travel photography

All roads lead to Rome

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Wherever I go, my roads lead to the ice cream shop. When I unpacked and left my hotel room on St. Patrick’s Day in 2010, I walked to the Colosseum, keeping my eye on the shop windows – and there it was! Via Leonina 18, Cafe Ciuri Ciuri, my personal discovery, Sicilian gelateria-pasticceria, paradise of sugar- and calories-packed deliciousness and the best Sicilian style gelato in Rome. In the photograph, I immortalized my first one, the pistachio-ricotta gelato, creamy, with the unique taste of roasted pistachios. I won’t write about the pastries. It is sufficient to tell that I ate them twice a day. They are that good. Never forgotten.

( Edit: Forgot to mention another Ciuri Ciuri close to Colosseum: Via Labicana 126. The same great food)

I saw the Colosseum from the airplane window and couldn’t wait to visit the ancient monument. I knew about the free admission to the gladiator games in ancient Rome, and was surprised to learn that the times have changed. So I got a combined ticked for several attractions, and my historical holidays began.

I posted some street scenes from my Rome trip in my blog post People in the streets, and probably in some other blogs too.

Shadowless afternoon, amazing quality of light. I don’t know what these ruins are. The place is situated above the Forum. I was trying to find more images like mine, but there was only one, taken in May 2010. Perhaps, the place is closed for excavations?

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The broken side of the Colosseum. Over the centuries, it was shaken and damaged by many earthquakes ( the most devastating ones in 847 and 1231), and also struck by lightening and damaged by fires. All the valuable materials were taken away and re-used.

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Glimpse of Roman centurions’ life.

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There is what it looks like inside the amphitheatre. Construction of the Colosseum began in 72 AD, and was completed in 80 AD.  This place has seen the most horrible scenes of bloodshed and slaughter. The advent of Christianity changed Roman culture, morals, principles and values. The last gladiator game took place in 404 AD when an Egyptian monk Telemachus came to Rome, visited Colosseum, and shouted for the gladiator game to cease in the name of Christ. He was stoned to death, but after a few days the Emperor issued a decree that the games were to stop.  Centuries later, when the Colosseum was in danger of demolition, Christians  saved it as a site of martyrdom .

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Evening light, at about 6pm. I took pictures of Colosseum every day on my way from hotel and back.

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River Tiber. I enjoyed the light in Rome, so different from where I live.

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St Peter’s Basilica. In my blog Make it light I posted a picture of the interior.

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This is a picture I got from Google Earth, just to show the Basilica and the grounds.

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This is the dome I climbed 🙂 I intentionally left all these picture icons. The rule is that people who upload their images for Google Earth, have to map them properly – in exact place where the picture was taken from. I doubt that any picture was taken from the top of the tree …

I used a lift ( 170 steps?) and climbed the remaining 320. With my walking stick. With my claustrophobia.

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The lift took me to the roof ( the level behind the statues of the saints, the base of the dome). The roof looks like a small town with buildings and bridges. I walked around, even looked down inside the basilica below my feet, and up to the ceiling.

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The climb is scary, definitely not for the faint of heart ( I overestimated myself, but there is no turning back, by the way). The staircase is getting very narrow as you climb. It is slanted, and curves up between the outer and inner walls of the dome (1m? less?).

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As you can see, the windows are scarce, but there are windowsills. The temperature wasn’t too bad in March, but I would NEVER go there in summer. When there is no one around you, it is OK, but seeing people who actually take all the space of the staircase makes you panic. And I did panic, but at the last moment I saw the window, and I climbed some more steps and fell on the windowsill, almost in coma 🙂 When the others cleared off, I quickly finished the climb.

And this was my reward 🙂

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I think this is the residence of the Pope.

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On my way back I took a picture of these fine guards, and ate a gelato to restore my shaken health.

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Here are some more pictures.

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I still miss Rome.

inesemjphotography Have a wonderful Sunday!

From South to North and back – I

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First of all, Happy Thanksgiving to all the thankful out there, wherever you may be! Have a wonderful and happy weekend!

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To those who haven’t read my blog before – it is the fifth post in the series about my trip to the North of Ireland to take part in Elena Shumilova Workshop.

I got this lovely map from  http://www.ireland-information.com/irelandmaps.htm, and drew my route with a green marker. My plan was to use smaller roads instead of motorways so that I could stop for a photograph. Most of the route was familiar to me, but I still got lost somewhere between Counties Cavan and Monaghan, twice – on my way to and from.

