Category Archives: Nikon 85/1.8

1030 – The Circus Is In Town

The circus is in town and we’re gonna see it today. We’ve asked, it’s OK to take pictures as long as you don’t use flash. That’s fine for me, I never would πŸ™‚

Other than that, we’ll see Michael today and the day’s gonna be busy.

The Image of the Day was taken from the tripod, using a cable release and an ND grad filter. You may recognize the view from the window of my study πŸ™‚

The Song of the Day is “Circus” from Tom Waits’ 2004 album “Real Gone”. Oh dear, is this man good. Hear for yourself on YouTube.

1013 – I’ll Be Your Mirror

The good thing is, I have slept long and well. The bad thing is, that I have no time to write a longish post now πŸ™‚

The Song of the Day is “I’ll Be Your Mirror“, originally from the Velvet Underground’s banana album. I have it on disc 1 of the remastered “Gold” collection of 2005. Nice song, hard to find.

Deezer can’t play anything from the Velvets, on YouTube the song is “not available in your country” (many thanks to the music industry, yes, of course I’d rip it from YouTube), but in the dark forests of Romania I have finally found it πŸ™‚

1012 – In Memoriam

Don’t ask me what this is. It seems to be a shrine to the memory of some young man.

You find it on the streets of Vienna, near the heart of the 7th district, in a corner right to some esoterics shop. Really, I have no idea, but I like it.

If you look carefully, you’ll see Jokerman in it, so obviously he was not a unique chalk drawing as I had supposed, but a rather a stencil or even a sticker. Oh well, the world is not what it used to be πŸ™‚

The other image, well, I don’t show it for its artistic qualities. It’s only for the fact that it brazenly displays a very peculiar notion of “genuine”.

The Song of the Day is “In Memoriam” from the Finnish string quartet Apocalyptica’s 2001 album “Cult”. Hear it on YouTube.

1011 – The Naked Eye

These are the images of Monday. I was back in Vienna and Vienna behaved: it was sunny and hot.

Remember that stupidly big battery from “990 – Oh Yes, Take Another Guess“? Guess what, it’s still here, and these are the cables that run from it down into the Underground station. Snake-like, huh?

Well, I really can’t imagine how those artists, oh, sorry, “Artists”, with style, manage to keep being interested in what they are doing. Why? Because I change mine all the time! Remember all those B&W images toned orange/brown? It really fascinated me, but with today’s two B&W images it could be nothing but pure black and pure white.

For the cables image B&W was an option, for the Image of the Day it was a necessity. The eye belongs to an image on an advertising column, and the receding left side of the column had strong reflections in a color that was completely alien to the color of the poster. Regardless of what I tried, in color the image looked terrible.

What you see here is a high-contrast blue filter for the column and a different B&W filter for the background. Furthermore I have adapted local contrasts with Topaz Adjust and several contrast layers with masks. I guess the result works pretty well and in any case a thousand times better than in color.

The final image is one more in a series that was so central to my SoFoBoMo book “Urban Dreams II“, another animal graffiti against a blurred background, another two-halves composition.

On a side-note: You may remember my rants against the trend towards Internet censorship. Well, I’m beginning to actually do something against it. I am now an official member of the Pirate Party of Austria, which means I have finally paid my membership fee πŸ™‚

The Pirates can be best described as “Computer Literates Against Stupid Populism”, aka CLASP, and their mission is to act against all kinds of populism-induced restrictions of human rights. They call themselves Pirates for two reasons: They sprang from a movement in Sweden, culminating in the Torrent tracker site “The Pirate Bay“, and in general, they oppose the notion that copying (for example for personal backups) is piracy.

The content industry is enormously inventive in coming up with ever new business models that basically can be subsumed under “Selling The Same Sh*t Over And Again”. They even manage to get support from hardware and software producers for their broken schemes (DRM, HDCP). At the same time they seem to increasingly influence legislators to weaken consumer rights. For instance it may be legal to make backup copies for your programs or data, but it is made frequently illegal to circumvent copy protection schemes. Thus, installing such a scheme enables the content industry to legally make one of your legal consumer rights ineffective.

