Posts Tagged ‘Photography’


November 27, 2011 3 comments

Prompt #26: PHOTO my fourteenth entry in the 30 Days of Indie Travel Series

Post a photo of your favorite place and tell us what you love about it.

This should be a very easy post, but for some reason I am really struggling with it.  I am not sure if I have a favorite place.  There have been so many places i have loved.  South Africa was one of my favorite trips, filled with great sights, tastes and experiences.  I love Tibet and will always have a special place for Beijing, even with the difficulties that it can throw at you from time to time.  The United States and Michigan will always be close to my heart.  I love the mountains, and cities.  I love to experience new places.  In short, I don’t think I will ever have just one favorite place.  Instead, enjoy these five photos, some of my favorites and a representation of my favorite places.

This is also a good time to announce that I am launching a new photography only website soon that will feature a photo each day.  Look here for more details once I have them.


Wildlife part 2

This is the first gallery of the photos I took on Safari in Mala Mala.  Time and again on safari I was shocked to find myself as close as I was to these majestic animals.  To see them in their natural habitat far exceeded the experience of any zoo I have been at.

HDR vs. “Natural” Photography

This summer I began to start using a photograph editing technique that has been growing in popularity over the last few years, HDR or High Dynamic Range.  This technique uses multiple exposures with different amounts of light to create a single photograph that allows for a more intense range of colors, ensuring that there are no areas that are too dark or blown out.  I really, really like the results that occur, but at the same time I wonder if this is being true to photography.  I do not need to spend as long making sure I have the lighting right, instead I can just focus on composition.  I know that any errors in exposure will be neutralized or at least minimized during the HDR process.

My goal is ultimately to have photos that look more vibrant without looking too fake.  The software that I use, photomatix is amazing and does a great job bringing out the color and details of these photos.  While home for my sister’s wedding I finally got a quality tripod.  Combining this with my Nikon D90 makes it easy to shoot a series of four or five photographs in quick succession, after this the software does the rest.  I love the effect and ultimately I think this is what matters, but I struggle with comparing this to using photoshop.  Is it the same or is it closer to using darkroom techniques to develop film photographs in a way that the artist wants.

Trey Ratcliff at is one of the most famous HDR photographers.  His works are amazing and HDR photography has become a full time business for him.  I have a long way to go to match his consistent quality, but his tutorials have gotten me started.
So, what do you think…do these photos look fake or overly edited?

Does using software like this make for less authentic photos or is it a tool to recreate what you saw when there?

The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao

When I was planning our trip to Spain, I knew that the two main focal points would be food and architecture. The food was delicious in every city we visited and the architecture was as unique and impressive as I had hoped it would be. Gaudi was a definite highlight as was the Frank Gehry designed Marques de Riscal hotel. These buildings were complemented by numerous other sights throughout Spain including the Royal Palace in Madrid, the apartments lining the San Fermin route in Pamplona, numerous alleys and streets throughout Barcelona and the mix of religious buildings in Toledo.

I checked off the building I was most looking forward to seeing on the first day in Spain, the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. This magnificent museum, designed by Frank Gehry opened in 1997. The opening put Bilbao on the map and made it a destination for art and architecture fans across the world. Bilbao’s success has led many cities to try the same approach, hoping that a building designed by a big name architect will help make their city a destination for tourists, helping to bring tourism money to their city. This strategy clearly paid off for Bilbao in our case. The museum was the only reason we visited Bilbao, though the close proximity to Pamplona helped as well.

The morning after we arrived we made the walk down to the river to see the museum. Like the Marques de Riscal hotel, the building features titanium panels that wrap around the building. The curves were designed to look random, making for impressive sweeping curves that line the river. We never did make it inside, instead choosing to take an early bus to Pamplona to start that adventure.

The building alone was worth the visit and lived up to the hype. The sculpture that complemented the architecture made for a great visit and a good start to a trip filled with memorable architecture.


I have already written how Barcelona exceeded my expectations.  While planning our trip, one of the things that I was looking forward to seeing the most in Barcelona was the architecture of Gaudi.  I am a huge fan of interesting and historically important architecture.  I still lament the fact that I did not spend the time in middle and high school studying math since I would have loved to be an architect.  Not that I regret the path my life has taken, but whenever I have played the hypothetical “what would be your dream job” game, my answer is almost always architect.

