Moving on from Unawatuna, our next stop is the historic and beautiful town of Galle. It’s a gruelling journey of, oooh, 5kms tops. We actually took a rickshaw rather than the bus – a bit lazy perhaps but we are only talking a couple of quid here…
Galle is on the southern tip of Si Lanka (nothing south of here until Antarctica), consists of two parts (new town and Fort) and is the abode of dragons. The new town is where you’ll find the bus and train stations and all the essentials of modern life – yes, there are mobile phone shops aplenty – and the old town or Galle Fort is where you go to top up on culture.
The entirety of Galle Fort is a UNESCO World Heritage Site – it’s a living museum, much like Jaisalmer Fort in India, or Lijiang Old Town in China. There aren’t many sightseeing boxes to tick as such – it’s a place just to wander and admire the crumbling 17th century Dutch architecture. A small area with numerous cafes, art galleries and the odd dragon (I ain’t kidding – see below) it’s impossible to get lost in, as whichever direction you head sooner or later you’ll come to the walls that ring the entire fort.
Amazingly around 30% of the inhabitants of the old town are now foreigners who have bought up the above mentioned crumbling masterpieces and renovated them lovingly into smart and stylish residences. So popular amongst foreigners is this practice that there are companies specializing in the ‘acquiring of property in a tax efficient manner, obtaining building permits, project managing construction works, through to property management and the eventual sale or leasing of a completed project.’ Interested? Well they don’t come cheap currently on sale I found a 4 bedroom town house with sea view rooftop garden and swimming pool at US$900,000 or you can bag yourself a totally unrenovated 500 sq. m superb historic mansion, in need of much work, for a whopping US$772,602 (but not a dollar more, mind you!).
All this aside, one of my enduring memories of Galle will be the lizard I saw in one of the open drains running down the side of the road – he was a meter and a half long if he was a centimeter. ‘Discretion is the better part of valour’ as the saying goes, and with the memory of my friend Jo (who was bitten by the Koh Samui Dragon – which turned out to be a regular gecko in fact) fresh in my mind, I gave him a wide berth. I was pretty keen to get a snap of him though and thought of asking Rich to stick his foot into the shot to provide a sense of scale, but just as I opened my mouth to speak I turned towards him and saw the resigned look on his face. After 7 years of marriage I do sometimes wonder if he can read my mind… Anyway, a monster in a drain isn’t something you see every day and is just one of those daily crazinesses that make travelling so engaging.
I spent a few hours walking around the fort area to find the best vantage point and in the end decided on this view from the ramparts of Neptune Bastion looking back towards the old town. I wanted something that showed off the architecture but also contained some sea in the shot. The angle that the sun went down meant this was going to be a sunset picture so at around 5:45 (the sun always seems to set around 6:30 at this latitude, year round) I set up my tripod and waited for the best light.
Using a 1 stop ND grad to very slightly darken the sky, and a 3 stop ND filter to slow the shutter speed I ended up with 20 seconds at f/11 with an ISO of 50. The focal length used is 24mm, the widest setting for this lens, which has the effect of emphasizing the foreground at the expense of the town in the background but I needed a wide angle to get both sea and town into the image.
The sun set behind a thin veil of cloud, creating a rather diffuse light which I quite like. There was a little colour in the sky which I always try for – for me, the combination of green (vegetation), blue (sky) and pink (clouds) make the most pleasing images.