I left early in the morning from Waterford, drove through Kilkenny  and Durrow, and didn’t stop until I got to Abbeyleix. These photographs were taken in different years, but I think they are good enough for illustrating my journey.

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These photographs are taken in Kilkenny Castle park, in early  November 2010. The day was chilly and foggy, and very quiet.

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The National Monument to missing people was unveiled by President Mary Mc Aleese in the grounds of Kilkenny Castle in 2002. The sculpture is designed by Ann Mulrooney. Each hand was cast from the actual hand of a family member of a missing person. There is also a stone with inscription: “This sculpture and area of reflection is dedicated to all missing persons. May all relatives and friends who visit find continuing strength and hope”.

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Another old photograph – the River Nore in Kilkenny.

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After leaving Kilkenny I headed to Durrow, Co Laois. I think that it will help if I give you a link to a page where you can learn how to pronounce Irish names for places: http://www.logainm.ie/ga/

For today it is Laois [leash] and Abbeyleix [abbey- lees]

I already wrote about Durrow twice. Every year they are hosting a Scarecrow Festival, and it is a huge fun event. In my Scarecrow blog Part I I reflected on the life of Scarecrow of Oz and his predecessors; in the Part II I gave an account of the festival activities and attractions. I wont’s repeat myself and hope you visit these blog posts if you haven’t read them yet. There is also a video from which you will learn a thing or two about the nature of scarecrows 🙂

Today I am sharing two picture that I took after the festival in 2014. The day was fabulous, but then we noticed the darkest cloud menacingly approaching the town. We escaped, but all the merry gathering was drenched with rain in a matter of minutes. We drove up the rolling hills until this magnificent view opened to us. I had just a minute for a couple of snaps. The skies opened and the rain poured on us all the way home.

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Now back to my Grand cross-country trip.

As  I said, my first stop was in Abbeyleix.  Lonely Planet offers you six things to do in Abbeyleix, including a visit to the former Yvo de Vesci Carpet factory where a number of hand tufted carpets were made for Titanic’s staterooms. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to stay in Abbeyleix longer than 10 minutes, it is why I will just share with you this old picture from Cobh (former Queenstown), the final port of call for Titanic. I will write about Cobh another time. 

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I think you already understand why I am getting lost while travel…

So, I didn’t have time to do six things in Abbeyleix, neither was it my plan, but there is something in this little town that  I love and want to share with you. I love their street lights.

It was early in the morning, and I stood  in the middle of N77 without  getting in trouble. The fog was thick, the colors and sounds muted, like in a dream.

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I took some more photographs,  one of them I used in my previous post – the iron gate and the rising sun. After saying good bye to this lovely little town I resumed my journey.

IneseMjPhotographyHave a great Thanksgiving weekend!

Back to the North: Inishowen

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It is ten years since my last visit to Inishowen Peninsula. Last summer I was close, and you can read about that trip in my  Dark Hedges, Giant Causeway and Rope bridge blogs. This time I had different plans, none of which worked out. Well, except for the main reason why I went to Inishowen, so let’s call it a business trip then – a magic business trip, to be precise 🙂  I will share the details next week after going through my photographs galore,  but in this blog  I just want to share a sad song that mentions Inishowen, because yes, I am very sad,  and I want to go back.

The lyrics:

You maidens of beauty, I’m a swain that’s forlorning,

I carelessly wandered away from my home,

I am off by the moonlight and day break of morning,

I am found in the mountains of dark Inishowen.

I strayed  a place that they called sweet Clonmany

In search of a fair maid who I might adore,

But a maiden for to love me I could not find any

From Meendoran bridge to the Gap at Mamore.

Adieu to the place where I once had a sweetheart,

But now she has left me no wonder I mourn,

When I think of that sweet spot the haunt of that fair one

I pine for her absence in dark Inishowen.

Oh it’s distance divides us in dreams I caress her

For I was as happy as if I was at home,

When I speak to that vision that it bids me compress her

To a bosom that’s pining in dark Inishowen.

I am now sad and lonely since I left her dear dwelling

To repine on that sweet spot I shall never see more,

For I’m off by the wild beach where the salt seas are swelling

From Tullagh’s black rocks to the gap at Mamore.

