Sunday, February 27, 2011

Looking Up

Ceilings are always worth spending some time with in Tuscan churches. This particular one - I think it was in Bologna -- makes marvelous use of trompe l'oeil.  The detail is painted on.  And in the center is a graceful dove.

The easiest way to take this kind of shot, I find, is to stabilize the camera by placing it on the floor or on a pew or railing and point it upwards.  It's a bit of a Hail Mary approach as you can't really look through the viewfinder, but that doesn't bother me much.  And I experiment a bit, move the camera around,  to find out if I prefer to have the dove in the center or off center.  In this case, I liked the framing element of the dome.

The image, like all others on the blog or on my website, is for sale. An 11x14 image with a mat whose outside measures 16x20 is $95.  Other sizes are availalbe.

And if you would like to join us on a photo tour of Tuscany and Sorrento in September, you can read more about it on my website, or on

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Blowin' in the Wind

Maybe because I'm naturally very near-sighted -- I couldn't make out the large E on the top of the eye chart without my glasses when I was 6 -- I've always been drawn to "blur shots."  To my eye, the colors are richer, the emotion deeper.  I always think blur gives a photo a sense of time passing.

This photo was taken on the ridge road just above the farmhouse we stayed at in a small Tuscan town near San Gimignano.  The time was late afternoon.  

I photographed a lot of olive trees while I was there.  The Tuscans take their olive trees very seriously -- they are reverently tended and can be wonderfully old and gnarly.  It was a windy day, so rather then use a fast ASA/ISO to stop the action, I used a slower speed to capture the leaves blowing in the wind.  The trick to this kind of shot is to keep part of it in sharp focus -- in this case, the trunk -- so it looks like you really meant it to look this way rather than you were just not paying attention to what you were doing.

Are you feeling lucky?

Photographers quickly realize that to get that special image you have to have your equipment at hand, you have to be there -- and then you have to get lucky. 

My friend Rita and I were wandering through a small Tuscan town -- don't know which one -- and we always made it a point to enter any church or chapel that might be open.  This particular one was pitch black, too dark for photography, except for this glorious slanting light coming through the stain glass window on the side. 
Rita and I whipped out our cameras and spent probably a half hour there taking the shot from angles, various exposures (just to be sure).  I love how the light caresses the figures, highlighting the action taking place, and how you can just make out the cherubs above the crucifix. 

This was not a famous church -- just a local one for the neighborhood -- but typical of Tuscany -- each town has its gems.

Friday, February 25, 2011

First Blog - Civita de Bagnoregio

It is a drear day in the Great Grey East and thoughts have turned to sunshine and warmth, which have been  scarce commodities this winter.

At breakfast with a friend of mine, I bought along some of my most cherished and, um, macabre images from my trips to Italy - a place that, for me, epitomizes the warmth that  - did I already mention this? -- has been kinda lacking in Wappingers Falls lately.

As a white-bread small-town Ohio Protestant, I was in love with all the images in the Italian churches -- particularly the dead virgin martyrs, the old bones, the bloody saints.  In a typical Methodist church, the only image is of Jesus, looking up into the light, with children on either side and Jesus light streaming from the sky behind him.  This stuff was much more fun.

This little guy, for example, I believe is a 13th century bishop, forever encased under the altar.  Don't know if you can see this, but he has a plastic doll face and gloves.

I'm hoping to see him again.  Christine Irvin and I, along with Cynthia Quist of Art History Alive, are planning a photo tour  -- 3 days in Sorrento and 4 in Tuscany.  Among the small hill towns we'll be visiting is this one -  Civita di Bagnoregio.   It's a Tuscan ghost town - a tiny hill town perched on a slowly disintegrating tufa mound, accessible only by a walkbridge across a valley.  The village itself is picturesque and the views are lovely.  And we will have a bruschetta while we're there.

[For more information on this, check out or]

Thanks for reading my first blog!  This could be fun...