December Down Under

I can thank my daughters for introducing me to Australia and New Zealand  with their study abroad adventures, and exciting news — I’m going back very soon! Erin (known affectionately as Darin’ Erin) and professionally as a structural engineer who loves earthquake work, is in Christchurch NZ with a crew from Thornton Tomasetti until Christmas. We will soon reunite in Christchurch and spend the first two weeks of December together, hiking, kayaking and photographing the South Island.

As I am cleaning my cameras and lenses and planning and packing, I thought I would give you a sneak preview of the photography to watch for on this blog:

Sunday November 30: Land in Sydney. Love that city and all the memories we shared with Courtney, Erin, the koalas and kangaroos in 2009 and 2011.

Sydney Opera House from the Manley Ferry
Sydney Opera House from the Manley Ferry

I will be staying in a Hilton in the Rocks (old and charming neighborhood near the bridge) and will wander around there and try not to spend too much money. When I catch up on my rest, I hope to visit Bondi Beach for the cliff walk and maybe even Watson’s Bay (Reg Henry’s suggestion).

On Wednesday December 3, I fly to Christchurch and give my Erin a big hug. I will rest my head in her apartment, and I will venture out to Cathedral Square, which was closed for several years due to heavy earthquake damage. (In 2009, we stayed in the Millennium Hotel on the square, and I am curious to see it today.) I’ll probably walk the Botanical Gardens too.

Friday afternoon, December 5, Erin and I fly to Queenstown for the weekend on the beautiful Lake Wakatipu. Looking forward to our stay in the Hilton and walking around the town. We will take a scenic hike there and photograph the rise of the full moon on Sunday evening December 7.

On Monday, Erin flies back to Christchurch for work, and I will drive my putt-putt on windy mountain roads to Milford Sound. Reknowned photographer Trey Ratcliff, and American who now lives in Queenstown, says the drive is almost as amazing as Milford Sound itself. Knowing what Milford Sound looked like in 2009, that’s saying something…

Mirror Lake near Milford Sound
Mirror Lake near Milford Sound

Trey mentioned hiking near Monkey Creek. I don’t know anything about that, but will keep my eyes open for it. I will be staying the week at the Lodge at Milford Sound, which Trey recommended in his blog. I should be able to rise before sunrise (ugh — I hate getting up early!) and capture early morning shots along the water, when the wind is usually at its low point. As New Zealand will be approaching its summer equinox, the days will be long, but I’ll be there for sunset too. There are more rainy than sunny days in that area, but when the sun comes out, I will go for a scenic flight to see views like this.

Flight from Milford Sound to Queenstown, 2009 by Cathy Kelly
Flight from Milford Sound to Queenstown, 2009 by Cathy Kelly

I will drive back to Queenstown on either Thursday or early Friday, depending on the weather. Friday afternoon I will catch a flight to Nelson, where I will meet Erin for our final weekend rendezvous. Nelson lies at the north point of the South Island and boasts many vineyards, many artist studios, a national park and lots of warmth and sunshine. Reminder: in the southern hemisphere, you travel NORTH to get warm!

By Sunday the 15th, I will probably be a bit tired of traveling, but we will hop a plane to Christchurch. One last night in Erin’s flat, and off I got to Sydney early Monday morning. Monday, I just may have to do some Christmas shopping. Tuesday the 16th will be — well, a very long day, as I fly 12 hours back to Los Angeles, endure a 5 hour layover and fly who know how many more hours home to Pittsburgh to Charles and my cozy bed on Church Lane.

Lots of new photos to come from the beautiful land Down Under. I hope you will log in to this blog and follow along. Cheers, Mate!

Chicago’s Contextual Art

A Sunday cruise on the Chicago River aboard the First Lady introduced me to a fascinating concept in architecture: contextual design. Downtown Chicago has long been a mecca for creative and influential urban architecture. Most everyone knows of the Wrigley Building and the Chicago Tribune Tower, the Sears Tower (now called the Willis Tower) and the long standing Water Tower that survived the Chicago Fire. But some of the newer skyscrapers feature designs that reflect their context — by echoing features of the river or the adjacent buildings.

This skyscraper was my favorite example, because the green color of its glass echoes the green Chicago River; its curves echo the river’s curve; its glass mirrors the buildings surrounding it, and (one step further) the pinched glass makes the reflections look like ripples on the water’s surface.

Contextual design: curve of the wall, green colored glass, mirroring effect of windows and ripple effect created by pinched edges.
Contextual design: curve of the wall, green colored glass, mirroring effect of windows and ripple effect created by pinched edges.

There were other examples: the older Art Deco Chicago Board of Trade is next to a newer art deco behemoth, the Chicago Opera House; both of them look like a giant armchair from a bird’s eye view.

Two recent buildings feature marine themes: On 2010’s Aqua curves overtake the rectilinear emphasis of most other buildings.

Aqua (2010) at right features undulating balconies.
Aqua (2010) at right features undulating balconies.

Bertrand Goldberg designed the scalloped edge Marina Towers in 1960s, followed up with this shopping/residential development on the river that avoids the right angle and has a distinctive marine look.

