Tag Archives: Toscana

2536 – With My Eyes Wide Open I’m Dreaming

Right now I’m sitting on the train back to Vienna, preparing another bunch of blog posts to be published during the next week, and while I think about this particular image, I contemplate my way of seeing and of taking photographs.

Well, you know, I don’t do this to make a living. I may consider much of what I do as art, but it is not recognized in the Art world. Nobody knows me but a few friends who visit my blog more or less regularly.

And that’s OK.

I do this for me. Seeing, dreaming, creating, that has always been a part of me. For a long time I didn’t understand what this means, and often I found myself in turmoil, being torn between my two vocations, engineering and art. Not so any more. Now I know that this process of letting go of my daily troubles, of immersing myself in pure images, of dreaming myself into a completely different world, that this process is what keeps my mind sane. Well, at least I hope so πŸ˜€

Today’s image, taken in San Miniato, was pretty daunting. I was fascinated by the dreamy pattern of dappled light, but somehow it didn’t come across. In such a case there is normally the point when I try a conversion to black and white. Usually I do it manually, but this time the Lightroom preset “Infrared” did exactly what I was after.

The Song of the Day is “With My Eyes Wide Open I’m Dreaming” from Natalie Cole’s 1999 album “Snowfall On The Sahara”. Hear it on YouTube.

2535 – Have A Talk With God

This is a confessional in the cathedral of San Miniato, a town in the hills west of Vinci. It struck me as a place of power and dominance. Certainly there is nothing humble to it πŸ™‚

The cathedral of San Miniato and the medieval tower erected for Emperor Frederic II in the 13th century were both blown up by retreating Nazi forces in 1944, a hideous war crime, especially because the cathedral was full of people seeking refuge. Interestingly enough neither the German nor the English Wikipedia pages mention the event, usually referred to as “La strage del Duomo di San Miniato“.

The tower of Frederic was reconstructed in 1958, and from there I have taken the image to the right.

The image on the left side was taken from the platform at the foot of the tower.

The final image is of a small and lovely elegant church in baroque style, the Chiesa del Santissimo Crocifisso. There was a wedding in progress and we only saw it from the outside. Maybe next time. I’m sure I won’t take another 23 years until Mario and I meet again πŸ™‚

The Somg of the Day is “Have A Talk With God” from Stevie Wonder’s 1976 album “Songs In The Key Of Life”, maybe his best album ever. Hear it on YouTube.

2534 – Over The Hills And Far Away II

This is where Mario lives. Well, not exactly among the olive trees, but the terraced hills around his house are one big garden made up of olive trees. It’s a pretty delightful and peaceful place. I guess we can easily agree on that πŸ˜€

By the way, the Image of the Day makes for a pretty nice desktop wallpaper. I currently have it on two of my computers, and I can confirm that it works wonders on my mood πŸ™‚

As always you can download the full size from Flickr.

The Song of the Day is “Over The Hills And Far Away” from the 1973 Led Zeppelin album “Houses Of The Holy”. Hear it on YouTube.

2533 – Joe’s Garage

Well, Mario’s actually πŸ™‚

When we arrived at his home around noon the next day, first thing we did was sit down and ask ourselves why we’ve never met the past 23 years. I had brought along some prints as a present, thus photography and my blog were a topic, and while we talked, I always saw the pattern of light and shadows on the old corrugated metal door. After a while I couldn’t resist any more and took this image.

The Song of the Day is “Joe’s Garage“, the title song of one of Frank Zappa’s best albums. Hear it on YouTube.

2532 – Peace Behind The Bridge

I said Mario lives in Vinci, and although that’s technically correct in terms of postal addresses, he really lives in the hills above Vinci, and in order to reach him, you have to drive a steep, narrow, winding country road, but first you have to cross this bridge.

Tuscany is famous for its ancient bridges, and although this is not one of them, for a photographer like me it’s still a nice sight as far as bridges go.

The Song of the Day is “Peace Behind The Bridge” from the 2010 Carolina Chocolate Drops album “Genuine Negro Jig”. See a live performance on YouTube.

2531 – Hiding In Shadows III

Last weekend we made a short trip to Italy to visit my old friend Mario and his wife Claudia. They live in Vinci in beautiful Tuscany, slightly west of Firenze, aka Florence. Yes, Leonardo has been born in Vinci, a long, long time ago.

