• Andy’s E-BOOK — Photography Travel Guides

  • PLEASE RESPECT COPYRIGHTS!!

    All Images and writing on this blog are copyrighted by Andy Richards. All rights are reserved. You may not, without my express, written permission, download, right click, or otherwise copy my images for any reason. Copying an image and putting it on your blog, website, or even as a screensaver on your computer is a breach of copyright, EVEN IF YOU ATTRIBUTE THE SOURCE! Please do not do so.
  • On This Blog:

  • Categories

  • Andy’s Photography Galleries

    Click Here To See My Gallery of Photographic Images

    LightCentric Photography

  • Andy's Flickr Photos

  • Prior Posts

  • Posts By Date

    December 2019
    M T W T F S S
    « Nov    
     1
    2345678
    9101112131415
    16171819202122
    23242526272829
    3031  

Here We Go Again: Capri, Italy

[Clicking on an image opens it in a new tab with a much better quality image and view. I encourage you to do that]

Isle of Capri
Naples, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

We seem to have ramped up our travel. This was our second trip to Europe in just a few months, both in 2019. I think we are done for this year. 🙂

Isle of Capri
Naples, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

I suppose every one is different, but this was a different cruise for us. In all but 2 other instances (we are “seasoned” travelers now, with 9 cruises and 2 other trips abroad over that past few years), we had friends traveling with us. This time we struck out on our own. And this time, we had fun, making the acquaintance of a number of other couples, from Europe, Australia, and the U.S. We almost always have a full “event” schedule on these cruises. This time, although we did join a few tours, a lot of the time was spent exploring and wandering on our own. This was true in Capri (as it was at the end, in La Spezia).

Isle of Capri
Naples, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Isle of Capri
Naples, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

A number of our ports did not necessarily have major “destination” or “must-see” things, which made it perhaps more interesting. Our first port was Naples. We have spent a fair amount of time in Naples during each of our Mediterranean Cruises, and felt like we had seen the highlights, including the Amalfi Coast and Sorrento. We have not been to Pompei (maybe next time). But I had alway heard that the Isle of Capri was beautiful, as well as being a known playground for the so-called “rich and famous.” So I wanted to see what it was all about.

Isle of Capri
Naples, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Isle of Capri
Naples, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Isle of Capri
Naples, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

With no particular agenda, we bought ferry tickets and set out for Capri. The Island is really quite large, and we only saw a small part of it. Our ferry landed in the main marina for the island; Marina Grande. There is another marina on the south side of the Island called Marina Piccola, and though we saw views of it from up in Capri, we didn’t venture down there. The two primary village attractions on Capri are the villages of Capri and Anacapri. Not having made any transportation arrangements, our short, day visit didn’t allow us to visit Anacapri, though my research tells me it is more of the same: spectacular views and typical European construction. Originally settled by the Greeks (it later was at one point a French holding, and eventually restored to Italy/Sicily), it reminded me of the settlements on the Greek Isles.

Isle of Capri
Naples, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Isle of Capri
Naples, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Isle of Capri
Naples, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

One thing we did miss (poor research on my part) was the so-called “Phoenecian Steps,” a stairway from Marina Grande to the top, build many years back by the Greek inhabitants. They apparently start close to where we landed, and then end at the top, near the border between Capri and Anacapri. We will look for them next time.  🙂 While these steps would require a rather vigorous climb, the top is actually rather easily reached by riding the funicular ($2 Euros each way) to the to and the Pietta Funiculara, in the middle of the Village of Capri. We walked for a couple hours, without any plan, not really venturing far from the main part of the village. The walkways were steep and winding, with plenty of great views of the Gulf of Naples.

Isle of Capri
Naples, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Isle of Capri
Naples, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

I was not disappointed in my assessment of the village. In its heart, there were many high-end shops and restaurants. However, as we ventured of the main streets, we found many quiet and pretty scenes. Photographically, I think this trip was – in part – about finding unique scenes, and my image curating and processing is bearing that out. A large percentage of my shots are not “iconic,” but rather of quiet, discrete and pretty scenes I came upon as we wandered.

Isle of Capri
Naples, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Isle of Capri
Naples, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

It was (is) All About the Medium

Kodachrome 25; 1990s

For potentially bored readers, I have some good news. I just returned from another European trip in October, which means some new images again, rather than my historical stroll down memory lane. I am post-processing images right now. But first, another reminiscent post:

Kodachrome, was simply the standard by which any other choice was measured. And until the 1980’s they generally just didn’t measure up.

My “evolution” series got me thinking a bit about the medium. Those who have been shooting only during the past 20 years may be vaguely aware of an old cellulose material called film. When I jumped in, film was all we had, and the “pickins” were slim.  If you wanted to shoot color slides (the medium of choice, it seems, for serious “nature” photographers), you mainly had Kodak. There were competitors, but in the early years, Kodak dominated the film world, for a number of reasons. Most shops and retail stores stocked Kodak products.


In the Beginning, God created the Heavens and the Earth ….. and Kodachrome

Perhaps the most important reason was that Kodachrome, was simply the standard by which any other choice was measured. And until the 1980’s the others generally just didn’t measure up.

prior to about 1936, color photography was not prevalent among all but a limited group of professionals. Color wasn’t really that great (though it was relative, I suppose). Early results (including some early color slide films) are reminiscent of the early “colorized” movies we saw. We all knew it was black and white with some color added. In my mind, this was true until Kodachrome became the standard.

In 1936, a couple of musician-turned-scientists were hired by Eastman Kodak to complete their experimental process. As I did my research, I was interested to learn that there actually was another “Kodachrome,” which was a 2-color process, developed by a Kodak engineer in 1913. In 1936, Kodak introduced the 3-layer process which became the vaunted Kodachrome. Called a non-substantive film (an odd name in my view – but addressing the lack of dye or colorant “substances” in the film emulsion itself), the Kodachrome process was complex. It was essentially a B&W film, in which color dyes were added to the 3 different layers during the development process.

Fuji Velvia

This meant that a specialized processing setup was necessary, and until 1954, Kodak successfully maintained a monopoly on this process (known as K-14), by selling Kodachrome only with pre-paid processing by Kodak as part of the deal. In 1954, the United States challenged this practice as an anti-trust violation, and an agreement was entered into, among other things, ending this practice (and of course, allowing competitors to acquire the accoutrements to develop Kodachrome).

Originally, Kodachrome was released at ISO 10. A 20-exposure cassette cost $3.50. That, for those interested, would have been about $65.00 in 2019 dollars!

