Crimson ProjeKct Warehouse Live July 8, 2012

I almost missed this show entirely. Horribly under-promoted and under-attended. Adrian Belew, Tony Levin, Pat Mastelotto representing King Crimson rounded out with Tobias Ralph, Julie Slick and Markus Reuter.

The “project” has been touring as the opener for Dream Theater but since Dream Theater didn’t get booked in Houston we were treated to three hours of fantastic music, including an all King Crimson encore.

The first band was Stickmen featuring Tony Levin, Tobias Ralph and Markus Reuter. The second band was Adrian Belew with Pat Mastelotto and Julie Slick. The encore was all 6 of them.

Stickmen + Belew Trio

Tony Levin

Adrian Belew

Take A Bow

Tony Levin

More photos here
Houston Press review here

Sun Halo – May 4, 2011

Spotted a halo around the sun on May 4th. I’ve seen them around a full moon before, but not around the sun. By obscuring the sun with my hand or my index finger I was able to shoot some reasonably good photos of the phenomenon.

22° halo is a halo, one type of optical phenomenon, forming a circle 22° around the sun, or occasionally the moon. It forms as sunlight is refracted in hexagonal ice crystals suspended in the atmosphere. As the light beam passes through two sides of the prism forming a 60° angle, the angle of minimum deviation is almost 22° (namely, 21.84° on average; 21.54° for red and 22.37° for blue). This wavelength-dependent variation in refraction causes the inner edge of the circle to be reddish while the outer edge is bluish.

Sun Halo 3

Sun Halo

Sun Halo 4

Backyard Birding Report – April 20th, 2011

We’ve not spotted a single hummingbird so far this spring. BUT, we’ve spotted two kinds of birds not previously seen in our yard. We’ve seen a few Indigo Buntings, but I’ve not managed to get any photos. We’ve also seen a few of these:

Carolina Chickadee - 3

Carolina Chickadee - 2

I knew it was a Chickadee the minute I spotted it. Cynthia said it can’t be a Black-capped Chickadee (though it looks EXACTLY like one to me) because they don’t come to Texas. We looked up the Black-capped Chickadee and sure enough, they’re indigenous to the norther regions of the U.S. and they don’t migrate. A little research and we determined them to be Carolina Chickadees.

Also, one of the birdhouses we have hanging on the side of the house looks to have been attacked by something with sharp claws. It has not, however, stopped a pair of sparrows from raising three babies in it

Baby Sparrows

And, although not spotted in my yard, this guy strikes me as interesting. A very ragged vulture that rides the drafts between my office building and the one next to us.

Ragged Vulture

Barcelona – Our Last Day

Our last day in Barcelona. We’re pretty wiped out. We managed to master the mass transit, but we still logged some miles on our aging tootsies. Cynthia and I both have blisters on our feet. Cynthia has managed to walk through the soles of her primary pair of shoes. Our favorite thing to say is “My dogs are woofin” referring to our feet.

Me personally, I’m looking forward to not hefting a camera bag everywhere I go and worrying about some crafty pickpocket or confidence man scheming to separate me from my valuables.

Not that I’m complaining. This has been an awesome trip and we have enjoyed almost every moment of it.

For our last day we decided to visit Casa Milà. I figured we could get there early and hopefully beat the crowds, which we did.

Inside Casa Milà

I really love the Gaudi architecture. So interesting, especially considering the time-frame he was working in. From the top of Casa Milà you can get a pretty amazing view of another of Gaudi’s works, one that is still in the process of being built, La Sagrada Familia.

Sagrada Familia From Casa Mila

And the roof of Casa Milà is just plain cool.

Sentries Atop Casa Milà

Sentries Atop Casa Milà

After we finished up with Casa Milà we made our way back up the side of Montjuïc via the funicular to go to the Miro Museum. Sadly, no photography allowed inside the museum. And I had to check my camera bag by locking it in a locker. That was a little stressful, but it seemed safe enough. I just didn’t want to lose the camera on the last day.

