Wednesday, September 18

Within the Hagia Sophia

Hand held in front of recovered early Christian artwork (6th century) under reclamation on the ancient cathedral’s walls. Um…. full disclosure… Every element in this image was in the Hagia Sophia on that afternoon. However the arrangement has been, um, enhanced :→

GEEK STUFF: Canon 7D, EOS EF-S17-85mm lens. Post in PSCC 2019 and assorted custom tools. ISP 1,500 – dim light, great Canon processor, note the lack of grain. The camera’s magical. BTW… The afternoon that I visited the Hagia Sophia was in MID SUMMER! Those burkas had to feel toasty, huh?

Tugging this concept together it occurred to me to wonder whether discovery can be substituted for creativity? Or for that matter, is process the same thing as artistry? I've asked many artist this same question, "What percentage of any final work did you discover during the process?" the average of the responses is about 85%! Hmmmm.... is art merely discovered rather than imagined? Perhaps illustration is the only true form of artistry since an illustrator's gotta' begin with an idea that s/he then imagines into finality? 
And yet, illustrators are not highly regarded by fine artists. Weeeeerd!

Sunday, September 1

While I write this, Hurricane Dorian – 9/1/19 - rumbles off the Florida Coast… Will it veer? Collide? Smash? Crush?
Last year, as the air grew cranky, I wondered along the shore of Boynton Beach, Florida, imagining roilings shuddering from some dark thing that was no longer distant.
Had I wandered into the moment before torrential combustion? An instant when the pistons of a storm seemed to be building up a force of wonder powerful enough to punch through brick and steel as effortlessly as a radio wave? In my imagination, nature’s phasers seemed to be clicking their settings up beyond stun.
But was the storm impending or receding? Were things shuddering from aftershocks of a retreating massive fiery tumult, or the blunt fists of an oncoming furious demonical onslaught?
A moment like – well – what the world’s news media seems to hourly predict for us all.

GEEK STUFF: The reference photo was captured on a late afternoon stroll through my Canon 7D Mk II’s EFS 17-85mm glass. Then in PSCC 2019 I got to work imagining a storm’s first tendrils snaking along this pretty palm-lined foot path which meanders through the sandy shore of Boynton Beach.  

This is ImageFiction born from the maddening storm like the invective and jabbering idiocy which spews from the 24/7 news cycle. Like most art, 'Storm' is a question rather than an answer. Why? Because questioning’s what artists do, answering, on the other hand, is way above our pay grade.

Friday, August 2

Patagonia 12 Buenos Aires Street Scenes

More streets to come...
(1) Hot model (and statue) posing in La Boca on Friday summer afternoon.

(2) Caliente! Buenos Aires corner sizzles in high summer sun.

(3) Along the La Boca neighborhood of Buenos Aires are balconies
vividly accessorized with mannequins like this of Evita Peron.

Friday, July 19

Patagonia 11: The Punta del Este, Uruguay Puzzle

What’s the difference between seeing and noticing? Does one go to the machinery of logic, the other to the place where imagination churns? Maybe our senses send signals both ways at once? Do we escape into details to avoid over-heating our cerebral processors? Or maybe we both notice AND see details to collect as many as possible for logic and imaginations to process later?

I like to troll scenes with a camera so that the heavy lifting of collecting analytical fodder can fill up memory cards with facts while allowing me distill out whatever truth they contain at leisure. Yeah, that’s it… that’s why I postpone conclusions until I can swim around in snapshot images like Scrooge McDuck in his money crammed pool. 

Donald Trump Jr announces the Urugua Tower
Punta Del Este's a playground for South America's (and Europe's) successful. This summer-time city's golf-course-like-feellng boasts lawns better manicured than the work of a Parisian nail studio. As a Yank, I noticed a beach-front two-story photo of Donald Trump Jr. boasting the erection of a Trump Tower filling with luxury apartments. In this Spanish-speaking place it was hard to miss that the building’s advertising was in English.

