Machu Picchu has been photographed to death. Every blade of grass has been documented thoroughly by a million tourists packing everything from a Kodak brownie to an iPhone 7. In person, it transcends the two dimensional view presented by the common snapshot. The combination of steep drop-offs, Inca architecture, bracing mountain air and the sound of silence make it a very special place that’s well worth a visit. For what it’s worth, here are some of my humble snaps…
Everywhere you travel in Peru and Ecuador, there are markets. From the huge city of Lima to the villages in the Sacred Valley, people love to buy and sell in their local marketplace. Here are some photos of markets, large and small, from our recent trip.
I’ve been busy over the Christmas holidays working on a new look to my website. Here are the new features:
- a clean new design based on the Theme Foundry’s Photography template for WordPress.
- Additional sections for my event photography business and for my travel photography
- More information in the “About” section, including my latest bio, news of upcoming gallery shows and a contact me page.
Please let me know if you like it. If there’s anything that doesn’t work, please shoot me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
In a country where dead architects like Gaudi and Montaner are much-celebrated, isn’t it nice to observe and photograph the work of a living, working architect. Santiago Calatrava, architect and engineer, is alive and well and still producing remarkable buildings. He started out designing bridges and railway stations, but has expanded to beautiful buildings that remind me of origami. If you’ve been to Toronto, make sure you page down to the bottom of this post to see a surprise…
If you happen to be in the beautiful city of Valencia, make sure you walk down the river park to the bottom to take in Calatrava’s beautiful City of Arts and Sciences. The architecture is breathtaking.
And finally, here is an image that all Torontonians will recognize: the interior of Brookfield Place (formerly BCE Place).
We were wandering the streets of Lisbon, making our way uphill to the castle that overlooks the central part of the city, when we spotted a series of photographs mounted on the walls of the houses in a neighbourhood. Each of the images had a name and a date and pictured an older person in a door, window or just walking on the street. As we walked a little further, we saw a plaque identifying these images as a tribute to the elderly who live in the neighbourhood by a photographer called Camilla Watson.
It turns out that Camilla has a website: http://www.camillawatsonphotography.net/. She was born in the UK in 1967, became a photographer at age 25, spent 8 years as a theatre photographer before moving to Brazil in 2000. She spent 7 years in Sao Paulo photographing kids in the favelas before moving to Lisbon in 2007. In Camilla’s words,
“Since moving to Lisbon in 2007 I have focused on projects collaborating with communities and exhibiting in outdoor spaces which are linked to the people I am photographing or to the local history.. To do this has meant learning to print onto different surfaces including wood and stone. I am interested in people, communities and their history. How can we keep a communities history alive? How can we hold onto their memories in rapidly changing environments? I want to bring the past into the present in a way that is visual, creative and accessible to all; especially in historic neighbourhoods and in areas in a process of change. My intention is to find the best materials to challenge the weather and the sun. Most recently this has been limestone. To print on these surfaces I work from my darkroom in Mouraria, Lisbon.”
These are wonderful, touching photographs and, due to the way they are mounted on stone, seem to be weathering very well despite their outdoor location.
We recently returned from a trip to Portugal and Spain where we visited Pico Island in the Azores, Lisbon, Malaga, Granada, Seville, Madrid, Valencia, Barcelona, Figueres and Port Lligat. The focus of the trip was on art and architecture and we saw an eyeful! To start off with a bang, the first post is about a Catalan architect, Lluis Domenech i Montaner. Montaner is not as famous as Antonio Gaudi, his Barlenona counterpart, but designed a pair of outstanding buildings, Hospital de San Pau and the Palau de la Musica. Both are in Barcelona.
As you can see, the Palau de la Musica is a spectacular building. It was designed and built in 1908 for a Catalan choir, the Orfeo Catala. The choral society continues to own the building to this day. Notable about the building is the huge span of the interior without columns to block the view. Montaner pioneered the use of iron and steel. The walls are the first examples of curtain wall structures.
The Montaner architectural style, sometimes referred to as Catalan Modernism, is a bit of a mash-up of rationalism, art deco and extreme ornamentation. On one hand, you have the modern, rational structure of steel with the large span and lack of columns. Then, you have the marvelous stained glass – especially the large window in the ceiling. But there is no austere modernism here. Everywhere you turn, there are fantastic figures of people and animals carved into the walls and ceilings.
When it was built, in 1908, concert halls were lit by dangerous gas. The choir would perform in daylight, so the decision was made to illuminate the concert hall with large windows. This makes the hall a magical, shiny place with light bouncing off every surface in multi colours due to the stained glass.
If you book in advance, you can get a great tour of the inside of the concert hall and get great vantage points to take photographs. My only regret is that we didn’t book any tickets for a concert. Next time!
