PhotoBlog

Turbine

This is another perspective that I found interesting inside the Bell Tower in Antwerp, Belgium. A few floors up from where I took the horizontal Helix image I shared a few weeks ago, this is a vertical view straight down. It took several attempts to get the alignment correct in the camera, as I had to lean over the railing and extend my arms to get the camera centered over the staircase. It was not dangerous and there was no risk of me falling…just the camera. :)

However, composing a vertical composition while looking horizontally at my camera’s 45 degree LDC tilt-screen was challenging. It involved a lot of hand/arm/feet repositioning and trial & error before I had what I felt was a suitable image.

Standing at the bottom of spiral staircases and shooting upward is much easier. I did that here also, but the view from the bottom is not near as cool as this view from the top.

Ripcurl

Even if you are not familiar with the name Antelope Canyon, I suspect most of you have seen photographs taken here. Over the past several years, it has been one of the most popular photo destinations in the Southwest U.S.A.

Antelope Canyon is made up of two separate slot canyons, the “Upper” & the “Lower. Both are located on Navajo land and are accessible only by guided tours. This image was taken in the narrow & twisting Lower Antelope Canyon. Over the years, the soft sandstone has been eroded by flash floods, sculpting unique rock formations that flow and curve in various shapes and forms.

The colors you see in the sandstone change dramatically as light enters the canyon and bounces off of the various surfaces. Mostly it is orange, but yellows, reds and purples are commonly seen, many times in the same area.

It is definitely worth a visit if you are near Page, Arizona. Pick a sunny day (most are here), get your ticket in advance, and of course, bring your camera.

Helix

This image was taken in the main administrative building of the city of Antwerp, known as “The Bell Tower.” There is not an actual bell to be found inside the tower (at least, I could not find one), but there is an amazing spiral staircase that stretches 14 stories. Being a public building, it is open to visitors and easy to reach the staircase behind the main lobby. The staff in the reception area told me it was no problem to take some photos of the staircase, so I walked up to the top and took images at several different angles…looking up, down and this one, straight on.

As you know by now, I am drawn to how various shapes and lines interplay in photography. From this perspective, you find squares, diamonds, triangles, circles, repeating patterns, symmetry…and, of course the helix. All this variety, and yet I found it to be rather simple and pleasing.

I later learned that the building derived its name from its previous owner, Bell Laboratories…so perhaps there is not an actual bell to be found here after all.

The Milky Way & The Matterhorn

Astrophotography is something that I have become very excited about over the past 2 years. My recent trip to Zermatt was planned specifically to take advantage of the dark skies in this area. I had researched the position of the Milky Way in relation to the Matterhorn and coordinated my arrival during a time when there would not be a moon in the night sky. In addition, I booked a room in a mountain hut near Stellisee. The lake is about 10km away from Zermatt and 1,000 meters higher in elevation, where there is very little light pollution. All I needed was for the weather forecast calling for clear skies to be correct…and fortunately it was.

In fact, the sky was perfectly clear. I do not think I have ever seen so many stars…they were everywhere! I was thoroughly entertained for about 2 hours, watching the Milky Way slowly move across the sky from left to right, getting closer to the Matterhorn every few minutes. I captured this image just before the galactic center started to fade down and away behind the mountains.

Even in this environment you still find some light pollution. The lights from Zermatt below as well as lights from the Italian side of the Matterhorn were enough to illuminate up the lower part of the sky. I think this actually worked to my advantage though, as you can more clearly see the silhouette of the Matterhorn and the surrounding peaks.

The Matterhorn is massive and normally dominates the skyline as you walk/hike around the area. However, in comparison to a galaxy of over 25o billion stars towering overhead…it appears much smaller.

It was an amazing night and after getting a few hours of sleep (only a few), I was back at this same location to capture the sunrise image I shared a few weeks ago - Candlelit.

Entering Warp Drive

This is another image taken in the Toledo Metro Station in Naples, Italy. Earlier this year, I featured an image of the escalator banks at the far end of this hallway - In an Octopus’s Garden.

The passageway features various shades of blue and continues the water theme with light panels of ocean waves. In my opinion, the best feature is the light fixture above. To me, it resembles the USS Enterprise just as it enters warp drive.

