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.
The “something old” I’m referring to is stereotypes. Because really, Italy + romance = cliche, no? When I was wandering the basilica gardens at the top of Aventine Hill, this couple really stood out in the early morning gloom with St. Peter’s in the background.
I thought about it before bothering with the shot, since it does have a “been there done that” quality to it. But then again, so do postcard shots, and that’s no reason to stop doing those, so I figured, what the hell, go for it – and play around and see what I can get.
Happily, the couple in question was utterly oblivious. As well they should have been.
So here’s an alternate version …
And a wider shot, but in infrared …
The top shot is definitely the more stereotypical, but I really like the 3rd one as well.
Now onto something new … starting next week, I’m going to commence a new project: photographing day to day activities and trying to make them look interesting. I expect I’ll be doing more post-production and more shots on my phone, but I’m curious to see what I can come up with. That, and no travel plans for a few months, boo! But the next trip DID just get paid for, so time to plan, plan, plan for that one …
More from Greece this time, in the old Greek Agora in Athens.
As I’m given to understand, this was basically the heart and soul of the city in its heyday, bustling with commerce and debate, vote-getting or -stealing (not much has changed in democracy!), and so forth.
It’s a large space, and very, very pretty. Full of both the old – temples, ruins of buildings, and so on – and the new – olive trees and other flora – it’s also a wonderfully quiet place early in the morning under a light rain.
It’s got great views from some of the higher spots, and when it’s quiet like it blessedly was the day I was there, it’s downright meditative. And all it took was a willingness to deal with a bit of drizzle here and there! Well worth that, I say.
And even the detail work in small, otherwise unnoticed areas is lovely. Sometimes it’s worth putting away all the complex machinations of photography and just going with what’s in front of you.
My point in this post is to mention a few things about how “working the scene” (fancy photographer speak) is a great way of moving around and finding new and interesting views of the same thing.
Take the shot above, from the Temple of Olympian Zeus in Athens. This is near the entrance. There’s really not a whole heck of a lot going on at this site (what you see is largely what you get). But by moving about, I got a few other interesting photos.
Next, through the fence from the outside.
And finally, with the Acropolis in the background.
As promised, the next edition of crowds – St. Peter’s and Sistine Chapel version.
If anything these are even more crowded than the rest of the Vatican, and for good reason. Everyone and their brother has heard of Michelangelo’s ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and wants to see it for themselves. But to be honest, after all the buildup, it’s a bit of a disappointment because (1) yeah, it’s freakin’ crowded, (2) it’s at the end of a long tour and I was bushed already, and (3) no photos allowed, and they mean it. Mainly because the Fuji film company paid for a bunch of the restoration and owns the photographic rights for a long time. Very nice place, though, I’d love to go back when my mind is fresh and I have binoculars to better pick out the detail (it’s a high ceiling).
So on to St. Peter’s! It doesn’t’ seem as crowded, mainly because it’s gigantic in every dimension. You could easily fit the population of a small town in there and not feel crowded.
Word of warning though – it is free to go to (it’s a church after all), so it’s a big draw for pickpockets looking for sucker tourists. Mind yourself and your gear in that crowd!
To get good shots you’ll have to be patient, and work your way to the front of the line to see the impressive stuff. Or have long arms and steady hands. Or if you have REALLY well trained children who know how to follow directions, put ’em on your shoulders and have them shoot it.
Here’s the original of Micelangelo’s Pieta, that I showed a reproduction of last post, now behind glass ‘cuz some nutso took a hammer to Jesus’ hand a few years back and knocked off some fingers. Stupid asshat. Pretty sure that’s a few extra years in Purgatory right there.
This place will take a lot of time to work your way through, especially if you want a good photo or two that doesn’t come from the gift shop or a tourist stand in the city. It’s worth the wait, though, and this is one of the few places you CAN stop and think and reshoot as needed, without issue.
PS for your extra little bit of Italy … when eating lunch afterward, we asked for water and were kindly reminded by our waitress – “water is for shower, drink wine!”
I recently had the chance / was privileged enough to spend a few days in Istanbul last month, and it was incredible! We ended up there sort of by accident, after finding cheap airline tickets to Rome and Athens that went via Istanbul. And at that point, so the thinking went, why not stay a few days? After all, it’s not like we’re in that part of the world on the regular, 13 hour flight and whatnot.
My only regret is that we didn’t stay longer! It is truly an amazing city, in so many ways. From millennia of history and culture to a vibrant society to such warm, welcoming people you’d be hard-pressed to find a more remarkable spot.
I’ll start with 2 of the biggest sights that the city has – the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia. These are practically on top of each other in the Sultahnamet area, only separated by a small park; maybe 100 yards, tops.
The mosque is gorgeous, inside and out, and given that I’ve never been in a mosque previously, I think I started in the right place. Note that the name comes from the blue tiles inside, see 2nd photo in the ceiling.
The Hagia Sophia, on the other hand, is a Roman cathedral, which was converted into a mosque, and then converted yet again into a museum. It’s got a mix of Christian and Muslim iconography throughout, and is truly stunning.
Here is the centerpiece (altar area, plus a nihrab pointing toward Mecca). The only place on earth you’ll find Jesus, Mary, and Gabriel depicted, plus the names of Allah and Mohammed. Fun fact: the original basilica pointed to Jerusalem, and the Muslim version to Mecca that’s off-center is only different by 3 degrees.
And here, a recovered mosaic of Jesus. This is a little unnerving in person – the eyes will follow you as you move around in front of the mosaic.
Lots more to come from Istanbul’s photo trip!
BTW, I have decided the Turks are dessert hobbits – there always seem to be 2 desserts with any meal, and probably chocolate besides. It’s a miracle they aren’t all diabetic … maybe the ever-present and delicious Turkish coffee is what offsets that?
