Vienna and Prague

Just returned from a 2-week trip to Vienna and Prague. Decided to be brave and daring and took only this camera ---


The Olympus XA is a film camera from the 1980's. It's small, obviously, and can easily fit in a pants pocket, as long as you're not wearing tight jeans. It has very few of the "creature comforts" of modern cameras: you have to focus by yourself, decide what aperture to use (the camera then chooses the shutter speed), and - most shocking of all - you can't instantly review the shot you've just taken.

It's also tough. I accidentally dropped it on the floor of a shop (a camera store, of all ironies). The back popped open and I lost a few frames of film. I just shut the back and kept on shooting.

I shot 6 rolls of Kodak Portra 400 (plus half a roll of Fujicolor 200 that was already in the camera). I love how Portra renders skin tones and browns and yellows, and its color and grain were a really good match for the Olympus. True, I mis-focused a few shots and had some problems with a sticky shutter release, but I'm very happy with the results. (Click on each images to enlarge.)

A hike through Manassas Battlefield

In more than a decade of living in the Washington, DC area, I've never visited a major Civil War battlefield. I finally decided to do so, and yesterday took a 3-hour hike through Manassas Battlefield.

Manassas was the scene of the First Battle of Bull Run (also known as "First Manassas"), the first major land battle of the American Civil War. It was a one-day battle, fought in July 1861. It was where Gen. Thomas Jackson earned the nickname, "Stonewall." Incredibly, there would be another battle a year later, in August 1862. About 12,000 men died between the two battles.

There's little that remains in the site that alludes to the battle: a few cannons scattered about, some monuments here and there, a modest Confederate cemetery. Mostly it's just miles of grass, trees, hills, and the unrelenting open sky. Unfortunately, it's hard to imagine being a soldier here 150 years ago. Lee Highway cuts right through the park ("Arlington VA - 24 miles!") and I can't help being reminded of the strip malls and car dealerships just a couple of miles away.

So, just a few pictures. Black and white, to emphasize the starkness of the scenery. Red filter, to bring out the clouds. No people, in contrast to the tens of thousands who marched and fought here more than a century ago.