Jun 212014
 

Every now and then a sports photographer will notice that a lot of the game hinges on one player.

sr-140621-a-003-w

Let’s set the stage:  June 21, 2014.  The Washington Spirit Reserves (in red) are playing the New York Magic (in white) for the second time this season.  The last time these teams met, Washington trounced the Magic 7:0.   Today’s score:  0:0

sr-140621-a-004-w

Washington is now leading the United Soccer Leagues (USL) W-League Northeastern Conference — after nine games they have won seven and tied two (both tie games were 0:0) having a record of 22 goals for and 2 goals against.

sr-140621-b-041-w

I shoot for the Spirit Reserves so my photography is a bit biased.  And some of you know that I don’t try to shoot the goals, preferring to shoot the match instead (there is a difference).  But looking through the almost-400 images from today’s game I realized that I was seeing a lot of this fluorescent green jersey in the pictures:  Goalkeeper Caitlin Hoffer.

sr-140621-b-053-w

The goalkeeper is supposed to be the loneliest player on the pitch — when things are going well for his/her team.  Not today.  Washington managed to consistently keep the ball on the New York side of the line.  New York was able to get the ball back fairly often, but wasn’t able to complete.  On the other hand, Washington was unable to make a single goal, despite a LOT of shots-on-goal.

sr-140621-b-134-w

I may have shot 1/3 of her saves…or perhaps not even that many.

sr-140621-b-385-w

These shots are in the order they occurred — each shot a single event.

Punch!!!

Punch!!!

It takes a different kind a person to be a goalkeeper.  The stress is high.  A penalty kick is like a gun fight on the streets of Dodge City — the opponents looking each other in the eye and trying anticipate the “move”.  If you fail, blame is quick.  Still…

sr-140621-b-391-w

…It’s a great part of the “Beautiful Game”, and one that’s fun to see close up.

May 032014
 
At the museum, from above…And opinions

I posted this picture (taken from the blog posting that precedes this one) on an online forum — mostly to give the members a look at what a couple of new lenses could to.  More of a semi-technical posting than an art statement.

TN-140406-nasm-xt1-411

Click Image to Enlarge

Of course this invites comments on the aesthetics from both the well-intentioned and the clueless alike…Which is why I rarely post photos on forums.

I got this one: “I like the perspective on the 4th indoor shot, but I would tighten it up quite a lot. I’d crop away everything except mom, baby and the girder. I wouldn’t crop much from the bottom, don’t want to lose any of the stroller’s shadow. The round things at the ends of the girder would go though, as would the shadow coming in from the top.”

A follow-up post from the same person was a backtrack that decided not to backtrack:  “I didn’t say you had to tighten up the shot, I said ‘I would tighten up the shot.’ I just don’t see how the extra elements add anything to the sense of time or place. For me, the photograph is all about the baby and the mother. Everything else is a distraction.”  His would look something like this:

TN-140406-nasm-xt1-411-crop1

Click Image to Enlarge

And from a very superficial point of view he is correct:  It is about the woman and the baby.  But his framing leaves us with little else, and certainly not a hint of context.  To me, it ends up almost as a gimmick shot.

His concerns about not showing a “sense of time or place” should really be about his suggested cropping.  In my wider cropping you get a sense that this is probably a large public space.  His gives you non of that.  The sense of time is not absolute, but subjective or relative.  In the context of that larger public space, the connection between the woman and the child is even more apparent — a personal moment in the larger world.

The girder has an interesting look, but in his cropping it becomes a visual barrier:  There is nothing beyond.  There are some interesting shadows, but nothing that provides any context to the venue.  The girder constrains rather than expands.  Pretty much “Here it is”.  In the tradition of faux photojournalism.

140406-nasm-xt1-411-crop1-mark-w

I like the looser cropping of my original post.  For me, it works for two groups of viewers.

  1. For people familiar with the venue (granted, far less than 1% of the viewers), it illustrates the space.  You know what the shadows represent, at least in a general way.  And you also know how precious these moments are at a busy museum…In a minute or two, thirty people can be standing at this very spot.
  2. For those just looking at the photo afresh, there is a little more mystery.  Leaving the angle on the girder (to the left) gives the viewer a “way out”.  With the area left above the girder, the girder is no longer a visual barrier, but begins to define the “beyond”.  All of the area surrounding the woman and the baby becomes potential subject for speculation.

140406-nasm-xt1-411-mark-w

I often come across situations where I want to acknowledge people in my photos, but don’t want the viewer dwelling on the details.  There is room for debate on whether this is an effective approach, but it does reduce the emphasis on individual people — a sort of ephemeral objectification of the humans.

Lincoln Memorial

Lincoln Memorial

The Louvre

The Louvre

Auschwitz

Auschwitz

But one last note on cropping the original image…Perhaps I could have cropped out a wee bit of the distracting stuff along the right edge…

Click Image to Enlarge

Click Image to Enlarge

Apr 272014
 
Fujifilm X-Series Cameras

Normally I try not to focus too much on the nuts, bolts, and gear head aspects of photography.  But over the past year I’ve been transitioning into the Fujifilm X-series cameras.  The Fuji interchangeable lens bodies are “mirrorless”, which means that the sensor the captures the final image is also drives the electronic viewfinder and/or LCD display.  These bodies were designed from the ground up to use APS-C sensors (23.6 x 15.6 mm for Fuji) .  That’s not unique — Many digital single lens reflex cameras also use the APS-C sensor.  However, since almost all of them come from companies with legacies in 35mm photography (24 x 36mm) they have to accommodate larger lenses and a fairly large mirror box (behind the lens and containing a mirror for the optical viewfinder light path that swings up out of the way every time a picture is snapped).

Being designed from the start for APS-C, using an electronic viewfinder path (no mirror box), and not having to worry about decades of legacy 35mm full frame lenses, Fujifilm was free to start with a fairly clean slate.

Notes: (1)The blog software downsamples the images in a way that reduces the sharpness.  To see the photos more clearly click the image once with your mouse to fit it to the screen and a second time to bring it up to 100%. (2)All images were processed from in-camera JPEG files — which I normally don’t do but wanted to try out for this session.  The final images were “saved for web” to 50% of their original size in Photoshop.

Cameras and Lenses

This photo shows the X-T1 (the latest camera in the line, emulating in appearance a classic SLR and with direct physical control of major functions) with the new 10-24mm f/4 mounted, the X-Pro1 (the flagship model which was a groundbreaking* entry into the mirrorless camera world) with the 35mm f/1.4 lens mounted (one of the original three Fujifilm XF lenses), and the new 56mm f/1.2 lens.  I’ve had the X-Pro1 for a little over a year but the X-T1, 10-24mm, and 56mm are all very recent purchases.  To get a feel for the new equipment I made one of my Sunday morning trips to the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum Udvar-Hazy facility at Dulles airport.  To round out the kit, I also took the 35mm.

Fujifilm X-T1 with 10-24mm f/4; Fujifilm X-Pro1 with 35mm f/1.4; and 56mm f/1.2 lens.

Fujifilm X-T1 with 10-24mm f/4; Fujifilm X-Pro1 with 35mm f/1.4; and 56mm f/1.2 lens.

(* The groundbreaking X-Pro1 feature is the selectable optical/electronic viewfinder in addition to the LCD display.)

