The Heart and Soul of Tuscany



The memory of past adventures might fade with time, but somehow the taste of the wine that once touched your taste-buds lingers… and will bring it all back!

We are soon moving into our new house that we have been dreaming of for years, and with the date finally approaching, I started to empty my deep freezer. A surprise adventure into the past by itself… It is yesterday that I dug up some almost forgotten treasure: a pheasant my brother in law – a serious hobby hunter – gave us last year for Christmas. So dinner was quickly decided…

It dawned on me that such a divine roast would call for a great wine – so I rushed to the cellar to get one, when I had a sudden flash-back of the lingering flavor of the red wine we bought on our trip to Tuscany 2 years ago. As we were exploring the “Strada del Vino” in the Montecarlo region, one day we visited the Fattoria di Montechiari – an experience never to be forgotten… That was surely one of the highlights of our holiday!

We were driving up slowly on the hill surrounded by villas, olives and vineyards when we caught glimpse of the gate to the 10 hectare family estate beckoning us…

We had no appointment booked – which would have been customary – just vaguely hoped to gain access. Instead we were soon approached by a man at the gate who generously invited us into the garden.

He happened to be Moreno Panattoni… the owner himself!

It turned out that we arrived in the middle of the season’s first harvest, and the house was bustling with people. We felt so embarrassed to disturb and was ready to leave when he gently ushered us to the processing line and even offered to show us the cellar! Wow… We felt so privileged. So we took a stroll around the house and looked around from the highest point of the estate offering a full panorama of the Lucca hills, and then returned to the wine-press to observe the work of those diligent hands carefully selecting and sorting the grapes. It was simply beautiful to watch…

We were standing there in awe for a while, wondering if it was perhaps inappropriate to start a conversation. Oh, not at all! What a pleasure it was to find out about the history of this fine estate, chatting with the returning guests – or should I say friends – who were coming back to the harvest to participate in the work. How different it must be to taste the wine that your own hands once touched in the process…

Honestly, I was jealous! By then it was obvious to me: I want this choice wine!

I was getting anxious to see the barrels, to find out all about the maturing, the fermentation, the refining and bottling… And sure enough, he proudly escorted us down to the cellar, the “heart and soul” of their wine production. Barrels lined up in neat order all properly labelled, and a smaller room filled with colorful, almost smiling bottles designed to faithfully capture the spirit of this place.

The warmth, the straightforward manner in which this family was handling people, their professional attitude towards wine-making that meticulously took care of all details, yet made no fuss about it was more than convincing. I did not have to taste to know, I am buying a fair selection of their best years. A decision never regretted… In fact, if I was allowed more on the return flight, I would have taken more…

We said goodbye excited to get home and open their Chardonnay, Merlot and their great wine, the Cabernet… the one that left that perfect impact on my palate…

And yes, tonight’s sensation on my taste-buds is truly tantalizing: I find only an empty box in our cellar as a reminiscence of that beautiful color and fragrance. To my relief, I notice a web address on the side to help me find the Fattoria di Montechiari. So let me go now, look it up on the net and place our next order…

Cin cin to that delivery!

 

 

 

You wanna be judged or voted?



The internet is full of all kinds of photo competitions, and to be honest, when I come across something that jells with me, it is hard to resist trying… Aren’t you a bit the same?

Yes, you are tempted to try and enter, but the dilemma still remains: some competitions include viewers’ votes as a way of “getting ahead”, others are directly judged by a professional jury. So your image is tested and approved (if so) by a completely different set of standards and opinions and first and foremost by people with a completely different level of competence. After all, it is so relative and subjective to say if a photo is good or not, isn’t it?

So, what to do? You wanna be judged or voted? Have you ever been struggling with this issue?

Let’s just look at the pro’s and con’s of both situations…

If you are a fledgling photographer like me, you are probably drawn in both directions here… I guess, this does not apply if  you are an “established professional” (whatever that might mean).

On the one hand, you surely want to see if your image catches the eye of your audience, since this is your purpose. Or, is it, really? Who is you audience? Have you decided that? Or you are still in a process of discovering who you are, and what you represent in “photography”? That’s ok, nothing wrong with that – it is a process you have to go through!  Let us not be quick to judge if you are still battling finding yourself…

On the other hand, you most probably are eager to get the approval of some “big shots” or at least someone, whom you know for sure already knows what he or she is doing, since you see the fruit – “professional work”! Are you willing to face the truth: you wanna be patted on the back by someone you look up to, who says, “Well done, you nailed this one!” That IS a thrill, no doubt – recognition like that should be!

