Postcard Intellect

Travel photography for the uninitiated….



Pictures from our holidays in Europe

Copenhagen – Tivoli Park and the Little Mermaid

Back to Copenhagen we go!  At the end of August my wife and I took a trip to the capital of Denmark for a brief weekend getaway.  I already shared my post from Nyhavn Canal, where the beautiful colors provide for some great photographic opportunities.  Later that day we proceeded to walk around the city and check out the rest that Copenhagen has to offer.

We started by walking towards the Marble Church, which you can see here in the background.  In this picture I used a very large aperture (small number) so that Adriana is in focus and the background is blurred.  This works well here, particularly because there are people meandering around in the background.

Below you can see an image of the Marble Church itself, also known as Frederik’s Church. This is a beautiful building that we passed on our way to the Little Mermaid.  In this photo I boosted the clarity in Lightroom to give it a bit of a gritty look.  I also did some editing in Focal Point.  This software is pretty cool and I’m still getting used to it.  On this photo I created a slightly blurred effect with a vignette around the edges.  The effect is fairly subtle but it draws the eye into the frame.

As we continued our walk through the city we went through the Rosenborg Palace Garden and I snapped this photo of the Rosenborg Palace.  I like the photo below because of the symmetry that is ever so slightly off due to the left tower being slightly higher than the other.

Eventually we made it to the famous (infamous?) Little Mermaid.  It was packed.  And when they say Little, they do mean little.  Personally I wasn’t all that impressed with this statue and we walked a good way to get a picture.  But I guess it’s one of those things that if you’re there you almost need to see, as it’s arguably one of the more famous sites in the city.

We left the Little Mermaid and walked through the fort/castle on the way to Tivoli Gardens.  I took this simple picture of the red building – I liked the way the white window frames and door really stood out, and the placement of the light on the left side seemed to balance the image.

Last but certainly not least, Tivoli Gardens. I absolutely loved this place.  Apparently it’s the second oldest amusement park in the world, and the atmosphere is incredible.  I can’t really describe it; the age of the place really comes across but not in an antique way. Instead I found it a romantic, nostalgic reminder of what an amusement park could be.

In the photo above I used the same effect as I did on the Marble Church; this is the entry arch when you come into the park.

In the picture above I tried to capture the movement of the hammer and the attentive focus of the young boy as he played the age old gem of a game, whack a mole!  (At least that’s what I call it!)  Of course I tried my best to win some prizes for Adriana but failed miserably :).

This photo is of the Nimb Hotel, also called the Moorish Palace.  It’s basically a series of restaurants and bars.  Unfortunately it started raining while we were walking around the park and we had already had a long day, so I wasn’t able to take as many photos as I would have liked.

I love this picture of the swings; there’s just enough motion so you can sense the movement in the image.  I really wish we’d had more time at the park.  Quite honestly it’s a photographers paradise; there’s a huge amount of nostalgic material here and I do hope I can return some time when the weather is better.

Below is a map where I show where the pictures above were taken.  This will hopefully help you plan your journey to the city.

And finally, just a few photos that I’m adding to my portfolio.  If you’re interested in purchasing any of these just click on the image.


The Colours of Copenhagen

Many years ago, before Adriana and I were married, we went to Denmark.  In February.  And it was cold.  I really remember the trip because it was one of my first trips with my “new” DSLR, a Canon EOS Rebel Xsi or something like that, the equivalent of a Canon 300D.  We wandered around the city and I swear the population was reduced to about 11 people; there just weren’t many people around due to the cold weather.

Well this time we went again, to enjoy the city in the summer.  I think Scandinavian countries are just awesome, particularly in summer.  There’s something about the culture and the population that really makes me want to take advantage of the extended northern sunshine.

But enough about the sunshine, let’s talk pictures!  As usual we stayed in a cool local place right in the center of town.  We were able to walk to an area of the city called Nyhavn Canal.  This is a great area with beautiful old buildings from the 17th and 18th century.  We ate dinner here one night and spent a fair amount of time taking photos (as does everyone else!)  The light was perfect and we were able to get some pretty good shots.  I’ll be honest – we spent a lot of time here and you’re going to see a helluva lot of pictures of Nyhavn Canal!

So let’s start with the evening photos.  The sky was cloudy which can create a nice backdrop; I like the atmosphere in these photos.

