Red

The Red Pyramid looking towards the Bent Pyramid, Dahshur, Egypt, 2017

When one thinks of pyramids in Egypt, the natural inclination is to think of the renowned pyramids at Giza, which includes the Great Pyramid of Khufu and those of his successors, Khafra and Menkaura.  However, there are other places where pyramids are to be found.
In fact, there are numerous sites with pyramids stretching north to south on the west bank of the Nile outside Cairo.  I think of this stretch of desert as “Pyramid Row,” and when you’re at one location, some of the pyramids at other sites can be seen in the distance.
As I have written before (here), one such place is Dahshur, located to the south of Giza, where a Fourth Dynasty king named Sneferu – the father of Khufu – had the so-called Bent Pyramid constructed around 2600 BCE.  However, that was not the only pyramid that Sneferu had built.  In fact, there were three of them.

The Red Pyramid, Dahshur, 2017

I will try to write about the first one another time, after I’ve scanned some photos to show, but now I’m presenting some photos of the final pyramid, the so-called Red Pyramid, that was built to the north of the Bent Pyramid at Dahshur.  The name of this pyramid comes from the reddish limestone used to build it, though in antiquity this stone would not have been seen, having been covered by a shiny white limestone casing that was removed in more recent years.
However, what it also notable about this structure is the fact that it was the world’s first true smooth and straight sided pyramid, following after the Step Pyramid at Saqqara and the aforementioned Bent Pyramid.  It’s also one of the largest pyramids in Egypt, rising 344 feet above the desert, eclipsed in size only by the pyramids of Khufu and Khafra at Giza.

A reconstructed pyramidion (capstone) found at the site, with the Red Pyramid behind it, Dahshur, 2017

On a more personal note, when I think of the Red Pyramid, I think of a lost opportunity to explore.  While I have managed to climb to the center of the Great Pyramid and some other pyramids, I never made it that far into the Red.  I did begin to climb down inside its narrow tunnel, but I took some other people’s advice and decided to back down rather than go facing forward, and all I could see was the light from the outside getting smaller and smaller as I backed down, which made me feel like the walls were closing in on me, so I basically froze and decided to end my descent.  In other words, I chickened out.  Hopefully I’ll have the chance to try again one day – and this time I will try to go down facing forward.

 

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Back to Moab

Nude, Utah, 2018

I went away for a few days this past weekend to once again attend The Desert Adventure art nude photo outing in the vicinity of Moab, Utah.   I had gone last year and I enjoyed it, so I thought I’d go back again.
The event is planned by model Monique (with her outfitter/outdoor specialist partner, John), and for this session, her modeling partner was Eva Luna, who I had not worked with previously – though now I am happy to say that I have.
Unfortunately, my primary camera – the Pentax 67 that I have carried around the world with me for over 20 years – broke down about halfway through the weekend, with the mirror getting stuck in the up position.   Fortunately, I have a good Fuji 6×7 rangefinder camera as my backup, and though it’s not as versatile as my Pentax system, having only a fixed, non-changeable lens, I do believe that I got some good photos with it, as well.  (Now let’s hope that I can get the Pentax fixed before I need to use it again.)
While I have begun to have my film from this weekend developed, the truth is that I still have a lot of last year’s film to scan, as I underwent knee surgery shortly after last year’s event and got sidetracked because of that.  Hopefully I’ll have time to scan photos from both this year and last, but for now, here’s a photo that I recently scanned from last year, featuring Monique and that event’s other model, Celina.
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First Photos from Mexico

Nude, Mexico, 2019 – with Kate Snig

I wrote in a blog post at the end of last month (here) that I had recently returned home from a trip to Mexico.  As I have now gotten all of the film from the trip developed, and have begun to scan them, I thought I’d post a few images.
Regarding the trip, it was organized by UTadventure, and for nearly a week we stayed at a beautiful, old hacienda on the Yucatan peninsula, outside of the city of Merida.
This was my first trip to Mexico, and in fact, to any primarily Spanish speaking country.  This may be a bit surprising to followers of my blog, as you should know that I like to travel the world, but also because I studied Spanish for three years in high school.  Finally, I would be able to put some of it to use – though I admit that I did a lot of reviewing before I left home.

