Prague Day 9… Back to Prague and Back in Time

Karlstejn Castle Prague Czech Rep. 683x1024 Prague Day 9... Back to Prague and Back in Time

Karlstejn Castle (Prague, Czech Rep.): D800 24-70mm, shot at 28mm, f/2.8, 1/750sec & ISO 100.

After an amazing day in Dresden we had a tour lined up for the Karlstejn Castle.  This castle was built in 1348 by Charles IV in order to protect the crown jewels.  He felt that Prague Castle was difficult to defend as it was built on a small rise by the river.  So about a days ride (back then today it is a couple of hours) outside of Prague he found a suitable site and had a castle built.

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Charles’s Transport (Prague, Czech Rep.): D800 24-70mm shot at 24mm, f/2.8, 1/500sec & ISO 400.

We had to climb up the mountain through a village and we opted to take the horse drawn carriage in order to make it up in time for the first English speaking tour.  This turned out to be a fantastic idea as the experience was a unique one and the heavy blankets helped keep us all warm in the early damp cold.

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As you can see from my GPS devise we went up the only road and you can see the view of the castle from the first image on this post.  Aside from the umbrellas advertising amazing Czech beer, the town has not changed since it was built.  A little gem of history hidden away in the Czech hill country.

It was clearly built for defensive purposes and photography is forbidden inside but it was a wonderful tour.  They have refurnished it using furniture of the period so it gives you a feel for what it must of looked like in the 14th century.

The Castle saw the use of biological warfare when during a siege dead bodies and dung was catapulted over its walls to infect the defenders.  Never the less the Castle survived and has gone through a few changes as the populations needs changed.

The town leading up the road to the castle was established to build the castle and there it remains today.  There are some restaurants, shops and local caretakers who live and work along this road.

Karlstein Wedding Pictures Prague Czech Rep. 1024x1024 Prague Day 9... Back to Prague and Back in Time

Karlstein Wedding Pictures (Prague, Czech Rep.): D800 24-70mm shot at 70mm, f/5.6, 1/90sec & ISO 100.

Because of its age and wonderful state it is a popular place for wedding photographs. This young Russian bride was there that morning.  We saw her later that day back in historic Prague.  She had a massive bridal party with her and there seemed to be all this movement around her but I managed to catch her in a moment of peace before being dragged for another shot.

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Before leaving the castle I manage to sneak a shot of the massive medieval door that was hanging by the new replacement door.  This thing was massive and an amazing work of art.

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Karlstein Bride at Clock (Prague, Czech Rep.): D800 70-200mm shot at 165mm, f/5.6, 1/180sec & ISO 100.

The above shot was taken during the second encounter with this bride and it gives you a feel for the size of her bridal party. This shot was taken while I was hanging out the window of our apartment trying to capture some street shots from a unique perspective.

 

Prague Day Eight…Dresden actually

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Dresden (Dresden, Germany): D800 24-70mm shot at 48mm, f/2.8, 1/1500sec & ISO 100.

All the energy we stored up after a leisurely day six we spent on our way to Dresden for a bit of a day trip.  This city was destroyed by allied bombing in World War II and I was very curious to see how they had decided to rebuild it.  What they have done is try to re-build the historic buildings using as much of the original material as possible.

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Dresden Skyline Prior to Bombing

You can tell the original material because it is burned black while the new material is….well new.  This gives you an idea of what the damage was like.  You can buy some postcards with the pictures of the destroyed monuments and take pictures of them re-built.  This is one place that you can go and really see the damage that this war caused.

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After two days of bombing.

The total bombing killed an estimated 25,000 people.  This number has recently been confirmed by the city in 2010.  The recent study shows just how raw this bombing continues to be.

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This YouTube is from the allied perspective at the time of the bombing.  You can see the different perspectives on it where many people believed it to be a war crime.  But enough of politics lets take a look at some of the pictures.

