Friday, May 28, 2010

Join Me in Germany

An inviting doorway in Braubach, Germany, a little town along the Rhine river that is the home of Marksburg Castle. This image adds to my ever-increasing collection of doorway images. I like this one for a few reasons: There is a sense of "place" with the half-timbered house in the background; a sense of time with the wonderful greenery and flowers; and a sense of mystery with the open doorway and light streaming through. I am invited to come in and see the courtyard, and in doing so, I expect it to be as pretty on the inside as the outside and to find a refreshing, relaxing place. Come join me here for a cool drink!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Time for Breakfast

An inviting advertisement for breakfast in Bacharach, Germany.

This week I have been in the mood to share photos of some different places, besides Italy. So it is good that we are going out of town this weekend, heading to Spain, to Barcelona. We've never been to Spain! A new country to add to our list, a new place to explore, new images to capture and share.

I've decided that when I travel I'm not going to schedule blog posts. I like the daily interaction and contemplation of my photos that this blog brings me, and to do a whole bunch in one or two days to get ready for a week away becomes more of a chore than fun. And this is for fun! So after tomorrow I'm going to disappear for a few days and I'll come back refreshed and renewed and with wonderful images of Spain!

Now off to fruhstuck. (That would be breakfast, in German.)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Beautiful Spaces

I love art galleries. The light, the spaces. A well done art museum provides a place that is interesting and stimulating but also keeps the focus on the artist's work. Designing a gallery is an art form in itself! This is the Musee Marc Chagall in Nice, France. I love the colors that he uses, so bold and bright. The space was also beautifully done, to display his work and to learn about his life. I wish more museums would let you take pictures. I don't want to take pictures of the art itself, I can buy a postcard or print if I want that, but I want to capture the spaces the art is displayed in.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Organized Chaos

Ah, Amsterdam. The jumble of bicycles everywhere you turn was marvelous. I love the organized chaos, the repeating lines of them all together. Trying to pick one bicycle, one focal point out of many, was a fun exercise. What do you think, did I succeed with this one?

Monday, May 24, 2010

At the Doorstep

As I mentioned last week, when we were in the Cinque Terre I was just drawn to doors with peeling paint. Here is another one from Riomaggiore, I love the green paint, against the grey of the door and the chips of it on the red brick of the doorstep. It must be the light, the texture, or as one person commented on that post, "I would like to chunk them off and mash them in my palm with my thumb." I realized that I feel the same, there is an interactive nature to these photos, a desire in me to participate in the removal of paint from the surface, to pick off flakes and crumble them to nothingness.

Now, I could not have said any of that at the time I took the photo. All I knew at the time was that I was drawn to these spots, compelled to take a photo or two. After the fact, I see that this desire to take pictures of peeling paint is coming from somewhere other than my rational brain. The theme this month for the Creative Every Day challenge has been intuition, and it's really caused me to sit back and look at how I use and follow my intuition in different areas of my life. I realize that when I take photos of a subject like this, it's my intuition talking. I can't explain it rationally in the moment, but I act on the feeling then and there. And, usually, it results in images that I like, and that have something to show to me later.

Even if the message is just that I have an obsessive urge to crush paint flakes.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

It Takes Hard Work

Evening comes in to Riomaggiore, in the Cinque Terre of Italy. I love the colors and light in this photo. Not full dark, the "blue hour" as I've recently learned.

Since night photography has become a recent interest, I've had to practice. It's hard to get a really good night shot. You take so many, playing with exposures and ISO and lenses and compositions... but it pays off when you get that one beautiful one.

It's easy to dream about doing something, but the actual doing is always a lot harder. It takes hard work to improve, to get really good, to make a vision real. The beauty of it is, if it's something you LOVE to do, it doesn't feel like work.

Yesterday I spend the day learning things about XML and CSS code. A beautiful sunny Saturday afternoon in Italy and I was on the computer most of it. Why? Because I have a vision of what I want this blog to look like, where I want it to go, and I'm willing to put some work into getting there. I used to hate being on the computer when I wasn't working at my corporate job, because I associated the computer with things I didn't really have a passion for. Computer = work = not fun. The truth of it is, the computer is just a tool for whatever the job is. And now that what I'm doing on the computer is aligned to my passion, it's totally different.

