Valencia – Day 2

After such a great day yesterday we were a bit disappointed to wake up to rain in Valencia. Not a lot of it, but enough to dampen our spirits somewhat. We grabbed some breakfast here at the hotel and went back to the room. We were still tired from the night before and with the rain we decided to take a nap. That ended up being a great idea because we slept soundly for a few more hours and when we woke up the rain had stopped.

We set out exploring and as it approached 2pm we decided to attend the daily mascleta which is a daytime fireworks display designed for percussive effect rather than visual. Thousands of festival goers jam in to the central square to be as close to the event as possible. When it goes off it is so loud you can’t hear yourself even if you shout. The display goes for a full 5 minutes.

I recorded this on my cell phone. It does not do the event justice, but it gives you an idea

After the mascleta we went back to the room to re-organize and then went to have a late lunch at our favorite restaurant, Pappardella.

After a nice meal and a bottle of wine we took to the streets where we encountered a procession of Falleras apparently leaving some event and going back to their respective neighborhoods. This provide Cynthia and I with a few hours of photographic fun

Cynthia Getting The Shot

Fallera Procession - 1

Fallera Procession - 2

Fallera Procession - 3

Fallera Procession - 4

Fallera Procession - 5

Fallera Procession - 6

Fallera Procession - 7

Fallera Procession - 11

Fallera Procession - 12

Fallera Procession - 14

Fallera Procession - 15

Fallera Procession - 17

Fallera Procession - 19

Fallera Procession - 21

After this we went back to the hotel room once more to get ready for the evening where we planned to go find the legendary light displays of the Ruzafa district.

Valencia – Day 1

The last day in Barcelona yesterday was good. but the weather was the pits. We saw some sights and enjoyed some good food, but the photo ops were pretty much non-existent. Despite our overall good attitude, we were a little bummed.

Today was the 3 1/2 hour train ride to the city of Valencia for the 2011 Las Fallas festival. We were here two years ago and simply fell in love.

As we left Barcelona the rain was falling in earnest and the weather reports called for rain in Valencia for at least a few days. But as we got close to Valencia the skies began to clear and by the time we got tot he hotel it was downright sunny. Huzzah!

Street

Valencia, even without the festival, is a fantastic and picturesque city. Add to that the fallas and it becomes magical.

Cathedral

Falla

Falla

Sadly, due to all the rain of the last week, many of the fallas have been damaged. The artists are working fast and furious to repair them and seem to be doing a good job. Today is the day they are being officially setup so the ones we are seeing are in various states of completion and repair.

We came back to the hotel room after enjoying a nice lunch at Pappardella, an Italian restaurant we found during our last visit.

We spent almost two hours over a leisurely lunch and a bottle of local Rioja

Wine break. Enjoying a local Valencia blended rioja

Since leaving Barcelona this morning Cynthia has been a little sick. Nothing major, but an upset stomach and some fatigue have taken her a bit off her game. The lunch really helped, but we knew we’d both benefit from a siesta so we went back to the room and sacked out for a few hours. When we got up we headed back out. The evening weather here is pretty perfect. And the city and the fallas are very cool at night.

Falla

Falla

Falla Infantile Procession

Random Band

Lights

Tower

Now were are back in the room and considering our options. There is a huge fireworks display at midnight. If we have the energy we may head out to see that. If not, there’s another one tomorrow night. And the night after that. And the night after that.

It’s good to have options!

Barcelona – Day 3 – Part 2

After collecting ourselves back at the hotel room we headed out and braved the metro to go see La Sagrada Familia, a cathedral designed by Antoni Gaudi. Construction began in 1882 and is not expected to be completed until 2026.

The structure is amazing to see in person. I was particularly happy to have my very wide angle Sony 16-35mm lens with me to capture a few images. These are both done using HDR techniques that involve taking 3 separate photos, each with a different exposure setting, and blending the images together to create one high dynamic range image that brings our the detail and evens out the overall exposure.

Sagrada Familia - HDR

La Sagrada Familia - HDR

And later that evening for a night shot

Sagrada Familia - Night Shot 2

Barcelona – Day 3 – Part 1

The sun came out today. After a full day of rain yesterday we were very happy to see it. We got up and headed out for some breakfast and then walked down La Rambla to the Cathedral of Santa Eulalia aka the Barcelona Cathedral to watch the Sardana dances.

Human Statues

La Rambla was bustling early. The crowds were building fast and the human statues were gearing up for a busk-o-rama day.

And the beggars were also taking advantage of the sunshine.

