Banska Shiavnica 1

Part 1 of 3

In the early afternoon we left for Banska Shiavnica a mining town built on the site of an ancient volcano. Banska Shiavnica is a completely preserved medieval town dating to the third century BC. It has been declared a world Heritage site by UNESCO. Mining is now all but gone, save a few museums, the town is now a center for recreation and tourism because of its historical significance. We drove across country through small traditional villages and middle sized modern towns and never ending sunflower fields to get to Banska Shiavnica. We stopped for fresh bread and local salads at a popular road side stand.

We stayed at a 500 year old home which has been in Rastislav’s family for a few generations. It is equipped only with 19th century kitchen equipment and relies on an outhouse for the bathroom. The house is undergoing renovations but Rastislav plans to modernize the homestead and create an artist’s studio or colony on the property. It will be equipped with separate flats for visitors, fruit trees, a small lake and solitude to help the mind create. It was this home that inspired him to produce the book Shiavnica, a photo documentary about town and its surrounding villages.

We took the daily swim at one of sixty man made lakes known as tajchy. The lakes created a mechanical system system to remove water from mine by collecting rain water to operate pumps and provide energy for the mining operations.

Later in the afternoon we visited with Dr. Beata Nemcova, a professor of English and language arts. She has taken it upon herself and enlisted the help of some of her students to maintain an old Jewish cemetery and synagogue. There are only two Jews remaining in Banska Shiavnica. Beata tells me that one old woman has lost her mental capabilities and no longer is able to communicate effectively and seldom talks about the events of the World War. The other, a member of the Wellward family owns property in the city and a plot in the cemetery resides full time in Israel. When he dies he has chosen to be buried in Israel where most of his family now resides rather than in his homeland of Slovakia. The cemetery is situated high on a hill overlooking the classic city. After Hitler’s invasion and World War II Jews chose not to return to the Banska Shiavnica leaving the cemetery to fall into disrepair in the decades following the war. Many of the tombstones have fallen or have been pushed over. Many of the markers date to the 1700’s. Beata, who is not Jewish, feels a sense of responsibility to the site She says “with no Jews left here there will be no one with a vested interest in this sacred site.”

The next morning we wandered into town for the annual festival in the town square. Traditional Slovak goods, wooden toys and kitchen utensils, honey and honey liquor were on hand for sampling and purchase. The main church in the center of town, St. Catherine of Alexandria Church, built between 1488 and 1491 and consecrated in 1500, was open to the public. Above the through the belfry to the attic dead pigeons littered the stairwell. An eerie sensation passed before me. It was spooky to climb the weathered and worn out staircase into. Sounds from below were muffled while pigeons flew in and out of several open windows lining the spiral stair climbing the tower. The attic revealed an intricate and thick construction of wooden beams and joists, all well weathered and covered with bird and bat guano. The floor joists were mostly open but were covered in places by catwalks to reach the deep ends of the attic space. The air was thick and smelled musty. The space was dark and cavernous. The muffled sounds of celebration could be heard from the cobblestone streets below.


Wednesday 11am Eastern Standard Time
Pittsburgh to Charlotte

Wednesday 5pm Eastern Standard Time
Charlotte to Munich

Thursday 8am Central European Time
Munich to Bratislava

Thursday 12pm Central European Time

Twenty hours either on a plane or in an airport. I was glad to be on the ground. Rastislav picked me up at the modest airport took me to lunch in the same mall where his consumer photography lab is located. It was good to catch up with him in person. It had been 8 years since I met Rasto while he was a photography exchange student at Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania. Rasto has wanted me to visit Slovakia since the day he left the USA for home. Eight years later I finally made it and I needed a nap.

During my first afternoon in Bratislava I spent time with my host family the Misik’s, Rastislav, Martinka and Svetlanka. The Misik’s own an apartment on the high ridge on the west side of Bratislava. They bought the apartment after the fall of communism when property values were cheaper. They have realized great appreciation to the home which provides a fantastic view of the burgeoning industrial and commercial center. The old town and the center of government is a short five minutes walk down the hill.


