Tuesday, May 24, 2022

MSUB Study Abroad to Italy 2022 - Table of Contents

 Table of Contents

May 8, 2022 - Getting Ready to Go

May 9, 2022 - Travel Day - Part 1

MSUB Study Abroad to Italy 2022 - The Coda - Street Photography

May 24, 2022

As I mentioned in my last post, The Wrap Up, I have some photos I shot on the trip using film.  Because I tend to be verbose, especially when it comes to technical or "how I did that" topics, you might want to just scroll down to the images.

My intention in taking a camera that is over 45-years old was to use it for street photography where I take not-so-random photos, usually by shooting from the hip.  I wanted some images that were less posed, less formal, and caught subject matter in a more natural state.  Yes, I could attempt the same using the camera on my phone, but there is something about the process of doing this the traditional way that attracts me.  For one, using the phone would mean that I could view the photos immediately which would prompt me to change what I am doing based on that feedback.  With film, I wouldn't know what I got until I returned home and develop it.  The delayed gratification and the element of chance provides a level of personal satisfaction that I am looking for.  Additionally, with film, I only have a certain number of shots per roll which prevents me from blasting away like I might if shooting digital.  Film requires a higher level of intentionality.

All that said, I used my Minolta SRT-201 35mm single-lens reflex camera that I bought in the early 1970s.  It's fitted with a 50mm lens and has an internal light meter that tells me how to set the shutter speed and the f/stop based on the ISO of the film I am using.  Other than focus, that is the extent of the settings.  

The film I selected is Ilford HP5+ 400 which is a black and white, fairly fast film which I chose because I knew that I would need the extra speed to shoot in the shade.  I purchased it in a 100-foot roll and used my bulk loader to fill 6 reloadable film canisters. I shot a test roll before we left to make sure it's speed matched what my meter was telling me and that my developer would yield the results I desired.  Everything was ready.

I had the film hand inspected at the Billings airport as they have one of the new scanners which would assuredly damage the film.  In Italy, we had to go through security at a few of the museums and, seeing that their scanners were the older, smaller type, and that I wasn't going to hold up the line asking for a hand inspection, I just let the film go through and figured that I would get what I get.  I forgot to ask for hand inspection when I flew out of Venice but did get it manually examined when I left out of Denver.  However, in Denver, the end cap off one of the canisters came off, exposing that roll to light, and, unfortunately it was one of the 3 rolls that I had already shot.  Not a good thing.  Those end caps can come off on their own if the canister is squeezed or pressed and I don't know if the inspection did that or if it happened in my carryon.  I'll get what I get.

I carried that camera with me in my backpack as we walked around the city and when the situation and lighting looked good, I'd take the camera out, check the light settings, and take some random shots.  On occasion I would see a composition, like a canal scene, and I would shoot that or, as shown below, I would see people that I wanted to record and I would look through the viewfinder to get the shot.

The day after returning to Billings I developed the 3 rolls that I had shot, which included the one with the loose end cap.  I loaded the film onto stainless steel reels and used Kodak D-76 developer, stock, for 7-1/2 minutes at 68 degrees.  Stop bath and fixer were done using normal times after which I rinsed, used a hypo clearing bath, and then a final wash.  I rinsed the film with a wetting agent and then hung them to dry.  This was my first chance to look at them.  Two of the rolls looked great and, to my surprise, about half of the roll from the canister with the loose end cap looked pretty good too.  I think that the fact that the film is wound tightly on a spool with flanges on the end, limited the about of light that could strike it.  I sleeved the film in glassine pages and glanced them over on my light table.  The page on the right holds the roll that was exposed to light.

At this point I go into "hybrid" mode and I scan the negatives into digital using my Epson V500 scanner.  I had almost 100 images.  I selected some, did some light editing, selecting 32 out of the bunch, did a crop and a brightness/contrast adjustment on a few, and came up with what I am posting below.  You can click on the images to enlarge them and get into the slide show mode.

As a note, that 3rd photo from the bottom, the group picture, was on the roll that was exposed to light.  I took 3 images and this one was undamaged.  That is pure luck.

This wraps up the posting of the trip, unless I think of adding an appendix.  I will add a table of contents page since this software defaults to showing the oldest post first.  


Monday, May 23, 2022

MSUB Study Abroad to Italy 2022 - The Wrap Up

May 23, 2022

In these blog posts I've tried to write a straight-up record what we did on this trip with little personal input, opinion, or musings.  To wrap this up I will do a bit of that.   Keep in mind that all of this was from where I was and what I saw and that over the course of the trip we split up the group many times so others will have their own stories to tell.   

First off, how about some numbers just because?


