Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Don't Cry For Me Barcelona - We'll Be Back! And An HDR Wonderland

Good Morning Everybody,

OK, I know I've changed the words around but what a great world class city - and probably one of our favorites we visited during our 2 month journey throughout Europe and the Mediterranean.  I know it's been a while since I've posted but our travels, as usual, have just been packed pretty tight on this trip. We landed in Spain on Monday, October 29th spent the next few days exploring the city of Barcelona. Both LaDawn and I fell in love with the city, the sites, the history, and the food and wine.  Barcelona is simply an amazing city!

Room With  A View & I Want Seconds!

After a quick ride to our hotel - yes, we did have a room with a view, we settled in, and immediately set off to explore our surrounds.

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Our hotel was about 4-5 miles from the city center but that was no problem as the weather was nearly perfect and allowed us to walk for miles through many of the small neighborhoods throughout the city.  Our first stop was a restaurant located not too far from our hotel where we were introduced to a real tapas bar. 

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0003- Barcelona - DAZ_7367Sure we have tapas bars in the US but nothing like they have in Spain - the assortment of these taste tempting Spanish delicacies can be beyond belief.  Needless to say, our first day of Spanish cuisine was wonderful.

A Wine Lovers Wonderland!

0004- Barcelona - DAZ_7378And for the wine aficionados reading this post today, the Spanish wines are delicious and really inexpensive.  To make my point I grabbed a shot of this promo in one of the supermarkets near our hotel.  The price of 1.72 or about $2.69 a bottle re-affirms that $2 Buck Chuck wines are available anywhere ;~)  The big difference is that a good wine is available in Spain for $5 - $10, we found them to be quite a bargain.

0007- Barcelona - DAZ_0235One of the things that immediately struck LaDawn and I was just how clean, like really, really clean the city was.  The fact that they have employees to clean the streets and remove graffiti routinely from the streets, city center, sidewalks sure makes a difference to a tourist's perception of the city. There simply wasn’t a single piece of trash laying around anywhere!

Checking Out Barcelona's Gothic Past

As with most European cities, Barcelona was rich in it's medieval history too. From historic buildings, Roman walls, and century old gorgeous churches.  We were taking one of the guided tours when I decided to wander away from the group, a routine practice of mine that drove LaDawn and the tour guides a little nuts.

The guide was going on and on about some Roman wall - we had seen plenty in Rome - but I was more interested as to what the inside of this huge old cathedral, the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, had to offer. 

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I wandered in and was blown away by the utter beauty of the interior of this magnificent building.   I didn't want to leave.  Every corner of the amazing historic edifice offered even more unbelievable things to see as I continued to explore.  Needless to say, I did lose the group for a while but I didn't care.  What I was seeing was far more interesting and inspiring to see.

Checking Out The Rest Of The City

After the tour, we continued to walk the city for hours. Our stroll took us to several areas of the city including down the famous La Rambla Drive all the way to the boat harbor. 

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We then found our way passed the Arc de Triomf built in 1888.

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The shop that most caught my interest was what appeared to be a butcher shop. Turns out these shops were selling the very famous Serrano ham, a real delicacy in Spain and very expensive – something like around $45/lb. More hammy details here.

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What the heck, it looked good to me.  I just kept thinking that seeing the pig leg displayed like this put a whole new meaning to the big turkey legs we enjoy at our Renaissance Festivals often held in the Fall through-out parts of the United States. 

0027- Barcelona - DAZ_0734-EditWhile making arrangements for our Gothic tour of the city, I spotted a brochure promoting Flamenco dancing. It’s sort of Spanish tap dancing but with much more power, passion, and speed. I have been a fan for years but had never attended a live  Flamenco performance.  Before LaDawn could stop me, (he didn’t even ask) I purchased two tickets for the evening performance.  If you’ve never seen Flamenco dancing up close and personal, and we were up close in the second row center – what an experience – definitely a “goose-bump” moment!  Check out the You-Tube video below to see just how exciting the experience of seeing Flamenco Dancing can be. Enjoy! 

Anyway, it was a wonderfully varied day of exploration, sights and sounds around this very beautiful city.

Catching The Light At The End Of The Day

During one of our visits to downtown Barcelona we decided to opt out of taking the taxi back to the hotel and just make the 4-5 mile trip by foot - about a 90 minute walk. This decision allowed to really dig into the off-the-beaten-path of the city and experience many of the neighborhoods up close and personal, a wonderful experience.

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As we approached our hotel, the sun was gently setting against a very beautiful sky and then we found ourselves in this excitingly graphic  public park on the corner, the Parc de la Diagonal Mar.  It’s design and architecture was a visual treat.  I quickly set my Canon 5D Mark III to HDR mode, added my Sigma 12-24 lens to the camera, at the widest setting, and began shooting away. 