Warp speed, Mr. Sulu…

Delicate

During my visit to Arches National Park, the park was temporarily closed from before sunset to after sunrise. I had hoped to spend a couple of mornings and evenings photographing the unique rock formations found here, but this was not possible due to a construction project on the main road.

I rarely shoot landscape images in the middle of the day. Usually at this time, the light is too harsh. Often colors also get washed out and/or dark shadows distract from the scene. As a result, I was not expecting to get any compelling photographs during my time inside the park. I was a little disappointed, but I knew the hiking and scenery would still be fantastic, so I spent a couple of days exploring the park.

For the most part, I was correct. The hiking and scenery were great, but the light was harsh and photos just would not capture the beauty of the place. However, the day I hiked up to Delicate Arch (perhaps the most famous natural arch in the park) I found the scene to be very photogenic. A thin cloud to the left softened the sun just enough and I found the color contrast of the blue sky and red rocks to be beautiful. Of course it also helps to have the impressive Delicate Arch in the scene…seeing it in person is well worth the hike. Fortunately the shadow of the arch also cooperated, as from this angle you hardly notice it stretching away into the natural amphitheater below.

It is not the peaceful golden hour image most photographers strive for…but I do think it captures the beauty of a very unique place. I hope you agree. :)

Reading List

A few weeks ago I applied for permission to photograph the Stuttgart Library. It is a beautiful, modern structure that I have been wanting to photograph for some time. As a result, I was excited when they granted me permission to photograph the library for 2 hours. They also granted me permission to use a tripod, which is normally prohibited. This proved essential, as the structure is filled with right angles and lines that would be very difficult to capture hand-held without distortion.

I waited outside the library, so that I could be one of the first people to enter once it opened. After showing the security guards my permission slip, I made my way up into the main atrium and got busy taking numerous compositions. Since I was one of the only people inside, I was able to photograph for about 30 minutes before other people started entering the atrium. I had scouted the library the previous day, when the library was full of people. Seeing it empty was completely different. I did like the person in this composition though…:)

I have several images from this day that I will share in the coming weeks. If you ever get a chance to visit Stuttgart, I highly recommend you spend some time here.

Candlelit

Visiting Zermatt and seeing the Matterhorn have been on my wish list since we moved to Switzerland. A couple of weeks ago, I finally had the opportunity to go and spend a few days. My main goal was to photograph the Matterhorn, so I did not spend much time in town. Instead, I took a couple of lifts and hiked a short distance to stay in a mountain lodge near lake Stellisee. During the day, I walked several of the trails around the area, but in the morning & night I spent most of my time here at Stellisee, gazing at the iconic mountain.

The sunsets were disappointing, but the sunrise on my first morning was amazing. With clear skies all around, the sun lit up the peak of the Matterhorn like a candle as it rose behind me. There were 3 other people that set an early alarm and walked to the lake for sunrise. We all watched with smiles on our faces as the peak started to glow bigger & brighter. With fairly calm winds, we were also fortunate to have a great reflection of the scene above…an incredible start to the day. :)

Skeleton Key

I thought I would share another image from the Liège-Guillemins train station. Descending from the train platform into the main lobby are several staircases such as this. It reminded me of a skeleton key as I reached this point, halfway down. Similar to the exterior facade, the architect uses rib-like features on both sides and if you look at the floor, you can see the reflection of the ribbed ceiling below.

Baleen

I recently spent several days driving through Belgium and the Netherlands in an effort to photograph some places that I had not seen before. My first stop was the Liège-Guillemins train station in Liège…not because I was catching a train, but because it is a magnificent structure. The station was renovated in 2009 with a modern steel, glass and concrete facade designed by the architect Santiago Calatrava.

I wandered the station for a couple of hours and ended up taking many more photos than I expected. The arches, ribs, lines and curves allow for an almost endless number of compositions. In addition, the shadows were lengthening as the sun was going down and the station seemed to change every few minutes. As the blue hour arrived, the lights transformed the station yet again. Many elements that were cast in shadow a few minutes ago were now illuminated and vice versa…such a clever design.

This image was taken on one side of the upper platform, looking towards the center. It is a bit hard to describe how the structure changes with the light…photos do a better job. As a result, I hope to share several more images taken here in the coming weeks.

