This is the blog of Steve Burkett of Italy, Our Italy

Transforming a Sunken Door

Original snap shot of The Sunken Door

I'd have to say that the construction of the door in this article was probably a bit ill advised. It seems that there would be a water issue because of the below-ground-level entrance.

I was not able to detect any sort of rain-water diversion for this door - the stone work of the pavement is not even raised a bit..

You can imagine water flowing into this ‘door well’ as the streets of Venice begin to flood.

Additionally, there is this thing in Venice called 'aqua alta', which literally means high water. Aqua alta occurs when the tide and wind are aligned in such a way as to push water into the Venetian lagoon in excess of what it can handle - this causes flooding in the town of Venice. This flooding can be as much as a few inches (normal) to around three feet (abnormal). 

You can imagine water flowing into this 'door well' as the streets of Venice begin to flood. Fortunately, not much life occurs on the first floor in Venice...the second floor is where most of the traditional living begins, while the first floor is relegated to storage and such.

To transform the snapshot of this door, I began as I always do for Venice photos by removing extraneous conduits, pipes, etc. that are ubiquitous to Venice. Though these items do create a bit of an eyesore, the nice people who live there do need their electricity, gas and water. And, it is a bit of a chore to get these needed utilities into the old stone buildings. But hey, it's my job to remove these modern intrusions in my efforts to create a Venice of a by-gone era when these modern conveniences didn't exist.

Extraneous elements removed

This second photo shows that I have now removed these items from around the entrance, and I have also gotten rid of the mail slot and modern keyholes and such on the doors.

As the original snapshot was a bit 'flat' - i.e. lacking in contrast, saturation, and such - I worked a bit on those elements to get to this next point.

Finally, my assessment was that the door itself was still a bit on the boring side, and was being overshadowed by the surrounding area in terms of color and texture. Wouldn't you agree? 

You will note that the area at the top of the door in the previous photo has red tones, and the bottom of the door has some cyan, or aqua, tones. It's subtle, but it's there. So, I brightened that door and increased the saturation of those illusive tones to achieve my final product - as you can see below.


As this entrance has most likely been a couple of centuries, I suppose we shouldn't worry too much about the owner's water issues.


[As a bit of diversion back to two weeks ago, a couple of you wrote to let me know that the doors in 'Securing Your Haven' still had a bit more clandestine mystery. You noted in the original photo that there was still another lock hidden behind that long-vertical-squiggly bar, and you were right! And again, that lock is not accessible unless that long-vertical-squiggly bar is itself unlocked and moved aside -- the plot's as thick as day-old oatmeal! Thanks for the heads up!]


Ciao for now,






Transforming l’Uomo della Pizza

The l’uomo della pizza (pizza man) was standing out front contemplating…who knows what? Which adds just a bit of mystery to the photo, don’t you think?

I’d have to say that Rome by night is a good bit more enjoyable than Rome by day. The summer heat, traffic and general hub-bub of the day are gone.

It’s as if the setting sun acts as a catalyst to transform the streets, piazze and campi of each neighborhood into something that is far more charming, more romantic, and of course, more temperate.

It was during a late evening stroll to the Trevi Fountain that we came across this scene at a neighborhood pizzeria.

The l’uomo della pizza (pizza man) was standing out front contemplating…who knows what? Which adds just a bit of mystery to the photo, don’t you think?

Upon spying him standing there, I quickly dropped to one knee to take this photo, as I visualized him being the dominate object of the image, and the lower camera angle seems to make him a bit larger than life. 

Because I was kneeling down, with the camera aimed slightly up, there was a good bit of distortion as the vertical lines of the buildings converged. So here is the image after I eliminated the vertical distortion. 

You can see that a bit of the photo has been lost due to the correction, but as I was shooting wide angle, there was plenty with which to work.

I am now ready to do a bit of cropping and adjustment to color balance and lighting.

In the version above, you will note that the interior of the pizzeria is well lit, while our pizza man is in shadow – as are the tables and patrons. After a bit of work, we can see below that the building exterior, table, patrons and the pizza man have been illuminated, while the interior has been darkened a bit. 

Additionally, I really liked the texture of the paving stones and the shadows that our pizza man was casting, so I emphasized those aspects, too.

Finally, a bit of cropping to get right down into the subject of the photo resulted in the version you see just above.

