Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Photo of the Day: A Reflection

Pursuing some of my more abstract work once again, here is a view of the some reflections found in the evening in downtown Nagoya, Japan. The picture is from November, 2006.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Wonderful Walks: Kronborg and Karnan Castles

The Oresund is the strait that separates Helsingore Denmark, from Helsingborg Sweden, and is considered the opening of the Baltic Sea. Just two and a half miles wide, it should be no surprise that both sides of the strait have castles. This walk takes you around both of those castles, one in Denmark and one in Sweden, with a half hour ferry ride across the Oresund between the two. This walk would make a nice day trip from Copenhagen, or from anywhere in southern Sweden.

We'll start in Helsingore, just about an hour from Copenhagen by train, which is the site of Kronberg castle. A beautifully preserved renaissance edifice, Kronborg is a UNESCO World heritage site, and was immortalized by Shakespeare as Elsinore castle in the play Hamlet. Above is a view of Kronborg from the ferry.

Inside the central courtyard you can view the architectural details of the castle. Outside, there is a very nice set of pathways around the castle let visitors explore the old castle outbuildings and the various battlements.

Once you've toured Kronborg, catch a bus or cab to the Helsingor ferry terminal, and board a ferry to Helsingborg. The ferry ride is about half an hour. If you are hungry, the ferries have very nice restaurants. If your meal takes longer than the ride, don't worry. You can ride back and forth as many times as you want for no extra charge.

Helsingborg is on the southern tip of Sweden, and is the site of the Karnan (above), an ancient castle and fortress. From the Ferry terminal, turn left and walk about two blocks on the Jarnvagsgatan to the main street, Stortorget. Look right, and you will see the Karnan at the top of the hill.

Climbing to the top of the Karnan gives you a beautiful view of the Oresund, with Helsingor across the way.

After exploring the Karnan, take a quick walk around downtown Helsingborg. There is a beautiful town hall, and the harbor area has many small shops and restaurants. The area that is now Helsingborg was the boyhood home of Tycho Brahe, the 16th century astronomer, and there is a monument to him not far from the Karnan.

The maps below show the walk around each castle, and the ferry ride ride between them.

If you click on the links below each map, you can use Google's Street View feature to see for yourself what the surroundings look like on any part of the walk. You can also switch from satellite to map view.

Helsingor and Helsingborg

View Helsingor & Helsingborg in a larger map

Kronborg Castle in Helsingor

View Kronborg in a larger map

The Karnan, and downtown Helsingborg

View Karnan--helsingborg in a larger map

Friday, August 26, 2011

Feeling Wirey

Here's a nice graphic look at one of my favorite subjects: Wires and poles, and in this case a jet contrail as well. I love the crossing lines.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Wonderful Walks--A Night Walk in Kyoto's Geisha Districts

Gion is the legendary Geisha District of Kyoto, and the ne plus ultra of the Geisha world. In Gion itself, and in Pontocho, a slightly smaller neighborhood across the Kamo river, the main source of trade is Geisha houses, mostly invitation-only places of entertainment for wealthy business people. It is a neighborhood of small lanes lined with wooden machiya style merchant houses and restaurants, teahouses, and theaters. At night, it is aglow with lamplight, and the perfect place for an evening stroll.

This walk is just under two miles, and starts and ends at the Kawaramachi subway station, on Shijo-dori at Kawaramachi Dori, and just a block west of the Kamo river. From the subway station, head east for a block, and then turn left, or north, on Kiya-machi Dori, into the Pontocho neighborhood. You will walk alongside the small canal, pictured above (rendered as a painting). Proceed north, and take the last right before reaching Sanjo Dori, the next major east-west street, and then turn right again to head back south down the small alley leading back to Shijo Dori.

This small alley has many exclusive Geisha houses, intermixed with tiny bars and small store fronts. The street is lit by electric signs, and by beautiful old-style hanging lanterns. It is pictured above, also rendered as a painting.

The world of the Geisha is much misunderstood in the west, and yet is very important to Japanese culture. Geishas are professional entertainers, and are highly trained as musicians, dancers and conversationalists. They are not prostitutes, as is sometimes alleged. At the top of the profession, they offer their services to an exclusive list of clients. It is impossible to visit a top Geisha establishment without being vouched for by a current client. The prices for their services are often in the eye watering range--several thousand dollars for a few hours of drinks, food, conversation, and musical performance. But in many ways Geisha represent the ultimate in Japanese cultural refinement, and to be a client can be a great honor.

