Category Archives: Czech

Inside Prague’s Old Town Square Tower

For a book about black and white photography I am working on, I needed a few more images from Prague in the Czech Republic.

This image shows the inside of Prague’s Old Town Square Tower. From the deck outside the tower there is a great view of Prague, and inside the tower the elegant spiral stair with an elevator in its center is really nifty, too! Click here for the original story from my 2015 visit to Prague (with the image in color).

Inside the Old Market Tower in Black & White © Harold Davis

Inside the Old Market Tower in Black & White © Harold Davis

Exif info: Nikon D810, 15mm Zeiss 2.8 Distagon, 1/60 of a second at f/2.8 and ISO 2,000, hand held; multi-RAW processed in ACR and Photoshop; converted to black and white in Photoshop and Nik Silver Efex Pro.

Also posted in Monochrome

Negative-for-Positive Funhouse Fun

This is a photo of the Hall of Mirrors in Prague in the Czech Republic. To create the negative-for-positive effect—which is somewhat like looking at a film negative rather than a print positive—in Photoshop I converted the image to LAB color, then applied an adjustment to invert the L-channel. You can click here to see the original Hall of Mirrors image.

Hall of Mirrors LAB Inversion © Harold Davis

Hall of Mirrors LAB Inversion © Harold Davis

Also posted in Photoshop Techniques

Prague Architectural Studies: Keeping Things Simple with 25 Squares

The assignment: Photograph a sequence or cohesive group of imagery using only one lens, aperture priority metering, and a single aperture and ISO. Process the resulting images using a uniformly-proportioned crop, and a single processing recipe.

The results: Twenty-five square-cropped monochromatic images in a series of architectural studies of Prague in the Czech Republic. The series includes the image below, photographed from one of the towers on the Charles Bridge. Click here to see all twenty-five images grouped in my Prague Architectural Studies gallery.

The point of the assignment: The assignment is a warm-up exercise for many of the exercises in Achieving Your Potential As a Photographer: A Photographer’s Creative Companion and Workbook. The point is to practice keeping thing simple in a complicated world. I see the exercise as analogous to a concert pianist playing scales: the fingers are working, the eye is engaged, and it is an easy transition into the zone.

Stay tuned: Stay tuned for a downloadable PDF “Bonus Exercise” in the style of the workbook that accompanies Achieving Your Potential As a Photographer: A Photographer’s Creative Companion and Workbook. The PDF will have all the assignment details, and some advice about how best to approach this assignment, so you can try it for yourself.

Prague Architectural Study 23 © Harold Davis

Prague Architectural Study 23 © Harold Davis

Also posted in Monochrome, Writing

Strahov Monastery Library

The photo in this story is of the Philosophical Hall, part of the library of the massive Strahov Monastery in the hills above Prague in the Czech Republic which I just got around to processing. Strahov Monastery was founded in 1143, and is a Premonstratensian abbey.

It has been in more or less continuous operation since then (with a short break for the Jan Huss matter when it was attacked and pillaged by the citizens of Prague) until the communist takeover. This part of the library (the Philosophical Hall) was built in the late 1700s.

Under the communists it was turned into a National Literature Memorial. After the velvet revolution, the Strahov Monastery was returned to the Premonstratensian diocese, with restoration still underway in the famous libraries and also the monks devotional efforts to brewing quality beer.

Strahov Monastery Library © Harold Davis

Strahov Monastery Library © Harold Davis

In Prague, my apartment was a short distance from Strahov, and I listened to the monastery bells through the night, and ate at the open-to-the-public refectory most days. The specialty was beer, and everything was cooked in monastery beer, from beer-battered ribs, to beer-flavored ice cream.

To photograph the library required buying a special pass. I was allowed to use my tripod, but it was hard to get a few moments with an unblocked view into the Philosophical Hall, and ultimately I removed the other tourists, their cameras and their backpacks, from the photo using the Photoshop retouching techniques explained in my Photoshop Darkroom 2 (the major case study in that book was taken up with removing a friend’s leg and foot from a spiral stair in Havana, Cuba).

Related image: Great Hall Heidelberg University.

Some other images from Prague: Spires of Prague; Inside the Old Market Tower; House of Mirrors.

