December 2011 Archives

Nicaragua Day 6 - Granada

December 30, 2011: Nicaragua Day 6

We started the day with a drive up to a coffee plantation on the base of Mombacho Volcano near Granada. Our purpose was to do a canopy tour, using zip-lines to transit between platforms well above the forest floor. It all worked well and was considerable fun, thanks to the two guides who instructed us, checked our harnesses and carabiner attachments, and stopped us when we approached a platform too fast. They took a few photos and videos with my camera to document the adventure, but the images (and the subjects) lack the esthetic value that this site demands :-).




Photos taken around the plantation while waiting for our adventure to begin.


We returned to Granada around noon, and wandered the center after lunch. This building front is brightly colored even by the standards of Granada, a gaily painted city.

Nicaragua Day 5 - Lake Nicaragua

December 29, 2011: Day 5 in Nicaragua (part 2)

In the late afternoon we took a motorboat ride on Lake Nicaragua - the largest lake in Central America. We stayed close to shore, where there are hundreds of small islands with beautiful vegetation and plentiful birdlife.


This is about the closest we got to open water:

Nicaragua lays plausible claim to having more bird species than any other place in the world. In an hour, we saw many egrets and herons, an osprey, a hawk, a falcon, several jacana, and a purple gallinule.


Tri-color heron


Great blue heron




Purple gallinule


Night heron


Great white heron

These bird photos show the limitations of the Olympus XZ-1 as a wildlife camera, with its maximum focal length of 112 mm (35mm equivalent). Even though our very skilled pilot got us pretty close to the skittish birds before they flew away, the birds were only a small fraction of the scene. The images above are crops probably representing 5-10% of the total picture area. They show the birds in their environment nicely, and are reasonably OK for web use, but not for more than that.

The lush vegetation was often quite striking.




This is a flower from the tree with the coconut-like fruit in the picture above. The pilot picked it, extracted it from its elaborate sheath, and gallantly presented it to my wife.


Of course, birds and vegetation appear together, as in this tree hung with oropendola nests


and this tree occupied by hundreds of egrets beginning to roost for the night.


To top off a very pleasant boat ride, we got to watch a couple of spider monkeys watching us.

Nicaragua Day 5 - Granada

December 29, 2011: Day 5 in Nicaragua

Our wifi connection at the hotel pooped out last night, so I couldn't post the day's photos. As it happens, there are too many for one post, so I'll do two: the first from our morning Granada city tour, the second from our afternoon boat ride on Lake Nicaragua.

(Click the photos to enlarge them. They look better bigger.)


We took a horse and carriage ride around Granada. Our first stop was the old train station, freshly painted but seemingly not open for business except as a tourist attraction.


In front of the train station is Sandino Park, with the predictably heroic statue honoring the revolutionaries.


Nearby is the cemetery - not quite as large and ornate as the one in Buenos Aires, but impressive nonetheless.


We stopped for a brief cigar-making demonstration...


... and then climbed the narrow steps in the Church of La Merced (one of the major Catholic orders here, like the Franciscans and the Jesuits)


to the bell tower, with a fine view over the city.


We then went to the Convento de San Francisco, which has been turned into a very nice museum. This is a close to life-size representation of the "flying game".


And this is a detail of a very detailed painting of life in Granada.



After the morning tour, we walked down the vehicle-free Calle de Calzada to find some lunch, finding some colorful scenes along the way.


Returning at sunset from our Lake Nicaragua excursion, we saw this dramatically-lit view of the cathedral, and the building across the street, from the front door of our hotel.

Photos from the little islands of Lake Nicaragua to follow.

Nicaragua Day 4 - From Leon to Granada

December 28, 2011: Today, the 4th day of our Nicaragua trip, we drove from Leon to Granada. (Click photos to enlarge them.)


As we left our hotel, I took a photo of this pair of dolls, which we learned have a powerful role in Nicaraguan folklore. The tall beautiful lady is Spanish (I took a picture of another representation of her in the square on day 1), while the short guy with the big head is Nicaraguan: short of stature but big of brain. The two dance together in celebrations and parades.


