Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Final Week

Words are truly at a loss for me. I'll apologize ahead of time for the lack of blog posts... but thing's really picked up in pace after the fall break! I've been traveling as much as I can, and in the time that isn't spent traveling or absorbing the last bit of Florence is spent doing my homework and studying.

So here we are, the final week... I'm not so sure how I feel about it. A month ago I was pretty excited to get home and see my family, see my friends, and drive my car, but with less than 3 days left, my feelings are quite mixed. Yesterday I took had my last Art History class and final exam, which went quite well. Though it should have, considering I studied most of Sunday for it.

Other than exams, I'm trying to get every last bit out of Florence that I can. With such little time left, I still want to do so much, but I have to prioritize. Lots of shopping is on the list (for those of you who know me, you probably thought that would've never come out of my mouth), as well as spend time with my new friends I've made here. Though, I'm sure I will be seeing some of them again.

I don't really know where to start summarizing, so I'll use some photos to refresh my memory:

Last Tuesday, after we handed in our final portfolio for our writing class, I took my friend Cristina to one of my favorite restaurants in Florence, Trattoria Mario. It's a nice, quaint restaurant full of local cuisines and not full of tourists. Not to mention, the prices aren't half bad! Afterwards, we headed over to the indoor food market and browsed around there for a bit. I wish I could have taken a photo of Cristina's face when she stumbled upon the Peruvian stand inside the market (for those of you who do not know, Cristina is from Peru). Priceless! The photos above were taken during our little adventure, and at the bottom right, you're looking at a plate of rabbit with tomato sauce and olives. Delicious!

Also, as some of you probably remember, I talked about finding the "voice" of Firenze and I've had a flow of photos relating to my search for different people throughout Italy. Well, last Monday was the art exhibit! I had to choose only four photos, which wasn't very easy, but everyone seemed to love the photos! Here's a shot of the exhibit.

Moving onto a completely different subject, the next thing that comes to mind is my most recent, and unfortunately, last trip while studying abroad: Pompeii. My friend Alethea and I decided to go visit Pompeii on Friday. It was my first trip to the southern part of Italy, so I was pretty shocked with just how different it really was. It was almost like taking a trip into the past. We got off of the high speed train in Naples to switch to the local train... which looked and felt like it was right out of the 70's. But it was definitely a nice change of pace.

The people in the south act different, look different, and even speak differently. Not that I was necessarily surprised, but it just felt odd after getting so used to Florence. Eventually we made it to Pompeii, but the town Pompeii, not the ancient ruins. I felt like such a tourist having to ask where the ruins were. You'd be surprised; they aren't right in the open. Regardless, it was fascinating to walk through what was once the second most prosperous ancient city in Italy about 2000 years ago! Walking down a street built in approximately 20AD was also quite surreal. For my last trip, I'm glad that I got to visit Pompeii. Not a half bad note to end traveling on! Sorry for the lack of photos from Pompeii... I'm still behind on my editing. Lots of catching up to do!

A bit of an unorganized blog post, I'm aware, but at the speed time has been passing here, it's hard to accurately account for all of it! To finish off the blog, here's one of my most recent shots of the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence. One of my favorite shots here in town!

As always, there are a ton of pictures which haven't made their way into my blog posts that you can find over at my flickr and if you have a facebook, make sure to like my facebook page and share it with all of your family and friends! I'll probably be making one more blog post, but most likely from home... I have an exam Thursday at 6pm then my flight is Friday at 10:15am, not so sure I'll have time for a final blog post.

Either way, thank you to everyone for following my blog through this journey of a semester! I really hope you've enjoyed reading about my adventures and encounters. I know without you guys, my blog wouldn't have become what it is today!


Saturday, November 5, 2011

Fall Break: Six Weeks Remaining

Well, here I am with approximately six weeks left until I'm headed back for the States. Even though it's only been a week or two since my last blog post, I feel like a lot has happened since then. First things first, I know some of you have already seen my Switzerland photos. For those of you who haven't, I'll catch you up on that experience.

