I have added 122 images from eight Baltic countries to my VISIONS OF EUROPE portfolio. They are: Sweden, Finland, Russia, Estonia, Poland, Germany, Denmark, and Norway, or more accurately images from principal cities in each of those countries. This represents a distillation from approximately 5,000 images created on a 15-day cruise throughout the region, and may well complete that portfolio for the foreseeable future.
Photographing in a "tour format" is not the optimum way to create quality fine art, nor does it tend to an exhaustive coverage of such a large area, but at this point in my life is the only practical way to sample the varied cultures in Europe. Consequently I would categorize the images in this portfolio as travel and street photography rather than fine art. However, if one embarks on such a journey prepared with a plan of attack, that is having done some research as to what kind of subject matter to expect, and going with a reasonable arsenal of tools, it is possible to come home with some decent images. That, I hope, I have achieved.
Photography is the driving force for me on our various travels. It sometimes means I'm burning the candle at both ends to get what I want. For instance on this past trip our ship began its entry into a Norwegian fjord at 5:00 a.m. in drizzly weather with a cold, brisk wind blowing. I pulled myself out of bed in time to be in position to photograph our progress into that fjord, and while the lighting and elements were to say the least challenging I think I came away with some stunning images. By using a combination of techniques, shooting RAW file format, and applying appropriate post production edits I was able to extract a ton of color from scenes that looked pretty bland at the time. Norway, for instance, is stunning in its beauty. It is perhaps the one place on this trip I would like to return to and really dive into it properly. For one who embraced photography to create mountain landscapes and seascapes it is a paradise. This was just not the right kind of trip to take advantage of that.
The other place that has long been on my "bucket" list is St. Petersburg, Russia. I admire Russian literature, classical music and opera; St. Petersburg is a "mecca" of classical Russian culture. We spent two exhausting days there and while we saw a great deal so much missed. I think we saw the highlights but one thing I wanted to do is spend substantial time on the Nevsky Prospect, the principal street in the city. Alas there was just no time. Moreover, Russia is difficult place to visit on one's own. A pricey visa is required, and then too the language is more challenging than in many other western European countries. I'm not sure I'd want to tackle that on my own. But in the context of a tour it was very comfortable and enjoyable.
Berlin was a surprise to me in the amount of construction going on, especially in the former eastern sector. Perhaps that is naivety on my part inasmuch as it is not all that long since the Berlin Wall came down and East Berlin began to emerge from the horrors of WW II. Berlin is still grappling with that emergence as evidenced by cranes and scaffolding on virtually every major building. Still, given its rich array of museums, music venues, etc., signals Berlin to be a major cultural center in the world.
The remnant of the Berlin Wall still extant is a grim reminder of the horrors of man's inhumanity to his own kind. That Germany is indeed recovering from that nightmare is testimony to the resilience of the human spirit. I have now personally seen the remains of that wall and the one that imprisons the inhabitants of Bethlehem. My reaction to both was the same...repugnance. Walls are intended to keep people in or out, and doing so they may fulfill their purpose but they insult the human spirit. Ultimately they cannot endure. That my own country now proposes to build its own wall is a disgusting sequel to what I've witnessed in Berlin and Jerusalem.
The creation of this portfolio embodies a significant sector in my overall portfolio. One may wonder why I chose to "focus" so strongly on Europe. I didn't set out to do so; it pretty much grew of it's own volition. Still, there is much that is unique, e.g., architecture, culture, etc., and understanding more about my own roots seemed somehow important to me. While American culture is also unique and important there is much to be found in Europe that defines who we are. A great many Americans, including myself, trace their lineage from European sources. Traveling instills one with a different perspective from those who have never traveled; I think one becomes more tolerant of different views, ways of doing things, and in self identity. Perhaps a way of putting this is "less insular". I have traveled through all of North America, much of Europe, quite a bit of Asia, and a bit of Africa and have found something to admire everywhere, and perhaps the debunking of preconceived notions and prejudices. The rest of the world cannot be dismissed as irrelevant. We are all part of the same world and mutual understanding is a necessary prerequisite to world peace.