Slapnik in Slovenia

Slapnik, a settlement with 17 houses that once had around 80 residents, mostly farmers, lost its population to larger towns in the region, as well as to immigration to the US and Australia after WW2. Since 1985 is has been designated as part of Slovenia’s immovable cultural heritage, and become a curiosity for visitors, and those interested in the region’s architecture in particular.

The British Broadcasting Company will film a show in the village in which couples from around Europe will live in the renovated houses. Further details remain unknown, but it’s expected that around 20 episodes of the series will be filmed.</p><p>Slapnik, and the region in general is expected to benefit from the attention, while the renovated buildings will provide more opportunities for further commercial activity in the village.

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More images

https://www.marcosecchi.com/gallery/Slapnik/G0000gZxXl5J8prI/C000040quAlDfuPY


12th Annual International Color Awards

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LOS ANGELES 12th March 2019

Professional photographer Marco Secchi of Hungary was presented with the 12th Annual International Color Awards Nominee title in the category of Fine Art at a prestigious Nomination & Winners Photoshow streamed Saturday, March 9, 2019.

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The live online gala was attended by 11,829 photography fans around the globe who logged on to watch the climax of the industry's most important event for color photography. 12th Annual Jury members included captains of the industry from Sotheby's, New York; Benetton, Ponzano Veneto; The Art Channel, London; Kolle Rebbe, Hamburg; Droga5, New York; Preus Museum, Norway; Art Beatus, Hong Kong; Forsman & Bodenfors, Gothenburg; Wieden & Kennedy, Portland; Fox Broadcasting Network, Los Angeles; Gallery Kong, Seoul; and Phillips, New York who honored Color Masters with 761 title awards and 1,032 nominees in 37 categories.

"Winning awards is an endorsement that you are doing something right in your craft. I am delighted to win Merit of Excellence in the Food category and have another 8 nominations... a huge thank you to you and your support of photography," said Hugh Johnson, 2nd Place Winner in Food. Leigh Miller, 1st Place Winner in Aerial added, "Wow, I'm over the moon with pride and joy at getting 1st place and honourable mention in the amateur Aerial category. I'm privileged to have my work showcased alongside such talented and creative people. Thank you International Color Awards for the chance to show our work on an international stage and big thanks to the judges for their time."

"It is an incredible achievement to be selected among the best from the 7,241 entries we received this year," said Basil O'Brien, the awards Creative Director. "(Name)'s "(Title of Photograph)," an exceptional image entered in the (Category) category, represents contemporary color photography at its finest, and we're pleased to present (her/him) with the title of Nominee."

INTERNATIONAL COLOR AWARDS is the leading international award honoring excellence in color photography. This celebrated event shines a spotlight on the best professional and amateur photographers worldwide and honors the finest images with the highest achievements in color photography. www.colorawards.com

  • Camera Fujifilm

  • Model XT2

  • Lens 16-55 f/ 2.8

Chromatic Awards

Very happy to share that one of my images has won second place, in the Professional Category of the Cityscape category, in the 2019 International Chromatic Awards

Many congratulations on all the other winners and nominees and my thanks to the judges for their hard work.

It was shot on

Camera Make FUJIFILM

Camera ModelX-T2

Focal Length 42.7mm

Apertureƒ/8.0

Shutter Speed1/350s

ISO400

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Photographing Wild Bears in Slovenia

I have been photographing the brown bears of Slovenia for over three years and now I would love to share it with you. Believe me it is an amazing experience….even without a camera!

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The trip will include bear hide visits, a visit to Rakov Škocjan, Krizna Jama cave and Grad Snežnik or Predjama Castle. Visit to the bears hide takes place after lunch to maximize the chances of photographing these amazing mammals. We will be taken by 4x4 to the hide locations and return to base camp as darkness begins to fall. This allows for some of the most amazing "golden hour" lighting, due to our position high in the mountains.

Our host, Miha, has been working with these amazing animals for many years and his guesthouse has friendly welcoming atmosphere not to mention great local food. Miha knows not only the terrain but also the wildlife and will ensure that guests are placed in the most productive hides at any given period.

