IHAVE shot primarily nature, landscape and other outdoor venues for all the years I have been at this. And for many of those years, I worked hard to get people-free images. Still do some of the time. In popular places, it was not uncommon to sit patiently (or sometimes not so patiently 🙂 ) waiting for people to clear a scene. Later, the ability to “remove” things from images digitally softened some of the angst. But that doesn’t always work. I found myself still waiting for opportunities where the “offending” body was in a spot that would be easy to remove. And then, of course, that brings on all the “isn’t that cheating?” stuff.
not every national park, scenic view, or iconic location was put there for me and my camera
THERE ARE, of course, still going to be times when you want a pristine landscape shot. Often the best time to do that is very early in the morning, before tourists and even workers are out. Getting up early takes a certain discipline, but every time I do so, I am rewarded. Often with complete solitude. Sometimes with just a lot fewer people around. Another way to get that kind of shot is to shoot scenes and places where there aren’t a lot of people. Places that haven’t been discovered yet. Or places that don’t have tourist appeal. I have found some of my best farm scenes to be places that haven’t been “discovered” yet. I have also learned – unfortunately – that it isn’t a good idea to identify those locations in this day and age. There are a couple now famous scenes in Vermont, for example, that used to see the occasional photographer in the road near them – usually during the fall foliage season. But today, everybody and their smartphone wants to photograph these places, and in addition to large numbers of people, many of them have zero respect for other’s property. Indeed in recent years, some of these once quiet, bucolic scenes have taken on a “carnival” atmosphere that is totally at odds with what drew us to them in the first place.
PEOPLE IN the scene can often be perceived as a negative. But I also have to remind myself sometimes that not every national park, scenic view, or iconic location was put there for me and my camera. Indeed, (at least before the advent of the smartphone), the vast majority of visitors to these locations are/were probably there just to see the place. And they certainly have every bit as much of a right to do that (even if they are standing in my photo 🙂 ). Tolerance does not seem to be a popular thing these days, but I still try to practice it.
IN RECENT years, though, something that I have learned is – especially in my travel photography – putting people (or using the people that are there) in your photos sometimes creates added interest. In addition to scale, they can give perspective, and sometimes create questions. Like what is she looking at? What is he thinking? Or they can help express the pure joy of experiencing one of our worldwide wonders. So, for me the trick has now become how to best position the people that are inevitably there in the image. I have begun to look for those moments. I know I am probably late to the game (but suspect I am still with, or ahead of many of my fellow “nature” photographers). Street photographers often purposely seek out people in their imagery. I have never felt really comfortable engaging people, but I am slowly coming to grips with it. In the meantime, I often try to portray people in the image in a basically incognito way (looking away, or so distant as to not have recognizable face). But other times that is just not possible. And when people are in public, they have a reduced expectation of privacy, so I feel that as long as I am not portraying them in a negative way, it is probably o.k.
WHILE INCLUDING people in photographs can be an enhancing factor, I also believe there is a tipping point. I have had times where the venue has been so crowded with people that I have decided not to even shoot it. Sometimes crowds can detract from a shot. Unless, of course, you are trying to depict crowds.
IDON’T think I have used people in images anywhere more than my recent trip to Portugal. We were in two of the most populous cities in the country and let’s face it: there were bound to be people everywhere. Even early in the season. I think this year is perhaps unusual, as people were pent up from the pandemic, and ready to get out and travel again. For whatever reason, there were a lot of people in Lisbon and Porto in late May and early June.
SOMETIMES PEOPLE and their behavior make an otherwise uninteresting image worth a second look. I was walking around St. Kitt during one of our Caribbean Cruise stops and looking for color and interest. The obviously attractive young woman in this shot caught my eye. If the shot were about her, though, having her walking out of the frame is just not very good composition. As much as it may seem so, she is not the true subject of the image. I had all I could do with the fast moving action and my widest zoom to catch the entire important parts of the scene. But mine were not the only eyes she caught. Do you see it? 🙂 I couldn’t resist making this one.
THE “SELFIE” has become (for better or worse) a common occurrence in these times. There are times when people compromise privacy, safety, and property in there unending quest to produce the best Instagram selfie. But sometimes it is just people trying to capture a memory It certainly speaks of behavior. The gondola scene at Piazza San Marco on Venice is iconic. Most of us shoot it trying to exclude outside elements. I was doing that one early morning – making a motion-blur image of the rocking gondolas. When I arrived, I saw this young woman who I believe was making a selfie with the piazza and St. Mark’s in her background. It gives great human interest to the image, in my opinion.
IHAVE made numerous cruise ship pictures over our years of cruising. I am usually shooting either the landscape, or action on the ship. I am never the only one doing so, though most often it is folks with their smart phones (or even tablets sometimes). I love to make images of a harbor as we enter it and dock. As I was doing so in the very picturesque Cobh, Ireland, I noticed the gentleman below doing likewise. I have gotten smarter about my photography over recent years, and was glad I had the presence of mind to capture the scene, which certainly tells a better story than my “solo” images do.
OF ALL the imagery I have made over the years, a substantial majority has been landscape – and of that, more than anything, fall foliage. Mountains, reflections, closeups, barns and farms all make wonderful context. Occasionally, people in the image add color, or interest, or even scale and perspective. I shamelessly confess that I totally “copycatted” the following silhouette image, after seeing a colleague framing it up. But what a great storytelling idea. The photo is another “ho hum” fall foliage image without them.
SOMETIMES STAGING people in an image works. During my trip to Vermont in October, 2021, we were composing and contemplating shooting an uphill Vermont back road, framed with colorful foliage. I made the point that this one needed some interest – a person walking up the road. On of our friends offered to “model,” wearing a bright yellow raincoat I had (which was the brightest “prop” we could find). I think the photo worked well. But when I got home, and reviewed the image on my screen, it occurred to me that red would have more impact. So I made it red. I know. That “cheating” thing again. 🙂
IAM certain that I miss many opportunities to use “models” in my images. I am, by nature, not an outgoing person when around strangers. Again, sometimes, I just get lucky. I was walking in the St. Kitt Cruise port area shooting some of the colorful buildings. This young shop employee asked me out of the blue if I would like her to pose for me. I am no portrait photographer, but I thought this was a kind of fun image that would not have been the same without her in it.
