Lost in the Sierras


Outside Bishop, California with the Inyo National Forest mirrored in the distance

Lost in the Sierras

I stumbled upon this quirky image in the prairies outside Bishop, California. The tires serve as a marker to a farm hidden back in the brush. Mountains from The Inyo National Forest serve as a backdrop and curiously mirror the contours of the tires.

For those who are unaware, the Inyo National Forest covers part of the eastern Sierra Nevada of California and the White Mountains of California and Nevada. The forest covers 1,903,381 acres and includes nine designated  wilderness areas which protect over 800,000 acres.

 Rich Smukler specializes in Landscape and Fine-Art Photography from his studio in South Florida. His works have been featured in numerous museums, galleries and private collections internationally. You can see more of his works at http://www.richsmuklerphoto.com. (Kick back and stay awhile).

International Color Awards in Architectural Photography


Honorable Mention IPOTY - International Photogragy of the Year and Nominee International Color Awards

Longest Night – Eastern State Penitentiary

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

9TH ANNUAL INTERNATIONAL COLOR AWARDS HONOR Rich Smukler from Boca Raton, Florida.

LOS ANGELES 8/24 – Rich Smukler of the United States was presented with the 9th Annual International Color Awards Nominee title in the category of Architecture: architectural photography.  He was also nominated in the Category of Nature: nature photography. 5,678 entries were received from 78 countries.

“I am proud to announce that ICA saw fit to bestow this honor. You might remember that ‘Longest Night’ was awarded Honorable Mention at this year’s International Photography of the Year Awards.”

“Longest Night” is part of a photographic essay of Eastern State Penitentiary recently published by LenCulture Magazine. Located in Philadelphia (Smukler’s hometown), Eastern State Penitentiary was once the largest and most expensive public structure ever erected, and quickly became a model for more than 300 prisons worldwide and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1965. It was also known for some such infamous prisoners as Al Capone and Willie Sutton.

Rich Smukler specializes in Landscape and Fine-Art Photography from his studio in South Florida. His works have been featured in numerous museums, galleries and private collections internationally. You can see more of his works at http://www.richsmuklerphoto.com. (Kick back and stay awhile).

Alaska – Our Last Frontier


untitled-5025 copy 2Covering 3.3 million acres of rugged mountains, dynamic glaciers, temperate rainforest, wild coastlines and deep sheltered fjords, Glacier Bay National Park is a highlight of Alaska’s Inside Passage and part of a 25-million acre  Alaskan World Heritage Site—one of the world’s largest international protected areas. Place a big check next to this amazing bucket list item!

Rich Smukler specializes in Landscape and Fine-Art Photography from his studio in South Florida. His works have been featured in numerous museums, galleries and private collections internationally. You can see more of his works at http://www.richsmuklerphoto.com. (Kick back and stay awhile).

Rich Smukler Retrospective at La Rondine Gallery in Bagni di Lucca


Como TristeLa Rondine Gallery is located in the beautiful Northern Tuscan village of Ponte a Serraglio in the commune of Bagni di Lucca. Since the Renaissance, this village has attracted artists of all disciplines to take refuge and rest in its thermal valley and spectacular vistas. Smukler had studied photography for seven summers at TPW (Tuscano Photographic Workshop) is San Quirico D’Orcia. He was blessed with the opportunity to study with such photographic luminaries as Arno Rafael Minkkinen (known world-wide and himself a student with Harry Callahan and Aaron Siskind), Sandro Santioli (lauded by many for his mastery of landscape photography), Bob Sasha (known for his photographic story telling and winner of a Pulitzer, Emmy and Webby) and David Alan Harvey (named Magazine Photographer of the Year by the National Press Photographers Association).

Though Lucca is to the north, Tuscany is like a second home to Smukler and represents a milestone in his career. For 2 special weeks, a solo show of his works will be on exhibit for townspeople  and visitors alike. The opening reception is Saturday, June 6th at 6 to 9 pm. The show will run until June 14, 2015. There is no charge for admission.

