A view of my world in Central Illinois and places we go.

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Black and White Panoramic Landscapes

It has been quite a long time since I last posted here. It is not that I have had nothing to write about; just being lazy I guess. Anyway, I’ve been working on a few images and before I print them, I thought I would publish them here. The following called Illinois Sky. It hangs on the wall above one of our kitchen windows just a few feet from a print we bought in Alberquerque at Photogenesis Gallery inside the LaFonda Hotel (a wonderful and truly historic place in itself). Before I get too far off the subject, Photogenesis owns several images by several famous French photographers: Willy Ronis, Robert Doisneau, and last but not least Henri Cartier Bresson (the “master of the moment”).  Even if you don’t purchase, it is a privilege to look at their work close-up and not in a museum behind a security rope. The photo we purchased is by a remarkable photographer by the name of Nicholas Trofimuk entitled Summer Cloud Festival – NM featuring a rolling New Mexico landscape beneath a cacaphony of cumulus clouds. My kind of sky! Just like I tried to capture in this:

Illinois Sky BW Panorama-1

Staying with this format (black and white and what I will call panoramic), here is a scene from Scotland. It was our first evening at Inverewe Gardens and this is a shot looking southwestward from our cottage at the Gardens to Poolewe and the mountains beyond.Poolewe Sunset

Now let’s return to familiar territory (the rural flatlands of central Illinois – corn country, that is).

Corn rows and barn in b&w

Barbed wire and barn in b&w

Barn and meadow in b&w

 

A couple of these may yet end up on our kitchen wall as companions to the first. What do you think? Any favorites?


A Return to Capri

I should qualify the title of this post. Until a couple of summers ago (2012), I had never been to Capri before. And I have not been back since. But, in an attempt to shake off some of these Midwest winter blues, I thought I would post some images from that trip and at least remind me of warmer days. I will credit Ron Scubadiver for his re-post of the same theme to get me thinking about this.

A group of ten friends took this trip to Italy. After a couple of days in Rome, we spent a week in Sorrento with day trips to Pompeii, Herculaneum, Positano, and Capri. Now, for those who have not been there, Capri is an island and a town on the island. A smaller town, located higher up on the island, is called Ana Capri (which appropriately and literally means “above Capri”). Ana Capri sports a ski lift which you can take to the very tip-top of the island – a little visitor center up there sells food and drink items and, luckily, has a bathroom. Here is a map, made from painted tiles, that I saw on the outside of a restaurant/pizzeria:

IMG_5066 copy

 

We chartered a small boat, just large enough for the ten of us, and spent the day circumnavigating the island, then stopping in the Marina Grande below Capri (the town). By chance, we hooked up with a taxi driver/island guide that took us on a little tour of the island (he grew up there) and dropped us off in Ana Capri, waited for us to return from the ski lift, then took us back to the Marina. He knew what he was doing as we tipped him well, but you know, it was a memorable experience and we enjoyed seeing the island with him. It was a wonderful day and certainly one of the highlights of our trip. The island is beautiful and the views from above Ana Capri are once-in-a-lifetime (although I hope we can actually return in this lifetime!).


“Old” Italy

A few of you who have been following this blog may have seen my black and white landscapes from Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument (near Santa Fe). I was good-heartedly cajoled that I was channeling Ansel Adams and perhaps I was. There is something about black and white that causes the focus on form and texture and light, rather than getting “distracted” by color. Not that color is a bad thing and I most often am looking for color. But this latest episode with the raw landscapes of New Mexico got me to playing with some editing software that is a plug-in to Photoshop and Photoshop Elements called BW Effects (by Topaz).

And, in particular, I was intrigued by its ability to create sepia-toned images that, with an appropriately selected border, makes the image look like an old photo. Further, I thought this technique might look really cool with images from Italy, from our visit to Rome, Pompeii and Paestum in 2012. The subjects are obviously quite old, not as old as the rocks of New Mexico, but as man-made features of perhaps 2000 years in age (!), they lend themselves well to this technique – remember to click on an image and then scroll left or right through the images and Esc to come back to here. Have a look and tell me what you think!


Around Santa Fe (Part V)

Bandelier National Monument

Less than an hour’s drive from Santa Fe, and on the way toward Los Alamos, sits Bandelier National Monument. Home to native Americans long before our Constitution was signed (like 700 years before), the valley and soft tufa cliffs provided shelter, water, and food.  While we did not have time to explore the park thoroughly, we did take a quick walk along the Main Loop Trail to see the remains of ancient kiva and cliff dwellings. And, our native American bus driver into and out of the park provided much insight to the park and native American culture, especially regarding the upcoming Day of the Dead (November 1) and Christmas – Spanish missionaries converted many native Americans in this region a long time ago and there is an interesting blend of ancient culture with Christianity. I highly recommend going – and the drive there is glorious, too!

