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.

Fort Bokar, Dubrovnik, Croatia Friday, Oct 19 2012 

Friday is the day when we celebrate the end of the work week with simple posts.

Fort Bokar, Dubrovnik, Croatia

Fort Bokar, Dubrovnik, Croatia

This is Fort Bokar in Dubrovnik, Croatia. It’s one of my all-time favorite places to visit, and I love the wonderfully preserved city walls. During my visit in 2009, I stayed within the walls and photographed them extensively, so perhaps I can do a series of posts with those photos.

Have a great weekend, everybody!

Forks, WA Saturday, Oct 13 2012 

I mentioned earlier that my friend Tyler and I went on a quick tour around the Washington state National Parks. For our visit to Olympic National Park, we decided to spend the night in one of the motels at the city of Forks. I don’t remember the name of the motel, but I do remember that it was the only one in the city that wasn’t Twilight-themed.

Forks = Vampires; LaPush = Werewolves

Forks = Vampires; LaPush = Werewolves

You see, in case by some miracle you didn’t know, the Twilight books are set in the Pacific Northwest. Tyler told me a story that, apparently, the author Stephanie Myers never visited the area, but picked Forks, because it was reported as the wettest city in the US, and she thought that would be an interesting setting for her books.

Not far away is the city of La Push, which apparently also features in the novels. This photo was taken in one of the diners in Forks; while waiting to pay our breakfast bill, I snapped it with my phone camera.

Belize Sunset Friday, Oct 12 2012 

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

A few years ago I went on a cruise around the Caribbean, with stops at Progreso and Cozumel in Mexico, and in Belize. The visit to Belize was particularly nice – I spent the morning shopping around Belize City, but in the afternoon I took a tour to one of the cays, which looked like one of those deserted islands you’d see in a cartoon – a patch of sand with a palm tree or two sticking out of it.

Belize Sunset

Belize Sunset

After we left Belize, the ship was going to take two full days to return to Galveston. I took one last look back and snapped this photo.

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.

Sunset, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico Friday, Oct 5 2012 

Friday is the day when we celebrate the end of the work week with simple posts.

While I was looking for photos of my sister for yesterday’s post, I saw some really nice colors from a series of photos taken during a few sunsets while we were vacationing in Puerto Vallarta in 2011.

Sunset, Puerto Vallarta

Sunset, Puerto Vallarta

This one is particularly lovely, as it captures the last ray of sun before it disappeared under the horizon. And look at that tiny little sailboat, going on its merry way!

I remember telling my sister while we watched this scene: “Not only is it January, it’s actually a single-digit date in January.” Our Northern hemisphere minds find it hard to comprehend being on the beach, watching the sunset, on January 9 of any year.

I hope we get to do it again in January 2013.

Have a great weekend, everybody.

Toadstool Hoodoo, UT Tuesday, Oct 2 2012 

In May 2008, I went on a trip with fellow photographers Tyler and John, and we explored the areas around the Utah-Arizona border.

Right before the trip, I bought a used Canon Elan 7 film camera, because I wanted to use my 17-40mm lens on it, so it can be the true wide angle lens. The results I got on film were really good, and I was encouraged to continue with my retro ways.

Toadstool Hoodoo (Ilford HP5)

Toadstool Hoodoo (Ilford HP5)

Shown here is one of my favorite film shots from that trip. It’s the back of the Toadstool Hoodoo, on the road between Page AZ, and Kanab, UT. The sun came up high enough that the light wasn’t as “golden” as it may have been an hour or so earlier. But I really like how the texture of the rock reflects the grain of the film, and the shadow detail was wonderfully preserved on Ilford HP5.

Like I said, this shot encouraged me to continue shooting film. For our 2009 trip, I bought a medium format camera, the Mamiya 645, and recently I upgraded again, to the 6×7 format of Mamiya 7. I still get great results with film, especially black and white.

If you still shoot film, leave me a comment below.

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.

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.

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.

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