Wednesday, July 28, 2010

To Keep You Safe

One thing that I don't share often are images of signs. There are so many different signs here in Europe that you just don't see in the US, many of them with these pseudo stick figures displaying unacceptable behaviors. It's amazing how much you can convey with a simple little psuedo-stick figure. Maybe it's because there are so many cultures and languages all mixed up here, a picture is the most effective way to convey information quickly. Today's image is one example that I found very amusing, from a German train station. If common sense weren't enough to keep you from the edge of the platform, and if you don't read German, here you go. Now you're safe.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

A Taste of Switzerland

videoHeading to Switzerland this week reminded me of our road trip last year, when we first visited this beautiful country. We decided that the four or so days we spent there were not enough time, that's why we're going back! I thought I would share this photo story again of our road trip last year, to give you a taste of Switzerland along with Germany, Austria and Slovenia. I look forward to sharing more new images next week!

If for some reason this video doesn't work or you want to see a larger version, use this link.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

'Tis the Season

Ah, summer. A time of grassy green fields and abundant flowers. A time of heat and humidity; long, lazy days exploring the world. This image is a summer vacation image, from outside of Amsterdam last year. I love the peaceful, country feel of it. Don't you just want to find a patch of grass under a shady tree near here and enjoy the afternoon? Maybe with a book along, a cool drink and of course, a camera. That is happiness.

Summer is also the time of vacations, and we are going on one yet again. Tonight we leave for a week in Switzerland, so I'll be disappearing from here for a bit while I go capture new images of new places. I love it! So much creative fuel. I've scheduled a couple of posts for next week so check back - or sign up for the site feed if you haven't already, since that's the easiest way to get updated when there are new posts.

Until I'm back, happy travels to all!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Exploring with a Camera: Thresholds

Time for another exploration! This time of a subject: Thresholds. By "threshold" I'm not referring to any technical term, but a physical place. A place where you cross over, from one locale to another, whether real or imagined. Threshold images are not merely images of doors or gates, but they are of portals that transport you to somplace different in your imagination.

The photo above is an example of the type of "threshold" I am talking about. This image is from the Roman Arena in Verona. When I look at it, I get a sense of time travel. In my imagination, if I walk through that curtain, I will be transported back to Roman times. There is a magical quality of the unknown on the other side of that curtain. It beckons me to come through.

Here is another, of a gate to Parco di Monza near my home. This image gives me the feeling of looking into another world, some sort of magical winter wonderland. The gate is merely the portal, the threshold to this place. I want to explore down that path.


And here is a threshold that I captured that has become sort of an anti-threshold to me. One that I don't plan to pass through. You see, later this year I turn 40 years old and I started looking for places with the address 40 to capture my threshold. This image is from the island of Murano in the Venetian lagoon, one of my favorite places on earth to photograph, but this is one of the most depressing images I have photographed there. After I reviewed and edited it, I realized that is not my 40 threshold at all - there is no hope, no happiness, no creativity in this threshold. It's pretty bleak and closed off. It showed me that I have no problem with turning 40, that I reject the idea that this milestone is a bleak thing. So there is power in that too - I began to imagine what my internal 40 threshold looks like and it's nothing like this.


To capture a special threshold image, here are some tips:
1. Look for doors or gates that have some contrast in what is behind versus what is part of the wall or structure the opening is in. This could be a contrast in light or in scenery. The greater the contrast, the greater the opportunity for the "threshold" feeling.
2. Try getting in close to the threshold. By cropping in close on the opening so you don't see what is surrounding it, you create more opportunity for creative story telling because there is not as much physical "place" presented to distract the imagination with reality.
3. Look for openings that are not fully open, that just give a hint of what is behind them. This will give a tantalizing, magical feeling. In this case, the imagination is not distracted by the reality of what is on the other side of the threshold, but is allowed to go wild.
4. Look for thresholds that have meaning to you, whether it's the address number or the physical place or the imagery you find there. Later, take some time to examine that image to see what meaning you find. Does the image match your imagination or feelings? Why or why not? Can this threshold be useful to you to learn something about yourself?

