The North Loop takes you into The Stara Planina or “Old Mountains”. This is a massive Balkan mountain range which stretches east to west across Bulgaria. The range is a landscape photographer’s dream o ering crashing waterfalls, exquisite caves and jaw-dropping panoramas.
|DEPARTURE/RETURN LOCATION||Sofia, Bulgaria|
|DEPARTURE TIME||12 June, 2017|
|RETURN TIME||25 June, 2017|
Day 1: June 12th - Sofia
Book your flight to arrive before 2pm today if you can. We want to kick this tour off right away with a rigorous editing session to get you ready for what is ahead.
You will be greeted at Sofia’s International Airport and will soon be comfortably tucked into your hotel in the heart of Sofia. Following our afternoon editing session, there will be time for an early evening photo-tour of a few of Sofia’s most picturesque and well-known churches and cathedrals… only walking distance from your hotel.
Then, a delicious and entertaining dinner at a nearby traditional Bulgarian restaurant.
- Editing workshop
- City photo-tour
Day 2: June 12th - Vratsa
Following breakfast at the hotel you will depart for a scenic trail of waterfalls at Bov, just north of Sofia. After a picnic lunch you will board a train for a spectacular hour long ride through the Iskar gorge to Mezdra. From here it is a quick hop by bus to Vratsa which will be your stop for the evening. Catch some rest and some dinner, because this evening you will transfer by 4×4 up into the breathtaking peaks at Kobilini Steni. If the weather cooperates and the skies are clear, we will take advantage of the moonless night to shoot some night skies as well…Are you tired yet?
- Scenic train ride
- Mountain vista
- Night photography
Day 3: June 14th - Vratsa
Today the pace slows a little. You will spend the morning at Ledenika cave for some low light photography. After lunch and some free time you will attend an intensive 3 hour editing workshop. After dinner you will head out the The God’s Bridge rock formations for a sunset shoot. Then early to bed because tomorrow is going to be early.
- God’s Bridge Rocks
Day 4: June 15th - Belogradchik
Very early morning this morning. You are back in the 4×4 before the sunrise to get to the Kobilini Steni Peaks again, but this time with the sun coming from the east. On your sunset shoot previously, you will have had an opportunity to scout out where you want to shoot from this morning and to plan ahead for this morning’s shoot in this stunningly beautiful location. This afternoon you will have another editing session at your new hotel in Belogradchik before heading out at sunset to capture the unique Belogradchik fortress built into incredible rock formations.
- Mountain sunrise
- Belogradchik Fortress
Day 5: June 16th - Belogradchik
Your hotel is situated in the heart of the incredible Belogradchik rocks, so there is the option to join an early sunrise shoot in the rocks this morning and still return for some rest before your morning editing workshop later in the morning. Today you will spend your editing efforts putting final touches on the images you will be presenting at your first critique this afternoon. Then after dinner it is back out to the rocks for another sunset shoot.
- First Critique
- Belogradchik Sunset
Day 6: June 17th - Troyan Monastery
This morning we are praying for great weather because, if the weather is cooperative, this morning you are going to be photographing the rocks and the rising sun from a hot air balloon. (We have built this opportunity into the schedule in a couple of places, so don’t worry if the balloon doesn’t work out here…we will have other opportunities). After the shoot, it is a long transfer to God’s Eyes Caves for another photo shoot and then on to Troyan Monastery where you will spend the night. Steve, our photo-journalist from Canada, will take the lead at Troyan Monastery providing you with a unique opportunity to explore the demands of photojournalism in this fascinating setting.
- Hot air balloon
- God’s Eyes Caves
- Photo journalism at Troyan Monastery
Day 7: June 18th - Beklemeto Pass
Your morning today will be spent photo-documenting the activity at Troyan Monastery through Sunday service. This afternoon we transfer to nearby Beklemeto pass and this evening capture the sunset at the top of the pass at the Monument of Freedom. We will stay here a little later and see what the night sky has in store as well before the moon rises.
- Troyan Monastery
- Monument to Freedom
- Night Photography
Day 8: June 19th - Veliko Tarnovo
This morning you will be visiting the enchanting Krushuna Falls. The exquisite emerald pools and dancing waters that comprise this trail are truly magical. Then, from here, it is the equally fascinating Devetashka Caves–again a place you really have to see to believe. Finally, you will finish the day at Veliko Tarnovo, cultural capital of Bulgaria.
- Krushuna Waterfalls
- Devetashka Caves
Day 9: June 20th - Veliko Tarnovo
Today you will depart early for the ruined remains of the ancient Roman city of Nicopolis ad Istrum. Still in its infancy of being unearthed, this fascinating ruin is an active archeological dig. There will be photojournalistic opportunities, macro shots and more. You will want a selection of lenses with you today. From here you will visit Hotnitsa Falls for a picnic lunch and another photoshoot along its charming eco trail. On your return to Veliko Tarnovo, there will be time for a little rest before another editing session.
