Ben's Photo Blog

Photos from my various adventures

Posts Tagged ‘Switzerland’

From the Top

Posted by Ben on January 14, 2010

I was rummaging back through my photos from this past summer looking for something (I don’t even remember what it was now), and stumbled on this picture.  This was taken from the top floor of the Tech’s Villa in Riva San Vitale on our last morning there before boarding the bus to Rome.  It was definitely an awesome place, and looking back through the pictures only makes me want to go back.

The last few days have been pretty quiet around the house as I’ve been getting ready and packing to leave for Blacksburg tomorrow afternoon.  I do have some exciting news though.  I’m now in the process of finalizing some travel plans for the end of the month.  I’ll be heading back up to Baltimore for an interview and another round of “processing” with the National Security Agency for a possible internship for the coming summer.  I’m definitely excited about the possibility as their summer program in mathematics sounds like it would be fun.  Unlike last year though, I’m trying not to put all my eggs in one basket for the summer.  I’m also looking into a couple of REU’s (Research Experiences for Undergraduates) in Mathematics all over the country.  I’ve really been looking for something for this summer that would be more math oriented than my last two summer internships, if nothing else to see if that’s really the direction I want to go with my life.  The NSA position would let me see an example of a job I could get with my math degree and the REU would probably be a good indicator of what I could expect in grad school and beyond in academia.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t at all nervous about this next semester.  I’ll be back up to 21 credit hours (though without the TA position on top of it this time) and I’ve got a bunch of new responsibilities with the salsa club and around the dorm.  But I can also say that this is probably the most excited I’ve ever been about heading back to school.  My mom gave me some advice the other day that has really stuck with me as I try to prepare myself:  Try not to worry about the things you can’t control, instead, hold on tight and try to enjoy the ride.


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A Distant Peak

Posted by Ben on August 13, 2009


Short post tonight…I’m kinda tired, but still wanted to put up a picture.

This one comes from the trip to Switzerland, and is the view from near the summit of Monte Generoso, one of the mountains overlooking the town of Riva San Vitale and Lake Lugano.  This is looking in the other direction however.  From the valley floor, all you could see were clear blue skies, but once we got to the top of the mountain, we were able to see almost a wall of clouds, some of them fairly large thunderheads, coming towards us.

There are a bunch of things I like about this picture.  When I was taking it, my subject was definitely the mountain peak in the center of the frame.  Looking at it now though, I feel like it’s one of the least interesting parts of the picture.  Above and to the left of the peak, there are nice, clear, blue skies and puffy white clouds.  In the upper right, slightly more threatening looking clouds, casting shadows on some of the closer parts of the landscape.  The color of the mountains closer to me are also a very nice rich green, which I think is emphasized even more since they are partially covered in shadows.  In the more immediate foreground are the two buildings and the people sitting at a table.  It seems like while the eye might go immediately to the peak in the center, it would soon be drawn away to the more colorful and vibrant parts of the picture.  Though some might consider the picture too “busy,” I personally like the effect and that I was able to get so many interesting things into a single shot.

My new camera came in the mail Tuesday, but I’ve been too busy the last few days to really get a chance to play with it.  More comments on the camera once that happens.


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Posted by Ben on August 9, 2009


This is another picture from Switzerland, this time from Castello di Montebello in Bellinzona.  Our class that day was taken on a lawn inside the castle looking down over the rest of the city.  We then had a lot of time to explore the remains of the castle on our own.  This was taken from the base of one of the corner towers in the remaining fortifications.

I thought it would be neat to try to get a shot of the sun between the crenelations of the tower.  I like the way the shot turned out.  A step or two farther forward would have blocked out the sun and given me a nice silhouette of the top of the tower, but I like the effect of the sun shining through.  I did, unfortunately, get a bit of a lens flare, but it doesn’t look too bad, and I like the colors that it adds to the picture.  I also like the bright white clouds against the blue sky.

While I didn’t have any real complaints about the way this picture turned out, I thought I’d try my hand at editing it just a little to see what I could do.


I reduced the exposure a little, almost completely getting rid of the detail on the front of the tower, giving it that nice silhouette appearance.  I also bumped up the saturation on the picture, making the sky a little darker blue and making the colors of the lens flare a little more vibrant.  While I do like the way this came out, there’s something about it, and I can’t quite put my finger on it, that makes it look really unnatural.  It might just be the bright purple streak at the end of the flare.  I tried editing it out, but the tools on the online photoshop are not quite precise enough to get it looking right.

On an unrelated note, I ordered a new camera this weekend since my time with the Canon Rebel recently came to an end.  I ended up choosing the relatively new Canon Powershot SX 10 IS.  While it won’t take quite as good pictures as the Rebel, it has several advantages.  It has a really nifty LCD display that pulls out from the camera and rotates around, making it easier to get shots from weird angles.  It has a 20x optical zoom as opposed to 3x on the Rebel  (35 mm equivalent focal lengths of 28 to 560 mm as opposed to 18 to 55 mm on the Rebel).  It’s also several hundred dollars cheaper than the Rebel, which, as a college student, is a big deal.  I’m looking forward to playing around with it here at home and when I go back to school in a little over a week.


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A Small Reminder

Posted by Ben on August 6, 2009


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.


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.


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Garden Shadows

Posted by Ben on August 5, 2009


This shot comes from the garden outside Virginia Tech’s Villa Maderni in Riva San Vitale, Switzerland.  We had a little bit of free time on our last day there between breakfast and our morning lecture, so I decided to go out into the gardens to take some pictures.  This was taken from atop a small hill actually overlooking the main gardens.  You can make out a little bit of the Villa in the top left corner of the picture.  Thankfully, we had beautiful, sunny weather almost the entire time we stayed in Switzerland.

The colors in this picture came out wonderfully.  The leaves of the tree in the foreground (and I have no idea what kind it is) are a nice bright red and the other trees are a good shade of green.  The grass is a little faded, but not too bad.  I think the red tree in the foreground, and its trunk as well serve as a nice frame for the image and also provide some nice contrasting color to the predominant greens.  One of my favorite things about this picture is the shadows cast by the row of trees.  The fairly early morning sun gives them nice long shadows.  The perspective distorts the shadows somewhat as they don’t quite appear parallel here, at least in the center of the image.  I like that you can see the corner of the Villa on the left side and the church across the street on the right.  They do make the picture a little more crowded though.

I don’t have much experience with photo editing software, and all but one (can you figure out which it is?) of the pictures on my blog are in their original form.  Recently though, I’ve been experimenting with some of the tools on  It’s not nearly as powerful as the standalone version of photoshop, but is fun to play with.  Below is my modest attempt at “enhancing” this picture.  I’ve cropped it a little to add to the framing effect of the red tree and tweaked the colors slightly.  Let me know what you think.  I may try to do this more often, pairing an original shot with a slightly modified version.



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