I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a fire hose connector with more connections on it than this one, outside the George Washington University library. The location may be key – if the library ever catches fire, that much paper will require a lot of water to keep it all from going up in a ball of flame.
Either that or it’s some kind of arcane commentary on the Starbucks Coffee in the library basement immediately behind it.
It’s been a while since I’ve posted any of my own images. I was out on a lunch break walkabout near my office and saw this poor little orange (or is it a tangelo?) someone had dropped in the gutter. It cried out to be photographed, so here it is…
Back in November I taught a studio lighting class at Photoworks. This was my first time offering this class, so the curriculum was a bit of a gamble – I started with foundations of studio lighting, working from hot lights on still life setups and a single light source, and built my way up to electronic flash systems with multiple lights. In this case, my students had the burning itch to jump straight to portraiture, as that was their primary interest. I had a wonderful bunch of students in the class and everyone brought something to the table.
The portraits here are taken by me of my students. The portrait of Joe was done to demonstrate side light with a large diffuse light source, and a reflector. For demonstration purposes I moved the reflector in and out to lighten and darken the shadows, and shot it with both high and low contrast. This is my favorite of the bunch – there’s three-dimensional modeling of his face with the light, but the shadowed side of his face is not lost.
Geraldine was lit to show soft, flattering light. This was the classic “butterfly light” with a large diffuse light directly above and in front of the subject, a reflector below to open up the shadows a bit, and then hair light and background light applied to create separation of the subject from the background.
The shot of Matthew was done to demonstrate that “edge lighting” look you often see in sports photos of young athletes in shoe commercials. Obviously Matthew is no longer a high-school football player, but the look is very masculine and rugged and it works well on him. This was accomplished with two equal-powered heads in soft boxes, placed behind the sitter, at 45 degree angles to the subject-camera axis, and then adding in a little fill in the front so his face wouldn’t get lost.
The final photo of the day is our group shot. That’s me in the center, if you’re wondering. My fourth student in the class was Leslie, who is the one hiding behind Matthew’s shoulder.
All individual portraits were done with a Tele-Rolleiflex and the Rolleinar 0.35 close-up adapter, on Kodak Ektar 100 color film. The two black-and-white images were converted from Photoshop. Ektar is a good portrait film in natural light, I’ve decided, but for studio portraiture, Portra 160 is better.
The title of this post is in reference to the statuary of animals both fantastic and natural found on the grounds of the Villa Borghese and its garden park in Rome.
Scipione Borghese was the Cardinal Nephew of Pope Paul V. The Cardinal Nephew (Cardinal Nepotente in Italian, from which the term nepotism is derived) was an official position and title in the church until 1692. In addition to the familial tie it implies, the position brought with it immense opportunities for wealth and power. Scipione Borghese took full advantage of these opportunities, at one point being one of the largest landowners in central Italy. He was a lover of art, and had a passion for gardening, creating famous gardens at both the Palazzo Borghese and the much larger private park of the Villa Borghese. The gardens consist of 148 acres of naturalistic parkland landscaped in the English fashion.
The Villa Borghese itself sits on the edge of the park, and houses the Galleria Borghese, an art museum focused around the collection amassed by Scipione Borghese. The art includes paintings by Caravaggio, Titian, and Raphael, ancient Roman sculpture, and contemporary work by Bernini. The museum operates by timed, limited entry tickets, so unlike some of the larger, more popular museums (think Vatican Museum or the Louvre in Paris), the experience is never crushing as only a fixed number of people are in the museum at any time. You can always see the art without jostling or rushing. The park, on the other hand, is open to the public free of charge. It provides an oasis of greenery and openness amidst the chaos and compactness bordering on claustrophobia that is the city of Rome.
The plaza in front of the Villa is decorated by statuary, fountains, and an Egyptian obelisk or two. On the wall that demarcates the boundary between the plaza and the park, pedestals to support decorative urns are carved with dragons and eagles, elements from the Borghese family coat of arms. The eagles and dragons here are from the pedestals.
The lion devouring the stag is from an ancient Roman marble vessel on the side terrace of the Villa Borghese.
The bull’s head is from one of a pair of cornucopia/planters adorning the front steps to the Villa Borghese.
