David Firman Photoworks: Blog https://www.firmangallery.com/blog en-us (C) David Firman dfirman@mts.net (David Firman Photoworks) Mon, 16 Mar 2020 06:50:00 GMT Mon, 16 Mar 2020 06:50:00 GMT https://www.firmangallery.com/img/s/v-12/u1025684318-o257721038-50.jpg David Firman Photoworks: Blog https://www.firmangallery.com/blog 120 120 WalkClickMake has moved! https://www.firmangallery.com/blog/2015/6/walkclickmake-has-moved On June 12, 2015 WalkClickMake moved to a new site. You can find it walkclickmake.com

All new blog entries will be exclusively posted at walkclickmake.com. However, I will maintain an archive of all my earlier posts on this page (scroll down). And there will be a direct link from the Firmangallery menu (above) to the new walkclickmake blog site.

Firmangallery.com (where you are right now) will remain as my portfolio site, so I hope you continue to come back here for your photographic fix as well as visit my new blog site.

Thanks for following my work!

David

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dfirman@mts.net (David Firman Photoworks) https://www.firmangallery.com/blog/2015/6/walkclickmake-has-moved Fri, 12 Jun 2015 16:33:30 GMT
Walking the Camino de Santiago, A Photo Essay: Days 23 and 24 https://www.firmangallery.com/blog/2015/6/walking-the-camino-de-santiago-a-photo-essay-days-23-and-24 Day 23: Astorga to Rabanal del CaminoDay 23: Astorga to Rabanal del Camino

 

Today we begin our two-day ascent of the highest peak on the Camino Francés route. It starts gently. Today’s climb is a mere 200 metres stretched over the 21-kilometre path from Astorga to Rabanal del Camino.

 

Leaving Astorga we can see our eventual destination. The mountain range hovers on the distant horizon, warmly glowing in the early morning sun. As we progress on our leisurely walk, evidence of an ancient mountain lifestyle becomes apparent. This is the land of the Maragato people. 

 

First comes the restored town of Castrillo de los Polvazares with its Maragato-style stone buildings. Made famous in 1913 by author Concha Espina, the town is now carving its new niche in the 21st Century as an arts and crafts centre. Further on, the reality of an isolated mountain life becomes more apparent. Many of those same stone buildings, once with thatched roofs, lay crumbling, clinging to life. 

 

Isolation seems to attract quirkiness, like the colourful Cowboy Bar in El Ganso. It is a great place to stop and enjoy a bottle of the region’s distinctive sidra (cider). The Spanish-speaking bartender is quick to instruct us - with wild hand gestures - on the proper decanting of the cloudy and slightly sour brew. After a few shakes to stir up the sediment, the bottle is raised above your head and the cider poured, hopefully hitting the glass held at waist level. Only a small amount is poured, “two fingers” worth at a time, to retain the cider’s carbonated fizz.

 

It is was an entertaining interlude to the day’s walk. Fortunately, Rabanal del Camino is only a few kilometres further on!

 

The next day’s 27-kilometre walk draws us into the strange wildness of the mountains. We leave Rabanal in the dark but our wooded path soon hazily reveals itself through a dense shroud of fog. In time the muted forest colours give way to the forlorn stone ruins of Foncebadón. The tangle of stone-walled buildings slowly emerge through the fog as we make our way down the unpaved main street. Soon a cross appears, planted in the middle of our path, its looming arms engulfed in ethereal mist. A sign? A warning? Definitely mysterious.

 

By the time we finish coffee at the town’s La Taberna de Gaia, the fog has lifted. We continue our climb - although it barely amounts to 600 metres - first arriving at Puerto Irago and La Cruz de Ferro and then, after a slight descent, to the highest point, 1,515 metres, at Punto Alto.

 

True to its name, La Cruz de Ferro is an iron cross. It stands on a tall pole, set in a large pile of stones. The history of this historic Camino landmark is unclear, but pre-Roman Celts were known to leave cairns of stones at high passes and the Romans did much the same. In any event, the site was “de-paganized” in the 1100’s when the iron cross was erected by the hermit Gaucelmo. 

 

Pilgrims traditionally leave a small stone as a blessing or tribute. Gail and I brought pebbles from Lake Winnipeg. Mine is left as a blessing for my mum who, back in Winnipeg, was having significant health problems. It is a quiet, lovely moment here, at the highest point of our journey. The sun breaks through the morning mist at this most appropriate time and place.

 

The descent, as is said, is far worse than the climb. The trail relentlessly drops over 900-metres on its way down to Molinaseca. We arrived intact but it is a punishing journey for ankles, legs...and bums, when feet slip from under you on loose stones. Nothing that a good Maragato-style stew and local wine can’t remedy!

 

 

This is the sixteenth of a number of planned posts to my on-going Walking the Camino de Santiago, A Photo Essay. If you have any observations or your own Camino experiences to relate, feel free to use the Comments section below.

 

If you are interested in purchasing prints for any of the photographs in this series of Camino de Santiago blog posts, they can be ordered directly from my website at www.firmangallery.com/camino-frances

 

 

Day 23: Astorga to Rabanal del CaminoDay 23: Astorga to Rabanal del Camino

 

 

 

Day 23: Astorga to Rabanal del CaminoDay 23: Astorga to Rabanal del Camino

 

 

 

Day 23: Astorga to Rabanal del Camino (Castrillos de Polvazares)Day 23: Astorga to Rabanal del Camino (Castrillos de Polvazares)

 

 

 

Day 23: Astorga to Rabanal del Camino (Castrillos de Polvazares)Day 23: Astorga to Rabanal del Camino (Castrillos de Polvazares)

 

 

 

Day 23: Astorga to Rabanal del Camino (Santa Catalina)Day 23: Astorga to Rabanal del Camino (Santa Catalina)

 

 

 

Day 23: Astorga to Rabanal del Camino (Santa Catalina)Day 23: Astorga to Rabanal del Camino (Santa Catalina)

 

 

 

Day 23: Astorga to Rabanal del CaminoDay 23: Astorga to Rabanal del Camino

 

 

 

Day 23: Astorga to Rabanal del Camino (El Ganso)Day 23: Astorga to Rabanal del Camino (El Ganso)

 

 

 

Day 23: Astorga to Rabanal del Camino (El Ganso)Day 23: Astorga to Rabanal del Camino (El Ganso)

 

 

 

Day 23: Astorga to Rabanal del CaminoDay 23: Astorga to Rabanal del Camino

 

 

 

Day 23: Astorga to Rabanal del Camino (Rabanal)Day 23: Astorga to Rabanal del Camino (Rabanal)

 

 

 

Day 23: Astorga to Rabanal del Camino (Rabanal)Day 23: Astorga to Rabanal del Camino (Rabanal)

 

 

 

Day 23: Astorga to Rabanal del Camino (Rabanal)Day 23: Astorga to Rabanal del Camino (Rabanal)

 

 

 

Day 24: Rabanal del Camino to MolinasecaDay 24: Rabanal del Camino to Molinaseca

 

 

 

Day 24: Rabanal del Camino to MolinasecaDay 24: Rabanal del Camino to Molinaseca

 

 

 

Day 24: Rabanal del Camino to Molinaseca (Foncebadón)Day 24: Rabanal del Camino to Molinaseca (Foncebadón)

 

 

 

Day 24: Rabanal del Camino to Molinaseca (Foncebadón)Day 24: Rabanal del Camino to Molinaseca (Foncebadón)

 

 

 

Day 24: Rabanal del Camino to MolinasecaDay 24: Rabanal del Camino to Molinaseca

 

 

 

Day 24: Rabanal del Camino to MolinasecaDay 24: Rabanal del Camino to Molinaseca

 

 

 

Day 24: Rabanal del Camino to Molinaseca (La Cruz de Ferro)Day 24: Rabanal del Camino to Molinaseca (La Cruz de Ferro)

 

 

 

Day 24: Rabanal del Camino to MolinasecaDay 24: Rabanal del Camino to Molinaseca

 

 

 

Day 24: Rabanal del Camino to Molinaseca (Acebo)Day 24: Rabanal del Camino to Molinaseca (Acebo)

 

 

 

Day 24: Rabanal del Camino to Molinaseca (Riego de Ambrós)Day 24: Rabanal del Camino to Molinaseca (Riego de Ambrós)

 

 

 

Day 24: Rabanal del Camino to Molinaseca (Molinaseca)Day 24: Rabanal del Camino to Molinaseca (Molinaseca)

 

 

 

Day 24: Rabanal del Camino to Molinaseca (Molinaseca)Day 24: Rabanal del Camino to Molinaseca (Molinaseca)

 

 

 

Day 24: Rabanal del Camino to Molinaseca (Molinaseca)Day 24: Rabanal del Camino to Molinaseca (Molinaseca)

 

 

 

Day 24: Rabanal del Camino to Molinaseca (Molinaseca)Day 24: Rabanal del Camino to Molinaseca (Molinaseca)

 

 

 

 

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dfirman@mts.net (David Firman Photoworks) Astorga Camino de Santiago Europe Molinaseca Rabanal photography walk https://www.firmangallery.com/blog/2015/6/walking-the-camino-de-santiago-a-photo-essay-days-23-and-24 Thu, 11 Jun 2015 13:00:00 GMT
Walking the Camino de Santiago, A Photo Essay: Days 21 and 22 https://www.firmangallery.com/blog/2015/6/walking-the-camino-de-santiago-a-photo-essay-days-21-and-22 Day 21: León to San Martín del Camino (León)Day 21: León to San Martín del Camino (León)

 

If arriving in León had been an experience in urban exploration, leaving the city was no less so. Its industrial fingers stretched out from the city centre, following major motor routes on their way to other metropolitan dots on the map. Our pilgrim path followed the busy N-120 - which itself followed the newer, faster, grander A-71 - leading us westward for 24 kilometres to San Martín del Camino.  

 

San Martín. The quintessential farming community. Wheat is the traditional crop hereabouts, although wells and irrigation have expanded the repertoire to potatoes, corn and sugar beets. We claim our private room in Albergue Santa Ana and head out for a stroll through this quiet prairie town. The atmosphere here is familiar, pure small town America, whether its Treherne in Manitoba or Grafton in North Dakota. There’s a quiet beauty here. And a sturdy matter-of-factness found in any small farming community. In the local bar sit a gaggle of men, playing cards, watching soccer, drinking beer or sipping a local wine. They give us a cautious glance before turning back to their games and drinks. 

 

The next day takes us further down the shoulders of the N-120 until we finally break loose and enter the town of Astorga, 30 kilometres later.

 

It’s a beautiful town with Roman origins, a significant artifact of those early days being the walls surrounding the old town. True, they have been rebuilt twice, most lately in the 15th C. But they still give the town a formidable edge as well as a pleasant paseo  on which to take a stroll and watch the sun set over the spectacular countryside.

 

Inside those walls lie several architectural treasures. There is the Gothic cathedral with its high-flying buttresses. There is the Baroque ayuntamento (city hall). But, for Antonio Gaudi buffs, the highlight is the Episcopal Palace. Construction of this palace for Archbishop Juan Bautista Grau Vallespinós began in 1889. But then the Archbishop died and construction halted for 20 years. It was not until 1913 that the building was completed by another architect, Ricard García Guereta, who added the second floor and roof. Still, Gaudi’s imaginative neo-Gothic design is clearly apparent.

 

The palace’s exterior is finished in granite from the nearby Bierzo region. Which is a fitting bridge to our dinner. Helping to wash down our Cocida Maragato - an overwhelming multi-course meal of meat, meat and more meat - is a splendid bottle of Bierzo red wine. 

 

 

    

This is the fifteenth of a number of planned posts to my on-going Walking the Camino de Santiago, A Photo Essay. If you have any observations or your own Camino experiences to relate, feel free to use the Comments section below.

 

If you are interested in purchasing prints for any of the photographs in this series of Camino de Santiago blog posts, they can be ordered directly from my website at www.firmangallery.com/camino-frances

 

 

Day 21: León to San Martín del CaminoDay 21: León to San Martín del Camino

 

 

 

Day 21: León to San Martín del CaminoDay 21: León to San Martín del Camino

 

 

 

Day 21: León to San Martín del CaminoDay 21: León to San Martín del Camino

 

 

 

Day 21: León to San Martín del CaminoDay 21: León to San Martín del Camino

 

 

 

Day 21: León to San Martín del Camino (San Martin)Day 21: León to San Martín del Camino (San Martin)

 

 

 

Day 21: León to San Martín del Camino (San Martin)Day 21: León to San Martín del Camino (San Martin)

 

 

 

Day 21: León to San Martín del Camino (San Martin)Day 21: León to San Martín del Camino (San Martin)

 

 

 

Day 22: San Martín del Camino to Astorga (Hospital de Órbigo)Day 22: San Martín del Camino to Astorga (Hospital de Órbigo)

 

 

 

Day 22: San Martín del Camino to Astorga (Santibañez de Valdeiglesias)Day 22: San Martín del Camino to Astorga (Santibañez de Valdeiglesias)

 

 

 

Day 22: San Martín del Camino to AstorgaDay 22: San Martín del Camino to Astorga

 

 

 

Day 22: San Martín del Camino to AstorgaDay 22: San Martín del Camino to Astorga

 

 

 

Day 22: San Martín del Camino to AstorgaDay 22: San Martín del Camino to Astorga

 

 

 

Day 22: San Martín del Camino to AstorgaDay 22: San Martín del Camino to Astorga

 

 

 

Day 22: San Martín del Camino to Astorga (Astorga)Day 22: San Martín del Camino to Astorga (Astorga)

 

 

 

Day 22: San Martín del Camino to Astorga (Astorga)Day 22: San Martín del Camino to Astorga (Astorga)

 

 

 

Day 22: San Martín del Camino to Astorga (Astorga)Day 22: San Martín del Camino to Astorga (Astorga)

 

 

 

Day 22: San Martín del Camino to Astorga (Astorga)Day 22: San Martín del Camino to Astorga (Astorga)

 

 

 

Day 22: San Martín del Camino to Astorga (Astorga)Day 22: San Martín del Camino to Astorga (Astorga)

 

 

 

Day 22: San Martín del Camino to Astorga (Astorga)Day 22: San Martín del Camino to Astorga (Astorga)

 

 

 

Day 22: San Martín del Camino to Astorga (Astorga)Day 22: San Martín del Camino to Astorga (Astorga)

 

 

 

Day 22: San Martín del Camino to Astorga (Astorga)Day 22: San Martín del Camino to Astorga (Astorga)

 

 

 

Day 22: San Martín del Camino to Astorga (Astorga)Day 22: San Martín del Camino to Astorga (Astorga)

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dfirman@mts.net (David Firman Photoworks) Camino de Santiago Europe photography walk https://www.firmangallery.com/blog/2015/6/walking-the-camino-de-santiago-a-photo-essay-days-21-and-22 Thu, 04 Jun 2015 13:00:00 GMT
A 55+ Walkabout https://www.firmangallery.com/blog/2015/5/a-55-plus-walkabout

 

Today’s walk materialized in minutes.

 

Gail and I are attending a 55+ Housing and Active Lifestyles Expo fair at a prominent hotel near Winnipeg Airport. Now called the Victoria Inn, decades ago it was known as the International Inn. And it was decades ago that I last visited the hotel with my mother and great aunt for their international buffet lunch. A memorable lunch to be sure. Then, still in appetizer mode, I had to excuse myself to visit the men’s room, heart pounding heavily, sweating profusely and in near shock as I tried to overcome the MSG-laden consommé. I survived to return to our table and continue my usual over-indulgence when faced with a long buffet steam table.

 

But times have changed. I now try to avoid MSG, salt and buffets. And I attend 55+ events (I am well qualified). And I walk.

 

In keeping with one of the expo’s themes, I decided I should walk home. It’s not a long trek but an interesting one that promises a never-before-traipsed excursion through the wastelands of industrial backlots. It got off to a good start with the discovery of a lost memorial wreath, still with its wire stand and faded plastic flowers attached, propped against a large corrugated wall. Next the crucifix-like Leon’s sign reclining against the furniture store’s back wall. I suppose it was waiting to be dragged to its final resting spot, high above the store’s barren parking lot.

 

And so the journey continues, revealing a theme of aging and decay and death - not too dissimilar to the 55+ expo’s  alarmist messaging.

 

Soon came the hulking mass of the recently built and almost immediately deserted Target Store. The store’s name is gone but the inscription on this thoroughly branded mausoleum, with its cherry red motif, should be: 

 

Here lies the carcass of Target Canada, the spoiled child of a retail giant who, misreading its loyal subjects and incurring their wrath, killed itself. 

 

As I continued homeward along Omand’s Creek Greenway, it was at least reassuring that I have outlived Target.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All photos were taken with an iPhone 5 and lightly adjusted in Lightroom Mobile on an iPad Mini 3.

 

David

 

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dfirman@mts.net (David Firman Photoworks) Winnipeg photography psychogeography walk https://www.firmangallery.com/blog/2015/5/a-55-plus-walkabout Thu, 28 May 2015 13:00:00 GMT
Walking the Camino de Santiago, A Photo Essay: Day 20 https://www.firmangallery.com/blog/2015/5/walking-the-camino-de-santiago-a-photo-essay-day-20 Day 20: Mansilla de las Mulas to LeónDay 20: Mansilla de las Mulas to León

 

The walk into León is a wet but short 19 kilometers. 

 

It's a rare opportunity to journey on foot from the perimeter of a city to its core. For instance, who has ever walked from semi-rural, semi-urban Headingley at the outer edge of Winnipeg to the Exchange District at the city’s core? The Camino forces that opportunity on each pilgrim as he or she is transported from some bucolic rural landscape, through forest paths or along charming canals and into the messy backlots that surround big cities like Pamplona, Burgos, León and Santiago.

 

First come the small industrial enterprises with their concrete block or tin sheds, rusting signs, broken fences and junk strewn about. Then come the pedestrian-defying highways and interchanges, requiring passage through all sorts of circuitous paths, bridges and tunnels. Gradually the density of the city increases. First we pass fenced enclaves, the more formal palaces of industrial giants. Architecturally decorated boxes surrounded by nicely landscaped grounds and parking lots. Then  come the commercial big box outlets plying furniture and cars. Finally newer residential neighborhoods appear. This is usually where the navigation becomes tricky. City roads sprout in all directions from roundabouts and confusing intersections. Spotting whatever symbol the city has adopted as a navigation aid for the baffled pilgrim becomes a ‘Where’s Waldo’ exercise. A painted yellow arrow on a light post? A shell icon embedded in the sidewalk? Getting temporarily lost is almost guaranteed. 

 

But we pilgrims are lucky. At least here the Camino path is respected alongside the endless expansion of cities and roads. No matter how tortured the pedestrian route might be, at least there is one. And it works. It’s an infrastructure that is likely non-existent in any other city. Because who, in their right mind, would dare to wander a city's cross-section?   

 

Today, the reward for our suburban journey is the the medieval core of León. 

 

We first make our way to San Marcos, a pilgrim hospice founded in 1152. The structure built at that time is long gone, replaced by the superb Renaissance monastery we enter today. Construction started in 1515, but it took 200 years to complete. An important transformation - at least for weary modern-day pilgrims like us - occurred in 1961, when the monastery was remade into one of Spain’s elite Parador hotels. This would be our luxurious digs for two nights.

 

León is a very agreeable place for a Camino day's rest. There are pleasant streets to be lazily plied and major architectural landmarks to be explored.

 

It is easy to spend several hours weaving through this massive 13th Century Gothic cathedral. At the time of our visit in 2012, there was a significant restoration project underway. The interior was marred by scaffolding criss-crossing the central nave. However, this allowed us to see the church from a unique perspective. 

 

Before entering the church for the first time, we happened upon a just-starting tour of the restoration work. We jumped on the opportunity. Donning hardhats, we climbed scaffolding outside the cathedral, scaling stone walls, winding through flying buttresses and crossing terra-cotta roof tiles. Our guide slid a panel aside. revealing our entrance into the church. A stained glass window had been removed from its pointed-arch stone frame, barely taller than a person. We had to duck our heads to pass through. Then, raising our gaze, we were greeted with an overwhelming panorama of vibrant colours. As each of us entered through that small aperture, our jaws dropped. Light poured in through large expanses medieval stained glass, just a few feet from our eyes. Here we were, high above the floor of the central nave, at eye level with the translucent artistry of medieval craftsmen, their delicate work set in a frame of impossibly slender stone columns reaching up to the tracery in the Gothic roof not far above. It was a powerful experience.

 

A visit to Casa de Botines may seem anticlimactic, placed next to the Cathedral. Not so if you are a fan of Antoni Gaudí, the famed Catalán architect from Barcelona. This is one of two chances to see a Gaudí building on the Camino Francés route (the other is in Astorga). Built in 1892 in just 10 months, it was originally a department store on the main floor with residences above. Cathedral comparisons can be made. The rugged stone exterior is Gothic-inspired, a favourite motif in Gaudi’s early work. At the same time, you can see him using it as a creative springboard, inventing his own unique style in the process. Inside, the floors are supported by slender iron columns, which would have been novel and daring in 1892. But no more daring than the thin stone columns miraculously holding up the roof in the Cathedral.

 

It was an exciting day of architectural explorations, capped by an evening organ concert in the Cathedral. We headed back to our deluxe room, an excellent pizza from Solopizza in hand and a fine bottle of Spanish red waiting on our bedside table.

 

Tomorrow, we walk again.

 

    

This is the fourteenth of a number of planned posts to my on-going Walking the Camino de Santiago, A Photo Essay. If you have any observations or your own Camino experiences to relate, feel free to use the Comments section below.

 

If you are interested in purchasing prints for any of the photographs in this series of Camino de Santiago blog posts, they can be ordered directly from my website at www.firmangallery.com/camino-frances

 

 

Day 20: Mansilla de las Mulas to LeónDay 20: Mansilla de las Mulas to León

 

 

Day 20: Mansilla de las Mulas to LeónParador "Hostal San Marcos"

 

 

Day 20: Mansilla de las Mulas to LeónParador "Hostal San Marcos"

 

 

Day 20: Mansilla de las Mulas to LeónParador "Hostal San Marcos"

 

 

Day 20: Mansilla de las Mulas to LeónParador "Hostal San Marcos"

 

 

Day 20: Mansilla de las Mulas to LeónParador "Hostal San Marcos"

 

 

Day 20: Mansilla de las Mulas to LeónCasa de Botines

 

 

Day 20: Mansilla de las Mulas to LeónCasa de Botines

 

 

Day 20: Mansilla de las Mulas to LeónLeón

 

 

Day 20: Mansilla de las Mulas to LeónLeón Cathedral

 

 

Day 20: Mansilla de las Mulas to LeónLeón Cathedral

 

 

Day 20: Mansilla de las Mulas to LeónLeón Cathedral

 

 

Day 20: Mansilla de las Mulas to LeónLeón Cathedral

 

 

Day 20: Mansilla de las Mulas to LeónLeón Cathedral

 

 

Day 20: Mansilla de las Mulas to LeónLeón Cathedral

 

 

Day 20: Mansilla de las Mulas to LeónLeón

 

 

Day 20: Mansilla de las Mulas to LeónLeón

 

 

Day 20: Mansilla de las Mulas to LeónLeón

 

 

Day 20: Mansilla de las Mulas to LeónLeón

 

 

Day 20: Mansilla de las Mulas to LeónLeón

 

 

Day 20: Mansilla de las Mulas to LeónLeón Cathedral

 

 

Day 20: Mansilla de las Mulas to LeónParador "Hostal San Marcos"

 

 

Day 20: Mansilla de las Mulas to LeónParador "Hostal San Marcos"

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dfirman@mts.net (David Firman Photoworks) Camino de Santiago Europe photography walk https://www.firmangallery.com/blog/2015/5/walking-the-camino-de-santiago-a-photo-essay-day-20 Thu, 21 May 2015 13:00:00 GMT
Walking the Camino de Santiago, A Photo Essay: Days 18 and 19 https://www.firmangallery.com/blog/2015/5/walking-the-camino-de-santiago-a-photo-essay-days-18-and-19 Day 18: Terradillos de los Templarios to El Burgo RaneroDay 18: Terradillos de los Templarios to El Burgo Ranero

 

Rain. It has a way of stripping away sentimental thoughts. Yes, the colours are more vibrant. And there is a fragrance of grass in the air. 

