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Friday, August 2, 2013

The Village of Chamonix, France

The other day, while taking a break from working out in the yard, I decided to do a little organizing of my photo library.  As I was browsing through sets of pictures, I came across a few shots from Chamonix, France, the bestest little village in the whole Alps, and I felt inspired.  It happens from time to time.

It's been pretty tough to work on my photography or art since moving to Alaska this past January.  Because of my bad back and other conditions, I'm just not set up well to work for long stretches on a computer.  I've started many projects, but haven't finished any of them because it's simply too painful to sit for long periods, even in my special zero gravity chair.  It can be a real inspiration and mood killer.

Perhaps the key is to learn how to work differently now.  I've had to re-learn a lot about living life with a broken body recently, but I guess I haven't made the transition in how I approach computer work.  I've always liked to sit down and put in long, long stretches, seeing a project through from beginning to end, seizing upon that initial burst of inspiration.  Now, I'm going to have to learn how to adapt to a "short burst" philosophy, I suppose, putting in time only when I feel up to it.  I just need to be able to conjure up that inspiration when needed.  This will be the tough part.

Whatever the approach, it seems that I was able to hang on to whatever inspired me for a few days to create the posters below.  And it was fun for the most part.  When I started to really hurt and the pain made things frustrating and I could feel my mood back-sliding into the dark abyss directly behind me  (it's easy to imagine when you spend so much time reclined in a zero gravity chair), I put a movie on or read or got up and did something that didn't hurt as much.  

And now, due to wrist and hand cramps and pain and the electric shocks zipping down the nerves from my neck to my shoulders to my forearms and into my fingers, I'll wrap this up.

Hoping to do some more work soon.  I'm thinking Rome or Paris next.  Or Amsterdam.  Or Alaska even, perhaps. Okay.  Ouch.  Thanks and Bye!

I'll have these images linked to Zazzle when the products are posted.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Cinque Terre Floods

It's been just a little over a year since the 25 Oct 2011 floods that ravaged the towns of Vernazza and Monterosso in the Cinque Terre region of Liguria, Italy.  My wife and I fell in love with the Cinque Terre region when we visited there with my little brother three summers ago. We spent six nights in the village of Riomaggiore, the southern most village of the Cinque Terre.  This gave us plenty of time to explore the five towns of the Cinque Terre, along with the town of Levanto, just north of the Cinque Terre.  The mind-blowing scenery, the incredibly nice and down-to-Earth people, the locally grown food and locally produced wine, the beautiful blue waters of the crystal clear Mediterranean Sea along this portion of coast known as "The Italian Riviera" - it all makes the place extremely special and such an incredible place to visit and spend time.

Because I nearly lopped off the end of my index finger slicing an onion the other night, it's a little difficult to type right now.  I will let Mr. Rick Steves tell you a bit more about what has been happening with the recovery effort in Vernazza and Monterosso and the rest of the Cinque Terre:
Updated 10/8/2012
On October 25, 2011, an unusually severe rainstorm brought flash flooding and landslides, to the Cinque Terre towns of Vernazza and Monterosso al Mare — filling the streets with rocks, mud and debris up to 12 feet deep. Three people drowned in Vernazza and one in Monterosso.
Today, most shops, restaurants and hotels in Vernazza and Monterosso are back welcoming visitors — the result of a remarkable recovery process. Throughout the winter and spring of 2012, the Italian government, local residents and relief workers teamed up to remove literally acres of mud from both towns. Since then, the streets and sewer systems have been re-engineered, and the ground floors of most of the affected businesses have been renovated. Outside the town centers, however, much work remains to repair structures, rebuild terracing, and prevent future flash-flooding.
I recently completed three new designs for three different Cinque Terre villages, each piece coming in a choice of two color combinations.   Even though it has been a few years, I still have a lot of photos to go through from that trip.  I'll get to them one of these days........ ;)  Until then, however, here are the newest for this area of Italy.
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Thursday, October 18, 2012


I'd been meaning to do something with the picture this poster is based off of for the last two years.  Seeing some show on Hulu, that I can now no longer remember the name of that was set in Chicago, acted as a reminder - some scene where they were down in the Loop area walking under one of the L-train bridges.  While working on this poster, I got to thinking that Chicago would be a pretty cool city to live in for a year or so.

I'm not much of a city boy, preferring my exposure to the larger collections of humans in short doses. However, living in Europe has changed my perspective on this somewhat.  In most European countries I've visited, almost all towns over 1,000 people have something in common.  It doesn't matter if you're in the Alsace of France or Bohemia in the Czech Republic.  I think it is so cool that you can walk to get almost all of your basic necessities.  Most of these towns have their butcher, their baker, and their..... a small grocery store (no candlestick makers, unfortunately) that are easily accessible on foot. You don't find that in small town America much anymore.  With the proliferation of the big box stores and the death of downtowns, automobiles are almost always a necessity.

