photoblogography - Just some stuff about photography

Ferragosto

the sargasso of the soul

in Photography in Ticino , Sunday, August 23, 2015

Ferragosto is an Italian and public holiday celebrated on 15 August, coinciding with the major Catholic feast of the Assumption of Mary. These days it commonly marks the end of a standard two week work close down and summer vacation period, during which Italian cities are deserted, and nobody, but nobody, answers the phone. Even the carabinieri have gone to the beach. Unlike Northern Europeans, in general Italians seek out crowds, and actually seem to enjoy being packed in like sardines on the beaches of Rimini and Viareggio, and saying that you’re not going anywhere at “Ferragosto” is to be marked out as a weirdo.

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Since the Canton Ticino is at least culturally an extension of Northern Italy, and since over 50,000 Italians cross the border every day to work here (Ticino has a population of about 330,000), Ferragosto strikes Ticino as well.

Apart from the tourists, and the few people like me still working, the trains are empty, and the streets emptier still. The wind-down starts as the the schools and universities close at the beginning of July, accelerates towards August, and then peaks during the Ferragosto. The heat and the lack of activity lead to strange, subdued atmosphere, like an urban Sargasso Sea.

I wrote a little about this last year, with a short set of photos.  Here’s a few more.

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After the 15th of August, people start drifting back. You might, just might, be able to reach a plumber or an electrician, but it’s still unlikely. Then it all accelerates. In a few short days the 50,000 people are once again crossing the border to jam up an infrastructure which was never designed to support them, the trains are full, the streets are busy. Ferragosto and the dog days of August are a receding dream.

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Posted in Photography in Ticino on Sunday, August 23, 2015 at 07:14 PM • PermalinkComments (0)

Random Walk

point & shoot

in Photography in Ticino , Friday, May 08, 2015

Just a quick burst of random photography walking to work through Bellinzona, Ticino, one random morning in May. No plan, no preconceived idea, and very little time. Just point, and shoot. It’s probably something I do two or three times a week, and forget about. But for some reason this little set said “publish me”. So here it is.

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And for those who like to know, all shot with an Olympus E-P5 with Sigma DN 60mm f2.8 lens.

 

 

 

Posted in Photography in Ticino on Friday, May 08, 2015 at 07:56 PM • PermalinkComments (1)

Time Fades Away

steel and glass

in Photography in Ticino , Monday, April 13, 2015

For over 15 years, the southern Swiss-Italian city of Lugano, and it’s immediate surroundings, has been my home. Lugano is a strange place. It benefits from an absolutely world class location, on a lake front flanked by two “sugar loaf”-like mountains. Historically and it is part of Lombardy and has passed under the control of Milano and Como before being grabbed by the Swiss Confederation in the 16th Century. Eventually as an aftermath of Napoleonic machinations it became part of the Canton of Ticino, a fully fledged federal state of Switzerland, but even now Ticino retains the joint title of Republic. Lugano was a favourite Belle Epoque destination, leading to the building of many classic villas and hotels. Historians and archeologists data Lugano back through Roman times, to the Etruscans, and Stone Age settlement. So one would expect a rich architectural tapestry similar to towns just over the Italian border. And one would be sorely disappointed. Lugano is, on the whole, a boring, sanitised wasteland where countless historic buildings, quarters, streets and landmarks have been, and continue to be, demolished to make way for more of the grim (but so gorgeously expensive) concrete cubes which the Swiss apparently cannot get enough of.  And of course the ranks of steel and glass atrocities without which no self-respecting Bank can be seen. And there is no shortage of banks in Lugano.

I really do wonder what the tourists who descend on Lugano from Easter to autumn make of it all. It doesn’t stand up very well in comparison to Como, a few kilometres away, or even squeaky clean Luzern further north, if you’re into that kind of thing. Sure, the landscape is spectacular, and there are countless forest and mountain trails, but as a city, well, I guess it’s ok as an overnight stop.

It could have been so different. And there are plenty of Lugano natives who are pretty angry about what has been done, but the level of petty corruption and short term greed, in an area with a pretty small population, where everybody knows everybody else, has steamrollered in the property developers. Ironically, investing in reviving and repurposing structures given character by the passage of time has led to fortunes being made in many other cities.  Here, instead, heritage has ben flogged off for the chance to buy the latest Porsche or Ferrari.

If you look carefully, you can catch glimpses of what might have been out of the corner of your eye. A few years back, photographer Barbara Dell’Acqua published a very nice book on exactly this theme, which for some reason I never got around to reviewing. Many of the scenes in “una citta dentro la citta” (a city behind the city) have already vanished.

Actually, this was supposed to just be a post with a few “clutching at straws” shots I took in Lugano over the weekend. Instead in turned into a rant. I guess I qualify as an outsider, but still, Lugano is home to me, and it really makes me sad to see what a mess money and politics has made of it.

