Aug 272010

I continue to stay very busy, trying to take photographs whenever I can, but today it’s from the archives again. This is a very old image, almost three years, and since then it has waited on my TODO list.

The Song of the Day is one more time “The Long Way Home“. I’ve used this song a long time ago, way back in “295 – The Long Way“. Then I had used it for an awful rendition of a very mediocre image, but this time the image is better and for a change it is not Tom Waits’ original from his “Orphans” album, no, today it is Norah Jones on her 2004 record “Feels Like Home”. And it’s not bad either. Very different, but not at all bad. YouTube has it.

1271 – Let’s Drink To The Hard Working People

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Apr 062010

I am still in Carinthia. Our car needs an overhaul and I had to take a day off.

These two images were taken in the morning when I walked back home. At the moment I use the Nikon 18-200 VR, and it really has its advantages to have such a big range. Chromatic abberations can be quite high (depends upon focal length) and the distortions are very high as well, but both can be corrected in software.

Actually I’m quite satisfied. It’s not a killer lens, it’s not a lens I would buy again, but having it does not hurt at all 🙂

It’s mid-afternoon, I’ll go fetch the car in a few minutes. The day has turned from overcast/hazy to wonderfully sunny, so I may make some more images, but I really want to get this post done. I’ll have to work on my Programming blog in the evening on the train 🙂

The Song of the Day is of course “Salt Of The Earth“, the last song on the 1968 release “Beggars Banquet”, maybe the best Rolling Stones album ever. Hear it on YouTube.

1270 – This Is How It Goes

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Apr 062010

As I said in the morning, it was mostl ycloudy today, it only got better in mid-afternoon, when even some sun came out.

It didn’t bother me at all, because I had to work on the tutorial for the Programming blog anyway.

In fact, most of the time I was held up with CSS. The matter is, when you do kind of a technical documentation, you very often refer to places in the user interface of the tool (like I might say “From the context menu use New Class“), you explain important terms, and you refer to things a user has to type in or the system prints out. You also want to structure your post into sections, subsections and maybe sus-subsections. It does not happen that often on this blog, but I had to find a solution for the tutorial on the other blog.

This is the kind of text that I will write very often, and I really want to use structural markup for that. Thus instead of using italics and bold fonts or such things (that’s visual markup), I instead use a span with a class “term” for terms, a class “gui” for user interface objects, etc. This way I can use a CSS stylesheet attached to the whole blog, and when I ever change my design, all occurrences of terms and references to user interface elements get changed together.

That tutorial is something that I write at work as well, and at work I use our Wiki. That’s the same software that runs Wikipedia, and I only realized today, how much easier it is to write documentation, when you’re not forced to plain HTML.

I could set up a Wiki of course, and maybe it would be even a better resource than a blog, but blogging is what I want, thus I maybe have no choice but using that verbose HTML/CSS crud.

Today’s three images were taken on a short afternoon outing, all within 100 meters of each other.

The Song of the Day is “This Is How It Goes” from Aimee Mann’s 2002 album “Lost in Space”. Hear it on YouTube.

1269 – Another Morning

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Apr 052010

This is just another morning as seen out of my study. I took it yesterday while working on a post for my programming blog. This pretty much occupies me at the moment. The new post is “5 – Patterns And Languages“. It is both an opinion piece and a declaration of intent.

The other post I’m working on is not up yet, it will be “6 – An Eclipse / GlassFish / Java EE 6 Cookbook”. I’m writing this to provide a smooth entry into Java EE 6 programming with Eclipse, something that I think a lot of people are searching for. Nothing fancy, just basic things that you otherwise still have to guess and find out the hard way. Of course this is intended to draw traffic to my new blog, and I guess it will do, just as tutorials always do.

Other than that, Michael is here, at the moment still sleeping on the sofa, while I finish yesterday’s post, wondering about what to photograph on this cool, cloudy day, all the while carrying on with the tutorial post. I’m pretty busy, but being so and wanting to be so is a pleasure 🙂

The image is an HDR taken with the Nikon 18-200 VR, processed with Photomatix Pro.

The Song of the Day is “The Morning: Another Morning” from the classic 1967 Moody Blues album “Days Of Future Passed”. I have no idea why I have not used this song before, hut I have not. Hear it on YouTube.

1268 – Reaching for the Moon

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Apr 032010

It’s Easter weekend. Here in Carinthia it’s cold, compared to Vienna. Morning temperatures around freezing. It was beautiful today though.