These happen to be 5 shot HDR photos.  The picture above has a nice leading line along the harbor that draws the eye into the frame.

I also snapped a picture of my beautiful wife – is that a baby bump I see there?

On this trip I didn’t bring a tripod so wasn’t able to take any high quality night photos. I did however take a night picture just to flex the ISO muscle on my camera.  It came out okay but this has had some noise reduction done using Dfine2.  But honestly the colours here don’t come out well so I’m not too impressed with that pic.

I also took some shots from “head on” – i.e. the other side of the canal (there’s only one side that has the colourful buildings).  So the picture below is the one I took in the evening, the one under that is the one I took the following morning.  I’m curious to see which one people like more.  I love the color pop and I admit I’m guilty of possibly overcooking these but honestly the colours were just so incredible while we were there and I wanted to re-create that memory.

I think I like the one taken in the morning more, but not quite sure.  I edited the “sunny” photo in Photoshop and used levels on the water to bring out the reflections a bit more, I liked the way the colours melded together as if in a painting.

The morning sun was really great, and we took full advantage walking around the docks to get shots of the buildings from all angles.  And there were plenty of people around to make sure we got some decent pics of the two of us without a tripod.  I used my small 270 flash (trying to get used to carrying less weight while doing city breaks) and it did a nice job of providing the required fill light.

I also took a few more pictures getting the whole view down the long canal.  In the first one I processed it a little bit differently than normal and essentially took clarity out of the photo (usually I add a little bit in).  This creates a sort of glowing look; not sure if it works but wanted to keep it interesting.

The image below is the one you would see when you first walk to the canal.  This is the beginning of the entire group of buildings.

Finally I’ll close with this shot; this is at the other end of the canal, the yellow building there on the right is essentially the last building in the line.

I’ll stop there for now – I think that’s more pictures of colourful buildings than most people can deal with!  We also walked around other parts of the city and spent some time in Tivoli Gardens so in the coming days I’ll put a few more photos up on another post.

Now of course it’s time for me to hawk my goods; if you see any photos you like please check out my SmugMug portfolio or click on one of the photos below for a high quality print.

Where to photograph London’s Tower Bridge – and a farewell to the Olympics


It’s been a long time since I’ve posted.  I know I don’t have a whole lot of readers or followers so it really won’t matter all that much but this is something I set out to do for the year and let’s face it I’ve definitely taken a two month hiatus.  But I do have a really, really good excuse – Adriana’s pregnant!!  We’ve obviously known for a while and it’s led to a bit of a re-prioritization on my part.  I can’t say that because she’s pregnant we’re moving house or jobs or anything else too significant, but it’s just been a little more busy than usual and things that were important to me before haven’t been all that important lately.

For example, I haven’t taken or processed a photo in a long time.  Actually wait – I take that back.  I have been taking some pretty awesome pics of Adriana pregnant (to show the belly grow and make a book) but aside from that I’ve been in a holding pattern with my camera.  I still have a ton of pictures to process from Namibia and I do promise to get some really cool ones out there soon.  We’ve also traveled to a few places over the last month and I’ve taken some snaps so will get those online as soon as I can.  Anyway – enough apologising about not posting, let’s get on with it already.

So, unless you’ve been living in a cave you’ve noticed that the Olympics have come and gone through London.  Wow, what a time to have an aversion to my camera.  I was thinking about making a big effort to do some street photography while all of the visitors were here; opportunities like that don’t come across all that often but alas it wasn’t meant to be.  Adriana and I were fortunate enough to go to a few events, and I took some pictures of men’s volleyball and the women’s gold medal football (soccer) match (which the USA won I might add!)

One of the things that I did have the determination to photograph during the Olympics were the Olympic Rings hanging on Tower Bridge.  These were put in place a month or so before the Olympics and were taken down on the 19th.  I finally dusted off my camera and got down on the evening of the 17th to make sure I got a few pics.  I was fortunate that the weather was cooperative, but the sunset wasn’t quite as outstanding as I’ve seen in the past.  So I wanted to write a brief post on where to take pictures of Tower Bridge.

The photos: 

I’m going to post four of the pictures that I took – as far as I’m concerned they’re your pretty “standard” Tower Bridge photos.

