Foggy Newport

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.

#fog, #mansion, #breakers, #newport, #gildedage, #rhodeisland, #art, #architecture, #fog
Welcome to the Breakers in Newport, Rhode Island. Fog helped direct the eye to the lovely 19c. lamp outside the entrance to the mansion.

Florence’s Duomo

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.

#facade, #Duomo, #marble, #florence, #firenze
Facade of the Duomo, Florence
#duomo, #florence, #church, #firenze
Rear of the Duomo: geometric pattern with three colors of marble.
#duomo, #dome, #florence, #firenze
It’s hard to get a good distance from the Duomo for a view of the dome.

Roman Domes / Best of 2015

The ancient Roman Pantheon, Michelangelo’s dome in Saint Peter’s Basilica, Borromini’s San Carlino alle Quattro Fontane — these are a few of my favorite photography subjects in 2015. Walking around Rome last August, I enjoyed the chance to examine how different architects and engineers imagined and then constructed the same great architectural achievement — the Dome.

Today as I look back on these photos, I can reflect on the symbolism of their shape: beginning with the circle, which has no beginning and no end, with a three dimensional shape that draws the eye skyward and a window in the center to give the eye a focal point and provide natural light.

While the Pantheon was the first major dome ever constructed and the model for every major dome that followed, each dome is uniquely constructed and styled. The Pantheon’s large open oculus (eye) welcomes a beam of sunlight and heavy rain at other times. While it is now used as a Roman Catholic church, a burial place for Italy’s founders and the artist Raphael, and at times a concert hall, it did not begin that way. I took a panoramic photo with my iPhone 6 that shows the view from the altar to the open oculus.

Ancient Pantheon now used as a Catholic Church and a concert venue.
Ancient Pantheon now used as a Catholic Church and a concert venue.

The giant scale of St. Peter’s dome is one its first impressions. How will I capture how immense it really is? Here is another iPhone shot from the base of the dome, looking down at the people below.

From the base of St. Peter's Dome.
From the base of St. Peter’s Dome.

From the marble floor below, looking up, I braced my camera (no tripods allowed) and shot the painted inside of the St. Peter’s Dome. Nikon D800 this time!

Exquisite interior of St. Peter's Dome.
Exquisite interior of St. Peter’s Dome.

Then, go ahead and climb it! I lost count of how many steps it is within the inner and outer shell to the cupola, where you can look out over Rome from its highest point. Stick your camera lens through the safety fence to shoot a horizontal panorama.

Pano with Nikon D800, merging 6 images.
Pano with Nikon D800, merging 6 images.

A lesser known church among the hundreds in Rome is San Carlino alle Quattro Fontane. You might easily walk past its relatively unremarkable facade right on top of a busy street. But once you enter the small church and look up, you will fall in love with the originality of the oval dome — all in white and beautifully sunlit with perfect symmetry and sculptural detail.

San Carlino, a Baroque gem.
San Carlino, a Baroque gem.

If you liked this Baroque gem, you should also visit the small church and dome by Borromini’s rival Gianlorenzo Bernini in the same block: San Andrea al Quirinale. Or San Ivo della Sapienza. Share your own favorites, and if you want to read a cool book about domes, check out Brunelleschi’s Dome by Ross King. I read this book after I got home, and it really turned me into a dome freak!

Like what you see? Cathy Kelly has photographed churches and temples in many countries around the world. If you are looking for a print or image license for a location she may have captured, please email Cathy at

More Italy travels to come!



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.