Nude, Mexico, 2019 – with Sienna Hayes

Flying into Mexico City from New York on the first leg of my flight, I could see from my window seat that Mexico’s capital city is located in a mountainous area.  From the flight into Merida, however, flying first over central Mexico, then over the Gulf of Mexico and finally over the Yucatan peninsula itself, I could see that the landscape of Yucatan is completely and totally flat.  In fact, it seems to be just about as flat as flat could be.
Regarding Mexico, I loved it my entire time there (well, except at the airports) – the culture, the architecture, the food, the light (though, as almost everyone advised me, I did not drink the water).  Of course, to that list I must add the people of Mexico, who were very warm, friendly and welcoming – hardly the “rapists and murderers” that some people would want you to believe them to be.

Nude, Mexico, 2019 – with Dasha U

As for the photography, we had three very good art models to photograph – Kate Snig, Sienna Hayes and Dasha U.  As noted in my above-referenced blog post, I had worked with Sienna previously in New York, but I had not worked with Kate and Dasha before.  I think I came home with good photos of all of them.
Here now are one photo of each of them, photographed on the grounds of our hacienda on the first day of photographing.  More will follow in the future.
As for Mexico, this was my first visit there, but I hope it will not be the last.
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Notre Dame

Notre Dame and the Seine, Paris, 2000

Like many people around the world, I am saddened by the news of the great fire that has devastated the medieval cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris.   Though there appears to have been a lot of damage done, especially to the roof and of course to the spire that collapsed, hopefully it can be successfully rebuilt.
I have visited Paris several times, but not for a while.  I think my last visit there was in 2001.  Here’s a photograph that I made of Notre Dame the year before.  I had read that it is difficult to use a tripod on the street in Paris, so for this nighttime photo I set my camera on a small table tripod, which I placed on the thick stone wall of a bridge crossing the river Seine near the Place St. Michel, as I recall.
I used a spot meter to take a reflective light reading off of the façade of the cathedral, which was likely around two seconds or so.  For shutter speeds of greater than one second, reciprocity failure can kick in, meaning that beyond one second or so, the light coming in through the lens at the proper shutter speed may be insufficient to make a good exposure (for scientific reasons I won’t get into now), so extra exposure is needed.  Typically, for a two second exposure reading, I will make exposures of four to six seconds.
Whichever shutter speed I used for this particular image, I appear to have gotten it right.
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Getting Hazed

Untitled Nude, 2018

I returned home last week from a week-long photography event in the Yucatan, Mexico.  It was my first ever trip to Mexico, and hopefully not the last.  (I went by airplane, so I guess I flew over the wall.)
One of the reasons that I went was that I had never been to Mexico before, but another was that one of the three art models at the event was Sienna Hayes.  I had photographed Sienna when she was in New York last summer, and as I found her to be a very good model to work with and got good images, I decided that it would be worthwhile to work with her again at greater length.

I’ve had the first set of film from the event developed and am currently working on scanning them, but for now, I thought I’d make another post with photos of Sienna from last summer.  (You can see my first post here.)
Hopefully I’ll be able to make some posts about the Mexico event before too long.

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Bent

The Bent Pyramid, Dahshur, Egypt, 2017

Everyone knows about the pyramids of Giza in Egypt – the Great Pyramid of Khufu, plus those of his successors, Khafra and Menkaura.  These monuments of the Fourth Dynasty in Egypt’s Old Kingdom are renowned, but they were not the first of the pyramids built by the ancient Egyptians.
The first of those pyramids was the Step Pyramid at Saqqara, built for a Third Dynasty king named Djoser.  (It was originally a single level tomb building that just got bigger and higher.)  There were some others built, too, prior to the pyramids at Giza, perhaps the most interesting and unusual being the Bent Pyramid at Dahshur.

