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Europe holiday – Denmark part VI – the fantastic art galleries

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

I must admit, I loved walking through Copenhagen’s art galleries, particularly as they allow you to remember your experiences by taking photos (unlike those in Amsterdam and Canberra whose paintings I have now largely forgotten), and encourage others to visit.

Denmark’s national gallery is the Statens Museum for Kunst (Kunst is Danish for art):

figures

Michael Kvium’s “Choir”:

choir

the delightful “Artist’s wife and child”:

wife and child

So many more goodies from this gallery can be seen in my album here.

Next is the Glyptotek which is primarily statues from Ancient Roman and Greek era such as these ones displayed in this very nice auditorium in which classical music artists play to a silent audience:

auditorium

If you happened to have become bored with Roman and Greek statues after being in Rome or the Louvre, then there is still something else rather special – four beautifully crafted rooms with the most awesome marble sculptures by Stephan Sinding, Rodin, and others, such as this beautiful piece titled “Love” made in 1909 by Stephan Sinding:

Love

and “Death of a maiden” made in 1912 by Elna Borch:

Death of a maiden

and finally, there are a couple of floors of paintings by French Impressionists, plus, a collection of Degas sculptures and figurines.

For a taste of what you can experience in this enormous collection, see my album here.

Next we have the collection of works held in the Hirschsprung Gallery such as “Nude woman doing her hair before a mirror” by Eckersberg in 1841:

Nude woman

and one of my favorites, Kroyer’s 1882 “When there is no fishing”:

No fishing

More from this art gallery can be seen in my album here.

Finally, one should not miss Rosenborg Castle in Copenhagen – it not only contains gems such as this 1667 nude painting of Denmark’s Queen Sophie Amalie with Juno:

Queen Sophie Amalie

some wonderful tapestries, lots of Royal artefacts, and the Treasury displays the Royal jewels including these crowns with incredibly large rubies and sapphires:

Queen Sophie Amalie

More of these from Rosenborg Castle can be seen in my album here.

All of the indoor photos from these art galleries and castles were taken with the Panasonic GH-1 Micro Four Thirds camera with Leica-D 25mm f/1.4 without flash.

Europe holiday – Denmark part V – Frederiksborg Castle

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

While you have the Copenhagen Pass, you have no excuse not to catch the train to Hillerød and take a short walk through the lovely town, have lunch at one of the very nice cafes, and take a leisurely stroll around the Frederiksborg Castle which holds paintings documenting the history of Denmark and its Royal Family, as well as some contemporary art works, including the portrait of our Crown Princess Mary.

It is even more pleasant if you have a beautiful sunny day like I did, although storm clouds were never far away:

the castle

The ceilings are incredibly ornate with thousands of sculptures such as these:

the ceiling

While the main hall is host to a beautiful wall size portrait of the Danish Queen Alexandra of England, Empress of India, and consort of King Edward VII:

Queen Alexandra of England

Crown Princess Mary:

Crown Princess Mary

And one of the copies of the historic Bayeaux tapestry which documented the invasion of England in 1066:

Bayeaux tapestry

More photos from this wonderful castle are here.

Photos inside the castle were taken with Panasonic GH-1 Micro Four Thirds camera with Leica-D 25mm f/1.4 lens.

Europe holiday – Denmark part IV – Roskilde

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

The Copenhagen Pass gives you free train travel to regional cities such as Roskilde, famous for its annual music festival in summer.

Here is a tatoo parlour near Roskilde train station:

tatoo parlour

Unfortunately, entry to this wonderful little avenue was closed in October, but the light was right, so here is a shot through the gates:

Roskilde gardens

Did I mention, Scandinavian countries are generally so clean, with very little graffiti or litter:

Roskilde houses

And, of course, Roskilde’s cathedral where many of the Royal family have been entombed is easily found:

Roskilde cathedral

Europe holiday – Denmark – Part III – I think I have fallen in love with Copenhagen

Monday, November 8th, 2010

Copenhagen seems to remind me a lot of my home city – Melbourne – a very culturally orientated family city with a good mix of multicultural aspects, cafes, bars, it’s people are generally friendly, but in addition, it is a much more photogenic city, although much colder.