Rich Smukler currently resides in Boca Raton, Florida. His works have been featured in numerous museums, galleries and private collections internationally. You can see more of his works at http://www.richsmuklerphoto.com. (Kick back and stay awhile)

A few thoughts for the New Year


Got da GigglesI’d like to thank all of you who have been following my Blog over the years, amazingly since 2011!  It has been a labor of love and heart-warming to know that some of my meanderings are shared with you. I would encourage you to please exchange your thoughts and comments. I love expressing my experiences about photography: the technical aspects, the practical solutions to common problems, the artistry of my endeavors, etc. And I enjoy hearing what thoughts or concerns any of you might have.

I know that some of you are serious photographers, designers, fine art professionals, lawyers, realtors, and on and on. Photography is an endless journey which explores one’s personal vision pitted against an ever changing and expanding technology. To know your camera, your computer, your printer, and all that goes with this technology only serves to challenge the way you see and feel about life.

May you enjoy a healthy and amazing 2015. I hope to hear from you!

Rich Smukler currently resides in Boca Raton, Florida. His works have been featured in numerous museums, galleries and private collections internationally. You can see more of his works at http://www.richsmuklerphoto.com. (Kick back and stay awhile)

Musee d’Orsay, Paris


The clock at Musee d"Orsay Musée d’Orsay  is a museum in Paris, France, on the left bank of the Seine. It is housed in the former Gare d’Orsay, a Beaux-Arts railway station built between 1898 and 1900. The museum holds mainly French art dating from 1848 to 1915, including paintings, sculptures, furniture, and photography. It houses the largest collection of impressionist and post-impressionist masterpieces in the world, by painters including Monet, Manet, Degas, Renoir, Cézanne, Seurat, Sisley, Gauguin and Van Gogh. To my way of thinking, though certainly discovered by the public, it provides far more breathing room than its better-known counterpart, The Louvre.

This shot was taken from inside the museum. The iconic clock, oft photographed, looks over the Seine. If you allow your eye to follow further, you will eventually reach Montmartre, known for its many artists. 

Rich Smukler currently resides in Boca Raton, Florida. His works have been featured in numerous museums, galleries and private collections internationally. You can see more of his works at http://www.richsmuklerphoto.com. (Kick back and stay awhile)

Where Does That Lush Ochre Pigment Come From?


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Have you ever considered where the lush and vibrant colors and shades of ochre pigment come from? Situated in the Luberon, at the foot of the Monts de Vaucluse, the village of Roussillon provides the answer. Nestled in the heart of one of the biggest ochre deposits in the world, Roussillon is famous for its magnificent red cliffs and ochre quarries.

The red, yellow and brown shades of the earth form a striking contrast with the lush green pine-trees. The vivid blue of the Provençal sky and the exceptional quality of light make this a magical site. It is like an artist’s pallet, with the infinite combinations of colors varying from yellow to purple with all the shades of pink and red in-between.IMG_3440

The ochre façades of the houses are magnificent… shades vary subtly from light yellow to dark red, set off by the brightly painted shutters and doors. Numerous artists, naturally, have been seduced by Roussillon: Jean Cocteau, Carzou, Buffet, Ambrogiani... to name a few.

The images I’ve included in the current post print beautifully on canvas and archival-treated paper. But don’t pass up the opportunity to see the way these images pop out at you when printed on metal. They are magnificent and can be printed in any size and configuration that your spatial needs and creative desires call for.

 

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Rich Smukler  currently resides in Boca Raton, Florida. His works have been featured in numerous museums, galleries and private collections internationally. You can see more of his works at http://www.richsmuklerphoto.com. (Kick back and stay awhile)

Connecticut Academy of Fine Arts honors Rich Smukler


ImageAs recently announced, for the third consecutive year Rich Smukler will be exhibiting at The Connecticut Academy of Fine Arts’ annual juried exhibition. The opening reception and award presentations will be Thursday,  June 26th from 6PM to 8PM.  Artists whose works are exhibited for three shows are bestowed with the honor of elected member.

“Given the quality of the art in the CAFA exhibitions, I am extremely honored.”

