Archive for the ‘Europe’ Category

Evolution of a Photo #2   Leave a comment

I enjoy low-light photography, especially when the subject is something as inviting as a cobblestone street and lamp.  Below are the before and after versions of one of the photos I took outside of La Basilique du Sacre Coeur in Paris.  All adjustments were done in Adobe Lightroom 4 and took about 30 minutes to perform.

The photo on the left is straight out of the camera except for some basic cropping to an 8 x 10 format.  The greenish-brown color is what happens when you photograph a scene lit by fluorescent or mercury vapor lamps.  If you photograph in RAW format (which I always do) you can adjust this later on the computer.  However, I didn’t bother adjusting the color balance because I knew I wanted to process the image as a black and white photo, making tone adjustments unnecessary.

Even as a black and white the image would have been flat and dull if I had done nothing more than click on the b&w conversion button.  To get the final image on the right I instead applied a red photo filter and then adjusted contrast to push the darks to pure black.  Highlights were backed off to reduce intensity and flare, and I then used the brush tools to dodge (lighten), burn (darken), and add clarity (mid-tone contrast) to selective areas of the sidewalks, cobblestone street, and wall.

Thirty minutes of effort to turn a “blah” image into something a bit more compelling.

Posted July 8, 2012 by ~ Bruce in Architecture, Europe

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Paris Cityscapes   Leave a comment

The last of the photos (I think) from Paris — a half-dozen images taken from one of the Notre Dame towers on a cold but beautiful winter’s day.

Posted February 10, 2012 by ~ Bruce in Architecture, Europe

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Versailles   2 comments

One of our day trips was to the palace at Versailles on the outskirts of Paris.  Not much needs to be said about this ornate chateau, last occupied by Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.  It is definitely a let-them-eat-cake sort of place.  The morning we were there was very crowded, and I frankly felt a bit indifferent to taking photos in the mayhem.  Following are a dozen shots where I managed to avoid the crush of the crowd.

(Above) Versailles:  Palace gate.  Tourists come in through a side entrance.

(Above) Versailles:  Exterior detail.

(Above) Versailles:  The understated architecture continued inside.

(Above) Versailles:  Exterior view from inside, through old glass panes.

(Above) Versailles:  One of the better images in my opinion.  I’ve always liked to photograph repeating geometric shapes like these columns.

(Above) Versailles:  More ornate columns.  I liked the warm light entering from the window.

(Above) Versailles:  Not your everyday ceiling.

(Above) Versailles:  Louis XVI, in happier times.

(Above) Versailles:  Chandeliers.  Electrified now, but candles in the palace’s heyday.

(Above) Versailles:  A hall of busts.  That I was able to photograph the entire length of the hall without a tourist in the frame is a small miracle.

(Above) Versailles:  Gardens.  This would be classified as “photo art” because I over-saturated the colors by a huge amount, and then heavily diffused the background.

(Above) Versailles:  Another highly saturated and diffused image, this time with the palace wing as a backdrop.

Posted February 5, 2012 by ~ Bruce in Europe, Travel Photography

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Sitting by the Seine   Leave a comment

“It’s a rainy night in Paris and I’m sitting by the Seine . . . “

Well, not exactly.  But I cannot think of the Seine without Billy Joel’s lyrics coming to mind.  In this case it was a cool and sunny day in Paris.  The woman in this photo had walked past us, taking an empty bench about 100 feet away and placing her pack of cigarettes beside her.  I don’t know if she was happy or sad or somewhere in between.  A photograph doesn’t always capture the real emotion of its subject.  To me this is a melancholy image that conveys a sense of isolation, from her decidedly non-Parisian clothing to the unnoticed, young joggers passing by.  She smoked her cigarette while gazing blankly across the river.  And the world went about its business, taking no notice of her.

I truly hope that she was happier — more content — than my emotional response to the scene.  I hope that I did not invade too much of her private moment.

