Category Archives: Photography

doorways of old san juan

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Just back from the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico and it’s all about the doors in Old San Juan.

My upcoming post will explore the spectacular beaches and unique history of Vieques Island, but for now, I’ll share a sample of the many shapes and bright colors of las puertas hermosas I found walking the streets and alley ways in Old San Juan.

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Often behind the doors are gorgeous courtyards.

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The colors of the houses are candy for the eyes.

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travel moments captured

I look forward each Sunday to the The New York Times “Why We Travel”  feature that shares reader photos both online and in its print edition. This week’s offerings include colorful Porto, Portugal as the clouds break after three days of rain; rainbow peeks in Mongolia; and a boat resting on Vernazza, Italy’s harbor.

The photos, shot by average readers while traveling, capture the feeling of experiencing a certain moment in a certain place – my readers know this, no doubt – when words just won’t do. (“The miracle of the actual” writes Colum McCann in his latest book “Transatlantic”)

Like many of you, I have saved photos of travels past that have left their imprint on me long after the experience.

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I took this photo on the Red Sea beach of Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt’s  Ras Mohammed National Park in 2001. On this day we joined an Italian day group excursion to visit the park located on the southern extreme of the Sinai peninsula (the only way to go there, at least then). Unplanned, an idea to run into the fluorescent water developed quickly among members of the group – most who did not know each other before the trip. They joined hands.  I grabbed my camera. And got this shot.

What memorable images have you captured from your travels?

landscape-inspired design at canadian museum of civilization tells a story

Just across the river from Ottawa, Ontario, a visit to the Canadian Museum of  Civilization in Gatineau, Quebec – if only to experience its exterior and Grand Hall architecture and design – is well worth it.

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The museum’s limestone exterior curving forms represent the outcropping bedrock of the Canadian Shield.

The Canadian Museum of Civilization, opened in 1989 and overlooking the Ottawa River and Parliament Buildings, was designed by landscape-inspired architect Douglas Cardinal. Without a single word, it tells, or rather shows, visitors stories of Canada’s history, its native people and culture.

The Ottawa River and Parliament Buildings of Ontario in the background

The Ottawa River and Parliament Buildings of Ontario in the background

In his Design Statement, Cardinal wrote that the building would “speak of the emergence of this continent, its forms sculptured by the winds, the rivers, the  glaciers.” Four natural features are  abstractly represented in the Museum’s form: the Canadian  Shield, the Glaciers, the streams formed by the melting  glaciers, and the Great Plains that stretched before the  receding glaciers.

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The outdoor water pools represent receding and melting glaciers

Inside the Grand Hall with views of the outside water elements, look up at the ceiling and you find yourself at the bottom of an enormous canoe. The oars become part of the walls (It took me to two visits to distinguish this).

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A dozen towering totem poles are placed around the perimeter of the room. It is said to be the largest indoor display of totem poles in the world.

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Looking up finds you at the bottom of an enormous canoe

A wonderful sculpture located in the Grand Hall , the Spirit of Haida Gwaii by British Columbia artist Bill Reid, represents the Aboriginal heritage of the Haida Gwaii regions in Canada.

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Per wikipedia, it features Haida mythological figures in the canoe that represent the natural environment on which the ancient Haida relied for their very survival – the passengers are diverse, and not always in harmony, but depend on one another to live.

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While the museum’s main collections – particularly the First Peoples Hall – are vast and satisfying and revealing of Canada’s history , an interesting hands-on Children’s Museum is also housed here where young ones can receive a “passport” and experience different world cultures (a ride on the Pakistani Bus was a favorite). To learn more, you can visit an architectural tour slideshow  featured here on the museum’s web site.

Chihuly at the Musee des Beaux-Arts Montreal

Blown glass fan or not, visiting American glass sculptor Dale Chihuly’s large-scale nature-inspired installation at Montreal’s Museum of Fine Arts – or Musee des Beaux-Arts – is a visual sensory experience.

Turquoise Reeds

Turquoise Reeds spring from trunks of old growth western cedar.

