Friday, January 18, 2013

A new exhibit

...from a photographer's notebook

‘scapes is the name I chose for my new photography show, which includes (naturally!) some of my favorite Alpine landscapes from Switzerland, France, and Western Canada, and non-Alpine landscapes, but also cityscapes, even some nightscapes.

The exhibit, at Piola in Arlington through March 29, makes stops high in the Bernina Alps of Canton Graubünden and the Valais Alps of Switzerland, the rough-hewn village of Nesso, along Italy’s Lago di Como, Paris by night…it rides the narrow gauge rails of the Rhätische Bahn’s rugged Albula Line…soars to 12,000 feet on L’Aiguille du Midi…relaxes on the shore of glacial-turquoise Moraine Lake…climbs to the autumn-gold Larch Valley…and recalls the Washington Monument in its jewel-like evening dress during the restoration, among other inviting and sometimes dramatic destinations.

As the banner and post card designs show, ‘scapes includes two recent photographs from the 10,300-ft aerie of the Gornergrat, looking across to the mighty Matterhorn rising out of the cloud deck into the Alpine high altitude sunshine, and looking down at the rugged expanse of the Gornergrat Glacier.The show also includes images from my visits to London and Scotland last November.

There are twenty-six photographs, in both color and classic black and white, with an about-even mix between images originating on film and digital captures.

The opening cocktail reception for ‘scapes is on Tuesday, February 5, from 6 to 8 PM, and I’d be delighted if you could join us.

Piola is located in Rosslyn in Arlington, Virginia at 1550 Wilson Boulevard. Phone: 703-528-1502.

P.S: The exhibit came about as a result of a delightful bit of serendipity. If you’d like to read about it, just scroll down to the previous post or click here.

©2013 Steve Ember


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Derecho Lemonade and Carpaccio Pizza (and, oh yes, a New Exhibit)

...from a photographer's notebook

The mighty Matterhorn emerges from the cloud deck into the Gornergrat sunshine ©Steve Ember
One of the photographs in my new show
 'scapes by Steve Ember

Shortly before the Independence Day holiday, last summer, I learned a new word. Normally, I like to learn new words, especially in other languages.

This new word, which I’d gladly have passed on learning – but for the serendipitous events I’ll relate below – was “Derecho,” typically Spanish for “right” (as opposed to izquierda for left). But when the meteorologists get a hold of it, it also means “en linea recta” or a straight line. As in violent storms that move in a straight line over a wide swath of geography with hurricane-force winds, lightning, thunder…all that nasty stuff that hit us at about 10 PM on Friday, June 30, and huffed and puffed for about an hour, blew down trees and power lines…and left so many of us little piggies in the dark.

Nothing to do but head to bed…and hope that some time in the next few hours I’d awake to the reassuring sound of the air conditioning coming back, ‘cause, dang it was hot that day, and the forecast was for no let-up in the brutal heat and humidity.

Well, I did awaken, but not to the harmonious hum of the air conditioning, but rather to the unsettling quiet – and the realization as I turned on the news station that our area got whupped pretty good by El Señor Derecho.

Reports of power outages – as well as the prognoses from the power companies – were dire, including the chance it would be a full week before everyone got their power restored. And, while my neighborhood has underground utilities and tends to get power back relatively quickly once main circuits are restored (less trees on power lines to be dealt with), the rush on hotels – that is, hotels that did have power – being reported by the news station told me it would be prudent to start finding a hotel room…sin demora, muy pronto, er, real soon.

Now, a few hours are lost, as I work on Saturdays, but at the first break, after finding the closest hotels to my neighborhood are either without power or totally booked, I cast a wider net. The news station has mentioned the Hyatt Regency in Reston has rooms.  Now, Reston Town Center is thirty-some miles away from Mewer Manor, out a toll road toward Dulles Airport. But it’s a nice large hotel with many floors, so probably less likely to have gotten sold out yet --- and large enough that I’d guess it to have a nice large generator to keep it functioning no matter what.

So, I go online to Hyatt Reservations and am ecstatic to find there are rooms (still!) available. I quickly confirm and then head back down the road to check on the kitty and pack a bag. Then, it’s a scoot out the toll road to Reston, arriving at 3:30, and ready to claim my nice cool room.

The welcoming committee intercepts me before I step out of the car. Seems communications were down between the hotel and the Hyatt reservations computer. I’m told the splendid Hyatt has running water, but no electricity…and no idea when it will be restored. Well, thank you, folks but I can get the same deal at home without the “exercise” of climbing perhaps fourteen flights of stairs in the dark.