 

But the grey sky presses down as we tread through puddles - boots, socks and feet ever more damp. The rain pelts against our glistening rainwear. Water ripples across our glasses, distorting the flat Spanish landscape.

 

Rain. It frames our travels for the next two days.

 

The 31-kilometre walk to El Burgo Ranero takes us through a drearily wet landscape, dotted with beauty, tinged with tragedy. At the midpoint lies Sahagún, historically an important Christian and economic hub. It was originally divided into religious and ethnic sections for Franks, Jews, Muslims and Christians. Jews in particular were attracted to Sahagún although, well before final expulsion in 1492, the population was largely decimated through riots in 1127 and upheavals in 1391. Perhaps it is imaginary rough justice, but today there remains only four of the nine original Romanesque churches and some of these are in danger of collapse. We leave town, passing through the Arch of San Benito, remains of the 1662 entrance to the long-gone church of the Monasterio de San Facundo.

 

Our path continues on an overly straight path, first passing a memorial to a fallen pilgrim, then the lonely hermitage of the Virgen de los Dolores. Next comes a recently tagged wayside bench with a disquieting reminder of persistent Jewish tensions. Our long, soggy walk terminates in El Burgo Ranero, a sleepy village of 250 souls. 

 

The next day is more of the same. More rain. More grey. But the journey is shorter, a brief 19 kilometers to Mansilla de las Mulas. And the destination is rewarding, worth exploring after an early arrival and settling into our cozy room with its four-poster bed at the Alberguería del Camino. 

 

Mansilla is a town with Roman origins. Its rectangular Roman town plan is still evident. The Moorish population was expelled in 10th century. By the 12th century, fortified walls were erected around the town. Still largely intact, the Mudéjar-style stone walls - three metres thick in places -  give Mansilla its charming medieval appeal. There are two remaining gates and several towers along the perimeter. At least one can be climbed on precarious stone stairs. This affords a great view over the entire town. 

 

Our two grey days of walking end with a colourful meal - paprika-dusted grilled octopus and a bottle of rich red wine at the restaurant La Curiosa.

 

 

 

This is the thirteenth of a number of planned posts to my on-going Walking the Camino de Santiago, A Photo Essay. If you have any observations or your own Camino experiences to relate, feel free to use the Comments section below.

 

If you are interested in purchasing prints for any of the photographs in this series of Camino de Santiago blog posts, they can be ordered directly from my website at www.firmangallery.com/camino-frances

 
 

Day 18: Terradillos de los Templarios to El Burgo RaneroDay 18: Terradillos de los Templarios to El Burgo Ranero

 

 

Day 18: Terradillos de los Templarios to El Burgo RaneroDay 18: Terradillos de los Templarios to El Burgo Ranero

 

 

Day 18: Terradillos de los Templarios to El Burgo RaneroDay 18: Terradillos de los Templarios to El Burgo Ranero

 

 

Day 18: Terradillos de los Templarios to El Burgo Ranero (Ermita de la Virgen del Puente)Day 18: Terradillos de los Templarios to El Burgo Ranero (Ermita de la Virgen del Puente)

 

 

Day 18: Terradillos de los Templarios to El Burgo Ranero (Sahagún)Day 18: Terradillos de los Templarios to El Burgo Ranero (Sahagún)

 

 

Day 18: Terradillos de los Templarios to El Burgo Ranero (Ermita de Nuestra Señora de Perales)Day 18: Terradillos de los Templarios to El Burgo Ranero (Ermita de Nuestra Señora de Perales)

 

 

Day 18: Terradillos de los Templarios to El Burgo RaneroDay 18: Terradillos de los Templarios to El Burgo Ranero

 

 

Day 18: Terradillos de los Templarios to El Burgo Ranero (Bercianos del Real Camino)Day 18: Terradillos de los Templarios to El Burgo Ranero (Bercianos del Real Camino)

 

 

Day 18: Terradillos de los Templarios to El Burgo RaneroDay 18: Terradillos de los Templarios to El Burgo Ranero

 

 

Day 18: Terradillos de los Templarios to El Burgo RaneroDay 18: Terradillos de los Templarios to El Burgo Ranero

 

 

Day 18: Terradillos de los Templarios to El Burgo Ranero (El Burgo de Ranero)Day 18: Terradillos de los Templarios to El Burgo Ranero (El Burgo de Ranero)

 

 

Day 19: El Burgo Ranero to Mansilla de las MulasDay 19: El Burgo Ranero to Mansilla de las Mulas

 

 

Day 19: El Burgo Ranero to Mansilla de las MulasDay 19: El Burgo Ranero to Mansilla de las Mulas

 

 

Day 19: El Burgo Ranero to Mansilla de las Mulas (Reliegos)Day 19: El Burgo Ranero to Mansilla de las Mulas (Reliegos)

 

 

Day 19: El Burgo Ranero to Mansilla de las Mulas (Mansilla)Day 19: El Burgo Ranero to Mansilla de las Mulas (Mansilla)

 

 

Day 19: El Burgo Ranero to Mansilla de las Mulas (Mansilla)Day 19: El Burgo Ranero to Mansilla de las Mulas (Mansilla)

 

 

Day 19: El Burgo Ranero to Mansilla de las Mulas (Mansilla)Day 19: El Burgo Ranero to Mansilla de las Mulas (Mansilla)

 

 

Day 19: El Burgo Ranero to Mansilla de las Mulas (Mansilla)Day 19: El Burgo Ranero to Mansilla de las Mulas (Mansilla)

 

 

Day 19: El Burgo Ranero to Mansilla de las Mulas (Mansilla)  Photo by Gail PerryDay 19: El Burgo Ranero to Mansilla de las Mulas (Mansilla) Photo by Gail Perry

 

 

Day 19: El Burgo Ranero to Mansilla de las Mulas (Mansilla)Day 19: El Burgo Ranero to Mansilla de las Mulas (Mansilla)

 

 

Day 19: El Burgo Ranero to Mansilla de las Mulas (Mansilla)Day 19: El Burgo Ranero to Mansilla de las Mulas (Mansilla)

 

 

Day 19: El Burgo Ranero to Mansilla de las Mulas (Mansilla)Day 19: El Burgo Ranero to Mansilla de las Mulas (Mansilla)

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dfirman@mts.net (David Firman Photoworks) Camino de Santiago Europe photography walk https://www.firmangallery.com/blog/2015/5/walking-the-camino-de-santiago-a-photo-essay-days-18-and-19 Thu, 14 May 2015 13:00:00 GMT
Plane Jane Redux https://www.firmangallery.com/blog/2015/5/plane-jane-redux

 

 

Sixteen people joined us on a blustery Sunday afternoon as we wound our way through several Winnipeg neighbourhoods, finally arriving at our destination about three hours later. This was our Jane’s Walk for 2015. Plane Jane: A Walk to Winnipeg Airport. 

 

Technically, it could have been a quick two hour-long walk at a reasonable walking pace. But there were a number of worthwhile pauses along the way. My partner Gail took time to discuss several architectural and historic highlights, such as the historic St. James Church, one of Winnipeg’s oldest structures, and the much more recent Brutalist-designed Stevenson-Brittannia School. I took on less tangible topics, such as the impact of noise bylaws on local residential development and the evolution of our aerospace industry, a history of rockets and jet engines. This technology hides inside the massive industrial sheds, in the structures that loomed over us tiny pedestrians as we neared the airport.

 

No less important was our pause at an impromptu lemonade stand in the residential King Edward neighbourhood. A delightfully unexpected stop for us walkers and no doubt an unexpected revenue-booster for the young entrepreneurs serving cool drinks and homemade cookies. 

 

From the airport, we made our way to Omand’s Creek (or Omand Creek or Omands Creek, depending on which authority is consulted). With the wind at our backs and the sun finally on our faces, we quietly strolled down the Omand’s Creek Greenway Trail, back to our starting point. It was about 5:00 pm, the end of a long but enjoyable journey through spaces both familiar and unexplored. 

 

What follows is a catalogue of pictures taken over the past few weeks, some from Sunday’s walk, others from exploratory walks Gail and I undertook to refine Plane Jane.

 

If you could not make our Jane’s Walk or you're inspired to explore your city’s own industrial no-man’s land (and, yes every city has them), take a look at my ‘handbook’ for such adventures. “A Dérive to the Airport”. You’ll find it in my Blurb Store (U.S. and Canada). 

 

And who know? Maybe we'll reprise this walk next May: 

 

Plane Jane Again.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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dfirman@mts.net (David Firman Photoworks) Winnipeg photography walk https://www.firmangallery.com/blog/2015/5/plane-jane-redux Thu, 07 May 2015 13:00:00 GMT
Plane Jane: Coming This Sunday! https://www.firmangallery.com/blog/2015/4/coming-this-sunday

 

It's a crazy idea, something you're not supposed to do. But walking to YWG, whether for pleasure or to catch a flight, is entirely possible. We’ve done it. For the adventure of exploring places normally off the pedestrian road map. And for kick-starting a travel-light, carry-on-only vacation to Europe.

 

Want to try it, too? Then join us on our 3-4 hour round trip, starting in the Wolseley neighbourhood and winding through residential, commercial and industrial areas to James Richardson International Airport. We’ll return by way of Omand's Creek, as it takes us by strip malls and big box stores  -- all those place you usually drive to  -- and through surprising stretches of restored prairie. 

 

En route, we'll explore such architectural gems as St. James Church, find hidden vest-pocket parks, investigate austere industrial parks and reflect on airports lost and new. But, most importantly, we’ll take ownership of places in our city where no pedestrian was meant to tread. And, who knows? Maybe your next Hawaiian junket will start with a jaunt to the airport.

 

Gail and I were on a local radio show to promote Jane’s Walk in Winnipeg as well as our own walk to the airport. You can download the recording here: http://www.umfm.com/programming/shows/episode/33309/

 

We hope you can make join us this Sunday!

 

 

Start Location

 

We will be assembling on our front yard at 521 Raglan Road. That’s at the west edge of the Wolseley neighbourhood, just off Portage Avenue. Rae and Jerry’s Steakhouse is just across  Portage Avenue from Raglan Avenue. There will be a washroom available as well as a cup of lemonade to get you started.

 

Parking/Public Transportation

 

There is ample street parking on Raglan Road with no time limit on weekends.

 

There are bus stops on Portage Avenue at or near Raglan Road (when travelling from the west) and at Valour Road (coming from the east), at most 290 metres or a 4-minute walk.

 

Start Time

 

The tour will start at 12:00 pm (noon) on Sunday, May 3, 2015.

 

Walk Duration

 

This is a 12-kilometer round-trip walk that will likely take 3-4 hours. The actual timing will depend on the pace of the group, breaks for washrooms, coffee, pie, etc.

 

There is an option to walk just half the distance by taking a bus or taxi back from the airport to the starting point.

 

Route Description

 

We will follow sylvan paths and roads along the Assiniboine River, then cross Portage Avenue into the King Edward neighbourhood and walk along its quiet residential streets. This suddenly gives way to stark commercial/industrial development as we head north on Berry Street, west on Sergent Avenue, north on Flight Road, past the site of the former airport and into the arrivals lounge of the current airport. Leaving the airport, we will walk east on Wellington Avenue through the St. James Industrial Park to Empress Street. Here we will connect with the Omands Creek Greenway, through a mix of prairie preserve and commercial development. The Greenway path leads us directly back to the starting point of our walk in Wolseley. 

 

A larger version of the route map below can be found here: http://alltrails.com/tracks/plane-jane-a-walk-to-ywg

 

Accessibility

 

Unfortunately the path is not recommended for wheelchairs. Although the path is generally accessible, there are  a few sections that require hopping over curbs and crossing grassed landscaping. Omands Creek Greenway generally has a smooth flat surface but maintenance of the path is not always up to scratch and there are a few rough sections that a wheelchair could not navigate.

 

What to Bring/What to Wear

 

This is a fairly long walk so you should wear substantial shoes, such as good quality runners. Hiking boots are not necessary. Sandals are not recommended.

 

Bring a bottle of water to keep you hydrated.

 

Watch the weather for the day of the walk and bring a small backpack with a light jacket and rain wear as the forecast demands.

 

And bring a small camera! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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dfirman@mts.net (David Firman Photoworks) Janes Walk Winnipeg walk https://www.firmangallery.com/blog/2015/4/coming-this-sunday Thu, 30 Apr 2015 13:00:00 GMT
Plane Jane: A Jane’s Walk to Winnipeg Airport https://www.firmangallery.com/blog/2015/4/plane-jane-a-walk-to-winnipeg-airport

 

 

 

 

On May 3, 2015, my wife Gail Perry, and I will be leading a Jane’s Walk from our sylvan Wolseley neighbourhood to the James Richardson International Airport (YWG).

 

Jane’s Walk is an international phenomena, a day or two each year where citizens across the globe lead tours of their neighbourhoods, talk about what works, what has failed and challenges faced.

 

Jane’s Walks are dedicated to the memory of Jane Jacobs (1916-2006). Jane was an urbanist who reflected in a common sense, community-based understanding of how cities function - or don’t function - beautifully illuminated in her 1961 treatise, The Death and Life of Great American Cities.

 

“No one can find what will work for our cities by looking at … suburban garden cities, manipulating scale models, or inventing dream cities. You’ve got to get out and walk.” 
Jane Jacobs said that in 1957. Welcome to Jane’s Walk.

 

If you have been following my blog posts on walkclickmake, you will know two things:

 

First, my wife and I like to walk. Short walks in our Winnipeg home base. Long walks across countries like Spain (the 900 km Camino de Santiago), the Czech Republic (the 600 km Prague-to-Vienna Greenway) and, this fall, Japan (the 1100 km pilgrimage around the island of Shikoku).

 

Second, as a photographer my current work focusses on the creative intersection of my two favourite occupations: photography and walking. Two recent projects (documented on walkclickmake and made into small art books), explore this theme:  "Walking Styxx: a month of psychogeographic walks with a greyhound" and "A Dérive to the Airport” (the precursor of this Jane’s Walk).

 

Both titles are rooted in psychogeographic experiments. “Psychogeography” is a term of art adopted by Guy Debord and promoted by the Situationist International in 1955 to describe an unplanned, uncharted, pedestrian amble (called a dérive or drift) designed to take the walker beyond the conventions of imposed road maps, directions, what-have-you to, understand geography on a purely sensory level.

 

Walking to YWG will truly take you out of charted pedestrian territory. It is a chance to experience a part of our city from a perspective typically only glimpsed at through the car windshield. At pedestrian speed and out of the vehicle’s protective steel shell, the walker can appreciate the nuances of a human-scaled residential neighbourhood crouching in the shadows of a mega-scaled industrial landscape.

 

On our Jane’s Walk, we will be providing the usual historic information about this building and that person. However, it is important to value the experiential value of exploring a part of our city normally out-of-bounds. 

 

My next blog, post will get into the practicalities of our Jane’s Walk. In the meantime, the basic details regarding the walk can be found on the Jane’s Walk website at: http://janeswalk.org/canada/winnipeg/plane-jane-walk-airport/

 

Gail and I look forward to walking with you on May 3!

 
 
 
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dfirman@mts.net (David Firman Photoworks) Janes Walk Winnipeg psychogeography walk https://www.firmangallery.com/blog/2015/4/plane-jane-a-walk-to-winnipeg-airport Thu, 23 Apr 2015 13:00:00 GMT
Walking the Camino de Santiago, A Photo Essay: Days 16 and 17 https://www.firmangallery.com/blog/2015/4/walking-the-camino-de-santiago-a-photo-essay-days-16-and-17 Day 16: Frómista to Carrión de los CondesDay 16: Frómista to Carrión de los Condes

 

The 21-kilometre tramp from Frómista to Carrión de los Condes takes us further into the Meseta. Here, the villages are fewer, the land is flatter. Quiet reigns supreme. This is the time to count footsteps, the chant of the long-distance walker, as we cross this vast, open landscape at an almost imperceptible pace.

 

Along the way, we pass through Villalcázar de Sirga. This outpost of the Knights Templar - defenders of the Camino route - was founded after 1157. Although the Knights quickly built a substantial fortified complex and church, Villalcázar was not originally on the Camino route. That the route shifted south through town many years later is in no small part due to detouring pilgrims who experienced miracles in Villalcázar. Late in the 13th Century, numerous songs and poems (cantigas) were written about the wandering pilgrims and their miraculous cures. And, before you know it, the Camino itself itself was changed.

 

What remains of the Templar complex is the Iglesia de Santa María la Blanca, a rather stubby pile of stone dominating the small community. It is the victim of a 1888 earthquake that resulted in the collapse of its west end. Even earlier bad luck saw the destruction of the rest of the extensive Templar complex due to a 1755 earthquake and 1808 war with the French. For the modern pilgrim, the surviving church - a miracle in its own right - is certainly worth a visit for its monumental entrance porch and high-altar retablo.

 

Our day ends in Carrión de los Condes, where we stay at the wonderful Monasterio de San Zolio. Recently, the monk’s quarters have been converted into a luxury hotel, akin to a Parador. It had been a short-walk day, leaving us time to wander through the monastery’s Renaissance cloister, under elaborately carved ceiling arches that come to rest on sculptural keystones depicting a vast array of saints and kings. 

 

The next day’s 27-kilometre walk is yet one more stretch into the increasingly sparse Meseta, with just two tiny villages along its length. But the skies are blue, the clouds puffy and the path pleasant. At day’s end is Terradillos de los Templarios, a small cluster of 80 people. It’s a quiet, rural community where the residents disappear behind stone walls, and the streets are all but empty of life. A village bypassed by the autopistas and modern life. We stay at the private albergue, the only accommodation in town. What a difference to last night’s room!

 

 

 

This is the twelfth of a number of planned posts to my on-going Walking the Camino de Santiago, A Photo Essay. If you have any observations or your own Camino experiences to relate, feel free to use the Comments section below.

 

If you are interested in purchasing prints for any of the photographs in this series of Camino de Santiago blog posts, they can be ordered directly from my website at www.firmangallery.com/camino-frances

 

Day 16: Frómista to Carrión de los CondesDay 16: Frómista to Carrión de los Condes

 

 

Day 16: Frómista to Carrión de los CondesDay 16: Frómista to Carrión de los Condes

 

 

Day 16: Frómista to Carrión de los Condes (Villacázar de Sirga)Day 16: Frómista to Carrión de los Condes (Villacázar de Sirga)

 

 

Day 16: Frómista to Carrión de los Condes (Villacázar de Sirga)Day 16: Frómista to Carrión de los Condes (Villacázar de Sirga)

 

 

Day 16: Frómista to Carrión de los Condes (Villacázar de Sirga)Day 16: Frómista to Carrión de los Condes (Villacázar de Sirga)

 

 

Day 16: Frómista to Carrión de los CondesDay 16: Frómista to Carrión de los Condes

 

 

Day 16: Frómista to Carrión de los Condes (Carrión de los Condes)Day 16: Frómista to Carrión de los Condes (Carrión de los Condes)

 

 

Day 16: Frómista to Carrión de los Condes (Carrión de los Condes)Day 16: Frómista to Carrión de los Condes (Carrión de los Condes)

 

 

Day 16: Frómista to Carrión de los Condes (Carrión de los Condes)Day 16: Frómista to Carrión de los Condes (Carrión de los Condes)

 

 

Day 16: Frómista to Carrión de los Condes (Carrión de los Condes)Day 16: Frómista to Carrión de los Condes (Carrión de los Condes)

 

 

Day 16: Frómista to Carrión de los Condes (Carrión de los Condes)Day 16: Frómista to Carrión de los Condes (Carrión de los Condes)

 

 

Day 17: Carrión de los Condes to Terradillos de los Templarios (Carrión de los Condes)Day 17: Carrión de los Condes to Terradillos de los Templarios (Carrión de los Condes)

 

 

Day 17: Carrión de los Condes to Terradillos de los TemplariosDay 17: Carrión de los Condes to Terradillos de los Templarios

 

 

Day 17: Carrión de los Condes to Terradillos de los TemplariosDay 17: Carrión de los Condes to Terradillos de los Templarios

 

 

Day 17: Carrión de los Condes to Terradillos de los TemplariosDay 17: Carrión de los Condes to Terradillos de los Templarios

 

 

Day 17: Carrión de los Condes to Terradillos de los TemplariosDay 17: Carrión de los Condes to Terradillos de los Templarios

 

 

Day 17: Carrión de los Condes to Terradillos de los Templarios (Ledigos)Day 17: Carrión de los Condes to Terradillos de los Templarios (Ledigos)

 

 

Day 17: Carrión de los Condes to Terradillos de los Templarios (Terradillos de los Templarios)Day 17: Carrión de los Condes to Terradillos de los Templarios (Terradillos de los Templarios)

 

 

Day 17: Carrión de los Condes to Terradillos de los Templarios (Terradillos de los Templarios)Day 17: Carrión de los Condes to Terradillos de los Templarios (Terradillos de los Templarios)

 

 

Day 17: Carrión de los Condes to Terradillos de los Templarios (Terradillos de los Templarios)Day 17: Carrión de los Condes to Terradillos de los Templarios (Terradillos de los Templarios)

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dfirman@mts.net (David Firman Photoworks) Camino de Santiago Europe photography walk https://www.firmangallery.com/blog/2015/4/walking-the-camino-de-santiago-a-photo-essay-days-16-and-17 Thu, 16 Apr 2015 13:00:00 GMT
Walking the Camino de Santiago, A Photo Essay: Day 15 https://www.firmangallery.com/blog/2015/4/walking-the-camino-de-santiago-a-photo-essay-day-15 Day 15: Castrojeriz to FrómistaDay 15: Castrojeriz to Frómista

 

We left Castojeriz enveloped in a cool early morning fog, soon shot through with long shadows cast by the rising sun as we climb a steep slope to the Meseta plateau. This was the start of our 25-kilometre walk across flat land and deep blue skies towards Frómista.

 

We had heard from fellow pilgrims that the Meseta was a cruel, unrelenting and boring place to cross. A number contemplated bypassing it by bus or taxi. To us, this was inconceivable. Here was an opportunity to tramp across a prairie environment not unlike our own prairie home in Manitoba. 

 

The difference here is the existence of an organized pedestrian-oriented pathway. Today’s walk was almost entirely on earthen paths separate from vehicular roads. Along the way are humble villages spaced 10 kilometers apart, more-or-less, and offering a place for a bocadillo (sandwich) and a cafe con leche, or a glass of rosado to wash it down. And then, at the end of a long day, there is always a town with a comfortable place to stay.

 

The Canadian prairies are not organized around the needs of pilgrims and despite the development of the Trans Canada Trail over Canada, the path across Manitoba would require lots of travel alongside busy highways. Nor is there reliable infrastructure of accommodations or places to drop in for a bite to eat. It is a place best (and deservedly) explored by car. 

 

Today, we slowly glide across this big land, the most abundant grain-growing area in Spain, and reflect on our so-similar Manitoba landscape.

 

Frómista is a pleasant small town of 800 with a very significant church at its centre. The Iglesia de San Martin had its start in 1066. It was meant to be a Camino-worthy place of worship and its architect, inspired by the Jaca Cathedral, definitely met that goal. Although arguably over-restored (there is a model of its pre-1896 appearance in the church), it remains one of the best examples of the regional Jaca-style Romanesque. It is a sturdy block, illuminated with delicate Romanesque features inside and out. And, in our case, illuminated by the flowing white gauzy sweep of a newly wed couple, exiting the church to begin their new life.

 

   

 

This is the eleventh of a number of planned posts to my on-going Walking the Camino de Santiago, A Photo Essay. If you have any observations or your own Camino experiences to relate, feel free to use the Comments section below.

