St Marks Water Level

Walking back to the ferry late at night I stopped in St Marks Square to capture reflections. To get this shot, I held the camera right above the water.

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St Marks Water Level
Taken at water level in Venice, Italy

Nowadays, days I use a Playpod which is similar to a tripod with a small base you attach to the camera. The first time I saw it I didn’t know what to think, but I’ve had it for a few months now, and I take it everywhere. I like doing low perspective shots, and the Platypod excels at that, and it saves both time and the camera body. Before, I would use whatever I had in hand like a strap or iPhone to prop the lens up, and that takes time and patience to get it right. But the Playpod it’s like having a mini tripod at ground level.

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Anyway, we had a late meal along the canals and walking back there were fewer people than during the day. The next time I go back, I’ll probably sleep all day and walk around taking photos all night. And you can be sure I’ll be carrying my trusty Platypod.

Venice Flashback

This picture is a flashback from a year ago today in Venice. The view is from the deck of a ship as we sailed into port from the Adriatic. It was a unique introduction to the city from above the rooftops. We spent the next days down in the canals, bridges and narrow walkways.

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Venice Flashback
The rooftops of Venice as viewed from the deck of a cruise ship

For me, it’s a city to get lost in; it’s not so big that you can ever be truly lost, just enough to create a sense of wonder at every turn. While the central square is fun, wandering away from the crowds is where I found myself walking. It’s also a convenient way to work up an appetite for an evening meal alongside the grand canal.

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From this height, you get a quick glimpse of the tops of buildings and apartments. Cityscapes like this are anthropological snapshots that provide clues about the inhabitants. With a hi-res photo, I find myself zooming in to discover new artifacts. Has it been a year already?

Cimitero di San Michele

The view of a little cemetery island in the city of Venice. I haven’t yet explored it, but probably will the next time. My first impression was of a military fort, and I suppose with San Michele in the name that’s not too far off. Nevertheless, it looks to me like an entirely different space away from the crowds.

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Cimitero di San Michele
Cimitero di San Michele as seen from the northern side of Venice

My intention for this image is minimalism. It could easily have ended up as a tourist photo but, I saw this idea in my head when taking it. When I’m walking around a crowded area, I have to think hard about how I might like an image to look, especially if I want to go minimal. Coming up with ideas is the first part of the creative process.

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Crowded spaces can also be fun to photograph, especially if there is a story to tell. For instance, a crowd of people on a bridge, or a city scene. But sometimes I find myself moving away from the crowds, if not physically then mentally. By putting my mind in a quiet place, I see things in a slightly different light, or so I like to think.

Along the Grand Canal

This is an image I took along the Grand Canal in front of Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute. I was taking pictures like a madman at the time but the conditions for photography were not good. Normally, to take pictures at night you need a tripod and a stationary subject.

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Along the Grand Canal
This was taken with a wide open apeture and high ISO

In this case, I was in a moving gondola and my subject was moving also. To get this I used an aperture of f1.8 and an ISO of 8000. That’s extreme but with a few adjustments in post-production, it’s a winner. So much for the old rules.

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Because I don’t know what all the rules are I do things that another photographer might not. I make a lot of mistakes, but I also get some good shots under difficult situations. The tech is so good now you may as well push it and see what happens. One day we’ll have sensors in our eyes and cameras will be obsolete. But until then, it’s fun to keep breaking the rules and trying new things.

Dinner Along the Canal

Here is a little section of a restaurant along a canal in Venice. Our timing was fortunate because we were seated right away while others who came later had to wait; Italians are late eaters. We enjoyed an amazing meal seated along the canal on a warm summer evening. For the life of me I can’t remember what I ordered but I do remember it tasted very good.

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Dinner Along the Canal
Italians love to eat late dinners and talk for hours into the night.

As chance would have it we were surrounded by tables of Americans, even though there were people from other countries as well. On one side was a group of college girls and on the other was a couple of producers with their wives. There was a film festival going on and I could hear everything the producers were saying. It was one of those situations where you can’t help but hear the conversation, the tables were very close. Somehow the producers started talking to the girls since one of them was trying to break into the business. And on and on and on….