This is an amazing realization for me, that's been slowly creeping up. My time here in Italy so far has been spent exploring my creativity and dreaming of possibilities. Now it's time to continue the dream into reality. I look forward to sharing with you some of these things as I work on them, like the blog update, along with my view of the world through photography.

Thanks for participating in my journey! I love hearing from you in comments and emails and facebook posts. It's such a fun thing, to be able to share my passion with the world in this way.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Sunny Saturday

It's a beautiful, sunny Saturday here in Italy so I thought I would pick a photo with some bright sun and color. This is from a Saturday a few weeks ago, in Burano (of course!). The first two times we were in Burano it was overcast so I had been hoping to get there when there was some sun. When we left for Venice on Saturday morning it was grey and drizzly. We even were rained on as we exited the train station. But after lunch, the sun came out and we headed directly to Burano. Do not pass Piazza San Marco, do not stop in Murano. And I was rewarded with sun on the beautiful colors! Often when traveling, you only have one opportunity, one visit to get the images. It is nice we have the chance to go back someplace once in a while!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Exploring with a Camera: Shadow Portraits

Today I thought I would post of fun exploration idea that I've played around with a few times. Finding a great "shadow portrait" opportunity like this one requires a few things:
1. Sunshine or a direct light source that throws shadows. OK, obvious. :)
2. A wide open enough surface that the shadows are recognizable.
3. Noticing the shadow.
4. Deciding on composition: Angle to capture the shadow to get the "portrait" of your subject, how much of the background to use to "frame" your portrait, etc.

You can do this with any object, it doesn't have to be people. The thing I like about these shadow portraits of our family is that they are all three of us together (since I don't turn my camera over to strangers, it's hard to get a family photo all together) and that they are also of the place we are at. It puts us, in that place, in a unique way.

The first photo was in Riomaggiore, in the Cinque Terre last weekend. The photo below... well, it should be obvious.
Play around this weekend and take some shadow portraits if you have time. Or just notice the shadows around you, that is interesting in itself!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Lessons of Language and Culture

Living in another country is like walking in the fog. At times you have no idea where you are, at times you can make out shapes in the distance. At times, you can see what is right in front of you but you may not recognize anything else in the landscape.

Every time I think things are going well here in Italy, I am reminded again that culture and language is such an essential part of who you are and how you behave and react that it gets us into trouble.

Just for a moment, I would like you to pause and answer this question: What does the phrase "extremely tough" mean to you?

To me, it means it may be hard but is possible. It may be doable. We will have to work at it but could make it happen. So when we discussed a proposal at work and I got this answer, I thought that it would be difficult but was open to discussion.

To my Italian colleague, it meant no. It meant it was not possible to do, they would never agree to it, we were wasting our time. So it came out this week that he was extremely angry with me about the fact that I went forward with the proposal through formal channels at work, because he thought I was completey disregarding his feedback and intentionally causing delays. And I was frustrated when the formal channels completely, flat out rejected the proposal without discussion, feeling they had strung me along and were just delaying things. Both completely normal responses, given our understanding of the situation. And both completely wrong.

All because he said "extremely tough," meaning "no" and I heard "maybe."

The layers and layers of language and culture are all around us, are part of us. You don't realize how fundamental they are, how much we operate on assumptions in every day life, until they are challenged. This is my cultural lesson for the week. Maybe you can learn from it too. Even in our home country, in our home language, we make assumptions all of the time about meaning and intention. Next time you are frustrated by a situation, check and validate your assumptions and look at it again. Those assumptions may be the problem.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Peeling Paint (and Yes, a Balcony for Us)

What is my fascination with peeling paint? Is it the texture, the light, the randomness of it all? Whatever it is, it called my name this weekend while visiting Cinque Terre. I have several pictures of peeling paint, mostly on doors. This wonderfully textured door is to our little private terrace for our apartment in Riomaggiore this weekend.

