One Four Challenge – Behind the Scenes

As promised last week, I am taking you behind the scenes of June and July One Four Challenge. I did not participate in May challenge, because I was too busy running around Milan, enjoying my vacation.

July One Four Challenge

My July image of this cat was taken in the courtyard of Castello Sforzesco, in city of Milan, Italy. The castle was built in the 15th century by Francesco Sforza, Duke of Milan, on the remains of a 14th-century fortification. Later renovated and enlarged, in the 16th and 17th centuries it was one of the largest citadels in Europe. Extensively rebuilt by Luca Beltrami in 1891–1905, it now houses several of the city’s museums and art collections.


The castle in the 16th century

The original construction was ordered by local lord Galeazzo II Visconti in 1358–c. 1370. this castle was known as Castello di Porta Giova (or Porta Zubia), from the name of a gate in walls located nearby. His successors Gian Galeazzo, Giovanni Maria and Filippo Maria Visconti enlarged it, until it became a square-plan castle with 200 m-long sides, four towers at the corners and up to 7 m-thick walls. The castle was the main residence in the city of its Visconti lords, and was destroyed by the short-lived Golden Ambrosian Republic which ousted them in 1447.

In 1450, Francesco Sforza, once he shattered the republicans, began reconstruction of the castle to turn it into his princely residence. In 1452 he hired sculptor and architect Filarete to design and decorate the central tower, which is still known as Torre del Filarete. After Francesco’s death, the construction was continued by his son Galeazzo Maria, under architect Benedetto Ferrini. The decoration was executed by local painters. In 1476, during the regency of Bona of Savoy, the tower with her name was built.


Main entrance

In 1494 Ludovico Sforza became lord of Milan, and called numerous artists to decorate the castle. These include Leonardo da Vinci (who frescoed several rooms, in collaboration with Bernardino Zenale and Bernardino Butinone) and Bramante, who painted frescoes in the Sala del Tesoro; the Sala della Balla was decorated with Francesco Sforza’s deeds. Around 1498, Leonardo worked at the ceiling of the Sala delle Asse, painting decorations of vegetable motifs. In the following years, however, the castle was damaged by assaults from Italian, French and German troops; a bastion, known as tenaglia was added, perhaps designed by Cesare Cesariano.

After the French victory in the 1515 Battle of Marignano, the defeated Maximilian Sforza, his Swiss mercenaries, and the cardinal-bishop of Sion retreated into the castle. However, King Francis I of France followed them into Milan, and his sappers placed mines under the castle’s foundations, whereupon the defenders capitulated. In 1521, in a period in which it was used as a weapons depot, the Torre del Filarete exploded. When Francesco II Sforza returned briefly to power in Milan, he had the fortress restored and enlarged, and a part of it adapted as residence for his wife, Christina of Denmark.

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Beautiful courtyard in full bloom

Under the Spanish domination which followed, the castle became a citadel, as the governor’s seat was moved to the Ducal Palace (1535). Its garrison varied from 1,000 to 3,000 men, led by a Spanish castellan. In 1550 works began to adapt the castle to modern fortification style, as a hexagon (originally pentagon)-shaped star fort, following the addition of 12 bastions. The external fortifications reached 3 km in length and covered an area of 25.9 hectares. The castle remained in use as a fort also after the Spaniards were replaced by the Austrians in Lombardy.

Outer castle walls

Most of the outer fortifications were demolished during the period of Napoleonic rule in Milan under the Cisalpine Republic. The semi-circular Piazza Castello was constructed around the city side of the castle, surrounded by a radial street layout of new urban blocks bounded by the Foro Buonoparte. The area on the “country” side of the castle was laid out as a vast 700m by 700m square parade ground known as Piazza d’Armi.

After the unification of Italy in the 19th century, the castle was transferred from military use to the city of Milan. Parco Sempione, one of the largest parks in the city, was created on the former parade grounds.

