Category Archives: travel

The Art of Photography

A few weeks back I had the pleasure and privilege to attend an Art Wolfe seminar at Portland State University. I’ve admired Art Wolfe’s work for quite a while and when I saw he was going to be in town I had to go.

First off, I want to say that Art (I can call him Art now that I’ve met him and he signed one of my books and he’s my new BFF, right?!) is a super nice, funny man who does not convey any sort of pompousness that one might think a person with his talent might have. I was actually a bit surprised at how down to earth he was.

I’ve been a quasi-photographer ever since I took my first photography class during my sophomore year in college. I enjoyed it enough that I minored in it (with a major in journalism) at Purdue. Since I’m not much (or any, really) of a painter, drawer or sculptor, photography is my form of art. I love looking at photography and dreaming of going to exotic places to shoot photos – especially after the Art Wolfe seminar where he talked about the trips he’ll be hosting to places like China, India and Japan.

But since it’s not in my immediate future to travel to such places, I have to make due with local opportunities. Which is fine, for now. Here are a few of my recent shots…

Another one of my take-aways from the Art Wolfe seminar was that he said a photo is more engaging if you capture a scene/person/animal/landscape not as you normally see it. Find a unique perspective, use a lens that offers a wide angle, use filters to change the color or exposure, change the depth of field – it’s all OK. Art admits that though he’s in the business of documenting culture and wildlife, his work is art.

“You should live in a place that uplifts your spirits,” Art said. “If you live for photography but don’t have your photos in your house, there is a disjunct.” When I got home, I got to thinking about this statement and realized that maybe I’m on the right track – I have lots of my own photos hanging in my home plus some photos taken by a friend of mine – and Art Wolfe books on my coffee table!

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Sogno di Toscana (Dream of Tuscany)

My husband and I had the most marvelous vacation back in 2000. We spent 17 glorious days in Italy with 14 of them spent in a farmhouse in Tuscany – with traveling all around the region by day and cooking with local ingredients in our kitchen at night. It was wonderful. For 10 years, I’ve been dreaming about going back.

For some reason, I recently began receiving emails from Tablet, an boutique hotel booking website.

“Tablet Hotels is the cure for boring travel — the one-stop prescription shop for the jaded and harried traveler. We can’t tell you who you should be traveling with, and frankly, it’s none of our business; and airline travel has become commoditized. In the area of choosing a hotel and getting the best price for it, however, we feel we have some expertise to offer.” ~ Tablet website

To say Tablet chooses nice, unique hotels to feature is a HUGE understatment. They feature the most dreamy, heart-racing, make-me-want-to-buy-a-plane-ticket-right-now kind of hotels. And I’m not kidding.

Today I discovered Castello di Vicarello in Tuscany. If Italy is your thing, check out these photos.

So who wants to go with me?

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Cool Glass

A couple weeks ago, the family took a little road trip up to Tacoma, Wash. Our original intentional was to spend the weekend in Gig Harbor, go sightseeing in Puget Sound and have a lovely time. Unfortunately, the weather stunk so we only spent one night and went home after spending little time sightseeing. But alas, we did go to the Museum of Glass in Tacoma, and it was wonderful!

Tacoma is the hometown of Dale Chihuly, the famed glass artist. I don’t feel quite educated enough on the matter to describe Chihuly’s involvement with the museum, but suffice it to say, if Chihuly weren’t Tacoma’s hometown boy, there probably wouldn’t be a Museum of Glass.

Glass sculpture on the Chihuly Bridge of Glass - photo by alyse vordermark

Anyhow, the museum is linked to downtown Tacoma by the 500-foot pedestrian Chihuly Bridge of Glass. The glass art on the bridge is spectacular way to be welcomed, and even though it was a cloudy day when we visited, the glass illuminating.

Fluent Steps by Martin Blank - photo by alyse vordermark

These hand-sculpted pieces of clear glass sit in a reflecting pool outside the entrance to the museum. The glass appears to water suspending in air. Beautiful!

Inside most areas of the museum, for obvious reasons, photography is not allowed. However, we were able to take a few photos inside The Hot Shop. The Hot Shop is a working glass studio/amphitheater where visiting artists work their magic in front of an audience.

