Saturday, November 26, 2011

When Tesla Has an Idea

Yesterday's photos are not as awesome as today's.  I will quickly get yesterday's out of the way so we can move on to better things...

Of yesterday's shots, this one is the better of the two.  I've used the technique I used here before, basically using some external something-or-other as an off-camera filter.  This window worked wonders by catching and holding the glare, reflecting text (in the upper left section), and making the overall image much more vibrant.

Nothing special...just some people staring at a wall while holding umbrellas.

Now today's photo.  It required a little more work than I normally put into my daily photo... I had to draw a specific type of light bulb (and I really am a pretty miserable artist when it comes to using pencils), get creative with lighting, and work with a bunch of layers... but I think it was well worth it.  

So, the piece is based off the idea that when we are inspired/reach a conclusion/acknowledge our own genius, a light bulb blinks on over our heads.  It is a very specific looking light bulb, this ghostly piece of glowing glass that floats just a few inches above us.  Well, for Nikola Tesla, a man with constant light bulbs cluttering his air space, they probably would have looked a little different.  As an electrical engineer and inventor, I'm sure it would be his version of light bulbs that would be turning and staying on, not what ended up being the commonly used light bulb. Here it is...Nikola Tesla getting a fantastic idea...


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving in a Land of No Thanksgiving

The 24th of November came and is now on it's way out, here in Belfast.  Though my wife and I tried to make it as festive in our apartment as possible, the fact that people are walking around, going to class and work like it's any other day takes a toll.  But we won't let it ruin the mood.  Holidays are great, and though I'd love to be around extended family right now, ever since my wife and I got together, there hasn't been a single holiday that was spent together, just the two of us.  So now, forced into an holiday observing alternative, we get to have our very own Thanksgiving.  Once she gets back from classes, of course.
We already had our big just made sense to make it lunch, what with the university being open and all.  We got up nice and early, went for a walk, got back and started cooking.  Here's what we had...

Oh, and by the way...just leave me a message if you want the recipe for any of our Thanksgiving creations.

The fake bird...the central part of any good Thanksgiving meal.  This is Quorn's Chicken Roast.  They have a Turkey Roast, and it is great...but our grocery store did not think there was any special reason to have turkey and turkey-like products in stock specifically for the 24th.  Regardless, it was was quite delicious.

My wife made some delicious tomato and herb rolls.  I had the bright idea of melting cheddar cheese on top of them.  The addition of cheese was a positive thing, but it sure took away from the rolls aesthetically.  Shredded would have been would putting it on much earlier in the baking process.

I've never made stuffing before.  I was never a huge fan of it and my wife isn't at all.  Though that seems like a good reason to make something else in it's place, I instead saw it as a challenge.  My hope was to make a stuffing that we both loved.  I succeeded.  I don't know about proper names for stuffing, but where I was raised, potato stuffing is a normal and desirable type.  My mother, disregarding the immediate surrounding culture, always made a bread stuffing (is there a different name for this?).  I decided to kind of combine the two...sweet potato and whole grain bread stuffing with all the necessary vegetables and walnuts. stuffing I've ever had.

Roasted garlic and scallion mashed potatoes.  I don't think I could let any well established family get-together holiday go by without a good helping of mashed potatoes.

Both of these were awesome.  On the left you have sort of Spanakopita, a Greek pastry with spinach, cream cheese and onions. On the right was my original concoction for the meal.  Apparently they exist, but I came up with it of my own accord...I swear!  Zucchini boats!  Basically it's a vegetable mix that is tossed and baked into a zucchini that has been cut longways and has had the majority of it's innards scooped out.  Fairly simple, but potentially delicious, depending on what you stuff it with.  

  I shy away from food that doesn't let me be a part of the cooking process in some form...but there was no way my meal would be missing cranberry sauce.  I would have made it myself, but there were no reasonably priced cranberries in Belfast.

So that's what the meal itself looked like.  Or at least the first round.  A few rounds later we got to have this...

