This is Pamukkale in Turkey. Its name translates evocatively into Cotton Castle, which reminds me of the Big Rock Candy Mountain of the depression era song, though unfortunately a lot less sweet. It was Easter yesterday, and my brain is still in sweet mode. Yum.
But back to Pamukkale. It's called Cotton Castle because it's covered from top to bottom in white travertine, deposited here over thousands of years by the action of hot springs. The travertine forms naturally into cascading terraces and pools. The effect is very strange, very beautiful, and very dazzling without sunglasses.
The mineral rich waters have had the reputation since ancient times of possessing healing properties. A spa was built here sometime in the 200s BC to take advantage of these properties, and the city of Heirapolis grew up around the spa. It was a popular place for the sick and for retiring to. Today the ruins are still visible on top of Pamukkale (you can see some in the background), and are currently being excavated. In a country that possesses far more than its fair share of ruined Roman and Greek cities, it's not the most spectacular of ruins, and is easily eclipsed by the incredible travertine formations.
People still come here in their droves as tourists, and it's now a World Heritage Site. You can see the floods of tourists arriving in the disance, all barefoot to minimise damage to the travertine, and carrying their shoes in their hands. We got up very early and managed to just beat the crowds to the pools and to get relatively people-free photographs. Most of the pools are off-limits to protect them, but swimming is allowed in a few of them. The pools are actually quite shallow and slippery, so people paddle tentatively in rolled up pants more than swim. When we were here, a lot of people found it appropriate to strip down to bikinis and pose in exaggerated Zoolander poses for their photos to be taken, with complete seriousness and lack of irony. It made for great people watching!
Before and After
This is an interesting shot for this blog, because it's not really an HDR shot in the usual sense. I've combined two shots instead of the usual three, one taken at 0 exposure compensation and one at -2 underexposed. Instead of Photomatix HDR software, I then combined the two shots by hand in Photoshop. I ended up using mostly the -2 shot, but bringing in the highlights from the 0 shot to give a larger range of tones and more contrast to the final image.