Thursday 5pm CET
A daily tradition for many Slovaks is to spend time at swimming at the man made lakes that dot the outskirts of the city. We chose to swim in a lake on the western side of Bratislava near the suburb of Rusovce. The man made lake is situated on the flood plain of the Danube River. The reservoir acts as a rainwater catch to supply drinking water to the city. Each group of lake visitors pick a different spot along the shoreline and sequester themselves from one and other by trees and brush.

Afterwards we stopped in the suburban village of Rusovce for sherbet. Ruscove is comparable to an American suburb, a small service based old town center with a mixture of new and old homes expanding from the center. Property values are on the rise here as evidenced by the expanding rows of new homes waiting to be purchased.

As a contrast to Ruscove, on the drive back to Bratislava we detoured through Petrzalka, a huge expanse of apartment dwellings, symbolic evidence of communism. The Soviet style buildings have taken on new life however; shops and service businesses have begun to open where state owned stores once were located. Pubs and bars with outdoor seating and colorful surroundings break the drab. Many of the formed concrete buildings, left unpainted or white during communism, are being colorfully painted to reflect the capitalist mood of the city.

Thursday 9PM CET
After dark Rastislav took me to the center of Bratislava’s Old Town and had a few beers under fantastic medieval architecture. Churches and buildings with ornate stonework and archways lined the cobblestone streets. Most of the old town and its character in Bratislava’s center was leveled by communists to make way for an expressway and ‘modern’ communist buildings. It was suggested to me that the old town was destroyed as a method to break the spirit of the people in Bratislava.

Friday 6am CET
I headed out into the city a dawn broke over Bratislava just before the city woke, about 6 am. Only a few local people were out heading to work or taking a morning walk and a few hotel guests coming and going to inns hotels tucked away on narrow side streets off of the main town square. I wandered the streets for about an hour photographing what remains of the old town. St Michaels Gate once a fortress gate to the city now is the entryway to the maze of narrow streets designed for foot traffic. Originally built in the 1300’s the gate is the only entry that has been preserved from the medieval fortifications and is one of the oldest town buildings. The narrow cavernous streets diffused the early light evoking a real sense of history and time. I contemplated just how many people had wandered here before me.

St. Michael's Gate

See more photos at Flickr

Enfield Glen

Enfield Glen Robert Treman State Park near Ithaca, New York.

Arrive early at the waterfall to take advantage of the minimum of people, you can spread out to work, The early morning light allows for extended exposures with deep depth of field to accentuate the flowing motion of stream. Early morning often adds a bit of fog to a scene. The solitude, the visual of the fog and the sound of the water rushing over the rocks provides a creative dreamy enviroment.

The trick to photographing water falls is having a minimum of light rather than midday sun. The lack of light allows you to maximize your exposure by extending depth of field and ISO by using a very long shutter speeds. Obviously tripod use is mandatory while, using a polarizing or neutral density filter isn’t required but adds a nice quality to the effect. These bulb exposures were over 30 seconds.

Oil Creek State Park- Cow Run

Remote, but not nearly as wild as other places in Pennsylvania, Oil Creek State Park does offer a unique backpacking experience at it’s Cow Run Shelter Area. The area is located along the east side of the Girard Hiking trail, a 36 mile loop encircling the park. The Oil Creek Valley is the site of the world’s first commercial oil well. Many active oil and gas well dot the landscape within the park and along the Girard Trail.

The Cow Run site is accessible only by foot and visitors must carry in all their own supplies. The site accommodations are eight Adirondack style shelters. The shelters are spaced far enough away from one and other to provide ample privacy and are situated to enhance the wooded views on the saddle between Cow Run and Calf Run.

The two small tributaries to Oil Creek gently roll down the wooded slopes to the creek below. On the saddle a common salamander to Pennsylvania was sighted, the Red-spotted Newt. The Newt can be found in permanent and semi-permanent water including marshes or quiet streams. When the water becomes too shallow the Newts will migrate onto land.