A tour-taxi drove us through acres of the sort of mansions that line the roads of Palm Beach, Greenwich, CT. and Beverly Hills. The city's often compared to Cannes. Perhaps tacky’s been outlawed by Punta del Este where homes sit upon multi-acre hillsides of green, most with spectacular water-views. 

The air’s scented with gold.
Casa Pueblo; The house, gallery, museum, boutique hotel, and 
castle of artist Carlos Paez Vilaro (1923-2014) in Punta Ballena,
near Punta del Este, Uruguay.
Has this city of 9,200 (swelling to  perhaps 30,000 in summer) overcome or simply banned poverty? After hours of touring, we spotted NO low-income housing. Mercedes seem driven by the middle classes while the coolest youth drive Lambos as parents are chauffeured  about in Bentleys and Rolls. Until those streets, I'd never seen Bugattis in the wild.

So? Here's what puzzled me since our visit to the city. Why are struggling Latinos streaming north to the U.S. when La Dolce Vida glimmers in Punta del Este (along with Chilé and Argentina)? Es desconcertante, eh? Thoughts anyone?

Tuesday, June 18

Patagonia 10: Grim - The Falklands

Click on any image for a blow-up... 
NOTE- This is NOT best viewed on a mobile phone which will delete images and text. 
Ever wondered? Here is
the middle of nowhere
The Falklands...   are a glum archipelago about 300 miles east of the coast of Southern Patagonia.You cannot escape by swimming but perhaps you can stow on a fishing boat. There're about 700 square miles containing rock, sand, some brush and a bunch of seabirds. They're hours away from Argentina by plane and about a day or so away by boat. So. if Chilé can own Easter Island in the Pacific, well, Argentina figures they ought to rule this place which they call the Malvinas. 
Falkland 1983
War Memorial
They're about 8,800 miles from Britain which has claimed ownership since the 1830s. That's when they took them from the French who previously grabbed them from the Spanish... Or maybe it was the other way around? In 1982 the Argentines invaded but were repulsed by the Brits, who it's rumored, that four years before under Maggie Thatcher they were trying to get rid of the place and its approximately 4,000 inhabitants. But those British subjects hold onto an important kernel of Parliamentary votes.

So, with a bunch of pomp and difficulty, the English rag-tag navy managed to eek out a victory over the invaders - who will undoubtedly try again - or that's what everyone thinks and causes the British to keep some thousand troopers on the rocks, at shuddering expense.
Waterfront Row in Stanley
It's hard to say exactly what the Island inhabitants do for a living, other than police, maintain, school, farm some sheep, and health-care one other, mostly in Stanley, the capital city. Its 2,100 people seem nice, speak English-English, watch American and British satellite TV and are totally inter-netted. 
Upkeep's not a homeowner priority.
The weather, much like London's, is - spontaneous. The temps are mildly chilly all year round, rainy, infrequently snowy, and rarely hot. Perhaps the best description is, um, grim. But, did I mention that it's a hard place to escape. We trudged past the governor's mansion and wondered what he screwed-up to get the appointment.

Marmont Row for Brit pensioners
Some of the pensioners homes are particularly snug and well kept along the waterfront. And of course they sport white picket fences and tidy English gardens. Notice how few trees are in any of these images... None are native to the place, nor are most of the vegetation populating the gardens.

When we were there on a mid-weekday, almost everyone, except for a dozen or so school kids on a sports' field, was inside. Perhaps that's the norm? As I said - we wondered what people did in Stanley but except for shopkeepers who were busy with a cruise ship visit, there was no one to ask

A village of hills
Built upon a jutting finger of rock, the place is hilly, but not San-Fransisco hilly... just sort of annoyingly difficult to walk. The tallest building's about three stories high, and since everything's on a rock face, every structure's got a view of the protected harbor. A harbor that's insufficiently deep to berth large-draft ships. Tourism's a big money-maker to Stanley since Patagonian tour ships routinely stop. Why? I guess someone's paid them off. Most of the population's historically been composed of British Service pensioners. Odd, since life's essentials are boated or air freighted in from great distances - it can't be a cheap place to live.

