I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season and a great start to the new year. Today's photo is from our cruise down the Rhine River in Germany. There is a stretch of the river in Germany that features twenty-eight castles and too many little towns to count. Many of these towns have beautiful churches that dominate the surrounding buildings. About an hour after entering this part of the Rhine, the heavens opened up, making shooting a bit tough. Despite this, I was determined to get a few shots despite the fact that everyone on the observation deck had abandoned it (at least there was some cover). I was able to get this shot of the Church of Our Lady in Oberwesel, Germany through the raindrops after which I headed below decks to have some refreshments while enjoying the scenery.
It feels like I haven't posted in ages even though it has only been a couple of weeks. Had a great time in Disney World. The Christmas decorations are everywhere and the lights and parades are second to none. I will be posting a few of those Christmas shots in the coming weeks. In the meantime, this is an image from our home away from home, Disney's Beach Club Resort. I noticed this reflection of the resort but I was pretty tired so I decided to get it later in the trip. This is usually a mistake but the weather was so great (mid to high 70s) that I was sure that I would be able to get it. I captured this a few nights later and have decided I like taking night images.
Last week I posted this image of Cologne, Germany's waterfront. In that image, the spires of the Cologne Cathedral (also known as the High Cathedral of Saint Peter) can be seen in the background. Later that afternoon, it started to rain and we headed back to the ship for some drinks and dinner. During dinner, the rain stopped and I decided to grab the camera and tripod and head to the top deck of the ship to take a few night shots. The spires of the cathedral was even more pronounced in the night sky with all of its lights on. I usually don't shoot at night but I really enjoyed it and hope to make this more of my routine.
On a personal note, with Thanksgiving tomorrow, I want to thank everyone who has visited my site this year. When I started this blog, I wasn't sure how long I would do it. It has been 18 months since I started the blog and thanks to all of you, I am inspired to continue to do so for quite a long time.
I have posted a number of images from the Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia. I shot a ton of photos that day and as I sift through them, I rediscover those unusual cells that show a little bit of prison life. This is one of those images. I am not sure if this image is an accurate portrayal of one of the original cells, but it almost looks like an inviting place for a convict to sit and either write or read (at least compared to the other barren cells).
The Rhine River flows from Lake Toma in eastern Switzerland and flows through Switzerland, Austria, Germany, France and the Netherlands before flowing into the North Sea at Rotterdam. Along the way, there are beautiful towns and cities that dot this beautiful route. Some are small towns while others are large cities. What is so great about a river cruise is that the boats often pull up to the side of the river so that passengers can just hop off and be in the city. One of my favorite stops in Germany was Cologne. After the ship docked, I hopped off and was only a few steps from this scene on Cologne's waterfront. While the weather wasn't at its best, the town was quite inviting as we sampled the local brews and cuisine.
Disney is one of the most popular and successful companies in the world. There are probably a myriad of reasons why that is so. Many of their resort hotels, as well as Epcot, are beautiful renditions of other places around the world. How do they seem to pull it off? To me, it is in the details. It seems that Disney has created or recreated places and things that, upon examination, are so detailed that they make you believe that you have been transported somewhere else and are seeing the real thing. This is everywhere you look at Disney. Take this bird cage that is in the middle of the atrium in Fort Wilderness Lodge. This is no ordinary bird cage. If you look at the image closely, the amount of detail is incredible. Sure, they could have put an ordinary cage there but that would not elicit a "Wow" form its visitors.
Every time I visit Europe, I am always surprised how prevalent canals are in many of its cities. This is very unlike the majority of cities here in the United States. The canals give each city a unique feel and character. This is particularly true of Amsterdam which is know as the "Venice of the North". Amsterdam has over 60 miles of canals, 90 islands and approximately 1,500 bridges. While this obvious comparison to Venice is only natural, I found that the architecture of each city differentiated itself from the other. There were times, however, when I turned a corner and wouldn't have known whether I was in Amsterdam or Venice. This image of an Amsterdam canal is such an example. Maybe it is the architecture, the light or something else, but this scene screamed Venice to me.
Hurricane Sandy devastated the East Coast unlike ever before. Particularly hard hit was the Jersey Shore. I grew up in South Jersey and remember spending over 15 years vacationing in Beach Haven on Long Beach Island. I haven't been back to Beach Haven since I was a teenager but still have fond memories. My wife and I still have large families in New Jersey. My brother-in-law and sister-in-law own second houses in Wildwood and Cape May respectively. I was happy to hear that they had minimal damage to their houses. I was actually visiting New Jersey the weekend Hurricane Sandy was headed there. I went down to visit my Mom and catch an Eagles game with my brother-in-law. Needless to say, I never made the game as I hightailed it out of there back to Connecticut after helping him put up a tarp to block some of the rain (the tarp actually survived the wind).