I don’t know where you stand, but one thing I know: merely crunching the numbers on a “Vote for me” site is pitiful and meaningless, never go for such cheap praises! Nothing is easier on social media sites than to get a “like”… So, please do not harass your friends daily or send a spam email to everybody on your contact list and beg for a vote! I am not saying that it is forbidden to let those friends who are interested in following your “photographic career” know that you have entered a competition, but that’s it!  Yet, to wait for some celebrity to tell you that “You are definitely gonna make it” is also a futile thing. How long are you going to wait for somebody to discover you, before you get serious with what you want to do? Whose WORD is it really that you depend on? If you are waiting for an ultimate approval from someone outside, you are wasting your time.

Get dirty with more work, more trial and error, if necessary, more risk of failing or succeeding, and you will discover your own inner voice in this gruelling process. It is this journey itself that will give value to the end result. It is by such a concerted effort that you gain the right to speak out and tell a story, and people WILL listen, they WILL look. It will be compelling!

So, I guess, now that I have given myself such a world of good advice, I am no longer going to wait for any outsider to be the “Sceptic” and pass a judgment, I will be my own “Judge”, I will be my own “Critique”…

Will you join me?

 

 

 

 

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Into the Maasai Mara



Dreams DO come true!

Africa has been on my heart from early childhood, and as an adult I also have had a chance to visit the North – Marocco, and the West – Ghana, Burkina Faso, Mali and Guinée, and even lived in the South for a number of years – South Africa, but the Eastern part of this vast continent was still waiting for me to be explored… Until January, 2012!

I joined a team of photographers venturing out on a “Maasai Mara Within The Frame” trip once again led by David duChemin and Jeffrey Chapman – a journey of my dreams: Kenya!

To make thing even more special, my husband who was about to join his seismic exploration crew just outside Mombasa “accompanied” me on my long flight via Amsterdam to Nairobi, and all the way to the Margarita Guest House, where I was supposed to meet the rest of the team. He said “he delivered me into safe hands of my tour leaders”…

The adventure started early morning with a seven hour drive into the Mara conservancy – where we were given a real warm African welcome by the Sekenani Camp. We made such friends with the gentle spirited Maasai and Kikuyu staff, who took special care of all of us. This I learned in time of need: on the 3rd night and the following day I was completely wasted – something seriously not agreeing with my stomach – I had to stay in bed. Thank God it was all gone within a day, and I did not need any medical attention.

The camp was not fenced around, animals could get really close to our tents during the night, so we were silently escorted by fully armed Maasai warriors on the dark paths in the forest between our tents and the restaurant building. They told us that two days prior to our arrival they sighted a lion’s kill of a buffalo near the river, that is running through the camp. During our stay we “only” heard of an elephant and leopard being close-by one evening. But vervet monkeys kept us “entertained”: some team members were “monkey’d” almost on a daily basis – just an African way of marking time…

Although I am not a morning person, I was jumping out of my bed at 5:20 when the room service brought us our coffee to the tent as a “wake-up call”, and got ready fast to catch the breathtaking sunrise over the Mara.

While our drivers were really keen to help us  find the Big Five, I introduced two new categories of African Wildlife: the Small Five (from bugs to birds) and the Cute Five (from antelope to giraffe)…

After 4 unforgettable days and amazing starry nights spent at the campfire, we were heading towards our next location: Kichwa Tembo. Road conditions in the conservancy are “designed” to help you get fit enough for your photo session and to carry your gear – you sometimes have to hold on for dear life in the vans, and still end up with bruises – yet happy smiles!

We were lucky to spot all the big game and certainly took our time simply to enjoy the view in their undisturbed environment – it was thrilling to be “part of it all”.

In the lazy hours of the day we had image review sessions – ever so helpful to get you on track with what you want to achieve or have challenges with. I love these opportunities to learn from one another and to be inspired by your fellow photographers. I appreciate the honesty and the openness of these sessions to give you feedback on the impact your image has made and how successfully it accomplished it – tremendous learning experience for someone like me aspiring to grow in the art and skill of photography. I find that shooting wildlife is perhaps the best training field to work on your conscious process of creating an image – the creative use of light, the “purpose-driven” rather than the “correct” exposure”, just to mention a few I was busy learning… And let me tell you, I am not finished with the process!