My wife's sweet potato pumpkin pie...with vanilla ice cream.  This is the first time my wife made the pie...but my plan is to compliment her enough that it becomes a tradition.  Sweeter than a regular pumpkin pie, the pie was still nowhere near too sweet...which is necessary for me to like desserts.  I have the inverse of a sweet tooth...mine is savory all the way.

...and drank this with the pie...Homemade apple cider in apple "mugs"!  Cute and edible...once you are done drinking the cider.

And here's why this Thanksgiving meal was totally vegetarian.  People..this turkey is intelligent!  He knew his ability to see wasn't as good as it could be!  He knew he was missing out on important seeds and insects due to his faulty vision!  He knew that money was necessary if he wanted to purchase a pair of glasses! He either got a job or stole money...either would require intelligence! He bought glasses!  Clever devil, he wins this round. 

Oh, yeah...I almost forgot.  Apparently Thanksgiving isn't just about eating awesome food?  Odd.  Well, if my sources weren't lying to me, I'm supposed to be thankful.  I can do that.  I would choose friends, family, and the many uncommon but awesome opportunities and experiences that I have had in this life as my reasons for being thankful.  

Happy Thanksgiving all you fine folk!  Eat up!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Windows to the Soul and Whatnot

I said it fairly recently, I try not to limit myself to certain photographic subjects or styles... I will shoot pretty much anything and will at least give other styles a chance.  So even though this style isn't my favorite style, nor is it a style I would ever do too much with, it's nice to know I am able to create something within the confines of it and get a result that I am fairly pleased with...

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Protecting the Cypress

This morning, during the Golden Hour, I went for a nice run.  Before the beautiful lighting was gone I went back home, grabbed my camera and sought out my daily photo.  I found this tree (I think it's some kind of cypress) behind a flimsy little fence with a backdrop of yellow leaves reflecting the early sunlight.  Even the browns and slight reds of the bark gain some vibrancy from the lighting...

Monday, November 21, 2011

Theoretical Physicist or Fryer of Chickens

I found some fantastic graffiti today.  I think it is a picture of Albert Einstein, but I am not convinced.  There's that famous picture of Einstein with his tongue sticking out...I think the graffiti is an attempt at copying that picture but in a graffiti stencil style.  The result looks just as much like Colonel Sanders, the KFC guy, as it does the genius that gave us general relativity.   

If it is indeed a memorial to the Colonel, I hope he doesn't mind the colors and space-like effects of SCIENCE!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Lights From Off Camera Flashes and Christmas Trees, With Some Guest Appearances from Violins and Ducks

And now, to bring my daily photography up to date...

It took me awhile, but on the 17th I finally decided I should take a photograph of my new guitar.  It was the first thing (besides necessary food) that I purchased once I moved to Belfast.  The guitar is nothing special...I don't mean anything negative by that, it plays well and sounds good, but it just seems to be your standard, tad better than amateur acoustic guitar.  I really wanted to bring my Danelectro with me, but travelling light was necessary, and my beloved guitar would have taken up too much room.

I really enjoyed taking this shot.  It was much more technical than many of my daily photographs.  I shot it through the viewfinder of my Kodak Duaflex.  Any chance to shoot TTV makes me happy.  But on top of that, I used an off camera flash that was triggered from the other side of a door so that the little translucent window on the door would diffuse and spread the light.  There was much careful positioning with much trial and error before this shot was perfected...I love the glare and spots of light...

There are a few street musicians in the middle of the city that are fairly ingenious.  In an attempt to reach further with their beautiful violin playing, they have attached what resembles a piece of an old bugle to their violins.  The picture doesn't make it easy to see exactly how they did this, but I've been trying for awhile to get a good shot of one of these guys and their inventions...they always escape my camera, so I will just have to manage with this photo from behind...

The 19th of November marked the first day of the Christmas season for Belfast.  Thousands of people gathered in the dark city, around what was a dark Christmas tree, waiting for the moment that all the Christmas lights would be turned on.  A countdown started just a couple seconds before 7pm, and once the voices reached "one", the whole city became illuminated with twinkling lights of all different colors and sizes.  This photo was taken just a second after the lights went on...

