Plovdiv, the ‘second city’ of Bulgaria, was the European City of Culture for 2019 and has historical importance as the oldest continually inhabited city in Europe. It embraces its obvious Roman and Greek influences while at the same time breaking free of its recent communist period cocoon. I travelled to this great city for a press trip organised by the Plovdiv tourism board and decided to travel with minimum kit taking with me only three lenses; the SIGMA 24mm F1.4 DG HSM | Art , the SIGMA 50mm F1.4 DG HSM | Art and the SIGMA 135mm F1.8 DG HSM | Art
My first shooting location on the trip was the Amphitheatre which was bursting with activity with masses of people gathering for an evening dance show. It is set against a beautiful view overlooking the city on top of one of the seven famous hills that make up the core of Plovdiv. As I looked down from stands sitting high up in the theatre, I felt like an emperor watching an elegant gladiator match as soloists, pairs and groups do battle for your affection with their strained, precise, muscular elegance. Being there I felt positively on top of the world as the city’s lights glimmer in the background of this first century home of theatre.
The SIGMA 135mm | Art came into its own here, offering enough light and subject separation to freeze and separate the dancers from the sometimes-busy backgrounds. I also used the SIGMA 24mm | Art and SIGMA 50mm | Art during the performance to photograph the audience and location. I found using these three lenses together really complimented each other brilliantly. It was a really nice set of focal lengths to work with and if the camera I was using had IBIS this would have been an even more flexible combination.
The trip also included exploring the city which at the height of summer offered up a variety of photographic opportunities. Everything from religious sites and monuments, to new hangouts and artwork spread across the city centre. All photography subjects were covered!
Plovdiv offers several opportunities to highlight the many culinary delights including an exploration of the nearby vineyards which provided a delicious taster of modern Bulgaria. Visiting the various locations gave me the desire to want to return and explore more!
The SIGMA | Art prime lenses offered fantastic flexibility to photograph these highlights. Using the shallow depth of field, I was able to isolate my subjects in the frame to keep the viewers focused on exactly what I wanted. Whether it be a chef’s smile to the first drops of red wine entering a glass.
For my final morning in Plovdiv I got up early to watch the sunrise over the city. Watching the sky steadily illuminate as the city lights scattered across the valley and hillsides lost their dominance on the scene. A young couple enjoyed watching the rising sun, quietly taking in this peaceful moment. As well as the subject isolation, the low light capabilities of these lenses meant that I could photograph handheld a good fifteen minutes before I could reliably have done so with an F2.8 zoom.
Having these lenses with me on this trip made me appreciate the following details about each lens;
The SIGMA 135mm F1.8 DG HSM | Art provided a telephoto, shallow view. Offering a beautiful compressed look, especially helpful for portraits, details and telephoto landscapes.
My trusty SIGMA 50mm F1.4 DG HSM | Art was the most regularly used lens, offering up a standard angle of view while providing fantastic sharpness and compositional creativity. This is why I enjoy working with prime lenses so much as it makes me consciously think more about my composition as I have to move in order to change my framing. I find I am far more creative with primes than I am with zoom lenses.
Having the SIGMA 24mm F1.4 DG HSM | Art with me meant that I could give my subject room to breathe, while keeping the focus shallow but also giving a sense of the surroundings in the image, or alternatively giving me a wide enough view to photograph some large scenes.
An illuminating trip, leaving me spellbound and intrigued by Bulgaria, the SIGMA | Art prime lenses offered a fantastic, high quality, creative set which helped me create a nice set of images to do this press trip justice, and scratch the surface of Plovdiv.