Friday, December 27, 2013

Cinque Terre Boats

A Couple of Dinghy Boats
Colorful boats are a perfect companion to the colorful houses in the Cinque Terre, Italy.  Here are a few photographs of them.  They each have their own name.  I discovered Elisa, Vittoria and Lia floating around together.  Every boat has a name and probably has a personality.  I did not spend enough time to learn about that.  I simply enjoyed their beautiful curves and buoyancy.
Dry Dock

Boat License Detail from Riomaggiore

Red Boat in Vernazza
Elisa, Vittoria and Lia

Italian Romance in Photography

Italian Lovers
Italy has a very romantic location.  The ocean, the sunlight and the warm water all bring out the romantic side in people.  I remember having a wonderful day in the Cinque Terre with my wife as we hiked from town to town 17 years ago.  When we returned for this trip with 3 children in tow, it was easy to see that the romantic setting remained the same.

At the edge of the sea, at the breakwater of Riomaggiore, this couple was enjoying the wonderful setting.  They were quite oblivious to everyone else around them.  I thought it might make a romantic shot with them, the rocks and the ocean.  The wonderful sunlight reflecting off the waves highlights everything. 

Monterosso al Mare: Getting Lost

Quiet Intersection of Monterosso al Mare, Cinque Terre
Before crowds wake up, before the shops open, before sounds fill the alleyways, every city seems to have a quiet side.  I like to get up and wander around during this time to see the world without so many people.  Here in there, a shopkeeper was getting ready for the day.  For the most part, the alleyways for empty and silent.

As a photographer I enjoyed exploring.  I had no map, no agenda.  I just wandered around, took my time and enjoyed whatever happened to cross my path.  Some street signs, hanging lanterns, umbrellas, parked bicycles and doors ajar caught my attention.  I hope you enjoy them.

Monterosso al Mare is where I stayed during my 3 days in the Cinque Terre.  This is a wonderful town.  I stayed in the older part, more southern part.  There is a wonderful beach, wonderful old buildings and delicious pizza.
Green door number 21
Shops before opening time.
Via Genova sign stuck on a building
Old and new walls


Cinque Terre: Fishing Lessons

Fishing Lesson in Vernazza Harbor
I happened to be in the right place at the right time as I was hiking from town to town in the Cinque Terre, Italy.  An aging fisherman had a young child out in the boat.  They were going over different materials in the boat.  Then he got a net and wanted to show the child some things in the water.  Some smaller fish were swimming around underneath the boat.  I thought this was a very touching, personal scene amidst the touristic background.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Pisa Camposanto

Reclining Statue from Pisa's Camposanto
Pisa's touristic powerhouse is the "field of miracles" headlined by the famous leaning tower.  this is an absolutely wonderful sight to see, both fun and architecturally fascinating.  The wonderful grassy fields surrounding the leaning Tower and Duomo invite fun loving people to sit down and enjoy the wonderful view.  People watching can be fantastic here.

On a first visit here, it was very easy to not pay attention to the long rectangular building on the far left. That was a mistake.  On my 2nd visit, after more preparation and education, I had this building at the top of my list for Pisa.  Pisa's Camposanto (cemetery) was the location for famous citizens to be buried.  It also was painted with marvelous frescoes.  Many of these were damaged during World War II.

You would think with ancient tombs and world-class frescoes, that would be enough for one location.  However the Camposanto offers even more:  ancient Roman sculptures and sarcophagi.  These date from the first millennium and are quite spectacular.  Simply by walking around the rectangular courtyard, one can enjoy artistic treasures from 15 centuries.  Amazing.  My favorite things were the incredible sculptures.
Deceased nobleman of Pisa
Roman mourning in art
Camposanto inner garden, supposed filled with holy soil
"Inconsolable"is the name of this statue
Reclining Marble statue
Statue of deceased Pisa leader