This morning was the type of morning that requires a nice walk by a river or some similar body of water.  So we obeyed.  We grabbed cameras and sweatshirts and made our way to Lagan Meadows.  It is a wonderful place to spend a cool but sunny morning.  Or at least all dog-owners think so...and that right there is enough reason to go, mass quantities of adorable dogs...sadly, neither of these are dogs...

There we go, all caught up.

Mostly Floral and Botanical Photography

The 13th of November was Remembrance Day, also known as Armistice Day or Poppy Day.  It provided me with a chance to take a more photojournalist approach to my daily photography.  Here are two photos, one from a ceremony that was held outside of Queen's University Belfast and one from the ceremony outside of City Hall...presented in that order...

I was walking down a street on the 14th when I noticed something strange about the building I was passing.  The brick cut-outs for the doorways (which there were many of) were all the same, but the doors and windows in each cut-out entrance were all very different.  The part that caught me as strange was that these doors were all about five feet away from each other...on the same building...

I went for a very early walk through the nearby Botanic Gardens on the 15th.  I noticed that the Palm House's glass windows were pretty foggy from the early morning mist.  I decided to try to use this to my advantage by using the foggy windows as a filter of sorts.  It worked, blurring portions of the image as well as allowing significant light leak in certain parts of it...

I guess I had flowers on the mind because the next day, the 16th, I was back at the gardens looking to do some macro-esque floral shots.  I am not the biggest fan of flower photography, but I am a fan of trying my hand with any photographic subject.  Something I do enjoy with floral shots is the usage of black and white film (or b&w digital processing).  It seems like a field that (at least nowadays) isn't as saturated.  Now I know that some of these shots are not technically "floral" shots...but some are, and that's what I went out intending to shoot, so that's good enough reasoning to keep calling it that, yes?...

I really like the second photograph.  Anyone know what kind of flowers those are?

Friday, November 18, 2011


Our plane landed in Malaga in southern Spain around noon on Wednesday November 9th.  Not having any specific plans for Malaga, except that we would need to get to the bus station in the evening, we headed towards water.  There was visible water...a sea or something we figured...within walking distance.  Checking Google maps, it seems like it would have been either the Alboran or Mediterranean Sea.  We only got so far before we saw a fairly large hill with ruins upon it, with an old steep path allowing you to get right up to the ruins.  We took that path and it took us to one of the nicest city lookouts I've ever been to.

I give you...Malaga .

...and here is a tilt-shifted image of the ruins that we were able to get nice and close to.  (Prepare yourself..I brought my homemade tilt-shift lens, thinking I'd get some nice tilt-shift opportunities.  I did.  Many.  Hopefully you like tilt-shift photography as much as I do.)

While we were looking for a place to have lunch, we saw this man.  My abnormal love for street musicians makes it hard to pass by without taking a quick shot.  He had a beautiful voice and a rather nice smile.

We hopped on the bus, headed to Ronda, stared at the gorgeous scenery zooming by, and were greeted by the night when we hopped off...

Our hostel was incredible.  Incredibly cheap and incredibly similar to a hotel...we had our own room, our own bathroom with a shower attached to the room, and I think there was maybe one other couple there, so we basically had our own whole hostel/hotel to ourselves.  As well as continental breakfast in the morning.  Which included fresh squeezed orange juice from probably the best oranges I've ever had.  We got up early on Thursday so that we could wander around the town before too many people/tourists were up and moving. We stepped outside and were greeted by sights including but not limited to these...

The city of Ronda is on top of a cliff.  A few cliffs actually, connected by a few stone bridges, the most famous of which, Puente Nuevo, took 30 years to build...from the 1750s-1790s.  We were able to look over the beautiful Spanish landscape, as well as directly into the gorge between the two cliffs, from our fantastic vantage point.  The sun was rising just as we first started looking around, illuminating the misty fields and mountain ranges that surrounded us.  Also, I tilt-shifted a horse.

We spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to make our way down the side of the cliff.  After attempting to converse with a local (which on average went much better than we expected, all thanks to my somewhat-Spanish-speaking wife), we found out how to get down and did so.  

