Agnes Caruso Photography

Photography


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Historical timepieces

I was always amazed by old clocks when visiting historical castles and palaces. They were all handcrafted by very skilled artists not just watchmakers or tradesmen. Many of them unfortunately do not work anymore, which is a pity. Take a look at some of them shown below, they are beautiful.We can only imagine the sounds they would make if they were still working.

Here are some of the amazing images I took in the Warsaw Castle, Lazienki and Wilanow.

It is only a small selection what is presented in those historical locations.

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Old Town in Warsaw, Poland

Old Town in Warsaw is one of the most commonly frequented places in Warsaw, especially by tourists. It has changed a lot over the centuries and even over the past few decades. The Old Town was damaged significantly during the WWII and got restored after the war. There were some additional restorations carried out over the last few decades making it look like you see now.

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Warsaw castle was damaged during the 1939 war with Germany with famous pictures showing burning clock tower in September 1939. However, it still stood over the city. It got nearly completely blown up after the 1944 Warsaw uprising. When you visit the castle, it is still possible to see reminders of this time in the foundations that survived the war. The castle got rebuild after the war pretty much de novo. It now stands proudly in the Old Town once again. The interiors of the castle have been beautifully reconstructed according to the historical information available.

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The castle was an important site not only the royal residence. It was used for the meetings of the Polish parliament. The old meeting room seen here on the left. Later the parliament rooms got moved upstairs.  The Senate room now hosts a copy of the Polish Constitution signed on 3rd May 1791. There is also a painting by famous Polish painter Jan Matejko showing the scene after the signing of the Constitution. Many famous people are shown in the painting with the king in the center holding the Constitution.

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My favorite room is the marble room hosting portraits of 22 Polish kings painted by Marcello Bacciarelli. It includes the big portrait of last king of Poland – Stanislaw August Poniatowski.

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There are many more things to see in the castle, with all the beautiful little decorative details. It is worth a visit to see all the amazing things that are in the castle and learn about its history.

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Once you leave the castle most people head to the main square in the Old Town. On your way one of the churches you pass, is the Saint John’s Cathedral. This is the church in front of which Matejko placed the scene seen in his painting of Constitution of May 3, 1791. It also had to be restored after the war, while not completely destroyed it was significantly damaged. It hosts organ concerts in the summer and sometime at other times of the year. The only time that visitors are permitted is when there is no mass celebrated. If you do come inside be respectful as it is a place of worship and not a meeting point, so keep your conversations to a minimum and very quiet.

As you continue along the street you get to the square. The houses surrounding it were also reconstructed after the war. They house a lot of little shops, museums, cafes and restaurants. This square has been pictured in many movies taking place in Warsaw. In wintertime, before Christmas there is a holiday market held here.

In the old days the town was surrounded by the fortifications known as Barbakan. What you can see now is all modern construction, however, it was constructed on the original foundations.

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One of the amazing things to do around the Old Town is walk on the little streets, stop in for a coffee, go into a church, visit many little shops or just explore. It is fun, you get to see many beautiful houses, decorations and some streets offer views of the river.

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Come and enjoy your time in the Old Town. After starting here, you can explore the other royal residences in Warsaw.


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Cherry Blossom Festival – Washington DC

Cherry Blossom Festival last week was spectacular. The cold snap a week before did not seem to stop the flowers. The weather this spring though is very variable. Saturday was sunny but Sunday turned out to be overcast. While many photographers do not like bright sunlight for taking the pictures, in case of the cherry blossoms it is nice to have just a little sunlight. The contrast you can get between beautifully blue sky and white or lightly pink flowers does not have to be super sharp. Hiding under the trees when taking photos makes them lit up very gently, just like those pictures taken in 2009.
 

One unbelievable part of the Cherry Blossom Festival is the number of people coming. Everyone taking pictures with whatever tool they have, mobile phones, iPads, compact cameras, SLR cameras, or professional cameras. There were tripods, monopods, selfie sticks, the trick was to not bump into anyone or hit anyone with your gear.

 

As it was quite warm and calm, people were on the water enjoying the views, taking pictures and getting tangled up in blossoms.