To The Museum…10-24mm f/4 Lens…

This was shot for Robert, a moderator on the Fuji-X Forum.  The camera is just a few inches away from the panel so the background just won’t make it into focus (see last photo in this post).  Lighting is difficult since the walkway runs east-west (we’re facing west) so almost as soon as the sun is up, the panels on the left are in shadow:

10-24mm lens @ 10mm; 1/1600 sec. @ f/8; ISO 400

10-24mm lens @ 10mm; 1/1600 sec. @ f/8; ISO 400

View from the observation tower facing north (right side of the tower in the photo above).  Extreme depth of field:

10-24mm @ 10mm | 1/170 sec. @ f/8.0 | ISO 400

10-24mm @ 10mm | 1/170 sec. @ f/8.0 | ISO 400

From the walkway along the east wall of the museum:

10-24mm @ 14.5mm | 1/40 sec. @ f/5.6 | ISO 1600

10-24mm @ 14.5mm | 1/40 sec. @ f/5.6 | ISO 1600

Under the east walkway/ramp…A gallery of engines that were never able to be displayed  before this facility was built:

10-24mm @ 10mm | 1/15 sec. @ f/8.0 | ISO 1600

10-24mm @ 10mm | 1/15 sec. @ f/8.0 | ISO 1600

From a point just to the left of the previous photo, looking across the facility:

10-24mm @ 13.2 mm | 1/10 sec. @ f/8.0 | ISO 1600

10-24mm @ 13.2 mm | 1/10 sec. @ f/8.0 | ISO 1600

From the floor of the museum with the Boeing 307 Stratoliner as centerpiece:

10-24mm @ 10mm | 1/30 sec. @ f/6.4 | ISO 1600

10-24mm @ 10mm | 1/30 sec. @ f/6.4 | ISO 1600

So the trick is to get the entire Concorde into a single frame:

10-24mm @ 10mm | 1/13 sec. @ f/5.6 | ISO 800

10-24mm @ 10mm | 1/13 sec. @ f/5.6 | ISO 800

An array of small satellites in the space hangar:

10-24mm @ 13.8mm | 1/18 sec. @ f/f/4.0 | ISO 1600

10-24mm @ 13.8mm | 1/18 sec. @ f/f/4.0 | ISO 1600

…56mm f/1.2 Lens…

Shallow depth of field for the jet engine in the “under walkway” shot above:

56mm | 1/90 sec. @ f/1.4 | ISO 800

56mm | 1/90 sec. @ f/1.4 | ISO 800

Detail of the Curtiss Helldiver (newly on the floor) using shallow depth of field for “subject isolation” — blurring the background:

56mm | 1/80 sec. @ f/2.0 | ISO 800

56mm | 1/80 sec. @ f/2.0 | ISO 800

The tailhook of the Helldiver.  You can see how narrow the in-focus zone is at this f-stop and distance:

56mm | 1/140 sec. @ f/1.4 | ISO 400

56mm | 1/140 sec. @ f/1.4 | ISO 400

…the Venerable 35mm f/1.4 Lens…

An overhead shot of a P-47:

35mm | 1/105 sec. @ f/2.0 | ISO 1600

35mm | 1/105 sec. @ f/2.0 | ISO 1600

Museum visitors:

 

35mm | 1/160 sec. @ f/2.0 | ISO 1600

35mm | 1/160 sec. @ f/2.0 | ISO 1600

The Helldiver from across the museum (cropped a little):

35mm | 1/105 sec. @ f/2.0 | ISO 800

35mm | 1/105 sec. @ f/2.0 | ISO 800

…And the Nokia Smart Phone…

The setup for the first of the museum photos.  That’s a Benbo Mini-Trekker tripod — perfect for odd shots like this:

Nokia Windows Phone | 1/1050 sec. @ f/2.2 | ISO 100

Nokia Windows Phone | 1/1050 sec. @ f/2.2 | ISO 100

Mar 222014
 

This camera, a Century Graphic, is quite literally “old school” for me — the same model I used when I started learning “serious” photography back at Lindsay (California) High School in early 1966.

Century Graphic Camera

Century Graphic Camera

It takes 120 roll film and depending on the film holder you use, will produce either a 6 x 7 cm (2 1/4″ x 2 3/4″) image (10 per roll) or a 6 x 9 cm (2 1/4″ x 3 1/4″) image (8 per roll).  This particular lens is a Schneider 80 mm f/2.8.  I also have a Schneider 100 mm f/3.5.

Everything about this camera is manual.  Focus is with the rangefinder on the side, through the ground glass on the back, or by estimated distance.  Shutter speed and aperture are set manually.  If you use the ground glass you can frame the shot accurately — otherwise you do the best you can with the viewfinder.  Not very fast — but I did manage to shoot high school football and basketball with one of these.

I’ve seen Century Graphics at used camera shows over the years.  If I picked one up I was always surprised at how much of the “muscle memory” I still had — learned when I was a freshman.  And so a few months ago I saw one for sale online (as it turns out, from a guy who really had a difficult time getting his act together*) and decided to buy it.  This particular camera is a little older than the one I used in school — it has a red bellows and a gray body while my school’s camera had the later black bellows and body.

These days you have to send 120 off to get it processed…And I’m not yet certain how I’ll scan the negatives.

[* Over a period two weeks after I sent him the funds via PayPal, he couldn’t seem to find a box to ship it in, even though the camera had been listed for over a year.  I finally ended up droving down to Raleigh, NC to pick it up and to put this sale out of its misery.]

Nov 102013
 
What you have attached to the front of your camera does alter your point of view

I’m building out my Fujifilm X-Pro1 kit and I was on the fence about the Fujifilm XF 55-200mm F3.5-4.8 R LM OIS.  When shooting for myself or traveling I rarely find a need for a lens longer than 90mm (in 35mm full frame equivalent field of view (FOV)).  The FOV on this lens is 82.5mm to 300mm — that far end not being a place I spend a lot of time.  Also, I’m not a fan of lenses that change aperture while they zoom.  Aperture, in most shooting, is the control that has the most impact on the “look” of the picture and many photographers prefer to have all the exposure controls stay the same over the zoom range, especially if they are using a hand-held light meter or are using flash units.

Space Shuttle

Space Shuttle Enterprise.  (100mm; 1/25 sec @ f/6.4; freestanding)

(Notes:  (1) Click on the images to see them more clearly — it makes a big difference.  The pictures in the blog body were automatically downsampled to lower resolution to fit the column width.  (2) All the larger images you see after the “click” were down-sampled in PhotoShop to 50% of original cropped size in order to save loading time.  (3) All the photos were shot with the Fujifilm X-Pro1 — all at ISO 3200 with the exception of the Boeing 307, which was shot at ISO 6400.)

Engine cowl detail.

Engine cowl detail of Dornier Do 335 A-1 Pfeil.  (172mm; 1/20 sec. @ f/6.4; freestanding)

On the other hand, constant aperture lenses are heavier and more costly.  The engineering is more complex, lens elements are usually larger, and that means that the lens, overall, needs to be beefier.  My Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II lens weighs 1,540 grams (3.40 lb).  The Fujifilm, on the other hand, comes in at only 580 grams (1.28 lb).  The Fuji is physically smaller, so hauling it around isn’t that much of a chore.  Both lens have optical image stabilization.

Self Portrait from Boeing.

Self Portrait from Boeing 307 Stratoliner…I’m the shape reflected in the propeller dome with the light at my feet.  Note the dust and lint.  (141mm; 1/40 sec @ f/8; freestanding)

Pondering the purchase, my research showed the Fuji lens was getting good reviews.  The image stabilization was reported to be very effective and the optics across most of the zoom range performed well.  Optical performance degrades a bit at the long end of the zoom, but that’s not as much of an issue for me.