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Ancient kiva beneath a glowing cottonwood

Bandelier Panorama

Bandelier Panorama


Around Santa Fe (Part IV)

The High Road to Taos

If you’re going to drive from Santa Fe to Taos (or vice versa) and you have the time and the weather is good, take the high road. It may take a bit longer, but the scenery and bits of history that you pass along the way are worth every turn of the wheel. Rather than following the Rio Grande valley, the high road takes you up through mountain forests (Carson National Forest), past several very old and historic churches (Santuario de Chimayo and Las Trampas), and numerous little towns and artist colonies. Seems like no matter where you turn, you run into a studio or workshop – and a lot of re-purposed “junk” transformed into “art”. So enjoy the ride and turn off the road when you can!

From the car at 45 mph

From the car at 45 mph


Entries to CCCC Contest

After some frustration with the News-Gazette annual photo contest and with the intent to really work on improving my photography, I decided to join the Champaign County Camera Club (CCCC). Nice group of folks that I am just getting to know and, of course, we all have an interest in photography. By joining the CCCC I am no longer eligible to enter the N-G contest. No problem. There are many other contests out there and, honestly, it is less about the contests and more about gaining a critical eye and seeing lots of other images. Further, the CCCC has plenty of contests throughout the year and these provide an avenue to see how I compare AND to see if I am improving.

And so, the CCCC has an annual photo challenge with our neighboring camera club in Bloomington called the I-74 Challenge (Interstate 74 running between our two fair cities). This year’s Challenge theme is “monochrome” which for all intents and purposes is black and white (sepia and infrared would also qualify, I believe). Each member can submit up to 6 photos, from which the top 50 will be chosen for entry into the Challenge against Bloomington (also, at least one image from each participant will be selected). Judging to pick the 50 occurs on Monday night with the contest on Friday (May 10, my birthday!).

Another “rule” to the Challenge is that the photo must have been taken since the date of the previous Challenge (May 6, 2012). Unfortunately, a black and white photo I entered into an internal CCCC contest that took Honorable Mention is not eligible because it was taken on May 3, just a few days before the qualification date.

This is that image:The Barn On The Hill

Following are the six images I am entering. It will be interesting to see which one (or ones?) make it into the Challenge. There are some really good photographers in the Club with a great variety of subject preferences, although I’m guessing, like me, landscapes tend to be a favorite.

Vatican Door

Vatican Door (taken during our trip to Italy last summer)Natural Textures

Natural Textures (liked the variety here from the beans, to the corn, to the trees, to the clouds)

Illinois Sky

Illinois Sky (taken late last summer, near Mahomet)Harvest Light

Harvest Light (another from north of Mahomet, but later into fall/winter before any snow had fallen)

Pacific Coast Sunset

Pacific Coast Sunset (from last fall while in California, south of Long Beach while we waited for a table for dinner)Waiting for SunsetWaiting for Sunset (from last summer in Michigan – in this case the North Pier and Lighthouse in Ludington)


2013 News-Gazette Photo Contest Possibilities

Some of you local Champaign-ites have probably seen in the paper their announcement for the upcoming 2013 Photo Contest. Not sure, but I think I’ve entered photos the last 4 years and have not won anything significant…a couple of honorable mentions for photos from Paris a few years ago. So, once again this year I am “excited” to enter with the idea of seeing if my photography has improved, not just by myself but by a panel of judges.

I estimate I have taken 10,000 images in 2012 – spending two weeks in Italy, two weeks on the beach in Michigan, and long weekends in DC and Long Beach make for wonderful photo-ops and LOTS of photos. To pick three images out of 10,000 is quite a task, although most of these are quite honestly not contest-quality photos. But, after whittling the number down to 50-60 images, the trick becomes selecting the images that best fit the contest categories:

  • Animals
  • Architecture
  • Black and White
  • General
  • Manipulated
  • Nature
  • People
  • Youth Division (ummm…I am ineligible for this one!)

AND that I feel will catch the eye of the judges. That is a real trick – judging is a very subjective process and there’s no telling what the judges are going to like. Well, that’s not necessarily true…there are some common aspects that good, quality photos should have and I hope that I have a good feeling for what those things are. Things like focus and composition are important. But, even more importantly, the image has to convey something…a feeling, a sense of place, all those intangibles that come into play when a person looks at an image. If I’ve learned one things, it is that the image has to speak to the person looking at the image, and not just personally to me (by this I mean, I have a lot of photos that mean something to me and perhaps my family and friends, but have little connection to anyone else).