 

 

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The Farmington Museum of Art Introduces Rich Smukler’s work “Cocoon”


 The Farmington Museum at Gateway Park (Farmington,  New Mexico) will present its annual National Juried Exhibition May 10, 2014 with an opening reception and presentation of awards from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm, Saturday evening May 17th. Prior to the reception, at 6:00 pm, Juror James Trigg will present a lecture. Mr. Trigg is a nationally acclaimed award-winning impressionist fine artist specializing in the magnificent vistas of the American Southwest.

Rich Smukler, from Boca Raton, Florida,  will exhibit Cocoon. This elegant abstract expressionistic piece both challenges and calms the soul. His works have been featured in numerous museums, galleries and private collections internationally.

 cocoon

Farmington Museum – 3041 E. Main Strreet – Farmington NM 87402 – 505-599-1174 – http://www.farmingtonmuseum.org

See more of Rich Smukler’s work at http://www.richsmuklerphoto.com

Bow Down


Bow Down

See Rich Smukler’s stunning piece “Bow Down” at The CAC (Contemporary Arts Center) in Las Vegas at their 25th Annual Juried Show. Bow Down is a dramatic 24″h x 20″w photo on aluminum taken of a proud and rusting ship found on the Miami River near downtown Miami, Florida. The show opens 4/3/2014 when award ceremonies will take place (6:00PM through 9:00PM) and runs through 4/25/2014. You can meet the artist at the Opening. The Center is located at 1217 S. Main Street in Las Vegas, Nevada. For inquiries, Joanne Russ is the gallery coordinator. email: info@lasvegascac.com phone: 702-496-0569 http://www.lasvegascac.org

See Rich Smukler’s work in Montreal


See Rich Smukler's work in Montreal

The Global Art League is an organization dedicated to furthering the careers of emerging artists worldwide. The International Exhibition of Emerging Artists will be held in Montreal from July 20th through to August 17th 2013.

Montreal is one of the most beautiful and exciting cities in the world and we have teamed up with the Montreal Art Centre, one of the cities greatest art exhibition venues to host the event. Montreal is within driving distance to over 100 million people and one can fly to this enchanting city within a day’s flight time from all of Canada, the United States and Europe.

This month long exhibition is geared to attract a wide array of visitors, from art lovers to art galleries, as well as both local and International art collectors. Our many participating sponsors are working with us to help celebrate art at its best, from our participating artists from all corners of the world.

There are special sessions, workshops, lectures and art presentations during the exhibitions days. The International Exhibition of Emerging Artists is a one of a kind event, bringing artists and art lovers together for an engaging and memorable experience.

Against the Traffic: Rhyolite, Nevada – The Ghost town


It’s been a long hard week in Death Valley and it is time to pack it in. I only introduced you to some of the many wonders that the area has to offer. It is really something that needs to be experienced personally and in your own way. On a great tip, I headed towards Rhyolite, Nevada on my way back to the airport in Las Vegas. I have an affection for architectural decay and this old town does not disappoint.

Located in the Bullfrog Hills in Nye County, Rhyolite is about 120 miles (190 km) northwest of Las Vegas near the eastern edge of Death Valley. The town started in 1905 is response to the discovery of gold in the nearby hills. It is reported that the population rose to near 5,000. Unfortunately, by 1911 the mine closed and the town soon died out.

With a few more shots in my pocket, it is time to head home. Thanks for joining me

Happy Shooting!

http://www.richsmuklerphoto.com

 

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Against the Traffic: Stovepipe Wells and Mesquite Flat Dunes


For the rest of the week we will be bunking at The Hotel at Stovepipe Wells, Death Valley. This is not The Four Seasons Hotel, make no mistake! In fact, the movie “Mad Max” comes to mind. The rooms are clean, large and extremely basic.  Wifi is spotty at best. Telephones are non-existent in the rooms and there is essentially no cell-phone coverage (calls must be made from the spare number of phone booths on site). There is a restaurant and bar. I will be polite about the food in the restaurant. The burgers and beer at the bar are just fine, especially if you want to shoot a game of 8-ball. Across the road is a general store and gas station where you can stock up on water, snacks, food and fuel. If you are truly looking for top-notch accommodations, consider The Furnace Creek Inn and Ranch Resort around 26 miles down the road. You will pay substantially for this luxury, however.