The interesting part of the terrace is that it wasn't on the same floor as our apartment. We had to walk up a floor to get to it. It wasn't locked but the gentleman renting us the apartment was very clear this was our private terrace. We found this immensely enjoyable because last fall, when my Mom and cousin Heather visited Cinque Terre, they told us a story of trying to go onto a terrace in their building, similar to this one, and being told, emphatically, "No balcony for you!" by the person renting them the room. They had just watched a man and his son go out on the balcony and nothing was said, so they didn't understand why they couldn't. Must have been a similar situation, but the story provided much humor for the rest of their visit. And, months later, for ours to Cinque Terre as well. We enjoyed the retelling of the story as we sat out on our balcony and looked over Riomaggiore.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Colors of the Coast

Why is it, that coastal towns seem to revel in color? Pinks and yellows and greens for buildings, and here some red and blue near the harbor of Riomaggiore, the Cinque Terre town we stayed in. So much color. It's as if the coastal towns are more sure of themselves, less serious than inland cities. No drab greys and browns for them. They celebrate their sparkling summer sun with bright colors, showing tourists their fun side, knowing that the time will pass and the winter storms will come again. But, even when the people leave and the waves crash against the shore, the colors of summer still remain.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

On the Ligurian Coast

Along the coast of the Ligurian Sea lies a stretch of land that time has intentionally forgotten: Le Cinque Terre, or the Five Lands, is a national park of Italy with these five fabulous little towns along the coast that have been preserved. This one, Manarola, was our favorite. Hard to believe that we were there just hours ago, enjoying the sun and the sea, eating torte di verdura and focaccia, and climbing up and down the steep hills. My blog has been missing for a couple of days, because I was off taking more wonderful pictures of places like this. Ah, inspiration on the Ligurian Coast.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The World at Night

It's a different place, the world at night. Sometimes quieter, sometimes rowdier, definitely different. I've never been a night person before, but lately I cannot get enough of night photography. On our last trip to Venice I had the opportunity to get a few night shots like this one, and it wasn't nearly enough. I'm craving more! We are going back again soon, so I can wander around late into the night to capture this very different mood of Venice. I love it.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

What Time Reveals

Slowly, every so slowly, over the centuries of use the marble of this entryway of St. Peter's Basilica has worn down. Time reveals the differences in the inset stone of the marble floor, and the strengths and weaknesses of our own selves. You have to get at the right angle to see it though, to notice the difference, otherwise you might just walk right on by and miss what time has wrought. Take a moment today to look at something from a different angle, to see what the light shows. What do you see that you didn't see before?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Skies of Blue

I loved the colors and shapes of the Russian Orthodox cathedral in Nice, France. So different from the other churches we've visited on our travels. And against that blue sky - wow! Just brings a smile to my face, a lift in my day. I hope it does for you too.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Winter in Spring

It's become normal, each day, for me to pick a photo to post based on a random impulse. Call it my intuition. Then I just write what comes to me based on looking at that photo. While there is sometimes a plan or a "theme" week (like when I show a specific place we visited, or show several pictures with similarities), they are usually just selected based on what calls to me that day. It has worked very well, and I'm often surprised by what comes out.

It's not intuition that makes me choose today's photo, it's my body. I have an icky cold, it feels like winter to me. So I'm going to drink my tea, finish this post and then crawl back into bed. Because my body is telling me to. I guess sometimes you have to listen to your body too.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Flowers for Mom

These flowers, full of hope and love and color and light, are for all of you Moms out there! Happy Mother's Day today.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Purple is the Color of Italy

We noticed it last year when we first got here... purple is everywhere. People wear purple all of the time. Purple sweaters, striped shirts, purple pants and lots of purple shoes. Men, women, children - purple, violet, lavender - all decked out in purple. In the winter it changed to darker purple shades to go with black. So I guess it shouldn't be completely suprising to have found a purple gondola in Venice, near some beautiful purple flowers in bloom, but I have to admit it was an unusual sight. Italy always has little surprises for me like this.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Inspiration is in the Wind

Inspiration is all around us, we only have to see it, to feel it. The shape of things, the light, the patterns, the analogies they hold for our lives. Notice. Archive. Tap into it. Create. Share.

Why share this photo of a windmill in Sloten, Netherlands, with this message? No idea! It's just what came to me today as I looked at what image to post. I am working on bringing awareness and exploration into my everyday life, similar to what I experience on my travels, and what inspires my photography.

What might this image or these words inspire you to do? I am curious. You don't have to answer this today. Archive it away, and let me know someday.

Thursday, May 6, 2010


Time for a little nap, in a warm and comfortable place. Cats know what they are about! My thanks to this cat Burano, who so nicely dozed in a place that was good for my artistic composition. Learn from cats - when in doubt, nap!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Filled with Possibility

Early season grapes, in the Rhine River Valley in Germany. Filled with possibility, not yet ready for their intended purpose, but you know they will be. It's just a matter of time.

