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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Slovenia


Europe in a nutshell



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I found that, due to the extremely contrasty conditions, the “Portrait” Picture Control setting for my JPEGs in the D90, with its inherently lower-contrast algorithms, produced the best out of the camera files. Ordinarily, I like to set “Vivid,” but that setting was too contrasty for the extreme dynamic range of the lighting conditions in the caves with bright highlighted areas and deep, dense shadows.

Up on the surface and a few miles down the road is Lipica, where the famous white Lipizzaner stallions are bred. The tour of the 430-year-old breeding farm is definitely worth a stop, but try to coordinate it with one of the three weekly performances of the classical riding school, where you can see the magnificent horses go through their dressage paces. The performances are usually held Tuesday, Friday and Sunday at 3 p.m., but check the schedule to avoid disappointment (www.lipica.org). The performances are indoors in a mix of daylight, mercury vapor and fluorescent lighting. The mix is constantly changing, depending on where the horses are relative to the different light sources, so it makes for interesting color shifts if you use Auto White Balance. In the end, I converted to black-and-white, and all the images looked great!

Coastal Attraction. Another hour down the road, and you’re in a completely different Slovenia—the beautiful Istrian coast. Sandwiched between Croatia and the Gulf of Trieste, there’s only about 25 miles of Slovenia that touches this water. But lots of good things come in this tiny package.

There are interesting villages and colorful and photogenic salt pans along this coast, but don’t miss the Venetian-style town of Piran. Located on a tongue of land jutting out into the sea, its red-roofed houses, tangled alleyways, and small gem-like churches and chapels make it a great place to wander and photograph.

I spent a morning happily doing street scenes in the back alleys of this town, but got my most dramatic pictures from the tower of a little church on a hillside. The door was open, so I stuck my head in, and the caretaker took one look at my camera and pointed me to the belfry stairs. From up top, the 16-85mm with the Color Combo Polarizer made the most of the red roofs, blue seas and whitewashed houses.

In this town, your biggest photographic challenge might involve pushing yourself away from the table at one of the many quayside restaurants that line the waterfront, wafting their aromas of charcoal-grilled local seafood down the narrow lanes and alleys, so you can go back out and shoot. Not a bad problem.

Capital Idea. You can’t leave this tiny gem of a country without spending some time in Ljubljana, the charming capital. Dominated by a huge castle on a mountain, bisected by a beautiful river and lined with onion-domed churches and charming squares, you wouldn’t be blamed if you thought you had wandered into Salzburg, Austria, so similar in layout and feel are the two cities.

Ljubljana is a little more free and easy, and you can see that in the outdoor cafés along the river. I found that strolling along the river at twilight yielded some lively street scenes, with the colorfully lighted churches and squares in the background. I used a tripod for these views, being careful to keep out of the lanes of foot traffic so nobody would trip.

Don’t leave Ljubljana without making it up to the castle (unless you’re feeling very energetic, there’s a funicular that makes the trip a breeze; you can always walk back down!). Interesting museum displays are located up there, as well as some charming shops and cafés. But the real draw is the view—on a clear day, it’s like you can see the whole of Slovenia, if not the whole of Europe.

For a schedule of Bob Krist’s workshops and seminars, check his website, www.bobkrist.com, under the Teach and Talk heading.

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