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!
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!
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 …
Anniversary time! This is actually the 100th post on this blog, not that I was even sure we’d get to that point. And in keeping with that, the above is one of the 1st shots I posted here, from a trip that was (gasp!) nearing 10 years ago.
At the time, I knew next to jack squat about photography, aside from that I was getting into it seriously. Mostly, I got lucky with this – I think I was even shooting on full auto! But over time I’ve been able to go back and refine in Photoshop, and I’m pretty happy with the result. It definitely captures the spirit of the moment, between storms on a beach in the Caribbean, with some boats anchored in the bay.
A good beginning, that’s over time become a recurrent source of leaning and inspiration, not unlike this blog itself! The drive to post here weekly has been a big motivator for me in forcing me to get out and shoot, or play with what I’ve got. And to plan in advance if I’m travelling, to see what I can get to that’s interesting!
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.
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!”
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.
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.
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.
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!
This was a nasty piece to shoot. It’s called the Keyhole, and is at the Priory of the Knights of Malta on Aventine Hill in Rome.
As the name suggests, it’s shot by looking through an actual keyhole. As in, bend over and look (or shoot) through it. Which means it’s a bugger! And to boot, the foreground in the hedges is far darker than St. Peter’s in the distance.
So I ended up doing multiple exposures – without tripod – between groups of tourists. I was definitely afraid I would get jack squat, but after using layers in Photoshop with the light and dark, and feathering my selections to blend it better, I got this. Not great, but without a tripod and HDR work I think it’s the best I can get.