Here is the continuation of the tiny prints series. All of these are still from Rome, again the Lomo Belair X6-12 as the camera of choice. I was having a conversation yesterday with a friend about these and while sharing them online is great, seeing scans of them at what ends up being a much larger size than the actual print, they lose some of their impact.
This is a statue of the Archangel Michael, in the Castel Sant’Angelo. His body is stone but the wings are bronze.
The umbrella pine image is one of those that when I scanned the negative and worked with the image in Photoshop, all the “flaws” of the negative become quite apparent, and you start thinking it’s not a successful image. But contact printed, it cleans up nicely and really sings.
St. Peter’s Basilica Facade. This is one of the images that made me respect the Belair and its results more than I did initially. It’s still not going to ever match a serious panorama camera like a Horseman 6×12 with a highly corrected glass lens, but it does a great job for what it is, and certainly it scores extremely well in the value-for-money proposition – I got mine used for $200, whereas a used Horseman would set you back closer to $2000.
The plaza in front of St. Peter’s was set up for a Papal Mass when I was there. The sea of folding chairs made for an interesting composition, leading your eye back to the obelisk and beyond.
These are the famous three remaining columns of the Temple of Vesta in the Roman Forum. This one really strikes me because of the simple, graphic nature of the subject. It’s another one of those images that everyone photographs when they’re at the Forum, and everyone knows it, even if you haven’t ever been to the Forum. Printing in platinum/palladium takes it somewhere new and different and it doesn’t feel like just another tourist image.
All these images are platinum/palladium prints, in this case all are a 50/50 blend of platinum and palladium, on the new wonderful Hahnemuhle Platinum Rag paper. I’m going to have to try a pure platinum print with it next and see how it behaves.
I spent almost half a day wandering around the Castel Sant’Angelo, poring over every vista, nook, cranny and fragmented rock. I was in photographic heaven. There’s everything inside it to point your lens at from Roman sculptures to fanciful brickwork to Renaissance paintings. The Castel Sant’Angelo is one of the most recognizable structures in Rome. The foundations of it date back over 2000 years to the reign of emperor Hadrian, who had it built as his mausoleum. In the Christian era, the proximity to St. Peter’s and the Vatican palace made it useful not only as a source of marble for construction of churches and apostolic palaces, but as a fortification. The drum-like structure was originally Hadrian’s tomb, and was covered in white marble. A succession of popes built on top of this, had walls with gun emplacements built around it, corridors cut through it, had palatial apartments added on top of it, and used Hadrian’s burial chamber as a dungeon for their most valuable/most hated prisoners. An elevated, sealed corridor with defensive structures runs atop a wall connecting the Vatican apartments to the Castel, enabling the pope to flee to the safety and security of the castle in times of siege. The castle has wells of its own and storage enough to keep its garrison provisioned for up to six months at a time.
This bastion overlooks the entrance gate of the castle that faces the Tiber river and the Angel bridge. Quite the fearsome looking structure, isn’t it?
Here is perhaps the most famous view of the castle. The statues of angels were added to the bridge in the 16th and 17th centuries, but three of the five arches of the bridge are contemporary with the original construction of Hadrian’s mausoleum. So you’re crossing a 2000-year old span over the Tiber when you use the bridge.
This is a view of the bridge from one of the outer bastions over the main gate to the castle. During the Jubilee year of 1450, so many pilgrims crammed onto the bridge that the railings gave way and many plunged into the river to their deaths. Starting in the 1530s, the angels that adorn the bridge began to be added.
Looking down onto the footings of the bridge in the Tiber, we can see some interesting graffiti, particularly the figure of the man holding a woman’s prone form.
This young man was playing his guitar for tips on the bridge. I think he was consulting his dog as to what to play next.
Moving inside the fortification, these steps emerge from one of the bastion towers to the courtyard that encircles the central drum at its base.
Looking out a gun port in the fortifications of the castle, you can see the bridges over the Tiber in the distance.
A newel post topped with a stone sphere on the stairs leading from the inner courtyard toward the Papal apartments:
These stairs lead to a structure that probably housed Papal guards. The stone lantern atop them is one of several around the fort.