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GPS Map Dresden

One thing that I tried to do through most of the Prague vacation was to keep my D800 GPS on to track where I was when I took the pictures.  Looking back at my Dresden shots it is fun to be able to see the map with my location plotted out.  It helps remind me of the day and where I was relative to other buildings.

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Art in T (Dresden, Germany): D800 24-70mm, f/4.8, 1/125sec & ISO 100.

 

We went to a Church that was once Catholic before being converted over.  It is amazing but rather bare compared with the Baroque Churches in Prague due manly to the destruction during the war there

 

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Covered History (Dresden, Germany): D800 24-70mm shot at 34mm, f/4.8, 1/125sec & ISO 100.

Walking around Dresden we were able to see some great historic buildings (rebuilt) with large boulevards and streets.  The artwork was awe-inspiring and what the people of Dresden have been able to do after such destruction is truly to their credit.

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Three Chairs (Dresden, Germany): D800 24-70mm shot at 27mm, f/2.8, 1/500sec & ISO 100.

Inside the Church we were able to see a remembrance alcove dedicated to all those that died during the bombing of Dresden.  There was a broken marble statue which was destroyed during the bombing and three lonely chairs set at equal spacing from it.  The light that came in from the small, narrow windows threw shadows all over the place.  It was very well done but photographing it posed a problem.  I could not capture the entire alcove in a shot so I focused on the shadows.

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Zwinger Palace after the Bombing

We then walked to Zwinger Palace (you can read more about it HERE).  This is an amazing mix between park and palace with some interesting artwork all around.  Above is a photo after the bombings of 1945.  By the 1960’s it had been rebuilt and once again they did an amazing job.

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Zwinger Palace (Dreden, Germany): D800 24-70mm shot at 26mm, f/8, 1/180sec & ISO 100.

Throughout this Palace they have artwork displayed with stairs taking you from the top floor back down to the park.  The labyrinth of stairs were wonderfully done as you can see below.

Labyrinth of Stairs Dresden Germany 1024x734 Prague Day Eight...Dresden actually

Labyrinth of Stairs (Dresden, Germany): D800 24-70mm shot at 34mm, f/2.8, 1/125sec & ISO 100.

Finally here is a shot of one of the statues on display.  There were hundreds of these throughout the park, each with their classic Germanic feel.

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Venus of Dresden (Dresden, Germany): D800 14-70mm shot at 19mm, f/2.8, 1/180sec & ISO 100.

 

Prague Day Six…er….Seven

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Mucha (Prague, Czech Rep.): D800 24-70mm shot at 48mm, f/2.8, 1/500sec & ISO 100.

Day six in Prague took us to the villa of Archduke Franz Ferdinand.  For those who do not remember ninth grade history, his assassination was the pretext for the outbreak of World War I.  He had a wonderful villa outside of Prague which he spent considerable time and money upgrading.

We went there but they did not allow photography which means that all I could get was some random nature shots which I am not very happy with.  The villa is decorated amazingly with every corner showing some priceless bit of art, from china to tapestries you could see it all there.  Finally there was a ton of taxidermy as the Archduke was an avid hunter.

So not much to show or discuss for day six so lets jump into day seven shall we?

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Cross Between Lights (Prague, Czech Rep.): D800 24-70mm shot at 24mm, f/11, 30sec & ISO 100.

Day seven began with an early morning wake up call as I went out to capture some early morning shots.  I wanted to reshoot Charles’s bridge to see if I could get a bit less fog.  I went out there and captured some interesting images but due to some light rain had some odd light refractions on the lens.  I think it adds something special to the shot so it does not bother me much.

We then went to the Mucha museum.  For those of you who do not know of Mucha (I can’t blame you I had only heard of him in passing before my trip to Prague) he was one of the most influential artists of the Art Nouveau genre.  He came from Prague and made some wonderful poster art for movies, theater and the like.

