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Category: travel (Page 2 of 2)

Overwrought iron

elaborate ironwork is an architectural feature seen in charleston, sc

Cities on the southern U.S. seaboard feature a lot of what I call “overwrought iron” work. The image above is from Charleston, South Carolina,

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Barrier Islands in January

I mentioned I’m on the road. Soon we’ll be heading down to Florida, where I guess it’s in at least the mid 70s, but for the moment we’re enjoying Beaufort, South Carolina, home of grand houses set on big lots full of live oaks that are draped with Spanish moss.

a historic house in beaufort, south carolina

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An e-book from blog archives

buenos aires e-bookJeff Barry has completed an interesting project of culling his blog archives to produce a free e-book, called Buenos Aires, City of Faded Elegance. He explains:

Whenever I come across a new blog I read the latest postings and, if I like those, I add the site to my news reader. I always intend to go back and browse the archived postings but I rarely do so. Figuring that a lot of visitors to my site also never make it too far into the archives, I decided to pull together a selection of postings from my archives and create a free e-book.

It’s a handsome book in a narrow vertical format (a format often used in travel publishing). The Bodoni face seems a good choice for the subject. My only regret is that there are not more images, which would surely bring value and add appeal, considering the subject.

buenos aires e-book, a spread

The immediacy of blogging may cause us to forget that the process is also a way of preserving content and building on it. I think this project is an excellent example of utilizing and repurposing the results of sustained, focused blogging.

Red Hat Ladies

red hat society ladies

These ladies were having a great time at the Getty Center. They thought it was a hoot that I wanted to take their picture.

More L.A. photos: At Buried Mirror I’ve posted a couple of pictures of the wonderfully kitsch facade of the Mayan Theater.

The Observatory at Chichen Itza

el caracol, the observatory at chichen itza

I’m having some trouble getting my Maya materials online because there are so many of them, and there’s just so little time. So, we’ll do this one building at a time. This is “El Caracol” (“the snail,” so called in Spanish for its winding internal staircase), which is called “The Observatory” in English.

It’s not hard to see how it gets that name, because it looks a lot like a modern observatory. It’s quite unusual for a Maya building, with its round dome placed on a square base. Slits in the dome allowed viewing the sky at the cardinal and subcardinal directions. Certainly the movements of celestial objects were important to the Maya, and their astronomical reckoning was quite advanced (witness their highly accurate calendar). But I’m not sure that we can say definitively how this building was used in its particulars. As with all Maya sites, a great deal of fancy has come to surround the ruins, making it difficult to separate fancy from fact.

The earliest parts of the Observatory were probably constructed in the ninth century. The building underwent several modifications over the succeeding centuries.

Click the small image in the post to see several more images of the Observatory.

Windmills

Over at Frisco Vista I’ve posted a photo of a windmill in Golden Gate Park and, for comparison, one in Bruges, Belgium.

Well, I guess I’m on a windmill kick. (After all Cervantes and I share a birthday . . . the day, not the year, smart ass!) So here’s a picture of the inside of one of the Bruges windmills:

bruge windmill workings

Puerto Morelos

puerto morelosMuch of the Maya Riviera, stretching from Cancun south beyond Playa del Carmen, is a bit of a horror show, full of giant resorts and traffic jams, and crawling with loud, lobster-red gringos. Puerto Morelos (“la joya del Caribe” — the jewel of the Caribbean), however, though just 25 kilometers or so south of Cancun, still retains — for the moment — much of its flavor as a sleepy fishing village. I’ve posted a few lazy photos on my flickr site.

Cenote X’Keken near Valladolid

cenote x'keken I’m just back from a trip to el mundo Maya.

This photo (click the photo — or here — for a larger view, via Flickr) was taken in very dark conditions at Cenote X’Keken near Valladolid in the Yucatan. Travelers to the Yucatan know that cenotes are sinkholes formed by water erosion through acidification of the limestone of which the peninsula is composed. Historically, cenotes were the main water source for the Yucatan Maya. Some cenotes are open like ponds, others are covered caves, like this one. This cave is entered through a tunnel. Above the water is an opening through which a small amount of light enters.

On the left is the original photo, which approaches being completely black. On the right is a fix that at least gives some sense of the cave atmosphere and the turquoise color of the water (which is cool and is used as a swimming hole; in the fix I removed some ropes that were installed as aids to swimmers).