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Roman Day in Provence

Pont du Gard: second tallest Roman ruin in existence today.  Only the Coliseum in Rome is higher.
A wonderful and busy way to spend a day in Provence is to have a theme.  With all the Roman ruins around the town of Arles, it made sense to have a Roman day.  In the morning we visited the Roman arena in Arles.  It is a spectacular sight.  Also in Arles, there is a Roman Museum.  This excellent museum is perfect to give background and meaning to the Roman ruins which still stand.  This museum is small enough to see in one hour.  The curators have selected high-quality original items to display.  This is able to show what a Roman life was like 2000 years ago.  There are also models showing what the town of Arles was like under the Roman command.  I highly recommend a visit.
Statue at the Roman Museum in Arles:  Bad Hair day.
Roman Theater in Orange
From the Roman Museum, it is an easy drive to Orange.  Here is the largest Roman theater with a freestanding back wall.  The theater is huge and held up to 20,000 spectators.  Included with admission is a audio guide which describes the theater during the time of the Romans.  This is also very educational and fascinating.  Although the Roman theater is very difficult to photograph because of its size, it is still worthwhile to visit for its cultural impact.

From there it is another short drive to the Pont du Gard.  This is lit beautifully at sunset and really makes 2 statements to me.  The first is how important water was.  This entire structure was built simply to transport water.  The second is how amazing the Romans are to have constructed such a elaborate monumental aqueduct.

After all of these travels, we were exhausted but had a day never to be forgotten.
Pont du Gard at Sunset

Arles Market Day

Tradition of Arles Market Day:  Bread for Sale
The city of Arles has the market on Wednesday and Saturday.  The Saturday market is traditionally the largest.  However the first Wednesday of each month is unique with more vendors coming to sell their products.  We happened to be visiting on the first Wednesday in the month of June.  Walking down by the Rhone river, we found the wonderful traditional market.  Just about everything was for sale from bread, cheese, strawberries, citrus, vegetables, sausages and more.  Nonfood items including leather goods were also for sale.  Some samples of the food were given.  I particularly liked the cheese samples and olives.  We bought several delicious items that we ate later that day at a picnic.
Radishes for sale
Sweet strawberries at the Arles Market



Wonderful fresh colors of the Arles Market



Vendor at the Arles Market
Provencial Cheeses:  The samples tasted great and I bought a slice for later.


Monday, November 25, 2013

Arles Roman Arena

Arles Roman Arena
The Roman arena in Arles is just one of many fascinating things to see in this wonderful, sunny provincial town.  This arena is still in use today for many civic activities.  It is a marvel that this has stood for 2000 years and continues to be functional.

The Romans took the concept of an arch and created a whole world.  This arena itself is one arch after another.  Hundreds if not thousands of arches are used to build up this magnificent structure.  Because this is a circular building, you can get different angles of light simply by walking around the building itself.  As I did so, I found that view from the inside corridor that I liked.  The arches make a simple but beautiful view.  The light is what gives this all energy and power.

St. Triomphe Church in Arles

Ancient Arles Church Facade
They say the early bird catches the worm.  I say the early photographer beats the restoration crew.  During my visit in the city of Arles, I got up for a morning walk and wandered down to the town square.  The ancient St. Triomphe church has a wonderful fa├žade with apostles, Christ, creatures for minting centers as well as a army of saints and sinners at the final judgment.  In the morning I found this completely uncluttered, free for inspection and beautiful.  I walked right up close and could see the expressions on everyone's face.

Later I returned to go inside the church and I was surprised to find a hydraulic lift, scaffolding and lots of barricades blocking the view.  Apparently some work was being done to clean up the statues.  This was done during the daytime working hours.  Visiting during those hours, a traveler would not get to enjoy the uncluttered beauty.  I was glad I had come earlier.
Close-up of suffering sinner

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Garden of Marqueyssac (Jardin de Marqueyssac)

Jardin de Marqueyssac and Manor
The Garden of Marqueyssac sits above the lovely town of La Roque-Gageac.  Right across from this cliff-top garden is the imposing Castelnaud castle.  Anyone visiting the Dordogne region should consider a visit here among the many other spectacular sights.  It is a wonderful way to spend an afternoon, taking a break from the castles.  Instead, you will find yourself wandering through lovely manicured gardens.