AS OFTEN as I get “unlucky” or even annoyed with the people in a scene, sometimes I get lucky. The scene in Rome was interesting enough to capture my attention. But when the young man walked into the shot, it seemed like a case of “right time; right place” for me.
LOOKING FOR opportunities often begets opportunities. In case of the photo below, we were on a street art walking tour in Cape Town South Africa in January. While mostly shooting the street art imagery, I am always on the lookout for colorful subjects. And – lately – also for human subjects of interest. Here I found both and couldn’t help but wonder if the conversation was about our group?
WHILE SOMETIMES, a photo leaves you wondering about the people in the photo, other times it’s just obvious what the person is doing in the photo – and yet still adds interest. This young woman was one of another couple that joined us on the street art walk recently in Cape Town. The focus of the day, of course was the street art itself. Usually in context. But this opportunity presented itself and I liked the symmetry (physical and figurative). There is little doubt in my mind that the inclusion of the photographer adds interest to the already visually compelling subject.
VERALL, I think there is always going to be room in my portfolio and shooting style for both. I will always want to at least try to make “clean” images. Sometimes that means waiting. Sometimes using content-aware processing. But what I have learned is to look for both opportunities. I think both views, for example, of the Pink Street below are interesting. I had to go very early in the morning to get the empty street. But the people in the second image are always there, beginning in the early evening, and by nighttime, the place is packed. That’s reality and if you are going to portray reality, you are going to have people in the picture. 🙂
[Tomorrow, I head to Ft. Lauderdale to board a cruise ship bound for the Caribbean for a few days. When I return, I am going to take the blog in a slightly different direction – temporarily. See you in a couple weeks]
O N THIS last day of 2022, it seemed fitting to reflect on this incredible photographic year, as well as looking forward to what 2023 will bring. When I wrote this same year-in-review post 12 months ago, I could hardly have imagined it could be an even more eventful year. But as good as 2021 was, 2022 has been amazing. It seems like I always used to do some kind of a wrap-up/thanks type piece. Last week, I posted my “favorites.” This is more of a revisit of some of my experiences in this eventful year – both traveling and at home.
FIRST THOUGH, I want to say not only HAPPY NEW YEAR!, but also THANK YOU to all that read this blog. Looking back, we have had some big travel years. And we have had some that, though they were not so big, were very fulfilling, photographically. 2022 was full and fulfilling. May 2023 only be better! I think maybe 2022 yielded some of my best ever images.
TRAVEL INSPIRES most of my shooting these days. A quick look at my portfolio over 40-plus years has revealed to me that a high percentage of my images were made during our recent travel years; and are travel-oriented. I have been revamping my archival tagging system and was surprised (though not shocked) to see that my digital archives number just under 50,000 images. My lifetime count is certainly higher than that. My “tracking” is not completely accurate. I began the more serious endeavor of photography in 1977 and for the first 25 of those years, I had a less than optimal archiving system. Since moving to digital, I have archived everything. By my calculations, I have made an average of about 2,000 images per year over the past 21 or so years. Part of that increase was no doubt the fact that we could shoot with relative impunity, once we no longer had to purchase film and processing (I have actually tried to make a concerted effort over the past few years to make fewer images and be more thoughtful in the field about what I shoot). I once had file boxes of color transparency slides, of which I only scanned and saved a few. And, sadly, that was mainly only from the mid-1990’s on (I know I made some nice photographs in the earlier years – 1978-1982, especially. I didn’t do a good job of archiving. I have only one or two of my slides from the 70’s – 80’s, and virtually none of the work – mainly B&W – I did while on the college newspaper and yearbook staff). I think they call that “young and dumb.” 🙂
EVEN when I am out around home these days, I am spending more time on street shooting and cityscapes these days. So, it stands to reason that my roundup of this year will be mostly those subjects. Still, I did get some time behind the lens for just landscape shooting, and those opportunities were pretty special. A combination of increased travel (4 trips outside the U.S. and one dedicated trip in the U.S.), playing with some new photographic gear (purposed for travel), and perhaps some pent-up, post-Covid attitude, mean more images for me than usual this year (just under 7.000 images). This year’s take was by far the second biggest number I have accumulated over the past 20 years. The biggest (just over 8,000) was the year of our first cruise and our trip to Alaska. I had just acquired my first “full frame” Nikon DSLR, and I took many photos during the Alaska trip (too many).
THE COVID Pandemic of 2020-2021 put a serious damper on things for all of us. I don’t think we are alone in our sentiment that we could not wait to get back out there. We started “gently” in October-November of 2021. This year we hit the ground running, with 3 cruises, a 20-day land-based trip to Portugal; and I made a week-long trip to Maine in April to photograph lighthouses. I also spent some time kicking around my “backyard,” here in the Tampa Area. I will post some “highlight” photos of each trip. There were so many. As always, they can all be seen at my photo website,LightCentricPhotography.com.
IN JANUARY, we took a cruise in the western Caribbean. This one wasn’t a long cruise, but it marked our first time in the Caribbean in several years. It was also our 4th trip on what has become a favorite ship: The Celebrity Reflection. It was fun, and relaxing. We made stops in Nassau, Bahamas; Cozumel, Mexico; Roatan, Honduras; and Belize City, Belize. Interestingly, all but one (Belize City) were on small islands off the mainland of these countries.
OUR FIRST port of call was Nassau, Bahamas. I didn’t do a huge amount of photography during this cruise, but I was trying out a new “travel” camera system, so I did carry it around and make a few images. My expectations were not high. I was mostly checking it out for usability and image quality (more on that later). There were at least 5 cruise ships in the port, including The Disney Fantasy, Royal Caribbean’s Fantasy of the Seas, and two Carnival Cruise Line ships. Busy port.
