Hanging on for dear life

We recently took a family “spring break” trip out to Washington D.C.  As part of a “behind the scenes” tour of the National Cathedral, I spotted this little gargoyle through a tiny window in a service door:

Hanging on for dear life

Even from just a few steps away from the door, it took 110mm of focal length (220 in full frame terms) to capture the little guy.

Steinland

A scene from this year’s “Christkindl Market” in downtown Denver, Colorado — shelves of beer steins on sale at a vendor’s stall:

Steinland

Oddly enough, it was only on a recent trip that we discovered that while the word stein is German, this style of beer mugs is only called a stein in English-speaking countries.  Stein is an abbreviation of the German steingut (stoneware), the material they’re made of.  But in Germany, bierstein (“beer stone”) is the term used for a scaly deposit built up in poorly-cleaned brewing vessels.  A mug like one of these would be called a krug, or more properly a bierkrug.

So there’s your language lesson for the day, more about the “Christkindl Market” in subsequent posts.

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

White Tower — day and night

Time for some more Dale Chihuly art glass, as seen at the Denver Botanic Gardens.  My wife and I both decided that some pieces looked best in daylight, while others were real stand-outs when lit up at night — so for comparison’s sake, let’s look at the installation White Tower over a few hours’ time.

White Tower, daylight

White Tower is a fine piece — but in daylight, we both thought it was most interesting up close.  Those magenta spots on the white branches (tentacles?) aren’t painted on — they’re clear areas in a white outer layer, which let the inner color shine through.

Unfortunately, the background is a bit too cluttered to really set the piece off, at least from this angle. Continue reading

Blue Icicle Towers

For the next few months (through November), the Denver Botanic Gardens is hosting an exhibition (part of the Garden Cycle series) of glass art by Dale Chihuly.  When you first walk into the gardens, you’re greeted by this sight:

Blue Icicle Towers

It’s called Blue Icicle Towers, and is one of Chihuly’s new works.  Like most of his art, it’s neither small nor subtle — but it’s an eye-catcher and will leave you wondering just how he and his crew make everything.  More to come…

Governors, Turtles, and Tourists

A segment of a panorama from the ancient Maya ruins of Uxmal — covering the Governor’s Palace (left) and the House of the Turtles (right), along with a few scattered tourists:

Governors, Turtles, and Tourists

I initially didn’t expect this image to be of much account. It’s part of a panorama I made for later reference, one of many I made at a number of sites on my last trip to the Yucatán, primarily so I can double-check the quality of the maps I draw for my eBooks.

But in the process, I discovered that a modern iPhone (!) can make surprisingly good panoramas.

Offerings

A few years ago, we were fortunate to be able to visit the Actun Tunichil Muknal (Cave of the Crystal Sepulchre, a.k.a. ATM) cave in Belize.  It’s a 3-mile long wet cave (i.e., there’s a stream flowing through it), and a pretty “tough ticket” in that only a few guides are permitted to take tours through it — and the number of groups passing through on any given day are strictly limited.  It’s a physically demanding visit, too — you wind up climbing over and under boulders, swimming a significant part of the way, etc.

Offerings

But the restrictions are all for good reason.  The cave was used for sacrificial offerings by the ancient Maya, largely during the classic period (roughly 250 – 900 AD).  As the classic period wound down and the local situation worsened, increasingly dear sacrificial offerings were made increasingly far into the cave.  Tours extend as far as “The Crystal Maiden,” the calcified skeletal remains of a teenage girl sacrificed near the end of the classic — but she is only one of 14 individuals whose remains have been found in the cave, and less macabre offerings predominate anyway.

The Crystal Maiden

Sadly, in 2012 a tourist dropped their camera on one of the 1,000 year old skulls in the cave and fractured it — the skull was repaired to some degree, but as a result of that one tourist’s inattention, visitors are no longer allowed to bring cameras into the cave.