Emptying out the Glacier notebook by Josh Trudell

Goat Some leftovers from this trip.

Sell my soul for cell service: AT&T was worthless in the park, getting zero data or cell service. The only hotel with decent wifi strength was the St. Mary Lodge and Resort, which is just outside the edge of the park. The hotels actually in park have pathetic wifi – if you were up for sunrise or up past 10:30 p.m., you could hope to get online, but it was virtually impossible otherwise.

(Yes, I know – in one of the great outdoor playgrounds, shouldn’t I be outside enjoying it? I completely agree – but it would be nice to e-mail my wife or see how the Sox did that day.)

Beer me: Highly recommend the local beers, especially the Going to the Sun IPA. That’s a fine beverage.

Bear me: There are bears (and moose, and other possibly-violent-when-provoked critters). Go hiking in a group. Don't bother with bear bells - ding, ding, dinnertime! - but bear mace is a good idea.

(Not) Bare me: Temperatures change quickly – I noticed a drop of 10 degrees just driving from Columbia Falls to Lake McDonald. Layers are key. (and good socks with liners for your feet.)

Winnah, winnah: Be kind to your servers – they may well have more advanced degrees than you.

For example, our charming waitress from Estonia at St. Mary’s Lodge, who had just finished her masters in etymology with a focus in folklore. And was two weeks from getting married. A word of advice to her new husband - good luck keeping up with her, but she's a keeper.

Class acts and great folks: We didn’t always get the best weather, but I can’t say enough about the group, which is really what makes these trips fun. Jim and Susie Kay kept the ship rolling, and the conversations and camaraderie from everyone were priceless. I can’t wait to do it again.

Glacier National Park, Days 6 and 7 by Josh Trudell

Glacier-National-Park-Day-7 Up long before the sun, we settled in to shoot the sun coming up behind us , which just happened to be lighting up Mount Grinnell and the lake. It’s a tough way to start the day, really.

The 50 mph wind gusts were chilly, but they also kept the mosquitoes away. (It was a little disconcerting later on to be editing photos from the trip and realize what I had thought was a spot on my lens was really a giant mosquito).

After doing our best to capture it, we moved onto a hearty breakfast and then the longest hike of the trip - 10 miles round trip to Iceberg Lake. My tender feet were complaining a bit, but I wasn't going to miss anything if I could help it.

Iceberg-Lake-TrailThe hills leading to the lake had many thick patches of beargrass - stalks with large white bulbs on the end - and colorful wildflowers.

Sadly, a driving rain forced us back not long after reaching the lake, which sits in a steep-walled bowl at the foot of Iceberg Mountain and Mount Wilbur. The aquamarine water and white ice made a dazzling combination, even in the rain.

After a quick lunch, we quick marched out of the rain squall and enjoyed the fresh air and open spaces on the way down to a celebratory Going To The Sun IPA. My feet celebrated in some comfortable shoes and a long hot shower.

On the last morning, we were again up for sunrise, but cloud banks denied us. With the wind having died down, we each got some memorial mosquito bites to mark our time there.

With the howling winds of the last couple of days, the smoke had finally blown away from the park, and I tried to take advantage of it while on my way back to Kalispell.

From Many Glacier, I headed around the western and southern edges of the park, photographing fields of wildflowers and enjoying the beautiful drive.

With my feet still a little tender, I stopped along the way and gingerly walked out to Running Eagle Falls. It was my last photo from the trip, but ended up being the lead photo in a story I wrote about it (which you can read).

It is a beautiful spot. Harsh direct sunlight on the foaming water made the whites tough to capture, but multiple filters helped.

Sitting in the Kalispell airport - which is remarkably comfortable for an airport this size - it was easy to decide to come back here someday soon. There's still so much to see.

Glacier National Park, Day 5 by Josh Trudell


Sometimes, when everything else fails, you just have to go over the fence. We started our next to last day with plans to hike the Grinnell Glacier trail. Unfortunately, we found that once up on the side of the mountain, our plans were thwarted: Photographically by haze from wildfires and physically by 80-mph gusts swirling around the mountain.

With the scenic lookout hazed out, we walked down the trail to Grinnell Lake, where we had some lunch as the ground squirrels tried to cute their way into some crumbs. (I cannot confirm or deny if they succeeded.)

Hiking back, we wandered up a small side trail to Hidden Falls, a tight little gorge. Sensing an opportunity, we slid a little closer to the falls than might have been prescribed by fences and captured several frames.

