Just some stuff about photography

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Mountains and Milano

in Photography , Sunday, January 04, 2015

Yesterday afternoon we had a wander around Milan, with the general idea of seeing the Walter Bonatti exhibition at the Palazzo della Ragione, the kind of great venue for photography exhibitions that Italian cities are so good at. The exhibition is well worth a visit if you’re interest in exploration photography. The majority of the exhibited photographs are from the mid-70s, along with Bonatti’s commentary. There’s also an opening section dedicated to his early career as an extreme alpinist, touching of course on the K2 controversy, but also on exploits such as his pioneering solo of the North Face of the Matterhorn.

And if you’re more into street photography, well, Milano has plenty of streets, as illustrated below. And indeed shops, catering to all tastes and deep pockets.

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All these photos were taken using the Ricoh GR. It’s a really well designed camera, and extremely discreet, yet the lack of an active eye level viewfinder makes it a rather imprecise tool for me, and I tend to forget the lack of a stabiliser. But it certainly can deliver fantastic results in the right hands.

Posted in category "Photography" on Sunday, January 04, 2015 at 05:41 PM

A bridge of two halves

in Travel , Thursday, May 29, 2014

About 3km from where I live in Switzerland is the town of Ponte Tresa, named after the bridge over the river Tresa, which drains Lake Lugano into Lake Maggiore, and marks the border with Italy. Ponte Tresa is actually two separate towns sharing the same name, with a Swiss side and an Italian side.

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The bridge over the Tresa. Italy starts at the signpost.  Note the contrast between the spotless, perfectly maintained railing on the Swiss part and the rather more, er “relaxed” look on the Italian side…

Both sides, it is not unfair to say, are rather run-down. Old photographs show a much more prosperous past. Lifting of most border controls, and the shifting patterns of commerce have drastically lessened their status as frontier towns, with just a few fly-blown import agencies as reminders of past glories. But even so, the two sides are remarkably different. The Swiss town keeps up appearances, but seems lifeless. Even the banks are closing. But of course it is clinically clean, quiet and tidy, and the surrounding holiday homes and lavish apartments on the hillsides above and by the lake lend a solid air of Swiss prosperity. The Italian town, on the other hand, is scruffy, chaotic, noisy and vibrant. Even the dingiest bar serves great coffee at crazy low prices, the shops are open in the evening (gasp) and even on Sundays (even bigger gasp) - although the smaller ones take a healthy afternoon siesta. On Saturdays it’s great to just wander over the bridge for a jolt of culture shock and soak up the atmosphere. At weekends in the warmer months there are floods of German, Dutch and Swiss-German tourists, all eager to go bargaining in the wonderfully, ahem, authentic Italian market, where they’re sure to be fleeced by traders from authentic Italian locations such as Pristina, Poznan or Bucharest… or maybe on the odd occasion Palermo. But it’s all good fun.

Ponte Tresa feels like monochrome photography. So here are a few scenes from around town.  These are all taken with the Sigma 60mm DN lens, and converted in Nik SilverEFX.

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Of course I don’t want to knock my adopted country, and there are some quite obvious economic reasons why commerce is dead on one side of the border and thriving on the other (and then again, why there are beggars on the street on one side and not on the other) - but even so, the difference in atmosphere is quite remarkable, given that both sides, in theory at least, share a common Lombardy culture and the same language.

Posted in category "Travel" on Thursday, May 29, 2014 at 10:28 AM

Washout

in Photography , Tuesday, May 06, 2014

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I’ve just spent 4 days in Tuscany, which has become a strong habit over recent years. Tuscany has deservedly become one of the top destinations for photographers, featuring fantastic landscape and impossibly photogenic medieval (and older) villages and towns, all shifting mood with the seasons and weather. In some places you can’t swing a cat without knocking ten tripods flying. It’s a visual goldmine for photographers from nature to street and all points in between. I’ve accumulated over 6000 digital shots from Tuscany, and pre-2004 plenty of film as well. But this year, I managed a sum total of 119 photos over 4.5 days, including friends & family snapshots. The weather was cold and wet, mainly, which didn’t help, and I struggled to motivate myself to take any shots at all. But even those I did apply a little effort to are very, very underwhelming, and even technically poor, with endemic exposure and focus errors. Of course, when all else fails, one can resort to ND grad filters (as above) to desperately try to recover a bit of drama. And when THAT fails, convert to good old grainy black and white for that authentic look.

