Timeless Citroën 2CV

Pierre-Jules Boulanger conceived of the TPV (toute petite voiture = small little car)  shortly after he came to Citroën in 1935.   His vision for the vehicle was to motorize rural French farmers who were still largely using horses and carts at the time.

In 1939, he successfully launched 250 prototypes just before France declared war on Germany on August 28 that year.  Since production lines were immediately rededicated for military efforts, it wasn’t until 1948 that the formal introduction of the 2CV occurred at the Paris Auto Show.

Vieux Citroën, Auvers-sur-Oise, Provence

The design team included Flaminio Bertoni, whose automobile designs of the time were likened by many to sculpture.  He was an art lover who admired Michelangelo’s and da Vinci’s work, and he was both and artist and sculpter in his own right too.   Bertoni joined Citroën in 1932 and personally designed the look of the TPV / 2CV.

2CV quite literally means two steam horses (“deux chevaux-vapeur”).  It had an easily serviced 375cc air cooled engine, low fuel consumption and a very smooth ride, even on unpaved roads.  The light off-road capability and the very flexible suspension system were said to be capable of crossing a plowed field with a basket of eggs in the trunk without any breaking.  Another unique feature was the full width rollback canvas sunroof which would accommodate oversized loads.

When WWII broke out, Citroën didn’t want the concept car to fall into the hands of Nazis so several were buried at secret locations, one was disguised as a pickup and the rest were destroyed. In fact it was believed that only two original prototypes survived and were found again until three more were discovered in a barn in 1994.

Lightweight aluminum body work (corrugated to increase strength whilst keeping it as thin as possible) was used in the initial prototypes, but after the War aluminium prices skyrocketed and Citroën had to resort back to thin steel bolted to the dual H-frame chassis and aircraft-style tube framework.

In 1953, an Autocar technical review named 2CV to be the most original design for a car since the Ford Model T.  Since Michelin owned Citroën, it also took the opportunity to roll out its new radial tire which became commercialized with the introduction of the 2CV.

2CV was popular and had staying power.  Between 1948 and 1990 over 3.8 million 2CVs were produced along with over 1.2 million small 2CV delivery vans (Fourgonnettes).  Shortly after the 1948 introduction, the orders started flooding right in.  Slow initial production capacity meant that within months there was a three-year waiting list which went up to five years eventually. In 1951 production was ramped up to 100 cars a week to meet demand.

Throughout the rollout, Boulanger decreed that ‘priority is given to those who have to travel by car because of their work, and for whom ordinary cars are too expensive to buy’ meaning doctors, vets and small farmers’ cars were fast-tracked.

Alas, I think this beautiful car has all the charm of its historic roots.  Its sleek design is timeless, which probably has something to do with why it was in manufacturing production for over 42 years.

Our photograph of the timeless two-tone Vieux 2CV has a dreamy quality to it as a result of using soft focus and black and white.

Happy Motoring.

Venetian Reflections

Venice, cloaked in mystery, remains a tapestry of interwoven canals, winding curves and arched bridges.  Tightly knit and in close proximity to each other, these architectural and visual elements help to reveal clues about the people of Venice and how lifestyles have evolved since the first settlers arrived here 1,500 years ago.

“Pathway”, Venezia, Veneto

It is thought the first inhabitants were refugees from coastal towns along the Adriatic sea and nearby Roman towns who fled their homes to avoid Hun and Germanic invasions in Padova, Aquileia, Treviso, Altino and Portogruaro.

Water is an essential aspect of Venice and 118 small islands in the Venetian Lagoon collectively make up the city. The only direct connection to the mainland is through the railroad bridge, built in 1846 and through the the vehicle causeway, Ponte della Liberta, which opened in 1933.  As a result, access otherwise is generally by water taxi, Vaporetto, Gondola, Sàndolo, Batèla, cruise ship or other similar aquatic means.

Hidden View, Venezia

The long and winding walking paths of Venice only provide short glimpses of what is around the next corner.  The unfamiliar ahead gradually gives way to the already experienced, but surprises can occur along the way too.  One’s ability to observe what is right in front of you becomes more enhanced as you slow down out of necessity and are forced to become more mindful. Curiosity is continually piqued in this way through new discoveries.

“I Gondolieri”, Venezia

A sense of wonder is manifest and it is easy to get lost in here. Lost in thought, lost in observation and truly geographically lost too.  You may think you are progressing as the crow flies, but then you realize you you have ended up someplace completely different than you expected.

Bridges across the canals make it even more confusing, but pausing to take a deep breath and trying to embrace the sense of being lost also brings out a positive zen type of quality to the experience.

If you slow down, you tend to concentrate more on where you are at the moment.  Then you realize something is right in front of you to appreciate and your awareness increases.  You might have walked right past it but this time you didn’t and you are thankful for it; Venice is more about being aware and observant than it is about getting to anyplace in particular.

Le Barche, Venezia

Keep in mind it is forbidden to swim in the canals.  If you don’t obey,  you will be subject to a €500 fine and you will probably face the loss of your good health too.  The canals are purposeful living metaphors of baptismal fonts.  They take away the impurities of the world much like septic tanks.