A brief thought on the issue of no phone or computer service: It can make you a little nervous at first, especially if you are addicted to these electronic toys, as I am. But after you get over the fear that the world will somehow come to an end if you are not tuned in, the world gets more serene and beautiful. You can see better. Your photography will soar, if you allow it to do so.Image

Just down the road is Mesquite Flat Dunes. These dunes are the best-known and easiest to visit in the national park. They are located in central Death Valley and accessed from Highway 190 or from the unpaved Sand Dunes Road. Although the highest dune rises only about 100 feet (compared to 680 feet at Eureka), the dunes actually cover a vast area and provide quite a different subject matter. Many first time visitors to Death Valley are surprised to find that it not covered with a sea of sand. Less than one percent of the desert is covered with dunes. It just so happens that the first two locations of our tour of Death Valley are duned areas. The benefit of Mesquite Flat over Eureka is its proximity to your room back at Stovepipe Wells. It allows you to make return visits to shoot based on your decisions over lighting, cloud-layer, etc. The remote location of Eureka Dunes pretty much kills off this flexibility, unless you are willing to set up camp. The suggestions I made about dune-shooting at Eureka in my prior post applies similarly to Mesquite.

Happy Shooting

http://www.richsmuklerphoto.com

View RICH SMUKLER’S work at The 101st Exhibition of the Connecticut Academy of Fine Arts


See Rich Smukler’s work “Jessie” at The Connecticut Academy of Fine Arts 101st Annual Exhibition (CAFA).

“Jessie” was also exhibited at the (SDAI)  San Diego Art Institute / (MOLA) Museum of the Living Artist (San Diego, California 2009) and is currently part of  The American Juried Art Salon: Fine Arts Show 2011 (on-line).  It is also published in Photographer’s Forum Magazine / Best of Photography 2011 (Serbin Communications), and was exhibited at The Elliott Museum (Stuart, Florida 2012) and The Saco Museum Mill-ennial 2012 (Saco, Maine).

The CAFA OPENING RECEPTION AND AWARD CEREMONY  is scheduled for the evening of Thursday, JUNE 7, 2012 from 6 to 8 PM at the Mystic Arts Center located at 9 Water Street, Mystic, Ct., 06355. Phone: 860-267-6023 for further information.

Rich Smukler’s works can also be seen at www.richsmuklerphoto.com

HOW DO YOU DEFINE A FINE ARTIST?


 

 

Over the years I have gone to hundreds of museums and galleries, studied the works of the masters, read the analyses and opinions of critics, seen and opined on the works of my fellow students and mentors. All the time, I am searching for a thread, a common denominator. What makes a piece of art wonderful, memorable or just plain awful? And within that question, I try to evaluate the body of work of that particular artist and ask whether or not this is the work of a fine artist?

 

 

George DeWolfe, in one of his master classes, fascinated me with his revealing analysis of paintings of the masters, such as Rembrandt, Degas, Cezannes, Pollack and others, as they related to development of the fine black and white photo. He took images of these paintings and reduced them to grayscale to better view the breadth of tonality in each of these pieces of art, even before photography was on the map. This was done to demonstrate some of the amazing qualities of these painters, all painting with color, but somehow fully understanding the quality of composition in its underlying tonality. They knew how to see well. Dewolfe went on to say that,

 

  “The masterful articulation of the grayscale in these paintings is not only the key to good color, but also the essential key to creating presence in the work – the foundational element of a masterpiece.”

 

 

This is as good a place as any to start our thought process.

 

I confess that often I’ll go to a museum and wander through the exhibits and unfortunately, not get it. I mean that I am not moved, wouldn’t want to own it, in fact, I am angry that I am wasting my time! And yet, these exhibitions, installations, or pieces of art are often heralded by the museum, or someone of credibility, as being significant and noteworthy. I shrug my shoulders.

