I wonder how many times I have said that over the years, to people around me and even here in writing? And how many times I have been asked to shoot portraits or events? And its true, I do not make a point of photographing people or their events. At least not in the portraiture sense. But every image in this post has at least one person in it.
In spite of my leanings, I do think it is sometimes desirable to purposely place people in a photo, and sometimes, to make them, if not the subject, at least a subject of the photograph. These days I actually seek people out
I have long understood that including people in images has a certain inevitability. People are often unavoidably around the scenes that I photograph. In that case, sometimes a little patience will reward the wait with a clear moment (or longer). I have also noted here previously, that with the ability to digitally “retouch” photographs these days, I will at times try to shoot when the “people-placement” is such that I know I can remove it from the final image. But other times, when I know they are an inevitable part of the image, I will try to place them in such a way as they give context, scale, or both.
When I am out shooting, I shoot scenes that interest me and they often involve people doing things. It may be their jobs. It may be as an observer or participant. But in each case, “people” are an important part of the photograph.
In spite of my leanings, I do think it is sometimes desirable to purposely place people in a photo, and sometimes, to make them, if not the subject, at least asubject of the photograph. These days I actually seek people out in the appropriate instance.
There are some really, really good people photographers out there. What they tell me is that they are very upfront about it. They often (if not always) approach their subjects and make their intentions and friendliness known. They usually will offer the subject a print. And they shoot with smaller equipment and lenses, which makes the whole experience less imposing to the subjects.
Obviously, I have not mastered that art. -:)
Over the years I have actually made a number of images with the thought of selling or using them as illustrations for advertising or other content. But as you can see I am not generally approaching my subjects. Fortunately, they are usually not recognizable, and are in public places. In the uncommon event where I have made an image of a recognizable face, I know it would be advisable to approach the subject and obtain their permission to use it. I know that there are sometimes copyright issues and these days, almost always privacy issues that need to be addressed. I also am aware that in some situations, an individual has an economic interest in their own image. I know many pros carry releases with them.
I don’t, and in spite of the language barrier, I probably should have approached the gentleman in the opening image, made in an outdoor cafe in Nice, France. But in that instance, my shot was not made for any intention of stock, advertising or other commercial use. It was for me. It reminds me of many things, including the quiet, slow pace of some of these locations, and the need to take some time for yourself occasionally.
As I contemplated this post, I was curious about the percentage of images I have made over the years that involve people as at least an indirect subject. I was surprised.
I have not yet become comfortable in most cases with approaching people. Therefore my images tend to be candid or incidental. But I had quite a few. They probably often show my timid approach to people, but I curated a few of them just the same.
2019 was an eventful year. In March, I officially retired from my law practice in mid-Michigan, and moved – permanently – to Florida. In May, I became a grandfather, and we have had fun watching our grandson develop. I have done some brief exploration of the Gulf Coast from Sarasota and to the north. We took 2 cruises in Europe in June and again in September – October. In the middle of all of this, we took on a substantial home-remodel project, which has not been without its “bumps” in the road. 🙂 But I can say that we have been very fortunate to have our health, and the opportunity to enjoy our retired life, explore the world a little bit and spend time with friends and family. It has been a good year, and our fortunes are good.
It has been a good year
As 2019 comes to a close, as I have done in years past, this is a “year-in-review” post, with some photographic “highlights.” I put “highlights” in quotes because I am not saying that these are the “best” images from each spot, but I hope they evoke a sense of the places we have been this year.
In early June, I traveled down to Anna Maria Island, just off shore from Bradenton, to see a friend who was attending a wedding of a mutual friend/client of ours. On the way down, I explored the fishing piers on both the north and south side of the Skyway Bridge (officially, “The Bob Graham Sunshine Skyway Bridge”), which crosses Tampa Bay between St. Petersburg and Bradenton on Interstate 75. The bridge is a pretty spectacular bit of architecture, and will be, I am sure, the subject of one or more detailed photographic studies in the future. I have already looked at some projected sunrises and sunsets during the winter months. I shot this image from the south fishing pier, in very cloudy, overcast conditions. I was able to coax a lot of color out of the raw image with the estimable power of photoshop.
Later in the week, I explored some of the parks along the Florida Gulf. Just north of Tarpon Springs, The Antclote Fishing Pier’s wooden structure makes a nice foreground for Florida’s ubiquitous Gulf Side Sunsets.
