May 062009
 

Answering a comment to “931 – It Shouldn’t Happen To A Dream“, I promised to shed light on what I mean with my SoFoBoMo project “Urban Dreams“, i.e. what qualifies as an “Urban Dream” and what not.

April (project) and Ove (project) suggested that my rural landscapes did not completely miss the topic, because for us city dwellers, so may of our dreams revolve around the countryside.

That’s correct, and obviously one could build a project around this urban/rural juxtaposition, it is only that I won’t do that. It is not what I dream of. But if it’s not that, what is it then?

Frankly, I don’t know. At the moment I just work. This is the entry for Monday, May 4, after two far misses in Ljubljana and Salzburg, I have just started as I had originally planned, i.e. on my first day back to Vienna.

While I am writing this, it’s pre-dawn Wednesday, I am two days in, I have one or two more likely candidates from the first day, and the second day was equally rich. Thus I am confident.

What I do is very similar to what I normally do. I have taken a single lens, in this case the Nikon 70-300 VR, set the camera to Auto-ISO with a lowest shutter speed of 1/200s and maximum ISO of 3200, and such equipped I photograph without much worrying about quality.

Some of the images would have profited from lower ISOs, for instance the Image of the Day (which may also end up as the title image) was shot as ISO 1400, the flowers at ISO 2000, but that all does not matter. For all the images of today I have used DxO Optics Pro as a RAW converter, and it’s conversion quality is definitely good enough for the purpose.

The big advantage is, that I can work really quick. Some images will end up noisier than necessary, but I don’t have to care about camera shake. Sure, I have VR, but at an effective focal length of 450mm, even that is not enough to guarantee good results at, say, 1/100s. The other effect is, that at 1/200s I don’t have to worry about motion blur.

I may end up with another lens when the weather deteriorates (as forecast for today), but so far it was sunny and normally there was enough light to allow me this luxury.

As to the images themselves, well, I already see some possible threads emerging. Compositionally, the Image of the Day and luxus share the position of the main subject, the flower and luxus share a color but are on the other hand a juxtaposition of nature vs construct, romantic dream vs materialist greed, and the last two images juxtapose violence and peace.

It will go on like this for maybe two working weeks, i.e. about ten days of shooting in Vienna. I hope for an average of at least five images (which is perfectly possible) and that would bring me in safe territory. Should I have a problem getting enough images, I can always take a day off.

Well, that’s the plan. Let’s see how it works out.

The Song of the Day is “Dreams” from the 1993 Cranberries album “Everybody Else is Doing It So Why Can’t We?”. See a fantastic live performance from Paris 1999 on YouTube and make sure that HQ (high quality) is on. Enjoy!

Jan 232009
 

I’ve mentioned it some times, you may know, I have a science fiction phase right now. I am quite through with Ursula LeGuin’s classic novels, only two books with short stories left, and at the moment I read William Gibson’s “Count Zero”, the second part of his “Sprawl” trilogy.

I guess most of you who are interested in science fiction will have read the trilogy a long time ago, but for me it fell into my 25 years of abstinence, thus this is another series of books where I have the pleasure to see how they withstood the test of time.

Boy, that’s interesting. Gibson published the first part, “Neuromancer”, in 1984, two years after the Disney movie Tron. Interestingly enough, Wikipedia lists neither one as an influence to the other, and when you know both, this is hard to believe.

What the trilogy and the movie have in common, that is a very naive and, in hindsight, rather stupid model of networking and computing, but in a way it is excusable. Tron happens in a mainframe world, and although in Gibson’s creation there is networking, it is as far as can be from what we know as the Internet.

The idea of “Artificial Intelligence” was the dernier cri then, and this is obviously the reason why both, movie and novels, anthropomorphize computer programs. The concept was popular but not well understood at the time, and like always in such cases, it was greatly inflated in fiction. Heaven knows we have reduced our expectations to humble dimensions by now.

I began to read English books with the “Lord of the Rings”, something about 25 years ago, today I read much more English literature than German, I have written my master’s thesis in English, I write daily, so I guess I am quite capable of finding my way around in the English language, but “Neuromancer” was hard to read. This is for two reasons:

The book describes a world that should be familiar to me as a computer scientist, but in fact it is not at all. The idea of a “matrix” (Gibson didn’t invent the term, but he popularized it greatly) where you step around from node to node, using a “cyberspace deck”, this is utterly meaningless. Obviously Gibson himself had no real idea what the intellectual contribution of his “cyberspace cowboys” (basically hackers and crackers) would be, because when he describes what they do, then it’s almost exclusively using some magic intrusion software that solves their problems, but that they seemingly don’t remotely understand. Regarding the real nature of those programs, his elite cyberspace cowboys are left just as clueless as the reader.

The other reason why “Neuromancer” was hard, is the slang he uses. According to Wikipedia (Danger: spoilers!!),

the novel’s street and computer slang dialogue derives from the vocabulary of subcultures, particularly “1969 Toronto dope dealer’s slang, or biker talk”.

And that’s obviously a slang of people who don’t need to express complicated concepts. The language is oversimplified, greatly reduced in context and redundancy, to the point of extreme ambiguity, and the combination of these two things makes the book hard to comprehend, at least for me.

Well, I’m through now, and either I have managed to accomodate, or “Count Zero” is a very different book. To me it seems a much better book anyway, less simplistic, weaving more of a believable pattern of this fictiuous reality.

