Posts Tagged: Europe

November 18, 2009 – Valnontey Valley

Valnontey Valley, Northwestern Italy

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Today takes us back to Parco Nazionale Gran Paradiso, a national park in the far northwestern corner of Italy. For a full story of where we were and why, it’s probably best to go digging around the earlier entries ( like this one, this one, or this one), but a quick summary is: we were there, and we saw stuff. And the stuff we saw is totally worth going there to see.

This is probably true everywhere in the world, but one thing that really struck me on our little trip through northern Italy (with a quick jaunt through southern Switzerland) was how warm and friendly everyone was once we got away from the cities. And I’m not even just talking about the folks working at the restaurants and hotels, even the other tourists seemed more willing to come out of their shell. Just as an example, when we were having dinner and breakfast in our hotel in the national park, (a total of 4 meals – 2 dinners and 2 breakfasts) we had two sets of buddies that I don’t know if we would have even interacted with in any other circumstances. One set was made up of two mildly older gentlemen (that’s my new term for folks that are my parents age – “mildly older”. Meaning, they’re older (than me), but they’re not what you’d call “old”) who were down from Britain for a couple weeks just to go “walking”. They were trying out different trails around the park each day, returning to the hotel every evening. I mean, man, what a trip that would be! I’d love to have the vacation time to be able to do that. The other set was two French-speaking ladies from… Quebec City, as it turns out. They were happy to practice their English on us, and we were happy to practice our “speaking more slowly and loudly so that non-English speakers will understand you”. Good times! Also, they had homemade yogurt. I’m glad I was able to work that in there.

Notes: Canon EOS Rebel XT, Tamron 28-300 mm lens. 1/200s, f/6.3, ISO 100. Focal length: 28mm.

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October 14, 2009 – Manarola

Manarola, Cinque Terre, Italy

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Today’s picture takes us back to Cinque Terre, in northern Italy. If you recall, Julie and I were there a few years back to see our buddies Trevor and Heather get married. (To each other, as it turns out.) We were staying in Vernazza, but this picture is from two towns down the coast, Manarola. Trevor and I were hanging out there a few hours before the wedding. I mean, what better activity on the day you’re supposed to get married than a little bit of sightseeing, right?

The Cinque Terre towns are all built into the cliffs along the Mediterranean coast. The buildings are all crammed together, all painted really bright colors, with little tiny alleyways and staircases in between. Just simply walking around the little towns was an experience unlike anything I had before. It’s magical, really.

Now, a few notes about the picture itself… As you probably realize, I’m primarily interested in landscape photography. I have very little interest in pictures of buildings and such, so consequently I have very little experience and skill taking them. I’m a horrible city tourist, because to me, a city is a city. I’m typically much more interested in seeing the landscape surrounding a city than the physical buildings that make up the city itself. While I was here, walking around these little villages, I of course tried to get the best pictures I could, but as I mentioned, I haven’t developed those instincts for what makes a great shot and what doesn’t. So I did some experimenting, with some good results, and some … not so much. I can’t decide how I feel about this one in particular. There’s definitely good parts to it (the tightly jumbled, chaotic-yet-orderly buildings, the vibrant colors, the focus on the sunny patio), but there’s other parts that are ho-hum (the cheeseball fake texture on the right side, the ugly gutter drain, the fact that I cut off that turquoise building at an awkward spot, etc). But this is how it works – you take a picture that’s pretty good, decide what the good parts are, and figure out how, next time, you can cut down on the not so good parts, so that the next picture you take will be that much closer to being great.

And that idea doesn’t just apply to your own photos either. If you’re trying to improve as a photographer (I certainly am), every time you look at a photo, figure out what you like about it, and what you don’t. You can get a lot of great ideas for your own pictures by looking at what other people have come up with. I keep harping on this idea, because it’s really the best way I’ve come up with to improve. It’s a gradual, incremental process, with no finish line. Am I a better photographer than I was a few years ago? Without a doubt. Am I as a good of a photographer as I can possibly be? Not even close. I’ll save that for next week!


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October 5, 2009 – Mont Blanc

View from Pointe Helbronner - Mont Blanc

Monday, October 5, 2009

Welcome to yet another Monday, everyone! Here’s a picture to help ease the pain. This is the view from Pointe Helbronner, which is the highest gondola station on the Italian side of Mont Blanc / Monte Bianco, which is the highest peak in the Alps. Julie and I ended up there after riding the gondola (well, series of gondolas) up from near Courmayeur. I’m still kicking myself today that we didn’t take the extra time to keep going from there, on the French (Chamonix) gondola, all the way down to the French side of the mountain. I’m not really sure why we didn’t. Some combination of not realizing we could, and not having enough coffee that day. Oh well. Sadly, this was as far as we made it.