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I loved the results. We happened upon the location at thee perfect time of day, with the unusual graphic architecture of the park, the wonderfully sleek skyline all combined for some extraordinary images. This was probably one of the highlights of the day for me.

Heading To The Mountains and The Hills Are Alive With The Sound Of Music

We also made a day trip to Montserrat just a short one hour hour drive outside of Barcelona. The tour of the beautiful and historic location wedged on the top of the mountain overlooking the verdant valley below was an impressive side trip for the both of us. 0001- Barcelona - DAZ_0810

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0034- Barcelona - DAZ_1057This monastic location showcases one of the most beautiful cathedrals in Spain and is home to the famous Black Madonna.  But more than that, it is home to one of the oldest boys choirs in Europe, the very famous Montserrat Cathedral Boys Choir

The highlight of our visit was a short performance by the young vocal ensemble – a beautiful wrap to a fantastic day trip.  You can give a listen right here.


Hey gang, That's it for me today.  I'm doing a special post on our top stop in Barcelona shortly so be sure to stop back.  I promise you will be blown away!!!

See ya' soon,  David

Monday, October 29, 2012

Saying Goodbye to Italy and All Points East – On To Spain!

Good Morning Everybody,

I'm writing this as we continue our adventures on towards Barcelona, Spain from Rome.  Today we begin the final leg of our two month trip to Italy, Greece, Turkey and Spain.  We spend a few days in Barcelona and then we're off to Madrid where I present two programs for the Spanish Professional Photographers at their 3rd Convencion Internacional del Foro de Fotografos en Madrid and I have to say, I'm looking forward to getting back into "work" mode and am really getting fired up for my programs next week.

Spain Convention

But, that isn't to say that we won't enjoy a little of the sights and treasures of what beautiful Spain has to offer.

Travel Updates:

What a TOTALLY fantastic trip it has been so far!  Our travels throughout Italy have been amazing, but  I must confess, I think our Mediterranean cruise has been my favorite leg of our journeys.  LaDawn disagrees with me. She loved all the cities in Italy and our extended adventures within those locations. I felt totally relaxed for the 12 days we sailed the seas and really enjoyed our sometimes abbreviated stops along the way. I'm ready to sign back up tomorrow!!!

LaDawn waving

The cool thing about the cruise were the varied ports of call - from Santorini, Greece (LaDawn’s favorite); Naples, Italy; Istanbul, Turkey and all destinations in between - it was a marvelous, beautifully exotic, and for me, a completely relaxing journey. Istanbul seems like weeks ago at this point but still left us with the wonderful memories of their beautiful Middle Eastern art, culture and storied history.

Next it was on to Ephesus, Turkey – another exciting location to visit the antiquity of millenniums past and walk the same road walked by Cleopatra and Marc Anthony. 


It was interesting to see how one of the most famous figures in Christian history was also linked to this part of the world.  Standing where St. Paul preached to the Ephesians to joining the thousands of Christian pilgrims to visit the Virgin Mary's holy resting place – amazing, historic, humbling, photographic, and FULL or rich culture and history!DAZ and Josh with Yannis

Next it was on to Athens, Greece.  We had no pre-arranged tour scheduled and decided to take our chances with the local tour guides.  This tactic is a little dicey but after being approached several times by other taxi drivers offering their guide services, we settled on the very flamboyant and totally affable, (only pay if you like) very humorous Yannis pictured right - between Joshua and I. 

DogOnce we climbed into his taxi, the adventure began.  He quickly told us that as a taxi driver in Athens, he has two licenses - a license to drive and a license to kill ;~) We knew we were headed towards an exciting adventure from that point forward.  Yannis had spent his entire life in Athens and he knew everybody in town including a few dogs he spotted along the way which he called out to by name.

Over four hours later, we had hit all the sites that we wanted to see, as promised by Yannis,  including the Acropolis Coliseum and Parthenon.

Greek Colloseum


PastriesYannis' tour finished up at what he considered the best baklava shop in Athens - it offered an amazing presentation of sweet goodies a few of which we promptly purchased for our continued travels on the ship. We soon agreed with his opinion. Yummy!!

On To The Greek Isles - Mykonos

After departing Athens - sailing off into the sunset is always one of the highlights of the cruise stops for me - we headed for Mykonos - one of the Greek Islands' treasured jewels.  The island is quite interesting to explore with all the twisting and turning walkways always seemingly to lead to another shop or two for the ardent explorer and shopper.

Two cool things about Mykonos - the little Venice section of the town and the five windmills that stand sentry-like over the town.



Our visit was short but still pleasant and interesting certainly from a photographic point of view.

One More Famous Island To See Off The Coast Of Napoli

Our last stop was the city of Napoli or Naples as we know it in the states.  Napoli's claim to fame - they invented the pizza!!!!  This is the only country in the world that thinks pizza is a food group;~) Anyway, Naples is supposed to have the best in all of Italy.  That may be the legend and part of their claim-to-fame, but we had sumptuous pizza in other cities as well.

