Aug 052010
 

You may ask yourself, now that SoFoBoMo is over, what about his book? And really, I have not done much lately, I believe I have processed only two images from Italy this week. It’s a tad dense at the moment, but I have definitely not given up. It will only take longer than expected. I guess that’s normal for a computer programmer like me 🙂

At least I can say that I have enough images. I have close to 100 candidates, and close to 40 images that most likely will end up in the book. Sure, it’s not SoFoBoMo any more, so I could ignore the “minimum of 35 images” rule, but I prefer to stick to the original plan. Thus, you’ll get it, it will only be some other time not too far in the future.

Some Other Time” from Jane Monheit’s 2002 album “In The Sun” is the Song of the Day. See a video on YouTube.

1374 – From Both Sides Now

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Jul 212010
 

It’s Tuesday night, this is the entry for Monday. It’s the same image as in “1346 – Someday After A While“, processed differently, along with another image of the same house, taken the next day at noon. I suppose I will use these two images together on a spread, and while the first one was always meant to be on the title page, I think the second would be nice for the back cover.

Hmm … well, maybe it’s a bit premature to talk about covers, as long as I don’t have an idea what to put in between 😀

Have you ever searched Amazon’s MP3 search for “Both Sides Now”? Can you believe this? This Joni Mitchell song may easily be the most covered song of all times, and if it is not, it can’t fall short 🙂

The Song of the Day is a version from the 2003 album “Undercovers” by Maria João and Mário Laginha. Hear it on YouTube.

Jul 182010
 

With quite some confidence and without much pleasure I can announce, that there will be no SoFoBoMo 2010 book from me. It’s not that don’t have the material, it’s not that I have technical problems, it’s simply that I run out of time. I have to choose between making a SoFoBoMo 2010 book and making the book that I want to make. I choose the latter.

Thus: There will be a book, the working title is “Sediments”, it is about a layering of disconnected pieces of culture above each other, about how that creates the reality that we live in, but creating such a book takes time.

At the moment I have between 20 and 25 images from Italy that I feel belong into the book. That’s not enough for SoFoBoMo, 35 would be the lower limit, and not all of them are processed to a final form. A book has requirements different from those of a blog. This year, just as with my first book, Tscheppaschlucht, a great deal of work runs into homogenizing the processing styles of the images.

This is the post for Saturday, an unbearably hot day, that I used to sweat on construction sites, and the few photos that I made, were images of an apartment that had been offered to us.

It was so hot, I didn’t even go swimming. I spent the rest of the day in front of my computer, re-processing images already processed weeks before, some of them not yet published. And just as with Friday’s image of the hidden gate, every picture tells a story. Sometimes it’s obvious, sometimes you need to listen, give up for a day, listen again.

This particular image is such a case. Here it was mostly a matter of finding out what spoke to me in the first place, and then cropping to the core. This originally was a vertical format, and while much spoke for it, what remains is a wide-screen horizontal. I was unhappy with the former, I am very satisfied with this one.

The Song of the Day is “Every Picture Tells A Story” by Rod Steward. I have it on the 1993 album “Unplugged….And Seated”. Hear the original version from the album of the same name on YouTube.

Jul 132010
 

I’m still pretty far from having a book, but I’m coming along. This is greatly helped by an epiphany that I had yesterday. Let me explain.

This book, this SoFoBoMo 2010 book, it is inspired by a comment Ted Byrne made. He said:

I have increasingly grown aware of how each generation leaves its mark (debris) among the architectural detritus through which we wander. And in our ancient places gaps are consistently filled with non-sequitur-constructions… ideas/feelings that bare no relationship to the ancient bookends which surround them. New York is a total construction of generational cacophony. In fact there is a trend in older American cities to “preserve” older ideas by slashing off facades, or building atop structures. Thus the “children” poke out around or above their “parents” in ways that are too frequently like the child who suddenly “WHOOPs” or squeals in the most somber setting.

Now you will be traveling through places where olden ideas have literally been cast in stone (cement/wood/metal/plastic/etc) where simultaneously retro fades into nostalgia into history…. all the while surrounded by this generation wearing its “modern” costumes and wielding devices that are simply impossible to meld with the idea-installations of previous cultures who created the sets for this theater-of-the-moment.

You frequently display this reality in your city shots, less frequently in your scenics. And yet you have a much more vast setting of historical self-indulgences all sitting over, under, and around one another.

Odd how we allow all of this to blend together in our minds. It is a sort of forest-tree thing. But as an artist, you can “unblend” through deconstructing it with light, color, texture, POV, DOF… and on and on. You have both a wonderful opportunity to see these discontinuities of thoughts/cultures and the talent to communicate them. Plus you have so many hundreds of generations contributing to the layers available to your eye …. an inventory that America cannot possibly provide me.

