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The Med 2017; Islands that start with “M”

Mykonos, Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Malta.  A place I don’t think I ever gave any thought about.  When we originally decided on the cruise, the second stop was Ancient Ephesus, in Turkey.  But cruise ships aren’t going to Turkey anymore.  Sad.  Our world needs to change.  But that’s for another time.  Malta:  my first and only thought was “The Maltese Falcon.”  Turns out there is a falcon native to Malta that middle eastern falconers were partial too.  Which is where any connection ends.  Heck, I doubt Bogart even knew where Malta was. 🙂

Malta
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Mykonos.  It is a Greek island, which is appropriate, since this was a “Greek Isles Cruise.”  We (my wife and I) were there once before, on our shortened, 2013 Mediterranean Cruise.  Mykonos is very small, so we didn’t book a tour there.  In Malta, we just didn’t know anything about it, and had no idea what to do.  So we had two relatively free days, with an “at sea” day in between.  which was fine, because things got pretty hectic for the remainder of the cruise.

Malta
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Photographically, Mykonos is a pretty great spot.  Malta was o.k., but not photographically inspiring.  So most of my images during these two stops were made on Mykonos.  Malta is its own sovereign nation.  It actually played a pretty big role for allies in WWII.  It consists of 3 walled cities.  We were able to see two of them from our moored cruise ship.  Being an island, it is obviously very much a maritime society, and we were impressed with the vast number of small pleasure craft moored in the many harbors around the island.

Mykonos
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Mykonos is one of the best known popular Greek islands.  It is a popular beach destination for the citizens of the Mediterranean.  Most of the island is comprised of either retail shops, hotels (which are built into the unique architecture), and private dwellings.

Mykonos Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Mykonos Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Mykonos Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

There are many backstreets, and all of them are created with the “cobblestone” look (which is really cement).  I am always take by the colors they use to set off the white stucco buildings everywhere.

Mykonos Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Mykonos is also famous for its distinctive windmills (though we did see them again in Santorini and Rhodes).

Mykonos Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

From my perspective, since we had been to Mykonos, I was keying for the next couple destinations, Rhodes, Santorini and the Amalfi Coast.  Some pretty great travel was yet to come.  Next up, Rhodes.

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Sicily; 2017

Port of Messina, Sicily
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

After 4 eventful days in Venice, we boarded a train for Civatavecchia, the seaport for Rome, where we would board our cruise ship.  The  cruise was touted as a “Greek Isles” cruise.  But before we could get to the actual Greek Isles (there were 3 on our itinerary), we had a couple of prior stops; Sicily, and the independent nation of Malta.

Messina, Sicily
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

As I have noted here in the past, one of the downsides of cruising is that you usually only get one short day in every port.  Knowing very little about either of these destinations, we booked a private tour in Sicily, and nothing in Malta.  With a lot of ground to cover and a few hours, we had to choose some destinations.

Taormina Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

In addition to a little bit of time in Messina, we went to Taormina, the quaint and mountainous little town where some of the scenes in Francis Ford Coppola’s original “The Godfather,” were shot.  We happened upon this adorable little Dachshund being photographed.  At first, I thought it was somebody just photographing their pet, but as I looked more carefully, later, it was apparent that this was probably an advertising shot of some type (note the light being held to one side).

Taormina, Sicily
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

At the top of the village is a beautiful church, with an incredible view.  As we walked back down, I could see myself sitting and having coffee or lunch at one of the outdoor destinations and seeing the grand view.

Taormina, Sicily
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

We traveled to Mt. Vesuvius, where we saw the volcano from a distance.

Mt. Vesuvius
Sicily
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

We also stopped for some honey and wine tasting, before finishing our day back in Messina.

Messina, Sicily
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Here We Go Again (It’s Fall!)

Second Edition!

Here we go again.  It’s fall foliage photography season.  Are you ready?

Reflections; Cascade River, Minnesota

Over the nearly 10 years since I started blogging here, I must have blogged about fall color and foliage a dozen times.  Maybe More. Not surprisingly, it remains a favorite subject for me.  For some who are fortunate enough to have great foliage photo-ops in their backyard, what I will say here may not apply. But for perhaps the vast majority of us, these opportunities often come only after travel to a more aesthetically accommodating venue.