The guesthouse is located in a picturesque village at the foot of the mountains through which runs a crystal clear river.

To check my Photo Tour click here

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European Bison in Hungary

The European bison, the largest land mammal on our continent, was severely hunted until it finally became extinct in the wild in 1927. By then, only 54 individuals remained, all in captivity.

Since then many things have been done to bring back the European bison to its ancestral lands by establishing new wild bison populations in several of our rewilding areas, and creating new breeding stations.

The bison is not only endangered and in strong need of more space to roam, it is also what is called a “keystone” species in Europe’s ecosystems. Its grazing and browsing behaviour opens up bush land into open mosaic landscapes and its trampling and manure creates space for hundreds of other species. The bison is simply a biodiversity enforcer that we really need out there.

Choose the return and expansion of the European bison to where they once belonged, like in Hungary,  Romania, Bulgaria, Poland and Slovakia.

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I Love Winter!

it is a simple matter of fact that I love winter…it is never too cold. You can always wear another layer of clothes

In Hungary winter is really magic, in the countryside you can smell the wood burning fire, nature is waiting for spring. It is like being on a suspended time frame.

Winter in Orseg, Hungary

Winter in Orseg, Hungary

If you like my picture you can freely download it from Unsplash

These are 8 reasons I love winter:

  • When the first snowfall hits and you’re left gaping at the sky in wonder, captivated by the Earth’s ability to turn water into these icy sprinkles.

  • The blast of cold air that washes over you when you open your front door, filling your lungs, and you, with a renewed appreciation for that “fresh air” your mother was always telling you about.

  • The moment you step in from the cold and feel your skin tingle with appreciation.

  •  The desperation you feel when you’re sprawled out on your porch in nothing but a sweaty loincloth during a summer heat wave, wishing that winter would come early and relieve you of this slow and painful death.

  • The happiness you experience from the temporary mass extinction of bees, that allows you to frolic across fields and hang out in your backyard without fear (but with a couple of extra layers).

  •  The freedom to wear ugly-yet-comfortable sweaters without shame is enacted every time the temperature drops below 40 degrees. Let those singing reindeer shirts see the light of day, for once.

  •  The irrational feeling of success you experience when you cup two handfuls of snow together and feel them crunch into place, creating the perfect snowball.

Photography Awards

Photography Awards

Rito della Nivola - Holy Nail

These are the Photography Awards I like / trust and sometimes take part

Healthy lifestyle

After having been unwell for nearly two months, I decided to reduce the intake of medicines and try improve my health with natural products. These are the most important one I have introduced in my diet and the one are giving md betyter results

Apple Cider Vinegar and Honey

This drink is great for cleansing the gut, lowering blood pressure and more ener
Honey and apple cider vinegar each have many healing properties and when combined the benefits are even greater. They are rich in potassium which regulates heartbeat and muscle contraction and thus normalises blood pressure. Both ingredients improve digestion, support friendly gut flora, improve energy and stamina and have a gentle cleansing effect.

Fresh apple juice close up shot


This healing drink is super easy to make and it takes little time to prepare when you have the ingredients handy.

Ingredients:

1 – 1.5 tablespoons of organic, unfiltered apple cider vinegar- Braggs brand is very good (start with 1 teaspoon and increase the dose)

1 – 2 teaspoons of raw honey (start with 1 teaspoon and increase if desired)

A few drops of lemon juice to taste

Dissolve the raw honey in a half a mug of warm water, cover and leave overnight for the enzymes present in raw honey to activate. In the morning add apple cider vinegar and lemon juice to the mug with honey and fill it with hot water. Mix well and have first thing in the morning around 20 minutes before breakfast.

You may need to get used to the taste at first but your taste buds will adjust pretty quickly.

Lowers blood pressure by promoting vasodilation

Improves overall gut health and supports good bacteria

Provides live enzymes that markedly improve digestion

Promotes gentle systemic detoxification daily

Stimulates circulation – effective for cold hands and feet

Boosts energy and decreases fatigue

Slows down ageing by speeding up toxin removal and improving skin health


Golden Milk

‘Turmeric milk’ aka ‘golden milk’ is known for a number of health benefits and so is ‘cinnamon milk’. These 2 ingredients go well with milk adding on to the flavor and health benefits. Turmeric cinnamon milk is prepared by using both these well-known and immunity boosting ingredients and is tasty too. Turmeric cinnamon milk is easy to prepare and here is its recipe along with health benefits:

  • May Help Reduce Inflammation and Joint Pain.

