Mar 102017

Pretty nice, right? Of course this is not a really old church. In a way these late 19th century churches, with their architecture always mimicking some historic style, could well be dismissed as kitsch, but on the other hand I like to think that a church does have a purpose as well.

If a church of roughly similar looks fit that purpose 800 years ago, I see no reason why the style shouldn’t fit the purpose today. Or, look at it this way, if we accept that Yellowstone can be the subject of images after Ansel Adams, why shouldn’t we accept Neo-Romanesque or Neo-Gothic architecture?

Anyway, I like churches to be bright, and this one surprised me pleasantly.

Nov 292016

Lavender is a hard test for your judgement and your honesty. It forces you to lie.

Make a Google image search for lavender. You immediately see amazing (and sometimes atrocious) colors, but much of what you see is a blatant lie. Lavender does not look like on Flickr, it looks more or less like … here in my images. Yes, two weeks later it may be stronger in color, but it is not that intense violet, that you so often see, and it’s not an intense pink either.

Lavender’s color is more modest. It is tempting to present it as something garish that it isn’t, but even if you can resist, your troubles are only just beginning. The problem is, that it looks very different, depending on the light and your position relative to the sun.

It’s easy to make the test: On a sunny day, for instance at 10 am, when the sun is already high but still directional, hold your car at a lavender field, take a few steps into it (being careful to stay between the rows and not to trample the flowers), and then take images in different directions. All those images will have been taken at roughly the same time, the difference will only be the direction of light and the amount of backlight.

All images will look vastly different. Some will look more “correct” and some less so. If you process all of them in the same way, you will have some that look grossly wrong.

What I did was trying to “harmonize” the images. That’s a euphemism for lying, of course, but – believe me – I’ve tried the alternatives and they are worse.

3692 – Abbaye du Thoronet: Above the Cloister

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Nov 272016

I’ve never seen a cloister like this. Like in Silvacane the refectory is above church level and atop the chapter house.

Not only do stairs lead down to the cloister though. Through the refectory you can also get out and on top of the cloister.

Of course the ultra-wide at 7 mm makes the cloister look bigger than it is. At 14 mm the third image, while still wide, gives a more accurate impression.

In hindsight, of the “Three Sisters”, l’Abbaye du Thoronet is the most impressive, and even more so because of this unusual view.

3691 – Abbaye du Thoronet: The Church

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Nov 262016

The Abbaye du Thoronet is the third of the “Three Sisters”. It’s not in use any more and most of the outbuildings are already in ruins.

You reach the abbey on a small street. To the left is a big parking area with a small café (very welcome afterwards), and the abbey itself is on the right side. You follow a short, cobbled road through oak trees leading down to the gate.

There you pay the entrance fee, and then you can either go to the right and up to the humble main entrance of the church (depicted here), or you go down through some ruins and into the cloister. Church and cloister have been beautifully restored.

Everything is empty though. We know that mediaeval churches were colorfully painted, but nothing is left of that. Again it’s all naked architecture, only that the stone here has a beautiful red tinge.

Nov 252016

Using a fisheye is hard. Before you look through the lens, you never know what you’ll get.

For the fountain the lens was ideal. Everything is round here anyway, you have to look twice to even see the fisheye effect.

The image from the chapter house is extreme, but then, in a certain way it conveys what I saw and how it felt to be there. That’s a funny thing to say about an image that’s totally distorted 🙂

The third image, looking from the cloister into the chapter house (yes, it was that dark in there) is somewhere in the middle.

For comparison I have an image taken from the church down into the cloister, also ultra-wide, but this time with the rectilinear 7-14/2.8.

Fisheyes: this is really stuff for experimentation. Try it out. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Predictions impossible 😀

Nov 222016

We are still in Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume. This church, like so many Gothic churches, is a celebration of light.

We were there around 1.5 hours before noon, on a bright day at a time of the year when the sun is at its highest.

The 7-14/2.8 is a wonderful lens, but with the blazing light streaming through the high windows, a few flares were unavoidable.

There is also a cloister in Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume. It’s not a part of the church any more, and you reach it through the tourist office.

Nov 212016

Provence is not exactly famous for its Gothic architecture. Southern France in general ain’t.

The reason is, that southern France was once largely independent. It was part of a larger region called Occitania, the land where “yes” was “oc” instead of “oui”, and where the language therefore was called lenga d’òc.

It was the land of highest Troubadour culture, Toulouse was the most glorious court. It was a land at the border to muslim Spain, a land of openness and wisdom, a rich land, envied by its neighbors.