St. Mary's Catholic
Like every other tourist place, the biggest attractions are their two churches, a smaller Catholic chapel, and the southernmost Anglican cathedral in the world. For some reason, the Cathedral sports a couple of blue-whale jaw bones that were restored a decade or so back and I guess form a backdrop for every non-Catholic bridal party.

The Anglican Cathedral & Wale Bones

The British call these places, "box-churches". They're fabricated structures from the home country and were sent to each new conquest of the former empire to be assembled-by-numbers in their new possessions - bells, belfries, altars, stained windows, and pews. If you've seen one, you've seen the lot.

Custom House & ubiquitous Land Rover

Like most socialist-ruled spots, the public buildings, roads, and infrastructure's are among the best maintained (look at the Parisian and Russian subways for example). No real difference on the Falklands. Police, public health, and municipal buildings there, like this custom's house, are among the spunkiest. Of course the Governor's mansion (Government House) seems the  grandest in Stanley.

The Falklands historically were a sort of garage for repairing ships caught in the maelstrom of sailing around Cape Horn, a business which has Panama-Canaled away. Leaving little behind of historic, scenic, or recreational interest. It's not someplace where anyone intentionally goes, but instead people seem to wind up there on their way. So here's 80% of our gang of wayfarers trying to figure out if we should pay a couple of hundred bucks to take one of the multitude of Land Rovers on a three hour ride to a distant beach where some King Penguins were spotted a couple of days before. We didn't and those who did reported that IF there were Kings there - they'd swum away.

From left: Gib &; Marty Armstrong, Mary & Joe Mayberry, Howard Roath, Me, and Barbara & Frank Pinto.


Sunday, June 16

Patagonia 9: Buenos Aires • Vanishing Point

Freudian fun decorates a Recoleta tomb 'erected'
before the psychologist's ideas roiled across the West. 
Thousands wander daily through Recoleta cemetery here in the epicenter of Argentina's brilliant city. They're exploring the excesses of the nation's richest families proclaiming their posterity, or at least trying to grab a piece of immortality for what? Their names?

These are the pyramids of Argentina writ tiny. The metropolis is just north of earthmoving Patagonia where seismic forces are working to crumble South America's lower tip  back into seas. 

So it will take a tad longer in  geological time to crumble all of these little buildings-for-the-dead back into watery dust. 7,000 miles away from Rome yet all built in that ancient city's classic forms - I wonder what will remain of these ruins in a couple of millennia? Judging by the cracks already - you think archaeologists of the fourth millennia will find as much remaining as we do today on the Italian boot?

Here I prefer the word necropolis to cemetery. The olden latonical word has such an ancient sense of what? Dread? Already, well over a century of weight's chipping and cracking at these facades, while hairy grasses are reclaiming the domes - tamping them back into earth. All while gravity and inner moistures are doing what they do to the flesh and bones entombed within these sepulchers of the rotting rich. Brrrrr...

Real estate gone now in Buenos Aires Recoleta cemetery, so the families built upward creating a sort of congested dead lock - dread lock? The hubris of wealth crammed resources into these spots that geological time's crumbling, pounding, and packing back down.

Recoleta Cemetery is not so much a final resting place, but a slow-motion vanishing point.  

*GEEK STUFF:* Captured by my Canon 7D Mk II on February 2, 2019 then processed in PS-CC with a myriad of custom tools and filters. The tombs seemed a clutter of the unfeeling muscles of once-powerful Argentine historical footnotes.

Tuesday, May 28

Patagonia 8: Buenos Aires - Deadly Thoughts

How do I wind up in cemeteries? Seems our guides, or friends find the largest and most historic dead-zones for us to wander (and wonder) about. So on February 2, 2019 - at about 10am: Here’s a moment in  El Cementario Recoleta where Argentina’s largely 1822-1960 very rich and/or famous are spectacularly interred. It’s a tourist magnet. And at its epicenter my Canon 7D MkII snapped this decisive Buenos Aires moment. Our brains are wired to bring order to puzzles. To find meaning in disparate stuff.

