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The Med 2017; Islands that start with “M”

Mykonos, Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Malta.  A place I don’t think I ever gave any thought about.  When we originally decided on the cruise, the second stop was Ancient Ephesus, in Turkey.  But cruise ships aren’t going to Turkey anymore.  Sad.  Our world needs to change.  But that’s for another time.  Malta:  my first and only thought was “The Maltese Falcon.”  Turns out there is a falcon native to Malta that middle eastern falconers were partial too.  Which is where any connection ends.  Heck, I doubt Bogart even knew where Malta was. 🙂

Malta
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Mykonos.  It is a Greek island, which is appropriate, since this was a “Greek Isles Cruise.”  We (my wife and I) were there once before, on our shortened, 2013 Mediterranean Cruise.  Mykonos is very small, so we didn’t book a tour there.  In Malta, we just didn’t know anything about it, and had no idea what to do.  So we had two relatively free days, with an “at sea” day in between.  which was fine, because things got pretty hectic for the remainder of the cruise.

Malta
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Photographically, Mykonos is a pretty great spot.  Malta was o.k., but not photographically inspiring.  So most of my images during these two stops were made on Mykonos.  Malta is its own sovereign nation.  It actually played a pretty big role for allies in WWII.  It consists of 3 walled cities.  We were able to see two of them from our moored cruise ship.  Being an island, it is obviously very much a maritime society, and we were impressed with the vast number of small pleasure craft moored in the many harbors around the island.

Mykonos
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Mykonos is one of the best known popular Greek islands.  It is a popular beach destination for the citizens of the Mediterranean.  Most of the island is comprised of either retail shops, hotels (which are built into the unique architecture), and private dwellings.

Mykonos Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Mykonos Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Mykonos Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

There are many backstreets, and all of them are created with the “cobblestone” look (which is really cement).  I am always take by the colors they use to set off the white stucco buildings everywhere.

Mykonos Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Mykonos is also famous for its distinctive windmills (though we did see them again in Santorini and Rhodes).

Mykonos Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

From my perspective, since we had been to Mykonos, I was keying for the next couple destinations, Rhodes, Santorini and the Amalfi Coast.  Some pretty great travel was yet to come.  Next up, Rhodes.

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More Venice; 2017

Venice, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Much of what we did in Venice this trip was centered around walking tours, food and drink.  In past trips abroad, we have availed ourselves of a type of a “pub crawl” tour.  This year, they were not operating the week we were there.  So we kind of did our own, walking down one of the neighborhood canals and trying their “small plate” foods, know as chichetta.  We also managed to find a new restaurant with good food each night.

Venice Rooftops
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

During the day, we were able to do a tour of Piazza San Marco, including the Doge’s Palace, which acts basically as a museum with a lot of classic art, some incredible architecture, and the fascinating prison.  While somewhere up in the “bowels” of the Palace, my mind wandered from the talk our guide was giving, and I saw the rooftop scene out the window.  The lone yellow umbrella drew my attention.

Venice, Italy Rooftops
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

When I began post-processing of this image, it occurred to me this might make a nice “watercolor” subject, so I fooled around with it in some of the software I have that I rarely delve into.  I need to do more experimenting. Maybe a good winter project.

Tile Floor
Doge’s Palace
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

I did pay attention to the art and architecture inside the palace, though.  When we were there in 2013, photographs, including the tile floor, were forbidden.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that on this occasion, photography was generally allowed everywhere unless our guide specifically noted otherwise (flash was generally not allowed anywhere).  The illusion created by this floor is pretty amazing.

Doge’s Palace
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Doge’s Palace
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

The photo with feet in it shows the detail in the tile and what could otherwise be viewed as a 3-dimensional pile of bricks.

Gondola Factory
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Our tour that day took us by foot along the San Marco waterfront, including a walk by the only remaining gondola factory on the island.

Venice
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

There were also some nice quiet neighborhoods we walked through.  There are a lot of photogenic subjects.

Venice
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

 

Burano, 2017

Burano, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Murano and Burano are part of the Venice archipelago, though they are far enough from Venice that they cannot be connected by bridge. But they are both in the Venetian Lagoon. The very capable Vapparetto (water bus) system in Venice gets one to both of these islands with relative ease. We have learned that the daily pass (we bought a 3-day) works very well on the Venice public transportation system. Each actually is its own archipelago; Murano having seven islands and 8 canals, all connected by footbridges, and Burano having 4 islands and 3 canals, also connected by footbridges. Obviously, boat and foot traffic are the mode here, as on Venice.