 

If you are interested in purchasing prints for any of the photographs in this series of Camino de Santiago blog posts, they can be ordered directly from my website at www.firmangallery.com/camino-frances

 
 

Day 15: Castrojeriz to FrómistaDay 15: Castrojeriz to Frómista

 

 

Day 15: Castrojeriz to FrómistaDay 15: Castrojeriz to Frómista

 

 

Day 15: Castrojeriz to FrómistaDay 15: Castrojeriz to Frómista

 

 

Day 15: Castrojeriz to FrómistaDay 15: Castrojeriz to Frómista

 

 

Day 15: Castrojeriz to Frómista (Itero de la Vega)Day 15: Castrojeriz to Frómista (Itero de la Vega)

 

 

Day 15: Castrojeriz to FrómistaDay 15: Castrojeriz to Frómista

 

 

Day 15: Castrojeriz to FrómistaDay 15: Castrojeriz to Frómista

 

 

Day 15: Castrojeriz to FrómistaDay 15: Castrojeriz to Frómista

 

 

Day 15: Castrojeriz to FrómistaDay 15: Castrojeriz to Frómista

 

 

Day 15: Castrojeriz to FrómistaDay 15: Castrojeriz to Frómista

 

 

Day 15: Castrojeriz to Frómista (Canal de Castilla)Day 15: Castrojeriz to Frómista (Canal de Castilla)

 

 

Day 15: Castrojeriz to Frómista (Frómista)Day 15: Castrojeriz to Frómista (Frómista)

 

 

Day 15: Castrojeriz to Frómista (Frómista)Day 15: Castrojeriz to Frómista (Frómista)

 

 

Day 15: Castrojeriz to Frómista (Frómista)Day 15: Castrojeriz to Frómista (Frómista)

 

 

Day 15: Castrojeriz to Frómista (Frómista)Day 15: Castrojeriz to Frómista (Frómista)

 

 

Day 15: Castrojeriz to Frómista (Frómista)Day 15: Castrojeriz to Frómista (Frómista)

 

 

Day 15: Castrojeriz to Frómista (Frómista)Day 15: Castrojeriz to Frómista (Frómista)

 

 

Day 15: Castrojeriz to Frómista (Frómista)Day 15: Castrojeriz to Frómista (Frómista)

 

 

Day 15: Castrojeriz to Frómista (Frómista)Day 15: Castrojeriz to Frómista (Frómista)

 

 

Day 15: Castrojeriz to Frómista (Frómista)Day 15: Castrojeriz to Frómista (Frómista)

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dfirman@mts.net (David Firman Photoworks) Camino de Santiago Europe photography walk https://www.firmangallery.com/blog/2015/4/walking-the-camino-de-santiago-a-photo-essay-day-15 Thu, 09 Apr 2015 13:00:00 GMT
Walking the Camino de Santiago, A Photo Essay: Days 13 and 14 https://www.firmangallery.com/blog/2015/4/walking-the-camino-de-santiago-a-photo-essay-days-13-and-14 Day 13: Burgos to Hornillos del CaminoDay 13: Burgos to Hornillos del Camino

 

 

 

Today we leave behind the big-city trappings of Burgos and head into the vast plains of the Meseta. 

 

Occupying forty percent of the Spanish landmass, the Meseta is a sparsely populated plateau -  flat, largely treeless, hot in summer, cold in winter. It is a surrogate home to we dwellers of the Canadian Prairies. The similarities in landscape and climate are everywhere. Only the culture varies, our own small communities of wood-framed structures replaced here with stone villages and soaring churches.

 

The spareness of the Meseta is its strength. It is the perfect complement to a spiritual journey along the Camino path, dominated as it is with an overtly religious stream of churches and cathedrals. Here we tread across the barely-decorated Romanesque plane of earth while, above us, Baroque clouds drift across a vividly blue sky dome. 

 

We slowly make our way across this land, heading to Hornillos del Camino, some 20 kilometres distant. There are fewer villages along the way. Instead, we encounter rolling farmland and pastures occasionally inhabited by a herd of sheep or a random farmer. Hornillos is a quaint rural community of 100. Stone houses line its only street, stretching from one end of town to the other along the Camino route. We spend the evening drifting up and down the empty street, visiting the village church and dining at the one restaurant. By this time, the dark, quiet street outside our hostel is hinting that we should be in bed.

 

Our next day’s walk continues 20 kilometers across the Meseta landscape to Castrojeriz. 

 

It is a pleasantly warm mid-October day spent under blue skies. The villages are sparse but welcome. Like our approach to Hontanas. Set in a shallow valley, the community suddenly reveals itself, a tight cluster of low rooftops. Above peaks the domed tower of the 14th Century Church of the Immaculada Concepción. 

 

A little further along are the ruins of the monastery and hospital of the Order of San Antón. Here our Camino path passes right through a Gothic-arched stone gateway. Once roofed, this 14-15th Century portico was intended to shelter late-arriving pilgrims for the night.

 

Our day ends in Castrojeriz. This sleepy community of 600 is dominated by a castle-on-a-hill. Our evening’s entertainment is a climb to the castle walls, with fabulous views over the countryside. The castle itself has a long history with pre-Roman origins. What we see today is the rebuilt, Middle Ages version. As well, the ‘hill’ we stand on is not really a hill. It is the ancient top surface of the Meseta plateau and, off in the distance, we can see the other side of that ancient plateau. In between, where Castrojeriz sits, is a valley carved by centuries of erosion.

 

Yet another reference to our Manitoba prairie and its glacially carved Pembina Valley.    

 

 

 

This is the tenth of a number of planned posts to my on-going Walking the Camino de Santiago, A Photo Essay. If you have any observations or your own Camino experiences to relate, feel free to use the Comments section below.

 

If you are interested in purchasing prints for any of the photographs in this series of Camino de Santiago blog posts, they can be ordered directly from my website at www.firmangallery.com/camino-frances

 
 

Day 13: Burgos to Hornillos del CaminoDay 13: Burgos to Hornillos del Camino

 

 

Day 13: Burgos to Hornillos del Camino (Rabé de las Calzados)Day 13: Burgos to Hornillos del Camino (Rabé de las Calzados)

 

 

Day 13: Burgos to Hornillos del Camino (Rabé de las Calzados)Day 13: Burgos to Hornillos del Camino (Rabé de las Calzados)

 

 

Day 13: Burgos to Hornillos del Camino (Rabé de las Calzados)Day 13: Burgos to Hornillos del Camino (Rabé de las Calzados)

 

 

Day 13: Burgos to Hornillos del CaminoDay 13: Burgos to Hornillos del Camino

 

 

Day 13: Burgos to Hornillos del CaminoDay 13: Burgos to Hornillos del Camino

 

 

Day 13: Burgos to Hornillos del CaminoDay 13: Burgos to Hornillos del Camino

 

 

Day 13: Burgos to Hornillos del Camino (Hornillos del Camino)Day 13: Burgos to Hornillos del Camino (Hornillos del Camino)

 

 

Day 13: Burgos to Hornillos del Camino (Hornillos del Camino)Day 13: Burgos to Hornillos del Camino (Hornillos del Camino)

 

 

Day 13: Burgos to Hornillos del Camino (Hornillos del Camino)Day 13: Burgos to Hornillos del Camino (Hornillos del Camino)

 

 

Day 14: Hornillos del Camino to CastrojerizDay 14: Hornillos del Camino to Castrojeriz

 

 

Day 14: Hornillos del Camino to CastrojerizDay 14: Hornillos del Camino to Castrojeriz

 

 

Day 14: Hornillos del Camino to CastrojerizDay 14: Hornillos del Camino to Castrojeriz

 

 

Day 14: Hornillos del Camino to CastrojerizDay 14: Hornillos del Camino to Castrojeriz

 

 

Day 14: Hornillos del Camino to CastrojerizDay 14: Hornillos del Camino to Castrojeriz

 

 

Day 14: Hornillos del Camino to CastrojerizDay 14: Hornillos del Camino to Castrojeriz

 

 

Day 14: Hornillos del Camino to Castrojeriz (Hontanas)Day 14: Hornillos del Camino to Castrojeriz (Hontanas)

 

 

Day 14: Hornillos del Camino to Castrojeriz (San Antón)Day 14: Hornillos del Camino to Castrojeriz (San Antón)

 

 

Day 14: Hornillos del Camino to Castrojeriz (San Antón)Day 14: Hornillos del Camino to Castrojeriz (San Antón)

 

 

Day 14: Hornillos del Camino to Castrojeriz (Castrojeriz)Day 14: Hornillos del Camino to Castrojeriz (Castrojeriz)

 

 

Day 14: Hornillos del Camino to Castrojeriz (Castrojeriz)Day 14: Hornillos del Camino to Castrojeriz (Castrojeriz)

 

 

Day 14: Hornillos del Camino to Castrojeriz (Castrojeriz)Day 14: Hornillos del Camino to Castrojeriz (Castrojeriz)

 

 

Day 14: Hornillos del Camino to Castrojeriz (Castrojeriz)Day 14: Hornillos del Camino to Castrojeriz (Castrojeriz)

 

 

Day 14: Hornillos del Camino to Castrojeriz (Castrojeriz)Day 14: Hornillos del Camino to Castrojeriz (Castrojeriz)

 

 

Day 14: Hornillos del Camino to Castrojeriz (Castrojeriz)Day 14: Hornillos del Camino to Castrojeriz (Castrojeriz)

 

 

Day 14: Hornillos del Camino to Castrojeriz (Castrojeriz)Day 14: Hornillos del Camino to Castrojeriz (Castrojeriz)

 

 

 

 

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dfirman@mts.net (David Firman Photoworks) Camino de Santiago Europe photography walk https://www.firmangallery.com/blog/2015/4/walking-the-camino-de-santiago-a-photo-essay-days-13-and-14 Thu, 02 Apr 2015 13:00:00 GMT
Walking the Camino de Santiago, A Photo Essay: Day 12 https://www.firmangallery.com/blog/2015/3/walking-the-camino-de-santiago-a-photo-essay-day-12 Day 12: San Juan de Ortega to BurgosDay 12: San Juan de Ortega to Burgos

 

The 26-kilometre path to Burgos crosses a vast swath of human history. 

 

It starts with a midday traverse of Atapuerca. Here, in limestone caves below the Atapuerca Massif, archaeologists uncovered (in 1994) a cache of human remains stretching across a pre-Christian era of 127,000 to 1,000,000 years ago. These are the oldest human remains in all of Europe and, by far, the largest repository of those remains. The caves are off-limits to mere living descendants but we can ponder our pagan past as we mount the massif.

 

At the top, the view opens to our first glimpse of the Meseta, a broad plain that will take several days to cross as our pilgrimage continues westward. But before that, there is the sprawl of Burgos. There are two approaches to this old-yet-modern city of 170,000. One follows a (reportedly) idyllic path along rio Arlanzón. We chose the ‘industrial-duty’ path instead, plunging us headlong into a world of truck routes and fields of parking lots, dotted with vast one-story warehouses for furniture, cars and what-have-you. It is our path of choice, a chance to experience modern Spain. Which has a striking resemblance to the outskirts (and occasionally the ‘inskirts’) of North American cities. Or to the initial pilgrimage we traipsed two weeks earlier, from the front door of our Winnipeg house to the airport, through a comparably ‘modern’ part of our city’s urbanscape. A global, post-Christian world.

 

This Spanish version suddenly gives way to a medieval city centre, full of the busy, narrow streets and charming squares that we have become acquainted with on our journey. At its core, dominating with its scale, architectural finesse and sheer audacity, is the Cathedral. Here is a city worth spending an extra day to explore - as we did - if for no more a reason than to spend that day with this magnificent church building. But there are paseos to be strolled in the early evening glow, squares to be discovered after dark and regional food to be savoured, such as the rich Morcilla, or blood sausage.

 

Finally, to complete our journey along the human timeline, we visit the Museum of Human Evolution. Fittingly located across the river from the Christian core of Burgos, this new museum “tries to offer a holistic vision of human presence on the Earth” - or so the museum’s website asserts - using a variety of contemporary, interactive displays to interpret the nearby Atapuerca finds. Like the Cathedral, this is a place worth spending a day to explore. 

 

 

Day 12: San Juan de Ortega to Burgos (Atapuerca)Day 12: San Juan de Ortega to Burgos (Atapuerca)

 

 

Day 12: San Juan de Ortega to BurgosDay 12: San Juan de Ortega to Burgos

 

 

Day 12: San Juan de Ortega to BurgosDay 12: San Juan de Ortega to Burgos

 

 

Day 12: San Juan de Ortega to Burgos (Cardeñuela Rio Pico)Day 12: San Juan de Ortega to Burgos (Cardeñuela Rio Pico)

 

 

Day 12: San Juan de Ortega to Burgos (Villafría)Day 12: San Juan de Ortega to Burgos (Villafría)

 

 

Day 12: San Juan de Ortega to Burgos (Burgos)Day 12: San Juan de Ortega to Burgos (Burgos)

 

 

Day 12: San Juan de Ortega to Burgos (Burgos)Day 12: San Juan de Ortega to Burgos (Burgos)

 

 

Day 12: San Juan de Ortega to Burgos (Burgos)Day 12: San Juan de Ortega to Burgos (Burgos)

 

 

Day 12: San Juan de Ortega to Burgos (Burgos)Day 12: San Juan de Ortega to Burgos (Burgos)

 

 

Day 12: San Juan de Ortega to Burgos (Burgos)Day 12: San Juan de Ortega to Burgos (Burgos)

 

 

Day 12: San Juan de Ortega to Burgos (Burgos)Day 12: San Juan de Ortega to Burgos (Burgos)

 

 

Day 12: San Juan de Ortega to Burgos (Burgos)Day 12: San Juan de Ortega to Burgos (Burgos)

 

 

Day 12: San Juan de Ortega to Burgos (Burgos)Morcilla (Burgos)

 

 

Day 12: San Juan de Ortega to Burgos (Burgos)Day 12: San Juan de Ortega to Burgos (Burgos)

 

 

Day 12: San Juan de Ortega to Burgos (Burgos)Day 12: San Juan de Ortega to Burgos (Burgos)

 

 

Day 12: San Juan de Ortega to Burgos (Burgos)Day 12: San Juan de Ortega to Burgos (Burgos)

 

 

Day 12: San Juan de Ortega to Burgos (Burgos)Day 12: San Juan de Ortega to Burgos (Burgos)

 

 

Day 12: San Juan de Ortega to Burgos (Burgos)Day 12: San Juan de Ortega to Burgos (Burgos)

 

 

Day 12: San Juan de Ortega to Burgos (Burgos)Day 12: San Juan de Ortega to Burgos (Burgos)

 

 

BurgosBurgos

 

 

Day 12: San Juan de Ortega to Burgos (Burgos)Day 12: San Juan de Ortega to Burgos (Burgos)

 

 

Day 12: San Juan de Ortega to Burgos (Burgos)Day 12: San Juan de Ortega to Burgos (Burgos)

 

 

BurgosBurgos

 

 

BurgosBurgos

 

 

BurgosBurgos

 

 

BurgosBurgos

 

 

BurgosBurgos

 

 

BurgosMuseum of Human Evolution, Burgos

 

 

BurgosMuseum of Human Evolution, Burgos

 

This is the ninth of a number of planned posts to my on-going Walking the Camino de Santiago, A Photo Essay. If you have any observations or your own Camino experiences to relate, feel free to use the Comments section below.

 

If you are interested in purchasing prints for any of the photographs in this series of Camino de Santiago blog posts, they can be ordered directly from my website at www.firmangallery.com/camino-frances

 

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dfirman@mts.net (David Firman Photoworks) Camino de Santiago Europe photography walk https://www.firmangallery.com/blog/2015/3/walking-the-camino-de-santiago-a-photo-essay-day-12 Thu, 26 Mar 2015 13:00:00 GMT
Walking the Camino de Santiago, A Photo Essay: Days 10 and 11 https://www.firmangallery.com/blog/2015/3/walking-the-camino-de-santiago-a-photo-essay-days-10-and-11 Day 10: Santo Domingo to Belorado (Santo Domingo de la Calzada)Day 10: Santo Domingo to Belorado (Santo Domingo de la Calzada)

 

The 23-kilometre trek from Santo Domingo to Belorado contrasted two worlds. 

To one side ran the slick, modern national highway N-120. Its twin ribbons of factory-fresh asphalt crossed the flat, brown landscape, requiring costly overpasses to lead pilgrims from one side to the other. Cars fly through this flat land, missing the details of an agricultural economy struggling to stay afloat. I can’t claim to be an economist, but the visual evidence of small villages pockmarked with ruined buildings is everywhere. It’s not that the urban decay suddenly started after Santo Domingo. It has gradually seeped into our consciousness over the past days of walking. But here, against the monied optimism of super highways connecting city super-centres, the collapse of small rural economies is all the more apparent.

 

The day suitably ends in Belorado, a charming town with a matter-of-fact rural attitude.

 

Leaving Belorado the next morning, we pass by more ruined buildings. The trail now parts way with the highway and begins its slow climb to San Juan de Ortega, 24 kilometres away, a pleasant day of walking through fields. At least for us. 

 

Fortunately, we had looked at our Brierley guide soon after arriving in Belorado, the night before. San Juan, our next-day’s destination, had a meagre population of 30! And there was only one albergue and one pension! On the phone, we managed to secure what was (we later found out) the last room at San Juan’s sole pension, La Henera.

 

San Juan de Ortega was indeed a tiny hamlet with the Camino being its sole means of support. Pilgrims poured into town that afternoon, most forced to bunk in the dormitory-style albergue, nestled in the ruins of the stone monastery. Sound romantic? It proved less than wonderful at the practical level, as fellow pilgrims later reported there was a master snorer in their midst!. By contrast, our private room in the brand new pension (within eyeshot of the albergue), was embarrassingly palatial. Dining at the one small restaurant in town was a further challenge. Its few tables were in high demand by famished walkers.

 

San Juan de Ortega was established in the early 1100’s with the sole purpose of assisting pilgrims on the Camino. We can thank Juan Velásquez, a local man of humble background, who set off on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 1109, got shipwrecked on his way home and prayed to San Nicolás de Barí that, if saved, he would devote the rest of his life to helping pilgrims. It worked and Juan followed through on his promise. San Juan became his hospice in the woods and, although it garnered early patronage and grew to include a church and monastery, the hamlet constantly struggled to survive.

 

The Church of San Juan de Ortega was likely built by Juan in the 12th century and then added-to repeatedly through the 15th century. This is the still-functioning core of the hamlet. About it are the massive walls of the deserted monastery. We walked around the perimeter walls with their uniformly distributed punched openings, once windows looking out from a thriving hospice. And then through the few quiet streets of the hamlet with their occasional ruined home. 

 

Juan’s promise lives on as a vulnerable counterpoint to the modern world. 

 

 

Day 10: Santo Domingo to BeloradoDay 10: Santo Domingo to Belorado

 

 

Day 10: Santo Domingo to BeloradoDay 10: Santo Domingo to Belorado

 

 

Day 10: Santo Domingo to BeloradoDay 10: Santo Domingo to Belorado

 

 

Day 10: Santo Domingo to BeloradoDay 10: Santo Domingo to Belorado

 

 

Day 10: Santo Domingo to Belorado (Grañón)Day 10: Santo Domingo to Belorado (Grañón)

 

 

Day 10: Santo Domingo to Belorado (Grañón)Day 10: Santo Domingo to Belorado (Grañón)

 

 

Day 10: Santo Domingo to Belorado (Castildelgado)Day 10: Santo Domingo to Belorado (Castildelgado)

 

 

Day 10: Santo Domingo to Belorado (Castildelgado)Day 10: Santo Domingo to Belorado (Castildelgado)

 

 

Day 10: Santo Domingo to Belorado (Castildelgado)Day 10: Santo Domingo to Belorado (Castildelgado)

 

 

Day 10: Santo Domingo to Belorado (Castildelgado)Day 10: Santo Domingo to Belorado (Castildelgado)

 

 

Day 10: Santo Domingo to Belorado (Belorado)Day 10: Santo Domingo to Belorado (Belorado)

 

 

Day 10: Santo Domingo to Belorado (Belorado)Day 10: Santo Domingo to Belorado (Belorado)

 

 

Day 10: Santo Domingo to Belorado (Belorado)Day 10: Santo Domingo to Belorado (Belorado)

 

 

Day 10: Santo Domingo to Belorado (Belorado)Day 10: Santo Domingo to Belorado (Belorado)

 

 

Day 11: Belorado to San Juan de Ortega (Belorado)Day 11: Belorado to San Juan de Ortega (Belorado)

 

 

Day 11: Belorado to San Juan de OrtegaDay 11: Belorado to San Juan de Ortega

 

 

Day 11: Belorado to San Juan de OrtegaDay 11: Belorado to San Juan de Ortega

 

 

Day 11: Belorado to San Juan de OrtegaDay 11: Belorado to San Juan de Ortega

 

 

Day 11: Belorado to San Juan de OrtegaDay 11: Belorado to San Juan de Ortega

 

 

 

Day 11: Belorado to San Juan de Ortega (Villafranca Montes de Oca)Day 11: Belorado to San Juan de Ortega (Villafranca Montes de Oca)

 

 

Day 11: Belorado to San Juan de Ortega (San Juan de Ortega)Day 11: Belorado to San Juan de Ortega (San Juan de Ortega)

 

 

Day 11: Belorado to San Juan de Ortega (San Juan de Ortega)Day 11: Belorado to San Juan de Ortega (San Juan de Ortega)

 

 

Day 11: Belorado to San Juan de Ortega (San Juan de Ortega)Day 11: Belorado to San Juan de Ortega (San Juan de Ortega)

 

 

Day 11: Belorado to San Juan de Ortega (San Juan de Ortega)Day 11: Belorado to San Juan de Ortega (San Juan de Ortega)

 

 

Day 11: Belorado to San Juan de Ortega (San Juan de Ortega)Day 11: Belorado to San Juan de Ortega (San Juan de Ortega)

 

 

Day 11: Belorado to San Juan de Ortega (San Juan de Ortega)Day 11: Belorado to San Juan de Ortega (San Juan de Ortega)

 

 

Day 11: Belorado to San Juan de Ortega (San Juan de Ortega)Day 11: Belorado to San Juan de Ortega (San Juan de Ortega)

 

 

Day 11: Belorado to San Juan de Ortega (San Juan de Ortega)Day 11: Belorado to San Juan de Ortega (La Henera, San Juan de Ortega)

 

This is the eighth of a number of planned posts to my on-going Walking the Camino de Santiago, A Photo Essay. If you have any observations or your own Camino experiences to relate, feel free to use the Comments section below.

 

If you are interested in purchasing prints for any of the photographs in this series of Camino de Santiago blog posts, they can be ordered directly from my website at www.firmangallery.com/camino-frances

 
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dfirman@mts.net (David Firman Photoworks) Camino de Santiago Europe photography walk https://www.firmangallery.com/blog/2015/3/walking-the-camino-de-santiago-a-photo-essay-days-10-and-11 Thu, 19 Mar 2015 13:00:00 GMT
Walking the Camino de Santiago, A Photo Essay: Day 9 https://www.firmangallery.com/blog/2015/3/walking-the-camino-de-santiago-a-photo-essay-day-9 Day 9: Nájera to Santo DomingoDay 9: Nájera to Santo Domingo

 

Today’s 24-kilometre walk would lead us to three unique religious experiences.

 

We left Nájera at first light on another beautiful blue-sky day, the sun rising over our shoulders, casting its long shadows towards our destination, Santo Domingo de la Calzada. We soon arrived at the 500-person hamlet of Azofra and made the proper decision to wander off the Camino path to the Cistercian Abbey of Santa María de Cañas. It would add a few kilometres to our day’s walk but John Brierley’s guidebook, the bible of all English-speaking pilgrims, suggested it was a well-spent journey.

 

The route to Cañas is not a wonderful experience. It is almost entirely on the shoulders of mercifully minor roads. But this is farming country. Traffic consisted of tractors, huge grape harvesting machines, relieved by the occasional, silent senior wobbling past us on his antique bicycle.

 

Slowly the abbey at Cañas reveals itself over the fields of ripe grapes, a massive structure dating back to 1170. Rumour has it that Saint Francis of Assisi followed our route on his way to Santiago and stayed at the abbey. It is a hard building to comprehend as the route winds its way along the austere Gothic exterior, arriving at an almost invisible point of entry. Once inside, the true beauty and power of this structure becomes apparent. Delicate stone columns and arches reach up to the roof of the 13th century church. Walls are punched with large gothic windows, infilled with translucent alabaster panels that bathe the interior with a milky light. In the adjoining chapter room is the 13th century stone tomb of Urraca López de Haro, abbess and daughter of the abbey’s founder. The tomb is wrapped in a superb sculptural frieze illustrating abbey life, all softly illuminated by the alabaster windows above,. 

 

It is a powerful space, almost modern in its minimalism. And quiet. We are the only pilgrims who have ventured here. We have this place to ourselves.