Days gone: 13

The number of photos I shot with my phone: 3,171

Number of photos I shot with my film camera: 97

Number of blog posts I made, including this one: 19

Number of Facebook posts: 17

The average number of daily walking steps, recorded on my smart watch: 11,311 steps per day

The day with the most steps:  May 12 - 18,582

Total number of steps: 147,053 

Average number of hours:minutes of sleep each day over the trip: 5:32 per day

Train rides: 2

Boat rides: 4

Taxi rides: 1

Airport layovers: 5

Number of cups of gelato consumed:  who counts those?

Number of Euros spent in form of cash: 268,00

Number of Euros spent using iPhone: 135,40

Total cost of of the trip: about $4,780.  This includes that I upgraded my airline ticket to Premium Economy and paid extra for single rooms at the hotels.

Weight gained: about 4-5 pounds.  This is likely due to the fact I rarely use salt on my food and picked up water-weight due to the salt I consumed there.  It couldn't have been the beer, wine, gelato, pizza, or pastas.

Weight of my carryon: 23 pounds

The Flights

Air transportation is not as reliable as it used to be and I covered that in the blog posts but here are a few observations based on my experience.  Because of the long flights, I had bought the Premium Economy tickets and I have no regrets.  The extra room between the seats, the extended leg room, the foot rest, and a seat that reclines much farther than a regular seat makes it worth it to me.  The amenities pouch with eye shade, etc. was a nice touch on Air Canada.  The food service was good as well. Reserved overhead storage ensured that I didn't have to search for a place to put my carryon.  I liked the extra layover I had on the way over, making the longest portion only a bit over 7 hours rather than the 10-1/2 on the way back.  The cancellation of the final leg from Denver to Billings supposedly for weather was bogus but I made lemonade out of that lemon, stayed in a nice hotel, had a good workout and swim in their facilities, and was able to visit with a friend in Denver that I hadn't seen in 31 years.

The Hotels in Venice and Florence

The Venice accommodations were great and I would stay there when I return.  The location was perfect, the staff were helpful and friendly, and the room was great.  The bathroom was fine even though getting the shower to hit the right temperature took a bit of practice.  It had a bidet, something not found in American hotels.  The included breakfast was just perfect.  I especially like the orange/limon/carrot juice and will try to concoct that at home.  They didn't have a fitness room but I didn't need one since the stairs to our upper floors filled in for that along with our daily walks.  My room in Venice:

The hotel in Florence was different.  The room was small and the bathroom looked like the space had formerly been a closet which is probably why it didn't have a bidet but it worked well and the bed was comfortable.  The breakfast was almost a carbon copy of the one in Venice and helped get the day started.  Like the one in Venice, there were lots of stairs.  Here's my room:

When we returned to Venice we stayed in a hotel in the newer part of the city near the train station.  It was very nice and modern and I would certainly stay there again.  Although there was a bit of language barrier, the staff was very helpful.  Here's my room:


There was really no problem with my lack of foreign language ability as English is the default second language everywhere we visited.  It was common that an Italian speaker would just default to English when speaking to us.  This is a such a heavily touristed area that it is probably a business necessity for them.  I did notice that in the old part of Venice where we stayed first, as well as in Florence, signs, menus, and other things were in Italian and English.  When we returned to Venice and stayed in a not-so-touristy area, bilingual menus and signage were not as common.  I did love listening to all the languages as we walked through the cities and museums.


I took Euros with me and was glad I did as they came in handy when exchanging money among ourselves to pay our portion of a bill but other than that, paying by phone is the way to go and accepted pretty much everywhere.  Our fee for the trip covered most of our evening meals and, with the hotels providing breakfasts, lunch was our only daily expense.  I thought that the cost of meal items was extremely reasonable especially considering that it is a touristed area.  Even the food at the Biennale cafe was fairly priced.  

The Food

Well, there is the food.  It was, from what I ate, most excellent.  You'll have to take into account that I've been a long-time (40+ years) vegetarian so I didn't try the widest range of options available but I had no problem finding something at every place we went.  There were a few times, particularly at lunch, where items are ordered based on what you see rather than a description, where I was unsure what something was and just picked out something "safer."

With one exception, we ate at a different restaurant every evening where some were from recommendations by the hotel staff and others were picked at random.  The food at every one was exceptional.  Dinner is usually served at 8pm, a bit later than many are used to.   The range of options were varied and included all types of seafoods and meats and with most places having pizzas of all types.  Water is not served with the meal unless bottled water is ordered and it can be either still or bubbly.  One of my favorite meals was a spaghetti in a spicy red sauce.  The "Kamut Crouton" I had on the last night in Venice was also memorable.