One other thing. Format. The contest rules call for images no larger than 11×14 inches. My feeling is, the larger the better and there should be no problem with enlarging images from my camera. However, the problem comes in that my camera takes images in a 2:3 ratio, so that to keep the same ratio, an image 14 inches wide is only 9.66 inches high. Or, if I want an image 11 inches high, then I need to cut off 2.5 inches in length to keep the maximum dimension at 14 inches (i.e., normally, for a 2×3 ratio image 11″ high, it’s height would be 16.5 inches). In some cases, this is not a problem, but in many cases, I hate to crop those inches and am forced, therefore, to submit an image that is smaller than the maximum allowed. [Not to get off-track, but it also bothers me that standard photo prints are NOT in that 2:3 ratio. After 4×6 inch photos, which is in the 2:3 format, you go to 5×7 inches and 8×10 inches which are obviously not in the 2:3 format. For portraits, that may be OK, but for landscapes, not.]

To further complicate things, this year I have a number of photos in a panoramic format, meaning they are much longer than high, perhaps 2:1 or 3:1. Sometimes, the final image is stitched together from several separate images taken by panning the camera while allowing some overlap in each image (remember doing this in the old days by cutting and taping images together?).Nowadays, digital technology allows this to be done on the computer and the software also does an excellent job of blending the separate images together. Other times, I crop the image to eliminate foreground or background (such as a boring sky) to draw focus on a certain portion of the photo.

So, here are a bunch, probably way too many. Honestly, it was fun looking back through all of these and reminiscing on the year via photos. Some of you reading this were there when I captured some of these images; many I captured with no one around. Which ones do you like best?

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And, here are a few more pano format images:

Albergo Lorelei 14x

Albergo Lorelei

Rural_Panorama1

IMG_0445 b&w_14x

Prairie Solitude


Ever heard of Paestum?

I’ve done some traveling, but would not necessarily consider myself a “world” traveler. Like, I’ve never been to Africa or Asia or the Middle East, or even to Hawaii or South America. I consider myself relatively informed when it comes to Europe, but again, I’m no expert on antiquity or the ancient ruins of Rome and Greece (haven’t been to Greece either). So, it should not be surprising that I had never heard of Paestum until we agreed to go on a trip with friends to Italy. I plead supreme ignorance…Paestum is quite a famous place and was considered a stop on Europe’s Grand Tour (Who knew? I didn’t!).

Once Paestum became a definite part of our trip itinerary, I familiarized myself (somewhat) with what to expect. I did this mostly by viewing aerial imagery on Google Earth as well as photos that are viewable on Google Earth posted by folks that have been to Paestum and uploaded images on Panoramio. (Not to get sidetracked, but Google Earth is an amazing bit of software and is relatively easy to use for zooming around the world and viewing places you’ve been or only dreamt of visiting. Download the free software right now!) And, one of our fellow travelers did have a photo book with some great pictures. But nothing could prepare me, or anyone, for actually being there.

Have you ever heard of Paestum?

The Temples of Neptune (l) and Hera (r)

Simply put, Paestum is the site of three of the most well-preserved ancient Greek temples in the world. We’re talking really ancient. Like 450-550 BC. Surely, the oldest man-made structures I have ever seen (easily older than the buildings in the Roman Forum). These temples are believed to outdate the Parthenon and, in fact, may have served as architectural models for the Parthenon.

The Temple of Ceres

To view these incredible pieces of architecture in what I consider an idyllic setting — parklike and not crowded — was a memorable experience. We visited twice, first on the afternoon of our day of arrival and then again the next day. Both days had admirable weather, not too hot as is likely later in the summer, but the second day was much brighter with great blue skies.

The Temple of Hera

The Temple of Neptune (l) and the Temple of Hera (r, 550 BC)

What is just as breathtaking, only in an altogether different manner, are the artifacts removed from the site and contained in the park’s adjoining National Museum. Inside are incredibly masterful sculptures, pottery, and frescoes. The most famous of the frescoes is from the wall of a tomb. Called the Tomb Diver, or Tomb of the Diver, the frescoe depicts a solitary man diving from what is known (represented by columns) into the unknown (represented by the sea). It is an incredible piece of artistry and gives insight into the beliefs of this ancient civilization.

Paestum’s iconic Tomb Diver frescoe

This next photo shows how a tomb looks with painted walls and ceiling.

View of the construction of a tomb with its frescoed interior

Here is a krater, or vase, portraying the rape of Europa, in a masterpiece of black figure pottery.

Vase portraying “the rape of Europa”

And, here is a figure from the Temple of Hera. I believe this is a carving of Hercules accomplishing some feat of strength or heroism.

Metope of Hercules from the Temple of Hera

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Trajan’s Column and Nearby Rome

After spending the morning, first at Santa Maria della Vittoria and the Forum (more about these on future blogs!), we found ourselves a bit spent, thirsty, and hungry. Walking around in the Forum on a warm day can take its toll even on those in the best shape, so we were in need of respite. Our original plan included mounting the Capitoline Hill for a view over the Forum, a visit in the Musei Capitolini which are reported to contain eating accommodations. However, it became quickly apparent that a walk up the Hill and/or finding a taxi to get our elder friend Harry up there was more than we were prepared for at that moment. As we worked our way along the Via dei Fori Imperiali toward the Vittorio Emanuele Monument, looking for a taxi stand, I spotted a sign way across the Via for a “ristorante.” The awning looked inviting and we made our way. After we crossed the Via, I suddenly realized we were virtually in the shadow of Trajan’s Column.