Lastly, I shared an image several weeks ago of the Transportation Hub at the World Trade Center. As it turns out, Calatrava was also the architect for this station. You can view The Hub image here and see some of the similarities in Calatrava’s designs.

Iron Sights

If you have watched episodes of the television series Mr. Robot, there is a good chance you have seen this building. In the series, it is the corporate headquarters of E Corp (mostly referred to as Evil Corp by the characters).

In reality, it is a Post-Modern building in New York City on East 57th street. I took this image a few years ago before seeing it on TV. What I particularly liked about it was the tall, open ring supported by columns in front of the building. The ring ties in with the curved arc of the tower's facade and if you stand underneath, it allows dramatic, framed views through the opening.

The challenge is positioning yourself (and the camera) to capture the symmetry of the two structures. The combination of lines and curves will easily reveal imperfections in the composition, and I knew that just the slightest error in camera angle would be noticeable.

I did not have a tripod, so I shuffled back and forth while looking through the viewfinder trying to find the correct spot to stand and the proper angle for the camera. I have to admit, this was rather difficult and I made several failed attempts at capturing the symmetry I wanted. It felt a little bit like lining up the crosshairs of a large scope. Through trial and error, I was able to hone in on a position/angle combination that I was happy with and pulled the trigger.

Alstrom Point

Alstrom Point has, perhaps, the most beautiful view over Glen Canyon. It was one of my first stops when I visited the Southwest US in the spring of 2017. As it is difficult to travel to this spot, I joined up with 3 other photographers to hire a local guide to drive us out the rough trail (it is not a road). The trail requires a high clearance 4-wheel drive vehicle and takes about 75 minutes to travel the 24 miles to the end. The ride out was exciting, involving several difficult passages best left to an experienced local driver. It also included numerous stops to take in the incredible panoramas. 

When the terrain became so difficult that the 4x4 could travel no farther, we hiked a short way to the Alstrom point overlook. Before us was Glen Canyon and one of the most amazing views any of us had ever seen. The contrast of the deep blues against the yellows, oranges & reds was striking. Combine that with the majestic Gunsight Butte that seems to rise right out of the fingers of Lake Powell and you have a landscape photographer’s dream.

We arrived about an hour before sunset. The sky was mostly clear and remained blue as the sun descended behind us. Fortunately, the golden light did create a boost of color as it reflected off of the rock formations. I snapped this just moments before the direct light disappeared casting Gunsight Butte and the entire valley into shadow.

When I returned home, I found that the timing was fortunate in one other way I had not seen in the moment. As it turns out, there was a cloud that cast a shadow on the formations behind Gunsight Butte. The dark shadow provides additional depth and separation from Navajo mountain (some 35 miles in the distance).  Not necessary, but convenient nonetheless. 

I always love a colorful sunset…but I think I prefer blue skies at Alstrom Point…as it provides balance to a scene already filled with warm tones.

The Hub

I spent a few days in New York City last week and was able to visit the new World Trade Center for the first time. Seeing the tallest building in the Western hemisphere was obviously very striking, but I found the grounds, the 911 memorial and this, the Transportation Hub, to be equally impressive. 

This is the Oculus in the Hub…the main arched, elliptical opening approximately 350 feet long. It is a beautiful design with the numerous steel ribs extending upward almost 100 feet to the skylight above.

The main purpose of the structure is to serve 250,000 daily commuters on train and subway lines. As a result, it is usually filled with people coming and going. Actually, it was filled with people when I captured this image. However, by using a little photography magic, I was able to make the people disappear.

Okay, so it is not really magic…it is actually a fairly simple technique used by a lot of photographers. Since I had brought a mini-tripod with me, I was able to take multiple exposures over 10 minutes using the same composition. There were people in each exposure, but as they were moving, they were in different positions in each frame. Once I uploaded the images into Photoshop, I was able to blend the various exposures together and, essentially, make the people disappear. The result is an empty hub allowing the viewer to appreciate the lines and shapes of a beautiful piece of architecture.

Of course I would prefer not to have to use this technique and have the place all to myself. However, unless you somehow find yourself completely alone in NYC, it can prove useful. :)
 

Waterfall of the Gods

I consider Goðafoss to be one of the most spectacular waterfalls in Iceland (or anywhere for that matter). It was the first large waterfall I visited on my initial trip to Iceland back in 2014 and I remember simply being awed in its presence. Watching/hearing/feeling the water flow into the 330-foot (100-meter) wide, horseshoe-shaped canyon from a height of 40-feet (12-meters) was breathtaking. I stayed there for hours, admiring it from both sides...it was my 2nd day in Iceland and I was already hooked.