Corsair.

Vought F4U-1D Corsair.  (149mm; 1/70 sec. @ f/5.6; freestanding)

So I wrote out a check (the advantage of shopping locally — PhotoCraft in Burke, VA) and the next day I visited the National Air and Space Museum Udvar-Hazy facility near Dulles International Airport.  As some of you know, this is my lens and camera test venue.  The displays inside don’t change that much, but the lighting can be a real challenge….Fairly dim inside combined with the mixed-source lighting, so the photographer is presented with ample opportunities to really blow shots.  The longer and slower the lens — the more those opportunities present themselves.  (There are some photos from this session that will never see the light of your monitor.)

Cockpit

Lockheed T-33A Shooting Star cockpit.  (90mm; 1/17 sec @ f/5.0; supported by handrail)

So…Pictures close up.

Cockpit

Globe Swift GC-1A cockpit.  (200mm; 1/30 sec. @ f/6.4; supported by handrail)

View

Ryan PT-22A Recruit.  (156mm; 1/50 sec. @ f/4.5; freestanding)

Rotary Engine

Nieuport 28C-1 rotary engine & cowl.  Note the dust on the propeller.  (67mm; 1/15 sec. @ f/6.4; supported by column)

Tail Gunner position on the B-29 "Enola Gay".

Tail Gunner position on the B-29 “Enola Gay”.  (200mm; 1/40 sec. @ f/4.8; supported by handrail.  This is pretty much the extreme shot:  slow shutter speed, lens fully zoomed and wide open.  But the rivet and hinge detail still holds up well.)

Post Processing (PP):  Raw conversion by PictureCode’s Photo Ninja running inside Adobe Photoshop CS6 — includes Noise Ninja and some adjustment for detail and highlights.  Continued PP in Photoshop including conversion to a PSD file, curves (for a black point and, if available, a white point),  cropping,  color balance, etc.  A final pass with NIK Viveza 2, which gives you a last chance to see how the image looks and adjust lightness, saturation, shadows, etc.  Then saving for Web JPEG in PhotoShop.

Nov 032013
 
A Lens Test at a Familiar Venue

The Fujinon XF 23mm f/1.4 lens was eagerly anticipated by many Fujifilm X-Camera users.  Fuji has paid more attention than is typical in developing a line of prime (non-zoom) lenses for this line of mirrorless cameras.  With a wide aperture of f/1.4 photographers will have more options with regard to depth of field — which is a good thing.  This is a very nice lens.

Walkway leading to the entrance of the National Air and Space Museum Udvar-Hazy Center -- Near Dulles International Airport.

Walkway leading to the entrance of the National Air and Space Museum Udvar-Hazy Center — Near Dulles International Airport.  (1/600 sec. @ f/5.6; ISO 200)

(Notes:  (1) Click on the images to see them more clearly — it makes a big difference.  The pictures in the blog body were automatically downsampled to lower resolution to fit the column width.  (2) All the larger images you see after the “click” were down-sampled in PhotoShop to 50% of original cropped size in order to save loading time.  (3) All the photos were shot with the fujinon 23mm f/1.4 lens on a Fujifilm X-Pro1 at the ISO values given in the picture information.)

NASM Udvar-Hazy observation tower viewed from the museum entrance.

NASM Udvar-Hazy observation tower viewed from the museum entrance.  (1/800 sec. @ f/5.6; ISO 200)

Vought

Vought F4U-1D Corsair near entrance.  (1/20 sec. @ f/5.6; ISO 1600)

P-47D

Republic P-47D Thunderbolt.  (1/25 sec. @ f/5.6; ISO 3200)

Concorde front landing gear detail.

Concorde front landing gear detail.  (1/80 @ f/2.8; ISO 1600)

Floor of the museum near the entrance with Japanese

Floor of the museum near the entrance with Japanese Nakajima J1N1-S Gekko “Irving”.  (1/20 sec. @ f/4.0.  ISO 1600)

Curtis

Curtiss 1A “Gulfhawk”.  Notice the blue ceiling — the result of the differences in lighting, and my selecting a black point and white point (the pin striping) on the plane itself (warm light) which let the background go much cooler.  (1/25 sec. @ f/4.0; ISO 1600)

Walkway as airplanes land at Dulles.

Walkway as airplanes land at Dulles.  (1/300 sec. @ f/8.0; ISO 200)

Post Processing (PP):  Raw conversion by PictureCode’s Photo Ninja running inside Adobe Photoshop CS6 — includes Noise Ninja and some adjustment for detail and highlights.  Continued PP in Photoshop including conversion to a PSD file, curves (for a black point and, if available, a white point),  cropping,  color balance, etc.  A final pass with NIK Viveza 2, which gives you a last chance to see how the image looks and adjust lightness, color, saturation, shadows, etc.  Then saving for Web JPEG in PhotoShop.

Oct 202013
 
Some last comments…
Air Transportation

British Air:  The Dulles to Heathrow leg.  If you ever book a flight on a BA 777-200, DON’T get seat 27A (and probably 27K).  Under the seat in front of you is something I think could be a combination of the cabinet for the in-flight entertainment and the in-armrest tray tables (row 26 is an exit row) that takes up most of the floor space.  I don’t think there was enough room to put package of copier paper under the seat.  I had to put my left foot between the cabin wall and the seat support, and my right kinda at an angle sticking a bit into my neighbors foot area.  Cabin crew was pretty good — reset my entertainment console.

Air France:  Return was London to Paris to Dulles.  That’s what happens when you use award travel.  Air France has a different take on baggage restrictions.  Your checked bag has the normal 23Kg limit.  But they have a weight limit for your two carry-ons — 12 Kg.  I had to repack my checked bag (made it 22.9 Kg), and wore my coat with pockets stuffed.  As soon as I passed through security, I moved the coat and all the stuff in the pockets back into my carry-on duffel.

Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

If you lived in London, you’d be crazy not to have a membership:  http://www.kew.org/

The Palm House at Kew Gardens.  (Click image to enlarge)

The Palm House at Kew Gardens. (Click image to enlarge)

Stonehenge/Salisbury/Avebury Tour
Avebury  (Click image to enlarge)

Avebury (Click image to enlarge)

Well worth it to spend the extra money for the mini-bus tour instead of the large motor coach tour.  David was a personable, knowledgeable guy and the small group means you have a little more flexibility.  His company is Stone Circle Tours:

http://stonecircletours.com/

Booking was through International Friends:

http://www.internationalfriends.co.uk/london-international-friends.html
http://www.internationalfriends.co.uk/stonehenge-salisbury-avebury-the-mysteries-of-ancient-britain.html

Around London

Transportation:  The easiest way to get around London is by the Underground (the Tube).  I recommend getting an “Oyster”, which is a smart card you preload and touch to the yellow circle on the fare gates when you enter or exit a Tube station, or when you get on a bus.  You can buy them at each of Heathrow’s terminals.  The card costs £5 (which can be refunded if you turn the card in when you fly home).  I loaded my card with £25 — and had 70 pence on it after my last Tube trip.

