Barcelona: A Perfect Blend of Gothic and Modern


Barcelona: A Perfect Blend of Gothic and Modern

 

I still remember the 1992 Summer Olympics from Barcelona. NBC Sports televised the events. It was the first time professional basketball players were allowed to compete. The USA “Dream Team” with Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, and Larry Bird easily won the gold medal. Badminton and Judo became official sports of the Olympics.

 

What I remember more than the Games were the panoramic views of the Catalan countryside, the amazing architecture of the Gothic Quarter, Gaudi’s unforgettable creations, and the unique modern architecture weaving seamlessly into the fabric of the historic city. NBC did a wonderful job of selling the city. I vowed then to visit in person one day.

 

In the early 2000’s, I experienced Barcelona for a few days. I wandered around the narrow streets of Gothic Quarter lingering at the churches and cathedrals, and photographing the hundreds year old buildings’ time-worn doors and windows.  Barcelona just oozes history and beauty from every alleyway and structure.

 

Maybe I should be ashamed to say, however, I was unaware of Antoni Gaudi before visiting Barcelona. I had seen images of his architectural work, but never attributed it to him. Gaudi integrated ceramics, glass, wrought iron and other substances into his works. His greatest work, the Sagrada Familia, was only recently completed after more than a hundred years under construction.

 

I’m a photographer, not an historian nor architectural expert either. But it seems to me that Gaudi bridged the gap between modern and Gothic architecture in Barcelona. His one-of-a-kind architectural creations paved the way for more striking modern, whimsical buildings and art installations. The result is a harmonious blend of modern and Gothic architectural styles that are a joy to view and experience.

 

Barcelona is one of those places I would love to return. Not only is it visually stimulating but the harmony of the old and new creates a peaceful and serene balance. It’s simply good for the soul.

 

 

 

 

The Southwest – For the First Time Again

For the First Time…Again!

 

Anyone who knows me, knows I love the Southwest. Utah is my favorite state in the USA. In the southern part of the state, there are five national parks and numerous state parks showcasing the most magnificent geological formations in brilliant colors of red, orange, yellow, and white – all contrasted by the bluest sky you’ve ever seen.

 

I have photographed all the parks, scenic highways, peaks, valleys, and everything in between many times. I usually visit Utah every year or two. I never get tired of it. Every time I visit, I see familiar places that I’ve slept, ate, stopped by to look around and so on. I feel like I know it like the back of my hand. Yet I return again and again because it is such a special place.

 

On my most recent visit, I brought my brother along. It was his first time to see Utah in all its glory and beauty, other than Moab which he visited years ago. We started out in Vegas and traveled south to Monument Valley on the Utah/Arizona border. Along the way, we stopped at the world-famous slot canyons, Antelope Canyon. From there, we visited Canyon de Chelly in eastern Arizona before heading north to the national parks of Utah.

 

Arches NP, Canyonlands NP, Capitol Reef NP, Zion NP, and the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument were in our bulls eye. While we didn’t get to explore each park in depth, it was a good primer for his next travel expedition. The area is so vast and diverse, it is easy to spend an entire week in only one or two parks. I’ve had the honor and pleasure to explore each individually, and it’s worth every minute.

 

Each park is unique in color and type of rock formations – red rock in Canyonlands, orange in Bryce Canyon, all of the above in Zion! The region ranges rom 4,000 to 9,000 feet in elevation which creates different weather patterns and temperatures. While it’s hot in Arches, it is moderate to cool in Bryce Canyon. Not only is southern Utah a visual feast, it tickles every sense to maximum effect.

 

I feel like I am visiting the area for the first time although I’ve been here about 10 times. I am seeing the parks through my brother’s eyes. As I experienced the first time, he is mesmerized and overwhelmed by the sheer beauty of the region. Just when he thought he saw something that couldn’t be topped, there was another amazing sight. And another, and another.

 

Every time he proclaims his amazement and disbelief in the otherworldly rock formations, the brilliant colors, the lovely weather, the good home-cooked food, I am reliving my first experience in the Southwest. I am as excited as he is! I suppose it is like parents taking their children to Disney World for the first time. They relive their first visit to the parks. I totally get it. The emotions are the same. It is pure unadulterated joy and contentment.

 

I am always eager to return again with a new pair of eyes. Anyone interested?! I would love see the Southwest for the first time…again! And again!

 

 

 

Samana Peninsula in the Dominican Republic. Must See!

The Samana Peninsula over Punta Cana…ANY DAY!

 

 

The Dominican Republic has so many unique and diverse beach areas to explore and enjoy. The country is big – more than double the size of Puerto Rico and Jamaica. There are countless areas with amazing sandy beaches, colorful people, and lovely vacation rentals. Most of the attention is focused on Punta Cana and La Romana. But for me, the Samana Peninsula is the top tropical paradise destination in the DR.

