1326 – That’s Life I Guess

 Tamron 17-50/2.8 VC  Comments Off on 1326 – That’s Life I Guess
Jun 012010
 

Well, it’s past midnight, technically it’s already the first of June and that means it’s SoFoBoMo. There is an all new web site, but the rules are still the same: at least 35 images, taken within a 31 days window during June and July, the result being a book, complete with layout, uploaded as PDF.

I did it two times so far, I’ll do it again this year and – honestly – I have not a clue what it will be.

Technically I suppose it’s easy. I intend to use exactly the template from last year, maybe change some details, but it worked for me and I see no reason to deviate.

The images? Well, in two weeks I’ll be in Italy. Genova and the Ligurian Riviera. If I find nothing better, I guess I’ll make a travel book, and if that does not work, I have still a month to find something else. No need to panic 🙂

The Song of the Day is “That’s Life I Guess” by Billie Holiday. Amazon has a nice collection of the Complete Columbia Recordings, 230 songs for the very civil amount of $15.98. I just downloaded them. I guess I must have had most of them anyway, but it was just a too good price to pass 😀

Hear the song on YouTube.

Sep 252009
 

Don’t fear, this is the last post for today, a short one, showing two bicycle images that I shot in the morning, and two afternoon images from my way to the train.

I really love these small children’s bikes. I took the images in front of the same school/kindergarten in Vienna’s Josefstädter Straße where I made “727 – The Gang

I like both of these bicycle images. The love theme in the Image of the Day was obvious, but I don’t know exactly what to make of the other one. Neglect? A father leaving his child? Or nothing at all like that? Maybe the small bike only fakes being tied to the railing? What if this bike is spying upon the man? Could this bike be a detective? There’s certainly something in his pose, that reminds me of a young hero …

The other two images happened on my way to the train, the “Karma” image just before I went down into the Underground, the other one just after I had re-emerged. “Karma” is basically the same kind of composition as the Image of the Day or so many of the half / half images in my SoFoBoMo ’09 book “Urban Dreams II“, only not horizontal but vertical.

The second image, the one with the tramway tracks and the giant advertising in the background, somehow appealed to me, wanted to be taken. It’s something about the keen lines and the surreal effect of the giant legs. I don’t know, I can’t really tell why I took the image. I saw it and the urge was there. I’m pleased with the result though.

The Song of the Day is “Love Or Something” by Bob Geldof & The Boomtown Rats. I have it on the collection “Loudmouth: The Best Of Bob Geldof & The Boomtown Rats”. See a nice video on YouTube.

Aug 202009
 

Next week I’ll make an experiment. I will use only one lens (OK, I do that all the time), and it will be one unruly monster of a lens, the Sigma 150/2.8 Macro, a lens that has found an almost permanent residence on a shelf in Villach 🙂

You see, I’m back to longer focal lengths, and in the meantime I use the Nikon 70-300 VR. It’s fun to be where I was in SoFoBoMo.

I always use this lens at a minimum of 1/200s. With VR I could go further down, especially when I am at the short end, but at the long end, at an equivalent of 450mm, 1/200s is a speed where I can be sure that I am able to hold every image.

Of course you need a lot of light to do that, but summer is the season of light, if I can’t do it now, I can’t do it at all.

The Sigma 150/2.8 is a different thing. It has no VR, at 895g it is heavier than the 70-300, but I really look forward to use it wide open.

Long lenses make photographing really easy, because they eliminate all the context. It’s more a matter of getting used to the frame, of seeing in terms of long lenses, but once you are over that, it becomes pure bliss.

If that sounds strange, try it at one time. If you don’t own a long lens, consider buying a stabilized 70-300. Ted Byrne has the Canon version on his 40D and he is excited about its performance, I can say the same about the Nikon 70-300 VR, you really can’t go wrong, and especially when you use it on a crop factor camera, it is a bargain entrance to long reach.

The Song of the Day is “The Chain” from Fleetwood Mac’s mega-seller “Rumours”. I have the remastered album with an extra CD of rough versions. That’s what I’ve linked to, but if you’re not a real fan, the normal CD for half the money will suffice. Isn’t it amazing how inventive this industry is, when it comes to selling ever the same things once more? See a video, live in 1979, on YouTube.

Jul 242009
 

The good thing is, I’ll be going to sleep pretty soon. The bad thing is, well, you know it, another short post.

I guess I’d have had another one or two usable images, but really, I’m just short of sleeping in front of the computer, and if at all possible, I’d like to avoid that 🙂

This image is not a composite. It’s part of an advertising poster for a Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller retrospective in Vienna, and the left part is simply the street background. It’s one more of these half/half compositions that made a big part of my SoFoBoMo 2009 book.

The Song of the Day is “World Of Two” from the 2001 Cake album “Comfort Eagle”. Hear it on YouTube.

Jul 212009
 

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 🙂

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 🙂

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 🙂

Jul 152009
 

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 🙂

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.

Jul 092009
 

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 😕

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 🙂

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 🙂

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.

Jul 082009
 

This entry comes a day late. Sorry, I was busy upgrading a hard disk. Gosh, formatting a 2 TB disk takes forever, and copying 1.1 TB of data … longer.

Anyway. It’s done, my computer in Vienna has almost 4 TB of storage now, I guess as long as I don’t begin producing HD video, I’m safe for almost two years 🙂

These are images of yesterday morning. Nothing special, just two images that I would have happily taken anytime, but lately, how should I say, lately I’ve become rather choosy.

I don’t know if there is a connection with SoFoBoBo and the more project oriented work that I did for my book, in any case I cringe when I combine two images like those of today. Well, I still do it, I don’t have anything else, but at least I recognize and I apologize: Sorry for that 🙂

The Song of the Day is “Flower Punk” from the 1968 Frank Zappa album “We’re Only in It for the Money”. Hear it on YouTube.