Camping out on the edge while we shot was a little interesting, but thankfully the ground wasn’t wet enough for us to slide.

After making our way back to the hotel, we walked outside again to the little creek joining Swiftcurrent Lake to Lake Sherburne, which has a dynamic waterfall rushing through several tiers.

One of the things I worked on this trip was my use of neutral density filters, and this was one place where I felt it really made a difference having one on my camera. The hot whites in the foam were calmed down, and being able to create a two or three second exposure created that silky look.

In the photo at the top, I'm experimenting with black and white conversions with that photo. I may end up making it available as a print, once I fine tune it some more - the dark area in the middle could use more detail.

After another evening enjoying our balcony view of the mountains, we hit the sack early – preparing for our longest hike of the trip.

Glacier National Park, Day 4 by Josh Trudell

Montana-Day-4 Up bright and very early, we were hoping for a sunrise over the waterway joining Lower Saint Mary Lake and Saint Mary Lake, just a short walk from our hotel.

It didn't blossom quite as much as we hoped, but seeing the sun rise over the mountains is a wonderful way to start any morning.

After breakfast we rolled into Many Glacier early – the last stop on our trip, and one of the most interesting places to visit in the park, with trails to three peaks radiating up from the bowl around Swiftcurrent Lake.

We could have taken the rest of the trip and just studied the lake and the backdrop of Mount Grinnell and the Lewis Range. Perched on our balconies overlooking the lake (bragging a little? Okay, maybe a little), we were able to watch the clouds and light shifting from moment to moment.

Some of the most dynamic images from the trip were made while sitting out there. It could be a retirement home for photographers.

Since it wasn’t quite time to retire for the evening, we got in a bonus walk to Swiftwater Falls – a nice combination of rushing water and wildflowers.

Glacier National Park, Day 3 by Josh Trudell

Montana-3 The time between blog entries lately has been roughly equivalent to the time between Red Sox wins this year. Is it time for spring training yet?

I did promise myself that I would wrap up the entries for this trip, so here we go.

After two days at Lake McDonald, we started our path toward the eastern side of the park, starting with a morning photographing Avalanche Creek.

Still plagued by smoky haze obscuring the skies, we focused on the waterfall, which the trail follows for about the first mile before veering away from water until it reaches Avalanche Lake.

Montana-4The lush landscape around the creek is full of tiny details – new leaves, tiny saplings, dripping moss – all with a background of rushing water. It makes for tons of elements to play with. I love those little details – photographically, I think they can make places seem more tangible than wider shots do.

We could have spent all day just puttering around this set of falls, but after a couple of hours we decided to mosey down the road a bit. We had hopped back and forth over the Continental Divide before, but today we crossed it for good, making our way to Virginia Falls.

If you like photographing moving water, this is a great hike – the two-mile-plus trail runs parallel to rushing water for most of the way, ranging from small drops to the more than 50-feet multi-tiered monster that is Virginia Falls. The wind kept showering our gear with spray from the falls, but we all climbed around the falls, getting our feet wet and trying to capture the beauty

We crashed that night at St. Mary Lodge and Resort, wiped out after a full day of hiking and shooting. A noticeable improvement: Wifi was only available in the main building, but it was much faster than anywhere else we stayed.

Glacier National Park, Day 2 by Josh Trudell

Trudell---Goats Work, work, work…let’s get back to talking about something fun – like hiking and photographing in Glacier National Park.

I try not to think of going on these trips in terms of goals – that implies work, and that takes a lot of the fun out of it. But, for lack of a better term, a goal for this trip was to get some good frames of one of the big three that are often seen in Glacier – bear, moose and elk.

Driving up the Going-to-the-Sun Road, we were on a narrow stretch of road when two bear cubs tumbled across the road two cars in front of us as their mother trudged after them. The cubs then ran back to her before all three of them made their way across the road, over a nearly vertical edge, and out of sight.

No chance for photos, but it seemed like a good omen for the rest of our trip.Trudell---Marmots

Another good omen popped up when marmots – promptly dubbed minigrizz – were spotted near the trail. One adventurous type walked right up to the board-covered trail, peaking its head over the edge.

Our goal that day was Hidden Lake, near the top of Logan Pass. It was fun and a little strange to be slipping and sliding on slushy snow in July, but it made the walk entertaining. Getting up the trail early was a definite benefit – by the time we started heading back down, the slippery trail was full of people – some dressed more than questionably for hiking in Montana. Flip-flops were not the best idea.

When we reached the top of the pass, mountain goats ambled down from their perch on the sheer sides surrounding us and nibbled on the grass peeking through the snow.