THE NEXT stop was Cozumel, Mexico. A place I had never been to. We did not plan any excursions at all on this cruise (a bit unusual for us, but perhaps less so in the Caribbean). Our “plan” was to get off the ship at each port, walk around a bit, and then re-board. This cruise was really more for the cruise ship atmosphere than anything else. I am sure the beaches, snorkeling, diving and those kinds of beach-sports activities are wonderful in Cozumel. As far as the cruise port and immediate vicinity is concerned, I don’t care if I never see it again. There are vendors in every port in the Caribbean, both in the port area itself, and usually in other parts of the city. I have been to many ports in the Caribbean. The vendors are pretty forward and vocal. But usually if you politely say: “no thanks,” they move on. Not in Cozumel. They were aggressive to the point of harassment. They just would not leave us alone. I couldn’t wait to get away. Ironically, I did buy a T-shirt in Cozumel (one of the few times I have bought anything on any cruise other than food). 🙂
BELIZE WAS just kind of underwhelming. I think I only processed two shots from there (one of which, it shouldn’t shock you, was the local Sen’or Frog “monument”). In Roatan we didn’t even get off the ship (that is probably the first and only time we haven’t at least walked off and looked at the onshore activity. I was able to make some shots from the ship and with some cropping, make them look a bit “nicer.” I am really not trying to be elitist here. I think there is plenty to do there, if you do your homework before you leave (and we really didn’t on this one). I also think getting to know the people, island and culture would be interesting and fun. But it looked very run-down where we docked, and I don’t think just getting off and walking around was really going to gain us anything. If we ever went back, I would certainly want to find some kind of tour. I really would have liked to do something related to the cigar-making industry, but I think that is mostly done on the mainland of Honduras. My take-away from all of the western Caribbean stops was that they were very beach, snorkel or diving-oriented. I have a friend (who is apparently more adventurous than me) who did Roatan’s version of “Hop-on-hop-off busses” (by his description, “ancient, recycled Toyota mini-vans with doors removed”) and took a river boat to a Mayan Ruin in Belize. Maybe we should have planned a little better. 🙂
IN MARCH, one of my sisters (one of 5 sisters and a brother) and her husband came to Florida to “thaw out” (they live in Traverse City, Michigan, where we all grew up) for about a week. They did their own thing part of the time, but we did a few things together, too. Have you ever noticed that when people visit, you tend to go places and see things locally that you either do not do, or never have done? St. Petersburg, Florida has a small, but very cool glass/glass-blowing art museum. We visited it one day, and because I knew it was inside, I took only my Samsung S21 Smartphone. I have remarked numerous times here that – for myriad reasons – smartphone cameras are “not ready for prime time” for most serious photographers. But I have also noted that I am impressed with them and for me they work particularly well in an indoor setting with challenging lighting. I made a few images I liked. I even had some fun playing with a couple to make a composite.
IHAVE had coastal Maine on my horizon for years now. In 2009, my buddy, Rich and I and our wives spent a week in October in Bar Harbor. Our primary destination was Acadia National Park, but we spent a fair amount of time driving to other spots in the area. I got my first glimpse of the Maine Coast that year, as we photographed several Lobster Fishing harbors and the Bass Harbor Lighthouse. These are my kinds of landscape scenes and I really wanted to get back. Having now finally done it in 2022, I want to go back again soon. I have posted only a couple here. There are many more images, including 5 lighthouses and several lobster harbors on my Maine Galleries,here.
TIMING IS everything. Rich works for a company in Michigan that owns a subsidiary company based out of Freeport, Maine (very near Portland). He travels there frequently, and I “piggybacked” on one of his trips (he worked earlier in the week and then took a few days off) and our base of operation was in Portland. But the only time we could mesh schedules was in April (May or October would have been preferred, because of Spring blooms and/or foliage). But we made the most of it. Because of the time of year, we knew our best bet would be to concentrate on lighthouses. And fortunately, there are some really picturesque light houses along mid-coast Maine. We also knew there would be some limited opportunities to shoot lobster harbors.
WEATHER WAS not our friend that week, for the most part. That is unusual for me. I seem to be blessed with good weather most of the time. This trip yielded mostly overcast to cloudy skies, which make photography much more challenging. But there was really only about one half-day complete rainout, and so we got out and took advantage of what we did get. And with what I think is the most photogenic light of the group, at Pemaquid Point Light, we lucked out one afternoon. It had rained all morning and had been cloudy with some showers the balance of the day. We had planned to head back to Pemaquid just to see what happened. Our weather apps predicted partly sunny by late afternoon to early evening. Eventually, we could see signs of clearing to our west. But temperatures were also dropping. This created fog at the seashore, which is a double-edged sword. We could either get some “cool” foggy images, or it would be completely “socked” in. We would see. As we pulled into the parking lot, we could hear the waves pounding (which was quite different from the still, but cloudy morning when we were there a day or two before). And then, almost suddenly, the cloud cover broke and late afternoon blue sky and sun pierced through. We got some great images of the lighthouse and reflection. I also made some nice images of the violent wave break, down on rocks we had climbed on the prior morning.
JUST BEFORE I left for my Maine Trip, our friends and neighbors, Bruce and Joyce, invited us to join them on a 20-day trip to Portugal later that Spring. Portugal was one of the few significant countries in Mediterranean Europe that we had never been to, and with our love for travel, we jumped at the opportunity. Flying into Lisbon on May 18, we spent the next 4 days there. Our hotel was right in the center of the Baixa (a low, flat part of Lisbon – probably the only flat part, LOL – kind of a valley between two mountains). Our hotel was a perfect location, within easy walking distance to many of Lisbon’s popular spots. Out our front door was a grid of walking-only streets. During the afternoon and evenings, there was outdoor restaurant seating, which we frequently availed ourselves of. During the day and at night, the streets were busy. In the mornings, they were often nearly deserted. Nearby, there were plazas and fountains, and the riverfront. Of course, I was out every morning. Again, so many images. Shots of intimate small street settings, Towers. And the Jacaranda Trees were in their glorious purple bloom everywhere. See many more very cool Lisbon images on my LightCentricPhotography photo site, here.
