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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

That light you will see as you enter Heaven....The Amalfi Coast

I cannot begin to describe in words the Amalfi Coast. It can only be described in photographs or in person. It screams to you that you are in Italy. A picture perfect depiction of just what you would expect life to be in Italy is summed up in 40 kilometers. The Amalfi coast is a stretch of coastline located on the southern coast of the Sorrentine penninsula in the province of Solerno in Southern Italy. The only land route to the Amalfi coast is the 25 mile stretch known as the Strada Statale 163 that winds through the steep hills and winding roads from the towns of Vietri sul Mare in the east to Positano in the west. Once you hit this stretch of road I can assure you that you will not blink. The Amalfi Coast is the most beautiful place in Heaven and on the Earth.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Death by Tripod


Can someone please site to me or point me in the direction where a tripod was used as a weapon on an airplane to beat someone to death! I recently flew to Italy with my tripod as a piece of my carry-on equipment, with a plane change in Paris (CDG) and with absolutely no problem whatsoever. Coming home, became an entirely different story. Leaving from Naples (NAP) I checked in and checked one piece of luggage, and informed the airline rep that I was carrying on my camera gear as I would need it immediately when I arrived in Amsterdam (AMS). Typically someone would measure my tripod to make sure it did not exceed a certain length, and then I would be on my way. NOT THIS TIME. These 3 security personnel instead surrounded me and said I could not bring a tripod on an airplane. I asked why not, my tripod is within the required length restriction? They informed me that a tripod was considered a deadly weapon on airplanes. YIKES. I thought I had smuggled an IED on board! I looked down at my shoes and thought "is this a joke?", I explained that I would be needing the tripod in Amsterdam for some night photography and I have never ran into a situation like this ever while traveling with my tripod. The agents informed me that I would have to check the tripod in as checked baggage. With my plane boarding in 10 minutes, I complied and took my tripod back down to the same rep who had just checked my baggage and explained the situation to her. She looked me straight in the eyes and said "To check your tripod will be 250 euros please"... That is about $300 U.S. I laughed to myself, then I laughed out loud, then I smiled at her and said, excuse me do you not recognize that I just checked a bag with you, and you looked at my carryon and said nothing about a tripod could not fly on the plane, now you are asking me for 250 euro? Can I please just put this inside my checked bag so I won't miss my plane? I asked. And she said again looking me straight in the eyes, that there is no way of retrieving your checked bag, it is already loaded. Now I was furious because i was not paying this airline 250 additional euro. So I marched back to the screening area, and explained this exuberent fee to the agents and they debated in their native tongue for about 5 minutes as one of them inspected and eyed my manfroto head and legs, nodding in approval of the tripod. He then looked me straight in the eye, and said "You will have to abandon it here if you do not want to pay the 250 euro". They were announcing final boarding for my plane, followed by my name to report to the gate. I could not believe this!!! Frustrated and calculating how much this is starting to cost me, I walked off and left my tripod in the hands of this agent who I am quite sure is a photographer as well by the way he was inspecting my manfroto tripod. I thought my heart was going to jump out of my chest. Not only will I not have my tripod when I land in Amsterdam, but I won't have it when I land at home. It was gone. ABANDONED!!! As I started to walk through the gateway toward the awaiting bus, I suddenly froze in my step, and turned around and told the rep at the gate, what had just happened, and how furious I was feeling right about now. The rep beckoned over another rep,and they begin to speak in their native tongue, and then she looked at me and said, come with me. The other rep walked out to the awaiting bus and made some sort of announcement. As we walked back toward security we then took a sharp left and the rep told me to wait here. She made a couple of phone calls, and aftera few minutes a man appeared through the doorway carrying my tripod. I imagine 15 minutes had gone by.The rep then took possession of my tripod and went through the doorway with me in tow. Inside she spoke in italian and the man behind the desk followed her instructions. She placed my tripod inside of one of their airline bags and then sealed it inside of another one. Gave it a tag number and told me that the tripod will be moving on this tag, handing me the receipt portion of the tag. She then said something in Italian to the man and he stood up and came around the counter took her cell phone and she snuggled up closely to me and SNAP; a photo of the two of us hugging and smiling. I in turn, handed her my business card and she smiled from ear to ear, so I smiled from ear to ear.... Then she said I hate to do this but I have to put you on that bus right now. I arrived in Amsterdam like only Bluestill can (see photo), and I did get to tour the infamous Amsterdam Red Light District. I just didn't get to use my tripod in Amsterdam as planned, but at least I knew it wouldn't be living out its days in Naples abandoned before flight bin. But this is where it gets weird. The airline in Naples made arrangements for me to take possession of  the tripod when I landed in Rome (ROM) and I can carry it on as a carry-on piece from for the rest of my trip. I just can't carry it on board in Naples. Go figure??? When I arrived in Rome, the agents there told me that the tripod had continued on to my final destination to Seattle (SEA).
Meanwhile upon arriving in Seattle, I have yet to see that tripod, and they have no idea where it is right now, but I do have a claim number for it, and if it doesn't appear, I'll be able to replace it on their dime and not mine. How do we as photographers do our job without our equipment? And before someone say it, I would rather have it move on its own ticket because when I flew in from another overseas flight, and got my checked baggage, packages of gift wrapped cookies had been removed from my luggage which I never got back. Flying is certainly becoming a damned if you do, damned if you don't means of transportation.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