I loved its train system, the Copenhagen Pass was well worth it if one is going to visit a few museums and catch a few trains to almost anywhere on the main island. The trains were clean, not crowded, and even catered well for cyclists, although few seemed to catch the train while I was there. The trains have WiFi, and even a “silent” part of the carriage where people are not allowed to talk or make noise – how nice is that!

I stayed at the Scandic Copenhagen Hotel which is very close to the city (only a 10 minute walk to the Central Station, even closer to Vesteport station), but far enough away to be quiet. I highly recommend this hotel, staff were friendly, room very clean, and the Junior Suite was extremely roomy at 46 sq. m (instead of the usual 26 sq. m and 14 sq.m in some hotels) with lots of windows to take in the views, and not overly expensive by European standards, particularly when you have free WiFi in your room and full buffet breakfast included! Just be warned, breakfast can be very busy and noisy as there are a lot of guests, but there was never any major issues there, and I loved it so much, I extended our stay there to 9 days.

Another little aspect to be aware of is that the hotels in Scandinavia seem to give you adjoining two single beds with an individual doona on each when you request a double bed. Now this was actually conducive to a better night’s sleep – or perhaps I just did a LOT of walking every day!

Here is the view from my window looking west, away from the city, one late afternoon after a few showers had passed (Panasonic GH-1 Micro Four Thirds with gradient filter to bring out the cloud detail):

hotel view

Most of our time though in Copenhagen was filled with sunny days, albeit only 8-10deg C, just a touch warmer than Stockholm, but one still needed a coat, hat, gloves and scarf when the breeze picked up or the sun went down.

canals

Ameliaborg palace in Copenhagen:

Ameliaborg palace

And, a view from my hotel room at dusk:

dusk

Copenhagen seems to be a great compromise between the Scandinavian cultures, level of tourism, safety, cleanliness and cost effectiveness, it is just a pity it is so cold, and those damn bikes clogging up the pedestrian access everywhere.

Perhaps they need to make a computerised multi-storey bike park where cyclists can drop off their bike and a computerised transport system stacks them away out of the public’s way?

Europe holiday – Denmark – part II – Halloween in Copenhagen

Monday, November 8th, 2010

Our visit to Copenhagen just happened to coincide with Halloween and Copenhagen’s Tivoli amusement park opened for the week of school holidays, and of course was packed with families making the most of the Halloween theme and rides.

It was a freezing cold night with intermittent showers but that did not stop the locals from having fun (Panasonic GH-1 Micro Four Thirds camera with Leica D 25mm f/1.4 lens).

Halloween at Tivoli

During the day, Tivoli was much more bearable for an Aussie without thermal underwear!

Tivoli

Meanwhile back at Copenhagen’s Central Station, it was time for a toilet break for the young one while the tourists wait as the sun gets lower (Olympus E510 with ZD 50mm macro lens):

Tivoli

Europe holiday – Denmark – part I – cyclists heaven

Sunday, November 7th, 2010

Coming to Copenhagen from Stockholm in October, one is immediately aware of the substantially higher numbers of tourists and multiculturalism.

The Copenhagen restaurants and bars still seem to be dominated by tourist-oriented British/American food as I mentioned in the previous post on Stockholm, but it does have some very nice Italian restaurants which served great food, and not just pizza and pasta.

The numbers of cyclists seem to have increased exponentially, and they were the main threat to my personal injury – it seems cyclists assume they have right of way, even if pedestrians have a green light, and many of the cyclists just don’t stop to give way to you – you do have to be a bit more aware here!

I had not researched Denmark prior to going there, and thus I was caught off-guard by Denmark’s love affair with cycling – I suspect that if you were a young adult and didn’t cycle to work in Copenhagen, you might be regarded as a second class citizen. I was fascinated by the clothes the Danish wore whilst cycling – no helmets, but it seems, fashionable clothes and even high heels is the trendy way to travel here. They have bikes designed for every purpose, and the ladies generally used bikes with elevated handles to allow them to sit very elegantly with straight backs.

I just can’t imagine this degree of cycling taking off in Australia with its rigid bike helmet laws discouraging fashionable cycling!

Denmark's love affair with cycling

After I returned to Australia, I was telling friends about this cycling culture, where even ladies would be seen cycling home in the cold and rain at 9pm at night, and they informed me that Copenhagen had become so famous for this, there has been a web blog devoted to Copenhagen Cycle Chicks – a blog which presumably started off as a sexy voyeuristic site but seems to have become more a social documentary site – it is worth a check to see what I am talking about. However, I am not sure how the Danish ladies feel about this, although it does seem many love the attention.