It all started last Friday; my roommate Colin and I embarked on our journey to the greatest country in all of Europe (this is a blog, opinions are allowed after all), Switzerland. The travel there was long, boring, and a bit sketchy to be quite honest. Being in some of those train stations at 4am is not what I consider to be safe. But, we made it without a scratch on us. With our hour of waiting time at the Bologna station, I was able to snap this shot:

The camera didn't stay out long though. There were very few people there, but the ones that were kept giving me looks. The last few hours of traveling were a bit of a blur as I was in and out of consciousness for most of the duration of the last train connection from Milan to Spiez, Switzerland. But, the second I woke up and looked out the window, I thought I was dreaming for a moment.

Don't get me wrong, I've been to many places which would easily be considered beautiful. But Switzerland? If heaven existed on Earth, this would be it.

We eventually made it to our final destination, Lauterbrunnen, I quaint town nestled between the Alps. I couldn't have asked for a better place to stay. The temperatures were fantastic, the town and location was absolutely breathtaking, and everyone I confronted was beyond friendly. Being in Italy, I've gotten used to keeping my guard up, watching out for pick-pocketers, things to that extent. But here, it's different.

A view from the hostel. How am I not supposed to fall in love with this?

I won't go into detail explaining every single thing we did in Switzerland, but I will focus on some of the highlights. Beyond eating kilos and kilos of sausages, cheese, bread, and pastries, most of our time was spent exploring Lauterbrunnen with day excursions to close-by towns Mürren, Grindelwald, Interlaken, Stechelberg, and Grimmelwald. We also saw Trümmelbachfalle, a beautiful waterfall that flows through the mountain and visited Shilthorn, a nearly 3,000 meter summit of the alps.

I've been to Pikes Peak in Colorado already, twice, which is notably higher than Shilthorn. But, what I haven't done is walk off of the beaten path enough to get my heart racing a bit, to get the adrenaline pumping, and most importantly, to get the best photos. Rather than putting it into words, here's a photo of me in my element (a cellphone picture, but a photo nonetheless):

This photo is of me setting up my camera to take a self-portrait. It's not often I do a self-portrait, but it just felt necessary while up here. I generally hate photos of myself, but I'm really happy with this one (and another that will come later).

I could have spent an entire day there; the brisk but pleasant air was incredibly refreshing and the view certainly never got tiresome.

I couldn't have been any happier with this photo than I currently am. It's so perfect (well not perfect, but darn close). The bird came into frame right as I snapped it, the man is pointing across towards the mountains, and of course, there is a beautiful view. The combination of these elements create such a powerful image.

I'm not really sure how to sum up four days in Switzerland, it's no easy task by any means. A photo's worth a thousand words, right? So, let's have the photos speak for me instead; after all, photography is how I tend to document my travels here.

And one last photo, one of my personal favorites that I've ever shot:

Yepp, that worked much better than a monotonous explanation on my part, don't you think? As you can see, it's not hard to fall in love with a place so beautiful. After the journey (sadly) came to and end, I was off to Milano for one day. Nothing incredibly eventful happened there, but I got to see some of the more famous historical spots in Milano: mission accomplished. 

Finally, I made it back to Firenze Wednesday night. It was quite relieving to just get back and relax, and more importantly, edit through my photos so that I could bring them to you the way you see them above! 

While looking through them and editing, I noticed something; I've finally improved. It may sound like an obvious statement, but I've felt as if my photography has been lacking any significant improvement in the past year. But these photos gave me a renewed faith in my photography abilities. I've had more views on my flickr than ever, my facebook page is growing, and I even had two of my photos featured in flickr's Explore! (For those of you who don't know, Explore is flickr's program in which they chose 500 of the top photos uploaded each day. It's certainly an accomplishment to have a photo "Explored".) It's one of the most satisfying feelings I've come to know thus far in my life.

And that brings me to the next point. With fall break coming to a close in 1 day, I'm now approximately six weeks from departure. Shocked? I know I sure am. I've already been here for over 8 weeks, I've passed the half way point. In some ways I'm glad; I'll get to see my family, my friends, I'll get to drive my car again and re-familiarize myself with everything that I call home. But, on the other hand, once I'm gone, I'm not coming back: it's over. I'm ready for the first part but I'm not quite ready for the latter.

I'll certainly be making the best of the short amount of time I have left. I'll be going to Rome this upcoming weekend, (most likely) going to Sicily in two weeks after that, and at some point, going to Siena and Pisa. There may not be a lot of time left, but I'm definitely going to take advantage of what is left.