While looking at one of the numerous Gaudi designed buildings scattered around Barcelona, I overheard a tour guide claiming that Barcelona has more UNESCO World Heritage Sites than any other city in the world.  All of Gaudi’s buildings are on the World Heritage list. We spent a day in Barcelona seeing as many of these as we could.  This made for a lot of walking, more than I think we realized when we set off.  Upon discovering how convenient the subway was the following day we were a bit disappointed that we spent as much time walking as we did, it would have been better spent seeing a few more places instead of spending the time getting from one place to the next.
Gaudi’s master work is arguably the Sagrada Familia.  Construction started in 1882 and is still not completed.  Even though his plans for the cathedral were partially destroyed during the Spanish Civil War, his vision is still evident throughout the building.  Anyone that has spent much (or any) time in Europe has probably visited a number of cathedrals.  Most are impressive, though in my travels few stand out above the rest.  The Sagrada Familia is one that does.  This unique, imposing structure really demonstrates what can happen when an architect thinks outside of the box.  The structure is unmistakably a cathedral, but inside there is so much to see, so many unique details that are not found in other cathedrals.  I was even willing to challenge my fear of heights with an elevator ride up one of the spires to see some of the internal structure as well as a view out over Barcelona.  This is a must visit site in Barcelona and well worth the time to explore every corner of the building.
Before visiting the Sagrada Familia we walked by Casa Mila and Casa Batllo, two private residences that Gaudi designed.  Due to the high cost of entering we decided to just see the outside instead of taking the tours.  This still offered plenty to see.  Gaudi was not shy about using mosaics and unusual shapes to decorate the facades of his buildings.  His works represent some of the most prominent examples of Modernism or Art Nouveau architecture.  
Following the cathedral we started to walk uphill, making our way to Park Guell, an unfinished masterpiece.  This park is set high above the city and features a curving mosaic bench that has become one of the most famous places in Barcelona.  The beautiful day brought huge crowds to the park but we were still able to find some space to enjoy the park.  Park Guell offers a different side to Gaudi’s work, though walking through the park there is no question that Gaudi designed it.The following day I decided that I still had not had my fill of Gaudi and convinced Teph to return to Casa Mila.  This time we took the subway since our feet were still sore from the day before.  After ascending the stairs we were greeted by almost human shaped smokestacks, stairway exits covered in mosaic and a view over Passage Gracia, one of the main shopping areas in Barcelona.  Inside the apartment we were able to take a restored look at what the apartments looked like in the early 20th century.

The architecture in Barcelona is fantastic, and I would argue that Gaudi is the cities biggest star.  His building showcase how interesting building can be when a creative genius is allowed to design something different from the norm.

Barcelona…city of exceeded expectations

There is something about traveling to a place that meets or exceeds expectations.  This often occurs when you visit someplace new, someplace that perhaps you have not heard much about or researched.  It is a rare occurrence when a place that you have really wanted to visit, spent hours researching and dreaming about blows your expectations out of the water.  This happened in Barcelona.


Barcelona has been at the top of my “to visit” list since 1992.  This was long before I had ever left the U.S., long before I was able to travel as much as I do now.  I have, pretty much as long as I have remembered, wanted to visit Barcelona.  Barcelona hosted the Olympics in 1992.  These games were when I fell in love with the Olympic movement and with it the city of Barcelona.  The pictures from the streets of Barcelona, combined with the compelling stories from those Olympics made me a fan of the Olympics for life and ensured that I would eventually get to Barcelona during my world travels.  This opportunity came this summer.


Everything about the city met or exceeded my expectations.  The weather was fantastic (especially after the heat of Madrid), the food was amazing, less expensive and more delicious than elsewhere in Spain, the sangria was refreshing, the shopping was extensive, though expensive, museums were interesting and the architecture stunning.  All in all it was everything that I want in a city.

Throughout our time there my favorite activity was simply to wander the streets, stumbling upon hidden alleys in the Gothic Quarter, delicious restaurants throughout the city and even an occasional historical site.  We took a self guided tour of sites from Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s Shadow of the Wind, to give us a bit more perspective on one of our favorite books.  We stopped many times a day for a beer, sangria, wine, tapas and other delicious food, walking more than enough in between to work up an appetite.  We even made it to the places I first fell in love with back in 1992, the venues from the Olympics.


Barcelona was a great place to end our time in Spain, a city that not only lived up to high expectations, but exceeded them.


Two weeks in Spain is simultaneously a lot of time to explore a great country and not nearly enough.  While planning, we knew that we wanted to fit in a lot; see the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, run with the bulls in Pamplona, spend a lot of time in Barcelona, visit Rioja, one of the predominant wine regions in Spain and of course visit Madrid.  But why Madrid?

Ok, I know that it is the capital of Spain, has some world famous museums and is known for fantastic food, but throughout the planning of the trip I kept my attention more on the other parts of Spain.  The day we arrived in Madrid I was a bit out of sorts because I had no expectations, good or bad for Madrid.  I had no plans of what I wanted to see, which is highly unusual for me.  One of my favorite things about travel is the planning, the expectation that goes along with a visit to someplace different from home.  In fact, expect to hear more about the planning process sometime in the near future about my next adventure.

Back to Madrid.  We hit the main sights, the large Prado, filled with art that is skillful, but not really my artistic preference, had numerous good (though more expensive than I expected) meals, had a day trip to Toledo, saw the opulent Royal Palace, and even caught El Rastro, the Sunday flea market that takes over a whole section of the city.  Each of these things were fantastic, so why didn’t Madrid win me over?  The argument can be made that I didn’t want to be won over, but I don’t think this is really the case.  I tried to love it.  Really.  I think what got in the way was my fond memories of what we had already experienced on the trip and the anticipation and expectation of what was still to come.

So…Am I crazy?  Do you love Madrid?  What are the charms that I missed out on?

Do you also forget to fully experience the here and now on vacation? Either by looking forward or comparing it to something that has come before.

It was still a beautiful place, perhaps I will need to revisit to give it another shot.

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