 

Located in the northeast, it is a mountainous region with spectacular waterfalls and amazing tropical forests and flora. The town of Samana and the villages of Las Terranas and Las Galeras are the vacation destinations. It’s one of those areas you have to WANT to visit. You don’t just stumble over it. That’s one of the things that makes it so attractive. The destination less travelled.

 

Small mom & pop motels and vacation villas dot the beaches with plenty of room in between them. Most of the area is undeveloped. There are only a couple of all-inclusive resorts tucked away in less populous areas. You won’t have to worry about stumbling over bodies on the beach.

 

Las Terranas and Las Galeras have no Hard Rock Cafes nor chain restaurants. The meal of choice is usually the fish caught earlier in the day and served up fresh in a little beachside restaurant with a few tables and meringue music filling the air.

 

The beaches are natural and untouched. Palm trees grow at the water’s edge and coconuts lay where they’ve fallen. Dirt roads outnumber paved ones. Scooters and 4-wheelers are the primary mode of transportation. You get the idea…

 

It’s not unusual to go all day without seeing another American too. As a matter of fact, we stick out like a sore thumb! The area is a favorite of the French and Italians. Many have migrated or have vacation homes in the area. As a result, there is a French speaking school, wonderful Italian restaurants and amazing French bakeries. It’s like visiting a foreign country within a foreign country!

 

When I lived in Santo Domingo, Las Terranas was my favorite get-away locale. I still look at my photos and fondly remember the wonderful times I spent there. The Samana Peninsula is the real Dominican Republic. It’s not spit-shined and polished like a Florida theme park. Hands down, I’d recommend it any day over Punta Cana.

 

 

10 Essential Tips to Improve Meeting Space Photography

10 Essential Tips to Improve Hotel Meeting Room Photography

 

The little details make the biggest difference in spectacular hotel/resort photography. Before each photo shoot, I meet with the management team and review all areas to be photographed. This is a complimentary service I provide to all my clients because it allows us to be more efficient and create better images. You look good, I look good!

 

Believe it or not, the smallest details can make or break an image. Just think, if a prospective meeting planner looks at an image and sees a meeting space with crooked chairs, they may not consciously recognize it; however, if they look at a hotel gallery with impeccable arrangements, they’re more likely to feel comfortable with that property. If they do see the disarray, they may also feel less confident in the convention services team. Either way, you lose.

 

Also, the hotel staff and sales team will be looking at these images for a couple of years; the last thing you want is to focus on all the little flaws in a photo and undermine the sales team’s confidence in the product.

 

I know all these tips sound elementary and common knowledge; however, in prepping for a photo shoot, there are so many things to address that sometimes the little details go unnoticed.

 

Most brands have specific guidelines for meeting room photography. Take a look at the brand requirements and plan accordingly. Regardless, here are a few useful and easy remedies for flawless hotel public spaces photography.

 

  1. Table Cloths: Table cloths can make a spectacular shot less appealing if the table cloths are not uniform. Make sure all table cloths on all the tables are uniform. Either they all touch the floor or none do. Likewise, please make sure the table cloths do not gather at the floor and create a pile. For classroom style, the table linens should fall no lower than the seat of the chair. Again, each table’s linens should be uniform and match all tables in the room – including the table edges.
  2. Linen Wrinkles: Wrinkles can undermine the beauty and appeal of any space. All linens should be pressed or ironed and left unfolded before applying to tables. After placing linens on tables, use seamstress pins to pull wrinkles and pin from behind.
  3. Chairs and seating.: Chairs should not break the fall of the table cloths. Do not push chairs under the tables. It is often better to set an 8-round table for 6 people. It reduces the clutter and thus reduces clutter in the minds of the planner. For theatre style or classroom, perfection is critical. Each chair should be precise in both row and column. It can make or break a photo!
  4. Table Tops: unless it is an over-the-top reception, less is more. It is unnecessary to have more than 4 pieces of silverware and 1 (max 2) glasses per setting. Set an 8-top for 6 people to give it air and breathing room
  5. Centerpieces: table centerpieces can really make a reception photo spectacular. Consider using a florist or set designer for your reception shots. Remember, the photo will be used for years and the cost of original and beautiful arrangements will end up costing very little over time. For applications other than a reception, I recommend using no table arrangements. Tastes change over time and what is in style now becomes obsolete in a year or two. Think about green apples! Once the rage, now overdone and out of style. If you do use centerpieces, make them small and blend them into the space. Single succulents in a planter are the norm now. I prefer living green plants versus cut flowers.
  6. Plants: Plants in the corners of a room or on either side of a dais can soften the angles and loneliness of a single table and two chairs in the front of a room. Perhaps a small plant on either side of the table or a row of small potted plants in front of the table to make it more inviting and less “teacher/pupil” style.
  7. A/V Equipment: When appropriate, a large screen adds to the look of a space. If you’re shooting multiple spaces, it is not necessary to have a projector screen in all the shots. The meeting planner gets the idea and knows they’re available. Likewise, it is not necessary to have the projector on a table in the middle of the room. The viewer can assume there’s a projector available; plus, it adds clutter to an image and hinders the flow and appeal.
  8. Logos: Logos can easily be added to a projector screen. It is not necessary to dim the lights and set the projector to display a logo. That can easily be added in post-production. It looks better anyway. One final thing, a logo does not need to cover the entire screen to be useful. Remember, less is sometimes more.
  9. Lighting: Lighting can make or break a meeting space shot. If you have windows in your meeting space, show it! It’s a unique selling point that those without windows can’t promote. Also, just because you have lots of lights, it doesn’t mean they all have to be on when the shot is taken. Florescent lighting may be good for some situation but not many!
  10. Water: many properties are eliminating bottles of water and replacing with the pitchers of water in an effort to go “green”. If so, make sure the pitchers are clear, have ice and preferably some fruit in the pitcher to bring it to life. Each place setting should also have glasses if using pitchers.