Somesville Town Hall and Bridge
Somesville, Maine
Copyright Andy Richards 2009

I have traveled to New England (prominently: Vermont), the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, Maine, Minnesota, West Virginia, Virginia and New Mexico, in various years, to photograph fall color. Vermont has long been a love of mine, and I have made numerous trips there; enough to prompt me to take my first foray into “publishing” with the first edition of “Photographing Vermont’s Fall Foliage” in 2012.

As the previous blog notes, I am very happy to announce the 2nd Edition of this book, with updates and substantial additional locations (the first edition is no longer available, as the sellers required that it be removed from circulation in order to sell subsequent editions). The New Edition is currently available on Amazon, Apple, in the iBookstore, and Kobo.

Maple Leaf
Stowe, Vermont
Copyright Andy Richards 2005

Many of the persons I communicate with at this time of the year are primarily leaf peepers with cameras. For those folks, go and enjoy! For serious photographers, I want to make a few observations, based on my own travel experience.

Miner’s Castle; Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Michigan U.P.
Copyright 2012 Andy Richards

Preparation is Key

Mental preparation is the most important piece of this. Just because it is fall foliage season, doesn’t mean the rules for good photography change :-). It is important to be thoroughly familiar with the gear you will be using, as the “window” for a great image is often very short, and you may only have one chance to visit the location. In 2010, prior to my planned week-long trip to Vermont, I hit a milestone of sorts, in my own photography.  I had always planned my locations and tried to find as much “intel” about a location as I could.  But this time, I focused less on those details, and instead gave some contemplative thought to what I wanted to present visually, emotionally, and artistically.  I think this contributed to one of my most successful trips.

Hiawatha NF Color Sections
Michigan U.P.
Copyright 2012 Andy Richards

What you can take on a trip is also always a consideration. When I shoot near home, or somewhere I can drive to, the photographic gear I will take is generally only limited by what I own (and can afford).  When flying, you really have to consider weight, and bulk. Most of us do not feel comfortable checking a bag with photo gear in it for a number of reasons. So what can you carry on, along with your other needs?  One of the miracles of modern technology is the ability to make great images with a lighter, simpler gearset.  For “casual” travel (I define that as any travel I do that is not specifically and solely dedicated to photography), I now carry a very small, packable carbon fiber tripod and the RXSony 100 iv (a point & shoot sized camera, with some professional credentials).  Even when I go on a dedicated photo shoot, the camera, lenses and tripod are much small and lighter than in the past.

Glade Creek Gristmill
Babcock State Park, WV
Copyright 2011 Andy Richards

A better question might be “what lens will you use?”

Photographic gear is a subject that is often over-thought, in my opinion.  Cameras, lenses, filters, and accessories are — for sure — tools that are necessary to the making of an image.  And there is no doubt that higher quality tools can render a technically better result.  If that is what you seek.  I have already read, several times recently, the question:  “what is the best lens for foliage photography?”  I don’t think there is a “correct” answer to that question.  A better question might be “what lens will you use?”

Tahquamenon Falls
Michigan Upper Peninsula
Copyright 2004 Andy Richards

However, that there are other considerations that will have a more direct bearing on the successful image.  Understanding light, and composition will have much more effect on imagery, in my view, than any other factor.  This assumes, of course, that you already have a solid grounding on exposure principles, how to focus the camera, and considerations of aperture and depth of field.  This relates directly back to the first point:  preparation.  If you do not come to your subject in the best light, it will be difficult to make a really great image.  More often than not, this means early and late (or–think:  during breakfast and supper :-)).  Much of my more recent travel has centered around other activities, such as family time, tours, etc.  While I do make images, it is often apparent that they were not take in the “best” light, and I frequently lament that it would be nice to be at a location either very early or in the late afternoon/early evening.  If your trip is photography-focused, you will need to be mentally prepared to be on site at times that may be inconvenient to others you travel with.  When I have made my fall foliage trips, the majority of them have either been alone, or with other, equally serious, photographers.