Kodak (Ektachrome) E100SW

In 1936, there was no ISO (or ASA, as it was originally known). During the World War, the military wanted a single standard to be able to increase their efficiency. Prior to this time, there were several standards (and thus, several different marketed light meters – all handheld in those days). The American Standards Association created a “standard” measurement for light sensitivity measurement, which then became known as the film’s “ASA,” or ASA rating. In 1987, the International Organization for Standardization was created and film manufacturers worldwide shifted to this international standard (which is numerically identical to the old ASA standard). So we now refer to light sensitivity measure – on all media – as “ISO.”


There were non-believers …

That same year (1936) German film and camera manufacturer, AGFA, introduced Agfacolor. While very similar to Kodachrome, including its three layer emulsion, AGFA engineers embedded color dyes into the film emulsion, making the development process less complex. I shot maybe one or two rolls of Agfacolor. Didn’t care for it. It looked, as I noted above, like lightly colorized black and white. It did seem to make a big hit in the motion picture industry, however, and was widely used in film-making for a number of years.

The Fujifilm company was established in Japan in 1934. I was not able to find much about early film offered by Fuji. Of course, they catapulted into top status with the release of Velvia, years later.

Fuji Velvia

Kodachrome II, was introduced in 1961, with an ASA/ISO rating of 25. In 1962, they a released 64 ASA version (later they simply became known as K-25 and K-64). In 2007, K-25 production was discontinued. K-64 production followed suit in 2009). One source noted that in 2009, sales of Kodachrome made up 1% of Kodak sales revenue. Kodak had essentially ceased processing Kodachrome themselves by 2006, and by 2010, the only one Kodak-certified facility remaining was Dwayne’s Photo, in Parsons, Kansas. Later that year the even they ceased Kodachrome processing. Which led me to wonder, what if I had any rolls of undeveloped Kodachrome? Some “Google” research will reveal that there are processors out there who claim to be able to process it. But I checked my freezer. No film of any kind in there. Phew! 🙂


Nothing lasts forever …

In addition to its complexity and considerable expense, there were other Kodachrome drawbacks. Transparencies were designed, of course, to be projected with a relatively strong light (anybody else remember those “travelogue” slide shows that were prevalent in the 1960s and 1970s?). The medium was consequently, relatively high contrast with lots of shadows. This made it particularly touchy to produce photographic prints from. And, we have learned in later years, the process of scanning and converting Kodachrome to digital images often is challenged by colorcasts which need to be addressed in the scanning process.

Stemming partly from photographers (particularly consumers) demand for cheaper and more convenient products, and also partly borne out of the 1954 antitrust decree directing Kodak to endeavor to release a newer, more consumer-friendly film that was in development, Ektachrome, with a new “E-process” in which dyes were embedded in the film emulsion was introduced in 1955. Originally ASA 32, a 160 version was introduced in 1959, and 64 and 100 ASA versions in 1977. I wasn’t even shooting yet! Two years after I got started, in 1979, Ektachrome 400 was released.

Kodak Elite Chrome 100

Ektachrome had some advantages. It was cheaper than Kodachrome and cheaper and easier to process. You could have it processed locally. If you wanted to make the investment in color processing equipment (essentially, some relatively affordable tanks and chemicals), you could process it yourself.

I shot very little of it. This was probably partly due to the prejudice I acquired early on, from my shooting inspiration. But there was also still no doubt that Kodachrome was still the professional-preferred medium for most. Ektachrome also had a known blue color cast, and I found it cool, and a bit less saturated than my personal taste. So, throughout the 1970’s and 1980’s I shot Kodachrome.

Kodak Elite Chrome II (50)

When I came back to serious shooting in the early 1990’s, the industry had changed. Fuji introduced its Velvia 50 in 1990. Its characteristic was a very colorful, saturated, and contrasty profile. It took aim at Kodachrome and punched it in the face. It quickly became the slide film of choice for nature photographers – especially for landscape and flowers. And it used the E-6 process (by this time virtually every emulsion used the E-6 process, except for Kodachrome).

Again, while there were others, there really weren’t 🙂 . Fuji and Kodak went head to head. Fuji released Velvia. Kodak parried with Lumiere 100 (a neutral balanced Ektachrome) and Lumiere 100X (a warm-saturated Ektachrome). Fujia added Velvia 100. Lumiere was short-lived and said by some to have some inconsistency in color from roll to roll. Kodak replaced it with E100S (saturated), E100SW (warm saturated) and E100VS (very saturated – Kodak’s answer to Velvia).

Kodak Elite Chrome II (100)

Fuji, in 2003, in response to criticism that Velvia was just too colorful (perhaps unrealistic to some), introduced Provia, in 100, 200, 400, and 1600 ISO versions, and  Provia F (ultra-fine grain).

These were all so-called “professional” films. They tended to be more expensive. Whether they were that much better is probably a personal judgment. They probably had better quality control. I remember going to my photo shop in my community to buy these films (they weren’t generally available in the big box and drugstores), and they were generally stored in refrigerated conditions.

To cater to consumers, both companies released (almost simultaneously) “consumer” versions of the above film varieties. Kodak’s Ektachrome became Elite Chrome, Elite Chrome II, and Elite Chrome Extra Color.

Fuji Sensia II

Fuji’s consumer version of Provia was Sensia, Sensia II, and Sensia III, in various ISO ratings. I am not aware that they ever marketed a consumer version of Velvia.

Interesting stuff for some of us, and by the mid-2000’s, essentially irrelevant to most of us. 🙂

Fuji Sensia II (100)

Before I did the research for this piece, I spent a few hours going through my archives to find examples of some of my images made with all of the above media. The problem is that it is truly impossible to make comparisons, here. This is partly because in order to do this on a blog, it became necessary at some point to convert all the media to one single media: digital. So this may not have been a very useful exercise – but it was fun doing it. Presented as digital media, I can see some nuances, but not any huge differences (of course, post processing software has “recipes” to “recreate” film “looks” in digital post-processing these days. I have done very little of that, except for B&W, and cannot really say how accurate they are). I did very little post-processing of the “film” images; just a bit of sharpening mainly. I would be interested if you can see any difference.

For me, digital processing made everything possible; digital capture made it much more convenient

 


And there shall come a Rapture …..

Digital shifted the focus (see what I did there?) from all of the considerations of film, down to one thing: the digital sensor. And it is all about the quality, sharpness, and resolving capability of those tiny little electronic chips. We moved from cost and technical ability to manufacture affordable digital sensors, to “size” matters, and then back again these days to the fact that maybe it doesn’t even matter so much any more.