Once you find your way back to Shijo Dori, turn left, or east, and cross the Kamo River on Shijo Dori. Take the first left past the river to head north again, this time on Yamato Oji Dori. You are now in Gion proper. Head north until you come to another canal, and then turn right to follow it to the east for a few blocks, until the canal turns north. You will be walking on Shirakawa-Minami Dori.

This area is Gion proper, and the quiet grace and (relative) lack of electric signs speak to the exclusive nature of the establishments you are passing. There are other sights to see, including the small shrine, pictured above.  Cross the canal as it turns north and continue on Shirakawa-Minami Dori for another block to Hanamikoji Dori. Although at this point it is quiet, Hanamikoji Dori is Gion's most famous and exclusive street of Geisha houses, and is a big tourist attraction.

Along Hanamikoji Dori you will find more elaborate, and yet discrete, entrances to the Geisha houses. In spite of the signs, as you can see in the photo above, the doors are closed, and entering requires being paged in. It all says invited clients only.

Walk south on Hanamikoji Dori until you reach Shijo Dori again, and then cross continue south again. This is the most famous and busiest part of the street. In the evening it teems with tourists hoping for a glimpse of the Geisha world, and limousines delivering the wealthy to their appointments at the Geisha houses.

You can proceed south on Hanamikoji Dori for a few blocks. When you've had enough, turn around and head back north. When you arrive at Shijo Dori, turn left, and walk back west along this bustling and dynamic main artery. Cross the river again, and you will arrive back at the Kawaramachi subway station.

This is a lovely evening walk any time of year, and a wonderful way to see some of old Kyoto.

If you click on the link below the map, you can use Google's Street View feature to see for yourself what the surroundings look like on any part of the walk. You can also switch from satellite to map view.

View Kyoto Gion walk in a larger map

Monday, August 22, 2011

A Bit of Abstraction

Wednesday's post will be a walk at night through the Gion section of Kyoto. While choosing photos for that post, I came across one of my favorite abstract photos, taken at night in Kyoto, although not in Gion. I hope you like it as much as I do.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Wonderful Walks--St. Tropez

Anyone who visits the coast of Provence, France, is going to want to visit St. Tropez. Famous as a celebrity hangout, St. Tropez is a beautiful little harbor town, where you can mix celebrity watching with exploring the old Citadel and shopping in a great outdoor market.

I start this walk in the main parking area, by the bay, just off the Avenue General De Gaulle (on the far left of the map, below). The walk is a about two and a quarter miles long. Begin by heading east on Boulevarde Louis Blanc. You will soon arrive at the Place Des Lices, a wonderful green park filled with Plane trees. If you're in luck, and it is Tuesday or Saturday, you will find the park brimming with activity with the bi-weekly outdoor market and flea market (below). If so, take some time to look around.

The market offers all kinds of merchandise, and also foods, and many locals do their shopping there.

From the Place Des Lices, continue east for a couple of blocks, to the grounds of the Citadel. Climbing the hill will not only let you explore the Citadel itself, but also gives you the best views of St. Tropez, and the bay, the Golfe De St. Tropez. The picture at the top of this post was taken from the Citadel grounds.

The Citadel dates from the 16th century, and the grounds around it have been preserved very nicely.

After viewing the citadel, head downhill toward the water, where you will come to the entrance to the St. Tropez Cemetery. The cemetery wraps around the eastern flank of the Citadel hill, right next to the bay. It is notable for the celebrities buried there and for the generally ornate decorations on the graves.  Even if you don't normally visit cemeteries, it's worth a look.

From the cemetery, head back west and wind through the old town until you reach the harbor. It is usually crammed with huge, multimillion dollar yachts of all kinds and description. It's a vulgar display, actually, but still lots of fun, and celebrity sightings are common.

Like all French towns there are plenty of great restaurants in town, and most of the town itself is quite picturesque. You might prefer to stay somewhere else--somewhere less touristy, perhaps--but St. Tropez is certainly a fun place that is very much worth a visit if you are in that part of France.

If you click on the link below the map, you can use Google's Street View feature to see for yourself what the surroundings look like on any part of the walk. You can also switch from satellite to map view.

View A walk in St. Tropez in a larger map

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Corn and Clouds

Here's a photo I took on Monday evening, just southwest of the Champaign-Urbana airport. Pretty soon all this corn will dry out and be harvested. But luckily, there will always be clouds.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Wonderful Walks--Around the Imperial Palace in Tokyo

The Imperial Place in Tokyo is in the center of the city, just two blocks from Tokyo Station.The palace complex is set on the grounds of the old shogun's palace, and is mostly closed to the public. However, the walk around the perimeter of the grounds, just over three miles, is full of interesting and beautiful things to see.