You can wander through various trails, getting lost.  A cliffside trail gives wonderful views of the Dordogne River and ends at grand view point.  You will certainly enjoy it.  My personal opinion is that this is a notch below some of the other spectacular places in the Valley. 
Bush Heads at Garden of Marqueyssac
Typical View from the Cliffside Trail in Garden of Marqueyssac

La Roque-Gageac: Looking for Details

Quai de la Riviere:  a sign in lovely La Roque-Gageac
The perfect little town of La Roque-Gageac in the Dordogne region of France is the location that I stayed for 3 days while visiting this region.  The region has a lot to offer with the incredible castles of Beynac, Castelnaud, the picture-perfect town of Sarlat, rolling hills and farms, the living river and the Garden of Marqueyssac. 

After a lovely dinner, I wanted to capture some of the gown itself.  This is a little challenging because it sits between the river and a cliff.  It is very narrow and you really cannot step away from the town to see it entirely.  Instead I tried to focus on the details, smaller parts of the whole.  Hopefully that will satisfy.
Boulangerie in La Roque-Gageac
Burst of Sunlight at the End of Day
Window Treatments
Step into the Past
Shooting into the Sun

Sunrise from Domme, France

Dordogne River, taken at sunrise from Domme
Sitting atop a hill overlooking the Dordogne River Valley, the town of Domme is in a strategic position.  I'm sure that is why it was initially founded centuries ago.  In the safety of modern times, getting up here takes a little bit of time.  From Cenac town, you can follow the signs going up switchbacks to the town  of Domme.  Take your time on this climb.

Once he reached the town, a series of signs will tell you which way to travel in the narrow streets.  The streets are primarily one-way.  Following the signs will take you in a counterclockwise circuit through the town.  You will pass an ancient cemetery on the northeast corner of town.  Right after that there are areas to park your car and enjoy a wonderful view.  Looking north, you can see the lovely Dordogne River and the beautiful, manicured farmlands stretching as far as the eye can see.

Sunrise is an excellent time to visit because of the lighting of the landscape.  On my visit, I had clear skies.  Clear skies are uninteresting in a photograph.  Whenever this happens, I try to focus my lens a little bit below the horizon.  Here are a couple of shots that I was able to obtain.  The first photograph is taken at  105 mm.  The last photograph is at 24 mm.  Both were taken with the 24-105 mm F/4 L lens.  I tried to emphasize the beautiful curve in the river as well as the reflection of the bridge in the water.
Wider View of Dordogne River Valley at sunrise. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Beynac Castle in Dordogne, France

Beynac Castle
Beynac Castle is a splendid monument to the Middle Ages.  This castle was part of the Hundred Years War and was possessed by the French during that battle.  It has been meticulously cared for and is in wonderful condition . . . except for the cobblestone street leading up to the castle.  I happened to be traveling with a child in a wheelchair and the cobblestone was very difficult for him.  Apart from that, this is a wonderful sight to see.

The castle has a commanding view of the river.  The river takes a turn here and the castle was at the elbow of that curve/turn.  You can see down river and upriver easily.  This is a very strategic location.  There is another castle on the other side of the river that was British during the great war.  This is easily seen and also imposing.  The name of that castle is Castelnaud. 

There are plenty of opportunities to get artistic with photography here.  The ancient stone, the stairways, the beautiful views of the river, the old leaded glass windows are some of the things that attracted me.  I'm sure there is much more that can be found here.  Your creative juices can be put to good work.

The tour of the castle itself guided.  Most of the rooms are empty although there are a few tables or displays here and there.  The view of the surrounding countryside is peerless.

It is fun to note that several movies were filmed here.  I am most familiar with Drew Barrymore's movie "Ever After."  Beynac Castle served as the home of the villain.  Drew Barrymore walked out of the castle door pictured above.  It was there that she met her handsome and humbled prince who had come to save her.
View looking from the castle top
View looking up the Dordogne River
Cloisters
Spooky Stairway
Castle top is great for views all around the valley
The Main Beynac Castle Assembly Room
Artistic shot through the ancient glass
Student traveling through the castle, stopping to rest
View of Dordogne and the Beynac Castle Chapel