Nikon D100 (2002)
6 megapixel – “APS”

The Purple Coneflower is one of my first flower images made with direct digital capture. As noted above, it is difficult to make useful comparisons with film. First, doesn’t scanning a film image convert it to a “digital” image? Then, once we get into the post-processing world, everything we once knew kind of goes out the window. We can post-process a film scanned image in much the same ways we can post-process a digital capture. It may be possible to capture “cleaner” images directly, but we still have to deal with “digital” grain (noise). Color rendering becomes pretty much what you want it to be. One interpretation of the coneflower, for example, is that it has a “color-cast.” This is purposeful on my part because I like the warm, saturated color in many of my more colorful “nature” images. But I did this (of course, you can inadvertently capture color-casts, but if you shoot in the raw format, you can almost always correct, or adjust it, as can be seen from the white daylily image made with the Nikon D200).

Nikon D200
10 Megapixel; APS

I had to laugh as I reviewed digital images in my Lightroom Catalog. I apparently have an affinity for lilies, probably because they are an easy, plentiful, and colorful subject (emphasis perhaps on “easy” 🙂 ). In any event, I have almost 400 lily images. The closest second is around 25.

We moved from cost and technical ability to manufacture affordable digital sensors, to “size” matters, and then back again these days to the fact that maybe it doesn’t even matter so much any more

When I shifted to digital, I was satisfied with what was available, but not completely happy that the sensors were still small. Size, with sensors, had at least three dimensions: actual physical sensor size, and pixel depth (the number of pixels on that space), and the actual physical size of each individual pixel. Obviously, they are interrelated. And in the beginning, this was a pretty big deal. Larger sensors and larger pixels could handle capture with less noise, at higher ISO levels and more detail. So, almost from the beginning, there were “pixel wars” between the purveyors of digital cameras. But also in the beginning, the successful manufacture and hence, availability of larger sensors was prohibitively expensive. Of course, the sensor size itself also effected the optics in a big way. The 35mm SLR camera had become the sort of “standard” by which most of this stuff was measured. But the affordable sensors at first were the so-called “APS” sized sensor, which is significantly smaller than the 35mm film rectangle we were used to, but as you can see by the gold rectangle below, much larger that what we first had with Point & Shoot cameras.

Sensor Sizes Compared

APS sensors meant that the lenses made for the 35mm perspective, did not work the same way. There were pros and cons (covered ad nauseum by others elsewhere). Because of the perceived combined “advantage” of a higher-quality capture and regaining the use, especially, of their wide angle lenses, many 35mm users almost immediately began to call for a so-called “full frame” sensor. I have always found this kind of illogical. What would a “medium format” (4 x 5 inch), or a full 8 x 10″ view camera user call a sensor made to their size? :-). But “full frame” caught on. I eventually jumped on that train, believing “full frame” capture was necessary for me to achieve the image quality I desired. I want to emphasize that there is certainly nothing negative about owning the larger sensor. There is little doubt that you can coax more out of it than the smaller sensors. But to me, it may have been the purchase of a dump truck, when a small pickup (or even a wheelbarrow) was sufficient. There are a couple factors – all empirical for me – that bring me to this conclusion.

D800 “full frame”

First, I had some personal experience. While I am not sure this is any longer true, at the time, to me the “holy grail” was the photographic print, on traditional photographic paper. I have owned a couple Epson printers that were capable of making inkjet prints that rivaled anything I had ever received from any lab. And, I was able to do my own “darkroom” adjustments. For economic reasons, the largest I generally made were 13 x 19″ prints, and that became my de facto standard for measuring quality. And while I enjoyed and appreciated my “full frame” Nikons, my “testing” didn’t prove out the benefit (for me) of the larger sensor (except, perhaps with its integration with some really fine pro- zoom lenses designed for 35mm).

Sony NEX APS
(equivalent to Nikon APS)

The real eye opener came some years later, when I made side-by-side images with my Sony “full frame” and my Sony RX100, and printed them. I could not see much difference. To be fair, much of what has gone on has been in the post-processing realm (both in terms of technology and my abilities). There have also been technology gains which have made the smaller sensor just that much better.

Sony NEX APS
Zeiss 50mm f1.8 lens

 

The red lily image illustrates this, I think. It prints beautifully as a 13 x 19. I believe it could easily print much larger with no noticeable degradation. It illustrates to me my earlier premise that resolving power, low light, and clean capture-capable sensors (regardless of size, and often regardless of the number of megapixels) has really become the “media” of today.

 

London (from Dover)

White Cliffs
Dover, England
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

The “British Isles” Cruise, as I have mentioned, may have been a bit of a misnomer, as we really didn’t spend much time in what I would personally consider, Britain. “The British Isles” would include, in my view, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, Great Britain, and perhaps a couple of the smaller Islands in the vicinity. We were only in England during two days of the entire tour. The first day was Liverpool.

Port of Dover
Dover, England
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

This the second day, our port of call was Dover, a port at the far southeast part of the country, where the English Channel empties into the North Sea. The “White Cliffs of Dover,” said to be the official icon of England, and the inpiration for Vera Lynn’s song, made famous during WWII, were prominent while we remained in port. The white cliffs are said to be the first sight of England you see when you cross the English Channel, and Dover is on the English side of the narrowest part of the channel.

Perhaps unfortunately, we didn’t see much of Dover

Dover is a rather small seaside town but has a few things going for it. Because we had only one day – which we allocated totally to London, we really didn’t see Dover.  We took an early morning train from the quaint, but efficient Dover Train Station, to London. 20/20 hindsight is, of course, clairvoyant, and looking back we may have miscalculated at this port. When we planned the trip, 3 of the 4 of us had not been to London, and as it was only a 1-hour train ride, we felt that we really should use this opportunity to go there. What I did not appreciate is that you just cannot do London justice in a day – especially a very short day. We burned at least 2 hours on the train rides. Perhaps would have used our time better by staying in Dover and exploring the area. We later learned that there is a great military museum, as well as England’s largest Castle (nearby on the cliffs). If ever in Dover again, I suspect we will see some of those sights.

London, England
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Not that London wasn’t great, and we certainly do not regret going.  But the whirlwind nature of our tour of the city really didn’t do it justice. London is a place that requires some time to see everything, and when we do it again, we will plan to spend at least several days there. We also booked – inadvertently – a rather odd tour for our time there. It was in interesting tour, but would have been one of the side tours we might do if we had more than one day on location. It did not afford much opportunity for photography, though there are certainly some things I would liked to have shot.

St. Pancras Train Station and Hotel
London, England
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

When doing my post-processing, I realized I only kept and processed some 26 images, and of them, only about a dozen different subjects. I am pretty happy with what I did get. The capital and largest city in England (indeed in the UK), London straddles the River Thames, which ultimately empties into the North Sea to its east. As might be expected, London archtecture is generally massive and very impressive. There is no one dominating style and we saw classic mixed with modern. The Great Fire of 1666 destroyed much of London, including the entire Medieval City of London inside the Roman Gates. Architect Christopher Wren was responsible for a great many rebuilt structures, including some 52 churches (perhaps the most famous amoung them; St. Paul’s Cathedral). I think another trip to London should incorporate a tour of the Christopher Wren buildings.

