Saturday, July 30, 2011

Stand On Any Corner

Seville's Triana District
Rhonda, Spain

Stand on any corner of a new city and soak in the flavor of the place. As your eyes scan the area, you will notice people in their daily activities, movement, architecture, colors, and weather. Your ears will capture the sounds of the place, your nose the odors and fragrances. Just by stopping for a moment and really using your senses you will capture aspects of the essence of a place as it now is. These impressions are as an important part of the whole travel experience to me as visits to museums, cathedrals and ancient sites.

Think for a moment about why you travel. Isn't it really to experience places beyond your own horizon? I don't argue that museums, cathedrals (or other important buildings) and ancient sites are significant to experience in person-a video, book, photograph, or written description is just not the same as being there and having actual near physical contact with it. What I am saying is that those are aspects of the place that help you better understand its past and its people. They are important, and I would never suggest that you ignore them as you travel. I suggest that the traveler should appreciate them for what they are AND also appreciate the place in which they exist today.

I have been in guided travel situations where I have "experienced" three castles and a cathedral in a day's outing (Wales). At the end of the day, it was difficult for me to remember what was where and why it was even remotely significant to either the past or the present. At other travel times, I have spent part of my day exploring a significant building or site and the rest of the day wandering around the neighborhood that surrounds it or sitting at a table outside a cafe soaking in the sights, sounds, and even the fragrances of the place. It's not difficult to guess which type of travel I prefer. I'd rather experience a few places more in depth than complete an itinerary check-list so that I can say that "I've 'done' place X". Do you, the reader, have any thoughts on how you like to travel that you are willing to share? I really would be interested.

In the photos above, I'd like to point out just a couple of features:

-the Mediterranean colors and textures in Seville's Triana District buildings
-the Arab-influenced arches in the large building opposite the cafe in Seville
-the narrow streets leading from the plaza in Rhonda
-a famous clock in London
-the Georgian style houses looming over the rainy streets of Bath.

Thank you for visiting, please come again. In the meantime, may your travels be interesting and enjoyable.


Thursday, July 21, 2011

Rural Views/Drive-by Travel Photography

Wales by bus
Southern Spain by train
Southern England by bus
Isle of Wight by car
Scotland by bus

More and more I've been thinking about the kinds of photos that I take. When I travel, photos seem to fall into two categories. There are some photos that I take that will remind me of the character of the place I'm visiting. The countryside, city streets and buildings, marketplaces and cafes, people going about their daily lives or people in costumes for special occasions, animals and plant life typical of the area-all of these capture part of a place's "flavor". The other category of photos is "the unusual"-distressed metal objects, graffiti, a unique sign, poster, or statue, an object see from a different perspective, culturally unique color combinations or patterns, a spontaneous unexpected event (dancers filming a video on the streets of Seville). I guess I'm kind of catholic in the images that I capture, not focusing on or confining myself to a particular genre.

The images in this post were taken while I was in transit and often while I was in motion. No, I'm NOT an irresponsible photographer/traveler, someone else was driving. Each of the photos was taken because it struck me as being somewhat representative of the land and the people. I have something to remember the place by, even though I wasn't able to make a stop and truly experience it. While I prefer to focus my travels in staying in a place and interacting with it for a few days, these "drive-by shots" are also part of the total travel experience. It makes me wonder what life is in that particular place and, just maybe, encourage me to revisit it at a later time. BTW- you'll notice that when traveling from place to place, I am happy to travel the secondary roads and avoid the bland highways.

A couple of thoughts about taking photos as we travel. First of all, you have to be constantly alert and camera-ready. If you're traveling with someone, this may not be the way travel because it certainly makes you less companionable. It also means that, even though my e-reader is nearby, no reading or dozing while in-motion. It really makes a lot of sense to me, I may never travel past this place again and I don't want to miss anything interesting during this one-time chance. Secondly, this type of photography is iffy at best. Part of the iffiness is your travel speed and your ability to catch the image as it is, instead of a blur. Hint: bends in the road/rails or sharp rising/falling elevations take care of this issue for you sometimes. There is also the "window factor" . If on public transportation, has the window been cleaned lately? Another aspect of "window factor is the current weather- rain streaks, dust storms lead to picking up the e-reader or dozing after a couple of thwarted photo attempts. Still, in the age of digital photography, you have nothing to lose by trying. There's always "delete" and there is no monetary cost to a bad photo.