It's only in the bigger cities of America that one can live a more Euro type lifestyle.  I'm not talking about wearing scarves year round or clothes that are two sizes too small.  I'm talking being able to walk to get fresh fruits and veggies nightly, being able to get fresh meat every day, fresh flowers, fresh baked bread, the daily newspaper, sit at a cafe sipping an espresso and watching the world go by.......

The downtown Loop Area of Chicago has all of the above and more.  Since I was mainly in the city for work, the six days I spent there simply wasn't enough.  However, I felt at home in Chicago.  It just seems like a place that will keep on surprising you and a place that would be a lot of fun to live, if only for a short time.  Ultimately, the flatness and extremely limited access to actual mountains, would be deal breakers for planting roots.  Not even the tasty fresh water waves of Lake Michigan can make up for the absolute lack of terrain variation.  Still, Chicago is one of the top cities I've visited in the US, perhaps even number one.  I hope to get the chance to go back to explore the city a bit more thoroughly in the future.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Halloween at Castle Veldenstein

Castle Veldenstein - with a Halloween twist

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Castle Veldenstein, which sits prominently above the town of Neuhaus an der Pegnitz in the Oberpfalz region of Bavaria, has a long and varied history.  Currently, the castle and it's inner grounds are used as a restaurant, serving up the standard Bavarian menu to travelers stopping by while exploring the Pegnitz River area.  Burg Veldenstein also offers the unique opportunity for travelers to stay overnight in an authentic castle.  Next to the castle is the Veldenstein brewery, brewing one of the more popular beers of the region.

Castle Veldenstein hasn't always been used for such benign purposes, however.  Hermann Goring (yes, that guy) actually grew up at the castle, even constructing a bunker in the castle wall just prior to the start of WWII.  You can read a full history about the castle by clicking HERE.

When I was growing up, Halloween was one of the best holidays a kid could ask for.  What?  I get to hang out with my friends, dress like a vampire, and get to go beg for tons of free candy?  Sign me up!  Even when I'd far surpassed the dress up age, Halloween was always a good time.  In high school, it was egg fights and after egg fight parties.  In college, well, I don't remember those Halloweens too well.  Must have had some fun!

While living in Japan, Halloween was almost non-existant.  I do think I remember seeing a package of that fake spider web stuff, some silly string, and some Dracula teeth at a Circle K that was near my house  - and fireworks.  Lots of fireworks.  It took some getting used to, but the Japanese seem to use fireworks for almost every occasion deemed important.  Like, say, 'Tuesdays."

I never got too many trick-or-treaters at my cabin in Alaska.  The first Halloween I spent in the great white north fell on a day that decided to be -30 Fahrenheit.  Yes, that is a minus sign in front of the 30.  In interior Alaska, trick-or-treating still does take place, regardless of the weather.  For some reason, the most popular costumes seem to be those where you can dress as warm as you want.  I mean, there is nothing cuter than seeing a 4 year old girl dressed up as, "north slope oil rig worker".  Ah, doesn't she look precious?

Halloween is a holiday that is picking up in some European countries.  Many of the bars, pubs, and clubs where I live in Germany host Halloween parties now.  When I first arrived six years ago, perhaps only one or two establishments did so.  Hey, nothing says Halloween like a little sauerkraut and some weisswurst.  Bob for apples?  Nah, bobbing for pre-formed balls of headcheese floating in a washtub full of Weißbeir is much more fun!

This year, Halloween should be taking on a brand new meaning for my wife and I.  With our twins being nearly 9 months old when the holiday occurs, there isn't a lot we can do with them yet.  I don't think they'd enjoy the techno music, nor the smell of hundreds of cheap colognes mixing together with the stench of alcohol sweat, at the Josefhaus.  I've got a feeling, though, that my wife is going to have some fun playing dress up with them on that evening.  I just hope she still lets me have my backyard pagan bonfire......

Siena and Névé in their pumpkin hats

Friday, October 12, 2012

The First Hard Frost of the Season

In honor of the hard frost of 11 October 2012, the frost that killed pretty much everything in the garden that wasn't protected, I give you more ice - the longest glacier in the European Alps,  The Great Aletsch Glacier.  From Wikipedia:

"The Aletsch Glacier, or Great Aletsch Glacier, is the largest glacier in the Alps.  It has a length of about 23km and covers more than 120 square kilometers in the eastern Bernese Alps in the Swiss canton of Valais"