South of Tarpon Springs just a bit, is the Fred Howard County Park. It is a large expanse, which deserves a bit of exporation, to see the variations on directional lighting and color of sunlight. This image was also shot in early June. There is a lot to explore here in Florida. I have made a pledge to myself that once our remodel project is completed, I will get out with my gear and do some serious traveling and shooting around northwest Florida.
Later in June we took a 2 week trip and cruise to “The British Isles.” Some of it – notably London and Paris – were kind of a whirlwind “taste” of what is there to see (we already have a 3 day trip – pre-cruise – to London in 2020 in which we will see the city much more in-depth). We did have some great quality time in other places. We spent several days in Ireland and it comes by its “Emerald Isle” moniker naturally. It may be the most photogenic place on earth! We were particulary impressed by the scenery in Northern Ireland, but the south was not be be left out. The view of the countryside, as we entered the Cobh harbor is idyllic.
We spent a day in Liverpool, and that may have been the biggest surprise to us about England. It is a grand city, with lots to do and see, including its imposing architecture. And aside, of course, from The Beatles, there is a lot more to the city’s history. But of course, it is difficult to overshadow London in terms of photographic grist. So while I made a number of nice and personally memorable images while in Liverpool, it is an iconic London image that I will show here, the famous “Tower Bridge.” Often mistakenly referred to as “London Bridge,” this structure is a definite draw to photographers (at least those of us fascinated by bridges). Our tour did not get us the normal iconic shots of the bridge, nor the oft-made nighttime images (though I certainly will try to get them in 2020 when we return). We did make a very brief side stop below the bridge and as I illustrated in October entry, “Its All In Your Perspective,” I was able to make a pretty decent image after some serious manipulation in Photoshop.
We spent and overnight in Paris, and again only learned that we really need to do a few days there to even begin to do it justice. I might have taken 100 shots of the Eiffel Tower. They can be seen here on prior blogs and on my LightCentric Photography Website. As I was reviewing my Paris images though, I was thinking about George Gershwin’s “An American In Paris,” and particularly the sounds mimicking the fast-paced traffic and movement in the city, and this image seemed to invoke that music in my head.
Though we ended our trip in Amsterdam, perhaps the highlight of this part of Europe was not the Netherland, but Belgium. We spent a quiet day in Bruges, a medieval city with a lot of history. Even thought Amsterdam is known as a city of canals, the most impressive canals I have ever seen outside of Venice were here.
In spite of the the manifold canals here, the red light district, and the huge influence of canabis, the image below is the one that most conjures Amsterdam in my mind.
Briefly recovering from this trip, my “tour planner” informed me that we were booked again, for another cruise in September; this time to Spain, France and Italy. We spent much of the time during the heat of the summer working with plans for our re-model, getting to know our grandson, and enjoying the (hot) summer sunshine of Florida. By the time September rolled around, we were ready for another trip.
This one was special. It was the first time my wife and I had cruised without traveling companions in a number of years (indeed, I think we have only done that a couple other times). But we knew from prior experience that we would meet others on the ship and this time we were certainly not disappointed. My friend know that I enjoy “the occasional” cigar. 🙂 . We have learned that on our preferred cruise line – Celebrity – there are a couple dedicated smoking areas on board, and that one is the primary “cigar smokers” area. It happens to be on the top rear deck of most of the ships, which is also a wonderful place to sit and watch a sunset and the sail-away from our ports. Even though they are not generally smokers, our significant others will often join us for drinks and the sunset. In this case we continually ran into several other “regulars” to that smoking area and became friends with two couples from Manchester, England, some folks from London, and a couple from Australia. We ended up dining with one couple from Manchester a few nights, and joining both of them on shore for the final day’s excursion. We also joined a couple small group tours on shore and met a few other folks who we have exchanged information with. We have even talked of a trip to the Manchester area one day in the future.
Our first stop out of Rome was Naples. We have spent a fair amount of time in the Port of Naples, and had seen much of the vaunted scenery, like Sorrento and The Amalfi Coast a couple times. So we bought tickets to the ferry to the Isle of Capri, with no particular agenda in mind. I later learned of some “iconic” places in Capri, but did not know about them while we were there, so I just shot what I saw, looking for images that “spoke to me.” I had thought of Capri as this beautiful Mediterranean Island, with expensive restaurants and shops – playground of the rich and famous. It was all of that. But there was also many quiet places that were clearly private, residental, and spectacular. This image was made in mid-day in some very difficult lighting conditions and does not represent my technically best work. But it does bring memories of a very enjoyable and peaceful visit to this Mediterranean Island.