Mont Blanc sits right on the Italy/France border. They’ve actually cut a tunnel all the way through the mountain, although I remember it being pretty expensive, and besides, we didn’t have the time, nor did that fit in with our itinerary. This is looking toward the French side. In fact, down that canyon is the Mer de Glace (sea of ice), which is a big huge river-like glacier that’s one of the big tourist draws at Chamonix. The thing that struck me the most when we were hanging out up there (and, everywhere we went in the Alps, really) was how rugged and sharp the terrain is. When you see how razor-sharp those ridgelines are, it’s painfully apparent how young the Alps really are, that nature hasn’t had a chance yet to wear them down into something resembling the Rockies or the Appalachians. Amazing, really.

I asked for some requests last week, so thanks to all of you who sent those in. I’ll be posting an animal picture tomorrow, something from Colorado on Wednesday, and some kind of mountain/water scene on Thursday. I’ll have to dig into the archives and see what I can come up with. That leaves Friday open for a special surprise! Which means that I have no clue what I’m going to toss up on the wall that day. I’ll be as shocked as all of you, I’m sure.


Notes: Canon EOS Rebel XT, Tamron 28-300 mm lens. 1/250s, f/13.0, ISO 100. Focal length: 32mm.

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September 22, 2009 – Grand Canal, Venice

Grand Canal, Venice

Grand Canal, Venice

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Hello everyone, welcome back. It’s getting harder and harder to come up with little quips to put at the beginning of my Picture of the Day entries. I’ll probably just start recycling them. People like my wife who remember every story I’ve ever even thought about telling will probably notice, except that people like my wife don’t actually read this crap anyway, they just look at the pictures. So everybody wins!

This is the Grand Canal in Venice. I’ll be honest, it’s not really one of my favorite pictures. But, it’s apparently one of the most viewed images on . I’ve started putting in little links that say “Read more about this picture” on the pictures that I’ve posted on Picture of the Day, so this is really just a lame attempt at getting some of those folks to head over this way. Don’t you all just feel used?

This picture is good for something though. It’s great for illustrating one of my huge pet peeves, that I’ve already mentioned at least a couple times in the past. When you have things like buildings in your picture (or trees, but buildings are worse), it’s painfully obvious (to my eye, anyway) when it’s not perfectly straight. And, I’m notorious for being a bit lazy and taking pictures that are cockeyed by a couple degrees. So taking pictures of things like buildings (or views where you can see the horizon) is a very frustrating activity for me. On top of that, most lenses introduce a little bit of barrel distortion, meaning they bend things around a little bit, especially near the edges. (Try getting a picture to look level when stuff in the middle is straight up and down, but stuff on the left side is leaning to the right, and stuff on the right side is leaning to the left. Arrrghhh!!) Then, just to put the icing on the cake, in some cases the buildings themselves aren’t even consistently straight! (And, depending on your perspective, having the lines be perfectly vertical or horizontal isn’t always “right”). I swear that was the case here, but that could just be me making excuses.

Regardless, these pictures of Venice drove me bonkers. Taking a picture straight is of course the most preferable option, but even when using software to straighten it out later (which sucks because it degrades the image – although I’m not going to go into why here) is really frustrating. Take a look at this image. The stuff near the middle looks pretty true. But that building on the far right is most definitely leaning toward the edge of the frame. And, as expected, the stuff on the far left is also off-kilter, although this time leaning toward the left. That’s actually kind of weird, it’s the opposite from what I’d usually expect (barrel distortion usually bends things as if it’s trying to turn them into a giant donut), but it’s still annoying. Sigh.

Whatever, enjoy your picture, and hopefully I can convince a few of those folks looking at the picture on to check out this entry. Have a great rest of your day. :)

Notes: Canon EOS Rebel XT, Tamron 28-300 mm lens. 1/250s, f/7.1, ISO 100. Focal length: 28mm.

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September 16, 2009 – The Matterhorn

The Matterhorn, Switzerland

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

For those keeping track, yes, this is the second photo I’ve posted of the Matterhorn. And yes, it was also taken from near one of the stops of the Gornergrat Bahn (the train that takes you from Zermatt way up into the ski resort), on the same day even. Although this one was taken from a couple stops further down, I believe Riffelberg was the name of the stop.

Not sure why any of you would care, but this is the picture that I use as the wallpaper on my phone. I figured that was as good as any other reason to pick a photo for the picture of the day. Now you know, right?

When I was in Colorado a couple weeks ago, my dad and I watched a show about the geology of the Alps. Among the many factoids absorbed during that time was a little nugget about the layers of rock that make up the mountain chain. I’m almost certainly not remembering this correctly, but I’m pretty sure the main three layers, from bottom to top, are: European rock, then rock from the bottom of the sea, then rock that was once part of North Africa. So, when you look at the peak of the Matterhorn, you can ignore any arguments about whether it’s Italian or Swiss, it’s actually Moroccan, Algerian, Libyan, and Egyptian. Now you know.


Notes: Canon EOS Rebel XT, Tamron 28-300 mm lens. 1/200s, f/6.3, ISO 100. Focal length: 39mm.

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