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2015; A year to Remember

As I thought about 2015 year in review, it struck me that this was a big year for our travel and perhaps equally so for photography. But I couldn’t help thinking back to some other big years. I have made many trips in the continental United States, including Vermont, Maine, New Mexico, Virginia, West Virginia, California, Wyoming, Texas, North Carolina and Florida over the years; as well as trips into Canada. But around 2009, we began to expand the travel.

Every Cruise has landed us at St. Thomas. We wanted to get off the beaten Path, so we took a boat to St. John's and spent a few hours here at Caneel Bay Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Almost every Caribbean Cruise has landed us at St. Thomas. We wanted to get off the beaten Path, so we took a boat to St. John’s and spent a few hours here at Caneel Bay
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Sony RX100iv Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Sony RX100iv
Tokyo, Japan
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

In 2009 we went to Acadia National Park in Maine. In 2010, we went to Alaska and Vermont. In 2011, I made my first trip to California and spent time in San Francisco and Napa Valley. I also made a trip to West Virginia and Babcock State Park to shoot the Grist Mill and fall color. In 2012, we were back Napa and briefly, San Francisco. We also did our first ever Caribbean Cruise (and have not missed one since). 2013 marked a huge change for us, as I made my first visit to Europe and Asia (indeed my first excursion outside the U.S. – assuming you don’t count Canada and the Caribbean) on a partly aborted, Mediterranean Cruise. In the late Fall of 2012, I had purchased the Sony NEX-6; a huge departure from my 30-year Nikon affiliation (most of it shooting SLR/DSLR cameras and lenses). I carried that camera in Europe and fell in love with its small size and ease of use. Later that year, I took a very deep breath, closed my eyes, and sold all my Nikon gear; trading for the new full frame mirrorless Sony a7. In 2014, in we spent 10 days in Ireland. Some pretty big years; and some pretty new things.

Seiryuden Temple Kyoto, Japan Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Seiryuden Temple
Kyoto, Japan
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

But on reflection, 2015 will probably have been the biggest, busiest and widest-reaching of my lifetime. In this one year, we went for a week in the Caribbean. We then went to Japan for a week in August, and another 10 days in the Mediterranean in September. I topped that off with a 4-day trip to Vermont in early October. While I began saying to everyone that “I probably bit off more that I could chew,” and was just travel-weary, it was indeed and exciting and eventful year!  And now that we have turned the corner into 2016, a year with much more modest travel planned, I am looking forward to the next big adventure.  In  the meantime, here are some photos and narrative of 2015.

February

We began with our now-traditional week aboard a cruise ship in the Caribbean in February. These trips have become less about excursions and photography and more about just getting some sunny warmth into our bones about ½-way through our long, cold, Michigan winters. But I do carry my camera. For reasons explained in other posts, I am mostly carrying “small gear” on these trips.  The Caneel Bay image is my favorite of the 2015 Carribbean trip.

Kyoto Temple; Kyoto, Japan Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Kyoto Temple; Kyoto, Japan
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

August

Our son was married in Japan in August. This was our first trip their.  Once the long (14-hour) flight from Detroit to Tokyo (Narita) was behind us, the rest of the trip was an unanticipated pleasure. While we knew there were many wonderful things to do and see in Japan, we also expected most of our time to be taken up by wedding and family activities. While this proved mostly true for Tokyo, our new family treated us to a wonderful 2 ½ days in Kyoto, with some really great tours and some great photo opportunities. We knew and expected our new family would be nice people, but their warmth and graciousness exceeded our expectations and we left, feeling a close bond with them. Our distance is great, but we look forward to our next visit!

Sushi Restaurant with conveyor belt; Tokyo Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Sushi Restaurant with conveyor belt; Tokyo
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

September

Our 2013, long-anticipated Mediterranean Cruise, as readers here perhaps remember, was at once, fantastic and disappointing. The disappointment came from the mechanical difficulties the cruise ship experienced in the middle of the cruise. As reported back then, the cruise line came through like heros, and we made “lemonade,” with what we had, seeing much of what we had hoped to see.

