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Monthly Archives: January 2011
This weekend my wife and I went to the 2011 Travel and Adventure Show in Chicago. We went on a whim not really expecting much, and it turned out pretty underwhelming. All of these convention center thingies seem to have boiled hot dogs, a completely random massage booth, and an over-priced admission fee in common. One of the amusing highlights, however, was the booth for Southwest Wisconsin had a thick tourism guide which included two pictures I took (one of which is above). My dad, who owns a few rental cabins in the area, submitted the pictures a few years back.
They’re pretty awful pictures, too.
This picture, for whatever reason, has a ridiculously high ISO, so it’s about as clear as mud. I’m not sure why the ISO was set so high, but it was in the early days of not knowing anything about my D-SLR camera. While the lighting isn’t the best, it’s also the only time I have ever watched someone on the river, so it’s not like I could get up in the morning and duplicate the shot with better conditions. I’m not even sure how the magazine got the picture.
Overall, its nice to know that someone somewhere enjoys the picture enough to keep using it in their magazines. If it nets some business for the area, good for them. If it were a better picture that I were proud of, I’d ask for credit.
Finally, it’s the twenty-first and final post for this month. If you would have told me at the start of January that I’d be blogging again, I’d have laughed in your face. I think I have three times more posts this month then in the entire life of my previous blog. My original goal was to do three posts a week, but I’m currently rocking out six a week (taking Sundays off, apparently). I’ve become re-invigorated with photography and starting bringing my camera along to more places, because that’s when I see the random, fun pictures I wish I had my camera for. I realize I’m the only person who reads and checks out my blog, but if its a hobby that gets me off the couch and to be creative, it works for me!
Yesterday my friend Danny and I did our photo safari around Chicago. It’s been awhile since we’ve wandered around seeking out pictures, but it was nice to get out and shoot some more. I need to do it more often.
I came out with a half-dozen pictures I really like, this being one of them, of a construction job site down the block from his place. I like that the three guys on the left are having a good time explaining something to each other, and the two guys on the right look exhausted and ready for the work week to end.
Xi’an, China has an enormous centuries-old wall going around the original city. Over time, Xi’an became this massive metropolis and quickly outgrew the foreboding boundaries, but to this day the wall still stands. For a couple of yuan, people can walk the wall and enjoy the sites of the city. When it gets dark, the wall is lit up and these Chinese lanterns stand every-so-often to light the way to the next guard tower. It’s a relatively beautiful, peaceful stroll for such a chaotic city.
For the record, the best bar I’ve ever stumbled upon is in Brussels, Belgium. I’m not even sure where the Delirium Cafe is located, but perhaps that’s part of why I love it so much. They have the most beers available for consumption in the world (over 2,000), with a certificate from the Guinness Book of World Records behind the bar to prove it.
Some maps have the street it is located on and some don’t (Impasse de la Fidelite, 4A — easily missed on a side street of Restaurant Row).
One morning my wife found a really cute flower shop that was setting up for a wedding later in the day. A couple of days later we made our way back there because she wanted to show me the space.
Next to the flower shop was an old garage that was completely abandoned, except the garage door was wide open and there was a crate of pine cones sitting by the door. I’m sure the garage was storage space for the flower shop, and the pine cones were for something specific (like leftover from a wedding), but I like all the different pine cones and their patterns.
In Fall of 2009 I was in Milwaukee for a number of days for work. My hotel was one of those dodgy, scary places that I didn’t leave anything in my room when I wasn’t there, and I didn’t even want to be there. It ended up being pretty cool because I had the most fun in Milwaukee that I’ve ever had. I’d wake up, immediately leave my hotel room and wander the city looking for pictures, grab lunch and head to work. After work, I’d drive around looking for night pictures, before heading back to my room exhausted. The next day I’d wake up and do the whole thing again. I was trying to limit my time in the hotel room as much as possible and, as a result, I really enjoyed exploring Milwaukee.
We were up early one morning in Thailand because we had to catch a car to take us to the Damnoensaduak Floating Market. As we were getting ready, I noticed it just started to rain a bit and decided to take a picture out our window of the highway below. I’m not sure what “look” I was trying to go for, but I was pleased with the way the picture turned out.