Hopefully I did an adequate job of filling all of you in on my past week or so. Having a glimpse of heaven on Earth and coming back to tell the tale is no easy task.

Thanks for reading, and as always, you can find the rest of my photos (and in higher resolutions) at my flickr page and be sure to follow me on facebook by liking my page, ML Photography!

Farewell, Switzerland. It's been a precious experience.


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Half Way There

I'm not even sure what to say. It's already mid-terms; I can not even begin to believe how fast time is passing. I'm not going to go too far into detail about it, but you probably can't even imagine how fast it's going. It really is amazing. Quite bittersweet as well.

Regardless, time is probably passing as fast as it is because of how busy we've been. Monday was my Renaissance Art History exam. As the compulsive studier that I am, I had to study approximately 85 pieces of renaissance art, memorizing the date, artist, location, and various facts about it. Here's the catch. I had to memorize it in ONE day, Sunday. However, just as always, I managed to pull through and left the exam feeling quite confident. The reason I had only one day? I completely forgot that I had a field trip to Torino on Saturday.

Now that it's all said and done with and I believe I did well on the exam, I'm glad that I sacrificed a day of studying to visit Torino. After all, a big part of the experience here is learning how to juggle your time spent on culture/traveling and on the classes. We took a 4 hour bus ride to Torino and eventually stopped for a bathroom and snack break:

Going north in Italy was quite an experience. The mountains become more prominent, the language changes, the temperature decreases, and not to mention, the towns look completely different. Also, on a side note, I finally bought one of the Nutella & Go! snacks. Wow. We need these at home. It's a container split into three sections. One of nutella, one with little breadsticks, and the last with a delicious lemon tea juice of some sort. Such an excellent snack.

Once we got to Torino, we quickly headed over to the Museo Nazionale del Cinema (for those of you not well versed in Italian, National Museum of Cinema). I've never seen a museum like this. The best way I could describe it would be this: 19th Century synagogue + Universal Studios + photography/cinematography history + interactive displays = Museo Nazionale del Cinema. Not to mention, its the tallest museum in the world. It's amazing inside out, literally:

After spending a good two or so hours looking around the museum, we rode the glass elevator up to the panoramic view part way up the tower. 59 seconds and 75 meters (246 ft.). Pretty neat. The view up there was just amazing:

If you can, check out the high-resolution panoramic here. Click on the photo, View All Sizes on the top right, then Original size.

That was about it for our Torino trip. My photo teachers and the other two kids in my class went out to get some food and then we were on our way back home. Even on a train, I still manage to entertain myself:

What a pain though... Right after I took this picture, I noticed one of the buttons on my camera was stuck. It wouldn't budge. The button that just so happens to initiate video recording was stuck. Meaning: every time I turned my camera on it would start recording.... I just bought the camera three months ago. Even though it was only a button that was stuck, knowing how much I spent on my beloved camera and how new it was, I got sick to my stomach. No Canon repair center around either. I fiddled with the button for a good 10 minutes and it FINALLY popped back up. Luckily, it's been good since. Hopefully that's the only camera issue I have here, I can deal with that.

Fast forwarding to the present, I have only one exam left, then one week until my fall break! My roommate Colin and I are going to be staying in Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland for 4 days then I'm either touring northern Italy or visiting Sicily. Not sure yet. I won't have my laptop with me, so it will be awhile until those photos or relevant blog posts come up. Though, I can not wait until I get to Switzerland. Our little town is in the valley between two GORGEOUS mountains. It's going to be such an amazing trip. I am so excited! The next two weeks are looking quite amazing.

I have some fantastic photo opportunities ahead of me. Not to mention, a LOT of editing to do afterwards. But that's half the fun to me! There are a few more photos up on my flickr, so be sure to check them out!

Have a great day!


Sunday, October 9, 2011

Making Progress

Hello all! It's been awhile... as you've probably noticed, the blog posts are certainly less frequent lately. I try to get to them as much as I can, but it's not generally the first thing on my to-do list.

Regardless, I'm back to give an update in regards to one of my older posts, The Journey to Find Firenze's Voice. Last night, after spending most of the day writing my 5 page art history paper, I figured it would be a good time to go out and take pictures. After all, it's a great way to temporarily escape from all of the life's little troubles and stress. Rather than shooting tourist type photos, I wanted to continue my search to find the "voice", via my photos of course. I can honestly say that I do feel as if I've certainly taken a step in the right direction. My photos definitely convey the message that I've been wanting to, at least some do (which I'll point out).