And now I am stationed in the county Fermanagh,

And I left my wee darling with her parents at home,

If I ever return it will be to marry,

And to wed my wee darling in dark Inishowen.

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Inishowen is not actually dark. The opening image is the view from my hotel window in Ballyliffin, Co Donegal, taken at the sunrise, and this one is another early morning view I captured when driving along the shores of Trawbreaga Bay, not far away from Malin.  I drove through ” sweet Clonmany” too, but took no photographs ( failed plans as I already said…).

The last image is of water. Not just ordinary water, but the water of Pollan Bay…

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This is all for now. More to follow…

IneseMjPhotographyHave a wonderful weekend!

Irrelevant story

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Having a real summer ( I use the term loosely) in July here in Ireland is something of fiction. Some people live here all their life still waiting for their first summer. This year they finally have got it, but in October.

Last Friday afternoon, a couple of hours before the sunset, I went for a walk around beautiful Tramore Bay & Backstrand, enjoying unusual weather, soft light, and tiny wildlife. I don’t have a real macro lens and have to manual-focus my trusted 70-200, but it is how I like it.

At home, I picked up some images, resized them, added them to the draft of my new post, and started thinking about a story to match.

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I was almost ready to start writing, but got a “visit” to my blog and paid a “visit” back.  It is where I read a remarkable story that  brought back my own memories.  A story I want to share is not relevant to the pictures I have selected, but …  may be it is?

Sometimes we have dreams so vivid that they can be quite disturbing. When it happens, we either maniacally want to know the meaning of the dream, or to erase it from our memory. It is only a bad dream, it has no consequence, right?

In winter 1985, shortly after my father’s death, I had a terrifying dream that woke me up breathless. I saw a man with long arms that reached down below his knees. The man was dressed in some sort of rags, and stood at the edge of the forest. He did nothing, just stared at me – not blankly but as if considering something. This stare followed me for months.

The same year, in early autumn, I took my mother and my three years old daughter for a spin. The weather was sunny, chilly  and dry, and the air was filled with that bitter-sweet scent of fallen leaves and sadness.

We drove through an unfamiliar forest, but it looked friendly and we decided to stop and walk, and pick some berries. On our way through the forest we didn’t see any farmhouses, or any sign of human presence, so we felt quite safe and at ease. Our car was parked just behind the trees. I laid a blanked on the soft moss for my daughter to play on, and my mom and I walked around with our mugs in our hands picking lingonberries.

After half an hour our mugs were almost full, and I sent my mom and my daughter to the car to start packing so that we could leave soon, and I would stay another five minutes to fill up my mug. I didn’t see them, just heard their voices. The mug was finally full, I stood up and there he was. The man from my nightmare.

Our eyes met. He stood there exactly as I remembered him – dressed in some dirty, shapeless gown, and with his arms hung down way below his knees.  His hands were empty and it scared me the most: people are not walking that deep in the forest with their hands empty. He stared at me, and I could not read his stare.

I knew I was going to die, but there was my child, and I had to act quickly. All my instincts came to my rescue. I gave him a blank, uninterested look, slowly turned my back to him, and slowly started walking away. The only thought pulsing in my brain was ‘… don’t run… don’t scream…’ I called the first male name that came in my mind, and added ‘ I am coming!’ I kept walking; I expected being hit from behind at any moment. When I was at some distance, I finally looked back. He was no longer there. Gone. And then I ran.

My daughter was already in the car. I yelled to my mother to get in, fell in the car seat and locked all the doors. My heart was pounding with terror. With shaking hands I started the car and took off still expecting him to jump out of the bushes somewhere along the road. Yet, he was gone for good.

I have never been nowhere near that place again. What was that dream? Who was the man? How long had he been watching me? I will never know.

After the photo session with the spiders and caterpillars, I walked to the strand. The tide was out, but the sand was still wet and reflected the skyline.

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The sun was already low, but the cloudless sky wouldn’t make any dramatic sunset pictures.  I sat on the rocks staring at the distant water.

I love shooting into the sun. Dream and reality are somewhat mixed in this kind of pictures.

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Thank you for listening to my story! Please share your ideas – I still feel like I need some explanation.

IneseMjPhotographyHave a great weekend!

Traveling American Southwest… Part II

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At the exit of the Antelope Canyon ( see Part I), we saw this little chick on the ground and heard his mama chirp somewhere close. I quickly took a picture and off we went, in the back of a 4-wheel drive comfortable truck.

