Saturday, November 21, 2015

Cinque Terre

I discovered Italy's Cinque Terre a couple of years through the peripatetic Elia Locardi, a photographer who, along with his wife (who is, oddly, unnamed on his website), have no home and just travel. Seemingly non-stop. The minute I saw his pictures of the coastal villages of Cinque Terre with the multi-colored homes perched on rugged rocks above the sea, I decided that my wife, Gloria, and I would go there as soon as possible. We did. Last month. We got lucky with the weather. It rained a bit but that left stormy, broken clouds the rest of the time. I always insist on bringing a tripod on my travels and, boy, did that work out for these pictures. Many of them were long exposures impossible to do handheld. And a portion of those were a minute or two long, enabled by a 10-stop neutral density filter. Other challenges were the extremes in light which I tamed to a degree with bracketed exposures that I blended in Photoshop. And lastly, another reason for the tripod, I took many panoramas -- six or seven shots stitched together so I wouldn't have to use a wide angle lens and get the distortions that come with it.

Here is my first shot at Cinque Terre. I suspect I'll go back for more.

Gloria and me canoodling on the rocks at Riomaggiore.

Riomaggiore waterfront at sunset.

People watching the sunset, Riomaggiore.

God rays from the Riomaggiore breakwater.

The Riomaggiore breakwater at sunset.

Crashing waves, Riomaggiore.

Riomaggiore at sunset.
Angel, Riomaggiore.

Hanging laundry, Riomaggiore.

Gelateria, Riomaggiore.

Riomaggiore train station.

Icon outside a church, Monterosso.

Fisherman, Monterosso.
Back street, Vernazza.

Gloria exploring Vernazza.

Man with mattress, Vernazza.

Tourists queuing up for the train, Vernazza.

Manarola at sunset.

Manarola at sunset.

Manarola train station, 8:30 p.m.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Strolling Through the Vatican

A trip to Rome means going to the Vatican. I believe it's required by law. Or, at least, the law of tourism. If nothing else, you will get to experience the sort of opulence that will make your eyes bleed. And you will see enough religion-themed artwork to last the rest of your life. The Vatican is also probably the most crowded place in Rome, so get there early. Better yet, arrange for a "private" tour which begins an hour before the doors open for the general public (we used Walks of Italy). You'll have the unique pleasure of seeing the Vatican Museum hallways relatively empty. No jostling until St. Peter's Basilica which has opened by the time you get there.

So here's what I got from my morning in the Vatican.

Walks of Italy tour guide outside the Museum entrance.

A sight rarely seen—the halls of the Vatican Museum nearly empty.

I liked the kinetic feeling of this complex statue. They looked like they were about walk off the pedestal.

Amazingly, this guy found a phone call more important than perusing the statues.

Our tour guide watched over by statues.


Museum worker

A Vatican inner passageway. I liked the windows.

Have no idea where this corridor led, but it looked spooky.

Okay, admit it. When's the last time you saw a picture of the Vatican parking lot?

Inside St. Peter's Basilica.

Here's something you don't see everyday. This bride was getting ready to be married in St. Peter's Basilica.

Monday, November 16, 2015

22 Ways to See Rome

At the risk of sounding like I'm setting up diminished expectations, I will not pretend that with a mere 60 hours in Rome (a good deal of that sleeping off jet lag), I could do much to portray this incredible city with much more than a superficial whiff of pixels. So, the following photos merely represent my first impressions of this place in Italy that I more or less saw. As for the tourist spots, yeah, I have pictures of them, but the only one that stuck with me was the Colosseum. After all, I remember seeing black and white and Kodachrome pictures of it as a kid and imagining just how ancient the place must be. It was one of the few things I saw growing up that stuck to me like a birthmark. It only took a few decades to finally get there, the soft Kodachrome shades of unreality turned into real stone (after years of refurbishing, the limestone was no doubt cleaner than in those old shots). Unlike some things, however, I didn't take it as a challenge to photograph the Colosseum unlike any of the millions before me. I was happy just to get a personal take on it, the best one being with my lovely wife, Gloria, leaning against a lamp post, our faces lit from a bus's headlights down the street.

As for the other pictures, most of them are impulse shots grabbed as we walked from one place to another. Perhaps the best kind. The kinds of scenes that just grab your eyeballs for a moment and whisper to be recorded. Some of them I first walked past and then turned around, knowing that if I didn't get a picture, I would wake up at 9 a.m. Los Angeles time feeling like I let myself down. That's how I know I must pause to get a photograph.

My wife, Gloria, and me on a rainy night at the Colosseum.
Pizzeria on via Cavour.
Padlocks on railing, Via San Francesca di Paolo.

Via San Francesca di Paolo.
Colosseum in the rain.

Dinner in bed. Actually, leftovers from lunch.

Vespa rentals parked at night in front of our hotel.
Woman in red.

Mask shop, Via delle Quattro Fontane

These three women fascinated me. Such a contrast between them. I stepped out into the street to get this shot after almost dismissing it as something I couldn't get before they saw me. I don't think they ever did.
Lonely vendor in front of Castel Sant Angelo


Palatino, one of the most ancient places in Rome.


Ancient city ruins.
Photographing a statue of Romulus and Remus eating breakfast.

It appeared to me that the primary form of transportation in Rome was the motorcycle, driven very fast.

Sometimes it pays to have a really, really small car.

The Colosseum on our last night.