Roman (Romin’) Holiday

If you have read my (much) older posts, you will know that we enjoy travel and with that, photography to record our traveling.  In the spring of 2016 our family had a truly awesome Vacay, visiting Wales, London, Germany, and Rome.  Where countries are listed, we visited different towns and cities.  It was a glorious time to trundle around together, and the weather in Europe is so much more inviting in March than it is in Newfoundland, where we are still shrouded in snow and cold at that time of the year.

Rome was the one place on the itinerary that we had never seen, and so was an amazing experience.  We stayed at a wonderful bed and breakfast that was very close to everything, Gialel Bed & Breakfast.  I would recommend it to anyone!  And contact them through their website.  They say they will beat the booking website prices.  Our second piece of advice is use the Hop on Hop off Bus Tours.  We suggest the red bus, there are all sorts of them (we took one from a different company).  With a 48 hour pass we were able to spend 2 days visiting all the major sights without concern about how we were going to get around.  We only had to be aware of when the last bus for the day left the stop we were at.  It was great.

A few shots from the Vacay in Roma.

Everywhere you looked there were ruins, either preserved, built into new buildings or standing sentinel on their own.  And of course, there were people everywhere!  And we weren’t there in tourist high season.

Art StoreWe came across this marvelous art store.  This only shows you one side of it, but the other half of the building was full of papers and pigment powders and brushes!!  Oh so beautiful.

DaVinci museumThe Da Vinci Museum was full of reproductions of his inventions, and his journals and notebooks.

Fascinating to see his ingenuity.

 

 

 

ParkingAlso ingenious was the parking.  This isn’t the only example we saw of creative parking.  Creative driving was also very much in evidence.

 

Below are just a few more shots of this amazingly picturesque city.

And what led me to tell you about last year’s holiday?  Well, this did.  This is Vicolo Della Torre, Trastevere.  This laneway in the old quarter of Rome, across the river, arrested me as I passed.  Laundry hung in the alley, sun beamed in, and even this early in the season shutters and windows were open and plants were beginning to leaf.  I wonder which tower the Torre references?

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I loved the strong perspective and sharp contrasts, and hope I was able to do it justice.

Memor-y-ial

It’s the end of March, and it came in like a lamb, so you know how it is going out.  The next 4 days promise high winds, rain, freezing rain, snow and sleet.  I don’t think I’ll leave the house if I can avoid it. Storm chips I’ve laid in a stock of “storm chips” for hubby.   That’s become a new tradition in Newfoundland.  For some reason we’ve forgotten that we get snow regularly into mid May and sometimes into June.  Urbanization has made us soft.

But I digress.  The impending arrival of April makes me think of spring, and milder weather, and days when going out and about is fun and you don’t have to wear 4 layers of clothing and boots so heavy you’ll drown in a pothole.  If you go back in my blog posts you’ll find I leave my cocoon in April, take my camera and explore.  Look What the Sun Brought Out! was one such, and you’ll see a photo of a statue on a huge granite boulder, spreading it’s wings and reaching to the sky.  In January I decided it was a good subject for a painting, and Icarus of Bay Bulls appeared under my brush.  Icarus of Bay Bulls

As one does these days, I posted the finished painting on a social media site.  Imagine my surprise when one of my Book Club friends asked, “Did you know that this memorial was erected to my father-in-law?”  I was floored.  We forget how small this province really is.

The memorial was cast by sculptor, Luben Boykov , in memory of Captain Patrick J. Coady and his crew, who were lost at sea in 1994.  The sculpture sits on one of a grouping of 5 large rocks that family and friends brought, by boat, from Captain Coady’s place of birth (Bar Haven), and then dug into ground to stand their guard.

My friend and her family had been very much moved by the painting, and so I was happy to be able to gift it to her.  (But I did have it professionally scanned, should I want a copy.  Or I may paint it again some day.)

Stories or Statements

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Waiting to Launch – one of the first pieces I painted from a photo I took.

I am not an accomplished artist, nor am I seeking renown.  This will not be a career for me.  This art exploration I am on is following its own meandering path, and a year and a half ago, the path diverged from decorative painting, to exploring subjects in more detail.

You seek, and get a lot of advice when you start this.  Youtube has been a font of tutorials, but I don’t want to slavishly copy them (as they advise you not to) because that is not my work.

The biggest and best advice – “You learn by doing.”  But after that it gets confusing.  Copy old masters; Don’t copy old masters; Paint from reference photos; Don’t paint from reference photos; It’s ok to trace  your reference sketch/photo; It’s not ok to trace  your reference sketch/photo.  You get the picture.