One thing I really like about Chicago: The skyline changes dramatically from wherever you look.
In this case, getting eleven stories off the ground offered a different perspective of a building I had walked past 100 times. I’ve always like a lot of architectural detail that Chicago buildings have, and this one doesn’t disappoint. Additionally, the bright blue window is a fun, happy inclusion to an otherwise aged-looking building. (And the mannequins in the second-from-the-right window are kind of creepy.)
My step-father spent years in the grocery business before taking a hiatus. In February of 2010 he jumped back in with both feet and opened up the Red Onion Fresh Market, in DeForest, Wisconsin. Being from Chicago, we’re not in the area often, but when we are we pack a cooler and load up on groceries.
This past weekend my wife and I went on a very quick weekend out of town. Instead of parking at the usual remote lot and taking the train in, we splurged at parked at the airport for the mere 20-hour trip. Driving through the parking garage reminded me of a picture I had taken some time back.
I had just flown home from Minneapolis and as I was searching for my car in the garage, and all of the curves from the parking ramp caught my attention. I waited a long time for a car to drive through, to help define what you’re actually looking at, but I recall O’Hare Airport being rather quiet and calm while I waited, instead of its usual chaotic mayhem.
I like that I have a new opportunity to take pictures and actually do something with them. Well, not much, but still do something with them — like post them on my website. After having gone through my pictures from the Running of the Bulls, this picture was very quickly passed over. It doesn’t have the same captivating quality like some of the other pictures from that event, but I still really like it none-the-less.
Over-looking the main road that the Running of the Bulls goes down (Calle Estafeta), an older gentleman was peering out of his window all morning long, watching the world go by. Moments before the Running of the Bulls took place, this small boy joined him and watched the festivities as well.
I’d like to think in sixty years the small boy will be looking out the window on the right, and his young grandson will also be looking out the window on the left.
(And I can only hope I’ll be around in sixty years to go back and see.)
My friend Danny and I go out with infrequent regularity to shoot pictures together. Back in June of 2009 it was announced the Sears Tower was changing its name to the Willis Tower. The world will adjust accordingly, but Danny and I wanted to get pictures of the Sears Tower before it officially changed its name (and, rumor has it, got a new silver paint job).
Short of base-jumping, it’s hard to take a picture of the Sears Tower that everyone hasn’t seen before.
I do, however, like the way the clouds are “opening up” towards the Sears Tower.
It seems like, this year, the snow doesn’t come too often, but when it does it’s measured in feet. At any rate, last month we had a good bit of snow dumped on Chicago, so I went outside and wandered around the house looking for stuff to photograph. Whether I’m shoveling or digging out a car, my wife has always come outside to play in the snow and hang out. Since the sidewalk was still covered in snow, she grabbed a shovel while I played around with my camera.
I like how cute she is all bundled up.
I have a bunch of fancy blue-sky Egypt pictures in the Middle East Gallery page, however a group of photos I don’t normally give much credit to are the pictures from my first attempt at photographing the Pyramids of Giza.
It was a blue-sky morning in Cairo when we started to drive towards the look-out point for the pyramids. As our guide started going through the history of the various pyramids, a sandstorm rolled in and made everything as clear as you’d think a sandstorm in the Sahara Desert would be.
Also, this was also the last day I wore my contact lenses on this trip.
A CTA train passes by Wrigley Field, as the sun sets on Chicago, Illinois.
This isn’t the picture I was going for this night, but I found myself a block from Wrigley Field as the sun was setting. Seeing the sky slowly turn pink was impressive, so I set up the tripod and waited for a train to fly by.
As it turns out, this is one of my favorite pictures I’ve taken of Wrigley Field. I think the ballpark is a photographic field day any time of day, but most pictures I’ve viewed are of the front of the building during the day. Having an iconic part of Chicago (the CTA train) whiz by as the sun sets behind Wrigley is even more delicious.
During the summer of 2010 I was given photography access to the Dew Tour stop in Chicago, Illinois. While I don’t think still photography does the athletes justice (they have extremely difficult routines that don’t translate well in still images), it provides ample opportunities for photography none-the-less.
We received a good bit of snow today. I was outside shoveling and thought about a random, amusing picture from several years back. I loathe the Chicago tradition of shoveling out one’s winter parking spot and then “saving” it with furniture, toys, wood, etc. While I will say this is probably the worst shoveling job ever, I did enjoy the method of saving.