The main question is: in how many ways can you photograph the blossoms and Washington landmarks, how many shapes do the trees have? I would say as many as there are people looking at them. Everyone will take different pictures and have a different point of view. Here are some of mine:
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There were not just cherry blossoms, there were also beautiful tulips and kids as well as adults hiding between them. There were also some magnolias still in bloom.

Tulips

 

Some people came all dressed up in beautiful outfits, kimonos, colorful dresses like the lady in a picture above. There was lots of color contrasting with the white and pink flowers present everywhere. Girls in white dresses, colorful dresses, boys in black suits. Everyone wanted to take a memorable image to take home.

Cherry Blossom Festival is a great time to spend outdoors with your family or friends. Just be prepared for crowds, relax and take it easy.

 

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Renaissance Fair

Soon after the Scottish Games I went to my first Renaissance Festival in Crownsville, Maryland. The Festival is amazing, it allows you to experience something really different from your regular everyday life. As soon as you pass through the gates you become a part of the feast in Revel Grove, a village in Oxfordshire, England. Why? Because, this year’s story line was the Royal visit by King Henry VIII and Queen Katherine of Aragon in Revel Grove. You can see the King, Queen, the royal court and foreign guests. They are definitely enjoying themselves.

The weekend of 19th and 20th of September was a Pirate weekend, and there were many pirates of all sizes, shapes and forms.

However, pirates did not completely take over. There was lots of entertainment, with The Sirens, The O’Danny Girls, Cu Dubh to name a few. And music was not the only thing you can enjoy. There were short versions of Shakespeare’s plays, acrobats, juggling, jousting and many other attractions.

Shakespeare would have been proud watching those short versions at the Globe Theater.

A lot of action and entertainment was at The Joust Arena with the Return of the Black Knight Joust. Horses and knights were all action on this hot day in a very dusty arena.

In all the excitement there were moments just worth seeing, here are a few of my favorite moments from the festival.

I enjoyed the time at the Renaissance Festival and if yo have not been to one, go and have fun!  Huzzah!


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Virginia Scottish Games – 2015

Labor Day weekend was the time to go and seen what the Scottish are up to in Virginia. And there was plenty to see at The Plains: athletics, highland dancing, bag pipe bands, clan parade, sheep dog demonstrations and much more.

This was my second time at the games and I enjoyed every moment of them. One of the highlights in my eyes was fencing demonstration from the Virginia Academy of Fencing. As you see, starting early is a key to become a good fencer.

However, you get a bit more fun when you can actually pick up the sword.

Learning to defend yourself can actually take some time. I should know, used to fence a little some time ago. If you never tried it, go for it. Fencing is a cool sport, can leave you with some bruises but it will teach you some valuable lessons. There were also other opportunities to explore sword fighting and get a personal introduction.

Central stage of the games were the athletics events: stone toss, heavy weight toss, hammer throw, caber toss, sheaf toss and weight over bar. The caber toss in amateur competition ended in a tie and had to be broken by attempting to toss the professional caber! It was definitely fun to watch. It takes three men to get this caber upright and only one guy to toss it.

The athletics field became for some time a central stage for the Clan Parade. Capturing the marching clans was an interesting task, as you wanted not to be stepped on while sitting on the grass. Here is a mosaic composed from the parade and a few special shots that seem to warm the heart.

The parade was closed by the pipe bands marching down the center as well. One of the bands turned away from me but the second was heading right for me! So a quick scramble to get away.

As it turned out a photographer needs to watch out or the band is going to walk right over you!

Pipe bands sounded great and created a great atmosphere. Although not everybody agreed with that statement!

It has been very hot over the weekend so being able to rest a little was a good thing. One place where you could rest was under a big tree to see the sheep dog demonstrations. The sheep and dogs did not seem to mind the weather as much as people did. There was plenty of action to watch with amazing explanations as to what is really happening.

If you were tired and thirsty, there was plenty of drinks to enjoy, great lemonade, beer and you could always pick up some tea pots and make your own. Sit back and relax.

Finally, there were some pretty spectacular participants and some famous people, OK not really people, but still famous cut-outs.

I had a great time and hope to see you next year!


