Tag Archives: Italy

883 – Postcards From Italy

These are two images from a short trip to Italy. The Image of the Day, more or less a type of postcard shot, shows the view to the north, against the Austrian border.

This is a rural area north-west of the small town of Tolmezzo. I have added a map that shows the trip. There are two placemarkers, one for my home in Villach and one for the village of Sutrio.

The Image of the Day was shot just before I reached Sutrio, the other image, the church with the stairway, is the church of Sutrio.

Both images were shot with the Sigma 10-20. The church is an HDR merge of two bracketed exposures. The perspective was corrected in Photoshop, at least for the church itself. I have left some distortion on the stairway. Looks more interesting that way.

The Song of the Day is “Postcards From Italy” from the 2006 Beirut album “Gulag Orkestar”. A fabulous piece of music from a truly fabulous album. See the video on YouTube.

849 – Sisters Of Mercy

It simply had to happen. Today is the first day since November 21 that I have not shot a single image. Wet snow, a constant drizzle, fog below, clouds above, I don’t even feel bad about it πŸ™‚

I spent a lot of time though, trying to get back into my bookmaking workflow, checking out Shutterfly (as recommended by Mark Hobson), trying to create a template, and so on and on and on. I guess you know how much time runs into those things, especially when you do them only once a year.

Basically this serves three purposes (“among my purposes are such diverse things as”): SoFoBoMo ’09 is nearing, by then I want to have the process worked out, and this time I won’t stop at the PDF, this time I want to hold a book. #2 is that Mark Hobson recently teased everyone to make a real book, and #3 is of course that Ted constantly buggers me to finally make that god-damn bicycle book πŸ™‚

Speaking of Ted, this is another image from that morning in fall 2007, when we met to shoot the sunrise at Firenze’s Duomo.

The Song of the Day, “Sisters Of Mercy” by Leonard Cohen, is part of the soundtrack of Robert Altman’s 1971 movie “McCabe & Mrs. Miller”. I am not sure if it was written for the soundtrack or not, but Cohen’s music greatly contributes to the overall atmosphere of this masterpiece. See a video on YouTube.

814 – The World’s On Fire

Tomorrow I have to get up early, thus I’ll keep this short. In the afternoon I made another trip down to Italy, just to find out that the shadow sides were white with frost. Still, it’s a much friendlier landscape than ours at the moment.

I was late as every day lately, and I lacked a real destination, but nevertheless it was nice to just drive around shoot an image here, an image there, until the sun went down.

The first two images were shot on a small road, well, road is almost a euphemism, along the river Ledra, approximately in the middle between Osoppo and San Daniele.

The last time I was there for the bridge, I had noticed that from where you drive up the highway, you have a fantastic view at the sundown. A deeply red sun had dipped below a very low horizon, because from that point and at that time of the year, the sun vanishes in the gap between two hills. The highway is the highest point there, and that had increased the effect. Of course you can’t stop on a highway, just to photograph the sundown, therefore I had missed the opportunity then.

Today I have stopped just before the driveway. I went some meters into the field, chose a tree to cover the direct sun and shot a series of images. The Image of the Day is what I liked best.

The Song of the Day is one more time from Paul Heaton. It’s “The World’s On Fire” from the 1987 Housemartins album “The People Who Grinned Themselves to Death”. Hear it on YouTube.

810 – Higher Ground

This is the blog entry for December 31, but when you read this, it has been New Year all over the world, thus let me begin with a heartfelt Happy New Year to you all!

This blog is now well in its third year and still running daily, with the images having been shot that very day. It’s a fantastic journey, exhilarating at times, exciting and very satisfying. Your feedback plays an important role in that. I remember times when I wrote practically into the void, and now I see a steady flow of comments. It makes all the difference. Thank you.

Of the things that I’ve learned this year, I’d like to point out only one, and that’s my new found appreciation of the square. This is completely due to the works of two great artists, Ted Byrne, who uses the square sparingly but with perfection (see only his retaliation on the bicycle front), and then of course the great master of the square himself, Mark Hobson, aka “The Landscapist“.

You have seen squares from me in the past, you will see some today, and the image in the following post will be a square as well. I know that, because it’s already post-processed and uploaded to SmugMug.

