Saturday, April 21, 2012

A short Eilat trip with Matan and Alon

Due to complex set of reasons Matan, my old time dive buddy, did not dive for almost six months. On the first opportunity to correct this, we took off to Eilat for a weekend. Alon joined us to complete the merry team.

The water in Eilat was quite cloudy with uncharistically bad visibility. The remains of the algae that bloomed in the winter were still visible. In some places they formed webs of dead materials that served as a shelter and food source to many small creatures.

On this occasion I brought with me several DYI gadgets for creative lighting. Most notable was a ring flash. This gadget uses optic fibers to make a ring of light around the lens. This particularly useful for close subjects that hard to illuminate. While the other gadgets were disappointing (and need to be revamped) this one worked quite nicely.

Yellow throat moray
Eye of a camouflaged frogfish
And if you are curious about the contraption:

To see it in action note the reflection on the eye of this very small fish.

On a night dive we bumped on a sandy area full of these dead algae and many nudibranches all over them. Sadly due to stuck zoom ring and empty batteries I had only poor images of them and so we will need to rectify this in the future :-(

The next morning the sun came out a bit and things were looking better. I decided to go back to old fashioned gadget-less photography for a bit.

On a deep dive next to the IUI we run onto a large lobster. These are usually hiding during the day and are uncommon. This fellow was very big and did not mind being photographed.


Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Two days in Athens

A week after returns from the US, I had to attend a meeting in Athens. Since I just returned from a trip and since it was the week of passover, I did not extend the trip beyond the minimum possible.

We took off from Israel early in the morning and landed in Athens toward 9am. I took a cab to the meeting hotel in Vouliagméni, a suburb of Athens to south of the main city. After spending the whole day inside, I was yearning to get a glimpse of the beautiful day outside. 

In the early afternoon Ido and I managed to sneak out of the poster session and go for a walk before dinner. The hotel receptionist suggested we walk down to a small nature reserve on a small peninsula.

As promised, the peninsula was very impressive. Ido wanted to try the water, and we had hard time to find an accessible beach. 

After jumping in, Ido immediately decided that the water was too cold to bath in :-)

We continued walking along the road and reached a very fancy marina. We decided to explore and saw that there is a local pub/restaurant. Since we were thirsty, we stopped for a beer, and ended eating a salad and a small meal. The place was super fancy, and we got small appetizers "on the house" with the beer.

We continued down the beach to the ruins of a small church. 

From here we climbed to the top of the hill, and proceeded down some impressive rock structure toward the tip of the peninsula. 

Since dinner time was nearing, we headed back along the coast toward our hotel. On the way we saw the sunset.

The next day was cloudy. After a day of talks, we finally finished our business. I went with Allesandra and Marco, and we decided to start with the obvious destination - the Acropolis.

Unlike the peak of the tourist season, the acropolis was fairly empty at this time. And so we got a chance to see the ruins without walking in a crowd.

The hill of the acropolis is pretty impressive. It stands high above the surrounding city and looks like a natural fortress. 

Some of the structures were under-renovations. I learned that the whole place was rebuilt in the early 20th century in an attempt to reconstruct the past. The current renovations are intend to save some of the structures that started to become unstable, and also to correct errors. At some places we saw "spare" stones that were collected during the work and apparently didn't fit in.

From up here, we could see the large spread of Athens in every direction. 

Going down from the Acropolis, we climbed on a hill that serves as "shoulder" of the big hill. From here there was an impressive viewpoint on the whole Acropolis compound.

From there we picked a small footpath and followed it down the hill. We ended on a wide avenue with many blooming Judeas Trees and many outdoor cafe/pub establishments. We stopped for a refreshment and chat about science.

By now it was late, and so we continued down the avenue to the local subway line. Being obsessive photograph I tried to make a composition with the brightly painted subway cars, but was approached by a security person who told me that photography was prohibited. I found this odd, but decided not to start a scene.

We rode the subway to Piraeus, the local harbor. We exited just after sunset next to the big ferry terminal. These provided a wonderful background for the sky.

We continued to a small, but famous, restaurant few blocks from the harbor where we met other participants from the meeting to have dinner. I thought this was going to be a traditional place, but it turned out to be a fancy tasting dinner of about 10 courses. It was very very good and enjoyable.