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!
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:
- Black and White
- 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?
And, here are a few more pano format images:
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?
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.
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.
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.
This next photo shows how a tomb looks with painted walls and ceiling.
Here is a krater, or vase, portraying the rape of Europa, in a masterpiece of black figure pottery.
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.