For an explanation of this photo technique, see this post on restoring dark images.

Night Canal, Bruges, Belgium, Dec. 20, 2006

night canal

For this image from my Bruges in December 2006 photoset (click image for larger view) I lightened and brought out detail in the dark areas using the following workflow:

1. duplicate background layer
2. desaturate new layer
3. invert desaturated layer
4. gausian blur new layer (a lot)
5. change blend mode to soft light
6. adjust levels, curves, hue/saturation

This is a wonderful trick for bringing out detail in the shadow areas of underexposed photos. (BTW, I set my camera to underexpose slightly because information can be pulled out of dark areas but areas that are burnt away are just gone.)

I also sharpened using my usual method:

1. duplicate background layer
2. set blend mode to overlay
3. adjust transparency to about 55%
4. apply high pass filter

This sharpens the image in a nondestructive way, and the image stays sharp when resized.

No flash or tripod was used. The image was taken after dark (at 9:33) with an f-stop of 3.5 and an exposure of 1/8.

By the way, my flickr site is very lonely. No one is making any comments. I guess it’s not getting any visitors. 🙁

How to spend the night at Heathrow Airport

sleeping on the floor at HeathrowComing back from Belgium my flight to Heathrow was cancelled because of freezing killer fog. By hiking to the Bruges train station at 3:00 am, I was able to get to Brussels in time to catch a Eurostar train to London. But the Eurostar train was also delayed, and so were all the local London travel options to the airport, so I ended up arriving at Heathrow just a little too late to catch my flight home to San Francisco.

I thought of taking a room at the airport Hilton, but the cheapest room was 363 GBP, which is around $700, and I just couldn’t see it. I could have gone into town and looked for a hotel (not an easy task on the busiest travel day of the holiday season, especially since nearly 200 flights had been cancelled at Heathrow alone), but I was too damned tired. Besides, then I would face the problem of getting back in time for my rebooked flight the next morning.

So I spent a day at Heathrow. Man, they have got to lighten up on the nagging public address anouncements, which repeat incessantly (don’t leave your luggage unattended, don’t leave your car outside the entrance, don’t do this, don’t do that, nyah nyah nyah — the announcers, with their prudish chirping schoolmarmish voices, all sound exactly like Bridgit frigging Jones).

sleep in a restaurant booth at Heathrow airportAnyway, over the course of my stay I worked out a few strategies:

1. Get a luggage cart, even if you don’t need it. This is your equivalent of the homeless person’s shopping cart. It will serve as a footrest and a barricade.

2. The promised land is the boarding area, but you can’t get there because you don’t have a pass. Therefore, exit the departures area, which is crowded with hysterical travelers who, like you, have missed their flights, and head for the arrivals area. Here the carpet is slightly thicker and there are a few better nooks to hole up in.

3. One of the best nooks is near the men’s bathroom at the end of the hall (terminal 3), which is protected by a neglected storage closet and some little-used benches. This is where I crashed initially, but the guy shown in the first picture, above, stole my space when I got up for a little hike.

4. But ha! An even better space will open up around 11:00 pm, as shown in the second picture. There is a really bad restaurant in this area that closes at that time. Most of the restaurant is locked up behind a grate after closing, but because of this place’s peculiar geography, there are two booths, each with two approximately six-foot-long leatherlike benches, that will remain outside in the common area. This is where you want to be! Put your bags under the table where they will be safe and stretch out on the luxurious bench.

Ah!

.

More Bruges photos

I’ve added a bunch more photos to my flickr set of pictures of Bruges in December.

I noticed that Photoshop’s “save for web” plug-in stupidly strips out the images’ exif (camera settings) data. I think that information should always be available, so I’ve done regular manual saves on this batch. Later on I’ll replace the earlier ones that had the exif data stripped out.*

*Okay, done — I did lose some of the comments and descriptions though, so if I obliterated your comment it was unintentional.