Jun 262009
 

This is a little piece of much too late advice for all those who began SoFoBoMo 09 and finally decided to give up on it.

Let me first make one thing very clear: whatever your reasons are, they are respectable, and as in starting such a project, the decision to bury it, is all yours. Still, reading some blogs and thinking about it, I got the impression that I should share some experiences, that probably would make it easier for some people some other year.

A book is a big effort. When you look at photobooks that you can buy, you immediately see that most of the images have been taken over an extended period of time, and certainly not within a single month. Furthermore I think it is reasonable to assume, that the actual bookmaking is normally not done by the artists themselves. This all puts a SoFoBoMo participant at a not insignificant disadvantage, and in a way we all have to compensate for it.

The rules are set, we all have a life and supposedly all have to work for a living, thus the frame is a little more narrow than it seems upon first sight. Let’s take last year: I learned of SoFoBoMo 08 very early, I guess I read the official announcement post on Paul Butzi’s blog, but then a period of procrastination and doubt began.

Can I do it? Do I have something to say? Am I able to string 35 images together and make a book with a meaningful sequence?

I have pretty many bicycle images in my collection, and the first idea was to make a book about bicycles. A quick look into my image database made clear though, that I had never ever made more than maybe half a dozen good bicycle images in any month. Sure, you can look for them, but you are still dependent on them being there in the first place.

I pondered some other possibilities, and I was already determined to give up, when the first success stories came in. This SoFoBoMo thing began to hurt my ego. And then I found what I could do: Make a lot of images in one single day, and simply use the temporal sequence to tell a story. I had some other ideas, but finally I took my tripod, a bag of lenses, drove to a canyon in the mountains nearby with a creek and some waterfalls, made more than a hundred exposures, and that was it. No trouble with the sequence, no trouble with any big story, moral impact or what. It was simply a book about a walk through a canyon. People still liked it, because it is quite a nice canyon.

There are countless other possibilities along the same lines. Walk through a city and show it off, preferably not only the usual “sights”, maybe more the “in-betweens”. Make some images every 100 meters. Look back. You’ll automatically connect the images by showing the progress of your walk.

Make the same for a walk through a small town. Begin outside, go through the center, close outside. Let a day pass and show it in your images. All that is what I call “natural sequences”. Don’t be shy to use them. They are interesting for the viewer, and they solve one of your biggest problems, the problem of what to photograph and how to present it.

Natural sequences of photographs taken in one day, that’s one thing that I can vouch for. The other is, to simply do what you always do, take images of what you always take images of, that’s what you have the most experience with, that’s what you are best at, and when you do it all the time, that’s obviously something that you never tire of. The only thing you need is a very broad topic.

That’s what my effort this year was. “Urban Dreams II” is a book of images that I very likely would have been attracted to take anyway. Not necessarily in this month, not necessarily as a collection, but it is simply my way of making pictures. OK, I began to experiment, and now a not so small part of them are horizontal compositions where the image is cut in two distinct parts. This is something that I have not done very often, but I could do it without ever being in danger to not get enough images. Through the whole process I was on my home turf.

I have seen other strategies that work well. Some people have made their books of images that they made on a short or long trip. This can be a variation on “natural sequences”, though it need not be. In any case they used images that most likely would have been taken anyway.

Whatever you do, I think it is very important to minimize your risk. Making a photobook in 31 day is crazy enough, especially when making also means getting familiar with publishing programs, PDF files and how to get them small, learning publishing lingo and all that. All these strategies minimize risk and should enable you to get fun out of the process.

Again, I know this advice, if it’s any good, comes much too late and I’m sorry for that. It’s only that I had to learn these things by myself.

I’d be very interested in two things: If you did not complete, what were your particular reasons for it? And do you think that following one or the other of these strategies would have made life easier for you?

The Song of the Day is “A Little Piece Of Advice” from the 2000 Beautiful South album “Painting It Red”. Sorry, no video, but Deezer has the album.

Jun 232009
 

Surprisingly enough, this morning I find myself on the train to Carinthia again. Nursing leave. Nothing to worry about, but I suppose it may keep me in Carinthia for the rest of the week.

I just read that Janine, commenting on yesterday’s rain image, hopes for an even higher level of summer, but at least for today I have to disappoint her: It still rains and if at all possible, it is even less inviting than yesterday.

After all that SoFoBoMo action I try to catch up with blog reading, and yesterday night I read Mark “The Landscapist” Hobson. This is always amusing, because Mark is not only a brilliant photographer, he is also never shy of confrontation. Of course he found fault in Mike Johnston’s advice to aspiring photographers, to only use a Leica, a single lens and B&W film of a single type for a year. Actually it’s not so incredibly much fault that he found, but it’s enough for a heated debate. Many people may take offense at Mark’s sometimes slightly aggressive style, but I love it. Here is a man who has strong opinions, grounded in great knowledge and long experience, who fiercely defends them and who is a talented and witty writer as well. It’s not for the timid, but it’s deeply enjoyable 🙂

Why I mention Mark? Oh, only because he is the Master of the Square, and every time I’m exposed to his imagery, I feel a strong temptation to get square as well 🙂

The Image of the Day was taken this morning out of the rear window of tram line 18 in Vienna, just before I reached Vienna South Station. Think of it as of “826 – Goin’ Down Slow” under adverse conditions 🙂

The Song of the Day is “Travelin’ Man” by Anita O’Day. I have it on disc 2 of the 4 CD collection “Young Anita”. Deezer has a version on the album “Let Me Off Uptown”, no idea if it’s the same recording. I can’t check it at the moment. Anyway. Anita is never a bad choice.