LIKE MANY European cities, Lisbon is very mass-transit oriented. Probably the most popular of their public transportation vehicles is their well-developed tram system. This includes the rather well-known “Tram 28” which makes its circuit through many of the city’s most popular areas. All-day and multiple day (often combined with other transportation forms like subway and bus) fares are available at really reasonable cost. It is a good way to see central Lisbon. The only downside is that if you do so during the main hours of the day, it may be very difficult to get back on if you get off. We waited in line for about 4 trams before we were able to get on one at the beginning. Then, they fill them up. But a fun and interesting ride, anyway.
DURING OUR stay in Lisbon, one day we traveled out into the eastern part of Portugal, to Sintra. It is best known for its two famous Castles, Pena Palace and the Moorish Castle. Unfortunately, our tour did not include (and we did not know better) the Moorish Castle. I have vowed that on the next trip to Portugal we will go back there. But Pena Palace is pretty spectacular and very colorful. Again, my one image here does not do it – or the area – justice. To see the rest of the Sintra and Pena Palace shots, gohere.
FROM LISBON, we traveled North to Porto, (probably the “namesake” of Portugal, and one of the most photogenic cities in Europe, in my view). This city is special to me on a number of levels. First, I fell in love with “old city” feel. I also loved the food. But most of all: the photographic spots there! Because we were there for so long, I felt comfortable going off and doing something just for me on this trip. 🙂 I found a nighttime photo walk in Lisbon and signed up for it. It was a good outing and we did some pretty nice photography. It was very reasonable in cost. But probably the best thing that came from it was our guide’s suggestion that I contact another photo-tour guide in Porto and spend a day with him. It was my good fortune that he had a time available for me – and that I was his only customer that day! He took me to spots that I may never have found on my own, and certainly not within the time frame of a couple days. What a day. Perhaps my best city photographs ever. I think that, among other things, has convinced me That Porto is perhaps my favorite European city (maybe tied with Barcelona). Choosing a favorite is impossible. So again, I encourage you to look at allmy Porto Photographson my LightCentricPhotography photo site.
WE MADE a couple side-trips from Porto, including the Douro River Valley, and Aveiro.
THE SECOND night we were in Porto, I walked down to a researched site about 10 minutes from our hotel, to set up and shoot a nighttime image of Porto, along the Douro River, with one of its prominent bridges. I would like to get back there someday earlier and try to make a sunset image. But this one will have to do for now.
WE SPENT another 4 days there, before heading south. On one of those days, we traveled out to the famed, Douro River Valley, where Port Wine was originally made, and where many of the grapes are still grown. The large, famous Port makers have mostly moved closer to Porto. As you can see from my gallery, The Douro Valley is spectacular.
MY WIFE and I also traveled by train one day to nearby Aveiro. Once known for its fishing industry, and its unique and colorful, gondola-style boats, which were used to gather seaweed brought in for fertilizer for its farm fields, Aveiro today thrives primarily on tourist trade and the local university. Down near the waterfront you can take one of the above boats for a cruise around the canal. The waterfront itself is fronted by some wonderful, art nouveau buildings. It was a short walk from the very modern railway station and there were some very colorful photographic sites. You can a few more of my Aveiro shotshere.
WITH A stop in the ancient walled city of Evora for two nights, we then finished our amazing time there in the Algarve (a pretty popular and even famous ocean beach area) in Lagos, Portugal. Evora was once the center of Roman and then later, Ottoman control of the region which eventually became Portugal. There are ancient castles, churches, a wall surrounding the old city (our hotel was inside the walled city), a huge aqueduct, and many examples of the architecture of the times. See more Evora pictureshere.
THE ALGARVE is a region in the south of Portugal, that mostly borders the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean. Particularly along the southern tip of the peninsula, there are several very popular beach communities. Tourism and summer residents are a large part of the economy there, but there is also fishing, agriculture and other related vocations that contribute to the economy. It is so very different from what we saw in Lisbon and Portugal. But picturesque, if not touristy, and very fun. And the seafood was wonderful. The rest of my Algarve Pictures are inthis gallery.
THE PHOTOGRAPHIC opportunities in Portugal (especially Porto, in my opinion) were as good as I have ever experienced. We haven’t done a lot of extensive land-based trips, so this was an uncommon experience for us. And for me, a welcome change to the travel routine. The one real negative for me with cruising – as a photographer – is that you only very rarely get to experience a location in the best light (early morning, late afternoon-evening) and almost never at night. Shooting cities at night can be pretty fun for a photographer. Here, I knew there would be several such opportunities, and some pretty nice landscape shots. I was not disappointed, and I am certain there will be another visit to Portugal in my future!
AS WE have customarily done since moving to Florida, we spent 2 weeks back in Michigan visiting family and friends during the 4th of July holiday. I don’t usually spend much time “behind the lens” on these trips. But this year, my sister and brother-in-law took us on a drive to the Lake Michigan Lakeshore – some of Northern Michigan’s prettiest scenery along Lake Michigan and some inland lakes. One of our stops that day was the Point Betsie Lighthouse on Lake Michigan. In my view, not one of the most photogenic of lighthouses, which we were at in rather harsh lighting conditions, I still made a few images.