St. Pancras Train Station and Hotel
London, England
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

The St. Pancras Train Station and Hotel (where we began our day in London) was originally designed by William Henry Barlow and construction completed in the late 1800’s.

St. Pancras Train Station and Hotel
London, England
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Downton Abbey fans may recognize the magnificent staircase inside the St. Pancras Hotel (like Game of Thrones, I have never watched an episode).

St. Pancras Staircase
London, England
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

St. Pancras Staircase
London, England
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

St. Pancras Staircase
London, England
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

London gets it name from Londinium, the ancient Roman name for the Roman settlement that is still buried under central London. It is pretty certain that civilization dates back much earlier than the Roman Empire. Beginning with the conquering of the land by William, Duke of Normandy, the Normans probably most influenced the history of Modern England, and eventually, much of the United Kingdom.

St. Bartholemew’s Gatehouse
London, England
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

The story of Henry VIII, (1509-47), a descendent of William, his split with the Roman Catholic Church (when Pope Clement VII refused to approve the annulment of Henry’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon) and his subsequent creation of The Church of England, in 1534, making himself the head of the Church) is well-known. St. Bartholomew’s Church is the oldest Roman Catholic Church in London, and one of few examples of Tudor London, surviving the Great Fire. The main, old church, built in 1123, was mostly demolished by order of Henry VIII. The church that is there today is the result of a restoration between 1887 and 1928. The arch, shown here, once the entrance to the church, is said to be original, except for the timbered structure on the upper facade, which was probably redone sometime in the 16th century.

Smithfield Meat Market
London, England
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Part of our tour involved seeing some currently standing buildings near the St. Bartholomew Gate, on Little Britain Street. Our tour was really focused on some historical aspects of London and not really on the big-picture, famous sights. But I was able to make an image of the entrance to the rather well-known (at least to us meat-lovers) Smith Field Market, just up the street from where we were stopped.

Guildhall Art Gallery
London, England
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

The Guildhall buildings were massive with many buildings and a large square, and was also a mix of modern architecture with some classic flares. The image of the Art Gallery is an example of much more modern lines.

Royal Courts of Justice
London, England
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Our guide, at some point learned that I was a recently retired attorney, and that my wife spent the bulk of her career working in the court systems, and decided to make an impromptu stop at the Royal Courts of Justice, a massive building taking up at least 2 city blocks, and housing mostly, what we would call “appellate courts” here in the U.S. With my little camera,and on the ground viewpoint, it was difficult (like many of the buildings in London) to do the building justice – pun absolutely intended 🙂 . Of course – and unfortunately – photography was forbidden inside the building.

Royal Courts of Justice
London, England
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

We crossed the Thames on several ocassions during our tour, inevitably seeing different bridges over the river. The most eye-catching, perhaps, was London’s Tower Bridge (often mistakenly referred to as “London Bridge,” which of course, isn’t even in London any longer). It is one of those majestic sites that draws the eye. It wasn’t really part of our guide’s planned tour, but we cajoled him into finding us a place to get out and photograph it.

Tower Bridge
London, England
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Our spot was a little park almost directly under the span, and as other photographers might imagine, photographing it was a challenge. My little Sony has a 24mm equivalent at the wide end – just not wide enough for this kind of photography. My final image here, was made with the able assistance of the transform perps

Tower Bridge
London, England
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

At the end of the tour, our guide drove us by Buckingham Palace. Again, it was not in his plan for us, but we pushed to have him drop us off for at least an on-the-ground photo or two. We were there only very briefly, and I would like an opportunity on another occasion to walk the grounds and spend some time. Again, the massive structure makes small camera, low viewpoint shooting problematic. But I made the best with what I had.

Buckingham Palace
London, England
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

The gold guilded gate ornaments may be the most impressive feature of this particular building.

Buckingham Palace
London, England
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Buckingham Palace
London, England
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

we finished our day in London, having only a couple hours left, with a ride on the London Eye. It offers a great, high perpective on the city of London. Working with reflections in the glass enclosures, presented its challenges, but I thought that all-in-all, I got some nice images and it was truly worth the ride.

The London Eye
London, England
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Prior to our trip, I had read that one of London’s true icons, Big Ben, is currently under construction, not due for completion until 2021. I was able to get a nice image of British Parliament, with the famous clock tower at one end. But it is clearly under construction (in fact, I believe only one face even has the clock face visible). Nor did we ever hear the famous bells during our day.

British Parliament and Big Ben
London, England
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

The “birds-eye” vantage point of the London Eye did allow for some nice, long-view images of London as it sits on the Thames.

London, England
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

London, England
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

The London images were kind of a smattering of things we saw during a much too short visit. There certainly were things we missed that we really need to see: The Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, Westminster Palace, Piccadilly Circus, Savile Row, Trafalgar Square, St. Margarets Church, and …. well you get the picture (but I didn’t). See what I did there?  🙂 . I assume we will be back.

Liverpool; But it REALLY IS About The Beatles

Fab 4 Beatles Tour Car Liverpool, England Copyright Andy Richards 2019

In the previous post, I illustrated some of the normal parts of the impressive British City of Liverpool, and tried to set a historical context. While it was for a time, historically, considered the “New York” of Europe, Liverpool’s size is really more like Minneapolis, MN, or Kansas City, MO. It had – to me – a U.S. mid-western city “feel.” And I could envision the 4 young men who would turn the music world on end, as having grown up in Minneapolis, Kansas City, or even Detroit: small enough to know each other, but large enough to give it a city feel. Our visit to Liverpool began – fittingly enough – with a “Beatles Tour.” Since each of “The Fab 4” grew up in Liverpool, there is a lot of their history there. I have learned over the years that most songwriters get a wealth of material from their own natural surroundings and as we learned, The Beatles were no exception. So much of what influenced their music – and particularly Paul McCartney, the Beatles most prolific songwriter – was what happened around them on a daily basis, right where they grew up.

The band that was to turn popular music on end, “The Beatles,” was set and its members: “The Fab 4,” were John, Paul, George, and Ringo

John, Paul, George and Ringo were all heavily influenced by “Skiffle” music, a style of music comprised of jazz, blues and folk music, which had become wildly popular in Europe in the 1950s. Each were in some type of “Skiffle Band,” early on. Influenced by his

Our guide Eddie, met us just inside the port, in one of the little black “taxis” that seem to be the norm in Britain. Laying out this blog logically has been a bit of a challenge for me, as we did not necessarily visit each site in any logical order (I expect some of it was geographical and some of it was our guide’s local knowledge of when the best time to hit a spot was).