Santa Fe Ski Basin
Santa Fe, NM
Copyright 2008 Andy Richards

Don’t forget the “other” gear you may need.  Most fall foliage locations have the potential for very warm weather, rain, and even freezing temperatures (especially at sunrise).  Hat, gloves, sunscreen, and adaptable clothing is important.

Fall Color Reflection
Copyright 2012 Andy Richards

Most important of all, though is to have fun and enjoy the process as much as the result!  Best to all of out out there and good shooting!

Burton Hill Road
Barton, Vermont
Copyright 2010 Andy Richards

It’s Going to Get Better!

Light and color make this gondola image the quintessential rendering of “Venice” in my view
Copyright 2013 Andy Richards

Wow.  Here I am, yet again, apologizing for a rather long hiatus from writing.  It has been a very full summer, with lots of business and personal activity, and some travel (none of it photo-related).  So I have let the blog languish.  It will be another couple weeks before much additional activity, but I think that is a good thing.  🙂

The ubiquitous black gondola (shown here with the also common blue cover) is a favorite subject of photographers
Copyright 2013 Andy Richards

Next week, we leave for another Mediterranean adventure.  This time, we will spend several days in Venice, and then board our cruise ship in Civitavecchia (Rome) for a tour of Sicily, several Greek Isles, and Italy’s Amalfi Coast.

Beach Resort
Amalfi, Italy
Copyright 2013 Andy Richards

It goes without saying that I will be toting the camera, and expect to come back with some new material for the blog!  So, I will see you in September.

Restaurant; Mykonos, Greece
Copyright 2013; Andy Richards

Shape

Color

Last time, I wrote about color.  Color attracts.  It always grabs my attention.  It pulls the eye.  But as this image illustrates, it is about more than just color.  This image is boring.  Mundane.  In fact, pretty awful to be displayed on a photographer’s blog.  But I hope it illustrates my point.  Color is a big part of my imagery.  But there are other important ingredients. 🙂

Rose
Copyright Andy Richards 2008

Color alone will not make an interesting or compelling image

As the opening image illustrates, color, alone, will not make an interesting (and most certainly not compelling image).  Indeed it is so mundane that I didn’t copyright notice it or claim “artistic” credit.  I am sure I am not the first to have created an image very like this one.  So what’s missing?

Rocks, Lake Superior Shoreline
Copyright Andy Richards 2004

There are a lot of things that will bring interest to an image.  Line, horizon, animation (either illustrated, or in the case of many animal images, imagined).  I want to talk about shape today.

Elliot Falls
Copyright Andy Richards 2009

When I started to look through my archive for illustrations, I thought I was going to have a lot more illustrations that said “shape.”  I also thought about writing about “line.”  A topic to come.  But I was surprised that I was able to find many examples of line, or line and shape.  But fewer that shape alone provided the interest.  Some good examples appeared in the last blog.  The pottery in the shop in Istanbul was really all about color and shape.  Likewise the fans in Japan.

Shiawassee River, Owosso, MI
Copyright Andy Richards 2009

The Rose image has plenty of color.  Two primary colors in fact; red and green.  A blob (or an uninteresting shape) of red and green would not be interesting.  As a photographer, its presence would perhaps pull my eye.  But upon closer inspection, it would not tickle my photographic fancy.

Parking Structure on Wabash Avenue, Chicago
Copyright Andy Richards 2008

Nature presents us with unique and interesting shapes and textures.  The Lake Superior rocks image is another example of nature’s unique presentation of shape, texture and color.  This image might be interesting without all three of the elements.  Maybe the shape and texture would still make a viable image.  But the color attracted me, and the shape and texture of the image prompted me to make it.  Likewise, shapes make the Elliot Falls image in my view.  This Michigan U.P. waterfall is oft-photographed and it is difficult to find a unique perspective.  But the scallops in the sandstone really make this image.

Street Shops
Madrid, NM
Copyright Andy Richards 2008

I was looking for color the morning I took the Shiawassee River photo.  The background was cluttered and not very picturesque.  So I started looking for reflections.  The shape of the log creates enough interest to the eye to make this image work.  Sometimes you have to “help” nature just a bit.  The Noyes Pond bubbles image is a favorite of mine.  Without the bubbles, you have another “record” shot of fall foliage surrounding a pond.  The familiar shape of the bubbles adds interest.  I must confess that although I was involved in making the bubbles, my photograph was not the primary reason for them on this morning.  This image was made in memory of a dear friend, and enthusiastic fellow Vermont shooter.  But I think George would have loved this image. 🙂 .

