Cold as Ice

Ice On Tree Branches
[Copyright Andy Richards 2006]
This is an image I took after a freezing rain during winter, 2006. I don’t remember where I was, but I know it was in Michigan in March. Yes, that is definitely still winter in Michigan 🙂 .

I have always been intrigued by the look of rain that has frozen and stuck to branches, and the light being reflected from it and through it.

Only recently, did I feel that I had the software and skills to process the image the way I saw it in my “minds-eye.” You may still think I don’t have those skills :-).

This image has never been posted anywhere before. I hope you like it.

Stay Safe

The Sun Rises in Florida, Too

The sun rises over The Courtney Campbell Causeway viewed from Safety Harbor, FL
[Copyright Andy Richards 2020]

Florida’s Gulf Coast is renowned for its spectacular and colorful sunsets. Its a scientific fact that the sun sets in the west. This makes Florida’s western coastline (essentially one big beach), prime for sunset viewing.

Florida’s western coastline is basically one big beach, prime for sunset viewing

Over the years, I have made mention of sunrise and sunset imagery a few times. I think I have probably expressed a preference for sunrises. There are some differences between sunsets and sunrises. Other than working around our stomach (sunsets often occur at or near mealtimes), sunsets are easier. We are up and awake. It is often warmer, and there is plenty of time to get on location before the actual event. Sometimes, you can see by the late afternoon weather, how a sunset might develop (though if you rely only on what you see in the hours before the actual event, you might miss a really spectacular image).

Tampa Skyline in the pre-dawn light, viewed from Safety Harbor, FL
[Copyright Andy Richards 2020]

Sunrises often mean you have to sacrifice some sleep, by getting up well before dawn, in order to get out and on site. Unless you live right onsite, it means you may need to get up even hours before, in order to be in place before the pre-dawn lights things up. Some of the best shots happen before the actual sun appears and after it drops below the horizon.

Tampa Sunrise
Safety Harbor, FL
[Copyright Andy Richards 2020]

Esoterically, I have always found more solitude at sunrise, probably primarily because of the above circumstances. In virtually every case, there have been few, if any, other humans in the vicinity during my sunrise shots. I like that. I also like the effort required to get a sunrise, and always have an affinity for the shooter of a sunrise.

Tampa Skyline
I “played” with some of the presets in NIK Color Efex Pro 4 to get this “pastel” look
[Copyright Andy Richards 2020]

There can be real differences too. Mornings often dawn crisp and clear, with clear skies. Or, you can get fog rising from ponds, swamps and other bodies of water, or even frost. Sunsets can be influenced by particles in the air that have accumulated during the day, and by cloud cover that will often develop in late afternoon. These conditions can result in diffused color, dramatic contrasts, and overall spectacular conditions. This is particularly true over large bodies of water, like the Florida Gulf. It is why so many photographers shoot from the same beach, day after day.

Safety Harbor Pier, silouhetted in the pre-dawn
[Copyright Andy Richards 2020]

I now live in that world. My home is 10 minutes from a couple of spectacular gulf photography sites, and only 30 minutes in either direction from even more of them. The vast majority of my shooting since we moved here has been sunsets on one of these beaches.

Safety Harbor Pier, moments before sunrise
[Copyright Andy Richards 2020]

But we live on a peninusula that is separated by the Florida gulf and Tampa Bay. Just 20 minutes from my door, the little community of Safety Harbor is situated on Old Tampa Bay; the far northern reaches of the bay. It is shallow and narrow, and you can see across to Tampa in the distance. Because it faces east, I knew I would get direct on sunrise there. I spent perhaps the 2 coldest mornings we have had here in Florida in the past several years there, photographing the sunrise.

Sunrise over Tampa from the Safety Harbor Pier
[Copyright Andy Richards 2020]

Only very rarely does the sunrise over water itself make a nice image in my opinion. I think there needs to be a point of interest, other than just the sun and water, to balance the composition and give it context. Something in the foreground. Sometimes it is something physical. Sometimes it is a photographic phenomena, like color layers or reflections. At the Safety Harbor Pier, there is a bordwalk to the northwest from which you can get a pretty clear view of the Tampa Skyline, and “The Courtney Campbell Causeway,” perhaps the most prominent feature between (and connecting) our peninsula and Tampa “proper.”

What color is the sun? Yellow, of course 🙂
Safety Harbor Pier in the early morning sun
[Copyright Andy Richards 2020]

For me, perhaps the “main” event in my planned trip over to Safety Harbor was to frame the pier at sunrise. I think I was successful at several images, but you always have to have the “iconic” image, right? 🙂 So here it is – sunrise over the Safety Harbor Fishing Pier. As always, thanks for coming to visit!

