Friday, April 30, 2010

Exploring with a Camera: From a Flower's Point of View

Have you thought about the flower's point of view before? What is the perspective, near to the ground, reaching for the sun? The answer is found in these photographs. I had a marvelous time yesterday, playing around with my camera from a flower's point of view. I got a couple of amazing shots, like the one above and the one below. They are delightful because they are so unplanned, they are the results of experimentation and play. And digital photography is a WONDERFUL medium for this, because there is no cost to just play around!

There is creative power in exploration and play. I'm thinking to post some "Exploring with a Camera" ideas like this from time to time, let me know if you want to participate and I'll create a Flickr group to share photos so that we can create a little community of explorers!

So here are some tips on how to explore from a flower's point of view:
1. Hold the camera near the ground, pointing up toward the flower. You are not looking through the viewfinder, at the screen, anything. Depending on your camera/lens minimum focus requirements you will have to play with distance to hold the camera away from the flower.
2. Shoot, review, shoot, review. Move the camera, the angle. After a while you'll get a better hang of what you are aiming for remotely.
3. If you're not getting the focus you want (say, on the flower), switch to a manual focus point. For the second image above, I set the focus point for top middle point, then took a bunch of pics moving the camera around a bit to get the one flower in focus that I wanted.
4. Play around with aperture. Higher aperture will give you a better opportunity to get what you want in focus. Lower aperture will really help your flowers pop, but focus will be difficult.

During the whole process, delight in the randomness of the images. Laugh at the ones that came out totally awkward. Swoon over the ones you think that come out amazing. Enjoy the freedom that comes out from letting go of planning, composing, deciding with every shot!

One final image for today, of my favorite stretch of the path in Parco di Monza. You've seen it in winter, and here is spring. This was the time of year we moved to Italy last year, and I remember thinking over and over "I need to go over and take pictures of those flowers under the trees" as I drove by the park. I never did, spring progressed into summer and the flowers went away. So I promised myself THIS YEAR I will go do it. And I finally did!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Ready for the Day

A sidewalk cafe, ready for the day. Shapes from the shadows in the morning light, promising a beautiful day to come. Chairs and tables neatly positioned, just waiting for the clients, ready to drink a coffee and soak up some sun.

Right now this image invokes spring sun warmth for me, weather that might have a slight chill unless you sit in the sun. It's hard to believe that it was below freezing in January, at Disneyland Paris. It could be any early morning, any time of year, any location. Just use your imagination!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The End of the Path

Do you ever embark on a journey, where you can't quite see where you will end up? You see that there is a path, there is light, but you can't quite make out the end point. That's how I feel right now in my life journey, I am walking and enjoying the path I am on, but I can't quite see the final destination. Do I care?

Do you know where your journey is taking you? Do you care?

(Photo is castle rampart in Bled, Slovenia.)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Time for some Color!

I hope I don't hurt your eyes today, with all of this color. I had a marvelous time capturing the color in Burano on Saturday, and had to share some of it here. (If you read this in a blog reader, come visit to see my new blog header!) I hope you have a color-filled day!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Stepping along Flowers

This image has been popping into my head a lot lately, which means that I should just share it already! A little bit of color and a whole lot of texture can be found in Varenna, a town on the steep edges of Lake Como not too far from where we live. I like that the "streets" in these lake-egde towns are often really stairways up the hillside, and named appropriately in Italian, salita (which means climb, rise, uphill) instead of the usual via (which means street, road, or way). And a stairway means that you can have a fabulous flower display on many levels. I used to want to paint this picture, but for some reason I never did. Maybe that's because the image was already good just as it was, waiting to be shared with you today. Happy Monday!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

City on the Hill

This is Civita di Bagnoregio, a city perched on a hill top in Umbria. It's a "dead" city - depending on who you talk to there are only a few or no residents. It's filled with tourists by day, marveling over the city perched on top and carved into the rock of the hill, some back to Etruscan time. Slowly collapsing into the valley below, one cliffside at a time. I love the profile of the town in this image, the buildings and hill against the clouds and distant hillside.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Aaaaah, Venezia

I must share this today, I am compelled to share this today, as we head to Venice this morning for a quick overnight trip. Because we can. I love Venice and Murano and Burano and have had the urge to get back. So we planned this short little trip last weekend, bribing Brandon with the promise of a gondola ride (he's begged the last two times we were there), and off we go. Because we can. Isn't that amazing? I am truly, truly lucky.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Farewell, Assisi

At end of the day in Assisi, as we were heading back to il parcheggio (parking garage) we walked past this pretty entry way. Same place we walked past in the morning, same light (shade), but from this angle it looked totally different and caught my attention. Just a little reminder that sometimes we need to turn or look back to where we've been, for a different perspective. You never know what you might find.

With this, I'll move on from Assisi, this wonderful town of stone and flowers and views of the Umbrian countryside.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Time to PLAY!

