I also added a gallery to our visit to Key West, also in 2015.
I took advantage of the snowy weather here to work on a long-overdue project of adding photo galleries to my website. I just added a gallery of photos from our visit to Colorado in 2015. I did say LONG overdue…. 😉
I don’t get bird photos like my buddy Don Brown, but once in a while I see birds. This flock passed over us one evening at the beach – I’m pretty sure they are some kind of geese, but looked too dark to be Tundra Swans or Snow Geese. Probably Canada Geese. They were going the right way, though – South! They were so high up that I couldn’t hear them squawking over the sound of the surf, but I’m sure they must have been noisy.
There were so many of them in so long a line that I couldn’t get them all in one shot. Who ever thought of shooting birds with a wide-angle lens?!?!
Last one in the series, and the only one that wasn’t taken on the day it was posted! Shadows in the hallway outside our condo were irresistible.
A technique that I love to use at the beach is motion blur. This can take the form of long shutter speeds on a tripod, or panning the camera along the scene or with a moving wave. It can convey a feeling of motion, simplify a busy scene or just look “pretty.” It doesn’t work just anywhere, and I’ve become pretty good about knowing when to use it.
I hadn’t tried using motion blur much this trip until I was reminded of it in a recent Instagram post by William Neill. Bill originally inspired me to try using motion blur years ago, and his work continues to inspire me.
Last night while we waited to see if the moonrise would be visible, I tried using a slow shutter speed on the water, the sky and even some sea oats blowing in the wind. A few of them came out OK, so I thought I would share.
I’ve said previously that Kathy would make a very good photographer if she was willing to carry a camera and learn a few basic skills. I’m extremely fortunate that she is willing to tag along with me, and on occasion carry a camera and/or lens. Once in a while she points something out to me and says, “like this.” Here are a few of those “like this-es” that she has seen lately that I might (probably) have walked past. Not because they aren’t photo-worthy, but because she’s seen something I haven’t seen.
We’re seeing some showers along the coast this afternoon which rules out any shadows like yesterday. Got a walk and some photography in earlier, before the rain arrived.
Taking full advantage of our recently won freedom, we’re heading to Hilton Head Island tomorrow. We originally planned to go for a couple of weeks but got a deal on a place for the month. My intentions are to take and post a photo per day. We’ll see how that works out! 😉
I wrote previously about our Venice, Florence & Rome tour and have been meaning for far too long to write about the second week of our Italy adventure. I keep promising myself to write more “in the moment” instead of months behind, but so far that hasn’t happened. Retirement is hard work!
Italy began calling my name when I first saw Bob Krist’s photographs in Frances Mayes’ book In Tuscany. Although I’ve not seen Under the Tuscan Sun, I’ve read all of Mayes’ subsequent books about her life in Tuscany and in particular really identified with her description of the life, the people and the scenery of Tuscany, and I especially loved the idea of La Dolce Vita, Italian for “the sweet life” or “the good life.” Krist’s photos and Mayes’ narrative had captured my imagination and convinced me that Italy was a place that I needed to visit.
A trip to Italy had been “over the horizon” both literally and figuratively for years. When I thought of traveling to Italy, there were two ways I wanted to do it. First, I had been following Jeff Curto’s Camera Position podcasts for years, and when Jeff started doing his Photograph Italy workshops, I was convinced that I wanted to visit Tuscany “Jeff’s Way,” which would ideally be on one of Jeff’s workshops but could also be something we did on our own. Second, I’ve wanted to take a transatlantic cruise either to or from Italy, flying the opposite way, and spending time on land either before or after the cruise. A visit to Tuscany would undoubtedly have been a requirement of that option.
When Kathy & I decided to start planning a trip to Italy, our first idea was to fly there, do some kind of tour, then cruise back to the US. We wanted to do a tour there because of the logistics of navigating all the cities and towns with their congestion, crowds and parking restrictions. Not to mention the language, since neither of us speaks Italian! We wanted to leave the driving to someone else. We started looking at going in the fall, since the cruise ships that spend the summer in the Mediterranean start heading back “across the pond” in October and November and it should be easy to find one at a good price.
We began by looking at tours that would take us to the usual highlights of Italy – Venice, Florence, Rome, Pisa, etc. while spending an appropriate amount of time in Tuscany. Appropriate to me was at least 3-4 days, but very few of them spent more than one night with most of them being a “drive-thru” on the way from one place to another. For me to get what I really wanted would require organizing some kind of customized tour with a driver/guide to handle the navigation and logistics. After much looking and analyzing, one day Kathy looked at me and said, “you just need to do Jeff Curto’s tour. That’s what you’ve always wanted and you ultimately won’t be happy with anything less.” Yes, I love this lady 🙂 and she is also the first to tell me that I need to buy the better tool or the better camera (when it matters) instead of taking the cheaper route. That settled, we decided to look into doing that, and conveniently it was just a couple of weeks before Jeff opened his workshops for registration.