If Naples is a Mecca, then Venice is Heaven

The train arrived after dark. Got off the train and asked for a taxi. Someone pointed straight ahead are the taxis. I thought I had misunderstood because the only thing in front of me was a marina of some sort, not a car in sight. Suddenly it became kind of eerie because even though people were out and about, and you could easily hear the echo of high heels and dress shoes walking on concrete and cobblestone, the sound seemed to resonate and sound very distant then very close again. With that the city seem to ring with this sound like a slow dripping faucet, and the slosh of the water against the wooden gondolas. And above all of that was this aroma in the air. Not good, not bad, just a smell of wet, soggy rottening wood. It was like going back in time. The buildings were all very huge and very colorful or very cold ancient stone. The whole place seemed like a ghost town, and all the people seemed to float about their way. When I got off the "Aqua-metro" my hotel lay directly in front of me so this was convenient. And directly in front of it was this large statue which I could not exactly make out exactly who it was suppose to be or represent, but I was anxious to find out at day break. After checking in my room, I headed out to find something to eat. the front desk person had given me a map and verbal directions and it sounded really easy, and only 5 minute walk. Nothing could have prepared me for what would go from a 5 minute walk to what seemed like an hour of being in a giant maze of sharp turns, bridges over waterways, and dead end alleys that either led to a solid stone wall, or a plunge into what appeared to be dark cold water. Even with stopping along the way and getting more directions, it only takes about 10 steps and you will be lost again guaranteed, because there are more corners then you can count, and you cannot tell the difference between a walk way and the courtyards. Finally morning came and this ghost town had been transformed into a sight that cannot be explained with words. The architecture is centuries old and magnificent, The whole place looked mythical. It must cost a fortune to live here or so I thought, but I found out that the average rent is only $600 and that is waterfront property, but no garage. The gondola drivers seem to have it made because everyone wants to ride a gondola and the charge is about euro 120 an hour. I had arrived at the perfect non-tourist season, so I was able to get a great deal (no I won't tell you what I got because you'll try and get it). I had spent a good part of the day walking around aimlessly knowing that if I didn't see it the first time, there was no way I would be able to find my way back to it. After hours of cutting in and out of alley ways, and courtyards and working my way around the tourist from the cruiseships that had arrived, I finally struck up the deal that landed me in a gondola. Seeing the city from in the water rather than the sidewalk is very nastolgic. In canvasing and scouting a good location to do a fashion shoot, I concluded that it can be done just about anywhere from any point in Venice, as long as you get it early in the morning and don't even think about it during the summer tourist months. The cooler the better. Now if you follow my fanpage:!/Bluestilling101, you might be waiting to know the conclusion of the italian woman standing next to me, and the man with the camera. I thought I was blocking or interfering with this woman's photograph so I leaned back  to get out of her shot. When the man showed her about 2 or 3 photos where I had gotten out of the way, the man finally spoke up to me in good english (even though he was italian) and stated that his wife thought I was a celebrity, and resembled jazz bass guitarist Victor Wooten. Upon hearing this I approved a photo with her and it seemed to make her day and mine too. I gave her one of my business cards and told the couple to keep in touch with me. I hope they will because I have business here in Italy and I see quite a few trips on the horizon.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Photography Mecca

Naples is a coastal city that no one with a camera should go through this lifetime and not see with their own lens. From the moment I arrived, I don't think I have ever yet picked my jaw up off the ground. Just when you thought it could get no better than something you just saw, you'll see something else that would just blow your mind. From the sweeping background views of the infamous Mt. Vesuvius whose famous 79 A.D. eruption destroyed the cities of Herculaneum, Stabiae and Pompeii, to the historically famous castle Castel dell' Ovo, to the fact that pizza originated right here in this very city known best for its pie created for and named after Queen Margherita because the people loved her so much, and after I ate my first piece, Queen Margherita, Bluestill loves you too. To seeing the American flag blowing in front of the U.S. Embassy in Naples. And please, do not get hungry while you walk or drive around the city. There is so much history about the city, and just as much history about its food and wines. After all this is where pizza was invented and it's a title I don't ever think the italians will ever lose the rights to. The perfect blend of seafood, pasta and pizza. I will leave Naples and travel by train to Venice. Be sure to check out my blog and photos about Venice. Ms. Lee, I think you will forever be my most favorite client after this one.