The picture above is taken on the north-east side of Tower Bridge; the same side of the river as the actual Tower of London.  I’ve seen this picture taken many times, it’s very popular on Flickr.  Sunset was scheduled for 8:18 pm so I was down there by 7:30 to walk around and take some pics.  This is a 5 picture HDR – it’s taken very wide (17 mm on a full frame camera) so the original picture was skewed.  I had to adjust the photo in Photoshop using the transform function to straighten the bridge and the flag on the right.  As you can see I didn’t fully straighten the flag; it made the transform too obvious.

This picture I quite like – this is a 7 shot HDR.  My 5d mark III can do anywhere from 3-7 bracketed photos so I wanted to flex it’s muscles a bit; can’t say I can tell much of a difference from a 3 shot HDR but maybe it’s just me.  This is taken from the exact opposite side of the river from the picture above; so the south east side of Tower Bridge.  You’ll also notice in the foreground a slick looking sidewalk with rocks – this is actually the river bed of the Thames.  Many people don’t appreciate how tidal the Thames river is.  This was taken at low tide, so I was able to walk down the stairs and essentially out into the river (obviously there’s no water).  Several hours later and where this picture was taken from would be filled with water.  I like this photo for the clouds; there’s a nice pink tinge to the clouds but unfortunately shortly after this was taken the clouds were blown away and the rest of the sky became rather boring.

I love this pic above.  This is Tower Bridge taken from a very standard location (at least for me and many visitors).  This is the south west side of the bridge, basically taken while standing in front of City Hall.  At the time I took this picture the sun was really going down (the sun would obviously be behind me here) but there were few clouds and after I processed the photo I thought it would look better in B&W.  One of the things that was really interesting about Tower Bridge during the Olympics was that the lighting was a bit different.  Apparently GE, in partnership with the City of London, has upgraded the lighting on the bridge with some LED lights.  This creates an incredible effect and I think this B&W picture brings it out better than many of the others.  Funny how a black and white photo seems to show light better than a color one…

And finally my closing image.  This is taken from roughly the same location as the one above, just further west.  By this time the sun had definitely set and the lights were coming on, so you can see the brighter cables and the Olympic Rings are well lit.  Tower Bridge really is beautiful and I believe it’s the most iconic sight in London, possibly second only to Big Ben.  Many people mistake Tower Bridge for London Bridge, which is further west along the Thames (and is also lit in a cool fluorescent orange at night; possibly an interesting picture waiting to be taken).

For all of these photos I used my tripod.  I’ve heard that there are “guards” on the south west side of the Thames that sometimes slap you on the wrist for using a tripod, but this has never happened to me.  I’m really happy that I was able to get out and take these pictures; I think they’re timeless photos of my years in London and it was a great experience to witness the Olympics firsthand.  In some future posts I hope to share some of the photos I took while attending events.  I’m not promising much as it was my first attempt at sports photography but hopefully we’ll all learn something from it!

Hope you enjoyed the post and I look forward to sharing more photos in the future.  And of course, if you’re interested in purchasing a photo for a low price (I have a baby on the way now!) you can click on the links below which will take you to a full res non-watermarked image in SmugMug.  Enjoy and keep snapping away!

Street Market Photography

As I’ve been traversing the “travel photography blogosphere” I’ve stumbled across this post from Ailsa and decided to put together a quick post on some of the other travels I’ve taken throughout the last several years.

The idea behind this is “Street Markets.”  When Adriana and I travel, we make sure to spend a lot of timing walking through the markets, perusing the souvenirs and learning a bit more about the culture of the place.  Needless to say, some markets are more interesting than others.  I remember being particularly amazed by the Floating Market in Thailand during our honeymoon several years back.  

When looking through my old photos and the many market snaps I had, the next group that caught my eye were the ones from Istanbul in Turkey.  Such an incredible city and my wife and I had a field day walking through the massive souks that they have.  This was a great experience and we learned a lot walking through the markets, bargaining with the carpet salesmen, and perusing the myriad of things they had for sale.  I love the picture below, of the “Turkish Eye” or “Nazars” that they had for sale.  I took this picture from the bottom up to get a more interesting composition.

We eventually ended up buying a small, authentic carpet from the salesmen here.