Why Jeff Curto?
As I mentioned above, I had been following Jeff Curto’s Camera Position podcasts for years, and had come to love his teaching style and the fact that his focus is on “The Creative Side of Photography.” His Camera Position podcasts – and additionally, while he was actively teaching, his History of Photography podcasts – showed me a person with the personality, temperament and teaching style that I thought I would respond well to.
I had corresponded with Jeff several times previously and he was familiar with me and my interest. And rather than writing me off as another wishful-thinking wannabe, when I contacted him with questions about his upcoming registration and told him I was definitely planning to sign up, he “bent the rules” just a little to allow me to receive advance notice so I could get signed up. Another star in the “plus” column!
Because the workshops are limited to just 7 people, I needed to sign Kathy up as a participant even though she likely would not be picking up a camera. Fortunately, she doesn’t usually mind carrying one of mine, especially now that they are smaller and lighter! And with the promise of daily excellent food and yummy wine, she wasn’t a hard sell. Jeff was kind enough to adjust the fee for the fact that she would not need instruction and would not be participating in the critiques.
The Workshop Experience
From the time we signed up to go, Jeff provided regular and comprehensive communications, with tips and ideas for our planning, things to remember to bring and even “homework” to allow us to prepare for getting the most out of the experience. All of the participants are on Facebook, so he set up a private group so we could get to know each other a bit ahead of time by sharing articles, questions and photos. By the time we were ready to go, all our questions were answered and we just had to show up!
Kathy & I had chosen our earlier Tauck tour partly because it ended in Rome on the day the photo workshop was to begin. It was an easy 10-minute taxi ride from our hotel to a piazza near the Pantheon, where we arrived early and had time to wander a bit before the rest of the group and our van arrived. As it turned out, the rest of the group had stayed in a hotel adjacent to the piazza and had met for dinner the previous night. Since that was the last night of our Tauck tour and was the night of our after-hours visit to the Sistine Chapel, we missed out on that dinner. Otherwise it was a piece of cake to catch up with Jeff and the other members.
I won’t go into excruciating detail about the agenda, because it is available on Jeff’s website. I will say, however, that the entire experience completely met and exceeded my expectations. We spent the week in the Tuscan hill town of Pienza, and while everyplace else we went was fantastic, I could easily have spent the entire week in and around Pienza. Our hotel there was family-owned with nice rooms, a decent restaurant, a great location and very comfortable. The town itself was lovely, with many shops, restaurants, interesting churches and architecture, and beautiful views of the Val d’Orcia. The daily workshop schedule was relaxed but productive, and the fellowship and camaraderie of the group was exactly as I had hoped.
Our group “classroom” sessions sometimes involved standing under a tree in the shade and listening or watching, sometimes involved the group gathered in his hotel room with a television for viewing images. Whatever the venue, Jeff was very informative and provided the inspiration and encouragement needed to benefit from the experience. Jeff would be a great instructor anywhere, but his passion for photography and for Tuscany comes through in his enthusiasm for the workshops.
Jeff based the amount of tutoring and teaching in the field to each individual person. The background of each participant varied in age, profession and experience. Kathy was the only non-photographer, but as I’ve previously said, she sees and thinks like a photographer, the only thing that keeps her from being one is that she won’t use a camera! One other person, who is the spouse of another participant and who was picking up a camera for virtually the first time, had very little experience. The others were all experienced photographers with impressive travel experience and previous workshops on their resumes and with similar objectives for the week.
The “final exam” for our workshop was for the participants to select a group of images and put together a themed slide show. We had a choice of software to use (I used Lightroom) and we each created a 20~ image presentation that we set to music and shared with the group. Jeff also published them on his website. I was the “overachiever” of the group 🙂 and did two – the links to them are at the end of this post.
I feel like a came away from the week in Tuscany with 7 new friends: Jeff and his wife Mary Pat were excellent hosts, and the other 5 participants were great companions on our adventure. Although we were only together for a week, Kathy & I had lunch with Jeff & Mary Pat several times and feel like we’ve been friends forever. While it would cement the relationship to go on a few more workshops 😉 , I feel like we could meet up again anywhere in the world and have a great time. I’ve become Facebook and Instagram friends with the other participants as well. We may never get together again but we have forged a common bond that will last for a long time.
I could be happy going back to Italy in general and Tuscany in particular every year for a long time. The only thing really holding me back (besides the obvious: funding) is that there are many other places I’d also like to see. I do hope to get back to Italy, to Tuscany and on a Photograph Italy workshop in the near future. In the mean time I’ll see what I can do about getting to some of those other places!
Kathy will occasionally mention that a particular photo would make a good jigsaw puzzle. This is one of them. Fall is coming!