I think it’s going to be a curvy straight sort of day.
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I think it’s going to be a curvy straight sort of day.
Click on the blog title if you want to add your thoughts.
This was taken during the summer, at dusk. I was looking for a monochrome image that would pull together contrasts beyond the black, white, and shades of grey, and beyond the play between lines and curves.
With this image I’m thinking of ‘home’ contrasting with architectural statements of bold, stern, forward-looking expressions of computer generated perfection, rendered in glass and steel - doesn’t sound ‘homely’, does it ?
And how is the perfect design compromised by utility? Drainpipes. Exterior lights. Weather stains.
And you have to look very carefully to see anyone or anything looking out, boldly, to the far horizon. In fact there is someone, a something - a pigeon, contemplating their last meal, or next. The pigeon is at home here.
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It was icy as I crossed the burn, the planks creaking and shifting, echoing the murmurs of awakenings. Geese stirred the breeze overhead, and I could discern a Curlew, hungrily harvesting the mud below, aware of me rustling past. The light grew, and I crunched my way around the unyielding tussocks beneath the wooden piles, looking for the angle to complete my vision of bridge, burn, trees and the hoped-for sun rise. There was time to pause, to wait. The same curlew could still be heard, piercing the frost out on the marsh, near silent hummings narrating any success of its gather. A gull silently gliding above. Ducks passing, not hiding their delight. Away to the west the city lights areoutlining the hills, and to the east the naked trees are backlit and stark.
A long, frigid, darkness is ending. Life emerges again.
Every now and then, I have a photography day out that turns out productive and inspiring beyond all expectations. My days in Athens were all like that. This day at Belhaven Beach, East Lothian was such a day. Sharp blue sky, quite a stiff breeze, yellow sands, and interesting looking people enjoying their leisure time. I have a dozen photos from that day which stick in my mind, many months later - I wonder if I’d be remembering that day if I’d not taken my camera.
Or does it ? The eye-brain combination is fantastically complex and capable and one that we mostly can (thankfully) take for granted. Dynamic Range is one such area - the range of light in which detail can be accurately perceived - reading a dim kindle on a sunny beach, for example. (I wish). The perceived 'dynamic range' of the eye is much wider than conventional cameras - we can seamlessly make sense of very dark scenes that are just next to very bright scenes. In photographic terms the range can be '24 stops'. Good cameras might achieve 13 stops. The science seems complex, and of course there is a lot of info out there as to how the brain (and eye) achieves this. I suppose the need to survive in the dark and be able to hunt in the day pushed this evolution along. I wonder.
Another example of perception vs reality is how we correct for vertical distortions of, say, building verticals, due to our eyes having a very wide angle. One value for this could be a focal length of approx 22mm (you might imagine, it's not straightforward making this statement). That's wide enough to distort verticals, and what we know to be parallel lines appear to converge. Architects use this perception to manipulate our awareness of a building - the colonnades of the classical Parthenon is an interesting example of this. But our brain knows they are vertical, from learned experience, and adjusts accordingly.
Here's an example - the Zappeion in Athens. The first photo is my original - 16mm (so a little shorter focal length equivalent than the eye's) - 1/200th sec, f/11, ISO 200, full frame Canon.
Look at the converging verticals.
Even as you're looking, the brain is interpreting the column as vertical and correcting for you, although not as 'efficiently' as it does in real life. At the scene it's very difficult to 'see' the converging verticals because the brain is automatically correcting for you - and the override technique is buried deep in evolution. I can't imagine an optical scientist, an evolutionist, or an anthropologist is going to be very impressed with my simplistic understanding of all this!
Now here's my corrected version, I've corrected the vertical columns to vertical (and also photoshopped out the gantry. And tidied up the exposure and removed some haze too - thanks to software called DXO Optics Pro).
It's quite a remarkable difference isn't it ?
(Various sources of info about the eye, including :
Last minute working, squeezed in between the fun. High pressure stakes - make the most of your time studying, but don't drop the ball. Balance living for now, with living for the future. Good luck.
Returning once again to London's Southbank, in happier times.
"Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin
Dance me through the panic till I'm gathered safely in
Lift me like an olive branch and be my homeward dove
Dance me to the end of love"
Leonard Cohen, Various Positions, 1984
To lift the spirits, it's Spring, there is love on the beach ....
"Forever in my dreams my heart will be
Hanging on to this sweet memory
A day of strange desire
And a night that burned like fire
Take me back
To the place
That I know...
On the beach"
Chris Rea, On The Beach, 1986
And finally today, finally, at the end of day ....
"And as we wind on down the road
Our shadows taller than our soul.
There walks a lady we all know
Who shines white light and wants to show
How everything still turns to gold.
And if you listen very hard
The tune will come to you at last.
When all are one and one is all
To be a rock and not to roll."
Stairway to Heaven, Led Zeppelin, 1971
This is a well known spot on London's Southbank, just over the river from Parliament. Most times if you stop to watch the skateboarders you'll be rubbing shoulders with photographers, catching the excitement. It's a sensory space, loud with the sound of the boards, and the kids, with boats passing behind you on the Thames, helicopters above, probably street food smells wafting by you even if you're not actually eating, and the bright and garish colours of the painted concrete.
One of my favourite places in London.
This couple were across the aisle from me on my flight back from Athens last week. As the lights went down and the flight settled down, the cards came out. There was some chat, but mainly the two friends played as though they'd played for years, an easy acquaintance built on trust and a teasing desire to win.