I have since visited Iceland in 2015 & 2017 and each time I have returned to Goðafoss. Unfortunately, the weather was not the best during my first 2 visits to Goðafoss…not enough to hinder the experience, but enough to preclude me from capturing a good photo. My 3rd visit, however, was a charm and the sunset in June lasted well into the morning hours. 

There is also a legend attached to this waterfall (as with most waterfalls in Iceland). When Iceland officially adopted Christianity in the year 1000, rumor has it that Thorgeir, a pagan chieftain & priest, denounced his beliefs by throwing wooden carvings of pagan gods into the falls. From that point forward, it was known as the waterfall of the gods…Goðafoss. 
 

The Hidden Galaxy

Before arriving in Naples, I had researched a building that I wanted to photograph…specifically, its large, grand staircase. The building location is not well known and even though I had found the address online, I walked past it twice before I found the (somewhat) hidden entrance. Tucked in between two retail shops is a small walkway that opens into the interior courtyard of the building. I did not see a way to get inside though and I was a bit puzzled as to how to find this staircase.

Walking back towards the street, I noticed a security guard’s office. I approached him with my camera in hand to ask about the staircase. He instructed me that I could not go up the stairs as it is a private residence. He did, however, agree to allow me take a photo from the lobby floor and pointed to another (somewhat) hidden hallway located behind me. 

At the end of that hallway, I entered the lobby and finally saw the staircase with this slender, oval design! It was beautiful, but not large at all. My assumptions were wrong. In reality, the lobby was rather small and narrow…this presented a challenge.

I expected my widest lens would be fine for this shot, but it was not wide enough! The only possibility to fit the staircase in the frame was to get on the floor…so that is what I did. Lying on my back with my legs under the stairs, I slid left & right and back & forth get in this position. With my head near the center of the lobby floor (and with the camera pressed against my face), I was just barely able to squeeze the entire staircase into the frame. 

I suspect it would have looked comical to anyone watching this, but in the end, I got the image I wanted. Thanks in part to a kind security guard and the fact that I have a small head. :) Hope you agree that the results were worth getting a little dirty.

Pietrapertosa

First settled in the 8th century BC, Pietrapertosa is a beautiful hill town in Basilicata, Italy. 

It sits nestled against the mountains with many homes featuring the bare rock as part of their structure. If you look closely, you can see the natural arch that is at the top of the mountain. There is also a small castle at the top of the mountain, but it is hidden from this viewpoint. From the castle you have amazing views over the valley and the nearby town of Castelmezzano. 

When I visited in April, I think I was the only tourist there. I wandered all over the town and even hiked the old Roman path over to Castelmezzano and back. The towns were both quiet, sleepy places, but it was fun to explore them and enjoy the surrounding views. 

The first morning I arrived, I started the day here…perched on a wall overlooking the town. As the sun rose behind the mountain, the clouds started to glow and Pietrapertosa greeted me with an amazing sunrise.

The Big Bang

I frequently experiment with various perspectives when trying to be creative with my photography.  There are many well-known techniques to use, like “get low,” “get close,” “get closer,” “look behind you,” etc… I enjoy the challenge of seeing things in different ways and find it very gratifying when I capture an image I like. 

This was taken one day while we were being tourists in Helsinki. Walking through a park, we approached this sculpture. It is a monument honoring the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius and is made up of stylized organ pipes cascading up & down like a wave. I found it interesting, but not necessarily photogenic.

Then I noticed some small children playing underneath the pipes. They were running around and having fun, but occasionally one would stop and look up from underneath the monument…and it seemed to hold their attention. I thought to myself, there must be an good view from that position if the kids are stopping to take a look! The children left shortly thereafter and I walked under the monument. I had to crouch in spots, but I could see what the children saw. 

Getting a photograph required an even lower position, so with the area clear around me, I lay flat on my back, used my widest lens and shot this from underneath the pipes. I suppose the “get low” technique is somewhat appropriate, but as the children inspired me to get into this position, I prefer thinking of it as “a child’s perspective.”
 

