Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Guest Post with Photographer Alex Liepold: "Captured Moments"

(I ran into Alex several months back seemingly out of the blue here in Toronto. We ended up talking about photography, writing, and travel, which of course led to a conversation about this blog here. I'm pleased to say that today's post will be a guest post courtesy of the talented photographer from Toronto, Alex Liepold. The words and photographs that follow are his, and I'm sure you'll enjoy them.)

The trick to any great travel photography photo is not to over think it. Many people might think it too cliche to take a picture of the Eiffel Tower or Big Ben, but certain shots are taken over and over again for a reason. Their composition, subject matter and lighting offers a once-in-a-lifetime scenario where you just have to take a picture of what's in front of you, so snap away and experiment. While certain landmarks demand your time, it's also important to lurk off some of the beaten paths to capture moments that locals see and feel every day. Some of these pictures are across Western Europe, but also include some of my travels throughout Ontario, exemplifying some of the hidden gems that can be found right in our own backyards.

Taken in Prague, Czech Republic with a Canon 5D Mark II, 50 mm F1.8 Canon Lens

Taken in London, England with a Canon 5D Mark II, 50 mm F1.8 lens

Abandoned farmhouse--Taken in Manotik, Ontario with a Canon Rebel XSI, 18-55 mm lens

Taken in Amsterdam, Netherlands with a Canon 5D Mark II, 50 mm F1.8 Canon Lens

Taken in Amsterdam, Netherlands with a Canon 5D Mark II, 50 mm F1.8 lens

Taken in Paris, France with a Canon 5D Mark II, 50 mm F1.8 lens

Taken in Ottawa, Ontario on Canada Day with a Canon Rebel XSI, 10-20 mm Sigma lens

Taken in Paris, France with a Canon 5D Mark II, 50 mm F1.8 Canon Lens

Artists memorial to victims of the Holocaust--Taken in Berlin, Germany with a Canon 5D Mark II, 50 mm F1.8 lens

Taken in Amsterdam, Netherlands with a Canon 5D Mark II, 50 mm F1.8 lens

Alex Liepold is an avid photographer and traveler from Toronto. He's also a writer for his own sports blog at carltoncashbox.wordpress.com. Find him on twitter @Alex_Liepold or @CarltonCashbox

Friday, June 6, 2014

Granada, Nicaragua: Exploring the Abdondoned San Juan de Dios Hospital

Spain's colonial imprint in Central and South America seems to have manifested itself in a multitude of ways. Generally, my mind equates the Spanish colonial imprint with large, powerful cathedrals, so I was essentially overwhelmed with curiosity at the prospect of exploring a colonial hospital. Here's the best part - San Juan de Dios Hospital is abandoned.

In 1898, San Juan de Dios looked as pristine as a colonial palace. The photo above was taken that very year, the year in which it came into use. It was also the same year that Marie Curie discovered radium, but that's neither here nor there. As I was saying, just 100 years later, the hospital would be abandoned. I am to understand that since then it has been sacked of most everything that could be sold. I searched long and hard for more information about this hospital, but it isn't all that easy I must say. I did, however, find several articles about companies attempting to build these semi-ruins into some sort of modern day hotel. As far as I could see, there hasn't been much progress on that, and I'm glad. 

So, about 15 years after San Juan de Dios was closed, I arrived on the scene, and it was the start of a strange and intriguing afternoon. And, of course, the skies had to be an ominious and foreboding gray.

It has always fascinated me as to what actually becomes a tourist destination in a city, or "worth visiting." I'm not sure that San Juan de Dios has a large tourist draw by any means, but it does function in the city now more in the line of tourism than anything else. In this case, it had to be accidental. It reminds me of these places with tourism value that really don't fall into the traditional tourism category (ie. museums, famous landmarks etc.) In some cases, destinations have a tourist draw precisely because of their troubled or dark history. Take, for example, Normandy or the Killing Fields in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

I entered through the front entrance to the faint sound of children laughing. The start of every good horror film, right? Fortunately, it was only children playing football, making good use of the now derelict space.

I spent about an hour walking around the different spaces and rooms in what used to be a burgeoning hospital. I even spent a little while walking around the second floor, which now merely serves as a vantage point for the rest of the grounds, a concrete roof of sorts. It was wonderfully peculiar. I was actively trying to relish the whole underlying strangeness of it all, because that, ultimately, was the tourist draw for me. As I've been wont to do recently, I'll tell this story in pictures. I can only hope the pictures stir up a little emotion, as emotion was certainly present as I walked around the complex, especially all by my lonesome.


There is something about a place that is abandoned that forces us to imagine what was or what might have been. Perhaps the weirdest part for me on this journey was walking around as my mind imagined doctors walking through the halls, and nurses checking in on patients. I couldn't help it. It's simply amazing what the mind can conjure up with a little blank space to work with on the canvas.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Granada, Nicaragua: "Doors"

I rarely, if ever, feel the urge to write about a city while I'm actually in it. For one reason or another, in Granada I can't help myself. I've been busier than an accountant during tax season since I arrived here, and after this morning's trip to Mombacho Volcano, I've decided to take a short while to post something on Granada. Something I'm excited about.

While at the top of the volcano, looking over Lake Nicaragua, I was trying to decide why Granada was growing on me so quickly. I'll be honest, when I first arrived, I enjoyed Granada, but I wasn't taken by it if you know what I mean. I realized that this city is growing on me because I couldn't help turning down any one street and being entranced and fascinated.  

I narrowed it down to the doorways.

The colourful, vibrant entryways of this city tell a story that I think I've been piecing together since I arrived. Thus, my project this afternoon was to try to capture this story and spin it into my own. I spent the last few hours wandering up an down major streets, alleyways, side-streets and backstreets. Streets, streets, streets. What I was looking for are the doors you see below. I found them in spades. Here are the doors of Granada:

Heading out to the market, then some dinner and perhaps a beer or two are in order. I'm feeling as good as I possibly could. See you soon, Leon.