Kotor Montenegro Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Kotor Montenegro
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Better yet, we were able to book our “makeup” cruise this fall, and cover all the places we missed, and some overlap with places from the last cruise. And even better still, we were joined by our good friends, Paul and Linda and the four of us had a blast. They are great, easy company and it was nice to share this adventure. We spent 3 days prior to the cruise in Barcelona, and it proved to be as “cool” a city as it has been advertised to be. We followed in Provence, Tuscany (including Florence and Pisa), Rome, Montenegro, and Athens.

Barcelona, Spain Sony RX100iv Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Barcelona, Spain
Sony RX100iv
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

October

In 2010, a group of photographers and foliage fanatics who met and participate on the SOV board, got together for a “reunion” (since it was our first time, shouldn’t it have been called a “union”?). We had so much fun, we committed to another reunion in 2015. Sadly, one of our most notable group members died of cancer (some of us knew he was fighting it back in 2010) in 2012, and we named the 2015 reunion after him. I will never forget his support and his infectious optimism and infectious smile, as well. He was an inspiration.

Noyes Pond Seyon Ranch State Park Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Noyes Pond
Seyon Ranch State Park
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

I will look back at this year and see a number of personal high points, though I am not sure I want another one like this. The travel was exhausting but exhilarating at the same time. I captured many memorable images (and even some good ones).

Barcelona, Spain Sony RX100iv Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Barcelona, Spain
Sony RX100iv
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

In May, I took another “leap” of faith in Sony and in the advice of my mentor, Ray and traded the NEX-6 and interchangeable lenses for the newest “pro” “point and shoot” Sony: The RX100iv. I have done a couple reviews of this camera here for those who would like to see the detail. But suffice it to say that I am pretty much smitten with it and it has now become my travel camera. It is a joy to carry through airport security, and around the streets. Its image quality is so good that I am basically willing to leave the a7 full frame behind on all but dedicated photo-trip travel.

Sony RX100iv

Sony RX100iv

I am blessed to have our (now on our third winter) winter-retreat (our second – soon to be “first” home in Florida), and continue to travel there on a regular basis and find things to shoot.

Tokyo Tower Sony RX100iv Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Tokyo Tower
Sony RX100iv
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

I am looking forward to a great 2016 and hope all of you have the same. I wish you all the best, a prosperous and happy 2016, and am eternally thankful for your readership and support!

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My Favorite Images from the Mediterranean — 2015

Florence Italy Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Florence Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Looking back on the series on our Mediterranean Cruise, it occurred to me that I came away with some “favorite” images. I thought I would revisit and showcase those images in a blog all its own.

La Segrada Familia Barcelona, Spain Copyright Andy Richards 2015

La Segrada Familia
Barcelona, Spain
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

I grew up in the middle Northwest of the United States (Michigan), and have spent a fair amount of time on its East Coast. Except for some brief forays into Canada and a trip or two to the Caribbean, until 2013, I had never been out of the continental United State. To be sure, we have many wonderful venues in our great country and I have yet to see all of them. But going to Europe, where history is seen in 1000’s of years, in contrast to our U.S. history of 100’s of years, is a humbling experience. There is so much to see, appreciate and photograph. One day, I will do a travel favorite images blog. But for today – images from Mediterranean Europe; 2015.

Museu Nacional D'art Catalunya Barcelona, Spain Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Museu Nacional D’art Catalunya
Barcelona, Spain
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

While it is certainly not my “best” travel photo and does not really capture the spirit of big, bold city of Barcelona, the first image I captured from our touring van of the Museu Nacional D’art Catalunya, resonates with me for some reason. It does rain in Europe, after all.