  • May Improve Memory and Brain Function.

  • Curcumin in Turmeric May Improve Mood.

  • May Protect Against Heart Disease.

  • May Lower Blood Sugar Levels.

  • May Reduce Blood pressure

1 cup that I drink at night

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsweetened milk

  • 1 tablespoon raw honey

  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil (I do not use it all the time)

  • 1/2 Teaspoon of Ginger ( I tend to use it fresh)

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric ( I tend to use it fresh)

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • Dash of nutmeg (Sometime)

  • Dash of black pepper

Energy Drink

The problem with vegetables, is no one wants to eat them! It’s unrealistic to believe that everyone eats enough vegetables. There’s a reason why our parents had to shove them down our throats…

Instead of force-feeding ourselves vegetables, there’s a simple way to eat them, and that’s making homemade vegetable juice.  Vegetable juice gives you all the powerful nutrients of vegetables without the gut-wrenching responsibility of eating plates and plates of broccoli.

The best way to get vegetable juice is to buy a juicer and juice at home.

There are many juicer models available. Really, it doesn’t matter which model you have as long as you get one. Go to your nearest home store and buy whichever one fits your budget.


4 Beets

2 Lemons

3 Celery Sticks

1 Tomato

A Handful of Pomegranate Seeds


I have introduced in my diet

Sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds

Dry Apricots

Peanuts

Run

At present I run approximately 5k three times a week and I manage to achieve this target using one of the many apps you can find online!



Why I left Venice for the Countryside!

Sometimes you explore a new place and are surprised to feel so at home. A feeling deep down in your gut that you belong there. And everything just seems to flow together. This is what happened between me and the rural countryside in Hungary, I have not chosen the place but is Orseg that  has finally  chosen me!

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Although I lived in Venice and Milan not to mention many years in London and Edinburgh, I spent most of my life living in a home with small/medium/big gardens. I have great memories with friends and family… 

Now I live half time in Ljubljana the pretty capital of Slovenia and in Őrségi Nemzeti Park in Hungary

Like me, you may be someone who spent most of your life in the big city and wondered what it would be like to live in the country. Here are my top 3 reasons why I left Venice and found myself at home in the rural countryside.

#1 Too many people, cars and buildings

Living in Venice was giving me a touch of claustrophobia. Walking stuck in a herd of a hundred people on the sidewalk is a nightmare to me.

Some big cities are much more sprawling, but certain things you can’t escape. I lived in London and you’ll drive for an hour and all housing subdivisions look the same, every neighbourhood has the same Big Chain stores, and the streets get jam-packed during rush hour.

Is that how we’re meant to spend our time? I really don’t think so.

Let me tell you, today I live in the country. When I need to drive into town, I pass acres of farms, foxes, deer, sunflowers fields exploding up from the horizon. 

 created by dji camera

 

#2 There’s too much smog in the city

It’s not normal or healthy to be surrounded by smog. This sounds obvious but millions of people choose to do so.

Breathing in dirty, dusty sand is bad enough. But heavy smog from industrial pollution is deadly serious to your health. Respiratory problems, skin conditions, cancer, and other damaging effects are to be expected when you live in a cloud of toxic pollution. Plus, if you are going to spend money to live somewhere – shouldn’t it be pleasing to the eyes?

I found Venice extremely polluted and I could not stay without using my inhalers at least twice a day

And this isn’t a static condition. It’s something that gets worse every single day. 

#3 Where are people going to wish they lived in 5-10 years?

After having lived in Venice for a few years, I greatly appreciate the quiet country life. When people come to visit, you can see the stress melting off them. 

I am more creative, I can think more freely and see the world and what is around me in a better more relaxed way, I am not upset all the time, I love it!

