for several days near Lake Eacham and Craters Lakes National Park.  We expect to visit Cathedral Fig Tree, Lakes Eacham and Barrine, Yungaburra, Curtain Fig National Park, Atherton, Hasties Swamp National Park (bird hide), Herberton, Mt Hypipamee National Park, Ravenshoe, Tully Gorge Lookout and Millaa Millaa waterfalls.  Wildlife we hope to encounter includes striped possums, platypodes (the correct plural of platypus since the word derives from Greek not Latin) and tree kangaroos.

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We then drive to Laura where we stay overnight and join two tours of Aboriginal rock art the next day.  We next drive to Cooktown where we stay for several days and join another Aboriginal rock art tour on the last morning.

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After Cooktown, we drive to Daintree National Park, where we stay for a few days.  The rainforest here comes down to the sea and we may encounter a cassowary.  Then we drive down to Kuranda, in the hills near Cairns and stay overnight.  The next day we drive back down the hill then take a cablecar back up to Kuranda and come down again in a small train.  From there we drive to Mossman Gorge, stay near there overnight and explore the gorge the next day.  Then we drive to Daintree Village where we stay overnight.  Early the next morning we have a photographic tour on Daintree river, then drive down to Cairns airport to catch our plane back to Canberra.

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I am planning to take both Nikon and Fuji photographic equipment.

I will have a Nikon D850 and a 300mm f2.8 plus 1.4x and 2x teleconverters as my prime telephoto equipment for wildlife.

To reduce weight and also carry a larger range of equipment, I will also have a Fuji X-T2, X-E4 and X-E2 IR cameras, together with 4mm fisheye, 8mm fisheye, 8-16mm, 23mm, 27mm, 35mm, 56mm, 80mm macro and 70-300mm lenses and a 1.4x TC.  (I could perhaps leave the 23mm and 35mm behind but they’re fairly small and light.)  Jools will  have an X-E4 and a 18-135mm lens and will be able to borrow the 70-300mm when I am using the Nikon 300mm.

Next will be a technical post on setting up the new X-E4 but there may be no posts after that for two or three weeks.

Ak Saray, Samarkand

Samarkand, Uzbekistan, 3 October 2018.

(Click on any image to see it in a larger size.)

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At the end of a long day (as per the previous four posts) we had some free time in the late afternoon so we decided to go for a walk near our hotel, which was also near Gur Emir (Timur’s mausoleum).

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Ak Saray Mausoleum, Architecture, Ceramics, History, Landscape, Photography, Rukhabad mausoleum, Samarkand, Street photography, Travel, Uzbekistan

In the park opposite the hotel, this is the Rukhabad Mausoleum, built by Timur in 1380 to house the grave of Islamic theologian Sheikh Burhaneddin Sagaradzhi.  The mausoleum is generally plain and unassuming, as is the interior.

.Ak Saray Mausoleum, Architecture, Ceramics, History, Landscape, Photography, Rukhabad mausoleum, Samarkand, Street photography, Travel, Uzbekistan

Here from a distance is the top of Gur Emir, Timur’s mausoleum, as we approach.

. Ak Saray Mausoleum, Architecture, Ceramics, History, Landscape, Photography, Rukhabad mausoleum, Samarkand, Street photography, Travel, Uzbekistan

(See earlier post for more on Gur Emir).

. Ak Saray Mausoleum, Architecture, Ceramics, History, Landscape, Photography, Rukhabad mausoleum, Samarkand, Street photography, Travel, Uzbekistan

Late in the afternoon, just before closing time, there were few people around, just a few locals passing by.

. Ak Saray Mausoleum, Architecture, Ceramics, History, Landscape, Photography, Rukhabad mausoleum, Samarkand, Street photography, Travel, Uzbekistan

Not far away is a mausoleum with a simple exterior.  I was not aware of this and an attendant called us inside as we passed by.

.Ak Saray Mausoleum, Architecture, Ceramics, History, Landscape, Photography, Rukhabad mausoleum, Samarkand, Street photography, Travel, Uzbekistan

The interior was spectacular and elegant and a great surprise.