The following day we stopped in Mallorca, Spain. We knew nothing about this place previously, and joined a small group tour. Like so much of Europe, there is a lot of history here. in common with the many other Mediterranean locations, its mild climate and accessible seaports make it a popular location. Part of our tour took us to the small, mountain community of Valldemossa, where we toured a beautiful old monastery. This was a day of “small spaces” images and there were some really nice ones.
We returned to Barcelona (where we had spent several days in 2015), for an overnight stop. We spent time in Park Guell and a small group history and tapas tour of the old gothic city center. Barcelona is one of those places you want to return to again and again. Because of our overnight, I was able to get a nighttime shot of the harbor, as well as a couple nice sunrise shots out over the Mediterranean.
Because of the overnight, we were able to take a day trip north from Barcelona to Montserrat, an Abby in the mountainous region on the northern boundary of Catalonia. It had great historic importance, is an incredible site with commanding views in every direction from the summit. As the image illustrates, the Abby complex is impressive. We look forward to our next visit to Barcelona!
Our next stop was Monte Carlo, Monaco. From the port, we traveled with a small group tour, to Nice, France before returning and spending the balance of the day in Monaco. Nice’s old city is another beautiful, historic European town, with narrow streets and impressive architecture, as well as lots of outdoor spaces. The center is an outdoor market that was very charming. I made some nice images. But during our entire time in Nice, I kept thinking about the 2014 terrorist attack when a large truck was driven onto the main seaside promenade, killing many people and injuring others. Not a remarkable image, the shot here was taken as much as anything, to remind me of this senseless action.
Lots of interesting material in Monaco. So I chose the shot from above, showing the entire Principality of Monaco, just to illustrate how small it is. As a sovereign nation, it is larger, only than the Vatican. It is an image that, in other places, might only be the main downtown portion of a single city! We enjoyed our time there as much as anywhere. As it turned out, it was our next-to-last stop.
We were scheduled to stop at Santa Margerita Ligure and Portofino, but rough seas prevented us from anchoring and tendering in and there is no deep water port along which we could dock pierside, so we unfortunately skipped the stop. We will have to look for another cruise or trip that gets us there, as we were really looking forward to exploring. This turned our next stop into an unexpected overnight, again affording me the chance for a nighttime shot of a seaport. Since I don’t get much opportunity to do this – especially from the unique high perspective of the top deck of a cruise ship, this is one of my favorite images of this cruise.
Our final stop was La Spezia. I had really been keying for this one, as we planned to visit the picturesque and quintessential Italian Riviera site: Cinque Terre. Unfortunately, our weather deteriorated at this end of the cruise and although I was able to get some very nice shots of one of the towns between rain showers, it only gave us a desire to return one day soon.
Oh, and the opening image? That is the pond I get to look at from my Lanai every day. I was up early one morning and saw this color developing and was able to capture it. Wishing everyone a great 2020, as we look forward to more travel and exploration, and I look forward to making more pictures!
[Clicking on an image opens it in a new tab with a higher quality image and view. I encourage you to do that]
Cinque Terre. It translates roughly, to “Five Lands.” This area of the Ligurian Sea and part of the Italian Riviera is perhaps the most romantic in terms of its pull and charms. The pictures of the mountain/seaside villages are commonly found in travel brochures and literature. There are 5 small, villages built into the rugged coastline of the Mediterranean. They are connected by a railroad and by a hiking trail. There is also a highway way up above the villages. The best way to travel between them – for most of us, appears to be by railway. A day pass is relatively inexpensive and the stops are between 10 and 20 minutes apart. The stations are all right in the middle of the villages, making access easy. Cars are generally not allowed below the parking areas above each village.
Beginning on the northern part of Cinque Terre, the five villages are: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. Cinque Terre is a National Park and a UNESCO Heritage site. It gets a lot of travel, yet even with masses of people, there are vantage point which allow for some spectacular photography. The pastel colored buildings built into the mountain coastline create wonderful opportunities for photography in many different light conditions, including nighttime reflections, if you are there for the right conditions.