Remember that I told you about the box of the now broken Tamron lens and that I have it in Carinthia? Well, that’s right, it was here, and when I took it in my hands, I was surprised about its weight. Something had to be in it …

Imagine my surprise when I found a lens inside. My good old Nikon 18-200 VR. It had had it on the camera when I bought the Tamron. Of course I had put the Tammy on the camera, the Nikon in the box – and there it had been for half a year. I had not even missed it. Boy, I have way too many lenses 🙂

Today’s image was taken using that very neglected lens, set to 200mm. The view is over the neighboring buildings towards Mount Mangart, a snow capped peak in the Julian Alps, directly on the border between Slovenia and Italy. I didn’t even see the moon until I found it in Photoshop 😀

The Song of the Day is “Reaching for the Moon” from the 2007 self-titled Holly Cole album. Wonderful rendition. Hear it on YouTube.

Oct 282009

These are tools of my father. My father was a master carpenter and entrepreneur, though his business never got even mid-sized. In a way he was – and still is – always the working man.

It is years ago that I took this image. Just look at the file name or the URL: mid-August 2006! That’s before I began this blog.

I’m still here in Carinthia, beautiful autumn days outside, the trees in their most glorious colors, I confined to the apartment, sick of being sick. Well, not much longer. But of course I was not outside yesterday, thus the archive image.

For no particular reason I began looking for an image from the beginning, browsing my early D200 images in chronological order and … they suck. They really do. Most of them do. No that’s not really differentiating, most of my images still suck, but on any given day, I can be sure that I will have a workable image.

Not so then. Oh my! Not only did my images suck, I made so few of them! I didn’t even properly try to make them not suck.

I can best see it in framing. Today when I frame an image, I normally know what I do. I attempt a certain effect, and this is so pronounced, that even after a long time, even if I don’t remember the exact incident, I can immediately see why I framed the image as it is, I understand what I wanted to achieve, even when the image was ultimately a failure. They are my images and I understand my images.

It’s not that I don’t recognize my early images, sure I do, but so very often I recognize them through the locations. I know the places, I can remember many of the incidents, but what I don’t recognize is the style.

Style? Huh?? Bold word for someone denying having one!

Indeed. Uhhh … well … there’s not only black and white, there are shades in between. I am slowly accepting the idea of style being more than a marketing instrument. I am still convinced that much of what goes as “style” is nothing but self-inflicted artistic petrification, annihilation of creativity from fear of changing from a formula that has been found to sell.

There is a deeper meaning though. While the word style is commonly understood as a characteristic of a particular artist’s work, that can be recognized by the recipient, even without knowing the artist, i.e. understood as a distinguishable property of the work, there is merit in looking at style from the artist’s perspective. Here, style is not a result, it is a process, and ultimately it is a way of thinking, a way of analyzing the world. I may frequently change tools, change between color and b&w, change between realistic post-processing and Photoshop plugins like Alien Skin Snap Art, I may do that from one image to the next, may do it within one post and change back with the next, but I change my way of thinking, of analyzing the world, only very slowly, and only due to an ever ongoing learning process.

This is what I mean when I say I don’t recognize my style in these old images. When I see them, frankly, I have no idea what I thought then. There is not much continuity with what I do now. The images could as well have been taken by someone else.

It’s pretty interesting to see how it all began and where the roots are of how I work today. I have not gone back to the early 5 megapixal Kodak images, I guess I should view them systematically as well, but I guess it won’t make much of a difference. What finally made a difference, was when I bought my second SLR lens.

My first lens was a Nikon 18-200 VR, and when I bought the D200, this long range was actually a step back from the even longer range of the Kodak. I was just used to zooming and to the universal availability of all focal lengths.

My second lens was a Sigma 30/1.4, my first prime, and though I can’t remember why exactly I bought a prime at all, I suppose it was the “myth of primes”, it immediately made a difference. Constricted to a frame of a certain size, I began to compose. Not being able to zoom, made me work harder, think deeper, and from that time on I see images that I can identify with. These are images that I have put thoughts into, and the ways of those thoughts are still traceable for me.

Now, what can be learned of all that? Two things:

Productivity may not be the only key to improvement, but it helps a lot. My productivity increased tremendously, when I began to publish a daily photoblog. If you want to get better, there is no better thing than practice, and the rigid discipline of a daily blog is keeping you practicing more than you otherwise would. It’s not as intense as doing it as a job, but it leaves you more freedom to explore.

The second thing is: the “myth of primes” exists for a reason. Restrictions make you work harder, and that improves your work as well.

The Song of the Day is “The Working Man” from the 1968 self-titled Creedence Clearwater Revival debut album. Hear it on YouTube.