- Nicopolis ad istrum
- Hotnitsa Waterfalls
Day 10: June 21st - Shipka
This morning will begin with another 3 hour intensive editing workshop before your departure. We will make a short stop at the Monument of Freedom at the peak of Shipka pass before descending down to the village of Shipka. After an early dinner you will depart for a sunset shoot at the Thracian Buzovgrad Megalith made more special by the fact that today is the summer solstice a very significant time of year for viewing the sun for the Thracians.
- Intensive editing workshop
- Solstice sunset at Thracian Buzovgrad Megalith
Day 11: June 22nd - Zhrebchevo Reservoir Camp
This morning you will get up early to position yourself to capture the stunning Shipka Memorial Church at sunrise. You will then have some time to yourself to prepare for your second critique of the tour after lunch. We will leave in the late afternoon for the extraordinary submerged church of St. Iva Rilski at Zhrebchevo Dam. Tonight you will camp alongside the waters of the dam, which will allow you full access to sunset, nighttime and sunrise photographic opportunities at this remarkable place. What we lack in creature comforts here, we make up with unique photo opportunities.
- Shipka Memorial Church
- Monument to Freedom
- St Ivan Rilski sunken church
Day 12: June 23rd - Kalofer
We will depart after our sunrise shoot of the church and then enjoy breakfast when we arrive in the village of Kalofer. The morning shoot will be in the outlying areas of the Balkan mountains surrounding Kalofer capturing shepherds with their goat herds, donkeys pulling carts and other typical scenes of the rural Balkan lifestyle. There will be an editing session in the afternoon and then after dinner you will depart for your sunset photoshoot of the blooming lavender fields nearby.
- St Ivan Rilski sunken church
- Rural lifestyle photoshoot
- Lavender fields at sunset
Day 13: June 24th - Rai Mountain Hut
After breakfast this morning we will head off into the more inaccessible regions of the Balkan Mountains…on horseback. Today will be a full day of breathtaking scenery that will leave you confused as to which direction to point your camera. Eventually you will arrive at Raiskoto Praskalo–the Paradise Falls–the highest falls in Bulgaria and considered one of the most beautiful places in the country as well. Your night will be spent in a mountain hut in the heart of these spectacular mountains. We have a moonless night up here too, so if the weather cooperates there could be an opportunity for some exciting night photography as well.
- Mountain horse trek
- Mountain landscapes
- More mountains
- And more mountains!
Day 14: June 25th - Sofia
The morning will obviously begin with a sunrise mountain shoot and then we will leave the mountains behind us. We will transfer by bus to the picturesque village of Koprivshtitsa and spend our morning here capturing its pretty cobbled streets, stone-roofed houses and quaint wooden bridges. After lunch we depart for Sofia where you will have a couple of free hours to put finishing touches on your images for this evening’s final presentation and critique. The night…and the tour… concludes with our last delicious dinner together.
- Koprivshtitsa–picturesque town and archeological reserve
- Final presentation
WHAT TO BRING
The following gear is essential:
- Good solid camera bag (preferably as backpack)
- Digital SLR camera
- Extra memory cards
- Camera battery charger and international adaptor (all sockets are European 2-pin 120volts)
- Laptop with photoshop or lightroom—we will teach these programs if you haven’t used them before
- Lens cleaning kit including several lens cloths
- Small light weight absorbent towel for drying camera in wet conditions
- Wide angle lens preferably with zoom and/or additional lenses
- USB flashdrive for passing in images to instructors
- Variety of additional lens (35-70, 70-200, 18-24/50’s)
- Flash, preferably off camera (Spare AA batteries if needed)
- Back-up storage device/solid state hard drive for image back-up
- Sturdy Tripod
- Cord release or remote control release
- Rain cover for camera
Temperatures are cool lows of 5-7℃ (40-45℉) and highs of 12-16℃ (55-60℉). Please bring appropriate clothing.
- Good pair of comfortable walking shoes with ankle support water resistant if possible (already broken in)
- Good quality warm socks for walking shoes
- Sufficient undergarments for the length of your tour
- Warm underlayer tops and bottoms–quick dry, non-cotton, breathable
- Breathable, light-weight, quick-dry long-sleeve shirts
- Breathable, light-weight, warm long trousers (eg. fleece or lined)
- Fleece or light-weight jacket/hoodie, perhaps down vest
- Windproof /waterproof top and bottom layer for warmth and rain
- Gloves and warm hat (fingerless gloves or thin synthetic gloves are good for handling the camera)
- Sun glasses, sun hat, sunscreen
- Spare camera
- ND and NDGrad filters and Polarizing Filters
- Sensor cleaning device/kit
- Photo vest (with pockets)
- Swim suit
- Casual clothes for around hotel
- Small basic first aid kit
- Additional snacks or treats
- Pens, pencils notepad