Photography, like any art, is symbolic. The images we capture have meaning, whether or not we know it at the time. Explore the world around you with the idea that there are magical thresholds available to you all the time, and share what you find! Post a link to your photo here in the comments or join the Flickr group set up for my Exploring with a Camera series.

Why Windows?

An attractive set of windows in Dubrovnik caught my eye. As I was editing this photo and others from this day I wondered, why windows? Why do they catch my eye so? Especially ones with plants and flowers in them. Ones like this, with interesting bars to cover them too.

Maybe it's because of the individuality of each of them. Each window is different, unique, has a history of its own. The decorations reflect the individuality of the owners, no two are alike. They are an outward display of the lives inside. So much of peoples lives is closed inside here in Europe - inside the shuttered windows and big solid doors - that this is a little glimpse that there is someone living in there. And someone there who cares to make their place look pretty on the outside, even if the only way to do that is to decorate the window. Not for the tourists, but for themselves and their neighbors, the people who will enjoy it every day.

And I get to enjoy these windows, to photograph them, and to share them with you. Thanks to all of these anonymous people, who make my images possible. They are the true artists here!

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Story in the Rooftops

There is a story in the rooftops of Dubrovnik. A history, there for the eyes to see. Not the history of hundreds of years ago, but of less than two decades. A story from the Croat-Serb conflict of 20 years ago.

Shortly after Croatia declared independence from Yugoslavia, Dubrovnik was beseiged for seven months as part of the conflict, in 1991-1992. The idea was that breaking Dubrovnik would break the spirit of the Croatian conflict. But Dubrovnik was never broken, and neither was the spirit of the Croats. This city survived, as it has survived for centuries, even against major powers like the Venetians. And now it is rebuilt, the damaged rooftops and streets repaired to invite visitors once again.
So Dubrovnik has an interesting look, because of all of this, with most of the centuries-old buildings sporting new rooftops. You can see the difference between the ones from long ago and the ones that are brand new. You can see the spirit of the people who survived and defended their city in modern times. You can hear it in the stories of the people you talk to... from the restaurant owner who tried to teach us to make a whistle with our hands "like they used to communicate in the war" to the owner of the apartment we rented who told us how the old aqueduct system bringing water to the town worked even during the conflict.

There is pride in these stories, pride in the rooftops. They respect the history of the town, and it becomes intertwined with these recent histories and experiences. In some places, you see where they tried to repair the roofs with as many old tiles as possible, combining them with new. It all becomes one continuous history.
And when you look out over the town, you get a visible reminder that conflict is not gone from our world. But it can end, people can rebuild and in the course of less than a lifetime go from besieged town to thriving tourist destination. Dubrovnik was a beautiful city, well worth the visit. But I think what I liked best, was hearing the story of the people who live there and reading the story in the rooftops.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Same but Different

Farmer's Markets all over the world are the same aren't they? Tables with yummy fruit and vegetables, fresh from the farm, and people who are part of their growing are selling them. In a way, the markets bring us closer together. Closer to our food, without it just showing up magically in a supermarket in the refridgerated section under flourescent lights, you get a better idea of where it's coming from. Who is growing it. They also bring us closer together culturally, it's a familiar experience to visit a market and see the day's wares available to sell. It's an equalizer, every one has to eat. And that food comes from the same place - the land, the sea.

But you also get to see the little differences. Maybe a fruit or vegetable or flower you aren't familiar with. Maybe it's mostly fish instead of other types of meat. The signs for the names or currency are different. Or in the case of this market in Split, Croatia, you see that each woman has a little table for their fruit and vegetables, all lined up in a row, instead of the big truckload farm stands. You see the women who look like they have worked the land for most of their life. The people who, by their existence, would ensure we would eat well here in this country.

Bringing me just a little closer to the place we are visiting. Markets are amazing things.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

You've gotta have your "Guys"

Today's post is a bit more of a cultural lesson, something suprising we've learned about living in Italy. Many of the neighborhood businesses around are small family-run businesses. When you shop at the same place a few times, you find that you see the same people, and they get to know you. And a remarkable thing happens when they get to know you, they treat you like an old family friend. They give you discounts, freebies, extra items because you are a regular. And they become your "guys," the ones that you know you can go to and get a warm welcome. You go back even if they don't have the absolutely best food or the best prices, because you are part of things now.

