Enter the Orange

The tubular, bright orange passageways are a unique feature of the Marienplatz U-Bahn station. Hundreds of thousands of people pass through this station every day, completely enveloped in orange as they board their trains. 

Almost everyone, including me, uses the main entrance/exit escalators on the other end of the platform. One day, however, I decided to explore more of the station and discovered this less frequented entrance. It is tucked away in a corner and only accessed by a small elevator from the main square. 

I find the shapes, lines and curves to be fantastic here, as well as the slight bend in the passageway. Perhaps most importantly, there is a color other than orange! The dark green tiles provide great contrast, allowing the bright tunnel to draw your eyes right into it.

It has become, by far, my favorite place to enter the orange.

Holy Water

This is Cathedral Rock in Sedona, Arizona…one of of the many photogenic rock formations that populate the desert landscape here. Due to the numerous trails that go up and around Cathedral Rock, you can appreciate it from almost every angle. The most popular trail is on the East side of the formation, as it allows you to hike up and look through the middle gap. 

I found this spot while exploring less frequented trails on the Western side, looking for a place to photograph sunset. If you are not familiar with Sedona, you may be surprised to learn that the best sunset views are actually facing East, not West! The rocks have a tendency to glow red and orange from the soft light just before the sun disappears.

I was surprised to find this pool of water on an area of exposed rock. It hadn’t rained in over a week, but somehow, perhaps from a natural spring, a shallow pool existed in this arid climate. It provided a great reflection of the peaks as the sun went down behind me.

Eye Spy

In my opinion, the architecture around Messeplatz is some of the best in Basel. The facade of the main building features a repeating ribbon-like metal pattern on many of its surfaces. This covered passage between convention halls is a great example.

I suspect this is one of the most photographed places in the city, as I always see several people taking pictures when I am here. The challenge, I find, is to try and eliminate all of the distractions. The square is often filled with people, trams, street vendors, neon lights and/or seasonal festivals, rides and exhibitions. All this activity can create a challenge to capture the type of clean image that I prefer. My solution (which I have used many times) was to focus on what was above. This perspective eliminates all the distractions and buzzing activity at eye level, leaving only simple shapes & patterns.

I took this in the evening when the sides of the opening were illuminated from lights below. The deep blues of the sky and clouds above provided great tonal and color contrast to the monochrome building. I particularly liked this point of view…it felt like an enormous, futuristic eye was spying on me from above…eye spy.

Lower Kuang Si

These are part of the beautiful Kuang Si waterfalls outside of Luang Prabang. It is only a short hike from the entrance of the falls to get to this point. Here, several layers cascade gently downward in vibrant turquoise pools creating a striking scene. I spent several minutes here photographing the falls and just watching the water flow past...the color was captivating.

Amazingly, this spot is not even the main attraction. Further upstream are the larger falls with a 200 ft drop that draw many more tourists. I will share an image of those large falls in another post, but these smaller ones were my I gave them priority :)

Somewhere Under The Rainbow

In my opinion, Stockholm's Tunnelbana stations are some of the most beautiful in the world. The entire network is promoted as the world's longest art gallery. The stations are all unique and most feature paintings, sculptures or murals. I recently visited Stockholm for a long weekend and spent most of my time underground…visiting and photographing my favorite stations.

This is Stadion near the Olympic Stadium. It was one of the city’s first cave-like stations that features the exposed bedrock. The artists, Åke Pallarp and Enno Hallek wanted to remind the people that there is a sky not too far above, so the entire ceiling is painted bright blue. In addition, the rainbow represents the colors of the Olympic rings and serves as a tribute to the Olympic games hosted by Sweden in 1912.

The person on the platform happened to stand perfectly still as I took this 3 second exposure of the train pulling in to the station. 

Peaceful Paya

Visting Bagan, Myanmar in December 2017 was an incredible experience. The plains near the ancient city are filled with over 2,200 Buddhist monuments (pagodas, stupas, monasteries, etc) of varying shapes and sizes.