I hope that the Jersey Shore recovers quickly and becomes even better than before. I haven't shot there in a couple of years so I am posting a re-edited image. This image is of the Cape May Light reflecting brightly after a big storm the night before. At least for me, it is symbolic that the Jersey Shore will shine again soon.
Whenever we embark on a cruise, there are always a number of ports that we probably wouldn't have visited on our own. Oftentimes, we become quite taken with a location and wonder why it wasn't on our "must visit" list. Our recent Rhine River cruise provided such a place, Strasbourg, France. We docked on the Rhine in Kehl, Germany and after a quick bus ride over the bridge, we were in Strasbourg. Strasbourg is the capital of the Alsace region of France. It's beautiful historical center was named as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. From it's historical buildings such as the Strasbourg Cathedral to our new favorite food, tartes flambées (a wafer thin pizza made with onion-cream sauce) to it's beautiful canals (shown in this image), it is easy to understand why Strasbourg is a destination not to be missed.
The influence of the Catholic Church can be found throughout Europe. It seems that every city had a wonderful cathedral and there was tremendous competition to build one that was considered better that the neighboring towns. While this kind of competition was probably not in line with the tenants of the Catholic religion, it resulted in some amazing structures that are still around today. One such church is the Basilica di San Vitale in Ravenna, Italy. The Basilica dates from the mid-6th century and contains what are probably the finest Byzantine mosaics in the western world. Construction of San Vitale Basilica was initiated by Ecclesius, Bishop of Ravenna, shortly after a trip to Byzantium with Pope John in 525. The outside of the Basilica is very understated and contrasts dramatically with the magnificence of the inside. Upon entering the Basilica, you are exposed to some of the most beautiful murals made of Byzantine mosaics that you will ever encounter. The inside was very dark and since tripods were not allowed, I pushed the ISO as high as I could and used pillars to lean on and steady myself. While not as sharp as I would have liked, I think the image came out pretty well, all things considered.
One of the cool things about Europe are the amazing old castles that can be found just about anywhere on the continent or British Isles. One of my favorite castles is Culzean Castle which is located on the Ayrshire coast of Scotland. Little did I know when we pulled into the parking lot and walked down a long path, I would see one of the most imposing castle entrances ever. The massive stone gate stands guard to the beautiful castle inside. The castle was built in stages between 1777 and 1792 and is now owned by the National Trust for Scotland, which has done a magnificent job restoring and maintaining it. The castle now is home to a hotel and offers tours that transport you to a time long ago. Since 1987, an illustration of the castle can be found on the reverse side of five pound notes issued by the Royal Bank of Scotland.
When one travels along the Rhine River, it is impossible to go very far without a castle or a church being close by. Many of the tours involve visits to one or the other and sometimes both. On this particular morning, we took a tour of the Heidelberg Castle which towers 300 feet above the wonderful city of the same name. The castle is a complex consisting of several buildings that surround an inner courtyard. The buildings were built and rebuilt over the centuries and, as a result, they each feature different German architecture. My favorite part of the castle is the outdoor terrace that gives this image's vantage point of the rooftops of the city alongside the Rhine River. For anyone that wonders about the influence and importance of the Catholic Church in Europe, they can take a look at this skyline and see how the Church of the Holy Spirit is by far the dominant structure.
One of the main attractions of a Rhine River cruise are the castles that tower above the river. There is a particular stretch of the Rhine River in Germany from Koblenz to Rüdesheim that is home to twenty-eight castles and fortresses. Some of these structures are in ruins while many of them are in good shape and are tourist attractions. There is at least one that is now a hotel. As with any outdoor photography, we were at the mercy of the weather. When we left Koblenz, the weather was threatening but all in all wasn't too bad. As we approached the prime section, the heavens opened up and we were forced indoors to watch from the ship's lounge. It was still great to see despite my inability to shoot it. As we began the last third of the section, the weather cleared and I was able to run up to the observation deck to grab a few shots.
The first castle I was able to shoot was this one, the Rheinstein Castle. Rheinstein Castle is built on a steep cliff overseeing the town of Assmannshausen on the other side of the river. Built in the 14th Century it is great example of castle reconstruction.
Our first stop on our recent river cruise in Europe was Cologne, Germany. One of the differences that I really liked on the river cruise was that when you come to port, you can walk off of the ship and you are in the city. This is much different than ocean cruises where you are often outside the city because the ships are too large and you have to be bused to see the sights. Disembarking in Cologne was great as we were only a couple of blocks from the Cologne Cathedral also known as the High Cathedral of Saint Peter. We had a wonderful guide and he was extremely informative. One of the things we learned about the cathedral is that it is home to the remains of the three wise men and, as a result, it is a very popular religious destination.