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Arches National Park

A long drive from Denver Colorado across the Rockies brought us to Moab, a gateway to Arches National Park. This area is very popular with tourists so make sure you book your accommodation well in advance. There is a lot to see in Arches, including a visitor centre with exhibition on geology of the area. It explains how the arches were and are being formed. You can drive yourself around the park or use a shuttle. In peak season you may find that parking will be a problem. However, driving does allow you to stop whenever you want in many of the pull over spots, overlooks and parking areas.

While the national park is great to visit at any time of the day, sunrise and sunset are the most amazing times provided there are not too many clouds. You will be able to see some areas best at sunrise: e.g. Great Wall, Delicate arch, or at sunset: e.g. Park Avenue or windows.

Hike to Delicate arch is quite long so you have to allow enough time and in some places there is a need to pay attention, so you stay on the path. This hike is worth the effort, especially when it is not cloudy. The morning I was there it was cloudy but we had a moment of light and this is what it looked like.

However, not all mornings were great, the next day sunrise did not really bring the light we were all hoping for, despite that there was still time to take some interesting pictures.

During the day there is plenty to see in the national park, I spend quite some time wandering around the dunes and broken arches.

Colors you will see in Arches are amazing, they will vary depending on the weather and time of the day. The area is quite dry so you will see lots of desert plants, including cacti. In May they were just starting to flower. There are also beautiful textures and occasionally you can see animals hiding in between the rocks or among the plants.

You need to bring food and water with you as there is nowhere to get food, but water can be topped up in some places. Remember that the area is the desert and going out for a hike with no water is not a good idea. While lots of hikes are short, there are quite a few medium and long ones, so pretty much a little bit for everyone.


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Visit to St Augustine in Florida – like being in Spain without flying to Spain

Monument of Juan Ponce de Leon in St. Augustine.

A completely random conversation on a flight to Cleveland with a very nice girl from Florida, led me to visit St Augustine a week later while in Florida.St.

Augustine is the oldest European settlement in the USA. Founded and settled by Spanish in 16th century. It has a number of historical buildings – the Cathedral of St. Augustine, Castillo de San Marcos, Fort Matanzas or St. Augustine Lighthouse.

The city is beautiful and has a unique character. At every turn you can find a piece of history. In some places it nearly seems like the time has stopped long time ago. So park your car in the central parking garage and walk around, there is no need for a car in town.

 

 

 

I had a very limited time to see St Augustine, however, even that little time was great. If you are driving into the city on the weekend, I would recommend starting early to arrive there early morning, this will give you a chance to enjoy your morning coffee in a few coffee shops around. I picked an Australian one – The Kookaburra . Very friendly, great coffee and scones that actually do resemble those from back home. Overall nice breakfast.

Close by is the Cathedral of St. Augustine. I missed on seeing the interior as there was mass in progress, since it was Sunday.

If you prefer a more American coffee, there is also a coffee shack and you can smell that coffee from far away.

Once I got some food and coffee, I strolled over to Castillo de San Marcos.

Old fortress build in St Augustine is a part of the National Park network, so bring your cards or buy a ticket on-site. There are ranger-led tours as well as you can do a self-guided tour. You should set aside about 2 hours for visiting the site, it allows you to see all at leisurely pace. The best part of the visit is to be able to soak in the atmosphere and imagine yourself a few centuries back. You get nice views of the marina and the city. One of the highlights is firing of the canon just like in the old days done by guys dressed in period costumes. It is loud so be prepared but definitely worth seeing.

There are a number of interiors of the fortress to see, like sleeping quarters, gun powder room, storage rooms.

As most of the San Marco castle is exposed, make sure to bring sunscreen and a hat in summer, raincoat or some warm clothes and a hat in fall and winter.

Once you have seen the fortress, head back into town and the main walking street is closed to traffic, it has quite touristy feel to it but there is a bit of historical feel there too. There are many small little shops, there is a historical tour you can take as well.

That was pretty much all I managed to see in just over 2 hours in St Augustine. If you have a bit more time, take a trip to the Anastasia Island and the lighthouse as well as to the Rattlesnake Island to see Fort Matanzas. Overall, it is a great little town to see with interesting history and well worth visiting if you are nearby, Daytona Beach, or Jacksonville. Thanks to the stranger from the plane I had a great morning.