I tend to meet more real people with real problems, Social media is less important but stopping and having a coffee or a Palinka is very much appreciated. You may cue in a small grocery store for 20 min because of chats but quality of life is more relaxed, there is a different perception of time. I appreciate more what I have got and what I really need, I am much more closer to a minimalistic way of life... and I am experimenting again the  100 thing you posses or rule 333. There is no luxury, dress code, fashion, etc you are considered for what you really are and what you do and not for how you "appear".

For these reasons and more, I feel that areas like this will be among the most hotly contested within the next decade. Things are getting weird quick in the big cities. People are getting fed up and they want out.  

Claim a spot while you can!

 

The Captive Stork (A Rab Gólya)

Since living in the Hungarian countryside I grew very passionate of storks.

Storks do return to their carefully built nests year after year, They bring life to any village!

 BRODSKI VAROS, CROATIA - JUNE 20:  Malena keeps an eye on her  stork chicks on June 20, 2016 in Brodski Varos, Croatia. Stjepan Voki� has been taking care of Malena for 22 years, after an Italian hunter broke her wing and she hasn't flown since. Storks Malena and Klepetan have remained a couple for over 20 years, each spring Klepetan migrates 13,000 kilometers alone to be with Malena.  (Photo by Marco Secchi/Getty Images)

 

I recently discovered a great ballad by Hungarian author János Arany titled A Rab Gólya "The Captive Stork,” written in 1847.

By the way  he was a Hungarian journalist, writer, poet, and translator. He is often said to be the "Shakespeare of ballads" – he wrote more than 102 ballads been translated into over 50 languages, as well as the Toldi trilogy, to mention his most famous works. 

The poem or ballad describes a lonely captive stork standing in the middle of a small plot who would love to be free and  fly, all the way to the seas, but can’t because its wings have been chopped.

Árva gólya áll magában
Egy teleknek a lábjában,
Felrepűlne, messze szállna,
Messze messze,
Tengerekre,
Csakhogy el van metszve szárnya.

Tűnődik, féllábon állván,
El-elúnja egyik lábán,
Váltogatja, cserélgeti,
Abban áll a
Múlatsága,
Ha beléun, újrakezdi.

The stork at one point tucks its head under its wing because it is too painful to look at other “free storks flying to a better homeland.” But the stork waits. Perhaps one day “it will fly into the sky where the blue of freedom reigns.” and "Waiting, waiting, always waiting", the end, however, the “lonely stork" realizes that even if its wings grow out, wicked people will cut them once again.

The original Hungarian can be found online. I was unable to find a proper English version I only found this one

There is a great song from Arany ballad and is  by Margaret Island the Budapest band and the great voice of singer Lábas Viki create a magic atmosphere 

Clearly, the stork has a special meaning for Hungarians.

Vero the new app, why and how to use it

Vero, a photo-sharing app that launched in 2015, is the latest app to benefit from ongoing frustration with Facebook and Instagram's hated algorithm not to mention recent uselessness of Twitter .

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A week ago, Vero was ranked so low it didn't even appear in the App Store's top 1,00 apps; today it's the most popular app both on the App Store and Google Play Store. It's gotten so popular that the app's servers have been overloaded, with many users unable to post or even sign up for an account. 

The creators and owner of the app are very clear and upfront it will be a pay as you go app. I like the idea and I never believed in freebies and if is free is too good to be true.

I like as well the concept no algorithms no advertising. In exchange of a fee?? Why not!

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Here is a summary of the manifesto: Vero is unhappy with the way social media has become about algorithms and ads, and they’re trying to create a more “natural” way of sharing things. In practice, that means no ads, ever (the service will be funded in part by an annual subscription model they’ll introduce soon, and in part by Vero receiving a commission on sales made through the platform).

It also means users have more control over who sees their posts: the news feed is chronological rather than thrown together by an algorithm, and users decide whether each post they make will be broadcast to close friends only, friends only, friends and acquaintances, or anyone who chooses to follow them.

In its manifesto, Vero said it does not incorporate advertising into its revenue model, but will instead begin charging users for a subscription after 1 million free users have joined the service.

“As a subscription-based service, our users are our customers, not the product we sell to advertisers.”