And in the park's epicenter - with all of the ornately crafted and bejeweled mausoleums about, my camera found this decisive moment of passers-by...

Strangers among the dead

And as I studied the moment... this came to mind:

“So… did’ja ever see a
poem?” she asked, her foot tapping.
 “Y’know, in another language?
Maybe Spanish? But, like, 
I don’t understand Spanish.”

“So… I’gotta’ geek at words that
sorta look English-ly?”
That foot twitched quicker.

“Which reveals what? 
Maybe there’s sorta’ 
D-E-E-E-E-P stuff in there?”

She paused, foot tapping loud.
“So… well look at this image. 
It’s kinda like that.”

Her tapping paused…

“You know what I’m sayin’?”

Well do you... um... know what she's sayin'? There seems to be a story in that image, perhaps a visual poem... haunting me as much as the opulently haunted little bone-homes lining the avenues which lead to esta centro del Necrolpolis de Recoleta. 

Wednesday, March 13

Patagonia 7: Chilean Fjords

Leaving Puerto Chacabuco our Norwegian Sun cruised at some 15 knots along the Chilean Fjords then the Straights of Magellan to reach the next port: Punta Arenas, Chile.

Here's an early morning grab taken from the foredeck while it powered south at some 15 knots along these watery highways. It took two days along first the Chilean Fjords then the Straights of Magellan to reach the next port: Punta Arenas, Chilé.

Up in the early morning darkness I was curious how the black blotches along each bank of this passage would look in the first sunlight.

Those aren't tilled fields. Nope, this place is virtually uninhabited. Instead the dark areas are dense green growths, the yellower regions are, for some reason, less fertile. Perhaps they're too rocky?

Some 25 hours later Thursday 1/24/19

800 miles nearer to the South Pole, the land grows dramatically craggier and mid-summer temps much chillier.

1519 Along the Chilean Fjords

Imagine how this looked to the 500 sailors in Magellan's 5 wind-blown ships as they discovered these passageways in 1519. Did they imagine that only 17 of them would survive their expedition and get back to Spain two years later?

What passed through their minds as they plowed northward surrounded by these treacherous coastlines and spookily quiet landscapes? Landscapes that remained unchanged from this in the last 500 years.

GEEK STUFF: Hand holding my Canon 7D and its EF-S17-85mm lens on the shifting decks of the Norwegian Sun. Canon's stabilizers are uncanny and it's processor can cut into both the shadows and highlights. 

Wednesday, March 6

Patagonia 6: Let Sleeping Sea Lions Lay

This craggy finger pokes from the sea some twelve miles south of Ushuaia, Argentina – the city at world’s end. Here Patagonia’s southern tip slices into the earth’s only spot where three oceans (Atlantic, Pacific, and Antarctic) swirl together to brew storms and tides which conjure fog, rain, snow, ice, gales, wave-surge, and lightening strikes that last moments, hours, or longer.

Detail of a 40 yard-long rock off the coast of Cape Horn

Daytimes, hundreds of night-hunting sea lions doze among this rock’s gnarls. Even at rest, their raucous snoring, burping, farting, and random-yelping eclipse the din of New York’s Cross Bronx Expressway. 

People who come within feet of these lightening-quick 400-500 pound sea mammals risk maiming and death. Sea lions have crushing muscles reinforced by scalpel-honed fangs and claws. Look closely. See their pelts gashed with cuts, holes, and wounds that etch tattoos of damage? 
Not a good plan to tip-toe among them and scream "BOO!" Y'think? 

GEEK STUFF: Despite a wind-whipped hail pelting the catamaran’s pitching deck I hand-held my Canon 7D’s EFS 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM lens to get close as I dared to the colony of sleepers. Except for some PS-CC diddling with dynamic range in post, this image faithfully reveals the information within the raw capture.

Around noon on Saturday, January 26, 2019.  