71 years old, blinded in one eye from a head-on car accident and having suffered a shoulder injury, Chihuly now serves as what he calls choreographer and visionary of his art, and employs others to do the actual muscle work of making his glass creations. Other than the color and beauty, I was struck by the size of the glass pieces. They are really big. To transport, it must take a lot of packing (miles of bubble wrap?) to keep his art safe from breaking.

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Persian Ceiling

The extent of my experience with blown glass is collecting the small figurines in Venice, and I was blown – pardon the play on words – away by the effect this exhibit, called “Utterly Breathtaking”, had on all those present, this writer included. Visitors can sit leisurely on cushions placed on the floors in the corners of the Chandelier room and take it in.

Chandeliers and Towers.

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Gardens – Mille Fiori.

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Glass Neon Forest.

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Boats. (I read he purposely dumped pieces of his glass art in the water to be retrieved onto a boat and liked the effect).

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Macchia Forest. (Macchia means “marks or spots” in Italian and he worked with spots of color in these pieces illuminated by light shining down into the bowls).

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If you are in Montreal, take advantage of the half-off tickets ($10 Canadian) on Wednesdays from 5 – 9 pm. “Utterly Breathtaking” runs until 20 October, 2013.

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fine art photography for europhiles

Our home is a collection of old and new. When returning to the states after living in Europe, we shipped many of our favorite things that held sentimental value from our time spent there. Our yellow modern Italian couches and other furniture pieces, dishes, artwork such as framed antique maps, books, and, naturally, our Alessi favorites, as I describe in this past post.

But what had become a challenge was an update to our artwork. Over our modern Italian couches and near several framed black and white photographs, hung a fresco-like painting of Siena on canvas purchased in Italy. It held sentimental value but felt old-fashioned. In fact, much of today’s European and Italian design is more modern than those Americans promoting Tuscan kitchens would like to believe. Our Northern Italian friends have the latest in glass tile, and favor clean lines, modern art and appliances over a traditional look. While we have many traditional items in our home such as a large french-style kitchen pine table, it became clear it was time to update this piece of art on the wall. But how? How does a Europhile – lover of history and things old – accomplish this?

I found my solution last month, while perusing the shelves at our local bookstore downtown for Christmas presents. Above the books, I discovered artistic photographs displayed around the room. The art show was featuring the work of Northern California photographer Dee Conway.

"Room in the Louvre", Dee Conway

“Room in the Louvre” Dee Conway

Several sepia-colored prints from photographs featuring European  architecture that appeared to be near or around Paris caught my attention. (The photos are archival prints on watercolor paper from a film negative).

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Dee Conway

Dee Conway

Dee Conway

One photograph in particular, shot wide angle by Conway from a circular window looking out onto the Louvre’s back courtyard produces a peaceful effect with its shadows, texture and clouds.  Quite large and framed in light wood, the photograph – for me – feels so familiar and represents why views like these in Europe never fail to catch my eye and keep me gazing; they fill my soul and spirit when I’m there. I never tire of it.

"The Louvre", Dee Conway

“The Louvre”, Dee Conway

One of her framed photographs has taken the place of the Siena fresco and, with the addition of a few Missoni-style, brightly-striped couch pillows, our room has been updated with the most perfect effect.

All photos by permission of Dee Conway photography at http://deeconway.com/

italy in may

We  just returned from our first trip back to Northern Italy since we left and moved back  home. There we embraced a new relationship with the country we once called home. We aren’t quite Italy’s tourists and we certainly aren’t its residents anymore. We’re ex-residents and it’s a lovely thing. While jet lag prevents me from writing further (and keeping my eyes open at the moment), instead in this first post I’ll share some of my favorite images captured during our stay there. Enjoy!

Italian sky over Lago di Garda

Brescia “new” Duomo

Centro Brescia

Outside Crema, Italy

Monte Maderno (our old ‘hood)

Church, Monte Maderno

beach, Toscolano Maderno

beach, Toscolano Maderno

Venezia

streetside, San Felice del Benaco, Lago di Garda

Palazzo Strozzi, Firenze

Campo Santo Spirito, Firenze

Market at Salo

Stunning Lago di Garda, D.H. Lawrence called it the “milky lake”