The Qolşärif Mosque in the city of Kazan is one of the most impressive mosques in Russia and arguably in the whole world and it is the main mosque in the Republic of Tatarstan. Situated inside the Kazan Kremlin, it was built between 1996 and 2005 in honour of the old mosque of the Khanate of Kazan, which was destroyed in October 1552 during the siege of Kazan by the Russian Tzar Ivan the Terrible. It is actually named after Qol-Şärif, the political leader and last imam of Kazan before the annexation to the Tsardom of Russia. The opening of the mosque took place on June 24th, 2005, to mark the beginning of the celebrations for the 1.000 years of Kazan.
Architecturally the mosque has 4 minarets, 58 meters tall (just over 190 feet) and a large central cupola with detailing reminiscent of the Kazan crown (visible in the Kremlin Armoury in Moscow). The total construction cost is said to be around 400 million US dollars, mainly coming from donations, among which those of Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates. Inside, the mosque can accomodate 1.500 worshippers and up to 10.000 can find a place in the surrounding plaza. The marble employed in the construction of the mosque comes from the Ural mountains.
Today the mosque serves not only as a place of worship, but it is also the seat of a museum dedicated to the history of Islam in the Volga region with frequent notable exhibitions on Islamic art. The interiors are so beautiful that they certainly deserve a separate post, also thanks to the magnificent carpets in the prayers hall, which were a gift from the Iranian government.
Photo tip! At night the mosque is magnificently illuminated by cool lights that underline the white marble and the blue cupola and minaret tops. During winter the snow covered surrounding plaza is illuminated by incandescent lightbulbs inside decorative globes, which cast a very warm light. It is, therefore, impossible to keep both the mosque and the snow relatively white with a single white balance. If you shoot raw (and you always should!) you can then set two different white balances for the different parts of your image and combine them in Photoshop or any other such software. In Lightroom you can also use a gradient to “cool down” the (color) temperature of the snow, without affecting the upper part of your image. Personally, I wanted to keep a separation in the tones between the two kind of lights, which I think helps to improve the separation between foreground and background (with the main subject) and the overall atmosphere of the picture, but without the double white balance such difference would be way too extreme and the image would look unnatural. Our eyes are so incredibly good at “auto white balancing” what we see, even in mixed light conditions, that sometimes you have to correct your images in order for them to look more natural!
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