Random Interesting

Arches National Park and HDR Photography

Posted on by Steve Bouey Posted in Featured, Random Interesting | Leave a comment

A couple of weeks ago I took a trip to Moab, Utah and spent some time at one of my favorite places: Arches National Park. The landscapes within Arches are spectacular and like no where else on earth, at least not that I am aware of. With so many interesting things to see and so many unique shapes, shadows and colors, it was the perfect place to practice some HDR photography.

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Pride in Your Property – The Fresco Houses of Oberbayern

Posted on by Steve Bouey Posted in Featured, Random Interesting | Leave a comment

As if the Bavarian Alps (Oberbayern) aren’t beautiful enough with the Wetterstein Mountains and the towering peak of the Zugspitze framing up some truly spectacular panoramas, non-natural beauty abounds throughout southern Germany.  If your neck gets strained from looking up too much, you can always take a break and soak in some street level beauty in the form of the intricate and colorful fresco houses in towns like Garmisch, Grainau and Obergammergau. Known throughout the region as Lüftlmalerei or simply Luftl, these fresco paintings date back to the 18th century when wealthy shopkeepers, farmers and craftsmen chose to display their wealth in the form of decorative frescoes painted on the facades of their shops and homes.

Luftl come in different shapes and sizes and depict varying scenes and subjects, but typically they represent motifs from the Bible, portraits of the “house saint,” or snapshots from daily rural life. The paintings also began to incorporate and accentuate the architectural features of the houses such as windows and doors.  Originally, these colorful paintings were applied to fresh lime plaster by mixing water with a chosen pigment. Upon application, the wet plaster absorbs the pigment and when dry, the resulting chemical reaction permanently affixes the colors into the plaster. This process obviously takes a long time and great care must go into cleaning and maintaining the frescoes, so modern, weatherproof techniques have taken over, but the resulting murals are no less captivating.

Next time you decide to go trekking or tramping through the Bavarian Alps, be sure to save some energy to walk around the villages you pass through. A turn around every corner, a deviation down nearly every alley or a bicycle ride through the winding streets and surrounding countryside will certainly keep your eyeballs and your imagination entertained. In fact, some of the houses and frescoes scattered across the region are so immaculate, the line between the folk tale depicted in the fresco and surrounding reality  can easily become blurred.

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Flashback Friday: Scary Travel Encounters

Posted on by Steve Bouey Posted in Featured, Random Interesting | Leave a comment

For this edition of Flashback Friday, we’re reminiscing about situations that are bound to come up eventually if you travel long enough, far enough and to enough different places. These situations can happen to newbies and seasoned travelers alike, can involve humans, animals and the environment, and they can pop up anywhere from the subways of New York City, the streets of Paris, or the jungles of Africa. We’re talking about scary travel encounters. Have you ever experienced a tense situation on the road or had any scary travel encounters?

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The Power To Light Up Times Square

Posted on by Steve Bouey Posted in Featured, Random Interesting | Leave a comment

Times Square is one of the most iconic and recognizable places in the entire world. As such, it is a huge tourist attraction and on any given day, thousands of people descend on Time Square to soak in the scenery, get entertained by buskers, the Super Mario Brothers or the famous naked cowboys, and bask in the glow of arguably the largest concentration of electronic billboards and advertisements on the planet. Its easy to get caught up by the sights, sounds and smells of Times Square, but on a recent trip to the Big Apple, my curiosity was sparked by another aspect: how much power does it take to keep all of the signs, lights and billboards in Times Square lit up 24/7?

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Another Reason to Like Jacques Cousteau

Posted on by Steve Bouey Posted in Featured, Random Interesting | Leave a comment

Jacques Cousteau was one of the greatest explorers and adventurers of our time, but he was also a scientist, researcher, filmmaker, author, innovator and conservationist.  When he passed away in 1997 at the age of 87, the internet was still in its infancy, but globalization and global interconnectedness were already relevant terms and Cousteau also saw that interconnectedness  in the environment and in the oceans where he spent so much of his life.

“However fragmented the world, however intense the national rivalries, it is an inexorable fact that we become more interdependent every day.”

Those words rang true when Cousteau first spoke them many years ago and now, nearly two decades after his death, they hold even more significance. So get out there and travel, get connected and meet the people with whom we share this great planet.

 

The Sharkmobile & Other Unique Russian Automotive Designs

Posted on by Steve Bouey Posted in Featured, Random Interesting | 1 Comment

When I first read Mark Jenkins’s book Off The Map, a tale about his bold and adventurous crossing of Russia on a bicycle immediately following the collapse of the Soviet Union, one of the things that stuck in my mind was his description of the cars Russian KGB agents shadowed them in throughout their landmark journey. The “rumplesuits,” as Jenkins affectionately referred to his suspicious handlers, drove around in “sharkmobiles.” No matter how fast they pedaled, the group of cyclists could never shake the sharkmobiles. I tried to formulate an image of this so called sharkmobile in my mind and all I came up with was some sort of exaggerated version of a 1956 Cadillac Coupe de Ville. With it’s menacing eyes, a grill full of sharp teeth and fins extending from the rear, the Russians must have been driving something similar to the Cady. It wasn’t until I first saw a Lada 1500 (also VAZ 2101, 2103, 2105 and 21073), that I think I actually saw what Jenkins was referring to. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t, but somehow, sharkmobile seems to fit the Lada 1500 and its just one Russian automotive design that remains unique and confined to this part of the world.

