St. Peter’s Basilica, Part One Sunday, Sep 30 2012 

A visit to Rome should definitely include Trevi, Coliseum, Forum, and various streets and squares, but it can never be complete without a visit to Vatican City and it’s central building – Saint Peter’s Basilica.

"I prayed for you, O, Peter"

“I prayed for you, O, Peter”

Today I wanted to show a few details from the inside of the Basilica, although it’s really difficult to focus on only a few details when you’re in the church. It’s a surprisingly large building, with a lot of nooks and crannies, several altars, numerous sculptures…

Michelangelo's Pieta

Michelangelo’s Pieta

When we’re talking about sculptures, it should be noted that St. Peters houses one of the most admired sculptures ever created – Michelangelo’s Pieta. It’s now behind bulletproof glass and visitors cannot get a lot closer to it, but there is a recast in Vatican museums, and I’ve even seen books of photographs showing every little detail.

Mosaic, St. Peter's Dome

Mosaic, St. Peter’s Dome

Final two details also have to do with Michelangelo, whose presence in Rome is felt at every corner, especially in Vatican. The mosaic of what seems to be a cherub’s face is one of several such faces on the inside of the St. Peter’s cupola, or dome, which was designed and built by the famous Florentine. The final photo in the post was taken from pretty much the same place, only looking straight up at the ceiling of the dome.

Dome of St. Peter's, inside

Dome of St. Peter’s, inside

The dome will take a prominent role again in the next post, when we explore the outside of the Basilica.

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Rome Fashion Saturday, Sep 29 2012 

Rome Fashion

Rome Fashion

One remarkable thing about Rome is the fashion of its citizens.

It’s the tourists who are in jeans, shorts, t-shirts, flip-flops and other variants of hideous clothing with the excuse of being comfortable.

The locals are impeccably dressed in linen pants, cotton suits, well-fitting clothes, spectacular shoes, and designer bags.

Even when they are on their scooters and wear helmets, they exude style and class.

And this is why Rome is my favorite city in the world.

Via Condotti, Rome, Italy Friday, Sep 28 2012 

Friday is a day for celebrating the end of the work week with simple posts.

Prada

Prada

Shopping in Rome begins and ends at Via Condotti. As you can see, the 2-story Prada store is on the corner of the street and it overlooks Piazza Spagna, and the famous Spanish Steps. Across the street from Prada, on the other corner is Dior.

Further down are all other big names, like Gucci, Burberry, Fendi and Ermenegildo Zegna. Brands like Tod’s and Salvatore Ferragamo have not one, but two stores each on this street – one for men, and one for the ladies.

Louis Vuitton

Louis Vuitton

As you can see, Louis Vuitton is just across the street from Giorgio Armani. Did I mention how much I love this city?

Have a great weekend, everybody.

Forum, Rome, Italy Thursday, Sep 27 2012 

The day I went to the Coliseum with my lovely sister was a day that would break lesser travelers in two. Keep in mind, this is after we spent a day exploring squares and alleys of Rome, and wrapped it up by eating gelato at Trevi Fountain; and then another day of intense sight-seeing, which included a bus tour, more walking, and a late dinner.

Forum, with the Temple of Saturn on the left

Forum, with the Temple of Saturn on the left

So, on this day, we walked half a mile or so to catch a bus to take us to Coliseum. After spending several hours up and down the amphitheater, the next destination was going to be Palatine Hill, with all its archeological riches, including the Foro Romano, or Forum.

I may have forgotten to mention that all these days were early July days, with temperatures pushing 100 degrees (or, for European purposes, close to 40). But, the thing about Rome is that it makes you forget how exhausted you are, because it comes at you from all sides with such awesome sites and sights that you forget about everything but how impressed you are with this city.

Arch of Septimius Severus

Arch of Septimius Severus

To me, this was nowhere more evident than at the Forum. This whole area is essentially one large archeological dig that’s still very active. I’ve seen a hole in the ground that was dug up only a few years ago to reveal an elaborate system of rooms that seems to revolve around a central pillar, and a sign next to it which said that not even the scientists fully understand what they found. To have something like that discovered so recently, in the middle of Rome, a stone’s throw from Coliseum, is really remarkable.

And so we pressed on, until very late in the afternoon, walking in footsteps of ancient Romans, through their marketplaces and temples, under their arches, by their columns, next to their walls. No kind of photograph can quite tell the story of how cool it is to be there, even on a 100-degree day.

 Temple of Vesta

Temple of Vesta

This place is my favorite city in the world.

Coliseum, Rome, Italy Wednesday, Sep 26 2012 

After seeing images from Trevi Fountain and Piazza Venezia, it’s time for the real deal. The most recognizable Rome attraction is the Coliseum, an ancient stadium where the plebs and emperors alike were entertained by gladiators, reenactments and animals.

Coliseum, Golden Hour

Coliseum, Golden Hour

I’m arranging the photos chronologically again, this time by choice. The first photo is a detail I wanted to grab because the “golden hour” window, when the light is best, was closing fast. I took my EF 85mm f/1.8 USM lens and isolated this top floor of the Coliseum, showing the bricks placed at the end of the outer ring to prevent further deterioration of the structure.