Case in point: Today I went to the art store I always go to in Monza, Colorificio Manzoni, for some new paints and brushes. I first went to this store about a year ago when I wanted to start painting in acrylics. I knew nothing of painting in acrylics, even less of how to ask what I needed in Italian. My English-Italian dictionary was of little help. The owner called his son in (from home nearby, presumably) because he spoke some English and could help me. They got me hooked up, and I've been going to them ever since. They remember me every time, and now I can talk with them in Italian a bit and even know the names for what I want. And every time they add up my purchase, they knock off a few Euros. (Today I stole the paper just to prove it!) They're my art guys.

This is not unique to this store or these guys, that's what is amazing about it. This is Italy. We get heaping gelatos from our gelato guy, at least one size bigger than what we order because he piles it on top. Patrick gets free meat from the butcher at the local market because he knows he's an American and wants him to try something new. Can you imagine that at your local Safeway? I can't. In our giant box store, inventoried and always balancing American culture that just wouldn't fly.

It's just one of the amazing and wonderful things about Italy. I don't think you could ever get this experience quite this way without living here, and it consistently amazes and delights me while also making me a loyal customer. So, if you ever find yourself in Monza, stop in at Colorificio Manzoni on Via Manzoni 54 and say hi to my guys.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Nature's Paintings

Reflections are one of my favorite things to photograph. They are like nature's paintings. Sometimes realistic in the flat calm water, sometimes impressionistic in the breeze. They are never exact, since the surface that things reflect off affects the image whether in color or shape or orientation. Always beautiful, showing us a different point of view, when we stop to notice them.

On my last trip to Burano, I got lucky. It had rained all day, all the way on our trip to Venice, only to clear up shortly after we got there. By the time I got to the island the sky was mostly blue and the late afternoon sun was lighting up the colors. That was my first stroke of luck. The second was wandering over to the pretty, off the beaten path canal I found on my previous visit, only to discover it was completely empty. No boats of any kind, because they were working on the canal and had the ends blocked off.

Oh, what luck! What joy! To have all of this color, light and uninterrupted reflections to play with. Nature's paintings, to capture with my camera.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A Beautiful End

I take a break from my regular blog topics to say a few words in memory of our dear, sweet golden retriever Tasha who left this world yesterday in the arms of her second family in Colorado.

This was not a surprise, she was almost 14 years old and was having more and more physical problems. One of the hardest things we had to do when we came to Italy was leave her behind, knowing that she might not be there when we got back. We were all so very blessed that Patrick's sister and her family wanted her to come live with them and be part of their family in Colorado.

Let me tell you a little bit about Tasha... Everyone loved Tasha. She was the most gentle soul you would ever meet. Always happy to be there for love and support, never demanding. Never once hurt or threatened another creature, even when annoyed by a toddler or a kitten or an alpha dog. She would just look at us with those big brown eyes that seemed to say "Seriously?" and stoically bear whatever life threw at her. Tasha patiently taught me to like dogs, and she was the first dog I ever truly loved. She was our first baby, coming to us as a 6 weeks old puppy in 1996, 5 years before our son Brandon was born.

Sometimes we might think that we are doing a favor to the animals in our life, by taking them in and loving and caring for them. That we are giving them a home. But really, they are the ones who are doing us the favor. They become part of our hearts, they make our home a home. Our animal companions are the ones who show us what unconditional love truly is. They teach us compassion. And they teach us how to grieve when they go, since their lives are so much shorter than ours.

So, Tasha I just want to thank you. For all that you gave to me, all that you taught me.

And Heather, Rob and Dylan, thank you so much for bringing Tasha into your home and loving her as much as we did for the last year and a half. For so amazingly dealing with the difficult end of her days when we weren't there. You got the hardest part. Tasha was so lucky to have had two families in her life that loved her so much. We will be forever grateful to you.

Today I created this photo story to honor Tasha's life. I wish I had her puppy photos, our canoe dog photos, more photos from her time in Colorado... but this is what I have today and now is when I need to do this. For me. For her. For anyone who knew her.