The original plan was to hike over the pass down to the lake, but the trail to the lake was closed – ironically, because a bear was in the area feasting on the fish. We consoled ourselves with photographing the baby goats following their parents down the hillside to nap on the ledges and the teenage marmots wrestling just below us.

After sliding down the hill, we motored back to our roost at Lake McDonald Lodge. The location is gorgeous – if for some reason you aren’t enthralled with the scenery, you should know that Internet access is as slow as the stuffed animals on the walls.

After dinner, we went back out, photographing a rushing stream and ending with the pink glow of sunset over the lake.

Glacier National Park, Day 1 by Josh Trudell

Glacier-National-Park-Day-1 So, that plan of updating from the road while shooting in Montana? That didn’t quite pan out for a couple of reasons.

One is that AT&T has absolutely zero service in Glacier National Park. Couldn’t call, couldn’t e-mail – nothing. (Which was beneficial, in a way – while it’s fun to occasionally hit Facebook with the Good Morning sunrise photo, it helps to stay locked in).

Second was that I had forgotten how much work a trip like that can be. It’s more rewarding than any day in any office, but being up and focused pre-sunrise to post-sunset makes for a long day.

So here are some thoughts from the trip in the usual day-by-day breakdown format. (Most recently, that was used for the trip to Italy.)

Getting to Glacier National Park was pretty straightforward – one hop via United to Denver, then a second hop to Kalispell, MT. If you’re headed to Glacier, it’s easier to skip downtown Kalispell and fuel up on gas and food in Columbia Falls.

Driving into the park is an experience. From the flat area around Kalispell, the road snakes into a mountain pass before rising into some rolling foothills. The road rises gradually before diving to Lake McDonald, where we started the trip.

My workshop was led by James Kay Photography, and included some brilliant photographers: Carrie LaPow, Claudia O’Grady, Michael Blanchette and Lynda Holman. With Carrie’s daughter and Claudia’s significant other along, we had a varied and interesting group of people. Jim and Susie Kay are wonderful photographers in their own right, and did a great job keeping the troop organized and moving along.

After meeting at the Lake McDonald Lodge, where we spent our first two nights, we went out and photographed a nearby fast-moving creek that emptied into the lake. It was a good trial run for us to get a feel for each other, and for me to get a feel for the gear I rented.

The lenses – a 16-35 Zeiss 2.8 and a 70-400 zoom, both of which I’ve rented and used before – worked like a charm. One of the lessons I had taken away from my last trip was getting a more reliable, sturdier tripod than the $50 Sony I had been using. To that end, I rented an Induro tripod with a Kirk BH-3 ballhead.

The tripod immediately ran into problems, as a joint on one leg refused to completely go back together after being extended. Luckily, I was able to hobble along for the rest of the trip with only two joints that could extend. (Jim offered to lend me his tripod, but I didn’t want to damage anything else.) did issue me a partial refund for the tripod, too (not a full, since I was able to use it.)

So with a slightly red face – because really, who wants to be the kid whose toys break on the first day? – I took up shooting the stream with the others, and we captured some nice extended exposures.

Little did I know that this would become a week of photographing water practice…

Getting ready for Montana by Josh Trudell

That point when you realize you spend more time packing your camera gear than you do the rest of your stuff for a trip – I’m definitely feeling that today. I’m also feeling the procrastination bug – which might be why I’m typing instead of packing. Shhh…

The upcoming trip is going to be a good one, though – six days in Montana, exploring Glacier National Park. I’ve spent some time in the Rockies before – a gorgeous week in Banff and Canmore – but this will be my first time to Glacier. I can’t wait.

I'm renting a fair amount of gear for this trip - in addition to two lenses, I'm renting a tripod and ball head, which I'm hoping will be sturdier and more precise than the cheap tripods I've been using to date.

For lenses, I'm taking three - the Sony Zeiss 16-35 2.8, the 70-400 f4-5.6, and a 30mm macro. I expect the 16-35 lens will be my go-to lens for the trip - I really need to just break down and buy one soon - but I'm hoping the big zoom will come in useful for wildlife pictures. Who has two thumbs and wants to get a cool elk, moose or bear picture? This guy!

So far, this year has been a lot of editorial photography – magazine and newspaper work. This will be my first real chance in a while to get out into nature. It’s been too long, and I’m hoping not to go this long again.

I may try and update here while I’m there – we’ll see how it goes, though. The weather has some occasional showers in the forecast – hopefully those will make for some dramatic cloud cover.