Posted February 2, 2012 by ~ Bruce in Europe, People, Uncategorized

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Behind The Clock   2 comments

Unlike the Louvre, the Musee d’Orsay does not allow photography of its art objects.  This museum on the left bank in Paris is located inside a beautiful Beaux-Arts railway station and  specializes in impressionist and post-impressionist art (Monet, Manet, Renoir, Cezanne, Van Gogh).  Much smaller than the Louvre, it is nonetheless spectacular in terms of both its architecture and its art collection.

Despite the photography restriction, this museum provided what may be my favorite image from our trip to Paris.  The building has a large exterior windowed clock that overlooks the city.  The moment I walked into the “clock room” I knew it was just a matter of waiting for the right subject to silhouette in the window.  It took maybe 15 minutes of patience as a parade of Mickey Mouse and “I Love Paris” sweatshirts marched by, until this lone individual with curly hair and black wool coat finally presented himself.  I had time enough to make one vertical and one horizontal image before the Euro-Disney onslaught resumed.  I converted the image to monochrome in Topaz Black & White Effects software.

Posted January 31, 2012 by ~ Bruce in Europe, People, Travel Photography

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The Louvre   2 comments

After a brief diversion caused by Joe Paterno’s passing, I wanted to return to posting a few more photos from our Paris trip.  In particular, a few photos from the Louvre, a place that I found to be both fascinating and a bit overwhelming.  Musee de Louvre is the most visited museum in the world, and one of the world’s largest. It contains somewhere around 35,000 paintings, sculptures, and other art objects, and covers more than 650,000 square feet.  It is in a word, intimidating.

Unlike many museums, the Louvre allows visitors to photograph most of its art collection, without flash of course.  As I have already posted photographs of the museum’s exterior in my Paris at Night post, I will focus this post on some interior shots along with a sampling of the works of art found there.  We spent a fascinating five hours there and only brushed the surface of all there is to see.

Note:  Unless the works of art are really famous (like the Mona Lisa) you will not find any notes as to artist or subject in the photos below.  My apologies, but it is simply not an area of expertise, and I did not slow down to take notes as we walked through the galleries.  I took photos of whatever struck me as interesting and beautiful.

(Above) The Louvre:  The main lobby, below the glass pyramid.

(Above) The Louvre:  A spectacular staircase, worth skipping the escalators just to walk the stairs.

(Above) The Louvre:  Staircase closeup.  This also happens to be the 5000th photo that I’ve taken with my Canon 50D since I purchased it 18 months ago.


(Above) The Louvre:  One of the first rooms we entered in (I believe) the Denon wing.  The room was so large that it dwarfed 15 foot tall statues.

(Above) The Louvre:  Hannah checks out one of the works in the large hall.

(Above) The Louvre:  The somewhat homely likenesses of a King and Queen.  Sorry, I didn’t write down the names.

(Above) The Louvre:  More attractive humans are depicted in this work.  I am amazed that a sculptor can take a large block of marble and create something so lifelike.

(Above) The Louvre:  Oooh, I know this one.  Venus de Milo.  Thought to have been sculpted between 100 and 130 BC.  (Yeah, okay, I had to Google the dates).

(Above) The Louvre:  Give me a rock, a chisel, a truckload of sandpaper, and a lifetime . . . and I could not create a perfectly round orb like that, much less the hand, arm, and figure holding it.

(Above) The Louvre:  There were even statues on the ceilings.

(Above) The Louvre:  I don’t remember ever holding my kids this way.  (With one hand, or au naturale.  Take your pick).

(Above) The Louvre:  The flowing dress made of stone.  This was one of my very favorite pieces.  I had to resist the temptation to reach out and touch it.

(Above) The Louvre:  For those of you who have watched Monty Python And The Holy Grail, remember the guy in the dungeon at Camelot?  Yeah, I know, I should have my museum privileges revoked for life, but that’s what this reminds me of.


(Above) The Louvre:  Melanie and Hannah in the Denon wing.

(Above) The Louvre:  And the reason so many people go to the Denon wing first — the Mona Lisa.  Da Vinci’s work is behind plexiglass as you can tell by the reflections of other tourists at the bottom of the painting.