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The photograph the above poster is based off of was taken from the Jungfraujoch, a saddle between the 4,158 m (13,642 ft) Jungfrau and the 4,107 m (13,474 ft) Mönch, two prominent peaks stoutly standing next to their better-known cousin, the Eiger.  The saddle is reached by a cog railway that climbs from the tiny hamlet of Kleine Scheidegg to the Jungfraujoch Railway Station, the highest railway station in Europe at 3,454 meters (11,332 ft).  After arriving at the station, one of the more popular destinations is the Sphinx viewing platform, which can be reached with a short walk and elevator ride up out of the railway tunnel.  On a nice day, this is the view that greets you as you step outside on to the large platform:

The scale of the scenery in these Alps is absolutely massive, making the engineering accomplishments of the railway and the Sphinx station all the more impressive.  To give a demonstration of the scale of this place, notice the two large 'holes' in the snow in the bottom and middle right of the above photo.  Now, look at the bottom hole, taking notice of the small dot just to it's right and just to the right of the faint trail (click on above image to enlarge).  That is a Snow Cat.  Not exactly a small piece of equipment.  The below image is a better view of it.  This was taken with my 70-200 Canon telephoto lens at full zoom from the end of the Sphinx platform.  The Snow Cat is still tiny. 

The landscape that serves as the accumulation area for the mighty Aletsch Glacier is one of those places where it feels as if your head might explode from scenery overload.  Where to point the camera first?  How long can my bare hands last outside of my thick and warm mittens to take photos in these -35 C temperatures?  Those are just a couple of the questions that come to mind when you first see the visual buffet laid out before you.  At the opposite end of the railway station from the Sphinx platform, even the casual traveler can get their boots (or sneakers as we saw on a few people) on the snow, and get some varied scenic perspectives.  Here's my wife posing with the Swiss flag at over 11,000 feet in -30F or so temperatures.  The drop off behind her?  Ehhh, few thousand feet or so straight down to Kleine Scheidegg.  This is one way to beat the train down to K.S. with confidence - and save yourself the cost of the return ticket!

The gateway to recreation and sightseeing of this section of the Swiss Alps is the village of Interlaken, although there are less touristy and more quaint villages to stay in higher up the mountains, accessed in some cases only by train.  Although I have only been to the area during the winter, I do own a copy of "The Eiger Sanction" and can attest to the beauty of the area during the Spring and Summer seasons - based solely on watching said movie once!  It's kind of scary just how little Kleine Scheidegg has changed since 1975 when the movie was made.......... but that is also part of the charm of the region, making it a great place to visit in the Alps.

The Aletsch Glacier (on White) - Click Here to Purchase

More Posters from the Interlaken, Switzerland region:
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Thursday, September 27, 2012

An Oregon Collaboration

Although I grew up in Oregon, I know very little about the Columbia River Gorge or Mt. Hood.  I believe I've only been through the gorge twice, making the obligatory stop at Multnomah Falls both times, and seeing little of anything else beyond what was whizzing by through the car windows.  I've been a more frequent visitor to Mt. Hood, having skied Timberline in both the summer and the winter along with climbing the mountain early one autumn, having an exhilarating ski back down to the lower end of the Palmer Snowfield.  I've even been on the backside of the mountain - twice! - having spent a night each time at the Tilly Jane A-Frame, exploring the surrounding area and the Elliot Glacier.  From both of these trips, I can state for a fact, a six pack of good microbrew is enough to get two people quite inebriated when the drinking is being done at nearly 6,000 feet elevation!

One thing I do have from those trips is good memories.  One thing I do not have is good pictures.  Recently, an old friend, who I used to play YBA basketball with when I was but a wee lad, contacted me asking if I had any posters covering the Mt Hood or Columbia Gorge areas.  Since I base most of my work off of my own photography, and since I really hadn't been in to photography when growing up in Oregon, I sadly had nothing to work with.  However, I knew Sarah, my old friend from my youth who had made the request, had a great eye and was quite adept with a camera.  I also knew she had many, many fantastic shots of the areas in question.  I know, because I have been following Sarah's Flickr feed for almost 5 years now.

With Sarah's permission, I searched through her photostream on Flickr, identifying a number of candidates.  Below is what I have come up with so far.  I've nearly completed another Gorge Poster, and plan on spending some time on a new Mt. Hood piece tomorrow also.  It's been a lot of fun working on these pieces from Oregon.  Makes me a tad homesick - and also makes me realize there is so much more of Oregon, the Pacific Northwest, the United States, and the rest of the world that I'd like to visit more in-depth.  So many places, so little time.  For now, however, this is a great way for me to learn more about certain locations without being there.  I'll take it.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Low Countries

Two new posters from the Netherlands (Amsterdam and Leiden), along with one new poster from Ghent, Belgium.  I'll do a write-up on these cities and give a little more information about the posters in the near future.  Click to enlarge the images.

Spring day view of the Saint Nicholas Church in Amsterdam, the Netherlands
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Evening light on the West Gate on the outskirts of the old city of Leiden, the Netherlands
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Early spring morning in central Ghent, Belgium
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