Here’s to focus and clarity for the next week. Cheers!

Emptying the Italy notebook... by Josh Trudell

fountain Shooting: I had initially planned to rent two lenses for this trip – a big telephoto and a wide-angle. In an effort to keep the budget under control, however, I only rented one – a 16-35 2.8 Zeiss wide-angle. I’ve used this lens before and been very happy with it, and it proved its worth again.

Having a good wide angle for the narrow streets (and canals) of the old cities and for the vistas from the Pathway of the Gods trail made it the best choice. I don’t think I would have pulled out a big zoom more than once or twice if it had been in my bag.

No pictures, please: The guards are STRICT about pictures in the Sistine Chapel, constantly letting people have it (of course, these people are trying to be sneaky with their cell phones, too.)

That was the only place in the Apostolic Palace (or anywhere else) that I saw the photo guards come down hard, though – virtually everywhere else was very receptive. If you ask the waiters, you can often get some pictures of the cooks working in the kitchen, which can make for some fun shots.

Food in Venice: Small bar/cafés are popular, and it's easy to get a quick sandwich to go, put it in a backpack and have it later. Pizza by the slice is also a popular snack. Take advantage of the small to-go cafes - they are much cheaper than any restaurant.

The coolest single moment: Walking into St. Peter’s Basilica. Just a few steps in, you can stand where Charlemagne was crowned head of the Holy Roman Empire. Turn right, and there's Michelangelo's Pieta.

Italy: Day 12 by Josh Trudell

Coast-Towns-2 I had a mission on our trip to Italy.

For years I had been seeing beautiful images of the Amalfi coast lit up by the evening sun, and I was determined to get one of my own.

After our hike across the Pathway of the Gods, we were ready for a relatively quiet day, so we took the bus from our hotel (after another fabulous Luigi breakfast) to Ravello.

Ravello, nestled between the coast town of Amalfi and the mountains, has a road to it that makes the narrow and winding coast road look like the Autobahn. It winds up the side of the cliffs on hairpin turns, past gardens cut into the hillside, before reaching a brief flat shelf in the rock.

Walking from one side of town to the other meant crossing the shelf, from views of the Med on one side to views of the rising hills on the other.

The shops there are filled with red coral jewelry, made from the offshore coral beds. The necklaces, earrings and brooches were beautiful, but pricy. Wandering through town, we found the Villa Rufulo – a huge building/park with beautiful flower gardens overlooking the Mediterranean.

Hustling back down the hillside, we made it to the waterfront just as the sun began to edge downward, lighting up the hillside buildings. It’s a little touristy around the waterfront, but the views made it worthwhile.

Coast-Towns-1I ran out onto a pier stretching into the water, where I took a couple of panoramas – plus these gents – but wasn’t really capturing the look I wanted.

Back on the beach, however, the water, light and waves came together for one of my favorite photos from the trip.

It was a great capper as our last full day in Italy – the next day, we caught an early car and train for Rome in the pouring rain (the only day it rained), and began our journey home.

Italy, Day 11 by Josh Trudell

Pathway-3 Where do they go?

They go up…and up…and up.

Rousing ourselves, we fueled up with another wonderful breakfast from Luigi’s kitchen and made our way to the center of Praiano, where we began climbing the steps up to the Sentiero Degli Dei – the Pathway of the Gods.

The trail runs from Bomerano to Positano – starting from Praiano, we were roughly in the middle. If we had taken the bus to Bomerano to start, we would have had an easier starting point and walked longer, but we opted for the many, many stairs – at least 1,900, by some accounts - up to the trail from the Praiano city center.

If every Stairmaster has these views, they would be a lot more popular. Looking up and down the coast, we could see for miles – clouds swarming over a mountain to the north, waves crashing on the coastline, sunlit seaside villages to the south.

Pathway-2If you have an issue with heights or vertigo, this hike could be a challenge. The trail isn’t much more than a goat path – with actual goats – in spots. The four-legged friends (with an occasional shepherd) hung around the trail, munching on grass as we passed by.

Able to look straight down in spots, we could see cars winding along the twisty coastal road far below. There are occasionally wooden rails in place, but more often not.

The trail winds past a couple of monasteries in mixed repair – one seemed to be open, while another was shuttered. Most signs of man were smaller, though, especially looking up the hills – the ruins of a stone house on a high meadow, or a trailside shrine built into a small cave.

As we walked, the wind and rain caught up to us briefly, but luckily not long enough to be soaking or dangerous.

