Tag Archives: Canon 40D

Pictures of Capri, Italy

A man surveys the island of Capri, Campagna, Italy

Who cares about Capri? That’s what I was thinking when we were planning our 3-week trip to Italy back in 2008. What I knew of it was that it was a Mediterranean hoity-toity haunt for the rich. Maseratis, casinos and Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, right?

“Mariah Carey has a house there,” my wife added. Thanks … all the more reason to keep my distance. We had other priorities: Positano, Sorrento, Matera, Puglia, Rome, Umbria, Tuscany…it was already a long list.

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Colorado National Monument at Dawn

Colorado National Monument at Dawn

(Click on images for larger version … especially this shot)

Falling a bit behind in updating the blog from our Southwest Colorado trip. Things take priority sometimes: you know, like a full-time job and life with a six-month old. Funny how every spare moment — mornings, nights, weekends — I want to spend with her. Just finished getting her down for bed and now I’ll be off on a business trip for three days. So it goes.

Colorado National Monument at Dawn

But odds are, I’ll have regular updates through the end of the year with this trip, next week’s trips to Steamboat Springs and Snowmass, and then our mid-November journey to Kauai. Good to have new material, for sure.

On the Sunday morning of our trip, I awoke at dawn … groggy, gross and overheated. The hot evening and sleeping on the ground had left me feeling less than ideal. Now would have been a great time for coffee (or a bucket of ice to dunk my head in), but again, we weren’t too adept at this camping thing, so we didn’t have any way to make coffee. We brought breakfast: 12 crummy Target cereal bars. That was it. Grumble, grumble, grumble.

Colorado National Monument at Dawn

Varenna, however, was her usual spry self. Kids can sleep anywhere. In the future, we’ll camp because of her, not because of us. It won’t be because we thoroughly enjoy it (just being honest: after all, this was the first time we’d camped since we got engaged) or because we love making cowboy coffee over a fireplace. We’ll camp to experience her reaction to it. And that’s assuming she’ll love it (after seeing how she is in the outdoors, I’m fairly certain she will). And then as a result, we will love camping.

We set out along Rim Rock Drive around 7am, catching some of the most brilliant golden light I’ve seen in Colorado.

Colorado National Monument at Dawn

We experimented with lens flares, shooting into the sun, and comparing the way the Canon 5D Mark II and the Canon 40D handled the light. In fact, in some instances, the same shot came out better on the Canon 40D (I have no idea why).

Colorado National Monument at Dawn

By 8:30am we were back at the campground packing up. Onward through the rest of the park along Rim Rock Drive, a stop for brunch in Grand Junction, and then a two-hour drive to Ridgway at the foot of the San Juan Mountains. The drive was uneventful through the monument, but twice we heard a weird knocking sound — once pulling into a turnout and again on a steep switchback. Both times while turning. We didn’t think anything of it.

Colorado National Monument at Dawn

But a mile outside Delta, Colorado — at a speed of 65 mph — it occurred again and there was no way to ignore it. A bang followed by a high, straining whir of the engine. I began to slow down significantly, and noticed the steering wheel was like lead. It took about a quarter mile to stop in the shoulder, but I got it there in one piece. Varenna slept through the whole thing.

Was it a blowout? Nope. A quick walk around the vehicle disproved that theory. When I restarted the car, the transmission light, the oil light, the check engine light and the parking brake light were all on (even though the parking brake wasn’t engaged). That helps.

Colorado National Monument at Dawn

Long story short, it was the power-steering belt. It flew off because the mechanics who replaced it the week before forgot to clamp it down. For the entire drive from Denver down I-70, up Rim Rock Drive, around Colorado National Monument (alone) in the dead of night under a full moon, this belt spun and somehow didn’t fly off. Fortunately, it didn’t destroy anything else in the engine when it came off, and after a tow to Montrose and a drop off at the airport, the three of us were in a rental car headed to Ridgway to salvage our itinerary. We arrived in one piece at the Chipeta Sun Lodge, the perfect place to chill out after such an episode.

By Monday morning, the belt was replaced, and by noon we’d retrieved the car and were headed to Ouray and then Telluride. Vacation saved.

