Saturday, May 14, 2011

Picture day

I'm traveling (NY) and having had to go through the hell of actually having to work a little and being forced today to power wash a deck, will not have much time to blog this week. So, today is picture day, where I will shoot through some of my favorite photographs, most of which I don't think I have posted here before. Then again, I am not going back to look, so deal with it if I did.

This striking scene comes from a town in Portugal not far from Lisbon called Sintra, and is the home of a number of beatiful Moorish castles. If you want to see the difference between a good picture of a castle and a bad picture, take a look at the boring shots on Wikipedia's Castles in Portugal page. People are always telling me I'm a good photographer, and maybe I am better than I think (I know nothing about cameras and how to dress up a picture digitally), but if I have any talent in it, it is just shot selection or composition.

This shot down into El Tajo gorge was actually taken from my hotel veranda which floats over it. A wide angle lense of the whole gorge and valley would be even more spectacular, but you meet the limits of my weaponry. This was in the Spanish hilltown of Ronda, a fun place to visit. You don't have to stay there to get a picture like this as you can go with everyone out to the Puente Neuvo Bridge that spans it. I prefer the privacy of this which heightens my imagination.

Visiting Portugal with a couple, we went to the beach one day. A small mountain lay on the border of the beach about a mile away. I decided to climb it in my water shoes, and did manage, shredding my shoes, and sometimes being nearly upright as I made the precarious (and stupid) climb. When I got near the top I heard voices, and as I gained the ledge, saw the parking lot and road that led to it. Because of the steepness I could not climb straight down and had to take a diagnol path that led me far from the beach. I walked back in a dry ravine hoping it led to the sea and my friends (no cell phone back then) and that Portugal no longer had any wild animals that considered this narrow channel its home.

This picture, also from Portugal, represents one of the dumbest things I've ever done (the list is lengthy).  We were at a castle at the eastern extreme of Iberia. While my friends walked away, I slithered over a parapet with my camera around my neck so I could get a shot of the waves pounding the shore below the castle walls. Accomplishing it (that's the picture), I found that having extended my body so that only my insteps were holding on to the rampart, I could not get easily back. My friends were far in the distance and I had to slowly gyrate backwards, wondering if I was going to make it. Apparently, I was a decent enough gyrator, as I lived to tell about it.

For those of you who know the name Ephesia only from Paul's Letter to the Ephesians in the Bible (or never heard it), it has some of the most spectacular Greek ruins I've ever seen. This is the facade of an ancient library, and a shot that I am far from the first to have taken. I've even seen it in advertisements. Despite that, and all the tourists who would not cooperate with me, I like it a lot.

I took this picture with a cheap little Instamatic camera in 1992 while visiting Santorini with three friends. Despite the limited technology, out of the hundreds of pictures I have taken of Greece, including with a much better camera, this picture of the caldera at sunset may be the best one I have.

This was taken from the top of Preveli, in Crete, Greece, also in 1992. It took us 45 minutes to walk down to the beach you can see in the center of the shot. It was an hour and quarter to come up and we were hot and tired. At the top was a man in a truck who sold cold squeezed orange juice. I deemd him then the smartest man in the world . . . and I don't even really like orange juice.

No, not the Parthenon in Athens. There a several places on the south and east coast to see them, but my favorite was in Agrigento, where they were not the most numerous, but I thought the most beautiful. Also, if you stay at the Villa Athena, you have a view of the lit temples from your veranda at night. There also was a model sunbathing topless on the next veranda, and it is possible that is why I kept my sunglasses on, but, she probably will have moved on by the time you get there. Ah, memories.

What combination of light and magic makes this picutre look like a 1950s photograph is beyond my ken. I took it in Cefalu, Sicily, where I didn't spend much time, but loved dearly. You could walk across the bay to the other shore, which, for some reason, I find great fun. That night, I left my wallet in the restaurant in which my friend and I ate. He was beside himself with anxiety about it (his nature, I'm afraid) but I was sure it would be there and we drove back the next morning. Sure enough, as soon as I asked, they pulled it out of a drawer with about $1000 intact. I also lost my plane ticket home that same trip, but the same thing happened. Went back and got them. Either I'm lucky, or most people are decent and honest enough.

Just a random shot in beautiful Ireland, which has as many shades of green as you may have heard claimed, and where a perfect photograph lies in every direction. With five friends plus one kid, we toured the island, and, outside of some of Dublin, was uniformly stunning in a myriad of similar, but always different ways. You could not take a bad shot.

This one is also from Ireland and is a shot from a hike taken in a national park. Despite the virulent cold I suffered with the entire trip (and long afterwards), the hike was exhilirating and spectacular. I call this one "The Black Pool," partly because I know it irritates Bear when I name pictures, but also because that is the ancient meaning of Dublin, or so I'm told (not that we were in Dublin at the time, but . . . .)