Today's image is from the Umbrian hill town of Orvieto. We had two rainy days based in this hill town on our spring break trip. I found I took fewer pictures than normal on these days, probably because it's hard to hold an umbrella and take a picture and keep your camera dry all at the same time. This image normally wouldn't make it to my blog. I would include it the overall album of the trip as a nice shot of the streets of the town and the weather of the day, but nothing special. But today, just for fun, I decided to play around with it.

You see, the Pioneer Woman Photography blog recently offered their free actions for Photoshop Elements. Yay! So today I played with them on this photo and was amazed at the all of the different feelings I could get with this one photograph. I view actions as a little like candy - easy to overdose on if you're not careful, but a little bit is fine! I would love to hear your comments on these. Which do you like? Which don't you like? Why not? (There is no special order to these, I've just uploaded them in alphabetical order by action name - because it was easiest!)




Dim the Lights

Fresh & Colorful


Lovely & Ethereal



Soft & Faded


I didn't include all of the actions here, just the ones that I thought "worked" in some way with this image. Some really didn't work at all! What's fun about all of this playing is that you learn in the process. I hope you have some time to play too!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


Have I mentioned food lately? Living in Italy and travelling in Europe has been such a sensory experience, a delight for the tastebuds in addition to the eyes. It's often difficult to capture the beauty of the food - the lighting, the crowd of people, reflections of glass - but this window display in Assisi let me capture it beautifully. All I can say is - Yum!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


Behind the Basilica di San Francesco (Basilica of St. Francis) in Assisi is this courtyard. I'm not sure if it's a cloister or what exactly it is, but it's a beautiful little place full of contrast. I like the contrast of lines and curves, sun and shade, near and far, bright color and subdued neutral. See how many contrasts you can find in this one image!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Spring Glow

A beautiful spring scene in Assisi. I love the contrast of tree practically glowing in the sunshine with the stone buildings in shadow. How the rock wall on the left turns into the rock of the hill, blending seamlessly. How, in a town made of stone and built on stone, little patches of trees and flowers bloom.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Nature always wins

It must be spring, because I am seeing flowers everywhere. Flowers on the bushes and trees, flowers for sale from street vendors, flowers on our balcony. I love it. These flowers for you today are with some Roman ruins of Ostia Antica near Rome. Ostia was the first colony of Rome, a port town on the Tiber river. We spent a day exploring these interesting pathways and buildings.

Seeing the spring flowers in the setting of the Roman ruins makes me think. Everything man builds, once complete, starts to decay. It's amazing that, two thousand years later, even this much of the Romans remains with us. But in nature, there is an ongoing cycle of renewal. After the darkness of winter comes the flowering of spring. After a severe forest fire comes the new trees. Nature's creative energy always wins. It wins over these ruins, where the plants and trees have taken root and have been transforming the place back to a natural state. While for man, our creative endeavors begin a slow decay as soon as they are completed, we are constantly fighting nature.

Just something to make you think...

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Night Lights

You just never know what you might find when you look up. A beautiful spring garden, growing over the street lights on a street in Rome. One evening on our trip we wandered around the old city, to get a feel for it at night.

This year of travel I have fallen in love with night photography. There is such a different feel at night. Different illumination and shadows. More contrast between light and dark. A challenge of it's own. But the result... beautiful.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Beautifully Backlit Boy

Occasionally, when I look through photos from a trip, something just jumps out at me. Something different, striking and wholly of my own vision. The Kat Eye View.

This photo of Brandon at the bottom of Pozzo di San Patrizio (St. Patrick's Well) in Orvieto is one of those photos. A new favorite. I saw the light, I saw the opportunity, I asked Brandon to pause for a moment and... magic. To me, this photo is magic.

When all of the elements of your art come together in a new, creative way you just have to enjoy the moment. Of the thousands of photos I take in the course of the year, I might only get a couple of these moments. I'm happy to share this one with you today.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

One Year in Italy

What's in this jar? Gelato spoons. 220 gelato spoons to be exact. Approximately one year of gelato consumption for a family of three, not counting the occasional cone we ate or spoon we accidentally threw away. This is a visual representation of our first year here, but there is so much more that has filled this year than can fit this jar.

One year ago today, I stumbled off the plane bleary eyed with two suitcases and a disoriented cat in tow to begin this adventure. I was a few days ahead of Patrick and Brandon, to get into the apartment and get things a little bit set up for when they arrived, while Patrick was finishing up with the movers and getting our house in Corvallis ready for rental.

I had no idea what I was in for.

In this year, I have learned:

- There is nothing like moving to another country, with a different culture and language, to humble you. You go from being a confident, independent, contributing member of society to a person who literally doesn't know how to pay the bills or find an item in the grocery store. Everything is different, and you have no frame of reference. No experience to pull from. No language skills to work through new situations. You have to learn to laugh at your ignorance, accept where you are, because otherwise you will have a nervous breakdown.

- To throw out assumptions of "how things are done" because you will encounter, over and over again, that they are done differently here. It opens your eyes to how much we really do assume or take for granted by growing up in one culture. It doesn't matter if it doesn't make sense to you, you have to accept it and move on because doing it differently doesn't mean doing it "wrong." You will never be able to change the culture you are in to fit your own comfort zone.