By the time we reached Positano, our feet were sore from the rocky hike. The 1,600 steps from the trail down to the road, while wider and easier than the hike up, were still challenging. We were happy to call Luigi (which he told us to do before we left) and he came to pick us up.

Sore feet or not, if someone asks you to hike the Pathway of the Gods…you say yes.

Italy, Days 9-10 by Josh Trudell

Pensione-Pellegrino Every stop on a trip could start like this.

After being welcomed to our hotel, our host pours us glasses of cool limoncello and offers us fresh, homemade, incredibly good midafternoon pastry/desserts.

After most of a day’s train and car ride, we made it to our final stop – the Amalfi coast. Specifically, Pensione Pellegrino in the town of Praiano.

Luigi Rispoli, our host, welcomed us warmly, to say the least, helping us with our bags, offering some limoncello and a midafternoon snack. From our ocean front balcony, we could see the water crashing into the rocks on the coastline.

This is a good example of the benefits of traveling during “shoulder season” – the prices were much more reasonable than they might be during high season.

Since it was so late in the season – Luigi told us we were the last customers of the year – the kitchen at the inn wasn’t fully operational for dinner. He drove us into town for a late dinner and picked us up when we were done –one of the many above-and-beyond services he offered while we were there.

As we had prepared for this trip, I had seen those click-friendly slideshows of the most beautiful abandoned places in the world – one of which is in the Valley of the Mills in Sorrento, an hour-long bus ride from where we were staying.

Down in the overgrown chasm, vines and branches wrapped around the stones of the old flour mill and sawmill, almost completely hiding them.

The Valley of the Mills in Sorrento.

I could have spent hours exploring this, but eventually lunch became a pressing issue, and we headed out to the waterfront for lunch.

Stone buttresses that have been holding up this part of the coast for centuries lined the shore from our vantage point on a floating restaurant.

Content to window-shop among Sorrento’s many shops and take it easy, we relaxed before our big plans for the next day – hiking the Pathway of the Gods.

Italy, Day 8 by Josh Trudell

Rome-Drive-by-1 Our British friends from Venice had recommended a tour guide to take us to some of the secret spots around Rome, so we got in touch with Fabrizzio and spent most of the morning being driven around the city.

One of the sites we found was a rather dull looking parking lot, sandwiched between several apartment buildings. It didn’t look like much, but it’s the site of one of the most famous murders in history.

This is where Pompey’s Theater was, Fabrizzio tells us. This is where Julius Caesar was killed.

With our minds a trifle blown, we continued on, finding spots that we probably wouldn’t have reached after four days of beating our feet against the slate sidewalks. We had stocked up on comfortable shoes and socks, but even with them, our feet were worn down.


I indulged in some guerrilla shooting as we rolled along in Fabrizzio's open air cart - perching the camera on my knee and taking pictures as we drove by. I've occasionally done this in the past - not in an attempt to embarrass anyone, but to try and capture people how they really are, without posing.

We ended at the church of St. Ignatius, a beautiful church somewhat off the usual tourist tracks. Having Fabrizio with us was a benefit much like our Colosseum guide – a Rome resident with their own perspective on the glories around them.

After a siesta, we went back to Castel Sant’Angelo and I started my usual trip ritual of night photography. Every time we visit a city, I try to carve out at least one evening for night photography, and Rome is a heavenly spot for it.

Despite the darkening skies, a boisterous game of soccer was taking place in what would have been a moat around the castle. The building, once the largest in Rome, is the tomb of Emperor Hadrian and his family, among other leaders.

After photographing the castle, we went back to the Colosseum. It is photographed by everyone who visits Rome, but I had to take a shot at it. We were lucky enough to be there on the night of the full moon, and my favorite shot of the trip is this one:


The Colosseum was under construction, but the moon peeking through the arches really got to me.

It is worth noting that the light vendors around the Pantheon repeatedly frigged up some shots, but that seems to happen near every major landmark in a city these days.

Italy: Day 7 by Josh Trudell

Colosseum I didn’t say it.

I really wanted to say it.

But I didn’t say it.

Standing on the floor of the Colosseum, the crowd buzzing in anticipation, the urge to bellow, “ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?!?!” was very, very hard to resist.

But I managed to restrain myself, much to the relief of my traveling companion and the guide, who had probably seen that done far too many times.

The Colosseum has always been a place for “bloody spectacles,” said our guide, Camilla Verdacchi, who led us to the basement of the great stadium, where we could look up at the crowd above.

