INDEX

photoblogography - Just some stuff about photography

Aeolian Islands gallery

Not a polar bear in sight

in Photography , Friday, August 26, 2011

On Saturday morning I’m off for two weeks to Sicily, starting with the Aegadian Islands.  Not exactly a polar destination, but life is full of compromises.  Several years ago, when I first went to Sicily, I ended up visiting the Aeolian Islands for the first time, and that kicked off a new geographic obsession for me.


I’ve just published my first gallery of photos from the Aeolian islands. I’m sure there’ll be more to come.

Aeolian Gallery



 

Tuscan Tips

Well trodden tracks

in Photography , Tuesday, June 07, 2011

I guess Tuscany must be well into the Top 20 most photographed locations in the world. The concentration of cameras is phenomenal, albeit nothing like the freak shows you get in places like Yosemite. The first time I went there, quite a few years back (they still sold film - proper film at that - in the shops), I certainly had all the well known cliches in mind.  There’s the Cypress Grove (on your right, heading south on the SS2 just outside of San Quirico d’Orcia, can’t miss it).

The Cypress Grove

Exhibit A: The Cypress Grove

There’s the Isolated Chapel (heading east from San Quirico, towards Pienza, over on the ridge on your right, although to do the Charlie Waite close-up shot you’ll need to take the farm track).

tuscan chapel

The Isolated Chapel

And there’s the vantage point over the Twisty-Road-With-Cypresses, which you can find by heading out of Montechiello towards Pienza and taking the first unpaved road on your left. You can’t miss the actual spot…

twisty road with cypresses

The infamous twisty road, somewhat drenched

And to complete your collection, you just need an early morning misty valley shot, preferably featuring distant ochre romantic farmhouse, and with all the pesky telegraph poles and power lines painstakingly edited out in Photoshop.  Best bet here is the road down from Castiglione d’Orcia, or the road over Le Crete Senesi, from Asciano towards Siena. But you’re going to have to get up painfully early.

misty hills

Misty morning, Le Crete Senesi, around 6am

E perfetto, va bene cosi. I’ve given away all the trade secrets, and you’re now a fully qualified Tuscan photographer. Of course, you get bonus points if you include poppies. I’m leaving that as an exercise for the student.

So, anyway, I was in Tuscany again last weekend, and although I wasn’t expecting to do much photography, I did have in mind that it would be nice to avoid the cliches, and to try to do something a little more interesting… back streets, people, details, close ups.  Of course it didn’t work. I did resist the Cypress Grove, but it was pretty tatty and the sky was dull and overcast.  But the rest, yeah, pretty much.

Detail shots take time and good ones need to say something about the bigger picture. It takes quite a while to get into the atmosphere, to relax, to listen to what a place is saying to you, and as far as Tuscany is concerned, I’m not sure that I’ve ever managed. But I quite like this photo. And I’m not telling you were it is, because I’m going back!

la fattoria

La Fattoria. Sunday, around 7:30am

 

 

 

Summer in the Arctic

not so grim up north

in Olympus E-System , Tuesday, February 22, 2011

It isn’t trivial, slimming down a selection of 16 photos from 6000 candidates… Not that all 6000 are good, but probably 1000 or so are in the same ballpark as the 16 I chose (not that I’m claiming they’re anything special).

Anyway, hot(-ish) on the heals of my Pyramiden & panorama galleries, here’s another more general set from the wonderful Arctic world of Svalbard.

Svalbard selection

And for those who like to know these things, they were all taken with an Olympus E-3, using Zuiko Digital 12-60SWD, 50-200SWD and 7-14mm lenses.

 

Return from the Northern Wasteland

Some travel notes

in Travel , Wednesday, September 08, 2010

So, a couple of weeks ago I got back from Svalbard.  First of all, I want to take the opportunity to thank the 11 people I shared a small, yacht-shaped space with for 14 days for making it such an unforgettable experience. If you ever want to see Svalbard properly, your first port of call needs to be Mark Van Den Weg’s Jonathan Adventure Sailing. Don’t leave home without it.

Although photography was a big part of this trip, for me it wasn’t absolutely vital. Nevertheless, it was a considerable blow when, due to brain fade on my part, my XPan stopped working after 3 days. Even though I also had the Olympus and a full set of lenses, I’m finding more and more that “real” photography for happens on film through a wide screen viewfinder. Although I brought back over 6000 digital images, I’m finding it quite hard to get enthusiastic about them.

I have a total of 120 frames from the XPan, a few of which are interesting, but unfortunately the first few days were not really interesting from a photographic perspective. Here’s one of them:

xpan_svalbard06_14.jpg

This example is one of the few taken on Provia 400X. I haven’t really used this before, but it does seem quite similar to Provia 400F, in that it is a little washed out and the shadows seem to lack some density. It is also quite coarse grained compared to to, say Velvia 100F, and there’s quite a lot (relatively speaking) of chroma noise in the scans. However, for handheld use (as this was), when the light is fading, it’s pretty useful. Otherwise I used Ektachrome E100G, on Tim Parkin’s recommendation, and although I haven’t done any high resolution scans of it yet, I’m quite impressed, especially by its dynamic range and neutrality. I’ve got more than enough left over to carry on experimenting ...

Of course, the XPan isn’t much use for wildlife close-ups, or at least not when said wildlife is large, aggressive, and / or timid.  For those shots the Olympus E-3 together with the 50-200mm lens and 2x teleconverter worked fairly well. My traveling companions had various equipment from the usual suspects (no Sony though), and although the heavy artillery on Canon 1Ds and Nikon D700s looks impressive and can give sensational results, it really looks cumbersome and clumsy. The only camera that really made me slightly envious was the Pentax K7, but as far as lenses are concerned, my feeling is Olympus still has nothing to fear from the competition.

Actually there was very little camera talk. Hardly any at all, and when there was, it was invariably somebody asking for help with an uncooperative widget or advice on a setting or two. Absolutely zero “my camera beats your camera” talk, which was very, very refreshing.

But I’m getting increasingly fed up with carrying heavy gear on planes and everywhere else, and I’m seriously looking into something like an Olympus E-P2. I’m not sure how this would work out for long zoom wildlife shots - for that kind of thing I think the balance of a DSLR body helps a lot, but otherwise, well the sheer weight advantage is a strong argument.

My LowePro Photo Trekker Pro bag finally gave up on this trip as well, with a terminal main compartment zip failure. It’s been going that way for several years. One of my companion’s LowePro bags suffered a similar, but even more terminal fate (at least I managed to patch mine up enough to get it home), and my general opinion of LowePro is therefore not good. Their bags are too heavy, often poorly designed, and way over-rated. I won’t be buying another one.

But Svalbard wasn’t about gear, or even photography. It was about experiencing close up one the most remote-yet-accessible and pristine locations in the Northern Hemisphere. And Polar Bears. And Polar Beers.

More photos will follow at some point.

 

I may be some time

gone fishing

in Film , Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Well, I’m off to Svalbard for a few weeks.  I spent ages agonising over what film to take… a totally archaic process, but after being prompted by Tim Parkin, I eventually decided to make a radical (for me) switch and go for Kodak Ektachrome 100G.  Along with a few rolls of Provia 100X for backup. 

films.jpg

All I need now is to find something to point the camera at!

 
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