A close-up detail of another one of the stone lanterns:
At the level of the upper courtyard, a statue of the Archangel Michael dominates. Opposite is one of several wells that keep the castle in fresh water in case of siege.
The fortification is crowned by a bronze statue of the Archangel Michael, drawing his sword. Modern additions have also placed radio aerials on the roof, overtopping the archangel. Technologia Omnia Vincit, as it were.
These two pieces are quite moody, and that somber undertone of them inspired me. From their weathered appearance to the various forms of damage they’ve taken over the centuries, they act as a kind of memento mori to remind us that even art in marble will eventually die.
I’ve joked to friends that this one is proof that there were zombies in ancient Rome – but in fact the damage to the face is probably caused by relatively contemporary rivals seeking to damage the visage of a now-dead adversary, or inadvertent blows from overzealous Renaissance-era treasure hunters or clumsy builders trying to clear debris in preparation for fortifying the former Imperial tomb.
This one has suffered different indignities – while his visage remains relatively intact, at some point his head was separated from his shoulders, and later re-attached.
Just for the record, to the best of my knowledge there were no zombies running around ancient Rome.
The statue of the Archangel Michael in the inner courtyard of the Castel Sant’Angelo. This is at the mid-level courtyard after ascending the ramp that passes through the crypt of Hadrian/castle dungeon. around it are numerous Roman marble busts in various nooks, and a well for providing water to the Papal apartments above.
The statue dominates the courtyard, though, with its bronze wings patina’d green and weathered countenance.
I found this composition while walking the ramparts and courtyards of the Castel Sant’Angelo, which is a very easy place to get lost in if you’re not paying attention. There are so many levels and layers, both physically and historically. The building was built originally as the funerary monument for the Roman emperor Hadrian. Later it was converted into a fortress for the protection and safety of the Pope. A residential suite complete with reception rooms and treasury (three massive barred iron chests with multiple locks, each of which only one person had the key to, so it would require all the key holders to open each chest) and balconies with sweeping panoramic views of the city were put on the upper tier, and the burial chamber of the emperor Hadrian was converted into a dungeon where prisoners could be thrown to wither and die in darkness and misery.
This is a panorama I took of the bend in the Tiber river just in front of the Castel Sant’Angelo, from the castle’s ramparts. St. Peter’s is to the right, out of view. If you look at the bridge in the background, you can see the keyhole arches in the supporting piers which are there to help the bridge not get washed away in time of flooding. There are a number of bridges across the Tiber with this feature, including the famous “Ponte Rotto” (Broken Bridge), which you’ll see in some other shots I’ll post later.
This was taken with my Belair X6-12 camera. As you can see, it’s a pretty soft lens, combined with what was probably a pretty slow shutter speed (1/30th, 1/15th? with this camera, who knows- it sets it automatically for you and doesn’t tell you what it used). But it has a look to it, and the negative isn’t unusable.
When I get finished processing all 79 rolls of film from this trip, I’ll have more of these to add, but until then, here’s a selection of public fountains. The Italians certainly love their water features and drinking fountains.
I’m certain I mentioned this before about the ancient fountain at the Colosseum, how you plug the bottom to get water to come out a hole in the top of the pipe so you don’t have to bend over to drink.
Well, here you can see that in action, at a similar fountain in the Castel Sant’Angelo:
And a full view of the fountain:
Here’s a little fountain in the piazza in front of San Lorenzo in Florence:
The Cellini fountain and memorial on the Ponte Vecchio. The interesting thing about it is that the fountain and memorial are 19th century, and their placement on the Ponte Vecchio is a little disingenuous.The bridge today is occupied by goldsmiths and jewelers, true, but in Cellini’s day, the Ponte Vecchio was home to butchers. Other than picking up his Saturday prosciutto, he didn’t spend time on the bridge. The modern day jewelers are just claiming inspiration from him.
A fountain at the Pantheon, under the obelisk in the plaza in front:
Another public drinking fountain, on the Ponte Vecchio, in Florence. This one is actually a drinking fountain, whereas the Cellini monument is purely decorative.