From there it was back to the hotel room to rest up and then off the Bari Gotic area to see if we could find a nice restaurant for our last meal of the trip.

Spanish wine with lunch in Spain. Does it get any better than this?

We happened upon an Italian restaurant called Gravin and it was fantastic! We had a vry nice meal, a bottle of Rioja and a cafe and desert. It was a fine finish to an excellent trip.

Now it was back to the hotel to pack and get some sleep before getting up at 3:30 to check out and catch our 6:00 am flight back to America. This trip, like all of our previous vacations, is over in a flash. We’ll be happy to be home, but will miss the adventure.

Barcelona – Tibidabo And Park Guell

Tibidabo

It’s a little on the cold side, but the sun was out when we woke up with some clouds here and there. We decided to make our way to Tibidabo, the tallest point overlooking the city of Barcelona. The trip involved catching a short train ride to the outskirts of town, then catching the Tram Blau up the hill a ways to the funicular and then on up to the park.

We caught the train OK but found that the Tram Blau only ran on Fridays and Saturdays so we were left taking a bus up to get to the funicular. No problem, it only took us a bit to sort it out.

Funnicular To Tibidabo

When we got to Tibidabo the clouds started gathering and there was a brief rain shower. We took shelter in Temple del Sagrat Cor and grabbed some photos.

Temple del Sagrat Cor

Cross Inside Temple del Sagrat Cor

Mary Inside Temple del Sagrat Cor

Once the rains passed we walked around and took in the view, which is pretty amazing.

Jesus Atop Temple del Sagrat Cor

You can see all of Barcelona and on to the port and the ocean beyond.

Once we had our fill, we headed back down the mountain the way we came and all was going swimmingly until we got on the subway train to go back to the hotel. Without warning the train just stopped dead in the middle of a dark tunnel. All the power was just gone. Now keep in mind that Cynthia HATES being underground. She deals with it, but she simply doesn’t like it. To have the train just stop dead in a tunnel deep underground is one of her worst nightmares.

Fortunately, the power outage only lasted about 30 second or so and we were back on our way. I think Cynthia would have cracked if it had lasted too long.

Once we got back to the hotel and regrouped we decided to head out to Park Guell, a park designed by Antoni Guadi.

One of the things Cynthia really likes about Barcelona is the wild Quaker Parrot population. There are everywhere, but really show up in large numbers at Park Guell. And since Cynthia has a tradition of dropping one of the feathers she has collected from her dear departed Mr. Zippers she thought Park Guell would be a good place to do it.

Releasing The Zippy Feather

Getting to the park was not so easy. The subway drops you off nearby and you have to hike up a very steep, San Francisco like street to get to some escalators which then take you to another climb up the back of the park. All in all it was pretty exhausting on our already travel weary feet.

Park Guell

After we dropped the feather we walked around the park a bit before heading back down the hill and to the hotel.

Park Guell

At this point we’ve been on the vacation awhile and we had home the day after tomorrow. That’s one full day left. We’re pretty tired so we were in for the evening. Tomorrow we’ll give Barcelona a last “hurrah” and pack up to come home.

Barcelona – Montserrat

Happy And Amazed!

For our second day back in Barcelona we decided to head off to Santa Maria de Montserrat which is only about an hour outside the city by train.

Santa Maria de Montserrat is a Benedictine abbey located in the Montserrat mountain.

To get there we took the subway to the Espanya rail station and then purchased tickets for the train and the cable car that take you up to the monastery itself.

Cable Car

When the train drops you off at the Arie cable car station you walk up a some steps and are greeted by the site of the cable cars heading up and down the mountain that the monastery wayyyy up on the cliff face, It is just a little intimidating.

Cable Cars

Cable Car

It’s only a 5 minute ride and for me it was no big deal. Others (like Cynthia) found it to be somewhat nerve wracking.