"It's a beautiful end to a beautiful life..."
video

Monday, July 12, 2010

Great Expectations

What a find this morning! I love this photo from Dubrovnik, Croatia. I love the amazing texture and range of subtle colors. I love all of the layers and angles. I could look at this photo for hours and continue to discover new things.

I began working with my Dubrovnik photos this morning with the idea that I wanted to let myself be surprised. To see what images would pop out that I did not expect, did not plan. There are times I create my art at the moment of taking the photos with intention and foresight, lining up a composition just so, taking multiple exposures and compositions to study and see which I like best. When one of these comes out the way I visualized it, I am satisfied, but not necessarily overjoyed. Why? Because, with the work and intention I set at the time of creation, I expected at least one of those images to come out well.

But the images that often fill me with joy and excitement are the surprise ones. Like this one. Where my inner eye saw something in the moment, caught a frame or two but didn't dwell on it. I don't even remember capturing this image, and so to find it so wonderful now is a joyful surprise, a little gift in my day.

I worked with a guy that said, "Expectations are premeditated disappointment." And there is some truth to that statement. When we expect something to happen and attach to specific outcome, we can be satisfied when it does turn out but when it doesn't happen we are disappointed. But, what if we create without any expectations for the end result - the specifics of how it looks or how it will be received? What if we let loose our inner eye and detach from the outcome? Every image can become a surprise, every outcome positive - wonderful no matter what the specific details - because we didn't set up any expectations. By letting go of those expectations, which are all about what our minds can envision at that moment, we allow space for other new and wonderful things to happen which are beyond our current vision.

This doesn't just apply to creating art, but all aspects of our life, our work and our relationships as well. In her book Simple Abundance, Sarah Ban Breathnach says, "I approach my work with a passionate intensity, acting as if its success depends entirely on me. But once I've done my best, I try to let go as much as possible and have no expectations about how my work will be received by the world. I have consciously chose to be surprised by joy. It's a choice you can make as well."

I'm making that same choice to be joyfully surprised by the outcome of my work, my art. From the creation of it in-camera to the reception of it by the world around me. That doesn't mean I won't be intentional about creation anymore, that I'll stop visualizing an outcome and seeking to achieve it, but it does mean detaching from the end result. Because I've found it's a lot more fun to be surprised than to be disappointed.

Create to Live

This has become one of my favorites from my most recent trip to Venice. Late at night, in Piazza San Marco, this artist had his paintings set up to sell. In the image, I love how the light just pools around the art, an island in the darkness. The artist is there too, a part of it, slightly visible at the edge.

Isn't that how art is too? No matter what we create, it may be a representation of some other physical thing, but we are there too. Art is a reflection of us. You cannot separate the creator from the creation, the artist from the art.

And so I am in this image too, as the artist. I am the one who sees these moments. I am the one who looks longingly at these street artists, whispering inside, "I want to do that. I want to create for a living." Set aside my American-dream culture to say that maybe it doesn't matter if I have a big collection of stuff, maybe just creating is what life is about. Creating something good, something to be proud of, something that touches others in a positive way. Live to create, create to live.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Good Design Finds

I love it when we come across some good design in our travels. A store or brand that really has a unique look and also displays it well. The Aqua chain of stores we ran into in Croatia fits my "good design" definition perfectly. Everywhere along the Croatian coast, you find these stores where you can buy everything from pencils to tableware to bath towels with their signature design. I loved it! I add Aqua to my list that includes Pylones and Campo Marzio Design as great, unique design finds here in Europe.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Exploring with a Camera: Dappled Sunlight

This image fills me with a sense of peace. The greens and blues, the sheltering trees, the path to follow, with the archway leading you right around the corner into the sunlight. It's a safe, shaded place to pause before moving onward. Beautiful.

This path is part of Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia, where we spent one day hiking along a series of lakes with wonderful waterfalls. Just as spectacular is the path you follow, that winds you along and right up close and personal with the waterfalls or "splat" as they are called in Croat. It was an enjoyable day, a nice break from the cities we had visited to commune with nature and see something new.

