Coonoor Station Water Tower — Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: Chutes and Ladders

This is our entry in Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: Chutes and Ladders.

In February of this year we rode the Nilgiri Mountain Railway (NMR) toy train from Coonoor to Ooty in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu.  This railway is a meter gauge, or cog, railway, having a middle rail with a rack that allows a train to climb steep inclines.

Our tour company had arranged to get us tickets for the afternoon run, but a taxi drivers’ strike scheduled for that day threw our plans in disarray.   Our guide, who lives in Coonoor, worked his magic to get us tickets for the earlier train, but even then it was uncertain whether the train would run at all that day.

We arrived early to be sure of a seat, since two trains-worth of passengers could be expected to queue for the one train ride (if it happened at all).  We were early enough that the morning’s haze had not burned off yet, but swirled mistily a few feet above the ground.  Any object photographed even a short distance away was muted by this mist.  The water tower shown below finally rose above the mist that enveloped the shrubs below it, but the sky beyond was featureless.

This photo was taken on February 5, 2019. Specs are:

Canon 100D, ISO 320, f/9.0, 1/500 sec, 106 mm.

Venus with raindrops

This is our entry in nancy merrill photography’s A Photo a Week Challenge: Raindrops.

The blossoms on our Venus dogwood tree continue to expand and whiten.  The large bracts gather raindrops from a passing shower.

This photo was taken on May 9, 2019. Specs are:

Canon SL/2, ISO 100, f/4.0, 1/60 sec, 200 mm

For earlier views of this Venus dogwood tree, see Venus fades to white and Venus against a blue sky.

The Budapest Eye

We have always been fascinated by Ferris wheels, so it is no surprise that we admired (and photographed) the Budapest Eye from many angles before (and after) we rode it.  The Budapest Eye — also known as the Sziget Eye — towers 65 meters high over Erzsébet Square.  Only St. Stephen’s Basilica (and the Budapest Parliament Building) are taller at 96 meters.

The first photo was taken from Gellért Hill on the evening we arrived in Budapest.  Saint Stephen’s Basilica is the imposing building behind it.  We had hiked partway down from the 140 meter peak of Gellért Hill, which rises above the Danube River. The 25 second exposure captures the rotation of the wheel.

The second photo was taken as we stood in line for our ride just after sunset. At 2700 Hungarian Forint (HUF) per ride, slightly more than $9 USD, for a minimum of three rotations or 8 – 10 minutes, it is a pricey thrill, but worth it.  Calculating from time stamps on our photos, we rode for at least 15 minutes.

The third photo was taken from directly beneath the arc of 42 cabins on the wheel.  Each cabin is sized for four to six people.

This post is our entry in nancy merrill photography’s A Photo a Week Challenge: Three of a Kind and Dutch goes the Photo!’s Tuesday Photo Challenge – Wheel.

Architectural Harmony of the Mysore Maharaja Palace

This is our entry in Lens-Artists Challenge #44 – Harmony.

The Maharaja’s Palace, built in 1907, is a huge building in the Indo-Saracenic style of architecture in Mysore, India. It was the seat of the Wodeyar maharajas until the creation of the modern Indian state.  One fabulous but gaudy area of the palace is the Public Durbar (Audience) Hall. The repeated granite columns and stucco ceilings provide a stunning sense of harmony and near symmetry. It was built to impress and it does. As Mel Brooks said in History of the World, Part 1, “It’s good to be the king.”

Free Mustard in Paris

There are a number of sites in Paris where photographers can get “unique” photos of the Eiffel Tower. One is beneath the Bir-Harkeim Bridge. There is a lovely arch there that frames the scene. We went there on our last visit to Paris.

While photographing the tower, each of us felt plops on our clothing and heads, then more plops. A well-dressed couple (certainly more natty than us) approached and said  “We saw what just happened! Those birds just pooped on you. Here, let us help.” The woman of the couple reached a container of wet wipes to us. A small alarm went off in our still jet-lagged brains since the birds seemed very well fed, had exceptional aim, and seemed particularly malevolent towards us. Also, it seemed suprisingly fortunate that someone was walking by with an open container of wet wipes. Because it was difficult to process what had happened, we accepted some wet wipes and thanked them but refused their offer to help us wipe the droppings off our clothing.  They went farther down the bridge and began to “help” another couple with their camera.

We got our pictures and left miserably to get a fresh change of clothing at our AirBnB. As we were riding the metro back to the apartment, we began to notice a strong smell of vinegar on our clothing. After briefly considering the possibility that Paris has gourmet pigeons, we began to realize that the bird droppings were actually mustard (our guess was grey poupon with a nice dash of dijon).  We had just missed being victims of a classic pickpocketing scheme. In any case, we got this photo with a serving of mustard on the side.



Notre Dame Cathedral Before and After

Paris is a gateway city to Europe for us with (relatively) cheap and (relatively) short flights from our home on the East Coast of the US.  After we had departed Paris for Prague this April, there was a massive fire at Notre Dame Cathedral. We went to see the damage during our final day of vacation in Paris while waiting for our return flight home.

We used Google Maps to get directions from our hotel to Notre Dame. When we asked for the route, it said “Notre Dame is permanently closed.” We went anyway. The area around the cathedral was surrounded by barricades. The area around the barricades was surrounded by a sea of tourists snapping photos. We waded in.

We took a night photo tour of Paris in 2015 when we were just getting serious about photography. A location we used is down a set of steps to the Seine River opposite the cathedral. It wasn’t blocked off and it wasn’t full of Instagrammers, so we took some shots from there. Fortunately, one of the pictures we took this time matched a photo from the night tour.

We put the before and after shots in the following slide show. The slide in the middle is an overlay of the two photos aligned as layers in Photoshop with the 2015 “before” shot at 50% opacity. It helps (us at least) visualize what was lost in the fire.

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The 19th Century Military Technology of the Lajta Monitor

This is our entry in Dutch goes the Photo!’s Tuesday Photo Challenge — Technology.

When we were in Budapest this April, we took a one hour tourist cruise on the Danube to help us locate the major attractions. As we were passing the Parliament building, our jaws dropped when we saw a ship that is known to every student of the American Civil War — a monitor. When they were built, monitors were the most technologically advanced ships ever seen. They were constructed of metal rather than wood, sailed low in the water to expose a minimal target, and had a rotating turret that allowed the guns to be aimed without turning the ship.

A few days later, we toured the ship — the SMS Leitha (or Lajta Monitor) — on a rather cold and rainy day.  The Leitha is closely based on the 1861 design of the USS Monitor and was in service as a warship from 1871 to 1921. After that, the guns were removed and it was used to haul gravel.  The ship was rediscovered more that 80 years later and restored to its 1871 configuration. After the 19th century, monitors saw action in World Wars I and II and ships derived from the design were even used in Vietnam. It was pretty stunning to learn how advanced monitor ships were and how long they were in service. It was fascinating to explore a ship so close to one of the most famous ships in the Civil War (the Huntley and the CSS Virginia would be the others).