On a whim, I bugged my friend Danielle to go on a photo-walk with me through town. I wasn't sure what exactly I wanted to shoot, but I just knew that I was sticking with one lens (my 85mm, for those photogs out there who might be reading this) and one goal; to capture more of the nightlife rather than the conventional beauty.  To start with, here's one shot of Danielle in an intense photo moment. Following it are just a few of my favorite shots from the night.

And here's something a bit different... a "self-portrait". It's not often a picture of me will pop up in any of my photostreams....

It was really great to go out and shoot. I feel terribly neglecting photography as much as I have been, but I've had other things to be doing in the meantime, that it ends up getting pushed to the side. However, I'm really glad I did get to go shoot. Very pleased with the results and it was a good time!

Exams are next week, plenty of papers due this week, I probably won't be shooting for awhile. So, in the mean time, feel free to admire the rest of my photos over at my flickr.

In a few weeks will be my fall break. Not exactly sure where we are going, but on the list of possible places are Spain, Portugal, England, Amsterdam, and Switzerland. Regardless, any of them will be excellent for photos! Thanks for reading!


Monday, October 3, 2011

1,000 Views and Growing!


Well, my blog is certainly getting more hits than I expected. Since my first post on August 23, I've accumulated a bit over 1,000 views. Thank you to everyone who is taking their time to take a look and be sure to share the blog with all of your friends and family! Also, make sure to check out my flickr for additional photos and to like my facebook page if your are on facebook!

I've also been here for over a month at this point. Time is passing at a faster and faster rate. Each day is busier than the last, and one seems to blend into the next. So much has happened, but I'll just pay extra attention to the more prominent things in my mind.

This past Saturday, Afrojack (a relatively well-known DJ here in Europe and throughout the world) was playing in Rome. Of course I wasn't going to miss the opportunity. After a three hour bus ride, we had arrived. I've heard that pick pocketing was bad in Rome, but I didn't know it was that bad. As I was walking towards the guard to give him my ticket, I reached into my pocket to pull my ticket out. Literally, as soon as I had taken it out of my pocket I felt it slip out of my hand. I turned and saw three kids looking suspicious as ever. I confronted them, but I wasn't feeling exactly safe, so to speak. I turned around to see if any of my friends were with me and as soon as I turned around, no one was to be seen. Well... lesson certainly learned. Dumb move on my part, but the scalpers were more than happy to offer me another ticket.

Eventually, after all of the drama, I made it into the club. Afrojack played an AMAZING show. Really. I've never been into dancing or any of that, but it was pretty fun to just let go for the night. It was pretty crazy, to say the least. By the end of the night, my shirt was literally soaked and my hair was dripping; I looked like I just swam in a pool with all of my clothes on. Sadly, we had to say goodbye and head back to firenze (though, admittedly, it isn't very sad to leave Rome and head back to our Villa in firenze).

Eventually, we made it back - just in time for sun rise. I probably left that tiny detail out. We got on the bus at 7PM. We arrived back in firenze at 8am. Thankfully I had the rest of the day to sleep in and I managed to do most of my homework before we left.

That was my weekend, for the most part. Exams are coming up in 2 weeks, not to mention the essays and homework are building up, or at least, multiplying. I was out shooting today, but I only got one shot. The rest of the time was spent taking some video for my video, which I plan to make one of these days. Regardless, here's one more for the archives:

I've had some ideas for new pictures. I have quite a few locations that I feel would be amazing for some portrait shoots. I haven't done any portraits, definitely miss doing them. That is next on my list to do, as well as some traveling to some new photo spots. Lots to do and time is certainly dwindling at a frightening rate. I was concerned about the trip lasting too long, now I'm concerned about it not lasting long enough. Oh well, such is life. Regardless, I can already see that this is an experience of a lifetime. I know that it is certainly changing who I am, for the better. I'm pretty excited to see how I evolve by the time the semester abroad ends.

Well, hope you enjoyed reading and thank you all for taking a look at my blog! It's you, the readers, who keep me writing. Just like a band is nothing without it's fans, my blog is nothing without you readers.


