Thursday, June 30, 2011

Sixteen: North Carolina

As I mentioned earlier this week, I was in North Carolina visiting Matt this past weekend. He's studying at Duke for the summer, which we visited soon after I arrived.

This is the Duke Chapel, which was surprisingly built less than 100 years ago.

The gothic revival design of the chapel was beautiful, and it could have easily belonged in Europe, especially the interior.

We drove west to Asheville on Saturday to spend a day in the mountains. I seriously miss mountains and nature in general living in Houston. It's such a concrete wasteland compared to beautiful places like this!

That house was the B&B we stayed in, a 100-plus year old mansion completely and beautiful restored. It was absolutely lovely, and the property surrounding the mansion was quaint and wonderful.

Asheville was a very cute, eclectic town full of old homes and hippies. We spent the afternoon wandering around the old historic district.

Also in Asheville is St. Lawrence's Basilica, a beautiful Catholic church built by the same architect who designed the Duke Chapel.

As early evening fell in Asheville, the street artists and musicians came out of the woodworks. This girl was one of those statue street artists who would remain motionless unless you ponied up money. Matt decided to support the art world by giving her a few bucks, so she played her drum for us.

These folks were all members of a fun jazz/folk band playing on the streets.

We drove back to Durham Sunday afternoon, and early Monday, I was a plane back to Houston. It was a fast, but fun weekend, and a wonderful getaway from the Houston heat and oppressive humidity.

North Carolina, you were amazing. I hope to come back one day.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Sixteen Preview: North Carolina

I've had little time to edit my photos from this weekend. I was able to fly up to North Carolina to visit Matt for the weekend, which was grand! I'll hopefully edit and post photos for week sixteen tomorrow evening.

Until then, here's quick preview: the Duke University Chapel.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Fourteen Redux: More temples in Kyoto

Remember my last Kyoto post when I pretty much posted only photos from Nanzen-ji? Well, I left some out. We went into another temple on the grounds, and I was able to shoot the beautiful gardens.

Zen gardens are beautiful and so peaceful.

And that was really our last stop at Nanzen-ji. Oh, this complex was truly a wonder and one of the most lovely spots we found in all of Kyoto.

After an amazing lunch at a quaint, little noodle house (which I sadly have no photographs of), we headed up to the Tetsugaku-no-Michi, (or the Path of Philosophy) for a beautiful, tree-lined walk to our next to stops.

First, we stopped at Honen-in, a small temple site seemingly hidden in the trees. (I believe Matt took this photo, although I'm not 100% sure.)

We were greeted by this guy as we walked up the stairs to the site.

The trees and all the green was lovely, and there were more grounds workers meticulously keeping this place beautiful and a little wild.

Our next stop was a major tourist site: Ginkaku-ji temple, also known as the Silver Pavilion. We walked up a long, narrow road full of shops and packed with Japanese school kids. At everyone major site we visited in Kyoto, we encountered the same site: tons of Japanese school children, all in uniform, all seemingly unchaperoned, visiting the temples.

As we walked up this road, one of these groups of school kids stopped us and asked if we were American. They then proceeded to tell us that they were visiting from Tokyo, and that they needed to take a photo with an American. How could we not oblige? Especially when they let me snap a few shots of them after.

The Silver Pavilion was alright. We didn't find this building particularly spectacular. In fact, this one of only three photos I took it.

What was more beautiful and interesting was the surrounding bamboo forest inside the temple grounds.

Our last stop of the day was the must-see sight in Kyoto, one who's photograph rotates on my MacBook as a stock background photo: Kinkaku-ji, better know as the Golden Pavilion. (Photo by Matt)

We actually struggled to photograph this building properly, probably because we've seen so many photos that look exactly like the one on the Wikipedia page. Also, our inspiration level fell when we read in our guidebook that the original building burned down in the 50s. Boo. (See the original building here - isn't it beautiful? And perhaps not as gaudy?)

But we still photographed it from an many angles as we could. (The first photo is Matt's creation.)

And lastly, I have to throw in this guy. He sat atop another building on the complex.

And thus ends our fourth day in Kyoto. One more day to go!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Fifteen: Big Range Dance Festival 2011

After shooting Rosie Trump a few weeks ago, she contacted me to come and photograph her and other choreographers for the Big Range Dance Festival here in Houston. It was an exciting night! And I absolutely loved the experience of photographing the art of dance. All the dancers were beautiful, and it was a privilege to capture their movements.

I took a whole lot of photos obviously, so here's a small selection of my favorites.

Thanks again, Rosie!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Fourteen: More Kyoto

The doors of the entrance to Higashi Hongan-ji temple, captured by Matt.

A street in Downtown Kyoto, also taken by Matt.

More from the streets of Downtown.

As I said in my last post, after we found Nanzen-ji Temple on our first day in Kyoto, we knew we had to return once more, and so Thursday morning, we did.

These are photos of the gate at the entrance to the temple grounds. The deep wood of both the gate and the temple were beautiful. And these columns were massive.

Matt took both of these photos of the Nanzen-ji gate, and I think they're fantastic.

As we walked through the gate up to the temple, I noticed workers on the grounds meticulously grooming the gardens with tiny scissors and a lot of patience.

Worshipers who were visiting the temple first made an offering (to "purchase" an incense stick), and lighted the incense before they bowed to pray near the temple entrance before approaching the temple doors.

Surprisingly (to us, at least), we were definitely in the ethnic minority while touring Kyoto's sites. Occasionally, we saw other Westerners at major tourist sites, on trains, etc., but for the most part, we saw other Japanese tourists who seemed to be visiting the temples and shrines to worship. It provided ample opportunity for us to watch these "tourists" worship at these sites and pay their respects. What a wonderful glimpse of life to catch!

Most of the temples we visited had beautifully pained fabric panels behind the altars that, unfortunately, I was unable to capture with my camera since most temples did not allow photography inside the buildings. However, one of the buildings on the Nanzen-ji temple complex had it's doors open wide as we explored the outside garden. Perfect.

Also in this garden was a little waterfall both Matt & I found quite picturesque. (First photo taken by Matt.)

We visited a small shrine on the Nanzen-ji complex grounds, which included a cool marker

and geishas!

These two geishas were part of what looked like a photo shoot at the shrine entrance. I snapped on my zoom lens and started photographing them from another entrance, hoping to get a good photograph. One of the geishas noticed me through the trees, and they both turned and gladly allowed me to snap a few straight on shots.

There were also some buddhas at the shrine worth photographing.

Having already posted way too many photos today, I'll stop here (this was just the morning of our day!) and post more in a couple of days. I think it's quite clear that Nanzen-ji was our favorite site we visited in Kyoto. This complex was incredibly beautiful, peaceful, and seemed to be a world away from the modern city it sat in.

Also, look for my "week fifteen" post tomorrow night!