It’s early September, and school starts a new academic year. Does your school look like Hogwarts? This sunlit cloister of Durham Cathedral in England looks a lot like Hogwarts, Harry Potter’s school, because parts of the Harry Potter movies were filmed here.
Rendered here in a sepia-toned, black and white photograph, we can appreciate the sunlight and shadows of the Norman architecture. I recall similar architecture at the University of Sydney in Australia.
After touring Edinburgh Castle, Bamburgh Castle, Lindisfarne Castle, Durham Castle and Alnwick Castle in North England and Southern Scotland, my favorite one (hands down) was Alnwick Castle in England. All of them are interesting and worth a visit, and there are even more to see in the region — Stirling, Duane and more. I’ll tell you why I enjoyed Alnwick Castle the best.
Upon arrival on the castle grounds, I quickly joined the film tour where I heard fascinating details of the filming of Downton Abbey (Christmas scenes) and Harry Potter. Those are the recent ones, but other films include Mary Queen of Scots with Vanessa Redgrave, Elizabeth I, Robin Hood with Kevin Costner, and Hollowed Crown.
Soon after, I joined the History Tour where the guide explained which parts of the castle were built at what time, and the purpose of each. After the Norman Invasion of 1066, the English built huge stone castles. A substantial stone castle was built here in 1133. This castle was never taken by force.
Next, I joined the tour of the castle interior where the Percy family has lived for the past 700 years. The interior was updated in 1750 and again in 1850. Current residents are the 12th Duke and Duchess of Northumberland, who life here five months of the year, starting in October. The public may only tour Alnwick when the Duke and Duchess are not in residence, in the summer months. (No photos allowed of the inside). I took copious notes throughout each tour, just so I could remember the information.
About 5 pm, I was still feeling curious and walked down to the gardens, just in time to join the last tour of the day, the Poison Garden. The fenced in section contains numerous poison plants, and the guide shared even more fascinating stories.
With no break for lunch, I was hungry, and luckily was able to buy fish and chips near the garden around 6pm. What a full day!
Before you have ever been to Edinburgh, Scotland, people will tell you, “Edinburgh is a beautiful city.” You think to yourself, “why does everyone say that?” I wondered if I would come away from my trip saying the exact same words to others. I do.
My simple explanation is that the architecture is beautiful. As you walk the city, you may find yourself pausing to admire architecture right and left. Before we even left our hotel, I was enchanted with this view out our window.
The curve of the street leading to the Cathedral in the West End makes lovely leading lines. This photograph was taken in late evening dusk, around 10pm.
*With apology to E. M. Forster for using the name of his book title.
The historic Vanderbilt mansion in Newport, Rhode Island celebrate Christmas with old world charm. At Marble House, Christmas trees adorn every room. Yesterday, even Santa Claus arrived to meet the children.
You may also tour the upstairs bedrooms, the living room and the kitchen at Marble House. If you have time, be sure to visit the Breakers and Rosecliff, or six others! You will need a week to see them all and to walk the Cliff Walk while you learn about the Gilded Age of American history.
Like Sydney, Reykjavik Iceland has an architectural gem along its harbor, and it is a music hall. While I photographed Harpa from our ship as we departed the city harbor in the evening, I did not have a chance to visit the inside.
I have started to make my list of things to do in Iceland for my next trip. Iceland is a photographer’s dream.
Fog is hard to predict, but it can help you make some unique photographs. On Sunday, fog was literally rolling in off the ocean like smoke pluming from a major wildfire. You could see fog billowing past buildings, but you could not see the ocean. God giveth and He taketh away.
In this photo of the entrance to the Breakers, the Cornelius Vanderbilt mansion in Newport, Rhode Island, fog worked hand-in-hand with depth of field to enshroud the background — the monumental building and allow me to feature the color and detail of the foreground lamp, to illustrate the artisanship of the late 19 century.
There is so much detail to take note of as soon as you enter the Breakers: colored and carved marble, ruby red drapes and a three-story great hall, enormous and elaborate chandeliers, and more. Perhaps that is why I enjoy this very simple image just before entering.
For tourists, Florence is very crowded in the summer, and there will be a line to enter the Duomo, but don’t be discouraged. It is a magnificent structure of outstanding craftsmanship that could never be recreated in modern times. Inside the dome Vasari painted an enormous fresco. You can hike to the top of the dome via narrow stairway in between the internal and external walls if you wish; it’s a workout!
The story behind the Duomo is fascinating. I recommend Ross King’s “Brunelleschi’s Duomo,” a wonderful book that reads like a novel, not a history textbook. It tells the story of the competing architects who designed and built the enormous and ornate Duomo beginning in 1418. You will learn that no one had yet figured out how to build this large a vaulted dome over the foundation that was complete up to the base of the dome, and how they did it.
It is difficult to photograph the entire church from either the front or back, because the Baptistry, another architectural gem with bronze relief doors by Ghiberti, stands directly in front, and other buildings rise along the sides and rear. You can best see the famous dome while walking away from the church down a narrow cobbled street. Inside and out, from the sidewalk or top of the dome, the Duomo and its story are extraordinary.