 

What does impress me however, is when an artist has over the years developed a unique and consistent body of work; pieces that would be recognizable as being that artists’ artwork years after being produced, yet, in some way, different from the earlier work. I am sure we are all familiar with some exceedingly successful artists who have a signature style that is forever recognized as being special and unique. Some of these artists, unfortunately, get caught up in their success and are fearful of leaving an established comfort zone. Others display the guts and artistry to move forward with newer and more challenging work. I say SHAME on the former, and HATS OFF to the latter.

 

 

I am willing to allow the definition of a fine artist to remain somewhat undefined for the moment. I am steadfast, however, in my belief that a fine artist will create a unique and recognizable body of work that continues to evolve as the artist explores and builds on the past. We owe a debt of gratitude to those of you that adhere to these convictions. What are your thoughts?

HAPPY SHOOTING!

You can see works of Rich Smukler at www.richsmuklerphoto.com.

 

 

 

 

 

Against the Traffic: The Road From SAN QUIRICO D’ORCIA To PIENZA


Both San Quirico and Pienza are magical, ancient Tuscan towns that merit comment and will be the subject of future articles. Today, however, we will visit the extraordinarily exciting road that connects these two towns and strums the true sounds of Tuscany. For years I have driven the 6.25 miles of this amazing highway and never tire of it.

SP146 / Strada Provinciale di Chianciano ribbons through the Tuscan countryside and is the stuff that Lamborghini and Ferrari must have had in mind. Go as the sun rises or as the sun is stretching its long shadows from the west. Any time of year will reveal the many facets of this magnificent countryside. There is one lane in each direction with multiple winding curves that provide a bonanza of sight lines. At a decent speed the entire ride is about 15 minutes. Downshifting into one of the many hairpins is just plain awesome!

MAJOR RULE: DON’T FORGET YOUR TRIPOD! (Say that at least three times). I know it is a pain schlepping it across the world, but you won’t regret it. Your images will be infinitely better. Also, be prepared for some atmospheric challenges. This part of Tuscany is rural and agricultural. You may  find some dust kicked up from the tractors and such. That can be also be great news for your shots, as the combination of light and dust can produce wonderful results. Be ready to clean your lenses regularly while out in the field. If you are carrying a backup camera body, I suggest you select your two favorite lenses, one for each body, and refrain from removing your lenses from their bodies while the dust is swirling. Or, you can always retreat to the car.

For a little extra delight, as you approach Pienza, look to your left for a sign to Santa Anna Comprena. This back road will take you to the 15th Century Monastery where Director Anthony Minghella shot many scenes from his movie The English Patient starring Juliette Binoche and Ralph Fienes. The setting is both serene and haunting. It has been turned into a B&B and you will be able to shoot inside the church, both memorable and challenging.

Happy Shooting!

You can see more of my images from Tuscany at www.richsmuklerphoto.com

TRAVEL TO SHOOT? THE MEANING OF TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY


Having returned from a photography trip to Kenya and Tanzania, I was brimming over with pride at the many exotic images I captured: Kilimanjaro, the Maasai tribesmen, the Serengeti and all that Africa has to offer. I was living my dream. That’s when a cold towel slapped me across my face! At our monthly photo-group meeting I was itchy to show some of this new work. Meanwhile, one of our members was displaying some truly great images that he had just taken in his backyard! An interesting point-counterpoint crossed my mind.

What is the concept of TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY all about? Travel for me isn’t as much fun as it used to be. I’ve shot world-wide and have seen many of the wonders the world provides. Air travel has presented new challenges. My old bones aren’t what they used to be. Yet, there is still a rush that I get when plying my craft in new and unique locations. I see things with a fresher eye. My hometown is Boca Raton, Florida, replete with many exotic sights. However, I wouldn’t consider shooting in my hometown as TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY. Ironically, someone who has traveled from Africa to Florida to shoot probably WOULD. So, if it isn’t the travel that lures me, and if locations can be treated as fungible widgets, then perhaps it is something else? Perhaps it is the mindset or dedication to the craft when you are on a new location (wherever that might be)? Perhaps it is being totally focused and immersed in all things photographic when you are situated in a location that is conducive to your full attention?