This is how I feel today.

By the way, check out this website, THXTHXTHX, for a fun and positive little message of gratitude every day.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Beauty is Everywhere

One amazing lesson from this journey I am on through Europe and life - Beauty is everywhere around us, we only have to see it. We only have to stop and notice. In our hurried, everyday lives do we do that?

I didn't, until I completely uprooted myself and my family and moved across the ocean temporarily.
I didn't, until I started carrying a camera everywhere and noticing more about the world around me in a different way.
I didn't, until I started sharing what I found with others and recognizing the amazing joy that sharing beauty can bring.

All of these things have made me "see" in a different way. Helped me see beauty everywhere, in so many ways.

Is something beautiful if no one notices it? Our American (English?) saying, "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder" has been used to mean that beauty is completely personal. But does it also mean that it requires a person, a beholder, to see it and name it beautiful?

If so, we have a big job! We have so many things around us to find beautiful. I encourage you to make something beautiful today, just by seeing it. Notice what is around you. You don't need the move to the foreign place to change your viewpoint like I did, learn from me.

(Image is a stair railing of a townhouse in Amsterdam.)

Monday, May 3, 2010

Intuition and Gratitude and Joy

This is me. A funky self-portrait of me in our apartment building elevator last Thursday morning. You can't tell, but I'm full of gratitude and joy at this moment.

You see, on Thursday I got a hair cut. I've been toying with the idea of getting my hair cut shorter for the summer, but as I headed across the street to see Claudio, my parrucchiere, I resolved to get the usual. A shoulder length, layered, reliable haircut. But after he washed my hair, as I sat in the chair I said, from some deep down desire, un po' corte, which means, a bit short. So Claudio gestured to me about how much, I answered Si and then I watched him snip away. I let go of any angst or idea of the results, just watched and waited. It was fun to observe him working, without expectation or worry.

The amazing thing is, I walked out of that salon feeling like a huge weight had been lifted off of my shoulders with that haircut. I was buoyant. For some reason, I needed this hair cut, needed to listen to that little voice inside me called intuition.

Before heading back to the apartment, I was filled with the creative urge to stop at the newsstand to get a couple more magazines for my collage class. So I did, and reveled in the feel of the breeze on my neck and savored picking out the magazines.

I returned to the apartment and grabbed my camera and went to take pictures of the spring flowers under the trees in Parco di Monza, which I had been wanting to do for over a week and kept putting off, and was filled with this wonderful creative energy that hasn't hit for a while. You can see the result in my blog post from Friday. I was filled with joy, and gratitude for the creativity and playfulness that came upon me, the moment with my camera and the flowers, for a beautiful spring day, for being where I am in life.

In the elevator on my way home, I snapped this picture to see if I could get an interesting shot of my new haircut, and to capture the moment. It came out kind of funky and not what I would consider flattering, so I didn't think more of it at the time. Saturday I looked at the photo again and it felt different, a little more intriguing, so I played with it a bit to get a retro feel and posted it on Facebook as my profile pic for fun. And that, in turn, sparked interesting comments and creativity from my friends, even a short story starter. I am filled with gratitude and joy that something as simple as an image can turn on people's imaginations for a moment. That something I created in turn created a little bit of fun in their day, which then reflected back into mine.

So you see, this whole cycle of creativity and gratitude and joy started with me following my intuition with my hair cut. Since that time, I've been aware of all these delightful moments that connect one into the next. Ideas are flowing and I just can't stop them! I've found that I need little notebooks everywhere because the ideas keep coming, from all angles, on all topics, and they won't leave me alone until I record them some where. Maybe it's because I'm finally listening to that little inner voice, my intuition, and since it has my attention now it doesn't want to stop talking.

Truly, I am filled with gratitude and joy for it all. This creative energy has been amazing. Now, where's that notebook? I have a few more things to write down...

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Sun and the Sea

The sun and the sea,
just waiting for me.
The sea and the sun,
reflecting beauty as one.

Poem inspired by this photo of the Monte Carlo Casino, Monaco.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

What do these colors make you think of?

Today my son Brandon picked out the picture for the post. This is part of a building and window in, where else, Burano! I loved the bright, unlikely color combination and the hint of the items for sale in the shop window.

I asked Brandon what these colors make him think of, and he answered flowers. My answer is: they remind me of a party! How about you? What do these colors make you think of?