The Spanish Steps and Ancient Rome

The Piazza di Spagna and the Piazza Trinita del Monti are on either end of the Spanish steps, with the Trinita dei Monti church at the top.  They are the widest set of steps in all of Europe.  In the Piazza di Spagna at the base, Fontana della Barcaccia.

Every time I look at this I have the same thought:  My, he has a rather high opinion of himself, doesn’t he?

Ancient Rome has been here since the 8th century BC.

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Trevi Fountain, Pantheon

The Trevi Fountain marks the end point of an aqueduct.  Originally there was a simple basin to collect the water, but in 1730 Pope Clement XII commissioned a contest to build a more suitable fountain.  The official winner, one Allesandro Galilei was denied the job because he was a Florentine, and thus it was given to the Roman Nicola Salvi.  Work began in 1732 and continued for 30 years, at the end of which Oceanus, or Neptune carved by Pietro Bracci was set in the center.

The Pantheon was commissioned in 118AD by Emperor Hadrian, and is of a circular design.  It was the largest dome in the world until 1436, measuring 142 feet in diameter.  The  height of the occulus, or opening at the top which is the only source of light inside the building is also 142 feet high.

The massive 60 tons that support the portico were quarried in Egypt and moved by barge for construction.

This shot from inside the Panteon, which is now used as a church, shows persecutive of it’s size.

This shot taken inside the Pantheon shows how much light is let in by the single occulus 142 above the photographer.  The opening is 27 feet in diameter and the concrete is 6.5 feet thick.

The tour guide called these tall monuments story poles.  They are carved from top to bottom with scenes that are deciphered into a story.  They occupy several of the squares around Rome.

Italy

I’ve decided to post some pics of Italy from our trip several years ago.  It was a fantastic trip, and I hope to go back again and see the parts we didn’t get to see, like Venice and Capri.

In Rome we stayed a few doors down from Saint Peters Basilica, at the Hotel Columbus.

The location was fantastic for the Vatican and the Basilica.  As it was summer, it was blistering hot, and I packed sleeveless dresses.  This was a mistake, as I could not enter into any churches without sleeves (on my dress, not the church).  I ended up buying a scarf and wrapping it around my shoulders so I could get past the guards.

The Pieta is one of the most moving pieces of art I’ve seen.  One can almost feel Mary’s agony as she holds her dead son.  There is a story told that after Michelangelo carved this magnificent piece, he overheard two workmen discussing it.  Part of their discussion was their disbelief that Michelangelo had indeed sculpted it as they believed him to be too young, so Michelangelo came back in the middle of the night and carved “Michelangelo Buonarroti, Florentine, made this” on the sash that Mary wears.

Of course there are many other pieces of beautiful artwork here.

And if you get bored, there is always confession, heard in a multitude of languages…

The Virginia Countryside

There is peace in the beauty of the countryside.  The storms of spring produce amazing cloud formations that roll and stretch across the sky.  It is quite a spectacular display.  I’m always in awe when I see this, no matter how many times I’ve seen it before.  The countryside of Virginia seems different to me then the countryside in other states.  Whenever I look out at this expanse I somehow imagine life before cars, computers, telephones and paved roads–a colonial lifestyle when life was much simpler.

Piece de Resistance

Forgive my incorrect punctuation, but my knowledge of such matters as accents on a keyboard are slim.  Must correct that at some point.  Today I wanted to share with you my DH photo’s from our trip, as some of them are quite good.  I missed this guy, as he was on one of my no diving days.

I missed this guy as well.

When I saw this guy, I said, “What’s the matter with that sea horse?  Why is he all straight?”  DH rolled his eyes, then laughed.  “It’s a pipe fish.”  No, I’m not usually that slow.

I don’t know what this thing is, but his green color is beautiful.

This guy is called a Nudibranch.  They come in an amazing array of shapes, sizes and colors.