Some years ago I was part of a workshop sponsored by TPW (Toscana Photographic Workshop) and led by Arno Minkkinen. Arno is the consummate instructor. He tirelessly challenges his students to be as creative and innovative as possible. One of his exercises, which caught my imagination, was a road trip that we took to Lake Bosena, situated in the Lazio region and close to the boundaries with Umbria and Tuscany. There were only about eight of us and we decided to take three cars. And though we had an end destination in mind, it was decided by Arno to stop every fifteen minutes and shoot for about ten minutes per location. We stopped once on the side of a barren field, a commercial site and a location in some hillside area. None of these locations would have typically caught my eye or called out to me to stop and shoot. Yet, the images gathered by our group from these locations were exceptionally interesting and memorable. Lesson learned: Perhaps the setting isn’t as important as the photographer and his will to see well.                                  

Another unintentioned lesson was learned in Arno’s class. One member of our group was a young woman who was seriously injured and permanently confined to a wheel chair. Only through her sister’s love, was she able to travel thousands of miles from the United States in order to fulfill her dream of shooting in Tuscany. An amazing feat! She shared her portfolio early in the workshop with the rest of us. The main body of her work was comprised of a series of images taken from her basement apartment. Being wheel-chair bound as she was, she had a single view from a window which looked out and up on a street in New York City. The view was limited, yet her pictures were fascinating and multidimensional. She also had invited people to come to her cramped quarters and photographed them against a single wall where she produced a series of intensely moving portraits. The lighting and composition were astounding. I will never forget them or the lesson she brought to us.

I love the whole concept of TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY and am proud of many of the images captured over the years. Yet, I have grown to believe that it is the mindset that comes with travel that is most important. I ring this thought up each time I dust off my camera for another shoot.

Happy Shooting!

You can see more of my images on my website at www.richsmuklerphoto.com.

I HATE MY CANON D5 MARK II CAMERA!!!


NOT REALLY! I’ve been a satisfied Canon user for years pre-dating digital: from the AE-1 35mm SLR Film Camera, 20D, EOS T2i, 40D and now the D5 Mark II. I have to say that I am thrilled with the D5 and am amazed at its power and versatility.

I know that some of us out there are Nikon enthusiasts and others are Canon. It just so-happened that when I was converting to digital some years ago, most of my instructors were into Canon. I started down that path and saw no reason to change, especially due to the lens interchangeability feature.

Some months ago I was shooting out in Santa Monica, California. Typically, I carry the camera with the strap around my neck (either over one shoulder with my camera to the side, or with the camera hanging in front of me). I am recovering from recent neck surgery and after several hours the weight of the camera begins to take its toll. I sought advice from a friendly neighborhood camera shop.

They came up with a two-part solution. The first was a Tamrac Neoprene Shock Absorber Strap. It a tough stretchy neoprene rubber strap that holds most digital SLRs and absorbs the weight of the camera for hours, or so they claim. It acts like a bungee cord and really does the job. The second solution was a carry bag which is big enough to hold the camera and can be worn with a built-in belt around your waist or a built-in strap that you can carry over your shoulder. I purchased a second Tamrac strap to replace the strap that came with the case. I find that the camera, when in the case, isn’t nearly as accessible for quick shooting in comparison to the camera being around the shoulder.I chose a Canon carry case. It has a front-ended pouch which can hold a couple batteries and memory cards. There is another interior compartment for whatever else you miight choose. I know that there are several brands of these cases and recommend you select the best for your particular needs.

This system works for me and I hope it is of some value to you as well. By the way, I own no stock or have any financial interest whatsoever in any of these products.

Happy Shooting!

You can see more of my images at my website at www.richsmuklerphoto.com.

View Rich Smukler’s Works at Boca Raton Museum of Art School


See Rich Smukler’s award winning photograph “This Way” along with “Squared” currently on display at The Boca Raton Museum of Art School (Boca Raton, Florida), running through January 11, 2012. These pieces were previously exhibited at The Robert Rauschenberg Exhibition at The Museum of The Gulf Coast in Port Arthur, Texas (home of Rauschenberg’s birth).