Also posted in Photography

Cathedral

Work on St Vitus’s Cathedral, which is situated within the Prague Castle, began in 1344, and wasn’t completed until the 20th century. St Vitus contains the Czech crown jewels, and the tomb of Good King Wenceslas. There’s also a great tower to climb.

If you go, admission to the tower is separate from the Cathedral, and there are 287 steps to the top. Note that St Vitus’s Tower is distinct from the Dalibor Tower, which is also within the Prague Castle. The Dalibor Tower was used as a jail and torture chamber. Some guide books say that the phrase “singing like a violin” is said to come from the eponymous Dalibor, a nobleman and enemy of the king, who supposedly played his violin for food while imprisoned in the tower. However, according to the signage within the Dalibor Tower, the truth seems to be that Dalibor’s screams whilst being stretched on the rack gave rise to the musical comparison.

But I digress. The views from the top of St Vitus’s Tower, both of Prague and of the cathedral itself, are spectacular.

Down Spout © Harold Davis

Down Spout © Harold Davis

Flying Buttresses © Harold Davis

Flying Buttresses © Harold Davis

St Vitus's Cathedral © Harold Davis

St Vitus’s Cathedral © Harold Davis

Related story: The Spires of Prague.

Also posted in Photography

House of Mirrors, Prague

On top of Petrinske Sady (Petrin Hill) in Prague, Czech Republic is a tower built to replicate the Eiffel Tower at 1/5 scale. From the top of the tower, it is one of the best views of Prague, and apparently the place in Prague to take a romantic date for a kiss. Next to the foot of the Petrin Tower is a maze and House of Mirrors.

Hall of Mirrors, Prague © Harold Davis

Hall of Mirrors, Prague © Harold Davis

Within the House of Mirrors, a technical problem for photography is the low light, since tripods are not permitted (flash is also obviously impractical, even if it were allowed). I resolved this issue by boosting my ISO to 2,000, with the intention of processing the image to make the resulting somewhat noisy aspect of the photo an attractive part of the final look. In other words, this was never intended to be a highly sleek image, but rather one with a bit of grunge in its DNA.

Rather more trying of my patience, the Hall of Mirrors was full of people on a rainy Sunday, and the mirrors picked-up all the kids and families running through the maze, and replicated them over and over again even when I thought they were out of sight, and magnified their presence.

I found a location and position within the mirror maze in which I wasn’t reflected (more difficult than you might think!) and then lurked. It took a while as I waited for a split instant in which no people were apparent in the system of mirrors, but finally it happened. I was ready, and quickly made the exposure before another reflected person came into the frame.

Exposure data: Nikon D810, 28-300mm lens at 32mm, 1/40 of a second at f/4.5 and ISO 2,000; handheld using Vibration Reduction.

Also posted in Monochrome

Flower at the National Memorial of the Heydrich Terror

Reinhard Heydrich was the second-in-command of the Nazi SS. Heydrich was charged with enhancing the Czech contribution to the Nazi war machine, and did his best in a terrible reign of terror. He was eventually assassinated by two members of the underground, who were parachuted into Czechoslovakia in a suicide mission by the Czech government-in-exile from Great Britain. Although somewhat faded, like this rose in a plastic bottle, flowers still mark the memorial to the victims of Heydrich on the busy Prague street where the church crypt in which the patriotic assassins met their end is located.

© Harold Davis

Flower at the Memorial to Heydrich Terror © Harold Davis

To capture the nostalgia and sadness of the place and what it memorializes, as well as the faded nature of the flower and bottle, I photographed the image wide-open with my Zeiss 135mm f/2 lens for shallow depth-of-field, and converted the image to black and white, leaving only a little splash of color in the dried-up rose.

Also posted in Photography

Cesky Krumlov

This is a view of the southern Bohemia resort and touristic town of Cesky Krumlov, where I spent a few hours photographing. By the way, “Cesky” means a “bend in the river” in Czech. Many old towns in the Czech Republic are named beginning with Cesky, because these oxbow bends in a river lent themselves to natural fortification back in the days when defense against literal robber barons was required.