This statue was also in the courtyard of our hotel. I was struck by the sharpness of the shadow, particularly the halo.





The first stop on our drive was Masaya Volcano National Park, the first national park created (1979) in Nicaragua. There are five dormant craters and one active volcano, impressively steep and deep, emitting fumes and occasional bursts of lava. The last photo is of the last stage of the dramatic stairway (170 steps) to the top of the viewpoint, marked by an unusual cross.


We spent some time in the market of the city of Masaya, which is a crafts center. We were taken by this amusing creature ...


... and by this sign overlooking our quest for a chicken of Nicaraguan heritage. (We found two good ones.)


We went next to the village of Catarina, which overlooks the large and incredibly blue Laguna de Apoya, a crater lake.


Walking down a lane in the village, I noticed this atmospheric scene of clothes drying on a line, bathed in smoky haze.


Our last stop was the village of San Juan del Oriente, known for its fine ceramics. This woman was demonstrating painting and polishing a pot. We bought three nice pieces here, at incredibly low prices.


Arriving in Granada around 5 PM, we took a stroll around the central plaza just as dusk was falling. We will tour the city in one of these horse-drawn carriages tomorrow morning.

Nicaragua Day 3 - Viejo Leon and Leon

December 27, 2011: On our third day in Nicaragua, we explored the ruins of Viejo Leon (Old Leon) and two neighborhoods of the contemporary city. Viejo Leon is about an hours drive from Leon, near the shore of Lake Managua. During the drive and throughout the day, we got enlightening commentary on contemporary Nicaraguan politics and society from our guide.


Francisco Hernandez de Cordova, who founded the first city of Leon in 1524, and was executed in 1526. His name is given to the Nicaraguan currency.


Representation of an Indian rebel, who with 17 of his comrades was torn to pieces by fierce dogs for opposing the Spanish.


Part of the base of the foundry, where gold objects were melted into standard bars.


Corner of interior walls of the Church of La Merced.


Branches of the strange jicaro tree, which bears hard-walled fruit directly on its branches.

After driving back to Leon and having lunch, we were guided on a city tour. Our first stop was Sutiaba, the birthplace of our guide, who is very proud of its long history (it was settled by indigenous peoples long before Leon was located here) and independent spirit.



Two photos of young inhabitants of Sutiaba, taken as we began our walk.


Ruins of an old church, built in the 16th C and destroyed in the earthquake accompanying a volcanic eruption in 1835.


Mural depicting the encounter between the indigenous and Catholic religions.


Interior of the current Catholic church in the Sutiaba neighborhood.


Part of a very large mural (about 1/2 block long) about contemporary life in Sutiaba - this part depicting the environmental impacts of the water cycle.


The roof of the Cathedral in central Leon.


One of a pair of Atlases supporting the beam that supports the bell - one of many bells of the Cathedral, this one rung only a few times a year on special occasions.


View from the top of the Cathedral over Leon toward the chain of volcanoes.


Soccer game in front of a mural depicting the murderous attack by army troops on university students in 1959.

Leon and Vicinity - Day 2

December 26, 2011: We began our first full day in Leon, Nicaragua with a visit to the Isla Juan Venado Wildlife Reserve, a fine combination of mangrove swamp and Pacific Ocean beach.

(Click photos to enlarge them.)


While waiting in Las Peñitas for our boat to pull up, we watched a black vulture getting a snack.


Our captain and his young helper.


In the mangrove swamp, egrets and herons were as plentiful as robins in spring. Also ibises, a pygmy kingfisher (not like the one we saw in Madagascar), a roseate spoonbill, and several other species. We hoped to see a crocodile, but were disappointed.


As our boat approached an egret in a tree, it would leave its perch and the often fly low downriver ahead of the boat. I wanted to get a photo of the bird with its reflection in the water: this was the best of many tries.



We stopped halfway to spend some time on a lovely beach, with some very interesting layered and eroded rock formations.


On the way back, we visited a turtle nursery, where turtle eggs are gathered, incubated under guard to protect them from predators and poachers, then released into the ocean when they are a few hours old. These little guys are waiting to go. Notice that they're almost all pointed in the same direction, which must reflect their mysterious homing instinct.


