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the evenings out here - Thoughts, rants and musings about absolutely everything except photography. Or cats.

Moving on

moving on up?

in Photography , Friday, November 30, 2018

Nearly 8 years ago, I finally gave up on any aspiration to finding an “interesting” job, and settled instead for a stable job which allowed me to continue living where I finally found a place I could and wanted to settle in. And so like many others I surrendered to the gaping maw of Banking IT. It could be worse - a lot worse - but it wasn’t really something I wanted to do when I grew up.

A distinct downside was that it required me to commute a significant distance. A second downside was an office is one of the most dreary, soul-destroying settings you could imagine (well, ok, it’s not Slough), albeit set in the middle of a fairly spectacular pre-alpine valley. To get out of the office I got into the habit of taking a walk at lunchtime, and eventually I started to take a camera with me.  To start off with, I just did “tests” - this, I think, is the first example I published - but eventually I started to see some photographic potential in the area.

For a while I was in a “satellite” office which had a number of advantages, first that being 10 minutes closer to the train station, it cut down my commute just a smidgeon, but the second was that it was also quite close to a path leading up a hill, where I discovered all sorts of wonders. Well, relative to staring at a corporate Windows PC, they were wonders.

Therails

Some photos which might have made it into my idea of a project called “The Rails”

In particular I discovered an abandoned funicular railway, which had been used many years ago in the construction of a hydroelectric plant pipeline, now itself removed and replaced.  The upper part, it turned out, was still very occasionally used to ferry materials up the hillside, but the lower part was completely abandoned, and in some places overgrown or buried. The hillside is also steep and covered in dense undergrowth, but over many lunchtime visits - some a little more extended than usual - I gradually pieced together and documented various parts.  This formed a project, “The Rails”, which, finally, only existed in my mind a few edits on my iPad, but it kept my brain working.

Later, I moved back to the main office. This was much less conveniently located for interesting lunchtime walks, but my route from and to the station did lead me through a fairly dilapidated, partially disused light industrial zone, when led to some interesting compositions. Indeed, there must be some buildings along that route I’ve photographed about 50 times if not more. In different seasons, different weather, different light, with digital cameras, film cameras, different lenses. Any of my colleagues who may have noticed what I was doing must have though I was slightly nuts… apart from the fact they already had plenty of reasons to think that.

But now it has come to an end. This, below, is the last photo from the last day of that walk to the office. There was no conscious intent in my mind to create any kind of symbolism, but it seems that I did do so.

Drm 20181123 R0000038

Up against the buffers: last day in G.

And from today I’m working in the same job but from a new location, which is only 30 minutes away, instead of 90, and while still not the most inspiring location, should give quite a lot of opportunities to explore. And it will give me 2 hours of my life back everyday, so maybe I’ll have a little more time to actual pursue and complete photographic projects. Or perhaps I’ll simply stick to type, and dither even more.

The following is a small selection of photos taken over the past 8 years while walking to or from work, or wandering around a lunchtime.  I’ve got hundreds of them…

Drm 2014 12 17 R0000228
Drm E P5 20160301 P3014050
Drm gr 20150303 0518
Drm 2014 07 10 P7100027
Drm E M5MarkII 20171019 EM590002
Drm 2014 08 04 P8040147
Drm 2014 11 07 R0000006
Drm 20181022 R0000009
Drm dp2m 20131127 1207
Drm 2015 01 19 R0000344

 

Not to be continued…

 

2019 Calendar

shameless commercial break

in Photography , Sunday, October 28, 2018

Somehow or the other this year I’ve managed to get my act sufficiently together to produce another calendar. With the help of my better half, who has painstakingly removed all the “arty” shots from my selection, and replaced them with photos that people might actually like, this year’s theme is Antarctica (just like the last one in 2014, but that went down pretty well, so why not).

I have neither the enthusiasm nor the optimism to try to do any kind of commercial deal these days, so sales are on a very limited level via local seasonal fairs and whatever. However I’m also setting aside a few for online sales, so if you are interested please let me know. They are professionally printed on a commercial digital press, not via some online service, and the print quality is pretty good (300gsm semigloss paper). The cost would be €20 + Swiss Post postage costs to be agreed.  Delivery will probably be around early December.