Trajan’s Column flanked by S. Maria di Loreto (l) and SS. Nome di Maria (r)

That’s one thing about Rome, you are always bumping into antiquity. One moment we are gazing at the Roman Forum and the next we are looking down into what I now know are the Imperial Forums (Caesar’s, Augustus’ and Nerva’s). These were built to replace and/or enlarge the existing Forum and created a vast public complex. These forums were subsequently abandoned and buried, only to be discovered when Mussolini ordered construction of the grand Via dei Fori Imperiali.

The 130-foot Trajan’s Column, topped by a statue of St. Peter

I could not say lunch was exceptional, but it was justifiably acceptable, especially accompanied by a large draft of Peroni (and a bathroom!). But, the view from our table under under an open-air awning across to what I believe to be the remains of Trajan’s Markets and the Basilica Ulpia was.

The view from our lunch table

We left refreshed and with enough energy to scale the Capitoline Hill for a view of the Forum. Along the way we passed closer to the Column, and turned to face the grand Monument del Vittorio Emanuel II (sometimes derogatorily called the “typewriter”  and the “wedding cake”).

Detail of the bas-reliefs on Trajan’s Column

The reliefs on the column document Emperor Trajan’s victories over the Dacians (107 AD). Unfolded, the “scroll” is 656 feet long. A spiral staircase ascends within and is lit by 45 “loopholes”, a couple of which can be seen in the photo above.

The Column from the Via dei Fori Imperiali

Trajan’s Column with the S. Maria di Loreto and SS. Nome di Maria on a beautiful Roman afternoon

The Victor Emmanuel II Monument, in honor of Italy’s first king

Ascending a relatively steep street on the left of the Victor Emmanuel II Monument, we arrived at the top of the Capitoline Hill. As much as I wanted to enter the museums up there, I was not willing to take the time and to pay the entrance fee. So, I satisfied myself with a glorious view of the Forum spread out below us. Click on these photos to enlarge and click again to get superb detail.

Panoramic view as we ascend the Capitoline Hill

The Roman Forum from Capitoline Hill (with the Colosseum in the far background)

All photos shot with a Canon 7D with a 24-70mm f/2.8 L lens. Also a circular polarizing filter – gotta love those blue skies!


Rome, Evening Views along the Tiber River

I’ve recently returned from two weeks in Italy with my wife and eight friends. I’ve been going through over 2,000 images and trying to decide how best to present them in some coherent fashion. Not ALL of them, of course…

As I have done in the past, I am in the process of preparing a digital photo album. And, something new, now that I have a Facebook page, I have posted numerous photos there. But neither of these is generally available to the public, at least in the same way that a blog is, or at least, should be. So, I want to post several, many, a few, quite a few, not sure how many, images here in this and subsequent postings. I have seen many many bloggers post a photo or image of the day. I like the concept and if I were still on the trip, I might consider doing several postings in this way. But, that would take me a lonnng time to post numerous images now. I’m kind of new to this whole blogging thing and honestly have not acquired the blog-publishing acumen to present as slick a photo page as many photographers out there. Nevertheless, here goes. I’ll start with something new to me, a photo gallery. Click on a photo to enlarge it and then you can also click on forward and backward arrows to browse through the gallery. If this is successful, I expect I will post several more galleries of specific locations (e.g., Pompei, Paestum, Campo dei Fiori, Roman Forum, Capri, etc.).

What you will see here is a collection of photos taken one evening as Kathy and I walked along the Tiber River near our hotel, the Hotel Ponte Sisto (a great place by the way). The sun was setting and casting a nice light on the river. Great reflections of bridges in the water. And then, as the evening progressed, this wonderful cobalt blue sky with a full moon rising behind Bernini’s angelic statues on the Ponte Sant’Angelo. Behind us, down a long via, the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica dominates the skyline.

Ponte Sant’Angelo was built in the 2nd century to create an impressive approach to Hadrian’s mausoleum, now the Castel Sant’Angelo. Equally, if not more impressive, is to look westward after crossing Ponte Sant’Angelo to look up the Via della Conciliazione to see the imposing dome and columns of St. Peter’s. On the Ponte Sant’Angelo are 10 angels carved out of white marble (circa 1669). The angels were made by students of Bernini based on his drawings. Each angel represents an instrument of the martyrdom of Christ.

It was a beautiful, magical night. We returned to our hotel with weary feet and collapsed into bed, looking forward to our last day in Rome before returning home.