Back in Las Peñitas, we stopped for a beer at an oceanside bar, where we had to step over (and sympathized with) this dog taking a nap in the noonday sun.


We had lunch in a supermarket in Leon, since all the comedores our guide had in mind were closed for the "day after Christmas holiday". On the way out, we passed some bins full of local vegetables, and I assempled this composite.


Walking back to our hotel after lunch, we passed the brightly-painted telephone company building, with the brightly-painted motorcycles in front. I thought the guard's bright white shirt added just the right extra touch, motioned with my camera to ask if I could take his picture, and he said yes.


In mid-afternoon we drove to the small village of San Jacinto, which features "hervideros", pools of boiling mud and steam associated with two nearby volcanoes, one of which (Telica) is seen here.


The graceful flank of Volcano Telica, adorned with silvery clouds.


Two girls from the village who tried to "give" us a little clay pot. We eventually accepted and gave them a dollar in return.


Two kids at the entrance booth to the hervideros, engaged in their separate, mysterious but colorful, games.


Back in our hotel, we found this extremely friendly and charming white poodle, a favorite of all the guests, enjoying the pool while his family watched.

Nicaragua - Day 1

After one day in Saint Paul back from Portland, we got up at 3:30 AM Xmas day to take a cab to the airport, for a connection through Atlanta to Nicaragua - which is where we are now. The flights were smooth and uneventful, and it was nice - after a solid month of 30s and low 40s - to experience tropical 80s.

(Click photos to enlarge them.)


While we waited for our driver to pick up another couple, I took this photo of the front and superstructure of the Managua airport.


We're spending our first three days in Leon, a colonial city about 50 miles from Managua. Halfway through the drive, we pulled over for a view of the impressively tall and symmetrical Volcano Mototombo on the shores of Lake Managua.


We checked into our Leon hotel, La Perla, which occupies an elegantly restored colonial building in the neoclassical style, dating from the 1700s.


From our balcony at sunset, we were greeted with the spectacular sight of the Church of the Recollection, a few blocks across town, bathed in golden light.


We decided to walk down to the square and the cathedral, on the way passing this fellow unwinding after a doubtless hard day ...


... and this small portion of a larger mural keeping alive the memory of the oppression of the Somoza days.


Coming to the cathedral square, we found a lively Christmas evening celebration going on, including this whirling, very tall lady powered by a small lad underneath her skirts.


Across the square to the west was another church (there are many in this area) with unusual spires silhouetted against a beautiful sunset.


Wandering some more around the cathedral square, we came upon kids with their parents waiting to talk to Santa,


a big horse on which little kids could sit to be photographed, with the cathedral in the background,


and a lady cooking dinner for the crowd. All in all, a nice introduction to Nicaragua.

Portland Steel Bridge - Geometries

The Steel Bridge crossing the Willamette River in Portland, Oregon has wonderfully complex geometries of plates, beams, pipes, and rivets.

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I will be traveling until January 5, with uncertain access to the Internet. Please be patient if posts are sporadic. Best wishes for happy holidays and a good new year.

Portland's Port

Views of an old but still impressive ship-loading complex on the Willamette River, from the Steel Bridge.

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Portland Steel Bridge

The Steel Bridge is the most imposing of the many bridges that cross the Willamette River in Portland. According to Wikipedia,

"The Steel Bridge is a through truss, double lift bridge across the Willamette River in Portland, Oregon, United States. Its lower deck carries railroad and bicycle/pedestrian traffic, while the upper deck carries road traffic (on the Pacific Highway West No. 1W, former Oregon Route 99W) and light rail (MAX), making the bridge one of the most multimodal in the world. It is the only double-deck bridge with independent lifts in the world[1] and the second oldest vertical-lift bridge in North America, after the nearby Hawthorne Bridge. The bridge links the Rose Quarter and Lloyd District in the east to Old Town Chinatown neighborhood in the west."

It's large, complex, dark, and weathered. Over the next few days I'll be posting photos of the bridge and its details.