The markets in Asia and the Middle East are simply incredible, and most of my street market photos are from those locations.  On our trip to Israel, and in Jerusalem in particular, I simply loved the layout of the old city and could imagine the ancient inhabitants as I walked through the cobble-stoned streets.

We also took a trip to Dubai for Adriana’s b-day.  One of my favorite street market pics here is of a series of lights that we saw swaying in a souk.

My most memorable (and potentially most disgusting pictures) is of this guy in India, using his hand to test the goats milk that he’s about to buy.  Yummy!

One of the places I’d always wanted to visit is Nepal.  On the same trip to India, we spent over a week hiking around Annapurna in the Himalayas.  The people of Nepal are just incredibly nice and the country is stunning – I hope that I have the opportunity to return many times throughout my life.  I particularly like the picture below, but the next one of my wife looking over the items is another favorite as well.

We’ve also hit the markets of Egypt, which is my opening picture and one of my favorites of the bunch.

As we move further west we get into Europe – we’ve travelled pretty much everywhere in Europe and truth be told I find many of the “street markets”, at least in Western Europe, to be very similar.  However that doesn’t mean it’s not interesting to look at the wares they have for sale – I personally get a chuckle out of how salesmen sell the souvenirs for which they’re known, but I have to say I’d be doing the same thing in their shoes!

Below you see some of the European photos from PisaRomania (which funny enough was one of my very first posts on this blog), and also Prague with the famous astronomical clock(s).

Finally I leave you with a teaser.  That’s right – if there is such a thing, I leave you with a  Street Market Teaser!  This is one of my favorite photos from a Christmas Market (this was taken in Munich).  Christmas Markets are a whole different animal, and I have a billion (yes, that’s right, put your finger on your lips and say “billion” like Dr. Evil) pictures from Christmas Markets.  My wife was sneaky enough to not inform me before we got married that she’s an absolute freak about Christmas markets (and therefore ornaments) so as we get closer to December I’ll spend some time sharing our random Christmas Market and ornament collection.

Hope you enjoyed this collection.  Most of the links above will take you to my Flickr photos, but I also have my more formal portfolio on SmugMug if you’d like to have a gander (and speaking of markets, those photos are for sale!)  Finally, I also have links to some recent posts that have some interesting market photos, particularly Tunisia and Kiev.  I’ve also taken a recent trip to China, with several interesting photos of the markets in the major cities. Please take a look and thanks again to Ailsa for organizing this – a great idea!

I’ll be travelling for a period of time, heading to Namibia to get some shots of the Namib desert, Skeleton Coast and take a safari.  I’m also hoping to have my first legit crack at star trails photography and am really looking forward to some great posts when I return.

Until then, keep taking pics!

The Churches of Kiev – Beautiful Sites of Ukrainian Orthodox Christianity

While Adriana and I were in Kiev, Ukraine over the Easter weekend we focused on two things – getting some brilliant pictures of the beautiful churches and spending the day in Chernobyl to capture the history and desolation of what happened there.  This post will focus on the former, as I’ve already shared the incredible images from the latter.

In Kiev, the locals are generally Ukrainian Orthodox, of which there are various Patriarchates, like the Kiev Patriarchate or the Moscow Patriarchate.  I’m not going to focus on any sort of Christian history or try to explain the differences between Orthodox, Catholic or Protestant, but I will focus on how I captured some of the images that I took below to give you an idea on where to go if you get an opportunity to visit.  As a general rule of thumb the churches of Kiev don’t allow photography inside.  If you’re particularly aggressive in planning ahead, you could potentially work something out but generally speaking it’s a no no.  There is one place in Pechersk Lavra that you can take indoor photos, as you’ll see below.

There are many, many churches in the area surrounding the city but I’m going to focus on five of the more famous ones.  Yep – this will be a bit of a long post.

1) St. Sophia Cathedral

This church is primarily green and white, with a beautiful bell tower standing over the wall that leads into the church.  The bell tower is blue and white with a golden dome on the top.  The first photo is my favorite of the bunch, taken on the first night just as the sun was setting (our apartment was pretty much right behind this church).  That first picture is an HDR photo that after processing I had to do a free transform on the tower to straighten it out a little bit.  I like the color of the sun setting below the building.  The second picture is taken from the Hyatt hotel – there’s a rooftop bar where we spent some time having a few drinks and taking some snaps of the churches (and also to take a few timelapses, as you’ll see below).  The next photo is of the interior of the church yard (once you’re through the wall).  As stated above, most of the churches don’t allow you to take pictures inside.  That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t check them out – they’re absolutely stunning and well worth any wait (which there usually isn’t).  Finally I posted a pic that I took just after sunrise in the morning – again I had to do a free transform on the church tower so it didn’t look so crooked.