Transport for London:  http://www.tfl.gov.uk/

The London Eye:  http://www.londoneye.com/

The Shard:  http://the-shard.com/

National Gallery:  http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/

Courtauld Gallery:  http://www.courtauld.ac.uk/gallery/

Covent Garden:  http://www.coventgardenlondonuk.com/

London Transport Museum:  http://www.ltmuseum.co.uk/

British Museum:  http://www.britishmuseum.org/

Victoria and Albert Museum:  http://www.vam.ac.uk/

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (Apollo Theatre):  

http://www.apollotheatrelondon.co.uk/the-curious-incident-of-the-dog-in-the-night-time

 

Oct 192013
 
The British Museum, Victoria and Albert, and Mozart’s Requiem at Southbank Centre
The British Museum

The British Museum is the quintessential historical/cultural museum.  It combines an enormous collection of physical objects with unparalleled research facilities.  Some of the collection was gathered up during the height of the British Empire in locales where the indigenous leadership (if any) had little interest in saving historical artifacts — or was unable to stop the collection activities.  Some of those areas, now modern nation states, would now like their stuff back.  There is an overarching question as to whether or not the objects would still exist if they hadn’t been collected and shipped to England.

The British Museum's Great Court.  This was covered over in 2000, and now is the focal point for most of the museum's supporting activities.  The central structure used to be the museum's Reading Room. (Click image to enlarge)

1. The British Museum’s Great Court. This was covered over in 2000, and now is the focal point for most of the museum’s supporting activities. The central structure used to be the museum’s Reading Room.
(Click image to enlarge)

The Rosetta Stone...And a constant stream of viewers. (Click image to enlarge)

2. The Rosetta Stone…And a constant stream of viewers.
(Click image to enlarge)

Grecian Marbles.  (Click image to enlarge)

3. Grecian Marbles. (Click image to enlarge)

4.  Grecian Temple.  (Click image to enlarge)

4. Greek Temple. (Click image to enlarge)

5.  Assyrian lion hunting.  (Click image to enlarge)

5. Assyrian lion hunting — a sport for kings which also symbolized him protecting his people. (Click image to enlarge)

6.  Egyptian sculpture.  (Click image to enlarge)

6. Egyptian sculpture. (Click image to enlarge)

The Victoria and Albert Museum

An eclectic collection of modern and old.  Contemporary fashion and fabrics to ancient marble statues — and reproductions.  A huge collection.

7.  A tiny part of the collection, in just one gallery.  (Click image to enlarge)

7. A tiny part of the collection, in just one gallery. (Click image to enlarge)

Medieval oak sculpture.  (Click image to enlarge)

8.  Medieval oak sculpture. (Click image to enlarge)

Detail of a monument to Sir Moyle Finch and his wife Elizabeth.  He died in 1614 -- she in 1634.  His eyes closed -- hers open.   (Click image to enlarge)

9. Detail of a monument to Sir Moyle Finch and his wife Elizabeth. He died in 1614 — she in 1634. His eyes closed — hers open.
(Click image to enlarge)

10.  Moonrise over the Thames, from the Hungerford Bridge.  The white dome of St Paul's to the left, and the Shard on the far right above Royal Festival Hall. (Click image to enlarge)

10. Moonrise over the Thames, from the Hungerford Bridge. The white dome of St Paul’s to the left, and the Shard on the far right above Royal Festival Hall.
(Click image to enlarge)

Photo Notes:

Because of the way the blog software downsamples the in-column images, you need to click the images to see them more clearly.

  1. Fujifilm X-Pro1 | Zeiss 12mm | ISO 800 | 1/50 | f/5.6
  2. Fujifilm X-Pro1 | Zeiss 12mm | ISO 3200 | 1/20 | f/4
  3. Fujifilm X-Pro1 | Zeiss 12mm | ISO 3200 | 1/60 | f/5.6
  4. Fujifilm X-Pro1 | Fuji 18-55mm @ 18mm | ISO 3200 | 1/35 | f/4.5
  5. Fujifilm X-Pro1 | Fuji 14mm | ISO 1600 | 1/45 | f/4
  6. Fujifilm X-Pro1 | Fuji 18-55mm @ 30.2mm | ISO 3200 | 1/18 | f/6.4
  7. Fujifilm X-Pro1 | Zeiss 12mm | ISO 1600 | 1/60 | f/7.1
  8. Fujifilm X-Pro1 | Fuji 18-55mm @ 55mm | ISO 800 | 1/25 | f/7.1
  9. Fujifilm X-Pro1 | Fuji 18-55mm @ 55mm | ISO 3200 | 1/20 | f/11
  10. Fujifilm X20 | 11.3mm | ISO 1600 | 1/9 | f/2.8
Oct 182013
 
The Courtauld Gallery, Paul McCartney at Covent Garden, the Fourth Plinth, and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Courtauld Gallery

The Courtauld Gallery is a smaller museum with collections of Post-Impressionist, Impressionist, 18th Century, Baroque, Renaissance, and Medieval works.  It is located in Somerset House, where the Royal Academy was once located.

Paintings displayed in smaller rooms in what was once the main exhibition area of the Royal Academy.   (Click image to enlarge)

1. Paintings displayed in smaller rooms in what was once the main exhibition area of the Royal Academy.
(Click image to enlarge)

Joshua Reynold's "Cupid and Psyche" overlooks some of the Courtauld's silver.  (Click image to enlarge)

2. Joshua Reynold’s “Cupid and Psyche” over the mantle and some of the Courtauld’s silver.
(Click image to enlarge)

Coutauld staircase.  (Click image to enlarge)

3. Courtauld staircase. (Click image to enlarge)
Paul McCartney at Covent Garden

…So I was walking towards Covent Garden and noticed several news crews heading that direction.  And then, in front of St. Paul’s, the crowd.  I had no idea what was happening.  It turns out he was promoting his new album.

4. The crowd for a short performance by Paul McCartney — from the back of the black truck on the right.
(Click image to enlarge)

131018-london-xpro1-203-w

5. That tiny little head on the right: Sir Paul.
(Click image to enlarge)

 The Fourth Plinth.

The Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square never got the statue intended for it.  It is now hosts regular temporary installations.

The Fourth Plinth:  This is a BIG blue rooster.  The National Gallery behind, and St. Martin's in the Field to the right (with spire). (Click image to enlarge)

6. The Fourth Plinth: This is a BIG blue rooster. The National Gallery behind, and St. Martin’s in the Fields to the right (with spire).  (Click image to enlarge)

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

A brilliant play at the Apollo Theater in the West End.  See it if you visit London.

Brilliant Play.  (Click image to enlarge)

7. Brilliant Play. (Click image to enlarge)

Photo Notes:

Because of the way the blog software downsamples the in-column images, you need to click the images to see them more clearly.

  1. Fujifilm X-Pro1 | Zeiss 12mm | ISO 3200 | 1/90 | f/4
  2. Fujifilm X-Pro1 | Zeiss 12mm | ISO 1600 | 1/30 | f/5.6
  3. Fujifilm X-Pro1 | Zeiss 12mm | ISO 1600 | 1/20 | f/5.6
  4. Fujifilm X-Pro1 | Zeiss 12mm | ISO 400 | 1/150 | f/6.4
  5. Fujifilm X-Pro1 | Fuji 18-55mm @ 55mm | ISO 400 | 1/40 | f/6.4
  6. Fujifilm X-Pro1 | Fuji 18-55mm @ 19.6mm | ISO 400 | 1/340 | f/7.1
  7. Fujifilm X100S | Fuji 23mm | ISO 3200 | 1/50 | f/5.6
Oct 172013
 
The London Eye and “The Shard”
London Eye

This is a repeat visit to the Eye, but it’s a great view and worth looking for new images to capture.