The views riding were amazing and the view from the top was just spectacular.

View

We wandered around the complex and we wanted to continue on up to St. Jerome but the funicular train as closed for repairs and we didn’t have the energy to make the hike up the side of the mountain.

We did get to see and hear the Montserrat’s Boys’ Choir in the basilica

Quoir

We also climbed up to touch la Moreneta (“The little dark-skinned one”) one of the black Madonnas of Europe

La Moreneta.

This also gave us a nice view of the basilica

Basilica

We spent the better part of the day just walking around taking pictures

Cross

Votives

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Eventually we wound up at restaurant in the Hotel Abat Cisneros. This place was incredible! The restaurant looks like one that you would need a coat and tie to eat in. But they gladly seated the bedraggled tourists and treated us to one of the best meals I have had in my life.

After we had eaten our meal we made our way back to the hotel with a quick stop at the El Corte Ingles for some supplies (water, chips, etc.) and called it a day. We watched some TV and I even downloaded some English programs to watch on the laptop just to give us a chance to wind down and get away from the news of Libya an Japan that has been a constant backdrop to this magnificent vacation.

We have two more full days here before coming home. We’re hopeful for more good weather. But for now, sleep.

Return To Barcelona

Valencia all wrapped up and tied in a fiery bow we made our way back to Barcelona. We didn’t have much sleep so were pretty tired for the 4 hour train ride. Once we got checked into the hotel our spirits were bolstered by some sunny weather, clean clothes and proper bathroom break so we headed off to the top of Montjuïc to take in the spectacular views of the city.

The best way to get to the top is to take the Teleferic de Montjuïc cable cars which can be picked up after you ride up part of the way on the funicular train. You can also ride the other cable car from the other side of the bay, but we decided to go this way instead. And a good thing to as the main cable cars were not operating due to high winds over the bay.

Cable Car Tower

Unfortunately for us, we didn’t realize the funicular train could be picked up at the same metro stop that brought us most of the way to Montjuïc. We ended up walking that part of the distance in our fruitless search. No big deal, the day was sunny and cool and the walk didn’t hurt.

Teleferic

Once we found the teleferic we took it all the way up to the top and the views were just spectacular!

Barcelona Shipping And Receiving

The Torre Agbar

The best shot of the trip is this one of the Sagrada Familia. I took it with the 70-200mm lens connected to a 2X teleconvrter so I was effectively shooting at 400mm.

Sagrada Familia

After we came back down to the city the full brunt of our exhaustion hit us like a ton of bricks. We found some food and then headed back to the hotel for some much needed sleep, our first sleep in some time that would not be punctuated by constant fireworks.

Valencia – The City Of Arts And Sciences

The City Of Arts And Sciences (Valencian: Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències, Spanish: Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias) is an amazing architectural complex designed by Santiago Calatrava and Félix Candela and it is THE thing to see if you ever get to Valencia Spain.

We took a trek out to the complex on our visit two years ago and I got some pretty good photos so I was keen to give it another whirl with my new gear and my (hopefully) improved photographic skills.

This time I decided to get there before sunset and shoot during what is known as the “golden hour of photography” which is that time between when the sun goes down and it gets fully dark. I think the results are pretty good overall.

This first shot is straight out of the camera with no post processing

City Of Arts And Sciences - No Gimmicks

The reset of these were done using HDR processing where I combined three separate exposures and combined them using tone-mapping software.

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Valencia – Nic De Foc – Crema

All those falls so beautiful, so incredible, so expensive to build. Tonight they burn. The Crema is the big finish to the event that is Las Fallas.

We set out around 10:30 to stake out a falla to watch burn. You have to get there early as the crowds form up pretty thick by the time they start to ignite these things.

