Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Fall colors in North Carolina

North Carolina is not as famous as New England for foll foliage colors, but it's not too bad either. I took these pictures last Sunday along the Blue Ridge Parkway, which follows the top of the Appalachians between North Carolina and Virginia.

Unfortunately the extreme drought that hit the area in the last few months has caused the colors of many trees to be a lot less nice than they should be (see the yellows here on the right), so I will have to cheat and post some pictures that I took in the same place last year and that for some reason I must have forgotten to post before.

As you can see, I was not the only one taking pictures...

...and this is what everybody was taking pictures of: trees...

...a patch of pumpkins (just in time for Halloween), and more trees.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Fall colors in Maine

Two weeks ago I was again in Maine, and it was pretty much peak time for the famous New England foliage colors. I was working, so there was very precious little time to take pictures, only in the morning and at dusk, but those are usually the best times anyway.

A friend was nice enough to take me on a long and strenuous hike up Borestone Mountain at about 6 am in below-freezing temperature and strong winds. I somehow managed to get on top, and the view was well worth the excruciating expedition:

The view from the top was fantastic, but also on the way up and down there were a few nice scenes, like this boat on one of the ponds along the trail, and, of course, lots of colorful trees...

I took the remaining pictures (the one on top and the one here on the left) when the sun was already very low and the air hazy, so it was hard to strike a balance between the darkening trees and the sky still bright with diffused light. The first picture required some work in Lightroom (some fill light, exposure and contrast adjustment, and negative vignetting correction) but I believe that the result is quite nice.

The last picture is the first I took; nothing special, I just stopped the car on the side of the road on my way up to the central part of the state, but it shows the nice scenary that you can find pretty much anywhere in Maine, especially in the fall.

Glacier National Park (Montana)

It's time to catch up with the posts here.

Back in July we went to Glacier National Park, in Montana. The weather was very good, clear , hot and hazy - this is not a good combination for photography. Unfortunately even at sunrise and sunset the light was very bland and meaningless.

Anyway, first things first: the mandatory picture of the island on St. Mary's lake. This is the best known view in the park and everybody takes a picture of it, so here we go:

The park covers a vast mountaneous range that was shaped in valleys and lakes by glaciers; many of these glaciers are still there today, even though they are dwindling in number and size very quickly. They estimate that within 30 years there will be no more glaciers left, but they assure us that the park will not change its name.

The mountains are not as impressive as I had anticipated, but the lakes are all very nice.
The first here on the left is Hidden Lake; it can be reached with a fairly long hike from Logan Pass, the highest point of the Going To The Sun Road. On the way, even in the summer, you will find a lot of snow and some mountain goats enjoying the cooler breeze in the altitude.

The Going To The Sun Road crosses the park in the east-west direction and gives you access to St. Mary's Lake and Lake McDonald (both here on the right). The road has a lot of traffic in the summer, but if you take the time to do some hiking you will find a lot of very nice, quiet and secluded places to explore.

I took the same picture of Lake McDonald with my large format camera, but the result was sort of disappointing. The light was just not right.

Less disappointing was the wildlife: besides the mountain goats, we also had a chilling encounter with a very aggressive, large and dangerous snake (I wasn't able to take a picture of it because I was busy running for my life, but I assure you that it was a very dangerous species).

Outside the park, in a wilderness preservation area south of Flathead Lake, we also found several bisons, a very aggressive, large and dangerous greezly bear (hmm... maybe not) feasting on top of a tree, and an antilope that didn't have any intention of letting us continue on our way.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Seattle, WA, northern Idaho and Western MT

Last week we went for a few days to Glacier National Park; I'll post some pictures about it in the next few days, but for now I'll stick to the first part of our trip: Seattle, Washington state, northern Idaho and western Montana. Seattle is pretty far from Glacier NP, but direct flights into Montana on short notice are extremely expensive, so we had to do it this way.

It turned out to be a very good idea, because the city is very interesting, and so is the drive through Washington state, Idaho and the mountains of western Montana.

I took the first picture (below) by the ocean (actually Puget Sound) in Seattle; I didn't do any post-processing: the sky is as it was, and the street lamps are green because of the way the camera sees (I think) hot mercury vapors. Overall the effect is rather interesting.

The second picture is a lucky shot of some wild horses happily running on the crest of a hill near the Columbia river in Washington state. I just accentuated a bit the contrast of the thunderstorm clouds.

The third picture is an abandoned barn in Montana, along route 28, near the aptly named "Rattlesnake Gulch Road". I didn't see any rattlesnakes, but I bet there are many. This really is cowboy country!

Well, since you read this far, I'll let you in on a secret: the "wild horses" are not a lucky shot: they are steel sculptures that have been placed on top of the hill as a "Wild Horse Monument". They can be seen from a rest area just off I-90.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

How to categorize photographs

I've been wondering for a long time how to categorize and organize my pictures online and I was never very satisfied.
Last week I think I finally got it.
First of all, I thought about what are the elements that make a good photograph; I think they are the following:

  • The light
  • The colors
  • The mood
  • The subject

I then went through all of my pictures (about 11,000) trying to decide which element was most prominent in each photograph. Obviously some pictures excel in more than one aspect, and the best pictures you hope to take would excel in all of them, but it's fairly easy to look at any given picture and see which element is more prominent.

After that I tried to describe more in detail the quality of the element in each picture; this is what I came up with:




  • Cold
  • I should find a lot more, but this is much more subjective and more difficult to recognize; it will take me more time


This is it, and this is how I finally categorized my new galleries.

I'm pretty happy with the way it worked out and I think this will help me focus my photographic efforts in the future, because I think it will make it easier to understand ahead of time which photographic opportunities can turn out well. So far it was always a hit or miss.