And now, at 3:30 Saturday afternoon, with the benefit of more dire reports from the news station about what a stew we are in as to restoration of power, I begin to feel the tentacles of desperation and ask if they might know of any hotel/motel within, say, fifty miles that might have power…and a room we could book.

A very helpful member of the Reception Staff, Britney, comes forth with grace and a certain gentle humor, and tells me the only hotel they know of with rooms available is the Best Western Rosslyn/Iwo Jima, in Arlington.  I ask Britney if she could call them and make a reservation for me. Taking no chances I give her my credit card to ensure such reservation is solid. Britney promises with an engaging smile not to use it to go on a shopping spree. Now, while the Hyatt’s phones are out, along with their power, Britney tells me her AT&T Blackberry is “just about working.” That’s a deal better than I could say for my Verizon cell phone that afternoon. Britney calls the Best Western and tries to give them my credit card, but is told they are so busy, just to send me down there and they’ll hold a room.

So, back down the Toll Road to Arlington and into the driveway of the Best Western, which has power, but its computer needs to be re-booted from the earlier failure, before they even know if they have rooms. Meantime, the Reception Staff is engaged in the tedious task of reconciling paper with computer. Oh yes, they don’t have a reservation for me.

I must say, I did get to see some really nice professional examples of hospitality people that day, coping with the impossible and showing grace and courtesy in the process. This would certainly also describe Amanda at the Best Western who dealt with consummate grace and courtesy with a lobby full of arriving travelers as well as over-heated locals seeking a cool respite, such as myself. Oh yes, and turning away countless more.

Amanda recognized my plight in terms of the “non-reservation reservation,” and got me into the sequence such that I wouldn’t be bumped by later arrivals whose reservations were confirmed.

So, about that title up top…

I’ve always tried to believe in the wisdom of making lemonade when I get a lemon lobbed my way, but a delightful bit of serendipity helped the process along.

While Amanda was coping with the rooms situation, she was also suggesting some local restaurants, in the event those of us waiting wanted to relax over dinner while she and her colleagues sorted out the paperwork/computer conundrum.

Considering the “tenuous” situation surrounding my own reservation, I chose to stay “planted” right there in that lobby, maintaining regular eye contact with the reception desk until the computers were back and my room key was firmly in hand.

However once I had unpacked and was feeling a bit more relaxed, I went downstairs and asked Amanda, “What was that nice Italian place in the neighborhood that I heard you recommending?”

(…the one with the great pizza and special drinks…Ooh, was I ever ready…for both)

“Piola,” she said brighly, and produced a walking map.

So, the worst of a taxing day in my rear view mirror, and with the assurance of a comfortably cool room in which to sleep, I walked over to Piola on Wilson Boulevard.

Must say, I’d not heard of it before, but was glad to make its acquaintance as I enjoyed, for the first time, a well prepared pizza topped with carpaccio. Delizioso.

In addition to the repast and the service being first rate, the restaurant was easy on the eyes, bright, colorful, and spacious with its high ceilings...and artwork on the walls.

Relaxing for the first time that day, as I enjoyed my carpaccio pizza and a libation, my thoughts journeyed back to a long-ago visit to Lake Como, specifically a most photogenic village rising steeply from the lake, called Nesso.

I also took notice of the fact that the aforementioned artwork was nicely lighted. (We visual artists do tend to notice such things!)

Sunday morning, I drove back down to Mewer Manor, to look in on my little furry sidekick, trusting he had found a nice cool spot somewhere in the lower reaches of his castle.

Happily, power had been restored sometime that morning (Thank you, Dominion!), but the house was still pretty hot, and more storms were in the forecast, so I thought I’d be prudent and spend the next night chez Best Western as well.

Having enjoyed the pizza at Piola so much the first night, I thought I’d pay a return visit, try out another entrée, and ask some questions about their artists policy. I liked what I heard, and gave my server, Marco, my card.

And, as of this week, I can tell you that my next solo show will be at Piola. 

Please watch this space for details. If you are a client or otherwise follow my work, you’ll be receiving an invitation to the Opening Reception in early February. If you’d like to be added to my mailing list, please contact me at the e-mail address at the bottom of my profile or via my website. 

The show is called ‘scapes by Steve Ember. And it will, as the name implies, be comprised of several of my favorite landscapes. Think Lake Como, Paris in autumn, and (of course) lots of Alpine destinations. But, as the contraction also implies, there will be some cityscapes and even some Nightscapes. Oh, yes, and some new work from my trip to London and Scotland in November. The show will run from January 29 to March 29.

Meantime, if you’re out and about in Arlington and desirous of a truly exceptional pizza, the place is Piola, up the hill from central Rosslyn at 1550 Wilson Boulevard

©2013 Steve Ember

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