Here are some views of Ronda from below the town...showing the bridge. 

We then continued to roam through the town.  Orson Welles, Ernest Hemingway, and John Dos Passos all lived in Ronda at one point in time or another.  I can understand why.  It is seriously the most beautiful town I have ever visited and I will definitely be returning for another trip, if not joining those three greats by living there at some point in my life.  Supposedly the birthplace of bullfighting, Ronda's culture has evolved around it and with it.  Much of Hemingway's writings that include bullfighting were inspired by what he witnessed in Ronda.  Also, the most climactic scene in For Whom The Bell Tolls took place there.  But the town is on a cliff! Its main road is the bridge!  That's enough to get me to return.

On the other end of the town (a half mile away) there are some of the traditional Spanish homes with white washed walls and red roofs all clustered together...

I got an interesting "abstract" shot of them as well...thanks, of course, goes to my handy dandy homemade tilt-shift lens...

We then had to make our way back to the Ronda bus station so we could get back to Malaga so that we could get an overnight bus from there to Madrid.  The bus ride was ....interesting.  At one point in time my wife got off at what was just supposed to be a stop for a bathroom break (and luckily it was) but both she and I got a tad freaked out when at three in the morning the bus let those few people off, including her, and then proceeded to drive away.  Just slightly frightening, rather disorienting and extremely surreal as we both had to basically hope that the bus was going to return, as opposed to us never seeing each other again.  It did.  
Apparently it just needed to fuel up.  

We escaped that screwy bus once it reached Madrid.  Knowing how quickly hostels fill up, and having a certain desire to relive our Ronda hotel-like experience, we immediately sought one out.  We found a rather nice one with a great view of the city streets from our room, dropped off our bags and went out into the city of Madrid.  There was a beautiful park with an area filled with topiary, a little gallery with a local artist's work, a pond that looked like it would be a great place for some ice skating in just a few weeks, and a building made of glass that goes by the name of the Crystal Palace...there was an interesting exhibit called Written in the Celestial Bodies, which provided me with this shot (which I absolutely love, maybe due to lighting, maybe composition, I'm not sure...but I like it so much that in comparison all my other Madrid photographs bore me and won't be posted)...

After checking out another museum and a cathedral, as well as more walking around (always walking) we made our way to a grocery store, purchased some cheese, olives, baguettes, and fruit, went back to the hostel for a late dinner in our room.  We were up bright and early the next day, not by our own accord...our flight was a fairly early one and we never want to test the airport god.  All went smoothly, though.  Here are some shots from in the air on Saturday...

The first one is Madrid soon after we made it into the air.  The second one is France.  We think.  We carefully went over maps and considered the other land masses we were able to see.  Does that look like France to anyone?  Can you confirm our suspicions?

So yeah, note the amount of photographs from each city.  One of those cities has many more photos than the other two cities combined.  That one with the most...that was the best part of the trip.  That's where we have already decided to go for one of our future anniversaries.    

Hey.  That was Spain.  That was almost a week ago, though.  Normally I wouldn't post without including all the day's photos up to the day of the post.  But I am going to break that rule.  I've rambled long enough.  I'll post the last few day's shots either later tonight or tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Cleaning Up Before Spain

I wanted to post yesterday and today's pictures before heading out for Spain tomorrow morning.  I figure if i don't post them now, they will just end up tainting four days worth of Madrid, Malaga and Ronda.  So here they are..nothing too fantastic in that I haven't had much free time, what with the Spain prepping and whatnot...

Yesterday's photo is the first shot of my wife's university that I took that I actually like.  I got it right before the sun began to rise.  Queen's University.  

Today's main photo gave me a chance to get my old Duaflex out for some TTV shooting.  Again, it was early, the sun was yet to rise, and the dark sky in my photo is proof of it.

My other picture from today is my ongoing book list.  I didn't want to have it as my only picture since I just recently did so with Moby Dick... So that's why you get to look at a TTV lamp as well.  Here is The Stranger by Camus.  A very good and also very quick read.  I finished it in about three hours and picked up his The Fall.