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Night images of the cities

Night photography is particularly exciting, it produces unforgettable images. However, it is also very challenging type of photography. It requires patience and some additional equipment. At a minimum you will need a tripod, while heave sturdy one is always the best, you can use even a small gorillapod.  One plus of a small tripod is that it allows you to take pictures from a low angle, giving you a very different point of view. One additional feature on a camera, that is very useful is a swivel back screen. Together with live view shooting it is a great tool to properly frame the shot.

Both of those shots are low angles shots. The first one – Koeln Cathedral, with wide angle lens Canon 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM lens. The second, St.Louis, with the Canon EF15-85mm f/3.5-5.6IS USM. I use this lens not just during the night shooting, but also during the day. This is the lens used in all the pictures shown below.

Having a regular tripod made shooting of the following three images really easy. Keep it steady and expose for as long as you need or want, in order to produce effects you would like to create. Not having a tripod when I was shooting the moving carousel was a big challenge but still produced just the image I wanted.

Another way to shoot is to take picture from above. Here are two examples of those. While neither was taken from a great height, they both look down onto the city. Car lights leave light trails in the picture of Koeln Opera House below. A movement of a carousel also produces light trails in the image above.

Night images are always an adventure, you never quite know how it will look in the final picture. If you come a cross the evening or night fog the light dispersal can also be quite unique producing interesting results. Car lights or reflections are always interesting as well. So feel adventurous and explore night photography.


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Day at Miami Beach

When I was visiting Miami, I managed to get some time on the weekend to see what is around Miami and after a lot of thinking and looking at pictures decided to see Miami Beach.

It has been an interesting day starting with a breakfast at an Argentinian bakery, which I noticed when I was driving towards Surfside. Buenos Aires Bakery and Cafe had amazing pastries and really nice strong coffee. Delightful treat in the morning, giving you the boost you need to walk around.

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Sugar overload makes you want to go for a walk to use up some of the calories you just consumed. If you park on a close by parking, you can walk on the beach or the boardwalk and enjoy nice weather and sun.

Palms, lifeguard towers, beach umbrellas, bicycle riders and lots of other things can be seen when walking on the boardwalk. Make sure to take some light shoes and a backpack so you can take them off and walk on the sand, relax, wet your toes in water. Bring a beach umbrella if you have one. You can also rent some on the beach but they are not necessarily as pretty as the one you see below. Last time I have seen a nice umbrella like this was in Nice, France. On a nice hot day, a guy was sitting on the beach fully dressed in warm clothes under a small colorful umbrella.
Nice beach

If you want to enjoy some time relaxing in water, you do not have to just swim, there are boats, boards for rent so you can enjoy your day.

One of the nice areas of Miami Beach is South Pointe Park on the southern tip of Miami Beach. Great place to stop by and have a long walk to the marina and view Miami to the west. Rest in the park, do some yoga, skateboard and enjoy your time.

When you walk to the east, you end up on the pier and can admire view along the beach towards Surfside and beyond. If you love boats, marina is not the only place to admire them. Pier is a good place to look at them going in and out of the marina. You can also fish from the pier, or just sit down and rest. If you have time take a relaxing walk along the Beachwalk. The area around offers plenty of restaurants and shopping. There are also markets worth visiting to see some local arts, produce and some special events like car shows.

Enjoy your day be adventurous and relax.


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A short stop at the Everglades

The Everglades National Park is an interesting place to visit when you are in Florida. When driving by one of the park entrances, I decided to stop and have a little bit of a rest in the park. Shark Valley entrance is directly off Highway 41. Maybe because of it being Sunday or a very warm day, the parking lot in the park was full and most visitors have to park on the shoulder of the highway.

It definitely was worth stopping by to see some of the interesting wildlife. As I did not intend to visit the park, I took only my standard lens Canon EF15-85mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM. It delivers beautiful images but I did miss some of the extra zoom I could have had.
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Birds were plentiful and most of them quite indifferent to visitors, walking or standing close to a walking path. One animal you do not want to get close to is an alligator. There were quite a few of them basking in the sun, most were large, but there was also a baby one. An interesting capture was when a turtle was resting right next to an alligator.

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And for all those not so interested in animals there are also plants, however, very few were in bloom in January.

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When you visit bring your higher zoom camera as well as a tripod, it could become handy.