So here’s a post on the small things that add up, or, How To Remove Annoying Stuff That Buggers Up Your Photo.
On the left is the original. Nice, but not really what I wanted in this shot of the Parthenon. So what to do?
I could have taken a tripod, hidden until after nightfall, gotten the shot on a long exposure, dodged the authorities, and not gone to jail in Greece and had a crapton of explaining to do on why I was not back at work a few days later.
Or, PhotoShop. A coin-flip, really.
The steps I actually took here were:
Remove the scaffolding. This was the nastiest, and took a LOT of small-scale clone/copy work to remove. Even so, if you look closely on the left you’ll see some repeated patterns that aren’t really natural, but can escape if you don’t know what you’re looking for.
Remove the humans. They’re just clutter!
Punch up the contrast on the marble in the foreground, so the Greek lettering stand out better.
Deepen the blue in the skies. I did this by pushing the cyan tones into the blue range.
Brighten the green on the grass on the ground.
Reverse-fade out the marble, which at intermediate stages had gotten overly beige and not as stark and wind-washed as it ought to be.
All told it was about a half-hour of work. Totally worth it though!
Here’s a smattering of paintings that I got (semi) decent shots of while I was at the Vatican. Starting with one of my personal favorites, the School of Athens. If you’re got the time, go on Google and look up which Athenians were modeled on which famous Italians of the time … a hint, the big fish, center left, was based on Leonardo da Vinci.
This is a MUCH older piece, from centuries before the Italian Renaissance. You can see it in the two-dimensional character of the work; clearly perspective hadn’t been developed to the same level at that point.
And here’s a piece that I liked as well. Not all that interesting in its own right, but I like the use of color and perspective in it.
Another classic, the Last Supper – except that this one is by Raphael, not da Vinci (his is in Milan). This, and a lot of these, were real SOBs to get a good photo of, and it took a lot of sharpening and noise reduction in PhotoShop to get some results – and I still wasn’t happy with a lot of it. The lighting in many of these galleries is dim, to better preserve the art, and flash photography is a big no-no. And breaking rules is, well, a bad idea to put it mildly. After all they have those nice Swiss guards with sharp objects, and their own jail. Plus, y’know, the threat of damnation and all that.
I love the minimalist nature of this. An old broken sculpture in front of a crucifix; it tells a story, but does it without distractions.
And now an action piece – Emperor Constantine triumphing over his foes!
And finally, another piece I adore the use of color in.
Just a bit of fun today, shooting around the patio with black and white. The above was the side of a water canister with the shadow of a Japanese maple on it.
And here’s a succulent. The big thing I found, surprisingly, is that the red filter seems the most effective in giving me what I was looking for. I expected better out of the blue or green or yellow, yet here we are!
Not my smokes, but good in the composition.
And a nice angled shot of the grill.
A small palm, with the fence behind it.
And last but not least, the basil plant. Sole survivor of bad transplants and evil rats!
Here’s a couple of shots of some sculptures in the museums and grounds of the Vatican. This one to start was pilfered from Egypt. Theft is kind of a theme with Vatican art – that or spending church money on it. See also the obelisk in St. Peter’s Square – not native to Italy, that’s for sure!
But still, the kitty is cute.
Now on to Grecian and Greek-inspired art.
And here’s Hermes, a.k.a. Mercury for the Romans.
Vatican Sculpture IV
This one’s an odd piece of a piece, but I liked it. Next, some items from the pre-Roman, Etruscan era.
This is a casket, but I particularly like the dog at the base of it. For being so-called primitive artists, it’s amazing how lifelike this is!
And this is the side of a piece of pottery. Not too fancy, but I liked the lion.
Next time, paintings from the Vatican, a.k.a. the more famous stuff. Plus an explainer on why photos are a mega-size no-no in the Sistine Chapel.
I visited here on a moody, grey-sky day, as you can see from the shot above. This spot deserves a lot more acclaim and recognition than it gets, at least in the USA (same goes for Turkey as a whole, and Istanbul in particular). It is a gorgeous work of architecture, both from the outside and within.
It’s set at one end of a park, with the Hagia Sophia (built by the Roman Emperor Justinian) at the other end. The name Blue Mosque isn’t actually the official name – that’s the Sultahnamet mosque – it comes instead from the color of the tiles on the interior ceiling. We’ll get to that in a moment.