 

As more and more properties are going “green”, there are positives and negatives. While a table without linens may look stark and industrial, there’s a value to it. NO WRINKLES! Removing wrinkles in meeting shots is a full-time job! I believe there’s a time and place for linen-less tables but a wedding reception shot is not one of them. Be selective and think about the bigger picture in regards to using or not using linens. Note pads and pencils are going by the wayside and are often available for taking but not at each place setting. For a quality photo, there needs to be something to designate a space and activity, otherwise, there’s a room full of empty chairs and blank tables.

 

I’ve only listed a few of the many factors that should be considered when shooting meeting room spaces. Each property and brand is unique and may have specific photography standards. As a preferred Marriott, Hyatt and Hilton brands photographer, I always abide by each brands’ standards. The list above is simply a thought starter and may or may not be applicable to your photography plans. I would love to hear your thoughts, suggestions, and tips for better meeting room photography. Please comment!

How Did I End Up Here?!

How Did I End Up HERE?!

 

What is the old proverb…”People plan and God laughs”? I often ask myself how I got where I am. I certainly didn’t plan it.

 

When I was about twelve years old, I made a decision that I was going to move away from my small Alabama hometown when I got older. At that age, the specifics didn’t matter and the logistics weren’t crystallized; but the conviction was. I started to make decisions then that affected where I am today. I just didn’t know it at the time.

 

Like many other people, I graduated college and sought work in something that would financially secure me. I was clueless on what I wanted to do other than to make money and have a comfortable lifestyle. After a series of unfulfilling jobs right out of college, I figured out what I didn’t want to do!

 

Soon enough, I found a career that was both exciting and challenging. I worked hard and enjoyed what I did. I rose through the ranks and did a good job. I accomplished some success and still fondly recall that period of my life. I made lifelong friends in the process.

 

I travelled down the well-worn established path to money and success. I focused all my efforts on achieving external accomplishments, job titles, and financial rewards to define me and determine my value. These were my measuring sticks of human value. Surely, the more I accomplished and earned would made me more successful and better. Right?

 

Fortunately a series of unpleasant, life-changing events gave me the willingness to review and change my life. Through a great amount of personal self-examination and work, I was able to see my misplaced values.  I realized that for me to achieve true contentment and satisfaction, I had to break that old measuring stick of success.

 

I had to take action toward doing what was good for the universe, not only me. I had to spend less time on looking good and getting things and more time on being good and giving.  I discovered that I had to get right with me before I could be right with everyone and everything.  It was an awakening to realize that peace and contentment was found within, not externally.

 

So, what does this have to do with photography? I never really thought about being a photographer. It wasn’t even in my realm of consciousness. I didn’t even own a camera! I actually stumbled upon my passion for photography.

 

It all started innocently enough. I explored the Southwest, mostly looking for myself. I took along a used Canon AE-1 film camera that I purchased and learned to operate a day or two prior to leaving. Through trial and error, I photographed for the first time this magnificent world full of brilliant colored red, orange and yellow rocks, otherworldly geological formations, rugged snow-capped mountains, and the bluest sky I ever saw. Being from Alabama, it was like visiting another planet.

 

I eagerly shared my photographs with family and friends who had never seen such wild beauty. The resounding consensus was a request to see more. The positive feedback, compliments, and encouragement gave me the confidence to seek other unique places to photograph. I caught the shutterbug.

 

My hobby became more important. It was an extension of my personal growth. As I lost interest in selfish things, my ability to see and capture beautiful landscapes and architecture grew. It was like seeing with new eyes. The watershed moment was the day I decided to pursue photography full time. I realized I didn’t want to awaken an old man and ‘wish I had’. No regrets. I finally broke the old measuring stick.

 

Years later, I’m still afflicted with the shutterbug. My travels have extended far beyond the Southwest to include many foreign countries on multiple continents. I’ve had the privilege to experience and photograph many amazing and beautiful places. And I’m not finished yet.

 

However, the most fulfilling and rewarding experience has been the journey to finding myself. I still don’t fully understand why or how I ended up here, But I’m sure happy I did.

 

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