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Introducing The CowCam

Uschi, scratching herself on the leg, takes a picture of her udder. Fat Lola, who is mainly interested in eating, keeps her head down, which means the photos she takes are close-ups of grass blades.

Only old Frida shows considerably more artistic talent, because she looks around while chewing her cud and takes in the mountainous Swiss landscape. Her sharp-focused shots are of meadows and Alpine peaks, clouds, valleys and wild flowers.

"Frida is our star photographer," Christoph Sigrist, 59, tells Die Welt. It was seven years ago that the Swiss farmer from the half-canton of Baselland first mounted a self-releasing digital camera in a cowbell through which he'd bored a hole.

What began as a gag grew into a successful art project. Sigrist posted the pictures his cows shot on his website cowcam.ch, and he has just published the most interesting shots in an entertaining book called Cowcam.

What do the animals find interesting? The farmer's arrival. Flowers growing beyond the meadow fence. The milking stool. And because cows are sociable, they take many pictures of one another.

Sigrist put his cowcam together himself, using a Mr. Lee Catcam from the United States. It has an individually programmable release mechanism and was originally invented for use by cats. It is the only digital camera that self-releases at intervals that can go for an entire day without a battery change.
Slightly larger than a matchbox, it can take up to 120 pictures per day, one every seven to 10 minutes. Sigrist removes the camera-bells from the animals at night.

After a couple years of equipping his own dairy cows with camera bells, Sigrist found that animals' photo subjects were becoming repetitive. "Cows are creatures of habit," he says. "They have their favorite places where they lie down every day for a snooze."

So he began sending other farmers across Switzerland camera-equipped bells. They in turn hung the bells on their favorite cows and sent the chips back to Sigrist, who found that about every tenth shot was interesting. He has since published some 20,000 cowcam photos, and plans to continue in 2015.

The only shots he can't publish are those the cows take of walkers because doing so would violate privacy rights.

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Society

Tour Of Istanbul's Ancient Yedikule Gardens, At Risk With Urban Restoration

The six-hectare gardens in the center of Istanbul, which are more than 1,500 years old, have helped feed the city's residents over the centuries and are connected with its religious history. But current city management has a restoration project that could disrupt a unique urban ecosystem.

Photo of Muslims performing Friday prayer in the garden of Suleymaniye Mosque, Istanbul.

Last March, Muslims performing Friday prayer in the garden of Suleymaniye Mosque, Istanbul.

Tolga Ildun via ZUMA Press Wire
Canan Coşkun

ISTANBUL — The historic urban gardens of Yedikule in Istanbul are at risk of destruction once again. After damage in 2013 caused by the neighborhood municipality of Fatih, the gardens are now facing further disruption and possible damage as the greater Istanbul municipality plans more "restoration" work.

The six-hectare gardens are more than 1,500 years old, dating back to the city's Byzantine era. They were first farmed by Greeks and Albanians, then people from the northern city of Kastamonu, near the Black Sea. Now, a wide variety of seasonal produce grows in the garden, including herbs, varieties of lettuce and other greens, red turnip, green onion, cabbage, cauliflower, tomato, pepper, corn, mullberry, fig and pomegranate.

Yedikule is unique among urban gardens around the world, says Cemal Kafadar, a historian and professor of Turkish Studies at Harvard University.

“There are (urban gardens) that are older than Istanbul gardens, such as those in Rome, but there is no other that has maintained continuity all this time with its techniques and specific craft," Kafadar says. "What makes Yedikule unique is that it still provides crops. You might have eaten (from these gardens) with or without knowing about it."

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