 

We remain completely off-camino as we continue our detour along the shoulder of unmarked roads to Cirueña, where we rejoin the pilgrim path to Santo Domingo de la Calzada.

 

There is an important cathedral in Santo Domingo, offering a walking tour of early architectural styles stretching from its origins in 1098 to the 16th century.  A few hours spent here is worthwhile. But what brings this cathedral to life is the music of a youth choir, voices echoing through the forest of stone columns. 

 

The day’s third religious experience is one of earthly delights. Over the years, Spain has established an exceptional network of Paradores, historic buildings converted to luxurious hotels. Santo Domingo is the first community on the Camino Francés to offer a Parador experience. In fact, there are now two here. Fortunate for us since we arrived without reservations and the main Parador across from the cathedral is full. 

 

We head to the newer one, Parador de Santo Domingo Bernardo de Fresneda, inside the sensitively renovated Convento de San Fransisco from the 16th century. It is not an inexpensive treat (from 85 Euros) but it is a wonderful way to repose, for at least one night, in a historic place intimately connected with the Camino. After a long day on the Camino, bathing in the alabaster-filtered light of a Cistercian abbey and enjoying sonorous voices resonating between the stone arches of Santo Domingo’s cathedral, there is no better way to end… with a great meal in this grandly-scaled monastery.

 

This is the seventh of a number of planned posts to my on-going Walking the Camino de Santiago, A Photo Essay. If you have any observations or your own Camino experiences to relate, feel free to use the Comments section below.

 

If you are interested in purchasing prints for any of the photographs in this series of Camino de Santiago blog posts, they can be ordered directly from my website at www.firmangallery.com/camino-frances

 
 
 

Day 9: Nájera to Santo Domingo (Azofra)Day 9: Nájera to Santo Domingo (Azofra)

 

 

Day 9: Nájera to Santo Domingo (Azofra)Day 9: Nájera to Santo Domingo (Azofra)

 

 

Day 9: Nájera to Santo DomingoDay 9: Nájera to Santo Domingo

 

 

Day 9: Nájera to Santo Domingo (Abadía Cisterciense in Cañas)Day 9: Nájera to Santo Domingo (Abadía Cisterciense in Cañas)

 

 

Day 9: Nájera to Santo Domingo (Abadía Cisterciense in Cañas)Day 9: Nájera to Santo Domingo (Abadía Cisterciense in Cañas)

 

 

Day 9: Nájera to Santo Domingo (Abadía Cisterciense in Cañas)Day 9: Nájera to Santo Domingo (Abadía Cisterciense in Cañas)

 

 

Day 9: Nájera to Santo Domingo (Abadía Cisterciense in Cañas)Day 9: Nájera to Santo Domingo (Abadía Cisterciense in Cañas)

 

 

Day 9: Nájera to Santo Domingo (Abadía Cisterciense in Cañas)Day 9: Nájera to Santo Domingo (Abadía Cisterciense in Cañas)

 

 

Day 9: Nájera to Santo Domingo (Abadía Cisterciense in Cañas)Day 9: Nájera to Santo Domingo (Abadía Cisterciense in Cañas)

 

 

Day 9: Nájera to Santo Domingo (Abadía Cisterciense in Cañas)Day 9: Nájera to Santo Domingo (Abadía Cisterciense in Cañas)

 

 

Day 9: Nájera to Santo Domingo (Abadía Cisterciense in Cañas)Day 9: Nájera to Santo Domingo (Abadía Cisterciense in Cañas)

 

 

Day 9: Nájera to Santo Domingo (Cañas)Day 9: Nájera to Santo Domingo (Cañas)

 

 

Day 9 Nájera to Santo DomingoDay 9 Nájera to Santo Domingo

 

 

Day 9 Nájera to Santo DomingoDay 9 Nájera to Santo Domingo

 

 

Day 9 Nájera to Santo DomingoDay 9 Nájera to Santo Domingo

 

 

Day 9: Nájera to Santo Domingo (Santo Domingo de la Calzada)Day 9: Nájera to Santo Domingo (Santo Domingo de la Calzada)

 

 

Day 9: Nájera to Santo Domingo (Santo Domingo de la Calzada)Day 9: Nájera to Santo Domingo (Santo Domingo de la Calzada)

 

 

Day 9: Nájera to Santo Domingo (Santo Domingo de la Calzada)Day 9: Nájera to Santo Domingo (Santo Domingo de la Calzada)

 

 

Day 9: Nájera to Santo Domingo (Santo Domingo de la Calzada)Day 9: Nájera to Santo Domingo (Santo Domingo de la Calzada)

 

 

Day 9: Nájera to Santo Domingo (Santo Domingo de la Calzada)Day 9: Nájera to Santo Domingo (Santo Domingo de la Calzada)

 

 

Day 9: Nájera to Santo Domingo (Parador de Santo Domingo Bernardo de Fresneda)Day 9: Nájera to Santo Domingo (Parador de Santo Domingo Bernardo de Fresneda)

 

 

Day 9: Nájera to Santo Domingo (Parador de Santo Domingo Bernardo de Fresneda)Day 9: Nájera to Santo Domingo (Parador de Santo Domingo Bernardo de Fresneda)

 

 

Day 9: Nájera to Santo Domingo (Santo Domingo de la Calzada)Day 9: Nájera to Santo Domingo (Santo Domingo de la Calzada)

 

 

Day 9: Nájera to Santo Domingo (Santo Domingo de la Calzada)Day 9: Nájera to Santo Domingo (Santo Domingo de la Calzada)

 

 

Day 9: Nájera to Santo Domingo (Santo Domingo de la Calzada)Day 9: Nájera to Santo Domingo (Santo Domingo de la Calzada)

 

 

Day 9: Nájera to Santo Domingo (Santo Domingo de la Calzada)Day 9: Nájera to Santo Domingo (Santo Domingo de la Calzada)

 

 

Day 9: Nájera to Santo Domingo (Santo Domingo de la Calzada)Day 9: Nájera to Santo Domingo (Santo Domingo de la Calzada)

 

 

Day 9: Nájera to Santo Domingo (Parador de Santo Domingo Bernardo de Fresneda)Day 9: Nájera to Santo Domingo (Parador de Santo Domingo Bernardo de Fresneda)

 

 

Day 9: Nájera to Santo Domingo (Parador de Santo Domingo Bernardo de Fresneda)Day 9: Nájera to Santo Domingo (Parador de Santo Domingo Bernardo de Fresneda)

 

This is the seventh of a number of planned posts to my on-going Walking the Camino de Santiago, A Photo Essay. If you have any observations or your own Camino experiences to relate, feel free to use the Comments section below.

 

If you are interested in purchasing prints for any of the photographs in this series of Camino de Santiago blog posts, they can be ordered directly from my website at www.firmangallery.com/camino-frances

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dfirman@mts.net (David Firman Photoworks) Camino de Santiago Europe photography walk https://www.firmangallery.com/blog/2015/3/walking-the-camino-de-santiago-a-photo-essay-day-9 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 13:00:00 GMT
Walking the Camino de Santiago, A Photo Essay: Days 7 and 8 https://www.firmangallery.com/blog/2015/3/walking-the-camino-de-santiago-a-photo-essay-days-7-and-8 Day 7: Los Arcos to Logroño (Los Arcos)

 

It was still cool and dark when we left Los Arcos on our long 29-kilometre journey to Logroño. Soon the blackness gave way to deep blue skies, criss-crossed with orange contrails as the sun made its way over the horizon. 

 

By the time we were bathed in warmth, we had arrived at the historic pilgrimage village of Torres del Rio. Its architectural highlight is the Iglesia del Santo Sepulcro, an octagonal stone chapel rising above the rest of the community. It’s a handsome Romanesque structure with a range of historic possibilities. Some believe it to be an outpost of the Knights Templar, 12th century defenders of the Camino. Others that it is a funeral chapel. Some say it might have acted as a lighthouse, the caretaker climbing the attached circular staircase to the lantern above and lighting a flame to guide late-arriving pilgrims to the village. Regardless, it is worth paying the small fee to visit inside, a simple, well-proportioned space, walls minimally decorated with chiseled stone bands and capitals, surmounted by an intricate ceiling of crossed stone arches.

 

We walk onward to Vianna, a 12th century town of 3,500. Again, history takes centre stage. Some of its original Roman walls can still be found. There is the requisite church, Iglesia de Santa Maria de la Asunción, dating from 1250. The town centre is dominated by the 1673 Baroque-style Ayuntamiento (town hall). Nearer the edge of town are the romantic ruins of the gothic Iglesia de San Pedro, now a pleasant park in which to have a picnic lunch while enjoying the structural acrobatics and craftsmanship of the church’s 13th century artisans. 

 

Just as we are about to arrive at Logroño, we cross a very important frontier; we are passing from the province of Navarra into La Rioja, from one wine district to another. Logroño is the capital of La Rioja region, certainly a worthy first place to sip deep red Rioja wine. And to explore, in a slightly tipsy fashion, Logroño’s narrow pedestrian streets.

 
 

Day 7: Los Arcos to Logroño (Los Arcos)

 

 

Day 7: Los Arcos to Logroño (Los Arcos)

 

 

Day 7: Los Arcos to Logroño

 

 

Day 7: Los Arcos to Logroño (Iglesia de Santo Sepulcro in Torres del Rio)

 

 

Day 7: Los Arcos to Logroño (Iglesia de Santo Sepulcro in Torres del Rio)

 

 

Day 7: Los Arcos to Logroño (Iglesia de Santo Sepulcro in Torres del Rio)

 

 

Day 7: Los Arcos to Logroño (Viana)

 

 

Day 7: Los Arcos to Logroño (Viana)

 

 

Day 7: Los Arcos to Logroño (Viana)

 

 

Day 7: Los Arcos to Logroño

 

 

Day 7: Los Arcos to Logroño (Logroño)

 

 

Day 7: Los Arcos to Logroño (Logroño)

 

 

Day 7: Los Arcos to Logroño (Logroño)

 

 

Day 7: Los Arcos to Logroño (Logroño)

 

 

Day 7: Los Arcos to Logroño (Logroño)

 

 

Day 7: Los Arcos to Logroño (Logroño)

 

 

Day 7: Los Arcos to Logroño (Logroño)

 

 

Day 7: Los Arcos to Logroño (Logroño)

 

We are greeted the next day by another early start. Our next stopover will be Nájera, 30 kilometres away. We leave Logroño along an attractively-groomed Camino trail. Fields of plump purple grapes, ready for harvest, are the stars of this day’s walk. But there is one small town of note: Navarette. At its centre is the Iglesia de La Asunción. Its restrained stone exterior is an early example of the Renaissance style in Rioja. But, inside, restraint gives way to a Baroque explosion as we approach the altar and its gold-encrusted retablo. It is an interesting counterpoint to yesterday’s simple but equally evocative Santo Sepulcro in Torres del Rio.

 

We finally arrive at Nájera, too tired to do much more than wander the streets, sip once more on Rioja and rest for the next day. Another long one. 

 
 

Day 8: Logroño to Nájera

 

 

Day 8: Logroño to Nájera

 

 

Day 8: Logroño to Nájera

 

 

Day 8: Logroño to Nájera

 

 

Day 8: Logroño to Nájera

 

 

Day 8: Logroño to Nájera (Navarette)

 

 

Day 8: Logroño to Nájera (Navarette)

 

 

Day 8: Logroño to Nájera (Navarette)

 

 

Day 8: Logroño to Nájera (Navarette)

 

 

Day 8: Logroño to Nájera (Navarette)

 

 

Day 8: Logroño to Nájera (Ventosa)

 

 

Day 8: Logroño to Nájera

 

 

Day 8: Logroño to Nájera

 

 

Day 8: Logroño to Nájera (Nájera)

 

 

Day 8: Logroño to Nájera (Nájera)

 

 

Day 8: Logroño to Nájera (Nájera)

 

 

Day 8: Logroño to Nájera (Nájera)

 

This is the sixth of a number of planned posts to my on-going Walking the Camino de Santiago, A Photo Essay. If you have any observations or your own Camino experiences to relate, feel free to use the Comments section below.

 

If you are interested in purchasing prints for any of the photographs in this series of Camino de Santiago blog posts, they can be ordered directly from my website at www.firmangallery.com/camino-frances

 
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dfirman@mts.net (David Firman Photoworks) Camino de Santiago Europe photography walk https://www.firmangallery.com/blog/2015/3/walking-the-camino-de-santiago-a-photo-essay-days-7-and-8 Thu, 05 Mar 2015 14:00:00 GMT
Walking on Water https://www.firmangallery.com/blog/2015/2/walking-on-water

 

 

 

The places in our cities are usually tangible and touchable. We can return again and again and they will always trigger the same memory. We can feel them beneath our feet. They are places in which to stand or sit or lay. Places to feel the grass beneath us, to watch people come and go, to relax under a treed canopy. Urban squares, promenades, playgrounds, wading pools.

 

Rivers are not one of those places. Composed of ethereal liquid, their currents are to be looked at as opposed to be in. In this respect, we Winnipeggers are the lucky ones, with our colder than cold climate. Here, the liquid geometry of watery highways that normally divide our city into three distinct and separate sectors quickly transforms into its solid state. They become a firm platform, a linear park connecting the city together. A place for urban explorers to experience our city from a new vantage point.

 

And so we do, from a dedicated river trail that, each winter, allows skaters and bikers and walkers and dogs to see Winnipeg in new ways. Even more wonderful is that the form of this winter place varies from year-to-year. Some years the trail extends down the Assiniboine River. Other years it follows the Red. It all depends on many uncontrollable factors: temperature, water flow, timing, luck. 

 

This year the path extends solely down the Red River, a six kilometer-long trail in the middle of a wide, normally impenetrable barrier of water. This fleeting urban space is defined by a good walking path alongside a well-manicured skating trail. Along the way are occasional “warming huts” each the result of an annual international design competition. They are pleasant follies to explore, to be sure. But I most like rambling through the built fabric of our city, turned inside-out to expose the dark underbellies of our bridges and the hidden laundry of backyards and riverside industries lining the edges of this winter promenade. A place that, in a month or so, will no longer exist.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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dfirman@mts.net (David Firman Photoworks) Winnipeg skate walk https://www.firmangallery.com/blog/2015/2/walking-on-water Thu, 26 Feb 2015 14:00:00 GMT
Walking the Camino de Santiago, A Photo Essay: Days 5 and 6 https://www.firmangallery.com/blog/2015/2/walking-the-camino-de-santiago-a-photo-essay-days-5-and-6 Day 5: Puenta la Reina to Estella

 

 

 

 

It was the type of day on the Camino that you wish would never end. The sun soaked us in warmth, demanding that we remove our zippered pant legs as we plied the gentle slopes on our walk to Estella. Along the way, history entertained us, first with the medieval hilltop village of Cirauqui, its streets lined with elegant stone mansions. Soon after, we found ourselves crossing a Roman bridge and treading on paving stones from the original Roman road, Via Traiana, which the Camino follows for most of its length. Next comes the medieval Villatuerta  and its late 14th century Church of the Assumption. 

 

Returning to the gently rolling countryside dotted with groves of olive trees, we come across the ruins of the Ermita de San Miquel Arcángel, of which only a deserted stone chapel remains. Today, its only function is as a place for pilgrims to leave notes and mementos, personal reflections, requests for forgiveness or thanks. These are charming counterpoints to the equally modern messages scrawled on walls all along the trail, often reflecting more troublesome ethnic and political concerns.

 

22 kilometres later, we arrived at our day’s destination, Estella. This town of 15,000 was not on the pilgrim route until it diverted this way in the 12th century. How lucky for us! Its compact network of narrow streets interconnect with several charming squares, such as Plaza Santiago. The balcony of our inexpensive room at Pension San Andrés was a fine lookout over this square. 

 

 

 

Day 5: Puenta la Reina to Estella

 

 

 

Day 5: Puenta la Reina to Estella

 

 

 

Day 5: Puenta la Reina to Estella

 

 

 

Day 5: Puenta la Reina to Estella

 

 

 

Day 5: Puenta la Reina to Estella (Cirauqui)

 

 

 

Day 5: Puenta la Reina to Estella (Cirauqui)

 

 

 

Day 5: Puenta la Reina to Estella

 

 

 

Day 5: Puenta la Reina to Estella

 

 

 

Day 5: Puenta la Reina to Estella

 

 

 

Day 5: Puenta la Reina to Estella

 

 

 

Day 5: Puenta la Reina to Estella

 

 

 

Day 5: Puenta la Reina to Estella

 

 

 

Day 5: Puenta la Reina to Estella (Villatuerta Puente)

 

 

 

Day 5: Puenta la Reina to Estella (Ermita de San Miquel Arcángel)

 

 

 

Day 5: Puenta la Reina to Estella (Ermita de San Miquel Arcángel)

 

 

 

Day 5: Puenta la Reina to Estella (Ermita de San Miquel Arcángel)

 

 

 

Day 5: Puenta la Reina to Estella

 

 

 

Day 5: Puenta la Reina to Estella

 

 

 

Day 5: Puenta la Reina to Estella (Estella)

 

 

 

Day 5: Puenta la Reina to Estella (Estella)

 

 

 

Day 5: Puenta la Reina to Estella (Estella)

 

 

 

Day 5: Puenta la Reina to Estella (Estella)

 

 

 

Day 5: Puenta la Reina to Estella (Estella)

 

 

 

Day 5: Puenta la Reina to Estella (Estella)

 

 

 

Day 5: Puenta la Reina to Estella (Estella)

 

 

 

 

 

The following day gets off to a heady start for all pilgrims. In a few kilometers, still early in the morning, we come across the Bodegas Irache with its spigot of free and freely flowing red Navarra wine. Oh, if only this pitstop was near the end of our day’s journey! After a painfully small cup, we continue on our 21 kilometre trek to Los Arcos. It is, once again, a wonderfully warm October day. Landscape is the dominant feature today as we cross broad, sun-drenched plains and vineyards of sweet, plump red grapes that are just now being harvested.

 

The tiny town of Los Arcos (population 1,300) is dominated by the Iglesia de Santa María de la Asunción. It took 600 years to finish this church, construction stretching from the 12th to the 18th century. Little remains of its early days but the church is an architectural style textbook with its 16th century Flamboyant Gothic cloisters, Renaissance tower, Plateresque entrance and choir stalls, its theatrical 17th century Baroque interior decorations and its 18th century organ in the even more flamboyant Rococo style. 

 

Whew! Time for some equally glorious Navarra wine.

 

 

 

Day 6: Estella to Los Arcos (Fuente de Irache)

 

 

 

Day 6: Estella to Los Arcos

 

 

 

Day 6: Estella to Los Arcos

 

 

 

Day 6: Estella to Los Arcos

 

 

 

Day 6: Estella to Los Arcos

 

 

 

Day 6: Estella to Los Arcos

 

 

 

Day 6: Estella to Los Arcos

 

 

 

Day 6: Estella to Los Arcos (Los Arcos)

 

 

 

Day 6: Estella to Los Arcos (Los Arcos)

 

 

 

Day 6: Estella to Los Arcos (Los Arcos)

 

 

 

Day 6: Estella to Los Arcos (Los Arcos)

 

 

 

Day 6: Estella to Los Arcos (Los Arcos)

 
 
 

This is the fifth of a number of planned posts to my on-going Walking the Camino de Santiago, A Photo Essay. If you have any observations or your own Camino experiences to relate, feel free to use the Comments section below.

 

If you are interested in purchasing prints for any of the photographs in this series of Camino de Santiago blog posts, they can be ordered directly from my website at www.firmangallery.com/camino-frances

 

 

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dfirman@mts.net (David Firman Photoworks) Camino de Santiago Europe photography https://www.firmangallery.com/blog/2015/2/walking-the-camino-de-santiago-a-photo-essay-days-5-and-6 Thu, 19 Feb 2015 14:00:00 GMT
Raw:Almond, Creating a Place on the River https://www.firmangallery.com/blog/2015/2/raw-almond-creating-a-place-on-the-river
 
Often the places we treasure have been hewn and refined over centuries. Others are fleeting experiences, existing for mere moments. Winnipeg’s RAW:Almond restaurant inhabits both of those worlds. 
 
Winnipeg is a city defined by its rivers. Ferocious currents of the Red River cut vertically through  the city on their way north to Lake Winnipeg. From way out west, the Assiniboine River runs its course horizontally, finally pouring into the Red. This watery junction, known these days as The Forks, is a First Nations embryo - over 6,000 years old - that grew to become the City of Winnipeg. 
 
The Forks is typically appreciated from the shoreline. But this is Winnipeg and our extreme climate means that these two waterways will freeze solid for several months each year. It is a process that has being occurring every year since…forever. Only recently has this unique pedestrian access been revived, whether on foot or on skates. It began in the 1980’s with the rediscovery and development of The Forks as a public meeting place. Over the last few years, skating and walking trails, starting at The Forks, have exploited the frozen surfaces of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers, the trails this year running six kilometers south on the Red. The trails are now dotted with “Warming Huts”, architectural follies selected through an annual international design competition.
 
And, over the last three winters, RAW:Almond, a highly successful, internationally respected pop-up restaurant, has occupied a prime location alongside the frozen trail, literally on top of the forks of these two mighty rivers. It is the brainchild of local chef/owner of deer + almond restaurant, MANDEL HITZER, and JOE KALTURNYK, director of RAW:Gallery of architecture and design. Their restaurant is the definition of pop-up. The structure - a skeleton of exposed scaffolding and skin of plastic fabric - magically appears on the ice surface in a matter of days. A coterie of chefs serve five-course culinary excursions to rabid fans over the course of three weeks. And then the whole affair disappears, the river trails shut down and the ice floor breaks into huge bergs smashing their way downstream.
 
This year, the restaurant design was the result of an international design competition. The winning entry by U.K. architects OS31 uses scaffolding and plastic sheeting to create a cruciform reminiscent of the crossing rivers (and perhaps recalling the St. Boniface Cathedral just across the Red River?). 
 
Inside, a roster of guest chefs from across Canada, apply their own design skills to create unique multi-course dinners. It is a convivial, fun atmosphere. Diners sit on fur-topped tree trunks at long tables. Our chef, Kristal Pastorin from Winnipeg’s Grove restaurant, makes the rounds of her table guests, describing each of her five spectacular courses. The always lively Hitzer holds court. 
 
And, just beneath our feet, a few feet of ice separates us from the mighty flow of water on its way to Lake Winnipeg. That is the transient magic of this place in our city. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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dfirman@mts.net (David Firman Photoworks) Winnipeg photography pop-up restaurant https://www.firmangallery.com/blog/2015/2/raw-almond-creating-a-place-on-the-river Fri, 13 Feb 2015 14:00:00 GMT
5 Day Art Challenge https://www.firmangallery.com/blog/2015/2/5-day-art-challenge

 

 

 

The 5 Day Art Challenge is an upscale, Facebook version of the old-fashioned chain letter. One artist nominates another artist to produce or highlight 3 pieces of their own artwork each day over the course of 5 days. Then that artist nominates another artist, presumably a new one on each of the 5 days. And so it continues, starting from some unknown creative quark unfolding into an ever-expanding universe of artists. I have no idea where this challenge started and its rules are somewhat variable. But I did take the challenge as an opportunity to review some of the photographic projects I have undertaken over the past few decades. I found it instructional to review how I have evolved over the years and thought my blog followers might likewise be interested in this fragmented autobiography of their blogger.

 

What follows is the diary of my Facebook posts, the first of 5 consecutive posts appearing on February 6, 2015.   

 

 

 

Day 1

 

I thought I would start off quietly with three images from an unfinished series on Manitoba's quickly disappearing grain elevators. I started the series about 2000. These three are vacant elevators, likely gone by now. Ilford XP2 chromogenic BW 35mm film, scanned. If I recall correctly, this is the last work I did with a film camera.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 2

 

This is my Archambault Pavilion in Transcona. It’s termed a public art project (I won the commission through a Winnipeg Arts Council public art proposal call) but it is art with a definite functional requirement as an outdoor stage. Public art projects are demanding and complex, not for the feint-of-heart. I pursue them because they allow me to explore photography as a sculptural element and use it to create space. My public art projects are more fully presented on my website (see the Public Art tab above).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 3

 

Lately, I have been concentrating on small things. Dogs. Strolls. iPhone photography. And small books. 