Vero’s been variously described as “the new Facebook” and “the new Instagram”, but in reality, it’s actually more like a combination of both

It’s similar to Facebook in that you can have friends as well as followers, divided into acquaintances, friends and close friends.  You can use it to chat with people, and you can post a range of content like links, text posts, photos, film recommendations etc.  It’s similar to Instagram in that you can post nice looking photos. There are no stories, it is good for me...I never used them anyway.

Arguably, its biggest selling point is that it has a chronological feed, allowing users to see everything. Companies can’t pay to boost posts because there is no algorithm that highlights certain posts over others, meaning – provided you scroll far enough down – you won’t miss any of your friends’ images.

Another interesting feature is the fact that, unlike Instagram, users aren’t required to crop their images: full-sized photos can be uploaded and displayed in their original ratio.

This business model stands in stark contrast to other apps like Facebook, which has become very advertising heavy. Without money from advertising, Vero has admitted it will eventually charge users to sign up for the app, however, the first million users will receive free access for life.

I like very much the modern design the easiness in creating an account and in how to use it.

Of course, at the moment it is a bit of an empty place...but was exactly the same on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram! I do not mind to try a new medium in the hope it will work

 

I am on vero as marco secchi

I am on vero as marco secchi

How to use Vero:

Like most social media apps, you first have to sign up with your phone number and email address after you get Vero. By entering your phone number, you can let Vero access your contacts to see which friends are also on the app. You can also invite your contacts to make a Vero account. This step is also skippable, and you can connect with friends later.

Once you’re all signed up, you officially have a Vero account. Now you can add a bio and avatar to your profile page.


Vero will then show you its “Featured Content” page. Similar to Instagram’s Explore page, it’s where you can check out posts from verified Vero users.


When you tap “Done” in the upper right-hand corner, you’re brought to the main page — your Vero feed. The app will then direct you to share your first post.


Here is where the world opens up. You can post a myriad of different things to your Vero feed. Search for music (they literally have it all), movies (seriously, they have every movie ever), books (yeah, all the books), places, links, and finally photos and videos.

Still kind of afraid of the great beyond, we decided to keep things simple with a photo post.


The Vero photo editing process is almost identical to Instagram’s. Your filters and simple editing tools are cleanly displayed below your photo. You’ll still be able to pre-edit in another app and then upload from your library, too, if you like to have a bit more variety in your editing options.


Tap “Done,” add a caption, tag a location if you like, and then choose who’s able to see your post. When adding friends and followers in Vero, you’re able to categorize them into “close friends,” “friends,” and “acquaintances,” thus letting you control how far you want each post to reach.

 

 

Fujifilm X70

UPDATE MAY 2016 After two months I decided to sell the camera, it is too flimsy and too slow and in my humble view there are much better point and shoot for that amount of money. I got a Leica Q much more expensive but a real super camera!

The new Fujifilm X70 camera has a spectacular design and a magnificent look as well with the retro aesthetics just like the some of the other Fujifilm X series cameras which make it unique and special.

The camera is easily portable and fits in a jacket/coat pocket and weighs only 340g with in-fitted memory card and NP-95 battery which makes it a perfect for an adventurous trip and street photographers since it's highly inconspicuous. The lens is 28mm f2.8 and a 16MP APS-C sensor that provides an exquisite and high-quality image. The diaphragm has nine rounded blades and a close-focusing limit of only 10cm.

I was not in need of a new camera and just wanted to try one for a review.

 

It is super small but I really mean small but at the same time it is very nice to hold it with a rubberized front and rear grips which are well-sculpted, and the camera feels comfortable in one hand.   At the beginning was not easy for me to use the LCD and was always looking for the viewfinder but I got used quite quickly and was fun the possibility to shot or focus touching directly on the LCD screen.

It has the same functionality of my XT-1 and XE-2 (with the new firmware ver. 4 ) and I tend to use my Fuji in AF-S and focusing is very fast and precise. It seemed to me very good for street photography and I did not miss any frame even with people and boats moving.

Fujifilm X70 has an admirable feature which is the 1.04 million tilting dot LCD touch panel that is 3.0 inch and which is also capable of rotating at 180-degree angle.