Through the London Eye logo.  (Click image to enlarge)

1.  Through the London Eye logo. (Click image to enlarge)

Using one of the pods as a set for a standup shoot.  (Click image to enlarge)

2.  Using one of the pods as a set for a standup shoot. (Click image to enlarge)

 

The "studio" pod reaches the peak during a break in the clouds.  (Click image to enlarge)

3.  The “studio” pod reaches the peak during a break in the clouds. (Click image to enlarge)

Looking down as our flight concludes -- County Hall on the right.   (Click image to enlarge)

4.  Looking down as our flight concludes — County Hall on the right.
(Click image to enlarge)

The Shard

The Shard is a multi-use building down the Thames from the London Eye in the London Bridge Quarter.  The tower has 87 stories and is 1,004 feet high — the tallest building in the European Union.  Working down from the observation levels are residence floors, a hotel, restaurants, and office space.  A visit to the observation decks is not inexpensive…But it is totally unique.

The Shard, seen from the Millennium Bridge (which spans the Thames between St. Peter's and the Tate Modern.  (Click image to enlarge)

5.  The Shard, seen from the Millennium Bridge (which spans the Thames between St. Peter’s and the Tate Modern.
(Click image to enlarge)

A view down from the lower observation deck -- looking down river towards the Docklands and Greenwich. (Click image to enlarge)

6.  A view down from the lower observation deck — looking down river towards the Docklands and Greenwich.
(Click image to enlarge)

Visitors on the lower observation level.  (Click image to enlarge)

7.  Visitors in the enclosed gallery, which is the lower observation level. (Click image to enlarge)

 

The upper observation, which is open to the weather.   (Click image to enlarge)

8.  The upper observation deck, open to the weather, is at the 804 foot level.
(Click image to enlarge)

Another view of the upper observation level.  The building extends above this level.   (Click image to enlarge)

9.  Another view of the upper observation level. The building extends above this level.
(Click image to enlarge)

Looking up from the upper observation level. (Click image to enlarge)

10.  Looking up from the upper observation level.
(Click image to enlarge)

 Photo Notes: 

Because of the way the blog software downsamples the in-stream images, you need to click the images to see them more clearly.

  1. Fujifilm X-Pro1 |Zeiss 12mm | ISO 400 | 1/480 | f/8
  2. Fujifilm X-Pro1 | Fuji 18-55mm @ 30.2mm | ISO 400 | 1/600 | f/8
  3. Fujifilm X-Pro1 | Zeiss 12mm | ISO 400 | 1/1200 | f/8
  4. Fujifilm X-Pro1 | Zeiss 12mm | ISO 400 | 1/170 | f/9
  5. Fujifilm X-Pro1 | Fuji 18-55mm @ 23.3mm | ISO 400 | 1/450 | f/6.4
  6. Fujifilm X-Pro1 | Fuji 18-55mm @ 19.6mm | ISO 800 | 1/400 | f/5
  7. Fujifilm X-Pro1 | Zeiss 12mm | ISO 800 | 1/480 | f/8
  8. Fujifilm X-Pro1 | Zeiss 12mm | ISO 800 | 1/680 | f/8
  9. Fujifilm X-Pro1 | Zeiss 12mm | ISO 800 | 1/450 | f/8
  10. Fujifilm X-Pro1 | Fuji 35mm | ISO 800 | 1/320 | f/13
Oct 162013
 
Salisbury, Old Sarum, Stonehenge, and Avebury
Salisbury Cathedral

It was a overcast and threatening when we left London, and by the time we approached Salisbury, it was overcast, raining, and dreary.  Our guide had planned to visit Old Sarum first, but looking at the weather id didn’t seem like starting the day on a hilltop would be the best idea, so we went straight on to Salisbury Cathedral and made Old Sarum our second stop (one of the advantages of a smaller tour rather than the big motor coach tours).  The cathedral has the tallest medieval tower in Britain, and houses one of the four known copies of the Magna Carta.

Salisbury Cathedral -- View down the Nave from the Font. (Click image to enlarge)

1.  Salisbury Cathedral — View down the Nave from the Font.
(Click image to enlarge)

A reminder of life more than 2 1/2 centuries ago. (Click image to enlarge)

2.  A reminder of life more than 2 1/2 centuries ago.
(Click image to enlarge)

"Prisoners of Conscience" Window (1980) and tending the Shrine Tomb of Bishop Osmund -- one of three tombs brought here for reburial in 1226 from the previous cathedral at Old Sarum. (Click image to enlarge)

3.  “Prisoners of Conscience” Window (1980) and tending the Shrine Tomb of Bishop Osmund — one of three tombs brought here for reburial in 1226 from the previous cathedral at Old Sarum.  (Click image to enlarge)

Kids in the Cloisters on a rainy day...All kinds of medieval kit for them to try.

4.  Kids in the Cloisters on a rainy day…All kinds of medieval kit for them to try.  (Click image to enlarge)

Old Sarum

Still drizzling when we headed back to nearby Old Sarum…Blustery and misting when we got there…And then sunshine.  Originally a Neolithic site, this was an Iron Age hill fort and then the first location of Salibury.  The first Salisbury Cathedral was built here.

Outline of the original Salisbury Cathedral at Old Sarum, seen from the ruined fortress walls. (Click image to enlarge)

5.  Outline of the original Salisbury Cathedral at Old Sarum, seen from the ruined fortress walls.
(Click image to enlarge)

Stonehenge

Blustery, but sunny…

Stonehenge (Click image to enlarge)

6.  Stonehenge (Click image to enlarge)
Avebury

Something you won’t see on most tours…A neolithic henge monument consisting of three circles, one of which is the largest in Europe — about 1400 feet in diameter.

A portion of the Avebury Circle, including two gate stones. (Click on image to enlarge)

7.  A portion of the Avebury Circle, including two gate stones.
(Click on image to enlarge)

8.  Panoramic of Stonehenge. (Click image to enlarge)

8. Panoramic of Stonehenge.
(Click image to enlarge)

Photo Notes:
  1. Fujifilm X-Pro1 | Fuji 18-55mm @ 18mm | ISO 3200 | 1/9 | f/5.6
  2. Fujifilm X-Pro1 | Fuji 18-55mm @ 28.9mm | ISO 1600 | 1/20 | f/5
  3. Fujifilm X-Pro1 | Fuji 18-55mm @ 18mm | ISO 3200 | 1/15 | f/4
  4. Fujifilm X-Pro1 | Fuji 18-55mm @ 39mm | ISO 800 | 1/75 | f/5.6
  5. Fujifilm X-Pro1 | Fuji 18-55mm @ 22.3mm | ISO 800 | 1/220 | f/8
  6. Fujifilm X-Pro1 | Fuji 18-55mm @ 37.4mm | ISO 200 | 1/600 | f/6.4
  7. Fujifilm X-Pro1 | Fuji 18-55mm @ 35.8mm | ISO 400 | 1/340 | f/9
  8. Fujifilm X-Pro1 | Fuji 18-55mm @ 23.3mm | ISO 200 | 1/500 | f/8
Oct 152013
 
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

This visit was planned, but not scheduled.  October weather in Britain can be unpredictable, so the first thing I checked on Day 1 was the weather.  It looked promising, so I got on the Tube and headed out to Kew Gardens.