In the evening, driving around, we stopped at the marina parking lot and took some pictures of the endless sky, Colorado River, and Navajo Generating Station –  the third largest emitter of carbon dioxide in the USA.

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The next day we drove, all  excited, down to Lake Powell to take a boat tour to the Rainbow Bridge.  A two hours boat ride or a two day hiking? You have to choose if you want to see many places in just a few days. The tour took about five hours, from which four hours on the boat with the most breathtaking scenery all around, and a fresh breeze.

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This is a furnace ( only about a mile long though) we had to hike through to get to the famous natural  bridge. In the evening I was all red like a lobster, and it was only May!

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We turned around the corner, and there it stood.

Rainbow bridge

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My daughter said that she wanted to sing for us, and she did, and it was really moving.

Judy Garland, “Over the Rainbow

The next day was Sunday. I saw that there was a church across from our hotel, and I decided to go and mingle with the locals.

I entered the room  and quietly sat in the  back row. When I looked around I realised that all the congregation except me and another couple were either Native Americans or Mexicans. Presiding was a solemnly looking Native American man with long hair, who spoke with majesty and authority. I was mesmerized.

After the service I was about to sneak away, but two young men who sat next to me started conversation and marveled at the fact that I came all the way from Europe. I really enjoyed our conversation and marveled at the fact that I was chatting with 100% Native Americans 🙂 After 40 years, since…

In the 1960s, DEFA film production studio based in Berlin, Eastern Germany  produced the Western The Sons of the Great Mother Bear, directed by Josef Mach and starring Gojko Mitić. Many other films followed. Basically, the films portrayed the good Native Americans and the bad white Americans. What else would you expect from the Cold War era movies 🙂

The DEFA Film Library at the University of Massachusetts Amherst is the only archive and research center outside of Germany devoted to the preserving and promoting DEFA movies. In October 2005 the Museum of Modern Art in New York City hosted a two-week DEFA festival, and several titles are now commercially available on DVD.

And for those who wonder – no, this is not American Southwest 🙂 In fact, it is not America at all. The movies were filmed somewhere in Southern Europe and even Mongolia.

To make a long story short – In  this photograph you see Gojko Mitić.

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I was 10-12 years old at that time. The crush wasn’t on him! I still have no idea if he was ever married or something. The crush was rather on his characters 🙂

I and alike, were the most devoted fans he has ever had. We recorded the soundtracks from TV shows, we quoted his characters, we wrote screenplays, made tomahawks and bows, and all sort of jewelry. We went to the library and researched all the books on American history and anthropology that were available. We have read all the books on which his movies were based! He influenced a whole generation, and somehow we knew that the white Americans were not as bad as we were told, because some of them were good friends of Chingachgook, Tokei-Itho, and Ulzana.

I wish all celebrities used their influence upon the young generation as he did.

In this photograph, he is 75 🙂 Yep.

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The following morning we left Page AZ and traveled North.  After visiting Monument Valley we took Utah State Route 261, passed stunning rock formations  – Mexican Hats, and crossed the Valley of Gods. I was clueless  about specifics of US 261… I just wondered, where are we going to drive if there stands a gigantic mesa all the way along the valley… When we approached the mesa, I got it. I asked if I can leave the car and walk. The answer was “no”.  Moki Dugway. I didn’t know we were destined to meet…

Holding my camera tight, I stretched my arm out of the window, closed my eyes and up we went. I cannot tell how many switchbacks are there. Five? Six? There are no protective walls or anything, and we were lucky that no one was traveling down the mesa in their campervan.

Most of my pictures look like this one.

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Valley of Gods from Moki Dugway.

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This is my daughter’s photograph taken on the top of Cedar Mesa  this year when they traveled the Southwest again. You can see some of the switchbacks.

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Our next stop, Navajo National Monument. In the photograph below, there is a whole city in the rock, Betatakin cliff dwelling, as seen across the canyon. Anasazi lived there in the 13th century and vanished  overnight without a trace.

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A dinosaur footprint.

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We traveled through the beautiful desert, and finally crossed the Glen Canyon again.

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This is actually a picture of the same area, but taken from the top of the canyon wall. You can see the bridge across Colorado River near the confluence of Dirty Devil River.

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Unlike the DEFA movies, this American Southwest is real 🙂

One more video,  and Ennio Morricone music for you.

Thank you for your company!

IneseMjPhotographyHave a great weekend!