(Above) The Louvre:  Religious works were very prevalent from the Medieval and Renaissance periods that comprise this wing of the museum.

(Above) The Louvre:  Naturally the church had the deepest pockets 400+ years ago and commissioned most of these works.

(Above) The Louvre:  I have no idea who this person is or who painted the portrait, but just the beard alone is a work of art.

(Above) The Louvre:  This painting glowed like it was backlit.  That — along with the fact that the people weren’t being killed in battle or persecuted — made it unique.

(Above) The Louvre:  And — no surprise — there were even paintings on the ceiling.

(Above) The Louvre:  And finally, no trip to a museum in France would be complete without a portrait of Napoleon.

Posted January 29, 2012 by ~ Bruce in Architecture, Europe, Travel Photography

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Pere Lachaise Cemetery — Paris   1 comment

Doesn’t everyone visit cemeteries while on vacation?  Okay, probably not.  Certainly my daughter thinks I’m strange — for that and probably a few other reasons.  But as I mentioned in an earlier post, Pere Lachaise claims the title of world’s most visited cemetery.  So when in Paris . . .

Covering 110 acres, Pere Lachaise requires a map to navigate if you are looking for a particular gravesite (like Jim Morrison’s, Oscar Wilde’s, or Frederic Chopin’s).  Otherwise, you can simply wander the meandering cobblestone paths that snake past acre after acre of graves, some simple and some grandiose.  Several websites place the number at more than 300,000.  There is some dispute as to the actual number of persons buried here due to the custom of burying multiple family members in the same grave.  Plots can be purchased in perpetuity or leased for periods of 10, 30, or 50 years.  So yeah, if the lease isn’t renewed . . .

Some of the graves have deteriorated over the centuries (or to borrow a line from one of my favorite movies, they bear “the patina of a bygone era”), while others are freshly maintained. Formerly magnificent monuments in a state of deterioration add an aura of spookiness that, to me, emphasizes death as the “great equalizer”.

Or maybe it’s just the wine that I’m drinking while I work on this post.  In any case, enough macabre philosophizing.  Here are some images from this unique place.

(Above) Location: Pere Lachaise Cemetery, Paris.  To many Americans these look like mausoleums.  They are actually small “chapels” (for lack of a more precise term) where family members can come to offer prayers, leave flowers, etc.  Remains are below ground.

(Above) Location: Pere Lachaise Cemetery, Paris.  A view inside one of the deteriorating “chapels”.  On the wall is a likeness of one “Nicolas Perducet”.  I have no reason for relating that information other than that it appears his name and his monument are slipping into oblivion.

(Above) Location: Pere Lachaise Cemetery, Paris.  There is little wasted space between the 300,000+ grave sites.

(Above) Location: Pere Lachaise Cemetery, Paris.  It is easy to forget that the cemetery is in the midst of one of the world’s major cities.

(Above) Location: Pere Lachaise Cemetery, Paris.  Bright colors of nature, even in December.

(Above) Location: Pere Lachaise Cemetery, Paris.  Oscar Wilde’s grave — as flamboyant as the man himself.  The plexiglass was recently added to discourage women (and maybe some men?) from the popular practice of leaving red lipstick kisses on his tombstone.  The lipstick was apparently causing damage to the stone.

(Above) Location: Pere Lachaise Cemtery, Paris.  Unsurprisingly, the plexiglass surrounding Oscar Wilde’s grave now bears the lipstick-laden kisses of devoted visitors.

(Above) Pere Lachaise Cemetery, Paris.  Another monument succumbing to neglect and nature.

(Above) Location: Pere Lachaise Cemetery, Paris.  We found Jim Morrison’s grave near the top of this path.  More people were visiting Morrison’s final resting place than Chopin’s.

(Above) Location: Pere Lachaise Cemetery, Paris.