Burano, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Murano, as the story is told, became what it is today because of the very real risk of fire on Venice. Originally known as a fishing port and salt-making venue, it today houses the famous Murano glass makers. There is no land-based fire fighting equipment in Venice and in 1291, all of Venice’s glassmakers were required to move their operations off the island. They went to Murano. The island has become very much a tourist destination, but there is still a thriving industry of glass-blowing (primarily art and decorative items). Murano glass is pretty, and expensive. I spent a very short part of my 2013 blog on Murano, and will not repeat it here. My primary takeaway this trip was how commercial the island has become and just how much the retail tourist shops dominate the landscape.

Burano, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Burano is a different story. While it certainly has its share of retail influence (some of it very “high-end”), it has impressed me on both trips as a much quieter, more pastoral destination. Perhap the fact that Burano is famous for its colored houses, and they are quite photogenic influenced that. But it just seemed more “laid back.”

Burano, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Again, originally probably mainly a fishing port, Burano is today known for its lace production (though we are told that you have to be careful that you are indeed getting locally made lace; and that the local product is expensive). We wandered the streets, stopped for a glass of local wine, and perused some of the lace shops.

Burano, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

But again and again, what attracted my eye, was the very colorful buildings; particularly along the canals.

Burano, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

The Mediterranean; 2017

Canal Reflection
Venice, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

It has been a long time since I have posted regularly here.  I just ran out of “fuel” for a while.  :-). As I “teased,” a couple blogs back, I just returned from the Mediterranean.  At the end of August, we flew to Marco Polo airport in Venice, Italy, for our 3rd (actually my wife’s 4th) Mediterranean adventure. This time, we spent 4 days in Venice, and then took the train to Rome’s seaport; Civatavecchia, Italy, to board our cruise ship for a “Greek Isles” cruise. With stops in Cicily, Malta, the Greek Isles of Mykonos, Rhodes and Santorini, Athens and Naples (where we toured the Amalfi Coast, we had a wonderful time and there were many photo-ops along the way. The next few blogs will contain a travelogue, of sorts, of our trip.

Venice, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

We spent 3 full days in Venice in 2013, and I thought I had shot about all I would be able to find. I planned to see Venice this trip more as a casual tourist, and perhaps partly through the eyes of our friends who were traveling with us. My wife is the master of the itinerary, and had set us up with some great tours. And, we wanted to sample local food and drink. But I did carry the small camera and couldn’t resist some shots 🙂 .

Venice, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

One planned item, however, didn’t go as well as planned.  When we were there in 2013, we stayed off the island, and I missed the opportunity to shoot at night. Venice is alight at night and with all of the canals, decorations, and lights, presents some pretty great night time photo-ops.  On the first day there (probably from lifting heavy bags), I threw out my lower back and was in a fair amount of pain during our entire time in Venice. About the only comfortable position was laying flat. At the same time, we were out for dinner every night. Unfortunately by the time we returned each night, all I could think about laying down. I did make just a few night time images. The rest of them will have to wait until my next trip to Venice.  The shot below is on the canal where we stayed for our 4 days.  Night images leave a lot of room for expirimentation and I suspect I will play around with these images in future months.

Night Canal
Venice, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

There is no vehicular traffic (not even bicycles) on Venice proper, and all travel is either by foot, or by boat.  So it stands to reason that there is “a canal or two” on the island (actually 118 separate, man-made islands and 170 canals which require 400-some footbridges to cross them).  With their inherent reflections, boats, and composition opportunities, it is not surprising that they make irresistible photographic subjects.

Canal
Venice, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

One of the tours we did was a walking tour.  Venice is made up of 6 political/municipal districts, known as Sestieri.  Most of the famous and commercial sights, Like St. Mark’s Square and Bascilica (Piazza San Marco), The Rialto Bridge (Ponte Rialto), the Fish Market and retail district, are in the more popular San Marco Sestiere and and San Polo Sestiere.  But there is a lot of quiet, neighborhoods with lots of small restaurants, housing, and beautiful old churches and other buildings.  The Sestiere Dorsoduro is one of the lesser known areas, with some of this beauty.  We enjoyed the tour and the sights.

Street in Dorsoduro
Venice, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Building in Dorsoduro
Venice, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

The Sestiere Cannaregio has the only true “street” (strada) so-named on the island (Strada Nova), which goes along the Grand Canal from the Ferrovia Train Station (the entrance to Venice by train) to the Rialto Bridge, which is partly into the Sestiere San Marco.  There is a lot of activity along this stretch, but as you go north a street or two, it again, becomes quiet local neighborhoods.  Slightly further back in is the neighborhood known as “The Jewish Ghetto.”