Raschenberg is one of America’s most prominent artists (October 22, 1925 – May 12, 2008), known for his works as The Abstract Expressionist Movement morphed towards Pop Art. Not only a painter, he worked also in photography and printmaking.

You can see more of Rich Smukler’s works at www.richsmuklerphoto.com.

Against the Traffic: ROCCA D’ORCIA AND CASTIGLIONE D’ORCIA, ITALY


Getting ready for your morning shoot in Italy is similar to many of the “outback” locations you are likely to stumble upon. Get ready the night before and expect no backup once you are on the road. You are highly unlikely to find a camera store that has anything that you might need. Fugedaboudit! Have a couple backup batteries, plenty of memory cards, your backup camera body and any lens you think you might be using. I love to use my monopod as a walking cane, but your tripod is indispensable! Remember to bring your plug adapter when you travel to Italy. European electricity, as in the rest of Europe, comes out of the wall at 220 Volts and alternating at 50 cycles, whereas in the United States, 110 volts at 60 cycles per second. Most hotels and B&Bs will have adapters, but DON’T TAKE A CHANCE. Charge your batteries the night before, erase and format your memory cards so you don’t fumble when you come upon your first good shot of the morning. Clean your camera and lenses from your prior day’s shoot and double check that your settings are exactly where you think you want them to be.

A couple of other thoughts before we start our climb: good walking shoes or boots, have a nice breakfast (food and bathrooms might be a bit tricky to find, so throw some snacks, maps, water and toilet paper in your bag, just to name a few of the more obvious items). I know you are getting impatient, but run through your personal workflow (memory card management, preferred settings, etc.), and NOW (pshew!) let’s get going!!

Traveling down from Bagno Vignoni, you are only a few minutes from your ascent to the twin towns of Rocca d’Orcia and Castiglione d’Orcia. Once you are there, you might as well take them both in. They are remarkable!

Rocca D’Orcia  stands guard over the Via Francigena, the pilgrim’s road leading from France to Rome.  From its almost impregnable position, the local rulers had a safe spot from which to control the territory. This area was first documented back in 853 AC. and has a fascinating and complex historical significance. Your challenge as a photographer might be to capture this journey into the past.

To provide a thumbnail historical sketch: In the mid-12th century, Tentennano (as it was known) was in the possession of the Tignosi feudal family, who in 1207 granted a new statute called “Charta libertatis” to the local population. It set forth numerous rights, an act of fundamental importance to Italian medieval history both for its content and style. The Fortress passes through several families over the years and was last used for military purposes in the middle of the 16th century which saw the city-state of Siena annexed to Florence. The defensive system of Rocca D’Orcia with its Rocca of Tentennano consists of a series of walled enclosures designed to benefit from the ruggedness of the environment. From the entrance gate you can see the ruins of another gate which opens onto a second walled circuit. The architecture of the tower provides interesting photographic challenges. Just before entering the tower, there are arch openings and a limestone wall face of which the whole fortress is built. A majestic view of the Orcia Valley, the Amiata Mountains and the surrounding countryside can be seen.

Don’t miss visiting the Village of Rocca D’Orcia which has maintained its original medieval architecture. You’ll find a charming square with a central cistern, religious buildings and a small, yet interesting country culture museum. The village is quiet and haunting. Out of dumb luck I saw the same gentleman in this tiny town square each of the two times I visited – five years apart. Not too much seems to be going on. This is a village where people live their lives quietly. There are very few tourists, except those who may wander down from the castle. I noticed a sign for a restaurant, but unfortunately it was not open on each of my visits to the town. Don’t expect to find a McDonalds!

The defense systems of the fortress were closely integrated with the Village of Rocca d’Orcia that lies below.  The walls of the town contained the entrance courtyard of the fortress, and an ancient door is still visible, though only partially, in the village today. This charming medieval village is just a few minutes walk away from its neighbor Castiglione D’Orcia. It seems larger than Rocca D’Orcia and more vibrant in the sense that people are more visible, some shops were available, and overall, a greater vibe than what you find of its’ more quiet neighbor. The architecture is similar and replete with magnificent photo opportunities, both of the valleys below and the ancient-walled architecture. To visit both Rocca d’Orcia and the Rocca di Tentennano, it is best to park in the area that lies at the foot of the steep slope leading up to the Fortress.  A picturesque walk along the cypress-lined hill leads to the main entrance. From there, you can stroll into the village.