Posted January 17, 2012 by ~ Bruce in Architecture, Europe, Travel Photography

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Cathedrale Notre Dame de Paris — From Inside and Above   2 comments

Notre Dame was, of course, a must-see in Paris, and it didn’t hurt that the apartment we rented was less than a ten minute walk from the cathedral.  There is no charge to go inside the main sanctuary area, although there is a fee to climb the stairs to the top of the towers.  This was fortunately covered by our all-museums pass (a bargain that quickly paid for itself).  All we had to do was wait outside in freezing, windy conditions for 45 minutes . . . and then climb a total of 387 steps to reach one of the best views you will find in Paris.

Fortunately, the climb is broken into three separate phases.  This allows your legs to stop shaking and oxygen to return to your brain.  Seriously, don’t do this if you aren’t in at least reasonable physical condition.  And if you are a bit claustrophobic be forewarned that the stairs are narrow, steep, and circular.  With all that said, it is a compelling view from the top.  Do it if you are able!

(Above) Location: Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris.  There was a mass going on while we were there.  Tourism doesn’t stop for church activities, but it is a place that requires respect.  Men are requested to remove their hats, people speak in low voices, and photographers — no flash!

(Above) Location: Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris.  The statues and other art work is beautiful, although I must confess (pun intended) that I am not up to speed on my Saints and other persons of historical religious importance.

(Above) Location: Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris.  You can use headphones and a portable player for a self-guided walking tour which probably explains each bit of artwork.  I learned a long time ago that I can either listen to the history or take photographs — but not both.

(Above) Location: Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris.

(Above) Location: Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris.

(Above) Location: Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris.  Most of the inside shots were taken at 800 ISO and with an image stabilized lens.  Tripods are not permitted.

(Above) Location: Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris.  Notre Dame’s gargoyles have been around for centuries, obviously preceding both Victor Hugo and (ugh) Disney movies.  This is the first one that I came to after climbing the stairs for what seemed like forever.  It took at least four or five shots before my heart rate slowed down enough to hold the camera steady.

(Above) Location: Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris.  I used fill flash for most of the gargoyle shots.  A young British guy nearby asked why I was using flash, so I offered a brief explanation and we compared images on the camera backs.  Later downstairs he showed me his with-flash shots, clearly pleased.  Glad I could help!

(Above) Location: Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris.  I used a shallow depth of field to blur the background.  I think it helps to separate the gargoyle from the “jumble” of the city.  I took a lot of photos both ways — city in-focus and city blurred.  It can be difficult to decide which works best while I’m shooting.  I prefer to make that decision back home in front of the computer.

(Above) Location: Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris.  This is probably my favorite shot from Notre Dame.  The domes of the distant church (sorry, I don’t know the name) and the blue-roofed buildings below — all with this gargoyle standing guard from above, as he has been doing for hundreds of years.

(Above) Location: Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris.  The color of these statues caught my eye, but they also raised a question.  Considering Notre Dame dates back to the mid-1600’s, how exactly did the workers get them in place?  Considering that I’m not a huge fan of being in high places I’m not sure that I would have wanted to watch . . .

(Above) Location, Notre Dame Cathedral (front courtyard).  As usual I was the last one down, and Melanie and Hannah had to wait for me.  By now they’re used to it, but I was still happy to see them enjoying the time while waiting for the photographer in the family!

Posted January 16, 2012 by ~ Bruce in Architecture, Europe, Travel Photography

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Paris at Night   5 comments

Night photography in Paris is fortunately something that I planned for in advance.  After all, how could a photographer go to the “City of Lights” right before Christmas and not capture images after the sun goes down?  The problem is that good night photography requires a tripod, and tripods are a pain in the butt to schlepp around on airplanes — especially when you need to travel light.

So I left my large, expensive carbon fiber tripod at home.  What I brought along instead was a cheap little aluminum tripod that I picked up at a yard sale this summer for $1.00!  I fitted this cheapie with a $40 Arca Swiss style quick release plate, and Presto! — a small, lightweight, and totally functional QR tripod for under $50 that fit nicely into my duffel bag.

It was worth the effort.  Many of the following images could not have been captured without that little tripod.

(Above) Location: Paris.  Champs-Elysees from the top of the Arc de Triomphe.  It only took 284 thigh-burning steps to get up there, but the view . . .  wow!