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I have no idea what kind of flower this is

The government of Milan undertook restoration works, directed by Luca Beltrami. The Via Dante was cut through the medieval street layout in the 1880s to provide a direct promenade between the castle and the Duomo on axis with the main gate. The central tower,  Torre del Filarete, above the main city entrance was rebuilt, on the basis of 16th century drawings, between 1900 and 1905, as a monument to King Umberto I.

Allied bombardment of Milan in 1943 during World War II severely damaged the castle. The post-war reconstruction of the building for museum purposes was undertaken by the BBPR architectural partnership.

Being one of the main attractions, it is swarmed with tourists.  So, my goal was to show you all the quiet little spots where I spent my time collecting my thoughts. And stalking poor, unsuspecting cats.

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One poor unsuspecting cat

On the north side the castle opens up to Parco Sempione, a beautiful large area full of secluded spots for an afternoon rest.  Once you enter the castle, it feels like you are transported years back.  It is very large, but inviting place, full of hidden treasures, especially in the castle museums.

The most interesting is the Museum of Ancient Art (Civiche Raccolta d’Arte Antica), which is displayed in the ducal apartments, some of which are frescoed by Leonardo da Vinci. Included in the collection are early paleo-Christian sculptures, the superb equestrian tomb of Bernarbò Visconti and sculpted reliefs depicting Milan’s triumph over Barbarossa. The exhibit eloquently tells the story of the birth of Italy’s first city commune through murderous dynastic and regional ambitions, which made this one of the most powerful courts in Europe.

On the 1st floor the Museo dei Mobile (Furniture Museum) and Pinacoteca (Picture Gallery) blend seamlessly, leading you from ducal wardrobes and writing desks through to a collection of Lombard Gothic art. Among the masterpieces are Andrea Mantegna’s Trivulzio Madonna, Vincenzo Foppa’s St Sebastian and Bramantino’s Noli me tangere (Touch me not).

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Entrance from Parco Sempione

Even after much time spent in and around castle, there is so much to explore.  For me the best were the animals…cats lazily sprawled everywhere, birds hoping close without fear…I saw a reflection of history in them. Like they wanted to tell me:

Beware, lone traveler…you are standing  in a place  of history that came  long before you and it will tell  endless  stories long after you are gone. And we…we are the guardians. So, take your memories and leave nothing behind.

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Guardian of the Galaxy caught in the afternoon nap



July #One Four Challenge – Finale

Here we are, at the end of July One Four Challenge and it is time to present our final edits for this month.

From the start I had all intentions to do one monochrome edit, but it just didn’t look interesting enough. Another idea was to do totally crazy edit in this last week. That didn’t work either.

So, I went back to Week 1, which I liked the best and played around to see what else was there. My Week 1 crop was accidental, but this week I carefully applied the rule of thirds. If you compare week 1 and week 4, I think you can see the difference, it is a small adjustment, but it makes a significant improvement.
JulyOneFour4After that, my focus shifted on colors. I really wanted to make her/him bursting with colors, but as I increased temperature and saturation, the image started to look too loud. That’s when I imported the image into FotoSketcher and started playing with different settings. My heart settled on this soft “oil-painting” version, where I reined in my wild imagination and applied the softest touch. By adding the texture, somehow the entire image just settled down.

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So, tell me…which version is your favorite? Would you do something different?

August is our “summer break” month, there will be no new OFC posts. Some people will revisit some of their old edits, some will take a break. We’ll be back in full force in September. In the mean time, you are welcome to check the tag “onefourchallenge” in your WP Reader and Robyn’s blog Captivate Me.

Have a nice time for the rest of the summer!


The Remains of the Day

And I am back!

I know you missed me like crazy. 😛 It is good to be back in the world of ABF, I must confess I missed this little gathering of ours.

What to say about this week’s edit? This is an image from my vacation in Italy, from my favorite place for the afternoon rest. It is the end of the Parco Sempione, where the Castello Sforzesco begins. Berta and I spent many hours walking around the park and resting on the benches right at this spot.

