Good Night, Birds

Have you heard of a “rookery island” where dozens of birds of several species flock at sunset to find sanctuary for the night? I have found it magical to observe: as one great egret and eight ibis and three cormorants and six pelicans and a couple great blue heron and even more and more soar in from every direction and land side by side on every available branch of a tiny island of mangrove trees as the sun turns a brilliant orange and the light rapidly fades across the water… and the scene is silent.

I described the scene to my uninitiated friends as a Christmas tree fully decorated with ornaments on every bough, or a crowded church were a few more families arrive late and say, “please make room for us.”

Birds of many species crowd on to the branches of this rookery island for sanctuary overnight. Naples, Florida 2020.

Gargoyles, “les guardiens” of the churches of Paris

From the North Tower of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, one can see many other beautiful churches in the skyline. Nearby, also on Ile de la Cite is another Gothic style church with exquisite 13 c. stained glass windows, Sainte Chapelle. It was consecrated in 1248 and was part of the royal family residence until the 14th century. This church was also restored in the 19 century.

This pensive gargoyle on the tower of Notre Dame, seems to watch over Sainte Chapelle in this photograph. Photo by Catherine Kelly, 2004.

On a distant hilltop to the north, stands Sacre Coeur Basilica, a magnificent 20th-century Roman Catholic Church decorated with mosaics inside. Sacre Coeur and its quaint neighborhood Montmartre are also must-do destinations for any visit to Paris. I recommend climbing to the tower of Sacre Coeur as well for a fantastic view.

Gargoyle of Notre Dame Cathedral frames the distant view of Sacre Coeur Basilica in Paris. Photo by Catherine Kelly, 2004.

Vivid Sainte-Chapelle

After the iconic Eiffel Tower,  Sainte-Chapelle with its amazing stained glass windows is my favorite place to visit in Paris. The height and vivid color of the windows create a stunning effect. As you look at them, you wonder how they stand, as the stone supports are quite tall and thin and the walls appear to be “all window.” The chapel’s architecture and windows date to the early 13th century. It’s hard to image the construction taking place 800 years ago. 

#stainedglass, #saintchapelle, #Paris, #thingstodo, #iconic, #architecture, #history, #Louisix, #13century, #chapel, #church, #art
Admire the stained glass of Saint-Chapelle in this wide angle photograph taken with the Sony a7rII.

This royal chapel, commissioned by Louis IX on Ile de la Cite in Paris, is located near Notre Dame Cathedral. If you buy the Musee Pass to pay admission to numerous museums and monuments for a 3-5 days, this beautiful church is included. I recommend going on a sunny day!

A Room With A View*

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.

#cathedral, #saintmarys, #stmarys, #architecture, #edinburgh, #scotland
View of Saint Mary’s Cathedral in Edinburgh, Scotland from our room in the Hilton Grosvenor.

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.

Art for the Illiterate

In the Middle Ages, stained glass windows taught the Scriptures to the illiterate, but today the educated admire them for their beauty and artistry. Saint Giles Cathedral in the heart of Edinburgh features some stunning stained glass as well as a beautiful architecture.

In St. Giles Cathedral, the leader of the Scottish reformation John Knox preached and converted the church from a Catholic to a Presbyterian place of worship in the 16 century. Knox had the stained glass removed, as he opposed anything that separated one from God, according to travel writer Rick Steves. Nineteenth century Victorians installed the stained glass we admire today.

#architecture, #church, #cathedral, #scotland, #stainedglass, #presbyterian
Looking across the nave from one side aisle to the other, you can see the pointed arches and the small stained glass windows in the aisles.

#church, #scotland, #stainedglass, #art, #window, #religion, #edinburgh
At the end of the side aisle, find this large window that depicts the crucifixion and ascension of Jesus.

#stgiles, #edinburgh, #scotland, #church, #cathedral, #art, #stainedglass, #scripture, #window
Modern style window crowns the center aisle. The colors and boat scenes are dramatic.

I photographed these windows by propping the camera on the pew, and setting my Sony a7rII camera on ISO 2000. The images were lightly processed in Adobe Lightroom. I found the Sony performed quite well in dimly lit church interiors.
















Walking Mykonos

The Greek Islands have endured their share of hardship with the recent influx of Syrian refugees. But their beauty and charm has endured through the ages. You never know what you will find as you wander the maze like streets of Mykonos.

#greekislands, #greece, #mykonos, #maze, #whitewash, #walking
So easy to get lost for the day wandering around Mykonos.

You might lose your sense of direction, but come upon a sculptural Greek chapel.

#greekislands, #greece, #chapel, #church, #whitewashed, #blueandwhite, #sculpture
Whitewashed Chapel in Mykonos, Greece, found by chance.

Hopefully, you will find your way to Mom’s favorite jeweler. We have been coming here to Lalaounis since 1973.

#greece, #gold, #jewelry, #greekislands, #mykonos, #motherdaughter, #foundit
Like mother, like daughter. Repeat. Three generations shop at our favorite Greek jeweler ilias Lalaounis, which creates designs reminiscent of antiquity.


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!