Cannaregio
Venice, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Contrary to the connotation we Americans get with the term “ghetto,” it is actually neither a perjorative term, nor a “bad place.”  That font of all knowledge, Wikipedia, defines “ghetto” as a segregated part of a city, or a slum.  It also credits Venice for the origination of the term, but is equivocal about it.  The Venetians we spoke to have no equivocation.  The term “getto” (pronounced jetto) is a foundry fireplace.  The jewish population in Venice were metal workers and ran foundries, and were given this area (partly because it was north of, and away from the main centers of activity) for their foundry activities.  At some point, open flames were banned from Venice due to fire danger.  It is for this reason that the glass blowers moved north to the island of Murano.

Housing in Jewish Ghetto
Venice, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Finally, I just can’t resist images of the Grand Canal.

Grand Canal
Venice, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

We also traveled (again) to Murano and to Burano and while I didn’t make any memorable images of Murano, I have a few nice shots from Burano.  Next:  Burano

Here We Go Again (It’s Fall!)

Second Edition!

Here we go again.  It’s fall foliage photography season.  Are you ready?

Reflections; Cascade River, Minnesota

Over the nearly 10 years since I started blogging here, I must have blogged about fall color and foliage a dozen times.  Maybe More. Not surprisingly, it remains a favorite subject for me.  For some who are fortunate enough to have great foliage photo-ops in their backyard, what I will say here may not apply. But for perhaps the vast majority of us, these opportunities often come only after travel to a more aesthetically accommodating venue.

Somesville Town Hall and Bridge
Somesville, Maine
Copyright Andy Richards 2009

I have traveled to New England (prominently: Vermont), the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, Maine, Minnesota, West Virginia, Virginia and New Mexico, in various years, to photograph fall color. Vermont has long been a love of mine, and I have made numerous trips there; enough to prompt me to take my first foray into “publishing” with the first edition of “Photographing Vermont’s Fall Foliage” in 2012.

As the previous blog notes, I am very happy to announce the 2nd Edition of this book, with updates and substantial additional locations (the first edition is no longer available, as the sellers required that it be removed from circulation in order to sell subsequent editions). The New Edition is currently available on Amazon, Apple, in the iBookstore, and Kobo.

Maple Leaf
Stowe, Vermont
Copyright Andy Richards 2005

Many of the persons I communicate with at this time of the year are primarily leaf peepers with cameras. For those folks, go and enjoy! For serious photographers, I want to make a few observations, based on my own travel experience.

Miner’s Castle; Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Michigan U.P.
Copyright 2012 Andy Richards

Preparation is Key

Mental preparation is the most important piece of this. Just because it is fall foliage season, doesn’t mean the rules for good photography change :-). It is important to be thoroughly familiar with the gear you will be using, as the “window” for a great image is often very short, and you may only have one chance to visit the location. In 2010, prior to my planned week-long trip to Vermont, I hit a milestone of sorts, in my own photography.  I had always planned my locations and tried to find as much “intel” about a location as I could.  But this time, I focused less on those details, and instead gave some contemplative thought to what I wanted to present visually, emotionally, and artistically.  I think this contributed to one of my most successful trips.

Hiawatha NF Color Sections
Michigan U.P.
Copyright 2012 Andy Richards

What you can take on a trip is also always a consideration. When I shoot near home, or somewhere I can drive to, the photographic gear I will take is generally only limited by what I own (and can afford).  When flying, you really have to consider weight, and bulk. Most of us do not feel comfortable checking a bag with photo gear in it for a number of reasons. So what can you carry on, along with your other needs?  One of the miracles of modern technology is the ability to make great images with a lighter, simpler gearset.  For “casual” travel (I define that as any travel I do that is not specifically and solely dedicated to photography), I now carry a very small, packable carbon fiber tripod and the RXSony 100 iv (a point & shoot sized camera, with some professional credentials).  Even when I go on a dedicated photo shoot, the camera, lenses and tripod are much small and lighter than in the past.

Glade Creek Gristmill
Babcock State Park, WV
Copyright 2011 Andy Richards

A better question might be “what lens will you use?”