I hope that you have enjoyed your visit. Time was spent writing about the ins and outs of photography rather than the actual places in Britain and Southern Spain. Perhaps you found this interesting. If not, I hope that you at least enjoyed the photos. Please feel free to stop by again. In the meantime, may your travels be intereting and enjoyable.


p.s. I always enjoy reading any thoughts that you, the visitor, have as far as your own travel experiences in regard to what I have written. Feel free to post a comment here or e-mail me at

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Stone Water Spirits

La Rochelle

Sometimes when you travel, you really have to search hard to locate the unusual. As you walk down streets you are surrounded by people, buildings which are different from what you are used to, tantalizing sounds and smells. At times, the total experience can be overwhelming. While I appreciate all of those things, if you were to watch me walking down that street you would occasionally catch me looking up intently and then focusing my camera. GARGOYLES!

I have always been attracted to gargoyles, those ornate and often bizarre creatures that decorate water spouts. There are a couple of reasons that I have that reaction. One is my love of fantasy novels. I really enjoy most variations- historical fantasy such as that written by Mercedes Lackey and Charles de Lint's and Neil Gaiman's urban fantasies. A second reason for my interest in gargoyles is historical. Imagine the European world centuries ago when minds were filled with superstitions and these creatures were very real to the viewer. Mind-boggling!

For those of you that have never seen a gargoyle and wonder what possible purpose they could have, I quote Wikipedia: "In architecture, a gargoyle is a carved stone grotesque with a spout designed to convey water from a roof and away from the side of a building. Preventing rainwater from running down masonry walls is important because running water erodes the mortar between the stone blocks.[1]Architects often used multiple gargoyles on buildings to divide the flow of rainwater off the roof to minimize the potential damage from a rainstorm. A trough is cut in the back of the gargoyle and rainwater typically exits through the open mouth. Gargoyles are usually an elongated fantastic animal because the length of the gargoyle determines how far water is thrown from the wall. When Gothic flying buttresses were used, aqueducts were sometimes cut into the buttress to divert water over the aisle walls."

I hope you have enjoyed your visit and will come again. If you have a chance, seek out a place with a gargoyle and try to imagine an earlier time or a time today when the creature you observe has the potential to take on a more lively guise. In the meantime, may your travels be interesting and enjoyable.


Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Presenting a Stone Face to the Public

Statues and their place in different cultures are of interest to me when I travel. Some are created at public expense to commemorate either someone who is famous for his/her deeds or would like to be considered famous. Some statues have religious significance. Others are just artistic expressions that in some way or another make a community space more aesthetically appealing. It is some of the latter group that I'd like to share with you.

The top image of the desolate man is located in Paris near the Louvre. It was the last photo I took in Paris on that particular trip, and really represented the way I felt about leaving. My first stay in Paris, and I fell in love with the city. Fortunately, I have returned since then and will again.

The second image was taken in New Mexico. The strength character and endurance was eye-catching. Also, have you noticed that in most cultures the majority of statues are male? In some cultures a woman has to have truly exceptional qualities to be recognized in this way.

The third statue is Roman and was found in Carmona, Spain. The incomplete person in a state of arrested development with a brilliant sky in the background was striking. An interesting piece of art and an outstanding day!

The frivolous knight outside a hotel in Las Vegas personally commemorates a night of staged jousting tournaments and spectators holding large goblets of alcohol, kitsch at its best. Frivolous but fun, indeed! (Once in a lifetime was enough for me, however. Glitz does not usually act as a magnet for me.)

Then, lastly, there is the Seville lion. If it didn't have such a serious facial expression as it tries to hold the world in place, it would be humorous. Actually I do find some sense of humor there, even though the state of the world is often quite another matter .

I've had fun putting these images together, I hope that you've enjoyed them. Thank you for visiting, feel free to come again. In the meantime, may your travels be interesting and enjoyable.