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Frozen Ghost – combines three of my photos to tell a story.

Some of my favourite pieces come from photos I have taken.  Notice I say, “come from”.  I consider it my right to modify as necessary, or not.  And being a new painter, each time I tackle a photo, there is a challenge to present something on the support that I have not done before.  Each time, I am learning something that I can use in future paintings.  But when I showed some of my pieces to an artist and art teacher, who has had a decades long career and whom I respect, I was told that my work, while nice, lacked emotion.  That has niggled in my heart for months now.  There are all kinds of criticisms that I would have expected (on brushwork or perspective, colour or composition), but not that one.  And I have a problem with it.

Each painting I do from my photos evokes a memory for me, and/or tells a story.  Obviously, someone else will lack the frame of reference for the story, but I hope that the viewer can get some sense of it.  Perhaps one day I will evolve to the point of making strong statements with a brush, but at the moment I am giving more of a recitation.  And that is OK.

So if you are struggling with what should be the “right” way to paint – stop struggling.

If it speaks to you, that is the most important thing as you grow.  And try things outside your comfort zone, but not all the time.  Remember, you should be enjoying yourself.

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First Freeze – an ATC I did from my photo of the pond where I live.  The challenge was to learn how to do ice.  But the story is of a particularly beautiful sunset in the place I grew up.  A moment in time that evokes the peace of this place when I was a child.  In this light you don’t see a lot of the changes “progress” has wrought.

 

Römischer Weg

Today we visited a very special German city, Trier.  My first introduction to the town was when I was a teenager.  Germany had not yet realized the aesthetic value of the Roman ruins that were being excavated and you could walk through the rubble of the archaeologists’ finds.  It wasn’t pretty…you didn’t pay entry fees…it hadn’t become a tourist attraction.  20 years later I brought my husband to experience the city.  The streets were no longer torn up, and the ruins were better groomed, but it was still more of a pilgrimage than a sightseeing tour.  We ran from Porta Nigra to Basilika in the rain…without a tour map, depending on the helpfulness of strangers in the street to direct us.  Today, about 15 years later, there are entry fees for everything, tour booklets in multiple languages, and a museum with multiple guards per floor.  2000 year old structures have weathered time, weather, siege and world war.  Yet among the pockmarked stones thousands of thoughtless people have scrawled names, initials, symbols, showing no respect for the global treasures they are defacing.   If you ever find yourself in the Mosel Valley, make your way to the city that was once on par with Rome, Alexandria, and Constantinople.

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Porta Nigra - One of 4 gates on the 6.5 km long city wall. The only one still standing.

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View up the 3 levels from inside.

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Along the corridors defenders could repel any attack.

After the Romans had left the city, the Porta Nigra was reincarnated as a church; rebuilt on at least two occasions.  Today it has been returned to a more original state, although the rounded end that would have been the nave of the church remains.

Through the windows of the Porta you can see the countryside, the city, and the Dom.

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Across the river

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The Dom with the Liebfrauen Kirche next to it.

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View into the city from the 3rd level of the Porta. I wonder what a centurion would think to see this?

Walking into the Altstadt we arrived first at the Dom (cathedral). This structure, started 1000 years ago, lies on the foundations of Roman buildings dating from the 3rd and 4th centuries (anno domini). Beautifully appointed inside, with vaulted and carved ceilings and imposing memorials and altars, the Dom houses the Shroud of Turin, which is exposed for view only about every 10 years. Whatever your beliefs, it is an impressive and solemn monument. The Dom museum houses codex & book covers from the early middle ages, carvings from even earlier, and reliquaries from holy men and women, including St. Peter and St. Andrew. Next door is the Liebfrauen Kirche, completely different in style – light and airy.

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Reliquary of the chains of St. Peter

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Reliquary of the sandal of St. Andrew.

Also now used as a church, the Imperial Palace, built by Constantius, and later taken over by Constantine the Great is now the Protestant Basilika. The giant audience hall has had numerous incarnations; as a royal residence, a bishop’s residence, a fortress,
and a courtyard.

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Massive in size, the rubble of centuries has raised the level of the ground around the Basilika.

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The inside space is immense. Can you imagine walking up its length to bring your complaint to Constantine?


Hygiene was of great importance in Roman times, and Constantine had a great plan for the Imperial Baths. While it never came to fruition, most of the structure was completed and then repurposed. There were aqueducts and heating mechanisms, and underground hallways for servants.
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This is only about a third of the structure, which continues off to the right, and is still being excavated.