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Falling Behind; Catching Up

Well, it's certainly been a few days since my last blog post. Things just picked up so quickly, once again. However, this time I have less of a realization and more so some photos. On Friday my parents and their good friends Kathy and George came out to visit. They are taking a little trip through Italy and stopped into Firenze for two days.

So, I spent all of Friday with them which turned out to be a really great day! We went to a little local restaurant for lunch, which was spectacular. This little place opens at 12, closes at 5:30, takes no reservations, and is literally packed by 5 minutes after opening. While waiting for a spot to open up for the five of us, we visited the indoor market right across the street. Really quite an interesting place; here's a few shots from there.

After the market and lunch, which turned out to be some of the most amazing food I've had here yet, we took a tour of the villa and then later went to dinner at Il Latini. Let me say this first: I wasn't aware food could taste so amazing. Il Latini served their food in the traditional Italian sense; the waiter comes up to you and rattles a few names of food off and seconds later, the table in front of you is filled with two or tree plates of various foods. This pattern now continues on for approximately five to seven times. I lost track, but I'm pretty sure we stopped at our sixth course. Regardless of numbers, the food was out of this world; easily some of the best food I've ever eaten in my entire life. On that note, we said our goodbyes and I was back to being on my own once again. Quick shout out to my mom, dad, George and Kathy: Thanks for the great night!

Last night my friend Cristina and I walked around town after dinner; I took it as a photo opportunity. I wasn't exactly sure what I wanted to shoot, but I try to keep an open mind going into these kinds of situations so I can see different things as I go. We ended up at Piazza Republica, somewhere I've been wanting to take pictures for quite some time. This goes back to my "digging under the skin of firenze" theory. I like exploring the same parts of the town at different points in the day or night to see how the crowd changes, how the activity changes, and how the overall atmosphere changes. There were some street musicians, as always. however, at this time of night, their music really sets the mood. In my case, it even affects my thinking patterns; I found myself continuously at a loss of words in mid conversatio, distracted by the music.

Lastly, here's a photo, one of my favorites at that, to finish off the post. Compared to the busy photos I've taken near the duomo, this one shows the difference of the night life vs the day time here in firenze. Also, it's one of my favorite photos I've taken here in Italy.

As always, all of these photos can be seen at http://www.flickr.com/photos/mloiacono/. Also, if you are on facebook, please Like my page. I'm trying to reach out to as many people as I can with my photography!



Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Journey to Find Firenze's Voice

Now that I've been her for nearly a month, I've gotten past the "honey-moon" stage and I'm beginning to see more of the real Italy. Don't take this the wrong way though. The more I find out the more fascinated I am. The viewpoint of locals, their attitude towards any given situation, their mannerism; it is all interesting on so many levels. The more I find out the more I desire to know. As a photographer, I've been wondering "How can I show Italy from a different viewpoint?" Part of being a photographer is being able to get a point across via an image, even if that point is not what one would think of without the photo to aid them.

Rather than looking at Italy from the typical beautified tourist perspective, I want to dig down deep under its skin and find out what really lives behind this fortified wall that I've been looking at for the past few weeks. Every place has its own unique voice and attitude. It's now become my desire to find out what Italy's, or at least firenze's voice is. I've taken a new approach with my photography, as I was trying to say before. I've been looking at the little details that most people are overlooking. Let me present these photos that I took today:

Here's one to start with. What do you see? Why of course, it's a seemingly beautiful and extravagant shop with a intricate looking façade. However, behind it you will see graffiti. Such a stark contrast exists between the shop and the door, only a few feet (well meters, since I should probably comply with the European standard) apart. It's not as if this is a rare occurrence though.

Now, here we have just another street artist. In the background you will see some magnificent sculptures as well as people passing by with nothing more than a glance at either the sculpture or the artist. These people that occupy the frame are, for the most part, not locals but tourists of some sort. However, many of these street artists are locals, Florentines. It's these men and women that speak with the voice of firenze that I'm searching for. They speak the language, as well as understand it.

I'm not yet exactly sure where all of this is leading to yet, but I'm currently on a path towards this near impossible goal: to discover what it is to be a Florentine, in a matter of (let me count quick) 85 days. There's much to be discovered and uncovered. As time goes on, I assume I'll learn more and hopefully get even 10% closer to my goal. After all, that 10% is more than I would've had otherwise.