Moniak Fortress Starscape

Moniak Fortress Starscape
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Moniak Fortress Starscape 2011-5-28 Nightscapes
Title Exposure date Category
3 hours of star trails above the ruins of Moniak Fortress in Eastern Rhodope Mountain, Bulgaria. Shot on Provia 100F color reversal film with Mamiya RB67 medium format camera. The night was moonless so the foreground has been lit by artificial light. The right-hand side of the ruins are lit by the lights of Kurdjali, a large town located a few kilometers away. The rest of the ruins are light painted by me with my head-lamp balanced with a warming filter. The gaps in the star trails are caused by dew which built up near the end of the exposure but fortunately there weren’t any other serious damages. As usual, my post-processing was limited to making the scan as close to the slide as possible.

Definitely one of my preferred locations for photographic work, the plateau of Moniak fortress had inspired me for other works of mine too: Moniak Sunset - a landscape on medium format film and Moniak Fortress - a solargraph exposed for more than 5 months!

Before I let History in the room, I want to shed some light on the concept behind my works. Many believe Nature Photography is not concept-driven and they may be right in many cases but they will hit on solid rock here. I always strive not to just show the character of a place but rather dress it up with my emotions resulting from an impression, an expression or both. And Night provides me with the tools to build my way from A to B.
The existence of the Moniak fortress is first mentioned during the the Third Crusade (1189-1192) when the knights capture the fortress from the Byzantines. It is one of the highest fortresses in Rhodope Mountain and stretches over an area of ​​50 acres. Moniak Fortress has been the first place to receive reliable information about the death of Emperor Baldwin I of Constantinople and here the council that elected Henry of Flanders as Emperor of Latin Empire is held. The fortress has been known through the ages for being impossible to capture if guarded correctly and for its strategic location. Great armies has been stopped by those strong walls but in 1343 a Turkish horde captures the fortress destroying it and enslaving all of its inhabitants. Centuries later, archaeologists will find the skeletons of the faithful defenders near the front gate, as death caught them.

Back to the image, the front gate would be right behind the ruins in the left-hand side. Knowing the history of the place, my idea was to capture the dark but glorious past and I’m pretty pleased with the final result. But as always, yours is the final word!