The Bent Pyramid, Dahshur, Egypt, 2017

What is unusual about this pyramid is that, as its name suggests, it bends in the middle, with its lower level inclined at an angle of 54 degrees, but about midway up shifting to a shallower angle of only 43 degrees.  I have read in a recently published book that this change in inclination may have been intended from the start, to make the pyramid resemble a squat type of obelisk found in certain Egyptian temples, but over the years most people have thought that the change in the inclination was not originally planned, but was a necessary change in order to prevent the pyramid from collapsing.  (This would also show that the pyramid form was developed by the Egyptians over time by trial and error, rather than being constructed by space aliens, who would presumably have known how to build them properly.)
This pyramid was built around 2600 BCE for a king called Sneferu, the first king of the Fourth Dynasty, who actually had three pyramids built – the Bent Pyramid, an earlier one at Meidum that partially collapsed in antiquity, and a later one, also at Dahshur, that was the first true straight edged pyramid built, which is called the Red Pyramid and is only slightly smaller than the famous Great Pyramid at Giza.

The Bent Pyramid (foreground) Looking Toward the “Black Pyramid” of Amenemhat III, Dahshur, Egypt, 2017

I mention Giza again at this point to also compare it to the site of Dahshur, as comparing the two is like comparing the ridiculous to the sublime.  Everybody who visits Egypt goes to see the pyramids at Giza, at while it is certainly a must-see site, it also has a circus atmosphere of sorts, filled with lots of tourists plus locals forever trying to sell you all kinds of stuff and trying to convince you to ride on their camels or donkeys.
Dahshur, on the other hand, is the complete and total opposite.  Perhaps because the pyramids are located near an army base, when I visited in 2017 the place was almost deserted, with just a handful of other tourists (if any) and not one person there trying to sell anything to you.  For this, I think Dahshur may be my favorite place in Egypt.  It is the Egypt of old, the Egypt as I would like to imagine it – with nothing there to occupy your mind but the wind and the sand and the stones of old.

The Step Pyramid, Saqqara, Egypt, 2017

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Surprise, Surprise, Surprise!!!

“Well – surprise, surprise, surprise!!!”
I can still hear Gomer Pyle’s voice ringing in my ears as I think of that phrase that he seemed to say so often, and that’s what I kept thinking about last week after I paid a visit to the Barnes & Noble bookstore near my office one day last week.  I had an event to attend that evening, but it didn’t start until almost two hours after I finished work, so I decided to take a stroll over to B&N to look around for a while.
The first thing I did was to look at the magazine section, and there I saw some copies of the January/February issue of the internationally distributed French magazine PHOTO, which is its annual contest issue, for which thousands of people around the world send in work to be included.  I have been submitting photos to this competition since the late 1990’s, when people needed to actually mail prints to France, though now photos can be uploaded online.

Nude, England, 2017

The first time one of my photos was printed in the magazine was in 1999, and since then it’s been on and off, including a long six year drought from 2008 to 2013, followed by three straight years of getting in.  (Go figure.)  I knew that I would have nothing in last year’s issue, as I waited too long to make my submission and was unable to log into the magazine’s website on the last day for entering – and the website appeared to have changed that final day to a day earlier, as well.
I made sure that I submitted on time for the current issue.  As is usual, I had to wait until I – or someone I know – actually saw the magazine once it’s been published to know if any of my work was included, as the magazine does not inform people if any of their photos have been selected.  Although it’s released in France in January, it typically does not seem to reach U.S. newsstands until sometime in March these days, so I was rather surprised to see copies of it in February.

I had no expectation of seeing any of my photos inside, however, as I had written to a Facebook friend in France who had told me that he had looked at the magazine – twice – and had not seen any of my photos included.  He had, however, told me that my good friend Dave Levingston had gotten a photo in, so it was to see his photo that I picked up a copy (thankfully not wrapped in plastic as it sometimes is) and flipped through it.
I eventually reached the section for nude photographs (“Nu” in French), and sure enough, there was Dave’s color photograph on page 76.  I wanted to see more of the magazine, so I looked onward – and there, on the very next page, and to my great surprise, was one of my own photos, as well!  You can imagine how I felt upon seeing this, not having expected to see any of my work included, but obviously I was very happy and pleased by this rather pleasant surprise.  Why my friend in France did not notice my photo I do not know as I have not asked him yet.  Perhaps he was looking at the photographs, rather than the names of the photographers printed beneath them, and simply didn’t recognize my photo.  (Whatever the reason, I do not hold him at fault.)

