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nothing

absolutely nothing at all

in Hasselblad XPan , Wednesday, November 27, 2013

And finally, Patagonia. El fin del mundo. The wide, but wide, open spaces of the Argentinian Patagonian pampas seem to be heaven sent to the panoramic photographer. Every direction has “designed for XPan” stamped in the corner. And yet as soon as you point a camera at it, it slides away, dissolves into nothingness.  It’s the pampas. There’s nothing there. Nothing to see, nothing to photograph, except that it just draws you back, teasing and insisting that you capture it.

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I have several rolls from Patagonia where there isn’t one image worthy of the name out of the 21 precious Kodak Ektachrome frames. And yet at the time, totally immersed in the empty immensity of it all, I was convinced that every shot was a masterpiece.

But how do you photograph emptiness ? This one example, 80km from nowhere in all directions, maybe, more by luck than any skill, hints at something. The texture and direction of the grasses in the foreground mirrors the higher, darker clouds, and the sliver of lake in the distance gives some depth.

I just remember the wind, and the silence. Oh, and the cookies.

 

La Boca

battery blues

in Photography , Monday, November 18, 2013

One problem with digital cameras is that it is all too easy to build up huge volumes of photos that become so overwhelming that you never even look at them*. This is certainly the case from the photographic results of my jaunt at the beginning of this year to Argentina and Antarctica. Although I have more or less completed a reasonable edit of my Antarctica photos, the Argentina ones have been largely untouched.

In particular, a set I had at the back of my mind was one from the first few days of the trip, in the touristy La Boca neighbourhood of Buenos Aires. I particular wanted to get around to doing something with these, as they are the first proper set of photos I took with the Sigma DP2 Merrill. Unfortunately, on our way to La Boca, I was relieved of the weight of carrying my shoulder bag around with me. Some lucky Argentinian found him/herself the proud owner of 3 Sigma DP2 batteries and a lens cap, as well as a pair of reading glasses and a rather nice bag. Certainly, the worst loss in practical terms was that of the batteries, which reduced me to something like 40 shots at a time on the one remaining. Obviously buying a battery for a Sigma DP2M was not going to happen in Buenos Aires, try as I might. Or indeed anywhere else in Argentina.  So, it was a bit like having 1 roll of film. Just like the old days.  And just like in the old days, I printed them.

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* Actually it was even worse before digital. The task of “sorting out slides” was enough to put anybody off photography for life.

 

 

southbound

penguin preview

in Photography , Tuesday, January 15, 2013

In a few hours we will board the Akademik Sergey Vavilov to start a 12 day cruise around the Antarctic Peninsula, hopefully as far south as Marguerite Bay. Back in my day it was full of ice, but I guess it’s warmed up a bit.

In the meantime, here are a few non-Antarctic penguins from the Valdes Peninsula, Punto Tomba, and Tiera del Fuego. It almost seems worth carrying this ridiculous amount of gear around with me, although I’m still fully intending a complete rethink when we get home. Small is beautiful.

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Addiction

photocolicism?

in General Rants , Thursday, January 10, 2013

I’m sitting in the upstairs lounge of a very pleasant hosteria in El Calafate, Argentina (Cauquenes de Nimez, very highly recommended), looking out over Lago Argentina, on a sunny windswept day. The view could easily be exchanged with West Iceland, without anybody noticing, although it might confuse the sheep. Yesterday we visited the world famous Perito Moreno glacier, and while it is very much touristified, it is done in a very tasteful and enjoyable way, with kilometers of walkways along the glacier front, and through the adjacent woods. So far from what I’ve seen of Argentina’s national parks, they are curated to a level on a par with Costa Rica’s, which is to say absolutely world class. Argentina is a fabulous, surprising, immense and welcoming country, and there’s enough to see and experience for a lifetime.

So why is experiencing it not enough? Why do I persist in weighing myself down with crazy amounts of camera gear (even when it’s cut down to fit in a cabin-baggage friendly bag, it’s too much), and with the psychological stress of needing to “get the shot”? Yesterday I was briefy chatting with a fellw traveller who turned out to come from Ticino, about 5km from where we live, who was also described by his travelling partners as being a passionate photographer. Actually I’d noticed him before, as he was one of the few other people I could see carrying a tripod. Anyway, I flippantly remarked that it was more like an addiction than a passion. Later, and after an argument with my own travelling companion where the topic of being obsessed with photograhy again casme up, I thought maybe that this was a clear case of a true word spoken in jest. What, really, is the benefit of taking literally thousands of photograhs, of average quality at best, and more generally mundane to dull, and which nobody will ever see? Surely it is better to get away from this addiction on capturing views and getting back to experecing them. In the past, although I would take memento shots, and perhaps sometimes try something a little more ambitious, when I visited places, I would look for a quality book published by a local, where the photogaphy woukd far exceed what I can accomplish. Now, I have so much f**king gear that I can’t even fit a book into my 30kg baggage allowance. This has all gone very wrong. I think as soon as I get back most of my gear is going on eBay, and perhaps going on an extended, if not permanent, break from “serious” photography. After all, it’s really just a thinly veiled excuse for shopping.