Photographic gear is a subject that is often over-thought, in my opinion.  Cameras, lenses, filters, and accessories are — for sure — tools that are necessary to the making of an image.  And there is no doubt that higher quality tools can render a technically better result.  If that is what you seek.  I have already read, several times recently, the question:  “what is the best lens for foliage photography?”  I don’t think there is a “correct” answer to that question.  A better question might be “what lens will you use?”

Tahquamenon Falls
Michigan Upper Peninsula
Copyright 2004 Andy Richards

However, that there are other considerations that will have a more direct bearing on the successful image.  Understanding light, and composition will have much more effect on imagery, in my view, than any other factor.  This assumes, of course, that you already have a solid grounding on exposure principles, how to focus the camera, and considerations of aperture and depth of field.  This relates directly back to the first point:  preparation.  If you do not come to your subject in the best light, it will be difficult to make a really great image.  More often than not, this means early and late (or–think:  during breakfast and supper :-)).  Much of my more recent travel has centered around other activities, such as family time, tours, etc.  While I do make images, it is often apparent that they were not take in the “best” light, and I frequently lament that it would be nice to be at a location either very early or in the late afternoon/early evening.  If your trip is photography-focused, you will need to be mentally prepared to be on site at times that may be inconvenient to others you travel with.  When I have made my fall foliage trips, the majority of them have either been alone, or with other, equally serious, photographers.

Santa Fe Ski Basin
Santa Fe, NM
Copyright 2008 Andy Richards

Don’t forget the “other” gear you may need.  Most fall foliage locations have the potential for very warm weather, rain, and even freezing temperatures (especially at sunrise).  Hat, gloves, sunscreen, and adaptable clothing is important.

Fall Color Reflection
Copyright 2012 Andy Richards

Most important of all, though is to have fun and enjoy the process as much as the result!  Best to all of out out there and good shooting!

Burton Hill Road
Barton, Vermont
Copyright 2010 Andy Richards

Shape

Color

Last time, I wrote about color.  Color attracts.  It always grabs my attention.  It pulls the eye.  But as this image illustrates, it is about more than just color.  This image is boring.  Mundane.  In fact, pretty awful to be displayed on a photographer’s blog.  But I hope it illustrates my point.  Color is a big part of my imagery.  But there are other important ingredients. 🙂

Rose
Copyright Andy Richards 2008

Color alone will not make an interesting or compelling image

As the opening image illustrates, color, alone, will not make an interesting (and most certainly not compelling image).  Indeed it is so mundane that I didn’t copyright notice it or claim “artistic” credit.  I am sure I am not the first to have created an image very like this one.  So what’s missing?

Rocks, Lake Superior Shoreline
Copyright Andy Richards 2004

There are a lot of things that will bring interest to an image.  Line, horizon, animation (either illustrated, or in the case of many animal images, imagined).  I want to talk about shape today.

Elliot Falls
Copyright Andy Richards 2009

When I started to look through my archive for illustrations, I thought I was going to have a lot more illustrations that said “shape.”  I also thought about writing about “line.”  A topic to come.  But I was surprised that I was able to find many examples of line, or line and shape.  But fewer that shape alone provided the interest.  Some good examples appeared in the last blog.  The pottery in the shop in Istanbul was really all about color and shape.  Likewise the fans in Japan.

Shiawassee River, Owosso, MI
Copyright Andy Richards 2009

The Rose image has plenty of color.  Two primary colors in fact; red and green.  A blob (or an uninteresting shape) of red and green would not be interesting.  As a photographer, its presence would perhaps pull my eye.  But upon closer inspection, it would not tickle my photographic fancy.

Parking Structure on Wabash Avenue, Chicago
Copyright Andy Richards 2008

Nature presents us with unique and interesting shapes and textures.  The Lake Superior rocks image is another example of nature’s unique presentation of shape, texture and color.  This image might be interesting without all three of the elements.  Maybe the shape and texture would still make a viable image.  But the color attracted me, and the shape and texture of the image prompted me to make it.  Likewise, shapes make the Elliot Falls image in my view.  This Michigan U.P. waterfall is oft-photographed and it is difficult to find a unique perspective.  But the scallops in the sandstone really make this image.

Street Shops
Madrid, NM
Copyright Andy Richards 2008

I was looking for color the morning I took the Shiawassee River photo.  The background was cluttered and not very picturesque.  So I started looking for reflections.  The shape of the log creates enough interest to the eye to make this image work.  Sometimes you have to “help” nature just a bit.  The Noyes Pond bubbles image is a favorite of mine.  Without the bubbles, you have another “record” shot of fall foliage surrounding a pond.  The familiar shape of the bubbles adds interest.  I must confess that although I was involved in making the bubbles, my photograph was not the primary reason for them on this morning.  This image was made in memory of a dear friend, and enthusiastic fellow Vermont shooter.  But I think George would have loved this image. 🙂 .