Each shelter is approximately 12 foot by 12 foot, the floor is finished wood. A hearty stone fire place is located at the opening of the shelter. The angled ceiling catches the heat from the fire place and keeps it circulating within the shelter providing very comfortable and dry sleeping conditions. The flanking walls are equipped with a sturdy shelf and large pegs to hang wet gear or clothes. Firewood is free but you must cut it yourself with the maul provided at the woodshed. Also located at the site is a spigot for potable running water and a clean and well maintained privy.

For a place that is difficult to access, the amenities and views are wonderful. A nice change from some of the more rugged places within Pennsylvania. Cow Run and it’s companion Wolfkiel shelter site on the west side of the creek provide a convenient place to stay to take full advantage of hiking, kayaking and biking within the park. A paved 9.7 mile trail follows an old railroad bed hugs the banks of Oil Creek and passes many historic oil well sites between Petroleum Center and the Drake Oil Well site located at the north end of the park.

Assateague Island National Seashore

The draw for visiting Assateague Island National Seashore are the wild horse. However there is certainly a drawback, the swarms of mosquitoes that furiously envelope human visitors, latching on to clothing and drawing a blood meal from any exposed skin.

The barrier island has an ocean side and a bay side. The oceanside provides relief from the mosquitoes, while the bay side is enter at your own risk. I started down the Life of The Dunes Trail and hooked right towards the bay at the observation deck. I wanted to see if I could cross any wild horses which have free reign over the northern portion of the island. During the walk, I was bothered to the point of distraction by the mosquitoes. After reaching the bay, I saw no horses. I quickly walked the quarter mile back to the ocean side to escape the biting insects.

The oceanside provided an expansive view of the sunrise. Horse tracks criss-crossed the beach in both directions. In the distance fishermen have already staked out their spots for the day. I was hoping to be on the island to catch a silhouetted horse running across the beach in the early light, but I was not early enough. I stuck around for about an hour. The next time I visit I will camp on the beach to observe the horses.

Driving the road around the two necks of land that protrude into the bay I finally found a group of four horses grazing together about 100 yards from the road. They paid no attention to me and continued to graze and sun bathe.

Allegheny Island State Park

The rising sun exploded the clouds over Pittsburgh with pink and orange highlights and deep blue shadows, but quickly faded to typical gray. The rising sun did reveal itself as a bright interlude between the layers of clouds as I pushed off from the Harmarville launch which is surrounded by busy business district. The launch is bordered by cottages and private launches. Across the narrow channel of the Allegheny River is roadless twelve mile island, one of three Islands making up Allegheny Island State Park. Twelve Mile Island is the only one of the three islands to have structures. Cottages line both sides of the Allegheny River, one right after the other providing a camp feel in an urban and industrialized area. In view to the right is the historic Hulton Bridge between Blawnox and Oakdale. To the left is the bridge carrying the Pennsylvania Turnpike and the railroad across the Allegheny River.

Working upriver between the tips of Twelve Mile and Fourteen Mile Islands lie several shoals which were popping to life with grassy vegetation. The shoals provided a prime habitat for ducks and birds. The shoals are too small and shallow for most trees and remain a clear fly away for birds living on or near the river.

Arriving at Fourteen Mile Island was a trial. The banks of the island were lined with quick sand and mud. My feet sunk nearly to the knees while I attempted to secure the kayak on the bank. The body of the island rises only a few feet, high enough to keep the island dry under non flood conditions. I trekked up the rise into the woods only to find that the entire floor of the island was covered with the invasive Japanese Knotweed. The knotweed, which resembles bamboo but is unrelated, frequently colonizes wasted places. The knotweed overshadowed all native plants on the island floor leaving the island naturally disturbed. As I reached the center of the island it became very clear that there would be no clearing, no open meadows or no picturesque scenes at the island interior. I hacked my way out of the entangled jungle and decided I’d try my luck walking along the shoreline.