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This Old House: Russian Architecture You Probably Never Knew About

Posted on by Steve Bouey Posted in Featured, Random Interesting | Leave a comment

When you first think of Russian architecture, images of the great cathedrals that grace the skylines of cities like Moscow and St. Petersburg and their distinctive onion shaped roofs might come to mind. You may also think of the magnificent public halls, museums, schools and government buildings; the Spasskava Tower in the Moscow Kremlin, the Iberian Gate, Red Square, or the GUM department store. Russian architecture is rich in history and can be categorized into several unique periods, beginning in the late 900’s with the Kievan Rus and continuing through to the modern skyscrapers of Moscow City. Unfortunately, many people who have never seen these magnificent sights might confuse Russian architecture with images of uninspiring, grey concrete boxes and apartment buildings identical in size, shape, color and depressing appearance. Beginning in the 1950’s, necessities of the Cold War forced Soviet architects to shed the aesthetic aspects of their designs. Functionality and efficiency took the place of creativity, and mass-produced apartment blocs ushered in by Nikita Khrushchev began popping up everywhere, becoming symbolic of socialist cities throughout the Soviet Union and their stereotypical image remains strong. The only thing most visitors to Russia and the former Soviet Union see to contrast the images of those drab, shoebox style apartment buildings are the  public buildings and cathedrals in the larger cities that survived the wars and cultural purges or have since been rebuilt. Most visitors never make it to the old part of town, or at least the old residential part of town, and as a result, miss out on an entirely different type of architecture… a style that is quickly dying and fading from existence.

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Farm to Table Russian Style: The Dacha

Posted on by Steve Bouey Posted in Featured, Random Interesting, Thoughts on Travel | Leave a comment

We are living in interesting times. I suppose every generation can say that with some degree of validity. After all, life, no matter where you are, who you are, or when you are living can be interesting, but in this context, we are living in interesting times as it relates to the food we eat. On one hand, obesity has reached alarming levels in developed countries, the United States in particular, as people gorge on quickly prepared, mass produced crap that might satisfy their hunger in the near term, but sets them up down the road for a plethora of other health problems like type 2 diabetes which is also at historic highs. On the other hand, health conscious people, fueled in part by the digital age and increased access to information are leading the charge when it comes to concerns over commercial agricultural practices and the control that controversial companies like Monsanto have over our food supply. The later has propelled a resurgence of farmer’s markets, agricultural co-ops, demands for fresh, organic and non genetically modified food, and compounded by the contemporary environmental movement, a growing desire for locally produced food.  A few decades ago, people in general probably didn’t care that the apples they were eating in the grocery store in February came from New Zealand, but today, as evidenced by the “Produced Locally,” or “Local Farmer,” signs posted throughout not only upmarket grocery stores like Whole Foods but mainstream chains like Kroger and Safeway, more and more people do. An epic battle is brewing between fast food and slow food, but try explaining the fundamentals of this battle to people in other countries and you might generate some puzzled looks.

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Go Big And Then Fly Home Like Valery Rozov

Posted on by Steve Bouey Posted in Featured, Random Interesting, World News | Leave a comment

Last week was the 60th anniversary of the first successful summit attempt of Mt. Everest by Sir Edmund Hillary and his sherpa Tenzing Norgay. A lot has changed in 60 years and Everest is still viewed by many as the pinnacle of mountain climbing. After all, it is still the tallest mountain in the world. However, according to some seasoned climbers and adventurers, in the 60 years since Hillary and Tenzing sat atop Everest’s summit, the mountain, and the process of climbing it, seem to have lost some of its romanticism. Long queues to ascend to the summit, a landscape littered with oxygen bottles and other climbing debris, fights between sherpas and climbers, the pressure of high dollar paying clients and more recently, a controversial proposal to set up a ladder bridging one of the more technical sections of the mountain, the Hillary Step, thus increasing the mountain’s accessibility to “idiots who don’t know a crampon from a tampon” have turned Everest into somewhat of a sideshow. According to our friends The Adventurists, “These days Sagarmāthā  is a parade of lemmings blindly following each-other to the summit for the obligatory photo before shuffling back from whence they came… someone should tell the folks still climbing it that they needn’t bother.” We would tend to agree, but then along comes a crazy Russian who puts a completely new spin on Everest. If your goal is to climb Everest, only to then jump off it, we say go right ahead, that’s awesome.

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The Street Comes Alive at the 2013 Denver Chalk Art Festival

Posted on by Steve Bouey Posted in Featured, Random Interesting | Leave a comment

Chalk: Geologically speaking, its a form of limestone that is composed from a mineral, calcite carbonate, which ultimately comes from small particles shed from the shells of micro organisms called coccolithophores. Chalk has many uses such as an agricultural soil treatment, a toothpaste additive, an athletic grip enhancement and builder’s putty, but most of us were probably first exposed to chalk in the classroom. Chalk and chalk dust were once common sights and smells in classrooms across the globe. A mainstay of our early education and a cornerstone of our popular culture, chalk was used by Bart Simpson to write “I will not ____” across the detention room blackboard, on which other kids, in the hope of generating a spine shivering reaction from someone, would scrape their fingernails. But digital technology has changed the face of the modern blackboard, replacing it, along with the chalk used to write on it, with computer screens, IPads and digital pens. While chalk may have met its demise in the classrooms of developed countries, fortunately it continues to thrive as an artistic medium.

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