I find that when I’m out on a shoot, I get my best results when I turn to my best tool.
And no, I don’t mean my DSLR, or my tripod, or my shutter release, or flashgun/lenses/filters/what have you.
I mean the tool that sits halfway between my ears! As in, the ‘ol brain. Because if that’s what I’m using, I can usually overcome any technical obstacle in my path. And on the other hand, if I’m NOT using my brain, all the fancy gear in my arsenal will be as useful as a screen door on a submarine.
Case in point, the photograph above. I knew next to jack about serious photography when I took this, but I saw a shot I liked of the reflection. I actually shot it upside down, no tripod, and not much clue about proper exposure. I also knew diddly of PhotoShop at the time, and the only thing I did was flip it upside down to get the impression of “rocks in the sky.”
But for an ignorant newbie, the point is: I saw the shot, and finagled until I got it. And that’s when I’m at my best – not thinking about gear or plans, but first and foremost, seeing what’s in front of me, not just looking at it.
So open your eyes and see first (the “why”), and then worry about getting it accomplished (the “how”); it seems to work pretty good for me.
The photo above is a fairly old one of mine. This was maybe a year after I got into photography in any serious type of way.
I was at the point that I was shooting in RAW already, and post-processing a little, but I was far from good in composition or exposure, and frankly, my “take” rate of good photos vs. bad ones was lousy. I maybe got 1-2 good ones per 50-100 of shooting. And as I’ve gotten better my high opinion of what I once thought was good has lessened, as well.
There is still stuff, like this, that even if not technically perfect, seems to hold up.
The framing is not perfect, I would have moved to the left and used a slightly longer lens length if I could do it again. Nor is the contrast and lighting too hot (I would now have done multiple bracketed shots), nor is the processing (I would certainly use layers now in Photoshop).
But even if your old stuff isn’t perfect, it can actually serve a lot of good to go look at it long after it was shot. You can see how far you’ve come, and more objectively analyze what was good or not, and how you can do better in the future. That elapsed time since the shot is a great buffer for me, and allows me to be more honest with myself about my work, so I can still learn and grow, no matter how far I’ve come.
Today’s post is more on mindset than it is directly on gear or physical how-to. Bear in mind, though, I think that mindset is at least as important a part of technique as that other stuff, and if I’m being 100% honest, far more important.
So the idea is … be ready for anything.
OK so yes, I know that’s an impossible goal. But it’s one toward which you can and ought to be constantly striving.
For example: if you have a camera that has the ability to pre-configure multiple settings that can be accessed with 1 or 2 dials or buttons, use it! I have presets for action and night shooting. Beats the hell out of 5 minutes of fussing with menus. I used to have one for IR as well before I converted my old DSLR. This is one of the main reasons I bought the Nikon D7000 when it came out.
Also, be mindful of what’s likely (or what you want) to happen when shooting. If you’re driving through Yellowstone, have your wildlife lens attached – you never know when you’ll get stuck in a bear jam!
Now I know that you won’t always be able to have the right lens or setting on at the right time once in a while. I absolutely recognize the frustration, too! There’s nothing like a missed brilliant shot, except maybe when the person next to you manages to snag it somehow. I’ve been known to get jealous at times, but the point is to use those experiences as a means to learn and do better the next time.
Another handy one is to have a camera phone on you. Those come in useful more often than you’d believe. In fact, about a year after the original iPhone came out, there was a photographer (whose name escapes me, but he had a write up in Outdoor Photographer magazine) who produced an entire book of fine art photos from his iPhone. Which to be clear, is downright stone-age compared to the phone you’re probably using right now.
By way of another example, the utility of smartphones …
Yeah, that’s what you think it is.
A leaf blower.
In a National Forest.
A leaf blower, in the freakin’ woods!
Can we spell “OCD?”
Point being: had I not had my phone handy I’d have had to open the car, drag out my rig and get the right lens on, and almost certainly alert this brilliant individual to what I was up to. Being sneaky pays off!
And so does thinking ahead and making sure you’re as ready as you can be.
Don’t worry if you stumble on this road! ‘Cuz you will, I guaran-damn-tee it. But learn from it and do better so that next time you’ll be the one the newbies are grumbling at because you got the shot and they didn’t
Never mind what Google Images tells you, photography isn’t 100% about photos that simply look gorgeous. It can also be that the image itself is only a gateway, and that the story it tells is the real point of the piece.
For a Classic example: look up any news photo from 1989 of people tearing down the Berlin Wall. Or of the famous kiss in Times Square at the end of World War II.
Or something along these lines …
Whose shoe is this? Why is there only one? It looks (very) well-worn, but if so, why weren’t both of them discarded? And what woebegone is this, with a single shoe and random trash strewn about?
It’s photos that get me to start asking questions that intrigue me. Sometimes it can be “how the hell did they GET that shot?” (read: jealousy), and other times it can be questions of story, of narrative, of human experience.
That sense of narrative can be manifest in documentary photography, in journalism, family photos, and plenty more besides.
And it doesn’t always need to be an action shot, like of someone scoring in a sports game. Sometimes it can be something more somber and reflective.
Case in point:
A shovel head in the woods isn’t immediately gripping. But look a bit closer. In the foreground, there’s cut logs, and back behind, you’ll notice the trees don’t have any foliage. In fact the only green is a bit of sprouts right up front of the shot.
This was shot on the road to Hetch Hetchy reservoir in Yosemite, about 8 months after that road was used as a fireline to stop the Rim Fire, which burned over 400 square miles. For perspective, that’s more than 8 times the size of San Francisco.
So ask yourself. Ask yourself who left that shovel head. Was it left during the fight? Placed there afterward? Left by accident or design?
Let your shot follow the story and the questions and you may find something wonderful, poignant, and insightful.