For the photo geeks in the house, these were all shot with my Tele-Rolleiflex, many using the 0.35 Rolleinar close-up filter. The 0.35 Rolleinar helps bring the minimum focus down from 8 feet to a much more manageable 4-ish.
The stairs from the Palazzo Pitti courtyard to the Boboli Gardens pass through this upswept curving space, creating a rather dramatic view of the sky:
This is the Medici residence wing of the Palazzo Pitti, where the Grand Duke and Duchess had their suites, and Napoleon’s bathtub can be found.
This is a view from the courtyard of the Palazzo Pitti out the main entrance. The bell tower in the distance belongs to Santo Spirito, a church with an ornate interior designed by Brunelleschi, the man who created the dome of the Duomo.
A wrought-iron gate in the Boboli Gardens.
This fountainhead is found in the courtyard to the Palazzo Pitti. And no, Ayn Rand had nothing to do with it.
As you’re probably aware if you read this blog with any frequency, I’m fascinated by ordinary objects that we tend to ignore. So I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to capture a Renaissance storm drain cover and inlet in the Boboli Gardens, along one of the gravel paths ascending from the amphitheater to the Neptune fountain.
And finally a view of the Duomo from the Boboli Gardens. You don’t really realize how big the cathedral dome is and how much it dominates the landscape in and around Florence until you stand on the hill a good mile away and realize that it’s the biggest thing between you and the mountains some fifteen or more miles beyond.
The architectural folly known as the Kaffeehaus (Coffee House) in the Boboli Gardens behind the Palazzo Pitti. The Coffeehouse was built by Maria Theresa while she was the Grand Duchess of Tuscany (she would later become the Hapsburg Empress of Austria-Hungary). Thus the German spelling of the name for the building, which comes from its purpose- it was a refreshment center for visitors to the gardens to stop and get a coffee or tea or other beverage – exploring the 110 acres of the Boboli Gardens is thirsty work.
This is a bronze door handle on a well-weathered door in the gardens. I forget what structure it is attached to – it might be one of the servant’s entrances to the Palazzo Pitti.
An allee of tall hedges in the Boboli Gardens, leading to a staircase. The gardens themselves are built onto the slope of a hill, so they have many changes of elevation.
A tower set into the hedges along the ramp from the amphitheater to the Neptune fountain. I’m not sure what purpose it serves- it could be just a garden shed for storing tools and groundskeeping equipment, or it may relate to the water control systems for the myriad fountains in the garden.
A view of the Palazzo Pitti from the top of the amphitheater stairs. The title comes from the boy in the lower edge of the frame taking a phone selfie. A very modern take on a very old palace.
If you google photos of Piazza Navona, you’ll see this guy. He’s there all the time – must be ripe pickings. This is one of the more inventive “living statues” I’ve seen in European cities – while perhaps not as out there as the guy reading the newspaper while on the toilet or as mechanically involved as the stationary bicyclist, the faux levitation is quite clever.
This is something I’m working on doing more of- photographing people in the wild, so to speak. I do well in the studio, where people are expecting you to take their picture, and for that matter have given you some measure of control over the experience. But “street” photography, photographing people out and about doing things where they’re not expecting to be photographed, well, that’s an entirely different animal. I find it easier to photograph people who are performing or in some other way putting themselves out there to be observed. If nothing else it’s good practice for more elusive subjects.
This young man was out on the Piazza Navona, juggling this glass sphere. He had a sign up with his busking bowl that described it as a particular kind of juggling – I forget the term, but he would roll the glass sphere up and down his arms, across his neck behind and over his head. Here he has the sphere on his elbow, then at the end of his fingers.
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 are a few shots of the fountains in the Piazza Navona. I chose to photograph details rather than try to take in the whole fountain because there were just too many people in, on, and around the fountains.
The piazza is pure chaos – think Times Square but shorter, with much better decoration. There are performers on the piazza doing everything from live music to juggling acts to “living statues” – there was a fake Fakir made to look like he was floating in mid-air, supported by nothing more than an off-center cardboard mailing tube. The fountains, though, are the real stars of the place. They moderate the heat in summer, and provide stunning visual delights in all four seasons. I know it seldom snows in Rome, but I’d love to see them blanketed with a layer of white.