The three principals

On our recent trip to the Balkans, by far one of our favorite stops was the little walled town of Korćula in Croatia. Good food, friendly people, and some wonderful cultural sights — for instance, the ancient sword dance known as the Moreška.

The story behind the dance is timeless — there are good guys, and bad guys, and a young maiden caught in the middle.  In this case, the good guys are the White King and his troops (once symbolic of Christians, later representing the Turks), and the bad guys are the Black King and his supporters (who have always represented the Moors).

The three principals

In this scene, you see the White King (Osman, dressed in red) and the Black King (Moro) facing off — with the maiden Bula trying to stop the fighting.  Bula is the white king’s fiancee, and the black king has kidnapped her, leading to a series of battles finally culminating in the white king’s victory and Bula’s happy return to her love.

The dance has roots dating back to conflict between Christians and Muslims in medieval Spain, and quickly spread throughout the Mediterranean.  For centuries, many towns staged their own version of the Moreška — but usually just once every few years, and then on the given town’s patronal feast day.  Over the years, the tradition disappeared from town after town until now, only Korćula stages it with any regularity.  But the good news for visitors is that the town stages the dance every week, year ’round (and twice a week during the summer).  The performers are all natives of Korćula, some with long and proud family histories of participation.

Should you ever get a chance to watch the show in person, I’ve got some tips for you:

  1. Don’t use a flash
  2. Sit in the seats opposite to the musicians, preferably on the center aisle, definitely near the front
  3. Be prepared for low-light photography — I took this shot at 1/80 sec. to freeze any motion, which meant ISO 4000 and f/2.8

Aspen turning — some post processing experimentation

Recently, Topaz Software released the latest in their line of plugin and post processing software — Impression. The idea is that this software (which you can run stand-alone, or as a Photoshop plugin) can turn a photograph into something resembling a painting. And you can choose from approximations to any of a number of painting styles, with lots of things to tweak.  It’s available at a discount through the end of the month, so I thought I should download it and a trial code and give it a spin.

Aspen turning (original)

My raw material was this shot of aspen trees turning — I took it last weekend down in the San Juan mountains thinking it’d make nice wallpaper for my various gadgets.  Starting off with one of Impression’s “Van Gogh” presets and tweaking a bit, I rendered the original into this:

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Up to the very top

This past weekend, I happened to drive through the San Luis valley (south central Colorado), and so was able to wiggle a bit of free time loose in order to see sunrise at Great Sand Dunes National Park.

Up to the very top

Sitting on a dune ridge, looking even further “up hill,” I thought this was a striking sight.  A natural environmental abstract…

So why *did* the elk cross the road?

Apparently to stick his tongue out at me:

So why *did* the elk cross the road?

Or, maybe he’s just a big Miley Cyrus fan?  At any rate, let this image serve as a reminder to always keep your camera in your lap when venturing into an area with active wildlife.  We took a family trip up to Rocky Mountain National Park (in northern Colorado) this past weekend, and not far inside the park’s gate, we spotted this stunning bull elk grazing just off the far side of the road.

By the time I’d pulled over and retrieved my camera from the car’s back seat, our visitor was up on the road, crossing over to our side.  I only had time to fire off a couple of hasty shots (through the closed driver’s side window) before he was behind our car entirely.  Thank heaven for auto-focus.

The elk’s expression is, of course, hardly majestic.  But you know how bad they are about following direction…

Playing with Hyperlapse

About a week ago, Instagram announced the release of their new free Hyperlapse app for iOS. So since we were headed to Ohio to visit relatives over the Labor Day weekend, the timing was perfect for me to use some flights to experiment with this new software.

Mind you, Hyperlapse does wonderful things, but it has its limits. It has essentially no settings you can change — you tap on a button to start recording, tap again to stop, then decide how much you want the video sped up before it is saved. The particularly impressive part of this story is that the app makes use of your iOS device’s built-in solid state gyro to help smooth out the device’s motion while you recorded the video.

Here’s a hyperlapse video (10x speedup) of our departure from Denver International Airport:

For the most part, it looks pretty good to me — but you can see some artifacts in the clouds from point to point. The default speedup is 6x, so on the flight home from Cleveland, I used that setting for three hyperlapse videos I made during ascent. Here’s a montage of them:

Maybe this was just a fluke, but the app seemed to do a much better job with things like clouds in the second video. A function of the speedup setting, or just dumb luck? Time (and some more experiments) will tell…

Monet Pool Fiori

Another piece of art glass by Dale Chihuly (two pieces, actually), currently located in the Denver Botanic Gardens‘ Monet Pool:

Monet Pool Fiori

This arrangement is one that absolutely looks better at night.  In the daytime, you’re distracted by people and plants and benches behind the piece (from this vantage point).  At night, the lighting on the glasswork helps isolate it from what would otherwise be clutter.

EXIF info:
Oly 12-40mm f/2.8 lens at 21mm and f/4.5 on E-M1 camera
1/25 sec at ISO 1600