The list is much longer, but in any case, the Pirates are a party that tries to educate the public AND our politicians, in order to keep the content industry from controlling what’s left of democracy in our Western World. Actually, the name “Pirates” is a little unfortunate, but the idea is, that when the industry tries to make us all pirates, why not give it a positive swing and make a party.

Really: nobody but some kids are interested in copyright infringement. In earlier times those kids have shared music cassettes in the school yards, now they use P2P networks. The industry claims enormous losses due to that behavior, but we believe that it is as much advertising for new music as it is loss. In the end all those kids will become consumers and will pay for their music, just as it was ever before, just as I paid for my more than 3000 music CDs, despite my sympathies for the Pirates πŸ™‚

The weapons are very unevenly distributed in this war that the industry wages against their own customers. It is time now to stand up and to fight for our rights. After all, we must not forget, that communication and the making up of illusions (soft lies?) is the core business of that industry. Small wonder that they are so incredibly much more successful at influencing politics, than their comparatively small contribution to the GDP would suggest.

The problem is, that in their greed to maximize profits, they bribe or convince (or both) law makers to take away more and more of our constitutional rights. One thing must be clear: they are corporations with one singular goal: to maximize their profits. Such a corporation has neither conscience nor responsibility, at least to nobody but its share holders. Thus they are immoral by definition. Let them have their way, and your worst nightmares will come true. It is our job as citizens to stand up and fight for our rights, fight for a world of free and uncensored communication. The case of Iran shows how vitally important that can be.

In the true spirit of its time, the Song of the Day begins with the words “Take a little dope / And walk out in the air / The stars are all connected to the brain”. Ladies and gentlemen, this is “Naked Eye” from the 1971 album “Who’s Next” by The Who. See them at the Isle of Wight 1970 on YouTube, and the pleasure will come falling down like rain πŸ™‚

1007 – Seen And Not Seen

Mark “The Landscapist” Hobson did it again. He wrote one of his usual rants against what he calls the “pretty-picture crowd”, and as so often, I mostly agree.

He argues with the two Japanese concepts of “hade” and “shibui“. Both mean a form of beauty, “jimi” being a third one, with shibui being roughly the ideal middle between flashy, gaudy hade and dull jimi.

From “The pursuit of comparative aesthetics” by Mazhar Hussain and Robert Wilkinson we learn that

Restraint is one of the ingredients in shibui. Shibui art objects are unobtrusive, unostentatious and modest with understatement as a characteristic style. An underlying notion is, that the less powerful object will probably be the more artistically effective.

For Mark, the full saturation mindset of the “pretty-picture crowd” is of course hade, and he insists that hade, while not intrinsically wrong, is only endurable against a backdrop of shibui. So far, so good, and I agree, but it may be worth looking deeper.

First it is worth to notice, that hade and shibui are not necessarily connected to certain levels of saturation. Mark oversimplifies. Vincent van Gogh’s pictures probably have more characteristics of shibui than of hade, but when you see them hanging on a wall, you are almost blinded by the saturated colors.

Furthermore we can’t reduce hade and shibui to purely aesthetic categories, they are as much defined as behavioral concepts, as lifestyles, which probably best explains the attributed relative values, and as I understand Mark’s attitude, his gripes seem to be more with behavior and intent than with measurable physical qualities like (over-)saturation.

I guess what we artistically pursue, hade or shibui, it all boils down to why we do it. It’s not even a matter of being a leader or a follower, we all are always both of it to a certain extent. No, it’s a matter of why we pursue art. Do we do it essentially for ourself, meaning: are we free, or do we do it to impress, meaning: are we dependent upon positive feedback, do we strive for admiration?

The more we depend on others, the more we will compromise, the more we will try to please, and pleasing in a Koyaanisqatsi world always and at first means getting seen at all, something that hade perfectly accomplishes.

But even if it is shibui that we pursue, we must ask ourselves why we do it. Is it for us or is it to impress, because there can also be vanity in modesty. Less obtrusive, but only to a degree, and it does not even cater to a different crowd, only to a smaller one πŸ™‚

I think another aspect of the same thing is, that we should realize we have time, how much time we have, and that it is OK to take time. When I begin to express myself in any creative way, I have all my life to fool around, to try things, to change, both myself and how I work, and I have the freedom to allow myself to do that.