Between the 9th & 13th centuries, Bagan was the flourishing capital of the Pagan Kingdom and over 10,000 monuments were built here. Sadly, after repeated Mongol invasions and numerous earthquakes, only a fraction of the monuments survived. Still, with over 2,000 remaining, a view across the plains is a mesmerizing sight.

This was taken on our first night in Bagan. We arrived only an hour before sunset and did not have time to venture out into the plains. Fortunately, there was this beautiful small pagoda (Paya, in Burmese) very close to our hotel. From this spot, you could see numerous temples in the background and it turned out to be a great place to watch the sunset. As the sun disappeared behind the mountain in the distance, the sky softened and the lights around the pagoda illuminated. A perfect, peaceful first night in Bagan.

Medieval Manhattan

San Gimignano is one of my favorite hill towns in Italy. It’s skyline of towers built in the 1200’s is both unique and impressive. San Gimignano prospered as a key trading town in the early thirteenth century and well off families would build a tower as a show of their wealth. At one point, over 70 towers dominated the town. Today, 13 towers remain and San Gimignano is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, commonly referred to as “Medieval Manhattan"

I highly recommend anyone visiting nearby Florence to take a day-trip here. Get here early in the day though, as tourist buses start arriving mid-morning and the town can be overrun with people in the summer. In the off-season, the town is quiet and peaceful. I took this image a couple of weeks ago in early October and there were only a handful of other tourists. As the sun went down and the lights illuminated the towers, it was a magical scene.

In the Belly of a Snake

This is another modern metro station that I found interesting (maybe even a bit dizzying) in Budapest. The combination of colors, swirls and curves kept my eyes going around in circles as I walked from the escalators over to this spot at the far end of the platform. I sat here on a bench for several minutes appreciating the detail of the ceiling tiles. I suspect the workers who had to place all of these tiles in this specific pattern were very patient people…and probably very good at jigsaw puzzles. 

Fortunately, the metro was not very busy at this time of night, so I did not have to wait long for the station to clear out. Since the security guards will not let you set up a tripod, I was forced to take this hand-held. I have to admit, it took me several attempts to align the camera to get the symmetry as perfect as possible. Looking through the viewfinder, the swirls kept playing tricks with my perception. Persistence eventually paid off though and I was happy to capture this image with the Tripod Police hidden behind one of the far columns.

Picturesque Parliament

The Hungarian Parliament Building in Budapest is spectacular. I spent a lot of time walking around it and admiring it from every angle. Up close you can get lost in the fine details, while farther away the towers, dome and symmetry dominate. This is my favorite view of Parliament, standing in Buda and looking at it from across the Danube river. When the lights come on in the evening, they give the building even more character…adding depth and shadows that bring out even more details. The river traffic was congested and I was surprised at how long I had to wait for an opening where no boats were in view. Eventually, an opening appeared though and I was able to take some 3-5 second exposures to soften the ripples in the water so that the only sharp details were of the building.

The following evening I decided to watch the building light up from the Pest side of the river. I thought some of you may be interested to see what the other side of the building looks like, so I included an image below. Being much closer to the building, the dome and towers visible in the other image are mostly obscured from view. Even with my wide angle lens it was difficult to fit the entire building in a single shot…the building is massive. I did find this spot interesting though, as they have installed a small reflecting pool that provided a nice foreground.

Parliament Plaza

A very impressive architectural feat from every angle and definitely a highlight of any trip to Budapest.

Chutes and Ladders

Since it was 98 degrees outside, I decided to spend some time exploring the underground in Budapest. The city recently added a new metro line to its network and some of the modern stations are fantastic. This station, Kálvin tér, is one of my favorites.

I particularly liked this point of view, looking up from the platform. It is a deep station and requires taking three different sets of escalators to reach the bottom. These escalators criss-cross and their lines along with the other curves and patterns create an interesting perspective. 

Perhaps the only thing missing from this station is color. It is mostly concrete and varying shades of gray. Well suited for a monochromatic image.

In Buda, Looking at Pest

This is the view you get when you climb the stairs up to the top of the Buda Castle in Budapest. I found this spot to be a beautiful place to gaze over the city and spent several hours here doing just that. 