- There will be things you love and things you hate about living here. You have to try it all and then revel in the things you love while accepting the things you hate. I have discovered I love the Italian pizza, real parmesan cheese freshly grated, visiting new places, creative store window displays, art exhibits, hanging out in the piazza of a city to feel the energy, to name just a few things. I have learned to accept the convoluted, confusing beaurocracy you run into, stores closed on Sundays, the passionate responses you get from Italians that quickly blow over, cigarette smoking everywhere, the non-standardization of electrical outlets and plugs.

- Travel is expansive. Travel changes your horizons. Travel gives you an insight into new places and people. Travel is nothing like living in the place you visit. Nothing.

- Many of the things we fill our lives with are not needed. I'm talking about things and activities and people altogether with this statement. By completely changing your environment, you can start to see the essential pieces of your life that are important and which you can easily live without. For example, we lived for two months without our household goods shipment, buying only the essential things we needed. We have a whole lot more in storage in Corvallis, too. But in those two months, there wasn't much of all of that "stuff" we couldn't live without. (Except maybe a wine bottle opener. That was at the top of the list of items we bought right away.)

So many ideas are popping into my head to share that I know I can't share them all today. It's like they each need their own little essay, maybe I should write them all down and put it in a book someday with some of my photographs.

I think I can sum up the learning from this first year in Italy with one word: Acceptance. Of who I am, of where I am, of the people around me, of the situations I find myself in, of ideas other than mine, of my own ideas. I can't think of a better thing for me to learn at this time of my life.

I can only wonder, with a smile on my face, what the next year will bring.

I've mentioned previously that I'm participating the the Creative Every Day 2010 challenge through I've written a guest blog post that will be posted there today. If you have time, stop by there and read it and answer the questions I've posed. I'd love to see your answers!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Functional Beauty

Security and art, all in one. If you are going to have bars on your windows, you might as well make them pretty. That seemed to be the theme in Assisi.

This is the first of images from our vacation last week to Assisi, Orvieto, Civita di Bagnoregio and Rome. I've barely, barely scratched the surface of images from this trip, this is going to be a fun but time consuming adventure!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A Final Peek

Sometimes I feel a little voyeuristic, peeking into people's lives with my camera while we are travelling. But I love to look inside, if only for a moment, to snatch a glimpse of the lives of the people in the towns that we visit. Doesn't it make you wonder - who lives here? How old is this building? What interesting stories could this place and these people tell? It sparks the imagination.

This is the last of the photos I'll share from our day trip to Brescia. I hope you enjoyed the "peek" into another place in Italy!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Angles and Lines

I love all of the angles and lines that were in this corner, and the little bits of stucco that were left off to show the old building underneath. Just a little taste of what the building truly is on the inside. You see this quite often in Italy, and a lot in Brescia, just an arch of bricks here, a corner there to show the original stone or brick work. Enough to know that this really is an old place, without letting the entire building sit out in the elements to eventually crumble to the ground.

As an added bonus today, I share this quote I read this morning in Maya Angelou's Letter to My Daughter:
The ship of my life may or may not be sailing on calm and amiable seas. The challenging days of my existence may or may not be bright and promising. Stormy or sunny days, glorious or lovely nights, I maintain an attitude of gratitude. If I insist on being pessimistic, there is always tomorrow.
Today I am blessed.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Back with a Bell

I love the monochromatic scheme of this photo... in the weathered bike and bell, and wall, in Brescia. What stories do this image tell you? We each make up our own. That's what I love about these images.

We just got back from our week long vacation to Rome and Umbria. I had every intention of scheduling blog posts for the entire week we were gone but time got away from me. It was a wonderful week of experiencing something new (or ancient, depending on your perspective!) and I look forward to sharing some images after I sort through the gazillions of photos I took. I don't even want to think about the number!

(By the way, try explaining a word like "gazillion" to a non-native speaker sometime, it makes you realize how much a language is absorbed, just soaked from the environment, not intentionally learned.)

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

City Portrait

I tend to like these photos through gates and arches and doorways. It's as if the city itself is both the frame and the subject. You get a sense of being outside and looking inside, but the twist is that you are already inside, just by the nature of seeing through the arch. Enjoy the perspective, and the little view of the duomo piazza in Brescia.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Happy Birthday Brandon!

My beautiful blue eyed little boy is 9 years old today! While this photo is almost a year old, it still captures much of what I love about him. He clear, inquisitive blue eyes and the fun little boy freckles. Eight was such a wonderful age, full of creativity and fun. I hope Nine is even better!

Sunday, April 4, 2010


I'm not sure what I really like about this photo... I think maybe the symmetry of the mailbox and flower box in the wall. Or maybe it's the interesting color combination? It could be the composition overall.

What do you think?

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Proclaiming its Age

Here is a building, in Brescia, proudly proclaiming its age. A weathered door, the missing stucco. All of it unapologetically saying here I am, take me or leave me! I hope that I weather age so well. :)