Liverpool University Student Housing
Liverpool, England
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

John Lennon; Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and George Harrison all grew up in Liverpool, we saw the boyhood homes of each of them. And while each had their own unique contribution to The Beatles, John and Paul had perhaps the most significant influence. The Beatles would likely never have been, had the two of them not met first, and begun making music. We began our day with a stop at what is now Liverpool University student housing, but was historically the maternity hospital where John Lennon was born.

Liverpool University
Liverpool, England
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

John’s parent’s split when he was a relatively young boy, and there was, it seems, some question by many, whether his mother, Julia, was capable of raising him. There was a fair amount of instability in John’s early upbringing, and he eventually went to stay – more or less permanently – with his Aunt Mimi and Uncle George Smith. They were stable, if not practical folk. Mimi had a considerable say and influence in John’s upbringing, but Julia maintained and influence, visiting John frequently at Mimi’s home, and John frequently visiting her. It was Julia who purchased John’s first guitar, knowing that Mimi would not approve of such foolishness and would urge John to do something more practical that would allow him to earn a living. Julia taught him about art and music, and encouraged that side of him. Tragically, Julia was killed by a car while walking home from the Smith home one evening following a visit with John in 1958. John was 16 at the time.

The Home Of Mimi and George Smith
Liverpool, England
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

By late 1956, John had formed his first band, The Quarrymen (named after his High School: Quarry Bank High School). They played skiffle and rock and roll, and were comprised, loosely of other boys who attended St. Peter Church and/or Quarry Bank High).

Brian Epstein Apartment
Liverpool, England
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

John’s first wife, Cynthia, was an art student at Liverpool College of Art. The two of them met there in the late 1960, and sometime in 1969, she moved in with him at his Aunt Mimi’s home. In 1962, she became pregnant with Julian and they were married shortly after the discovery. When they were married, the band was just getting some notoriety, and their agent did not want the world to know of the marriage, so he let John and Cynthia use the apartment shown here to live when they were in Liverpool.

Liverpool Institute High School For Boys
Liverpool, England
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

We also visited the Liverpool Institute High School For Boys, where Paul McCartney and George Harrison attended for short periods and became friends. Not necessarily connected to The Beatles, the suitcase sculptures are unique and are a tourist attraction in this part of the city.

“Luggage” Sculpture
Liverpool, England
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

During a performance, affiliated with John’s church, St. Peter’s Church, John was introduced by a mutual friend, to Paul, who was invited to play along with the band. Shortly afterward, he asked Paul to join the Quarrymen. The band took a turn in direction away from skiffle and country influence and more hard toward rock and roll, obtaining a manager (Brian Epstein) and a few of the old Quarrymen fell away from the band, preferring the prior music to the new direction. McCartney recommended his friend George Harrison to be the lead guitarist. Lennon thought that Harrison, only 14, was too young, but McCartney persuaded John to give him a chance. Sometime in 1959 – 1960, Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and Stuart Sutcliffe became “The Beatles”. In 1960, Pete Best joined them as their drummer. In the beginning, the band changed the name from the Quarrymen to “Johny and the Moondogs.” But the group was heavily influenced by Buddy Holly. At least one source suggests that they took on the name “The Beetles” (originally, the “Silver Beetles”) because of Buddy Holly’s band: “The Crickets.” Somewhere along the line, it is said that Lennon changed the spelling to incorporate the word “beat” into the name. At any rate, by the early 1960, the name of the band was “The Beatles” and its history was set.

Performance Hall
St. Peter’s Church
Liverpool, England
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

The original Beatles group, a fivesome made up of Lennon, McCartney, Harrison, Sutcliffe and Best, went to Hamburg to play some gigs there. A couple times, another Liverpool native, Richard Starkey (Ringo Starr), filled in for Best because he was unavailable. The reason permanent changeover from Best to Starr is unclear, but during that period in Hamburg, and at the time they went to record their first album, Best was no longer with the band and Ringo was. Also during that time, Sutcliffe decided to leave the band and return to Liverpool School of Art, to finish his art education and pursue art as a career. Tragically, in 1962, Sutcliffe developed a brain tumor and died.

St. Peter’s Church
Liverpool, England
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

The band that was to turn popular music on end, “The Beatles,” was set and its members: “The Fab 4,” were John Paul, George and Ringo. While already wildly popular in Europe, their seminal moment, and one of, if not the most important moment in the history or rock and roll music, was on February 9, 1964, when they made their first appearance on American Television on the extremely popular Ed Sullivan Show. They played 5 songs that night before a television audience estimated at 73 million and the rest is, as they say: “history.”

Penny Lane
Liverpool, England
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

In keeping with my comment that surroundings influenced their work, here is a musical “earwig” that is bound to stay with you for a while after reading this. We visited the namesake for one of the most famous McCartney written songs: Penny Lane. As you can see, it is a rather unassuming, quiet suburban street.

Paul McCartney Signature
2018 – 2019?
Penny Lane
Liverpool, England
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

But some of you might remember watching a James Corden “Carpool Karaoke” special a year or so back, where James and Paul take one of James’ semi-famous rides around Liverpool together, and stop at some of the same stops our tour did, including Paul’s boyhood home, and of course the street sign for Penny Lane. We watched it, not knowing at the time that we would be at that very place one day in the very near future. We watched Paul sign it, and I was able to capture that signature shortly after he did that. One funny passage from that was when Paul mentioned that he and John wrote “She Loves You Yeah, Yeah, Yeah. They tried it out on Paul’s father, and his comment was couldn’t you say “She Loves You Yes, Yes, Yes.”? They said no. It makes you think about what one word can mean in a song. I commend you to see the movie, “Yesterday.” Not only was the music (and story) wonderful, but there is another similar “word” moment, involving the song “Hey Jude” ( I won’t give it away – but its awesome).

So. That Earwig? There was a commercial intersection near where Paul McCartney lived, that he frequented in his travels about the city. It isn’t Penny Lane, but its a much more interesting name. The rest is pretty real, though. “On Penny Lane there is a barber showing photographs ……

On Penny Lane there is a Barber Shop
Liverpool, England
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

The barbershop is right across from the “shelter on the roundabout” on the same street . . . . . . . (now a restaurant called St. Pepper Bistro,”). I looked but did not see the pretty nurse selling flowers. 🙂

The Shelter in the middle of the Roundabout
Liverpool, England
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

I am sure there was a busy banker or two there somewhere, as this was in a little corner off a very busy couple of city streets. The firehouse was a ways down the street, and though it was still there, it is closed and is no longer a firehouse so, alas, no clean fire engine to be seen! But after seeing these, you can’t help but have that song in your ear, and a context for the lyrics.