The photography is largely from December 2016, but one is from 2013, and two more from a lot longer ago. From a technical point of view most are Olympus E-M1 or Olympus E-5, with a couple of Sigma dp0 shots, and outliers are Kodachrome 64 via Canon FTb.

Well, it’s neither National Geographic nor Vincent Munier, but it was fun putting it together.

Calendar2019 1

Front cover and first two months

Calendar2019 2

Back cover and last two months

 

Uncompetitive spirit

although with right incentive…

in Photography , Monday, October 08, 2018

I’ve never been one for competition, of any kind. I prefer to do things my own way, to set my own goals, and not bother too much what other people are doing. This is not restricted to photography - I have the same attitude towards all forms of work and play. I certainly compete against myself, for example setting time or difficulty targets for mountain biking, but I really have little interest in fitting in with some set of restricted parameters to compete with others. The fact that I’m a miserable antisocial loner doesn’t help much, mind you. But when it comes to photography, and indeed all arts, I really, really do not get the idea of competing. How can we say that one person’s mode of self-expression is better than someone else’s ? It strikes me as being more harmful than anything else. Of course if you treat photography as a technical endeavour then it can work - prize for the razor-sharpest photo of nothing in particular, prize for the highest resolution brick wall, prize for the most slavish conformance to the Rule Of Thirds. Etcetera.

Which is all a long preamble to say I entered a competition. Not exactly National Geographic, but instead a competition run by my local bricks and mortar camera shop, Foto & Ottico Carpi of Bellizona (of which more below). The competition required a submission of just one photo, of an animal. Any animal. And the first prize is an Olympus E-M1 MkII, so not exactly nothing. Still, despite my having plenty of photos of animals (not that I’m any good at all at wildlife photography), I still dithered up until almost the last moment before sending in my entry.  You may be able to spot it in the screenshot below:

Screen Shot 2018 10 07 at 22 07 51

The quality of the entries to the competition has really taken me aback. This is a competition run by a small, if excellent, shop, in a small provincial town in one of the sleepiest parts of Switzerland, open only to subscribers to the shop’s mailing list. It just goes to show how many really excellent photographers there are, and that despite all the sneering about selfies and camera phones, there is still a very significant section of the public who take photography seriously. Of course, these could all be the shop owner under different pseudonyms :-).

I’m not sure when the winner will be announced, but I am sure it won’t be me.

Footnote:

Foto Carpi is a family business, run by the professional photographer Milo Carpi, located in the Main Street of Bellinzona, Ticino. They are an Olympus Pro dealer, Nikon as well I think, and also stock Sony, Leica, Panasonic, Sigma and a surprisingly good range of accessories. They even sell film. I got my last ever rolls of Ektachrome E100G there. They quite often run open days supported by the importers of their main brands. It’s really encouraging to see such a business managing to survive in these times, but the icing on the cake, and really surprising thing are their prices: I only really look at Olympus prices, so I can’t say for sure that this applies to all brands, but their Olympus prices consistently undercut even the lowest prices from Swiss internet box shifters. And this with personal service and advice, the security of being able to personally bring in any defective or damaged item, and a hotline to Olympus Switzerland. I try to give them as much of my business as I can.  And I often find excuses to stroll past their window display.

 

Day of the dead tired

talk, it’s all talk

in Photography , Friday, November 03, 2017

All Saint‘s Day, or The Day of the Dead, is a public holiday here, and during a period where various things have conspired to spiral me into a state of ever increasing exhaustion, it came as some relief. I managed to pad it a bit with some downtime the day before, so at least I wasn’t in a state of complete collapse.

In this state of mind I often question just what keeps me doing photography. It doesn’t really accomplish anything substantial, I don’t find much satisfaction in the nagging background gear window shopping addiction that I suffer from, and it doesn’t lead to any substantial social interaction, either real or virtual.