Moulton Barn
Mormon Row, WY
Copyright Andy Richards 2012

Man made shapes often lend themselves to “shape” composition.  Architecture often lends itself to some dramatic images.  I visited Chicago several time over the years and always loved to walk around downtown in the early morning hours.  This well-known parking structure can be seen in the background of many images of downtown Chicago.  Its unique shape and physical prominence makes it visible from a number of viewpoint around the city.  Color once again drew my eye to the back street shops in Madrid, New Mexico.  Pastel colors abound in much of New Mexico’s architecture.  But again, without the juxtaposed rectangles throughout the image, it would be just a blob of color.  I liked that this image is made up of essentially all rectangles and straight lines.

Canadian Air Force
Fleet Week Air Show
San Francisco, CA
Copyright Andy Richards 2011

Shapes in a image can sometimes be serendipitous.  Without the contrails in the Canadian Air Force image, we would just see a handful of red dots in an shapeless, monotone sky.  The contrails make this image.

Starburst
Copyright Andy Richards 2009

And, sometimes you just have to make your own shapes.  The starburst image was taken at Christmas time of a lighted outdoor tree display in front of a large commercial building.  It just wasn’t doing it for me, so I played.  The image is shot at a slow shutter speed, on a tripod, while a zoomed the zoom lens.  But in the end, my favorite shapes come from mother nature and her random, unique artistry.  The Whitefish Falls image is but another nearly ubiquitous single drop waterfall in the Michigan U.P.  There are many of them that all look essentially identical.  To make a more unique image, I walked in close for my favorite “intimate” perspective.  I like the result as much as any shape I have ever shot.

Whitefish Falls
Trenary, MI
Copyright Andy Richards 2007

Color

Shop; Istanbul, Turkey
Copyright Andy Richards 2014

Hey there.  I have been “MIA” lately.  A series of “life events,” together with the general malaise I usually feel during the winter months, have conspired against my writing.  Where I live, we get snow, but it is “dirty” snow that melts.  There is no “snowy landscape” shooting around here.  I was able to get some Florida shots in the early part of the winter.  We still don’t have anything shoot-worthy here right now.  It is cold and mostly wet.  But there is hope.  We do have early leaves on the trees, and green plants and dandelions.  Now we just need some warm sun to produce some flowers.  So here we are.

Residence; Clontarf, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2014

Color.  I think it is pretty well-accepted that color attracts.  I know it does for me.  I see color and I tend to gravitate toward it with my lens.  I have shot and presented in color for the better part of 35 years.

Venice, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2013

I have shot B&W.  I shot it as a “reporter-photographer” for my college newspaper and yearbook.  I shot a whole roll of of the beautiful cherry blossoms around the Tidal Basin in Washington D.C. once — accidentally.  But that’s another story  🙂 .  And I tell myself I will spend some time one day seriously looking at B&W as a photographic art.  I am truly impressed by the successful B&W shooters out there.  It is hard.  Especially for the nature and outdoor topics that I like to shoot.  But that’s another topic on another day.

Shop; St. Maarten
Copyright Andy Richards 2012

So, color.  I was recently doing some “maintenance” on my LightCentric Website, and noticed a couple images that–after I worked them up to post to the site–I had not really ever paid attention to.  And I wondered why?  Why did I even make these images.  Yes, they are often typical to the culture where I made them.  And I was there.  Those are pretty good reasons.

Istanbul, Turkey
Copyright Andy Richards 2013

But what made me shoot them?  As I looked at them and thought about it, the answer came almost immediately clear:  color.  Color attracted me to them.  And, more often than not, it was some particular colored object within the frame that drew my attention.  And as I considered it more, I realized that is a theme of much of my travel and “place” photography.  I look for color.  Subconsciously.  I see color and I am drawn to it.  And I guess it it no coincidence that color attracts us all.  When you look at the markets, many of the displays are a wash of color.  I saw that in Turkey.  I saw it in Venice.  I saw it all over the Caribbean.  I even see it in places like Milbrae, California, Saginaw, Michigan and Dunedin, Florida.

Shop; Kyoto, Japan
Copyright Andy Richards 2016

Color is everywhere.  Color attracts.  I like color and I shoot color.  Pretty simple.