WE WEREN’T done yet. Not by a long shot. At the beginning of September, we left for Amsterdam. We were scheduled to cruise the Baltic Sea on the Celebrity Apex. A “makeup” cruise of sorts. In 2020 we were scheduled for a cruise in Iceland, Ireland and the U.K. Covid shot that one down and we then went through a series of 3 or 4 “re-bookings,” one after another, they cancelled as Covid hung on longer and stronger than the world had anticipated. This one finally “took.” It actually had me kind of excited because the overnight stop was St. Petersburg, Russia. What photographer wouldn’t be excited at that prospect? [Warning: soapbox speech 🙂 ] In the past century, we have had two narcissist, power-hungry, and just downright insane characters who fancied themselves “world leaders.” Both obsessed with nothing but their own power. Neither had any common sense, sense of morals or decency. One of them was the prime mover in perhaps the worst and least – justified war in the world’s history (certainly modern history). Thankfully, (though only after much horrible death and destruction, including the attempted extermination of a whole race of people), the first one is dead (presumably at his own hand in the face of defeat in WWII). The other one is – to the world’s detriment – still alive. Much of the world saw, after the fact, the horrible atrocities Hitler wrought, but confoundingly we either cannot see history repeating itself, or we are just too complacent to address it. Vladimir Putin is, in my (ever so 🙂 ) humble opinion, Hitler reincarnated. The parallels are stunning. I ask myself every day how one man can have so much evil influence worldwide? [O.k. I’ll climb down off the soapbox]. Needless to say, St. Petersburg was scratched from the agenda after Putin’s War began.
WE WENT anyway, even though nearly 50% of cruisers on this one cancelled. Yeah, St. Petersburg was a big deal. But not enough to cancel a cruise that turned out to be a pretty interesting part of the world. We spent a couple days in Amsterdam, and then cruised up into the Baltic, stopping in Germany, Finland, Sweden, Estonia, and Denmark, before returning to Amsterdam. Amsterdam had a kind of “been there, done that” feeling to me as far as photography was concerned. We did some really interesting historical tours though. One of the most impressive parts of the beginning of that cruise was the sail away through the northern passage from Amsterdam out to the Atlantic. I expect to see windmills in Amsterdam. The old-fashioned kind. But I was surprised at the number of modern wind turbines around the Netherlands (and other parts of the Baltic).
UR FIRST stop was in the northern part of Germany, in a seaside, beach-vacation town of Warnemunde. We had no high expectations from this stop, and I think the best photos were right from the top deck of the cruise ship. There are just a few other “Warnemunde” imageshere. We cruised northeast across the Baltic over the next couple days, and landed next in Helsinki. One of the really fun aspects of cruising for us has been meeting new friends from all around the world. In 2019, before the world shut down, we met two fun couples from the northern part of England. We spent some time with them during the week, both on and off shore, and have kept in touch. This time, we met several more couples from the U.S. and Canada. One of the really fun couples is Mike and Elaine, from upstate New York. We spent a fair amount of time with them, also. I had breakfast nearly every morning with Mike. We actually have plans to cruise with them again in February, 2023 in the Caribbean. In Helsinki, neither of us had hard plans, so we got off the ship together and boarded the Helsinki “Hop on – Hop Off” bus (which stopped right in the cruise port, just steps away from the ship). We had a fun day. Helsinki is geographically fairly small and I think we probably saw most of it from the bus. We only got off right down in the downtown area, where most of the historical sights were. In my research, I learned that Helsinki was probably going to be the closest we would get to a St. Petersburg experience. Czar Alexander had a fondness for Helsinki after the Russian occupation and authorized some pretty extensive building, including Senate Square and the Helsinki Cathedral. There is also a beautiful Russian Orthodox Cathedral nearby. The waterfront is fun and impressive. I made just a few nice Helsinki images, which can be seenhere.
THE REPLACEMENT port for St. Petersburg was the medieval town of Visby, on a small island which is part of Sweden, called Gottland. We took a walking tour through the old walled city, learning some history, and seeing some very old buildings. It is a pretty and photogenic city, as can be seen in my Visby Gallery.
WE NEXT sailed to Tallin, Estonia. Tallin is a small, walled medieval city. It is known as the oldest such city in the Baltic. It is unique in that it was at one time two separate walled cities that abutted each other so closely that the walls formed a narrow walkway between them. The inhabitants did not trust each other, and gates were closed during the night. Estonia was occupied by Russia (and later the USSR) for many years, and the Russian influence can be seen there. Estonian Citizens are also very independent and proud of their own heritage. Tallin was once an important and strategic port on the trade routes (an important part of The Hanseatic League). Today, it is a favorite vacation and nightlife spot – especially for the Finns and Swedes. There was a lot to photograph there, as you can see from the Estonia gallery here, on my website. The Russian Orthodox Church is probably the most impressive church I have ever photographed. There were many other good photographic opportunities here, as you can see from my Estonia Gallery.
IN PLACE of the overnight in St. Petersburgh, Stockholm became our overnight destination. But even that changed, as, during our stay in port, the ship captain announced that we would be leaving port in the early evening the night before to avoid some bad weather conditions (so we missed our overnight – and our visit to the ABBA museum). One thing I didn’t realize prior to the cruise was that the sail into Stockholm from the Baltic involves a narrow waterway that it takes several hours to navigate. I think that was the highlight of Sweden! We got to see much of rural Sweden with some pretty nice landscape opportunities from high up vantage point of the upper ship deck. As you might guess, I spent a good amount of time on the upper deck for the sail in and back out. My numerous shots can be seen in mySweden Gallery.
STOCKHOLM ITSELF is a major city, with very large, impressive municipal buildings and an old medieval part of the city that was very touristy and crowded. My favorite photographic subject in the city was the Riddarholmen Cathedral.
THE FINAL port was Copenhagen, Denmark. If I were “king of the (Celebrity) world,” I would have made Copenhagen the overnight stop. A bit like Helsinki, Copenhagen is a compact and very walkable city. And it has some wonderfully photogenic buildings, as well as a great waterfront. We had arranged a walking tour with our friends Mike and Elaine. It started fairly early in the morning, so we took a taxi from the ship into the downtown area, where we met our guide. After spending a few hours with her, we did a bit more walking and exploring on our own, including climbing (thankfully mostly by elevator) into a tower that gave us a great panoramic view, including the cruiseport and our ship. I thought the port area was also very photogenic and made a few images from the ship as we came into the harbor in the nice morning light. You can see my Copenhagen images here. There was a great Royal Palace Compound, the Government Palace, a University and Churches. I went there with one spot high on my agenda: Nyhavn. You can see from the photo why. I would love to go back there at night.