2) Mykhailivsky Cathedral

This is the beautiful Mykhailivsky Cathedral (I think it’s also known as St. Michael’s in English) – blue in color and facing opposite the St. Sofia church.   I think this is the prettiest of the churches that we saw in the main area of Kiev.  The wall surrounding it is the same beautiful “baby blue” color and the design of the bell tower is simple and well structured.  

During the day (particularly on Saturday and Sunday) we found the locals buying various plants and flowers to bring into church with them.  I took this picture of the row of plants being sold for the locals and thought it created a nice leading line to the Monastery in the background.  I used a small aperture (big number) to make sure I had both the flowers and also the bell tower in focus throughout the frame.

3) St. Andrews

Above is a picture of St. Andrews – this is one of the smaller churches that we saw but unfortunately while we were there the entire area around the church was under construction.  The road was all torn up, and there was a huge crane in front of the cathedral so I wasn’t really happy with the other pictures.  But I wanted to post this one to give you an idea of what it looks like.  Like the other’s, it’s very impressive.

4) St. Volodymyr’s Church

The above picture is St. Volodymyr’s church – this was pretty unique as the color scheme was very different from the others.  I have to say the inside of this church was absolutely stunning – unfortunately you can’t take any pictures.  I respected their wishes, but the artwork inside and the feeling of medieval mystery permeates the interior.

Below I’m also including this street shot I took, of a few local people selling some flowers and plants to take into the church.  I like the way this image turned out; I’m not normally one to be aggressive about street photography but I’m trying to expand my horizons a bit so wanted to share this with you.

5) Pechersk Lavra (Caves of the Monastery)

This is the big one – the famous compound of churches that pretty much every visitor to Kiev should visit.  There are many churches around the area and when you first walk into the main gate you can see a beautiful church in front of you (the first picture above, in more detail in the second shot).  I found the paintings on the outside of the buildings to be absolutely beautiful, and I highlighted these very slightly in the photos above.

Pechersk Lavra is one of the few places where you can visit the interior of one of the churches; below are a few pics of the interior of the church next to the main gate (I’m sorry but I don’t know the name of the church).  The interiors are beautiful and I had full reign of the place, but only in limited spurts of time.  I struggled a little bit with the composition on many of the shots; the area is exceptionally small and even with a wide angle lens it was tough to really capture the essence of the place.

Finally, we captured a few photos of several of the priests while they were getting ready for the service.  I love this picture of the priest solemnly walking down the stairs while his colleague is getting prepped in the dark doorway to the right.  I also captured the image of the cross with the multi-domed gold cathedral in the background.  The lead picture above is also an image from the Pechersk Lavra.  I loved the leading lines that the crosses of the cemetery played to the beautiful gold domed church on the background.  We were fortunate to have lovely weather while in Kiev and it always helps with the photography!

This about wraps it up for the trip to Kiev.  The churches are incredible, the people were wonderful and it’s one of the places that not many people have spent time.  Before going on this trip I struggled to get some real research on the churches and understand where we could get some good images and whether or not we could photograph inside.  Hopefully this post will now serve as a way for others to get clarity on what the place is like and which churches are worth seeing.

I leave you with a time-lapse shot that I took while I was there; the first one that I’ve ever taken.  I’ve produced a time-lapse tutorial for beginners over on the tutorials pages to walk you through how I did this if you’re interested in creating your own.

Below is a map of Kiev, including the primary photos of the churches and where I captured most of my images.  You can also check out my Kiev set on Flickr to see a wider collection of pics.

Enjoy!  And until next time I hope you can capture some great images!

Witness to decay – the road to Chernobyl

Last weekend, over the Easter break, Adriana and I took a trip to Kiev, Ukraine.  It was one of the major cities in Europe that we still hadn’t visited and we had heard great things about the Orthodox churches in the area.  But as we started doing research for the trip, my wife mentioned that we could also take a day trip to Chernobyl and I was sold.  I’m one of those guys that watches the Discovery channel pretty regularly, and they have these shows with bad special effects on “The World without Humans.”  Well that’s pretty much the story with Chernobyl, and I was looking forward to taking my new 5d Mark III out for a real test drive!