Beggar

Walking through the Barri Gotic on the way to the cathedral we marvelled at the ornamentation on the buildings in the neighborhood

Ornamentation in Barri Gotic

Ornamentation in Barri Gotic

Ornamentation in Barri Gotic

Ornamentation in Barri Gotic

Ornamentation in Barri Gotic

During our wandering we stumbled upon the secluded Gothic cloister which encloses the Well of the Geese (Font de les Oques) where 13 white geese are kept, the number explained by the assertion that Eulalia was 13 when she was martyred.

Goose

After communing with the geese for a bit we found our way to the front of the cathedral for the main event. Each Sunday the citizens of Barcelona gather in front of the cathedral for for the Sardana Dances. Some to dance, other just to watch and listen to the cobla.

sardana dances - 4

sardana dances - 3

sardana dances - 2

sardana dances - 1

After this it was back to the hotel to recombobulate and have a snack. The walk back was met by extremely large throngs of people jamming La Rambla

Crowds On La Rambla

Next up, La Sagrada Familia

Barcelona – Day 2

Bar Central @ La Boqueria

As the weather sites have all been saying for the last few weeks, today is a day of heavy rain. I’d hoped the forecast would change as we got closer to arrival, but it did not.

Freshly Made Fried Baby Octopus

Fortunately, we packed foul weather gear and have been moving about. The first stop today was La Boqueria for some breakfast at The Bar Central Cafe and then to have a look around and take some photos.

Cynthia enjoys her Boqueria breakfast

It is a unique market with fresh produce, meat and seafood. Some of the seafood is so fresh it tries to crawl, slither or otherwise wriggle out of the display.

Tomatoes And One Rasberry

Crabby

WALL OF CHEEZE

La Boqueria

Pepper!

Roly Poly

Cthulhu For Dinner

You Buy Me, Me Bite You

Arrival – Barcelona

We made it to Barcelona without a hitch. The only real bump in the road was that we arrived to the hotel around 11:00 am Barcelona time and the room wasn’t ready for us to check in yet. After a long overseas flight it is tough to cool your heals waiting to get into your room. They finally gave it to us around 1:30. We quickly unpacked a few things and took a 2 hour nap.

One we woke up we were pretty hungry so we walked across the street to the El Corte Ingles and bought some groceries.

After we had eaten something we felt much better and rode the metro over to see the Magic Fountain of Montjuïc

Magic Fountain of Montjuïc - 1

Magic Fountain of Montjuïc - 5

Magic Fountain of Montjuïc - 4

Magic Fountain of Montjuïc - HDR

We ran out of steam pretty quick and headed back to the hotel. As we were walking Cynthia suggested we go have a look at Casa Batlo which is not to far away. We walked over and snapped some shots, but I am not overly pleased with what I got so may plan to shoot some more later.

Of course William The Sheep is tagging along for the journey

Time to get some sleep and get ready for tomorrow. Rain is forecast, but we’re prepared!

Lens Lust

Size Matters

I popped in to my local crack camera dealer just to have a look around. I wasn’t really shopping all that hard. I mean, there are things I am keeping an eye out for, but mostly I like to browse and just be in and amongst the camera equipment and around other photographers. Almost always I leave empty handed. Which is good. I don’t have the budget to spend for every single piece of gear I might want.

While I was there I looked in the case where they keep the used Sony/Minolta gear. Typically, there is usually not much there. Of course there’s always plenty of second hand Nikon and Canon gear, but when it comes to high end of the Sony/Minolta equipment it is usually slim pickin’s.

But there in case was the legendary Sony 70-400mm G Lens. And not only that, it was being sold for a price that was dramatically lower than you can buy it new and significantly lower than what I’ve seen it go for used, when/if they even show up.

Initially, I dismissed it. I don’t tend to shoot in this focal range. I knew it was a good deal, I just couldn’t justify it for my type of shooting. I already had the Sony 70-300 G and the Tamron 70-200 f/2.8 so really, what’s the point? So I left, empty handed.

As I was driving around, running some errands, I kept thinking about that lens. I had read the reviews and seen all the praise. The sony 70-400 G is not just a good lens, it is (by all accounts) one of the best lenses ever made in its class. As I mulled it over more and more I decided that I should buy the lens and, if nothing else, resell if for a profit or use it as trading fodder for another lens via the photography forums I belong to. With this brilliant justification in mind I made my way back to the camera store and bought the lens. They even reduced the price a little more so it was an even better deal.