 

Here are three books created using Blurb books, a print-on-demand self-publishing platform. The first title, “Three days walking”, was published in 2010 as a test piece based on a series of large-scale canvas prints first exhibited at Martha Street studios. The other two are smaller 7" x 7" books, both published last year: “A Dérive to the Airport” and “Walking Styxx: a month of psychogeographic walks with a greyhound”. I particularly like these small books as a tiny, affordable way to present an entire project. 

 

If you would like to view the pages of any of these books, go to my Blurb bookstore at http://www.blurb.ca/user/store/davidfirman Feel free to buy one while you're there! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 4

 

This is a set of photos taken one night on a walk through the Exchange District in Winnipeg. It’s part of my Atlas of Reveries series that follows various sunrise and sunset walks through urban environments. A "map" charts each journey but the images themselves are more dreamlike responses to the path taken. Other walks from this series can be viewed at http://www.firmangallery.com/atlas-of-reveries My plan is to revisit this project, improve the maps, add a few more walks that never got finished and put them in a small Blurb book. Stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 5

 

This is a series of pictures taken during a 2008 walk through Kensington Market in Toronto. They are part of my expansive Walk Project, which is fully documented on my website at www.firmangallery.com/walk

 

Kensington Market carries special memories for me. In the mid-1960’s my dad would take me on trips to Kensington Market where we would pick up loaves of fresh egg bread and pots of soft cream cheese with chives to take back to our home in London. I can still recall the jostling crowds, the smells of the bakery, the taste of that cream cheese. 

 

My dad died - very young - in 1969 and my mum, seeking support of family and friends, moved our family back to her roots in Manitoba. Mum and I are still happily ensconced in this province but, when visiting Toronto, Kensington Market is always on my itinerary. The little cream cheese shop is still there but the neighbourhood has otherwise continued to transform itself in new and wonderful ways. If anything, the neighbourhood is more diverse, the scents more aromatic, the hubbub more intense.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kensington Market, UmbrellaKensington Market, Umbrella

 

 

 

 

 

 

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dfirman@mts.net (David Firman Photoworks) art challenge facebook photography https://www.firmangallery.com/blog/2015/2/5-day-art-challenge Thu, 12 Feb 2015 14:00:00 GMT
Clocks for Seeing https://www.firmangallery.com/blog/2015/2/clocks-for-seeing  

 

 

 

 

From December 20, 2014 to May 3, 2015 the National Gallery of Canada will be exhibiting two of my photographs (shown in this post) as part of the group exhibition, Clocks for Seeing: Photography, Time and Motion. The photographs are from the gallery’s permanent collection and were first exhibited in its sister gallery - now absorbed into the National Gallery - the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography.

 

I say all this partly because I am proud to have photographs in the collection of our country’s premiere art gallery but also because of the conceptual underpinnings of the exhibition.

 

The title “Clocks for Seeing” is a phrase coined by Roland Barthes in his seminal book Camera Lucida, Reflections on Photography: 

 

“For me the noise of Time is not sad: I love bells, clocks, watches — and I recall that at first photographic implements were related to techniques of cabinetmaking and the machinery of precision: cameras, in short, were clocks for seeing, and perhaps in me someone very old still hears in the photographic mechanism the living sound of the wood.” 

 

Jonathan Newman, curator of the National Gallery show expands on the concept of time implicit in Barthes’ quotable phrase, “clocks for seeing”:

 

“The invention of photography has had a profound effect on the way we see and know the world. In many ways, this is due to the medium’s relation to time. Photography has opened a window that allows us to see “what was” in ways that were inconceivable before its invention, irrevocably altering our connection to the past. Our histories and memories, both collective and personal, are now shaped by photography and the glimpse (however fragmented and imperfect) it enables into the past. At the other end of the spectrum, photography has extended human vision by allowing us to see the dynamics at play in the tiniest slivers of time. The motion and flux of things that once were beyond the capacity of human perception are now knowable through the frozen moment of the photograph. Clocks for Seeing: Photography, Time and Motion considers the relationship between time and photography through a selection of historical and contemporary photographs that encompass practices ranging from science to art.”

 

At first glance, my long, thin panoramas of the Canadian prairies - part of my Grasslands series - might appear to have but a glancing relevance to either Barthes’ or Newman’s statements. Until you bring the apparatus used to take these pictures into the equation. Take a look at the short video below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is the Cirkut Number 6 Outfit, a c.1916 camera devised to take panoramic images. Someone, in the early decades of the last century, had likely used this very camera to take the long group portraits that this camera was designed for. In the 1990’s, I acquired it as a means to expand the view of my photographic work, which was oriented to landscape subjects. My concern at that time was that, standing as a photographer/observer in a landscape, my understanding of a place, the reason I would want to set up my tripod and camera at a particular spot, was influenced by what lay behind, above and below me as well as what was “the subject” in front of me. The Cirkut camera, capable of taking a full-circle image, approached that need. 

 

What you don’t immediately “see” in the images this camera produces is the clockwork sense of time as the camera rotates. But it is there, the exposure starting at the left end of the panorama and ending at the right edge of the image, 30 seconds or so later. Time is laid out before the viewer, a photographic charting of time as well as place. 

 

What you can’t hear in my Cirkut images is the sound of time passing. That is part of my memory alone, the sound of gears whirring still strong when I view these pictures. As Barthes says, “For me the noise of Time is not sad….”

 

If you find yourself in Ottawa, you can experience the Clocks for Seeing exhibition here:

 

National Gallery of Canada

Prints, Drawings and Photographs Galleries 

380 Sussex Drive,

Ottawa, Ontario,

Canada

 

 

 

 

the demarcation of prairie land, grasslands national park (Saskatchewan), 1992

gelatin silver print

21.3 x 151.2 cm; image: 15.5 x 144.5 cm

Purchased 1996 by the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography (no. EX-96-43)

 

 

Detail, the demarcation of prairie land, grasslands national park (Saskatchewan)

 

 

 

 

tagging the endangered western prairie fringed orchid, saranchuk prairie (near Gardenton, Manitoba), 1994

gelatin silver print

21.2 x 151.9 cm; image: 15.6 x 147 cm

Purchased 1996 by the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography (no. EX-96-42)

 

 

Detail, tagging the endangered western prairie fringed orchid, saranchuk prairie (near Gardenton, Manitoba)

 

 

 

 

 

A Brief Tour of the Clock

 

The Cirkut Number 6 Outfit produces a film negative approximately 6 inches high by 60” long, assuming that a full-circle panorama is taken. The negatives are necessarily contact printed.

 

 

 

 

The front end of the Cirkut Outfit is a standard 5" x 7" Kodak field camera.

 

 

 

 

At the back end, the camera's ground glass/film holder is replaced with the Cirkut attachment.

On the right is the vertical shutter slit, which is held open once the camera is switched on. 

On the left is the spool of 6" wide film attached to the spring-driven motor. Below the drive, is the gear that connects to the tripod base gear when the back is closed. Once the device is switched on, the motor rotates the camera on its turntable base and pulls the film across the shutter slit.  

 
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dfirman@mts.net (David Firman Photoworks) camera cirkut clocks for seeing film panorama photography https://www.firmangallery.com/blog/2015/2/clocks-for-seeing Thu, 05 Feb 2015 14:00:00 GMT
Walking the Camino de Santiago, A Photo Essay: Day 4 https://www.firmangallery.com/blog/2015/1/walking-the-camino-de-santiago-a-photo-essay-day-4 Day 4: Pamplona to Puenta La Reina (leaving Pamplona)

 

 

 

The 24 kilometre walk from Pamplona to Puenta La Reina illustrates the ongoing significance of the Camino to Northern Spain. 

 

It begins with the exit from Pamplona, a contemporary, well-maintained pathway through the suburbs of the city that, at its edge, bids farewell to pilgrims with a modern multi-lingual signpost. It is a sign that, in equal measure, acknowledges the continuing importance of pilgrim traffic to the the character and economy of Pamplona. 

 

Soon the expressways and industry associated with the fringes of all cities fade away, to be replaced with rolling open farmland. It is a post-harvest terrain of freshly-turned brown earth extending to the horizon where it meets the deep blue sky dome, a familiar passage for this Camino couple from the Canadian prairies.

 

After a few kilometres, we begin our 350 metre ascent of Alto del Perdón, the Hill of Forgiveness. For some time, this escarpment has announced its presence on the horizon of this spare landscape, its brow lined with the white lashes of wind turbines. Soon we are climbing directly below their blades as they cut the air with an unwavering whoop-whoop-whoop. 

 

At the crest of the hill, the Camino reasserts itself with a monumental contemporary sculpture rendered in rusting steel. These cutouts of pilgrims remind us of the long history of the Camino, starting in the mid-10th Century and continuing, though with a few quieter periods, right up to the present. The Camino is experiencing a renaissance these days. In 1985, 690 pilgrims followed the route but by 2010, the number rose to an all-time high of 272,703. Judging by the number of pilgrims we encountered so late in the fall of 2012, all crowding restaurants and competing for limited accommodations, it would seem that the Camino’s popularity is not abating.

 

The trail descends rapidly and eventually deposits us at our destination, Puenta La Reina. This small, walled town of 2,000 people dates back to 1122. Its parallel streets run straight through to the Rio Arga and the handsome Romanesque bridge that crosses it. The whole purpose of the town is to provide a safe crossing over the surging river, partly for commercial traffic but primarily for pilgrims on the Camino. Businesses lining its street have served the walker's needs  since the town’s birth, as has the Iglesia del Crucifijo, the Romanesque church operated by the Knights Templar, defenders of the pilgrim route up to the 14th Century.   

 

Also in service of Camino pilgrims since those early days are the Spanish wineries stretching from the Pyrenees to Finisterre. And tonight, as we will do every night on the Camino, we embrace this historical ministration with a fine bottle of local Navarre wine. Buen Camino indeed.

 

 

 

This is the fourth of a number of planned posts to my on-going Walking the Camino de Santiago, A Photo Essay. If you have any observations or your own Camino experiences to relate, feel free to use the Comments section below.

 

If you are interested in purchasing prints for any of the photographs in this series of Camino de Santiago blog posts, they can be ordered directly from my website at www.firmangallery.com/camino-frances

 
 
 
 
Day 4: Pamplona to Puenta La Reina
 
 
 
Day 4: Pamplona to Puenta La Reina (leaving Pamplona)
 
 
 
Day 4: Pamplona to Puenta La Reina (Los Olmos)
 
 
 
Day 4: Pamplona to Puenta La Reina
 
 
 
Day 4: Pamplona to Puenta La Reina
 
 
 
Day 4: Pamplona to Puenta La Reina
 
 
 
Day 4: Pamplona to Puenta La Reina (Zariquiegui)
 
 
 
Day 4: Pamplona to Puenta La Reina (Zariquiegui)
 
 
 
Day 4: Pamplona to Puenta La Reina (Zariquiegui)
 
 
 
Day 4: Pamplona to Puenta La Reina
 
 
 
Day 4: Pamplona to Puenta La Reina (Alto del Perdon)
 
 
 
Day 4: Pamplona to Puenta La Reina (Alto del Perdon)
 
 
 
Day 4: Pamplona to Puenta La Reina (Puenta la Reina)
 
 
 
Day 4: Pamplona to Puenta La Reina (Puenta la Reina)
 
 
 
Day 4: Pamplona to Puenta La Reina (Puenta la Reina)
 
 
 
Day 4: Pamplona to Puenta La Reina (Puenta la Reina)
 
 
 
Day 4: Pamplona to Puenta La Reina (Puenta la Reina)
 
 
 
Day 4: Pamplona to Puenta La Reina (Puenta la Reina)
 
 
 
Day 4: Pamplona to Puenta La Reina (Puenta la Reina)
 
 
 
Day 4: Pamplona to Puenta La Reina (Puenta la Reina)
 
 
 
Day 4: Pamplona to Puenta La Reina (Puenta la Reina)
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dfirman@mts.net (David Firman Photoworks) Camino de Santiago Europe photography https://www.firmangallery.com/blog/2015/1/walking-the-camino-de-santiago-a-photo-essay-day-4 Thu, 29 Jan 2015 14:00:00 GMT
Walking the Camino de Santiago, A Photo Essay: Day 3 https://www.firmangallery.com/blog/2015/1/walking-the-camino-de-santiago-a-photo-essay-day-3 Day 3: Larrasoana to Pamplona (Pamplona)

 

 

 

“Pilgrim, you are in the Basque Country”

 

So proclaims an anonymous tagger on the sidewalk leading into Pamplona. It was not the first or the last scrawl of graffiti we would pass on this portion of the Camino. We were in the heart of  a proud and independent-minded Basque culture, one we first encountered well before starting the Camino in St. Jean Pied-de-Port, further back into France, in the city of Bayonne.

 

We left Larrasoaña at daybreak, venturing further west through Basque country on our leisurely walk of 16 kilometers to Pamplona. It was a welcome change from our first two days. The sun warmed us as we walked up and down gentle hills, through tiny stone hamlets and along the shady banks of the Río Arga. Before long the scenery gave way to the urban edges of Pamplona. We rounded the massive stone fortifications of the La Ciudadela before passing through stone gates and into Navarrería, the old town, built on top of the original Roman outpost. We arrived without hotel reservations but early enough in the day to easily secure our modest room in Pension Escaray, recommended by our Larrasoaña host.

 

Old Pamplona is an intricate network of narrow streets lined with tall buildings. Dark passageways, crowded with locals, suddenly explode into light-filled squares such as the Plaza del Castillo, or reveal architectural gems like Pamplona’s town hall with its frothy Barogue façade. 

 

Along these same narrow streets run bulls during the annual San Fermin Festival, trampling all in their path on their mad dash to the Plaza de Toros de Pamplona. It is not hard to imagine the larger-than-life Ernest Hemingway, impressed by this testosterone-filled event, sipping his wine at a street-side cafe while writing The Sun Also Rises. 

 

At night, the streets and squares come to life with wandering students and pilgrims exploring the rows of bars offering refreshing beer, local Navarra wines and, most importantly, pintxos, the Basque version of tapas, those small snacks that go so well with a drink. It’s a good way to end the day, before hitting the trail again at sunrise. 

 
 

This is the third of a number of planned posts to my on-going Walking the Camino de Santiago, A Photo Essay. If you have any observations or your own Camino experiences to relate, feel free to use the Comments section below. Buen Camino!

 

If you are interested in purchasing prints for any of the photographs in this series of Camino de Santiago blog posts, they can be ordered directly from my website at www.firmangallery.com/camino-france

 

 

Day 3: Larrasoana to Pamplona

 

Day 3: Larrasoana to Pamplona

 

Day 3: Larrasoana to Pamplona

 

Day 3: Larrasoana to Pamplona

 

Day 3: Larrasoana to Pamplona

 

Day 3: Larrasoana to Pamplona (Pamplona)

 

Day 3: Larrasoana to Pamplona (Pamplona)

 

Day 3: Larrasoana to Pamplona (Pamplona)

 

Day 3: Larrasoana to Pamplona (Pamplona)

 

Plaza del Castillo

 

Plaza del Castillo

 

Pamplona Town Hall

 

Pamplona Town Hall

 

Plaza de Toros de Pamplona

 

Day 3: Larrasoana to Pamplona (Pamplona)

 

Day 3: Larrasoana to Pamplona (Pamplona)

 

Pintxos

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dfirman@mts.net (David Firman Photoworks) Camino de Santiago Europe photography https://www.firmangallery.com/blog/2015/1/walking-the-camino-de-santiago-a-photo-essay-day-3 Thu, 22 Jan 2015 14:00:00 GMT
Walking the Camino de Santiago, A Photo Essay: Day 2 https://www.firmangallery.com/blog/2015/1/walking-the-camino-de-santiago-a-photo-essay-day-2 Day 2: Roncesvalles to Larrasoaña

 

 

 

Our second day on the Camino was one of spiritual opposites. 

 

Arriving in Roncesvalles, after having crossed the low Pyrenees, we jostled among the hordes of arriving pilgrims for two beds in the church refugio. We queued in line for a short while before presenting ourselves to reception, humbly asking for a private room. A rolling of eyes and dismissive snort later, we received our assignments of bunk beds, paid our modest fee, got the first stamp for our crisp, new pilgrim passports, or credencial, and trundled off to our garret. 

 

We were not sure how we would fit into the refugio way of travelling. It is, without doubt, the accepted mode of accommodation on the Camino. Refugios, or albergues, are humble, communal lodgings befitting the religious roots of the pilgrimage. Set up by churches and municipalities at regular intervals along the Camino route, they offer very basic sleeping spaces in a dormitory setting for 10 or so Euros per person, often including communal meals and religious service as part of the deal. 

 

We prepared ourselves for refugio stays, packing sleeping bags and earplugs. But, truthfully, we value a bit of privacy at night, our own space in which to relax, a place to discretely have a hot shower.

 

Not that the Roncesvalles albergue was a bad place to spend a night. It was very clean and modern with bunk bed furniture that provided some sense of privacy. But we still looked across to strangers in beds an arm’s length away and it was a long trundle down a corridor in the middle of the night to the bathroom, a reality of the communal lifestyle. 

 

Sleeping concerns aside, the evening ended on a satisfyingly spiritual note. After our first Pilgrim Mass in the gothic Iglesia de Santa María (consecrated 1219), we sat down with new friends for a simple dinner of salad, spaghetti, dessert and wine. This is where bonds are first cemented with fellow travellers from around the world, travellers who we would cross paths with along the camino. We shared stories and backgrounds, tales of that first day crossing the foothills. And then we returned to our respective bunk beds, too exhausted to noticed the snoring pilgrims around us. 

 

Our departure from Roncesvalles was a wet one. Heaps of pilgrims piled up at the door to the albergue, stopped in their tracks by the downpour outside. Out came our Goretex coats, our rain pants, our rain hats and our pack covers. Just as the first day was a test of our physical ability, this rainy day was a test of our equipment. The system worked for the hour it was needed, rain giving way to drizzle, then evaporating into fog not long after our day’s walk began. Fog cloaks all in mystery, appropriate as we passed through the small village of Burguete where witches were burned at the stake in the 16th century. 

 

Fog dissipated into grey overcast as our journey continued through industrial mining territory, signs first admonishing us not to leave the path and, finally, you made it through! “Buen Camino”. Our day’s walk, punctuated by quaint small villages, lush forests, grim history, rain-saturated landscape and industrial scars, deposited us at our destination Larrasoaña, 27.4 kilometres later.

 

Boasting a population of 200, Larrasoaña has a dormitory-style albergue and two private pensions. Wanting to try a private room, we opted for El Peregrino, which offered a pleasant room with breakfast for about $40 CAD. Asking our English-speaking host for restaurant suggestions, he proposed the usual village eatery catering to pilgrims but made mention of another restaurant a kilometre further out of town, a better place that happened to be a one-star Michelin restaurant.

 

A brief aside is in order. In the early 1980’s I went on a solo road trip through France, focussing on its wine-growing districts. Well before personal computers, the internet and online bookings, I opted to use the Michelin Red Guide to France because it offered accommodation and restaurant recommendations for every small town. I was new to the sacred Michelin rating system but soon fell into the culinary treasures of a starred restaurant experience. These were shrines of high cuisine, worthy of their own (albeit far more costly) pilgrimage. In 1990, Gail and I honeymooned our way across France, Michelin Red Guide in hand once again, dining in many of the more-affordable one-star restaurants before working our way up to the high altar of Paul Bocuse’ three-star temple in Lyon. The vision of a delicate truffle soup hidden below a crown of puff pastry still occupies prized shelf space in my deteriorating memory.

 

So it is not unexpected that the mere utterance of “one-star Michelin” by our host, here in the tiny hamlet of Larrasoaña, was sufficient to guarantee this would be our night’s entertainment. Our host made the reservation on our behalf, explaining we were pilgrims and asking that they open the restaurant at 9:00 pm, one hour earlier than usual (more on the unique Spanish sense of time in a future post). Off we trundled on a pilgrimage of a different sort, walking along a busy highway to the Restaurant El Molino De Urdániz. It was already dark but this historic stone mill, windows glowing warmly with incandescent light, was a welcoming site. Alone in the stone -walled dining room, we were presented with a menu well beyond simple translation with iPad decoders and least of all by our unilingual waitress. Fortunately, what seemed to be an à la carte menu, turned out to be one long 16-course tasting menu. So we set aside the words and waited for the delicacies to come, whatever they might be. And come they did, miniature pieces of sensual art, each an unexpected visual and taste exploration and each more exotic than the last plate - or piece of wood or jar. We raised our glasses of Rioja in praise of our young chef, David Yárnoz.

 

A pilgrim can follow many different spiritual routes on the way to Santiago. Two days in and it was clear our pilgrimage would take us in many directions.

 

 

 

This is the second of a number planned posts to my on-going Walking the Camino de Santiago, A Photo Essay. If you have any observations or your own Camino experiences to relate, feel free to use the Comments section below. Buen Camino!

 

If you are interested in purchasing prints for any of the photographs in this series of Camino de Santiago blog posts, they can be ordered directly from my website at www.firmangallery.com/camino-frances

 

 

 

 

Day 2: Roncesvalles to Larrasoaña (Burguete)

 

 

 

Day 2: Roncesvalles to Larrasoaña

 

 

 

Day 2: Roncesvalles to Larrasoaña

 

 

 

Day 2: Roncesvalles to Larrasoaña

 

 

 

Day 2: Roncesvalles to Larrasoaña

 

 

 

Day 2: Roncesvalles to Larrasoaña

 

 

 

Day 2: Roncesvalles to Larrasoaña

 

 

 

Day 2: Roncesvalles to Larrasoaña

 

 

 

Day 2: Roncesvalles to Larrasoaña (Larrasoaña)

 

 

 

Day 2: Roncesvalles to Larrasoana (Larrasoana)

 

 

 

Day 2: Roncesvalles to Larrasoana (Larrasoana)

 

 

 

Day 2: Roncesvalles to Larrasoana (Larrasoana)

 

 

 

Day 2: Roncesvalles to Larrasoana (Dinner at El Molino de Urdániz, Larrasoana)

 

 

 

 

Day 2: Roncesvalles to Larrasoana (Dinner at El Molino de Urdániz, Larrasoana)

 

 

 

Day 2: Roncesvalles to Larrasoana (Dinner at El Molino de Urdániz, Larrasoana)

 

 

 

Day 2: Roncesvalles to Larrasoana (Dinner at El Molino de Urdániz, Larrasoana)

 

 

 

Day 2: Roncesvalles to Larrasoana (Dinner at El Molino de Urdániz, Larrasoana)

 

 

 

Day 2: Roncesvalles to Larrasoana (Dinner at El Molino de Urdániz, Larrasoana)

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dfirman@mts.net (David Firman Photoworks) Camino de Santiago Europe photography https://www.firmangallery.com/blog/2015/1/walking-the-camino-de-santiago-a-photo-essay-day-2 Thu, 15 Jan 2015 14:00:00 GMT
Walking the Camino de Santiago, A Photo Essay: Day 1 https://www.firmangallery.com/blog/2015/1/walking-the-camino-de-santiago-a-photo-essay-day-1 Day 1: St. Jean Pied de Port to RoncesvallesDay 1: St. Jean Pied de Port to Roncesvalles

 

 

It starts with a steep uphill grind, a small test of our mettle as long-distance walkers. Can we survive this first day, a 25 kilometre climb over the Pyrenees, taking us from the quaint Basque village of St. Jean Pied-de-Port in France, across the Spanish frontier into the province of Navarre and ending in the small pilgrimage outpost of Roncesvalles?

 

This was the first day of what would be a 38 day, 926 kilometre walking journey across Spain on the ‘classic’ Camino de Santiago pilgrimage, known as the Camino Francés. There are numerous pilgrimage routes, all leading to Santiago de Compostela near the west coast of Spain, but the Camino de Francés is by far the most popular. 

 

Traditionally the route starts in St. Jean Pied-de-Port although it is more of a gateway for a network of pilgrimage paths starting further east, in Paris for example, and siphoning through the stone gate of St. Jean where the now singular path winds its way to Santiago de Compostela.

 

Nor is Santiago necessarily the end point of a pilgrim’s voyage. Continuing west, we followed the Camino Finisterre to Spain’s wild coastline at Finisterre, literally land’s end, and still further to Muxía with its stone church precariously pitched on a rocky outcrop at the edge of the North Atlantic. 