Then, on the walk back up the Via de Fori Imperiali, after the sun already set, I took a look back and saw the Moon just barely rising over the Coliseum. I had to step into the street, and although the street-level shot is a little too crowded for my taste, it definitely turned out well.

Moon over Coliseum

Moon over Coliseum

A few days later, I would actually follow the crowd and go inside the place. I got a nice tour that explored the underbelly of the Coliseum, as well as its top floor. It was a truly magical time – it was difficult to comprehend that men built this place a few thousand years ago and that it still stands. I imagine people thinking the same at the Pyramids in Egypt.

Coliseum, Mid-day Sun

Coliseum, Mid-day Sun

The mid-day sun wasn’t kind to the photographs, however. Shown here is the look down on the main levels of the Coliseum from the top, or as close to the top as a tourist can get. Buy the extra tour, it’s well worth it.

Coliseum, from Palatine Hill

Coliseum, from Palatine Hill

Finally, here’s a look back to Coliseum from the field across, Palatine Hill. The whole area of Palatine Hill is an active archeological dig — there are even some fairly recent discoveries, despite the foot traffic around the Coliseum. In any event, this last shot is on Fuji Velvia 50 film. A few hours too early to fully take advantage of the golden hour, but still a nice shot from an elevated vantage point. What I like the most is a slightly sideways view onto the inner and the outer rings of the Coliseum. The fact that the outer ring survived all this time, even only at 50% or so, is quite remarkable.

Coliseum is one of those bucket list items, and I’m happy I can cross it off of mine.

Piazza Venezia, Rome, Italy Tuesday, Sep 25 2012 

Yesterday, I showed you a few photos of Fontana di Trevi from my visit to Rome, Italy, and today I’m continuing Rome Week on the blog.

Piazza de Venezia is an enormous square right in the middle of Rome, dominated by the massive monument to Vittorio Emanuele II, made in white marble, covered in columns, statues, steps, fountains and all sorts of other embellishments.

Piazza Venezia

Piazza Venezia

The monument is basically a celebration of the unification of Italy under Victor Emanuel. He’s the guy on the horse in the detail photo below (notice how the Italian flag unfolded into my shot just right). Since it was built on top of the Capitoline Hill, it’s visible from just about anywhere in Rome, but that’s also a cause for some controversy. The Wikipedia article even mentions some pejorative nicknames given to the monument, due to its size, color and artistic value (or lack thereof).

Vittorio Emanuele Monument, detail

Vittorio Emanuele Monument, detail

It’s undeniable, however, that the monument is still an imposing structure. I was particularly impressed by the sculptures on each side of the roof – they represent the goddess Victoria riding on a chariot pulled by four horses. You will also see a detail shot of one of the ends of the monument, showing the columns, the inscription “Civium Libertati” (“Freedom to the people”) and one of the Victoria sculptures.

The shots are inadvertently shown in the chronological order by the time of day. The first three were made on my way to the Coliseum; the top one is shortly upon my arrival to Piazza Venezia. I spent some time lingering at the square, so I caught the beginning of the “golden hour” of sunset, which can be recognized by the pleasing warm light on the two detail shots. The ending of this same golden hour will be shown tomorrow at another location.

The last photo below was taken at night a few days later. There was a full (ish) Moon during my visit, and I was able to compose a few shots with the monument and the Moon together. The monument is very nicely lit at night, but for some reason, the Victoria sculptures were almost not lit at all – you can barely make out the one on the right side of the photo.

The Dude on a Horse, aka Vittorio Emanuele II

The Dude on a Horse, aka Vittorio Emanuele II

As my Rome itinerary was pretty intense, I never got onto the monument, or inside it, but it seems that there is an elevator now that you can take all the way up to the roof. Since I said the monument can be seen from all of Rome, I can imagine that one could see all of Rome from the top of it. That definitely goes on a to-do list for a future visit.

Piazza Venezia at Night

Piazza Venezia at Night

What do you think about the monument – awesome or gaudy?

Trevi Fountain, Rome, Italy Monday, Sep 24 2012 

This week, I’ll be posting photos from my July trip to Rome, Italy. In a few short days, Rome became my favorite city in the world, so I’ll try to illustrate that with some images that I captured while there.

Trevi Fountain By Day

Trevi Fountain By Day

Although it may not be in the Top 2 Rome attractions, Fontana di Trevi would certainly be a contender for number 3 on the list. Undoubtedly, part of the appeal of this imposing structure is that it was prominently featured in Federico Fellini’s classic film, “La Dolce Vita”. In the iconic scene, Marcello Mastroianni and the voluptuous Anita Ekberg take a late night dip in the fountain, in full formal party attire.

If you tried to do something like this nowadays, you would be greeted with a shrill whistle from the carabinieri, and instructed to remove yourself out of the water immediately. As we’ll see in the next few days, Italians are pretty serious about preserving their monuments, and even though they allow you to get pretty close, they expect some measure of respect for their historic value.