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Being an American tourist myself I try to be a little circumspect, I know that a reputation proceeds us. There’s nothing wrong with American tourists, but every so often you can sure pick them out. I know I’m a little too quiet, but I prefer to soak up the ambience. That includes the gondolas, lights shining from windows on the canal, amazing Italian food, wine, and occasionally the conversations of my fellow Americans.

Gondola at Night

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Gondola at Night
Gondola at Night in Venice

If you go to Venice take a gondola at night. It is an experience that reminds me of a ride at Disney World, only it’s the real thing. The sounds of the oars in the water and the lights streaming from the windows overhead combine in the most exquisite way.

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Church of the Santissimo Redentore

This is the Church of the Santissimo Redentore. It’s on the island of Giudecca in the city of Venice. It was built in the 16th Century to commemorate the Black Death. At that time about a third of the population of Venice perished. Nevertheless, the architecture of this white marble cathedral is striking at night and this is a shot I took while passing by from a water taxi.

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Church of the Santissimo Redentore
Church of the Santissimo Redentore in Venice Italy

When I think of the plague I feel fortunate to live in an age with the advantages of medicine and hygiene. That’s not to say we are completely immune to pandemics, but the chances are much less.

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If I think about it I feel bad for the reasons this was built, but then that was the whole point. The builders were sending a message through the centuries so that we would remember. I mean no disrespect but that’s the same thing photos do, connect us to an event across time. This photo reminds me of an amazing night in Venice, which in turn reminds me of the plague. So now I have a set of breadcrumbs that lead from one thing to another, bringing to mind different things that are each important to remember.

First Night in Venice

I took this while in a water Taxi on my first night in Venice. Sunsets like this don’t happen every day so I felt fortunate. This is one of those cases where just being there is fifty-percent of photography. I was ready with my camera so I was lucky to get the shot.

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First Night in Venice
First Night in Venice

They say the best camera in the world is the one you have with you. In this case I was touring so I had my Sony. More often however I have only an iPhone. I see sunsets at home all the time and I wish I had the Sony but at least I can pull out an iPhone. It takes nice pictures but not as good as the Sony, at least for now. The way things are going that gap will continue to shrink and maybe cameras will become a thing of the past.

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Every picture tells a story and as we take more the stories just keep piling up. Then, long afterwards we can go back and re-live the stories by looking at our pictures. The same for video but I prefer still images because I think they go deeper into our thoughts, imagination and memory. Regardless of the camera, it’s good to never be without one, you just never know what you’ll see.

A Rainy Day In Rome

I took this while walking around in the rain in the middle of summer. Even though it was raining it was warm and humid, not unlike Florida. However unlike Florida the energy of the city was entirely unique to me. I was very happy to be here, especially in the rain, because of the atmosphere it created.

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A Rainy Day In Rome
A Rainy Day In Rome

For each image this week I’ve used Topaz to render part of the scene in an impressionistic style. In this scene all but the central subject has been “painted” by the software while I blended in the original image of the lady with the umbrella.

Having the ability to blend photos opens up choices in terms of artistic expression. I combine renderings of the software with realistic aspects of a photo. Then I work with color, saturation, contrast and shadows so I can re-create a scene more from my mind than actual event. In some cases that suits my preferences as it relates to photography.

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I’ll continue to use this technique here and there. It’s all part of a creative process enabled by a fusion of technology, personal expression and photography.

Impression of a Random Canal

Here is another scene that I rendered with Topaz Impression. It’s a photo I took of a random canal in Venice and later blended with an impressionistic rendering from Topaz. I’m experimenting with this technique and I am intrigued by the possibilities it presents.

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Impression of a Random Canal
Impression of a Random Canal in Venice Italy

When you visit Venice one of the first things you’ll notice are the artists everywhere. It’s easy to understand because of the abundance of inspiration. If I was a painter I could see myself on a random bridge of a canal painting a similar scene. As a photographer / technologist I use software to get the effect of a painting to create an impression of the place, which is sometimes more satisfying than documentation.

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The way software and computers are going we will one day simply look through glasses and have any scene rendered the way we want to see it in real-time. It will be a form of advanced augmented reality and it’s probably not too far off. That, and who knows what else.