Wednesday, February 27

Patagonia 5: Puerto Chacabuco - Soft Scrapple

For details, click on any image...
It's 291 nautical miles from Montt to our second
stop at  Chacabuco south through the Golf of Corcovado.
It's about a day and a half by ship between the red pins.
Puerto Chacabuco is a relatively new port city. In 1991 a savage wilderness fire and the eruption of nearby Mount Hudson volcano silted the Aisén river and blocked access to Puerto Aisén which caused the construction of a new port in the sleepy village of Chacabuco some 10 miles south of Aisén. Transition's fattening up Chacabuco and its population of 1,243. 

However, the town's location along the far side of the Aisén river is magnificent. 

At sunrise on Tuesday 1/22/19 we awoke to this view from our balcony on the
ship's port side with Chacabuco visible (below) from the starboard.
Daytime temperatures dropped about fifteen degrees, on average from Santiago mid-day 90 degrees to Puerto Montt and another ten degrees in Puerto Chacabuco. The town's weather is wet much of the year, but in mid-summer-January that still left us wearing heavy jackets over long sleeves in the port's morning which we ditched by late afternoon.

Joe & Mary Mayberry, Gib & Marti Armstrong and
 my wife Rita model Chacabuco January mid-summer fashions.
BTW, that's our Norwegian  Sun anchored to the right.

On the other side of the river from the image above, Chacabuco sits
 in a river valley and is beginning to sprawl as a result of
its replacement of Aisén in 1991 as the region's major port. 

And what's to do in Chacabuco? Well, just about nothing. So we engaged an old VW bus-like ride to visit the new National Simpson River Park.

As you can see, the topography is rugged and mountainous.
Our bus had an ancient low gear which left us expecting to push.
The trip did reveal the life style of people living along rural Route 240 as well as structures in both Chacabuco and Aisén.

Generally the people are NOT poor. Rather they live in tidy, secure, and comfortable structures in a rocky countryside dotted by small livestock farms. NOTE the canted metal roofs in all of the structures above. Why? Tons of snow of course. Note also the lack of foundation shrubbery which is always destroyed by the collapse of snow upon them from those roofs. This is a challenging place in winter.

 The last President of Chilé kicked off an expensive (and not overwhelmingly popular) series of national parks. One of the newest is the Parque National Rio Simpson. Which features, well, some wild flowers and the Simpson River. 

The Simpson's a nice mountain river, and well, ho-hum. Perhaps if you are a Saudi
this is inspiring. And certainly to fly fishers it's inspirational. I'm neither. Seen one river,
seen 'em all? Well no, but this one is pretty average even within its mountainous setting.

The trip up to the park though wound cooly through valleys alongside a rushing stream fed by waterfalls dropping from the peaked walls of the old Pioneer Trail.

Note, just to the right of the base of the lower waterfall. See the guy? I left him there 
to put the height of these glacial fed falls in perspective. Rain  returned as  I teetered
atop the two-lane highway bridge's  railing to grab this shot above the stream. 
In the very center of the port sits Radio Chacabuco there on the right. It was hidden behind a few downtrodden  
shops but worth the effort. See the dirt road? What you can't see well in this painting without blowing it up is the line of new  construction there between the mountain base and the field at the road's end. 
A Levittown development's happening there with perhaps a hundred homes going up. Chacapuco's about to change as its expanding port juices economic activity. This image captures the transition right before it happens. And, of course it's just the painting to bring country life to a chi-chi Santiago, New York, Lancaster, Atlanta, or Viennese up-market condo, right?

Chacabuco caused one of us to wonder if this is where you flee to escape the rest of the world. Near-antarctic winters are intense and even the summer's are challenging. But the farms and port apparently create jobs and incomes sufficient to live snugly with the weather, volcanos, and earthquakes. It's not hard scrapple, no... but definitely soft scrapple. 

Saturday, February 16

Patagonia 4: Volcano Orsono

North and East of Puerto Varas we drove some 15 miles away and up  from Lake Lanquillue to The Vincente Perez Rosales Chiléan State Park and the Petrohué Falls.
These are a series of chute waterfalls grinding paths through ancient basaltic lava blasted from the Osorno Volcano that sits between two lakes, the largest, Llanquihue supporting the resort towns discussed in the last post. The water decanted in the lake is clear with a distinct green hue but the cascading torrents from melts of Volcano Orsono carry sand and silt which has ground the walls of its deep crags into glassy surfaces.