Cesky Krumlov © Harold Davis

Cesky Krumlov © Harold Davis

Also posted in Photography

Inside the Old Market Square Tower

Inside Prague’s Old Town Square Tower they’ve constructed an elegant spiral ramp, with an elevator in the middle. Other than Prague’s TV Tower (I heard one guide call the TV Tower “the second ugliest building in the world,” and it certainly is very ugly and dominates the Prague skyline, for some reason it has grotesque statuary of babies climbing up the circular pillars holding up this hyper-modern structure, don’t ask me why because I haven’t a clue, and I also don’t really know what building is the “first ugliest,” there must be many candidates, but I digress), other than Prague’s TV Tower it is the only high-up viewing spot I’ve found in Prague you don’t have to climb. It certainly is nice riding the elevator in the core to the top, then strolling down the spiral ramp enjoying the somewhat unusual view, shown looking down from the top of the spiral, and from the bottom watching the elevator rise.

Inside the Old Market Tower - Looking Down © Harold Davis

Inside the Old Market Tower – Looking Down © Harold Davis

Inside the Old Market Tower - Looking Up © Harold Davis

Inside the Old Market Tower – Looking Up © Harold Davis

Also posted in Photography

The Prague Golem

I found this cabinet containing the Prague Golem at the entrance to Prague’s Old Jewish Cemetery. Fortunately, the cabinet appears locked. I hope it stays that way, at least while I am still in the Czech Republic. Although the single, small padlock may be a little puny to restrain a Golem, such as the famous and notably nasty Golem created according to legend by Rabbi Judah Loew ben Bezalel back in the late 1500s.

The Prague Golem © Harold Davis

The Prague Golem © Harold Davis

Also posted in iPhone

View of Prague from the Old Town Square Tower

There are six towers that I know of in Prague to go up with my camera. I’ve been up four out of six so far. Mostly, they are an issue of climbing several hundred narrow steps, but this one—the Old Town Square Tower—has an elevator in addition to a spiral ramp (more on this in a later story). Anyhow, ascending the elevator rather than climbing up left me feeling chirpy. So in contrast to the somewhat somber Spires of Prague I shot this nice, bright canonical city view with my extreme wide-angle Zeiss 15mm f/2.8 lens. Two towers to go!

Prague from Old Town Hall Tower © Harold Davis

Prague from Old Town Hall Tower © Harold Davis

Also posted in Photography

Spires of Prague

I’ve never seen such a veritable cacophony of spires in a European city as in Prague. These wonderful spires, or towers, help to impart Prague’s unusual and distinctive flavor. What is it about upright towers reaching for the sky that appeals to the engineers among humanity? Wait, hold that thought!

Spires of Prague © Harold Davis

Spires of Prague © Harold Davis

This view is photographed from the Powder Tower, which I climbed today. Prague boasts more towers you can climb than is generally the case. Each tower has a circular spiral staircase, seemingly hewn out of the stone. It can be very interesting encountering a party coming the other direction in one of these small, claustrophobia inducing staircases!

Also posted in Photography

Prague Metamorphosis

With Prague’s grand castles and elegant squares overflowing with happy visitors and marquee shopping it is easy to forget that this is also the city of Franz Kafka. Metamorphosis happens here, whether it is a human turning into a bug, or the curved shapes of a nearly empty street altered in the reflection in a traffic mirror. The outer world is unaltered, but inside the metamorphosis the lone pedestrian wanders down a twisted street towards an uncertain end.

Metamorphosis © Harold Davis

Metamorphosis © Harold Davis

Also posted in Monochrome, Photography

Prague Sunset

Getting to Prague from the Bay area took a bit of travel time. I know, less than in covered wagon and sail ship times, but still it was into the next day, and the seat on the airplane was truly lived in. Alas, I made the change of planes in Frankfurt, but my suitcase did not—and flew on with Lufthansa into the unknown. So I arrived on a new day on a Prague afternoon with the clothes on my back and a single camera. Which I took out to explore right away. As I neared the Charles Bridge I saw clouds and maybe a rainbow forming, so I dashed up the spiral stairs in the bridge tower, added a polarizer, and snapped a few frames before my rainbow disappeared.

Prague Rainbow © Harold Davis

Prague Rainbow © Harold Davis

Also posted in Landscape, Photography