Thursday, March 31, 2011

Shopping Nuns in Leon, Spain

We were in Leon, Spain for a couple of days before beginning our Camino de Santiago pilgrimage when we entered this lovely store on a side street, selling handmade lace and embroidered items.
While Tania was buying a gift, we spied these nuns doing a little window shopping, so this was a quick snap -- I didn't want them to know I was photographing them.  The problem with this kind of shot can be window reflections.  There's a little bit of that here, on the right-side nun, but it doesn't ruin the image.  I like how they are framed by the window and the clothing display and how the pink of the clothing is echoed in the nuns' complexions -- it ties together the disparate elements.  Also there is nothing distracting in the street -- if there had been a red garbage can in the right-hand side, for example, it would drive the eye out of the scene.  But most critical to this image is the emotional element --  the nuns' expressions and absorption in the window display.

Next April we are going back to Spain - -this time to the Basque country in the northeast corner of spain.  We will walk a portion of the camino, visit seaside towns, and end in Bilbao.  For more information, contact

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Hudson River Moods

I've spent a lot of time this past year photographing patterns - specifically chaotic patterns of branches/leaves, weeds/bushes, and the surfaces of the Hudson River.
These were taken during sunsets, with a zoom lens -- a 200 mm.  The scene -- the water -- moves constantly of course so you just keep shooting.  It looks best if you can get some black in the water -- so shooting near docks brought that grounding contrast element into the images -- and gold from the sunset for the drama.  I'm fascinated with the patterns, the shapes of the surfaces of the Hudson River.

Some of these images were taken during a Hudson Valley Tour that I led for a serious amateur photographer who was coming to the area and wanted to make sure she went home with some great shots. For more information about a one-on-one tour or a personal tutorial, check out my website,

Monday, March 28, 2011

Tomb of St. James in Santiago

Having finally arrived in Santiago -- the endpoint of the Camino de Santiago - the weary pilgim enters the cathedral.  Going up a few steps behind the altar, the pilgrim is in a small, gilded space, guarded by a priest.   Looking out into the cathedral is a gilded, bejeweled statue of St. James, the only one of the original Apostles -- other than St. Peter -- buried in Europe.  The tradition is to hug the statue and make a wish. Then one descends a few more steps, goes below the altar, to view the tomb itself.
We were fortunate enough to view the tomb while a priest was saying mass there, so the metal cage was open.  Several people have commented on the pointed ears and peculiar shadow on the head of the priest, giving him a somewhat sinister look.  I have no comment on that.

With Fresco Tours, we are leading a photo tour to the Basque country next April.  If you think you might be interested, please contact me or  I'll be supplying more information on my website shortly.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Two Views of Vintage Car Grill

During a Hudson Valley Photo Tour with Nancy, a gifted and serious amateur photographer, the sun was finally up.  We had gotten up at 5 am to photograph at Plum Point in the fog, then driven up  to Poughkeepsie to photograph from the walkway.  She had a couple more hours available, so we went to an antique car show at Locust Grove.  The cars are beautiful and beautifully detailed, with lines and curves that the automotive industry has forgotten how to do.
I loved the gleaming chrome, the perfect paint job and the sleek lines of this car -- please don't ask me what model it is...  This is the color version.
And this the sepia version.  I like them both.  I got the sepia color by going into Photoshop, Mode, Grayscale, Duotone.  In the duotone menu is a quadtone option.  I used that -- they give you a black, and then I did colors that were much toned down from the 4-color standard for printing -- cyan, magenta, yellow and black.  So the magenta is a light salmon color, etc.  I'm not very scientific about this -- I just messed around until I liked the result.

The Hudson Valley Photo Tours are designed to get a photographer to the scenic outlooks in the best light.  For more information, check out my website,

Friday, March 25, 2011

Sunprint from Glass Negative

A few years ago I bought a box of glass negatives at the Stormville flea market.  The seller didn't know much about them, except that he had gotten them from an old doctor's house, and he thought they were made in the late 1800s.  The negatives are about 4 inches square.  Some are askew -- the doctor wasn't a professional -- but I was thrilled with them. One of my favorites is this barn image.
For this image,  I laid the glass negative on a sunprint, which is basically a cheap cyanotype.  Sunprints are sold in packages, usually for kids. You place something on top of the print and put it in the sun until you think you have the right exposure (depends on the strength of the sun, the opacity of what you put on the plate, etc).  The glass negative is thick so it took a while, and I had to make several prints to get the right exposure.  Then you rinse the paper in water, and voila, a blue sunprint. I scanned the sunprint on my scanner and changed the color to a moodier blue.  If you don't care to make a sunprint, you can scan the negative on a flatbed scanner, and bring it into Photoshop and play.