. Ak Saray Mausoleum, Architecture, Ceramics, History, Landscape, Photography, Rukhabad mausoleum, Samarkand, Street photography, Travel, Uzbekistan

The exterior was supposed to include a turquoise dome but that was never finished.

. Ak Saray Mausoleum, Architecture, Ceramics, History, Landscape, Photography, Rukhabad mausoleum, Samarkand, Street photography, Travel, Uzbekistan

It has been very recently restored, in 2007.

. Ak Saray Mausoleum, Architecture, Ceramics, History, Landscape, Photography, Rukhabad mausoleum, Samarkand, Street photography, Travel, Uzbekistan

It is the mausoleum of Abdal-Latif Mirzu, sone of Ulugh Beg and geat grandson of Timur.

. Ak Saray Mausoleum, Architecture, Ceramics, History, Landscape, Photography, Rukhabad mausoleum, Samarkand, Street photography, Travel, Uzbekistan

Timur’s death lead to a civil war, which his son Shah Rukh won after several years.  He based himself in Herat and let his son Ulugh Beg rule Samarkand.  Ulugh Beg’s great achievements were as Crown Prince and ruler of Samarkand.

. Ak Saray Mausoleum, Architecture, Ceramics, History, Landscape, Photography, Rukhabad mausoleum, Samarkand, Street photography, Travel, Uzbekistan

Looking up….

. Ak Saray Mausoleum, Architecture, Ceramics, History, Landscape, Photography, Rukhabad mausoleum, Samarkand, Street photography, Travel, Uzbekistan

When Shah Rukh died, another series of civil wars broke out. Ulugh Beg spent his three years as Emperor fighting them.

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Ak Saray Mausoleum, Architecture, Ceramics, History, Landscape, Photography, Rukhabad mausoleum, Samarkand, Street photography, Travel, Uzbekistan

In 1449, he was defeated by his son Abdal-Latif Mirza.  He surrendered and then set off on a pilgrimage to Mecca but his son had him assassinated on the way.

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Ak Saray Mausoleum, Architecture, Ceramics, History, Landscape, Photography, Rukhabad mausoleum, Samarkand, Street photography, Travel, Uzbekistan

When Soviet scientist Gerasimov disinterred Timur in 1941, he also disinterred Ulugh Beg who lay with his head separated from his body.

. Ak Saray Mausoleum, Architecture, Ceramics, History, Landscape, Photography, Rukhabad mausoleum, Samarkand, Street photography, Travel, Uzbekistan

Abdal-Latif Mirza ruled for only six months before he too was executed.

. Ak Saray Mausoleum, Architecture, Ceramics, History, Landscape, Photography, Rukhabad mausoleum, Samarkand, Street photography, Travel, Uzbekistan

The magnificence of the mausoleum lives on….

We were very lucky to visit so late in the afternoon because we were the only visitors and it is quite small.

. Ak Saray Mausoleum, Architecture, Ceramics, History, Landscape, Photography, Rukhabad mausoleum, Samarkand, Street photography, Travel, Uzbekistan

This section said to represent the eyes and head of a bird.

. Ak Saray Mausoleum, Architecture, Ceramics, History, Landscape, Photography, Rukhabad mausoleum, Samarkand, Street photography, Travel, Uzbekistan

The steps to the undecorated funeral chamber below.  A body was discovered here with the head separated, presumably Abdal-Latif Mirza.

.Ak Saray Mausoleum, Architecture, Ceramics, History, Landscape, Photography, Rukhabad mausoleum, Samarkand, Street photography, Travel, Uzbekistan

Walking back to the hotel, we were able to enter Gur Emir (Timur’s mausoleum) in the last few minutes before it closed, free of the seething crowds.  This is the main chamber.

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I still have a few posts to go on Samarkand but they will have to wait as I am soon expecting to depart of a short trip to North Queensland, unless COVID lockdowns intervene.  More on that soon.