Venice Less Traveled

Madonna Del Orto Venice

Is it really too crowded in Venice? I say yes—and no.

Yes, it’s hard to get around when there are dozens of people trying to squeeze through the same six-foot wide walkway to get to St. Mark’s Square.

Rush Hour Grand Canal Venice

And yes, the Grand Canal looks like the aquatic version of Interstate 95 at rush hour.

But if you turn off the main route, it only takes a couple of blocks until you emerge in an entirely different world.

passageway venice

Just pick a random passageway and walk away from the Grand Canal action. Quickly, you enter a postcard. It’s quiet, serene. A turquoise rowboat moors against a 500-year old brick wall. Light sparkles off the canal.

For a minute, you have Venice to yourself.

You stroll along the canal, look up at gothic windows with their characteristic pointed arches. Grip a wrought iron handrail as you cross a bridge.

Santa Maria dei Miracoli Venice

You wind your way through alleys and navigate bridges. You discover a columned church wrapped in marble panels. The varying shades of marble and juxtaposition of vein directions create a soft and elegant texture. It had to have taken years to piece the inlays into place. Just looking at the elegant play of shapes and colors makes you swoon.

Santa Maria dei Miracoli Venice

You cross an arched stone bridge over the canal. After pausing to watch a gondolier glide by, you choose your next passageway.

Gondola Venice

Once again, taking the effort to stray from the main path has paid off. You have no idea where you’ll end up. But do you really care?

Storyteller’s Interpretation

orchid money shot

The macro photography class I took a couple of weeks ago at the Atlanta Botanical Garden with Charles Needle made me think about how people integrate their personal perspective into the way they tell stories.

I took the class to improve my photography, so my objective for the day was to experiment with different exposures and lighting techniques to learn how each of them would impact my photographs. I chose an orchid, a Phalaenopsis with rose-colored lips and speckled petals. It had a really great pair of magenta fangs that curved upward from its center–like a tiny pair of Gene Simmons tongues.

I spent an entire hour making this orchid my bitch. I went shallow depth of field and focused on the details in the foreground only so people would zoom in on the fangs. Then I went deep depth of field and articulated a lot more of my orchid’s details.

orchid shallow dof

orchid great dof












I also experimented with lighting. I held a gold reflector next to the flower to bathe it in a halo of warm glow. I used a white LED flashlight to highlight a single part of the orchid, causing the lips and center to stand out further. Light from a blue LED flashlight distorted the image. In that shot, my orchid glowed turquoise and looked sort of creepy and wrong—like I’d run it through a Photoshop filter, even though I hadn’t.

Orchid with highlight

orchid blue












I changed shot angles. I flooded the petals with red light and created a horror story.When I slowed down the shutter speed and made my orchid look even more horrific—like a carnival fun-house version of the gates of hell. My choice of angle and technique impacted not just the image, but the emotion the image elicited.

orchid change of angle

orchid change of angle redorchid change of angle hell






At the end of the day, I had to select a single image to share with the rest of my class. It was up to me to determine how everyone else would see–and interpret–that orchid. Up to me to tell that orchid’s story.

As I narrowed down to the one photo I felt described the orchid best, my head buzzed with intoxicating chemicals. In that moment, I was Queen of the Orchids. The Great and Powerful Oz. A political consultant.

Ok, I exaggerate. That’s what I do with my stories, I exaggerate. Not because I mean to, but because exaggeration is how I convey how much I  feel about whatever it is I’m telling. This applies as much to when I  recap my day to a friend as it does to when I write an essay.

How do you adapt your stories–verbal and otherwise–to convey what you feel?

Do you do it on purpose or is it just something that happens?

PS- I shared the image that appears at the top of the page.





Personal Perspective-Aliens In Orchids

Orchid sea creature 2

A couple of weeks ago, I took a macro photography class at the Atlanta Botanical Garden with Charles Needle.

Macro photography is where objects are shot larger than life size. It’s really interesting to discover what you notice when you really look up close at things.

We got to shoot in the orchid house, which is an amazing place. Many of the orchids were varieties that I’d never seen before.

orchid squid 3

orchid sea creature

A peach-colored orchid that had a brown spot on its side that resembled an eye–and dangling white tentacles. It looked more sea creature than flower and made me think about snorkeling in Hawaii. When I emailed the botanist the following week, she said it was a variety of Stanhopa.

Alien orchid 1

I also noticed that many of the orchids have a part in the center that looks like a baby alien. The first one I spotted had angry eyes, a yellow gaping mouth (which reminded me the mask worn by the killer in the movie Scream), a well as the requisite oversized throbbing cranium.

orchid alien 2

Another alien had child-bearing hips and spindly arms that reached up and grabbed its head in an “oh no!” gesture.

What great movie premise! Alien embryos secretly deposited inside of Earth flowers grow to unnoticed maturity—then launch an invasion. Will Smith could star…

The rest of you see aliens when you look at orchids too, right?