I took quite a lot of photos, I wanted the cards lit, and I wanted both his and her face visible. I used an outrageous ISO 32000 on the camera because I needed a fairly high shutter speed (1/100th sec) as I was using a focal length of about 70mm without lens stabilisation, and f/5.6 was as wide as I dared go, knowing how limited the depth of field was going to be (I looked it up later - focusing on her eyes gives about +/- 3cm each side!) - I was focusing on her eyes as I wanted her to be the primary subject, the cards secondary, the man third. I'm not certain that was the best choice. Lots of compromises here, but I'm sure the tiny sensor in a phone camera would have been overwhelmed with noise. As it is, the image was noisy until processed with DxO Prime. Couldn't do much with that shiny head though !
Oh, throughout, I don't think they were aware of me. I find that quite surprising given how close I was. if it's you, thank you, and say hello.
Katherine, kiss me
Flick your cigarette, then kiss me
Flick your eyes at mine so briefly
Your leather jacket lies
In sticky pools of Cider Blackberry
You glance and ricochet
From every alpha male behind me
Like marbles on a washing machine
Lyrics : Franz Ferdinand, Katherine Kiss Me
Art and Creative Writing
If every picture tells a story, what story can you weave from this ?
Who is the romantic, who is the realist ?
Who has baggage, what was it, who brought it ?
Who is leading who ?
Dreams and realities, hopes and fears.
I think the photo-journalist approach is to look for ways to subtly (or otherwise) let the image describe the scene. This image can only have been taken in Greece. It's a little short on clues showing precisely where in Greece (the Acropolis, of course) but that wasn't my intention - my pre-visualisation (such as it was) here was to show that Greece is beautiful, sunny, and popular. This one was a relatively easy image to make work. My journalism skills are still developing, but even the practice is fun.
Didn't quite get this one. I've others where the flag is blowing fully open in the breeze but the friends are out of focus. A journalist wouldn't ethically patch the two images together. Mind you even as it stands it's fairly obvious where we are.
By contrast, I think a more artful image would purposefully leave much to interpretation.
If that's you in the image, say hello.
In the bustle of the thoroughfare below the Acropolis, Athens, these musicians were playing the crowd. The instruments on the left of the photo are Bouzouki (I think!) and it was easy to imagine a scene like this being played out over the millennia - the details would change of course. Bouzouki arrived in Greece only recently - the 1900's - and the musicians' dress code is modern. But it brings history to life, doesn't it ? Imagining past citizens look like modern citizens.
As the photographer, I worked this shot. Zoom lenses have their merits but they can make you lazy. Zoom with your feet, is the saying - meaning walk around a bit. Get closer. Angle the camera. My first images were from my eye level, sideways on. Maybe I was shy, it was less intimidating but also less interesting, less involving and also, more clichéd. This image here enhanced the shape of the instrument case, the flower helped with depth and colour contrast, there are leading lines from the cobbles, leading the eye in. The musicians are busy but eye contact helps with the sense of involvement. Of course I still felt a bit shy but that diminishes as you become more immersed - and some coins for thanks helps with that. More importantly, long before I got to this shot, informal permission was given, using that universal method of a smile, a point to the camera, and a nod. Street photography is a balancing act of capturing the decisive moment in a context of respect - and as a visitor and guest, even more so.
Not a perfect photo, of course (whatever that is) - my shadow is in there, and the light is harsh, but I'm happy with the return for my effort.
Thanks again to Visalis of http://www.photowalksinathens.com/
Image details : Canon 5D, 16-35 II at 18mm, 1/2000, f/5.0, ISO 200, exp -2/3
Thank you for reading.
This has a rather bleak feel to it, I think. If a packed sports stadium embodies the tribal reactions of team and of support, and of knowing you are part of something great - what does being alone in a stadium suggest ?
This image is from the stadium which is the home of modern Olympics, though considering the location was the home to Games over 2500 years ago, that rather undersells it.
When i was here, on a bright sunny warm spring day, there were a few people wandering around. Only a few, though, so the stadium itself was the star.
The Panathenaic Stadium in Athens is one of those places that gives a little on first inspection - then, when you prove your commitment a little - paying your €5 and going inside the location, it gives a little more. Climb to the top and your effort is rewarded with every step as you climb above the city streets. Views open up. The light strikes you from every angle. At the top, turn around, and prepare to give an involuntary breathless Wow. You're standing in the centre of a large U shape - the opposite side looks to the far mountains, the source of the marble that's all around. This is the only stadium in the world built entirely of marble. On a sunny day, Raybans are advised.
By any measure the stadium has rewarded your efforts already. But, go with a photographer, as a photographer, prepare to shoot lots - MANY - images. I was lucky to be guided by Vasilis of http://www.photowalksinathens.com/ and once over my feeling of 'where do I start to photograph this ?!', with encouragement I saw the angles, the contrasts, repetitions, the light and shadow, the nod back to deep antiquity. For a photographer it is the mother lode.
With Vasilis :-)
Much is written about the importance of qualifications, compared, perhaps, to experience. I'm delighted to have passed a diploma in photography, from the UK's Photography Institute. It was a great course, wide ranging and challenging, with quality tutors. What I gained most form the diploma, though, was the general sharpening of my photographic eye - that difficult to describe mix of understanding better what is pleasing, from a composition point of view.