It all went down when the French kings conquered the the south in the late age of the crusades, at a time when the stupid but noble idea of fighting for the freedom of Jerusalem had already been perverted. The war in the Holy Land was lost, christian Constantinople had already been plundered, and at that time every war for money or power was fought under the sign of the cross. It was a little bit like today, when every war for oil is called a war for freedom and against terrorism.

That was the time when Gothic architecture flourished in the north, and it was the same time when the north plundered the south. At that time the south was torn apart and burned to ruins. That’s not a time for building cathedrals. The few that exist were built by victors as signs of their triumph. Albi is a good example, a Gothic church that looks like a fortress, but that’s far to the west. I’ve been there 27 years ago and I’ve got no images to share 🙂

Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume is another good example at the heart of Provence, just a few highway exits east of Aix-en-Provence. Unfortunately I couldn’t take any images from the highway. That sounds like a strange thing to say, but it is really from there that the church looks most interesting. It’s a small town with houses no more than maybe two or three stories high. In the middle, crammed in between, the church rises, and seeing it from the highway, I was completely convinced that it was on a hill. It’s not. It’s just that much higher than its surroundings.

Well, I’ve got no good pictures from outside, but you can always search Google, right?

3674 – Cathédrale Saint-Sauveur d’Aix-en-Provence II

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Nov 092016

I would have liked to get the image of the baptistery perfectly centered, but while it was in use, I would have had to step into the water. Today there is no water, but people toss coins into the empty basin, and therefore there is a fence around it. Impracticable to climb across 🙂

It took me a few attempts handholding the camera at arms length. This is a situation where a tilt/swivel screen like on the PEN-F or on the new OM-D E-M1 MkII excels. The tilt-only screen on the E-M1 is superior in other situations though.

Other than that: Trump! OMFG!!!

I have no idea what that means for Europe or the rest of the world. Maybe for us he is better than Hillary Clinton. It would certainly be a relief if the US would stop messing around in our periphery. I mean, Syria and Lybia were not exactly the most democratic states, but they were stable and people were not forced to leave them in masses. The Ukraine was a fairly stable country and it would have found its slow way to an association with and maybe later membership in the EU. It’s hard to see why it was necessary to initiate a régime change, and at the same time provoke Russia with something exactly like what the US found utterly unacceptable during the Cuba crisis.

Yes, an isolationist Trump may benefit the world. At least as long as he doesn’t blow it up. It’s a little bit frightening to see nuclear arms in the hands of a man with his personality.

But there’s more. He also sets a precedent by establishing a political culture, or rather a lack thereof.

We saw that in Austria with the late Jörg Haider. He was admired because he said things that nobody in the political establishment would say, and he did it in a way that everybody understood. He didn’t address an intellectual elite, he addressed those who were normally ignored by politics. He was a natural-born demagogue and he used his talents to extend the range of what could be said. It was he who again established xenophobia and hate as accepted means of politics. He died, drunk, in a car crash, but his legacy lives on. I fear so will Trump’s.

3673 – Cathédrale Saint-Sauveur d’Aix-en-Provence I

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Nov 082016

Aix-en-Provence is about twice the size of Villach, but it’s much more than twice as beautiful 🙂

Small wonder, the city looks back on a history of more than 2000 years. In any case it is big enough to rectify taking one or two days. That’s what we did after the day with the two abbeys: we spent a lazy day in Aix.

Our hotel was in the old Roman baths, now a small modern spa, not far from the Cathedral. That’s were we went first, and here I was enjoying the rectilinear 7-14 again.

There’s seems to be kind of a fundamental law of wide angles: If it’s Baroque, you may use the fish. If it’s Gothic, you need a rectilinear lens. Gothic architecture is all about straight lines. Go wide and play with them, but don’ bend them 🙂

Nov 042016

Gordes! I was awestruck when I saw it.

I didn’t expect it, because like so often I’ve come pretty unprepared. In earlier times I used to buy lots of travel guides. I didn’t read all of them either, but at least I tended to browse through them.

I don’t buy physical books any more. Too much weight, too much hassle when moving to a new apartment. I love ebooks, but unfortunately travel guides are something like a blind spot in the ebook market right now. Too many photos and illustrations, too much visual layout. Most travel guides don’t carry over well to the smartphone or even the ebook reader.

The consequence? I am unprepared 🙂

We came through Gordes on our way to Sénanque Abbey, but when I realized what I was seeing, it was completely impossible to park the car. Basically there is one spot, you can move along a wall up and down from there for maybe 20 meters each, and that is it. Be prepared to compete with all the other photographers 😀

On the way back, I was prepared. I found a place to stop, I took my three images and off we were again.

Would it have been awesome to get to the center, there on the hill? Sure. It would probably also have been awesome to spend a night in that little town. Just like in a few other places. The outcome is: we didn’t. The world is so big a place.