I arrived in the late afternoon, hoping to photograph this view with an amazing sunset, but it was not to be. The sky was clear and the sun simply disappeared without providing any color. I knew, however, that there would be another photo opportunity as the city transitioned into night. 

As the sky darkened, the lights slowly took turns illuminating their subjects. First the Chain Bridge, then the river promenade, followed by St. Stevens Cathedral and finally the Parliament building. It was a much more interesting & colorful show than the sunset.

Budapest is more beautiful than I expected. This was one of the first images I captured here and I look forward to sharing several more images from my visit in future weeks.

Take me to Church

In late June/early July, I had the pleasure of returning to Iceland and exploring many new places that I had not visited before. However, there were several spots where I could not pass up the opportunity to return for a second or third time. This mountain, Kirkjufell, and its nearby waterfalls had a profound impact on me the first time I went to Iceland. Kirkjufell, translated from Icelandic means Church Mountain and I was excited to go back to Church!

At this time of year, the sun does not set until after midnight and rises again before 3 am. It is a strange feeling to be walking around Iceland at 2 am in light that is bright enough to read a book. While the lack of darkness plays tricks with your mind, the sunsets and sunrises last almost an hour instead of just minutes. This was fantastic as I was able to move around and capture several compositions during the same sunset! 

Kirkjufell and its waterfalls are one of the most popular destinations in West Iceland and, as expected, I arrived to find a crowd of tourists and photographers swarming all over the waterfalls. It was 10pm though, still 2 hours before sunset, so I expected the crowds to disperse as time passed. I noticed the sky had some real potential and some golden hues were already starting to show. I joined the crowd for a short time, but soon found myself wandering further away from the main waterfalls, looking for something different. When I found this small pool of water reflecting the sky and the mountain top, I settled in and waited for my first sunset after midnight. 

I did not have to wait very long. Around 11pm, the golden hues were replaced with red, pink and magenta as the various layers of Icelandic clouds captured the light in different ways. A heavenly show above Church Mountain. 

Shortly after taking this I made my way back to the waterfalls for other compositions. I will share those images with you in future posts. The crowds disappeared after midnight and so did the color in the sky. However, light remained and I had the falls and the mountain to myself, so I stayed…enjoying the  peacefulness of being alone in this place, alone at Kirkjufell.  


Eruption at Aldeyjarfoss

Aldeyjarfoss in the central highlands is one of my favorite waterfalls in Iceland (or anywhere for that matter). It is fairly remote, located more than an hour’s drive from the main Ring Road and requires a 4x4 to access. 

There is no lodging nearby, so photographing the falls at sunrise requires camping or a very early wakeup call. I decided to camp (sort of) and rented an SUV with a tent on the top. Yes, on the top…it opened like a clam shell and you used a ladder to access it. Cool idea, right? I thought so.

The first night I arrived here, the weather was calm. I popped the tent and slept like a baby. Unfortunately, the calm, clear weather provided some of most boring skies I have seen in Iceland. They were colorless too, both at sunset and sunrise. While Aldeyjarfoss was impressive to witness firsthand, my photographs were rather blah. As a result, I decided to drive back to the Ring Road to visit some other locations and return again that night for a second attempt. 

On the second night, I arrived a couple hours before sunset. The clouds were coming in and my hopes for a good photograph were rising. Then, as it often does in Iceland, the weather dramatically changed. Rain started coming down sideways, the wind howled and everything turned gray (if you could see anything at all). I managed to open the tent, get in and attempt to sleep.

The wind shook the SUV so much that I was rolling around on top of it, and before long the rain started making its way inside. I decided to abandon tent… Opening the zipper, I caught a face full of rain and discovered that the wind had blown the ladder away! My tent exit/rooftop dismount was basically a wet slide/flop, but I landed on my feet! I found the ladder, closed the tent and climbed in the back of the SUV. Of course, I got completely soaked in this hilarious process.

