Florence splendor

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The Florence Cathedral, also known as Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore and “the Duomo,” towers over the city streets. On this Throwback Thursday I was in Florence, Italy in 2007, and this was the sunset view from the rooftop of my B&B. Not bad, eh?

Making the old, new

I’m in the process of having some 35 mm film negatives transferred to digital images. Over the last few days I went through all of my travel images to see what I really wanted to preserve and what could be left for a later day.

The greatest thing about looking at old travel photos is the reality check it provides. In your hands you have proof that 1)  the hairstyle you had was not ‘da bomb’; 2) your Euro fashion attempt was just an American in a scarf; and 3) your travel pictures look just like everyone else’s.

I was mortified at my photos. Boring! I have stood in the center of some majestic, ancient cities, and my pictures make me want to take a nap.

You probably know the remedy – take a look at your subject from a different angle. That theory is harder than you think when you’re standing in front of the Eiffel Tower. You want to take a picture of the whole darn thing. And you should. But then it’s good to play around with angles to see what other lines, shapes and dimensions you can get from your subject.

I’ve pulled a few examples of when I did break the norm just a little bit. As a disclaimer I do realize that at least 1.7 million people also have these “alternative” angles.

First, let’s look at the Louvre Museum in Paris. We know the glass pyramid at the Louvre mixes contemporary in a traditional setting. But how does that feel? I took this picture inside the pyramid to put the modern age in the foreground while blending France’s history in the background. It felt like momma was looking in on what had become of her children over the years.

Next, the Ponte Vecchio in Florence. It’s the most recognized bridge in the city. While this angle isn’t really different (it’s not hard to get this angle, you just have to climb some stairs) it’s still different than the straight on shot that every tourist takes from the bridge opposite of the Ponte Vecchio.

This next picture was taken one early morning in Amsterdam. My photos were starting tolook the same again. Bicycles, coffee shops and canals were filling up my memory card. I needed something a little different – stat. Again, this isn’t the most intriguing picture, but it sums up the quiet Amsterdam neighborhood of Jordaan to me. The reflection has Dutch buildings, a canal and bicycles, just from another point of view.

Finally, this photo was taken in Brussels at night with my point-and-shoot. I had put the digital SLR away for the day and was just enjoying the scene. It was a holiday weekend in Brussels when I was there, so everyone was out. I took this angle for two reasons. The main reason is that I was literally sitting on the ground. People gather in the Grand Place square and just hang out on the cobblestones with a picnic basket or a beer. I also wanted to get the grand spectrum of the buildings, but they are so tall you cannot capture them unless you turn your camera sideways. This is probably one of my favorite things to do now – turn the camera on it’s ear. The scene is kind of interesting, but a different angle and black and white treatment make the lovers walking by more intriguing to my eye.

The moral of the story is sometimes you just need to get up and move around or sit on the ground with a beer. The one thing I do know is that I have a lot of places to revisit so I can get better pictures next time.

The days of the travel journal

Not so many years ago I traveled with 20 rolls of film and a travel journal. I ditched the film in 2006 and the journal in 2008. I wouldn’t trade my digital camera for anything, but I regret not keeping up with my travel writing.

Documenting where you have been is a great way to relax at the end of a busy day of hard-core touring. Are you going to remember the unique characteristics of the Michaelangelo you saw 15 years from now? Probably not. And what about that unique encounter with a local that made you shudder or made your day? Write it down.

The other way of journaling about your travels is to photograph. I’m not talking about the perfect scene of Paris that is hung on a wall. While getting those types of shots can sometimes make your day on a trip, snapshots are what jar memories for me.

When I was in Florence one afternoon, I took the picture on the left. I wanted to show the massiveness of The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore (The Duomo) from a side street. As I was photographing, the man on the right walked up to me and said, “I am as beautiful as this street. Don’t you want my picture?” And then he gave me that grin. When I look back at my pictures from that trip, I am always reminded of that moment when I see this silly grin.

Do you have a special travel memory or encounter with a local you want to share? Post your stories and photos at the Travel Snapshots Group Flickr page!