That was a good bit of cropping of the original image wasn’t it? Yet, there is still a lot of detail in the photo. My camera gives me the ability to do significant cropping without a lot of loss of resolution. The Nikon D800 is a 36mp camera – this camera has a huge sensor, whereas the vast majority of other cameras are in the 10-12mp range. That gives me a lot of room to isolate objects in the image.

For my final version, I found the two patrons on the right and the Hostaria store to be distracting. I was able to crop out the store, but the two patrons had to be removed through magic – even Harry Potter would be jealous.

In cropping, it was important to the composition that our pizza man is off-center a bit to the left. Since he was looking to our right, we need to give him some room to gaze.

So, here is the final photo, which can be found on my website in the Rome gallery.

I like the feel of this late evening shot -- colorful cloths on the street-side tables, two patrons studying the menu to select just the right ingredients for their pizza, and our l’oumo della pizza contemplating…what?...use your imagination.

If you would like to speculate upon that which he contemplates, use the comment box, below.

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Stumbling-Block Holocaust Memorials

Though today’s article will probably be my shortest, it is perhaps the greatest of significance.

These stumbling blocks are a type of monument created by German artist Gunter Demnig beginning in 1992 to commemorate victims of Nazi oppression.

I was overwhelmed by the stolperstein (stumbling block) plaques that we found embedded in some of the cobblestone streets of Rome.

These plaques were placed outside the former residences of Jews who were taken away to concentration camps by the Germans. Yes, the Jews of Italy suffered the same fate as others in Europe.

This original snapshot shows two such plaques.

In this transformed version, you are able to read the inscriptions. 

Here is what these two plaques say:

Here lived Angelo Tagliacozzo. Born 1916. Arrested August 8, 1944. Deported to Auschwitz. Died February 20, 1945 at Dachau
Here lived Angelo Limentani. Born 1920. Arrested May 8, 1944. Deported to Auschwitz. Murdered

These stumbling blocks are a type of monument created by German artist Gunter Demnig beginning in 1992 to commemorate victims of Nazi oppression. Stolpersteins are small, cobblestone-sized memorials for individual victims of Nazism. They commemorate individuals who were taken by the Nazis to prisons, euthanasia facilities, sterilization clinics, concentration camps, and extermination camps.

Why the term ‘stumbling block’? Before the Holocaust, it used to be the custom in Germany for non-Jews to say, on stumbling over a protruding stone, "There must be a Jew buried here." There’s an historical irony here that’s hard for me to get my head around.

Do you know that there are people who to this day deny the existence of the holocaust?

May God bless those who suffered the Nazi’s atrocities.


Ciao for now,


Securing Your Haven

[Note: This article has two parts: the usual transforming the snapshot part, and a part about this doors mysterious and flabbergasting security]

Formidable is the word for this green door with its complex locking mechanism. Maybe this old timer was the home of someone with a lot to protect, like a Venetian jeweler.

I have an affinity for old, Italian doors. That affinity is somewhere between I-think-they-are-swell and I-have-an-old-door-fetish.

I am captivated by their historical significance. Like, for the door below: who lived beyond that entrance? How many lifetimes were experienced here?

What was their profession? How large was the family? What was their fate? Did they help to shape the fate of Italy? Or were they maybe early-day couch potatoes just whiling away the day doing nothing?

Whatever happened behind those closed doors, it happened a long time ago, and over many, many years. 

And these particular doors? Formidable is the word for this green door with its complex locking mechanism. Maybe this old timer was the home of someone with a lot to protect, like a Venetian jeweler.

And regarding its level of security, I was flabbergasted! So don’t miss the ‘Extra-Added Bonus’ at the end of this article.


The Door Transformation

When I took the original snapshot to the left, I made a big mistake. That mistake was in my framing of the original shot and my unwittingly not accounting for a more robust aspect ratio for later printing. What I mean is that if I wanted an 8x10 print, and if I cropped down from the top to the spot I wanted so that I could eliminate uninteresting space above the door, I would have white or blank space to the left and right of the door.

To avoid this problem, I usually try to back away from the subject of my photo to capture more than I think I will need. Using a Nikon D800 with its 36mp sensor, gives me a lot of image area in which to crop to common printed photo sizes without losing resolution. 

What all of that gibberish boils down to is that I needed a bit more image to the left and right of the door to allow me to keep the composition I wanted while satisfactorily allowing me to print to, let’s say, an 8x10 photo. But as usual with Photoshop, where’s there’s a problem, there’s a solution.