We had a hotel in Carmignano, on the other side of the hills, towards Prato and then Firenze. Originally we had intended to arrive early and to visit Prato, but for various reasons this did not happen. It was already late afternoon and therefore we decided to just stroll around Carmignano, enjoy the great local wine, take a few pictures and generally relax.

In color the Image of the Day didn’t work well. The gray stone, the blue shadows and the yellowish-green tufts of grass somehow fell apart, maybe because the distribution of colors was not in harmony with the composition. Going to black and white solved the problem.

The Song of the Day is “Hiding In Shadows” by Peter Green and the Splinter Group on their 1999 album “Destiny Road”. The last time I’ve used it in “2368 – Hiding In Shadows II“. Hear it on YouTube.

1429 – Simple Things II

Let’s say it was a typical Sunday. I was lazy and didn’t even go out to take pictures. Here is another one from Italy, again from Colonnata, the small village in the mountains of Carrara, where we ate that wonderfully tender white bacon called Lardo di Colonnata.

The Song of the Day is “Simple Things” by Paolo Nutini. In “1068 – Simple Things” I already used that title, but then the Song was by The Crash. Here’s Paolo Nutini on YouTube. Despite his Italian name he is a Scotsman, and despite his young age of 20 at the time when the album was released, he is an excellent singer, backed by excellent musicians. Amazing!

1373 – Hanging Around II

Having totally given up makes things so much easier πŸ™‚

This is another image from Italy. It’s not Liguria but neighboring Toscana. It’s been taken in the small village of Colonnata, situated in the mountains above Carrara. See “1350 – The Marvel Of Marble” for some more images. I really like that image and I guess it will end up in the book.

As to having given up, well, this does not make me stop processing images from Italy. Not at all. I still work on them, every day I add some, some will go into the book, some will not, and what really happens is, that it occupies me, keeps me from photographing. I can’t help it, the way I currently work, I am much faster at photographing than I can ever process the images. Thus, at the moment I have also given up upon my goal of publishing photos taken at the same day. This is not permanent, I’ll return to the previous rΓ©gime, but unfortunately my day has only 24 hours, some of them I like to sleep and some I have to work. Hope you understand πŸ™‚

This is the post for Sunday, and I had another reason for not taking any pictures: Sunday we had rain. Oh dear, how I enjoyed the drop in temperatures by almost 20 degrees Celsius! Today, Monday, it was still relatively cool, but by Thursday we’re supposed to be back at up to 36 degrees Celsius again.

The Song of the Day is the Stranglers classic “Hanging Around“, interpreted by Hazel O’Connor on her 1980 album “Cover Plus”. Hear it on YouTube.

1350 – The Marvel Of Marble

Thursday we began with a museum in La Spezia‘s Castello San Giorgio. They have one of the two biggest collections of pre-historic “statue stele” in Liguria, most of them having been found in the region of Luni. Photographing the collection was forbidden, of course I did, but please understand that I don’t want to post the images here.

La Spezia is an ugly city with a population of roughly 100,000. There is much heavy industry, an enormous caloric power plant, a military harbor and lots of military everywhere. I suppose the city has been bombed heavily during World War II, at least that’s the impression.

After a short odyssey up the hill to the castle/museum (did it ever occur to you that your blind spot for direction signs only goes away after you have found your target?) and the actual visit, we quickly left for San Terenzo south along the coast (that’s where I took the images of the arrows), and then via Lerici and Marina di Carrara to our main destination: Carrara, home of marble, from ancient times to distant future.

Along the way I spotted the thing on the picture to the left. I have no idea what it is. Remotely it reminds me of Orthanc, though I admit, it is not of black stone but of rusty iron.

Whatever. Carrara was our destination, a small town at the foot of a mountain consisting wholly of marble, and not just any marble, no, the purest and most beautiful marble in the world, quasi the all-time reference of what marble is supposed to be.

The quarries in the mountains above Carrara number by the hundreds, and when you take the winding road, that is used today for transporting the blocks by truck (as opposed to using sledges and ox-carts from Roman times until only 150 years ago), you get the sincere impression, that they are systematically taking apart the whole mountain.