As for the photograph itself, it was made in England two years ago, when I was working with an English photographer who goes by the name Imagesse.  I had seen him and his work on a model/photographer website, and had decided to write to him because I liked his photos and to ask for recommendations about models to work with.  (I had gone to London to attend a weeklong language class there, and decided to try working with models the weekends before and after the class.)
I had also suggested that we perhaps try to meet to work together with some models, and this we did.  Ultimately, we chose to work with three of England’s finest – Rebecca Tun, Ivory Flame and Ella Rose – and they are the three that you see in the photograph here.  It was a full day outing, beginning at the ruins of an abbey (seen here) and continuing on to some other locations where we unfortunately had to dodge other people much of the time, finally ending up at one of England’s most famous Neolithic stone circles.  Despite the difficulties, it was nonetheless a fun day, and in addition to working with Ivory and Ella for the first time, it was very nice to get out of London to see some of England’s bucolic countryside and some charming small villages.
I hope that I will have a similar opportunity again.
(Oh, and if you want to hear Gomer Pyle, click here.)
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Celina

“Nude, Utah, 2018”

I went to a workshop in eastern Utah last spring with two models.  One of them was a beautiful young woman named Celina.
Here are some photos of her.
I really don’t have much more to say than that.  Sometimes, photographs simply have to be allowed to speak for themselves.

 

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Support

“Support,” Venice, 2017

Venice is a city of many visual splendors:  Piazza San Marco, the Galleria della Accademia, countless narrow streets, elegant piazzas and quiet canals.  Naturally, however, Venice’s grandest sight is the great waterway that curves its way through the middle of it all – the Grand Canal.
The city on the water was in its usual splendor when I visited there in June of 2017, but there was something additional to be seen on the Grand Canal at that time. Reaching out to the Ca’Sagredo Hotel were a pair of giant hands rising out of the water.
Designed by artist Lorenzo Quinn (son of actor Anthony Quinn), this artwork installation was called “Support” and was meant to show the hands supporting the building, which – like the rest of the city – is at risk from rising waters, especially due to global warming.  The supporting hands, as I have read, were meant to show what people can do to prevent such things from happening.
As to this photo, I could have tried to make a closer image showing just the hands with the building, but as I saw this traghetto – a gondola used to ferry passengers from one side of the canal to the other, on which people frequently stand – just leaving to cross the water, I decided to go with this wider view to include the gondola and give the photo a greater sense of scale and a greater human element.
Let us hope that this magnificent place, “La Serenissima” – the Most Serene Republic- will remain with us for many more years to come.
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The Mosque of Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali Mosque, Cairo, 2017

One of the most notable buildings in Cairo – perhaps THE most notable – is the Great Mosque of Muhammad Ali Pasha located in The Citadel.  It was built primarily between 1830 and 1848, and though located in Egypt, it was built in the Turkish Ottoman style.
For those who don’t know, the Muhammad Ali for which this mosque is named is not the American boxer originally named Cassius Clay, but rather the 19th Century Ottoman ruler of Egypt who was born in Greece to an Albanian family.  He is considered to be the founder of modern Egypt and had the mosque built in memory of his deceased eldest son.

I visited this grand building on my trip to Egypt in 2017.  While most people visit Egypt to see its famed antiquities, this seems to be the one relatively modern building that people are taken to see – and deservedly so.
It is an elegant building, made of limestone but also with alabaster in its lower reaches, with beautiful columns and very fine metalwork.   Cairo has some of the finest Islamic buildings in the world (several of which I visited and photographed on my trip to Egypt in 2018), and while this particular mosque was not built in the native Egyptian style, it is nonetheless a site to be see and admired.

To follow up on Muhammad Ali, when I was in Alexandria, Egypt, last year, the hotel room two doors down from mine had a plaque on it, as some doors did, to indicate a famous former occupant.  The name on the plaque was “Muhammad Ali Clay.”  I guess that’s one way to distinguish the older one from the newer one.

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