Day 01 & Background – Turkey & The Magic of Istanbul – 2012

Welcome to the 2012 trip to Turkey.  Once again I am going for one month – this time the first two weeks are Istanbul and the second two weeks are in the rural mountain regions doing documentary photography work for the Isparta Archeological Survey.

I have had emails from a lot of people asking the same two questions:

1) What happened to the Turkey blog last year – it kind of stopped when you hit Istanbul.

2) What happened with the fundraising for the film – The Magic of Istanbul.

So here is the deal.

First, while I have extensive notes and photographs from my trip to Istanbul last year I got behind – very behind and every time I went to blog I ended up working it into planning documents for the 2012 trip.  For future (ie – this year’s) blog entries the goals is to tell a quicker and lighter story – since much of the places will be the same – follow this year’s blog and if I remember something fun or funny from last year I will be sure to mention it.  I will create a closure entry for 2011 sometime soon though.

Second, I tried to raise funds for to create a travelogue documentary film about Istanbul – fairly low budget – and I used Kickstarter for it – while I did have some support from friends and family – it didn’t do what I was trying to do – get strangers interested and involved – if I wanted my friends money I wouldn’t use a third party service.  When the Kickstarter expired – no money changed hands – and I realized I would need to go another route looking for larger private donors (this didn’t happen either).  A few friends did send some money to contribute to the trip and I thank them very much and they will be acknowledged in the final film.

However there will in fact be a film called the Magic of Istanbul and it will be pretty low budget (and very out of pocket).  Amanda Almon C.M.I. & chair of Biomedical Art and Associate Professor at the Cleveland Institute of Art has graciously agreed to collaborate with me on the project both behind the camera and in the crafting a finished work.  Big round of applause for Amanda.  The goal here is to create something geared for festivals and not YouTube. That being said I will still post updates along the way!

Packing for the Trip

My mantra has been – don’t over pack!  But it is so hard to do.  The goal for this year was to not pay baggage fees on the way in.  That means get all the technology in Amanda and my large carry on bags, our personal items in our backpacks, and our clothes in our luggage.  This we ended up doing – though we brought an extra suitcase which we might fill with stuff and pay the baggage fee for on the way home.  I was told that in my documentary work I would be doing no museum work this year – so no lights or vr turntables were needed which also helped in reducing the weight.

In terms of equipment – I have my regular camera rig – a Pentax K5 with two lenses and a battery grip and Amanda borrowed my Pentax K20D.  For the filming she will use the Sony 1080i HD camcorder with a wide-angle lens on it.  For the most part she will use the 5.1 integrated microphone but I also have a wireless lapel microphone which I will wear whenever I am speaking on camera.

Sounds pretty minimal right? Well there are indeed lots of cables and accessories and spare batteries and cleaning supplies to keep all of that going but in the field it isn’t that much to carry.

I brought two other gadgets along to help with the filming.

1) Pivothead Video Goggles that allow for wearable 1080P video shooting and 10MP still camera.  This is like a spy camera which I will use in places it is inconvenient to have my hands full or in which they don’t allow me to shoot.  There is one museum that has the Staff of Moses and they don’t allow for photography.  Each time I try to sneak a picture it doesn’t come out – if it doesn’t come out this year – it might really BE the Staff of Moses.

2) A GoProHD camera in a waterproof case with a walking stick that turns into a tripod.  This is so that if I can find a hammam that will let me film I will be able to do so without ruining the camera.  Seeing the inside of a Turkish bath is really neat – also the procedure is pretty tortuous and I am sure you would all want to see it if I can get it filmed (and edited).

Day 00 – Travel

I am a pretty good packer but at the last minute I noticed I was missing three items which I had to pick up on the way to the airport.  First I needed a Moleskin notebook which I got at the University Bookstore.  I take notes in them for every trip and I like my little stack of them.  Then we stopped at Dodd and I got extra sensor cleaners for my DSLR – since I change lenses I sometimes have to clean the sensor.  And lastly I stopped at BestBuy to get anti-fog inserts for the GoPro camera.  I should have also stopped for deodorant as I just unpacked and realized I left it on my dresser – oh well – they do sell it here (I hope).

Travel itself can be a good adventure or a nightmare.  First, the boarding crew in Cleveland were very rude (not just to me but to everyone) and then there was a long layover and delay in Newark.  The problem was that it turns out Amanda and I were not going to sit next to each other and no one wanted to help resolve this.  Once on the plane I was able to get kid to trade his center seat for my window seat (lucky him) and it all turned out ok. The plane was older and the amenities not great but I ended up sleeping most of the time anyways so what did I care.

Day 01 – Istanbul – The Hippodrome

The first day has been pretty uneventful – which is good.  Got my visa, cleared immigration, and customs with no problems.  My first stop was to get a SIM card in my unlocked iPhone 4 – I recently upgraded to a 4S so my old 4 is out of contract and AT&T unlocked it for me by request.  For $59 I was able to buy a SIM card (and 10 local minutes of talk time) and 8GB of data – which should be plenty.  This will allow me to post updates and such from Facebook and allow me to surf the web and check my mail in the field which is nice.  She told me that it will only work for 14 days and that I need to pay a $60 tax to the government in the next 14 days if I want it to stay on.  Interesting.

Instead of getting my money exchanged or a taxi I took a shuttle service into the city.  The drive was treacherous – his foot kept hitting the break and I though I was going to be sick.  He got close to the hotel and then admitted he needed the address as he was lost – I actually knew where I was and directed him the last 2 blocks.

At the hotel he remembered me and switched me from a smaller room to a larger room which was very nice.  We spent the afternoon unpacking and going over the equipment and just resting from the long flight.

The hotel is awesome again – it is under a little renovation in the front but the rooms are great and the views are spectacular – it is right in the Hippodrome.

We didn’t bring the video equipment as we headed off for a quick walk around the hotel and to grab dinner.  Last year there was an arts and craft festival in the Hippodrome for Ramadan and part of it was setup again – paper marbling is cool!  We stopped and exchanged our money – it is 1.75TL to the dollar so we keep viewing everything as if it was half off even though it isn’t quite true.

Dinner was decent – not great – but the views of the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia were awesome.  We ordered a hummus appetizer and it was very interesting – I would guess it had no tahini in it. It was very thick and had a little oil on top – it was very much like peanut butter – unexpected but very good.  After we went to a sweet shop for dessert where we had rice pudding and a variety of Turkish delight.  The guy at the shop really liked Amanda and posed for several pictures with her.  I am not posting the picture – but Amanda might on her Facebook.  I probably shouldn’t have had the Turkish coffee – man am I wired.  Amanda tried to show me how you read the coffee grounds like tea leaves – pretty fun.

After dinner and dessert we took a quick walk around the park to breathe in the atmosphere and such and back to the hotel for me to catch up on my blog and post some photos – yeah – I have a few photos.

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