Bruges, December 2006

bruges canal
Morning Reflections

This photo is part of a set from my trip to Bruges. Since I’m here on business I’ve only had a couple of hours to walk around. I might have some time later this week to stroll around some more, and if so I will add to this set, which can be found here:

Photos of Bruges, December 2006

Back to Brugge

flemish dude

I have a feeling I’m not going to get a lot of sympathy with this, but I have to be in Bruges in Belgium next week — far from family and holiday preparations — on a press check. I’m printing a book about the art of the Mewar kingdom of Rajasthan with Die Keure there. This was a difficult project, and it was hard to make my print window. There was no flex because of the two short weeks around Christmas and New Years. Besides, the book is already late. Since I wasn’t sure I would make my deadlines, I had to wait to book my flight and hotel. Thankfully, that’s done now. I’ll be staying at the Hotel Adornes.

So we’ll see what Bruges is like the week before Christmas. (It’s likely to be nippy.) There’s a holiday market and an ice rink at the Markt. And the usual Flemish attractions of beer, mussels, frites, and such.

I took the image of the Flemish guy above — decked out for some sort of procession — during a previous trip, at about the location of this hotel in the quieter half of the city.

Rampaging Sea Lions

sea lion (via www.friscovista.com)

What’s making the sea lions cranky? Frisco Vista, a new site devoted to San Francisco travel (what they’re building is so new they’re still working on the foundation) is asking that question.

Ecobungling, 19th century style

Indian Mongoose on Oahu

This handsome fellow is an Indian Mongoose (called manakuke in Hawaiian). Seventy-two mongooses were introduced into Hawaii in 1872 in an effort to control rats that had arrived in the islands as a side effect of the sugar cane industry. The rats, like many newcomers to the islands, found Hawaii to their liking, and they began to eat seriously into the profits of the cane magnates. So why not bring in a few mongooses, which are known to eat rats? Well, for one thing, mongooses are diurnal and rats are nocturnal. So while the occasional rat bit the dust, the mongooses didn’t really have much effect on the population as a whole.

A big problem with the introduction of rats on the island is that they eat birds’ eggs, and that has damaged the islands’ unique, diverse, and bountiful but fragile (given new forms of predation) bird population. Unfortunately, the mongooses like eggs even better than they like rats, and eggs don’t fight back. So now the birds’ eggs are literally under attack day and night.

In African and India there is a variety of predators that help keep mongooses in check, mainly raptors such as eagles as well as land predators such as jackals and cheetahs. In Hawaii there is no predator to keep the mongooses in check. A male mongoose can father offspring within four months of its birth, and females produce litters of two to five pups.

All in all a recipe for things getting out of control, and in our short time here we saw many of these critters (and a few wild pigs as well, another introduced species causing problems).

It was difficult to get a picture, because mongooses don’t like being exposed in the open. They are extremely quick (and clever), and they are usually seen scurrying from the cover of one bush to another.

Shark’s Cove

north shore, Oahu

shark's cover facing west

shark's cove facing east

Carol rides the waves

at Kailua Beach

Kailua Carol

tropical blogging, beachside

A work trip brings rightreading to Waikiki this week, so posting will be light.

After a short time here I observed that Waikiki is evidently Hawaiian for “place of pink skin.” Weather on arrival was pushing 90, with 80 percent humidity — so humid even the locals were complaining. But the haole to a man (and woman) stripped off most of their clothes and stretched out on beach chairs, amassing in greatest numbers in the hottest part of the day. They looked like pork loins roasting on a grill. You could hear the sizzle. Futile sun screen oozed off of them in greasy puddles.

(On a side note, one of the wires in my laptop screen also seems to have got fried. I’m trying to think of the thin vertical line that now seems permanent as a design element, on the principle that if you can’t fix it, it’s a “feature.”)

Rightreading has logged some time in the tropics over the years, so here’s some good advice (certain to go mostly unheeded). First, from about 12:30 to 2:30 or 3:00, favor the shade. Mornings and evenings, OTOH, are great times for walks on the beach. Second, don’t overdo. Take it slow and easy — in the (not so) long run, slow and easy will beat crash and burn (and I mean burn literally), trust me. Third, every so often stop and have a drink. The experts will tell you that alcohol will just dehydrate you even more, and I’m sure that’s true in some theoretical sense (like, if you’re actually dying in the desert, maybe a shot of vodka isn’t what you really want). But in the real world, based on my years of experience, I can assure you this is false. Screw the scientists. Have a beer. You’ll feel better.

Some photos after the jump . . .

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