I don’t mean to pray isolation here, that would seem quite ridiculous for a blogger, but I do pray being a little more relaxed. It’s OK when I don’t get raving comments on every photo, and it’s OK when some of my blog posts are met with indifference or are simply ignored.

Relax. Whatever the crowd does: keep doing what you do if you like it and feel compelled to do so.

I also don’t mean to play down the value of feedback, positive or negative. Feedback is OK and it is important as a means to determine where we are in relation to others. It only does not nourish us. What nourishes us, what gives our efforts substance, what gives us freedom, is to stand deeply rooted in our own experience and our own judgment. Other people can help us find out where we are, but it is up to us to know where we want to go.

Having said all that, I notice that my latest images were far from being public successes on SmugMug. Still, they indicate a turn from the playful experiments with Snap Art to an exploration that centers more around content and ambivalence, and this is exactly what I chose as my current side-project. At the moment I like it and feel compelled to do so πŸ™‚

The Song of the Day is “Seen And Not Seen” from the 1980 Talking Heads album “Remain in Light”. Hear it on YouTube.

1006 – The Great Song Of Indifference

Yesterday I commented on “Inertia” by Paul Lester, and out of a whim I announced the idea of trying to follow side-projects, a kind of thematic or stylistic pursuits, that would have a more project-like feel, but that would not completely occupy my time.

Well, connecting to yesterday’s mirror image, I went out and looked especially for mirrors and reflections. That’s the starting point of the first such side-project, but I guess it need not be restricted to mirrors only.

The idea is more along the lines of “unusual or puzzling views”, but the whole thing is so new, I won’t even take that as a working title. Who knows, maybe I’ll kill the project off in two days πŸ™‚

I got several images that I could have taken, this street scene is just one of them. Actually I selected it more because I really like what I could make of this low-contrast and noisy reflection in the dark rear window of a van.

Really, if there is one thing that those Snap Art filters are great at, then it must be their ability to make every image usable, regardless of technical quality.

The Image of the Day was taken on the sidewalk in front of the same shop where I took the image of the mannequin, that ended up near the end of this year’s SoFoBoMo book “Urban Dreams II“.

Again I have not used Snap Art in this image, but I have used the “Skin Even” filter in Topaz Clean. Basically that’s a skin beautifier, that works great on females and most of the time not so great on males. Here I’ve used it with a mask and lowered opacity. And this reminds me that the trial periods for these filters will be over in a few days, and that I will have to part with some money. So far the shopping list contains Alien Skin Snap Art, Topaz Adjust and Topaz Clean.

The Song of the Day is “The Great Song Of Indifference” by Bob Geldof. I have it on a collection called “Loudmouth: Best Of Bob Geldof & The Boomtown Rats”. YouTube has a video.

1005 – Reasons For Waiting II

This is the third blog post for today, this time the images were really made today.

You will notice that none of today’s images uses the painting effects of Alien Skin’s plugin Snap Art, but on the other hand, all were processed with the help of Topaz Adjust, and one of them, the tractor from behind, also with Topaz Clean.

It’s not that I grew tired of the painting effects, and I could probably have used them well on the forest ground, but sometimes … well, maybe I did grow tired of them πŸ™‚

I had to fetch some things from two shops in Villach, and afterward I drove to our parcel of land at the lake. Actually that’s where those Mock Strawberries grow. After swimming I took a series of those leaves and berries images and thought that would be it, but on my way back, I drove behind a tractor.

At first it only annoyed me, because I could not overtake, but then I noticed the dog. Uhhh … I had the camera on the passenger seat and, yes, I shouldn’t have used it while driving. On the other hand, how could I have resisted?

But it’s not only that one shouldn’t do that, it’s also that the dirty windshield took away contrast, thus I overtook as soon as possible, and after some hundred meters I parked the car and waited for the tractor. I was lucky, it had not taken a side road, and so I got some more images.

Really, is that cool and is that dog cute? Obviously the driver did not mind being photographed, and neither did the dog.

For a short time I considered playing the game once more: overtaking, waiting, making more images, because that way I probably would have got an image with a less cluttered background, but I was already in a hurry and decided to go with what I’d got.