“It's really incredible how many people died here,” she said. “It was not the circus. It was not the theater — it was the amphitheater, a place for bloody spectacles.”

Verdacchi's entertaining expertise and bypassing the huge lines trying to get into Rome's biggest attraction made paying for the tour a no-brainer.

Big is no joke, either. The Colosseum's three decks once held between 50,000 and 80,000 people, which is all the more impressive for a building put together by hand with basic tools.

Sadly, much of the outer marble façade was stripped over the years by needy foremen working on buildings in other parts of the city, but there is still a grandeur surrounding the massive stadium.

Our tour led us through the Forum, including the area believed to be the cremation site of Julius Caesar, inside a nondescript low stone hut that is all that is left of a once-massive temple. Even 2,000 years later, however, the grave was graced with flowers.

After wandering through the remnants of the Forum, we ended our tour on the third deck of the Colosseum (another perk of the tour – general admission only gets you into the first and second decks). The decks were noticeably lower and wider than the steep-walled modern-day parks.


It was only a few steps from the Colosseum to the Capitoline Museums, where we browsed through huge statutes and fine art virtually undisturbed.

*Portions of this post appeared in a story I wrote about the trip to Rome for the San Antonio Express-News, titled “Plenty of spectacles, history in Rome.”

Italy: Day 6 by Josh Trudell

Pompeii Building roads. Arguing over lunch. Putting out laundry. Leading ordinary lives – before they were buried under hundreds of feet of ash.

From the ruins of Pompeii, it’s hard to miss the decapitated mountain that snuffed out all those lives – Vesuvius sprawls in the distance, looking more like a group of smaller mountains rather than one massive peak since its explosion.

Taking a brief respite from Rome, we hopped the train and headed out to the ruins.

It’s a relatively easy train ride from Rome to Pompeii, but it is three hours long, with a change in Naples. The journey was worth it, though.

Despite being buried under the ashes from the eruption of Mount Vesuvius for hundreds of years, restoration and preservation efforts showed what was once a busy, prosperous city. The narrow stone streets are grooved from chariot tracks — except where they stopped as a rebuilding project was halted by the explosion.

As we came to an intersection, open buildings on opposite corners held what appeared to be benches and counters with holes that once held hot food — they appeared to be competing chariot drive-through restaurants.

The narrow streets open into the main piazza, a wide grassy area that, with the open plateau the city rests on, gives Pompeii the feel of a park.

In comparison, Herculaneum – another town destroyed by the eruption of Vesuvius - is wall-to-wall with the modern-day town of Ercolano on three sides. Laundry hanging from neighboring apartment buildings flutters over the edge of the ruins.

We initially were unsure about stopping in Herculaneum - by the time we left, Pompeii it was getting late in the afternoon, and we were hoping to stop in Naples for pizza on the way back to Rome.

But the stop for Ercolano is only a couple of stops from Pompeii, so we jumped off the train and enjoyed the short walk through the city streets. We were glad we did. The mosaics and paintings were better preserved than what we saw in Pompeii, with bright blues and reds still marking the tiles.

Far fewer people were touring the site, and more of the city was available for simple wandering.

Studies have suggested that Herculaneum's condition is better than Pompeii's because ash helped prevent buildings from collapsing, creating an airtight seal that lasted until major excavation began at the site in 1738.

As we ducked into and out of the narrow doorways, the difference between the two communities became clearer — Pompeii was more of a commercial hub, with wider streets and bigger buildings, while Herculaneum was a bedroom community.

pizza Stopping in Naples – where pizza was invented – was an adventure all by itself. With the city suffering ongoing garbage disposal issues, the piles of trash on the street corners were huge. Combined with a lack of streetlights – we walked six blocks from the train station and didn’t see a light – it was a challenge.

The pizza, however, was excellent. Da Pellone only serves pizza – huge slabs of fresh crust with cheese and sauce in true Neapolitan style, and it was fantastic.

The cooks were kind enough to let me shoot a few frames of them cooking, too, which was a real treat.

*Portions of this post appeared in a story I wrote about the trip to Pompeii for the San Antonio Express-News, titled “Under the Ash Lay a Prosperous Pompeii.”

Italy, Day 5 by Josh Trudell

St.-Peters Our second day in Rome opened with wandering through the Campo Dei Fiori – Rome’s oldest open-air marketplace. The market is fun to wander, with everything from clothes to spices available for purchase.

As a photographer, I found I preferred the hands-on activity of the fishermen at the Rialto Market in Venice to the relatively inactive sellers at the market in Rome, but there were plenty of fun shots to be had.

