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It’s in the trees

never too late to try again

in Photography , Wednesday, June 12, 2013

This little clump of cypress trees, on the main road towards Rome, just south of San Quirico d’Orcia in Tuscany, Italy, must be a very strong candidate for the most photographed trees in the world. They even have their own group on Flickr - Boschetto del Cipressi - which also conveniently gives you the exact GPS coordinates.  Apart from that, there aren’t all that many good angles, so pretty much all the good shots are done. And I’ve been going there for well over 10 years. A few years ago, as often as not you’d have the place to yourself, but of course now it is a regular stop on the the dreaded Photo Workshop Circuit.

Nevertheless, a few weeks back, when doing a quick “highlights” tour in those parts for some friends, we did pass, and of course I had to stop.  And what the hell, I pulled out the XPan, stuck the 90mm lens on it, wandered over to the edge of the field, and took a few frames. Couldn’t be bothered with the tripod. Afterwards I was fairly sure I’d screwed something up, I don’t remember what, but it turns out that if indeed I did it was a good thing. Because I think I’ve ended up with my all-time personal favourite of the boschetto.

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il boschetto dei cipressi, XPan, 90mm f/4, Fuji Provia 400X, handheld

 

Venice, sigmatized

somewhat sidetracked

in Photography , Tuesday, March 12, 2013

After 5 weeks in Patagonia and Antarctica, and a huge editing and processing backlog to get through and even maybe publish, what was the obvious thing to do? Of course!! Go to Venice and take some more photos! Well, I’m not making any excuses. Venice is a magical place, especially in February, and it’s just down the road. So. Here is a small selection of, maybe, a slightly different take on La Serenissima. No gondolas, no bridges, no canals (well, almost). And all captured with the quite unbelievable Sigma DP2 Merrill. Oh, and I’ve also got about 300 Olympus Pen Venice shots to get through before I can get back to the backlog!

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Venezia

The Missing Manual?

in General Rants , Monday, March 04, 2013

Venice, apparently, is the photographer’s dream. And indeed, I would imagine that upwards of hundreds of thousands of shots of Her Sereness are captured every day. And yet, it is quite remarkable that searches on the web for interesting books of Venetian photography give pretty barren results. Obviously there are endless shots of the Canale Grande from the Rialto bridge, of St Mark’s square (or rather the square that people think is St Mark’s but isn’t), of gondolas, etc, but actual, creative, thought inspiring stuff ? Not so much.

There are some examples I know of, but they’re quite left of centre. The late Simon Marsden’s “City of Haunting Dreams” is gorgeous, but obviously rather gothic (Marsden is the undisputed master of infrared and “supernatural” photography). And there’s Spanish photographer Toni Catany’s “Venise”, very much a book of two halves, and which seems rather hard to get hold of these days.  Leafing through both of these, Catany’s work seems to have influenced me more, at least his later stuff.

I have just ordered Christopher Thomas’ Venice in Solitude, which looks good, but again is a little specialised (he uses a now extinct large format Polaroid film). So where’s the classic ? Where’s the “Lost in Venice” that should be in every bookshop, every Venice corner tourist trap? Apparently it doesn’t exist. Maybe with everybody busy taking their own photos, there’s no market for it ? Maybe it is just impossible to grab and fix that elusive essence of Venice, which keeps flashing in the corner of your eye, but vanishes as you try to fix it on film or screen. Maybe some well-known (but not to me) Italian photographer has cornered the market ? Actually, I don’t think so, I did that search too. 

There are a couple of local photographers I discovered selling prints ands stuff, but I’m not going to link to them, because frankly they’re no better than the average visitor. And there are people doing photo tours - should be a sitting target, but again they seem sadly uninspiring.

In the current edition of Reponses Photo, you can find three “alternative” views of Venice, by three winners of Fuji cameras taken to Venice by the slightly ridiculous and rather pretentious Jean-Christophe Bechet. The results are disappointing to put it mildly (although Bechet naturally thinks they’re great). One shot modern docks in the fog - ok, fine, Venice has a modern side. Hold the front page. One shot the inside of (modern) museums - well frankly I would have thought he’d have found more, and better, material in Paris. And one was a little more courageous and shot Venice at night. At least he tried. Why did it not occur to Bechet that the real challenge lies not in avoiding replicating the millions of tourist shots, but perhaps to do them well, with an eye to really nailing what it is that captivates people about the floating city.  But no, that wouldn’t be arty enough. Except that it would. Venice could, and should, be the muse for some photographer’s masterpiece. But strangely it doesn’t seem to have happened yet. Maybe I’m just ignorant I’ll carry on searching. Suggestions, anybody ?

