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Late Summer I

life’s a beach

in Travel , Wednesday, September 16, 2015

After a fairly stressful year so far, it was nice to get away for a week to a part of Italy I haven’t seen much of so far, Puglia, in the South East. We stayed close by the characterful town of Peschice, perched on a rocky outcrop in the extreme east of the Gargano peninsula national park. The whole of the Gargano is entrancing. It’s quite off the beaten path, although the coastline is clearly very popular in August. Getting there generally involves several hours of very twisty roads that even Italians can’t drive along at any great speed. Away from the seasonal tourist resorts, the towns have a very authentic southern Italy feel. The countryside is hilly, parched, and stone strewn, largely occupied by extensive olive groves, but there is also extensive forestation, “la forest umbra”, the shadowed forest, which demands a return visit.

It was not a photo-oriented trip. I don’t really do those much any more. But nevertheless plenty of opportunities presented themselves to be grabbed. Here’s the first set, all from Peschici.

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Toscana Variations 2

the people phase

in Photography , Friday, May 22, 2015

Just a few stolen shots wandering around the streets of Siena and Asciano. I’m surely no Cartier-Bresson. Although maybe if I convert to black & white, add a black frame, and start banging on about the gorgeously poetic lusciousness of Fuji cameras then maybe I’d get closer. But that sounds like far too much hard work.

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Olympus E-P5, 17mm and 75mm lenses.

 

Toscana Variations

the green phase

in Photography , Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Following this year’s annual indulgence at our home from home, Casa Bolsinina in Tuscany, my archive of Tuscan photography has grown still further. Having finally managed to put together something a little bit substantial, in the shape of my Blurb book “Primavere Toscane”, I didn’t feel much pressure at all to photograph this year, and spent more time cycling. Well, that and eating and drinking. But one cannot live by food and exercise alone, so some photography had to be done. I had a vague idea of trying to forsake the big picture(s) for detail and abstractionism this time. As a vague idea, it produced vaguely interesting results, but only to the extent of demonstrating that simple isn’t easy.

Anyway, here’s a first set. Maybe there’ll be more. Maybe not.

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All taken using an Olympus E-P5 and 75mm f1.8 lens.

 

Primavere Toscane

publishing empire launches today!

in Book Reviews , Wednesday, May 06, 2015

I have an announcement to make: I’ve finally managed to complete a project, and have self-published my first book, on Blurb.

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Still in the plastic wrapper

To be honest, “Primavere Toscane” is a very personal project, and was partly a kind of dry run, in advance of several other ideas I have in mind. It is a slim volume, weighing in at a mere 40 pages. Here’s what I have to say about it:

For over a decade, every springtime has been marked for me by a short visit to an area of Tuscany, just south of the city of Siena. This book is a distillation of hundreds of photos taken over these years, in the same places, and the same time of year.

Hundreds, if not thousands of photo books celebrating Tuscany have been published. The landscape, the towns and cities, the people, the culture, the food, even are richly visual and deeply attractive to photographers. Many of these are strongly biased towards the misty, early morning light, to the classic vistas across the Val d’Orcia, and the golden light illuminating the farmhouses and rolling hills. Certainly I’ve been drawn to these too, and this book does contain a few examples of such scenes. But more and more I’ve been attracted to the stronger, even harsh full daylight, which we landscape photographers are told to avoid. The problem with the morning light, apart from the fact that early morning in Tuscany is usually painfully early in late springtime, is that it ends up showing a very romanticised view, representing only one aspect of the complex character of the region.

I’m certainly not going to claim to do any better at representing all facets of Tuscany, or even the small area within which these photographs are taken, but I do hope to show a personal interpretation rather than replicating the work of celebrated authors.

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I decided to go the full DIY route, creating the layout in InDesign, and preparing the photos myself. For creating the layout, I used JPG proxy images, and then created exact size CMYK versions, sharpened at the output size. It was a lot of work, but the results are good. I chose a hardback format, and heavier Proline paper. Two things came out of that: 40 pages is barely enough to fill out a hardback format, and the Proline paper is nice, but has a degree of print-through, which surprises me. Only a little,but still. For subsequent printing I think I’d select Proline coated. The selection of paper stock is a bit of a pain with Blurb, and they could make it easier. For example, I have a couple of Blurb books by other authors, but I have no way of telling which stock they are printed on. But generally, the Blurb experience is great, apart from one eye-watering detail: the prices. They’re just way too high.

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The photography in the book is a mixture of “normal” and panoramic frames, and was edited down from about 700 shots. It is roughly divided into thematic sections, but these are not labelled. I’ve set it so you can flick through the whole thing on the Blurb site, using their preview tool.

If you get a chance to have a look at the preview, I’d love to hear what you think. I may create a PDF version for download sometime, but that will require a completely revised layout. Blurb’s “auto PDF” generator produces truly abysmal results.

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Wow. I’m a (self) published author now!

 

Mountains and Milano

the sublime and the ridiculous

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.

 

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