The Chernobyl disaster occurred in 1986.  If you want to read about it in depth you can click on the Wiki link, but suffice it to say the place was evacuated on April 27, 1986.  Since then, there haven’t been any humans living in the immediate area or the city of Prypiat since.  You have to get permission a few weeks in advance to go, there are various tour groups that will give you access and of course they make a pretty penny in the process.  But the radiation levels have decreased to levels that are okay for human exposure for limited periods of time.  They equate being in the area to taking a long haul flight, but suffice to say I wasn’t rolling around on the ground, picking flowers or anything else that would improve my chances of growing a 3rd arm.

One of our first stops was an abandoned kindergarten on the way to the reactor.  It’s a very powerful site, to think that one day there were 5 year olds in here, learning and playing with one another and then another day the entire facility was abandoned.  Now I have to say I went HDR crazy while I was in the area; I know that some people don’t like that type of photography but I thought it fit the scene.  The first picture I took was of the abandoned bunk beds – it’s shocking to see the amount of dust and collected debris when a place has been abandoned for as long as this.  I love the texture in the room, the debris sitting around and the rusted look of the bunks.  There was a shoe left behind on the floor of the room that I also captured, using a large aperture to blur the background.

I then took a photo of another room – here there was a small collection of toys sitting around and I captured this picture of a little doll’s chair, covered in dust and cobwebs.  Sitting beside this chair were little books and coloring magazines that really made you think – what happened to these kids?  What was the evacuation like?

Another room had a bottle, crusted over with dirt and debris, sitting on the floor.  In the background is a blue chalkboard, with crusted paint hanging from the walls.

Finally I walked into this room, which housed the remnants of what looked like a book shelf.  I really like the way this picture turned out, with incredible texture and almost a story book feeling to it.

The next stop on our journey was the actual reactor itself – I was a bit shocked (and nervous?) about how close we got to the 4th reactor, which is the one that blew up back in 1986.  Here you can see a picture of the Geiger counter that our guide carried around to show us the radiation readings.

Next stop for the day was the village of Prypiat.  This was incredible.  The city used to be home for over 40,000 people, many of them working at the power plant.  When the disaster occurred they were evacuated 36 hours later, never to return.  The city is now in a state of complete disrepair (actually the word “disrepair” doesn’t really do it justice).  Everything is condemned, and although we walked around and took plenty of pictures you absolutely cannot go in any buildings.

We learned that the moss is particularly radioactive, meaning it has a tendency to attract and retain the radioactive particles in the area so we were told not to step on it or get too close.  You can see a collection of the photos below.  These two are from the city’s central square – I like the first one with the red nuclear radiation symbol.  I really wish we’d been able to go inside the buildings to get a view of what they look like, but you could see it obviously wasn’t safe and one of the schools actually collapsed just under 6 months prior to our visit.

I snapped this picture below of an abandoned building with an old table saw sitting outside – I thought the picture really captured the feeling of decay and idea of nature conquering technology.  Nearby there was what looked like an old mailbox of some sort; I liked the way the blue color contrasted the natural tones of the forest.

One of the more interesting things to see was an abandoned amusement park, where they had a set of bumper cars and a ferris wheel that supposedly was never used.  It’s only a matter of time until it falls over and crashes to the ground.

It really made me think – this place is “only” 26 years old.  In the grand scheme of things it’s not a terribly long time.  To appreciate the power or nature, and seeing the weeds and trees growing up through the concrete is an amazing sight.  For me, being not only a history buff but also a science freak, I have to say that visiting Chernobyl was one of the most fascinating experiences of my life.  I can’t recommend it enough and I would encourage you to go, particularly if you’re a photographer.  It’s a genuine playground for those of you with cameras, the only challenge I had was keeping up with the tour group as I frantically snapped pictures throughout the trip!

To take a closer look at the pictures above and to see the rest of my Ukrainian set, check them out here on SmugMug.  You can also view a slideshow in my portfolio section above.

Next post I’ll share some of the beautiful Ukrainian Orthodox churches that we saw while we there.  Until then, happy shooting!

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