The touch panel has the following functionality which includes in preview mode:

  • Image enlargement capability: this is achieved by double-tapping on the touch screen which also centers on the active focus. 
  • Image moving capability: just like the phone, one can move the image by dragging it with the finger on the touch screen.
  • Image zooming capability: one can enlarge the image by widening it by the use of the two fingers just like in a touchscreen phone. 
  • Image scrolling: one can scroll the image upwards or downwards by swiping either way by the use of a finger. 

In shooting mode you will have access to:

  • Focus Area Selection: Move the focus area before taking the image: one can achieve this by tapping on the touch screen.
  • Touch Shot: Touch to focus and shoot on a specific point.

There is a small icon in the mid right side of the screen where you can switch between the two modes as well as turn the touch function off.

Adjustments in exposure compensation can easily been achieved by the dial.

Additionally, the lens control ring can also be used to adjust continuous shooting, film simulation, ISO speed, and white balance.

On the left hand side of the camera there is another function button. It sits quite well hidden. Very useful. I have decided to assign it to external ring control.

There is also a dedicated switch with an automatic mode, that I think may come handy to less photography savvy users. The camera also has a built-in Wi-Fi connectivity and an in-camera time-lapse.

The new 18.5mm f/2.8 lens in the X70 is a super performer. The quality of this pancake design lens is outstanding.
It’s an entirely new design by Fujifilm. It consists of 7 elements in 5 groups with 2 aspherical elements. It’s constructed in a  compact way,  and because there is no collapsing necessary when turning on/off the camera, this results in a much faster startup time when you switch your camera on.

The lens autofocus quickly thanks to the X70 hybrid autofocus system with both contrast detection and phase detect AF  which offers a 49-point Single Point AF mode and a Wide/Tracking mode that offers a 77-point autofocus area. Autofocus is fast, with reported autofocus acquisition said to be of as little as 0.06 seconds.

The X70 can start up in 0.5 seconds in High Performance mode, it is amazing and has a shutter lag time of just 0.05 seconds, can continuously shoot at up to 8 frames-per-second for around 12 frames and can use a completely silent electronic shutter with exposures at 1/32,000s.

Another feature that is is packed in the X70 is the digital crop feature or “digital tele converter” as Fujifilm calls it. When shooting jpeg mode you can chose to use either a 28mm, 35mm or 50mm crop mode.  The camera does some magic so you actually get a full 16mp file, obviously you can see some compression.

The  camera has additional accessories that include the LH-X70 Lens Hood, WCL-X70 wide conversion lens, VF-X21 optional viewfinder and BLC-X70 half leather case. The camera is available in two colors, silver or black. 

The X70 is in my view meant for people who needs a compact camera, and for street photographers who needs something  inconspicuous for getting candid moments of streetlife.

 

This post has not been sponsored and I did not get media samples or freebies. For more information, check out my full disclaimer policy.

World Press Photo 2016

This morning when I received the email from World Press Photo  I did not know what to expect and I was a bit worried to check their website, but for once when I saw the the winning image I was overwhelmed and I really like it!

Hope for a New Life                                               Spot News, first prize singles August 28, 2015    A man passes a baby through the fence at the Hungarian-Serbian border in Röszke, Hungary, 28 August 2015.

 

It’s a very strong and powerful photograph, which highlights  the  extremely important issue of migrants and borders in Europe, it has been photographed with superb skill and empathy. 

Warren Richardson is an Australian freelance photographer, currently based in Eastern Europe, and he explained how the picture was made:

“I camped with the refugees for five days on the border. A group of about 200 people arrived, and they moved under the trees along the fence line. They sent women and children, then fathers and elderly men first. I must have been with this crew for about five hours and we played cat and mouse with the police the whole night. I was exhausted by the time I took the picture. It was around three o’clock in the morning and you can’t use a flash while the police are trying to find these people, because I would just give them away. So I had to use the moonlight alone”.

Technical aspects of the winning image: the shot was made on a Canon 5D MkII using a Canon 24mm f1.4L lens at 6400 ISO, f1.4 with a shutter speed of 1/5 of a second.

