The Ancient Tea Horse Road

Jeff Fuch: Ancient Tea Horse RoadMy friend Jeff Fuchs is going to be in town this weekend (September 13) showing photographs and doing a talk to promote his new book “The Ancient Tea Horse Road” (Viking Canada). It’s a book of text and photographs recounting the 6000 kilometer trek through the Himalayas that Jeff lead in 2006, following an ancient tea trading route that is now almost forgotten.

Hell of a trip. Here’s the book description from Amazon:

The Ancient Tea Horse Road winds its way through some of the most unforgiving terrain on earth. Over seven gruelling months, Canadian Jeff Fuchs took on the challenge of following traditional muleteers along this twelve-hundred-year-old route. Documenting his travels in rich and eloquent detail, with stunning photography, Fuchs brings to life a path that has been an escape route, trade highway, and an adventure destination, battling frostbite, snow blindness, and hunger along the way.

Fortunately you won’t need any mules or snow glasses to enjoy his talk and outstanding photographs on Saturday night. And there will be tea; the good people from Camellia Sinensis will be there, providing tea service.

Date: Saturday, September 13, 2008
Time: 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM
Location: Café des Arts, 350 rue St. Paul Est (East end of Bonsecours Market)

The event is informal; sort of a mix of a vernissage and a book launch. The talk will be in English, but knowing Jeff he’ll probably swing into French, Chinese, and maybe even Spanish. Everyone is welcome and the event is free of charge.

Big Sur in Flames

Deetjen’s Big Sur Inn is one of the beautiful properties under threat from the wildfires raging along the central California coast. According to this article, the inn was evacuated on Sunday, and the fire was so close that a burning log rolled into one of the rustic cabins, although it was quickly extinguished by fire fighters.

Loyal readers of this blog will remember Deetjen’s. That’s the place where Martine and I stayed during our trip to California in 2004. It was my second time at Deetjen’s and Martine’s first. The reason it was so special (besides the obvious — that Deetjen’s is a gorgeous, laid-back inn in a stunningly beautiful location) was revealed in this blog post. (Check item number 5.)

One of the beds in the room where we stayed. (Photo courtesy JLT on Flickr.)

I hope they get the fires out soon, and I hope Deetjen’s and other places in Big Sur, such as the Henry Miller Library, along the coast are saved.

Happy Birthday… Via Giulia!

Via Giulia, one of my favorite streets in Rome, turns 500 this year.

via giulia, rome (May, 2006)

According to this New York Times article, via Giulia is named after Pope Julius II, who commissioned the street as part of a plan to square off the streets around the Vatican. That’s fairly odd, as it’s not all that close to Chez Pope; in fact it’s on the other side of the Tiber river.

Mind you, it’s not that far either. In fact, I took this photo on the morning Martine and I walked from our apartment on Campo dei Fiori to the Vatican, by way of Via Giulia. Its north-west terminus is about half a kilometer from the Piazza San Pietro.

So happy birthday Via Giulia. At 500 you’re older than any city in North America, but by Roman standards you’re still a spring chicken.

Paris Montage

My current digital camera lacks the “panorama assist” feature that I enjoyed so much with my previous one. The feature helps you line up successive shots so it is easier for panorama stitching software to get good results without awkward overlaps or misaligned edges. It’s not strictly necessary to have the assist feature, but it helps.

One afternoon when Martine and I were in Paris last week, we took in the view from the roof of the Galleries La Fayette shopping center. The sky was low, with purple, threatening clouds, which always makes for dramatic photographs. So I took five shots, hoping to stitch them into a seamless panorama.

No dice. Because of the angle of view (wide angle lens, pointing downward) there was too much distortion for the stitching software to handle. After several attempts using different software, I got a few that were reasonably good, but not great.

So I tried something different. I added white borders to each image so they look like printed snapshots, and stuck them together on a large canvas, including a bit of drop shadow. I lined up the horizons, but didn’t care if the rest of it was out of whack. OK, it’s not the continuous panorama I was hoping for, but I really like the result.

Here it is (click the photo to see it bigger, or click here to see it huge [2000×913]):

Big Messy Panorama (ver.3)

I’ve always believed that if you can’t solve a problem, you embrace it; it’s a sentiment along the lines of the old chestnut “when God sends you lemons, make lemonade.” Instead of settling for a substandard panorama, I shifted my desire to something else; a montage, inspired in no small way by Toast’s excellent (although stylistically different) montages, which he refers to as “panography.”

By contrast, below are the failed attempts. At first glance, the top one looks alright, and they do provide the very cool effect of a continuous image. But if you look at the larger versions (click the photos), you see the mistakes. For example, in the top one there’s a misalignment on the right side of the angled roof of the Opera.

Big Messy Panorama (ver.2)

Big Messy Panorama (ver.1)

I suppose with a fair bit of Photoshopping I could have fixed some of those mistakes. But on the other hand, I got something completely different, which I like (the montage). I suppose there’s a lesson in there somewhere.