This image -- like all the others on my blog, on my website, and at my gallery, -- is for sale at various sizes.  Please contact me if you are interested.

Join our photo tour this September in Tuscany and Sorrento and learn some new techniques for your photography.  For more information, check out my website or

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Looking Up at the Cathedral at Santiago

Two years ago Christine and I walked a portion of the Camino de Santiago, the Way of St. James, with Fresco Tours.  The Camino is one of three pilgrimage routes recognized by the Catholic Church -- the others are to Rome and to Jerusalem.  It has been a Christian pilgrimage since early medieval times. Alex and Jason of Fresco Tours took excellent care of us  -- we stayed in lovely hotels, had great Galician cuisine, and our luggage was carried for us.  However, the walk each day was challenging and rewarding.
At the end of the pilgrimage is the body of St. James and the cathedral surrounding his tomb.  As I said in an earlier blog, it pays to look up.  This image shows the repeating arches in the ceiling (do cathedrals have ceilings?  well, whatever you call it..a roof?).

We're teaming up with Fresco Tours again, in April 2012, to visit the Basque country.  While there, we will walk a portion of the Camino, as well as spend time in Bilbao and San Sebastian.  For more information about the trip, check out my website or contact

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Looking Back to Polaroid Transfers

Polaroid used to make unique emulsions.  It was instant film before the age of instant digital.  Photographers soon discovered that if you used the film in ways not intended by Polaroid you could get cool effects.
Polaroid transfers required a special machine, Polaroid film, dampened water color paper, brayers and a timer.  You put a slide in the top of the machine, exposed the polaroid, counted to (I think) 30 seconds, tore the film apart as quickly as you could, placed it on the watercolor paper, pressed it down with the brayers (firmly but not too firmly), waited another (I think) 30 seconds, peeled the film from the paper, and hoped that enough of the emulsion stuck to the paper.  When it worked, the results were soft and lovely.  When it didn't, it was a hot mess.  About 1 in 5 worked, at least for me.  This was one of my favorites -- 5 Tuscan Trees. count 'em.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Tower of Sant'Antimo

The Rhinebeck Savings Bank branch in Beacon -- on 9d, near Dutchess Stadium -- has since its opening opened up its walls to local artists. Tomorrow I'll be hanging some of my Italy portfolio there.  This will be among the images I'll be showing.
This tower is part of Sant' Antimo, a beautiful Benedictine monastery tucked into the lanscape, near Montalcino (which is south of Siena).  If you are in the area, this is a must-see.  It was built in the 12th century in a soft, creamy stone.  The abbey is maintained by a small group of French Cistercians -- it is worth visiting when they are performing Gregorian chants.

I took lots of photos while I was there, but this one is my favorite.  It shows some of the Romanesque detail, but without the cypress tree it wouldn't be anything more than a snapshot.  This is an example of when you forget the Rule of Thirds for the composition;  the image lives on symmetry and putting the strongest element smack in the center.

This image -- along with others in this blog, on my website, or at my gallery, - are for sale in any size.

Join us in Tuscany and Sorrento this fall - September 18-25  -- for a fabulous photo tour, eating tour, siteseeing tour.  For more information, check out my website, or

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Moon Shots

I though I'd add my not-so-great moon shots to the electronic ether.  As everyone seems to know, last night's moon was extraordinarily bright.  So I set my camera to its fastest speed and tried to capture something other than a white circle in a black space.  In my backyard, the moon was screened by the branches of my neighbor's tree, so I used that for 1) a focusing aid and 2) a kind of foreground.
Then, I'm not sure why,  I tried it without sharp focus.  Thought it might be an artsy effect.  Oh well.
I've tried full moon shots for years, and have never been really happy with any of them.  If you use a slower speed to bring in more ambient light, you make an interesting discovery -- the moon moves!  I like to think of my efforts as interesting failures.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Maple Sugaring in the Catskills

A life-long dream fulfilled!  I went to a maple sugar operation while they were boiling the sap.  I read in the New York Times that this weekend is Maple Sugar Weekend, checked out the website, and decided to visit the Catskill Mountain Maple Farm, 65 Charlie Wood Road, in Delancey, NY.  They advertised a free pancake breakfast.   Galina joined me on the trip, and we left Saturday morning.  We drove for 2 hours - mostly in very scenic country, and arrived at the farm.
It was a modest, working farm.  Up on the hill was the sugar house.  There were about 20 or so people having pancakes with syrup -- some tourists, but mostly farmers from the neighboring farms.  You sat down and waited your turn.  The coffee was good - sweetened with maple syrup.  Was doubtful at first, but it's really good that way -- you should try it.

