Amboise from above

Looking down upon a quaint French village...

I know that may sound a bit like the start of a fairy tale, but it's not.  Somehow the words "quaint French village" conjure up the idea of a story to me, a little fairy tale of sorts.  Maybe it does for you, too.

I must say that when I first arrived in Amboise, and started driving over the bridge which crossed the River Loire, staring at the Chateau d'Amboise towering over the town from the top of it's hill - it sure seemed like a fairy tale village.  It still feels that way, almost a year later.

I always think of myself as a person who would prefer the city.  Yes, I love remote spots and landscapes as much as anyone, but when I think about loving somewhere...well, I lean towards being a city and enjoying all it has to offer.

But after just a few minutes in Amboise, I was ready to throw all that nonsense out the window and live there, just relaxing at the cafes and breathing in the clean French air all day (yes, there were people smoking but come on, that's ruining my visualization!).

One afternoon we clambered up the long, steep walkway to enter the Chateau d'Amboise and see things from a different perspective.  Being the photo-addicted person that I am, I ran around like a ferret on a double espresso and took loads of shots.  

At some point I realized that if I got up to the edge of the retaining wall, I could see down over the town, so that's what you are seeing in the images today.  These are just views that I saw while leaning over the wall at various points around the perimeter.  Such a view!  Isn't this a storybook village?  Don't you want to go now?  I sure do want to return!

Posted on April 21, 2014 and filed under Amboise, Europe, France, HDR, Travel.

Three pubs in Dublin

Warning!  This post might make you thirsty.

I do love me some Irish pub.  Of course I make the requisite visits inside when I can <ahem>, but most of the time I am shooting these from the exterior.  But that's ok, as I find there is a lot of character among Irish pubs.  

One of my favorites to shoot is the Oliver St. John Gogarty, which you see below.  It's a short walk from The Temple Bar, which is the most famous (and most photographed, at least by me!) Irish pub in a town that's bursting with them.  I love all those flags, and have shared many a photo of this place here in the past (and likely will do again).

Isn't this a fun looking Irish pub?

This next one is the Bison Bar, which from the outside is pretty easy to miss.  So easy, in fact, that I have missed it many times though it is next door to my normal hotel there.  But on my last visit we ended up there after some shooting (and while waiting for the light to change).  I'm really glad we did!  I thought this interior was really interesting.

I loved this wooden interior, and that light reflecting across the floor.

And lastly this is The Dame Tavern, which I have never been in (but there's always hope!).  We were wandering around doing the photography thing and when I saw this scene with all the kegs stacked outside, I just really liked here it is.

See?  There's another pub just over there!  LOL

Dublin is really a wonderful town which I immensely enjoy wandering in.  I find there is a lot to aim the camera at, and there's always a pub to rehydrate and rest in.  Good times!

Posted on April 17, 2014 and filed under Dublin, Europe, HDR, Ireland, Travel.

Sunset in Bayeux

Bayeux, France is a nice little town in Normandy - a great base for all the area has to offer!

We came across Bayeux, France by accident when planning our trip over there.  This was last summer (I have mentioned that I am a bit behind, haven't I?) and we were taking a family trip through London (quickly) and then on to France.  There's so much to see in any country really, and France is no different.  When you are planning a trip, it's easy to think "we are going to see EVERYTHING", but reality is often quite different.

Anyways, one thing for sure on our agenda was a weekend in the Normandy area.  Call us tourists if you want to, but we really wanted to see the American Cemetery there (and we did).  But all the guide books offered so many choices in terms of what town to stay in that we ended up just picking Bayeux based on proximity and size.  It looked like it was pretty close, and it was a decent-sized town.  I knew I would be driving, and we wanted to be reasonably close.  Turns out it was a great choice.

One of the quaint little streets by our hotel in Bayeux.  We ate at one of those places.

We arrived on a Friday evening, later than expected.  We had started that morning in London.  We hopped on the Eurostar from St. Pancras International Station, which took us in about 2 hours straight to Paris, after passing through the Chunnel (which is fun).  In Paris we had to take a taxi to a different train station and then get in line and buy tickets for the smaller train that would take us to Caen.  In Caen, we had a rental car waiting.  Well, waiting is not totally accurate.  We ended up having to wait for a couple of hours to get the car, hence the later arrival in Bayeux.

Sometimes the light gets all awesome, and you can't find a good spot.  It happens.

I was tired but undaunted, and after getting settled in and having a meal, I wandered the streets for a few while the rest of the family wisely chose to take it easy.  It's tiring to spend 12 hours traveling by way of two taxis, two trains, and a rental car, but the show must go on.  Or more specifically, there were photos to be taken, so I went to take them.

