Friday, February 24, 2012

Reading Terminal Market, Philadelphia, PA

We recently took a day trip to Philadelphia to go to the market, the Reading Terminal Market. This is a picture of what the building originally looked like. You have that big grand building in the front (the headhouse containing passenger facilities and offices) and if you look closely on the left side of the picture, directly behind this big, grand headhouse, you have that squatty building behind it that held the trains and tracks (the trainshed). Reading Railroad built this terminal to join together a number of train tracks into one location.
History of Reading Terminal

This is a more current picture of what that squatty building looks like now. Today this trainshed houses one of the nicest markets I've ever seen. I've been to quite a few markets in my time: Pikes Place Market - Seattle, Lonsdale Quay Market - Vancouver BC, Lexington Market - Baltimore Harbor, plus many smaller true Farmer's Markets around the country. Philadephia's Reading Terminal Market clearly has the best selection and variety of quality vendors. The aromas of fresh cheeses, prepared meats, and meals was unbelievable when I walked in the place. You could get fresh produce and flowers, fresh meats from various butchers and seafood vendors, preserved foods: pickles, jerky, jams and preserves, candy; fresh prepared foods: deli sandwiches, full Amish meals, cookies, ice cream, etc. You could also buy clothing, jewelry, soaps, perfumes, and wine. The selection was unbelievably varied and nice all under cover (out of the elements cold/wind) covering a city block.

M and I got some deli sandwiches for lunch, an apple dumpling for dessert from the Amish restaurant, but we of course also had a fresh baked cookie from another shop. We bought a number of cheeses from a vendor to make our cheese fondue for our last progressive dinner. We also bought 6 types of sausages from a vendor. They were so amazingly good we plan to go back and buy more. There really is something for everyone at this market. If you ever find yourself in Philadelphia, be sure to stop by the market. You won't regret it. Here are pix of the Market so you can see what it looked like and the variety of vendors there.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Yippee - New Fish Eye Lens

M got me a "wide angle" lens for Christmas because that's what a friend told her I wanted. It was my fault really, I told the friend I needed either a wide angle lens or a fish eye lens. What I really wanted was a fish eye lens, but just didn't understand the differences initially when I spoke. So after getting the wrong lens, returning it, then forgetting to order the other lens for a while, I finally got the fish eye lens. You've likely seen photos taken with a fish eye lens before but didn't know what you were looking at. Depending on how close you are to the subject, you can get that round effect in your picture because the fish eye lens shoots 180 degrees. So shooting straight ahead, you could also get a shot of the floor in front of your feet at the same time.

I wanted this particular type of lens because I'm an old architecture nut. I love taking pictures of old buildings, but often you can't get the whole building in, in one picture because it's too tall, too wide, or on narrow city streets, you can't back up far enough away from the building to get the whole building in the shot. I experienced this problem when I was taking shots of an old building downtown for that friend who told M which lens I needed. He's working on a project concerning old downtown buildings and their revival. I offered to take the pix for the website he was building on that topic.

The other problem I experienced, besides not being able to get the whole building in, was that, not being a professional photographer with extra lights and screens, inside some old buildings, there isn't enough light to get a good picture. I was in the attic of one of these grand old buildings and other than a single light bulb fixture hanging from the ceiling, the only light was coming through the windows. When I used flash, it only covered a narrow field of vision. A fish eye lens is great for taking wide angle shots in low light. In that first shot of my dining room, the lights in the room were turned down on the dimmer and there were no other lights on in the house. It actually was quite dark, but the picture came out vivid and bright.

The reason I haven't posted pictures sooner with this new lens is because I was able to take great indoor shots, but I couldn't take outdoor shots. All my outdoor shots were completely bleached out to the point you couldn't even see the picture. I had to find time to read the manual and figure out the aperture settings to cut down on the amount of light coming into the camera. Now that I've figured that out, I can take outdoor shots. In this picture, I'm taking a shot of the whole back yard; with my regular lens, I'd only be able to take half of that picture at a time. I'm planning on going back downtown on Friday with a friend and my new lens and take more shots as I figure out how the lens works. I'm so excited.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary & Blair Audubon Center, Naples, Florida

M likes to ask me questions when we're traveling, and usually my first response is, "are you nuts?" While in Boston in January in freezing temperatures and bitter winds, she asked me if I'd like to take a stroll down to the harbor. We froze our asses off. Recently ( a year later) we were in Philadelphia in January to visit the Market (I'll do a post on that soon) and she says, let's walk to the museum to see the Liberty Bell, it's only a mile or so. I'd learned my lesson since Boston so I was covered from head to toe. Well on our recent post-Christmas trip to Florida to enjoy the warm weather, M asks me if I'd like to go for a hike through a swamp. You can imagine the look I gave her. Oh, and by the way, we're going to bring a surly teenager with us as well. Honestly, I don't know where she gets these ideas, but at least our trip through the swamp was not in windy, freezing temps, and it also was a pleasant 80 degrees. That said, this was one of her better hair-brained ideas. :-)

Blair Audubon Center website
So the Blair Audubon Center was about 30 minutes from where we were staying on Marco Island. The swamp and Audubon Center are part of the larger Everglades National Park. I was not enthused to be trekking through a swamp and so had very low expectations. When we arrived we saw many people there. Maybe they knew something we didn't. We also saw tons of cameras with massively large lenses. Next we saw photographers from National Geographic with a camera lens that was so large, it looked like a giant telescope. It was as big as the back of an SUV. Apparently, this swamp was a haven for bird watchers. Who knew? Well, apparently not us. Luckily I did have my camera with me and my microscopic lens (compared to the others). I was definitely developing lens envy.

I must say that I was pleasantly surprised at how quiet hundreds of people could be while walking through the swamp. Oh sure, we had a few parties yakking, but most people were quiet and constantly on the lookout for birds. The trails were all elevated wooden walkways, which was great, no mud on the shoes and not close enough for an alligator or a snake to get to you. This was my kind of walk through the swamp. I was surprised at the variety of trees (pines, palms, etc.), plants, mosses, lichens, flowers and birds. I'm going to let you walk quietly through the photos to see what I saw. There is one thing I do want to mention. When you get to the shots of the birds, please know that most of them were taken at a great distance. I was greatful that my lens could capture the birds from so far away. The only bird that was close was the first white bird you will see. He swooped down toward us to land on a tree branch and I lifted my camera really fast hoping to capture him. I was so excited when I saw that I got him in flight. I blew that shot up a little so you could see him better. He looks positively prehistoric. Well. Enjoy.

Last full day in Europe

Ahh, all good things must come to an end.  Our European vacation is drawing to a close.  We leave Nice this morning to drive back to Barcelo...