Because LaDawn and I had already visited Naples as one of our previous destinations we opted to take a hydrofoil ride to the Isle of Capri and continue further up the mountain on a chairlift ride to the top of the island.  The day was beautiful, the sun warm and sights were breathtaking! It is a shoppers dream come true, sorry LaDawn no room in our luggage for any new treasures!Capri

I'm still amazed how the tour busses navigate the super narrow serpentine roads leading around the island.  They pass each other with only inches (maybe even an inch) to spare, although one of our drivers did wipe out another driver's rear view mirror as he passed - he acted like is was a normal occurrence of events.  Me, I would never buy a new car in this part of the world - dents and dings are evident everywhere, even on our rental car from Tuscany.  Anyway, I digress ;~)

We left Naples about 6:00 p.m. It was a magical time to be heading back out to sea and from the 15th deck of the cruise ship watch the beauty of this city recede into the distance.

Leaving Naples

Balcony1After landing back in Rome on Friday, we still had two days to explore a few parts of the city we had missed on our earlier visit two weeks before.  The highlight of our stay this time (besides Mass at St Peter’s Basilica with Pope Benedict VI), was the fact that we had a great balcony room at the Rome Cavalieri Hotel with a spectacular view - yes, that is the dome of St. Peter's Basilica, the largest church in the world that you see to the right in the image below.  We spent hours soaking up the views on our balcony and enjoying a glass of wine during our stay.

Balcony view

Today it's off to Barcelona, Spain - a fabulous world class city – at least that is what we have been told by all we talked with before our trip.  Me, I'm looking for the change of menu - out with the pasta and in with the tapas;~) One of the treats for LaDawn and I is sampling the local fare. Sadly we enjoyed our last Italian pizza and gelato in Rome yesterday.  Let's see what we can find in Barcelona today. Our waist lines are certainly enjoying this trip as well!!


Hey gang, that's it for me today. I'm not quite sure what our  schedule is these next few days but be sure to check back. 

Hope to see you soon,  David

A Once In A Lifetime Experience

Good Morning Everybody,

I thought that after we docked and got off the cruise ship, I would have more time over the weekend to get a blog post up but once again time is very short. Our last two days in Rome have been quite busy with seeing many more of the sites – all very cool, BTW.  But I have a little time this very early Monday morning to share with you one of the highlights of our second few days stay in Rome. 

Sunday was supposed to be an easy day in the city.  We planned to walk from our hotel, the very beautiful Rome Cavalieri Hotel, down to St. Peter’s Basilica and see if we could maybe catch a glimpse of His Holiness, Pope Benedict.  Heck, it was Sunday and we heard he would address the crowds gathered in the square at noon.

We made our way down the hills of Rome and arrived at the Basilica about one hour later – the place was JAMMED PACKED!!!!  So what to do – jump in a cue  with all the other tourists.  Our line took us right into St. Peter’s where Sunday mass was just barely underway with Pope Benedict himself presiding – pretty cool, especially for the packed house of Christians and non-Christians alike watching the celebration.

Here are a few of my favorite images from yesterday’s Sunday celebration at St. Peter’s, the largest church in the world.









Have a great rest of the day everybody.  We’re off to Barcelona, Spain in just a few hours.  I’ll see you in Spain.

Arrivederci, David

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

"Pigeon Play"

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"Pigeon Play"
©David A. Ziser

As our tour guide was sharing the wonders of Istanbul with the four of us, I spotted a young child chasing hundreds of pigeons that were everywhere within the city center. The pigeons didn't seem to mind at all. Every time the young child ran through the mass of pigeons, they circled around for a short time and then landed right back into their original locations.

Once the pigeons were settled in, our young, mischievous lad would make a run at them again. He was having a blast. This continued on for well over five or six minutes and I spent most of that time trying to get the photograph I wanted.

With the very low vantage point, I think the image above does just that. You can see the pigeons taking off and even midflight with the playful child enjoying every moment of his pigeon play.

I like how the pigeons appear to vignette just him. I also love the wonderful expression of the young boy showing glee and excitement on his face. This image is a wonderful candid that captures the happiness of a child in this beautiful and exotic city.

Camera specs:  Canon 5D Mark III fitted with Sigma 12 – 24 MM super wide angle lens at 15mm, F16 @1/320th of a second, ISO 2500. Enjoy! – David

A Study In Colors, Composition, Textures, and Detail – Istanbul Style

Good Morning Everybody,

We are somewhere in the middle the Mediterranean right now – I'm not quite sure where – but we’re due to arrive in Naples, Italy tomorrow morning around 6 AM. Since we’re at sea all day today – no cell phone service, weak and slow internet connectivity, and no Skype, it's given me a chance to catch you up on a few of the amazing cruise stops we've had along the way.