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10 Must-See Churches in Italy

(Click on photos for a larger view)

Tanager Photography is temporarily grounded (i.e. the baby is due in less than three weeks), so I figure a retrospective is in order — how about the most spectacular churches in Italy?

Feel free to tell me how wrong I am in the comments box, or suggest ones I missed. Keep in mind a few things: these are from a non-Catholic, non-historically significant, photographer’s standpoint. My criteria was a simple scale of how blown away I was by each church. Also, I intentionally left St. Peter’s Basilica off the list because technically it is in the Vatican.

1. Duomo di Siena

In one of the few cities in Italy where the main piazza is crowned by a town hall instead of a cathedral, the Duomo of Siena still manages to stand out as Italy’s most majestic church. Composed of alternating stripes of black and white marble and situated at the crown of the city’s hill, Il Duomo is a riot of medieval art, storytelling mosaics and hallowed spaces. Of particular note: Pisano’s ridiculously elaborate pulpit (above right), Bernini’s ecstatic St. Jerome holding the cross like a cradled fiddle (top left), a floor mosaic depicting the Slaughter of the Innocents, and a painted dome that creates an optical illusion of the three-dimensional heavens (above right). This church is a mind blower.

2. Pantheon, Rome

My first stab at this list didn’t even include the Pantheon. Why? It’s not very churchy. In fact, it’s hard to figure out. From nearby Piazza della Minerva, it looks like nothing more than a massive, ancient turret. From the front, it’s portico of Corinthian columns looks more reminiscent of the Acropolis than any vestige of Christendom. And in fact, therein lies the rub. Built originally by Romans during the tenure of Hadrian in 124 AD, it was a tribute to the multiple deities of the day. Not until 609 AD was it converted into a Christian church, and fortunately, since then they’ve pretty much left this austere and daunting, perfectly symmetrical building as it was. At first blush, the Pantheon inspires a humanistic awe at how crafty the Romans were. But after an hour of watching the sun shaft that passes through the oculus move about the room, you can’t help but get the feeling that its God peeking in.

3. Basilica de San Francesco d’Assisi, Assisi

No word better describes Assisi than tranquil. Granted, I was there in early April, in the midst of constant rains and the renewal of spring. Summer may be a different story. Regardless of when you roll through this town, the Basilica de San Francesco d’Assisi is impossible to miss. Towering over the Umbrian valley, the cathedral that honors the town’s native son St. Francis — the patron saint of Italy, animals and the environment — is a massive complex, and somewhat contrary to the intimacy of the town. It is, in essence, a double-decker church. The Upper Basilica — which was partially destroyed by an earthquake in 1997 but restored — is lavishly colorful, with richly detailed frescos by Giotto depicting the saint’s life. Underneath, the Lower Basilica is more somber, cold and bucolic, especially during a service, when chanting and hymns echo off its low-arched ceiling.

4. Basilica di San Marco, Venice

I have mixed feelings on Venice, particularly St. Mark’s Square. On the one hand are the hawkers of trinkets, the tourists feeding pigeons, the 6-Euro cappuccinos, the menus in 8 different languages. On the other hand, is the stout, gray onion-domed cathedral crowned with gold-winged angels and Byzantine mosaics. She’s like an old lady with too much jewelry, but you can’t help but love her anyway. Like Sophia Lauren, now that I mention it. The basilica is, in a word, ridiculous: from the length of the line to get in, to the amount of opulence the Venetians put into it to demonstrate their wealth. The ceilings, walls and arches of the interior are layered with gold tiles and mosaics depicting saints and the prophets, and its easy to fall under the spell of the cathedral’s radiance. Much of the church is filled with treasures the Venetians raided from elsewhere, including it’s namesake’s relics. Historically, its fascinating, but on a WWJD level … well, you decide.

5. Santa Maria d’Idris, Matera

Poles apart from the Pantheon, the Church of St. Francis and Basilica di San Marco, is Santa Maria d’Idris. Located in a small cave atop a rocky mount overlooking the grottos and canyon of Matera (upper right corner, above left photo), it is a strange, mystical, spooky place. This ancient city in Basilicata (it dates back to Paleolithic times — put that in your pipe and smoke it, Rome) has clusters of cave churches throughout the city limits, but this one is most memorable, in part because of its rocky mount location (it’s entrance takes in a beautiful 270-degree panorama of the city), and its labyrinth of meditation chambers, which are decorated with boldly colorful frescos in various states of decay. Looking like it was carved by hand out of the rock, Santa Maria d’Idris is imperfect and intimate, two traits missing in so many places of worship.

6. Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore (Duomo), Florence

Intimacy was clearly never the intent of Florence’s massive duomo. No, this church was meant to send a message to other city-states, like Siena. Looming over the city center and seemingly peering into every alley, passageway and window in the city proper, it is one of those rare churches that’s actually a skyscraper. It’s interior includes an unforgettable and grotesque ceiling fresco by Vasari and Zuccaro, but is largely forgettable in comparison to the cathedral’s exterior circus of pink, green and white marble. A row of grim-faced saints on the facade point at patrons of the piazza, a once stern and effective reminder of morality no doubt, that has slowly been lost on the tourist licking their gelato at the Baptistery’s gate. But the truly moving element of this iconic cathedral is Brunelleschi’s dome. By the time it was conceived in the early 1400s, the formula for Roman concrete (the kind which made the Pantheon possible) was forgotten. So he just decided to make it of bricks instead — 4 million of them … without a crane.

7. Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, Venice

Venice has a staggering amount of amazing churches, but after the Basilica di San Marco, the Frari Church is head and shoulders the standout. Not because of its exterior (which is actually quite drab) but because of the art it holds inside. Most famous may be Titian’s altarpiece, The Assumption, a fantastic portrayal of Mary’s Assumption to Heaven, surrounded by swirling angels and clouds. The church also houses Donatello’s John the Baptist, works by Bellini, several tombs (including Titian’s) and elaborate wood and gold choir stalls by Marco Cozzi.

8.  Santa Maria Assunta, Positano

OK. I’ll be honest. I barely peeked inside this church. I know, I know. How could it make the must-see list if all I’m basing it on is the exterior? Some roving journalist I am! But there’s something romantically delightful about this church. From my experience, no other church in Italy fits more perfectly into the landscape than this one. It appears to anchor Positano to the ground, as if its presence keeps this wildly gorgeous town from floating away. Secondly, it’s beautiful mosaic dome has grass and plants growing out of its clefts, a small detail that shows that all things — manmade or otherwise — are reclaimed by nature. And finally, spend a Sunday in Positano and you’ll see the locals flocking to church, a pleasant reminder that this is a living, breathing community after all — not just a tourist playground.

9. Chiesa dei Gesu, Rome

The mother church of the Jesuit Order is located a few blocks from the Coliseum, the Pantheon and the Forum. Talk about a long shadow. But that’s Rome. For us, the church was a quick stop en route to Santa Maria Sopra Minerva and the Pantheon at the insistence of my cousin, Nick, who lives in Ciampino and has been a Roman resident for years. The church is a neck craner, with the highlight being a spectacular ceiling fresco by Giovanni Battista Gaulli called Triumph of the Name of Jesus (above right). It’s the only ceiling I’ve ever wanted to stare at for an hour.

10. Duomo di Amalfi

The Cathedral of Saint Andrew in Amalfi exudes a rare elegance among large churches. Its 62 stairs spill like a waterfall from the zebra-striped and gold facade. It’s campanille is composed of multiple cylinders, a style I haven’t seen elsewhere. Considering that the church is in the middle of the spectacular Amalfi Coast, it’s an amazing convergence to see from the piazza below. Inside, Baroque and Romanesque elements combine beautifully, but the real story lies in the crypt. Here, supposedly, lie the bones of St. Andrew. How they ended up here is just one of those historical footnotes of Europe’s history. Like with other saints, his relics were transported, stolen and stashed all across the continent. St. Andrew mostly ended up here, where his bones were safely stored after the sacking of Constantinople in 1208.

Of course, there are a few honorable mentions:

And the one that got away: The Cathedral of Milan. A train strike kept us from spending any time in Milan, so we missed what is considered by many to be one of the most spectacular Gothic churches on earth. Perhaps another time.

Alright, if you’ve been: what did I miss?