Dormire, Venezia

Venice is a wonderful place, much like a dream.  We need to go back again soon.

Sunflowers as art subjects – Le Girasole – Les Tournesole – Vincent Van Gogh

Provence in the summer is certainly well known for its violet colored lavender; however, the sunflowers of the region are equally lovely this time of year and their yellow color is also symbolic of the region’s brightly sunlit summer days.

Sunflowers also make excellent art subjects as they are especially well known for their symmetry based on Fibonacci numbers and the Golden angle. Vincent Van Gogh loved sunflowers and featured them as the main subject for two separate series of his paintings.

Van Gogh’s first series, which featured several different sunflowers lying on the ground, was completed in Paris in 1887 while he was living with his brother, Theo, and his second series was completed the following year while living by himself in The Yellow House at 2 Place La Martine in Arles.

In a letter to Theo in August, 1888, Vincent wrote: “I’m painting with the gusto of a Marseillais eating bouillabaisse, which won’t surprise you when it’s a question of painting large sunflowers.”  Painting in yellow was considered innovative at the time as newly created pigments has just been developed.

He also wrote to his sister Wilhelmina one month later to share his perspective on his new living arrangements: “My house here (in Arles) is painted the yellow colour of fresh butter outside with raw green shutters; it stands in the full sunlight on a square which has a green garden with plane trees, oleanders and acacias. And it is completely whitewashed inside, and the floor is made of red bricks. And over it the intensely blue sky. There I can live and breathe, think and paint.”

The interesting thing about a sunflower is that it contains both radial and bilateral symmetry. What appear to be “petals” in the outer ring are actually small flowers, or ray florets, which are bilaterally symmetrical. The dark inner ring, on the other hand, is a cluster of radially symmetrical disk florets. The florets in the center will be fertilized during the life-cycle of the flower, filling the center with seeds. So that’s a classical sunflower: an outer ring of small infertile flowers surrounding a large center ring of florets that produce seeds.

Some of the sunflowers in Van Gogh’s paintings sport the familiar dark center. However, some others do not, which has inspired botanists to study his paintings too. The “other” flowers are referred to as double-flowered mutants and contain no center array of disk florets. The opposite is also possible, mutants which contain only the dark disk florets.

Art is science and science is art and nature is a wondrous place in which to visually stroll, isn’t it?

Below are five of our most popular Sunflower images from our trips to both Provence and regional Paris and Normandy.  The first one, taken in Aix-en-Provence, is a close up of a not quite mature sunflower just before it was ready to bloom.  The symmetry of the petals is observable.  The next two feature vending of sunflowers in local markets as sunflowers are frequently utilized for indoor decorating in the region.  The last two are close-ups of the soft blooms from multiple angles.

-Craig & Jane

Le Tournesol, Aix-en-Provence, France

Fleur du Soleil, Aix-en-Provence, France (c) FotoAmore.com

Dans Le Marche, Aix-en-Provence

Teddy Bear, Giverny, Normandy, France (c) FotoAmore

Teddy Bear Detail, Giverny, Normandy, France (c) FotoAmore.com

“Piedi Giganti” – Colossal foot of Emperor Constantine

Piedi Giganti means “large feet” in Italian.  The colossal throned sculpture of Emperor Constantine was indeed of immense size — 12 meters (40 feet) in height — when it was originally completed and put on public display not long after Constantine had conquered former Co-Emporer Maxentius.

Piedi Giganti, Roma, Lazio (c) FotoAmore.com

Constantine I was the Roman Emperor from 280 AD to 337 AD.  The west apse of the Basilica of Maxentius, near the Roman Forum, was the original location of “Statua Colossale di Costantino I.”  Portions of the statue now reside in the Courtyard of the Palazzo dei Conservatori of the Musei Capitolini, on the Capitoline Hill on the west end of the Forum.

The head, arms and legs of the statue were carved of white marble while the rest of the statue was made from a mix of other composites including a brick core and wooden framing likely covered by a bronze gilding.

There were also also multiple scupting styles employed.  Notably, both the calloused toes as well as the bulging forearm veins were carved in a realistic, true representational style where as the Great Head was sculpted more as a stylized portrait.  It is thought that this style was meant to convey the transcendence of the “other worldly” nature of the Emperor over common man.  In contrast to the realism in the rest of the sculpture, the deep jawline, prominent chin and aquiline nose were carefully carved as more symbolic and abstract stylized features.

The bronzed body portions were eventually pillaged sometime in “late antiquity” (the time period between classical antiquity and the beginning of the middle ages).  In the year 1486, the marble sections were again brought to light and Michelangelo, who was working in the area at the time, decided to bring these remaining fragments of the statue to the Palazzo dei Conservatori courtyard where they still stand today.

The marble fragments underwent a full restoration in 2000-2001; however the photograph above was taken in 1997, a few years prior to the restoration.  If you went to the same site today, you would find much lighter colored walls as the backdrop.  Unfortunately some of the original charm of the scene below is now void of the original ochre color.  Thus the “Piedi Giganti” image is truly a frozen moment in time and no longer exists as it did.