The most logical place to start the walk is on the main plaza in front of the palace, called the Kokyogaien. This is the area closest to the palace itself, and faces the most important palace gates, including the Nijo-Bashi, or bridge of state, above. Below is a picture of the Kokyogaien, taken facing away from the palace, with the Marunouchi financial district in the background.

My preference at this point is to walk north, proceeding around the grounds in a counterclockwise direction. One of the charming things about this walk is the juxtaposition of old and new, as the ancient palace ramparts and moat contrast with modern Tokyo on the other side of the street.

Just north of the Kokyogaien is the beautiful Wadakura Fountain Park (below), which is part of the Palace's East Garden. The fountain park was built to commemorate the wedding of the Crown Prince, and is open to the public at all times. It's well worth a look. Further north is the East Garden proper, which is open most days, and free, but requires a ticket to enter. I don't include the East Garden as part of this walk because it alone can take several hours to explore.

Proceeding around the grounds, there is an ever changing view of the old palace ramparts and the modern city. There are many smaller gates, such as the Hanzomon Gate (below) along with much greenery and flowers.

As you walk beside the moat, keep an eye out for the several pairs of swans who live there. Don't get too close, though. They are picturesque, but not friendly.

I have done this walk in May and November, and found it delightful each time. It is mostly flat, with some small rises, but there should be nothing too challenging about it. Most of the walk is on sidewalks next to major streets, so there's plenty of traffic to watch out for, but you can circle the perimeter without having to cross any major thoroughfares. All in all, it's a wonderful walk.

If you click on the link below the map, you can use Google's Street View feature to see for yourself what the surroundings look like on any part of the walk. You can also switch from satellite to map view.

View Tokyo Palace Walk in a larger map

Friday, August 12, 2011

Wonderful Walks--Introduction

I love to travel, and as far as I'm concerned, the best way to really get to see a new place is to grab my camera, and set out for a walk. I've made it a point to do this everywhere I can, and those walks have yielded my best memories, and often my best photos, from my travels around the world. As an example, the photo above is of a decorative detail in the Gion district of Kyoto, taken on an evening walk there.

I'd like to share some of those walks with you. Over the next few weeks I plan to post photos from my favorite walks from around the world, hopefully along with a map showing my route for each one.

I'm doing this partly to motivate myself. A few years ago some medical reversals effectively ended my walking career, at least beyond short distances, and I have fallen out of the walking practice. However, recent treatments have had some success, and I hope over the next year to regain my walking abilities. When I do, I hope to hit the trail once again.

Stay tuned for more Wonderful Walks.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Seven Months Ago Today...

As our historic heat wave finally breaks a bit, it seems appropriate (or is it perverse?) to remember that seven months ago today I was braving historic cold to get this shot of an icy county road southeast of Urbana, Illinois. We certainly do have seasons around here.

Here's hoping this picture cools you down a bit. Now on with summer.

Monday, August 8, 2011


Today, just a nice countryside scene from eastern Kansas, with cows grazing under partly cloudy skies. Why? Because it's summer, and it's America.

Friday, August 5, 2011


Out capturing another sunset, I was looking for a new angle, and then I noticed the reflection on the roof of my car. It's not perfect, but I like it.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Another look at Grand Teton

I'm continuing to work on the pictures from my trip to Yellowstone. At the risk of being redundant, here is Grand Teton Mountain again, this time rendered in black and white. With scenery like this, the pictures take themselves; I just hold the camera.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Time Lapse Sunrise Boulder Colorado

Apropos of nothing, here is a short time lapse movie of the sun coming up in Boulder Colorado:

Time Lapse Surise Boulder Colorado from Paul D. Healey on Vimeo.

Yellowstone, Part 4

Having attended my cousin's wedding, and having visited Yellowstone and Grand Tetons National Parks, I headed home across the northern plains. The trip took three days. On the first morning, just after leaving Livingston, Montana, I came across the scene above on a bend of the Yellowstone River. The Absaroka Mountains are in the background. There's nothing like morning on a beautiful summer day.

Just outside of Greybull, Wyoming, the South Bighorn County Airport serves as the resting place for a retired fleet of fire fighting planes. Some of the planes have been included in an open-air museum. The photo above shows horses grazing, with part of the fleet in the background, and beyond that, the foothills of the Bighorn Mountains.

Finally, a scene looking east, just a few miles south of Greybull. This is really the edge of the Great Plains, and it feels like it.

All in all, it was a great trip. I am still processing my pictures from it, and will continue to post them from time to time in the coming weeks.