Loré Dombaj ABF55 beforeIn this edit I wanted to bring the image closer to the memory of that sunny afternoon, when the sun was playing game of shadows on the walls of the Castello. The original is rather bland, so I played with the colors and the exposure, until I got what I wanted. As I said it on Stacy’s blog, I used one of my tricks and it wasn’t flipping. 🙂 I stretched the image horizontally, for about 15%. I don’t know, it looks better this way. It is funny how the stretching changed the angle of the image.

Loré Dombaj ABF55 after

As usual, all my editing was done in PicMonkey.

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Now, hop over to Stacy’s Visual Venturing to check what other crazy people did to their image and what is the image we are collectively going to ruin for our August One Photo Focus.

As always, have a fabulous weekend…hopefully running around with your cameras.


July #One Four Challenge – Week 3

It seems this month’s One Four Challenge is all about compositions. It became obvious how I really don’t think too much when I look through the lens. I concentrate on finding the subject, but then I just don’t take that one step back and let myself find the right composition.

Post-processing can in small measure help fixing that problem and I am trying to demonstrate that this month. Take this week…I stumbled upon this version after five or six different tries, quite accidentally. And I was surprised how good it looked (compositionally it looks good, but the quality of the image up close is not to my liking). This  is not something I would do when taking an image. That is one of my biggest problems, front central subjects without much consideration about the composition.


I am still too self-aware, not able to lose myself completely. I remember the day I took this image, I was surrounded by too many people, Castello Sforzesco being a main tourist attraction. I wish I just set down in front of that cat and took my time. But I rushed because she was ready to leave any second, too many people made her uncomfortable. That cost me the quality of the image and that is something post-processing can’t really fix. Another lesson learned.

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As always, be so kind and check other OFC participants by checking the tag “onefourchallenge” in your WP Reader and Robyn’s blog Captivate Me.


July #One Four Challenge – Week 2

Last week my focus was the cat. Hence the tight crop and adjusting the colors and exposure. This week the exercise was the overall placement of the main object in the frame. I wanted to explore how to connect the background with the object, trying to build the composition that would serve the purpose to the story I have in my mind. I know this all sounds too complicated, but it is quite simple.

The image was taken in the courtyard of Castello Sforzeco, one of the most beautiful and important historical landmarks of Milan. My first edit was just about the cat and she could be anywhere in the world, the background is just that…the background. In this edit I wanted to make the background an actual stage…looking at the image, you see the cat sitting on the steps and you are wondering where that is.


If I was seeing it for the first time, I would guess it was taken in some historical place, probably Mediterranean, on a lazy summer afternoon. I am curious to know if my exercise worked for you? I think there are many elements of the image we forget to look for, concentrating on improving the obvious things. And I think I did that in my first edit, so I was looking for those other elements, little things that actually tell the story. And you know me, it is all about the story. And flipping the image. 😉

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As always, be so kind and check other OFC participants by checking the tag “onefourchallenge” in your WP Reader and Robyn’s blog Captivate Me.


July #One Four Challenge – Week 1

Last month was almost too easy, I knew which image I would choose and I had an easy job editing it. This month I presented myself with another challenge, but I always try to offer something new. Hence the cat.

I took this image on my trip to Milan, in the inner court of Castello Sforzesco. She was claiming her spot in the sun, ignoring me…and giving me a side way glance now and then, like she was trying to say: Disappear, you puny human.


This was a very basic edit, just a bit of cropping and adjusting the exposure and temperature. I am curious to see where I will end up by week 4.

I have few more images of the same cat, I was following her around. Or she was following me, who knows. I really need to find some time to go through all my images from that trip.

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So, this is my first week of this month’s One Four Challenge. As always, be so kind and check other OFC participants by checking the tag “onefourchallenge” in your WP Reader and Robyn’s blog Captivate Me.