The repainting project was the result of a researcher apparently discovering that beneath their weathered surfaces, many of Rome’s buildings had not always been ochre and burnt sienna and that they had once been painted with lighter colors. So the municipal government, which regulates such things in Rome, has been enforcing historical accuracy wherever buildings are being repainted and the scene below is one of these repainted locations.

Compromises are allowed by the city, to a point, so that the colors aren’t totally jarring against the backdrop of Rome’s famously rich browns. Still, the changes add a new and unexpected aspect to parts of the city, which has upset a few Romans enough for them to repaint some of their buildings the old colors under darkness of night.  This wall wasn’t included in that effort.

This scene really isn’t the same without the original ochre colors and the image above inspires fond memories in us of how it used to be.

Learn about “Depth-of-field” (DoF) in photographs

Digital cameras can seem rather complicated these days as there are many modes and settings to choose from on modern cameras. However, it can be less overwhelming if you keep in mind only three key settings.  These are the main ingredients in a successful image exposure.

The three most important camera settings are:
1) Aperture (a/k/a “f/stop”) – sets the width of the opening of the iris in your camera’s lens, which controls how much light comes through the lens
2) Shutter speed – sets how long your shutter stays open to expose the image
3) ISO – sets the level of “light sensitivity” of your camera’s image sensor

Curious people might now ask: “Does my camera really have an iris?”

You’ll put your eye out, kid…

In fact, yes it does have an iris.  Much like the iris in your eye, which controls the size of your pupil and how much light it will let through your eye, your camera also has an iris which controls how much light is let in through your lens.

The “Aperture Priority” (“A” or “Av” on Canon/Nikon) setting on your camera allows you to manually set the Aperture (f/stop) while letting the camera automatically set the other two key settings – ISO and the shutter speed.

Using this mode  also allows you to control the “depth-of-field” based on which aperture setting (f/stop) you choose.

What is Depth-of-field (DoF)?  Depth-of-field refers to the range of distance in an image (front to back) that appears acceptably sharp.  If the subject appears in focus, but the background appears blurred, this is referred to as a “shallow” depth-of-field.

Taken at f/2 (wide open aperture) with a telephoto lens

If you use a wider aperture setting (say f/2.0 or 2.8), you will usually get shallow depth-of-field, your subject will be in focus, but the background will be blurred.  The focal length of your lens can also impact depth-of-field as can how close the camera is to the subject. Telephoto lenses typically have a more shallow DoF than other wider focal length lenses and depth-of-field can be made more shallow by moving the camera closer to the subject.

However, if you choose a “stopped down” or smaller aperture (f/stop) setting, of say f/16 or f/22, you will usually have a longer depth-of-field (more of the elements in the image will be in focus from front to back or from closer to further away).  Using wider angle lenses and moving the camera further away from the subject can both result in a longer depth-of-field.

Taken at f/22 with a telephoto lens

Aperture Range Graphic:
Left Side of Graphic:
Wider opening (smaller f/stop number) = Shallow Depth-of-Field
(only the subject is in focus and the background is blurred)

Right Side of Graphic
Smaller opening (larger f/stop number) = Longer Depth-of-Field
(everything is in focus all the way from the subject to background)

Go deep and I wish happy imaging to you all.


“Poppies” in Venice Market

“Poppies” continues to be one of our most popular images.  When printed in very large sizes (we’ve done some as large as 24×30 which were matted into 30×40 frames), the result looks more like a painting than a photograph.  The petals of the flowers take on a dreamy brush stroke quality and the textures really stand out.  Jane captured this lively image in a market in Venice on her Leica film camera (the negative was later scanned).  If you look closely, you will notice a few chards of cellophane amongst the petals and buds, which add to the mystery of the image.


“Poppies”, Venezia, Veneto by Jane Love

“Crooked Stairs” in Matera, Basilicata, Italia

The town of “Matera” in the Italian region of Basilicata is an amazing place and was originally settled in Paleolithic times (founded in the third century BC by the Romans).  The town’s historical center (known as the “Sassi” or “ancient town”) and the Park of the Rupestrian Churches became a UNESCO world heritage site in 1993.  The Sassi habitations were dug into the calcareous rock and these are thought to have originated as a prehistoric troglodyte settlement.  Until the 1980s, it was considered an area of poverty as the homes are mostly uninhabitable but some regeneration has since occurred through an increased tourism-oriented focus.  Today, many thriving business, pubs and hotels are located within the Sassi.  Additionally, several filmmakers including Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ in 2004 have since used the site as a setting for ancient Jerusalem.  Matera is an amazing place to visit and we had a personal tour from an elderly resident who told us his story of growing up in the Sassi homes as a child.  An amazing history.  Our “Crooked Stairs” is popular with history lovers.  The patchwork of staircases, small homes and roofs is an interesting miniaturized mix of elements.


Crooked Stairs, Matera, Basilicata, Italia
“Crooked Stairs”, Matera, Basilicata, Italia