Speaking of SmugMug, along with the fact that this post has so many images, SmugMug is the second reason why I am late today. At the moment they have a hardly acceptable quality of service. There is one scheduled maintenance window per week, that means a short time, normally below half an hour in read-only mode, and I could easily live with that. The problem is, that over the last months they had lots of unscheduled outages.

I know, this is all for good reasons, SmugMug is growing into the video business (Vincent Laforet promoting them), has opened up to RAW storage, and these things have necessitated changes to the whole underlying infrastructure – but still: they are a premium service, they charge a premium, and as their customer I can expect that those things that I use, care about and pay for, work and are available.

Oh well. Sorry for the rant, but I simply have to say it: at the moment I would not recommend SmugMug to anyone doing business with their images. I’ll be the first to announce when the situation has stabilized.

Let’s forget the little annoyances of blogging life, let’s get to what this is all about: the images.

My plan for yesterday was to drive down to Italy again and take a mountain road from Chiusaforte (halfway between A23 exists “Pontebba” and “Carnia/Tolmezzo”) via Sella Nevea and back to Tarvisio. I have not driven the road for 20 years, but I remember some interesting sights.

When I started out at 11:45am, I was a tad late for the trip, because at 3pm I had to be back to Villach, but I started anyway. When I came to Dogna, the first village south of Pontebba, I saw that the road into the valley to the east was open, some 18km of dead-end street, that according to the map looked interesting and would lead me high up the mountains.

I reconsidered my plans and decided to take that road into territory so far unknown to me.

The first three images were made from the same place, already high above the mountain torrent, #1 looking back to Dogna, where I had left the main street, #2 looking into the valley, and #3 a tele shot across the valley onto the bizarre ice formations on those north cliffs that never get direct sunlight at all.

Interestingly enough I found a village after maybe six kilometers, perching in a nice, sunny place high above the valley, and there were even people on the street. Hmm … must be a strange way of living there. I suppose this village is cut off the main street during snowfall, and even if it’s not, the way to the next big supermarket, to the next media shop, to the next post office, to the next school, the next whatever, must be prohibitively long.

The road winds on and on into the valley, following the sunny side, mostly being free of snow, but still, where it winds into the shadow, the street is in parts blank ice.

It’s a funny feeling to drive such a road, when you don’t know how it goes on, when you always have to expect a place where you have to turn your car, and that on a road where places to turn are hardly available at all.

This is definitely waterfall territory, and I expect to return sometime in spring, when the snow is gone and there’s still lots of water. Two or three such places were particularly promising, one of them in the image with the small bridge.

One of the reasons why it’s difficult to takes photos in this valley, is the fact that you can’t choose your light. At least at this time of the year you are forced to do your images at or around noon, because that’s the only time when there is sunlight at all. Forget about golden light, forget about sunset, these are things that happen on the mountain peaks, 500 or 800 meters above you.

For this image I resorted to the D300’s built-in flash. This tunnel with its icicles is actually part of the road, I had to drive through. Gives you another funny feeling πŸ™‚

All the images in this post were shot with the Nikon 18-200 VR and a Hoya Pro1 circular polarizer. You know my mixed feelings about polarizers, an
d this time was no exception. The blue of the sky gets slightly pale dark, with more magenta than is actually natural, and in the image of the Day you see well the effect of an unevenly polarized sky. Technically it is a bad image, I should have left off the polarizer, or better bracketed from the tripod, one time with, one time without polarizer, and then mixed the two exposures in Photoshop. Needless to say that I did not. That I have selected exactly this image for the Image of the Day is due to the wonderful effect that the polarizer had on the mountains.

I have converted all images using the DxO Optics Pro Photoshop plugin. Not only that it does a great job in equalizing lens defects (and any super zoom has plenty of them), it also makes opening up the shadows a very easy and controlled process. All images were finally taken to Photoshop, where I did any cloning, saturation adjustments and contrast fine-tuning. If you are new to this blog, you may be interested in my series of posts about experiences with DxO Optics Pro 5.3.

The last image was taken in almost the same place as the first. The sun was just vanishing behind the mountain, and for a moment the trees on the ridge, still bathed in sunlight, were a golden crest, not much different from the typical rim light used in studio portrait photography.