After walking through the various areas of clothes, food and flowers, we followed some small signs a couple of blocks toward the Pantheon, finally emerging in a large square where the ancient temple sat surrounded by modern apartment buildings.

Stepping inside the 1900-year-old building was a instant transport back to the days of ancient Rome, with the huge dome arcing overhead with one bright sunbeam coming through the center.

Nearby Piazza Navona was a sight to behold as well. The long, football-field shaped rectangle was once the home of chariot races. Now, artists tried to capture those scenes (possibly based on Ben-Hur), or the romantics walking by the huge fountains.

The biggest stops today, however, were the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica.

If there was one thing I wanted to see in Italy, it was the Sistine Chapel – I’ve been seeing that famous portion of the ceiling forever. But what you’re not prepared for is the sheer scope of Michaelangelo’s brilliance – the entire ceiling is a masterpiece.

There are photographs allowed everywhere except the chapel, and the guards are very vigilant about policing cameras.

After seeing the chapel, we made our way up to the top of St. Peter’s Basilica, for one of the best views of the trip. It was very crowded, though – the narrow steps to the top plus the dozens of people packed in hoping to see sunset made it borderline unnerving.

Once the sun went down and we escaped the masses, we had dinner at Spirito de Vino, a well-reviewed place on TripAdvisor. The meal earned the restaurant’s notices, as did the ancient wine cellar, which is allegedly older than the Colosseum.

Italy: Day 4 by Josh Trudell

Rome-1 After three days in Venice, - seen here, here and here - we made our way to Rome via train, arriving at the Hotel Golden in the late afternoon.

It’s a hive of unavoidable history – from our hotel window, we could see ancient city walls and a statue of General Belasarius (d. 565 AD), as tiny cars and mopeds buzzed along the street.

We quickly discovered that Rome is a great walking city, making our way to the famous Spanish Steps. The steps are an interesting social experiment – people actually sit and talk to each other. Who knew?

The steps – the 135 steps are the widest staircase in Europe - are a wonderful place to sit and absorb the culture. Watching the conversations and the passers-by are equally entertaining. No sign of Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck, sadly.

After a few minutes soaking it in, we wandered down to the Trevi Fountain, another of Rome’s great pedestrian landmarks. Even at a late hour, it was swarmed by tourists, voguing like supermodels as they threw their coins in to try and assure themselves of another trip to Rome.

Throwing technique is important here – back to the fountain, right hand throwing over left shoulder is how tradition claims to ensure a return trip. We tossed our coins in the fountain, and a few more coins at a gelato stand as we walked back to our hotel.

Holding hands, strolling down the street, gelato in hand, Rome all around us…it doesn’t get much better.

Italy: Day 3 by Josh Trudell

Reflections Even in Italy, sunrise is early.

As we hustled through the streets again, trying to make the photographer’s deadline of being in place at the golden hour, it seemed very early. But people were already out and about – a baker arranged pastries in a window, fruit and vegetable carts prepped their wares, and refuse sweepers were cleaning up the remnants of the night before.

As we burst into Piazza San Marco again, we saw we just made it before sunrise, as gentle light lit the skies and marble buildings. I composed and shot as quickly as I could, trying to utilize the morning sunlight as best I could.

The acqua alta – high water - had reached its peak and was just starting to recede, leaving pools and puddles for reflections. I was far from the only photographer there – a squad of would-be shooters were doing their best to capture the sights.

The water rises high enough in the square that the city installed a walkway across the square for commuters, but restaurants in the square have to keep their outside tables from floating off. (There’s not much storage room anywhere).

As the morning blossomed, we took a break for breakfast, then ambled through the Rialto markets – a huge open-air market with every kind of fish, vegetable and fruit you can ask for.

For photography, I found I preferred Venice’s Rialto to Rome’s Campo Dei Fiori (more on that later) – I liked the wider selection of fresh foods and examples of butchers and fishermen cutting up their product.


The piles of squid and fresh veggies drew my camera.  Fish, crabs and clams so fresh they were still twitching lined the stalls. Four-foot swordfish heads jabbed the air.

After lunch, we hopped on a boat for Burano, one of the smaller islands surrounding Venice. The bright colorful buildings were a stark contrast to the gray ornate stone of Venice.

The island was practically deserted, largely because we were traveling in shoulder season – mid-November – but several of the shops were still open and offering locally made goods.

