The back patio of the Houston Continental Club as seen though my Sigma 10mm fisheye lens.
My good friend Nick Gaitan of Nick Gaitain and The Umbrella Man called me Friday afternoon to ask me if I was planning to go see Garland Jeffreys at The Houston Continental Club that evening. I told him I had not planned on it and he proceeded to tell me a little bit about Garland Jeffreys and how he thought I might be interested in this show based on what he knows about my taste in music as well as my desire to photograph truly unique musical events when they happen in town.
Without going in to too many details, I will just direct you to the Wiki article on Garland. Suffice to say, I became VERY interested in seeing this show and told Nick I would see him there.
It is worth noting that Nick’s band was opening for Garland Jeffreys, but in all the years I have known Nick he has never been one to call me out to a show just because he’s playing it.
Of course The Umbrella Man put on a great show, but that night was all about Garland Jeffreys. The show was not well attended. But it was one of the best concerts I have ever attended. I am a music photographer, not a music reviewer, so I will just point you to the Houston Press review of the show for details. I should also note, the review does NOT feature my photographs as The Houston Press had Jason Wotler on call for this one. But I am glad I went and took my camera because ultimately, I shoot for my own archives and this is one I am glad to have captured.
All shot with the Sony A77 using the Carl Zeiss 85 f/1.4 and the Sigma 10mm Fisheye.
On our last day in Rome (which would be our last day in Italy) we woke up early and took a cab to St. Peter’s Square to tour the basilica. Regardless of your religious views (or lack of them), this place is something to see in person. Getting there early is the key. No long lines and the crowds were minimal. We had plenty of room to move around and we could take our time. Once again, the fisheye lens was the lens for the shoot. Even with such a wide angle, it’s hard to convey how massive the church interior is.
From St. Peter’s it’s a short walk to Castel Sant’Angelo.
We didn’t go inside. We opted to take advantage of the continued good weather and spent the rest of the day relaxing and just walking around the city.
Italy was fantastic. There were times I didn’t think this trip was going to work and feared it might end in disaster. Instead, it turned in to one of the most fantastic trips we have ever been on. The food, the wine, the architecture and the people all combined for a wonderful experience. We may never go back to Venice, but Rome and Florence are definitely in the running for a re-visit some day.
On top of all that, I think my photography went up another notch. At the time I was shooting I didn’t think it was going that well, but in reviewing what I came away with I have to say it is some of my best work. There will be more to show as time allows.
Thanks to everyone who followed along on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and this blog. It was fun sharing the trip with so many people.
After our audience with The Pope we headed over to the Vatican Museum. This was around 12:30 and the crowds were out in force. We had acquired our ticket vouchers online and, as it turned out, we pretty much walked right in.
You have to be careful when visiting the Vatican Museum. There are tons of people trying to convince you to buy a tour and skip the line. This may be a good idea if you don’t have your voucher already in hand, but is a total scam if you do.
Also, this area is crawling with gypsies. I saw a guy nearly get pickpocketed in this area our last visit in 2005. They’re good at what they do, but this one fumbled the pass when she was handing the wallet off to one of her accomplices.
The Vatican Museum is crowded and hectic. We wanted to see the Sistine Chapel and I specifically wanted to see the spiral staircase.
There’s a lot of really fantastic art to see. And some areas are not too crowded.
But the trek to the chapel is where it starts to get bad. It is literally a cattle call.. A throng of humanity shuffling down a long and ever shrinking corridor until you reach the chapel.
Eventually you do end up in the chapel.
And sadly, there are no photos allowed in the chapel.
At this point we were pretty beat and the crowds were just too much so we made our way to the exit. Even this was a long walk. But we did end up at the magnificent spiral staircase which was something I *really* wanted to see and photograph.
We headed back to the hotel to get some lunch and relax for a bit. The rest of the day would be pretty casual as we’re winding down to come home.
Day three in Rome dawned with sunshine and blue skies blazing! We got up, got dressed and had our breakfast before heading out to take a walk around this magnificent city.
We walked from the hotel to Trevi Fountain which was a little less than a mile away. I will tell you this, the key to seeing any of the main sites in Rome is to go early. The fountain had a smattering of tourists, but it was not jammed up and crowded as it would be later in the day.
