Archive for the ‘Italy’ Category

Sport HDR Photography

I’ve been holding back on some of these pictures I took at the Palio because how much extra work single-shot processing generates…between exporting out, noise reduction, and my computer slowness (which crops up randomly despite the SSD I installed). Well, as you may have heard, Photomatix 4 is kind of a game changer in terms of 1-shot HDR processing. I feel like the ease of its workflow would legitimately allow for Sports HDR, with RAW format images and Photomatix’s batch processing capabilities. However, most of the single-shot HDRs I’ve processed have less of the surreal feel to them, and look more like really well lit pictures. Which is great. Most people would probably prefer just having their pictures look better without looking strange, which is now super easy. For example, it would be (nearly) impossible for me to shoot a bracket for this picture, but now I was able to process this in less the 30 minutes…

The rider from Torre dashes by

Campo from the West

Although I took all kinds of pictures of and around the Piazza del Campo, the one I always wanted to take would have been impossible to get to: a shot down on the nightlife of the city from on top of the building directly across from the tower, and with a wide enough lens to capture the people and the tower in the shot. Oh I know, I should have just brought Tucker along and had him shoot it with his camera and lens–now I have an excuse to go back and bring him along. While I was there, I couldn’t resist taking the picture that 100s of other tourists did. The large west entrance  has a great view of the whole piazza and the Torre del Mangia, and as you walk down, you can’t help but stop and stare, as I did, even the 100th time I walked through. To take this picture I had to wait a while for exactly that reason; to try to minimize the number of people in the foreground taking pictures and staring at the impressive view of the tower looming over the piazza. Turns out I got pretty lucky.

The iconic view from the west of the Torre del Mangia on the Piazza del Campo in Siena, Italy

Just Another Cloudy Afternoon in Siena

While in Siena, I frequently went running on the ramparts of the fortezza Medicea, an old for near the middle of the city. Since I usually went running in the evening, the light was usually good and I always thought to myself, “I should really come and take some pictures here.” I almost never did. One evening, while running, there was a storm rolling in, and the clouds were fantastic, and the light was great, and as I ran I thought, “This is that time! I need to do it or I never will.” So I ran back to the hotel, grabbed my stuff, and still wearing my running clothes and shoes went to the fort and shot what I could. Here’s one

The fort overlooked the surrounding countryside and the historic center of the city. Not a bad place to get some exercise...

More from Castello Ricasoli

After we toured the vineyard, we rushed through the barrel rooms of the Castello Ricasoli, but even as everyone left, I hung back to get this shot because the room was so epic. I would have posted this earlier, but I had to wait to get back to Atlan

ta to post this one: I needed Tucker’s advice on how to crop… I’ve never been as good as he is at composition, and I think his recommendations push this picture into my favorites list.

Some Classic Chianti ages in the dungeons of Castello Ricasoli

Fresh from Asiago

A couple more from the other night…I think I’m going back tonight. Cloudy day today, could be perfect HDR conditions!

In the background the centerpiece of the fountain is visible...a faun riding a deer, I believe

The Clocktower of Asiago peeks in on the scene

Piazza Giovanni Carli

I’m still in Italy. But now in Asiago, relaxing and doing almost nothing in my last weeks in Italy. I know I shouldn’t complain, but I actually want to get back to Atlanta. While I’m here, though, I figured I may as well take some pictures, so got right on it last night in downtown Asiago (although this town is hardly large enough to even have something that qualifies as a downtown). In the main piazza, there is this wonderful fountain which has several bronze casts of various animals native to the altopiano (plateau) and in the center features a faun riding a deer. I also spotted some spiders making there webs on the bronze animals, which I had to try to capture.

Fountain at the Piazza Giovanni Carli in the centro of Asiago

A spiderweb in the fountain

Palio Shots

Siena has an ancient and awesome tradition of bareback horse races between the various contrade (city districts) called the Palio (also the name of the banner awarded to the winning district) which happen twice a year, and was featured in the most recent 007 movie. Anyways, I was too worried to bring my camera to the actual Palio (the scene right after the intro sequence is of the Palio to give you a sense of the insanity) but fortunately there are trial races held every morning and night in the days before the race. I went to several of these trials and took a bunch of pictures, in RAW, and am trying out some single-shot HDR processing. Things I have discovered: 1. My camera is still really noisey (not really a surprise) especially when I pump up the ISO to get fast shutter speeds on these horses 2. Single-shot HDR processing makes them a lot noisier (ugh). I can’t do my usual de-noising stuff in Photoshop with my laptop (I have the plug-in for windows since my PC is substantially more powerful than my laptop), so I guess I’ll have to do what I can….take a look…

A jockey riding the Leocorno (Unicorn) district's horse decked out in their colors at the Palio horse trials

Around Siena Again

My window looks out over a valley in the middle of Siena which gives me a good view of the Duomo over those roofs.The other night I looked out my window at the Duomo and saw the moon rising silently beside it. The moon was so beautiful right next to the belltower, and the sky was so clear, I got excited and forgot all my HDR scene guidelines and just shot. I shot so many different brackets I told myself I would be able to make something work from them, and the results pleased me. Although I was sure my pictures were fast, I was amazed at how quickly the moon rises even between 30 seconds of picture taking. I understand now why Tucker (grumbling) waits for moonset before even thinking about shooting stars in the night sky.

