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photoblogography - Just some stuff about photography

Colombia: Valle de Corcora

mist again

in Photography , Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A short, bouncy jeep ride away from Salento is the Valle de Corcora, home to the famous towering wax palms. Apart from these, just a few hour walk takes you through lush cloud forest, pine forests, hummingbird country, hills, fields, coffee, sunshine, fog and torrential rain. And, naturally, at the end a trucha con patacone, washed down with a bottle of Club Colombia Dorada.

The humid, dark and tangled environment of a rainforest is one of the most challenging environments for landscape photography, and also one of my favourites. If I had to chose between a week in Greenland or a week in a Central American rainforest, well, it would be a very tough decision. I haven’t actually yet managed to make much in the way of satisfying rainforest photographs, but there are a few attempts in the set below.

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And once again thanks to Blaney Aristizabal for being a great guide and excellent companion.

 

 

Colombia: Salento

tenemos muchos truchas

in Photography , Sunday, December 28, 2014

Salento is a popular tourist destination in the department of Quindío. Apart from the hillside town itself, which is full of character, it provides a base to visit the Valle de Corcora cloud forest and wax palm groves, and several organic coffee plantations.  Oh, and you can eat trout. Lots of trout. And little else. Salento is a pretty easy introduction to rural Colombia, and very safe. It’s pretty photogenic too, although it didn’t really click with me as much as some other locations.  But anyway, here’s a few shots.

Oh, and if you’re looking for a cloud forest guide, look no further than the excellent “Fog Walkers”. Very highly recommended.

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And after a few bottle of Club Colombia Dorada, things get a little blurry…

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Colombia: Bogotá

vamos caminando

in Photography , Friday, December 26, 2014

Thanks to a few days downtime over Christmas, as well as an enforced period of staying indoors thanks to a bad cold, I’ve been able to start sifting through the photos I took last month in Colombia. The first set here are from strolling through Bogotá, a city which surprised by its variety and friendliness. Not to mention the somewhat non-equatorial temperatures. As ever on these trips I wasn’t really in a “photography” frame of mind in the first few days, but in a such a wildly photogenic location I couldn’t help but get stuck in.

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Let down by a lens

tools + bad workman syndrome ?

in GAS , Tuesday, December 23, 2014

As part of a dedicated weight saving exercise before leaving for Colombia, I decided to buy the Olympus 14-42EZ “pancake” zoom. According to reviews it is better optically than the standard 14-42, which I already feel is pretty good for a kit zoom, and so it seemed to be a good idea- Well, as it turns out, it wasn’t. The 14-42EZ is the worst Olympus lens I’ve ever used, in fact the only one I’d qualify as bad (or even less than very satisfactory). The results from it are uniformly soft, far more so than could be explained by poor technique on my part. This was not helped by the terrible “shutter shock” behaviour of the E-P5 body.  Yes, I know there’s a fix for that, yes I installed it, but not having read all the reams of internet chatter about this, and in the absence of any guidance whatsoever from Olympus, I failed to set all the correct obscure menu entries. And since I hadn’t really used the E-P5 much I hadn’t noticed the issue before (actually it seems to be much worse with lighter lenses).

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This photo looks ok as a small web jpeg…

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...not so good at 1:1

I also had the 40-150 “plastic” zoom with me, and that worked pretty well, as ever. I’m not sure why that lens gets so dismissed by the forum denizens. But in general I’m pretty disappointed with Olympus in general, and not regretting my decision to pass up a good offer on an E-M1. It seems that camera is plagued with exactly the same issues for which the company does not appear to want to invest in research for a fix.

At this point then I’m wondering what to do next. I’ve sold off a lot of gear this year, initially to fund a Linhof 612 (which I chickened out of), and now I have no “rugged” camera. My general idea was to buy an E-M1 at some point, but now I’m really questioning that decision. I’ve been using Olympus cameras since the introduction of the E-1 in 2003, so changing brands now would be a major shock to the system. I find the Sony A7 series interesting, but the lenses are expensive and there’s no realistic telephoto. Also, I tend to believe that rather than an expensive camera makes you a better photographer, you should first be a good enough photographer to justify an expensive camera, and my output doesn’t merit a Sony A7 system. Another option, going against the flow, would be a Nikon DSLR, but the same caveat applies. However that would open up the potential to use tilt/shift lenses … but then again, would go totally counter to the objective of having a lot weight, good quality travel kit. Based on personal experience I wouldn’t touch Fuji X-series cameras with a bargepole. Too fragile by far, and slightly ridiculous with all their design pretensions and luvvy owner clubs.

Perhaps my 14-42EZ is a “bad sample”, a concept I’ve always been a little dubious of. From a sample of internet reviews is does seem to get a mixed press, and some report very good results. But even if that’s the case, and even if I could get it replaced, which would be pretty hard in Switzerland, the damage is already done. And my confidence in Olympus Quality Assurance is severely dented. I have one major trip planned for next year which without doubt would require me to replace my now sold Olympus E-5s with something equally robust and flexible. However at present I’m feeling more like cancelling the trip and taking several steps back from photography. This might sound like a major over-reaction to disappointing performance from a (fairly) cheap lens - well, also from a fairly expensive camera, but in fact it’s perhaps the final of a whole series of nails. Investing all this time, money and emotion in photos which attract little interest except from me is getting a bit ridiculous.

 

Land | Sea

It’s Landscape, Jim…

in Book Reviews , Monday, December 22, 2014

My published photographic output has been decreasing a lot recently. I’m continuing to lose interest in my own output, a trend which has been ongoing for a least a few years. On the other hand my interest in other people’s photography remains high, and there are a few books and other publications I’ve discovered over the past few months which deserve an overdue mention.

Towards the very top of the list is the high-end periodical “Land|Sea”, published by Triple Kite in association with OnLandscape. The first (and I really hope not the last) issue features in-depth interviews and portfolios from a series of artists nominally working in the Landscape area, but who’s output diverges significantly from the standard long exposure crowd-pleasing beach+rocky headland+castle+sunset bilge. Throughout the pages there lies ample proof that there is at least as much scope to be creative in landscape photography as to be a copyist.

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The first issue features Joe Wright, Valda Bailey, Al Brydon, Giles McGarry, Finn Hopson and Paul Kenny. There’s plenty of variety but the quality is constantly high. The scope is very inclusive, ranging from (fairly) straight landscape, to abstract, to urban landscape and much else. The publication quality is sumptuous, beautifully printed on heavy grade paper, and the writing, typography and layout are of a very high standard. The online magazine OnLandscape has featured some very accomplished photographers and sets the bar high - Land|Sea carries on the tradition in print.

Personally I find printed photography much more involving than viewing on a screen, even when the screen is high quality. For me, layout and space contributes a lot to the experience, and being able to sit back and enjoy such a high quality (and ad-free) print experience easily beats squinting at my iPad.

Apart from Land|Sea, Triple Kite publishes equally high quality monographs from a range of photographers, and hopefully I’ll get around to writing about a few of these in the near-ish future.In the meantime, if you’re at all into quality photography, you deserve to buy yourself a copy of Issue 1 of Land|Sea as a New Year present!

Land | Sea is a courageous initiative from Triplekite Publishing, leaving behind the safe waters of so much landscape publishing and making a very strong claim to entrance in the “art photography” market. Given the “pretty pictures” baggage that goes with the general view of landscape photography - notwithstanding Gursky, Burtynsky, Lik (er, sorry?) et al, - it’s quite a tall order to gain any traction, but I certainly wish Land | Sea a long and successful life.

 
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