I took the shot at the top of this post of the windows of the museum.  As with most museums photography is not allowed so I waited until I left and captured the outside windows.

Here is a short film on Mucha.  Seriously recommend it.

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We then took a leisurely stroll around the city giving me a chance at some architectural shots, most of which are forgettable but for some reason I really liked this one.  Something about the strong lines and clarity that kept drawing me.

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Cross Hatch (Prague, Czech Rep.): D800 24-70mm shot at 70mm, f/5.6, 1/250sec & ISO 100.

All in all it was a relaxing day which gave us some much needed rest.

But this is also the day that a new love affair began.  But that is something for another post!

 

Prague Day Five

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St Barbera Church (Kutna Hora, Czech Rep.): D800 24-70mm shot at 24mm, f/4.8, 1/500sec & ISO 100.

Day five in Prague was a very short one as we quickly jumped into a van to drive us out to Kutna Hora.  This is a town that has been made famous by “The Bone Church” which refers to the Church of All Saints.  As with everything in the Czech Republic, this Church is steeped with history, myth and tradition.

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The history is that a handful of dirt from the holy land was sprinkled over the surrounding graveyard which quickly made it a very popular resting place.  As the surrounding area filled up the Church began to remove the older burials and put the bones inside the Church’s crypt.

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Skull & Money (Kutna Hora, Czech Rep.): D800, 24-70mm shot at 70mm, f/2.8, 1/45sec & ISO 3200.

The myth is that a monk went crazy and began using the bones as decoration.  The tradition of using the old bones as decoration was continued by František Rint who was commissioned to decorate the Church and made several of the larger pieces using human bones.

Skulls in Line Kutna Hora Czech Rep. 1024x683 Prague Day Five

Skulls in Line (Kutna Hora, Czech Rep.): D800 24-70mm shot at 24mm, f/2.8, 1/45sec & ISO 800.

For those who have never heard of Kutna Hora below is a short YouTube video of it.  It is only a minute and aside from the annoying music (sounds like a whale) the images are very nice.

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But Kutna Hora is much more that this Church of All Saints.  It is a town that played a vital role in the history of Central Europe and one that was ultimately outdone by the discovery of silver in the new world.  The history is that the town grew thanks to silver mining and became the richest and largest town in the region.  This continued until the silver discovered in the New World was being produced at a cheaper price.  This ultimately left the town without a source of income and it was all but abandoned.

But in her heyday it was a place with plenty of rich, noble families who spent much of their money on local decor.  One of the places they built is an old Gothic Cathedral, St Barbera, which is one of the most beautiful that I have ever seen.  There is an old Stone Church and water well that are interesting as well.

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Inside St Barbera (Kutna Hora, Czech Rep.): D800 24-70mm shot at 24mm, f/2.8, 1/180sec & ISO 800.

For someone who loves symmetry this Cathedral has it in spades.  Most of the Churches and Cathedrals that we saw in Prague are done in a Baroque style that is a bit over the top for my taste.  St Barbera, on the other hand, seems decorated perfectly allowing you to admire the building itself.  I believe that this simplicity adds more for the viewer.

Black Plague Monument Kutna Hora Czech Rep. 1024x881 Prague Day Five

Black Plague Monument (Kutna Hora, Czech Rep.): D800 24-70mm shot at 56mm, f/6.7, 1/500sec & ISO 100.

One thing that marks Kutna Hora as the medieval town it is, is the Monument to the Black Plague.  Towns that survived (over ⅔ rd of Europe’s population died leaving many towns completely empty) often built a monument to thank God for those that survived.

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Here is Looking at You Kid (Kutna Hora, Czech Rep.): D800 24-70mm shot at 70mm, f/2.8, 1/30sec & ISO 3200.

 

 

 

Prague Day Four

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Charles’s Bridge Dawn (Prague, Czech Rep): D800 24-70mm, shot at 45mm, f/11, 8 sec & ISO 100.

Day four in Prague was a very long day indeed as we had no official tours but I had a daytime tour with my new friend Ivan which was arranged via Randy Harris.  The tour was planned to start at nine AM but after a brief discussion with Ivan he suggested meeting up earlier for some sunrise shots so we pushed up the meeting to just after 6am.  Sunrise was officially around 6:40 giving us 40 minutes to get into position.

This is another great reason to choose your location very carefully.  Being right in the middle of Old Town Square gives me the option to wake up just before sunrise to get some good shots.  And the best thing about Prague in October is that the mornings are all foggy.  Gone are the typical red sky sunrise that ooze happiness, energy and vitality.  In early morning Prague you have mystery, eeriness and a little spooky all rolled into an image.

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Through the Tower (Prague, Czech Rep): D800 24-70mm shot at 40mm, f/22, 2 sec & ISO 100.

Ivan suggested starting on Charles Bridge (it used to be called Charles’s Bridge) and then moving through the left bank.  We had three hours which I thought was plenty of time but it was short but this is where having someone like Ivan to help guide you is so valuable.  He took me straight to the highlights which allowed us to cover allot of ground in those hours.  We would end the tour at the top of the Prague Castle and I would work my way down alone.

We began at the right bank end of Charles’s Bridge with the first shot above.  We set up our tripods and captured some amazing images.  After a few minutes we found we were surrounded by several photographers all standing in a line taking the same shot.  Occasionally a un-thinking photographer would set up ahead of us but a few whistles from the 25 photographers got them to join our “party”.

We then worked our way to the west bank and I captured the B&W image above as we left the bridge.  As you can see I had to push my aperture all the way down to f/22 in order to keep the people blurry.  The white fog is great for mystery but it kills color so I made it a B&W image.

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Light Bulb (Prague, Czech Rep): D800 24-70mm shot at 24mm, f/2.8, 1/125sec & ISO 800.

I then asked Ivan if he knew the Light Bulb stairwell that I have begun to see and he took me straight to it.  This shot is not as easy to capture as I thought.  For one thing the bright day coupled with the fog pushed allot of light through the skylight.  The rest of the stairs was dark with the exception of two bulbs on the second landing.

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Art Deco in all its Glory (Prague, Czech Rep): D800 24-70mm shot at 24mm, f/3.3, 1/180 sec & ISO 100.

The shot above is just before we caught the tram to the Castle.  I had seen this cafe and wanted to capture an image of it but the place is very tired of photographers and did not let me take the shot.  It is clearly marked so when approached I did not take any shots.  Ivan took me in and I was able to get one quick image which no one noticed.  Sometimes photography is more like a hunt than it should be.

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Man with Cane (Prague, Czech Rep): D800 24-70mm shot at 70mm f/6.7, 1/180sec & ISO 100.

During the walk down from the Castle I captured the image above of an elderly gentlemen.  The color version of this shot was too busy with the green of all the leaves so I decided to keep it in B&W.

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Watch Over Prague (Prague, Czech Rep): D800 24-70mm shot at 70mm, f/2.8, 1/2000sec & ISO 100.

Prague Day Three

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St. Vitus (Prague, Czech Rep): D800, 70-200mm shot at 200mm, f/11, 20sec & ISO 100.

One of the advantages of spending such a great deal of time in Prague is the ability to really absorb it.  Day three saw us covering allot of ground, which meant that we had to hurry through it.  The good news is that we plan on coming back in a few days to enjoy it all again.

On day three we went to Prague Castle.  This is the largest castle in the world (measured by total area) and believe me there is plenty to see.  The shot above was taken a couple of days later on another night adventure of photography.  I wanted to capture some close ups so I used my Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 on this night stop.  This is actually St Vitus Cathedral which is located inside the castle grounds.

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Honor Guard (Prague, Czech Rep): D800 24-70mm shot at 70mm, f/2.8, 1/2000sec & ISO 100.

Below is a short description from “1PragueGuide.com“.

It all began around the year 800 when construction was started by Prince Bořivoj from the Přemysl Family. Over the centuries Prague Castle has metamorphosed and grown under different leaders and virtually represents every architectural style over the last millennium. It has survived fires and wars and been dilapidated and rebuilt to become an intriguing complex of palaces, churches, fortification and courtyards.

“Intriguing” is right! As we arrived at the Castle gates we were greeted some wonderful architecture (several government buildings are around the courtyard by the gates) some pieces of art at the gate itself and some wonderful music by the Prague Funfair Orchestra.

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Prague Funfair Orchestra (Prague, Czech Rep.): D800 24-70mm shot at 70mm, f/6.7, 1/350sec & ISO 200.

The interesting thing about this Orchestra is that while in Perth I was doing research on Prague when I uncovered a video on YouTube by Rick Steves who used to do a travel series.  The video is old but around the eight minute mark there is a band that is playing which has some of the same musicians as the Funfair Orchestra.

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We began the tour through St Vitus Cathedral which is breathtaking.  This place started being built over 1,000 years ago and was only finished in the 1920’s.  In fact you can see some of the architects carved into the building.

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Inside St Vitus (Prague, Czech Rep.): D800 24-70mm, shot at 24mm, f/2.8, 1/180sec & ISO 1600.

There is a ton to see here.  We had to go through it fairly fast but we returned a few days later and spent almost two hours just wandering around it.  We could have spent twice that much as there is a great deal to see.  Any of the stain glassed windows would be a masterpiece by itself.  So if Cathedrals are your thing this is a must see.

I won’t bore you with amazing artwork but I thought I would throw in one more to highlight the exterior as well.  Suffice to say that spending hours on the outsides is a good investment of time and as an added benefit the exterior walk is free and open until midnight.

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Exterior Artwork (Prague, Czech Rep.): D800 70-200mm shot at 85mm, f/8, 1/250sec & ISO 100.

Prague Day Two

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Prague Wedding Photos (Prague, Czech Rep): D800 24-70mm shot at 70mm, f/2.8, 1/750sec & ISO 100.

Day one was hours of walking and enjoying some of the great sites this city has to offer.  On every corner you have history, art and tourists.  Day two was a bit more of the same as we crossed Charles Bridge to get to the other side of the city.

One of the things that we quickly noticed is that Prague appears to be a favorite spot for wedding pictures for South Koreans.  They are all around us, beautiful brides with their grooms in every corner of the city.  It makes for some interesting street shots.  The shot above was taken on the Charles Bridge.

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Graffiti (Prague, Czech Rep): D800 24-70mm shot at 32mm, f/2.8, 1/90sec & ISO 200.

We walked through some streets that are steeped in modern history.  One famous wall photographed above is covered with artful graffiti was used to criticize the Communist government when free press was not allowed.  Each morning dissenters posted information and every afternoon it was painted over by government officials.

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Santa’s Toys (Prague, Czech Rep): D800 24-70mm shot at 70mm, f/3.3, 1/500sec & ISO 100.

One thing that I love about Prague is that it is not drowning in cheap souvenir shops.  Don’t get me wrong there are some around but not nearly as many as I found in Paris.  I believe it is more similar to rome in that sense.  What you do see plenty of are locals selling their art on Charles Bridge.  The shot above is what appears to be Santa selling his Elves toys.

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Prague Crystal (Prague, Czech Rep): D800 24-70mm shot at 48mm, f/6.7, 1/90sec & ISO 400.

What I have seen plenty of is cut crystal.  As our guide explained, Czech was the first place to cut crystal as a diamond cutter moved into town.  Seeing that there were very few diamonds he tried his hand at the heavy crystal that Czech is so famous for.  And thus the art of cutting crystal began and today the designs are breathtaking.  Obviously some of the more spectacular examples are with chandeliers.

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Czechs at Rest (Prague, Czech Rep): D800 24-70mm shot at 70mm, f/2.8, 1/250sec & ISO 100.

During our tour we saw plenty of locals going about their business as if the tourists were not there.  Czechs take their coffee breaks out in the many parks that dot the city.  They meet up with friends there and talk about the days events.  They always seem friendly but since I do not speak a word of Czech it may just be my imagination.

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Streets of Prague (Prague, Czech Rep): D800 24-70mm, shot at 70mm, f/6.7, 1/250sec & ISO 800.

The streets are wonderfully laid out.  Gone are the strict grid patterns of Paris and in are the haphazard roads that I fell in love with in Rome.  Each corner seems to be a great excuse to pul out the camera and snap a shot or two.

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Prague Details (Prague, Czech Rep): D800 24-70mm shot at 32mm, f/2.8, 1/500sec & ISO 100.

Aside from the romantic streets, the amazing architecture and artistic building facades are details hidden all through the city.  The one above is on the Charles Bridge and is a little hidden piece of art that seems to be laid out just to see who is paying attention.

 

Prague Night Tour

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Prague by Night (Prague, Czech Rep): D800 24-70mm shot at 44mm, f/11, 20sec & ISO 100.

Since my Rome night tour I have really grown to love night photography, so when the Prague trip came up I did not think twice and I signed up for a couple of photography tours including a night tour.  I used the same tour company I used in Rome and Paris which is run by a man named Randy Harris who organizes the tours.  He has very good photographers in a variety of cities that actually do the tours.  Each photographer is vetted to ensure that they know about photography and about the city in which they are in.  For the Prague tour information you can find it HERE.

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For the Prague tour I had Ivan Navratil, (you can see his site HERE) who was born in Czech but lived most of his life in the US.  He has since retired and is living near Prague and knows the city and its people very well.  He was the guide for Scott Kelby during his Prague to Budapest tour so he had some fun stories to share. He was helpful, friendly and helped highlight some great shot opportunities.  He has a great eye for composition and is always willing to try something new.  If you are planning a trip I highly recommend him.

Ivan picked me up at the apartment in the evening and took me straight for the shot above.  He wanted to make sure that we had that wonderful blue sky for this shot.  These are the details where a photography tour guide is so essential.

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Two Lights (Prague, Czech Rep): D800 24-70mm shot at 26mm, f/11, 10sec & ISO 100.

The shot above is of some stairs that lead off of the Charles Bridge.  I would have passed this shot by for sure without Ivan their to point it out.  I love symmetry in photography, but I also understand that it can become monotonous so I work hard to stay away from it.  This shot gave me a chance to indulge in the perfection of symmetry.

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Prague Night (Prague, Czech Rep): D800 with 24-70mm shot at 35mm, f/11, 8 sec & ISO 100.

The shot above was one of my favorites.  I love the people walking through the bottom of the image, with the cathedral in the background and the arch of the old tower to frame it.  You can see another couple standing off to the left with a photographer squatting down to take their shot.  The colors of the buildings coupled with the star lines from the lights really makes this image stand out.  I will need to print this one.

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Bridge from Beach (Prague, Czech Rep): D800 24-70mm shot at 24mm, f/11, 15sec & ISO 100.

We got off the bridge to be able to shoot this image of the bridge from the beach.  The lights gives some nice leading lines and the angle of the bridge helps give the image some dynamic energy.

If you are traveling to an interesting city try to see what it looks like at night.  Take a tripod, a remote shutter trigger and plenty of batteries (long exposures eat up battery power).  If possible go with someone who knows the area as things look very different at night.  The added pair of eyes is good for safety as well.

Prague Day One Exploring The Old Town

Prague by Night Prague Czech Rep 1024x683 Prague Day One Exploring The Old Town

Prague by Night (Prague, Czech Rep): D800 24-70mm shot at 44mm, f/11, 20sec & ISO 100.

Before arriving into Prague we had arranged a series of tours to be able to take us around and get to know this amazing city.  The tours start off with a series of walks around Prague.  Each one lasts four hours, starting at 9:00am and ending at 1:00pm.  Our guide is a wonderful lady with bright red hair to happens to be 70 years old.  She is in amazing shape and she darts around the streets of Prague like a teenager.

As she takes us through the city she tells us a bit about the often painful history of this place.  As she tells of the Nazi support among the German Czechs and how in an attempt to avoid an invasion the Czech government gave up huge swaths of land to the Nazis.  But this was not enough and a few months later the Nazi invasion began. She conveys a bit of the futile resistance and how the final building to be conquered was the radio station that was transmitting information on the attack.

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Green Car (Prague, Czech Rep): D800 24-70mm shot at 34mm, f/2.8, 1/125sec & ISO 100.

 

She takes us through the Synagogs in Prague, including the oldest in Europe.  She tells us of the 120,000 Jews who lived in Prague before the Nazi’s came.  The lucky story of about 20,000 who escaped and of the frightful detention of those who remained.  She shows us walls with 75,000 names of people who were never seen again.

She then tells us of the rebirth of national pride as Paton and the Russians liberate Czech from the Nazis.  How the people of Prague wanted to create their own history and control their own destiny.  We are told of the growing influence of the Soviet Union and how, in 1968 the Warsaw Pact nations invaded Prague without warning.

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Standing Up to Invasion (Prague 1968)

Again the scene of tanks driving down the streets came alive.  The bullet holes in some of the building facades, the death of several who tried to stop the tanks.  And finally the unavoidable surrender of the last building, the same radio station which the Nazi’s took.

She then shows us the different architecture and how it changed over time.  Prague has some of the most amazing Art Deco and Art Nouveau architecture that I have every seen.  I took dozens of shots of the building facades and will slowly process my favorites.  Here is a quick one I captured that drew my attention.

Building Top Prague Czech Rep 1024x683 Prague Day One Exploring The Old Town

Building Top (Prague, Czech Rep): D800, 24-70mm shot at 70mm, f/5.6, 1/750sec & ISO 100.

As the tour ends we go to a local restaurant and order some of the local food.  It is similar to German food and I select a pork knee served with plenty of beer.  Czechs are rightfully proud of their beer which they call “liquid bread”.

One thing that amazes me is the focus that Art receives here.  In Prague art is a way of life and every piece is selected carefully with a overall theme in mind.  Even inexpensive pieces of art are painstakingly picked and show in the best possible light.  If I compare this to the more lackadaisical approach taken in Australia I would have to say that Czechs are serious about their art….almost as much as they are about their beer.

 

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Beer Hall Art (Prague, Czech Rep): D800 24-70mm, shot at 70mm, f/2.8, 1/180sec & ISO 800.

After lunch we went back to the apartment and I left again a few hours later for a night tour….but I will leave that for the next post.

 

Prague or Bust

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Family Leavi…ech Rep)

We have a passion for travel. It is one thing that my wife share deeply. We want to understand this world we live in and we know that the best way to do that is through travel. This year we are going to Prague and this is the start of our adventure.

I have decided to try to tell this story just as it unfolds for us. From the decision, through the planning and into the trip. The hope is to keep our family abreast of what we are doing and share some my the pictures.

Screen Shot 2014 09 24 at 6.32.41 PM Prague or Bust

Bridges over River. Photo borrowed from an article in the NY Times by Evan Rail.

Why Prague? 
Simply put it is the Paris of Eastern Europe. I love how some key cities are labeled “the Paris of the ABC” but in this case it might be more true than not. Prague is a capital of art, literature and wonderful architecture. It has seen many governments come and go and has suffered greatly from plagues and oppressive governments, but it has bounced back with renewed youth an vitality.

My wife and I have long wanted to come but timing is important when traveling the world. Prague is going through another renaissance which makes it a perfect time to go and see what this wonderful city is all about. In so many ways it is ahead of its time and in so many others it is lost in its past.

Planning Prague…
This was largely my wife’s doing. She opted for an apartment which would cost less and give us easy access to the old town. She then booked private tours which are essential when traveling with kids. She made sure that we did not have each and everyday filled with activities giving us a chance to relax, and giving me a chance to squeeze in two photography tours.

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Bags (Prague, Czech Rep): iPhone

Packing Prague….
As you can see from the iPhone picture we packed a bunch of stuff. This does not include the kid seat for the car. But aside from the toiletries I had to pack the gear!

As you can read HERE, I have recently picked up a Micro 4/3 camera and a couple of lenses. The goal being to enable me to take a camera anywhere and to help with my street photography. This kit would be light, fast and easy but by leaving my Nikon D800 behind I would be sacrificing dynamic range, and some amazing detail. No the D800 had to come with me.

Then I went through my lenses and after a search in Lightroom I found that I routinely shoot at a wide aperture. Out of the Nikon Trinity lenses that I have most of my shots come from the 24-70mm f/2.8 followed by the 14-24mm f/2.8 and finally the 70-200mm f/2.8.

Prague Kit Prague Czech Rep 1024x768 Prague or Bust

Prague Kit (Prague, Czech Rep): iPhone

So logic would dictate that if I want to cut down on weight I should leave the long lens but the problem is that I have one image I really want to take which is of the Astronomical Clock. A close up of the face, camera tilted, with a perfectly exposed shot to bring out all the colors. I need my 200 to get this image and it is worth carrying the heavy lens even if I only use it once.

Due to weight and complexity I decided to leave my OM-1 film camera and the GoPro. This was not easy as I had a time lapse idea I really wanted to get using the GoPro but since this trip is not only about photography, I needed to make the tough decision and leave this behind. I would only take my D800 and OMD.

In terms of bags I took my Aiport from ThinkTank for the flight and my new Think Tank Retrospective 7 for my daily carry. I wanted a small bag, that would fit the lenses and if pressed, the camera too. I normally take a larger bag but find that my camera is always around my neck leaving the bag largely empty. I am trying this setup to see if it is less bulky carrying a bag for two lenses while the camera and one lens are being used.

I left all flash and will rely on the pop up if needed. I am slow taking the OMD little flash just in case. I do not do much with flash photography on these vacations as nights are usually left to family affairs.

I also bought a wrist sling from Black Rapids to try on the OMD. The camera is so small it feels odd around my neck. I usually carry it by hand and wrap the neck strap around my wrist. I will do a little review later on how it worked out.

A circular polarizer, ND filter, batteries and memory cards round out the packing. Overall it is less heavy than other vacations but still a big load. One day they will weigh my carryon and the gig will be up.

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Mode of Transport (Prague, Czech Rep)

It’s not just about the destination….
What a load on nonsense. In this case it is all about the destination. The trip itself is long and tiresome. We flew from Perth to Dubai over 11 hours. Got into the Dubai airport hotel to catch a few hours sleep and a hot bath only to get on another plane going for six hours going from Dubai to Prague. Economy is rough and being 17 hours on a plane with three kids is not the most enjoyable of experiences.

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Kids on Plane (Prague, Czech Rep): This was taken in the last leg of the trip after about 15 hours on a plane.

We shall see what the days ahead have in store for us and if this trip was worthwhile. I have some images I want to take in mind and I am hoping that the photography tour will highlight some other great shots.

I will end with the first shot that I actually took in Prague using my iPhone.  This is the view from the apartment which we rented and I could not have asked for better.  Right in front we have the astronomical clock which will make it easy to capture it in perfect light.

Prague View Prague Czech Rep 1024x768 Prague or Bust

Prague View (Prague, Czech Rep): iPhone