Shooting Around Crowds

Michelangelo's Pieta
Michelangelo’s Pieta

Shooting in a crowded area, when the crowd itself isn’t the object of your work, just plain SUCKS.  It’s a huge pain.  Case in point here: the Vatican Museums.

This is a slightly popular spot.  In the sense that a sea of humanity moving along like the tide of the ocean is a “small crowd.”  What it means in practice is, not much time to compose and shoot, and minimal (if any) chances on a re-do.  Doubly a nuisance given the world-class art and architecture that I was trying to capture.

da Vinci
da Vinci

Like I said, world class.  And unfortunately, very dark in most galleries, and flash is a huge no-no (like instant ticket to the place of fire – as it should be).  So I shot on ISO 1600, as high as I could stomach, and have to do a lot of painstaking sharpening and noise reduction afterward at home.  And that’s even with a private guide and getting in early!  I’d hate to think of just blundering about in there.

Caravaggio
Caravaggio

Clear proof that photographers are johnny-come-latelys when it comes to painting with light.  To think that people of his day thought he stunk!  Imbeciles, all.

Bramante Staircase
Bramante Staircase

But not all areas are crowded, if you plan ahead and are willing to shell out some money.  This is the Bramante staircase, made in the 1500s for Pope Innocent VIII, to allow him to ride his carriage all the way up to his palace without having to walk.  Lazy sod.

Historical note – the same Bramante that built this suggested that the Holy See hire Michelangelo to paint the Sistine Chapel, thinking that this sculptor from Florence was a hack who’d bungle it and make Bramante look good.  Oops.

More on crowds next time, St. Peter’s and Sistine Chapel edition!

See more of my work at

Website: http://www.patricklcahalan.co.nf

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Pantheon

Pantheon Ceiling and Oculusc
Pantheon Ceiling and Oculus

Welcome to the Pantheon, the marvel of ancient Roman engineering.  Prior to the Renaissance, what you’re looking at is the largest dome in the world.

And frankly, even more than the rest of Rome, THIS put me in awe.  It doesn’t look like much from the outside (concrete stained with soot from pollution), but the second you pass the doors, it’ll take your breath away.

Think – without calculus, or calculators, or modern machinery, they figured out to coffer the ceiling to reduce weight and install an open center.  Mind the rain, though.

Pantheon Interior
Pantheon Interior

At one point it was converted to a church, and now is (more or less) a museum to Roman, Christian, and Italian heritage.  Also, free admission!  So it’s popular, and best to watch your wallet and camera gear.

Fit for a King
Fit for a King

This is the tomb of the first king of unified Italy, Vittorio Emmanuel II (bear in mind Italy was unified in the late 1800s, so this part isn’t all that ancient).

Cowabunga!
Cowabunga!

And here’s the tomb of everyone’s favorite Ninja Turtle, Raphael!

Oops, I mean “fantastic Renaissance painter” Raphael.  My bad.  Also a super-disappointing photograph for me.  There was an obnoxious crowd and bad reflections and funky contrast, and PS didn’t do jack for me.  Sigh.  Must mean I have to go back to Rome (again, sigh).

PS – don’t think to lie on the ground in the center of the building to get a wider angle on the ceiling, unless you want to get scolded by security like I did.  Really, we photographers are far worse than children.

See more of my work at

Website: http://www.patricklcahalan.co.nf

Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/patricklcahalan

Instagram: patrickcahalanphotography

Facebook: Patrick Cahalan

Pinterest: @cahalan007

Rome, Colosseum

Roman Colosseum
Roman Colosseum

On my last big trip, I got the chance to take a fabulous tour of the Colosseum in Rome.  Beyond just the norm, we got to see the high and low, namely, the underground and the third level.

Here’s a shot from the floor of the arena, looking toward the gate that defeated gladiators left the sand (or were dragged, if they really lost).

The Death Gate
The Death Gate

And here’s a few of the underground, where all the trapdoors, ramps, and cages were,  invisible under the arena floor.

Colosseum Underground Part I
Colosseum Underground Part I
Colosseum Underground Part II
Colosseum Underground Part II

And finally, the view from on high.  Just imagine looking down with 70,000 people screaming and shouting!  The NFL wishes it got that kind of audience enthusiasm (OK, so maybe Seattle’s got it figured out, but as a 49er fan I refuse to admit it).

View From the Top
View From the Top

Happy Shooting!

Istanbul, Part I

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 Blue Mosque
The Blue Mosque
The Blue Mosque, Interior
The Blue Mosque, Interior

 

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.

 

Hagia Sophia Altar Area
Hagia Sophia Altar Area

 

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.

 

Byzantine Mosaic of Christ
Byzantine Mosaic of Christ

 

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?

 

Happy Shooting!

See more of my work at http://www.patricklcahalan.co.nf  and http://www.flickr.com/photos/patricklcahalan

What’s Left

Old Chair
Old Chair

Today I’m going to do a little more exploration of the past in Infrared.

Starting with the image above, consider what is left after people leave things behind.  It can be for mundane reasons (moving and don’t want to schlep the stuff), or more dramatic ones (think Pompeii!).

In this case a simple chair, but when composed like this with the broken mattress next to it, in this type of image, I think it has a voice and speaks.