WE STILL weren’t done. 🙂 We had made plans earlier in the year to go on a cruise with some family members. Some of them had never been in Europe, or parts of the Mediterranean before. Some had been some places, but not others. Having been to the area at least three other times, there was a lot of familiarity for us. But there is always something different; a different spin; a different agenda, and different photographic opportunities. We made the best of some pretty great spots. We started in Rome, where we spent a few days before boarding the Celebrity Edge in Civitavecchia. We then cruised to La Spezia, Cannes, Toulon (Provence), Barcelona, Sardinia, Sicily, and Naples. On our return to Civitavecchia, we flew to Venice for a few more days, before returning home. Whew! Long, and at points exhausting trip. Photographically, there were some really high points!
ROME IS a city we had been to two times before. But each time, only for the day. Having the luxury to stay for 3 nights in a VRBO right in Rome was special. And it meant I would get out in the morning light. I did not get any nighttime shooting in there, though. But during the days we got to see the Vatican (perhaps because of post-Covid and maybe the early morning tour, we got a much more intimate view of the place – on our last visit there were shoulder to shoulder crowds everywhere we were in Vatican City). We also had a much more thorough tour than our previous walk-through on our own, of the Roman Forum and the Coloseum. On the day we arrived, our driver took us to a couple impressive spots, including a fountain we had never seen before. And, of course, the Trevi Fountain (that was every bit as crowded as it was on our first visit). Having spent 3 plus days there, it would be impossible for me to choose a photo or two that would be “representative.” And everyone has seen the Colosseum, The Vatican, The Trevi Fountain, the Royal Palace, and the Roman Forum. All my images of Rome, including a number of new ones from this trip are inthe Rome, and Vatican Galleries, on my photo website. The image here is just a very short walk from our VRBO, taken just after sunrise one of the mornings we stayed there. It is probably my favorite Rome image.
IWAS “laying in the weeds” for La Spezia. On our Mediterranean cruise in 2019, we had stopped in La Spezia. I knew about Cinque Terre back then, but I really wasn’t prepared to do it justice. And to add to that, we had a mostly rainy day. I got to just one of the 5 villages (Manarola). But it was a learning experience. Among other things, we learned about the commuter train from La Spezia through Cinque Terre, stopping at all 5 of the villages. There is an all-day ticket for 18 Euros. The time between stops is between 5 and 15 minutes. It is possible to do several (maybe all) of the villages in a long day. With a large group (we had 6) it is not always easy to get organized and going. Especially without a tour or specific plan. And especially when all in the group aren’t especially early risers. So, I made it known to everyone that I would be off the ship as soon as we were cleared and would meet them in one of the villages once they got going. That worked for me. I got to photograph what I wanted of 3 of the 5 villages, which I had concluded were the most photogenic of all: Riomaggiore, Manarola, and Vernazza. Those images can all be seen inmy Cinque Terre Gallery. The consensus of photographers whose accounts I read was that Manarola was the best of the 3 to photograph. I don’t know that I would agree. It is certainly photogenic. It is also, by far, the easiest of the three to get to, with the train station being very close to “the action.” And I do think it would be the village of choice to stay in for an overnight or two. But I really likedRiomaggiore!
CANNES, OUR next port, is supposed to be a playground for the rich and famous. It seems like that is a common theme along this stretch of the Mediterranean known as the French Riveria. But we didn’t spend any time in Cannes, but instead 4 of us took a train to Monaco, where we walked to the Monte Carlo Casino. We had been in the Casino before, but it was still interesting to walk around, though we did not gamble. In the end I think we all mostly enjoyed strolling along the avenue leading up the casino and along the waterfront. We stopped for probably the nicest lunch we had during the entire trip.
THE NEXT day, we docked at the port of La Seyne-sur-Mer in Toulon, France. About the only thing memorable about Toulon is that it is in the heart of Provence. Our private guide that day said that he was one of only two who would drive all the way to La Seyne-sur-Mer, because it was so out of the way. We were fortunate that he would, because he took us on a really great tour. Years back we had docked at Marseilles (no doubt a more convenient port for passengers and guides). We started out in a nearby National Park with some stunning views from up in the mountains, down over the riviera. We went to Aix-en-Provence (we had been there before in 2014, but the others had not). It is another beautiful old city with fountains, piazzas, churches and majestic buildings. We had lunch there and then headed back toward our ship. On the way we stopped at the medieval village of LeCastellet, a quiet, charming little village tucked up into the mountains. My Provence Gallery showcases a few of the images I have made in the Provence Region, including Aix-enProvence and LeCastellet. Perhaps the coolest photo-op I had in 2022 was the “right time – right place” shot of rock climbers preparing for their rappel down the mountains in the National Park.
OUR NEXT stop was Barcelona, Spain. We have been to Barcelona a handful of times now, staying a few days each time. It is one of my favorite European cities (Porto, Portugal, being the other). But we had seen much of the city already. On our last visit, we had a tour to the nearby Montserrat Monastery and a winery that was cut short because of a Catalonian demonstration. We wanted to finish it, so my wife and I left the others to their own designs in Barcelona and returned to Montserrat: mountains northeast of Barcelona. It was a nice day. It started out quite foggy, but as our morning progressed, the sun broke through and I made what I think is a very nice photograph of the mountains behind the monastery.Montserrathas its own gallery on my website.
AFTER BARCELONA, we went to a place we had never been to; Sardinia. A part of Italy, it, like so many of the European distinctive regions, has its own history, language and culture. It seemed to us that food was a big regional thing in this part of Italy. The next day we would be in Messina, Sicily and my wife and I took a food tour on our own. I didn’t make any real memorable images in either place this time, though I did post a few photos in the Sardinia Gallery on my website.
