Prague – Day 3

Ugh! More rain this morning. It’s bad enough when the light is poor due to cloud cover. Photos are dull and lifeless. But rain! ARRRRGH! Photographing in the rain is not my thing. Protecting the camera gear is priority numero uno. So with the wet weather the camera has not come out as much as it normailly would.

But rain or no rain, we’re in Prague and well darn it, we’ve got to make the best of it. Who knows when or if we’ll be back? Poor Cynthia, she’s more disheartened than I am PLUS she has been working a nice big blister on her toe. Bless her heart, she’s a trooper.

We bought our second umbrella and decided to walk out to Wenceslas Square, the site of the 1989 “Velvet Revolution” that saw the overthrow of the authoritarian government.

It is simply amazing to walk such historical grounds, even if it is raining. We walked up to the top of the square where you could look down the length of it. Just trying to imagine that square filled with over 200,000 peaceful protesters gave us both pause.

Cynthia noticed a building to the left of where we were standing and said “Oh! I know what that is!”

That communist era old building was once the home of Radio Free Europe. It served as their headquarters from 1995-2009. Radio Free Europe played a significant role in the Velvet Revolution and the Czech Republic, out of gratitude, rented them the building for one CZK (Czech Crown) a year. Radio Free Europe had to move to a more secure location after recieving credible threats from Al Quada.

We moved on from Wenceslas Square to find the Dancing House.

By the time we found it the rain had almost completely stopped. It was still threatening and there were some drops to be felt but I figured I would break out the monopod and get some photos of this magnificent structure. With any luck I’ll take a mulligan when the sun comes out, but for now I’ve seen it and photographed it.

Moving on we made our way down the Vltava river back to the Charles Bridge. All the way we were lamenting the weather but making the best of it.

Right after I shot the above photo, an amazing thing happened. For just a few minutes the sun came out. It was only for a short while, but a break in the clouds and golden sunlight shone down on us. Glory be! Then it was gone. Drats!

We walked back to the old town square to make our way back to the apartment and as we entered the square the sun came out again! And this time it stayed out! We shot some pics and rejoiced and then went back to the apartment to recombobulate and decided to go out again and watch the sun go down over Pet?ín Hill from the bank of the Vltava river. I took my tripod and shot some hopefully excellent shots of Prague Caslte and the Charles Bridge. I need to go through them and process a little before I present them here.

The forecast for tomorrow calls for sunshine. If that holds true we’re off to Prague Castle first thing in the morning. We’ve walked our poor dogs to the bone, but some sunshine will breathe new life into both of us!

Vienna – Day 2 – Part 2

After our wonderful day at the Schönbrunn Palace we were feeling pretty good and just a little tired. We made our way back to the hotel to take a load off and consider our options and it wasn’t long before we were back out pounding the streets toward our next destination. We made our way over to the Haus Haus, a very cool and very modern building plunked down in the middle of town amongst building with a much older pedigree. In fact, Haus Haus is directly across the plaza from St. Stephen’s Cathedral and this juxtaposition alone makes the building somewhat controversial amongst the Viennese.

Here, as you can see, Haus Haus has all the earmarks of your modern buildings. Mirrored windows, curvy surfaces and all that.

It really does seem out of place.

But something really cool happens when you walk past it. The surrounding building are reflected and distorted in the mirrored surfaces of Haus Haus causing the building to seem to morph and change. The further along you walk, the more it undulates and changes.

This was a fun building to photograph. Move a little to the left or to the right and the scene changed quite a bit. The above detail shots are my favorite and I used the 3 shot HDR treatment to pull out the detail and for dramatic effect.

After this we walked around outside the cathedral and then to the Danube River which, for the record, is not even remotely blue. We didn’t stay there long but I was struck by some of the graffiti which was quite elaborate. Especially this one where the monsters seem to be menacing the couple in the lounge chairs.

We’d been walking most of the day and we were wiped out. We went back to the hotel again to take a load off before going out to grab some dinner. We had decided to go back to the same Italian restaurant we had eaten at the night before. BIG MISTAKE! The place was crowded but the waiter remembered us. This seemed a good thing and he said he would have a table for us in about 5 minutes. 10 minutes later we had a table. Then we sat. And sat. About 20 minutes later he brought us some menus. 20-30 minutes later he took our order and we didn’t end up with our food in front us for quite some time. All in all we were there two hours before we ate. The food was good, but that was just ridiculous.

To make matters worse I got a phone call from the company that cleans our pool. They said the maintenance guy could not get the pump to turn on. The pump was actually repaired before we left so I was hoping it was just a malfunction. But I was worried there was some other problem like a power outage or something worse. Fortunately I was able to reach our friend who is watching over the place while we’re out and he verified everything was ok.

So, to sum up. Great day except for the poor service at the restaurant for dinner and the stress waiting to hear our house was ok.

Two more days in Vienna. I’m voting they be more like the morning than the evening. Fingers crossed!

Photographic Fun In Vienna

Vienna is a VERY photogenic city. We were walking around rather casually by the Vienna Opera House and I spotted these two fountains. I shot these using the HDR technique of capturing three different exposures and then tonemapping them into one image using Photomatix. To have this work really well you should use a tripod, but I was not carrying mine at the time so I had to shoot the three images handheld. Thanks to the shake reduction technology of the Sony and the quickness of the Minolta 35/2 lens I was able to pull this off with more than satisfactory results.

I will be going out with the tripod this evening to see what I can get. There’s a lot to shoot here and I’ve already got some more great stuff in the pipeline.

East Side Represent

John Nova Lomax invited me to go on one of his Sole Of Houston walks. This time he was hitting the east side. The plan was to just sort of meander out to 75th Street and then head north to Canal and then head back to town. It was VERY interesting. We started about 9:30 am and finished about 4:30 pm. We covered a LOT of ground. You can read the story here: Sole Of Houston: East Side Story — Trains, Tequila, Dogs & Grief. There’s several more of my photos in the posting.

Galveston Oh Galveston

The weather for the last few days has been spectacular. Lows in the 50’s and highs in the 60’s and 70’s. I had Friday off and wanted to take advantage of it so I invited my friend Jim Henkel to head off on a road trip to post-Ike Galveston to have a look around.

Galveston is still very tattered. Lots of debris and devastation but signs of life and reconstruction were plainly visible. I wasn’t all that interested in documenting the destruction, but the sight of the Flagship Hotel was pretty compelling.

We checked out Seawall Blvd and then headed to The Strand (Galveston’s historic district) where they were making preparations for the Galveston Mardi Gras. And by preparations I mean people were busy stocking the storefronts with booze.

We found some lunch and then headed off to catch the ferry over to Bolivar Peninsula to have a look around. That was way more depressing. We took a quick look around and then made our way back to Houston.

The road to recovery is a long one for poor Galveston.