Hol18: Status Civitatis Vaticanae

That’s Latin for Vatican City, the Catholic Church’s city state in downtown Rome.  Now I’m not one for religion of any shape nor of certain religions’ supra-earthly claim of superiority over actually-very-earthly things.  The Catholic Church in particular has been on dodgy ground over many things in the last two millennia yet it still has unfathomable status in the lives of people and nations around the world.  And at the Vatican, it has established an undeniably photogenic tourist trap.

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St Peter’s Basilica

St. Peters Basilica  – and the Square  – is magnificent. From every angle.

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St. Peter and the gang
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playing “Spot the Nun”

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Pius the Ninth.

It’s not all Catholic mysticism, history and solemnity.  Vatican as a city state has to function like cities.  There’s a post office.

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An Post..  as the Irish pilgrims call it
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Goods inward – with Swiss Guard on the gate

And everything for the Tourists, of course.

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A female tourist in a wide brimmed hat is cooled by the Maderno Fountain
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Tat touristico Vaticano

Now – a bit of a personal beef.  The security at the entrance of St. Peter’s Basilica wouldn’t let me in.  Why?  I was wearing the wrong shorts.  Now they were waving by all sorts of folks in summer attire – male/female, shorts, skirts all at several levels of skimipness.  My pale, inoffensive yet atheist legs however were banned.  I tried discussing the logic of this in light of the appearance of numerous others, I channelled a bit of Wallace and Gromit referencing The Wrong Trousers but to no avail.  So I hung around for a few minutes and mingled in with a tour group to gain access.  There’s also a ban on photography which is almost univerally ignored.  Including myself with the phone.

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St Helena
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Interior
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Peter
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Those scandalous Northern Irish godless legs and footie shorts

There is of course the other side of the Catholic Church and its history that isn’t on full view.  A rather innocuous looking building is the Palace of the Holy Office.  Or.. The Inquisition.

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nobody expects The Inquisition

And of course there is the history of the highly dodgy Popes. I’m thinking the Borgias and in particular Pope Alexander VI, a gent who made Tony Soprano look like Winnie the Pooh. But his tomb is not on view in St Peter’s with the numerous other Popes’. He can however be found about 15 minutes away, in the Spanish national church of Santa Maria in Monserrato degli Spagnoli. But I tracked him down, and there was no issue with the legs. Maybe he wasn’t that bad a Pope.

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Alexander VI – Bad Borgia Pope
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Santa Maria in Monserrato degli Spagnoli. Exterior
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Santa Maria in Monserrato degli Spagnoli. (Interior)

The Vatican and Catholic presence in Rome is great to visit and is visually and historically fascinating.  But I find the overblown sense of self-aggrandizement a bit grating given the mixed history and lust for power that the Vatican represents.

A few practicalities – don’t go early, everyone does this to beat the crowds so there are very large crowds.  Mid afternoon is a bit less frenetic.  And make sure leg-wear goes to below the knees.

Camera – Ricoh KR-5 / Oriental Seagull 100 and the Huawei P9

 

HOL18: Flavian Amphitheatre, Actually

Most of us call it The Colosseum or Coliseum, Colosseo if you’re Italian or if you really want to push the boat out – Anfiteatro Flavio.  We all know what it is when we see it – the big round ruined stadium in Rome, a classical Hampden Park but probably having seen less violence.  It’s instantly recognisable yet still a must-see when in Rome.

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Flavian Amphitheatre

 

As mentioned in a previous post, there are big long queues with no shortage of touts offering beat-the-line offers at inflated prices.  Or you can book online to beat-the-line and still pay over the odds.  So worth saying again – go to the ticket office at the Forum and get a combo ticket, go to the Forum first and then walk straight by the queues into the Flavian Amp..  Colosseum.

So a hot day, A Ricoh KR-5 with a dud battery and a roll of Oriental Seagull 100 (possibly Kentere 100 or Ilford Pan 100) guessing at Sunny 16.