Most probably I should have switched to the Nikon 70-300 VR, but this was really a matter of seconds, thus I held on to the 18-200. That’s another of the problems that you encounter, photographing in such a place: you can’t stop wherever you want, and if you do, you have to hurry. There was not much traffic at all, but still, at one time I stopped for an image, just in the middle of the road, and sure at exactly that time another car came along and interrupted me.

Well, that’s it for this short and unexpected trip. As the weather permits, I will follow my original plan some time this weekend. We’ll see.

The Song of the Day is “Higher Ground“, not the Stevie Wonder composition, no, the song interpreted by Vanessa Williams on her 1994 album “The Sweetest Days”. Amazon has a sound sample, and there is also a video on YouTube, not from her version, but from one by Melissa Manchester.

808 – Look Down Off A Bridge

Have you ever driven 100km in one direction, just for a sundown? Well, yesterday I did πŸ™‚

More and more often I rely on Google Maps for scouting photo locations. Sure, it does not give you the full picture, height information is missing, but if you are aproximately familiar with the environment, it’s a fantastic way to find out how to get somewhere, because it will show you small roads that might even be missing from your maps.

In case of yesterday’s trip, from sight I knew that east of where the highway A23 crosses the river Tagliamento for the second time (counted from the North), there is another bridge over the river, and that was the place where I wanted to go. I intended to leave Villach at 2:15pm, but for various reasons I couldn’t leave before 2:45.

Thanks to Google Maps I knew exactly where to go, and from the moment I left the highway at the exit Gemona/Osoppo at 3:30, it took me no more than ten minutes to get to the bridge, just in time for the sundown.

Basically I was there for an image looking east, over the river and to the gourgeous peaks of the Julian Alps. I had not expected to be able to get down to the river bed, and when I found out that there is indeed a way down, it was already too late. Anyway, that’s for next time.

The bridge was narrow with two lanes and not much space for a photographer to stand, making changing lenses a rather awkward experience. I did it anyway, one more time using my Lowepro Slingshot (this time the 200) like a tray, dangling in front of me. It’s a funny feeling juggling lenses over an abyss, but you get used to it πŸ™‚

The images were shot with two lenses: the Nikon 18-200 VR, my travel lens, and the Sigma 10-20.

I often read that those super zooms like my 18-200 (or Paul Lester’s new Tamron 18-270 VC) are derided by prime snobs, and although I like to use primes a lot, while traveling I mostly stick to the 18-200, just because you never know what you need, and when you don’t travel alone, permanently changing lenses makes your company even more nervous than the permanent stops do anyway.

Apart from that, both lenses, the Nikon 18-200 VR and the Sigma 10-20, are supported by DxO Optics Pro in combination with the D200 and D300, thus I get lens correction as well, not only of distortion, but also of CA and vignetting. Pretty nice, if you ask me. OK, in post-processing I put the vignette in again, normally much more so than there was in the first place, but there’s nothing better than a clean start.

I concluded with some images into the sundown, and only half an hour after having arrived, I made my way back to Villach. A tad crazy the whole story, but absolutely satisfying πŸ™‚

The Song of the Day, “Look Down Off A Bridge”, is from Jay Leonhart’s 1983 album “Salamander Pie”, a CD that has become famous because a German HiFi magazine used it as reference CD in their tests of high-end audio equipment during the early 1990s.

Indeed the CD is not only exceedingly well recorded, it is also a fine example of very relaxed bar jazz. Wonderful music to listen to, sipping on a glass of whiskey, but even without the whiskey it’s very nice πŸ™‚

CD Baby has not only sound samples, they even let you hear the whole song, and at the moment they have the CD in stock.

807 – In Another Land

Yesterday we had light snow, high fog, above that clouds, and according to the weather report, there was no single sunny place in Carinthia.

There is always relief though. My home in Villach is about 20km from the border to Italy, less than 100km from the Friulian plain, and that’s about 400 meters below. But the 400 meters are not the only thing. Beyond the plain there is also the sea.

From the moment you get out of the mountains, into the plain, there is nothing between you and the sea, nothing that could hold back the calming influence that it has on the weather.