The custom is to toss a coin in to the fountain with the promise that if you do so, you will one day return. We did this in 2005 so I can vouch for the effectiveness 🙂
From the Trevi it was a short walk to The Pantheon
Again, early arrival meant fewer crowds. We were dodging some tour groups, but it was not so bad…yet.
I had brought my fisheye along for this excursion as I thought it might be fun to take some shots inside the Pantheon using this lens. The Pantheon is pretty much a big dome and I figured the circular nature of the architecture would lend itself well to this style of phptography.
I took a few shots and created some HDR multi-exposures
As I was shooting it occurred to me that this would be a great opportunity for one of my “Camera On The Floor” shots. I like to do this in dark interiors. What I do is find a spot on the floor and set the timer on my camera and place the camera face up to the ceiling and let it take the shot. The results can be rather dramatic. Although I could not get to the center of the Pantheon as they had it roped off, I was able to get this.
From The Pantheon we walked to the Piazza Navona.
From there it was a short walk to Campo de’ Fiori to see the statue of Giordano Bruno who was Italian Dominican friar, philosopher, mathematician and astronomer. His cosmological theories went beyond the Copernican model in proposing that the Sun was essentially a star, and moreover, that the universe contained an infinite number of inhabited worlds populated by other intelligent beings.
Giordano Bruno was a heretic who was burned at the stake by civil authorities in 1600 after the Roman Inquisition found him guilty of heresy for his pantheism.
At this point we have walked several miles, but were still feeling strong and enthusiastic so we trekked to the river to find our way to the Bocca della Verità or “Truth Mouth” located in the portico of the church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin.
Legend has it that if you place your hand in the mouth of this statue and you tell a lie, the statue will bite your hand off. Cynthia and I each took our turn placing our hand in the mouth while the other asked if we loved them. I am happy to report we still have both our hands.
At this point we were getting a little tired and knew we had a bit of a hike to get back to the hotel where we could rest and recuperate. We could see Altare della Patria looming over us.
We knew that if we headed toward that monument path would lead us to Trajan’s Column and then back to our hotel.
But before that we made a detour over to The Colosseum to see The Arch of Constantine before hiking the main road back to the hotel.
All in all, we walked a good 5-6 miles by my reckoning. Google Maps places it at 5.7 miles, but does not take in to consideration the few wrong turns and the less than direct route we took to each location.
We took the subway out to Wien Meidling railway station to go ahead and purchase our train tickets to Prague for Monday. The subway is clean and fairly easy to navigate so we didn’t have any trouble except that somehow we managed to get off one stop too soon coming back and had to hoof it a bit further than we would have liked.
Having the train ticket secured we were able to confirm our driver in Prague who will pick us up at the train station and drive us to our apartment. Apparently, taking a cab from the train station in Prague is a dicey proposition and should be avoided. Having a driver pick us up takes a load off our mind.
After taking in the crown jewels and the crypt we had planned to go to the Kunsthistorisches Museum, but the sun had come out and it was so beautiful outside we opted to skip it and go for a walk instead to get some outside photos.
We were walking down the street when I saw this
Movie buffs may recognize this as the front of Harry Lime’s apartment from the film “The Third Man” featuring Joseph Cotten, Alida Valli and Orson Wells. I recognized it immediately, despite the scaffolding.
We walked over to the The Vienna City Hall, only to find that they were in the process of setting up for the Vienna Film Festival. This included putting a giant movie screen smack dab in the middle of the city hall building.
From there we walked across the street to the Burgtheater
And then across the street for a much needed sitdown and snack break at the legendary Cafe Landtmann, the preferred coffee house of Sigmund Freud, Gustav Mahler, Peter Altenberg, Felix Salten and Emmerich Kálmán,
From there we walked back along the Ringstrasse back to the hotel to recombobulate.
Zappa Plays Zappa, a concert where Dweezil Zappa plays the songs of his father. This show gets better and better each year.
The Fab 40 pay tribute to the original Fab 4 with a free, live performance of “Abbey Road” on Saturday, September 12 at Discovery Green.
40+ (probably closer to 50) local musicians – handpicked by Beatles enthusiasts David Blassingame and Steve Candelari – performed the Beatles’ album “Abbey Road” from beginning to end.
It was an ambitious project. Nearly felled by illness, loss of critical instruments and the weather, it went very well despite all this.
You can see a slideshow of all the photos I took that night by clicking here.