Unfortunately, the weather conditions during our trip here were in some ways the worst of the week. The skies were mainly cloudy, with showery and rainy conditions prevailing. The wind was fairly brisk much of the time. And as in so many other instances, we were here on a cruise with a planned one-day stop. So going in, I knew my oppurtunity was going to be daytime shots. As the following image shows, access to wonderful panoramic landscape shots are easily accessed, via a fenced walkway that goes out along the water, looking back at the village.
My research suggested that the most photogenic of the 5 villages were Manarola and Riomaggiore. Manarola is clearly the most photographed, and perhaps the most accessible. We were traveling that day with 2 other couples, and given the timing and the questionable weather, we decided to put all our effort into Manarola. We learned the railway system as we went. We learned that the best plan was to take a taxi to the railroad station and in the future, I will obtain the all-day pass. I would also like to plan a trip to stay over one or two nights. It would be possible to stay in La Spezia, but I would want to have a good idea of the railroad schedule, so not to miss the last train. Or plan to stay in one or more of the villages.
If you are a hiker, I think it would be a wonderful trip to start at one end and hike between the villages. It would probably be possible to do it in about 3 days (maybe even less), but it would also depend on how much time you would want to take in each village. I had originally planned to do both Manarola and Riomaggiore, but circumstances made it so that did not happen. Given better weather and a better understanding of the geography, I would definitely strike out on my own (or with other photographers) and plan stops (perhaps multiple) in both of these villages.
As you can see, like almost any location I visit, in addition to the iconic shots, there are opportunities for close compostitions, as well as finding your own unique shots.
On occasion, I find one of my shots that I think would do nicely as a painting, or at least a canvas presentation. I think the Manarola shot fits that “bill.”
Perhaps fittingly, this is the penultimate Blog Entry for 2019, and ends the series of travel posts for 2019, with a lot of new places and travel. I expect 2020 will add even more new travel. In the meantime:
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For weeks before our departure on this cruise, and during most of the days on board, preceding our final stop, I referred to the port as “La Speezia.” Like so many foreign words, I guessed and pronounced it absolutely incorrectly. La Spezia is pronounced: “La Spetzia.” It was to be our final stop before departing the ship and heading home, in Civitaveccia. It didn’t seem like there was much to La Spezia, except that it seemed like a good departure point for other places, including Pizza and Florence. We had ported in Livorno a few years back, which is very close to both Pizza and Florence. La Spezia is another matter. Train rides or tours were 2-4 hours drive away. Fortunately, we had our eyes on a “better” destination that was just a few minutes away by train; Cinque Terra. La Spetzia, itself, impressed me as a working town, without much real “tourist” draw. There were a lot of commercial buildings, banks, and residential housing.
I will cover Cinque Terre in its own blog, concluding this cruise. But surprisingly, I made enough images of the Port of La Spezia, that I actually ended up doing its own instalment here. We arrived on a rather gloomy early Saturday afternoon.
We were due to stop at another rivieria port, Santa Margerita Ligure, which was situated close to Portofino and Rapallo. All three are popular tourist destinations for Europe and continue the charming seaside village atmosphere which seems to be found everywhere on the Meditteranean coastline. Many of them are not deepwater ports, however, able to accomodate a large cruise ship at their docks, and it is common to anchor ot and “tender” in (we did so at Monte Carlo). This means that sometimes weather creates an issue, making tender conditions just too dangerous. We were unfortunately, not able to go ashore and essentially missed the day of our cruise which would have included walking the streets of these seaside villages.
Instead, we were able to secure a birth early in La Spezia, and so we cruise on ahead, arriving in port in the very early afternoon. As the images here illustrate, the weather continued to be somewhat uncooperative. This was a bit of a disappointment to me, because I had really keyed on the visit to Cinque Terre all week. I am sure I will be back there some day, and I have a much better idea of how the transportation works. In the meantime, I made some nice photographs of the Port of La Spezia. You can see that bad weather doesn’t always make bad photographs. I think the clouds had enough character in this instance to actually make for some nice, moody shots. After we returned from Manarola for the evening, I was also able to shoot the port at dusk and again later at night.
I was surprised at La Spezia. It was much larger than I expected, and I would judge its large, working seaport to rival that of Naples, with a bustling container operation, and a significant military presence. There was activity along the seaside wharfs 24/7. La Spezia is the second largest city in the Liguria region, just after Genoa. Located roughly midway between Genoa and Pisa, on the Ligurian Sea, it is one of the main Italian military and commercial harbours and a major Italian Navy base. I made the container shots in the early morning light the following morning.