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The Hall Family

(click on images for a larger version)

On Saturday, Hailey and I did a family portrait shoot with the Halls — Bryce, Marni, Oliver and Harrison — at their Centennial home. Marni is my sister-in-law’s sister; she was the maid of honor at Ben and Amy’s wedding while I was the best man.  So we’ve known each other for roughly 15 years, and it’s such a treat to see her and her wonderful family these days, especially since Hailey and I are expecting in March, making their two-month-old son Harrison an automatic play buddy for our baby.


We did much of the shoot in their front room, which for me was conveniently empty and east facing, making it very studio-like with lots of natural light (yes!). Their two-year-old son Oliver took only a few minutes to warm up to us (after all, it had been a few months since we last hung out). He showed us some of his awesome toys in his play room, and then he had fun jumping off an ottoman onto a massive, pillowy, stuffed sheep chair. He’s also a natural in front of the camera. Look at that smile and pose!


Harrison was born just two months ago, and he’s at that super sweet age where his eyes search everything and he’s smiling a bit. The blanket in these images below was knitted by Harrison’s grandmother, Linda (Bryce’s mom).


After the shoot at their house, and a little lunch, we all went to the Colorado Railroad Museum in Golden. This place is awesome. Locomotives and cabooses of all kinds, a Galloping Goose engine that makes circuits, and all sorts of memorabilia in the gift shop. I’m not a model-train collector by any stretch, but we’re definitely hitting this place up when our child is old enough to love it like Oliver does.


Thanks to Marni and Bryce for such an awesome shoot. Really fun, really engaging and easy-going. What more could a photographer ask for? We had a blast!

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Adam Huggins + Tess Leppert (August 14, 2009)

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Adam Huggins (below) is one of my best friends. We’ve known each other since our freshman year in college, and we really shouldn’t be friends anymore. Nothing personal. It’s just that freshman year was the only time in our lives that we lived near each other. He transferred to Wake Forest, and has lived in Birmingham, Richmond and now Nashville. Friendships normally don’t survive that, even in the era of Facebook. For God’s sakes: we were 18 the one time we hung out consistently.

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I’m not bragging or trying to suggest that our friendship is made of brawn and steel. It is what it is. But somehow it’s stayed relevant and significant for both of us over the years (of course, a 72-hour trip to Hawaii to see U2 in 2006 — his idea, not mine — helped keep the glory days going).

So Adam is finally getting on with his life: he just finished his nine grueling years of med school and residency and is now a doctor — which means I expect to fly on his private jet to Ketchum, Idaho in the near future — and he met a wonderful girl, Tess, and married her in mid-August. Hailey and I flew up to Boise and drove to Ketchum for a spectacular four-day weekend to be a part of the festivities. Adam asked that I be one of his groomsman.

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So as a wedding gift, we offered to photograph the rehearsal dinner, and these are some of those pictures. Adam was alright with it (he was hoping we’d get him a set of bamboo table runners from Crate + Barrel) as long as we enjoyed the evening at the same time.

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First off, Ketchum is a gorgeous little town. It’s a special place for Tess, having lived there after college, and the way they did this wedding was perfect. They rented a big house for multiple families to stay in for the week, and then the backyard doubled as the ceremony and reception venue.

After we went through our ceremonial paces, everyone piled into a school bus for a one-hour ride north to the Galena Lodge for the rehearsal dinner. In the early evening light we passed through Hemingway’s country in all its glory — braided rivers, dense willows, robust pines and rolling mountains. Classic Idaho.

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The Galena Lodge is a magnificent property. They ran carriage rides to the nearby ghost town on the hour, and the catering was pretty damn good.

Here are some images from the evening.

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Adam’s Dad is also a doctor, and he gave a very moving toast to his son just before dinner. On a personal note, getting to know Adam’s family better was the highlight of the trip for me. Such a warm, kind, compassionate and generous group of people.

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So as us groomsmen were standing around waiting for the ceremony to begin the next day, Adam brings up that he has an extra ticket to the U2 show, opening night, in Chicago, in early September. His friend Neil has to take a rain check and “it’s yours if you want it.”

“Thanks man,” I say. “Let me see what’s going on and crunch some numbers and see if I can make it work.”

This being Adam, yours if you want it quickly morphed into you’re coming, it’s been decided for you.