Here you can see the  entire collection of winning images from the 59th World Press Photo Contest. They were selected from 82,951 photos made by 5,775 photographers from 128 different countries.

This post has not been sponsored and I did not get media samples or freebies. For more information, check out my full disclaimer policy.

Venice Carnival 2013 ...the start

The last week end saw the beginning of the 2013 Venice Carnival, despite the official opening being on the 2nd of February.The Carnival of Venice (Italian: Carnevale di Venezia) is an annual festival, held in Venice, Italy. The Carnival ends with Lent, forty days before Easter on Shrove Tuesday (Fat Tuesday or Martedì Grasso), the day before Ash Wednesday.

It is said that the Carnival of Venice was started from a victory of the "Repubblica della Serenissima", Venice's previous name, against the Patriarch of Aquileia, Ulrico in the year 1162. In the honor of this victory, the people started to dance and make reunions in San Marco Square. Apparently, this festival started on that period and become official in the renaissance. The festival declined during the 18th century.

After a long absence, the Carnival returned to operate in 1979. The Italian government decided to bring back the history and culture of Venice, and sought to use the traditional Carnival as the centerpiece of their efforts. Today, approximately 3 million visitors come to Venice every year for Carnivals. One of the most important events is the contest for the best mask, placed at the last weekend of the Carnival. A jury of international costume and fashion designers votes for "La Maschera più bella".

Masks on display inside the workshop of Mascareri in Venice. Artisans, masks and costumes makers are getting ready ahead of Venice Carnival 2013 (Marco Secchi)

Masks have always been a main feature of the Venetian carnival. Traditionally people were allowed to wear them between the festival of Santo Stefano (St. Stephen's Day, December 26) and the start of the carnival season and midnight of Shrove Tuesday. They have always been around Venice. As masks were also allowed on Ascension and from October 5 to Christmas, people could spend a large portion of the year in disguise. Maskmakers (mascherari) enjoyed a special position in society, with their own laws and their own guild.

Venetian masks can be made in leather, porcelain or with the original glass technique. The original masks were rather simple in design, decoration, and often had a symbolic and practical function. Nowadays, most of them are made with the application of gesso and gold leaf and are all hand-painted using natural feathers and gems to decorate.

Today saw the opening of the Venetian Carnival, which runs till February 12th. Members of  French theatre company, Ilotopie,performed on the Cannaregio Canal and along its banks (Marco Secchi)

There is very little evidence explaining the motive for the earliest mask wearing in Venice. One scholar argues that covering the face in public was a uniquely Venetian response to one of the most rigid class hierarchies in European history.[1]

The first documented sources mentioning the use of masks in Venice can be found as far back as the 13th century. The Great Council made it a crime to throw scented eggs.The document decrees that masked persons were forbidden to gamble.

Another law in 1339 forbade Venetians from wearing vulgar disguises and visiting nun's convents while masked. The law also prohibits painting one's face, or wearing false beards or wigs.

Near the end of the Republic, the wearing of masks in daily life was severely restricted. By the 18th century, it was limited only to about three months from December 26. The masks were traditionally worn with decorative beads matching in color.

Today saw the second day of the Venetian Carnival, which runs till February 12th. A water procession took place on the Grand Canal (Marco Secchi)

On the trail of Tintoretto

An exhibition honouring 16th-century Venetian master Tintoretto opens in Rome today Saturday, following the painter's career from his days as an ambitious disciple of Titian to a bitter old age. "Tintoretto was the most controversial painter of his time," Melania Mazzucco, one of the organisers, told reporters in the Italian capital.  Tintoretto, whose real name was Jacopo Robusti, owed his nickname to his father who was a manufacturer of dyes ("tinta" in Italian). He became one of the greatest practitioners of the Venetian style.Images from Venice  - Fotografie di Venezia...***Agreed Fee's Apply To All Image Use***.Marco Secchi /Xianpix.tel +44 (0)207 1939846.tel +39 02 400 47313. e-mail sales@xianpix.com.www.marcosecchi.com (Marco Secchi)