The Hot Shop cone - photo by alyse vordermark

The Hot Shop is housed inside a 90-foot cone.

The Hot Shop

The visiting artists work with a team of five glass blowers, the Hot Shop Team, who are museum regulars. The day we were there, the visiting artist (the bearded man in the back) and the team were working on a glass pick-up truck. It was very fascinating watching the “blobs” of glass formed into a truck – even my 3-year-old daughter sat mesmerized.

So even though our Puget Sound weekend might be considered a bust, I’m so glad we got a chance to go to the Museum of Glass. It would have been a highlight, no matter how the trip turned out!

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San Francisco’s Chinatown

We went to San Francisco last month. I posted some photos from the Steinhart Aquarium a few weeks ago but forgot about the Chinatown ones until I was going through some other photos.

I’ve always loved San Francisco’s Chinatown. I find it nostalgic. The first time my hubby (who was just my boyfriend at the time) and I went to San Francisco we stayed in a little place called the Grant Plaza Hotel which is right in the heart of Chinatown. It was clean and inexpensive. No frills, but to two people who were barely making a living, it was perfect. So perfect that we stayed there again when we went to San Fran on our honeymoon a year later.

It’s always a trip to walk through Chinatown – the touristy junk, dim sum, barbecued chickens hanging upside down in the windows, dried fish parts.

I love red. And there is so much red in Chinatown.

I don’t usually take photos of people. It seems very invasive to me, but I took this photo under the ruse of photographing the building behind her. I think old Asian people look like they possess so much wisdom.

I hope I look wise when I’m old and wrinkly!

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Underwater San Francisco

During our recent trip to San Francisco, my husband and I went to the Steinhart Aquarium, which is part of the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park. And since he’s stoked about getting the new aquarium, my husband had to visit. It’s really quite a wonderful aquarium full of more than 38,000 live animals from around the world.

It’s difficult to take photos of the many remarkable animals behind the glass, but here are a few of my “pretty-OK” shots.

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Traveling Junk Love

Sorry about missing last week’s installment of Junk Love  – time got away from me. But I’m back this week with one of my favorites. I got this suitcase from my grandma about 10 years ago. My grandma is a total pack rat, and I was completely surprised when I asked her if I could have the suitcase and she said yes. I was living in Minneapolis at the time, and my grandma lives in Michigan so I had to bring the suitcase home on the plane with me.

I decided to use it as my carry-on – “How cool am I?” I thought! I got a ton of positive comments about it. People seemed to love the nostalgia.

The outside of the suitcase is some sort linen material with faux leather trim. The interior is blue satin fabric. And surprising there is no musty smell.

I just love this suitcase not only for its aesthetic, but because it was my grandma’s.

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Awe-Inspiring Photography

Sometimes I have these moments where I realize that I am really lucky. Maybe lucky isn’t the correct word. Sheltered. No. Modernized. Yes. Boring. Kind of. Where am I going with this?
I love watching Art Wolfe’s Travels to the Edge on PBS. He goes to these amazing places and takes these amazing photographs.

Today, I caught the “Ethiopia: The Omo Valley” episode. He traveled to some of the most remote country in the entire world. The lives of the villagers that he visited are so completely non-Westernized that it was said that the people in one tribe did not even know that they lived in a country called Ethiopia. It was truly amazing to see cultures so unlike mine. So primitive. So pure. So uncluttered. Where it warrants an elaborate celebration for a successful harvest season. Where men from different villages still battle each other for the hearts of the women.
Art said that he was not there to document the cultures like many photographers or anthropologists do but rather to document the artful body painting, body adornments and ceremonies. He made mention that these tribes have no museums or galleries or even living rooms to hang art, but it is on their persons that they derive art and culture. I don’t know why this struck me as so powerful, but it did.
The cultures are truly beautiful in my eyes. It’s that they know nothing different. And, it seems, if they do know different, they choose to live the way their ancestors have for thousands of years. Incredible. Interesting. Beautiful.
If you haven’t seen Art Wolfe’s show, you should.

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