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A sense of the height. Courses of varying coloured stones were laid, to decorate the building.


That brings us to the Amphitheatre. The location for animal fights, gladiators and executions, the amphitheatre formed part of the city wall, and its entrance was one of the gates.
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This picture, taken from the upper level of seats, gives a sense of how large the arena is.


OK…so I have a new favourite word. The entrances into the seats were called vormitoria
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Love the funnel shape of the Vormitoria...pour them in...vomit them out!

Here it is…the required panorama. What the Christian saw before the lion was upon him.

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Here kitty, kitty.


Below the arena floor are a series of rooms and drains that housed animals and the condemned, and from which each could be brought into the center.
And if you are around Trier in the summer time, the gladiators still compete in the Amphitheatre on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. Sounds like a rollicking good time to me.

Avian Antics 1

There is photography in my formative years.  My father was an avid photographer, and would develop his own black and white prints.  We didn’t have a darkroom, so I remember sitting with him in the blacked out bathroom, with the trays of chemicals in the bathtub, the  enlarger set up on the wooden laundry hamper, processing prints, then hanging them above the tub on a makeshift clothesline, a homemade red light on the toilet.  I wonder what he would think of digital cameras today, where you can take as many shots as you want for pennies.

One of the first things I trained the Nikon D3000 on was the birds that come to the feeder outside the sunroom window.  I think that was the impetus for my husband to buy the camera in the first place, as he would find me crouched behind the sunroom windows holding the old Olympus tight to the glass and being as still as possible…so the Flicker wouldn’t see me.  I did get a few good pictures that way, but they were through the glass, and often had reflections that we didn’t like.

Tom the Seventh

My bird photography evolved to sitting on the deck with the camera on my father’s tripod, being very still and hoping the birds wouldn’t notice me; or at least wouldn’t perceive me as a threat.  (This, in a house where a hunter cat of no small prowess lives.)

In an effort to make myself even less of a presence I bought a length of camouflage mesh.  It serves the dual purpose of breaking up my outline, and protecting against the black flies and mosquitoes that tend to find you if you sit still around here.  I have endured some major teasing when friends and neighbours visit and find me hunkered down under my camouflage veils!  You can surely imagine.

I was so very out of my depth when I started.  My shutter speeds were too slow, my apertures too large, and the exposures too low.

It’s taken quite a bit of reading, and experimentation, to get any shots that would be considered acceptable.

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And then, last Christmas, hubby gave me a new zoom 55 – 200 mm lens.  I can almost see:

“the wing on the tick on the feather on the wing on the bird in the nest on the twig on the branch on the limb on the tree in the hole in the ground”.

Husband also made me a birdhouse from which I can remove the roof, to give birds open access and decrease shading.  So the next Avian Antics post will explore some of those shots.

Fibre One – Weigh in, Your Opinion Counts

I loved the textures and scrolls in this rotting stump, but I don’t know which version is more evocative.  I’d love to know what you think.  So I’ve added a little poll at the bottom.  Your opinions will always be appreciated.

Look What the Sun Brought Out!

So I’m not usually independently adventurous.   I’ll find lots at home to keep me busy, or at least I’ll use that as an excuse.  On this particular day in April, the family was all either at work or busy and I was at loose ends, so I took my Nikon 3000 and went for a drive to a community down the shore.  It was a “large” day; bright sunlight, light winds, warm air.  These were the moments that caught my eye.

Our Spirit may be free, but our feet are Anchored to the stones of this place.

This memorial stands at the side of the road where houses clutch onto the rocks as though perched to take flight.

Memorial to a Parson’s son killed in action a century ago.

Every community here is built around its churches.  In this fore-yard stand various statuary, erected to do honour to those who have done honour to the community.  This is but one that stands fast and looks out over the bay.  By such markers did the fishers of old guide their punts and their souls to safer berths.

Progress defines new uses for old sites.

Wheels of cable, either steel or electrical, sit at the offshore supply base.  A deep, well protected harbour never goes out of fashion.  Just the materials seem to change.

Pun intended

There’s a boat under there!

As this fishing vessel guts and cleans its catch, gulls wheel and scream, fighting for scraps and gathering numbers until the boat is near invisible.

Neptune’s Daughter

Our marine tradition flavours everything – our music and dance, our stories and science, our architecture and art.  The Mermaids of Avalon are displayed in many sites, beckoning to the wayfarer, singing sailors to watery slumbers, dreaming longingly of the sea.  Symbols of our history, and of our mystery.