The days spent in The Maasai Mara will change you. It will change the way you look at a footprint of an animal, the way you visualize a sunset, the way you celebrate life. And as one of us said: “I don’t think I’ll ever get this place out of my head.” – to which I replied: “And why should you? Africa once your own experience, will forever be part of your making and frankly, I believe, we are all the better for it! ”

And the dream continues… I am about to make a book with my best images from Kenya – and so can you: here’s a VIP offer of $20 off your first Blurb book that I am happy to pass on to you!
http://bit.ly/13hHIP7

Go and make your own dream come true!

 

 

Limited or launched by creativity?



I entered a One Life Photography Competition and submitted a series of images…

As a participant I was given special promotions including a professional post-production software, and needless to say, I immediately jumped to see what FX Photo Studio Pro is capable of… I must admit that I am far from being a big fan of PhotoShop when it is used to drastically manipulate and alter images, and when I realized that this software is also offering features to alter the images and turn them into “fine art”, I became a bit reluctant to experiment… However I started to play – naively as a child does – with the different options and applied them to some of my pictures from Lofoten, Norway that I took this July. The results were intruiging…

Here is an example:

  The original…

 

 

 

 

 

 

The charcoal…

 

 

 

 

 

 

   The old canvas…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well, I agree that the charcoal version is not terribly successful… however in other cases it was quite “fresh”! All in all, as I was sifting through my pictures to figure which one would create the story of the “old Norway on canvas” I ended up with nearly a hundred “paintings” that were consistent in style, texture and “age”. Yet, something was constantly bothering me in the process… I started asking myself the underlying question: am I eating the forbidden fruit here? Am I crossing some borders that a “real photographer” would never? Is this the blasphemy of landscape photography? Or am I just limiting myself with what is “rightly done”, not allowing myself to be launched on an unexpected venture and bravely create a “photo-painting-album” of “Norway on Canvas”?

The landscape in Northern Norway with its light and man forsaken atmosphere as a theme is more than conducive to be the subject of such experiments, don’t you think so? Here I am dying to know what you REALLY believe: is this cheat and cheap, or exciting and liberating? Condemn me or congratulate me on this idea… The discussion is wide open!

 

 

Return to the “Scene of Crime”



This is where it all started… Italy!

I joined Twitter early last year and started to follow a few people that seemed interesting. Some were social media people, others were sharing my personal interests such as photography. I got connected with a small number of them fast, exchanged a few personal messages and soon clicked so much that when an offer was made to join a photo workshop in Italy, I just sighed: “Oh, I wish..” However, Jeffrey Chapman – the “Twitter friend” assured me, that it does not matter if I am a complete amateur or a pro, it does not matter what “gear” I have, I can join the team, so I decided I would pluck up some courage and send in my application…

That was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made! We had the time of our life in Liguria and Cinque Terre with a small group of really special people that could not have been better “chosen” – a company of individuals from around the world with a pretty high emotional and social IQ to act like we had been friends for years…

David duChemin and Jeffrey Chapman were leading the IWTF – Italy Within The Frame – workshop that forever “changed a chip in me” regarding photography as a friend of mine said having seen my pictures before and after that workshop!

This year I returned to the scene of crime with my husband to immerse him in the atmosphere of Tuscany and “crowned” our trip with a brief visit to Cinque Terre… Having seen what I had been ranting and raving about, all he said was: “Next time THAT is where we come, and spend at least two weeks here!” Now, that is the ultimate praise coming from the mouth of a Norwegian man!

The weirdest part of this experience was of course “revisiting” those places where we were shooting together last May. Yet, as you know, you can never step into the same river! My images taken this time in Liguria should soon be forgotten – it seems that this year was about finding some photo stories in Tuscany, where we spent a whole week. We booked ourselves into a secluded farmhouse in the hills of Montecarlo,  surrounded only by vineyards, olives and cypress trees, and visited regularly by wild boars in the night… We were also perfectly positioned to make day trips to Lucca, Pisa, Firenze – and even Cinque Terre!

Having now processed most of my images during recent trips to Italy, India and Norway, I could no longer resist putting this website together mostly for the simple joy of sharing my travel experiences, and nevertheless presenting my fledgling portfolio to be tested by the most critical audience – YOU, the “Blog Reader”…

I welcome your comments on my posts and portfolio, even your objective critique, determined to grow as a person and master my vision and this craft – travel and cultural photography…

 

 

 

 

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