Prague: The Pictures

Now that I’ve had time to re-cooperate, party till 5am, re-cooperate some more and then go back to work after my holiday I figured it’d be high time to reminisce about Prague some more.

You may, or may not know that I am a hobbyist photographer.  I haven’t got the fanciest camera in the world and I’m by no means a great photographer (yet) but I like the art form and find comfort in taking photographs.  This being the case, it was a pretty forgone conclusion that I would take my camera with me to Prague.

Sadly, the weather wasn’t fantastic.  On my first day in the city the sky was a thick and miserable grey expanse of cloud that provided very undesirable lighting.  It also rained a bit.  That said however, I am a supporter of the “A bad workman always blames his tools” phrase and as a photographer, light is one of my tools; I shouldn’t blame the weather for my poor photographs.  A challenge had been presented.  A challenge that I chose to accept.  Read on to find out how I did…

Prague has a large hill; Petrin Hill, which happened to be opposite my hotel so I decided to head up that as my first point of interest, hoping for some picturesque views of the city on my way towards the observation tower that’s at the top.  As it turns out, there’s quite a bit of stuff on Petrin Hill; my first discovery was that of a small pond, complete with waterfall and a statue of a man wrestling what appeared to be some sort of dragon.

Dragon Slayer
Dragon Slayer

After snapping away a few exposures of this dragon slayer I carried on meandering along the paths on Petrin Hill, generally in an up sort of direction, and came across a run down old building that was well worth investigating.  I would have gone in, but there appeared to be someone’s laundry draped across the broken walls and I feared that I may disturb someone’s living arrangements.  The building turned out to be an old restaurant, certainly disused but definitely worthy of a photograph.

The Restaurant That Once Was
The Restaurant That Once Was

Those of you who have a wee bit of knowledge regarding digital photograph processing may have noticed that the images above have been HDR processed.  For those of you who haven’t come across High Dynamic Range processing before, it’s a processing technique by which multiple exposures of the same image are combined to create pictures with more pronounced detail.  It can be a risky processing technique, some like it, some don’t.  I’m interested by it and have been experimenting so I’d appreciate your comments, whether you’re a photographer or not.

After a couple of hours wandering I finally reached my destination.  Perched at the top of Petrin Hill is a watch tower.  Inspired by Paris’ Eiffel Tower, Petrin Lookout Tower is a 63.5 metre tall steel construction and although not quite as big as the French original is still an impressive sight.  I’d already decided on the kind of shot I was hoping for that would capture it’s grandness.  Annoyingly the widest focal length I can achieve with any of my lenses is 18mm and I couldn’t get to a position where I could capture the whole structure, but I tried my best.

Petrin Lookout Tower
Petrin Lookout Tower

The trip down Petrin Hill was a more pleasant affair than lugging 8Kg of camera gear up it, my next aim was to arrive at Prague’s famous Christmas Market, via Charles Bridge.  The mission was a simple one and achieved with ease.  I fired off a few more shots on the way and spent some time taking in the sights and sounds of the market.  I tried my hand at a bit of street photography, something that I’m terrified of (I’m not too keen on photographing people), and failed spectacularly, the only shot in which the subject was in focus was empty and devoid of meaning, the subject (a female baked goods vendor) is looking directly at me in a very disgruntled manner.  With my uncomfortableness increasing I turned my efforts to less emotional focal points, those which aren’t likely to get pissed off with someone taking their picture without permission; buildings.  The Church of Our Lady before Týn is a mighty structure and one of several large buildings that surround Old Town Square.

Old Town Square
The Church of Our Lady before Týn

At this point of my day I was starting to get very cold and slightly damp, to the extent where one of my knuckles had split slightly due to eczema and I was struggling to alter the controls on my Nikon D3100.  I decided t would be a good time to trek through some other areas of the city and across the river back to my hotel, my ulterior motive being to spy some other visual pleasantries that I could come back and shoot the following day, hopefully with some better lighting.

I did find some things worth shooting but sadly when I awoke the following day, my hope for better light wasn’t realised.  Nevertheless, I had vowed to continue my photographic exploration and retraced some of my steps from the previous day, returing to visit Fred & Ginger.  The Dancing House, as it is more formally known, was designed by Frank Gehry in 1992, construction finished in 1996.  It’s a pretty incredible looking building and conveys the image of a man and a woman dancing, from which its nickname is derived; Fred Astair and Ginger Rogers.

Fred & Ginger
Fred & Ginger

Once I’d revisited some of the sights I’d found on my first day in Prague I started concentrating on new sights, this time heading towards Wenceslas Square.  I must admit, I was a bit disappointed by this area of Prague, my trusted Trip Advisor guide had recommended it but I found it quite dull.  The National Museum is a very impressive structure but I didn’t get a particularly good photo of that.  Instead, I continued wandering and after a while I came across a chance to shoot in a slightly more abstract way.

H&M
H&M

I’m a fan of abstract and fine art architectural photography, it’s a subject that I would definitely like to pursue more of.  The above shot is of the outside of an H&M store, something I wasn’t expecting to find but was pleased that I did.  This wasn’t the only abstract shot I took on my travels though, oh no!

On my final day in the city I awoke to a light snow shower and some sunlight filtering through patches of cloud!  My flight was in the evening and having checked out of my hotel room I had time to kill, not a great deal, but enough to have another wander up Petrin Hill.  So with my rucksack securely deposited in the hotel’s luggage store I set out again.  I fired off a few shots of paths and benches when suddenly, inspiration struck (not fantastic inspiration, but inspiration regardless!) as I walked past a common landscape feature.  Litter bins.

Bins
Bins

I liked the mesh pattern and was excited to be shooting with my 35mm f1.8, wide open.  Granted, the result wasn’t quite pleasing as I’d hoped, but it’s almost there.

This was also the day that I stumbled upon a building I had spied briefly but missed on my first day, I wasn’t sure exactly what it was but it looked interesting.  A bit of Googling upon my return home revealed the place to be Kinskeho Zahrada, or at least part of it.  If anyone has more information on this location I’d love to know.

Kinskeho Zahrada
Kinskeho Zahrada

With time running out I made my final descent of Petrin Hill to await my taxi (fear of taxi drivers diminished this time round) to the airport.  I managed one final image on the way down.  At some point I spotted a man hole cover, a pretty ornate one at that, and when one finds an ornate man hole cover it is their duty to photograph it.  So I did.

Manhole
Manhole

So that concludes the photographic portion of my short but sweet excursion to Prague.  To be honest, there’s not a lot more to tell about the trip, there was the moment I discovered a worryingly debilitating condition that almost prevents me from entering food/drink establishments on my own, there was a £10 chunk of ham and of course the point at which I lost my annual battle to avoid that bloody Pogues song.  Maybe I’ll tell you about those in the next few days.

For now though, please check out some of the other photographs I took whilst in Prague, you can find them HERE.  When I processed the shots that I’d taken I considered 23 to be adequate for uploading to the web, and 2 that are pretty awful shots but I felt obliged to upload because of their content.  I’m still learning the art of photography and accept that I still have a long way to go on a never ending journey, so as I said above, I really would like some feedback on my shots, feel free to comment below or on my public Picasa Web Albums.

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