And still, considering the thousands of years, even taking into account the acceleration of the past century, there is so much left, it’s hard to imagine an end to this treasure.

Pretty much at the highest point of the road, at least the highest point that is accessible to the general public, there is a marble museum, a shop and an underground mine that you can visit. We didn’t, we even skipped the museum, but we bought a mortar and pestle πŸ™‚

The interesting thing in Carrara is, that every quarry looks exactly as if the mountain consisted of nothing but marble. It even may, but then the sheer number of quarries is puzzling. It looks like a whole army of ants trying to eat a mountain, from all sides, chaotic, seemingly without system or order. It’s fascinating.

And in the middle of all that, a village. Colonnata, home to the cavatori, citadell of anarchism, home of the famous Lardo di Colonnata, a white bacon, cured with rosemary in troughs of pure marble.

It’s delicious. Not as salty as bacon is here in Austria, and it is served warm on toasted bread. While we ate, I took the image of the stairs, of course constructed from marble as well.

In fact, the whole village is made of marble. There is a big monument dedicated to “Al Cavatore”, and behind it a small church, all made of marble, and there are these two (and maybe more) inscriptions:

Well, here in the mountains, in this village, then so far off of any city, they found a retreat.

Unlike communism, anarchism never could muster broad support. It’s in its principle, I guess. Not enough organization, too much individualism. Well, having just finished Heinlein’s “The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress”, those marble plates, commemorating the “anarchist companions, fallen on the road to freedom”, somehow touched me deeply.

The image of the truck and the building was made up at the highest point of the street, where the marble museum and the shop are.

The image to the left is an HDR, made from five bracketed exposures. The sun was already low when we stopped at the cemetery, and without HDR, the valley would have been in deep shadows.

Speaking of the cemetery, this is extremely impressive as well. It was the wrong time of the day, I suppose I should be there in the morning, no later than noon, depending on the time of the year. I did not go in, it would have taken me at least an hour, it was already late, light was bad and we had a long way back to Sestri Levante.

I just made a series of images from the other side of the valley, six exposures taken with the Nikon 70-300 VR, and then stitched in Photoshop to this panorama. The “thumbnail” links to an image of 4181 x 768 pixels, the original is 14069 x 2584 pixels. Hmm … I really should try to print it πŸ™‚

The Song of the Day is a cheap pun: Gershwin’s “Too Marvelous for Words“, interpreted by Frank Sinatra. I have it on “Concepts”, this collection of songs that I bought for, I don’t know what, five Euros? May have been a mistake on Amazon’s side, because some days later it was back to $180 πŸ™‚

YouTube has the song in a version seemingly taken from a TV show.

Hmm … did I promise a shorter post in the last post? Guess I did. Maybe next time πŸ˜€

1348 – Try (Just A Little Bit Harder)

This year I had no idea whatsoever, what I would do for SoFoBoMo 2010. Well, my friend Ted Byrne helped me out with the plan, and I have to say, it helps to know what you’re looking for.

This entry is three days late, sorry, it took me some time to figure out what I want to post, I rejected my initial choice and simply had to try a little bit harder.

In general I am quite successful in finding those layers of new above old, this mixture, that is so very common in Italy, even when Tuesday was not the most successful day.

We decided to visit Pontremoli, a town in the mountains, just over the border in Toscana, a town once famous for its book sellers, a town with an annual book festival.

Let’s say we expected at least something book-related, I don’t know, a library, a monument in form of a book, at least a big book store …

What we found was nothing. The town could probably be a tourist attraction, it has an interesting medieval core, interesting history (imagine a town where people had to build a wall across the center to keep the parties from murdering each other), but it would need a lot of money to make all that more accessible.

As it is, you have narrow medieval alleys where you hardly see anybody, closed doors, no shops, no restaurants, apart from those on the main Piazza. It didn’t help at all, that it began to rain after we had our coffee.

It was still an interesting day though. The image of the day is from Pontremoli, the last is from back in Sestri Levante, and the other two from our way to Pontremoli.

The Song of the Day is “Try (Just A Little Bit Harder)” from Janis Joplin’s album “Pearl” (or any other collection of her songs). YouTube is supposed to have it, though I can’t check it here from the hotel.