Once I had it in hand and started playing with it I started falling in love. For a lens of that range it is surprisingly light. It’s beast, but it’s a manageable beast. And the image quality has a “WOW” factor that can only be described by using sample shots. Unlike so many long zoom lenses, the 70-400 G is sharp from 70mm all the way out to 400mm. It is simply wonderful.

These are from my first workout with the lens at The Houston Zoo. All shot using this lens attached to my A850. The entire gallery can be seen by clicking here. If you chase the links back to their respective Flickr pages you can view EXIF info and look at the full sized image files which REALLY give you a sense of the sharpness and quality.

Needless to say, I’m keeping the lens. I’ve been selling some of my unused glass on Ebay to recoup the expense.

Southern ground hornbill

Chimp

Poodle Duck

Ostrich

Yawning Tiger

Arc Attack

The main thing I wanted to see at the Gloworama event was one of the performances by Arc Attack. Imagine two custom engineered hand built Tesla Coils that throw out electrical arcs up to twelve feet long, each one acting as an instrument with a sound reminiscent of the early days of the synthesizer. Each “arc” of electricity carries the sound of the music. During the show, the MC engages both the crowd and the Tesla Coils by walking through ½ Million Volt sparks wearing a chainmail Faraday suit. Spectacular!

Arc Attack

Close
Arc Attack

Arc Attack

Close
Arc Attack

Arc Attack

Close
Arc Attack

And if that’s not enough, after the MC does his thing a guy in another Farady suit comes out with a modified electric guitar that plays through the singing Tesla Coils

Arc Attack

Close
Arc Attack

Arc Attack

Close
Arc Attack

This was a challenge to photograph. I used my vintage Minolta 35/2 lens to capture the action and I am pretty pleased with the results.

Trippy Christmas

The last few years we’ve traveled to Europe for the Christmas holidays. Last year we traveled to Copenhagen and the year before that we went to Brussels.

This year we needed to spend some money on some much needed home repairs and upgrades so there was not enough in the kitty to be able to go anywhere for the holidays. And based on the severe winter weather in the US and in Europe, it was probably for the best anyway.

So rather than having any Christmas trip pictures, I offer you these trippy Christmas photos. Shot using a tripod and setting the exposure so the shutter would stay open while I zoomed out. It is called photo zooming and the effects are, well….trippy.

Trippy Tree

Close
Trippy Tree

Trippy Tree

Close
Trippy Tree

Travel Shots For Fun – Dancing House In Prague

The Dancing House is the nickname given to the Nationale-Nederlanden building in downtown Prague, Czech Republic. It was designed by Croatian-Czech architect Vlado Miluni in co-operation with Canadian architect Frank Gehry. The first shot is HDR handheld from 3 exposures and the second shot is one extended exposure of 9 seconds. Click either image to see a larger version.

Dancing House

Close
Dancing House

Dancing House

Close
Dancing House

Prague – Day 10

Well, it’s our last day in Prague. Vienna seems so long ago at this point. We’re totally sated in every way and ready to come home. If all goes well, we have a car picking us up at 5:30 am to go to the airport. We’re crossing our fingers in hopes that he shows up.

We took it relatively easy today. Just some walking around. Again, we found some things we had been kinda keeping an eye out for.

We headed to Wenceslas Square to see if we could locate the Lucerna Gallery to see the sculpture “Saint Wenceslas Riding an Upside-Down Horse” and succeeded

A quirky sculpture, to be sure.

From there we just wanted to walk around. We explored the area by the river right next to the Charles Bridge. While walking around we stumbled upon a REAL puppet shop. In case you didn’t know, Prague is famous for puppets. Especially Marionette style puppets. There are stores everywhere selling cheap and, frankly crappy puppets that look to be mass produced and are there for the tourists exclusively. But this shop was different. These puppets were hand made by a group of Czech artisans and had all the charm of something that hearkened to a bygone era. The shopkeeper allowed me some time to photograph in the shop, which I think was very kind and generous.

We couldn’t find a puppet we wanted enough to justify the cost and the effort of getting it home. But it was nice to see this place. Cynthia bought a little hand carved sheep as a souvenir and a token of our appreciation for the time the shopkeeper spent with us.

All we did the rest of the day was walk and walk which lead us to stumble upon another thing we were looking for.

This is the monument to the students that were injured by the police in the protests that precipitated the Velvet Revolution.

I’ve got a lot more photos to process when we get home and I’ll be trickling those out as time permits.

We’re back at the apartment just relaxing now. We’re packed and ready to come home. What a glorious adventure this has been. Thank to everyone who followed along here and on Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. I’ve got a lot of photos to process. I’ll be trickling those out as time permits.