It was pretty dark in the cathedral and since tripods were not allowed, I pushed the ISO to 6400 for the first time and shot a hand-held five bracket burst. I was quite amazed how well the resulting image turned out as the noise was pretty manageable.
Quick post and run today. When one thinks of Maine, the first thing that comes to mind are lobsters (or in New England speak, Lobstahs). The lobster industry is one of Maine's primary sources of income from the agricultural sector. One cannot travel up and down the coast of Maine without spotting lobster huts and lobster cages. This particular image is from Bernard, Maine just outside of Acadia National Park. It was early in the evening when the shadows were beginning to lengthen and the wind was really blowing. Unfortunately, there were no lobsters in sight and so we had to settle for a lobster-less dinner.
It is very interesting what your eyes can capture when you are paying close attention to your surrounding. This image from Grand Central Station in New York is a prime example of this. I have walked through the Park Avenue entrance leading to the station so many times that I have lost count. For those of you who have never visited the station, this entrance is a long corridor that has stores on either side as well as a large number of kiosks before leading to the main floor of the station. When I visited the Station in June on a photo workshop, I took my time examining the area and noticed this wonderful old mural on the ceiling of the corridor. I am sure I must have seen this before but never really took notice of it. As can be seen in this image, the details in this mural are quite incredible. I haven't been able to find out any information about the mural, but from the scenes depicted in it, it looks to be original to the station, which might suggest that it dates to the early 1900's. Regardless of it's age, it is a wonderful masterpiece that millions of people walk under without noticing it.
I know that the title of this blog post is probably a bit dramatic, but unless you have visited and spent time at the Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, you don't know how eerie it feels there. Walking around this immense place and seeing the small cells and peeling walls, I can't help but think what it must have been like being a prisoner there. I can only imagine the terror I would feel walking down this corridor to my cell for the first time. While the conditions were probably not as run down when the penitentiary actually housed prisoners, the place must have been so dreary, at least in my imagination. I think if there is not a "scared straight" program that takes troubled youths through the penitentiary, there should be.
Wow, I can't believe that it has been over three weeks since I last posted. Between the Labor Day weekend, two fantasy football drafts and a two week vacation to Europe, there has been little time and very limited internet access to post. But now I am back and raring to go. Our trip to Europe consisted of a river cruise from Amsterdam to Lucerne along the Rhine River. Being veterans of ocean cruising, it was a nice change to see Europe in a more relaxed fashion. Our first stop was in the Netherlands. When one thinks of the Netherlands, windmills and tulips are the first things that come to mind. I had visions of seeing windmills everywhere along the countryside but learned that windmills are quickly becoming relics. At their peak, there were over 10,000 windmills in the Netherlands. Today there are only about 1,000 still standing with many no longer working.
In order to see some real, working windmills, we took a tour outside of Amsterdam to Zaanse Schans, an open air conservation area and museum. There along the banks of the Zaan River, the museum has six working windmills where there used to be more than 1,000. This image shows three of them (left to right), "De Zoeke"'(an oil mill built in 1672); "De Bonte Hen" (an oil mill built in 1693) and the youngster of the group, "De Gekroonde Poelenburg" (a saw mill built in 1869).
Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia is a mecca for Urbex photography though it is a historical site and museum. The penitentiary was built in 1829 and continued operations until as recently as 1971 (hard to believe the amount of decay since then). When the building was erected, it was the largest and most expensive public structure ever constructed, quickly becoming a model for more than 300 prisons worldwide. One of the revolutionary intentions of the time was the idea that inmates were to be reformed rather than be punished (thus the word penitentiary rather than prison). In fact, the warden was legally required to visit every inmate every day as a form of rehabilitation. Two of the more famous inmates were Al Capone and Willie Sutton. This image is of one of the barber chairs that still can be found in the building. The urban decay is evident on the walls along with the algae growing down the back wall.
Earlier this year, I posted this image of the Fort Wilderness Lodge from my first trip to Disney World in over 10 years. We had been invited to Disney by very good friends to stay with them at their timeshare. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Disney Vacation Club, some of them are separate buildings that are adjacent to an already established resort. While they are not as big as the resort itself, they are still pretty impressive in their own right. This image is of the ceiling of the one attached to the Fort Wilderness Lodge. As is the Disney fashion, you could imagine yourself somewhere in Wyoming instead of Lake Buena Vista, Florida.