 

This was our first attempt at a long-distance walk. The Camino had been on our radars for at least two years prior to actually setting off. But timing is everything for two North Americans living the North American “dream” of work-before-all-else. Slotting in a two-month stretch of pure walking is no easy task. In the spring of 2012, my wife, Gail, and I made the commitment to do the pilgrimage that fall. So began a summer of training and packing.

 

Gail and I are not novice walkers. We would typically walk 10-15 kilometers a day. It was our daily ritual, our way of getting to work and back home, our way to relax. Walking 20-30 kilometres day-after-day with a heavy backpack was another matter and we worried that we would be capable of completing this strenuous journey. 

 

That summer, we set off on a series of long walks of at least 20 kilometers around Winnipeg, our smallish home base situated on the prairie expanse at the heart of Canada. A city so small that a 20 kilometre walk in any direction would land us in farmland, so prairie that the most challenging hill is a five minute hike to the top of “Garbage Hill”. Yes, a former landfill site turned city park. 

 

Fortunately our little community has been blessed with an expanding network of multiuser trails, many of which pass within walking distance of our house. Out the door we trekked 21 kilometres to Lagimodière-Gaboury Heritage Park, 23 kilometres along the Yellow Ribbon Trail, 27 kilometres to Fort Whyte Nature Centre and so on. Then we did it all again, this time with loaded backpacks and walking sticks. Then a few more times on back-to-back days, simulating the daily grind of the Camino. For a little bit of vertical training we headed to Spruce Woods Provincial Park, about a two hour drive west of Winnipeg. Here, on a typical hot, dry, sun-baked summer day in Manitoba, we hiked the Epinette Trail for 32 kilometres. What this trail lacked in absolute vertical height, it more than made up for with its constant, exhausting ups and downs over small hills, often on sandy footing. 

 

By this point, we were reasonably comfortable with our ability to complete the Camino. And then disaster struck. On a casual walk of no more than 15 kilometres I suddenly developed a sharp pain along the front of my left lower leg. The pain intensified and walking became near impossible. This just a month before our trip to Spain. A visit to Pan-Am Clinic, a local sports injury clinic, revealed a shin splint requiring physiotherapy and total rest for a couple of weeks followed by a very slow resumption of my walking regime. 

 

By the time we were leaving for Spain, the pain was gone and I had rebuilt my walking stamina to about 10 kilometres a day. My physiotherapist was not reassuring with his parting advice that I had better approach the Camino cautiously and walk very slowly or risk re-injury.

 

So began our adventure, our eagerness to get on with the walk tempered by lingering concern that my left leg might not be as eager to participate.

 

That first day, climbing out of St. Jean and into the foothills of the Pyrenees, was an exhilarating experience. Gone were any concerns about a tortuous climb, about shin splints, about not completing the trek. We were in the moment, taking in the mountain top views, the deep forests, the sheep and their herders, the scrambles off trail to nearby shrines, even the overly large baguettes we had prepared for lunch, packed with meats and cheeses. 

 

By the time we had descended triumphantly to Roncesvalles for our first night, we were high with the anticipation of a great, long walk across Spain.

 

This is the first of many planned posts to my on-going Walking the Camino de Santiago, A Photo Essay. If you have any observations or your own Camino experiences to relate, feel free to use the Comments section below. Buen Camino!

 

If you are interested in purchasing prints for any of the photographs in this series of Camino de Santiago blog posts, they can be ordered directly from my website at www.firmangallery.com/camino-frances

 

 

 

St. Jean Pied de PortSt. Jean Pied de Port

 

 

St. Jean Pied de PortSt. Jean Pied de Port

 

 

St. Jean Pied de PortSt. Jean Pied de Port

 

 

St. Jean Pied de PortSt. Jean Pied de Port

 

 

St. Jean Pied de PortSt. Jean Pied de Port

 

 

Day 1: St. Jean Pied de Port to RoncesvallesDay 1: St. Jean Pied de Port to Roncesvalles

 

 

Day 1: St. Jean Pied de Port to RoncesvallesDay 1: St. Jean Pied de Port to Roncesvalles

 

 

Day 1: St. Jean Pied de Port to RoncesvallesDay 1: St. Jean Pied de Port to Roncesvalles

 

 

Day 1: St. Jean Pied de Port to RoncesvallesDay 1: St. Jean Pied de Port to Roncesvalles

 

 

Day 1: St. Jean Pied de Port to RoncesvallesDay 1: St. Jean Pied de Port to Roncesvalles

 

 

Day 1: St. Jean Pied de Port to RoncesvallesDay 1: St. Jean Pied de Port to Roncesvalles

 

 

Day 1: St. Jean Pied de Port to RoncesvallesDay 1: St. Jean Pied de Port to Roncesvalles

 

 

Day 1: St. Jean Pied de Port to RoncesvallesDay 1: St. Jean Pied de Port to Roncesvalles

 

 

Day 1: St. Jean Pied de Port to RoncesvallesDay 1: St. Jean Pied de Port to Roncesvalles

 

 

Day 1: St. Jean Pied de Port to RoncesvallesDay 1: St. Jean Pied de Port to Roncesvalles

 

 

Day 1: St. Jean Pied de Port to RoncesvallesDay 1: St. Jean Pied de Port to Roncesvalles

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dfirman@mts.net (David Firman Photoworks) Camino de Santiago Europe photography https://www.firmangallery.com/blog/2015/1/walking-the-camino-de-santiago-a-photo-essay-day-1 Thu, 08 Jan 2015 14:00:00 GMT
A Wintertime Walk to Vietnam https://www.firmangallery.com/blog/2015/1/a-wintertime-walk-to-vietnam

 

 

On this second day of 2015, I could be photographing the fluffy layer of new snow frosting every tree branch I see through our living room window. Instead, a brief dog walk with Styxx uncovers a more unique treasure just around the corner. Le’s Sub opened a mere two days ago on the last day of last year and I am happy to spend a few dollars on a Banh Mi, the superior Vietnamese take on a submarine sandwich.

 

It’s a small storefront on busy Portage Avenue. Nothing fancy, just the promised allure of fragrant sandwiches and refreshing bubble tea advertised on a simple wood sign. Inside, everything is shiny stainless steel and glass. A few bar stools face a narrow side counter. However, I’m here for take out, anxious to rush back home with my lunch treat and to Styxx, who I had to leave behind (I’m looking forward to the day when dogs are welcome in restaurants).   

 

The owner, Trinh Le, prepares my “Le Special”, a crunchy bun filled with fresh cilantro, carrot and cucumber, pickled daikon and vegetables, jellied pork, ham and a spicy sauce. All for $3.99.

 

It is a lovely concoction to look at with its bright accents of carrot and cilantro, more flavorful to eat. Styxx looks on enviously but, I’m afraid good buddy, that this Banh Mi is spoken for. I will be back for the other five versions of Banh Mi offered, not to mention other temptations, including sticky rice and spring rolls.

 

Here’s the first sign of good discoveries to come in 2015. 

 

Le’s Sub can be found at 1328 Portage Avenue in Winnipeg. Phone (204) 779-5678. Once summer comes, you can take your Banh Mi and bubble tea to the grassy slopes facing Omand’s Creek, just around the corner on Raglan Road.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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dfirman@mts.net (David Firman Photoworks) Winnipeg photography walk https://www.firmangallery.com/blog/2015/1/a-wintertime-walk-to-vietnam Fri, 02 Jan 2015 23:45:05 GMT
Walking the Shore: Remembering Two Realities https://www.firmangallery.com/blog/2014/12/walking-the-shore-remembering-two-realities  

 

Walk 1Walk 1PortMoody_Sheet05_BOOKPRINT-5

 

Ten years ago today - December 27, 2004 - my wife and I were about to start an early morning walk. We were in Coquitlam, British Columbia at my sister’s house for a Christmas gathering of our various families. On that most ritual-informed day of the year, gifts were opened, liquor consumed, food devoured. 

 

Two days later, the haze of excess starting to dissipate, we decided to disappear into the early morning fog on a long walk. We descended from suburban Coquitlam, down the steep, densely wooded slope to Port Moody and the shores of Port Moody Inlet. Starting from the pier at Rocky Point Park, we wound our way along the shore, following manicured trails through damp coastal forests clothed in thick lichen and along slippery wood boardwalks barely higher than the high-tide waters they crossed. We circled the inlet from the south shore to its tip at Town Centre Park and onward to the north shore, ending at Old Orchard Park.

 

With its constant vistas to this salt water inlet of the Pacific Ocean, it is a remarkable trail for a normally land-locked prairie boy. Whenever I am in Coquitlam on a family visit, my day always begins with this refreshingly different trail. Two coincidences made this day’s walk memorable for decidedly unique reasons that, in the end, connected in an equally unique way.

 

Coincidence Number One. 

 

Earlier that year, I had started a new art project. It involved the simultaneous taking of a walk and the taking of photographs while fully engaged in the act of walking. These images, caught at a slow shutter speed and full of messy, blurry glimpses of things I saw along the way, would be merged into one long, narrow image. A connection of the time and rhythm of a walk with that of a photograph. These walking photo projects would eventually be titled “Journeys”, the core of my Walk Project.

 

Without thinking it through, it occurred to me at the Old Orchard Park end point, the midpoint of our walk through Port Moody, that this would make an ideal Journey. We turned around, headed back on our return trip, camera drawn. 

 

We continued back down the north shore, my intent being to continue the Journey back to Coquitlam. Instead, we detoured to Newport Village, the new town centre of Port Moody, for coffee. It was a detour that worked for the project and its sub-plot to weave the interplay of urban environments with the natural remnants at their edges.

 

Opening the glass door of the small coffee shop, its air damp with coffee breath, our eyeglasses immediately fogged, rendering us near-blind and groping our way to an open table. We sat, waiting for vision to return. Slowly the soft shape of a round table appeared, then a white rectangle set against the wood table top, then a headline.

 

Coincidence Number Two. 

 

As we blissfully walked the shores of Burrard Inlet, a world away on another sea, vacationers and residents would also be relaxing on their own shoreline. Except that a more tragic event had just taken place. As the newspaper on our table came into focus, we read the headline, “Killer wave’s trail of terror”. It was our first knowledge of the devastating tsunami that crossed the Indian Ocean just a few hours earlier, crashing into the shores of Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, South India and others, killing at least 270,000. 

 

That murky, emerging headline seen through a still-fogged camera lens became the transformative image, personally as well as photographically, for this day’s Journey. 

 

We finished our coffees and continued our return walk along the south shore. The Journey part of the trip ended on the pier at Rocky Point Park. The photos were now still and silent as we looked out to the fog-bound inlet where the water’s surface disappeared into nothingness.

 

That Journey became the first of three Journeys created as part of the Walk Project. Presented in the form of a hand-made accordion-folded book, the images reveal our walk from start to finish. It’s neutral title, “Walk 1: A walk with Gail along Shoreline Trail, Port Moody, British Columbia, December 27, 2004”, belies the tragedy unfolding in the book and a world away. 

 

A complete set of pages from the book (three pages per image) and pictures of the completed book are presented below.

 

 

 

Walk 1Walk 1Book

 

Walk 1Walk 1Book

 

Walk 1Walk 1Book

 

Walk 1Walk 1PortMoody_Sheet01_BOOKPRINT-1

 

Walk 1Walk 1PortMoody_Sheet02_BOOKPRINT-2

 
Walk 1Walk 1PortMoody_Sheet03_BOOKPRINT-3
 
Walk 1Walk 1PortMoody_Sheet04_BOOKPRINT-4
 
Walk 1Walk 1PortMoody_Sheet05_BOOKPRINT-5
 
Walk 1Walk 1PortMoody_Sheet06_BOOKPRINT-6
 
Walk 1Walk 1PortMoody_Sheet07_BOOKPRINT-7
 
Walk 1Walk 1PortMoody_Sheet08_BOOKPRINT-8
 
Walk 1Walk 1PortMoody_Sheet09_BOOKPRINT-9
 
Walk 1Walk 1PortMoody_Sheet10_BOOKPRINT-10
 
Walk 1Walk 1PortMoody_Sheet11_BOOKPRINT-11
 
Walk 1Walk 1PortMoody_Sheet12_BOOKPRINT-12
 
Walk 1Walk 1PortMoody_Sheet13_BOOKPRINT-13
 
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dfirman@mts.net (David Firman Photoworks) 2004 books photography tsunami walk https://www.firmangallery.com/blog/2014/12/walking-the-shore-remembering-two-realities Sat, 27 Dec 2014 20:47:18 GMT
Twelve Days of Winter https://www.firmangallery.com/blog/2014/12/twelve-days-of-winter Day 1: River Ice, Winnipeg

Day 12: Leo Mol Garden, WinnipegDay 12: Leo Mol Garden, Winnipeg

 

Day 2: Bruce Park, Winnipeg

Day 12: Leo Mol Garden, WinnipegDay 12: Leo Mol Garden, Winnipeg

 

Day 3: Leo Mol Sculpture Garden, Winnipeg

Day 12: Leo Mol Garden, WinnipegDay 12: Leo Mol Garden, Winnipeg

 

Day 4: Assiniboine Park, Winnipeg

Day 12: Leo Mol Garden, WinnipegDay 12: Leo Mol Garden, Winnipeg

 

Day 5: Styxx at The Forks, Winnipeg

Day 12: Leo Mol Garden, WinnipegDay 12: Leo Mol Garden, Winnipeg

 

Day 6: Inside the RAW:Almond Pop-Up Restaurant (on the frozen Assiniboine River, Winnipeg)

Day 12: Leo Mol Garden, WinnipegDay 12: Leo Mol Garden, Winnipeg

 

Day 7: Britt, Ontario (on Georgian Bay)

Day 12: Leo Mol Garden, WinnipegDay 12: Leo Mol Garden, Winnipeg

 

Day 8: Assiniboine Park, Winnipeg

Assiniboine Park, WinnipegAssiniboine Park, Winnipeg

 

Day 9: Assiniboine River Ice, Winnipeg

Day 12: Leo Mol Garden, WinnipegDay 12: Leo Mol Garden, Winnipeg

 

Day 10: Assiniboine Park, Winnipeg

Day 12: Leo Mol Garden, WinnipegDay 12: Leo Mol Garden, Winnipeg

 

Day 11: North Shore, Lake Superior

Day 12: Leo Mol Garden, WinnipegDay 12: Leo Mol Garden, Winnipeg

 

Day 12: Leo Mol Sculpture Garden, Assiniboine Park, Winnipeg

Day 12: Leo Mol Garden, WinnipegDay 12: Leo Mol Garden, Winnipeg

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dfirman@mts.net (David Firman Photoworks) Winnipeg photography winter https://www.firmangallery.com/blog/2014/12/twelve-days-of-winter Fri, 12 Dec 2014 15:00:00 GMT
Ten Holiday Gifts for the Walker https://www.firmangallery.com/blog/2014/12/ten-holiday-gifts-for-the-walker  

 

Searching for that ideal gift for your bipedal friends and loved ones? Here are ten ideas geared to the pleasure and art of walking. These are my personal choices based on experience. I have no association with any company or website mentioned. Excepting items 10 and 11, of course.

 

So let's get moving!

 

 

1. Wanderlust: A History of Walking  by Rebecca Solnit.

 

This is a remarkable book, detailing the wide-ranging history, philosophy and art of walking. My well-worn volume stays by my side as a source of inspiration, ideas and motivation. (CAD $13.72 on amazon.ca)

 

 

 

 

 

2.  Toiletries for Walkers.

 

This is a well-tested kit of toiletry essentials for those embarking on a long distance walk, such as a Camino de Santiago route. Total cost is less than CAD $20.00.

 

First is the Lush 2-in-1 jasmine shampoo bar with conditioning butters, my travel shampoo/conditioner since 2007. One of these solid, compact and light-weight pucks provided about 50 hair washes on our Prague-to-Vienna walk. Just wet your hair, rub the bar in a circle (just once) across the scalp and massage. It smells great and, if it matters to your walker friend, is vegan as well. Carry-on friendly and near weightless at 54 grams. (CAD $11.95)

 

Second is Colghan's Soap Caddy, available at most outdoor gear stores. It’s a simple caddy for the Lush soap bar with a handy cord so you can hang your shampoo over a shower head. Drain holes in the bottom allow the Lush bar to drain and dry. (CAD $2.49)

 

Third is a yellow mesh bath sponge. I like using a wash cloth when showering but this is rarely provided in hotels outside North America. So I take a yellow plastic mesh pouf sponge. Holds soap well, dries quickly with a few shakes and doesn’t get moldy. (CAD $3.99 or less)

 

You will notice that everything is yellow - soap, caddy and scrubber. More than a fashion statement, yellow things are hard not to notice and less likely to get left behind in last night's bathroom.

 

 

 

 

 

3. Outdoor Research (OR) Echo Cap or Radar Pocket Cap.

 

Weighing in at a light 52 grams and folding into a pocketable package, these OR caps are handy shades to have on a long walk. The Radar Pocket Cap also provides UPF 50+ protection. (CAD $30.00)

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. A personalized calendar from Apple.

 

So you’ve done a long walk and have taken 5,000 pictures. You can tantalize your friends with an 8 hour slide show (guilty) or you can use your superb editing skills to whittle that collection down to 12 images and make a calendar to gift to all of your friends. I like the Apple calendars for their clean designs and high quality. And they are easy to assemble on iPhoto on your Mac. Of course, there are any number of on-line printing services that are computer system-agnostic and can make calendars but the trick, to me, is finding one with a nice clean, unfussy template. (CAD $19.99)

 

Shown here is our 2015 calendar. Our Prague-to-Vienna walk took second place to a year of Styxx pictures, the rescue greyhound that came into our lives one year ago this week.

 

 

 

 

 

5. CamelBak All Clear.

 

This is, by far, the most expensive gift on this list. But well worth it for that special long distance walker you really like. When traveling in a country where you might be squeamish about the tap water, here is a cost effective, environmentally-friendly substitute to buying bottled water. It will completely sterilize 750 ml of water in 60 seconds using UV light.  The Camelbak All Clear can clean about 80 bottles of water before recharging using the USB charger that comes with your smartphone. It weighs in at 303 grams but part of that weight is the water bottle that you would need to carry regardless. Pop on a standard Camelbak Classic Bottle Cap (CAD $4.99) and you are good-to-go on the trail. And, for that very special friend, consider throwing in a Camelbak All Clear Pre‑Filter (CAD $16.50). It attaches to the top of the All Clear bottle to filter out debris and sediment before sterilization. Makes for a more appetizing bottle of water when the source is brackish. (CAD $110.00)

 

 

 

 

 

6. Peak Design’s Leash.

 

For such a basic piece of camera equipment, the Peak Design Leash makes the most of what a good camera strap should do for the walker-photographer. Compact and lightweight, it can be configured in various ways to suit the photographer’s shooting style. And it can be easily detached from the camera. It is ideal for lighter, mirrorless cameras like the Olympus, Panasonic or Fuji varieties. Well worth the CAD $39.99.

 

 

 

 

 

7. A Pilgrim's Guide to the Camino de Santiago: St. Jean - Roncesvalles - Santiago  by John Brierley.

 

If you have a friend toying with the idea of walking the popular Camino Francés route of the Camino de Santiago, a gift of this guide may just be the trigger to make that dream a reality. Every English-speaking pilgrim has one in their pocket, packed as it is with all the maps, directions, accommodations and eateries they will ever need. (CAD $23.51 at amazon.ca)  

 

 

 

 

 

8. Mophie Powerstation.

 

I travel with both a smartphone and a tablet and, if I am on an eight hour walk, chances are very good that at least my smartphone will run out of juice. Like digital cameras, it is always good policy to carry spares batteries. My vintage Mophie Powerstation can recharge my power-hungry tablet if necessary as well as my smartphone. On our Prague-to-Vienna walk, the Mophie was used everyday to charge my depleted phone, usually after 4-5 hours on the trail. The current available version looks a little spiffier and holds a slightly larger charge (4000 mAh, up from 3600), but is essentially the same device. As gift-giver, you don’t need to worry what kind of tablet or phone your friend has. The Powerstation should work with them all. (CAD $79.99)

 

 

 

 

 

9. Smartwool PhD Outdoor Crew Socks.

 

I have worn these comfortable and smell-resistant Smartwool socks on both the Camino (900 km) and Prague-Vienna Greenway (600 km), starting with two new pair for each trip. All of those socks came home without any holes. Either the light or medium cushion socks are good for these kinds of walks but I tend to prefer the light cushion. (CAD $19.75 for the light cushion socks, $25.25 for the medium cushion variety)

 

 

 

 

 

10. Walking Styxx, a month of psychogeographic walks with a greyhound  by David Firman.

 

If you enjoyed my earlier Walking Styxx posts, you can now buy the book on my Blurb bookstore (USA, Canada). Not all walks have to be hundreds of kilometers in length or in exotic locations or require weighty backpacks. Adventures on foot can start right at the front door of your home. Here is a volume devoted to walking local. (US $29.95) 

 

 

 

 

 

11. Bonus Gift Idea.

 

Pass on my wishes for a joyous holiday season and a year of amazing walks in 2015! (CAD $0.00) 

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dfirman@mts.net (David Firman Photoworks) books gifts photography psychogeography walk https://www.firmangallery.com/blog/2014/12/ten-holiday-gifts-for-the-walker Wed, 10 Dec 2014 15:00:00 GMT
Prague at 3200 https://www.firmangallery.com/blog/2014/12/prague-at-3200

 

 

 

I love walking around cities late at night. The streets are cool and quiet. The hoots of late night revelers echo through stone and brick canyons. Storefronts glow with mannequins and merchandise. Historic buildings and statuary are all lit up, their details chiseled out of deep shadows in a ghoulish Boris Karloff flashlight-under-the-chin fashion. It all seems a little dangerous, a little mysterious, with dark corners hiding who-knows-what activity.

 

A night in Prague is particularly engaging. There is a peculiar liveliness to this city's darkest hours. Beer halls and cafes operate late into the night. Night crawlers, drawn through the narrow streets of Staré Město and Malá Strana, meet on the romantic Karlův most (Charles Bridge) to promenade its length and explore its darkness in hushed voices.

 

The title of this post, Prague at 3200, contains a photographic reference. Street photography at night means shooting in available darkness. It demands wide open apertures and slow shutter speeds. And it requires as fast a 'film' speed as possible. A speed of 3200, for example.

 

What follows is a compilation of photos taken in Prague over four nights in early September, before setting out on our Prague to Vienna walk. All were taken at a very high film speed of ISO 3200 with shutter speeds falling between 1/8th and 1/40th second. All were handheld with the Olympus OM-D E-M5 camera. If you happened to have read my previous two posts reviewing this camera, you will know that I am a fan of its high film speed quality and excellent image stabilization. 

 

These are a few examples of this camera's low light capabilities, nicely wrapped in the night time glow of Prague. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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dfirman@mts.net (David Firman Photoworks) Prague olympus om-d e-m5 photography https://www.firmangallery.com/blog/2014/12/prague-at-3200 Thu, 04 Dec 2014 15:00:00 GMT
Walker’s Tools: In My Camera Bag https://www.firmangallery.com/blog/2014/11/camera-bag

 

 

Here’s a look inside my camera bag. A very unusual bag indeed in that it is so diminutive, so minimal and so unlike the massive kits typically toted by serious photographers, such as yours truly. It’s a kit that balances my needs as a photographer with those of a good walking experience.

 

My last post was devoted to one user’s review of the Olympus OM-D E-M5, a camera well-suited to the needs of a walker. A minimalist camera with maximum capabilities. Light in weight, small in size but as capable as a much larger DSLR. 

 

Small, light and capable: these are the photographic parameters for everything that goes into my photography kit. And, from the world of long distance walkers carrying their worldly needs on their backs, comes an additional parameter: if an item is not essential, eliminate it. There is no room for just-in-case stuff. 

 

The camera kit hanging from my neck:

 

Lens hood. Almost weightless, this accessory dramatically increases the quality of photos by reducing flare, allowing creative backlit shots and protecting the front surface of the lens from scratches.

 

Camera strap. Scrap the one that comes with your camera and get the Peak Design Leash. This strap can be configured in various ways and can be quickly disconnected from the camera for those time when a strap gets in the way. But its greatest virtue is the lightweight flexible strap material that feels comfortable around the neck yet compacts nicely when you need to stuff a camera and strap into a tiny bag.