In some years I have seen snow even down there, but from the trip to Savudrija I knew that this year there is none. At home I studied the map on maps.google.com, looking for a place that would have sun for a long time. A slope facing west would be ideal, and I identified a small mountain road south of Gemona, from Artegna via Montenars, Capovilla, Frattins, Flaipano and finally Stella.

The first two images were shot on the plain, looking north, north-west, the other three around the free-standing bell tower, the campanile, of Stella, at a place overlooking the Friulian plain, beside the cemetery, above the few houses of the village.

I have not shot many images in between, because the road is narrow and there are not many places with a view and an opportunity to park the car. Nevertheless, it was a revelation. This road is incredibly beautiful, and I really look forward to driving it again in summer, driving all the way under one big green roof.

Even the timing was perfect. I arrived at the campanile of Stella just to get the last red sunlight. Only ten minutes later it would have been too late.

It’s interesting, Villach is not far from where I lived before, but it is that decisive few kilometers that suddenly bring so many countries in reach, not physically, no, physically they were in reach all the time, it’s mentally that they are in reach now.

Yesterday I left Villach shortly after noon, drove down to Friuli, just to see some landscape without snow and have a good sunset, and as you will see soon, today I did something similar, but that’s really stuff for the next entry.

The Song of the Day is “In Another Land” from the 1967 Rolling Stones album “Their Satanic Majesties Request”. Hear it on Deezer.

630 – Oooh, What A Lucky Man I Was

Yesterday’s food is from the can. I was short on time in the morning, and when I left for the train, the light was utterly flat and uninspiring. I could have delayed photographing to the evening, but on the other hand I had plenty of time for post-processing while on the train.

I always carry a bunch of files with me in a folder “TODO”, and for lack of anything better to do, I began processing some of them.

The decaying house front is not far from where I live. When I am late and take the way to work via the Underground, I always pass by, but this particular image was taken about a year ago, in the afternoon. I used my Nikon 50/1.2 and was on the way to a concert where I wanted to use this fast lens.

The next image, a garbage can in Mariahilfer Straße in Vienna, was taken last August with the then new Sigma 20/1.8. It was early morning on a bright day with blinding sunlight, and I liked the contrast between the modern design and the traces of … uhmm … neglect.

The final image, the Image of the Day, is from that Sunday morning in Florence/Italy when I was photographing with my friend Ted Byrne. This image was taken while Ted was on the other side, making the first image that he posted from Florence.

This is one of those images that I always wanted to process. I tried it one time and did not particularly like the result, so it went back into the “TODO” folder. Much to Ted’s annoyance I took all my images that morning from the tripod and I really took my time. Just as I was satisfied with the framing, a white car drove by to park in front of these poles, right in my image. I pressed the shutter only a second before. The sidelight is from the car’s head lights. While the original would have been nothing but a failed attempt, this side light makes the image, and that’s also what was so hard to bring out in post-processing. I was just a lucky man πŸ™‚

The Song of the Day is “Lucky Man” from ELP’s 1970 debut album “Emerson Lake & Palmer“. See something like a video on YouTube.

555 – Every Dog Has Its Day

It’s almost a rule: I don’t make good images when I am on a trip. I always feel the urge to document the places where I’ve been, and that’s for a reason: of many past trips years ago I can only remember the places where I’ve taken pictures. Today we were in Friuli, Italy’s north-east province. It’s just a little more than an hour by car from home to Udine, Friuli’s capital.

This particular image, the reflection of clouds in the water of a storage lake, was taken while still at home, and from there it only went down. It was a nice trip, but photographically I was completely uninspired. The dog barked at me when, in order to take a photo, I parked the car a meter from its fence. I kinda liked the tiny guy with the big ears. Of course the 20/1.8 was the wrong lens, because he wouldn’t let me get as near as I wanted, but then again, the wide angle emphasizes its size and that’s OK.

The image is further a good example of what you can do to the images from a modern DSLR. This was harsh light, I didn’t use a flash (the tiny guy was frightened anyway), and the dog was mostly in deep shadow. After heavy Photoshop treatment the image is still good enough for a print.

The Song of the Day is “Every Dog Has Its Day” from Willy DeVille’s 1990 album “Victory Mixture“. Tell me you American guys: what’s wrong with Willy DeVille? You get all his records here in Europe, but in the US you have to import him?? Sorry, no sound sample, no lyrics.