The Tongueless Guardians of the Chain Bridge

Completed in 1849, the Chain Bridge was the first bridge that connected Buda & Pest and was considered a wonder of the world. It was almost completely destroyed by the retreating German army near the end of World War II, but Hungary decided to rebuild the landmark. Exactly 100 years after its original completion, the bridge re-opened in 1949.  

There is a myth involving the lions guarding each side of the bridge. Shortly after their placement in 1852, word spread that the sculptor, János Marschalkó, forgot to provide tongues to the open-mouthed lions. Embarrassed and ashamed of his mistake, Marschalkó supposedly then took his own life by being the first person to jump off of the bridge.

His suicide, however, is only a legend as Marschalkó died from old age many years later. Apparently though, he was very frustrated by the the critical rumors of his mistake. To prove that his sculptures were correct, he took several people from Budapest to a circus. It is reported that upon seeing a real lion, he was finally able to prove to his doubters that you not see a lion's tongue when it opens its mouth.

What I found interesting about this story, is that I could not find proof that the sculptures actually do have tongues! It is reported on several websites that the lions, in fact, do have tongues. However, you cannot see the tongues unless you climb up on the sculptures...which I did not do. 

Rather than climb the sculptures, I chose to position myself on a small, raised triangular section of concrete in the middle of the road and take a photograph. I wouldn't call it a sidewalk, but it did separate the two lanes of the road and, while it sounds dangerous, it provided a safe place to stand as cars passed on both sides. 

My intention was to get an image featuring the light trails of the cars passing by. After I arrived home and reviewed my images, I found I preferred the cleaner image above of just the bridge itself. That said, I decided to also share the other version (and my original intention) below. Clicking on either one will give you a larger image from my website. I would love to know which one you prefer!

On my next visit, I will climb the lions and prove/dispel the myth once and for all... :)

Silhouetted Skyline

Most tourists in Bagan spend their days visiting the largest temples…walking around the impressive structures and exploring the insides of those open to the public. As amazing as it is to experience these temples up close, it pales in comparison to finding a spot where you can look out over the entire valley and appreciate the sheer number of them. If you happen to get a colorful sky at sunset or sunrise, the experience can be magical. 

It was hazy and cloudless on our first day in Bagan. Given the conditions, I did not expect a colorful sunset. I was completely wrong…

We were facing the sun, and the light was harsh. Surprisingly, we started to see a glow developing in the haze in the distance...not high in the sky, but below the sun and just above the ground. I planned on a wide angle photo of the valley, but I quickly grabbed my longest telephoto lens to zoom in on the silhouetted skyline. The light was intense, but dropping the exposure setting to -2 protected the highlights and still left some of the detail in the foreground. The glow lasted for about 10 minutes until the sun fell behind the mountain in the distance. 

This is the first photo I took in Bagan and I ended up taking several hundred more as the light softened. I encourage you to also check out a previous post, Peaceful Paya, to see how the warm golden glow was replaced with cooler pink hues high in the sky on the same evening.

Even without clouds, I found this sunset to be spectacular. Perhaps we were just lucky, but since watching the sunset is heavily promoted as a must-do when visiting, I suspect sunsets frequently surprise in Bagan.

In an Octopus's Garden

One of the first things I did upon arriving in Naples was walk down the bustling Via Toledo and descend into the Toledo metro station. Numerous websites and publications proclaim this station as one of the most beautiful in Europe, so I had to see it for myself. 

It was 8pm on a Saturday night and it was filled with locals & tourists going to/from the nearby bars, shops and restaurants. People were everywhere as I wandered down escalators, stairways and passageways looking for possible places to photograph. The architecture was interesting, but the scene was chaotic. I decided to wait and return when the station would be less crowded.  

The next morning I returned at 6:00 am and was one of the first people through the doors. It felt completely different without the crowds. I could more easily appreciate all of the details in the architecture that were often masked by all of the moving bodies the previous day.

This area was my favorite. As you descend on the escalator, you become surrounded by colorful tiles and waves reaching out of the walls…it feels like you are submerging into an underwater cave. 

Since there was no one there, I was able to take some time to capture images at the bottom. I definitely find it to be a unique and beautiful subway station.