Moulton Barn
Mormon Row, WY
Copyright Andy Richards 2012

Man made shapes often lend themselves to “shape” composition.  Architecture often lends itself to some dramatic images.  I visited Chicago several time over the years and always loved to walk around downtown in the early morning hours.  This well-known parking structure can be seen in the background of many images of downtown Chicago.  Its unique shape and physical prominence makes it visible from a number of viewpoint around the city.  Color once again drew my eye to the back street shops in Madrid, New Mexico.  Pastel colors abound in much of New Mexico’s architecture.  But again, without the juxtaposed rectangles throughout the image, it would be just a blob of color.  I liked that this image is made up of essentially all rectangles and straight lines.

Canadian Air Force
Fleet Week Air Show
San Francisco, CA
Copyright Andy Richards 2011

Shapes in a image can sometimes be serendipitous.  Without the contrails in the Canadian Air Force image, we would just see a handful of red dots in an shapeless, monotone sky.  The contrails make this image.

Starburst
Copyright Andy Richards 2009

And, sometimes you just have to make your own shapes.  The starburst image was taken at Christmas time of a lighted outdoor tree display in front of a large commercial building.  It just wasn’t doing it for me, so I played.  The image is shot at a slow shutter speed, on a tripod, while a zoomed the zoom lens.  But in the end, my favorite shapes come from mother nature and her random, unique artistry.  The Whitefish Falls image is but another nearly ubiquitous single drop waterfall in the Michigan U.P.  There are many of them that all look essentially identical.  To make a more unique image, I walked in close for my favorite “intimate” perspective.  I like the result as much as any shape I have ever shot.

Whitefish Falls
Trenary, MI
Copyright Andy Richards 2007

Color

Shop; Istanbul, Turkey
Copyright Andy Richards 2014

Hey there.  I have been “MIA” lately.  A series of “life events,” together with the general malaise I usually feel during the winter months, have conspired against my writing.  Where I live, we get snow, but it is “dirty” snow that melts.  There is no “snowy landscape” shooting around here.  I was able to get some Florida shots in the early part of the winter.  We still don’t have anything shoot-worthy here right now.  It is cold and mostly wet.  But there is hope.  We do have early leaves on the trees, and green plants and dandelions.  Now we just need some warm sun to produce some flowers.  So here we are.

Residence; Clontarf, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2014

Color.  I think it is pretty well-accepted that color attracts.  I know it does for me.  I see color and I tend to gravitate toward it with my lens.  I have shot and presented in color for the better part of 35 years.

Venice, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2013

I have shot B&W.  I shot it as a “reporter-photographer” for my college newspaper and yearbook.  I shot a whole roll of of the beautiful cherry blossoms around the Tidal Basin in Washington D.C. once — accidentally.  But that’s another story  🙂 .  And I tell myself I will spend some time one day seriously looking at B&W as a photographic art.  I am truly impressed by the successful B&W shooters out there.  It is hard.  Especially for the nature and outdoor topics that I like to shoot.  But that’s another topic on another day.

Shop; St. Maarten
Copyright Andy Richards 2012

So, color.  I was recently doing some “maintenance” on my LightCentric Website, and noticed a couple images that–after I worked them up to post to the site–I had not really ever paid attention to.  And I wondered why?  Why did I even make these images.  Yes, they are often typical to the culture where I made them.  And I was there.  Those are pretty good reasons.

Istanbul, Turkey
Copyright Andy Richards 2013

But what made me shoot them?  As I looked at them and thought about it, the answer came almost immediately clear:  color.  Color attracted me to them.  And, more often than not, it was some particular colored object within the frame that drew my attention.  And as I considered it more, I realized that is a theme of much of my travel and “place” photography.  I look for color.  Subconsciously.  I see color and I am drawn to it.  And I guess it it no coincidence that color attracts us all.  When you look at the markets, many of the displays are a wash of color.  I saw that in Turkey.  I saw it in Venice.  I saw it all over the Caribbean.  I even see it in places like Milbrae, California, Saginaw, Michigan and Dunedin, Florida.