And the ever present Lion fish that has become such a problem.  It has no known natural predators, and therefore they have overpopulated the Caribbean.  The divers in Roatan have begun spear fishing them and feeding them to the eels to try to teach them they can eat them.  It has had good results, as now the eels are fat and happy (with the exception that when they see divers they now expect to be fed), and the lion fish population has become manageable.  This also means that everything they were eating are beginning to come back as well.

An excellent example of an fat and sassy Eel, being cleaned by a Banded Coral Shrimp.

This guy is called a Hogfish.

“Honey,” DH says, “THIS is a Seahorse…”

These guys are extremely difficult to photograph.  They are usually moving with a darting motion rather than a lazy swim, and they are skittish.

This little guy is called a Yellow Headed Jaw Fish.  They are able to raise their bodies out of those holes and drop straight back down , effectively swimming backwards in a downward motion.  It is very interesting to watch them.  The males will hold the eggs in their mouths to incubate them until they hatch.

This is a Patterson Cleaner Shrimp.  The yellow in the body are eggs.

We couldn’t figure out what this guy was, but he lit up like a neon sign.

This little guy was pecking away at the jelly fish to the left of him.

And the last photo, the fierce Barracuda.  All the ones we saw were around 4 feet long.

Moving Photography

The last difficulty with photography is movement.  The water is moving, you are moving, the fish are moving.  How on earth can you get a photograph that is worth anything if EVERYTHING is moving?  Persistence.

I’m sure the longer you do it the easier it gets.  The simplest things such as breathing can cause you to move up and down a foot or two.  Inhale, rise.  Exhale, drop.  And you really shouldn’t hold your breath underwater, lest you get a lung injury, which can happen with as little as two feet of ascent while holding your breath, depending on your depth.  Having had a pulmonary embolism once in my life, I wasn’t keen on another lung injury.  But the overwhelming urge to hang still found me trying to hold my breath just to get that illusive photo.  It’s more difficult closer to the surface where neutral buoyancy is a little more difficult and the surge is greater.  Not to mention that the fish don’t really like to pose, although admittedly there are some who don’t shy away as easily as others.

The male Stoplight Parrot Fish is one that just does not stop swimming.  He is really hard to get a photo of, and I followed him for 15 minutes or so, and snapped about as many photos.

The angel fish is equally illusive.  He never stops swimming, and rarely swam in my direction.

These little guys tended to be curious, and head-on shots were a little easier with them.

Then there are the Sand Divers who lay on the bottom and blend in, hoping not to be seen.  Photo courtesy of DH, as mine did not come out well.

These little guys are about an inch long, and cover the bright orange coral.  I found them difficult to photograph because of their size and movement of the surge while using macro required tweaking of shutter speed and f stop.

This last guy is less than an inch in length, so I think the fact that I got him was probably nothing more than dumb luck.

Fascinations of the Deep

Yesterday I talked about White Balancing photography in the shallows, with full sunlight while Scuba Diving.  Once you get below 30 feet or so, the white balance doesn’t work quite as well, and you really need to switch to flash.  This proved to be more difficult than it seemed if only because my aging eyes couldn’t judge distance very well underwater.  And if you are too far away, the flash is ineffective, whereas if you are too close, the image is lit up, but blurry.  The following is coral that I was 3-4 feet from.  But being as large as it was, the flash only lit up the bottom and side portion to a pale green.

I swam in to get closer, and this was what happened on my second attempt:

And my third, that shows it’s true color, and the fact that I probably was not 3-4 feet from it like I thought, judging from the size…

This guy was just hanging out at about 70 feet, just watching us swim by…

As was this guy…

DH found this guy (he does have bifocals in his mask), who was about 1-1/2 inches long, and not happy that we were flashing lights at him.  Out for a nice walk at the end of the coral, he scurried back the other way towards the reef when we started taking pictures.  I am to understand he is some type of shrimp, I think.

And of course, this beautiful Butterfly-fish…