Tintoretto used to live meters away from Campo Dei Mori where he used to walk probably every day

The exhibition, which runs until June 10, begins with one of his monumental works "The Miracle of the Slave" (1548), measuring 4.16 metres by 5.44 metres (14 feet by 18 feet) and normally jealously guarded in Venice. The choice of putting a slave at the centre of the painting instead of the saint who is rescuing him was considered scandalous at the time.Another masterpiece in the show is "The Theft of the Body of Saint Mark" (1564) showing a group of Christians in Alexandria taking away the saint's body from a bonfire that has been miraculously extinguished by rain. Apart from religious and mythological subjects, Tintoretto also painted hundreds of portraits -- a source of revenue from aristocrats, writers and celebrities that he used for contacts and protection. Tintoretto's pride was legendary: he once turned down a knighthood from French king Henry III because he did not want to kneel down and he refused to allow his beloved daughter Marietta to leave his home. His final years were cruel to the painter. Marietta died in 1590, followed by his son Giovanni Battista. His last self-portrait shows a somber and humbled Tintoretto, his face marked by the harshness of life. His last child died in a convent in 1652, leaving him without descendants.

A Sufi Ramadan

By Paul Salahuddin Armstrong

Paul of the Wulfruna Sufi Association tells about Ramadan in Sufism. Read about the significance of fasting, the symbolism of the rose and the importance of prayer and meditation.

Ramadan, the month when God revealed the Holy Qur’an, is a time of deep reflection and contemplation for Muslims. Considering past accomplishments and where our life’s journey is leading. Ramadan is a good time for us to make changes for the better, an excellent opportunity to turn over a new leaf, shedding any old bad habits.

Sufi meditationSufi meditation

Walking in the footsteps of the prophets

"O you who have attained to faith! Fasting is ordained for you as it was ordained for those before you, so that you might remain concious of God" Holy Qur’an (2:183) Asad

"Moses was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant - the Ten Commandments." Exodus (34:28) NIV

Muslims aim to be walking in the footsteps of prophets and saints. While Ramadan is unique to Islam, most religions have their traditions of fasting. We spend much of our lives concerned with mundane activities, work, meals, television, fashion. Without even realising it, time passes, often wasted on nothing special. Fasting helps us to regain self-discipline and self-restraint.

Tayyaba Mosque

Realising the difficulties of others

An important role of fasting, is to help us realise the difficulties and suffering of others. Caring for those in need is so important, charity is the third pillar of Islam. One important benefit of fasting, is we learn what it is like to feel hungry. Once we realise this, hopefully we will show more compassion for those in need, for those who have no food to break their fasts, or cannot afford to buy it.

The rose blooms amid thorns

Sufis are people striving for an inner, personal experience of the Divine. Seeing the basic practices of Islam as only the first step to this higher goal. To allow one’s soul to grow and ascend, one needs to strive against the bad characteristics of one’s ego. In Sufism, the rose is symbolic of our soul. As like the development of our own souls in this world, the rose blooms amid thorns.

Seeking to lose themselves in the Divine

While all Muslims are on a quest for inner peace, Sufis seek to lose themselves in the Divine. Fasting is an important stepping stone on this inner spiritual journey. Sufi saints perform the greatest form of fast, while others go without food, they exercise the fasting of their mind. Put another way, they do not think of anything except God.

Prayers and meditation

Sufis consider their existence in this world as only the seed, for their existence in the next world. In a similar way to how small acorns grow into mighty oaks, we reap what we sow. In addition to their daily prayers, various forms of meditation are practised by Sufis, enabling them to become more conscious of the Divine.

"unto everyone who is conscious of God, He [always] grants a way out [of unhappiness], and provides for him in a manner beyond all expectation" Holy Qur’an (65:2-3) Asad

Laylat al-Qadr

God has promised great rewards for those who fast. One of these occurs during the last ten days of Ramadan. During the night of Laylat al-Qadr, for one who has fasted perfectly, God sends an angel to personally meet this person, and grant them any wish they desire.

Fasting is an enormous blessing, it is a great way of improving one’s self discipline and physical health, yet at the same time conveys immense spiritual benefits.