You know, most of the time science fiction is not very creative when it comes to future developments. Authors normally extrapolate what they know, and you instantly recognize it in the role that arcade games play in “Neuromancer”. Arcade games were the kind of computer games played at that time. They completely lost their importance with the advent of the personal computer, but when the novel was written, personal computers had been just invented, were still expensive and not big in graphics anyway.

The other interesting thing is always how science fiction deals with future politics. It is quite safe to assume, that at one time in a more or less remote future, we will have overcome the concept of national states, but not all science fiction goes that safe road, and although Gibson only drops some hints, it is clear that his future still has a Soviet Union, and that there has never been a reunion of the two German states. He hints at “the radioactive ruins of old Bonn”, so Germany has seemingly been battlefield in a nuclear war, but nothing decisive is ever said.

Not all of Gibson’s inventions have been obsoleted though, and all in all the fabric holds. His world is consistent and believable, partially also because much of what he has invented has defined a cliché, familiar through movies like “The Matrix” or “Strange Days“, through cyberpunk role playing games and a host of computer games. Whatever its weaknesses, especially those of “Neuromancer”, the Sprawl trilogy has become a genre-defining classic.

Well, that’s it so far. I won’t tell you anything about the storylines, I myself hate nothing more than literature reviews where every single sub-plot is explicated, but I can definitely recommend Gibson’s novels as a case of science fiction that has mutated into the genre of “alternate reality” much sooner than its author may have intended or expected.

If you’ve made it down here, you may ask yourself where the connection with photography and this particular image is. Well, if at all, it’s the concept of subculture. Just as Gibson’s characters, the subcultures in our own society all have their own language, their own rituals, and it is sometimes hard to understand what they do and in which way they do it.

This particular hydrant has been featured in “377 – I Should Have Taken It As A Warning” and “657 – Here We Go Again“. The bright yellow on black never fails to attract me, but the ritual of smearing tags on everything is absolutely alien to me, as alien as the typographic peculiarities of graffiti themselves, as alien as the ritual of writing “Boys” as “Boyz”. Well, Boy #1 will probably know.

The Song of the Day is “Beautiful Boyz” from CocoRosie’s 2005 album “No
ah’s Ark”. YouTube has a video.

Jan 032009
 

Today I set out to meet with my father in Klagenfurt. We needed to fetch a piece of furniture that had just arrived, and then to do some work in Villach that we had let come together. I expected us to be done with it by 2pm, and had planned to take him up on a mountain, most likely Dobratsch again, as he seems to like being with me while I take photographs.

Normally when I go down to the garage, I take the stairs or sometimes the elevator, but when I bring down the garbage, I enter through the ramp. Today I was about to do so, and just as I rounded the corner, I saw this poor little hydrant standing among all the dirty snow. Light was poor, the sky a solid cover of dense fog. Heck, I thought, I’ll be up on the mountain and shoot grand landscapes, but I can just as well start photographing here.

I did so, and just as I did, one neighbor, German by sound (many Germans work at the Infineon plant just 500 meters away, thus we have an unusually big share of Germans here on the block), brought out some garbage as well and said to me “Oh, no need to photograph this hydrant. Drive up the mountains. The weather is gorgeous up there. I just saw it on the Internet. You’ll get much better motifs there”. “Thanks, but you never know”, said I.

It remained the only image I shot today. We spent much more time in Klagenfurt than expected, and when we were done with work, it was 3:45pm and just that tiny bit too late. I’m glad I didn’t dismiss this image for a grander future 🙂

The Song of the Day could have been “Little Boy Blue” just like in “682 – Little Boy Blue“, at least that was my initial impulse, but then I found “Little Blue” from the 1996 Beautiful South album “Blue Is the Colour” (hear it on YouTube), and I’m glad for that as well, because I learned two things:

Paul Heaton has a new album (old news, it’s been out for 7 months, but I didn’t know), and the Pound Sterling is on an all-time low, about parity with the Euro.

The album costs £12.98 at Amazon.co.uk, while it’s €17.95 at Amazon.de. That gave me this kind of buying frenzy, you know, and I ordered it along with all those James albums (the band from Manchester, we’ll get to that, sooner or later) that I had assembled on my waiting list at Amazon.co.uk, but never dared to order 🙂

Aug 022008
 

You know this guy? We had him in “377 – I Should Have Taken It As A Warning“. I took this image on Thursday morning in bad light, actually I don’t even know why I took it at all. In any case I definitely did not have the intention to use it. Then, yesterday on the train, it was the first that I looked at, and I thought, well, let’s just have a look at it in Photoshop, just to see … let’s say I was taken away 🙂

The Song of the Day is “Here We Go Again” by Norah Jones and Ray Charles, to be found on the 2004 production “Genius Loves Company“. Hear it on YouTube.

377 – I Should Have Taken It As A Warning

 Nikon 18-200 VR  Comments Off on 377 – I Should Have Taken It As A Warning
Oct 262007
 

I’m not all too well, thus I had not much time for taking images yesterday. Of what I’ve got, this lousy hydrant seemed still the best 🙂

Honestly, this hydrant haunted me for months. I really like the shrill yellow warning color on black, but this thing stands in the probably least photogenic of environments in all Vienna. Now, here we are, reduced to the bare minimum.

Today I’ll be off to Carinthia for a week. Weather is forecast to be rather bad, but we will see.

The Song of the Day is “Hallelujah” from Nick Cave’s 2001 album “No More Shall We Part“. Hear it on YouTube.