Trevi Fountain At Night

Trevi Fountain At Night

I visited the fountain twice during my visit to Rome, because it was pretty close to the hotel in which I was staying. The first visit was at night, and that’s when the photo above was created. The fountain is tightly packed in between the buildings, so it doesn’t get direct sunlight during the “golden hour”, when the quality of light is best. So, my second visit was during the late morning hours, when I took the photo on top of the post; you can see harsh light creating some dark shadows. I just now realized with some horror that the city started a reconstruction of the facade in between my two visits – the scaffolding that is barely visible on the left of the daytime photo is absent in the nighttime version from a few days earlier.

Trevi Fountain, Las Vegas, NV

Trevi Fountain, Las Vegas, NV

In either case, the site was overrun with tourists. The streets around the fountain are narrow, but packed with cafes, gelaterias, and restaurants, so consequently, they are packed with people. It’s easy to see why — there are few better ways to spend some time in Rome than to eat some gelato in the company of Oceanus and his posse (As an aside, I thought that was Poseidon, but no – it’s his uncle Oceanus).

And a final note about the fountain. Several years ago, on one of my visits to Las Vegas, NV, I snapped this photo of what is obviously a replica of the Trevi Fountain, at the entrance to the Forum Shops – the indoor mall inside the Caesar’s Palace. It comes as no surprise that there is a replica of Trevi in Vegas.

If you’ve been to Rome, or Italy, please share your experiences in the comments below.

Don Quixote, Forney, TX Sunday, Sep 23 2012 

This is a photo taken a few years ago in Forney, TX, where there’s a large antique shop called DeRidder Antiques. It’s one of the favorite spots for the DFW Area Meetup group on Flickr, a group which I joined on this particular occasion.

Texan Don Quixote

Texan Don Quixote

From the old Soviet MiG aircraft in front of the store, all the way to the back, where this figure is found, DeRidder is full of unusual treasures of all kinds. It’s quite easy to spend a few hours there looking at everything.

I’m not quite sure where this Don Quixote came from on his horse Rosinante, but it looks rather well done. Just a few days ago, I took you guys to the Spanish province of La Mancha, where he is from. An interesting thing is that shortly after my return from Spain, I heard an interview with Aaron Sorkin about his new show on HBO, “The Newsroom”. In it, as well as in the show, the word “quixotic” is pronounced “kwik-so-tik”… Which I found objectionable, because I prefer to preserve the original pronunciation of the root, so it would be “ki-ho-tik”.

But language is a living thing, I guess, so I’m letting it go. Besides, next week is going to be all about Italy and my July trip to Rome. I hope you enjoy those photos, which start tomorrow.

Angel’s Landing, Zion National Park, UT Saturday, Sep 22 2012 

Angel's Landing

Angel’s Landing

Back in May 2011, I traveled to the Zion National Park in Utah with my friends and photographers John and Tyler. You can see a few of the photos I brought back here, here and here. The goal was to create some nice landscapes worthy of our portfolios and to have a good time hanging out with each other in the process.

Halfway there

Halfway there

One of the things we wanted to do while in Zion was hike the Angel’s Landing trail. It’s not a particularly difficult or strenuous hike, although it climbs a total of 1500 feet (500 meters). The main appeal of it is in the very narrow ridge that you have to negotiate while getting to your destination. Angel’s Landing is a tall rock protrusion into the valley and it was so named because it was believed that only angels had the ability to get up there.

But up there we went, the three of us, navigating the trail that at one point consisted of a meter-wide path with a death-defying drop on each side. There were plenty of places where you had to hold on to the chains bolted into the rock along the way, so that you would not lose your balance and fall hundreds of feet down.

I remember passing a family that included a girl who couldn’t have been more than 7 years old; the family was on their way down while we were on our way up. The three of us guys spurred each other on by saying, “If a 7-year old girl can get up there, then we can get up there, too.”

View from the Top

View from the Top

The view from up top was excellent. The main canyon of Zion was both in front of us and around us, and we truly had the “top of the world” feeling. Of course, by the time we got up there, it was mid-day, and the light was “wrong” for truly breathtaking photos, so I never really got to show these before, except to friends and family. But here they are, if nothing else, as a document of where I’d gone, like a t-shirt I purchased later that day in Zion. The shirt says “I hiked Angel’s Landing.”

Fuzzy Seagull, St. Petersburg, FL Friday, Sep 21 2012 

Friday is a day for celebrating the end of the week with simple posts.

Fuzzy Seagull

Fuzzy Seagull

A few months ago, I was visiting a friend in St. Petersburg, FL. The weather was perfect, the water was fine, and the SPF was 50. Then, when the sun was about to dip below the western horizon, I snapped a few photos.

That’s when the seagull flew by. Since my focus was on the water, he’ll appear fuzzy. Maybe if I had my Canon 7D in the AI Servo mode, the auto-focus system would be smart enough to focus on the moving object.

Have a great weekend, everybody.

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