Breakfast was 2 pancakes, eggs and a really good sausage patty, drenched in fresh maple syrup.  Very yum.  Talked to the farmer's children at our table. They tap around 3,000 sugar maples, some on their farm, others they rent from other people around the area.  The sap is late this year -- usually starts the end of January, but this year it began the end of February.  They have about 2 more weeks of sap.  
The sap boils down until it becomes syrup.  The different grades are distinguished by their color -- the light color, from the first sap, is the most highly prized; the later sap is darker, and the taste changes as the tree begins to divert more of the sap for the buds.
Lots for sale.  I got maple syrup, maple sugar candy, maple butter and maple cotton candy.  Passed on the maple mustard and the maple/pumpkin sauce.
Those are maple barrels.  Farm has a nice view...
Drove into Andes and hit a couple of antique stores.  Most don't open for until Memorial Day.  This place had a skeleton - named Fred -- a stuffed goose -- not for sale -- a lot of anatomical charts, and other cool stuff.

This was right outside the bathroom.
This great garage was just down the road.  To the left of it was another lovely antique store - Andes Antiques and Art, 171 Main Street.  Galina bought some wonderful jewelry there, and the owner, Merna, also had nice old furniture.  We had a delightful time visiting with her.  
This as outside town.  Can't resist a good God is Love barn.

The farm will be open next weekend as well for breakfast/demo/maple syrup in all its forms.  Go!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Spring in Hudson Valley Apple Orchards

It was warm enough today to walk around without coat, hat, gloves....a taste of spring!
Everything is still very brown here, but one can anticipate color!

The Marlboro Ridge, overlooking the Hudson River, is home to apple orchards and local wineries.  A few years ago I took off on an April day to take photos -- it was the day after a rain, so the trunks would be blacker and the day was cloudy - perfect.   I like the rhythm of this image, the harmonious way the ground cover matches up with the apple blossoms and the contrast of the black trunks with the delicate blossoms.

This image -- along with any others on this blog, on my website, and at my gallery, -- are available for sale in any size.

I lead Hudson Valley Photo Tours -- one-on-one or small groups -- that will efficiently take you to great sites in the best light so you can grow your own portfolio.  For more information, check out my website,

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Spring is Around the Corner

Of course, my crocuses haven't even bloomed yet, but I'm hopeful.  This photo was taken at Boscobel, a historic home just south of Cold Spring.  The house has a sweeping view of the Hudson River below, and is the home of a Shakespeare festival in the summer.  The grounds are well-kept and always spectacular in the spring.

I like how the sweep of the cherry trunk - a beautiful thing in its own right - leads you down the path, which is accented by the pink and green of spring

This image -- like any in this blog, on my website or at my gallery -- is for sale in any size.

I head Hudson Valley photo tours for visiting photographers, or anyone else who wants to go out and shoot and learn how to make their photos better.   For more information, check my website

Monday, March 14, 2011

Pienza: Simple Laundry

Laundry on the line -- like old barns -- is a whole genre of photos.
Maybe the image evokes home, even if your mother never hung her laundry out to dry.  At any rate, this laundry was found in Pienza in Tuscany.  The problem with laundry shots is that the necessarily horizontal aspect of it can make for a static composition.  I had no choice but to angle this image -- it was on the 2nd or 3rd floor.  This image works for me because 1) the colors are simple and satisfying, 2) the black accents add a graphic and a grounding element, and 3) the edges of the two tea towels rise delicately in sync.  (I also love the reflections on the wall that mimic the towels.)

This image -- and any others on this blog, on my website, or at my gallery,  -- are available for sale.

Join us for a fabulous photo tour of Sorrento and Tuscany this September.  For more details, check out my website, or at

Friday, March 11, 2011

Narnia Altar

We spent part of a day in Narnia, an interesting place.  The cathedral featured layer upon layer of history, from 10th century to baroque elements.
I like the black silhouette of the baroque altar against the odd pillowy ceiling.  And this is of course natural light.  I shot this with slooow slide film and a tripod.  There was a lot more in this church, but one of the hallmarks of a successful photo is to zero in on that which most interests you and leave out anything else that detracts.

This image, along with any others in this blog, in my gallery,, or on my website,, is for sale in any size.

