Ben's Photo Blog

Photos from my various adventures

Posts Tagged ‘statue’

A Place of Refuge

Posted by Ben on February 25, 2010

This photo comes from the central courtyard of the Museo Civico in Como, Italy.  Like the one in the last post, it was one of my favorites from my trip this past summer.  I’m not entirely sure why, but I really like having the column in the foreground on the right side of the image.  I apologize for it not being quite straight, but I’m working from the road again and don’t have any good photo software available to me on the laptop.

The past week has been another busy one.  I was in Dallas last week for an interview with Lockheed Martin for a summer internship and made it back to Blacksburg late Wednesday night.  Thursday and Friday were mostly full of work, catching up for what I had missed.

Saturday was a great day.  In the afternoon, I headed out to Radford to meet one of my best friends from high school who happened to be in town.  Saturday night, I took a friend to the “Second Chance Valentine’s Dance” hosted by the swing dancing club.  Being a semi-formal event, it was the first time in a long time that I’d had an excuse to get dressed up for a dance.  I had an amazing time, and the live band that performed was excellent.

The real world caught back up to me Sunday, and I spent most of the day working on homework and my research project.  Since then, the last few days have flown by, and I’ve been working hard to get all of my work done early for the week in order to prepare for my latest adventure.  This afternoon, I flew to Baltimore where I’ll be spending the next two days interviewing with the NSA for a summer internship.

I mentioned in my post last week that I had been a little overwhelmed by a sense of anxiety and stress while going through the airport, especially the one in Charlotte.  Well…I happened to find myself there again today and got the same feeling.  Luckily, I had plenty of time to make my connection there, and didn’t have to rush from one end of the airport to the other.

It did make me think about some of the different ways that people have to deal with stress in their lives.  I am certainly no stranger to being stressed, and have had to find ways to get rid of it.  One of the ways that I have developed, and I’m sure it’s a pretty common one, is to remove yourself, mentally if not physically, from the stressful situation.  Finding a place to go where you can just sit and relax, sorting through your thoughts if necessary, is a great stress reliever.  I am lucky enough to have discovered several such places around campus that I can go when I feel overworked or on edge.  However, the visualization of a calm, peaceful place, or one that you associate with a feeling of serenity can do a world of good as well.  The scene in the image above is one of those places for me.  While we certainly had work to do while we were visiting the site, I still find the image of the courtyard to be awfully peaceful and calming.  Another scene I turn to is that of the lake near my aunt’s cabin up in the mountains on a clear night.  You can look up and see all of the stars, then look down and see their reflection on the surface of the lake.  Unfortunately, I don’t have a physical picture of that place, just a mental image that is still relatively fresh from my visit there this past summer.

Well…I should probably get some rest before my interview tomorrow.  There may be another post tomorrow afternoon or evening depending on how much free time I end up having.

-Ben

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From the Road

Posted by Ben on February 17, 2010

Well, I think my interview this morning went well.  It was a lot quicker than I thought it would be though,and I find myself with several hours to kill in the DFW airport.  So, in honor of my post from the road, here’s a picture from somewhere that’s not Blacksburg for a change.

This photo is from my trip to Rome this past summer and was taken on the steps of the monument to Italian Unification (or as we called it, the Wedding Cake).  Unfortunately, they were closing down the monument for the day when I got there, so I wasn’t able to wander around too much.

I have always liked this shot, and have been meaning to put it up here and take a closer look at it for a while.  First of all, I really like the angle for this shot.  Getting the standing soldier in profile is pretty cool, and it seems to add depth to it since you can see the crouching soldier is clearly in front of him.  The way the shadows fall is also really cool.  I do remember intentionally setting up the clouds in this shot so that they would be behind the statue, and it turned out really nicely.  It kinda looks like the statue might have been carved out of the clouds themselves.


My flights yesterday were fairly uneventful, but I did see two really cool things out the side windows.  On the way from Roanoke to Charlotte, I was able to see the sun setting from above the clouds.  The entire horizon glowed a really deep orange and red, lightening the farther up you looked, and eventually turning into a deep dark blue.  The second was on the flight from Charlotte to Dallas.  As we were taking off from Charlotte, I noticed the moon off to the left of the plane.  It was incredibly low in the sky and seemed bigger than normal.  It also had a light orangish tint to it.  The coolest part, however, was that it was an incredibly thin crescent moon last night and it was turned so that the arc of the moon was straight down.  The image that came to me almost immediately was that of the Chesire cat from Alice in Wonderland.  It was also cool because the tiny sliver of moon also reflected off of the wing of the plane as well.

I’ve always noticed that people in airports and on airplanes always seem really tense and on edge.  Part of it is probably just worrying about making it to their gate and hoping the airline doesn’t lose their baggage.  But, especially when I was making my way through the Charlotte airport, it seemed like I was hit with a wave of stress and anxiety from all of the people around it.  There were people racing down the moving sidewalks trying to find their flight.  Now, I didn’t have a whole lot of time between my flights, only about 30 minutes, but I felt like that was enough and didn’t feel the need to run or worry too much.

It reminded me of a post I wrote last year about the need for us to slow our lives down some times.  People are so concerned about where they are going that they lose sight of the things around them.  Seeing those things from the plane served to remind me of this and left me feeling both calm and peaceful.  I wish I had had my camera with me for them, but oh well, I had to pack lightly for this trip and completely forgot about it.

