St. Peter’s Basilica, Part Three Tuesday, Oct 9 2012 

I spent this Sunday afternoon finally developing a roll of Ilford FP5 Plus film. It’s a roll I started in Rome, and finished at the Italian Car Festival in Grapevine. I was a little hesitant, because the last time I tried to develop my own film, I wasn’t very successful.

This post might as well be titled “St. Peter’s Basilica, Part Two, Part Two”, because the photos featured here are just about the same as the ones I posted a few days ago.

St. Peter's Basilica, film

St. Peter’s Basilica, film

For the first photo, I climbed on a ledge of the obelisk in the center of the St. Peter’s Square, but I still had to crop off some tourists’ heads at the bottom of the frame, which made the photo a little wider than the natural 6×7 format of the Mamiya 7 camera.

St. Peter's Square, film

St. Peter’s Square, film

The photo from St. Peter’s cupola showcases that format very directly. The digital color shot in the previous post was taken with my zoom lens at 29mm, which is about normal for a small sensor digital camera. The lens I had on Mamiya 7 is also normal, 80mm, but because the format is more square, the field of view opens up to include a little bit of sky above the horizon, which was not visible in the earlier shot.

I very much enjoy the 6×7 format, because it is very nearly square, so there’s no visible advantage to rotating the camera to a portrait orientation. That way I eliminate one of the variables and I have one fewer thing to think about while shooting.

You’re welcome to share your experience and advice about developing film in the comments.

St. Peter’s Basilica, Part Two Monday, Oct 1 2012 

The highlight of my visit to the Vatican was a discovery of a way to get up to the top of the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica. A barely visible sign pointed to a passage around the right side of the building. Seven euros later, you can get into an elevator that takes you to the roof of the basilica itself.

St. Peter's Basilica

St. Peter’s Basilica

That’s where the fun starts. I’m not sure if Michelangelo designed it that way, but the passageway to the top actually circles around the outside of the dome in a very narrow, rather steep stairway. It is definitely not recommended for anyone suffering from anxiety or claustrophobia.

The most interesting part of the trip up is the fact that the winding, circling stairway starts curving inwards as you get closer to the top, so you climb the last little while slanted.

View from the top

View from the top

But, then, a few steps later, you come out to the small observation deck and the view is nothing short of breathtaking. You pretty much see all of Rome from up there, and Piazza San Pietro is laid out perfectly in front of you.

I also snapped a few photos with my film camera, so look for those when I develop that roll.

Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico Friday, Feb 4 2011 

As I mentioned before, this past January I went to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, for some well-deserved rest and relaxation. Alas, I get antsy if I spend too much time sitting by a pool or on a beach, so I eventually have to do some exploring.

Puerto Vallarta is a fairly large town, built on tourism, where flashy condominium buildings, villas and hotels meet the traditional, humble dwellings of the local workforce. Dominating the downtown area is the unique Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe, with its signature crowned tower.

Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe

The church was being built throughout the opening decades of the 20th century, and the main tower was not completed until 1952. The tower concludes with quite an interesting crown, which was said to resemble the crown worn by the mistress of emperor Maximilian in the 1860s. On top of the crown is a cross sitting on what seems to be a soccer ball.

Although the church is rather prominent in the city, it wasn’t easy getting a clean look at it. I climbed up and down some side streets, and failed to convince a hotel official to make a restaurant available to me where I would be directly above the church. From the street level, the view of the tower always included power lines going in several different directions. It was quite frustrating, until I decided that the network of cables could be its own subject and embraced my misfortune; the resulting photo is shown here.

Power Lines and Church

Power Lines and Church

My luck changed when I got to the street behind the church; a door was open and I saw two women sitting across from each other at a desk. One of them seemed to be some kind of an official and fortunately knew more English than I knew Spanish, and, even more fortunately, asked the other lady to accompany me into the inner courtyard to take some photos. It turned out that the church now also doubles as a school. As quickly and as respectfully as I was able, I fired off a total of four shots: two with my digital Canon 7D, then one with my Elan 7 camera with Ilford HP5 Plus black-and-white film in it, and, finally, one shot with my Mamiya 645 1000s and Kodak Ektachrome slide film. That shot turned out to be the winner, with a lot of nice details and pleasing colors that I tweaked just a little.

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