THE FINAL stop on our cruise was Naples, Italy. Again, we have been in port at Naples multiple times. One of the reasons it is a very popular cruise ship stop is its proximity to so many sought after sites in the area. From Naples we have been to the Amalfi Coast two times, and to the Isle of Capri. But the other big event is the ruins of Pompei and Herculaneum. We had not been to either and this was a long, but fun day visiting them. Each has its own gallery with many photographs in myItaly Galleries. I included the Pompei image here because of the classic clouds in front of Mount Vesuvius. These ancient, but sophisticated, civilizations are spectacular, and the preserved ruins include homes, shops, restaurants, displaying impressive stonework and mosaics. They are rivaled only – in my experience – by the ruins of Ancient Ephesus, in Turkey.
VENICE IS another incredible European city that we have been to multiple times. I have often described Venice as “eye-candy” for the photographer. On this trip, I concentrated less on shooting everything in front of me and more on some of the little things – as well as enjoying the city with our friends who had not been there. As always, I made a few images. You can see all my Venice images in the Venice Gallery on my photo website.
YOU WOULD think that would have been enough. But there would be one more fun and successful adventure. When we moved from Michigan to Florida, in stages, over the last 10 years, I learned that an old high school classmate was an avid photographer, and a 30-plus year resident of Tampa. We touched based a couple times and vowed to get together to do some photography. Finally in early December, knowing the city would be dressed up for the holidays, I reached out to Mark, and we ultimately got together – him being my local guide – to make some really good images of the Miami Skyline. It was fun, and we plan to do it again soon – somewhere in our area. I just set up aTampa Galleryin the past few days, with many more of these nighttime skyline images. Hope you’ll check them out and enjoy them. And I would also encourage you to check out Mark’s work here.
WELL. THAT’s my year in pictures. The images shown here are not necessarily my “best” nor by any stretch of the imagination, all of my take for 2022. They are meant to show what I had to work with. I would be honored if you will go to my LightCentricPhotography photo site, peruse some of the galleries, and leave a comment or two. I am very thankful for a robust, healthy (in spite of the Pandemic), and very full year of travel and photography. I wish all a successful and Happy New Year!Good shooting to all you photographers out there.
[On Monday, we begin 2023, flying to Cape Town, South Africa, for a few days and then boarding the Oceania Nautica, for a cruise “around the horn,” so to speak. On returning later this month, I will resume our 2022 experiences, with the Baltic Cruise series. Hope you will hang on. Stay tuned.]
TODAY STARTED out a bit slow by comparison to the previous days. My wife and I had some breakfast and walked around a bit. We met our fellow travelers just after noon and decided – with nothing formally scheduled – to take the extolled “Tram 28.” By just after noon, the very popular sightseeing tram had a pretty long line, and we ended up waiting for it for about 1/2 hour. But the trip was fun, and at one point, we all had to exit the tram and board another one. At times, as the tram traveled through the residential and business sections of the city, it became very crowded – as in standing room only. But it was a fun experience. Though we had purchased all-day transportation tickets, we didn’t really get on or off much. Other than the obligatory exit noted above, we only got off one more time.
I Have learned from experience that it is virtually impossible to make good images from a moving vehicle . . . Better to just enjoy the ride and the sights
TRAM 28 took us through some pretty interesting parts of the city. But I didn’t really try to make photographs. I Have learned from experience that it is virtually impossible to make good images from a moving vehicle. In my years of riding busses, trains, hop-on-hop-offs, and cars, I have made maybe one or two salvageable photos. Better to just enjoy the ride and the sights.
PRIOR TO “re-boarding” the second tram, we had agreed to get off at the Miradouro das Portas do Sol sol stop, to walk around, and to have a bite to eat and a drink, overlooking the ocean at this well-known Lisbon viewpoint. the Miradouro das Portas do Sol (roughly translated: “gateway to the sun”) is perhaps Lisbon’s most noted and popular viewpoint (miradouro). The image below is the classic viewpoint, seen many times on the internet. I had to do it too. 🙂
FROM THE das Portas do Sol viewpoint you can see across the Tagus river to Almada, and a very wide view of both Lisbon and Alamada in the far distance. The Lisbon Cruise terminal is also at the riverfront below the viewpoint, as you can see from the single cruise ship docked there. We sat along the rail under the far white roofed structure, and had drinks and some appetizers.
THIS MIRADOURO is in the district of the city known as the Alfama. It is also the Moorish part of the city (hence the name Alfama, which is of Moorish origin). There is still a substantial Moorish/Portuguese population here. The district has a more residential, and “older” vibe, with local markets and small local restaurants more the norm. While the others opted to re-board Tram 28, I decided to walk back to the Hotel. It was mainly downhill, and I had, by now, become fairly familiar with the layout of the area and was confident I could find my way back. And, as an added positive, I ended up returning to the area where we began our food walk earlier in the week and found both of the elevator “shortcuts” back down. The image with the cart with its headlights on is in the Alfama, very near there. As an aside, the cart is a “tuk-tuk,” which is a glorified golf cart for passengers. It is a controversial topic in Lisbon. Originating in eastern countries like India and Thailand, these vehicles are the modern, powered version of a rickshaw. As tourism grew rapidly in Lisbon over the past years, “entrepreneurs” from some of these countries saw an economic opportunity. These carts can go many places where the city’s estimable tram, bus and funicular transportation system cannot. For weary tourists (and believe me, I feel the pain), they are an alternative to walking up the many steep hills on the back streets of the city. But Portugal’s residents are not so enthusiastic. Early models were petroleum powered, smelly and noisy. Recently Lisbon passed an ordinance forbidding all but electric versions of the tuk-tuk. That helps. But it is not the only concern. Residents note that with the tuk-tuk comes a much larger influx of the tourist population into the traditionally quiet residential neighborhoods, threatening their tranquility and traditional living circumstances. I didn’t find any resident who liked the tuk-tuks; nor any who would ride them.
MY WALK “home” ended yet another relatively full day – especially the afternoon – and the end of our primary stay in Lisbon. We would return for a couple days at the end, as our flight back stateside was from the Lisbon airport. But our return would put us in a different motel, and I will look back on our 4-day stay with a lot of nostalgia. Tomorrow, we would board a train bound for Porto, and more adventures. As I noted on a recent Facebook Post, as photography is concerned, I just had a feeling that as much as Lisbon offers, photographically, Porto was going to be better! Stay tuned to see if I was right. 🙂
I will be traveling for the next couple weekends and will take a brief break from posting during that time. I hope to return with even more images from another part of our world. When I do return, next up: “On to Porto.” See you soon!