(Above) Location: Paris.  It’s kind of hard to miss the Eiffel Tower at night.  Stunning, and not at all subtle.

(Above) Location: Paris.  At 200mm zoom.

(Above) Location: Paris.  At 300mm zoom.

(Above) Location: Paris.  A portion of the courtyard at The Louvre, looking away from the famous glass pyramid.

(Above) Location: Paris.  I. M. Pei’s famous pyramid at The Louvre.  Note that there are not 666 panes, despite what the Da Vinci Code claims.  There are reportedly 673 panes.

(Above) Location: Paris.  A fusion of new and old architecture.

(Above) Location: Paris.  Two of the smaller pyramids that flank the larger one.  Monochrome image.

(Above) Location: Paris.  Another section of The Louvre courtyard and another monochrome image.  The starburst effect was created by stopping down the aperture to f/22.  The result of stopping down the aperture is that the exposure time really lengthens — to as much as 30 seconds for some images.  Hence the need for a tripod.

(Above) Location: Paris.  Walking past shops on the way to the Basilique du Sacre-Coeur.

(Above) Location: Paris.  Lamps and cobblestone street outside of the Basilique du Sacre-Coeur.

(Above) Location: Paris.  We arrived at the Basilque du Sacre-Coeur too late to go inside.  These street lamps, however, were great photo subjects.

(Above) Location: Paris.

Posted January 13, 2012 by ~ Bruce in Europe, Travel Photography

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Beautiful Paris   2 comments

When we lived in London I had an English friend who once said, “Paris is the most beautiful city in the world.  Too bad there are French people there.”  To be honest, we did not encounter much of the famed French haughtiness.  What we did encounter was a beautiful, walkable city.  Here are a few photos taken while simply walking around.

Posted January 12, 2012 by ~ Bruce in Architecture, Europe, Travel Photography

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Parking de Paris   Leave a comment

I bet someone thought that buying a Daimler Smart car would make parking easier.  Good luck getting out of that space . . .

Posted December 24, 2011 by ~ Bruce in Europe, Street, Travel Photography

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Tower Bridge, London   Leave a comment

Not that there is a shortage of Tower Bridge (not London Bridge) photos, but here is one that I took in 2007.  I am getting around to publishing it now for the first time.  I was very close to the bridge, taking this photo from the walkway along the Thames river using a 24mm lens.  Photo at f/5.6 and 1/8th of a second.

Posted September 19, 2011 by ~ Bruce in Europe, Travel Photography

Edinburgh, Layers of Grey   4 comments

Close to the North Sea, Edinburgh can sometimes appear as grey and bleak as the weather that rolls in off the ocean.  But there is also a beauty to the monotone stone buildings which stack layer upon layer as the you take in this hillside city.  Where color does appear in Edinburgh, it jumps out at you –whether it’s the flowers and trees that dot the city in the summer, or a permanent fixture like the blue and white bridge in the top photo.  And if you somehow manage to forget that you are in a world-famous European city, all you have to do is look up to the castle that dominates everything from its vantage point above it all.

Posted September 1, 2011 by ~ Bruce in Europe, Travel Photography

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Silhouette, Eilean Donan Castle, Western Highlands, Scotland   Leave a comment

Late in the day of an all-day photo shoot at Eilean Donan Castle in the Western Highlands.  I hiked over to the east side of the castle and lined up the shot so that the castle was directly in front of the setting sun.  It was lightly raining at the time (note the rain drops in the water and reflection), so I covered the camera with a rain cover and kept on shooting.  A rain cover is a wise thing to have everywhere you go in Scotland.

Posted July 18, 2011 by ~ Bruce in Europe, Travel Photography

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Snowdonia National Park, Wales   Leave a comment

I know that Lord Of The Rings was filmed in New Zealand, but it just as easily could have been filmed in Snowdonia National Park, Wales.  Awesome photography conditions exist there thanks to the green meadows, rocky peaks, waterfalls, and ever-changing clouds and fog.  It can also rain at any moment, as moisture-soaked air from the ocean passes over the peaks.  Wet weather gear for you and your camera is a must!


