Under the sea

We visited Western Australia for Thanksgiving. Apart from enjoying wine in the Margaret River Valley, there isn’t a lot to do south of Perth.

This is Busselton Jetty, the longest wooden jetty (at 1841 meters) in the Southern Hemisphere. It has an underwater observatory.

I started experimenting with film again, which is more fun to shoot than pixels (and I’m happier with not having several hundred of just slightly different views of whatever it is I’m standing in front of at the time), but the colors aren’t nearly as intense, nor are the photos as sharp, as the photo to the right demonstrates.

a mosaic of impressions

(i was in romania for a photography workshop, and my instructor encouraged me to think in a less literal way about how i organize my photos. he suggested that i avoid being strictly categorical and that i instead organize my photos more loosely – in a more impressionistic or visually thematic manner. with that in mind:)

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i’ll keep experimenting. feel free to comment on this.

havana, part 1

diptych1recently, i visited cuba with a group of photographers. with more than 3,000 photos to review, it will take me a while to complete my blog posts on this trip, and longer if i want to actually write something perceptive about the experience …

the travel restrictions are still in place, so we were there on a general religious license, which required us to visit churches and charities as part of our activities. i was eager to go, because i wanted to see cuba before the travel restrictions are lifted and planeloads of american tourists overrun the island. this seems to be a common theme, as this article notes: “we want to see the island before we ourselves can get there to ruin it.”

there already is a flourishing tourist industry in havana, however, catering to the rest of the world (as well as to the americans who have been willing all along to visit the country illegally; the cubans won’t stamp your passport if you don’t want them to). our group leaders, who had been to cuba a few years earlier, noted how many more private rental rooms, restaurants, and small businesses – for instance, people selling coffee out of their apartments – there now were as a result of the reforms that raul castro put into place since becoming president.

first, let’s get the clichés out of the way. even though there are new or relatively new cars on the road, there still are lots of the 1950s american automobiles in service. many, but not all of them, have been spruced up and restored to serve as expensive tourist taxis (presumably through money sent by family in the states – everyone seems to have a brother in miami).

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similar changes are visible in the architecture. the capitol building (in the first photo above) is undergoing renovation, as are many of the buildings in the center that will cater to tourists. in comparison – as i’ll describe in a later blog posting – the buildings housing ordinary cubans are still pretty decrepit.

there seems to be a clear divide between the havana that serves tourists, and the havana that doesn’t. walking just a little off the main tourist drag, one can see  plenty of reminders that la revolución sigue – the revolution continues – despite the onslaught of capitalism.

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nonetheless, it’s clear that the u.s. is very popular among la gente. a priest we met told us that, prior to the revolution, cubans thought of themselves as spanish or (u.s.) american. it was the castro government that tried to reoriente cuba alongside the downtrodden countries of latin america and against the northern capitalists. however, it doesn’t seem to have fully worked. every day, at least two different people stopped me on the street to ask me where i was from and to engage in conversation. although sometimes it was just to tout a local restaurant, more often it was to talk about u.s.-cuban relations and to praise obama. and the explosion of small-scale private enterprise is a strong indicator of the direction the country would go if given the chance.

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there is a great deal more to show and say, so stay tuned.

the beehive tombs of mycenae – with the diana lens

recently, we visited mycenae, which, in the second millennium b.c., was one of greece’s major cities. according to myth, mycenae was founded by the hero perseus, who slew the gorgon medusa. mycenae was also where the bloody events of the house of atreus took place: atreus began his reign by trying to kill his brother, thyestes; his son, agamemnon, became king and went to war against troy after his brother’s wife, helen, ran off to troy with paris, and when the winds wouldn’t blow to send his ships to sea, he decided to sacrifice his daughter, iphigenia, to appease the gods; agamemnon’s wife, clytemnestra, killed him as soon as he came back from the war to take her revenge; and then agamemnon’s son, orestes, killed both her and, later, the son of aegistheus, clytemnestra’s co-conspirator.

perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that mycenaean civilization is known for its tombs.  specifically, mycenae is known for its beehive tombs (“tholos”).  these are burial sites that were cut into a hill and built up with circular walls coming to a point, thus giving them the appearance of beehives.  the earthen domes piled above the tombs have worn away, but the brickwork remains.

20150601_mycenae_103 Interior ceiling.
this tholos is “ascribed conventionally” to clytemnestra, according to the accompanying sign, as the archaeologists can’t actually prove who was buried there.  the roof curves up to a point.
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this tholos is called both the treasury of atreus (for its side chamber) and the tomb of agamemnon – its original provenance isn’t clear.

the arching roof motif is repeated, intentionally or not, in other structures as well:

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the lion gate (the main entrance to mycenae) and the stairway down to the main cistern.

as to whether it makes sense to use the diana on shots like these rather than a digital camera, as opposed to just using it for images of creepy old buildings like these, taken just outside the ancient city –

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– is an open question.

next: lesvos or chios, or both.

let’s go to the market with a 20mm lens

this is the public market in athens between monastiraki and omonoia square, for those of you who know the area.

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you can buy olives here … … or here. at the cheaper end of the spectrum.

not everyone sells olives, of course.

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at the meat market.

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some butchers are busy others, not so much. you can’t get as much of the goat as you could get in india, but some things are the same.