As you can see, the sunset ended up being pretty stellar, but being unfamiliar with the town I was stuck wandering the streets without a high vantage point to shoot from. Oh well, at least I got some shots, and at least I was in France doing it! 

Posted on April 15, 2014 and filed under Bayeux, Europe, France, HDR, Sunset, Travel.

20 Minutes in the Ferry Building

When in San Francisco, be sure and see the Ferry Building!

The Ferry Building is one of my favorite spots in San Francisco, a town which is full of awesome spots.  But I do just love this thing.  It's a beautiful building, and being a fan of architecture, I just love all the lines.  It's a great subject for us photo-addicted types.

The funny thing is that even though I shoot there on many of my San Francisco trips, I never really tire of it.  It's just one of those places that has captured me in some way.  It's sort of like The Temple Bar in Dublin, Ireland.  I could shoot it every day and never really get bored.

So on my most recent trip to San Francisco, which was a couple of weeks ago, I got out to shoot at about 6pm one day.  The trouble was that it was raining, and raining hard.  So I figured if I could brave the 10 minute walk from my hotel, I would be fine, since I was going to be inside the thing.

So I walked down Market Street and made my way inside.  By the way, the choice of 6pm was on purpose.  I tend to try and shoot places like this when there are likely to be fewer tourists around.  I have shot the Ferry Building at 7am before and found it mostly empty, and I was satisfied with the thin crowds at 6pm on this day as well.

However, I was not satisfied with the Security Guards.  Like I said, I have shot here several times over the years, and never been hassled at all.  That is, on the ground floor I have never been hassled.  I have also ventured upstairs before and was immediately told by Security that I could only shoot handheld there.

But down on the ground floor, I have never once had an issue, until this visit.  Literally as soon as I set up the tripod and started framing my first shot, I was approached by 2 security guards, coming at me from both directions.  I knew how this was going to end.

They informed me that it was "dangerous" to have a tripod there, but it was ok to shoot without one.  I asked if they were concerned about someone tripping over the tripod leg, and they said yes.  I made a show of looking around for people, but only saw them, me, and a couple of folks further away.  Seemed pretty low risk.

I played nice though, and told them I was from out of town, and would really enjoy shooting this place because it is so beautiful.  I guess my charms worked, because they actually said I could take a few photos, as long as I was quick and was careful with the tripod.

So of course I fired that first one, moved on, fired again, moved on and fired again...until I got towards the other end of the grand hallway.  At that point, they both circled back towards me and I knew it was time to leave.  I told them I was packing up (while my last shot fired, LOL) and heading out.

Luckily, it only took that 20 or so minutes to get all the shots I wanted, and when I walked outside the rain had stopped.  I spent the next two hours walking down the Embarcadero, all the way to Ghirardelli, firing away happily the whole time.  And, I got lucky with some great skies and an amazing sunset and blue hour.  I'll share those when they are ready!

Thank you for stopping by today!

Go wide or go home

some thoughts on my addiction to shooting with a wide angle lens

As you have heard me state here before, I just absolutely LOVE my 14-24mm wide-angle lens.  It’s incredible.  It’s a superbly-crafted machine and it performs extraordinarily well.   I wrote a review of the lens which I published here on the blog.  Bottom line: I love it.

(but all photos in this article were shot with my iPhone, just to confuse you – kidding!  these are all shot with the wide angle - just trying to make sure you are paying attention here)

Looking down two streets at once in Dublin - I love doing that!

A little history

I started with a crop-sensor Nikon DSLR and it was a good camera.  I only had a single lens on that old camera – a pretty standard 18-200mm zoom.  It was a good, straightforward kit and served me well in the beginning.  It was a great way for me to start.  But after about a year I knew I needed to “move up”, so to speak.  I basically outgrew it, and it was lacking some key features that I really wanted.

Before I purchased this lens and the full-frame camera that it attaches to, I read lots of reviews of it, and in addition to praising the quality of it, they all also said something along these lines: you will be amazed at just how much you can get in the frame.

A recent sunset in Copenhagen - see how much you can get in the frame?

I took that with a grain of salt, so to speak, because I had not experienced it myself.  But let me tell you – they were all right!

When I first got it and started looking through it, it really was unbelievable.  It really changed the way I look at things and completely altered my perspective, and more specifically it changed my photography and sent me on a different path as a photographer.  I’m still thankful for that.

Getting addicted and dependent (which isn’t as bad as it sounds)

I have become so dependent on this lens that I rarely take it off (well, except to pack it up in my bag when I am done shooting).  It’s my “go-to” lens for my everyday shooting.  Yes, that probably defies any sort of logic and may be completely irrational, but I don’t care.  Love isn’t logical, is it?  ;-)

A back alley in Bratislava - perfect for wide angle work!