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Actually I quite like this one but it only really works when it’s bigger enough to see the direction of the policeman’s gaze.

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The barbershop cliché...

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…and the poster cliché...

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…and wrap up with the Umbrella shot. At least I didn’t selectively colour it.

Basically I’ve gradually lost interest over the past months, and photography is becoming a bit of a drag. I think I’ve realised that I’ve hit something of a peak in my photography, but compared to most it’s a pretty low peak. I’ve tried to do all the things one is supposed to do, try new subjects, enter competitions, submit portfolios, but it’s not stopping the general feeling of decline. I’m not even interested in gear, for heaven’s sake, despite my dearly beloved’s best efforts to get me to buy an Olympus E-M1. I’ve developed pre-purchase buyer’s remorse, the ideal solution for Gear Acquisition Syndrome.

Just to show equal-opportunity all-the-gear-and-no-idea, here’s some stuff that might pass as “landscape” - well, for a beginner, anyway.

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So rather than find something more constructive to do with my time, I’m going through a process of assessing and qualifying my extensive archives. It’s not always that encouraging - I don’t seem to have taken a single interesting photograph in Italy, for example - but it might give some clue on how to rekindle my interest. Or indeed confirm that it’s time to switch to knitting, or something. Or even do the housework.

Posted in category "Photography" on Tuesday, May 06, 2014 at 07:58 PM

Back on the street

in Photography , Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Following my recent heavy exposure on the Inspired Eye blog, I decided I really ought to get with this street photography thing. So, on a recent visit to Bologna, I took along my black Olympus E-P3, taping over all the logos with genuine Street-O-Vanish black tape, and attached a (black) 35mm equivalent lens to the front. I packed several black dark blue shirts and of course shades, and slung my discrete street shooter Domke bag over my shoulder. We are talking Instant Cartier-Bresson here. No messing.

Well. It’s actually not very easy, this street photography stuff, especially when it involves actual people who may well not want their photo taken.  This being Italy, most people are quite happy to be centre stage, but those who are not, really are not. Still, most of them are in Palermo, not Bologna.  Also, I’d never been to Bologna before, so the unfamiliarity of the location didn’t help, and Bologna is a pretty unusual city.

Over 2 days I took 110 shots with the 17(“35”)mm lens. I took another 40 or so with the 12(“24”) and 45(“90”) lenses but these don’t count. As far as I can tell 110 over 48 hours is pretty pathetic for a street photographer.  But then I’m not really a member of that august set.

What I was trying to do here is to take shots with people - random people - as the principal theme and subject. I quite often use people as part of a composition, but generally they’re far off and anonymous. So are many here, but that’s because I didn’t get close enough. I can’t say I really enjoyed it, although at the same time I soon got over the awkwardness. It’s just that it’s far, far too late for me to venture into a new strand of photography.

But anyway, here’s a small selection, so you can judge for yourselves. In keeping with the spirit of the thing, these are largely straight from camera, apart from two where I’d decided on the crop in-situ.  I’ve also avoided the temptation of converting to black & white - I haven’t paid anywhere near enough dues for that!

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Oh, and I nearly forgot…

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Posted in category "Photography" on Tuesday, March 18, 2014 at 10:07 PM

Il palco panoramico

in Photography , Wednesday, March 12, 2014

And finally, for now: a wider view of Venice.  The finale of my slightly more than a month-long series of series documenting my tiresome obsession with Venice draws to a conclusion with a set of wide angle shots. This I feel is my most incomplete series, and possibly my most rushed, as it draws only from one visit, last December. It’s not the most obvious location on the planet for this approach, especially if avoiding clichés is desired. So I’ve decided to let the clichés have their day.

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All photos created using the Hasselblad XPan II with a mix of Kodak Ektachrome E100G and Fuji Provia 400X slide film.  Processed using a steam-driven Babbage Engine.

 

Posted in category "Photography" on Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 10:03 PM

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