 

Camera filters. Digital cameras minimize the need for most filters but I consider neutral density filters (for good blurs in daylight) and a circular polarizer (for reducing reflections and creating deep blue skies) as essential. The good news is that my tiny M.Zuiko 14-42mm IIR lens takes equally tiny 37mm diameter filters. My filter kit includes three high-quality B+W filters: ND 0.6 (4x) and ND 0.9 (8x) neutral density filters and a Circular-Pol. All three weigh a mere 48 grams.

 

Batteries. Three of them. Two in the bag, one in the camera. As I mentioned in my Olympus E-M5 review, battery life is not one of the camera’s strong points. Three batteries are necessary for a day’s shooting on the trail. I use non-Olympus compatible batteries by Upstart (available on Amazon) and Watson (available from B & H Photo).

 

iPad SD Card Reader. This is essential. I need to transfer photos from camera to iPad so I can edit and upload photos to my blog site. Because I have a third generation (non-lightning) iPad, the Apple iPad Camera Connection Kit is required. The kit also contains a USB connector but I don’t use it, so it stays at home. 

 

Cleaning. I carry the Lenspen Mini Pro lens cleaner, which has a small cleaning pad and retractable brush. I also carry a couple of Costco’s Optico Cleaning Cloths, moist towelettes for lenses. Backup cloths for a long trip are carried in my backpack.

 

Bag. All this fits into the smallest imaginable camera bag, the Lowepro Apex 100 AW. A tight fit to be sure, but it works. An essential feature of this bag is its rain cover. On a long walk, the camera bag goes over my shoulder, then the backpack goes on, then the camera comes out and hangs around my neck for the duration of the walk, ready for action.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The total kit - everything mentioned above and the camera bag - weighs in at 1000 grams. Compare that to the hefty 1184 gram weight of just my Nikon D90 and 18-200 mm lens; no filters, batteries straps or bags.

 

What’s not in the bag:

 

Battery Charger. This goes in the backpack. I carry one compact Upstart charger (see my Olympus E-M5 review) which means I have to be vigilant in getting a battery into the charger at day’s end and, as soon as it is charged, switch to another discharged battery.

 

SD Card Wallet. This contains irreplaceable photo files so they never leave my body. I use the inexpensive All-Weather Wallet by Colghan (available at outdoor recreation stores), a thin waterproof pouch that I carry in the “secret pocket” of my Tilley pants or in a money belt.

 

Small pack towel. I carry a small microfiber pack towel in the pocket of my Gore-Tex jacket. In a light rain, I can use the towel to dry my camera, keeping it available to take pictures without having to retreat to the camera bag.

 

Viewfinder eyecups. Every camera I own seems to have bits that fall off. The lens hood on my Nikon 18-200mm lens would keep falling of. I must have bought several of these overpriced pieces of plastic. With the Olympus, it is the eyecup over the viewfinder. It breaks or it falls off after bouncing against my chest for a few weeks on a long walk. So I bring a couple of spares. Fortunately they only weigh a couple of ounces.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wrapping Up

 

This is an extensively tested kit that has not changed significantly over two long walks, totaling 1500 kilometres. If I was to start another long walk tomorrow, I would happily use the very same camera kit. However, I am always looking for new cameras and accessories that might lighten my load even further - of course, without compromising on camera controls or image quality. Have an idea? I’d love to hear it so feel free to leave a comment below.

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dfirman@mts.net (David Firman Photoworks) OM-D EM-5 Olympus camera mirrorless photography review tools walkers tools https://www.firmangallery.com/blog/2014/11/camera-bag Thu, 27 Nov 2014 15:00:00 GMT
Walker’s Tools: A Review of the Olympus OM-D EM-5 https://www.firmangallery.com/blog/2014/11/olympus-om-d-em-5

 

 

 

In this, the first in a series of blogs reviewing the tools of a walker, I will take a close look at my current camera of choice, the Olympus OM-D E-M5.

 

A Brief History of Weight Loss

 

I have a serious history of carrying overweight camera bags. I won’t even get into my collection of art project cameras, which includes 4x5 view cameras and vintage Cirkut panoramic cameras. Kits that could weigh as much as I do, or so it seemed. Instead, I’ll concentrate on the cameras I have used for travel photography, cameras that were at least nominally geared to walking. 

 

Since the mid-1970’s my travel camera brand of choice has been Nikon, starting with a film-based kit consisting of Nikon FE and FM single lens reflex (SLR) camera bodies and four Nikkor prime lenses ranging from 24mm to 200mm. It was a heavy load to be sure, packed in my rigid rectangular shoulder bag with its narrow leather strap digging deep into my increasingly slumping shoulder. 

 

It was a camera kit that served me well…until the digital age arrived (for me) in 2004 with the purchase of the sexy Minolta DiMage 7i 5.0 mega pixel (MP) camera for a trip to South America. Sexy because I have never had so many people ooh and aah over a camera. It was a barely adequate camera for a serious photographer but, at the time I would never have thought I could afford a digital Nikon. Sure enough, a few years later, decent Nikons with large sensors became available at an affordable price.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then in my forties, I really craved a lighter load, leading to what seemed at the time like the most minimal travel kit possible, a Nikon D90 DSLR body (digital SLR) with an 18-200 mm super-zoom. These were used on lengthy  road trips across Russia, Mongolia and China on the Trans-Siberian train route and throughout India. 

 

In Search of the Minimalist Camera

 

In the summer of 2012, I was busy preparing for our 900 kilometre walk on the Camino Frances route of the Camino de Santiago. Walking the Camino for 38 days with a backpack that had to weigh no more than 20 pounds and contain everything I needed for the duration of the trip demanded an even smaller and lighter photo-taking package. So I jotted down a list of requirements and went about finding the best solution. 

 

Here’s my must-have list:

 

  • The lightest possible camera/lens package.
  • As large a sensor as possible, preferably in the APS-C (cropped sensor) range like my Nikon D80 or D90.
  • Low noise at high ISO 'film speeds'.
  • A viewfinder (somewhat rare in compact digital cameras)).
  • RAW file output.

 

Fortunately, by 2012 a few innovative camera manufacturers were starting to release lightweight, serious cameras such as the Olympus OM-D E-M5, the Sony NEX 6 and 7, the Sony RX100 and the Fuji X100. Nikon and Canon did not - and still do not - have a camera worth considering. A shame.

 

Finally, The Camera

 

The camera that best ticked all my needs was the Olympus OM-D E-M5 paired with the compact Olympus M.Zuiko 14-42mm 3.5-5.6 IIR zoom lens, equivalent to a 28-82mm full frame 35mm lens. Being accustomed to a greater zoom range at the telephoto end, I was a little concerned that this modest lens would be adequate. I needn’t have worried. Working with a limited range of focal lengths becomes part of the creative exercise. And it is so darned light! 

 

The Olympus uses a 16.1 MP sensor in the micro four-thirds format, slightly smaller than the APS-C sensors in Nikon, Canon, Fuji and Sony cameras but with very little difference in terms of image quality. The lenses are more compact and lighter in weight as well, an important consideration. 

 

The Olympus sensor performs admirably in low light situations. Noise is well controlled. Shots at ISO 3200 show some noise but it can be reasonably controlled in Lightroom or Photoshop without significantly degrading image quality. That high ISO in combination with the excellent 5-axis stabilization in the E-M5 body permits good quality handheld images in dark interiors or while walking before sunrise and after sunset, a significant advantage for long distance walkers wishing to avoid the additional weight and bulk of carrying a tripod. 

 

My Olympus camera and lens weighs in at 536 grams. Compare that to the 1184 grams my D90 and 18-200 mm lens. To make the comparison more fair, if I were to buy a M.Zuiko 14-150 mm lens for the Olympus camera (equivalent to the Nikkor 18-200), the total weight would be a mere 705 grams, still well under that of my Nikon package.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The lightness and compactness of the micro four-thirds format camera bodies can be attributed to the lack of heavy pentaprisms and flapping mirrors required for the optical viewfinder of DSLRs. Instead, light goes straight from the lens to the sensor. The downside is that many micro four thirds cameras, also referred to as mirrorless cameras, require the image to be composed and focussed on the rear screen with no provision of a viewfinder.

 

Only a few mirrorless cameras have a viewfinder and it is necessarily an electronic viewfinder (EVF). Using one takes a little getting used to. The image is coarse, making focussing more of a challenge. Colour and contrast are also ‘off’ and rarely match the actual scene. I’ve learned to trust the camera to capture scene colours accurately and not as I see them through the viewfinder. Which it does, of course. 

 

The main value of a viewfinder, whether EVF or optical, is that I can better isolate and compose an image the way I want, focus accurately, ensure the horizon is actually horizontal and that the perspective of the scene is as I want it. Pressing the camera against my face also adds a level of stability and allows small compositional adjustments to be made and held until the shutter is pressed.

 

The E-M5’s EVF nicely meets my need for a viewfinder. It offers as much information about current camera settings as I want, yet I can customize how much and where this information is displayed. It also allows me to cycle through several useful information displays - a histogram, horizontal and vertical levels or a clean, information-free display - simply by pressing the Info button on the back of the camera.

 

That the E-M5 can produce RAW files (in addition to RAW plus JPEG files) is not unique. Any high-quality camera should be capable of this. Often referred to as ‘digital negatives’, RAW files allow the photographer to have full control over contrast, brightness, saturation, highlights and shadows and any number of other image parameters when post-processing the image in RAW-aware applications such as Lightroom or Photoshop. By comparison, JPEG files are ‘baked’ in-camera. All image parameters are determined and locked into the image when the camera shutter button is pressed. There is very little you can do to improve a JPEG image after the fact without degrading image quality.

 

It’s now November 2014. I have toted the Olympus across Spain and, just this fall, across the Czech Republic, a total of 1500 kilometers of walking. In between, it has been used for many of my current photographic projects. Based on over two years of experience, here are my opinions of the good and the not-so-good features of the camera.

 

The Good

 

That the camera is diminutive and unobtrusive is one of its best qualities. It does not draw attention to itself, making it easier to use for candid street photography than a DSLR.

 

The E-M5 has a plethora of buttons and dials that allow quick access to all the controls you would quickly need when taking a picture, without needing to scroll through menus on a screen. There are two function buttons that can be customized to do what I need, exposure lock and depth-of-field preview in my case. Even the ‘dedicated’ movie shutter button can be reprogrammed for a different function, as I have done so I can quickly switch between manual and auto focus.

 

Most important are the two control dials on top, each of which can be used to control shutter speed, aperture and exposure compensation. I can program which button controls which variable. For example, in Manual (M) mode I set the front dial to change aperture settings and the rear dial to control shutter speed. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The rear LED screen is touch sensitive. By pushing the OK button on the camera back, a menu appears on the screen displaying a grid of all essential camera controls, such as image stabilization mode, white balance, metering mode (eg. spot metering) - 21 controls in total - each quickly accessible by touch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image noise is very well controlled up to ISO 800 and acceptable up to 3200. With a touch of luminance noise reduction in Lightroom, those ISO 1600 and 3200 images look very good. So good that I keep the camera on Auto-ISO with a default ISO set to 200 and a maximum of 3200.

 

The rear LED screen tilts up and down, a feature I find very useful for capturing images from a low point of view or when reaching above the heads of a crowd.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The EM-5 has excellent in-body image stabilization that works on 5 axis and greatly contributes to the quality of images captured handheld in low light. Because stabilization occurs in the camera body, lenses can be lighter and, in theory, less expensive.

 

The camera is very quiet when taking pictures, great for street candids or in churches.

 

The Not-So-Good

 

The small size of the camera means the many buttons are packed into a very tight space. When gripping the camera, my thumb tip rests on a small rubber grip at the top right corner on the back of the camera. Unfortunately there are a number of buttons directly below this and I find that the rest of my thumb is constantly pressing these buttons accidentally. In particular, the four small arrow buttons which, by default, control important functions such as autofocus target area, can accidentally be depressed. If not noticed, image quality could be affected (eg. an incorrect focus point). To prevent this, I dug into the camera menu and turned off the functions for these four buttons. The Menu and Info buttons can also be depressed accidentally. But I need these functions, so I put up with the problem. Fortunately, they do not affect image parameters, only what is displayed in the EVF or on the LED screen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Battery life! I quickly learned that carrying two backup batteries is essential for a day of shooting. 

 

The camera will go to sleep after a length of time (which can be controlled via the Menu), a good thing considering its short battery life. However, I occasionally find that the camera will not come out of its sleep mode with the press of a button or by turning the camera off and on. Instead I have to open the battery door, partly remove the battery, slide it back in and close the battery door. It works, but it could mean a lost street or action photo opportunity.

 

The supplied battery charger defies logic. Why provide such bulky charger unit and long power cord that, together, are not much smaller than the entire camera and lens? As soon as I opened the camera box and found this albatross, I went on the search for a more compact charger. In the end, I purchased an UpStart Travel Charger (upstartbattery.com) and two UpStart compatible batteries from Amazon. The charger is not much larger than two batteries, including its retractable wall plug. It has served me well for two years and I would recommend this accessory to anyone using the camera.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Future

 

Since 2012, the compact, lightweight, mirrorless camera market has grown substantially. If I were considering a camera today, there would be several viable options. I still like the Olympus OM-D series, which now includes the slightly more basic E-M10, and the slightly more professional E-M1. The E-M1 is 72 grams heavier and marginally larger but has a very good built-in grip that looks like it would mitigate the accidental-pressing-of-buttons problem. It also has a higher resolution EVF. Both new models have WiFi connectivity, great for getting photos to my iPad while on the road. The original EM-5 model - my camera - was released almost three years ago so a refresh of the product should be coming soon. Here’s hoping they rejig the button locations and include a more compact charger.

 

The micro four-thirds format lens mount is rare in that more than one camera manufacturer supports it. Panasonic has its own range of excellent camera bodies and lenses, all compatible with the Olympus camera system. Panasonic currently offers the GX-7, weighing in at a mere 402 grams and, feature-for-feature, similar to the OM-D series. And I could mount my petite 14-42mm Olympus lens on it.

 

Wrapping Up

 

Walking is a gentle, lyrical activity demanding a camera that responds lightly to that movement. The Olympus OM-D is one of the best walk-friendly cameras out there. It offers the creative controls necessary for serious photography but in a package that is not a burden on a good, long walk.

 

My next post will show what’s in my camera bag, a surprisingly compact package of photo goodies. See you then!

 

 

    

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dfirman@mts.net (David Firman Photoworks) OM-D EM-5 Olympus camera mirrorless photography review walk walkers tools https://www.firmangallery.com/blog/2014/11/olympus-om-d-em-5 Thu, 20 Nov 2014 15:00:00 GMT
Walking Styxx: Thirty Days https://www.firmangallery.com/blog/2014/11/walking-styxx-thirty-days

 

One month. 30 tracks. 132 kilometres in total. 4.4 kilometers per walk on average. That is the numeric summary of the walks Styxx and I undertook between July 11 and August 15, 2014. 

 

The visual summary is more compelling. First, there is the cartographic representation of our meanders from the front door of our house, an intricate weaving of tracks radiating out in all directions. The blooming of our relationship with our neighbourhood. Then there are the photographed encounters, those caches of visual delight waiting to be discovered along each of our walks. The unexpected. The expected, reframed from a dog’s perspective. The dark. The lighthearted.

 

Here in this second installment of the Walking Styxx project, you will find the remaining visual components: the map, now fully developed, and a selection of photographs from our last 15 walks. 

 

I will leave it at that for a while. I now need to digest this kit of visual parts and figure out how I want to assemble them into a whole. 

 

This may take some time…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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dfirman@mts.net (David Firman Photoworks) dog greyhound lurcher photography psychogeography walk winnipeg https://www.firmangallery.com/blog/2014/11/walking-styxx-thirty-days Thu, 13 Nov 2014 15:00:00 GMT
Walking Styxx: Halfway There https://www.firmangallery.com/blog/2014/11/walking-styxx-halfway-there

 

Here begins a new project involving a dog, his doting father and their month of walks.

 

Styxx, shortened from his original name Firestyxx, is a greyhound. Or, more correctly he is a lurcher, the less romantic name for a greyhound mixed with a little bit of some other breed and used to race on “unofficial” dog tracks in the rural backwaters of states such as Ohio and Michigan. He has an unknown past and his age is pure guesswork (likely eight). But Styxx is every bit a greyhound, 80 pounds of muscle bound into a graceful Art Deco form. 

 

My role as father to Styxx was accidental. The mother, my wife Gail, became enamored with greyhounds in mid-2013, the result of writing an article for the local community newspaper on Winnipeg’s greyhound rescue organization, Hi-Speed Hounds. That interest begat her need to adopt one. And along came Styxx into Gail’s life and ultimately into mine. For Styxx, it was the end of a long journey from his home in Ohio, where his owner surrendered him to a local kill shelter, to a sympathetic vet, to a series of underground railway-style road trips to Winnipeg, to foster parents and finally to us. That was December 2013, one of the coldest of our cold winters and not an ideal time to introduce Styxx to the wonderful walking opportunities of his new home.

 

It’s now summer 2014 and Gail and I are out with Styxx on our daily long walks, criss-crossing our treed neighbourhood, heading out to distant sites, looking for varied sensory experiences for our dog, searching out hills to climb, rivers to cross, prairie to sniff. All this starting from the front door of our house. And it occurs to me that I am exploring my surroundings in a new and fresh way that comes from the need to walk a big dog.

 

So I invent a project. I will take Styxx on a month of walks, recording our mutual findings as photographs and as maps. I devise a basic set of rules that I hope will create an interesting document:

 

  • Each walk has to start from the front door of our house
  • Each walk should attempt to go somewhere new, avoiding overlap with previous walks wherever possible.
  • Avoiding the course of previous walks should only be based on memory of what has already been done, not on a review of collected maps or photos. Faulty memory is to be expected.
  • Other than a general direction or endpoint, each walk should be a spontaneous undertaking. 

 

Our walks started on July 11 and ended on August 15, 2014. Aside from one out-of-town day the thirty walks were on consecutive days. In keeping with the spontaneous nature of the project, a low-fi camera was used, the iPhone 5. A number of pictures were taken on each trip, each with Styxx front-and-centre at locations that seemed to define the walk. The maps, or tracks, were collected using the MotionX-GPS app on the iPhone.

 

The project necessarily stalled while Gail and I walked the Prague-Vienna Greenway in September and it is only now that I am starting to assemble the maps and process the photos. As of this post, I have prepared 15 of the thirty tracks as separate documents and assembled a merged map showing all the tracks. Which is an exciting process. I am starting to see a form developing, outlining our walking environment as a personalized road map. Streets are not shown or labelled but can be inferred. The track-free swath across the centre of the map outlines the path of the Assiniboine River. The tight lattice of nearby walks is starting to define the residential scale of our Wolseley neighbourhood.  Thick, overlapping tracks radiate out from home and thin into delicate traces as the range of route options increase, like flower petals growing out from a stem. It is starting to look like the graphic artwork I had hoped for, one that is totally dependent on the random choices made by Styxx and me over the course of a month.

 

Just as each walk has a unique visual shape as defined by its path, so too are the photographs adding a unique but complementary identity to the walks. I haven’t finalized a means of presenting the project - maybe a book, maybe prints, maybe both - but the goal is to portray each day’s walk with one photograph and its mapped track, concluding with a map showing the month’s tracks as one piece of art.

 

This is a project in the making. Stay tuned for future Walking Styxx posts!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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dfirman@mts.net (David Firman Photoworks) dog greyhound lurcher photography psychogeography walk winnipeg https://www.firmangallery.com/blog/2014/11/walking-styxx-halfway-there Thu, 06 Nov 2014 15:00:00 GMT
Flash Photography Festival On Foot https://www.firmangallery.com/blog/2014/10/flash-photography-festival-on-foot Flash Photo Festival on FootFlash Photo Festival on FootToday's assignment: #flashphotofest on foot. How many venues can I squeeze in today.

 

There are many reasons for taking a walk. One is to chase photography.

 

2014 marks the inaugural year of the Flash Photography Festival in Winnipeg, the brainchild of local photographer Lief Norman. Because the program runs throughout the month of October, I was unable to participate, being oversees on my own photographic mission on the Prague-Vienna Greenway throughout the festival's lead-up month of September. Now back in town, I need to make amends and at least take in as much of the festival as possible.

 

On a warm Friday morning at 10:00 am, I set off on a walk, the idea being to take in as many of the festival venues as possible in one day and on foot. It is a democratic tour. I have no hierarchy of photographers’ work I want to see. I am guided only by points on a map, indicating exhibit locations, that lead me in an interesting direction from one to another, taking in as large a swath of the city as possible and as much photography as possible. I have no itinerary, only a starting point at home and a few obvious shows near the beginning of my journey. After that, I will need to chose between multiple points and directions. How many shows I can take in before the galleries close for the day is unknown. I carry one tool: an iPhone loaded with a GPS app to track my walk, the phone's camera and its Photo app for processing and uploading to Twitter in "real time”. On the phone’s browser, the festival website, flashfest.net, is open to a map of the venues.

 

It is now 8:30 pm and I am home again after a long but thoroughly engaging day, intertwining the discovery of new art and the rediscovery of Winnipeg’s urban landscapes. The camera phone images capture each of those artwork discoveries (and the food that goes so well with a good art walk). The captions are based on Twitter posts made as I walked the walk. The “map” is derived from the day’s GPS track, a to-scale single line loop showing my ad hoc wanderings and otherwise devoid of unnecessary details.

 

I was able to squeeze in an espresso, hot dog, latte and sandwich as well as 16 shows along my route, a number limited only by the 5:00 pm closing time of some galleries and commercial spaces. Broadly speaking that’s one show every 36 minutes. Without context, it seems a crass way to experience art, to be sure. In the context of a walk, the line between those points-in-space are as much a part of the art experience as the art itself, the experience of a strong image colliding with my gentle slow movement as I walk the streets of Winnipeg. The results may vary depending how the photography and the walking environment resonate. For example, John Paskievich’s photographs of the northern Inuit resonate in interesting ways with my walk down north Main Street. Or the provocative images of Nathalie Daoust's Tokyo Hotel Story, eliciting complex thoughts as I make my way across the shiny St Boniface pedestrian bridge.

 

Consider the photographs taken on this walk as a kit of parts - festival venues and their photographs - and the map of my walk as the thread holding the parts together. It’s all there, waiting for assembly.

 

 

 

 

 

Flash Photo Festival on FootFlash Photo Festival on FootPhoto Central has show of Brandon Sun photog Colin Corneau. Hosts graciously offer expresso.

 

 

 

 

Flash Photo Festival on FootFlash Photo Festival on FootRobert Tinker's work in the windows of Stella's Cafe.

 

 

 

 

 

Flash Photo Festival on FootFlash Photo Festival on FootSalon style overview of Flash photography at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. Cheryl Hnatiuk front and centre.

 

 

 

 

 

Flash Photo Festival on FootFlash Photo Festival on FootWell that didn't work. Mike Deal's show is lost behind the locked doors of The Don restaurant

 

 

 

 

 

Flash Photo Festival on FootFlash Photo Festival on FootBonus!

 

 

 

 

 

Flash Photo Festival on FootFlash Photo Festival on FootMike Grandmaison in the Wow! Mabuhay Gift Shop at The Forks

 

 

 

 

 

Flash Photo Festival on FootFlash Photo Festival on FootRoberta Bondar at Buhler Gallery, St. Boniface Hospital. Gallery is a hidden Winnipeg gem.

 

 

 

 

 

Flash Photo Festival on FootFlash Photo Festival on FootPassing through St. Boniface, Canada's best 'hood on the way to...

 

 

 

 

 

Flash Photo Festival on FootFlash Photo Festival on Foot...Louise Dandeneau as seen at Cafe Postal, which has...

 

 

 

 

 

Flash Photo Festival on FootFlash Photo Festival on Foot...great coffee and sandwiches

 

 

 

 

 

Flash Photo Festival on FootFlash Photo Festival on FootMaison des Artistes. Outside, Claire Burelli's light box. Needs a night visit.

 

 

 

 

 

Flash Photo Festival on FootFlash Photo Festival on FootMaison des Artistes. Inside: Nathalie Daoust's challenging Tokyo Hotel Story.

 

 

 

 

 

Flash Photo Festival on FootFlash Photo Festival on FootColin Vandenberg's Cocoa farmers in Ghana at Constance Popp Chocolates.