The wind/rain continued for several hours, but I did mange to get some sleep in the SUV. When I awoke to my iPhone alarm shortly before sunrise, the conditions had improved. I quickly jumped out of the car and grabbed my gear to make the short hike to the edge of the falls. Still damp and a little cold, I watched the sun rise behind the waterfall. The end results of this adventure to Aldeyjarfoss include a stiff back, wet socks and this sunrise image. All worth it. :)

Red Rock Sunset

Sedona was just one of many places that amazed me during my trip to Arizona and Utah. The red rock formations here dominate the landscape in every direction. Some are more impressive than others, but all are beautiful.

Perhaps the most famous of these formations is Cathedral Rock (on the right side of the photo). It was my first stop after arriving in Sedona and I spent hours wandering around the trails and parks on its Western side. As sunset approached, I was in a position where Courthouse Butte was also visible, several miles in the distance and to the left of Cathedral Rock. Sedona is famous for its colorful sunsets, so I decided to wait here and hope for some great light. Needless to say, this sunset did not disappoint.  

I always enjoy the experience of seeing the sun disappear below the horizon. In Sedona, however, the main performance is in the opposite direction...watching the formations transform into vibrant towers. The red rocks come alive with color and even begin to glow as they reflect the warm sunlight.

Unfortunately, the show only lasts for 10-15 minutes and leaves you wanting for more. Fortunately, the rocks regularly reprise their role the following evening.

Ring of Fire

I finally got a chance to catch my breath on my trip through the Southwest U.S. and wanted to share a recent image with you. 

This is Horseshoe Bend near Page, Arizona. It is probably one of the most photographed places in the Southwest United States…and for good reason. This bend in the Colorado River is truly a spectacle to see in person. If you have the nerve, you can walk right up to the edge and peer over the steep cliffs to view the river, 1,000 feet below. 

I came to this spot a few times during my trip. The first couple of times, the weather was poor…so I did not get the image I was hoping for. However, on the third attempt, I was rewarded with one of the most colorful sunsets I have ever experienced. As the sun disappeared, it lit up the clouds with an intense red glow that reflected down to everything below. 

There were probably a hundred or more people near me at this lookout point. Numerous audible “oohs” and “aahs” were heard as everyone watched this unfold. It seemed that every time I thought I had seen the best part of the sunset, it actually got better!

I took hundreds of photos…some before the color started, some with the signature “sun flare” as the sun descended below the land in the distance, and many more as the clouds caught fire. I hope to share some of those other images in future posts. 

Unfortunately, the show had to end, but wow, what a performance!

Prayer in Primary Colors

They say timing is everything. I am not sure who “they” are, but I tend to agree…especially in the case of this image.

After spending an hour photographing sunset at Wat Chedi Luang, my wife and I started making our way out of the complex, past this beautiful temple and toward the center of Chiang Mai. 

We noticed the sidewalk and streets were much busier than when we entered the complex hours ago. Worshipers had filled the temple and the city had come alive with street vendors, locals and tourists. Several Tuk-tuk drivers were yelling nearby, trying to solicit fares, while the already-employed Tuk-tuks whizzed by loudly on the street. Reaching the sidewalk, I turned around for one last look at the temple and immediately asked my wife to “wait a sec”...she knows that “wait a sec” really means “Jim spotted something he needs to photograph”…

I quickly moved to a position in-between the crowds and the temple. Seemingly oblivious to the mild chaos behind her, this solitary figure kneeled in prayer. It was her beautiful red clothing that first caught my attention, then her pose and concentration. In front of her the golden Buddha was illuminated by the nearby lights and, fortunately timed, the blue hour had begun. What a beautiful scene!

From observation to capture, this image took no more than twenty seconds. A scramble into position, a quick change of camera settings and a silent prayer of my own as I released the shutter. 

Fortunate timing indeed.

Into the Void

It has been several months since I posted an image from one of my favorite places to photograph…the Munich underground. This is Oberwiesenfeld Station on the U3 line. It is not one of the stations that is frequently photographed. Perhaps this is because the plain solid color on one side of the platform is, well, not very photogenic. 

From the center of the platform, the lines and patterns do not draw your attention. As a result, I scouted several different perspectives trying to find a better composition. The patterned black and white wall is, by far, the most interesting feature…so I concentrated on it. Once I found this dizzying angle, I knew I had the shot I wanted. 