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Recreational Sports Center Expansion

Three photos - from the street, no guide/minder - of the beginning expansion of the Rec Sports Center at the University of Minnesota. I like these because they convey the scale and complexity of the project. I also like to envision them as large, abstract paintings with some of the detail blurred out but with prominent energetic lines and vivid colors.

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Cancer and Cardiovascular Building - Images

I'm not sure what these three images have in common, except for their subject matter: construction of the Cancer and Cardiovascular Research Building. But pictorially, perhaps they share a certain energy or vigor. (Click to enlarge)




Cancer and Cardiovascular Building - Forms

Among all the purposeful goings-on at the building site, there are occasional arrangements that seem a bit random and amusing - at least for the brief click of a shutter.


(Click to enlarge) Rebar spooning


(Click to enlarge) Overhead maze

Cancer and Cardiovascular Building - Workers

Pictures of men and machines are staples of photography. Here are some examples from the construction of the Cancer and Cardiovascular Research Building. (Click photos to enlarge them.)






Cancer and Cardiovascular Building - On the Lift

A successful photograph should have "light, color, and gesture" according to Jay Maisel . Here are a couple of examples from the Cancer and Cardiovascular Research Building construction site.


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Cancer and Cardiovascular Building - Looking Up

We tend to keep our eyes pointing straight ahead or down at the ground. But there are some striking things up above. Here are three views from the construction of the Cancer and Cardiovascular Building in the Biomedical Discovery District at the University of Minnesota.


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Portland Sunset

The weather in Portland this December has been quirky in a nice way: dry (0.01 inch of rain since Dec. 1), largely sunny, and not too chilly (highs in the mid-40s). Not exactly a stringent test of what it would be like to live here during a typical Portland winter. I don't know whether yesterday's sunset was typical, but I doubt it. In about half an hour, the sky changed from this:



to this:


(Click photos to enlarge them.)

Portland People

Two quintessential scenes in Portland: reading at Powell's, and riding the excellent transit system.


In Powell's City of Books



On the Green Line MAX heading to Clackamas Town Center

Portland Scenes

We walked this afternoon to the Mississippi neighborhood of Portland, Oregon. Some things seen along the way. (Click to enlarge)

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A hothouse garden, with some strange plants silhouetted against the plastic.

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The hood of a totally decorated car.

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An apartment building under construction under a crisp, sunny blue sky that's a lot more characteristic of Albuquerque than of Portland.

Cancer and Cardiovascular Building - Paperwork

A few weeks ago I was assisted in photographing ongoing construction of the Cancer and Cardiovascular Research Building in the Biomedical Discovery District at the University of Minnesota. As I waited for my escort to finish up a conference, I noticed a few interesting pieces of paper on a bulletin board.


(Click to enlarge) Schematic


(Click to enlarge) Hot-work permits. There's a lot of detail to be attended to in order to keep the building site safe when working with open fires or high temperatures.

Northrop Auditorium Renovation - Ghosts

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(Click to enlarge) A mysterious light shining through the dust of demolition work.

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(Click to enlarge) The classic marble staircases need to be protected while modernizing the building. Historic preservation and contemporary safety regulations fight each other on jobs like this.


The renovation has to strip all the skin and flesh from the interior of Northrop Auditorium, and leave just the bones. It's amazing, and somehow moving, to see the uncovered structure of such an old, familiar building. (Click the photos to enlarge them.)

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Northrop Auditorium Renovation - Workers

Some more photos of the early stages of Northrop Auditorium renovation, this time focusing on the workers. (Click to enlarge)

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Northrop Auditorium Renovation - Early Stages

I've been fortunate this week to get guided access to some big construction projects at the University of Minnesota: the Cancer and Cardiovascular Research Building is going up, and historic Northrop Auditorium is being totally gutted and renovated. My next few postings will be photos from Northrop, and then from Cancer/Cardio.

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This used to be a 5000 seat auditorium with a big stage and many balconies. Now it's been taken down to a huge empty volume, eventually to be filled with a smaller (but still large) auditorium and many other rooms to make it useful for the 21st century.

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This page is an archive of entries from December 2011 listed from newest to oldest.

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