It is certainly fascinating watching how the Danish people carry everything on their bikes, including their children in boxed carriages at the front, yet apparently, they have a very low rate of cycle injuries per kilometer cycled.

Our first night in Copenhagen coincided with their annual cultural night which was a great way to get acquainted with the city.

Ice sculptures on Copenhagen’s cultural night taken with the Panasonic GH-1 Micro Four Thirds camera with Leica-D 25mm f/1.4 lens without flash:

Ice sculptures on Copenhagen's cultural night

See more of my Denmark photos here.

Europe holiday – a few days in beautiful, chilly Stockholm

Sunday, November 7th, 2010

Flying from Rome to Sweden in October is a bit of a shock to the system.

The midnight Arlanda Express train from the airport was safe, clean and fast, although not exactly cheap.

Rome’s beautiful Autumn weather of generally sunny days with temperatures in the 20′s, was suddenly replaced with generally sunny days and temperatures barely reaching 8 deg Celsius.

It was time to don the coat, hat, scarf and gloves, and as I discovered too late, a lip moisturiser is a must!

Gone were the crowds of tourists, and the multitude of gypsies, beggars and others who exploit the tourists, gone too was the dirt, grime, litter, graffiti and chaotic traffic.

Gone were the beautifully tanned, olive skinned Italians and replaced with a different beauty, the Swedish blondes.

Gone was the pizza and pasta every day, and replaced with reindeer and elk steaks, and delicious marinated herring, although like most of the Western world, there were many British/American restaurants and bars offering their over-priced hamburgers and fries, or second rate steaks and tourist-oriented unimaginative desserts.

Food, coffee and alcohol were all much more expensive in Stockholm than in Rome, although the food quality from the better, more authentic Swedish restaurants was memorable, and a great culinary experience for not much more money than those rather ordinary steaks from the previously mentioned establishments.

It was fantastic to walk 20 minutes from the Central Station and find yourself in a beautiful National Park which took about 2 hours to walk around the main lake which at that time of year was surrounded in Autumn leaves.

Stockholm's National Park next to the CBD

The old part of town, Gamla Stan, is a must see, with some very nice restaurants indeed.

Stockholm's Gamla Stan

The Stockholm City Hall is where the Nobel Prize is presented, and a feature is the Golden Hall with its 18 million tiles of gold-leaf which form beautiful mosaics – unfortunately, I only had a second to get this shot before it was filled by a crowd, and it is a bit under-exposed, but still shows the extent of the mosaics.

As I wanted to have a very compact camera for this occasion, this was shot with the Panasonic GH-1 with Olympus 17mm pancake lens – one of the few times I resorted to using this lens on this holiday:

Stockholm's Golden Hall

No trip to Stockholm would be complete without allowing a couple of hours to explore the Vasamuseet museum which houses the Vasa – an incredibly ornate preserved wooden ship which was built as Sweden’s largest ship ever with an extra deck of cannons, but sank during her maiden voyage in 1628 due to miscalculation of ship design to cope with the many cannons. Although the cannons were retrieved not long after, it was not until the 1950′s the ship itself was re-discovered and carefully brought to the surface and restored.

This was taken using the Panasonic GH-1 Micro Four Thirds with Leica-D 25mm f/1.4 lens – the lighting in there is quite dim, thus you will need a wide aperture lens, and a relatively high ISO – a point and shoot or dSLR with kit lens is not really going to do the job!

The Vasa

If you can brave the cold, then there are a multitude of sight seeing tours by boat, although these locals in an open boat at sunset with a decent chill factor of the breeze must be well aclimatized to the conditions:

Stockholm's sight seeing boats

Stockholm is definitely a city to walk around, just make sure you dress for the cool to cold conditions in October, and you will be rewarded with lovely Autumn scenery and nice people who generally speak excellent English. September is significantly less cold and perhaps would be a more preferred month for the traveler wanting to get out walking.

Walking around Stockholm

Even in the cool breezes, walking around Stockholm is a most enjoyable experience, with its beautiful harbour

Stockholm's harbour

and unique architecture:

Stockholm's architecture

If only it wasn’t so far from Australia!