Kew Gardens is more than just a big park.  It is also a world leading botanical research and preservation operation.  Most of what falls under the heading of “Kew” takes place in other locations.

However, the gardens in southwest London are exceptional in their own right.  This is a mix of formal gardens, research/educational plots, parkland, restaurants, glass houses, and places to just sit and enjoy.  Somehow, they have manged to all of this “right”.  If you appreciate plants, you can easily spend most of a day here.  If you are seriously botanically inclined, you will have no problem spending two full days at Kew Gardens.

(Note:  Because of the way the blog software downsamples the in-stream images, you need to click the images to see them more clearly.)

A pool, off to the side in the Princess of Wales Conservatory. (Click image to enlarge)

1. A pool, off to the side in the Princess of Wales Conservatory.
(Click image to enlarge)

2. Kew Palace and Royal Kitchens. (Click image to enlarge)

2. Kew Palace and Royal Kitchens.
(Click image to enlarge)

3.  On the north side of Kew Gardens, a viewpoint.  Beyond the fence is the River Thames and in the distance you can see Syon Park, the London home of the Duke of Northhumberland.  This spot is the terminus for Syon and Cedar Vistas -- long sightlines that run the width of the gardens.  Syon Vista terminates at the Palm House, one of two great Victorian glass houses.  Cedar Vista terminates at the Pagoda.  Note two of the hundreds of wooden benches spread throughout the gardens. (Click image to enlarge)

3. On the north side of Kew Gardens, a viewpoint. Beyond the fence is the River Thames and in the distance you can see Syon Park, the London home of the Duke of Northhumberland. This spot is the terminus for Syon and Cedar Vistas — long sightlines that run the width of the gardens. Syon Vista terminates at the Palm House, one of two great Victorian glass houses. Cedar Vista terminates at the Pagoda. Note two of the hundreds of wooden benches spread throughout the gardens.
(Click image to enlarge)

4.  About 1/3 of the way down Syon Vista from the viewpoint above.  Palm House can be seen in the distance. (Click image to enlarge)

4. About 1/3 of the way down Syon Vista from the viewpoint above. Palm House can be seen in the distance.
(Click image to enlarge)

5.  Near the location above is the Sackler Crossing, a curved bridge over a small lake.  This award-winning design features a vertical guardrail system which opens up the view without sacrificing safety. (Click image to enlarge)

5. Near the location above is the Sackler Crossing, a curved bridge over a small lake. This award-winning design features a vertical guardrail system which opens up the view without sacrificing safety.
(Click image to enlarge)

 

6.  A view from the Sackler Crossing demonstrating the impression of openness.  If you look closely at the bottom right, you'll see a small disk between every metal upright.  This is a lamp, so the entire bridge is illuminated with a gentle glow from below.  A brilliant design. (Click image to enlarge)

6. A view from the Sackler Crossing demonstrating the impression of openness. If you look closely at the bottom right, you’ll see a small disk between every metal upright. This is a lamp, so the entire bridge is illuminated with a gentle glow from below. A brilliant design.
(Click image to enlarge)

The dedication on one of the benches.  Sponsorship of a bench (for 10 years -- roughly the life expectancy of the wooden benches) is 5,000 pounds. (Click image to enlarge)

The dedication on one of the benches. Sponsorship of a bench (for 10 years — roughly the life expectancy of the wooden benches) is 5,000 pounds.
(Click image to enlarge)

8.  Visitors on a path, seen from the Xstrata Treetop Walkway. (Click image to enlarge)

8. Visitors on a path, seen from the Xstrata Treetop Walkway.
(Click image to enlarge)

9.  The Japanese Gateway. (Click image to enlarge)

9. The Japanese Gateway.
(Click image to enlarge)

10.  The Pagoda, seen from the Cedar Vista in the afternoon sun. (Click image to enlarge)

10. The Pagoda, seen from the Cedar Vista in the afternoon sun.
(Click image to enlarge)

11.  A panoramic view from the Kew Palace to the Orangery Restaurant. (Click image to enlarge)

11. A panoramic view Kew Palace on the left and the Orangery Restaurant in the center.
(Click image to enlarge)

 Photo Notes:
  1. Fujifilm X-Pro1 | Fuji 14mm | ISO 800 | 1/55 | f/10
  2. Fujifilm X-Pro1 | Fuji 18-55mm @ 19.6mm | ISO 800 | 1/50 | f/10
  3. Fujifilm X-Pro1 | Fuji 18-55mm @ 52.7mm | ISO 400 | 1/450 | f/8
  4. Fujifilm X-Pro1 | Fuji 18-55mm @ 55mm | ISO 400 | 1/220 | f/5.6
  5. Fujifilm X-Pro1 | Fuji 18-55mm @ 18mm | ISO 400 | 1/480 | f/5.6
  6. Fujifilm X-Pro1 | Fuji 18-55mm @ 18mm | ISO 400 | 1/480 | f/5.6
  7. Fujifilm X-Pro1 | Fuji 18-55mm @ 46.3mm | ISO 800 | 1/170 | f/4.5
  8. Fujifilm X-Pro1 | Fuji 18-55mm @ 40.7mm | ISO 400 | 1/25 | f/5.6
  9. Fujifilm X-Pro1 | Fuji 18-55mm @ 19.6mm | ISO 800 | 1/200 | f/5.6
  10. Fujifilm X-Pro1 | Fuji 18-55mm @ 18mm | ISO 800 | 1/450 | f/5.6
  11. Fujifilm X-Pro1 | Fuji 18-55mm @ 22.3mm | ISO 400 | 1/60 | f/11.0
Oct 142013
 

I finally figured out how to identify the first day of a intercontinental trip…The day of arrival doesn’t really count, so:  Zero.

Upon arrival...First things first.  (Click image to enlarge)

Upon arrival…First things first. (Click image to enlarge)

A walkabout after a nap in the hotel…Police car with siren blasting heading for the main entrance to the British Museum.  Then an Air Ambulance helicopter arrives…

Just touching down...  (click image to enlarge)

2. Just touching down… (click image to enlarge)

Oddly, for a city the size of London, this is the only air ambulance airframe.

Vertical Climb-Out  (click image to enlarge)

3. Vertical Climb-Out (click image to enlarge)

So on to something London-ish, then back to the hotel…

Pub  (click image to enlarge)

4. Pub (click image to enlarge)

 Photo Notes:

1.  Fujifilm X20 | 11.7mm | ISO 400 | 1/25 | f/5.6
2.  Fujifilm X-Pro1 | Fuji 18-55 @ 18mm | ISO 400 | 1/150 | f/4.0
3.  Fujifilm X-Pro1 | Fuji 18-55 @ 21.4mm | ISO 1600 | 1/75 | f/4.5
4.  Fujifilm X-Pr01 | Fuji 18-55 @ 16.5mm | ISO 320 | 1/35 | f/4.0

Sep 142013
 

Three photographs this time.

Getting ready for a week in London next month and I happened be looking at some pictures from a trip in November, 2000.

These are panoramics shot with a Horizon 202 — a Russian film camera with a swing lens.  The film is loaded over a curved film “plane” inside, and when you press the shutter button, the lens rotates in a 120 degree arc.  I wish they made a digital camera that did something like this.