At the end of the night as we were saying our goodbyes and wishing the newlyweds the best, Adam shook my hand and said “I’ll see you in Chicago.” That’s Adam.

<<More on the Chicago trip in another post, but you can view video I shot of “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” on my Flickr page.>>

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Peas and Carrots (OK, Grapes and Carrots)

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Well, I’m back. Been a long while since I’ve blogged, in part because of how busy things have been at work, plus, my Canon 40D needed to go into the shop, so I’ve been on a bit of a shooting haitus. And I’m not talking about a three-day stint at Metro Camera Service in Englewood for a sensor cleaning. I had to ship it to Canon’s Main Service Branch in California to have the shutter mechanism fixed. So, all is better now, as these test shots of cabernet grapes and backyard carrots indicate. However, the situation pushed me off the fence on acquiring a new camera, and so, this Wednesday, according to UPS, I’ll be getting a Canon 5D Mark II as my main ax. The 40D, loyal soldier from trips to Italy and Mexico, will still serve me, but as the backup and as Hailey’s camera, too.

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So, just to update things, I thought I’d get these pics of our bumper crop online. Hailey faithfully tended to a veggie garden this year, and along with cherry tomatoes, rosemary, oregano and jalapenos, we had great success with carrots from seed. On Saturday, we pulled 50 out of the ground, and only stopped because we didn’t want them wilting in our fridge. Best to keep the last 50 or so in the ground and harvest them for Thanksgiving. And yes, we recommend washing them before cooking them. Less gritty that way.

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Jason and Ali (and Some Big News)

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In late August, we hosted Hailey’s brother and sister-in-law, Jason and Ali, for a few nights. They live in Richmond, Virginia, and they visit roughly once a year now that Hailey’s parents live in Boulder. You know me and my pet portrait projects — while they were here, I asked them to pose for some photos in front of the white backdrop. Something playful and childish … like blowing bubbles. Why? Because we’re working on a series of white seamless portraits for the nursery.

That’s right: Hailey and I are having a baby. March 4 is the due date, and we’re determined to have the little one surrounded by our loved ones every night.

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Uncle Jason and Aunt Ali are naturally playful (heck, we even bought the bubbles at the grocery store on the way home from putt-putt golf).

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The bubble gun came with a blue hippopotamus-type creature who exclaims “bubbles make me silly!” when you squeeze its stomach. This provided a good ten minutes worth of laughs from Jason.

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Right now Hailey is beginning to show and the baby is making a few moves of its own. In 10 days, we find out if it is a boy or a girl. It gets more and more real with each passing day. I’ll do my best to make sure this doesn’t become a baby blog, but rest assured, this will be one of the most photographed kids in history.

We’ll be seeing Jason and Ali again for Christmas in Richmond, along with Hailey’s parents, her grandmother and her aunt and family. Should be an extra joyous occasion this year.

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Jacqie Kilzer + Ken Jones – August 12, 2009 (Part 2)

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(Click on each image for a larger view)

Jacqie and Ken were married on August 12 in Castle Rock. Here is part 2, with images from the ceremony and immediately after.

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At my wedding, my brother’s words to me before walking down the aisle were “on occasions like this, there’s no difference between the sacred and the profane.” Things don’t go perfectly, and that’s part of the fun. I love the spontaneity of shooting a wedding, and the pictures above capture one of those moments. During the ceremony, a bridesmaid’s hair clip got caught in the maid of honor’s veil. It brought a few chuckles in the front pew, and a round of smiles from Jacqie and Ken.

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I’ll have more portraits and images from the reception later this week.

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Jacqie Kilzer + Ken Jones – August 12, 2009 (Part 1)

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Jacqie and Ken got married on August 12th in Castle Rock, and Hailey and I were honored to be their photographers. You may remember their engagement setting at Confluence Park back in March. At that time, it was clear these two were meant for each other. Both were easy going, funny, and full of laughs, and amazingly enough, that’s exactly how they were on their wedding day, too.

Here are images from before the ceremony. I’ll devote posts in the coming days to the service, portraits and reception.

As with all of my posts, you can view a larger version by clicking on each image … especially handy for the huge bridesmaid collage I have below.

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