I've often struggled with getting a good exposure in dappled sunlight images like this one because of the high contrast between full sun and full shade, a common problem in the middle of the day in the summer. Here are a couple of tips for your own explorations of dappled sunlight:
1. In the camera, underexpose. You want to make sure that the bright areas of sunlight on the leaves and the path are not overexposed or "blown out" completely. If that happens, you lose the ability to make any adjustments to those areas later in photo editing software.
2. In your photo editing software, consider two edits (I use Photoshop Elements):
- Adjust Levels to get back the "bright" areas if they were underexposed too much.
- Lighten shadows or Darken highlights to get less contrast between the light and the dark areas. I've found the biggest problem with dappled sunlight pictures is that the dark areas are too dark relative to the brighter area of the photo, so if you just lighten them up a bit it looks more like what your eye sees.

For this image, I underexposed a full stop in the camera and then just adjusted levels to brighten the highlights back up, because the exposure was pretty good overall. A small bit of cropping and I was done!

I also played with Pioneer Woman's Lovely and Ethereal Action for Elements, and I like the depth of color and the dreamy quality this one gives as well. I can't decide which one I like better!

Try your own dappled sunlight pics, and let me know how it goes! I've created a flickr group if you want to share your exploration results called Kat Eye View: Exploring with a Camera. Come join in!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Evening Stroll

Wander around any European city on a warm summer evening, and you will find people out and about. Enjoying an aperitivo, window shopping, meeting up with friends, listening to street performers... tourist destination or not. There is such an energy, a feeling of shared community, to the piazzas and placas and platze no matter what country you are in, what language is spoken around you. This particular evening on the Riva in Split was no exception. This is one of the things I absolutely and truly love about being here in Europe and Italy.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Abundance

As I was going through more photos from Split, Croatia yesterday, I came across this one from the market. It gave me such a feeling of abundance. Maybe it's the color, such rich deep reds punctuated with the lighter colors. Maybe it's the fact that they are laying there in a pile. I mean, how often do you just see a pile of flowers? A pile of roses? Roses are far too noble and revered a flower to just pile up, unless you have too many of them.

Isn't it amazing and wonderful that such a simple thing, an image of a pile of flowers, can give a feeling of abundance? That means, it's all in our outlook. Feelings of abundance are all in what we choose to see in our world, not just what we have. We can see the abundance in life around us, or the lack.

And think of all of the flower images I have, that I've shared here. Look at me, I'm rich! And I'm so happy to share my riches with you.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Embarking on the Journey

Our journey to Croatia last week began with a ferry trip. We drove a few hours south to Ancona, Italy and then took an overnight ferry to Split, Croatia. How cool is that? As we left Ancona we were able to enjoy a beautifully colorful sunset on one side of the ferry and an equally amazing full moon rise on the other. Warm Adriatic Sea breezes washed over us as we enjoyed the twilight on the top deck of the ferry. Then, off to bed in our little 4 bunk cabin and woke up the next morning in a new country - what a way to travel!

Always Looking In

It seems I'm always looking in. Into windows, courtyards, towns. Capturing the evidence of the lives of people in the places we visit. I love windows like this one from Split, Croatia... so full of plants the shutters won't close. Full of the day's laundry drying. Full of texture and rust, of times past caught along with the current moment.

Isn't that what photography is about? I guess it is, at least from the Kat Eye View!

So, what's your view?

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Everyday Life with History

We just returned yesterday from our week-long road trip through Croatia and Slovenia. What a crazy trip - we travelled so much - visiting Split, Dubrovnik, Korcula, Plitvic National Park in Croatia and Bled, Postojna and Slocjam in Slovenia. We saw lots of wonderful and amazing places, and arrived home tired from the travel. Lesson learned - don't travel quite so much in one trip. Downtime is needed.

Today's image has a different message than that though, this is one of living with history. You see, in Split, Croatia most of the old city was built up inside of Roman emperor Diocletian's palace. The palace walls were once the city walls and the medieval old city is a wonderful little place where Roman ruins are just part of the life around them. I love this image for what it tells you of this place. Look at the building - grass is sprouting from the roof and the stone is all cracked. You can just glimpse an arch of the Roman palace gate in the background and see the ruined wall beside it. But look closer, there is something in the attic window. Look closer, at the brand new shutters. Someone lives here. Someone lives in this house that looks like it could fall down tomorrow. Someone lives with this history, as part of their every day.