Marina Towers: scalloped edges break the custom of rectangular buildings, 1960.
Marina Towers: scalloped edges break the custom of rectangular buildings, 1960.
This architect avoids right angles in this riverfront development to create harmony with the river.
This architect avoids right angles in this riverfront development to create harmony with the river.

Other contextual designs were less subtle: Here is a river and street map on the facade on this building with a red block showing “you are here.”

Map of the Chicago River and major roads relate this building to its surroundings.
Map of the Chicago River and major roads relate this building to its surroundings.

As this “contextual” design was echoing in my mind that afternoon, I came upon the Cloud Gate (2007) by Anish Kapoor, commonly called the “Bean” sculpture in Millennium Park, which I had previously seen only in photos. (It’s the ultimate destination for Facebook fans who love to take selfies.) The Bean takes contextual design to a new level: its silver mirrored curved surface reflects both pedestrians and the skyline. Standing before it, you are one with the city. It’s fun!

Pedestrians around Cloud Gate see themselves and the skyline in one amazing view.
Pedestrians around Cloud Gate see themselves and the skyline in one amazing view.

The late afternoon sky — darker overhead — and sun’s position — peaking between the buildings made for an interesting photograph. I only had my Canon G12 with me; next time I’ll bring the Nikon DSLR and stay longer to play.

At 4pm on November 9, the sun drops behind the skyline.
At 4pm on November 9, the sun drops behind the skyline.

New York State of Mind

Just returned home from three days in Manhattan helping my daughter move into her new apartment. Unless it’s raining, New York never disappoints. There is always a new restaurant to try, a new boutique,  a new walk, a new vista and an old friend to look up. This time we enjoyed two new restaurants: The Smith on Broadway and Lincoln Center (delicious food and delightful sidewalk cafe) and the Boathouse in Central Park for dinner (fabulous food and serene view of the lake at dusk). On this trip, I was too busy unpacking boxes and making trips to Target to take many photos, but I can share with you some keepers from my April 20 trip.

In April, we enjoyed a Saturday stroll in Central Park and enjoyed seeing hundreds of New Yorkers enjoying the spring day. As one strolls in Central Park, the vistas abound. Lots of walkers, runners, bikers and dog walkers share the paths around the frequent rock outcroppings. Trees, lakes, bridges and buildings of the East and West sides provide ever-changing backdrops.

Two young entrepreneurs (one amateur comedian and one gymnast) drew themselves a stage on the sidewalk, called themselves the Powerhouse and posted a can for donations. “Obama wants change, but WE want doll-ahs!” the diminutive comedian shouted. We joined the other passersby along the rectangular outline. After loosening up with a few one liners, urging us not too look so bored and smug, we turned our attention to the gymnast as he sprinted to center stage for three remarkable flips. Notice his position in the air and shadow on the ground:

I loved this view from the top floor of the Metropolitan Club across Central Park from East 60th Street looking west toward the Time Warner towers on Columbus Circle. Want to see what a difference a lens makes? The second shot was taken from the same location, but with a fish-eye lens. In this shot, you can see the Plaza on the left side of the frame, Fifth Avenue across the bottom, the Time Warner Buildings at center and more sky and more Park. Even though the buildings show dramatic distortion, I think the image is more fun. Surely, it is more dynamic with the traffic flow and cloud dotted sky.

For my last image comparison, I’d like to share two architecture images: an Baroque residential building on West 72nd Street and Central Park West, in contrast to the brand new (not yet completed) Millennium Tower, located next to ground zero, the former World Trade Center site.  The Millennium Tower, sleek and ultra modern, is shown from the Hudson River, where we were taking an “Around Manhattan Architecture Cruise” that disembarked from Chelsea Pier — a wonderful way to spend a Sunday afternoon. There are so many stunning vistas in Manhattan, especially in fine weather.

Early Spring in Central Park, New York City

After a long gray winter, early spring in New York City’s Central Park is tantalizing. We enjoyed the glorious sunny weekend of April 20 with our daughters in the City. The weekend began with a delightful walk through Central Park from the southeast corner — Fifth Avenue and Central Park South, by the landmark Plaza Hotel. From that busy corner, we wandered the path going northwest to the lake and boathouse. Along the way, we found cherry trees in blossom. They looked beautiful as they surrounded this Art Deco lamp post.

Here is another view of the cherry tree and the lamp post that includes this graceful marble bridge in the background. These two photographs demonstrate how different viewpoints and lenses can provide a completely different perspective on a scene. The following photograph also contains a foreground, middle ground and background — traditional components of landscape photography as well as painting.

I also admired the willow tree. Its curvature adds grace to the scene that includes the lake and tall buildings along Central Park West. Ducks add visual interest, and the blue sky added pleasing coloration to the water.

In my landscape photography, I look for strong compositional elements that occur naturally. In the next photo, look at the curvature of the lake/grass border and how it embraces the lower part of the image. On the top of the photo, the branches of an unseen tree help to frame the top of the image. The pedestrians help to give the image scale and allow the viewer to visualize himself or herself in the scene. These compositional elements are concepts that I learned as I studied Baroque painting, but I apply them to my photography. When I see these visual elements come together in a scene, photography is fun. I say, “Yes!” Fortunately, my family has learned to be patient while taking walks with me and my camera.