Photo 365


My friend Mykl proposed a 2013 photo-a-day project on Facebook, which intrigued me. I did a photo-a-day project several years back for one month, and it was challenging and equally fun.

So I’ve joined the project and know that posting to my blog will inspire me to write more, shoot more, and share more, using predominately mobile devices. Those are my quasi-New Year’s resolutions.

And today is the mundane – part of my breakfast, actually. Husband and I spent the weekend in Duluth, Minnesota, and fell in love with the breakfasts at Duluth Grill (the same grill featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives). Adhering to a vegan lifestyle can make travel a challenge, but Duluth has a host of restaurants with vegan selections, and Duluth Grill is a rock star for organic or locally grown food with plenty of vegan options.

My first picture of Photo 365 is “Red Hash” as it’s listed on the menu at Duluth Grill. The melody of pan seared sweet potatoes, beets, caramelized onions and green peppers is divine.

Venice goes digital

In October I sent 515 images to ScanCafe. I have two three-ring binders of very organized negatives and slide film, mostly of travel from nearly a decade ago that I want to save forever. Honestly? Most of the pictures are complete garbage, and that’s being nice. I can’t believe I took 13 pictures of a cliff side. Come on! Crashing waves aren’t that interesting. But I saved them all, fearful of deleting some sort of memory or place in time that I will never see again.

Of the 515 scans that now sit on my hard drive, the people of Venice, Italy are a favorite when looking back at what I had captured so long ago. The pictures made me realize that I’m not as adventurous with my camera as I used to be because I have developed an adult conscience. I’m too concerned about being nice and not offending and being respectful and not acting like someone who just points their camera at anything.

I have altered my photography because of limitations. Yes, I used to center everything instead of putting a picture into thirds, but I caught a few elements of life of Venice by not knowing the rules. Maybe in 2011 I need to remember to throw the rules out once in awhile.

Finding the un-tourist in Venice

Venice is the city of canals. And tourists. Thousands and thousands of tourists. I have yet to meet more than a few people who have visited Venice and really loved it. “It’s too crowded. It’s dirty. It smells.” These are the most common descriptions you hear from travelers who have spent time in Venice.

But did they really spend time in Venice? Many cruise ships drop anchor every day during peak season, just off Piazza San Marco. The Times (London) once reported that an average of 50,000 people invade the historic city each day. Considering less than 60,000 people live in Venice proper, tourists nearly equal the population and make Venice seem less Italian and more like a cultural hodgepodge.

So how do you find the real Venice? It can be difficult, but if you look down alleyways into small campos, you will find the real romance of this Italian city. Here are a few of my recommendations:

  1. Spend at least three days in Venice – five if you can swing it. People hate Venice because they fight crowds for a day and move on. Stay after hours. Venice at night is an entirely different experience. The tourists are gone, for the most part, and the city comes alive in each community. You can find quiet cafes or dance to orchestra music in front of San Marco.
  2. Unless you cannot travel without seeing every piece of art a country offers, cut back on the number of museums you visit. Venice is full of art, but I encourage people to view the art on the street versus in a museum. My top favorites: Galleria dell’Accademia, which houses many of the Renaissance greats, and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, an awe-inspiring museum of 20th century art, located in the heiress’ former home on the Grand Canal. If you want to see art of a local Venetian, Scuola Grande di San Rocco has one of the greatest Tintoretto collections in the world. After that, the rest is gravy.
  3. Get off mainland and visit other islands in the Venetian Lagoon. Torcello, Murano and Burano are can’t miss islands that are a one-hour boat ride from Venice proper. The colorful homes on Burano are stunning in the Italian sunshine, and the ride back into Venice gives you a gorgeous view of the city that you wouldn’t normally see.
  4. Find a campo to call your own. Mine was San Barnaba. It felt like home the moment I stumbled onto it. The decent sized square had several cafes, a bookstore, and most importantly for me, families. Children played European football, old men played dice games and women would water their dogs in the public fountain. It was true Venice, living out its life.

My trip to Venice taught me – or maybe confirmed – the way life should be led. Respect those around you. Laugh often. Take time to enjoy the finer things. Make living beautiful.

Still need convincing? Rent Bread and Tulips, a quirky Italian film from 2000. You’ll immediately book your trip to the city of canals. Ciao!

The island of Burano.

Basilica di San Marco at sunrise.

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!

Hit me with your best shot

The 4th of July holiday weekend is upon us, and many of you will be traveling to grandma’s house in Texas or watching fireworks in Washington, D.C. No matter where you go over the weekend, I want to see your travel snapshots.

I’ve created a new Travel Snapshots Group on Flickr – so this is your moment! Upload pictures of your 4th of July weekend and I will post the best entries on this site. The theme? “America Celebrates.” Pictures of parades, children with sparkers, your mom’s apple pie – whatever you feel is a great representation of the 4th of July celebration. You will be given full credit for your photograph(s) and all pictures are allowed – SLR to camera phone shots.

Entries are due by Wednesday, July 7.

And where am I going over the weekend? Stay tuned. I’ll post my Travel Snapshots as well!