Sunrise over the Safety Harbor Pier
[Copyright Andy Richards 2020]

Cinque Terre

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

Manarola
Cinque Terre, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2019
All Rights Reserved

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.

Manarola
Cinque Terre, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2019
All Rights Reserved

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.

Manarola
Cinque Terre, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2019
All Rights Reserved

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.

Manarola
Cinque Terre, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2019
All Rights Reserved

 

Manarola
Cinque Terre, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2019
All Rights Reserved

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.

Manarola
Cinque Terre, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2019
All Rights Reserved

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.

Manarola
Cinque Terre, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2019
All Rights Reserved

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.

Manarola
Cinque Terre, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2019
All Rights Reserved

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:

Merry Christmas !!

Bruges

Bruges, Belgium

We ancitipated Bruges, which our research touted to be “The beer capital of the world.” We had a 1/2 day tour scheduled at the beginning, which in addition to some historic sites and buildings, was to also include some chocolate and beer tasting. Belgium is know for its chocolate, its waffles, and its beer. Unfortunately, we recieved a call from our guide who was driving from Brussels, as we waited out by the cruise terminal. He was tied up in traffic from a major accident and it didn’t look good that he would be arriving any time soon. We ultimately cancelled and took a taxi into the city. Even though it doesn’t seem far on the map, it was a good 1/2 hour drive, and during that time our driver – whose English was excellent (though his native language is Dutch), gave us some historical context.

Port of ZeeBrugge
Burges, Belgium
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Bruges, was perhaps one of the earliest Belgian cities, rising in medieval times and becoming a major trade center at the Renaissance emerged. It was strategically located near the sea (our port of call was Zeebrugge, which means “Bruges by the Sea”).

The Markt
Bruges, Belgium
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

There is a continuous canal from the port in to the center of the city. Its most prominent feature is the Markt, a large oval plaza, surrounded by colorful and impressive architecture; today mostly retail establishments catering largely to tourists. Our cab driver dropped us off on a quiet street directly behind the Markt and we made arrangement for him to pick us up and return us to the cruise port later that afternoon. As we walked into the open plaza, it became immediately obvious that this was a photogenic scene. Lining the plaza on one side are some very colorful buildings with Dutch Colonial architecture, belying strong Dutch influence. There are some pretty impressive historic buildings, including a belfry that dates back to 1240, once the center of the town on the other perimeters.

The Markt
Brussels, Belgium
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

The Belfry is about 272 feet high and it towers over the surrounding buildings.

The Belfry of Bruges
Bruges, Belgium
Copyright Andy Richards 2019
The Belfry of Bruges
Bruges, Belgium
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Bruges City Hall also faces the Markt and is an impressive building.

Bruges City Hall
Bruges, Belgium
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

WWe arrived between 9:30 and 10:00 a.m., to a city that – surprisingly – had not seemed to have awoken yet. We walked around some of the surrounding streets where there were no vehicles, few people, and shops that had yet to open.

Bruges, Belgium
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

 

Bruges, Belgium
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

 

Bruges, Belgium
Copyright Andy Richards 2019
Bruges, Belgium
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Bruges is also a city with numerous canals, and has been referred to as the Venice of the North. Having spent a fair amount of time in Venice, I can say that while the canals in Bruges (and Amsterdam) are impressive and lie in beautiful surroundings, they are very different from the canals of Venice. Notably, there are automobiles everywhere. Having said that, I will be among the first to agree that Bruges’ canals are photogenic.

Rozenhoedkaai Canal
Bruge, Belgium
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

 

Canal
Bruges, Belgium
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

 

Canal
Bruges, Belgium
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

 

Canal
Bruges, Belgium
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Indeed, canal tours are among the most popular thing to do in Bruges, and certainly afford a great way to see the city.

Canal Tour Boad
Bruges, Belgium
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

In addition to tasting some of the local brew and chocolate, we did walk around the old city and saw a few other nice sights as we walked.

Bruges, Belgium
Copyright Andy Richards 2019
Bruges, Belgium
Copyright Andy Richards 2019
Bruges, Belgium
Copyright Andy Richards 2019
Bruges, Belgium
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Ultimately, we found some beer, we found some chocolate, and we ended up a nice, rather relaxing day in Bruges at Cuvee Wine Bar, where we had a couple nice wines, and some cheeses and meats, before heading back to the cruise port. Back at the cruise port, as we sat on the back bar enjoying the late sun, a drink and the sail-away, I wasn’t sure whether to feel safe, or threatened, given that the ship moored directly behind us was most certainly not a pleasure cruiser. It appears that they make them a bit smaller than we do stateside. 🙂

Military Aircraft Carrier
Bruges, Belgium
Copyright Andy Richards 2019