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Exterior detail

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Inside it gets no cooler, and you get an idea of the scale of the arena.

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In the Arena
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It wasn’t always Christian friendly…

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A break from the heat

Like many places in Rome there’s free drinking water from fountains.  In a queue, an Enlgish couple were behind me discussing the visit.  She was disappointed and underwhelmed – it was, she said ‘a bit ruin-y’.  Can’t argue with that though I would add ‘magnificent’

Revolution! – Arbour Hill

A century on from the decade when Ireland began the final struggle to gain independance from Britsh rule, a visitor to Dublin will see memorials, museums, experiences and physical reminders of events that have shaped the Ireland of today.  Whatever your take on this chapter of British and Irish history, it’s a rewarding experience to breathe in the history and come to your own conclusions.  The  events from 1916 through to independance are marked throughout the city – the civil war not so much, but we are still a few years from this centenary.

A good starting point is the Arbour Hill cemetery.  A former British military cemetery, it’s also the burial place of 14 of the executed leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising, you can get the history on sites like Heritage Ireland.

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Sacred Heart Church, Arbour Hill

While the likes of Kilmainham Gaol, the cemetery at Glasnevin and the GPO Museum are always busy with fully booked guided tours, Arbour Hill is usually deserted.  There’s no entrance fee, no guides (except an occasional free talk at the weekend) and no shop.  Once you pass the church you’re into a fairly staid and unremarkable military cemetery.  Arbour Hill

Then towards the back, there’s the reason Arbour Hill gets visitors.  The executed leaders of the Rising were unceremoniously buried at a British military cemetery seemingly to avoid the martyrdom and pilgrimages that might stoke further unrest.  History of course had other plans for Ireland, and naturally subsequent Irish governments have developed the grave as a remembrance site.

 

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Grave of the 1916 executed leaders
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The text of the Proclamation of Independence in English and Irish

Surrounding the grave site are stones inscribed with the names of those buried – in English and Irish script.  Thomas Clarke, the old man of the Rising, had a floral tribute marking his stone.

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The names in Irish

 

One of the more fascinating characters of the Rising was James Connolly, a Scot of Irish descent, a former Britsh soldier, trade unionist and leader of the Irish Citizen Army.

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Connolly marked by the Starry Plough
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View from the 1916 memorial


Arbour Hill
The 1916 memorial

Arbour Hill is located a bit away from Dublin’s main tourist sites, on a quiet street at the rear of the Collins Barracks Museum.  It is however worth a visit if you’re doing some revolution tourism –  a site of great signifigance in Irish history and you’ve plenty of further options for the tourguides, multimedia displays and souvenir shops.

Photos were taken on a robust (heavy) Hanimex 35SL (a rebadged Chinon CS) a Pallas 35mm lens (never heard of them) using Lomography Earl Grey 100 film.

 

Hiroshima

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Atomic Dome, Hiroshima

Most visits to Japan will include a trip to Hiroshima – to the Peace Park with the Atomic Dome and the various monuments, and to the museum.  Like many war and memorial sites, they’ve been photographed countless times but it’s still the best way of recording your own visit, your thoughts and having an aide-memoire as one gets older.
All pictures taken on Kentmere 100 in the Nikon F60.

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Atomic Dome detail
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Atomic Dome – rear view
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Memorial by the Motoyasu river

There are a number of peace activists and displays around the park.  This is an in-utero survivor from the bombing meeting with tourists.

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In-utero survivor
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Eternal flame – possibly colour would have been a better choice
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Students memorial
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Workers memorial
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More riverside statues
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Memorial Hall
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Children’s Peace Monument
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Inside Memorial Hall
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Museum

A few practicalities.
The best way of getting to Hiroshima is by the fast JR train – the pass is great value
http://www.japanrailpass.net/en/

At the station there is a free bus that goes around the city including a stop at the Peace Park.  There are also Tourism Meeter/Greeters around the station who are really helpful.