1062 – Close To The Borderline

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Sep 112009

On Wednesday we made a trip to the mountains south-east of Kraków, the region between the Beskides and the Tatra. In a journal from 2001 I have read about the region, that legions of its inhabitants had gone to America, especially to Chicago and Toronto, but that most of them never had given up their houses.

Indeed you see innumerable of the typical wooden houses being uninhabited. In fact it’s pretty easy to see why: Although the region is beautiful, there is not much work available, almost no industry. My impression is though, that in the meantime tourism has become a substantial pillar of the region’s economy, with Zakopane being the #1 winter sports center in Poland.

Personally I was not particularly impressed though. I am afraid I am spoiled by our own mountains.

Other than that, let me bring forth one gripe that I have with Poland: It’s the habit of the Polish to burn things. We have called this trip jokingly an olfactory trip into the past. Let me explain.

Sometime in my youth it became forbidden to burn junk and plant remains on the fields or in your garden. Neither I nor my parents had ever done such a thing, but it was pretty common among farmers, and I can vaguely remember the protest against the law. It worked well though, and here in Poland I can experience what it means to the environment to not have such a law: It’s crazy, you see fires everywhere, everybody seems to burn some hay, leaves or whatever, and the air is constantly – and pretty unnecessarily – filled with smoke that hangs over the landscape like fog. That’s rather unfortunate, because the pollution by the heavy industry seems to be well under control.

By the way, the final image shows the name of a village. Language is another problem here in Poland, if for nobody else, then at least for me. Normally when I read a name in German, English, Italian, Spanish and to a degree French, I know how to pronounce it, and when I see it, I can more or less immediately recognize it. Not so here. Polish spelling is in a certain way elaborate that makes recognition pretty hard for me, and in some cases, like with this village’s name, it takes some pondering before I even have an idea of how to pronounce it 🙂

The Song of the Day is “Close To The Borderline” from Billy Joel’s 1980 album “Glass Houses”. Hear it on YouTube.

Sep 052009

A very conventional photo with Nikon 18-200 VR and Lee ND grad filter for today. I took it on my way to the lake. I wanted to go swimming one more time. No idea what the weather in a week will be.

Btw, due to yesterday’s 20 hours downpour, the water level in the lake has risen by between 20 and 30cm to an all-year high. Pretty impressive. This has also cooled down the water to maybe 22 centigrades, which is very comfortable.

The rest of the day was shopping, packing for tomorrow’s trip to Kraków, Poland, and dining out with Michael, who visited us today.

I guess the next blog entry will be from Poland, at least if the hotel has WiFi as promised. If not, if you don’t hear from me for a week, then I am not dead, then I have a connection problem 😉

The Song of the Day is “Dog Days Are Over” by Florence + the Machine. The album “Lungs”, that I have linked to, won’t be out in the US before October 20. You can either wait or get the download. YouTube has a video, and here is the link to Amazon’s download version: Lungs

Jul 242009

I’m on the train to Carinthia now, and I can say that it’s the first time that I am greatly thankful for a major delay of the train.

Due to deviations, the tramway line 18, the line that’s normally a pretty direct connection from my home to the train station, a 20 minutes affair, today took almost 40 minutes, and that after having been severely late. It was no problem though, because the train to Carinthia was late as well, thus I sit here and everything’s fine and dandy.

I had taken a day off and after a late breakfast I decided to go out and make some pictures, this time with a lens that had lain idle for maybe half a year, a lens that I have bought more than three years ago, along with the Nikon D200.

It’s the Nikon 18-200 VR, a lens that featured in over 220 blog posts since, but that had fallen more or less from grace. You know how much I love shallow DOF, you know how often I photograph in dark places, and of course these are all disciplines where my primes fare much better. On the other hand, where such a long zoom is unbeatable, is the ability to react to every subject.

What I did today was really casual, almost mindless photographing. No big effort, no restrictions, freely changing focal lengths from fairly wide angle to an equivalent of 300mm, and that’s without ever changing lenses. Relaxing, I tell you. It’s not for every day, but at times it feels really well. And not only that: There is quite a number of images that otherwise I would not have taken at all, and that’s regardless of how many primes I would have had with me.

And then? Well, then I called my camera dealer “Blende 7“, one of Vienna’s best camera shops, asked them if they had the Sigma 28/1.8 in stock, they had and, well, as I said, the 18-200 is a fine lens, but not for every day 🙂

The Song of the Day is “Liars’ Bar” from the 1996 Beautiful South album “Blue Is The Colour”. Dailymotion has the hilarious video.