Palau De Musica Barcelona, Spain Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Palau De Musica Barcelona, Spain
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Barcelona is about modern art and architecture. But it is equally about Calalunya and Catalonian culture. So my shot of the Palau De Musica, with the Catalonian Flag prominently displayed, and the colorful art and architecture, represents Barcelona as well as I can.

Chateau la Dorgonne Provence, France Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Chateau la Dorgonne
Provence, France
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

When I think of France, I think of wine and romance. My favorites for our short visit to Provence were the first vineyard we visited – Chateau La Dorgonne – and my shot of the fountain at Aix en Provence.

Aix-en-Provence, France Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Aix-en-Provence, France
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

I love Italy. The food, the art, the architecture, the culture and it’s enthusiastic and at the same time, “laid back” citizens. We didn’t really get to know Tuscany in an intimate way. I really would like to go back and spend some time there, like we did in Venice in 2013. Of course, the big draw for tourism is Pisa and Florence, and my shots of the Tower and the Passageway/Bridge were my “takeaways” from that day. Historically, these visits were a highlight of the trip. Photographically, while satisfying, I didn’t really make any particularly unique images.

Bell Tower Pisa, Italy Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Bell Tower
Pisa, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

 

Ponte Vecchio Florence, Italy Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Ponte Vecchio
Florence, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Rome speaks for itself. The ancient ruins; the Coliseum; the Vatican, and the many other historical places are amazing. It is again, a city I could spend a few days in with ease. I would like to see some of the neighborhoods, and leisurely enjoy its night life and its great restaurants and food. It is a magnificent and grandiose city, as one might expect. My favorite image was of a tour boat on the river with the Castel Angel in the background. Our driver stopped in traffic while I jumped out on the bridge to capture this shot. The boat was an unplanned bonus.

Castel Angel Rome, Italy Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Castel Angel
Rome, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

The shot of the Roman Forum is different from the one recently posted in my blog, but is also one of my favorite images from this trip to Rome.

The Roman Forum Rome, Italy Copyright Andy Richards 2015

The Roman Forum
Rome, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

I didn’t get to see much of Montenegro. I would certainly return there if the itinerary or opportunity presented itself. Hopefully my image represents the spirit of the place.

Kotor Montenegro Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Kotor Montenegro
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

The trip to the Acropolis is always impressive. But the shot of the soldiers, coming out of the Agora after raising the flag for the day, was an unexpected and nice photo opportunity.

Flag Detail The Acropolis Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Flag Detail
The Acropolis
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Intimate shots have always been a draw for me, and much of my portfolio “favorites” are of such shots, rather than the iconic images (which I also shoot a lot of imagery of). This garden shot is probably my favorite of this trip to Athens.

Detail The Agora; Athens, Greece Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Detail
The Agora; Athens, Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

I am looking forward to my next trip to the Mediterranean.

Montenegro

Kotor Montenegro Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Kotor Montenegro
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

One risk of traveling to different countries is having an issue with the food or water in that country. I have had bad experiences on two occasions. In Ireland in 2014, I experienced some intestinal problems which took me down for about a day and a half. Unfortunately, I had the same experience on this cruise.

Kotor Montenegro Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Kotor Montenegro
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Our next-to-last day was scheduled to be a stop in a small country called Montenegro. Based on our sail-in, and the short time I spent on shore, before giving up and going back to the ship to sleep it off, Montenegro is a beautiful country. With steep mountains, and a distinctively Russian/Balkan feel, there appeared to be many photo ops. My wife and our traveling companions went on a trip up into the mountains and enjoyed some of the local culture. My experience was, unfortunately very brief.

Kotor Montenegro Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Kotor Montenegro
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

In and around the port, there were some nice images of the harbor, and the working boats that are common in the Mediterranean.

Kotor Montenegro Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Kotor Montenegro
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Kotor, Montenegro, our port of call, is a walled city, which is one of the really interesting features of some of the cities in Mediterranean Europe. We started with a walking tour of the interior of the city entering through a key-stoned gate. I was able to capture the wall behind some of the buildings in the city, before I gave up and headed back to the ship.