Leftovers
Leftovers

More things left behind and discarded.  Rubbish strewn about.  The snow on the ground I think adds here , by giving you a sense that this has been here for a while.

Last Call
Last Call

This one’s a bit more Pompeii, or for the younger crowd, “Zombie Apocalypse.”  As though everyone left in a real hurry and didn’t even finish their drinks.  Although I would think that if the Apocalypse DID come, there would be more than a few people who would finish the drink, and probably take a bottle or two for the road.

Last Soul
Last Soul

No, that caption is not a typo – find the human here!

As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, I think IR, treated properly, can be a great way to open a window into the past.  Memories, past objects, and days or yore.

Coming soon … but not sure when because I have to learn to use a new tool: images that can be refocused after shooting, even while in-camera.  And yes you read that right.  See Lytro.com for more.  Methinks I will be having much fun using this new toy for art!

Happy shooting!

See more of my work at http://www.patricklcahalan.co.nf  and http://www.flickr.com/photos/patricklcahalan

 

Silence Afterward

Abandoned-Watch
Window From Past to Future

A photograph to provoke thought.  This is, of course, the skyline of San Francisco.  But it is seen from inside Fort Point, the old military base at the southern foot of the Golden Gate Bridge.  Prior to the advent of air-based military power, Fort Point, along with several other forts and artillery batteries, held watch over the entrance to the bay.  You’re actually looking out over some of the gun emplacements.

And I would not have wanted to be a hostile vessel!

The fort alone was basically an acre-sized machinegun, with probably close to a hundred cannons firing 10-16 inch shells (essentially 90% of what look like windows were really cannon ports).  Never you mind the probably 2 dozen plus other artillery emplacements outside the straight, plus Alcatraz (a military installation before it was a prison), Yerba Buena Island (still home to the Coast Guard Admiral), and Rincon Point waiting should anyone manage to survive the initial gauntlet.  Suffice to say the many military bases inside the bay were deemed VERY important.  For the record that includes the above, plus Moffet Field, Mare Island, Alameda shipyards, Hunters’ Point shipyards, Angel Island (once home to ballistic missiles), Mt. Umunhum radar station, Onizuka AFB (a.k.a. the “Blue Cube”), and probably a few others I can’t remember off the top of my head.  Forgive me if I fuddle the dates on what installations dated to before or after the forts were taken offline.

All the Bay’s initial defenses are now gone, long since scrapped and deemed obsolete in the face of air power.  And most of those that remain are under the aegis of the National Park Service.

Which to me begs the question – what happens when the world moves on?  Does it, let alone its inhabitants,  remember what came before?  Or are those echoes only left for someone dedicated enough to sleuth for them?

And does that reflect upon the value of the contribution?  If what you did is now obsolete, and has little bearing on either the here-and-now, or on where things go from this point, of what value is it?  This is of particular relevance in the shadow of Silicon Valley, where anything or anyone deemed “old” might as well be caveman Grog, good only for an exhibit in the Smithsonian or Louvre.

What does it mean to continue to exist after your time of immediate relevance has passed?  Will future generations value or understand what has come before, or be wrapped up in their day-to-day?

Things to ponder after the guns fall silent.  Who will remember, what will they remember or forget, and what will they value?

How long is a lifespan, and how long again is the memory of it?

Happy shooting.

See more of my work at http://www.patricklcahalan.co.nf  and http://www.flickr.com/photos/patricklcahalan

 

 

Silicon Valley, Part I

This post and the next one are going to be built around a street level documentary set of photographs I recently took in Silicon Valley (specifically downtown San Jose).

My goal here was to capture a few things.  I wanted to get some sense of the area’s history – and yes, it does have one, it wasn’t always a tech hub!  But I also wanted to speak to the dramatic changes of the last few years & decades, and the cultural changes that accompanied them, as well as to the ubiquity of technology now present.

Today I’m going to start off in the past.

Silicon Valley, As it Was in Past Days
Silicon Valley, As it Was in Past Days

Originally, the whole area was agricultural.  Even when I was young, it was not uncommon to see large areas of town, particularly in the southern area, still devoted to orchards.  Cherries in particular were a big crop.  Fortunately or unfortunately depending on your position, the economic impact per acre of tech is way higher than ag.

Watering Hole
Watering Hole

There are some remnants of the older days still to be seen downtown.  This particular institution is attached to a restaurant next door that’s been around since time out of mind (and they still make great veal parm).  It hearkens to a time in the mid 1900s where there were a ton of Italian and Portuguese families in the area.

Old Hospitality
Old Hospitality

Another great old institution, and though it’s recently become a Westin they’ve kept the character intact.

And here’s a bit of old-school charm in the holiday decorations.

Seasonal Decoration
Seasonal Decoration

Finally, here is a piece on the passing of time … because what is old never stays put, no matter how much we want it.  And often far less so in this neck of the woods, as things seem to change so fast as to bewilder most folks.

Time

Next time I’ll delve into some of the more modern aspects of the region.  There are some good ones, some neutral, and some downright lousy.  Such is the march of progress.

Happy shooting!

See more of my work at http://www.patricklcahalan.co.nf  and http://www.flickr.com/photos/patricklcahalan