The workflow was similar to shooting with film cameras at that time:  Develop the negatives; cut them into strips and scan them (the Horizon frame is 24 x 60mm instead of the normal 24 x 36mm), remove the dust spots in PhotoShop, then adjust as per normal practice (noise, curves, color balance, brightness/contrast, sharpening, etc.).  Typically I would shoot Fuji Press (ISO 800) film and used a snap in neutral density filter when outside.  This also allowed me to shoot interior scenes — without the ND filter.

I went back and touched up the photos following a little bit before posting them here.

Inside a London Eye Capsule

A typical dreary end-of-November day, but still a nice flight.  The kid was aware that something was happening, because he could see the lens moving.

In a London Eye capsule -- flying over the Thames (click to enlarge)

In a London Eye capsule — flying over the Thames (click to enlarge)

Iconic London Buses

In the Transport Museum, arranged the “old” way.  At that time, the museum was set up to exhibit.  In this area, you could see five buses arrayed in a fan.  Now the museum is set up for activities.  I guess that’s better for kids, but not as good for history buffs.  The gift store, however, remains one of the better ones, and being at Covent Garden, is easy to find and may be on your itinerary anyway.

London Buses.  (click to enlarge)

London Buses (click to enlarge)

The London Eye from Underneath

A view from under the support legs of the Eye.  The two legs cantilever out over the Thames, so when you look straight down from your capsule, you’re over the water.

Underneath the Eye (click to enlarge)

Underneath the Eye (click to enlarge)

I plan on visiting both of these sites…No idea what those pictures will be like.

Links

The London Eye
The London Transport Museum
Wikipedia: Horizon Camera

Aug 012013
 

Checking out some new lenses…

The Udvar-Hazy facility of the National Air and Space Museum (at Dulles International Airport) is a destination for me whenever I need to check out new cameras and lenses…In this case, three lenses for the Fujifilm X-Pro1 camera:  The 12mm f/2.8 and 32mm f/1.8 Zeiss Touits and the 60mm f/2.8 Fuji.  Although I have some regular subjects (for repeatability) any visit can take its own course.

Click on any photo for a full screen view.  (File sizes range from 4MB to 7MB, so will take some time to load.)

130728-nasm-xpro1-120-f

Beechcraft D18S “Twin Beech” (60mm lens.  1/200 sec. @ f/2.8.  ISO 800)

Below the entrance overlook. Curtis P-40E “Warhawk” and Vought F4U-1D “Corsair”. (12mm lens. 1/30 sec. @ f/5. ISO 1600)

Curtis P-40 nose detail.  (32mm lens.  1/70 sec. @ f/2.8.  ISO 1600)

Curtis P-40E “Warhawk” nose detail. (32mm lens. 1/70 sec. @ f/2.8. ISO 1600)

 

130728-nasm-xpro1-029-f

King-Bugatti U-16 engine (Duesenburg) builder’s plate. (60mm lens. 1/180 sec. @ f/4.0. ISO 3200)

130728-nasm-xpro1-132-f

Republic P-47D-30-RA “Thunderbolt” below Vought OS2U-3 “Kingfisher”. (32mm lens. 1/18 sec. @ f/4.0. ISO 1600.)

130728-nasm-xpro1-074-f

Nose of Boeing B-29 “Superfortress” Enola Gay (note reflection of P-47D). (32mm lens. 1/30 sec. @ f/5.6. ISO 1600.)

130728-nasm-xpro1-086-f

Boeing 307 Stratoliner engine detail. (60mm lens. 1/90 sec. @ f/4.0. ISO 3200.)

130728-nasm-xpro1-094-f

Boeing 307 Stratoliner “Clipper Flying Cloud”. (12mm lens. 1/90 sec. @ f/5.6. ISO 3200.)

130728-nasm-xpro1-127-f

Concorde Fox Alpha, Air France (entire plane in one frame). (12mm lens. 1/20 sec. @ f/5.6. ISO 1600.)

130728-nasm-xpro1-100-f

Lockheed 1049F-55-96 “Constellation” (C-121C, West Virginia Air National Guard). (60mm lens. 1/210 sec. @ f/4.0. ISO 1600.)

130728-nasm-xpro1-147-f

Ariel-1 satellite (replica from parts). (60mm lens. 1/125 sec. @ f/2.8. ISO 1600.)

130728-nasm-xpro1-157-f

Space Shuttle “Discovery” hull detail. (60mm lens. 1/40 sec. @ f/2.8. ISO 1600.)

130728-nasm-xpro1-180

Hawker Hurricane Mk. IIC propeller blade and spinner detail. (60mm lens. 1/75 sec. @ f/3.2. ISO 1600.)

130728-nasm-xpro1-188-f

Grumman G-22 “Gulfhawk II”. (60mm lens. 1/55 sec. @ f/4.0. ISO 1600.)

Dec 302012
 
Dawn — Somewhere Out West…

Airplane window shots are problematic.  You’re typically shooting through three layers of glass and plastic.  Some of those surfaces are probably dirty.  Most of the surfaces are reflecting the other surfaces — and also whatever is in the airplane cabin, including your camera.

But there you are above dawn just breaking “somewhere out west”.  A full moon.  You have to give it a try.

Somewhere Out West -- Dawn from the air.

Somewhere Out West — Dawn from the air.

I shot this with a Panasonic DMC-TS3 which, thoughfully, has an “Aerial Photo” scene mode.  Holding the camera upside down for some shots to position the lens.  The real work is in post processing.  Noise reduction with Noiseware.  Curves, contrast and brightness in Photoshop.  Graduated ND filter effect with NIK Color Efex Pro.  Color balance back in PhotoShop.  A sharpness pass with NIK Sharpener Pro.  Final “save for web” in PhotoShop.  The two control points were the moon (keep it from turning into a solid white orb) and the terrain faces near the front edges of the engine nacelles (keep the details and sharpness of line).

P.S. Another reason, on coast-to-coast daylight flights, for picking a window on the right side westbound and on the left side eastbound.

Sep 072012
 
Krakow

Krakow remains the cultural and historical magnet for visitors to Poland.

If you do the Poland Trifecta (Gdansk, Warsaw, and Krakow) it is a good place to end your trip, and four days isn’t too long.  Granted, you might run into groups of British men doing one of those trips (the sight of a Ryan Air jet at the airport can be ominous) and, according to my hotel manager, the Norwegians are coming in with empty suitcases and hitting the Galeria Krakowska in droves.

Krakow, however, is not living in the past.  If you spend too much time in the city center, you might overlook that this is a regional commercial center.  And like other cities that are looking to the future, it is also trying to figure out ways to move people around without destroying the city.  The picture below shows bicycle and pedestrian traffic control.  Bikes use the lane to the left, with pedestrians to the right.  There are signs marking the dual use, and even crosswalks marked where there are pedestrians crossing — such as at this dual bike/pedestrian on/off-ramp.

Auschwitz/Birkenau

If you visit Auschwitz, chances are you’ll base in Krakow.  As I mentioned a few posts earlier, avoid taking an organized tour if at all possible — especially something like the combined salt mines/death camp tours. If you arrive before 10:oo am during the peak season you can visit Auschwitz without a guide — 10:00 am to 3:00 pm requires a guide.  But to arrive early complicates your transportation since it is over an hour by by public bus and therefore an expensive cab ride.  (Birkenau (Auschwitz II) does not require guides at any time.)

There is some discussion on whether it better to view this kind of site in the context of the specific events that took place — The Holocaust — or in the context of other genocides, pogroms, etc.  In the end, it is your decision what you want to take away with you.