Well, my laptop battery is about to die, so I’ll cut it off there.

-Ben

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Slow Down

Posted by Ben on November 3, 2009

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This is another picture from my walk through the Hahn Horticulture gardens a couple of weeks ago.  I’ve walked by this statue several times in the garden but never really gotten a good picture of it until this one.  The plaque in the bottom right corner reads:

“Maid in the Mud” Garden Sprite
by Frank Lloyd Wright
Gift of Warren and Margie Kark
June 16, 2007.

I won’t pretend to know a lot about art, my only real academic experiences with it being an art history course last fall and some on site information from the Beckers this summer.  But to me at least, it is a very haunting piece, brimming with both longing and regret, as if she has just lost something very dear to her.  The nature of the sculpture also adds to the effect.  There are no smooth curves at all in this sculpture, only sharp, angular cuts, creating a figure of purely flat surfaces.  I think it serves to immediately put a distance between the sculpture and the humans viewing it.  In human-like sculptures we look for things we can identify with, things that remind us of ourselves, in a way things that affirm our own humanity.  By having a sculpture, especially a female one, be made of hard geometric shapes like this rather than the soft, gentle curves we tend to associate with women it is much harder for the viewer to make a connection with the subject.  Rather than a benevolent, welcoming figure, we (or me at least) unthinkingly assign to it a negative emotion such as loss or regret rather than a more positive one such as sympathy that we might bestow on a figure that we could relate to on a “human” level.  But she is the only one in the scene, we really have no way of knowing what she’s gazing down at, if anything at all.  Is she mourning the loss of a loved one?  Is she a worried mother standing over an injured child, full of worry and love?  Is the subject of her concern something physical and concrete at all?

We watched another very interesting video for our TED talk colloquium tonight.  The talk (http://www.ted.com/talks/carl_honore_praises_slowness.html), given by journalist Carl Honore, advocated a “slowing down” of our arguably fast-paced society.  It struck a particularly strong cord with me as I watched it, as it had been something I’ve given a fairly good amount of thought to before, and kinda written about here before.  The basic gist of the argument is that the best way to get more out of the time we have is not to try to pack as many things into it as possible, but rather to try to get more out of the things we do.  More what?  A simple question, but one without an equally simple answer.  More enjoyment, more fulfillment, more meaning, just more.  I see this as deeper than just an “enjoy the simple things in life” message.

Another point he seems to make in the video is that eventually our fast-paced lives catch up to us, we reach a breaking point, and once we reach this point, we either make an effort to slow down or risk truly burning ourselves out.  Our lives are full of stress, regardless of whether we are in school or out in the workforce, but we all try to find the best way to deal with it.  However, it never seems to really go away, and over time it builds up inside us until it can manifest in some physical way, be it a sickness that forces us to take it easy for a while, or an emotional outburst, whose consequences can, and should, lead to a reflection about their true cause.  This can be that crucial breaking point.  If we ignore what our bodies and minds are trying to tell us, drown them out with neverending work and worry, the consequences can be catastrophic.

I think I reached one of these breaking points last spring.  Overwhelmed with work and a couple of personal issues, and without a real way to remove myself from the stressful situation, it felt like things were falling down all around me.  There was a week where all of my deadlines and responsibilities seemed to converge.  I made it through the week, but paid for it that weekend.  I remember not being able to do much on account of some particularly bad headaches.  But while this weekend was certainly not productive on an academic level, it made me slow down, really stop and think about things.  I know I’ve talked about this here before, but I realized that my priorities were not in the right order, and had been skewed for quite some time.  Getting a B in a class wasn’t going to kill me, it wasn’t the end of the world, and I really needed to cut myself some slack personally and academically.  I took a pretty deep look at what my motivation was for all of the things I was doing, realizing that a good deal of them were pretty superficial, doing the activity for the sake of doing the activity, and not really getting anything out of it.  I had to look for my “focal activities,” which I talked about a couple of posts ago.

Since then, I have tried, and it is very hard at times, to slow myself down.  Breaking out of a mindset in which I’ve been fairly firmly set for the past five or six years has taken, and is still taking a good deal of effort on my part.  It’s not something we can simply switch on or off, but requires a change on a much deeper, more fundamental level.  But it’s a goal that I feel is worthy of the effort it requires.

Anyway, I have a tendency to ramble when I’m up too late past my bedtime, so I think that will have to do for tonight.

-Ben

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A Small Reminder

Posted by Ben on August 6, 2009

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This picture also comes from our last day in Riva San Vitale.  After our last lesson of the day, Jessica and I walked up the road a short way to the local cemetery.  As I mentioned from my narrative post from the trip, this cemetery was considerably different than your typical American one.  The plots in the cemetery, marked by fairly ornate and intricate stones and carvings often spanned over a hundred years and had many members of the same family.  I was especially touched by this one.  The expression on the face and the detail of the clothing are both amazing.  The figure itself was not very large, only a couple of inches tall.  The colors of the flower against the figure also stuck out at me and grabbed my attention.

I decided to play around with this image a little as well.

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Luckily the Canon was powerful enough to let me crop the image down to this size and still maintain a good resolution.  You can make out a lot more detail in the figure here.  You can clearly see the strands of hair and the eyes that were so carefully made.  I also tweaked a few exposure settings slightly to give the figure more of a bronze color and to bring out the bright colors of the flower, which I think turned out pretty well.

-Ben

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