SOMETHING I had not done for many years until this trip was to engage a local pro for a photo outing. On our first cruise, in Alaska, I signed up for a “photo day” with a local pro. The other 3 persons in our travel group went on a more generalized tour. We both ended up whale watching/shooting, and from the comments they made, I should have stayed with them. They got better photo opportunities and saw more – and better – whales. I was kind of disenchanted with the whole “led by a pro” thing after that. I thought I did a pretty good job of finding the images I wanted to shoot while in London last November. I have always felt like I can do as well (maybe better) on my own. I may have been wrong. 🙂 I ended up doing it twice on this trip and I will probably do it again.
BECAUSE WE would be staying for several days in each of 4 destinations on this trip, I wanted to do some night shooting. What better way to explore an unfamiliar place than to go on aphotowalk at night with a local pro? at night? Was it worth it this time? Yeah. Definitely. I saw places and things that I would see again during daylight, but that I wouldn’t have though were great night venues. Our pro was a lifelong Lisbon resident and knew the city well. He also gave me some pointers on street night photography that I believe will stand me in good stead in the future. They were not so much technical things like aperture, shutter speed, lens choice, etc. They were more artistic in terms of where to stand and how the light and shadow was falling. As many of you know, I have a tendency to get in close with my images. Miguel(Miguel Angelo Silva)spoke of giving an image more “context,” by including more of the surroundings in the photo. As I tried to incorporate this thought, I realized that this is especially true in street shooting – particularly where you do not have a specific person as your subject. Backing away a bit in the image gives the viewer context; where the image is, and what is going on in the surroundings. It was something for me to think about. And not just at night. And I made some images that I don’t normally make that I was really pleased with.
Was it worth it this time? Yeah. Definitely
THE OTHER piece I picked up was how much night shooting (especially in the context of cities and street shooting) can be successfully done handheld. Almost all of the night exposures I have made over the years have been from a tripod. When a subject is stationary and more in the “landscape” category, I would still do that. But sometimes it gets in the way – (I know: heresy coming from me 🙂 ) and sometimes it’s just not practical or even possible. This is especially true with candid shots where things may be changing constantly. I carried my ultra-small tripod with me that night and used it for the miradouro shot and the fountain shot. The fountain shot would not have been possible handheld with my gear (but Miguel showed Bruce how to use his iPhone to make the shot and then smooth out the water with its very capable computational app for blurring water). I also used it for the cathedral door and the shot down the stairway (and later in the week for my images of the river and bridge in Porto).
THE REST of the time, I made the shots handheld. The ability to bump the ISO up much higher than we could do in the days of film is a definite boon. I shot the handheld shots at ISO 6400 at f11 and with my exposure compensation set to -1. I know Kodak did make a 6400 ISO film at one time, but it was B&W and very grainy. These are color images. Along with the ISO issue, Olympus has a very good in-body image stabilization mechanism (often said to be the best system of any of its competitors). My version 2 OMD-EM10 has what they refer to as 5-way IBIS (an upgrade from the version 1 and one of the reasons I “upgraded” to it). While I like to think I have decent handheld technique, there is no doubt that the combination of these “techy” features made these images possible. I was pleasantly surprised at the ability to control the noise (which was clearly present) afterward in ACR (and when needed, using NIK software’s Dfine.
Hiring …….. both of these local pro photographer/guides ……… turned out to be one of the best decisions and experiences I have ever had on a trip abroad
ANOTHER THING that developed from this evening was a recommendation Miguel made. When you spend a few hours walking, there is inevitably time to talk, and to get to know one another. Naturally, we talked about our planned travel itinerary while in Portugal for over 2 weeks. And naturally, it came up that we were heading up to Porto in a few days. Miguel confirmed what I suspected: that Porto is a beautiful city with many photographic opportunities. He then gave me the name of a photographer in Porto who does guiding, workshops, etc., and recommended that I try to get signed up with him. His point was well taken. The guy was a lifelong Porto resident, a professional photographer, and – according to Miguel – an extremely nice man. It made sense to have someone with in-depth knowledge of the city and a view from the eye of a photographer. We usually plan our tours well in advance, and experience has taught us that if we don’t they are often completely booked up. So I was skeptical. But while on the train ride up to Porto a couple days later, I reached out toJose’. Serendipitously, he was available for one of my days and I did not have specific plans. It turned out to be one of the best decisions and experiences I have ever had on a trip abroad. More on that later.
ONE THING I was pleasantly surprised at was how affordable these guides are. We paid about $60 each for Miguel’s night photo walk (my travel mate, Bruce joined us and it turned out to be a fun night for him, as Miguel helped him with some really useful tips and instruction with his iPhone). I am sure Bruce felt it was worth it and took some good knowledge away from it. Later in the week, Jose’ charged me less than 100 Euros for a very full “half” day. They both could, and probably should, charge higher fees. I feel for them these days, too. I think that before the pandemic shut the world down for 2 years, they were reasonably busy. They both advertised small group sizes (like 6 people, except by special arrangement). I think that in the past they often had those groups full, especially during high tourist season. When we met up with Miguel, he told us we were it. He was philosophical. More people means more money. But on the other hand, he appreciated the opportunity to work more one-on-one. We had more flexibility and more time to work with the client and their particular wants and needs. In Porto, I had Jose’ all to myself. Looking back, I would gladly pay more for both of these guys to insure I had the one-on-one experience. I wholeheartedly and enthusiastically recommend both of these gentlemen as very good guides. If you go to Portugal and spend any time in Lisbon or Porto, do schedule a day with each of them!
HIS WAS a long day for me, with lots of miles. Beginning before 7:00 a.m. and stopping just around 10:00 p.m., and climbing some serious elevations, we were exhausted. And we had another planned big day ahead. But, ending with this photo outing helped to make it a good day!