Join us for a photo tour of Tuscany and Sorrento this September.  For more information, check out my website, or

Tuscan Grave Markers

Tuscan cemeteries are usually just outside town.  They are often enclosed by walls and look like little villages.  And the graves, no matter how old, are carefully tended.
The graves often include photos of the deceased, which for me adds to the poignant quality.
Photography, because it captures a fleeting moment that will never be repeated, pulls me backward and forward through time.  Perhaps that's why I haunt cemeteries.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Typical Tuscany: Little Chapel

Every collection of Tuscany photos includes this little chapel.
It is on the road to Asciano, high up on a hill, and is probably the most photographed structure in Tuscany.  The turnoff for this Kodak photo moment is almost nonexistent, and the chapel is at least 100 yards away from the road.  You can't get any closer -- this is private property.  The charm lies in the scale of the building, the shapes of the trees, the way the light hits the front of the chapel.  There's not much you can do with angles, etc. - you pull off the road, take the shot (vertical and horizontal), get back on the road.  Simple.

This image, along with any others on this blog, at my gallery,, or on my website, is for sale.

Join us on our photo tour of Tuscany and Sorrento this September 18-25.  For more information, check out my website, or

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Typical Tuscany: Two Trees

I'm not sure you are allowed to photograph in Tuscany without taking some variation of this photo
This photo was taken along the road between Sienna and Montalcino -- one of the most beautiful areas of Tuscany.  I have cropped this image -- it had a lot of sky and I wanted to concentrate on the landforms.  The eye goes first to the area of greatest contrast -- the two cypress trees at the crest of the hill.  The sweeping dirt road leads one around the image, into the small farmhouse on the upper right.  The triangle mound of the field has just enough color and detail to hold the image together.  The secret to minimalist landscapes like this is the balance between simple forms and interesting details.

This image  -- along with any others in this blog, on my website,, or at RiverWinds Gallery, -- is available for sale in any size.  An 8x18 image in a 10x20 mat would be $95.

Join us in Tuscany and Sorrento this September and take your own great photos of the land and the people.  For more information about our photo tour, check out my website, or

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Angels of Tuscany: Gabriel?

Is this Gabriel?
Angels abound in Tuscany -- in stone, terra cotta, oils and tempura. Again, like the Madonnas shown earlier, this is not from a famous artist in a renowned church or museum.  This bas relief was carved by one of local talented anonymous artists that Italy abounds with.

I shot this angel as a portrait.  The details, the subtle colors drew me in -- and, as with Madonnas, I rarely pass up an opportunity to photograph an angel.  I'm always particularly interested in how the wings are portrayed...This is a serious, masculine one who seems to be about to speak.  The smashed nose keeps him from being too beautiful.

This image -- like all the others in my blog and on my website, or at my gallery, -- is for sale and can be printed in any size.  A 4x6 photo in an 8x10 mat is $20.

Join us in Tuscany and Sorrento on our photo tour - Sept 18 - 25 - and collect your own angel portfolio.  For more information about this abfab trip, check out my website, or

Monday, March 7, 2011

Tuscan Golden Road

Sometimes it pays to look around....I was with 2 other photographers and we had marked this road for sunset photos.  The road was narrow and winding.  We found a pull-off and ran out of the car to set up our tripods.  Below us was a field with sunflowers and cypresses.  It was nice.  It was ok.  It wasn't a portfolio shot.  I finally looked up from my viewfinder and looked 45 degrees to my right and saw this glorious scene.
This had to be tightly composed -- directly on the right is the pull off, with our car, with all the doors open -- we hadn't even bothered to shut them in our excitement!  The road leads the eye in and has enough color itself to be beautiful.  It leads to landscape that climbs and changes in detail and color up to the sky.  The trees frame the image and give it some needed foreground and context.

This image -- along with any others in my blog, at my gallery, or on my website, -- is for sale and can be printed in any size.  For example, an 8x10 in an 11x14 mat would be $50.

To take your own great photos of Tuscany and Sorrento, come with us on our photo tour September 18-25.  For more details, check out my website,

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Winter FarmScape

One more look at winter...
Both my parents grew up on farms in Ohio, and I often drove for hours through the country, so this kind of landscape is in my blood.   I love photographing the Midwest.  This image has a lot of elements that keep the eye interested.  The diagonal fence leads the eye into the barns, then into the tree, down the field, back to the fence, and around again. I love the field stubble -- at first it looks chaotic, but it falls away to the background in symmetrical rows.  That tree in the back is perfectly placed -- if it were directly over the fence post, the photo would be too static.  The sky is a soft gray - just enough color to harmonize with the snow.  And, as someone in one of my photo workshops once said,  who doesn't like a good barn.

This image  -- along with any others in this blog, on my website,, or at RiverWinds Gallery, -- is available for sale in any size.  An 11x14 image in a 16x20 mat would be $95.

