Happy Birthday, Sarajevo Saturday, Apr 6 2013 

April 6 is the anniversary of the liberation of my home town from German forces in World War II. Around the same time of the year, a more somber anniversary is observed in the city, that of the Siege of Sarajevo, the longest siege in modern warfare. With this post, I’m making a small contribution in marking these anniversaries.

Sarajevo, 4:30 a.m.

Sarajevo, 4:30 a.m.

This shot was taken during my June 2009 visit to Sarajevo; it’s still one of my favorite trips, partly because it extended to a few days in Dubrovnik, Croatia, but mainly because I spent it in the company of all my dearest family members. I wanted to finally take some good sunrise and sunset shots of the city from some of the many hills surrounding it. The trouble with that plan is that the days in the middle of June are really long, and the dawn breaks as early as 4 a.m.

After a few days of recovering from jet lag, I got up really early this one morning (this was taken around 4:35 a.m.), got into a cab and went to Jekovac, a little park overlooking the old town. I took this shot from the same place, and you can see how foggy it was back in October 2007. This time around, the sky was clear, but the actual sunrise was ruined by some low-hanging clouds, so I didn’t get good shots until a few days later.

I brought two film cameras to this trip, but one thing I wasn’t comfortable doing with them was long exposures. This was 8 seconds at ISO 100 with my Canon 20D digital camera; if I took a shot with my Velvia 50 film, it would have had to be 30+ seconds, due to film reciprocity failure.

In the foreground is the Old Town, anchored by the City Hall, built in the 19th century by the Austrian Empire and later converted into a library, which was then burned down by Serbian military forces in 1992, in the first days of the Siege. Bottom right is the cemetery dedicated to the defenders of the city during the Siege. Further westward, you see the modern buildings of the newer parts of the city, and above, in a fortunate astronomical circumstance, you see the full Moon, about to plunge behind Igman and Bjelašnica mountains.

Agathla Peak, AZ Wednesday, Oct 3 2012 

When I decided to start the 365 project, I realized I will have to recycle some of the photos I have been posting over the last 5 or so years on my Flickr page. The tougher challenge would have been to actually post a brand new photo every day for a year – and that may be something I can look into next year.

I balance that by often posting more than one photo in each blog post. So, today, I wanted to share three photos from one of the most surprisingly magical places I visited.

Agathla Peak, After Sunset (digital)

Agathla Peak, After Sunset (digital)

This is Agathla Peak, sometimes called El Capitan, and it is a volcanic plug just south of the border between Utah and Arizona. My friends John, Tyler and I were on our way to the Monument Valley a few years ago and couldn’t help seeing this fantastic piece of rock protruding from the ground.

After shooting a sunset at the Monument Valley, we stopped by Agathla on our way back to Page, AZ. That’s where the first photo was made – I made it with my Canon 20D digital camera. Because I didn’t have a remote shutter release, I had to limit the exposure to 30 seconds, using the ISO of 400 and even lightening the photo in post-processing.

Agathla Peak, Day (film)

Agathla Peak, Day (film)

A year later, the three of us were joined by our friend and photographer Scott; this time Agathla wasn’t going to surprise us. We made sure to have enough time to stop there in the afternoon. The second photo was shot on medium format Velvia 50 film, and you see it here pretty much the way it looks like on the slide. I was very proud of it – the composition was great and the moment captured was lovely. Just look at those clouds!

Agathla Peak, Night (digital)

Agathla Peak, Night (digital)

Speaking of clouds, the third photo was taken later that night; the wind was moving the clouds exactly over the tip of Agathla, which became very evident on this 5-minute exposure. That’s no typo – this shot is lit by nothing except the Moon, and it took 5 minutes to get enough light to the camera sensor. You can even see the star trails – that’s how much the stars moved while the photo was being taken. You can tell I was ready to take this photo by the fact that I bought a remote shutter release for my Canon 20D.

Don’t let this rather technical post diminish the fact that this place is just fantastic. It’s nothing but a rock sticking out of the ground, but the combination of its ruggedness and the relative serenity of its immediate surroundings creates a very dramatic image, at any time of day. Or night.

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.

Sunset, Grapevine Lake, TX Saturday, Sep 15 2012 

This photo is literally the last photo I took with my Canon 20D.

Sunset, Grapevine Lake

Sunset, Grapevine Lake

I mentioned yesterday that I owned a Canon 20D digital camera for a few years. I bought it from a friend who had upgraded, and I really liked it. It had the dial on the back, which made selecting options very easy. The camera had a nice heavy feel to it and fit nicely in my hand.

When I bought it, 20D was already obsolete – 30D was already on the market and 40D came up shortly after that. But those cameras didn’t really offer anything I wanted. The Live View on the 40D would have been nice, but it wasn’t enough for me to switch.

I went on many trips with the 20D, shot several studio sessions and a wedding. But when Canon released their 7D, I was ready. The new camera was faster, more powerful and easier to use, it shot HD video and it wirelessly controlled off-camera flash. So, a few days before my new 7D arrived, I took my 20D for a visit to Grapevine Lake, where I took some sunset pictures including the one above.

It’s a good reminder to not rush into “upgradeitis” — maybe the shiny new device that just came out isn’t the right choice for you. Instead, get as much use you can out of the one you already have, and upgrade only when it makes sense.

Otters, Georgia Aquarium Friday, Sep 14 2012 

Utter cuteness

Utter cuteness

This is a perfect way to end the work week.

Otters may be my favorite animals (next to lions, naturally). They’re impossibly cute, love to play around and travel in packs. A few years ago I was in Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta and came across this bundle of otter cuteness. I have no idea what the green stuff around them was (probably something they use as a toy — they use everything as a toy!!!), but there were about half dozen otters in there, sleeping in one big pile of utter otter cuteness.

This was taken with my old Canon 20D camera, which served me well for a few years until I sold it and bought the 7D. ISO was 1600, so the photo is a little noisy… Ah, what the hell. Just look how cute they are!!!

Have a great weekend, everybody.

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