But going through the motions of wandering off somewhere nearby to take a few photos brings the realisation, or reminds me, that it can actually be pretty therapeutic to just spend a few hours contemplating a pile of rocks and trying to adapt their forms to a 4:3 rectangle. It’s rarely successful - something that fills me with satisfaction in situ generally looks awful back home on screen, but that doesn’t really matter.

drm_E-M5MarkII_20171101_EM510050.jpg

...this becomes a pretty spectacular 110m drop waterfall

Wandering around gear forums and blogs, because I‘m too tired to do anything else on the train, I often come across provocative proclamations that Micro Four-Thirds is total rubbish because it has a “tiny” sensor with no “D.o.F” (what “no D.o.F” means in idiot forum speak is that - allegedly - you can’t get 98% of the shot out of focus). I find this remarkable when I’m trying, usually unsuccessfully, to keep all objects in my shot roughly in focus. I don’t really understand people who preach that for “landscapes” (whatever the hell that means) you absolutely must have a zillion megapixels and a full frame sensor. I suppose that correlates with the idea that “landscape” means ultrawide angle views of luridly saturated vistas. Well, that’s not what attracts me, and what I need is a camera with as much depth of field as possible but still good enough optical quality. Which is why I stick with these Olympus thingies.

drm_E-M5MarkII_20171101_EM510061.jpg

...and this would probably have been slightly less dull if I could have inched forward a bit, but then I’d have ended up in the first photo above. Briefly.

Well, of course, that’s when I’m not taking ultrawide landscape shots with my (sort of) zillion megapixel Sigma camera. But consistency has never been my strong point.

drm_SIGMA dp0 Quattro_20171101_DP0Q0732.jpg

flare enough…

 

Digital’s Not Dead

It’s just been having a bit of a rest

in Photography , Thursday, September 28, 2017

I realised the other day that my last 12 posts have been almost exclusively about film photography. Since May, I’ve mentioned digital just once, and that was in the context of comparing with film.  This seems to have started in March, but it really wasn’t intended. I’ve also noticed that by and large, the quality of my photography has dropped significantly. Possibly I have fallen prey to the very same strain of gear obsession that in past posts I have charged the “film community” with. It may also be that I’m not finding much inspiration, and am just repeating myself.

I suppose really I’ve been dedicating quite a lot of time to getting my film photography back up to speed again, and ensuring that all the stuff I need to work works as well as it can. I think I’m almost there on that front. I’ve also been getting familiar with the Linhof 612, which is not that simple. Actually, the Linhof seems to have quite a serious fault which is causing uneven film winding, in some cases resulting frames overlapping. So it looks like its going off to the factory for servicing, which is going to be expensive. The previous owner told me he never had any issues, and I have no reason to disbelieve him. Caveat emptor, I suppose, especially when buying through eBay.

drm_E-M5MarkII_20170912_EM520315.jpg

The above photograph is absolutely digital. It was taken two weeks ago, way off the beaten track in the Aspromonte region of Calabria, right in the south of Italy. Aspromonte, most of which is a national park, is absolutely stunning. It is harsh, arid, with precipitous abandoned villages connected by crumbling, vanishing roads (Europcar would have a fit…), and astonishingly beautiful.  There are few people around, but those few are welcoming, friendly and embarrassingly generous. We had only 2 days there, but I’m certain I’ll be going back.

I suppose Aspromonte would look even more stunning on Portra or Provia. But hauling medium format film cameras down there would be a real struggle. And would it even be worth it? I’m not going to try to pretend: in terms of real resolution, even a 5300dpi scan from medium format film doesn’t beat a 16MPix Olympus file, never mind a Sigma Quattro file. Resolution isn’t everything though, and there remains a clinical precision in digital which I sense rather than see. It don’t like it, but I can live with it.  Just as the lens I took the above shot with, the Olympus 14-150 zoom, is probably optically my worst. The bottom right corner is really soft at wide to medium focal lengths. But it is extremely light, very flexible, and great to travel with. So, like digital, I tolerate it.

So yes, I am quite conflicted about film versus digital, and I suppose I always will be. I wish I could just choose one, but I don’t suppose I ever will. But it does seem that the less I bother about gear in general, the more enjoyable I find photography. Maybe I should turn off the internet.

 

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