Here’s the up-close view of the entrance leading to the park. In this instance the grey sky bothered me, so I fixed in photoshop to the sky I thought this photograph deserved.
See what I meant about blue tiles? Those come from the area of Iznik, in another part of Turkey. This is the underside of the central dome, with four mammoth pillars holding it up (called “Elephant Feet” colloquially).
I got this shot from a nearby alcove where someone had left prayer beads on the rug. I like the simplicity here.
By the way, no shoes allowed inside (they give you a baggie for them, and have shelves to put them on). But the rug is wonderfully luxurious on your feet, which is especially a wonder given it’s trod upon by thousands of people every day.
This is the central worship area, off limits to bumbling tourists. At It functions not too differently from a church, except that folks sit on the carpet instead of in uncomfortable pews (the latter, I think was invented as a device of torment in the dark ages – at least carpet is cushioned!).
And finally, here’s one of the Elephant Feet in context, with some people for scale. The pillars are huge, seriously.
A fabulous place, and I’m glad I had a chance to see it.
Welcome to the heart of Ancient Rome, the Forum. Couple thousand years back, you’d have seen a bunch of dudes in togas milling about, buying and selling, arguing about politics and religion, and so on.
Yeah, so not much changes, except thankfully for better hygiene. Not sure whether I’m glad or not that Emperor Vespasian introducing pay-only public toilets (still referred to locally as Vespasiana).
Here’s a view in infrared from the entrance from nearer the south end, looking northward. The remains of the Temple of Vesta are on the left, and the Temple of Caesar on the right.
And here’s another of the Temple of Caesar, from the front.
This is actually outside the forum. Looking toward the middle, you’ll see a smaller arch (the Arch of Titus, wherein is depicted the sack of Jerusalem in the 1st century). That’s the southern end of the forum. The larger arch in the foreground is the more famous Arch of Constantine, and the photos taken from the 3rd level of the colosseum.
And some ground level color, from within the forum proper.
And finally, this is from the top of Palatine Hill (behind the Temple of Vesta), where the likes of Augustus lived. Not a bad view from pup here, huh?
Side note, I was expecting much gnarlier hills in Rome. Guess that’s what seeing San Francisco as a child gets me. Palatine’s nothing next to Taylor Street!
Brew day today! The ingredients above are for a batch of black ale, American style. I decided to photograph the process, and thankfully got help from my lovely assistant [read: wife]. So here we are, with water, malt extract, hops, yeast, and some adjunct grains.
Next, a few shots of the gear involved. If it looks like a chemistry set, there’s a reason. There’s a great deal of chem in the process, backed up with a lot of biology in the ingredients (agriculture in growing, genetics in breeding hops and grain, bacteria strains for yeast, etc.
The odd snakelike things is a wort chiller … you’ll see its use in a few moments. Wort, by the way, is the name of the liquid after boiling, but before the yeast turns it into beer (yeast eats the sugars n wort and turns them into carbon dioxide and alcohol). So yeah, beer means you’re drinking yeast piss and farts. Still tasty, though!
This next is the truly critical part: cleaning and sanitation! Dirty gear means shady bacteria, which leads to ruined beer. As in, not fermented, or stinky (called “skunked” for a reason!) or otherwise just lousy.
Next, just add water! OK so there’s a bit more to it than that. I use distilled because I don’t trust the local tap not to bugger up my beer. I intend to try water modification later on, because different waters make different beer. Think Guinness vs. Pilsner, for example – Munich and Dublin water are very different animals.
Next, crushing and steeping adjunct grains – this is for color, and for some flavor. This is basically making malted grain tea.
Once the “tea” is done, the water is brought to a boil, and the malt added off-heat. This is what the yeast will eat, post-boil.
The heat breaks down the starches and sugars into something edible for the yeast, and hops are added at various stages to produce bittering, flavor, and aroma.
Next, the chiller is inserted a few minutes before the end of the boil (which is typically about 1 hour long).
Then the whole rig is moved to the sink and the chiller is hooked up to the tap, so cold water can be run through the wort without diluting it, to lower the temperature to about 80 degrees F. Reason? Yeast can’t be added to boiling liquid or you’ll kill it, and thus, get no beer. You can also put the pot in a bath of ice (or snowbank, if you live somewhere with winters like that).