When I posted the picture of the hawk the other day, I like the idea of putting some pictures onto my website. Sure, I’ve got my photography portfolio and favorite pictures from various travels online, but what about the random other pictures that have no specific place? Rather then store them on an external hard-drive, I’ve decided to upload them to this fine website. My initial target is three pictures a week, but we’ll see how that goes. Worst case scenario: I’ve uploaded so many I need to get out and take some more.
The other day I was eating breakfast in the kitchen and in the backyard something out of the ordinary caught my attention. At first what I thought was a neighbor’s planter knocked over turned out to be a hawk also enjoying his breakfast. I would have been curious to see the hawk attack the pigeon in-flight, but it’s always interesting to see the food chain at work.
So, you want to do the Running of the Bulls, in Pamplona, Spain?
The first thing you need to know is the entire festival is EXTREMELY graphic with the half-ton bulls goring whoever they can. The bullfights. The excessive drinking. The protests. If you’ve got a good head on your shoulders, you’ll be just fine.
Officially the festival is referred to as the Festival of San Fermin, but thanks to Ernest Hemingway and his book The Sun Also Rises, most refer to it as the Running of the Bulls. (It should be noted there is FAR more going on for the festival then just The Running.) Originally the festival was nothing to do with running of bulls down the street, and it was just about the bull fights in the evening. However, some time back, as the people were walking the Bulls from the fields to the bull ring, someone thought it’d be fun to run in front of the bulls – instead of behind. After a couple of years things caught on, some guy mentioned it in a book and the Festival of San Fermin would become one of the parties of Europe.
To coincide with my 30th birthday, we decided to attend the 2009 Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, Spain. Two years prior we started planning where we were going and how to get there. Once we booked our hotel, we then booked flights. (The Festival was July of 2009. We booked hotel and flights in November of 2008.)
GETTING TO PAMPLONA
Our airfare would have been over $1,000 per person (Chicago to Switzerland to Madrid), but we used frequent flyer miles to save on costs. As mentioned earlier, we booked our flights in November and had no issues with using airline miles. One of the other guys meeting up for the festival decided last-minute to join up and his flight was $800 (Chicago to Dublin to Barcelona).
In Europe, you can mostly show up at a train station and purchase tickets in the hour or so before you travel. This is not the case with getting to Pamplona for the festival. Make sure you get your train tickets in advance. (We bought them in Madrid the day before travel, and one train had no second class seats remaining, and the other train had no first class seats available.) We purchased our train tickets back to Madrid once we reached Pamplona.
We stayed at the Gran Hotel la Perla, which one side faces the Plaza del Castillo while the other side is on Calle Estafeta, which is part of the route the bulls will use. The hotel wanted their money — paid in full — at the time of booking through a wire transfer to their bank. The cost of a room with a balcony on the route was six times what the “off-season” price was. The six of us fit snugly onto our balcony. (The four others split two rooms at a hostel for 200 euros per night, with a shared bathroom.) http://www.granhotellaperla.com
One account I read about the Festival of San Fermin was how many days to stay for the Running of the Bulls? The suggestion was four days/three nights. I think it was the perfect amount of time. We arrived in Pamplona the night before the opening ceremony (trying to make it for the Running of the Nudes), then left after the second bull run.
PETA leads a protest called “Running of the Nudes” through the bullrun route on noon on July 5th. It’s their way of drawing attention to the cruelty the animals face. (It seems to be a hybrid idea between protesting and the old saying, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.”) We did not make it to Pamplona in time to see the nearly-naked folks run down the street, but everything I’ve read says it’s not a violent or angry thing by any means, its sort of the “Opening Act” to the party. http://www.runningofthenudes.com/
The festival begins on July 6th at noon in the main plaza of town, Plaza Ayuntamiento. If you want to be in the plaza for the celebration, arrive no later then 10:00 AM. Do not wear jewelry (this includes earrings, necklaces, bracelets, watches, etc.), nor should you bring along your purse or a backpack. Close-toed shoes are a must with all of the broken glass. Anyone claustrophobic should rethink about going to watch opening ceremonies from the plaza. Whatever you wear will get soiled with a variety of things.