I love this almost drawing like shot of two hornless unicorns I came across during a bike ride in Ireland. I did not approach as it is well known that unicorns will only suffer to be touched by a virgin. Everywhere you went, the horses posed for pictures.

I showed this picture of a reflection in a perfectly calm lake when we were briefly off course in Ireland. Few could tell me with any certaintly which was real and which the reflection. Time has faded the shot some (it was not digital originally) and it is easier to tell now, plus, of course, I am showing it right side up.


The Irish have a phenomenal eye for compostion, or else, by pure pure chance, they have built homes in picture perfect proportion to the landscape all over the country. I'm going with the first.

My insignificant other and I (she with a broken foot) slowly climbed down a path in Corsica which led to this magnificent waterfall, which a climber had the decency to scale so I could get this picture. I am no longer able to even conceive of physically being able to do something like that, nor do I have the mechanical sense to ever trust a little bolt in a rockface while I tried. Still, I imagine that his/her experience was even more serenely exquisite than this view.

Coming out of the climb that led from the waterfall, we passed a pine forest. I'm not sure why I love the sight of pine trees massing like soldiers, but I always have. For some other reason though, I love this picture, probably because of that one bent tree near the front which emphasizes the relative straightness of the rest.

The southernmost city in Corsica is Bonifacio, and you can tour around it on a boat, viewing the sandstone cliffs. We stayed out of the big cities (big for there) for the most part, but wanted to see this one, which retains more of its charm than the others. However, the highlight of that day I cannot show you in a picture. We drove a few miles out of the city and came to a small beach where the beach between the mountain and the sea (which is what the shoreline is like throughout most of the island) was very tiny. For a while we watched as people walked what seemed like about a mile into the sea to get to a small island. Finally, we did it ourselves. You can walk with your head above the surface almost all the way and it is a great memory for both of us. There wasn't much to do when we got there and we didn't have towels and the like, so we just went back.

The Mayan temple at Chitzen Itza. We were there the very last year you were allowed to climb it, up those incredibly steep steps, with the aid of a chain running down the middle of it if you needed it. When we climbed down - always harder when it is steep - my insignificant other became paralyzed with fear a few feet from the bottom. Nothing I could do for a while would induce her to take another step. Even if she fell, she would not gotten all that hurt. So, I did what came naturally - I laughed at her. Finally, after an elderly and overweight woman passed her stationary body coming down, she got the courage.

I absolutely adore this picture from Mastic Beach on Long Island where I was born and spent most of my life. This was taken from my friend's back porch. There is a little white dot just as the tall grass ends at the meadow, which was a long necked heron or egret.

The Mohonk Mountain house near New Paltz New York is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to. In leaf season there are so many people who want to climb the mountain to get to the hotel that you must make reservations well in advance or they won't let you on the mountain (I found that out one year the hard way). This is a view from the amazing hotel which I'm sorry to say, of which I am sorry to say I apparently never digitalized any pictures.

There is one week in Spring where the cherry blossoms outside of the courts in Mineola, New York, are awe inspiring.

There are innumerable pictures of the amazing Monument Valley you can find on the web, and I could show you twenty beautiful ones I took myself, but this one, a shot of the sunset and moon I took on a trip there in the early 90s, one which unfortunately, I partially damaged, is unique and one of my favorites.

And, of course, there are million shots from the Grand Canyon too, but I chose this one of my own which I think is a little different. I can't remember if I shot it at dawn or sunset, when you can get the best pictures because of the shadows. If you can go only one place in America, folks, this is the one I recommend. You will never forget it.

We stayed at the Bucky O'Neill Suite, the oldest remaining building on the lip, built by - you figure it out. It is a cabin maybe twenty feet from the canyon wall. I took this shot in the dark as the morning light poured through the window. Unless you must have a/c, I highly recommend it as a very authentic feeling adventure. Either lock the door or enjoy the people who walk in thinking it is a  museum.

I suppose I could go on forever, but these will do for today.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous9:00 AM

    Hi !!! Good job!


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I started this blog in September, 2006. Mostly, it is where I can talk about things that interest me, which I otherwise don't get to do all that much, about some remarkable people who should not be forgotten, philosophy and theories (like Don Foster's on who wrote A Visit From St. Nicholas and my own on whether Santa is mostly derived from a Norse god) and analysis of issues that concern me. Often it is about books. I try to quote accurately and to say when I am paraphrasing (more and more). Sometimes I blow the first name of even very famous people, often entertainers. I'm much better at history, but once in a while I see I have written something I later learned was not true. Sometimes I fix them, sometimes not. My worst mistake was writing that Beethoven went blind, when he actually went deaf. Feel free to point out an error. I either leave in the mistake, or, if I clean it up, the comment pointing it out. From time to time I do clean up grammar in old posts as, over time I have become more conventional in my grammar, and I very often write these when I am falling asleep and just make dumb mistakes. It be nice to have an editor, but . . . .