One of the most fascinating stops we've had so far has been Istanbul, Turkey. We arrived late in the evening and it was really amazing to see the city lights up at night.  The first sight that caught my eye was the Bosphorus Bridge with it’s constantly dancing colors offering a quite spectacular welcome to Istanbul. 

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As we floated down the seaway, you could see the famous Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia Galleries on the hill tops just across the water – what a sight!

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An Unbelievable Study In Colors, Composition, Textures, and Detail!

Today's post will center around composition, colors, textures, and detail. One of the most beautiful places on earth to explore these four photographic elements is in Istanbul, Turkey. In Turkey there seems to be a mosque on about every street corner. Although the country is 99% Muslim, Istanbul is more of the secular variety rather than the much more fundamental variety you may find in the other countries of the Mideast  like Iran or Iraq .

In any event, the historic locations which we visited a few days ago certainly lend themselves to today's discussion. The reason for this is simple. You'll find no statues in any of the mosques in the Middle East. The Muslim faith shows no representation of their God in any form or any statues of any kind. Instead their mosques are wonderfully decorated buildings in which to pray and pay homage to Allah. It's the interior design of these mosques that is so fascinating to view. Let me give you an example below of the Blue Mosque.

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The minute you slip off your shoes and enter this holy place your eyes are bedazzled with the unbelievable architecture that presents itself before you. These four images show you the ceiling detail in Istanbul's most famous mosque. I found that I got the most fun out of photographing these wondrous spaces in HDR mode.

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I also spent a few moments in Lightroom tweaking the colors and textures to get them exactly the way I wanted. Like I said, an amazing sight to behold!

Next Up – Haghia Sophia Galleries

Next it was off to Haghia Sophia, just about a block away. The Haghia Sophia was originally built as a Orthodox church but after the influx of the Ottomans it was converted to a mosque. A few years ago it was converted once again to one of most important museums in the city of Istanbul, Turkey.  Notice the architecture.

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Check out the images in this section. I tried to capture all aspects of the beauty of this wondrous location. What is really interesting is the fact that as a mosque there are several chandeliers suspended from the high ceiling to just over the worshipers heads. Here are three images that I've included in which I used the chandeliers to add the additional arabesque lines in my overall composition.  I think the last one is my favorite.

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I hope that as you look at these images you too will be blown away by the magic of the architecture and art presented. I have to say, that when you're standing in this holy place up close and personal, it is one fantastic artistic experience.

Even outdoors at the end of the Hippodrome, you could find same type of artistry and beauty as the following photograph shows.

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Palace Of Wonders

The next day it was off to Topkapi Palace with construction beginning in 1459.  The cool thing about the Topkapi Palace is that all of the original architecture is still pretty much preserved. In addition to seeing the architecture which is amazing itself, it was also very interesting to see the treasures of the palace. These treasures included handfuls of emeralds, hundreds of carats of diamonds, several hundred pounds of gold, and even the staff of Moses – unfortunately…sorry, no photos please. To be honest with you, it was hard to believe your eyes with what you are looking at. It was a fantastic experience.

But for me though it's always about looking up. Because, when looking up at the tiled ceilings, the wonders of the Muslim world really come alive with the fantastic design of their architecture and mosaics. That was true of the palace as well. Check out a few of the images I've included in this section.

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I sure hope today’s images give you a greater appreciation for some of the non-western “hemispherian” art that one can find around the world - what an amazing experience especially when you are standing within the four walls of that wonderful art!

On To Our Next Ports Of Call

The next day we continued our journey's throughout the Mediterranean. Still on our agenda were the ancient ruins of Ephesus and Athens, and the beautiful Greek island of Mykonos. One thing that continue to strike both LaDawn and I as we sailed through the Sea of Marmara and the Bosphorus around Istanbul was the amount of boat traffic that we saw everywhere. The boat traffic included tourist fairies, cargo ships, cruise ships – large and small, and recreational sailing boats – all traversing the Istanbul waters harmoniously and poetically throughout the day.

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As we pulled away, even though clouds were moving in and most of the city was shadowed, it was especially cool when the clouds opened up and the sun rays spotlighted various parts of the city. Look at the image below.

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This image makes my point spectacularly as a clouds opened and highlighted the two most famous mosques in Istanbul  - the Blue Mosque and Haghia Sophia. We continued to sail the rest of the day westward into the sunset towards Athens, Greece.

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What an amazing voyage this trip is been so far!


Hey gang, that's it for me today. Since we’ll be in Naples all day tomorrow and then leave the ship first thing on Friday morning I'll do my best to get another post up over the weekend before we head out to Barcelona, Spain. Have a great rest of the week and I hope to see you soon.

Arrivederci, David