The fountain in the forecourt to the Palazzo Barberini, backlit by the afternoon sun:
A fountain in the Villa Borghese park, directly in front of the Palazzo Borghese:
A closeup detail of the Villa Borghese fountain:
A fountain outside the Vatican, with the water spigots emerging from the heads of Papal keys, crowned by a quartet of Papal tiaras:
A garden-variety public drinking fountain in Trastevere, the neighborhood where I lived in Rome:
A fountain crowned with a pinecone finial in the Piazza Venezia, especially appropriate decoration as it sits beneath a canopy of the famous pines of Rome.
Here begins my Italian saga. I got back less than a week ago from my Italian excursion, having spent 12 days in Florence and Rome. I posted an odd and end from my phone while on the road, but now that I’m home I’m working my way through the 79 (yes, 79!) rolls of film I shot. I’ve got 16 processed so far, and will try to develop some more after work during the week so I don’t have to totally binge on the weekends.
If you’ve been following the blog, shortly before I went away I got a Lomo Belair X/6-12 panoramic camera. I posted a few shots I took with the 58mm super-wide lens, and that lens is, well, marginal at best. Very soft, very low-contrast, and horrendous barrel distortion. Not the kind of lens I would want to shoot a lot of architecture with, and that’s what I’d be shooting a lot of in Italy. I brought it with me just in case, but kept the 90mm lens on the camera and ended up shooting exclusively with that.
This is the courtyard of the Palazzo Pitti, as seen from the Boboli gardens behind it. As you can see from this shot, the 90 is sharper than the 58, but still not up to the standards of a glass lens (the 58 and the 90 are both plastic).
The 90 is better, but better is a relative term. Certainly, I wouldn’t have been able to take these shots without the camera, and I genuinely like them, but they’re not what I normally think of when I think of my style of photograph. If I’m going to stick with the camera, it’ll be a mental adjustment to apply the tool to tasks appropriate to it. It’s very good at transforming the time of day of a shot- while this is titled “Ponte Vecchio Evening”, it was actually shot around 10AM.
This has also been a lesson for me in making peace with cropping. I’ve been for the most part a full-frame kind of guy – I try to compose to the edges of my frame so everything shows the way I want it to and I don’t need to crop. But sometimes, the best of intentions when composing in the heat of the action don’t always work, and you learn to crop after the fact. This shot, for example. In the original full frame, the obelisk was dead center in the frame. I think at the time I pushed the shutter button I thought the little girl was out of the picture, but there she was. On the left, the edge of the fountain in front of the obelisk was intruding into the scene. Looking at the image actually captured, all the action in the scene included the little girl playing off against the obelisk, and the edge of the fountain was a real distraction. Cropping to get rid of the fountain completely changed the dynamic and makes the image go from being a record shot to something actually interesting.
This is the facade of the Palazzo Pitti, originally home to the Medici family, later a residence for Napoleon Bonaparte, then the administrative center of the Italian government for the first few years after unification, and now an art museum. The shutter has a maximum speed of 1/125th of a second, which is fairly slow all things considered. I don’t know how fast an exposure this was – the camera doesn’t tell you what speed it is using – so I’m guessing somewhere in the 1/60th range given the amount of movement in the cyclist. That’s another thing you have to make peace with with this camera – unpredictability. I don’t know that I’m there yet. I’ve got about 12 more rolls of film from this camera to process in my black-and-white film, so we’ll see how I feel after getting through those.
Sometimes the panoramic composition works phenomenally, like this one of St. Peter’s Basilica as seen from inside an arch on the Castel Sant’Angelo.
Other times, the panorama gives you compositional challenges that provide serendipitous solutions to themselves, like shooting the bridge in front of the Castel Sant’Angelo. The landscape around the bridge provides an S shape through the composition that leads your eye around and through the entire scene, not just pulling you from lower right to upper left and shooing you out of the frame at the end.
Another argument in favor of cropping – the original of this included the heads of the patrons of the Castel Sant’Angelo cafe (yes, they have a cafe in the battlements of the Castel Sant’Angelo, which began life almost 2000 years ago as the burial monument to the Roman Emperor Hadrian).