For something completely different, join us in Tuscany and Sorrento this September for a fantastic photo tour -- daily critiques, fabulous food, inspiring scenery and good companions.  For more details, go to my website,, or

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Salute to WinterScapes

Before we say goodbye to winter,  I think we should acknowledge that it was a very beautiful one.  Visually speaking, wouldn't you rather look at snow on the ground than that dead brown stuff?  And aren't the traceries of the trees against the sky beautiful?


Ok, ok - I know this is a minority opinion but since we have four seasons, we might as well enjoy them all.

This photo was taken while I was visiting my brother in Wisconsin.  The light was perfect -- the sky was grey and cloudy so that every detail of the landscape got its full value.  The snow on the ground simplified the shapes and made them stand out like line drawings.  I was first interested in the shapes of the bushes, and definitely wanted to get that great farm with silo in the background.  I used my wide angle lens to get it all in.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Tuscan Rural Roadside Madonna

I found this Madonna at the edge of a field on a Tuscan rural road early one morning.

There's such a mix of elements:  the gilded frame, the chicken wire, the tiny vase, the iron fence, and fragrant lilies and whatever that pink flower is.  Particularly the chicken wire.  Rather than photographing this straight on, as I did for the previous Madonna in this post, I angled the shot.  This does several things -- it makes sure the white of the lilies forms an energetic connection to the white of the Madonna's face.  The gilded frame then catches the eye before it leaves the photo and brings it back around.  The early morning light is more delicate than harsh midday glare or the golden light of late afternoon and so suits the feeling of the scene.

This photo, along with any others in this blog or on my website,, can be purchased in any size.   An 8x10 image, for example,  in an 11x14 mat would be $50.

To explore the pleasures of the Tuscan countryside yourself, and build your own portfolio, come with us this September for a fabulous 8-day photo tour of Tuscany and Sorrento.  For more details, check out my website, or

Tuscan Madonna Beauty

This is one of my favorites, and has been one of my best-selling madonnas.  Not a famous or particularly notable work of art, this Tuscan village madonna nevertheless radiates grace and beauty.

The edges are as important in the composition as the main event -- the madonna and child.  When I took the photo, I was very careful to include the shadow of the weed in the bottom.  The scrolling black edge grounds the image and echoes the shadows in the madonna.  The white circle in the upper left corner is another important element in the overall richness of the image -- it gives interest to that portion of the photo.  And what really takes this madonna to the next level are the beautiful textures as they have evolved over time.

This image, like any on this blog or on my website,, are for sale.  They can be printed in any size -- an 11x14 image in a 16x20 mat is $95.

If you are interested in joining me in Tuscany and Sorrento to hone your photographic skills while staying in beautiful places, enjoying great food and wine, and showing your work in a gallery upon your return home, please see details on my website, or at

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Madonna of the Sorrows

Maybe it's because of my name, but I photograph nearly every Madonna I see, which, in Tuscany, makes for a large and wide-ranging portfolio!  I was impressed with each one, and they are clearly still revered.  No matter how battered by time and the elements the shrine or fresco might be, she is typically graced by a small bouquet of fresh flowers.
This is one of my favorite images, which I found in a small Tuscan hilltown street.  In her sorrow Mary is pierced with swords -- a detail mirrored by the ironwork on the door to the right, and the cactus-like plant underneath.  I love the worn texture and color of the white surrounds and the wall behind her -- it is a symphony of neutrals.  Corners are important in a photo -- the black rectangle in the lower left grounds the image and keeps the eye circling within the image rather than running off the page.  On the right side, even though the arch line is broken, the ironwork leads the eye down into a satisfying delectation of the worn wood door.  The composition is perhaps a bit eccentric, but I think it works.

According to some research I googled, 
"Mater Dolorosa is shown as the mourning mother, expressing her sorrows after the crucifixion of Christ. Mary may be crowned with thorns, but generally she is standing with her hands folded and tears streaming down her face. She is rarely adorned with jewelry and may have one to seven swords piercing her heart. The swords allude to Luke 2:35, when upon presenting Christ in the temple, Mary was told a sword would pierce her heart. The text has been expanded to include the seven sorrows of Mary, hence the seven swords or daggers.  Our Lady of Sorrows was invoked against worry, sorrow and pain, and at the hour of death."

The image is old but still very powerful.

All the images on my blog (and on my website) are for sale.  They can be printed to any size, but a typical 11x14 in a 16x20 mat is $95.

To take your own powerful photos of roadside Madonnas, come to Tuscany with us this September!  For more information, check out either or