That solution can be seen in this next photo, where I’ve added more image to each side. In the photo above, notice that there are not quite 3 long-carved-out-thingies to the right of the top of the door; where in the photo below, there are 4 ½ of these long-cared-out-thingies. [Please forgive me for using such technical photographer’s terms here] You can see a similar transformation to the left of the door. Now, with the extra added bit of photo to the left and right, if I crop down to the point that I want, I can have a pleasing composition.

Next I can work on aging the door a bit, primarily through color, texture and making it richer through darkening, as in this next photo. 

But we’re still not there.

I’m not sure exactly when mail slots in doors came about, but it was surely after the time period that I wanted to portray for this door. So I eliminated the modern mail slot. And note that in the version just above, I had already eliminated the round-key-hole-thingie in the center of the door (sorry about using those technical terms, again). 

As I found the door color and finish to be a bit bland, I transformed it a bit to brighten it up, as you can see in this final image.

Pretty cool huh? But that’s not the half of it, folks!

So, there you have it! One more door transformed to satisfy my door mania.

When I run out of doors to transform, I think another trip will be in order!

You can find this door and many more on my website in the Venice-Doors gallery.

Extra-Added Bonus

But, here is an extra-added bonus about this door and its locking mechanisms. And first, let me say that though I did eliminate some of the elements on the door as described above, I have added absolutely nothing to the image with Photoshop. What you see below is actually there.


When you look at the finished photo above, see that long squiggly bar going from the top of the right door to the mid-point of the left door? Well, that little orangie thing in this photo…

…has a key hole to release that bar so that it stops doing its security thing. Open that lock and you can then rotate that squiggly bar away to open the doors.


Then, just below the door pull on the left part of the door is a small key hole that takes a squarish key – as seen in this photo.

What’s that about?







And for even more mystery, there are two keyholes in the lower part of the right door – seen in this photo. Why are they way down at the bottom of the door, and why are there two of them?

Hmmm, the plot thickens.


Pretty cool huh? But that’s not the half of it, folks! 



In the finished door photo way up above, see that long bar that hangs down to the steps in the lower part of the right door?

When you swivel that bar up to the left to its horizontal position, and when you put a pad lock on it through the ring on the left door –seen here…




…that horizontal bar covers up the two keyholes you just saw so that a key can’t be inserted into either of them. Holy my golly, what is that all about?! This is like some dawn-of-man combination locking system.

I must say that this door, with its complicated locking mechanisms, really appeals to the engineer that still lurks somewhere inside of me. 

I hope you found this door interesting. Tell me what you think about this door using the comment box below.


Ciao for now,





Transforming the Bee Fountain

I was intrigued by this little fountain because of its unique subject – that being an open seashell with three bees drinking from the water spouts of the fountain

Today’s transformation article is a short one.

The subject is the Fontana della Api, or Bee Fountain. You can find this charming little fountain in Rome just off of Piazza Barberini on the Via Vittorio Veneto, a quiet, tree-lined Roman street. 

Here is my original snapshot.


[click an image for a larger view]

The original snapshot

This fountain was sculpted by Gian Lorenzo Bernini in 1644. The inscription on the shell reads, "Urban VIII Pont. Max…built this little fountain to be of service to private citizens. In the year 1644, XXI of his pontificate."  The service it provided was to water horses.

And since, as I’m sure you are aware, 1644 is the year that Pope Urban VIII died, it is one of the last works he commissioned. And thus ends the lesson in history. And, you were aware of that fact, weren’t you?! Thought so.

Detail of one of the bees sipping water

I was intrigued by this little fountain because of its unique subject – that being an open seashell with three bees drinking from the water spouts of the fountain. Here you can see one of those bees sipping away at that fresh Apennine water. 

My transformation of this photo was pretty straightforward.

My first inclination was to crop the photo into a square image, as none of the area to the left and right seemed to be important to the image.

Cropped version of original snapshot

There were several elements I wanted to remove for my final image. Do you see the woman walking in the background to the left? Out of here. The sign in the doorway just to the right of the shell? Out of here. The bit of bright sky at the top left? Out of here. See the bit of drain screening in the water just below the bee on the left? Out of here.

For the final transformation, I darkened the background a good bit. And finally, I wanted to bring out the texture within the sculpture, as it looked rather flat to me. So that’s what I did.

I find this image, with the bees, the open shell, and the autumn leaves floating in the quiet water of the fountain, to be one of peace. 

You can find this photo on my website in the Rome gallery.

Ciao for now,