Another issue is the deterioration at the sites.  One the one hand, you’d almost like so see it dissolve into rust and rot — be gone forever.  But the worry is that people will forget — and many (most?) have no idea the scope and scale of the Holocaust.  But these rails and ties just show some of the more obvious deterioration.  Time will tell what kind of balance is struck.

Warsaw

Still the industrial and commercial engine for Poland…All the more amazing when you consider the extent of German destruction. The city continues to build and change.  This display on the observation tower at the Uprising Museum is supposed to show buildings that are still standing from the WWII era (the darker shapes).  However, the some of the newer buildings on the display have since been replaced by even newer buildings.

The sights in Warsaw are farther apart than in Krakow and if you spend time touring, you’ll probably be wise to do your explorations in sectors.  If you spend more than a couple of days, it might be a good idea to learn the tram system — though they can be packed during commuting hours.

Taxi Ride to the Airport

A short distance from the hotel the driver gestured to the right with his head.  “Souvenir of Stalin”.  He was referring to the Palace of Culture and Science.

He asked if I minded the radio, which was playing Polish songs.  I didn’t mind.  We chatted a little and as we got close to the airport I heard a song:

Kayah and Bregovic: “Prawy Do Lewego (From Your Right to Your Left)”

Then I’m saying “That lady — the singer.  That’s, uh, uh — Kayah!”

“Kayah.  Yes.”

“Kayah and Bregovic.  Right?”

He was genuinely surprised that I knew.

He turned up the volume.  We were both tapping our fingers and quietly whistling along.

It was a nice way to end the trip.

Links for this trip…
Krakow

Cracow-Life:  http://www.cracow-life.com/

Krakow Info:  http://www.krakow-info.com/

Historical Museum of Kraków:  http://mhk.pl/

St Mary’s Basilica (in Polish):  http://www.mariacki.com/

Wawel Royal Cathedral:  http://www.katedra-wawelska.pl/english

Hotel Floryan:  http://www.floryan.com.pl/en/index.php

Auschwitz/Birkenau

Auschwitz (Official Site):  http://en.auschwitz.org/m/

Excellent BBC Interactive Map of Auschwitz:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/interactive/animations/auschwitz_map/index_embed.shtml

Warsaw

Warsaw-Life:  http://www.warsaw-life.com/

Warsaw Rising Museum:  http://www.1944.pl/en/

The Royal Castle in Warsaw:  http://www.zamek-krolewski.pl/?page=1114

National Museum in Warsaw Information:  http://www.mnw.art.pl/index.php/pl/english

Polish Army Museum (in Polish):  http://www.muzeumwp.pl/

Hotel Mercure Warsaw Grand:
http://www.accorhotels.com/gb/hotel-3384-mercure-warszawa-grand/index.shtml

Sep 062012
 
Polish Army Museum

Located next door (actually the same building) to National Museum, Warsaw, exhibits include a lot of artillery, vehicles, and aircraft stored outside; and a range of arms, armor, and uniforms through the centuries.  Particular emphasis is placed on the Polish Army during WWII and on artifacts from the over 21,000 Polish prisoners (Army officers captured during the 1939 Soviet invasion of Poland, police officers, and intelligentsia – “intelligence agents, gendarmes, landowners, saboteurs, factory owners, lawyers, officials and priests.”) murdered by orders of Stalin in 1940.  It was recently decided to relocate the museum to new facilities in the Citadel, north of Old Town.

Polish Winged Hussar — A major factor in the victory of the Polish forces over the Turks at Vienna, 1683. There is some discussion as to whether the wings were actually worn in battle — of even if the cavalryman could stay mounted on the horse while wearing those wings.

When I first glanced at the sign I thought it was warning against wing-walking on jet fighter aircraft…

The Royal Castle

Up Ulica Nowy Świat (a main shopping and historic boulevard) from the National Museum is Castle Square, the Royal Castle, and Old Town.

Zygmunt’s Column is a meeting spot for Warsaw residents and visitors, and the Castle Square is the location for festivities and official ceremonies.

Zygmunt’s Column, with the original sections, blown up by the Germans in reprisal for the 1944 Rising, in the foreground.

The Royal Castle was painstakingly rebuilt starting in 1970.  After the rubble was cleared following the German’s destruction, it was a cleared area that Poles could see every day for 27 years.  The reconstruction was based on exhaustive research, bits and pieces of the original building salvaged from the original, photographs, and paintings, etc.  The wooden floors are spectacular, with every important room having a different pattern.

Doors of the Church of the Gracious Mother of God (Kościół Matki Bożej Łaskawej)

Located midway between the Market Square and the Royal Castle, the church is adjacent the St. John’s Cathedral.  The doors are by Polish sculptor Igor Mitoraj, who also made the famous partial head that is installed in front of the British Museum, London.

The dates over the door are “1604 – 1944 – 1970”

The Old Town Market Square

Detail of a corner burgher house on the Market Square.

In the Market Square, probably the most famous, and most photographed, fighting mermaid.

Classic Fighting Mermaid pose.

When the mermaid gets hungry…Kabobs?

Warsaw Skyline Panoramic

Taken from a tower overlooking Castle Square.  Almost anything you can see was reconstructed after the Germans leveled Warsaw.  It is estimated that over 150,000 civilians were killed in the Rising and following, and around 550,000 people were expelled.

(Right click on picture and “View Image”.)

Sep 052012
 
The Palace of Culture and Science

Warsaw’s Palace of Culture and Science.

A relic of the years of Soviet domination, there are a lot of varying opinions about this building.  Some would like to tear it down, but it still has useful facilities.  And what would you put in its place (and who would pay for it)?

The Warsaw Uprising Museum

The museum’s opening was in 2004 — timed for the 60th anniversary of the Warsaw Rising.  While it might be said to have an advantage by only having to present a relatively short span of time — the 66 days of the Rising and a few days preceding it — it does that in a comprehensive, innovative, and thoughtful manner.

Not to be missed is a 3D video that simulates a fly-over of a devastated Warsaw after the German’s pounded much of the city into rubble.

One feature are the desk calendar pages that are on the walls next to exhibits.

“Calendar” pages near exhibits — one for each day of the Rising.

There is a page for each day.  Each page shows (in Polish only) the date and other information for the day including sunrise, sunset, and the maximum temperature.  It also tells what happened in Warsaw that day.  As you go through the museum you can take the calendar pages — eventually totaling 71.

In many exhibits, such as the one below, there are taped interviews with those who fought.  If the exhibit is about light machine guns, there is a video interview with a man describing the Bren gun he actually used.  (All of those interviews are subtitled in English.)

An exhibit of weapons used in the Rising.

 

The “Kotwica” — Symbol of the Polish secret state and the Armia Krajowa (Home Army, or AK).

A pleasant surprise is this coffee shop.  I had to do a double take to make sure it wasn’t an exhibit.  It is themed for the time period of the Rising and there is also a contemporary area outside on a balcony.

Themed coffee shop in the museum.

On the wall near the coffee shop is this bottle of Cinzano…

“Jozef Wrobel and his Home Army friends decide on May 9, 1945, to save a prewar bottle of Cinzano wine until the day Poland regains her independence and the last foreign soldiers her soil.”

A friend once said that you have to be one heck of a city to have a mermaid with a sword and and shield as your symbol.

Warsaw’s Fighting Mermaid.

View of the museum’s observation tower from the Rose Garden — on the back side of the Memorial Wall.

Bad Behavior has blocked 36 access attempts in the last 7 days.