Just some stuff about photography

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Moss

in Photography , Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Vast extents of moss-covered lava are a pretty arresting sight in Iceland. The sheer scale can't help but conjure up thoughts go the frightening infernos that produced them. And no photographer with a pulse can fail to be tempted to try to capture something of the scene. In my experience it's pretty much impossible. But it doesn't stop me trying.

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Posted in category "Photography" on Tuesday, October 18, 2016 at 09:32 PM

New Panoramics

in Photography , Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Wide format, or "panoramic" photography for me has been synonymous with film and my Hasselblad XPan, since the turn of the century. Well, it seems, no more. On my recent trip to Iceland, for the first time, it stayed at home, and its usurper, the Sigma DP0, came instead. And I really enjoyed using it. You'll find all sorts of opinions and views all over the darker corners of the photo-net droning on about how awful it is, but I ignored all that stuff and just used it. Once you get into the groove, it's really fun to use. The weird shape makes total sense when holding it, and it's a great conversation starter (if you like conversations that start with "what the hell is that!?").

These little renditions below don't really do justice to the jaw-dropping impact of the detail and delicacy seen on a print or big screen, but they go somewhere, I hope, to explaining why the unconventional approach and, er, idiosyncratic software is worth the trouble. Speaking of which, maybe I'm just lucky, but unlike for certain well known pundits, Sigma's PhotoPro software is 100% rock solid for me. I can't remember the last time it crashed, if ever.

But anyway, it's all about the photos, not the gadgetry, and I'm pretty happy with this set.


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So... anybody want to buy an XPan ?
Posted in category "Photography" on Wednesday, August 17, 2016 at 09:10 PM

Iceland: ad infinitum

in Photography , Thursday, July 14, 2016

Well, things have been a bit quiet around here this last month. There are plenty of reasons for this, including usual summer house guests, spending most of what little time I have to dedicate to extra-curricular activities to a forthcoming website redesign, and preparing for (yet) another trip to Iceland.

Actually, this is my first since 2012, and first summer trip since, er, 2007 I think. I was supposed to go last year, but had to call it off for family reasons. I have quite a sense of trepidation about this trip, as from what I've been reading the tourist traffic has exploded, and I'm expecting to see a lot of changes, not necessarily for the better.

To try to get back into the groove I've revisited, again, my Iceland archive, and out of over 5400 photos (and that's just the digital stuff), I've managed to extract 82 which somehow start to express what I personally get from Iceland. Obviously, practically every "landscape" photographer on the web now has an Iceland gallery, with the standard Whereverfoss and bit-of-ice-on-the-beach-with-big-stopper photos, so that's pretty much killed that part. And of course there are countless books, mostly very repetitive. Of these I'd pick out Ragnar Axelsson and Marco Paoluzzo as two photographers who push the boundaries a bit. I'm sure there are others. On the pure landscape side, I still rate Daniel Bergmann and Hans Strand at the top of a very long list. I'd love to be able to say I've got my own vision of Iceland, but so far, I haven't.

It is certainly easy to imagine doing "something different", but when placed in any of Iceland's very numerous iconic locations, it is very, very hard to turn your back on the main attraction.

The following are a few non-iconic shots extracted from my selection of 82. Possibly they indicate the direction I might go in, but it's far more likely that I'll fall, again, to the temptation of the long exposure waterfalls. And so what. It's fun.

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Posted in category "Photography" on Thursday, July 14, 2016 at 08:22 AM

A couple of books…

in Book Reviews , Monday, March 23, 2015

A couple of weeks ago, it was my birthday. It all rather got lost in the noise of a family crisis, but when I finally got home it was both to an oasis of tranquility, and a pile of presents from my dearly beloved, which included two rather wonderful books, which she had cunningly noticed me drooling over in a bookshop in Milan a while ago.

Nick Brandt‘s work doesn’t really need much introduction. There are plenty of reviews all over the web-O-sphere, many gushing over the fabulous print and image quality. Well, that’s all true enough, but what really sets this book apart from me is the sense of absolute furious, controlled rage which drives it. The anger at the catastrophic decimation of Africa’s megafauna, driven mainly by the inability of wealthy, elderly chinese men to get an erection. The fury at the barbarity and wretched inhumanity of the poachers, but always balanced by a clear understand of the socio-economic factors at play.