The Song of the Day is once more “Reasons For Waiting” from the 1969 Jethro Tull album “Stand Up”. Hear it on YouTube.

1001 – Don’t You See How This World Made A Change

Friday. Travel day. Actually I’m happy I got an image at all. We had rain in the morning and I missed a fantastic image: a young woman all under a hood, in front of a mostly bare wall, no face visible, one arm put forward in a strange gesture, obviously checking if the rain still falls, her appearance nothing but ghost-like.

It would have been a great image, very strange, if, yes, if I had not completely botched it. I just saw her peripherally, raised the camera, had one chance … and failed. Her feet were cut off, I got her in front of the only part of the wall that was not bare, the gesture was gone, it really had stopped raining and she had taken off the hood. Oh dear!

But that’s simply how it goes. On the street you don’t have many chances. You see something, you react, and then you’ve either got it right or not at all. Experience raises the number and quality of keepers, but it will always be a gamble, even in ten years, when I will be a 100% master photoblogger πŸ™‚

Today’s image was easier to get. I saw the multitude of signs, found that the 85/1.8 compressed them enough to make for an image, and then I saw the young man coming from behind. I focused on the sign in the middle, and I only had to wait for him to pass the sign.

Btw, knowing that many of my readers are active bloggers themselves, I’d really like to ask you a question: What is it that you get out of blogging? Why do you do it?

I ask, because apart from the reasons that I mentioned yesterday, I also see this blog (and my photography as well) as part of a diary and as a timeline. I can use my images to locate past events, and frequently my blog entry triggers a fairly complete set of memories.

A project, that I’ve carried around for some time now, is to document the books that I read. I don’t really know what this will be, a critique after I’ve read it, or simply a list like the list of my Songs of the Day, but I strongly feel the urge to document what I do, and in this case it is primarily for me. We’ll see what comes from it.

The Song of the Day is “Don’t You See How This World Made A Change” by Blind Willie McTell. I have it on disc 43 of this fabulous 168 CD collection called “The Ultimate Jazz Archive”, but if you insist on something smaller, “The Definitive Blind Willie McTell” will also do. YouTube has a video.

1000 – A Thousand Beautiful Things

It was all over the Blogosphere, you know that 10,000 hours rule, popularized by Malcolm Gladwell, the rule that says that when you put 10,000 hours into something, you become a master at it.

Well, I guess I put at least two hours every day into taking photographs, processing them and blogging about it. Now figure: You’re listening to the words of a 20% photoblogging master! Isn’t that great πŸ˜•

But really, when blogging, you eventually get used to any kind of jubilee. For instance I remember “50 – A Small Jubilee” and “100 – Lazy Afternoon“, oh my, how big those numbers seemed. And then “500 – The Half Of It, Dearie“. That was really respectable, and this is exactly how I felt. But then, there is nothing like a #1000. I don’t know why, but even a 10.000 will not feel that magic. In fact, I have waited for this moment for months, have thought about how it would feel and it feels … swell πŸ™‚

A thousand images, that’s more than two and a half years. When I think about that time, I definitely see progress. It’s not that every image is a little bit better than its predecessor, it’s not even that all those images are good, fact is, many of them are lousy, but the pure effort to produce at least one single good image a day, whatever the result is, makes sure you make progress. And I did, I can see it.

It’s not that I have developed an obvious style though. I have even tried to resist that temptation, the temptation to search myself a niche and try to defend it. I don’t have to, I don’t do it for the money.

When you have followed this blog for a while, you have seen many, many different approaches to photography and digital image processing. You saw me use LAB color mode for months, you saw quite some HDR images, one of the recent fads was the use of amber gradient maps for B&W images, now the dernier cri is the use of Alien Skin Snap Art for post-processing. If you don’t like it, rest assured, it will go away like all the others did.

And still, those things don’t just vanish. They contribute to my experience. Actually that was one of my initial motivations to start blogging: to keep me working, to keep me motivated, to keep me experimenting, all while trying to slowly build up a body of work. And now, after 1000 images, it has long become a part of my life. I guess it would be hard to stop it, and I have certainly no intention to do so.