More of my photos from Sweden can be found here.

Europe holiday – Rome V – art works inside the Vatican using the Leica-D 25mm f/1.4 lens

Saturday, November 6th, 2010

Most of the art galleries in Italy do not allow photography, but the Vatican allows photography except inside the Sistine Chapel itself.

The lighting is quite variable, and thus a lens such as the Leica-D 25mm f/1.4 or the Olympus ZD 50mm f/2.0 macro is very handy to have with you – tripods are impossible, and you do not want to be using electronic flash!

These photos were taken with the Leica-D 25mm f/1.4 lens on the Panasonic GH-1 Micro Four Thirds camera.

They even had a Van Gogh painted ca 1890 (ISO 400, 1/40th sec, f/1.4):

Van Gogh

And a version of Rodin’s The Thinker:

Rodin

Much of the collection, is either religious symbolism, art nudes or disturbing, graphic depictions of violence, such as this large tapestry wall mural of which only a small section is shown here:

Violence

More of my photos of the Vatican collection can be found here.

Europe holiday – Rome IV – a fast lens can be used without a tripod at night

Saturday, November 6th, 2010

Using a tripod whilst traveling is a big pain, especially when you have to carry it all day in high security risk areas and then set it up in crowded locations.

A potential alternative is using a high quality wide aperture lens, and for this trip, I had the superb Panasonic Leica-D 25mm f/1.4 lens which gives great image quality even wide open, all I could wish for was that Panasonic would incorporate image stabilisation into their camera bodies as Olympus have done, but I don’t think that will be happening any time soon.

Selling paintings at night in Piazza Navona (ISO 800, 1/100th sec, f/1.4):

Selling paintings at night in Piazza Navona

Inside the church opposite the Trevi Fountain at night (ISO 800, 1/30th sec, f/1.4):

Inside the church opposite the Trevi Fountain at night

Note that I have used the native 16:9 aspect ratio of the Panasonic GH-1 to squeeze a bit more height into the images as an effective focal length of 50mm in 35mm terms with this lens can make things a bit tight.

Instead of the Leica-D 25mm f/1.4 lens, one could use the much lighter, compact, less expensive, Panasonic Lumix 20mm f/1.7 which would give a wider angle of view but require a longer exposure time at f/1.7 instead of f/1.4.

On camera flash would not have been helpful inside this church, so for those using slower lenses, the main alternative would have been to raise the ISO – ISO 1600 at f/2.0, ISO 3200 at f/2.8, ISO 6400 at f/4.0 and ISO 12,800 if you happen to have only a f/5.6 kit lens, although if it had IS, then perhaps a lower ISO may be possible by using an even slower shutter speed and being very careful with camera shake.

Image quality with a point and shoot digital camera or even a kit lens on a dSLR would be poor inside this church – this is part of the reason Micro Four Thirds makes a great travel photography compromise – optimising size vs image quality.

If one wished to capture images at greater than 16 megapixel resolution such as with the newer Canon dSLRs, then a tripod becomes indispensable for nearly every shot at lower shutter speeds – if you don’t use a tripod in these situation, you may as well be using a 10 megapixel camera as you will not be gaining any more resolution, and your file storage is impacted for no real benefit.

Europe holiday – Rome III – sometimes you need a good tripod

Saturday, November 6th, 2010

For part of my Europe holiday I was traveling with a Nikon fan who not only had all his pro lenses with him but bought a good quality medium sized tripod just for the trip as his main tripod was just too big to travel with.

One night in Rome, he kindly allowed me to use his tripod for some night shots as using the 14-140mm lens at f/5.6 for a telephoto shot, hand holding it was out of the question.

Ironically, he was not able to get the following types of shots with his Nikon D700 and 70-200mm f/2.8 lens as the tripod, as good as it was, was just not sturdy enough for that lens.

These were taken with the Panasonic GH-1 Micro Four Thirds camera with Lumix 14-140mm lens – the smaller the camera and lens, the smaller and lighter the tripod you can use – another big bonus for the travel photographer.

A Vatican guard (140mm focal length – 280mm in 35mm terms, ISO 100, f/5.8, 1.6 seconds):

A Vatican guard

Saint Peter’s from the distance (95mm focal length – 190mm in 35mm terms, ISO 100, f/7.1, 4 seconds):

St Peters