 

Tokyo: Shinjuku and Ginza

It’s busy…acros_tokyo_shinjuku_shopping

Compared to Northern Ireland, Tokyo is an assault on the senses – the crowds, the skyline, the neon – and I love it. Another major difference is the abundance of camera stores and the availability of second hand kit and film. I stocked up on Fuji Acros 35mm – at about 60% of the UK price. (as news arrives of its imminent disappearance..)

Shinjuku and Ginza are districts that don’t seem to stop and are probably most like the image many people have of Tokyo before visiting.  There’s the architecture…

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Curvy Tokyo
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braided Tokyo

The taxis are classy looking 80’s styled Toyotas. They are however bloody expensive, so it was exterior shots only.

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Tokyo Taxis, Ginza

There are many eating options – local as well as global burgers

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stand up for the sushi, Shinjuku

And claw grabbing is a local pastime..

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restocking the minions

Of course, at some point Godzilla was going to make an appearance

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Cinema and Godzilla, Shinjuku

Kit was Fuji Acros 100 and the ever reliable Nikon F60.

Tokyo: Shibuya

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The Crossing:  Nikon F60, Acros100

There aren’t many places you visit just to cross a road.  We’ve loads of crossings in Northern Ireland  – press a button, wait until a green man appears then dander across the road.  Occasionally this will involve a car or two stopping and perhaps a few other pedestrians.  Certainly nothing for tourists.

The Shibuya district in Tokyo has one of the biggest crossings in the world.  Roads from all directions get a red light and then it’s a pedestrian free for all.

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Crossing the crossing.  Nikon F60, Acros 100

It is of course best seen from above  – there is a ridiculously packed Starbucks overlooking the crossing  – the phone is best to record this this.

There is of course more to the Shibuya district than a pelican crossing no matter how big assed and busy it is.  It’s a vibrant shopping, eating and socialising area making it great for street shots.

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Marlboro Men of Shibuya. Nikon F60, Acros 100
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Queueing for a traditional Japanese Wendy burger. Nikon F60, Acros 100
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Signage. Nikon F60, Acros 100
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Bunting. Nikon F60, Acros 100
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Shibuya street scene and a Barcelona FC fan shop…    Olympus Trip 35 / Fomapan 100
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Tokyo Taxi . Olympus Trip 35 / Fomapan 100
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Shopping Nikon F60, Acros 100
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Night shopping Nikon F60, Acros 100
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Struggling handheld at night on 100 ISO.  Nikon F60, Acros 100
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True.  Olympus Trip 35 / Fomapan 100

 

Contains Flash Photography

Every so often it’s good to do a studio shoot using a few flash heads.  I’ve nothing grand – a cobbled collection of eBay-sourced Interfit units with cheap backdrops and stands. It’s a basic setup with a soft-box facing the sitter and two units at 45 degrees on to the white cloth, then using a black backdrop with a soft-box and brolly two-light arrangement.

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the budget setup..

To make things interesting, the session with my good friend and singer/songwriter/guitarist Thomas, was to be captured on full-frame digital ( Canon 6D) and on 35mm black and white film (Kentmere 100) using mid 70’s basic manual camera, the Ricoh KR-5.  Without a flash meter, the plan was to get a setting on the 6D that looked ok, then set something similar on the Ricoh.  So 1/125 at f8 – then play about with the lights.

First up – some low key against the black backdrop,

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softbox, brolly fill and 85mm lens
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single light with soft-box

Then a white backdrop with the softbox straight on.

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key – no guitar
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and with guitar

Next up was a repeat of this lighting with the Ricoh. It’s a very basic but solidly built mechanical SLR. And it did ok

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tones ok  – but scanning a bit off round the face
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look forward to the darkroom print…
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getting there…
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35mm close up glory

As is often the case, scanning a low key image is a bit tricky  – the real test will be darkroom print – but the high keys portraits on the Ricoh were near the mark with the full frame Canon digital.

So a quick photo shoot to compare digital and 35mm black and white film.  Next will be to compare negative scanning with a darkroom print scan as well as an indepth look at using the Ricoh.