Paul McCartney’s boyhood home
Liverpool, England
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Paul was born a couple years after John Lennon, in Walton Hospital in Liverpool. One of three children, Paul was influenced by his father, Jim, who was a professional musician who played the trumpet and piano. He had his own jazz band (Jim Mac’s Jazz Band). What you hear about most journeymen musicians has some truth to it. They are not generally wealthy, and Paul’s nurse mother was said to be the family’s primary bread winner. Nonetheless, Jim encouraged all his children to play music and kept an upright piano in the living room of their family home. While it is difficult to get to see the inside of the home(s) (we were told that showings can be done through the Liverpool Trust), I once again, remembered, rather vividly, the James Corden show in which he and Paul went into the home and Paul sat at the piano and played. We got to see the outside.

Strawberry Field
Liverpool, England
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Another place Paul remembered rather vividly as a child was a youth home named Strawberry Field. His memories of the children and his longing to play with him partly inspired his “Strawberry Fields for Ever.” The red gate and fence is historically authentic. Currently, the Salvation Army has put many dollars into restoration and maintenance, but it is said that it is possible to buy bricks from the gate. Note the many signatures of Beatles fans.

Strawberry Field
Liverpool, England
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

George Harrison may have been the most private of the Beatles. It was a surprise to me to learn through my research that George was responsible for getting the band many of its performances and contracts and may have been the most businesslike of the 4 of them also. Born in Liverpool, George attended the Liverpool Institute High School for Boys for 4 years. He was always interested in guitars, and his father – though skeptical of its utility for George’s future – bought George his first guitar. George attributed his beginning interest in rock and roll to Elvis Presley. We saw his boyhood home, but it was neither remarkable, nor particularly well kept up by its current owners. For some reason, it does not seem to be the tourist attraction that the other 3 homes are. Not as prolific a writer as Paul, John or even Ringo, he was the author of their hit, “Here Comes The Sun.” Not much else was devoted to George during the tour.

George Harrison’s boyhood home
Liverpool, England
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Richard Starkey was the oldest of the group, born in Liverpool in 1940. Apparently, the Starkeys were avid dancers and spent a lot of time in ballrooms, prior to Richard’s birth. After his birth, his mother stopped dancing and spent her time raising Richard, who was afflicted with an illness. His father, however, apparently couldn’t get it out of his system and his many after hours of dancing and drinking probably were the prime contributor to the Starkey’s splitting in 1944. No longer able to afford the rent in their current home on Madryn Street, Elsie and Richard moved into what was Richard’s home for his remaining boyhood in a neighborhood known as Admiral Grove. Richard’s mom, Elsie lived there until the Beatles moved to London in 1963. The home was public housing owned by Liverpool. After Elsie and Richard moved out, another Admiral Grove Resident was moved into the house during a period of rehabilitation of the Admiral Groves Homes. Margaret Grose became a lifetime Beatles fan and instead of growing weary of the visitors daily outside the home, she invited them in – for a small fee – which she gave to charity. She also maintained the home as it was when the Starkeys lived there. Margaret died in 2016, and another fan purchased the home, which still stands, intact, today.

Ringo Starr’s Boyhood Neighborhood
Liverpool, England
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Ringo Starr’s Boyhood Home
Admiral Grove
Liverpool, England
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

In 1954, when Richard was 13, Elsie married Harry Graves, who was a big fan of big band music, and introduced Richard to it. In 1957, Harry gave Richard a second-hand drum set for Christmas. I was intrigued to learn that, left-handed, Ringo had to learn a number of things “backward” including rolloff progressions, which later became notable as a unique style and added to Starr’s fame. He played in several bands, eventually finding his way to a Liverpool group called Rory Storm and the Hurricanes. The Hurricanes eventually accepted a “residency” in Hamburg and it was on the Hamburg music scene that Ringo met and eventually became the drummer for The Beatles.

Ringo was know for his quirky turn of a phrase, like: “It was a hard day’s night.”

Ringo, in addition to drumming, was lead singer in several Beatles Hits, including “With a little help from my Friends,” and “Yellow Submarine.” His own more prolific songwriting came perhaps later, after the band split up, in his own solo career, including hits such as “It Don’t Come Easy,” “Your 16,” and “Back Off Booglaloo.” But he was surely a contributor to some of the Beatles most memorable songs, particularly in names and lyrics. Ringo had a unique and often off-kilter turn of the phrase and is credited for the phrase “hard day’s night” which prompted Lennon to write the song, as well as becoming the Title of their 3rd record. He was also credited with helping fill in the lines in the famed “Eleanor Rigby” with Father McKenzie “darning his socks in the night.” And there is that “surroundings” thing again. We visited St. Peter’s Church, including the small graveyard inside the walls. Guess who we found?

Eleanor Rigby’s husband’s gravestone
Liverpool, England
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

As our tour came to an end, I found myself much more a fan of the Beatles music than I have been previously. My generation, of course, grew up with this music, but it was pretty interesting to put the development of the music and the early lives of the band members into a perspective. Like almost every successful band, they eventually came to an end. The stories are similar. The personalities – probably more John and Paul had differences in direction and leadership thoughts. They all had at least some aspirations for solo careers. McCartney and Starr especially, went on to have very successful secondary careers. Lennon and Harrison perhaps less so, but still very successful. Lennon and Harrison also unfortunately met with tragic endings. But I, for one, am glad to have had Wings and Ringo’s All Starr Bands, to entertain us into the foreseeable future. Obviously whole books have been written on this subject. My “musings” are just that. Probably mostly historically accurate – but not guaranteed to be so. I encourage you to do some digging on your own, if you are interested.

Meanwhile back on Penny Lane ……….. (I didn’t want you to lose the earwig) 🙂

Whew. Long post – sorry. I know that the original idea of a Blog was short, punchy, regularly added material. Mine has never been that way. They are all long. This one may have been the longest ever. And I couldn’t even scratch the surface. I wanted it to reflect my own personal visit to Liverpool, illustrated by photos I felt motivated to make. I hope it succeeded.

There is so much that could have been touched on: the friendship and eventual friction between John and Paul; the reputed awful way John treated Cynthia and Julian, the dispute over who really wrote the songs – especially the early “Lennon/McCartney” signed ones; the drugs; Ringo’s real last name; George’s cancer; John’s activism and tragic death; but I wanted to leave that to the more serious writers and chroniclers.

I just watched the U-Tube James Corden piece again, and it was even better because I was there at those places. I encourage you to take a few minutes and watch it and it may even bring a tear or two (you can skip through the ads).

