Weekly Photo Challenge: St. Peter’s Square Panorama

St Peter's Square Panorama

This week’s challenge is all about gatherings, so I thought I’d jump slightly ahead of my travel writing and give you guys the first glimpse my time in Europe. St. Peter’s Square sees thousands of visitors every day. It’s designed for people to gather and feel embraced; the columns look like open arms, beckoning you to come closer. You don’t have to be religious to appreciate the intricate architecture and sense of scale. This place is much, much bigger than it looks; it took about a dozen tries to get this panorama to work. Just imagine how many people have been here…

Larger version is viewable here.

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Daily Prompt: LEGOs For Life

Hey, folks. Yesterday’s Daily Prompt was all about toys. Specifically, the ones you played with as a child, and the ways they affected your adult life. I could spend all day writing about how video games have shaped me; I learned how to use an Atari 2600 joystick around the same time I learned to walk, I could speed run through Mega Man X like a record-setting pro, and I’ve played just about every Mario, Zelda, Metroid, and major fighting game released in America. I don’t play as religiously as before – though I have a tendency to play Tetris as I’m watching Jeopardy – but the 90s gamer geek culture is thoroughly engrained in my personality. However, it’s not all that I am, nor is it my only influence. Besides, video games aren’t actually toys; they’re part of an emerging medium, much like films were in the last century. When it comes to toys, I can think of only one thing:

LEGOs.

I don’t think I need to expound of the virtues of those amazing building blocks; it seems like common knowledge. It even got its own feature length, award-winning movie in 2014! It makes you think and create, limited only by the extent of your imagination and patience. Unlike video games, it allows you to play and build with something tangible; you can see and physically touch the fruits of your labor, and thus feel accomplished for it. On my fifth birthday, I was given the Black Seas Barracuda. Even by modern LEGO standards, it’s an amazing, massive piece of work: 865 pieces, eight characters, cannons that actually fire, the folding stern that lets you see inside…So good. The adults apparently didn’t care that it was supposed to be for kids aged 9-12; they just set up a table, opened the box, handed me the instructions, and let me work. It took a couple of weekends – my parents were divorced – but I built that ship myself before I started first grade. It’s still sitting in storage somewhere, a remnant of a childhood long past.

Needless to say, building it (and many others to follow) played an important role in how I turned out. For me, it was another puzzle to solve; I grew up noticing the little pieces that made up life. When I read, I could understand things like characterization and theming long before I knew those were even words. When I drew with crayons, I didn’t just choose random colors; I asked how we knew that the colors we saw were the real ones. Yeah, I’m pretty sure I freaked out a few adults with that. The more I learned, the more pieces I found, the more I could understand reality and how it all tied together. As an adult, I have so many interests in both nature and the sciences; I love a great sunset, and even more because I understand the physics and astronomy behind it. I can walk on the beach and feel the sand between my toes, and imagine the time it took for the waves and wind to grind the particles down. There’s so much out there, and so few see it…

By the way, I never outgrew LEGOs. No one should. I have a few vats of assorted pieces at home, and I’ve made a tradition of getting one of the Architecture sets every Christmas. A shelf in my room has the Empire State Building, John Hancock Center, Seattle Space Needle, Burj Khalifa, Sydney Opera House, Big Ben, and Leaning Tower of Pisa. They’re not quite as grand as the old sets, but they’re a nice reminder of my travels and places I’ve yet to see. In that sense, LEGOs are inspiring me in a completely different way now. It doesn’t get any better than that.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Roy G. Biv, Macaw Style!

Roy G. Biv, Macaw Style!

This week’s challenge calls for Roy G. Biv, or all the colors of the rainbow. Instead of going with books like the last time this prompt showed up, I decided to post a lovely photo of a scarlet macaw, one of the most colorful birds I’ve ever seen! Large version available here.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Just After Sunset

Just After Sunset

When I was taking sunset photos in Nuevo Vallarta, I had to share a pier with several other sightseers. Once the sun vanished behind the hills in the distances, most people left. However, I stayed an extra half an hour to see how the weather would develop. I was rewarded by one of the most vivid and colorful night skies in recent memory. Large version available here.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Vivid, Or: Vallarta Sunset

Vallarta Sunset

This week’s challenge calls for something vivid. Here’s one of a few amazing sunsets I saw during my trip in Nuevo Vallarta. Large version available here.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Vivid Or: Tiger Shower

Tiger Shower

This week’s challenge calls for something vivid, and I can think of few things better than this Bengal tiger at Paradise Village in Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico. The three or tour tigers there tended to lounge in the distant shade, ignoring any passersby. One afternoon, however, I happened to catch this one cooling off in the waterfall in its enclosure. It was only for a few seconds, but the sight was something to behold. Large version available here.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Divisadero At Dusk

Divisadero At Dusk

This week’s challenge is all about stuff being enveloped, and I remembered a particularly spectacular February evening in San Francisco. This was taken at the very end of Divisadero Street, by the marina. Not only was the sunset amazing, but the clouds coming in seemed to swallow the city whole. Large version available here.