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Street Photography

from a sociopath’s perspective

in Photography , Friday, October 26, 2012

I don’t do street photography. At least not street photography with people in it. And I don’t do portraits. I’m just hopeless at people photography - I have neither the skills, nor the wish, to photograph people. And so when somebody asks me to photograph their birthday party - because I take photos, I must have a really good camera, etc - as happened today, I find the offence caused by refusing is less than the disappointment I’d cause if I accepted.

Weirdly though, the vast number of photography-related blogs I visit and subscribe to are mainly run by “people photographers”. I just find them more stimulating. There seems to be a lot more inventiveness, a lot more pushing the boundaries than in landscape, or “places” photography, where really there two camps - the romantic landscape, the “fine art photographers”, and the deadpan “post-modern” stuff. Why this is I don’t know. Perhaps there is less scope, or attraction, in pushing the look and texture in landscape, and more in finding new approaches to composition and viewpoint. Of course there’s the Flickr all-sliders-on-11 + extra contrast “style”, and, puke, HDR, but those are just failures of aesthetic judgement, not inventiveness.

There’s also a lot less gear talk on the “people” side, although there’s still plenty. The main difference is that there it’s pretty much all Fuji these days, as opposed to Canikon or very big, very expensive toys.

If there are any active, truly compelling blogs run by predominantly landscape photographers, I’ve yet to find them. But I’m open to suggestions.

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I don’t do street photography but I couldn’t resist this. Como, Italy, Olympus E-P3 with 45mm f/1.8 lens. Probably should be black and white - and taken with a Fuji - to really qualify as “street”

Here’s a few of the blogs I subscribe to:


Now this doesn’t mean I don’t like, admire and appreciate many landscape photographers. Of course I do. A large proportion of the few friends I have are landscape photographers. But they don’t tend to have much really interesting to write about. Maybe they just let the photos do the talking. Maybe we’re all sociopaths.

 

Venice, monochrome

also appearing on 500px!

in Hasselblad XPan , Sunday, October 21, 2012

This is slightly crazy. A few weeks ago I decided to work on a small set of photos of Venice, converted to black & white using the excellent Nik Silver EFX 2.0. Silver EFX does a pretty good job of turning digital images into emulations of monochrome film photography. So far so good. But then it occurred to me that I was actually transforming scans of positive film into emulations of monochrome negative film, which is not exactly an optimum process, since there’s a good 5 extra stops of exposure range in b&w, and the contrast curve in positive film doesn’t like being stretched too much. Well anyway. I’d probably have been better off loading Agfa Scala in my XPan in the first place. Or even Ektar 100. And apart from that, the originals actually were shot very much with colour in mind. But I quite like the way it all turned out.

Venice monochrome

I’ve decided to publish the set on 500px. I’ve had an account there for a while, but so far I haven’t used it much. What I like about 500px over Flickr is that it lends itself more to publishing sets, or portfolios. Flickr of course allows you to create sets as well, but it really puts an emphasis on individual photos. I can’t say I’ve built up much of a following over the 5 years or so I’ve been on Flickr, so perhaps it’s worth trying another approach. Personally I feel my photos work better in portfolios - in fact I was nudged in this direction a while ago by a professional photographer friend - but photo sharing sites are pretty much all about the latest shot, followed 15 nanoseconds later by the next. Also somehow photos taken recently are granted more worth than ones taken several years, or more, ago. I don’t really know why that is. These photos are nearly 2 years old, but they wouldn’t look substantially different had I taken them yesterday.

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I’m not all that happy about 500px deciding that everybody’s photos should be represented by a square preview. That’s them imposing their aesthetic decision over mine. But I suppose everybody else does this too. Otherwise it’s certainly much cleaner and photo-centric than Flickr.

Here’s one that didn’t make the cut. Possibly a little too clichéd.

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And there’s another one that didn’t make it to 500px, but ended up on Flickr instead. Well, I wouldn’t want them to feel left out.

 

 

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