Can I recommend blogging and especially this kind of routine? Certainly, I can. It’s a chore, it eats your time like a hungry, hungry monster, but it sure is an experience that I won’t like to miss. It’s one of those things that force you to make progress, that send you on a journey into the unknown, it’s one of those things that – probably – may make you eventually know what it is that you want to do. I sure don’t know now, but – after all – I am still only a 20% master photoblogger πŸ™‚

Well, enough of that, and now for something completely different: my SoFoBoMo book. Only today I learned of a blog entry that Amy Sakurai has written about my book. Mine was one of the three books that she had looked forward to in this year’s SoFoBoMo, and seemingly I did disappoint her. I don’t know exactly yet what her gripes are, and even if I knew, I could do nothing about it, because the book is done. I could change it, but I won’t. I have it printed on my shelf and that’s it.

Still, I guess I could share some thoughts about why this book is what it is. Amy mentioned the small size of the verticals. Well, the basic layout, normally one image per spread, with a lot of white space around the images, was dictated by two things:

First, I wanted to make sure that nothing essential gets cut away in the printed version. I had used InDesign templates that someone had made for Blurb book sizes, and though I basically trusted the source, I was anxious to come near the borders. Thus the big amount of white space. In the end it turned out that all my worries were mute, the dimensions of the template and the printed book matched perfectly, but how could I have been sure?

The second thing is, that this year I wanted to make a printed book. Having to choose between Blurb’s different book sizes, I chose what I like to hold in my hands. Yes, really, this size, 8″x10″ is a size of book that I have at home and that feels comfortable to hold, even for a longer time. See, I have another photobook with wonderful images by Magnum photographer Rene Burri. I absolutely adore his images, but … I can’t hold the book. It’s too darn big!

Same goes for a book by Henri Cartier Bresson. Wonderful book, incredible images, but I can’t hold it. My arms would immediately fall off, and because I can’t hold it, I don’t read it. Too bad, but that’s what it is.

OK, this explains the size and the format. Amy also mentioned “a subtle repetition of form, an unexpected sameness” of the images in my book. I’m not yet sure what exactly she means, I’ve asked and got no answer yet, but I guess it’s the repetitious use of horizontal compositions that consist of two halves, just like the title image. If so, well, that’s fully intentional. I strove for some visual coherence, a stylistic theme, that would hold the book together.

Actually this was a rather late decision. This kind of images was my first inspiration for the book, but while taking images, the focus changed to a more literal interpretation of the word “dreams”: Dreams of wealth, dreams of living with the luxury of balconies and roof terraces, material dreams if you will.

Those other images, those vertically split compositions, mostly of graffiti and stickers on sign posts, were introduced to contrast the material dreams. They represent the immaterial dreams of the underground of our urban society, and in the sequence of the book, they are meant as distanced, ironic comments. At least that’s what I think about it today.

While doing, I did not rationalize a concept for this book. In fact, this book was made wholly by instinct, and that’s another reason why I would not want to change it:

This book is the result and the document of a semi-conscious process, a process that I fully intended and that I found extremely pleasurable. It’s not that I refuse responsibility for it, to the contrary, but the process has finished and I would not like to change the documentar
y. Does that make any sense?

The Song of the Day, “A Thousand Beautiful Things” from Annie Lennox’ 2003 album “Bare”, was originally selected simply for the word “Thousand” in the title, but interestingly enough, its lyrics describe a conscious view on the world, that I find very familiar, a view that in a way grew in me through my photographing and blogging experience. YouTube has a live video.

999 – We’re Not Going Back

Well, I’m afraid I have to rush this entry. It’s early in the morning, I need to go to work, and I have to get the evening clear of any backlog. I’d really like to post #1000 on time πŸ™‚

This is one of a series of people images taken with the Nikon 85/1.8. You know that I’m not overly fond of this lens, but at times I like to use it. Actually, for street photography it’s quite nice.

The Song of the Day is “We’re Not Going Back” from the 1987 Housemartins album “The People Who Grinned Themselves to Death”. Yes, that’s the first band of Paul Heaton, the guy who then went on with The Beautiful South. Deezer has the song on a live album.