Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Day Trips From Santa Margherita: Cinque Terre

The other direction from Camogli, south this time, is Cinque Terre. It's an hour by train to the bottom-most town, Riomaggiore.. The top two photographs were taken there as we walked to the boat to Vernazza. You're welcome, Nigel. For some reason, an attack of the vapors came over both of us and we decided to skip the next town, Manarola, and continue on to Vernazza, where the rest of the photographs were taken. The climb to the vantage point overlooking Vernazza is arduous, especially after the vapors, but a refreshing dip in the harbor worked wonders when we got down. Brightly colored umbrellas fill the main piazza where diners have a choice of a number of restaurants, all seemingly interchangeable. The group of day-trippers in the next to last photo are eating a bit more cheaply with local deli take out. From here we hopped on the train north and back to home base.

Day Trips From Santa Margherita: Camogli

Steve DeMaesrti also told us not to miss Camogli, a town exactly five minutes by train from Santa Margherita. Our hotel, The Metropole, was a five minute walk from the train station, so we were in Camogli very quickly. From the last picture, one might surmise we were there until evening. Actually, I was looking directly into the sun, so I underexposed the photograph a few stops. It's the middle of the day. This is another beautiful town and the beach was packed. Things were quieter at the harbor on the other side of the church. After a half hour of walking around the harbor, we sat down for a drink and the ubiquitous snacks which served as lunch. Since we weren't going to the beach, we were back in Santa Margherita in a couple of hours. Thanks for the tip Steve! Sony NEX 7 and NEX 5n with the Sony 10-18 wide angle.

Santa Margherita Ligure in the Evening

My friends Jane and Steve Demaestri, who go to Italy about every two years or so, say that Santa Margherita is their favorite Italian destination, and I have to agree. It's not touristy in the least. There's no night life to speak of, unless you include walking slowly through the streets and along the waterfront after dinner as nightlife. There are families with young children in strollers, people enjoying a gelato, or sitting in the park talking. We ate three times at Da Pezzi, a fish restaurant we had discovered ten years earlier on our first trip to the area. This is also the restaurant where I ordered cuttlefish at the recommendation of the waiter. It was nice to be in a place where for five days we had nothing to do but lay by the sea and take it easy after the hectic pace of Istanbul and Venice. When we go out for dinner, I only take my small camera, the Sony RX 100, and it does a great job in low light.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Advertising in Istanbul

I'm a fan of two out of three of these products being advertised around Istanbul. In fact, I had a not-so-hot burger this evening and kept thinking "Beklediginze Degecek!" No kidding. I also got the new Samsung Galaxy S4 the other day at Costco, based on recommendations from friends. I know almost nothing about what it can do, but any friends of mine who read this will not be too surprised. My wife just called and I could barely figure out how to answer. Below, I hate jewelry but like the picture. Sony NEX 7 if memory serves.

See, Be Seen, Be Seen Eating

Although Venice has never been thought of as a foodies' destination, there are good restaurants if you want to take the time to seek them out. We usually relied on word-of-mouth by asking other diners where they had eaten. We enjoyed generally excellent food and in places with great atmosphere. My only misstep took place in Santa Margherita where I ordered cuttlefish, thinking it was like squid or octopus. Turns out, it's a different creature. I sent it back and ordered spaghetti Bolognese. Most of our dining was al fresco, and that was a treat in the warm Italian evenings. My credit card bill attests to the damage these culinary excursions did to my bank account.

A Little Color

About five days after I got back from Europe, I headed down to Santa Barbara with my friend Tom for a teacher's workshop at Brooks Institute of Photography. Frustratingly, there was actually no photography to do. I didn't even need my camera as we were in classrooms all day for two three-hour sessions. I did manage to play hookey on Saturday and spend the day driving around Santa Barbara doing photography. These three pictures were taken just outside one of the classrooms during a break in the session on travel photography. It was interesting to see the Brooks Institute "campus," two buildings about six blocks apart. Good exercise traipsing back and forth though. Sony RX 100.

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Most Beautiful Drawing Room in the World

Three photographs of the same place at three different times. At the top, Saint Mark's Square about six am. Almost completely empty except for a few photographers and the guys who sweep up from the previous night. Breathtakingly beautiful. Napoleon called it "The Most Beautiful Drawing Room in the World." If you're claustrophobic, however, you don't want to be anywhere near this place in the middle of the day, say from ten am to four pm. It's impossible to walk in a straight line to get where you're going. By about eight, you can walk through it on your way to dinner without ramming into people. By ten, it's wonderful again with modest crowds paying exhorbitant prices to sit and listen to one of the three or four rotating orchestras play the classics with violin the lead instrument in each case. Many people simply walk a few steps to hear the different groups play and stand behind the seats occupied by the high rollers and get their evening's entertainment for free. A photographer acquaintance scoffed openly when I told him we were going to Venice in the summer. I'll take it when I can get it. One day, after being out most of the afternoon, my wife talked me into sitting down at a table in the square and having a drink before we went back to the hotel. A gin and tonic and a vodka tonic later, we were less thirty-two euros, minus the tip. Yikes!

Gelato Santa Margherita Ligure

My wife and I were discussing whether or not gelato just tastes better because you're in Italy or that it  actually is better there. I don't have an answer, but I do know that gelato is magnificent anywhere. These photographs were taken with the Sony RX 100, a camera so unimposing that nobody gives it a second thought. I like pictures two and three: two because of the light and delight of the mother and daughter, and three because I noticed that the girl in yellow was sampling some of her store's wares. 

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Reflecting on Italy

Yes, of course it was intended. Anyhow, I have consciously looked for reflections the past ten years or so. Before that, I just never looked down or spent enough time looking slowly at a scene. In Venice, I would get up early, before sunrise, and just wander for an hour or so before the cruise ships emptied their passengers to clog the main artery that runs between Saint Mark's Square and the Rialto Bridge. Since many of these people are afraid of getting lost and so stay on the same path everyone else does, just wandering off a bit pretty much removes you from the crowds. What  I wonder is, how can you get lost on an island? I splurged and hired a water taxi/speed boat from the airport for an outrageous price, and the second photograph is our driver wending his way through the canals to our hotel. The fourth photograph is an art exhibit erected for the Venice Bienalle. At the bottom, a reflection of gondolas in the "parking lot" next to our hotel, just steps from Saint Mark's Square. Average hotel, great location.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Framing Devices Venice

I am always looking for framing devices: round, square, oblong, rectangular, oddly shaped, horizontal, doesn't really matter as long as the subject has something to shape it in the foreground. The tough part is getting it right in Photoshop. None of these shapes looks exactly like this before processing. They are often off-center, curved, or non-parallel either horizontally or vertically. It helps if the viewer is not distracted by poor alignment of the frames, and it takes a while to get them straightened out. I have a difficult time, despite the grid in my viewfinder, of getting verticals to be vertical. I always have to fix them, somewhat radically at times. There's also the problem of the lenses having all kinds of aberration. If the lens is pointed up where the sensor is not flat to the subject, there are going to be distortion problems. While I enjoy working in Photoshop, five or six hours a day after returning from a trip can get very tedious. Cameras used for these shots were the Sony NEX 7 and the Sony RX 100.