Iceland is famous for its waterfalls. The middle of the country is full of glaciers that melt and then flow down the rivers to the sea. There are many places where the rivers drop over cliffs, producing great waterfalls.
I lugged a tripod around Iceland primarily to take some shots of waterfalls. I bought a neutral density filter kit for my camera so that I could slow down the shutter speed and capture the water looking lovely and smooth.
Reykjavik is a very handsome city, located on the southeast corner of Iceland. One of the defining landmarks of Reykjavik is Harpa, the brilliant concert hall located right on the harbour.
Harpa was designed by the Danish firm Henning Larsen Architects in co-operation with Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson. The structure consists of a steel framework clad with geometric shaped glass panels of different colours. The building was originally part of a redevelopment of the waterfront area, but the project was partially abandoned when the financial crisis took hold in 2008. In fact, the completion of the structure was uncertain until the government decided in 2008 to fully fund the rest of the construction costs for the half-built concert hall. For several years it was the only construction project in existence in Iceland!
This beautiful building houses the Iceland Symphony Orchestra and the offices of The Icelandic Opera. We were lucky to see a performance of the symphony under the direction of Vladimir Ashkenazy. The concert hall acoustics are fantastic and you are struck by the deep red finish on the wood.
Iceland Photo Essay 3 – Ships and Wrecks: The Vikings were born to the sea and the Icelandic people have inherited a love of ships from their forefathers. In fact, fishing is the number one industry in Iceland accounting for nearly a third of the GDP. Iceland has a reputation for running an responsible fishery with a strict quota system.
Our first exposure to the fishing fleet was on a trip to the Westman Islands off the south shore. The ferry sails to the main town of Vestmannaeyjar, a small community that was nearly wiped off the map by a volcanic eruption in 1973.
In our week-end trip to the Snaefellsnes, we saw several pretty harbors, but the best of all was in Stykkishólmur, located in the north-east part of the peninsula.
Now, you may have noticed that the title of the essay was Ships and Wrecks. What about the shipwrecks? Iceland has a very rough coastline, with rocks and shoals. And then, there’s the weather. Stormy, foggy and icy, downright dangerous. So, there are abundant wrecks along the coast. Here are some pictures of two of them.
The first wreck is on a black volcanic beach called Djúpalónssandur Beach. The metal fragments are from the British Trawler Epine which ran aground during a storm in 1948 just off of the southern shore of Snæfellsnes. These shipwreck remnants are meant to be a memorial to the 15 sailors who lost their lives. Five sailors did survive.
On the very north east part of the peninsula, well off the beaten track of the ring road, we found this trawler beached in an inlet. So far, I haven’t found any mention of it in guides or other websites.
Iceland Part 2 – Churches and Religion: It seems logical that you would want to appeal to a higher power to protect you from the ravages of Iceland. Storms at sea, glaciers, volcanoes, winter storms, the total darkness of winter, all must have frightened the Vikings almost to death. When they arrived in the 9th century, the Vikings were pagans, primarily worshiping their ancestors. Around the year 1000, the Vikings gradually converted to Christianity and officially became a catholic country when their monarch, the King of Denmark, converted in 999. The reformation came to Iceland in 1550, when the catholic bishop was beheaded in Skalholt.
Today, 85% of the population are Christians, and 95% of the population are registered to some sort of religious group. However, only 10% of the population attend church regularly. It seems that the fear of nature has lessened with modern technology! Many people choose to remain registered in the national religion because a portion of their taxes are directed to the maintenance of the beautiful churches that dot the landscape. Icelanders are very proud of their churches. Most were built in the late 19th/early 20th century, although there are some modern churches (notably, the cathedral in Reykjavik).
One of the most beautiful churches in Iceland is the cathedral at Skálholt. Skálholt was, through eight centuries, one of the most important places in Iceland. From 1056 until 1785, it was one of Iceland’s two episcopal sees, making it a cultural and political center. There have been several predecessors to this building, but the modern church, built in 1956, combines the classic lines of an Icelandic church with a modern sweeping interior and abstract stained glass.
Skálholt Cathedral is one of the most important centres of choral music in Iceland, with an excellent church choir and a large male chorus based in the church.
Hallgrímskirkja, located at the top of a hill in Reykjavik, is the largest church in Iceland. State Architect Guðjón Samúelsson’s design of the church was commissioned in 1937. He is said to have designed it to resemble the basalt lava flows of Iceland’s landscape. It took 41 years to build the church. Construction work began in 1945 and ended in 1986, the landmark tower being completed long before the church’s actual completion.
In our tour of the Snaefellsnes Peninsular, we saw many beautiful churches superimposed on the bleak landscape. Here are some of them: