Link to photo dump.
Now, here's one thing that you have probably never seen or heard of, even if you have traveled extensively in Great Britain: It's the oldest extant LDS chapel in the world. The tour company we were with is based in Utah and caters to a primarily Mormon clientele, which is why this place was on the itinerary.
I'm thinking about making my first trip back to Vegas in mid-November. (The annual blogger thing in early December wouldn't work as well for me.) Who's gonna be around? Any specific dates I should shoot for or avoid?
Link to photo dump.
We spent two nights at the hotel in Stratford--famous as Shakespeare's home--though, somewhat oddly, nothing in the town itself was formally a tour stop. Instead, we simply used the town as a base from which to visit other sites in the region.
On the second day, we had the evening free. Dad wanted to rest in the hotel room, and the rest of my family was off doing laundry, shopping, looking at the Shakespeare sights, etc. So for the first time in the trip (this was Wednesday, August 20, day 5 of the tour), I had the chance to go off and be by myself for a while. My introverted personality can only handle so much of other people, and it had literally been 24 hours a day of togetherness. I had heard from several people who had been to Stratford before that a stroll along the Avon river would be beautiful, so that's what I decided to do.
The solitude felt great. The weather was perfect. The river was indeed as beautiful as promised. It had enough other people around to feel alive, but few enough that I didn't feel that I was battling a crowd (as was so often the case at the tourist sites), and I could easily exclude them from the pictures I wanted to take.
I didn't have any plan as to where I would walk--and, in fact, I got lost on my way back to the hotel, trying something that I thought would be a shortcut. I think I walked an extra mile because of that shortcut, because it got me turned in a different direction than I thought I was going. But it was that pleasant kind of lostness, where you don't have any schedule to keep, and the geography is such that you can't get too lost. It was, all in all, a glorious, refreshing, utterly delightful evening--one of my fondest memories of the whole trip.
I took a ton of photos. I've tried hard in these posts to be highly selective, showing only the handful of my best shots, with the photo-dump link for the oddball who wants to look at the rest. Here, though, I admit that I had a hard time selecting, because I liked so many of the pictures. I'm sure that a lot of that is just the extremely pleasant sensation of reviving memories of how happy I was feeling that evening, which is something I can't really share with readers.
But I can share with you a little bit of what I saw. The church you see in some shots is Trinity Church, where Shakespeare is buried. The cemetery you'll see surrounds that church. (Shakespeare's tomb is inside. I did not go there.)
Link to photo dump.
The photos here are of the most beautiful thing I saw on this trip. It's a large-scale art installation at the Tower of London, titled "Blood Swept Lands and Sea of Red," by ceramic artist Paul Cummins and stage designer Tom Piper. It commemorates the start of World War I a century ago. When finished, it will consist of 888,246 ceramic poppies in the space that used to be the moat around the Tower of London--one for every British military fatality during the war. The Tower of London is a fitting space for this installation, as it was a staging and training facility for the troops of that era.
The "flow" of poppies originates from a window near the northwest corner of the wall:
Link to photo dump.
I've been really chatty with previous posts in this series, so I think today I'll just put up these pictures without further comment.
Link to photo dump.
London is one of the biggest, oldest, and most interesting cities in the world--and we saw about 0.0000001% of it.
I'm saving shots of the Tower of London for tomorrow. This is a sampling of the rest of what we saw.
The first two pictures are the gorgeous Natural History Museum. That these photos convey anything at all of its beauty is miraculous, considering that they were shot through the window of our tour bus--which is, sadly, the only way we saw the place.
This one is about the problem of two players agreeing to "check it down" against a third, who is already all-in--a form of illegal collusion.
Link to photo dump.
Just about everything that could go wrong, in terms of interfering with good picture-taking, did go wrong at Windsor Castle. It was cold, windy, and intermittently rainy. The crowds of people were impossible. We had flown all night and then gone straight from the airport to the castle, with no stop at the hotel for either sleep or freshening up, so I was cranky and sleep-deprived. Worst, you're not allowed to take any photos inside, where all the goodies are.
Not surprisingly, then, I have no photos that I'm proud of. Still, here's a sample of...
What We Saw
N.B.: I won't keep reminding you of this, but you can see much bigger versions of any photo by right-clicking on it and opening in new tab or window.
No sooner do I tell you how I'm going to do posts in this series than I violate the protocol.
This is just a quick assembly of the selfies I took for posting on Twitter day by day, along with whatever I wrote about them when posted. They were taken with my cell phone, not the good camera. They were just silly shots to remind my friends that I was going places and seeing things.
August 18: I haven't mastered the "destination selfie" like @BJNemeth, but here I am at the Tower of London this morning.
From August 16 to August 29, 2014, I was touring the British Isles (England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and the Republic of Ireland) with my 91-year-old father, my brother and sister-in-law, and my sister and brother-in-law. It was organized by a tour company in Utah called "Fun For Less." There were a total of 87 people, plus two tour leaders. Travel was by motor coach, except (obviously) for the trip from Scotland to Ireland, which required a ferry. We started in London and ended in Dublin.
I had a wonderful time. I have not spent so much time with my family since the three of us kids were all still living at home. It was a pleasure and honor to be with them all.
We had signed up for the trip back in January, so we had a lot of lead time. In February, I bought a new camera specifically with this trip in mind. I had become frustrated with the technical limitations of my old one, and wanted a better tool for what I felt was a growing ability to find aesthetically pleasing photo opportunities--as well as to simply document what I knew would be the trip of a lifetime. After spending a lot of time considering the bewildering options available, I bought a Sony NEX-3N. (See reviews here.) I was heavily influenced in this decision by David Pogue's ongoing cheerleading for Sony's innovative push for much larger sensors than most of its competitors use; see, e.g., here.
I'm glad that I bought the camera that far in advance of the trip. It took those several months of intermittent experimentation before I felt reasonably comfortable that I could intelligently select among the myriad of options for a given photo situation. I still have not come close to wringing all of the potential from this instrument, however. Most notably, I take pictures in RAW+JPEG format, but I don't even own software that will open the RAW files. The camera will automate HDR imaging, but I have not even looked at those pages in the owner's manual. In short, I still have a lot to learn. However, I have zero doubt that the Sony is allowing me to take much better pictures than I could with my old pocket-sized Nikon point-and-shoot.
At many places in our recent travels, there wasn't much that I could do creatively, because of constraints of lighting, crowding, and, most of all, time. Trying to compress five magnificent countries into 12 days of sightseeing meant that there was barely time to seethings, let alone absorb them. Taking time to, e.g., dive into the camera's menu to turn on the fill flash setting, in order to reduce facial shadows on family members, meant grumbles of impatience from other people waiting to take pictures in the same spot before the bus left again.
All of which is a long way of getting at this point: Despite more sophisticated technology than I've had before, the majority of my pictures still ended up being basically the same touristy snapshots that a billion other people have taken before--though probably with less spoiled shots from camera motion, errant exposures, etc. There were never more than a few images in any locale in which I feel any pride of originality; often the number was zero.
Here's how I've decided to present things. First, I'm going to use this blog rather than Facebook because it gives me more control over the formatting, and because, frankly, I just don't trust Facebook to keep everything fully under my control in future years.
Second, each stop of our trip will be a separate blog post. I'll do a lightly edited memory-card dump to Picasa, and include the link for the rare reader who wants to look at all of the pictures.
Then the post will be divided into two parts. "What we saw" will be the best selection of my quickie, touristy shots, just to convey a sense of what's there. When there are one or more special shots that I went out of my way to capture, those will be under the heading of "What I saw."
I make no claim that the latter will rival Ansel Adams or otherwise be of great artistic merit. But they are ones that please me, because the final image bears some reasonable similarity to the what my mind's eye saw before I clicked the shutter release, and because the images are, to the best of my amateurish ability, actual compositions, rather than just depictions of a thing.
All of the posts will be accessible via the "British Isles trip" label. I hope you enjoy looking at them half as much as I am going to enjoy editing and assembling them--but be patient, this process is likely to spread itself out over two or three weeks, and maybe more than that. I have a lot of photos to sift through, digitally tweak, arrange, comment on, etc., while I'm getting back to my badly neglected real work--you know, the stuff that keeps the bills paid.
For my poker-minded readers, I apologize in advance for commandeering this space for something that has nothing to do with poker for the next while.
On August 13, 2014 I put up a post with updates to a post I did on May 9, 2009, about difficulties I had with an advertiser. As part of settling that old dispute, I agreed to remove the newer post, leaving instead just this marker of having done so. The 2009 post now has a dated addendum with further details.
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