We had originally thought we’d go to a falla near the dry river bed, but it was not that interesting of a falla and I thought it might be more interesting to see one burn in the city center. We ended up at this one.

crema1

The crowds were already pretty big and lively, but we felt this would be manageable. According to the program, the fallas burn at midnight. As it turns out, the burning of the fallas DOES begin at midnight, but not all falls are burned at the start. They seem to go in waves. The first thing that has to happen is that group of Valencia firemen have to be present to hose things down and ensure nothing goes horribly wrong. Some of the fallas are over 6-10 stories tall and most are wedged in between buildings.

But there are only so many firemen so they make the rounds. There’s no pre-published schedule, the falla burns when it burns.

Sadly, for us we ended up waiting till almost 2:00 am for our falla to burn. The crowds got thicker an thicker and more and more intoxicated. We were jostled, squished and basically trapped till it was over.

At long last, the firemen did arrive and and started hosing things down and without much warning things just started exploding. The falla caught fire pretty quick and was fully engaged in a matter of minutes.

Now look at that top picture. You can see many people crowded in close. I’m not sure what these people are thinking because when a falla burns it puts off a LOT of heat. Sure enough, at one point the crowd up front surged backward and the crowd behind us barely gave ground so the entire crowd became a little more densely packed for the duration of the burn.

It’s a good thing they did move back because not only would they have been flame broiled, but the arm of the woman in the falla pretty much fell in a flaming heap at one point, right where some people were standing before the surge.

crema2

The Pinocchio character in the falla was the very last to go. His continued presence in the below series of photos strikes me as particularly odd and humorous.

Here is the burning from pretty much the beginning to right before the firemen pushed the Pinocchio character into the smoldering heap.

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crema4

crema5

crema6

crema8

crema9

When the falla had mostly burned the crowd began to relax and start to thin out which made it possible for us to finally move again. And we used this movement to find our way back to the hotel for some much needed sleep.

On our way back to the hotel there were smoldering heaps that were once majestic fallas everywhere you looked.

Aftermath

Tomorrow we make our way back to Barcelona on just a few hours of sleep.

Valencia – Nic De Foc (Night Of Fire)

This is what it has all been building up to. The final night of Las Fallas. The first event we wanted to see was the Cabalgata del Fuego (Fire Parade). It’s hard to explain, but basically the Falleras parade by followed by guys dressed in devil suits shooting spark everywhere. It is chaotic and exciting and just a little scary, especially when the fire shoots up your pant leg or falls on your head. Hopefully these photos can convey some of the madness.

Nit De Foc - 7

Nit De Foc - 8

Nit De Foc - 13

Nit De Foc - 15

Nit De Foc - 20

Nit De Foc - 5

Valencia – Day 3

The sun came out today in all its glory. Yay! We got up and had breakfast and then made our way to Gullivar Park and then on to The City Of Arts And Sciences, the fantastic complex of buildings designed by Santiago Calatrava.

City Of Arts And Sciences

City Of Arts And Sciences

City Of Arts And Sciences

City Of Arts And Sciences

City Of Arts And Sciences

We spent a good deal of time here, just walking in the abundant sunshine and taking photos.

When we were done we made our way back to the hotel to get ready for lunch. On our way we encountered some of the thousands of people preparing for the Ofrenda, an offering of flowers to the Virgin Mary in the square next to the cathedral.

Here you can see the giant Virgin and the lattice work where the flowers will build her dress.

The Virgin

It’s hard to convey in pictures, but there are thousands of women in traditional garb who will be marching into the square for the next two days. All of them carrying flowers to complete the dress of the Virgin Mary.

Ofrenda 1

Ofrenda 2

Ofrenda 3

Ofrenda 4

Ofrenda 5

Ofrenda 7

Ofrenda 8

We grabbed some lunch and then took a break back at the hotel room before venturing out again. The festival is in full swing and the Ofrenda has streets blocked all over town as the Falleras and their escorts arrive from all corners to make their offerings.

Falleras

Flower Offering

The Virgin