546 – Gli altri siamo noi

This is the image for Friday, but it was not taken yesterday. Yesterday was one of those travel days. No time to take pictures in the morning (at least nothing worthy), no time to take pictures on the way to the train (I’ve tried, it was better but still not good enough), and then for almost the whole time on the train I saw the most spectacular weather outside. Fantastic light, dramatic skies, I could have taken hundreds of images, and instead I sat there, sub-par images loaded in Photoshop, trying to ride dead horses. Goodness, that’s tough!

Fortunately I have a folder titled TODO on my hard drive, and there I found this image that I always had wanted to work upon and that I never actually had. It’s from my trip to Florence, Italy, where I met Ted Byrne. See here on my blog (read in reverse order) and there on Ted’s (reverse as well). And while we’re at it, here are some more images of that day, images that I have not even processed yesterday, images that I have shown on the Radiant Vista forums, but never on my blog. Hope you don’t mind when I throw them in πŸ™‚

Back to the Image of the Day. There is always the question of whether it is ethically acceptable to show images of beggars or not, but this is not an image about a beggar, It is about the shadow of power looming over the outcast, it is about being a stranger in a world that does not welcome you, it is about being outside, about being rejected as “The Other”, but as an old song says: sooner or later we are the others, or in Italian, “tanto prima o poi gli altri siamo noi”.

Umberto Tozzi is well known for his poetic lyrics, but it is much well known that Giancarlo Bigazzi, with whom he had a long collaboration from the mid-seventies up to the 1991 release “Gli altri siamo noi”, was a driving artistic force. About this song Bigazzi later said that Tozzi had written neither a single line nor note. They ended up in court, and such is human nature, that this is neither uncommon for long-standing artistic collaborations nor for friendships or marriages.

Anyway. The lyrics to this song are quite challenging in the Italian original, and although there is an English version of the song, it is very much different, thus I’ll try it with Irene’s translation to German, translated to English by me:

I have never been lonelier than this,
but at night I wish it would be Monday soon,
to go out with the others and paint the town.
With the others, trapped in themselves, the others
who open up in the sun like the flowers that dress
when they wake up, when they go out, when they go away,
when they arrive.
We are like those shrouded angels,
the eyes in their faces like mirrors,
because the others are us.

Walls tumble under the breath of an idea,
Allah or Jesus, in a church or a mosque,
We are the others, but here on this same way,
like cowardly heroes, we leave behind what connects us
to those who wait and ask themselves why they were born
and suddenly die.
Maybe they are swallows, leaves from Africa,
who smile at us in melancholy,
and all of us are victims and hangmen,
sooner or later we are the others.

When they sing, when they cry,
the others are us.
When they’re born, when they die,
the others are us.

In this world we are the others.

We stay in comfortable deserts
of apartments and tranquility,
far away of the others,
but sooner or later we are the others.

In this now so small world
we are the others.

We are the others
between Indios and Hindus,
between youths in drugstores who don’t carry on,
Working class families, forced on vacation by robots,
gypsies from the east in ghettos on the outskirts.
All of us are victims and hangmen,
sooner or later we are the others.

South Africa,
the others are us,
when they shoot,
when they hope,
the others are us.

In this world we are the others.
In this now so small world
we are the others.

Bigazzi, Tozzi or what, I find this quite impressive, don’t you? See the video on YouTube.

533 – On A Clear Day You Can See Forever

I don’t really like polarizers. They change colors, and it is really awkward to restore them after the fact. I wonder how people did this in film days.

Anyway. Today we made a trip down to Slovenia. The idea was to visit a lake that regularly vanishes in summer, but it’s on 800 meters above sea level, and when we were there, we found the landscape covered with snow. We chose plan B and escaped to the sea, entering Italy in Trieste.

It was an uncommonly clear day in Italy, and I can’t remember ever having seen the mountains of South Tyrol from Trieste. Amazing.

These two images were taken just south of Udine using the Nikon 18-200 VR.

The Song of the Day is “On a Clear Day (You Can See Forever)” from the 1970 Barbra Streisand movie. Hear Barbra sing and see her wearing funny clothes on YouTube πŸ™‚