At 12:00 a rocket is fired into the air and everyone holds up their red bandanas to salute San Fermin. At this moment, the crowd starts to dispel and now it is acceptable to wear your bandana around your neck (it’s normally worn around the wrist until the festival begins).
During the festival, a variety of things occur every day. The Toro de Fuego (“Fire Bull”) is a paper-mache bull with fireworks attached and runs the route of the bulls. Fireworks galore. Gigantes y Cabezudos (giant paper-mache dancers and over-sized heads) torment adults and children. Bands in the Plaza del Castillo. Throw in some time to drink and be festive and its very easy to spend three days merry-making and never really stop to sleep.
RUNNING OF THE BULLS
The bullrun occurs every morning at 08:00 AM from July 7th through 14th. The bulls start near the church on Cuesta de Santo Domingo, turn left on Mercedes (in front of the town hall), turn right onto Estafeta, left on Telefonos and into the bullring they go. There are six bulls are four hefers. If you’re not going to run with the bulls, be in position to watch along the route by 06:00AM at the latest. Bring a sweatshirt you don’t mind losing, perhaps a deck of cards to pass some time, and maybe something to read. The church on Cuesta de Santo Domingo is one of the best free places to watch from. If you’d like to watch from the bullring, there are monitors set up to watch the bullrun (televised nationally every day) before they get to the bull ring.
If you are planning on running, please be smart about it. There are websites out there which have pretty good information on the safest parts of the route to run, and what to expect. Time-wise, I never really saw a time-table of what to expect for the Running of the Bulls. Here’s what I saw while attending:
07:30AM the streets are cleared of the drunk people milling about. (I felt sorry for the people who were there ready to run, only to be cleared away by the police.) After the streets are cleared of people, debris and trash is cleaned up by the street sweepers.
07:50AM those willing (and sober enough) to run are allowed to take their positions on the route.
08:00AM a rocket is fired into the air to announce the bulls have been released to the streets. A second rocket is fired when the bulls reach the people. A third rocket is fired when the bulls reach the bullring. A fourth (and final) rocket is fired to announce all of the bulls are safely in the bullrun stable.
If you’re going to run, wear good running shoes and enter the route in the designated entry areas. Know that people are aggressive as they run; every “bull versus man” incident we saw was a result of a runner tripping over another runner and wiping out in front of a bull. (This is one of the reasons why I didn’t run. I knew I could out-manuever a bull, but the guy I saw shoving other runners out of his way was a concern to me.)
We paid fifty euros to a scalper to sit five rows from the back on the shady side of the bullring. The sunny side was chaos and fantastic to watch from our vantage point. The bull fight was not-so-awesome to watch, as anyone can win when it is eight versus one.
Overall, the Running of the Bulls was an amazing experience. At the bullfight, we sat next to an old Spaniard who filled us in on the goings-on for the festival. He ran with the bulls that morning and the previous twenty-two years as well. He said Pamplona was his number three party on the list, after Carnaval in Brazil and Oktoberfest in Germany. As for our party, it was an awesome experience and I’m so glad to have been a part of it. We didn’t run, but didn’t need to with a spectacular balcony overlooking the longest stretch of the route.
Random notes: Whoever you’re planning on going with, make sure they’re good, stable people. Don’t bring anyone who is a “bad drunk.” … Be prepared to spend some serious cash. … Be safe with your belongings. Use the hotel’s safe. Use a money belt. … Every bull dies every year. You’ll end up cheering for the bulls during the festival. … If you’re a vegetarian, you’ll have a slightly more difficult time finding food. … Red and white is the attire of the festival. Cheap white pants and white shirts can be purchased at several locations around Pamplona. Red scarves and bandanas can be purchased readily as well. … Don’t wear any clothes at the festival that you don’t want to get dirty. … About.com has an information-packed website, but I wanted to write down some random things which I thought were good to know. Click your way over there when you’re done here (if you haven’t already been over there yet). http://gospain.about.com/od/spanishfestivals/a/pamplonabullrun.htm
That’s our trip in a nut-shell; there are some pictures posted in the Europe travel gallery. Make your trip your own adventure and take a lot of pictures along the way.
And send home postcards. Everyone loves postcards.