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Posted in Photography in Ticino on Monday, April 13, 2015 at 09:49 PM • PermalinkComments (1)

Down by the river

A tale of two cameras

in Photography in Ticino , Wednesday, November 06, 2013

The river cutting through the rocks at the village of Lavertezzo, in the Verzasca Valley in Ticino, Switzerland, is one of my favourite places to photograph. It helps that it’s not very far from where I live, too, a fact I sometimes forget to be grateful enough for.  I can pretty much go there whenever I want, if I can be bothered to get off my a**e.

Last week I was in the valley and couldn’t resist a quick session around sundown.  There are two sets here, taken with different cameras. It’s interesting to see the differences. First up, the Sigma DP2 Merrill, with it’s fixed 50mm equivalent lens.

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Lavertezzo - Sigma DP2M

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Lavertezzo - Sigma DP2M

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Lavertezzo - Sigma DP2M

Then, the Olympus E-5 with the 12-60mm (24-120 equivalent) lens.

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Lavertezzo - Olympus E-5 / Zuiko 12-60mm

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Lavertezzo - Olympus E-5 / Zuiko 12-60mm

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Lavertezzo - Olympus E-5 / Zuiko 12-60mm

When I originally got into the Olympus E-System, part of the attraction was the 4:3 image aspect ratio. It was very much a creative choice, and remains that way. It is close to the Medium Format 645 format which I always liked. Using the Sigma with its “35mm” 3:2 ratio is always a bit of shock. It feels quite constrained. This is of course very contrary of me, because the wider aspect ratio of 3:2 is generally considered to be better for landscape, which is probably my basic niche. But it isn’t so good in vertical orientation, which I do quite a lot of, even though I haven’t shown any examples here.

Otherwise, comparing the output of the two cameras is not so easy at these small sizes, but one interesting point is that, opposite to what might be expected, you can get more useable depth of field out of the Sigma. It is quite comfortable at f/11 or even f/16, where f/11 is on the extreme limit for the Olympus, and at f/16 diffraction is very noticeable, even to me who on the whole doesn’t give much of a damn about pixels.

The colour of the Sigma is different. It is more natural - or at least it can be, on a good day, but also somehow thinner, less saturated. Generally you can’t do that much in post-processing to Sigma files until they start looking distinctly odd. But when they’re good, they’re very good indeed. And the detail is just breathtaking. But the Olympus isn’t that far behind, and the files are much more malleable - which is just as well, because generally they need a bit of a boost.

A lot of people bang on (and on) on the inter webs about “IQ” - image quality, not intellectual quotient - far from the latter, indeed. And the Sigma indisputably has better “IQ”. And it can be fun to use, when all its ducks are nicely aligned.  But the Olympus E-5 is always fun to use. It is a wonderful camera to use on a tripod, with the totally orientable screen, coupled with the best Live View implementation on the market allowing it to pretend to be a view camera, and the abundance of dials and buttons making it easy to use in tricky conditions. It’s as equally at home sitting sedately on a tripod here as rolling around in the bottom of a Zodiac in the Antarctic (which the Sigma most definitely was not!). And the fact that it is as tough as old nails is extremely useful in my case. So for me, the usability, responsiveness and enjoyment I get out of the E-5 trumps the unbelievable shots that the Sigma can produce…just.  If Sigma produce an DSLR with Live View one day, with a few of the rough edges of the SD1 smoothed off I might be tempted, since we’re at the end of the road so far as Olympus DSLRs are concerned.  But, whoa, I’d lose my beloved 4:3 ratio. Not sure I could live with that.

But the most important thing, after all, is to just get out there and use this stuff to pursue whatever vision, obsession or interest you have. Photography for me is as much about blocking out the noise and allowing myself to relax and chill out. Obsessing about cameras is totally counter-productive.

For more background on Lavertezzo, see the article I wrote some time back. And if that’s not enough, I’ve got a gallery you might like to browse through.


after the heat
the tourists have gone … well, mostly
the postcard shop is boarded up
a hush has descended over the valley
the snow will not be long to follow
but old man river
he just keeps rollin’ along

 

Posted in Photography in Ticino on Wednesday, November 06, 2013 at 09:38 PM • PermalinkComments (1)

Dog Days

sleeping in the midday sun

in Photography in Ticino , Thursday, August 22, 2013

The heat persists. Officially, around 30C, since mid-July. Feels like … hot, lethargic, slow. The slight north wind just takes the edge of it. Nobody around, midday. The streets of Abilene, um, no, Giubiasco are deserted. Well, even more deserted than usual. Agosto sono tutti in vacanze. Al mare. Al sud. Al caldo. E tutto chiuso. Sleeping in the midday sun, sleeping in the midday sun. Dark, deep shadows, retina-searing light. And the heat radiates. In a week or so things will stir, the sleepy, sleepy town will awake a little, I’ll have to look both ways before crossing the street.  Until then… dog days.

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Olympus E-P3, Panasonic Lumix 17mm f2.8

Posted in Photography in Ticino on Thursday, August 22, 2013 at 08:27 PM • PermalinkComments (0)
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