 

 

Liverpool; Not JUST the Birthplace of “The Beatles”

Liverpool Port
Liverpool, England
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Interestingly, our cruise was labeled a “British Isles” Cruise. Yet it was a 12 day cruise in which we really technically only spent 3 days in the UK. We also spent another 4 days in The Republic of Ireland. While it might be appropriate to call the Island of Ireland “The British Isles,” I think the majority of them would disagree.

The Vooo Lounge
Liverpool, England
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Be that as it may, with our pre-cruise days in and around Dublin, we certainly spent over half of our time in Europe in Ireland and Britain. The day following our Northern Ireland adventure, we sailed across the Irish Sea, to Liverpool, England. Perception often varies from reality, and my (admittedly ignorant) opinion of Liverpool was no exception. For my Michigander friends, I was thinking Flint (sorry to you Flintstones 🙂 ); to a perhaps broader audience, Newark (no, not Ohio 🙂 ). But I was wrong (as perhaps a visit to either Newark or Flint with one “in the know” might also prove).

Liverpool, England
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

The primary focus of our day at shore was, not surprisingly, a several hour-long “Beatles” tour. But we were to also learn that Liverpool was an important seaport (particularly historically), and a rather thriving city, with some very impressive architecture, and an active pub and distillery culture.

Liverpool, England
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Liverpool, England
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Liverpool, England
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Granted “borough” status by King John in 1207, it did not obtain its British City Charter 1880. Liverpool replaced nearby Chester, which was on the River Dee and further inland, as the major port for world trade with Britain, around 1207 ant thereafter was Britain’s primary northern port. During the Industrial Revolution, it served as a port and became a first-world manufacturing city. Liverpool also served as the point of departure for British and Irish Emmigrants – mostly to the U.S. In earlier times, Liverpool Port played a significant role in the Atlantic Slave Trade. While probably not among its prouder historical accomplishments, the result was a very diverse city, including not only influence from Ireland and Wales, but the largest black population, and oldest Chinese population in Europe. Trade with the West Indies eventually exceeded trade with Ireland and other parts of Europe, and in 171, the first commercial “wet” dock was built in Liverpool.

Liverpool, England
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

The ensuing growth and the industrial revolution soon made Liverpool one of the wealthiest communities in Europe, its wealth surpassing that of London a number of times during the early 19th century.  In the 180s the city was often referred to as “the New York of Europe,” and was a sought-after destination well into the early 20th century, attracting immigrants from across Europe. During the Second World War, Liverpool became a critical strategic point. The city was heavily bombed by the Germans, suffering a blitz second only to London’s. The “Battle of the Atlantic,” which proved to be a turning point in the war, was planned, fought and won from Liverpool. Most of the U.S. Troops brought into the European theatre were brought through Liverpool Port.

Liverpool, England
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Liverpool, England
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Sadly, in the 1970s, largely due to significant changes in the shipping of cargo world-wide, Liverpool began a decline, and for a period had one of the largest unemployment rates in the world. Resilient, however, in the late 20th century, the Liverpool economy began to improve and has been on the upward curve ever since. As you drive through the city, it impresses you as a very middle to upper middle class city in places. With a population nearing 1/2 million, it is hard to believe that its population was only around 500 in the 1700s.

Ma Edgerton’s Pub
Liverpool, England
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Our visit was focused heavily on The Beatles history. That deserves its own blog, which will come next time. After our tour, we spent some time in the very cool main Railroad Station, a couple of downtown pubs, including the Liverpool Gin Distillery, and The Alchemist (a unique UK chain originating in London, where food and mixology meet), before boarding our ship again in to return to the Island of Ireland.

Liverpool, England
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Dublin, days 2 & 3

Dublin Port
Dublin, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

When I travel to a new place I try to do some research about it. That mostly entails contemporary goings on, things I wish to see, and of course to photograph. But in-country, I always learn so much. I was a dual-major business and history degree student in college. While I studied some medieval history and the obligatory “Western Civilization,” my focus was on the U.S. So traveling abroad is a learning and perspective-building experience. It is my observation that, possessing a sometimes fatalist sense of humor, the Irish people are self-deprecating, and at the same time fiercely proud of their heritage. They have much passion and perhaps not surprisingly, as their identity as a sovereign nation is much younger than our is. But their history is thousands of years longer, and full of hardship.

My observation is that, possessing a sometimes fatalist sense of humor, the Irish people are self-deprecating, and at the same time fiercely proud of their heritage

I wanted to put a small amount of Irish History perspective to these blogs. Popular wisdom has it that Ireland (and Scotland) were mainly of Celtic origin. History disputes that. There is evidence of humans from other parts of Europe well before the Celtic tribes began to migrate to Ireland. Nonethless, there is certainly a significant Celtic influence to the end-result. At the same time, the Vikings, primarily from Norway, invaded parts of Ireland, particularly along the seacoasts. Dublin, in fact, was founded and originally established by the Vikings, sailing up the River Liffey, perhaps around 800 A.D. Later around 900 A.D. the Vikings again sailed into the harbor at Waterford, and established Limerick and Cork. It was not until the Battle of Clontarf that Bart O’brien’s King Brian Boru defeated the Vikings and established perhaps the first independent Irish nation. It was, however, to be short-lived and there was much warfare during those time. In 1014. In the late 12th century, the Normans from England began a series of invasions and eventually conquered much, if not all of Ireland, making it part of the British Empire. This lasted until the majority of southern counties won their independence and became the Republic of Ireland in 1951! Sometimes you just have to be there to understand things, but for a bit of silliness, it dawned on me that maybe they thought Superman would save us all 🙂

Superman in Dublin
Dublin, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Our second and third days were kind of broken up. We boarded our cruise ship in the late afternoon of the day 2 (we originally arrived in Dublin at about 10:00 a.m., so by now we were really on our 3rd day). We had tickets for the Guinness Storehouse tour that morning, so our plan was to do that, grab some lunch, and then collect our bags and head for the cruise port. My wife and I had already done this tour, so I didn’t take any photographs this time at all. This is a pretty interesting tour, and the ticket price traditionally included a pint of Guinness from their “Gravity Bar” at the top of the building. There is a panoramic view of the city from there. They have changed things up a bit now, though. Now they have a tasting area on one of the lower floors and you can elect to do that in lieu of the pint up at the top. It includes a flight of 3 of their beers of your choice, and short explanation about them. They also had a very talented group of Irish Dancers who put on a short show for us. Two for one. :-).

St. Catherine’s Church
Dublin, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

In keeping with my comment about the bounty of church architecture in Europe in general, and in particular in Ireland, we happened upon the very small and beautiful St. Catherine’s Church on our walk from our hotel to the Guinness Storehouse.