Volcano Orsono, Chilé

Chilé's most active volcano: Orsrono is a symmetrical and glacier-capped peak which has produced massive lava flows. It's blown from both the summit and from flank vents and fissures along the left face of the image above. Many of its eruptions over the past 14,000 years have created astonishing pyroclastic flows and surges while explosions from its tip have effected world-wide climate effects.

Took Rtes 5 then 225 up to Petrohué Park then hiked

The cone of the mountain sits above a roughly 250,000-year-old stratovolcano whose caldera is deeply glacial scarred and mostly buried today. Interestingly, scientists have measured pronounced increases the size of Osorno's glaciers as they have with glacial growth throughout Patagonia and Antartica. While this glacial expansion's received little media attention, meteorologists have recorded increasingly colder Southern Hemisphere temperatures over the past three or four decades. It's a puzzling activity which astronomers have noted on Mars where northern ice caps appear to be contracting as its southern caps expand. 

Vocanic Danger Zones! Signs found throughout the lake districts, this one explaining
  the various warning levels  and evac-routes posted in the media and along roadway billboards.
So at about 2:15 on the afternoon of Tuesday, January 21st, we hiked up the rocky park trails beyond the tree-line toward the majestic finger of Orsono to a spot which allowed both a view of the gushing chutes and their pristine glacial source thousands of feet above.

Here's the miles-long trail that brought my camera (and virtual easel)
to the base of Orsono and the cascades gushing from its summer run-off.
GEEK STUFF: The photographer's nightmare... or daymare? Sun blazing through almost cloudless skies during the day's hottest hours. Both contrast and glare got cranked beyond 10 with highlights burnt crispy and shadows darker than Satan's fantasies. YIKES! What to do. I tried HDR shooting to bracket exposures then blended them together in Photoshop, digging into both the whites and darks, but still the images wouldn't give up their secrets. So, screwing a polarizer over a neutral density filter to darken the sky and pop the whites I got an image that allowed me to  tease out the impression that this Monster blow-hole burnt into my feelings. 

Failing to pop an acceptable photograph from the mid-day sun's broiling, here's my imagination's take on Orsono's cone and it's tributaries which form the headwaters of Chilé's Petrohué river. 

A south-western painting of Volcano Orsono and it's glacier-blue/green
waters gushing along the explosive Saltos Del Petrohué.

Wednesday, February 13

Patagonia 3: Puerto Montt, Chilé

Puerto Montt: Gateway to Chilé's lake (and skying) district.
Two days out of Santiago the Norwegian Sun sailed into the Reloncaví Sound, and to Port Montt, Chilé some 650 miles south of the capital where tenders brought us into the city gateway to the nation's playground of lakes, volcanos, and waterfalls.

While dry in summer, it's a wet port city in the Llanquihue province of the Los Lagos Region. With a quarter million population it's at the southern end of the Chilean Central Valley and gateway into the Chiloé Archipelago and the Handle Heap lakes and Western Patagonia. It's at the heart of the Chilean salmon aquaculture with a culture formed by a swirl of German, Spanish, and Chiloé peoples and its labor force growth's attracted workers from all over the country, and continent.

Frankly, Puerto Mott is a pass-through bland place of concrete and somewhat soviet architecture. It was quake-shaken mostly to rubble in the 80s when they rebuilt largely utilitarian cement structures for this hard-working port city. Most tourists drive a few miles north to Puerto Varas and Frutillar, Germanish towns on Lake Lanquillue where the older architecture of quaint (and wealthy) vacation buildings stand in the shadow of the majestic snow capped  Orsono Volcano. Styled like Swiss and Austrian chalets these homes are largely surrounded by walls and wet-fanged Rottweilers. And just north of Puerto Varas meet Mary & Joe Mayberry who treked beside us up to Petruhue Falls...