Monday, January 29, 2007

Dubrovnik, Croatia

Just got back a few hours ago from spending a weekend in Dubrovnik, Croatia. It is another UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its pretty empty this time of year, but I can imagine it is packed during the summer vacation months. Took HEAPS of photos, here's a real quick look at a few.

The City Walls at Dusk

Not Every Church is a Grand Cathedral

Mighty Baby

The Old City Through a Window in the Wall.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Right Time, Wrong Place

Here is what the sunset looked like Saturday night. This photo is a jpeg straight out of my camera with no help from photoshop. I have my camera purposely set to keep the colors a little muted and less saturated compared to typical digital cameras and film. So it may be hard to believe, but the oranges and reds were actually more intense than displayed in this picture. A photo I took of Ryan with his camera made it look like he was standing in the middle of an inferno.

Unfortunately, from our balcony, deck or whatever you call it, there was nothing interesting for a silhouette or foreground. I couldn't pass up the intense color though. So it certainly was the right time for a great sunset photo, but our apartment was probably the wrong place :(

Too bad I wasn't a couple miles away, at the east end of the city looking here!

Saturday, January 20, 2007


If you've looked through the photos in my blog, it is probably obvious that cemeteries are my favorite or at least most consistent photographic subject. Cemeteries say something about the respective culture of the area of the world and the people buried there...what it is they say or what it means I'm not sure...but the brightly colored above ground crypts in Guatemala's central highlands tell a totally different story than the neat rows of white obelisks in the modern Muslim cemeteries of Sarajevo. Here are a few photos of a Muslim cemetery outside of Baku.

The cemetery is in a pretty stark, basically desert environment and the sunlight when I was there was a bit harsh too. However, the headstones and graves were incredible in their variety. I'll post some contrasting photos of the Muslim headstones from the mid 90's war here in Sarajevo later.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

A Difficult Subject (Photographically Speaking)

Sometimes I see something that is really cool, or a beautiful scene and I take some photographs. When I get a chance to go back and look at the photos, something is missing or they just don't look that great.

I first learned this when I got a wide angle lens back in the early 90s. I took many boring "grand vistas" and eventually it taught me a huge amount about composition, especially foreground/background, leading lines and "rule of thirds". As I got better at it, the 24mm lens became my favorite (on a normal 35mm SLR). I learned about using longer lenses for subject isolation and open apertures for selective focus a while later, but generally I shot with either the 24mm or a 90mm lens (which I did tend to use wide open).

It wasn't until relatively recently that I started using my longer lenses with any regularity and now my 70-200 2.8L with image stabilization is my clear favorite. I frequently use it to isolate a subject, by focus and by zooming "close" to select an interesting aspect of the overall scene. Sometimes resulting photo still comes back missing something, or maybe just a bit boring.

As I've been going back through the photos I've taken in the past 8 months organizing, key wording etc. I've also started to realize how many UNESCO World Heritage sites I've been too. Walled City of Baku with the Shirvanshah's Palace and Maiden Tower is the only one in Azerbaijan, and I was there this fall. The Maiden Tower photos I have are basically tourist snapshots, I didn't come up with anything interesting or some new perspective, unusually interesting light or anything, and I knew it at the time.

Just a block or so away in the walking area though, there is a neat fountain. I took some photos of it and I thought they would be interesting. I ran across these today and messed with the best in photoshop. Quite frankly, I was disappointed. The photo is too "busy", with the subject of the female sculpture just not standing out enough against the rest of the fountain. What do you think?

Thursday, January 11, 2007

In the "olden" days...

Ceiling of the Mosque of Mohamed Ali, Saladin's Citadel Cairo

When you came home from a vacation, you dropped the film canisters off at the local grocery store, or maybe a photo kiosk and got your 24 or 36 4x6" prints back anywhere from 1 hour to 1 week later. You brought them home, to the next extended family function, and maybe to the office to share.

Sunset, Hyatt Regency Na'ama Bay Sharm el Sheikh

People would thumb through with maybe some "oohs" or "aahs" thrown in. If you were an organized person, they get filed away or put into a little album labeled "Vacation 1996" or something. (if you were me, they got dumped in a box :)

The Sphinx and Pyramid, Giza

With the advent of digital cameras, the equivalent is coming home, downloading the photos to a computer, maybe emailing them to friends and family, posting on a blog or a photo share web site such as flickr, pbase, yahoo etc.

Sunrise, 30 December 2006, Mt. Sinai

In either case, not many people take the time to do much editing in the form of throwing out the boring, the out-of-focus, or incorrectly exposed photos. Only if one or a few photos were chosen for reprinting and "blown up" was any effort made. I was one that usually made the effort to cull the worst shots, the ones that look the same as the others before anyone thumbed through. So by the time people saw my photographs they saw only my better shots. Usually they saw less than 1/2 (sometimes much less) of what was taken. One result is that I have received a number of complimentary comments over the years along the lines of: "Your photos are really nice".

View of Cairo and Giza from Saladin's Citadel with the Pyramids in the Distance

First, I'd suggest that if you throw out the worst 50%, everyone's photos will look better. Second, this was the long way of saying I've finished going through our vacation photos. I ended up "messing with" 35 out of 289 that I took. People that got to see all 35 saw a mere 12.1% (less than 1/8) of what I shot...I sure hope they look good :) These were a few more of my favorites...

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Mt Sinai Sunrise

Sunrise from Mt Sinai

Shelby on the Hike Down

While in Sharm el Sheikh, Shelby and I took an overnight tour that took us out in the desert of the Sinai to climb Mt Sinai and visit St Catherine's Monastery. Mt. Sinai (or Mt. Moses as it is called there) is the site where Moses received the 10 Commandments. St. Catherine Monastery (another UNESCO World Heritage site) is supposedly the oldest Christian monastery in the world and is said to sit on the site of the "Burning Bush" of old testament biblical fame.

We climbed Mt Sinai by flashlight. It was cold, I had the hiccups and felt terrible. The "hike" was about 7 kilometers (about 4.3 miles) one way with 750 "steps" at the top. The steps were covered in ice and snow, which was actually more of an issue on the way back down. I wore two t-shirts, a long sleeved shirt and a baggy sweater (which I loaned to Shelby most of the time). Shelby was better prepared for the cold, but I think she felt colder than I did. It was cold enough that when the nice scarf she had bought to wear inside St. Catherine Monastery got wet, I told her to wave it in the now risen froze into a solid sheet.

I'm not sure I would have gone if I realized ahead of time, how far it was, how cold it was, and how bad I would be feeling. Above are a couple of photos from our trek. Unfortunately, I didn't feel well enough on the way up to get good photos of the streams of people and their flashlights winding through the desert and up the mountain.

One of Those Memories...

We saw the pyramids in Egypt on our much needed holiday vacation. The tour guide did his best to keep me from getting the photos I wanted. Rushing me, not stopping the van at a critical moment, (we were private customers, it wasn't like I was holding up the group). I still managed to get a couple good shots, including this one of the smallest of the three Giza pyramids, Menkaure's Pyramid. A storm was brewing over Giza and Cairo in the distance while the sun going down in late afternoon behind us. My memory of the pyramids will always be flavored by the "helpful" guide. It makes me smile now, but I was grumpy at the time!