Waiting for the ferry back to Venice, we were both starting to feel the gnaw of hunger. A nearby shack – similar to the fried seafood huts in every coastal town in New England – offered up some of the best calamari we have ever had. Not overly salty – a frequent issue for us with calamari – but tender and just right.

That was only a snack, though, and for dinner we visited Testiere – a clearly tourist-friendly place, but not tourist trap by any stretch.

This was one of our splurge meals for the trip, and it was worth it. Dinner was marvelous - scallops on half shell with orange and fish soup as appetizers. Dinner was pumpkin and ricotta ravioli with sea urchins for my traveling companion, and Mediterranean tuna with fresh porcini mushrooms for me, turbot fillet with citrus and fresh herbs.

The tight quarters led us to start chatting with the table next to us – some wonderful Brits friendly with the restaurant owner, and we chatted and sampled the specialties of the house (wine!) deep into the night.

Italy: Day 1 by Josh Trudell

Venice-1 Starting a vacation with a headlong sprint isn’t my idea of a good time.

But there we were, ducking, bobbing and weaving through Heathrow Airport, trying to catch the last connection for a trip we had been planning since the flight back from our last trip to Europe, four years ago.

We were Italy-bound for the first time – if we could just make it to the gate on time.

I’m sad to say – this oxygen-deprivation exercise was my fault.

Our travels started smoothly, including a splurge on a first-class upgrade between Dallas and Boston on American Airlines. The second leg, on British Airways, was less comfortable – six hours in a tiny middle seat were not fun.

In the midst of trying to juggle Kindle, drinks, carry-on and other assorted travel paraphernalia, I put my passport in the seat pocket in front of me.

Two words: Rookie mistake.

After 18 hours of travel, we staggered out of the plane and up to the first security checkpoint, only to find that a certain sleep-deprived writer/photographer had left his passport on the plane.

While I can’t say much for the accommodations, the customer service from British Airways was excellent. Within 20 minutes, I had my passport in my hand. The next issue, however, was getting from our gate, which I’m convinced was on the far end of Scotland, to our connecting flight.

Twenty minutes of sprinting mixed with trying-desperately-to-be-patient-but-dear-god-can-this-security-line-move-faster patience, we charged into our gate area and down the ramp…

Where an airline worker held up a hand, begging for calm. “It’s okay, you made it,” she said, as we walked into the plane…and found it completely empty.

We had sprinted past first class check-in, business class check-in, soldiers, mothers…the whole lot. We made it to our seats and collapsed in laughter, as everyone else started filing on board and looking at us strangely.

Still chuckling three hours later, we landed in Venice. After checking into our hotel – Ca’Dogaressa, a very nice space that was convenient to local transportation and sights – we staggered around for a bit, but the very long travel day – including a nasty head cold for my traveling companion - landed on us hard and we passed out early.

Shaking the dust off... by Josh Trudell

This big fellow was one of the highlights of our behind-the-scenes tour at Animal Kingdom.

Shadows dance on the wall as my compatriot raises a lantern, and looks around at the cobwebs and dust covering the stone carvings and ancient murals.

“What happened here?”, Dr. Jones whispers.

I look at my fedora-ed companion and shrug. “I got busy.”

Which is largely the truth for why this space has been dead pixels for the last three months. I’ve been writing (and shooting) too much to be writing.

The biggest project has been a package of stories that has involved talking to a lot of people passionate about what they do. There is a unifying subject behind the stories, but the magazine publishing them isn’t coming out until this fall, so I can’t say much about it.

It took me to some places I hadn’t visited in Texas before, which is always a bonus. It’s a little startling that we’ve been here for 10 years now, and there’s still so much to see.

The biggest event of the last three months was my 40th birthday. Initially, I had had daydreams of going on safari for my 40th, but that ended up getting pushed down the schedule a bit.

Instead, we went to Disney World.

Initially, I was unsure about this trip – spending a 40th birthday at the House of Mouse wasn’t quite the equivalent of spending it on the Serengeti – but it turned out really well.

One of the big highlights was a behind-the-scenes tour at Animal Kingdom, which got us up close and personal with the crocodiles and hippos. It was expensive – like most things at Disney – but the quality was outstanding – again, like most things at Disney.

Also of note: Baseball season had started – the Red Sox are scuffling so far, as is my fantasy team. The first summer movie of the year – Captain America: The Winter Soldier – is out, and it was most impressive. Marvel is building a great reputation as a provider of quality entertainment.

My next big photo trip is Montana in July – I’ve been saving madly for that. I can’t wait to see (and shoot) Glacier National Park.