Happy Shooting!

You can see some of my Tuscan images on my website at http://richsmuklerphoto.com


WAIT FOR THE LIGHT: OR PASS ON BY


Sometimes my mind sees a potential image better than it really is. I am afraid that my previsualization is occasionally on steroids and the end result can be a disappointing capture whose time has long past.

Example: Recently on a trip to Ravello, Italy, an absolute jewel of a town on the Amalfi Coast, I was walking down a picturesque road and came upon a fabulous antiquated church. It was bathed in ivy and had a wonderful mountainside as a backdrop. Another sucker shot I thought. This was too good to be true. And of course, it was. The composition and texture were magnificent! One problem. I forgot about the light! Feh! I saw it in my mind, but forgot to transpose it in reality. The result, a dull, flat and uninteresting image that was beyond post-processing first aid. Dead on Arrival!

 Sandro  Santioli is thought by many to be the quintessential Tuscan landscape photographer. Some years ago I had the pleasure of participating in one of his workshops, an experience I will never forget and be forever grateful. Our group started the day before sunrise, tripods in hand and cappuccino consumed, fearlessly planted in the midst of a beautiful field outside of Pienza. We waited for the sun to appear. And it did. As it moved through the sky, clouds moved in and out of the eye of the lens. Shadows changed, images appeared and disappeared and reconfigured upon the rich, lush Tuscan countryside. And for hours I barely moved my tripod, much like a patient fisherman waiting for the catch.

 By Noon the sun was too high. We retreated to one of Tuscany’s many ancient mountaintop towns for lunch and more shooting. Architectural shots can be pretty successful when the sun is high as the buildings block the direct rays and can create some wonderfully sharp and interesting images.

 Not to be daunted, by afternoon we returned to the fields to yet again track the sun, this time as it moved to the west. If you have ever been to Tuscany you appreciate the long late and early evening light, so rich, colorful and warm. Same location, different results, stunning in many ways.

 That evening, the sun now gone, we changed locations to inside Sienna, another wonderful feast for the eyes and lens. This time we concentrated on night street shooting with the added benefit of a little atmospheric eye-candy as a light rain provided a memorable challenge with eye-popping results.

 I learned that day about patience and the light. I hope to remember that lesson the next time I come upon a sucker shot.

Happy Shooting!

You can see some of my Tuscan images on my website at http://richsmuklerphoto.com

PHOTOGRAPHY WITHOUT CAMERAS


An unlikely premise, I know. However, after many years as a photographer, I am beginning to sense a change in the way I approach photography and also the way I see life.

As a young man, goofing around with my Brownie Hawkeye camera, I would only see what the camera lens had to offer when I was actually in the process of looking into the camera and trying to take a picture. Many years and thousands of images later have led me to a totally different approach to my craft.

Wandering through the swamps, or over mountains or through the cities looking for interesting shots to take, has re-wired the way I look at things, searching for what I consider a well-seen image. I find myself driving along in my car saying to myself, “what a great shot that’d make,” or “look at the wonderful glow rim-lighting that tree!” I’d often think to myself that I wish I had my camera with me. Often I do, but sometimes I don’t.

There is still nothing that quite beats the hunt of the shoot, that is, going out and physically taking the shot and transferring it into an electronic or print image. Yet, the sadness or upset of not having my camera when a perfect moment appears is not quite as painful as it used to be. Now, I AM THE CAMERA and exhilarate in the experience. I find myself looking at most everything as though I’d be framing it in an artistic composition, making split-second, automatic decisions as to whether the light is right, depth of field requirements, etc., all the elements on my checklist as if I actually had my camera in hand. It is a somewhat soothing effect. I wonder if you feel that as well?

Happy Shooting!

you can see some of my images on my website at http://richsmuklerphoto.com Continue reading