Shop; Kyoto, Japan
Copyright Andy Richards 2016

Color is everywhere.  Color attracts.  I like color and I shoot color.  Pretty simple.

What’s In The Bag (Today)

Tokyo Dawn Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Tokyo Dawn
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

There should be little doubt to the reader here that I have hit a bit of a dry spell when it comes to both topics and photography.  🙂  We have had a very mild winter here (so far) and the part of Michigan I live in is pretty flat, and pretty brown this time of year.  It is also cold.   That creates an atmosphere in which it is difficult to get motivated to go out and shoot.

Sunrise; Ft. Myers Beach, FL Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Sunrise; Ft. Myers Beach, FL
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Usually when this happens, I start going through old images, and come up with something.  I think I have kind of beaten that to death, so I started going through old blog topics, from the early day forward.  A couple of patterns come up.  I have addressed the IP issues of photography a fair amount.  I have talked about digital processing.  I have talked about my travels, and I have talked about “gear.” 🙂

New York, New York Casino at night Copyright Andy Richards 2016

New York, New York Casino at night
Copyright Andy Richards 2016

Gear is a funny thing.  It is a part of every photographer’s evolution from a beginning shooter forward.  At some point we fall in love with gear and begin to think it is going to make us a better photographer.  Eventually we learn that it doesn’t really do that at all.  We buy cheap gear because we cannot afford the real high quality stuff in many instances.  Then we look back and realize that we spent at least as much on the different iterations of cheap gear as we would have spent on the quality gear in the first place (this is especially true of lenses and tripods).

Wooden Boats Awaiting Restoration Newport, RI Copyright Andy Richards 2016

Wooden Boats Awaiting Restoration
Newport, RI
Copyright Andy Richards 2016

And then there is the evolution of gear.  My starting point was a 35mm SLR film camera with a turn-hand winder, and without a built in light meter.  Today I carry the physical equivalent of a P&S for 90% of my shooting.  But in between ……. 🙂 wow.  Reviewing a couple old posts, I had to laugh.  In 2011, I waxed philosophical about “less is more” [“In the Bag” (getting ready for Spring)].  At the end of that blog, I listed the gear in my “bag” in 2011.  LOL.  All in, that was about 15 lbs of gear (not to mention the bulk of schlepping that stuff around).

Flag Detail The Acropolis Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Flag Detail
The Acropolis
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Today I travel mostly with my Sony RX100iv weighing about 1/2 lb and pocketable.  When I do need a tripod, my Sirui T-025X carbon fiber tripod weighs about 1/5 lbs, and its (just under) 12 inch folded length fits in my carry on bag.  It is plenty rigid enough for a light P&S camera.  But I have used it with my bigger cameras, too.  You may need to brace it, but it will still be better than no tripod in those instances when you are simply unable to pack one.  I would say “less is more” fits my today’s mode better than it did in 2011. 🙂

Temple Rokuon-Ji Kyoto Japan Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Temple Rokuon-Ji
Kyoto Japan
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

My point, though, is that photograpers and technology both evolve.  The RX100iv was not in existence in 2011 and there was simply no equivalent (the RX100 debutted in June 2012, but it was not even close to the camera the later iterations — especially the III, IV and V — were).  At the same time, the more I traveled the less pleasure I found in lugging all that gear around.  It is a lot of trouble in most cases.  I have to confess that I still keep my Sony a7 DSLR-like body, a couple of lenses, and a larger carbon fiber tripod, which I use for “dedicated” photography outings.  I am still able to fit the body and lenses in a carryon bag, and the Sirui 3204x tripod, with a folded length of 20 inches, fits rather easily in a checked bag (I have also carried it on in a carry-on size suiter suitcase).  Even that gear weighs about 1/2 of the 2011 bag.

Clontarf, Ireland Copyright 2014  Andy Richards

Clontarf, Ireland
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

Every image except the last one (a7) here was taken with the small cam.  For purposes of my photography and vision, I do not think it has suffered by shedding weight and numbers of equipment 🙂