 

 

 

 

 

Flash Photo Festival on FootFlash Photo Festival on FootHydro Bldg group show: a selection from MB Hydro's collection.

 

 

 

 

 

Flash Photo Festival on FootFlash Photo Festival on FootCaroline Wintoniw. "Where the Light Lands" At PrairieView Photography School.

 

 

 

 

 

Flash Photo Festival on FootFlash Photo Festival on FootRobert Barrow's gravure-like "equivalencies" at Portage and Main Press.

 

 

 

 

 

Flash Photo Festival on FootFlash Photo Festival on FootCheryl Hnatiuk's clean spare photos at the Free Press News Cafe.

 

 

 

 

Flash Photo Festival on FootFlash Photo Festival on FootJohn Paskievich, the great documentary photog, at Neechi Foods. Nunavut 1988

 

 

 

 

 

Flash Photo Festival on FootFlash Photo Festival on FootJohn Paskievich, the great documentary photog, at Neechi Foods.

 

 

 

 

 

Flash Photo Festival on FootFlash Photo Festival on FootDarcey Finley at Fox and Fiddle.

 

 

 

 

 

Flash Photo Festival on FootFlash Photo Festival on FootFinishing off at Fitzroy restaurant with Syn-O-Nym show on view.

 

 

 

 

 

Flash Photo Festival on FootFlash Photo Festival on FootAt Fitzroy's, my last pit stop before home. Boneshaker IPA and chunky chips.

 

 

 

 

 

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dfirman@mts.net (David Firman Photoworks) flash photography festival photography psychogeography walk winnipeg https://www.firmangallery.com/blog/2014/10/flash-photography-festival-on-foot Thu, 30 Oct 2014 15:36:54 GMT
A Tale Of Two Walks https://www.firmangallery.com/blog/2014/10/a-tale-of-tw-walks  

 

 

 

Camino de Santiago

 

 

 

On September 29, 2014 Gail and I were leaving Mistlebach in Austria on the second last day of our 600 kilometre walk along the Prague-Vienna Greenway. Two years earlier on that same September 29 date, we were departing St. Jean Pied de Port in France on the first day of our walk along the Camino Francés, the main and most popular route of the Camino de Santiago. Crossing all of Spain from east to west, the pilgrimage officially terminates in Santiago de Compostela. Walking several days more, as we did, takes you further east to Finisterre and Muxia on Spain’s west coast.
 
Walking the Camino was our first long distance walk. We are both longtime avid pedestrians, whether it is walking our dog around our neighbourhood or day long urban walks across our city or others. But connecting those longer walks one after the other, day after day with no break was a new experience. And we loved it. 
 
I plan to talk more about our Camino experiences in future posts (alas, it predated the introduction of my blog by two years) but, having just completed our second long walk, I feel the need to consider first how the two compare. The Camino, of course, is the harder hike from a measurable standpoint. At 927 kilometres walked over 38 days (including the extension to Muxia), it is more rigorous than the 600 kilometres of our Greenway trip, spread over just 21 days. That said, there were some very long days on the Greenway. On average, we walked 29 kilometres per day on the Greenway as opposed to 25 kilometres per day on the Camino.
 
The biggest difference between the two trails is a matter of their histories. The Camino has existed since the middle ages and, even though it may have fallen into long periods of disuse, the basic infrastructure - towns, churches, convents, monasteries - did not disappear, waiting for its ultimate revival as the Camino regained popularity in the 1990's and onward. In 1985, 690 pilgrims followed the route but by 2010 the number rose to an all-time high of 272,703 pilgrims. Historically, this infrastructure was spread along the length of the Camino, providing pilgrims with convenient places to eat and rest no matter how long or short the day's walk might be. Today's English-speaking pilgrim need no more advance planning than to fine-tune their backpack contents and buy the latest of edition of John Brierley's guide to the Camino, “A Pilgrim’s Guide to the Camino de Santiago”. You will see this guide in pockets and on dinner tables all along the Camino. And it is very good, dividing the trip into 33 stages and loaded with information about every restaurant, every place to sleep, every sight along the way. Signage along the Camino is excellent, with iconic Camino scallop shells and bright yellow arrows appearing even where you don't need them, negating the need for any serious maps (Brierley has unscaled map-like graphics that are good enough). 
 
The Prague-Vienna Greenway has none of that route history. It is an idea born after the Velvet Revolution in 1989, making use of existing roads and trails, connecting communities that exist for reasons other than serving walkers or cyclists or pilgrims. There is no network of hotels and restaurants directly linked to the Greenway. Many of the communities passed through are very small, too small to have hotels or pensions and too small to have restaurants or cafés. Others may only have one hotel or pension, making arrival without a reservation a risky undertaking for a tired walker unwilling to walk tens of kilometres to the next town. And there is no guidebook to rely on although the Friends of the Czech Greenway has a fair amount of general information on their website, http://www.pragueviennagreenways.org, including four detailed cycling booklets and interactive maps that are quite helpful. But that is all. 
 
The best guide is the one you prepare yourself using a complete set of ShoCart “Touristika Mapa” 1:50,000 or 1:40,000 scale maps. These show the Greenway as well as other cycle trails and the extensive network of hiking trails criss-crossing all of the Czech Republic. Before leaving home, I had purchased as many of the needed maps as I could from North American sources (primarily Omni Map), divided the Greenway into reasonable daily stages, each ending at a place with available accommodations, reserved all hotels, pensions and apartments through booking.com or direct email and prepared a very detailed itinerary. A lot of work but, having completed the journey, I would still consider it an essential pre-trip step.
 
I don't want to leave the impression that walking the Greenway is not worth the effort. The trail offers spectacular scenery and a continuous stream of historic towns and cities, all the equal of anything to be seen along the Camino. Nor will you be walking alongside hoards of other walkers. We walked the Camino in October and it was still a crowded path. On the Greenway, we had the trails largely to ourselves, meeting the occasional local hiker but never another sole purposely walking the entire trail. The Greenway is the better choice if you are seeking a more adventurous, more solitary journey.
 
From the start, the Camino was intended to be a religious pilgrimage (although there were also political motivations in play). Today, pilgrims ply the Camino for that reason but also for more broadly spiritual intentions or purely for the walk. Though the Greenway is marketed for its recreational appeal, the route coincidentally has many of the same religious artifacts that define the Camino: churches are the focal points of even the smallest village passed through and shrines, crosses and pillars appear at regular intervals all along the Greenway. And I would argue that the act of long distance walking, whether it is the Camino or the Greenway or any other trail, is a meditative, reflective experience driven by a repetitive chant-like motion through a slowly changing landscape. An experience where walking, spirituality and religion are one in the same.
 
 
 
 
 
Camino de Santiago
 
 
 
 
Camino de Santiago
 
 
 
 
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Camino de Santiago
 
 
 
 
Camino de Santiago
 
 
 
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dfirman@mts.net (David Firman Photoworks) Camino de Santiago Europe Prague-Vienna Greenway photography walk https://www.firmangallery.com/blog/2014/10/a-tale-of-tw-walks Thu, 23 Oct 2014 02:49:52 GMT
Prague to Vienna on Foot: Vienna Views https://www.firmangallery.com/blog/2014/10/prague-to-vienna-on-foot-vienna-views A series of posts following David and Gail as they walk 480 600 kilometers from Prague to Vienna.

 

 

 

The Third Man Museum

 

 

 

The inescapable soundtrack for our visit to Vienna is playing on a zither. It’s the theme to The Third Man, a movie set and shot in the ruins and gloom of post World War Two Vienna. 

 

Not that the city of today resembles that noir vision. On the contrary, it is lively and intensely devoted to the arts, both historic and contemporary. But we could imagine Vienna, pockmarked as it was with bombed-out buildings, rebuilding itself into the interesting amalgam of new and old we were seeing, with the best of both worlds on display.

 

A visit to the Dritte Mann Museum, or Third Man Museum, seemed necessary and it was a worthwhile, if eccentric use of our limited time in the city. There was of course the overwhelming collection of interesting movie memorabilia. But most interesting was the gallery devoted to Vienna before, during and after the war, effectively framing the rebirth of today’s Vienna.

 

The other worthwhile stop to gather thoughts about today’s Vienna was the Austrian Architecture Museum, part of the compact Museum Quartier collection of galleries. Armed with its information, we continued our unconventional tour by visiting several newer architectural works: Hans Hollein’s 1966 Retti Candle Shop (now a jewelry shop), Adolf Loos’s 1908 American Bar, Otto Wagner’s 1894-98 Karlsplatz Metro Station pavilions, Joseph Olbrich’s 1897 Secession building. 

 

Further afield were two disparate visions of residential development. The 1926-30 Karl-Marx-Hof by Karl Ehn is a massive 1,300-unit “Red Vienna” residential complex. Although quite strident in its socialist-cum-art deco skin and monumental arches designed to welcome returning workers to their homes, the housing is very human-scaled and comfortable. Low-height apartment units that occupy only 18% of the site surround treed courtyards, often with well tended gardens. 

 

For a contrary vision of social housing, we crossed town to the Hundertwasser-Krawina House (1982-85), a joint project by artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser and architect Josef Krawina. Here, housing accentuates the individual as opposed to the masses with colour-rich facades and avoidance of straight lines or flat surfaces (including, I understand, the floors). Its organic forms and mad colours create an appealing mass.  

 

We departed Vienna, not with The Third Man theme buzzing in our heads but with the organ music of Bach as it resonated throughout the ornate Baroque interior of Peterskirche (c1733) during a wonderful organ concert on the last night of our three day tour. We had come full circle, leaving modern Vienna behind for a brief moment, returning to a much earlier era defined by power and empire.

 

We left the church that evening, looking back one last time to take in its illuminated facade, an animated collection of curves and columns, nicely framed by stricter Classical walls on both sides of the small square it faces.  A bright orange garbage truck pulls up in front, warning lights flashing as orange-clad workers jump out to empty a few bins. Motors roar as debris is absorbed into the beast’s belly. The workers jump back aboard and drive away, quickly disappearing down a dark side street, leaving only the fading echo of a groaning diesel engine in their wake.  

 

We were on our way back to Winnipeg.      

 
 
 
 
Museum Quartier
 
 
 
 
Secession
 
 
 
 
Secession
 
 
 
 
 
Karlsplatz Pavilion
 
 
 
 
Former Retti Candle Shop
 
 
 
 
Engel-Apotheke by Oskar Laske (1901)
 
 
 
Outdoor dining at a local market
 
 
 
 
Café Sperl
 
 
 
 
Café Sperl
 
 
 
 
Karl-Marx-Hof
 
 
 
 
Karl-Marx-Hof
 
 
 
 
Karl-Marx-Hof
 
 
 
 
Karl-Marx-Hof
 
 
 
 
The Prater
 
 
 
Wiener Riesenrad (1897), in the Prater
 
 
 
 
Wiener Riesenrad (1897), in the Prater
 
 
 
 
Hundertwasser-Krawina House
 
 
 
 
Hundertwasser-Krawina House
 
 
 
 
Hundertwasser-Krawina House
 
 
 
 
St. Stephen's Cathedral
 
 
 
 
Fashion TV Café
 
 
 
 
Spanish Riding School
 
 
 
 
Peterskirche
 
 
 
 
Peterskirche
 
 
 
 
Peterskirche
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dfirman@mts.net (David Firman Photoworks) Europe Prague-Vienna Greenway Vienna photography walk https://www.firmangallery.com/blog/2014/10/prague-to-vienna-on-foot-vienna-views Thu, 16 Oct 2014 15:25:40 GMT
Prague to Vienna on Foot: Seen in Salzburg https://www.firmangallery.com/blog/2014/10/prague-to-vienna-on-foot-seen-in-salzburg A series of posts following David and Gail as they walk 480 600 kilometers from Prague to Vienna.

 

 

 

Salzburg, AustriaSalzburg, Austria

 

 

 

After 600 kilometers of non-stop walking across two countries, our last six days spent in Salzburg and Vienna were a welcome reward. We still walked but now it was a casual, slow movement, exploring nooks and crannies, walking in circles, not following a set line from A to B.

 

Salzburg was our first aprés-walk city, delivered here by train from the end of our trail in Vienna. It was a rain-filled two day visit that saw us take in the twin powerhouses of Salzburg tourism, a Sound of Music tour and a visit to Mozart’s two residences. Those necessary tasks completed, there’s window shopping to be done along the Getreidgasse, Sacher Torte to be devoured in it’s namesake hotel and, most remarkable for a city with a mere 150,000 people, the Museum der Modern to be visited, a spectacular brutalist hulk built high on the bluffs looming behind the city. Here was a more challenging diversion from the tourism below, very current art presented in a suitably modern gallery. Not to be missed was the gallery restaurant, its terrace hanging over the cliff walls with panoramic views of the entire historic city below. How fortunate that the sun should break through as we sat down at the best table in town for our modest 14 Euro “Business Lunch”.

 
 
 
 
Salzburg, AustriaSalzburg, Austria
 
 
 
 
Salzburg, AustriaSalzburg, Austria
 
 
 
 
 
Salzburg, AustriaSalzburg, Austria
 
 
 
 
Salzburg, AustriaSalzburg, Austria
 
 
 
 
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Salzburg, AustriaSalzburg, Austria
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dfirman@mts.net (David Firman Photoworks) Europe Prague Prague-Vienna Greenway photography walk https://www.firmangallery.com/blog/2014/10/prague-to-vienna-on-foot-seen-in-salzburg Sat, 11 Oct 2014 02:04:58 GMT
Prague to Vienna on Foot: Our Last Day https://www.firmangallery.com/blog/2014/10/prague-to-vienna-on-foot-our-last-day A series of posts following David and Gail as they walk 480 kilometers (or so) from Prague to Vienna.

 

 

 

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A mere fourteen kilometres to the Vienna city limits. Only nine more from there to get to the nearest Vienna metro. It seems so short, this being the last day of our walk from Prague. A trip that (you will have noticed) was a predicted 480 kilometres in length but turned out to be just over 600 kilometres by the time we added all the detours, mileage miscalculations, the added length of some foot trails and the wrong turns.
 
We left Wolkersdorf early in the morning, passing several art projects, ducks and monumental wood animals before re-entering familiar agricultural territory. It is surprising how long the farmland held out before finally revealing evidence of a large city. Even then, the Euro Cycle Route 9 we have been following across most of Austria, a path that has managed to find a largely car-free route along its entire length, persists in finding an arcadian route to the city's edge...and then some. We stop at the Welcome-to-Vienna sign, set in a wooded section of the path, for the requisite selfie. Technically, this could qualify as the end of our trek; we never saw an official Greenway plaque in Vienna to announce the beginning or end of the path. For us, the end point would be further on, at the Floridsdorf U-Bahn station where we would take the Vienna metro to the Westbanhof Station to catch a train to Salzburg that evening.
 
600 kilometres. 21 days. Our pedestrian journey across the Czech Republic and Austria is now complete. Hard as it might have been at times with a number of overly long days, it was an entirely rewarding experience. Walking brings you as close as possible to the world around you as any method of moving from place to place can. It gives you the time to contemplate every subtle difference of a place as every detail is slowly revealed, one footstep at a time. Small things matter and come to life, whether it is the mystery of pumpkins or the art of sgraffiti. Or a morning walk in a cool drizzle. Or a refreshing beer at lunch. Or seeing the near-invisible remnants of a tragic history. Or a surprising stay at grandmother's house in a small hamlet you would never have gone to unless you walked there.
 
 
 
 
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dfirman@mts.net (David Firman Photoworks) Europe Prague Prague-Vienna Greenway photography walk https://www.firmangallery.com/blog/2014/10/prague-to-vienna-on-foot-our-last-day Thu, 02 Oct 2014 20:52:52 GMT
Prague to Vienna on Foot: A Homage to Pumpkins https://www.firmangallery.com/blog/2014/9/prague-to-vienna-on-foot-a-homage-to-pumpkins A series of posts following David and Gail as they walk 480 kilometers from Prague to Vienna.

 

 

 

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It is our second last day on the Prague-Vienna Greenway. On this solemn day, overcast and cool, we make our way across rolling hills of corn, onions and the ever-present squash. The tidy little villages are coming more frequently, a sure sign we are approaching Vienna. It is Monday, so most of the cyclists are back at work and we have the well-developed network of cycle paths to ourselves. 
 
Restaurants are rare along the route, most of the communities being too small to support even a bar. Luckily, we find a pizzeria and bar in Niederkreuzstetten, and settle in for a veggie pizza and two large beers. At the table kitty-corner to ours sits a man with jean overalls and a white tee shirt with a big Canada and red flag printed across the front. He is talking German and speaking  loudly across the room to the server so we don't engage. 
 
Lunch done, we head back to the trail, a small one lane road that seems to be heading nowhere in particular. But on this road to nowhere comes a small old car going in our direction and, on the pass, a husky guy leans out the window, his red Canada tee shirt in full display and asks us if we need a ride. We decline but this leads to some casual banter about Canada and his visit to Niagara Falls. He eventually pulls off on his way to we know not where on this trail-sized road. We wind our way through more farm fields, more onions, more squash and arrive at the picturesque village of Hornsburg. An award winning picturesque village, having won the gold award in the Entente Florale Europe competition several years ago. On our way through we pass the rows of neat houses and, in the open doorway of one leans Mr. Canada. Another longish chat ensues, this one focussing on his business. All those squash we have been passing over the past few days are actually pumpkins, a specialty crop in Austria. Mr. Canada, also known as Franz, is in the business of processing those pumpkins, which are apparently unique to Austria, and making pumpkin seed oil. He gives us a small bottle to take back to Canada before we head on our way, well behind schedule at this point, but it was a pleasant break and solved the mystery of what all those squash crops could possibly be used for. It makes the rest of our long 37 kilometre day more tolerable, which ends in Wolkerdorf at the pleasant Hotel Klaus im Weinviertel and an end-of-day meal featuring pumpkin soup and a pumpkin ragout. As we would expect.
 
 
 
 
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dfirman@mts.net (David Firman Photoworks) Europe Prague Prague-Vienna Greenway photography walk https://www.firmangallery.com/blog/2014/9/prague-to-vienna-on-foot-a-homage-to-pumpkins Tue, 30 Sep 2014 21:58:15 GMT
Prague to Vienna on Foot: Crossing Borders https://www.firmangallery.com/blog/2014/9/prague-to-vienna-on-foot-crossing-borders A series of posts following David and Gail as they walk 480 kilometers from Prague to Vienna.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next two days of walking would take us from Mikulov and across the Czech-Austrian border. Leaving Mikulov, we continued on our Cold War signálka roads towards Valtice. This part of the road is lined with a number of plaques describing the Iron Curtain, various escape attempts and the consequential deaths. Unfortunately the text is only in German and Czech but inferences could be made from the many archival photos. Adding to the drama of the story were the pop-pop-pop of blasts going off all around us, attempts by farmers to fend off hungry birds from eating their ripe grapes.
 
The Austrian border was equally solemn with its deserted pre-EU buildings, gates and guard posts, save for a closed Iron Curtain Museum in the midst of what is now a visual no-man's land. Now you just walk past all these deteriorating structures and into another country. Austria itself was, quite naturally not that much different in terms of landscape and agriculture. There were not a lot of old buildings, a consequence of war, I would guess. And the vineyards are more dominant than in the Czech Republic as they continuously roll over the gentle hills and off to the horizon. Another, more immediately noticeable difference is how the prices for our basic needs - food, beer and hotels -  has skyrocketed, just by crossing an imaginary line. 
 
Our first night was spent in the small village of Herrnbaumgarten, an easy 22 kilometre walk on a dreary overcast day. We woke to a cool but sunny day as we headed for our next night's rest stop at Mistelbach. Long at almost 35 kilometres, it was the more charming of the two days with a good mix of ripe grapes to try out, scenery to behold and curiosities to hold our interest. Like an installation art piece remotely located on one of the paths, a series of clothes drying racks with pinned socks and a washing machine mounted on a pedestal in the centre of the piece.     
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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dfirman@mts.net (David Firman Photoworks) Europe Prague Prague-Vienna Greenway photography walk https://www.firmangallery.com/blog/2014/9/prague-to-vienna-on-foot-crossing-borders Mon, 29 Sep 2014 17:29:39 GMT
Prague to Vienna on Foot: Mikulov https://www.firmangallery.com/blog/2014/9/prague-to-vienna-on-foot-mikulov A series of posts following David and Gail as they walk 480 kilometers from Prague to Vienna.

 

 

 

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Mikulov is a city no less interesting than its cousins, Telč, Tabor, Salonice and Znojmo. But this hilltop town suffers from an unromantic approach. No crowning a hill to reveal a picturesque village here. Instead, the approach is through a rough industrial district, flat and ugly and not too unlike the approach to any North American city. Those impressions quickly disappear as the winding streets are navigated, revealing another stunning old town square. Wine dominates this urban landscape, along with the requisite enormous chateau watching over the imbibing below. It is still Burčak season and, of course, I participate in this fall ritual. Another difference is the glut of cyclists invading this city. Considering all the cycle paths we have followed since Prague, we have been surprised by how few bikers we have met. That started to change around Vranov nad Dyje but Mikulov is definitely two-wheel territory. It might have something to do with the less rigorous, gently rolling landscape. Or it may be that touring the wine district is the draw. 
 
What makes Mikulov truly unique is its Jewish heritage. Jews were important throughout the history of the Czeck lands. Not without struggle, of course, but gaining a foot hold and rights similar to the rest of the population.  Mikulov's Jews once made up about 43% of the population. All of that changed with the rise of the Nazi's and, by the end of World War Two, that population neared zero. What remains are the remnants of the Jewish ghetto, once a vital community of over 300 house clinging to the slopes below the chateau, now reduced to about 90 houses, a couple of synagogues and a huge cemetery easily rivaling that of the Prague ghetto.
 
 
 
 
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dfirman@mts.net (David Firman Photoworks) Europe Prague Prague-Vienna Greenway photography walk https://www.firmangallery.com/blog/2014/9/prague-to-vienna-on-foot-mikulov Sat, 27 Sep 2014 20:41:44 GMT
Prague to Vienna on Foot: Border Patrol https://www.firmangallery.com/blog/2014/9/prague-to-vienna-on-foot-border-patrol A series of posts following David and Gail as they walk 480 kilometers from Prague to Vienna.

 

 

 

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It is not that we wanted to set a new record for kilometres walked in a day. Walking should be a pleasure and, for Gail and me, that is in the 20-25 kilometre range. Our first day of walking from Znojmo to Mikulov would go well beyond that. Nor was it a particularly engaging section of the Greenway, brought to life only by a fine Renaissance mill in Slup and by the overly straight and no-nonsense paved trails of the last 14 kilometres of our walk, closely paralleling the Austrian border. Historically used by the military to patrol the Iron Curtain, the roads were known as signálka during the Cold War because they used a signaling system to detect any movement across them. The imagination could go wild with Great Escape plots as we traversed endless fields of squash, corn and fewer vineyards than expected.
 
Wandering into our destination village of Hrabêtice at seven in the evening, barely beating dusk, we realized that a trip that I had early on calculated to be 33 kilometres, then revised to 40 kilometres on closer examination turned out to be a record-busting 46.4 kilometre marathon!
 
Thankfully, the next day was a more reasonable 23 kilometres, taking us to the wine-centric city of Mikulov. Also following the Cold War roads, this section seemed much friendlier, more treed with wayside tables and interpretive plaques, partly in English. We also managed to find a small wine cellar and sat down for a while with a cycling couple and our gracious hosts to drink a large amount of Burčak. This is a very young fermented grape juice only available for a few short weeks in early fall, a very cloudy brew tasting more of grapefruit or raspberries than wine. But the Czechs love it and will go on at length about how wonderful it is and its health benefits. Admittedly, it is quite refreshing and, at about 6% alcohol, you can afford to drink a fair amount and still walk another 10 kilometres without falling into a ditch.
 
 
 
 
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dfirman@mts.net (David Firman Photoworks) Europe Prague Prague-Vienna Greenway photography walk https://www.firmangallery.com/blog/2014/9/prague-to-vienna-on-foot-border-patrol Sat, 27 Sep 2014 06:09:26 GMT
Prague to Vienna on Foot: Znojmo https://www.firmangallery.com/blog/2014/9/prague-to-vienna-on-foot-znojmo A series of posts following David and Gail as they walk 480 kilometers from Prague to Vienna.