Now, into the primary fermentation tank!
And aeration: adding oxygen to the wort. Yeast needs to breathe, after all! You can do this with a long-handled spoon, but I cheat and use a pain can stirrer and a power drill. Faster and less tiring!
And a test – to measure the density of the wort. This, combined with the density of the final product, can be utilized to give you a rough guesstimate of the ABV.
Then add the yeast, close it up, and put in an airlock to keep out contaminants but allow carbon dioxide to escape.
And after a few weeks, and a few more in the bottle to condition, voila!
Sit back and enjoy a pint. This one’s not from the batch photographed above (not black, obviously) – this was from a batch of ESB I did a month ago.
A fun process, and fun to enjoy the product! But set aside 5 or so hours for the process, it’s a long one. Invite people over and hang out while things boil, and enjoy a beer together.
This is a series of photos of the fountains in Piazza Navona in Rome. This is the fountain of Neptune, with him spearing an octopus with his trident. Here’s another view of the same:
There were 2 tricks used here. One, we got here super early, before the crowds went nanners. Which meant we left the hotel SUPER early, since we were south of the Colosseum, and it meant around a 2+ mile walk, with constant stops to photograph other stuff. Two, lots of walking around the fountains to find desirable angles.
This is the central fountain, the Fountain of the Four Rivers by Bernini. Here’s a closeup angle on one of the sides.
And a large-scale shot, with half the piazza in view in the background.
And finally, the fountain at the southern end of the piazza, the Fountain of the Moor.
This really is a lovely location, provided you’re there when it’s not crammed like a NYC subway station. Going on weekdays will help, if you can manage it, as will waking up early. But above all go, as it’s not something to miss!
For this set of photographs, I decided to focus on my kitchen, but give it a black-and-white treatment. I mostly did closeup shots, except in a few cases, to limit the frame to the subject at hand and not clutter things up and cause distractions.
I almost got rid of the soup can, on the thinking that this would be interpreted as Warhol-esque. But it was there, and I figured, might as well be honest that I like the occasional Campbell’s with a peanut butter sandwich.
I also used a variety of B&W treatments here, depending on the exact subject. This one was a red filter, but some others used blue, or just darkened, or otherwise manipulated. I’m not set on any one style, just what suits the purpose at hand best.
Hey, I live near Gilroy, so yeah, there’s a lot of garlic. That and it makes up for a childhood without it (parental allergy, boo!).
And yes, TWO knife racks. Too many knives … but they all come in handy, or at least that’s what I keep telling myself.
This shoot was done right after I cooked lunches for the week, and have ingredients on hand for morning juicing, so this thing is packed.
And did I mention I like to cook? Sadly, this is not all the spices … they are also in a cupboard and two drawers, and the whole room’s spices are alphabetized clockwise (really). I’m mental like that.
This time I’m attempting to chronicle the creation of a cocktail. This particular one is a mix of gin, elderflower liqueur, lime juice, and blood orange juice.
That said, let’s start with our citrus! We’ve got to cut a lime in half so we can juice it, as well as cutting out some wheels from a blood orange for a garnish, and juicing the remainder. This is basically a series of (semi) still life photos. Directional lighting and flash are key here, as is placement within the frame. Proportion and perspective are big points for success, as is color combinations.
Next up, measuring the juices … it’s all about proportion, once again! A badly-proportioned cocktail belongs nowhere, except maybe a bad college party. And likewise, a nice tight-in set of shots is key here. We’re interested in the drink and the process of creating it, not the background.
And now the main event, the spirituous components. In this case, some quality gin, and St. Germaine. Again, keeping out extemporaneous background stuff, to maintain visual focus on our subject. I’m also using flash, as the lighting wasn’t too great to capture the action
Then mix ‘em up! This one has citrus, and nothing carbonated, so it merits a shake over a stir.
Then it’s time to finish it off … a quick “dirty dump” into a waiting glass (or you can strain over fresh ice if you like), add our garnish, and voila! A finished cocktail.
My biggest challenge on this shoot was speed. Most of the steps happen fast, and require accordingly high shutter speeds. Add that to not a lot of ambient light, and it necessitated the use of a flash, which thankfully was fast enough to shoot in burst mode and capture most of what I wanted. Not all of these are great (I particularly like the juicing and blood orange ones), but it’ll get the job done … for now.