Thursday, October 15, 2015

As Kevin Sees It (guest posting)

For a little variety--and because he deserves his say too--this blog post is by Kevin. It's a lightly edited version of an email he sent. The exceptional black-and-white photos are his. I've added only a few color pictures.)

The neighborhood is unique and very lively. I will intersperse some photos from the neighborhood into my description of my "miserable" life here in Florence.

Our apartment places me in a photographer’s dream environment. Almost any photographer could do a lot more with it than I am able.[R's comment: Not true!]  It is opportunity-rich with life unrolling – or running by on the streets below our windows. I have this huge folder full of photos. It is called La Nazione after the news stand below. My problem isn’t how to find time to take photos, because I can easily take a thousand or so a day, but I am trying to limit them. The trouble is finding the time to weed out the losers, and pick only the best to keep. Ten minutes of shooting might keep me busy for two or three hours. This post includes only a few of the last three days of work. Most were taken last night and this morning.

Looking down at the newstand through the shutters.

Vendors scrambling. Police had entered the piazza, and presumably they lacked permits to sell their wares.

Dusk and morning are the best times to shoot. Not just because of the light, but also because the locals are doing their business in the morning, and the activities on the street at night do not include the hordes of tourists shooting photos of the Duomo. That is a whole other category of shots – and I do have a number of them that are quite amusing.

Because we have a corner apartment, we have views out onto two different streets, and also the piazza surrounding the Cathedral. There is construction going on continually, but I have found that some of the artifacts of the construction make for interesting patterns in the background, sometimes the foreground, of my images.

I have been playing a lot with ISO and with shutter speeds. That is another reason I weed out so many losers. I am going mostly by trial and error.

The vendors in the piazza have  mobile stalls. When they are set up you would never believe they could be constructed each morning and taken down and hauled off each evening. That’s because they are so huge and permanent-looking. But they are self-contained battery-powered carts. The guy below is pushing his bike and steering his cart at the same time. He is actually two-hundred meters or so from his staked-out territory.

Today was a long and busy day. I slept in until 8:00. We have a French press for making our morning coffee. So I made the big pot to get started. Rachel made the breakfast after going to the market for some eggs, which we had forgotten to get yesterday. After my clean-up, we headed off to the farmers market. It is not too far from here, a very pleasant walk on a beautiful sunny morning. Just before the market we saw the wine store that we had heard about, but had not noticed the last time we were in the area. They pump your wine into bottles you bring in, or they will provide the empty bottles for a deposit of 50 cents each. We got three bottles of wine for 10.20 euros including the bottle deposit. A couple of old folks like us own the shop and work it themselves. She handles the counter and he handles the pumping of the wine and the corking of the bottles.

With my pack filled with wine, we made our way through the stalls outside the covered portion of the market. We found some vegetables and salad makings outside – then headed inside to look for our dinner. There is a popular meat, cheese, and pasta stall inside. You have to take a number and there is always a crowd around the counter. We tried two types of stuffed raviolis; ricotta/spinach and lemon. We picked up some freshly made pesto sauce to go with that, and for my personal snacking pleasure, we got some pecorino cheese. Not the hard stuff that you are probably familiar with, but a little softer sort that is great with crackers.

After returning home, but before lunch, I left Rachel and headed down to the Bargello museum. It is about a block-and-a-half down the street from our door. I got a little worried because of the crush at the door to get in. But once inside, it was nearly empty. I just happened to get there when a group of kids was blocking the entrance. I figured today I would concentrate on getting shots of the sculptures, highlights, and shadows. Here is one of the shots from the mornings efforts. This is Donatello’s David, the second most famous of the world’s Davids. The most famous, Michelangelo’s, is three blocks north of us.

Donatello's David

Michaelangelo's David
Maybe I got six good pictures this time. It was time to get back for lunch. Rachel had already eaten. I made a sandwich and salad for myself and took a little nap after weeding out my photos. 

Then we walked over to a theater (Odeon) where they show English speaking films. We saw a pretty bad movie ("The Man From UNCLE").

The Odeon is a beautiful theater, and sometimes we just want to see something in English.

From there we ambled slowly on to the Piazza Signoria, getting some chocolate gelato on the way. When the dripping cones were merely memories, we ducked into the Uffizi Museum. 

The Uffizi is free to us, as is the Academia, Pitti Palace, and the Bargello, since we are members of ICOMOS, an advisory group for UNESCO that helps support many World Heritage sights. The Uffizi is open on Tuesday evenings in summer and early fall to relieve a little of the relentless pressure of visitors. It can be really pleasant to visit in the evening without the crowds, but a nightmare during the normal visiting hours. We have been making good use of the free visits, with multiple trips now to all of the main events with the exception of only once to see David at the Academia. It was packed, even though we got there very early on a week day. Next time we will go in the evening hours.

Michaelangelo's Holy Family in the Uffizi. These days most museums let you take photos,
as long as you don't use a flash. Of course, the photo doesn't do it justice.

We got home for a glass of wine at about 9:00 and had a late dinner, eating all of the pasta we had purchased at the market. It has been a good day. Sometimes I get a bit stressed over the constant travel. But then again, with days like today I see how lucky I am. This is an amazing experience for a poor little Cuban immigrant boy from Bothell. Wait a minute! I am not a poor little Cuban immigrant boy. That's Marco Rubio! (Where did that come from? Maybe the wine?) It was 2.90 euros, and it was great!

I do apologize for this self-indulgent message. I suppose it could be like a slide show that never ends, where everyone is falling asleep. But isn’t that what family and friends are for? They are there for us to bore.

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