There are many trips that I go on and while I also bring along my 28-300mm zoom, it often just stays in my bag.   Don’t get me wrong – that’s a great lens as well (and you can read my review of it here) – but that just underlines the extent of my addiction to wide-angle shooting.  It would make complete sense to travel with only a zoom (instead of a wide angle), and since it ranges from 28mm all the way out to 300mm it gives you a lot of flexibility for all the possible situations you may encounter.

But nope…often my 28-300mm just sits idly in my bag, while my wide angle is out there firing brackets and absorbing everything in front of me.

And for me, I think that’s what this comes down to – firing brackets and getting a huge field of view.

My style preferences

My preference, as far as photography goes, is shooting HDR.  My usual subjects are the things I encounter (or more specifically, seek out) on my travels to various cities: cityscapes, skylines, interesting buildings, churches and all sorts of architecture, train stations, museums, street scenes (especially corners where you can get both streets in view), bridges, and any sort of “grand interior” space such as hotel lobbies.  Sometimes I get landscapes too – which I also love – but that is less frequent since I am normally in cities, with limited time to go further afield.

Leadenhall Market in London - perfect for wide-angle HDR work.

I believe that those subjects just look better in HDR, often due to the difficult light situations you encounter when shooting them. But also, these subjects are just ripe for a wide-angle view.  After all, part of the point of shooting them is to illustrate for the viewer how impressive they are…and a wide-angle view helps to communicate the feeling of awe that I experience when standing there.

So I think that is what this comes down to.  I am trying to share the sense of wonder and amazement at what I find before me, and grabbing up as much of that as possible via a wide angle lens is the best way to do that.

Am I missing out?

Now I often find myself overlooking “the little things” in my travels, partly because I love the wide angle shots so much, and partly out of laziness of changing the lenses.  That sounds terrible, but it’s true.  I am often just too lazy to make the switch.  Instead I start trying to see how to make a wide-angle shot out of it.  I’ll call that “being creative”.

St. Pancras Station in London - train stations are perfect spots for wide-angle shooting.

I used to shoot a lot of the little things, like interesting signs on the side of buildings, or unique architectural elements that are part of a larger scene.  But these days I tend to just register them mentally, and move on in search of “a bigger scene”.  Such is the nature of an addiction.

I sometimes wonder if I am missing out by not documenting these little things that I find.  After all, I feel like that is what I am doing with my photography primarily – documenting a place and the things I find there, and then sharing it with the world.

I hope I’m not missing out.  I just don’t have the interest in the little things that I once did, which is either a change in my preferences or denial on my part.  Time will tell which one.

Can mirrorless do the trick?

Interestingly, I have also been giving some thought to using a mirrorless camera, and have tested some out at the local camera store here in Austin.  The one thing that I get tired of with my current setup is the weight.  That chunky Nikon DSLR with the wide angle lens attached weighs a LOT!  The lens itself is something like 3 pounds.  That may not sound like a lot, but trying lugging it through multiple airports and various cities around the world.  It starts to wear on you.

So far, I love the idea of mirrorless (Small! Lightweight! Advanced technology!) and in particular I am really interested in the Olympus OMD ME-1.  While it is a crop sensor camera (I’m not married to the idea of full frame), it offers nearly everything I would want in a camera.  Since I travel a lot, having something small, light and compact would be a bit of a dream come true.  If I could shed several pounds of travel weight I would be feeling pretty good.

My only fear?  That the wide angle shooting won’t be wide enough.  And if you can’t tell from everything I have written so far, that would be a deal-breaker for me.  If I can’t go wide, I don’t want it.  I will just keep lugging my Nikon around if I have to.  It’s a form of exercise, right?  ;-) 

Sunrise at Trinity College in Dublin.

So my next step is to take my current camera up to the local store and do a side-by-side comparison with the Olympus mirrorless camera.  That’s the only way I will know if it will give me what I want.  I’ll be sure and share my thoughts if I end up getting one.

Change and growth

In many ways, photography is a journey of discovery.  I roam far and wide with the camera and discover new and beautiful places, and share them here on the blog.  But an equally important journey is going on inside of me - a journey of self-discovery.  

I’m learning more about what I love to do, and how to get it done.  I’m growing and refining my tastes.  I’m developing my vision, and developing my skills as well.  I’m finding the true me, and I’m enjoying the process immensely, even if it’s fraught with addiction.  ;-)

Thanks for listening.

Posted on April 10, 2014 and filed under Europe, HDR, Musings, Travel.