I love including leading lines in images…and having lines from every surface pulling you toward the black tunnel at the far end was too much to resist. 

Can your eyes resist being pulled in to the void?


This is an image I took several years ago in Hamburg, Germany. The swirling lines, multiple shapes, textures and tones all contribute to what I find very appealing in architectural photography. It has always been one of my favorites, but until entering it into the 2016 Monochrome Awards photo contest, I had not shared it with anyone or included it in my portfolio. With the opportunity to get some unbiased critique, I figured it was time to release this into the wild. 

Monochrome Awards announced the contest winners yesterday and I am super-excited that the judges selected this image, out of 8,000+ images, as Honorable Mention in the Architecture-Amateur category. All of the judges selections are very impressive and it is really an honor to be included with them. I encourage you to have a look at all of the winning images here.

In case you are wondering, this is a parking garage…seriously. While wandering around Hamburg, I found myself here, looking up from the center of the ground floor. The swirling lines represent the up & down ramps that take you to various floors, while the roof features numerous openings allowing sunlight to filter inside. Easily the most beautiful parking garage I have seen…

But wait, there’s more to share from the contest…

As it turns out, one of my other contest submissions (see below) was also awarded Honorable Mention in the Abstract category. This image is one of the first photos that I posted on my Photoblog back in 2015. Click here to see the original post.

Family Water Blessing

While in Cambodia, we had the pleasure of walking through several small villages and seeing some of the lesser visited areas around Angkor Wat. Most of our best experiences happened far away from the crowds of tourists that come to see the amazing temples. This experience, in particular, is one that I will always remember.

As luck would have it, we walked by this small temple just as a family was receiving a water blessing from a monk. We were surprised and excited to see this taking place right in front of us, so we stopped to watch the ceremony.

By this time in our trip, we were getting accustomed to how open and friendly the Cambodian people are. As a result, I walked closer to them and kneeled down, holding up my camera to get their reaction to me taking a photo. Not surprisingly, they smiled and gave me permission.

I could not help but smile back at them as I was taking this image. Seeing several generations lined up together to share in this event was amazing. I do not think I have ever experienced a better Norman Rockwell moment…and I suspect I may never again have the opportunity to capture it in a photograph.

I smile every time I look at this image. Seriously…every time. Most of the time I smile because of the happiness that radiates in the family’s faces. Other times I smile reflecting on the memory of being there at that moment. The family received a blessing that day, but in some ways, I feel I did also.

Best wishes to you, your family and your friends during this Holiday season and for a memorable and enjoyable New Year!



This is the Buddha Dordenma statue that sits above Thimphu, Bhutan. It is not your ordinary Buddha, as it stands nearly 170 feet (51.5 meters) tall, making it one of the largest Buddhas in the world. It is made of bronze, but completely gilded in gold and can be seen from miles away as you enter the capital of Bhutan. Our guide, Ugay, brought us here one afternoon after touring the city. We had already visited several amazing temples the previous three days, so seeing a Buddha statue was nothing new, but the size of this one was impressive.

It was in many respects, the wrong time to take a photo…the sun was high and light was harsh, there was hardly any color in the sky, no clouds, no texture. But still, I wanted to try to capture this amazing statue…and that is when inspiration hit me to shoot for the end result, not what the camera can capture. 

Knowing that I could do some magic in Photoshop, I set up my tripod directly in front of the buddha. Even though the light was harsh, I loved the way it was glowing off the face and side of the Buddha. I also could see that my lens was picking up lens flares, so I took a series of images with the flares and another series with my hand blocking the sun, so that the camera could focus sharply on the statue.

In Photoshop, I blended the images together and added color to the sky using the the gold in the statue as a source. The sun flares added an interesting element and I added some texture using a sun burst pattern in the background. 

I often take photographs imagining what I want the final result to look like. That said, I rarely take the liberty of heavy handed post processing to make the image work. This ended up being much more of an interpretation of what I saw as opposed to a realistic image, but it was fun to create and I like the end result.

Hopefully the Buddha also approves…