Dublin City Center Near Christ Church Cathedral
Dublin, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

We spent that night on the ship, as Dublin Port is a ways out from the city center. I was able to get a different perspective on the city from our ship, however. But in the morning, we headed back toward the Guinness Storehouse, and to a small whiskey distillery that our first night’s guide, Nimhb, had recommended: Pearse Lyons. The distillery is set up in an ancient Church, very near the Guinness Storehouse.

Dublin Port
Dublin, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

The St. James (protestant) Church of Ireland dates back to medieval times. It is likely the the building currently standing was preceded by an earlier structure. My research suggests that the current building is at least 800 years old. Over its history, it fell into a state of disrepair apparently a couple times. last used as a church in 1956, it most recently served as a hardware store (Lighting World) until 2009.. In 2013, Dr. Pearse Lyons purchased the building and grounds (except for the adjacent – and ancient – 1.5 acre cemetery, which is owned by Dublin City Council). The distillery has done a wonderful job of preserving the historic integrity of the building, down to the amazing stained glass windows.

Pearse Lyons Distillery
Dublin, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Pearse Lyons Distillery
St. James Church of Ireland Building
Dublin, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

I have an upcoming blog dedicated to “whisky,” and our two significant distillery visits (Pearse Lyons and Bushmills) so I will not go into detail about the Pearse Lyons distillery tour until then. After a nice tour and tasting, we were ready to head back to the cruise ship and look forward to new venues and adventures. Next stop: Belfast and Northern Ireland.

St. James Cemetery
Dublin, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Exploring my New Backyard

Anclote Gulf Park Fishing Pier
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

For a while now, I have realized I needed to get back out with the camera. I think I have learned over the years that making compelling images does not stem from some sudden inspiration. Indeed, each time there has been a hiatus in my shooting, I have to get out and “knock the rust off” a bit. And what I have learned over the years is that my best images most often come from a combination of shooting a lot and being very familiar with my camera and what it can do for me, planning, exploring, and sometimes, just whatever nature brings me. So, in my mind, these images do not really represent my “best work.” I think that As I continue to repeat visit some of these places, creativity and opportunity will present better fortune.

The Florida Gulf Coast is photographically known more than anything else for its spectacular sunsets

So lately, I have been getting out again to shoot. I recently made some big moves in my life. I was raised in Northern Michigan, and lived and worked in mid-Michigan for nearly 40 years. Except for a few years between high school and graduating law school – when I had the good fortune to live in Vermont and Washington, D.C. – I have lived most of my life in Michigan. Unlike Florida, Michigan is varied on both climate and geography, providing some diverse photographic opportunities.

Anclote Gulf Park FIshing Pier
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Florida presents some new challenges. It is mainly one huge beach, varying only as you move inland. However, it is also a peninsula, just like Michigan, which means that it has miles and miles (and more miles) of coast. Although there are certainly some “inland” opportunities, it is this coast that will provide, I am sure, the most opportunities. That is a stroke of luck for me. As my additions here, and my imagery on my LightCentric Photography Website demonstrate, I am drawn to water, and to sunrises and sunsets. My biggest challenge here will be finding variety that is unique for my own shooting.

I am not sure I am off to a very good start

I am not sure I am off to a very good start. The Florida Gulf Coast is photographically known more than anything else for its spectacular sunsets. With the vast backdrop of the Gulf of Mexico to the west, that makes some sense. But the theatrical sunsets are generally created by good atmospherics. Cloud formations and haze later in the day will usually yield some dramatic results. In my last few outings, after some cloud buildup during the early afternoon, the skies over the Gulf have cleared, yielding mostly featureless sunsets.

Anclote Gulf Park Fishing Pier
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

We actually bought our home here in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area several years back, and I “commuted” between here and Michigan. In March I retired and moved here permanently. Prior to that time, I made a couple trips to areas very close to me – Honeymoon Island and Crystal Beach. Both are minutes away, and I got some nice shots. I will return often to both places, as they are convenient, and present some good shooting opportunities. But I wanted to explore some new areas along the coast.

Anclote Gulf Park Fishing Pier
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

The Anclote River enters the Gulf north of Tarpon Springs. In addition to its very Greek culture, including the historic and locally famous sponge docks, there are some nice, picturesque shooting opportunities in and around the community. On the north side of the Anclote, where it enters the Gulf, there is a power plant which can be seen as a landmark from as far south from the water as Clearwater, and a rather elaborate fishing pier. I scouted it one day, and thought it might make an interesting element. So my first foray was to the Anclote Gulf Park, to “work” its fishing Pier.

Anclote Gulf Park Fishing Pier
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

What I have been fortunate to find, though, is some pretty good shooting scenarios. A year or so back, I posted that I believe that a compelling sunset (or sunrise) image needs some elements in the frame other than a spectacular sky, regardless of how breathtaking the colors of that sky might be. Sure, it is o.k. to have an abstract, or two in your portfolio. But images of just the sky just don’t get it done for me. The Florida coast, I am learning, has varied topography, from pristine, sandy beaches, to tidal flats, to rocky coastline. So, even though I have felt like they have been kind of “ho hum” sunsets, I have been able to make what I think are some pleasing images.

Fred Howard Park
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

As I was leaving Anclote Gulf Park, a couple fishermen engaged me in conversation, and offered information about a couple of other good sunset photo destinations. One of them, I had already scouted, and it is on my list, but I want to wait for the angle of the sunset to change a bit: Anclote River Park. It is about a mile south of the Gulf Park and is the part of the river where boats can go to and from Tarpon Springs (the outlet by the Gulf Park is blocked near the power plant).

Fred Howard Park
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

There were also two new places, Sunset Beach and Fred Howard Park. Both are on the south side of the Anclote, on the Gulf; an area known as Anclote Anchorage. There is also an island to the west known as Anclote Key State Park, where there is a lighthouse. It is only accessible by boat. I don’t know if, or when I will get there. I scouted Sunset Beach first, thinking perhaps I could put the Fred Howard causeway in my image. It looked like there might be some nice opportunities to “frame” the sunset between some palm trees, but I moved on to Fred Howard Park, and remained there for the rest of the evening. It looks like there are numerous possible composition options there, and I am sure I will return a few times. I the last two images, you can see the Anclote Lighthouse as just a tiny “stick” to the left of the land mass, which is Anclote Key.

Fred Howard Park
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

I will be MIA for week for two. We are heading to “The British Isles,” and I am looking forward to many new images, and lots to write about when I return. As always, thanks for following and reading here.

I post-process my images (I “Photoshop” them). In many cases, I try to make the image look as I saw it when I made the shot. Sometimes, I am not satisfied with that, and then I make it look like what I think it could (or should) have been. In every case, I believe “Mother Nature” has it in her palette. I hope as we get into the summer months and stormy season, that she will yield more drama. But these seem like a start to me.