While I do drink wine on occasion and tried some on the trip, I favor beer and was impressed by a few that I had there.  For the most part, draught beer there is a lager which is light and refreshing but I favor something with a bit more body and where the hops more fully assert themselves.  I wasn't disappointed as I had several European IPAs that measured up just fine, like this one.

I also noted that when beer is poured in Italy, it had a large head.  There is also a line on the glass to indicate the volume, something that usually came up a few cc's short.  No complaints as the products were as fine as the companionship and conversation that accompanied them.

I consider myself a pretty accomplished cook, especially when it comes to baking and, particularly, sourdough breads.  The breads I had in Italy were quite good but I would put mine up against any of them. That said, I believe the difference between American and Italian breads is found in the milling of the flours which contributes to the extra flavor found in European breads.  To match this, I make a blend of flour that is primarily the bread flour from Montana Wheat with a small addition of whole wheat flour and a bit of rye flour.  With a sourdough starter used for rising and a hefty pinch of salt, the only other addition is water to produce a bread that has a delicious flavor, an open crumb, and a creamy texture.

What I do plan to do, is to expand my repertoire to include more Italian recipes.  I have a pasta machine, the manual kind, but have hardly mastered it, something that I plan on doing now that this trip has provided some motivation in that direction.  I already do a very good gnocchi, a pizza with a sourdough crust, and a lasagne that crosses paths with Southwest cuisine with the addition of olives that are marinated in wine and habanero peppers, but I will expand into other areas.  More use of eggplant is on the agenda.

BTW, if you are interested in trying your hand at Italian cooking or just like looking at photos of the food, there are, as you might imagine, hundreds of web sites that can provide that.  One that I just stumbled upon is Tina's Table and I am motivated to try some of her recipes.

The Art

The art was, of course, the primary reason for the trip and I have covered much of what we saw in previous posts but will say just a few words about what struck me the most.  The works in the Biennale were, for the most part, exceptional and, some, jaw-dropping.  I am especially drawn to works that reflect a high level of detail and the dedication for what must be many hours, days, or months to complete and I was not disappointed to find a number of these.  One that comes to mind was the works by Myrlande Constant that were like tapestries made with sequins, glass beads, and silk tassels on cotton. 

Another one that was highly detailed was work by Elias Sime.  Not only did the geometric repetitions speak to me in a big way, the highly detailed technique left me speechless.  And concentric circles!  What's not to like about these?

The work of Felipe Baeza was also memorable in the use of twine embedded in his painting with cut paper, graphite, and acrylics.

The work of Tatsuo Ikeda resonated with me.  These pieces came from the 1950s to 2008 and were made with watercolors, ink, acrylics, crayon or a combination of them on paper. The form and Surrealist content pulled me into them.  This is another artist that will be sending me off to do more research as I would like to see this influence my own work.

The list of impressive works goes on and on but those are a few of the highlights for me.

The Markets

Part of the fun of this trip was wandering the markets and seeing all that was on offer.  I am not referring to the trinkets targeted at tourists, but the foods that the locals might be buying for their daily meals.  Of note was the Mercado Centrale which I wrote about here.  It's a combination of grocery shopping on the first floor and a giant food court on the second floor.  Outside, it is surrounded by vendors selling all sorts of things, especially leather goods.

Outside our first Venice hotel, the marketplace was always a joy to walk through as we left for our daily excursions.

The Souvenirs

I am not much into shopping, let alone acquiring souvenirs, but I did pick up a small bottle of balsamic vinegar (thanks for the heads up, Mark), some spices, the Biennale catalog, and a couple of keychains.  Others in the group were more in an acquisition mode and two of them each brought home something that will always serve as a reminder of their time in Italy.

The Group

What can I say.  Traveling with this group was wonderful.  Everyone's level of enthusiasm, curiosity, respect, and desire for enjoyment contributed to the great experience I had.  Being the oldest (by far) in the group wasn't hinderance in any way and I always felt accepted.  I enjoyed their energy and the many art-related talks we had.  

Our leaders, Jodi and Mark, provided just the right amount of structure, balancing that with the opportunity for personal exploration if that is what someone desired.  I feel that I got more than I expected out of the trip and never felt like I was missing out on anything.

Thanks to everyone.

Wrapping it up?

I thought this would be the final post but there will be one more.  Last night I developed the three rolls of 35mm film I shot on the trip and want to share some of the results so tune back in for those.

MSUB Study Abroad to Italy 2022 - Table of Contents

 Table of Contents May 8, 2022 - Getting Ready to Go May 9, 2022 - Travel Day - Part 1 May 10, 2022 - Travel Day - Part 2 May 10, 2022 - Tra...