However, Nick Brandt has done something about. He’s been instrumental in setting up the Big Life Foundation, channeling funds to help set up an effective anti-poaching wildlife protection zone. My impression is the unlike so many such initiatives, this one does not go around preaching outside values, but rather enables local organisations and individuals to reclaim their natural heritage. I’m certainly going to be a regular contributor.

Let none of this detract from the photography though. It is impressive, eloquent and extremely moving. And yeah, awesome image quality.

Well, having got that off my chest, it’s time to cool down, and what better introduction to the second of these two books, “Behind The Mountains” by Ragnar “Rax” Axelsson. Rax’s reputation as a documenter of nordic life is very well established, and this collection, illustrating and storytelling the summer’s end round up of sheep allowed to roam in the unreal, alien landscapes of the Icelandic highlands is up with his best work.

The photographic style is a little different from “Faces of the North” or “Last Days of the Arctic”, with a lot of motion blur and unusual angles. This is very effective though in communication the rush and confusion both of the round up and the often raw weather. The bool also starts off with some quite surprisingly uncharacteristic colour landscapes, setting the scene. These are very dark and moody, not much like the general approach to the rhyolite vistas of the Landmannaafréttur region. It would be interesting to see more of these.

The photos are woven in with tales from and about the stockmen working these regions. They’re evocative, often funny, and at same time elegiac. While nowhere near the catastrophe exposed by Nick Brandt, Rax is also documenting a way of life which has lasted maybe 1000 years, but is clearly close to an end. In Iceland people are rapidly retreating to the towns and cities, leaving the rugged countryside to tourists, adventurers and photo workshops. I wonder how sustainable that’s going to turn out to be, even in the medium term?

Both books are available at The Book Repository, by the way, and they take considerably more care with them than Amazon in my experience.

Posted in category "Book Reviews" on Monday, March 23, 2015 at 09:38 PM

Iceland, remixed

in Photography , Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Iceland … it’s hard to avoid it these days. According to various sources, such as Alda Sigmundsdóttir’s “The Iceland Weather Report”, over 27 Billion people are expected to visit Iceland next year, which is quite a lot. Of course 25.6 Billion of those will be Fine Art Landscape Photographers (or birders, which is much the same thing), and they will all publish AWESOME GREAT CAPTUREs of bits of ice trying to mind their own business melting away on a black sand beach, of Skogafoss and Gullfoss waterfalls, of a place puffins used to live, and some steam. And most of these will get published as publicity material for forthcoming, unique, book-now-before-it-sells-out, photo workshops (which will principally visit the aforementioned and now very stressed bits of ice).

Overexposure, anyone ?  Iceland, and photography of Iceland especially, has become a commodity. Of course you don’t have to go to Iceland to photograph it. You could also go to Reykjavik to drink a lot. Iceland has options, you know.

I guess I’m lucky that I got in before the rush, although really it was the beginning of the rush. Not so long ago, even the “Golden Circle” was a bit of an adventure. Now (I imagine) it is a continuous loop of huge tourist coaches.

For me Iceland was never really about the honeypot locations. It was always much more to do with the unique atmosphere that permeates the whole island, the idea that pretty much everybody knows everybody else, the weirdness and yet familiarity of gas stations 200km from anywhere, the friendly and yet aloof, alien people. And all this wrapped up in a batshit-crazy landscape.

And yet when I looked at the photos I had published here in my galleries, there was a strong element of “look, I’ve been there too!” shots, of trying to play to the gallery rather than show photographs that I have a stronger connection to.  And so, setting aside Venice for an evening or two, I had a retrospective trawl through the 6000-odd photos I’ve accumulated over the past 10 years, and I came up with a new selection.

The “Iceland Landscapes” and “Iceland - the human landscape” galleries are now offline, and a new one has taken their place. In a boldly imaginative move, I’ve titled it “Iceland”. Hope you like it.

And maybe when those 27 Billion people have got bored and moved on to somewhere else, like Belgium, for instance, and when Icelanders just get a little over themselves been so awesomely cool, maybe I’ll return.

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Anyway, where was I? Ah yes, Venice.

Posted in category "Photography" on Wednesday, February 19, 2014 at 01:55 PM

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