The shoreline revealed a plethora of animal activity. Deer, raccoon, fox, heron and coyote tracks abounded. There were several type of mussel shells lining the shore, presumably already having been made part of the food chain.

I got back into the kayak to head to the northern terminus of Fourteen Mile Island where a dam crosses the river. The island was divided into two parts by the Corps of Engineers to make way for the dam, leaving the end as a man made creation. The northern end of the island is a busy place. A new bridge that will carry the Pennsylvania Turnpike is in it’s early stages of construction. Tractors, trucks and cranes dominate the landscape over the towering sycamores that occupy the shoreline.

Semi-permanent camps exist in this area, human activity is a daily occurrence on the island for now. Though the island is remote and not continuously inhabited, it is a very tough place to visit yet is far from wild.

Allegheny Islands Wilderness

The weather was in transition. It was rainy and cold on the drive to Warren County. By the time we arrived at the Buckaloons Recreation Area the weather and the sky cleared for the evening. The Buckaloons Recreation Area is about seven miles west of Warren, Pa. and would be our entry point to the Allegheny River and it’s island wildernesses several miles down stream. The Allegheny River Islands Wilderness is located on the western edge of the Allegheny National Forest. Seven alluvial islands in the Allegheny River, totaling 368 acres, are located between Buckaloons Recreation Area and Tionesta, Pennsylvania.

Shoving off to the south under gorgeous late afternoon light, small may flies hovered and flickered in swarms that appeared and dissipated in waves. They were dense in the air just above the surface of the river. As I drifted downstream the flies pelted my face as if I were on a motorcycle rather than a kayak.

Crull’s Island is the northernmost island in the wilderness, we took the right channel behind the island. On the right bank of the river was the village of Althom and State Game Lands #86. The sun back light the trees providing stunning reflections of the island and village onto the placid but moving river water.

The second island in the chain is Thompson Island. Thompson Island is the site of the only Revolutionary War battle in Northwest Pennsylvania. Colonel Daniel Broadhead skirmished with and defeated the Senecas in 1779. We decided before hand that this was to be the island where we would camp for the night. A few small islands are situated at near the tip of Thompson’s Island funneling water into gentle rapids. While passing through the small islands Mallard Ducks and Canadian Geese on the banks of the larger island were startled by our approach in water craft. They responded by jumping into flight only a few feet above my head. With the body of Thompson’s Island now at our right we looked for a prime landing area and found one about halfway down the island. We pulled the kayaks from the water and conveniently found ourselves at an established campsite. The site had an overgrown fire ring while ferns and other fresh vegetation covered the ground in places at the fringes of the modest site. No one had camped here in quite some time.

As the clear evening progressed the moon rose and was nearly full, shedding soft light filtering through the trees allowing for fireside conversation and night photography until well after midnight.

The morning brought light fog that drifted upstream against the current. The sky yielded subtle blues and pinks at the early hour. After a single pear for breakfast we shoved off down the Allegheny just before six o’clock. Fog filled every saddle and hollow holding tributaries that line the river. A lone eagle soared to my right and headed for a perch near the tops of the trees closest to the banks. As we approached the eagle took flight and moved up river to psychologically safer waters away from people. The river lead us through wide open water in the eddy and close channels in between islands as we moved south towards Tidioute where our journey would end.


McKees Rocks Cultural Arts Center perfomance of Cinderella

The moment of discovery, Cinderella tries on the lost glass slipper during the McKees Rocks High School Theater Project at Sto-Rox High School Friday, April 25, 2008.

The Father Ryan Cultural Arts Center has been conducting a high school theater project at Sto-Rox High School since 2004. Each event provides students with an opportunity to perform as well as help raise money for the cultural arts facility now under renovation. In October 2008 the Father Regis Ryan Cultural Arts Center Building will open on Chartiers Ave in McKees Rocks, Pa. The new space will house a theater, dance studio and other artistic and educational facilities.