Di raggio in raggio, io vorrei salire, e con te venire, a rischiarare il ciel...

And to round things out, here’s a (slightly smaller) church ;). The clouds were too good, I couldn’t resist…

This church is the religious center of the Selva contrada (Forest district)

Castello Ricasoli

While at the Castello Ricasoli, we stopped off on the fields and I had just enough time to snap off some handheld shots of the countryside, which was lovely. It was cloudy and rained later that day, but as we stood looking at the fields I noticed off in the distance islands of moving sunlight, gaps in the clouds on the faraway hills. I took so many pictures hoping to be able to capture these, but try as I might none of the pictures I took could capture what I could see. Next time.

When we toured the castle, we also saw the Baron’s private chapel which had many pretty but poorly lit things in it. Sadly, I couldn’t take many pictures there since we sort of rushed through it, but I did manage to snag one that I really like.

The whole Ricasoli vineyard had a very medieval look with the castle overlooking the grounds

Under the chapel many generations of the Ricasoli Family were buried. If you look carefully you can see their ghosts in the bokeh of this picture...

Over Hill and Under Hill

Trying to go around and take pictures in Siena can be exhausting, because Siena is an extremely hilly city, and in going from place to place there is either the flat way or the quick way. Since when I was wandering, I ended up on far too many hills and also completely lost. Fortunately for me there are usually signs that point back to landmarks, but it took me a while to get my bearings and while I was looking up and around trying to spot a sign I spotted some other things. After seeing this first shrine, I’ve seen many around the city and wonder what special significance they hold and why they are placed so high up out of sight.

This shrine was tucked into the wall of the apartments lining the streets about 15 feet up. Why was it hidden?

Venice Beach: Not!

Last week I was in the real Venice, which is a beautiful, but dying, city. I say dying because every time I’ve gone there it has seemed fragile and fake. Although buoyed up by the heavy tourist industry, it lacks the life imparted by a real native p

opulation, and it still is literally sinking (sorry, couldn’t resist the puns…) Venice has many beautiful things (especially St. Mark’s Cathedral) but to see them you have to fight through a crowd of other camera-toting tourists (who sometimes lack picture taking etiquette, in my opinion). Anyways, I had a fun time there and took many pictures, but found little that I thought would make a good HDR. Luckily, I got bored at one point and took this of what I thought would be nothing.

A peek down one of the many beautiful canals of Venice

Although I only shot a few HDR brackets, I took a gondola ride (for the first time!) which was pretty fun and took me near some really pretty back alleys/canals:

Everyone should ride a gondola at least once. Actually, just exactly once, it was really expensive...

Vines & Clouds

So while we were touring the fields I managed to get off some handheld shots, and kept wishing I had the time I wanted to spend in these fields. They were so beautiful, and there was so much to see, but we had to hurry through so we could see everything. Sometime I wish I lived here…who doesn’t, though…

That same week I got some cool skies back in Siena, which got me out and shooting with little delay.

Apparently the farmers use lasers to line up the rows

A turbulent afternoon sky























The Duomo di Siena

So my adventures on my day of shooting here in Siena inevitably brought me to the beautiful Duomo di Siena, whose dominance of the skyline is only rivaled by the Torre on the Campo (when visible – the streets are so narrow here and the buildings are often tall enough to leave only a sliver of visible sky). The crowded nature of the city left little opportunity for me to get really majestic wide shots of the church, and I honestly did not spend enough time with it that day. I observed the beautifully decorated interior during mass the previous Sunday, but since they do not allow pictures, I can only urge you visit and see it for yourself. Italy is full of these beautiful cathedrals, each one more beautiful than the next, but they mostly remain an eyes-only experience.

The majestic façade of the Duomo di Siena

Dome of the Duomo

Tasty Wine

The reason I’ve been slow to process my Siena pictures has been legitimate, though, I feel: the very next day was a field trip to a vineyard and olive grove for some excellent wine tasting and olive oil tasting (superior, in my opinion. I could drink that stuff any/every day of the week). I got an overview of the whole process of winemaking from growing the vine to decanting fresh bottle, and it was informative and highly enjoyable (and delicious). Anyways, many things have been said already about the beauty of winemaking in the Tuscan countryside but allow me to say them again using HDR:

Where the crushed grapes (aka must) is initially distilled

This is where the magic happens - the cellar where the wine is aged in those barrels

A fine chianti is slowly born

Around an Ancient and Beautiful Siena

Well. Finally got around it and took a day to go and shoot some pictures around this wonderful city of Siena. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, but I got asked more than a couple times to take pictures by various couples between time spent lying o

n the ground with my little tripod trying to set up some brackets of the many beautiful things around the city. One particular guy who asked me for a picture had a 30D with the 24-70mm f/2.8L on it (which I commented on, leading to an impromptu discussion of the pros and cons of crop factor bodies, and the wonderful 16-35mm f/2.8L, whose awesomeness I know all too well). Anyways, I ended up with some great shots, but have not had nearly enough time to process all of them. Here’s a few.

One of the many vicoli (small tunnel-like roads) in Siena

Speaking of the 16-35mm f/2.8L, I wish I could have used it to get just a little wider for this picture