PS: In case you are interested, I made the navigation pages in Adobe Photoshop and converted them in html using the Photoshop add-on ImageReady.
I made the galleries with Adobe Photoshop Lightroom: it's a great tool for organizing pictures, doing quick edits and corrections, and to create slideshows and web galleries. You should check it out. If you prefer free software, Google's Picasa is also a good bet.

Monday, June 11, 2007

New Gallery

I'm back after a pretty long pause.
In the meanwhile I have taken a few new pictures and updated my galleries:

In the next few days I'll post some new pictures and explain how I decided to organize my galleries.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Troop Greeters

I was at the airport in Bangor, ME last Friday.
I often see military flights arriving there, bringing home American soldiers from all over the world. There is a group of veterans and civilians - the Maine Troop Greeters - who gather at the airport every time a military flight arrives, night and day, to greet the soldiers. They applaud them as they deboard the plane and stand in line to shacke their hands and give a word of thanks.
It's usually a pretty touching scene. On Friday it was even more so, when this little girl took a place in line and started to shake the hands of the arriving soldiers. I think they could have hardly gotten a better welcome, and they seemed genuinely happy of it.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Tuscany, part 4: The Day-to-day Life

For the last part of this series on Tuscany, I wanted to show some nice (I think) pictures that show a little of how the people who are there every day live.

A pub in the main square of Lucca.

A bicycle parked outside a house in the center of Lucca.

A grocery store window in Lucca, displaying bread, focaccia, olives, salami, lard, prosciutto, and more.

A busy street in Florence, behind the majestic dome of the cathedral.

An unmarked police car in Florence (I know it's just a picture of a car, but I love that car! It's an Alfa Romeo 159, for those of you who may care).

A bus stop in Florence.

Clothes hung to dry in Siena.

Tuscany, part 3: The Art (Random Moments)

In Tuscany you can find enough Renaissance art to last you for a lifetime, in every town, at every streetcorner, and for a lot of it you can find plenty of information on the net. So even though I did take pictures of all the "mandatory" (really famous) stuff, I'll post only some random details that I shot here and there, in no particular order. Some of these, you may have never seen before.

Tuscany, part 2: The Chianti Valley

The Chianti Valley extends between Florence and Siena. It is the home of the famous Chianti vineyards; here is one of them:

You can drive from Florence to Siena in a couple of hours; the scenery is fantastic, and you can stop in any of the few small towns on the way for a think and juicy Fiorentina steak in one of the local trattorias. Here are a house in a typical small town, and an abandoned farmhouse (I don't think it will stay abandoned for long though - it looks like it could become a very nice B&B, or agriturismo).

Tuscany, part 1: Etruscan Tombs

Last summer we went to Italy for a few weeks. I finally have some time to post about that trip, but there is a lot to tell, so I'll do it in installments. Here is the first one.

Everybody knows about Tuscany: the rolling hills, the wine, the food, and so on. One of the less known things is that the region was home to the Etruscans, a mysterious people that thrived before the birth of Rome and that the Romans "absorbed" early on in their expansion, leaving little trace of their civilization. What is left are mostly underground tombs, scattered around the countryside.

You may be driving on a narrow winding road, when you may see a small sign directing you to a tomb in the middle of the woods, in a field, or in an olive orchard. Usually there is just a sign explaining when and how it was found, how old it is, and the little that is known about it. No tour guides on site, no admission ticket and no gift shop.

This is where we were walking to reach a tomb dating back from around the 3rd century before Christ.

Obviously the artifacts have long been removed and placed in museums or sold on the black art market, but the tombs themselves are fascinating, especially when you stop and realize that they are well over 2,000 years old.

These are the steps that lead down to one of the tombs.

Most of these tombs were built several feet underground, and you can access them only through these very steep and narrow stairs. It's kind of scary going down, because your eyes haven't adjusted from the bright summer day outside to the damp and mysterious darkness inside, and you don't quite know what to expect...

Here you can see the ledge where the dead were placed. The tomb is round, with a low vaulted ceiling and a pillar in the middle. The ledge runs around the perimeter of the tomb like a bench.

For more information about the Etruscans, refer to this very informative website: The Misterious Etruscans.

Sunday, December 31, 2006

How to build your own HTPC

I haven't been able to post in a long while, because I have been busy with a lot of other things, including taking pictures. I should be able to post some of my new pictures in the next few days.

Another one of the things that have kept me busy was building my own Home Theatre PC. This has some relevance to the Photoblog because a HTPC with a big wide screen TV is a great way to see your pictures, in fact I think it's probably the best way to do it. Organize your pictures in collections, select the appropriate soundtrack, and start the slideshow!

If you are interested, read on.

Thursday, September 28, 2006


This is a picture I took in New York City; it's the reflection of a skyscraper, clouds, and the sky on another skyscraper. I took a close-up shot, avoiding the outline of the skyscrapers, to give it an abstract feel.
I especially like the color of the cloud reflection: it has a pastel look, and the window edges look like stitches on a quilt. An interesting effect considering the artificial and high-tech quality of the sibject matter.

Monday, September 25, 2006


I took this picture during a very cold night in December of 2001, in Michigan. I think I've never been so cold in my life (you can see how the water sprayed by the waves on the handrail has frozen - more noriceable in the second picture - almost unbelievable...).

I was able to get out of the car to take pictures for just few minutes at a time, when I saw the house beyond the rocks. The warm light inside contrasts nicely with the cold dim light outside, where even the bright lamppost feels cold. I call this picture "Lighthouse III"; even though the house is not a lighthouse, it felt like one.