I started working in McKees Rocks in 2004 as a photojournalist/ documentary photographer on a Federal Community Outreach Partnership Center (COPC) grant. The grants link universities and distressed communities together where the educational and community assets of the university utilized to help lift the community.

The particular grant that I was a part of linked Point Park University and McKees Rocks, Pa. The university provided performing arts instructors and coordinated media and public relations. Point Park University possess both a high quality and diverse journalism program and well as a nationally respected performing arts conservatory.

The COPC grant officially ended in 2006, but I have decided to remain on as the official photographer for the project. I am responsible for documenting the educational programs, organizational events and building renovation and architecture.

See more of this project here.

Anders Run- Working Out The Kinks

Working out the kinks is an important step in combining video, stills and audio. The kinks would be your work flow, everything changes. My approach to how I shoot has changed drastically since I have committed to audio and video collection while shooting images.

My work flow at the moment goes like this.

In the field:
Set the audio recorder down in a safe place. Walk away to get rid of the camera shutter sound that will be picked up.

Shoot images, shoot video. I rarely use my Flip video for sound collection. Shoot images, shoot video.

Use a Holga to shoot vignetted macros.

In the office:
Using Image Ingester, download, duplicate and add keyword and copyright metadata to all media.

Using Photoshop edit Photos, HDR, Panos, Animations

Using Premiere rough cut the Video and sound. Save early, save often. Add still images and fine edit.

Post images.

Transfer to permanent archive, duplicated and back-up on DVD-ROM.

I am certain that my work flow will become more efficient as I do this more.

Bill and Hillary Clinton

Dateline: Pittsburgh, Pa. less than 24 hours before the Pennsylvania Primary.

Hill and Bill

Bill and Hillary Clinton meet supporters on the line after the couple spoke to a lunch time crowd in Pittsburgh’s Market Square, Monday April 21, 2008. Hillary Clinton is projected to winn the Pennsylvania Democratic Primary over Barak Obama.

William Jefferson Clinton

William Jefferson Clinton , the 42nd President of The United States stumping for his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, on the eve of the Pennsylvania Primary.

See more photos on Flickr

Project: From My Back Porch

Project: From My Back Porch

My son and I enjoy sitting together on our deck to watch one of two trains chug by, many river boats tethered to barges coming and going, airplanes all the time. He is one and a half and gets a real kick out of all the activity. The view is somewhat interesting, it isn’t a brick wall or a flashing bar sign after all. Light plays on the hillside across the river all day. In the morning the pink light pillows the fresh green trees. In the afternoon, it accentuates the sky.

After a busy day and putting the kids to sleep, rather than relax like a normal adult, I decided I needed to do something creative for the evening. I decided I would photograph scenes from my back porch. It was easy enough, I didn’t have to go far, I could drink as much beer as I want without worrying how I would get home. I was off the streets and safe.

I wanted to play with the lights that I can see from the deck. I used a small aperture to star burst the normally annoying lights. Normally, I curse four particular lights. Depending on where you sit trees, porch rails, and buildings juxtaposed can eliminate most of the annoying lights. Never these four, never at the same time. They are just way to bright. The dimmer ones don’t particularly bother me. I turned the negative into a positive and came up with what I feel are interesting abstracts.

As well, I Photo Merged my view from the deck. At the left is Sewickley, to the right are portions of the City of Pittsburgh. Eight images in the roughly six mile view.

My son’s curiosity is what inspired me to photograph what I had been taking for granted as mundane. There will be no book project about my back porch, but I did manage to keep myself occupied creatively.

Project: From My Back Porch

Adobe Premiere Premiere

After working through a few technical glitches previously discussed, I have produced my first video with Adobe Premiere. All of my previous editing experience comes from working with Final Cut Express. Functionally, they are very similar, making the transition and finding all of the tools was not difficult.

The images for this video were captured a few weeks ago at George Washington’s 16 sided barn his estate at Mt. Vernon, Va.