Posted July 3, 2011 by ~ Bruce in Europe, Landscapes, Travel Photography

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Horse Guards   Leave a comment

We stumbled upon this bit of ceremony at the Horse Guards Parade Ground on the day that Diana died.  It was eerily quiet in London that day.  No car horns.  No shouting or laughing.  As we waited for the changing of the Horse Guards, the horse on the right was acting up.  The soldier in charge (standing) was telling the horse’s rider — in no uncertain terms — to get his horse under control.

I’ve always liked this photo for the symmetry and the color, but it will always conjure up the memory of that sad day.

Posted June 20, 2011 by ~ Bruce in Europe, Travel Photography

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Flowers, Kings College, Cambridge   Leave a comment

The British are wonderful gardeners, and the various colleges in Cambridge are beautifully landscaped.

Posted June 16, 2011 by ~ Bruce in Europe, Travel Photography

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Lismore Lighthouse   2 comments

I’ve seen a few lighthouses in my life (boy, have I) thanks to my wife’s passion for them.  The most beautiful by far is Lismore Lighthouse on the western coast of Scotland.  Besides being visually stunning Lismore has an interesting heritage, having been built in 1833 by Robert Stevenson — grandfather of Scottish novelist Robert Louis Stevenson (Treasure Island, Kidnapped, and Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde).

The official location of Lismore Lighthouse (which only a Scot could possibly understand) is “on Eilean Musdile in the Firth of Lorne at the entrance to Loch Linnhe”.  I could come up with a pretty good drinking game involving reciting that really fast while sipping single malt Scotch.  Not that anyone in Scotland needs an excuse to drink, at least based on what I observed on my trips there.  Like when we shared a train ride from London to Edinburgh with the Scottish national rugby team . . . a story for another post.

In any case, the best way to capture a good view of Lismore is to take the ferry from Oban toward Mull and Iona.  We had a particularly cold ferry ride even though it was June, but that is what you can expect in Scotland, especially on the water.  One other photographer and I left the warmth of the cabin and went out on deck to take photos.  I was able to take about two dozen shots as we passed by.  Thanks to strong winds and the vibrations of the ferry’s engines only three or four turned out acceptably sharp.  I was looking forward to another chance on the return trip but the ferry return route was far removed from the lighthouse.

The fare to ride the ferry is pretty steep but well worth the cost of seeing this magnificent lighthouse.  Throw in the chance to see Iona Abbey, Fingal’s Cave, and the rugged Scottish coast, and I would part with double the fare.  Highly recommended for photographers and non-photographers alike.

Posted June 15, 2011 by ~ Bruce in Europe, Seascapes, Travel Photography

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Eilean Donan / Changing Weather   1 comment

I’ve never been a big fan of picture postcards for one simple reason — so many of them are taken on blue-sky idyllic days (and then over saturated into colors that don’t normally exist in nature, but that’s a slightly different gripe).  Now, there’s nothing wrong with sunshine and blue skies when traveling and vacationing.  But for interesting photographs, I’ll take changing weather over blue skies any day.  And no where does the weather change more frequently than in the Western Highlands of Scotland.  I spent a good ten hours visiting Eilean Donan castle, and in that one day experienced sunshine, lightning, heavy downpours, rainbows, and everything in between.  Those “in between” moments, like the one above, can be spectacular.

Even if they’re not postcard worthy.


Posted June 12, 2011 by ~ Bruce in Europe, Travel Photography

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Somewhere in Tuscany   Leave a comment

One of my favorite photos in the Tuscany region of Italy.  Unfortunately, I lost my notes that identified the town where this was taken.  Montepulciano?  Cortona?  I’m not sure — but I took hundreds of photos in those two towns.  Regardless, if I had to choose just one place in Europe to go for photography it would be a toss-up between Tuscany in Italy and the Western Highlands in Scotland.

Posted June 11, 2011 by ~ Bruce in Europe, Travel Photography

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