It’d be cool to see how you reveal the abrupt differences which visitors minds blend together into a macro whole. Seriously, I think both of us would find the culture of only a century ago quite toxic. And yet we live on its movie set (or at least among its pieces). Can you reveal any of that toxicity as those thoughts swirl together along streets, behind walls, and inside as well as outside of everything?

Just a thought…

And of course this caught my interest. You have seen some images that go along these lines, and in fact during our stay in Italy, my eye was constantly scanning for these things. It may still not be enough though.

But then … epiphany I said, and that was the sudden insight, that I had not thought in terms of a book, not in terms of a story. A book is not a random collection of images, and the images in a book love to be embedded in context. In other words: It won’t be failure to have images that don’t exactly fit Ted’s description. To the contrary: I will need them anyway, need them to frame the story, to provide the context. And all of a sudden 1200 images begin to look quite enough again 🙂

Today’s image is not from Italy though. It was made today and here in Vienna. Basically I still look for the same things. You can’t suddenly switch a vision off, or at least I can’t, and of course it is also a continuation of an old series of images.

The Song of the Day is one more time “Have You Ever Been (To Electric Ladyland)” from Jimi Hendrix’ 1968 album “Electric Ladyland”. Interesting: Amazon bundles the digital downloads with two videos.

Hear it on YouTube.

Jul 092010
 

Today I left home very early, at least compared to my usual habits. It was about 6:15 am, and the sun stood at an angle that I went almost the whole way in shadows. The other thing is, it’s Friday, traveling day, thus I didn’t expect to have an image at all. This one just happened at the last crossing. I saw the runner take over, saw the blinding sun, and without looking through the viewfinder, while walking even, I took two exposures.

Of course with that much light, even at f8, the shutter speed was high enough to freeze any motion, and when I looked at the image, I really liked what I saw and decided to work on it.

Regarding SoFoBoMo, I really don’t know if I can do it within the remaining week. At the moment I suppose rather not, but this does not mean that I strictly rule it out. Let’s see.

The Song of the Day is “Runaway” from the 1999 “MTV Unplugged”
album by The Corrs. Hear it on YouTube.

1360 – Time Passes

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Jul 072010
 

Time passes. Let’s see: I started my SoFoBoMo 2010 month on June 19, the day we arrived in Italy. A poor choice, I have only one or two usable images from that day, but that’s how it is. I have to finish on July 20, that’s a Tuesday, and for all practical reasons this means the Sunday before. It’s not real tight, but I don’t have so many images processed yet, I have not even a full list of candidates. I can’t let it trickle an image a day, I really have to speed up. We’ll see.

This is the post for Sunday, July 4, the image is again from June 20. The place is again Lavagna. Currently I don’t put much energy into photography. I have images for Monday and Tuesday (back in Vienna), but only a few, and if by chance I fail to produce an image a day in the next two weeks, I won’t complain. There should be enough material from Italy, that I have to process anyway.

The Song of the Day is “Time Passes” from Paul Weller’s 1995 album “Stanley Road”. See him perform live on YouTube.

Jul 022010
 

I don’t know if I have enough material for the SoFoBoMo 2010 book that Ted Byrne asked me to make. Sure, I have a lot of images, and when, back home, I go through Villach, as I did last Sunday, when that image was taken, I see those juxtapositions of old and new, those layers, those sediments, here as well. They are everywhere, and maybe in Italy they are a little more obvious than elsewhere. But then, it won’t do to begin mixing things up. It’s either all Italy for the book, or there will be no book at all.

I knew I would be struggling, and I do. But at least I may catch up with my blog posts a little faster now 🙂

The Song of the Day is “Here, There And Everywhere” from the Beatles album “Revolver”. On Amazon it’s still only available as CD, thus I link to plastic. YouTube has it as well.

1350 – The Marvel Of Marble

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Jul 012010
 

Thursday we began with a museum in La Spezia‘s Castello San Giorgio. They have one of the two biggest collections of pre-historic “statue stele” in Liguria, most of them having been found in the region of Luni. Photographing the collection was forbidden, of course I did, but please understand that I don’t want to post the images here.

La Spezia is an ugly city with a population of roughly 100,000. There is much heavy industry, an enormous caloric power plant, a military harbor and lots of military everywhere. I suppose the city has been bombed heavily during World War II, at least that’s the impression.

After a short odyssey up the hill to the castle/museum (did it ever occur to you that your blind spot for direction signs only goes away after you have found your target?) and the actual visit, we quickly left for San Terenzo south along the coast (that’s where I took the images of the arrows), and then via Lerici and Marina di Carrara to our main destination: Carrara, home of marble, from ancient times to distant future.

Along the way I spotted the thing on the picture to the left. I have no idea what it is. Remotely it reminds me of Orthanc, though I admit, it is not of black stone but of rusty iron.

Whatever. Carrara was our destination, a small town at the foot of a mountain consisting wholly of marble, and not just any marble, no, the purest and most beautiful marble in the world, quasi the all-time reference of what marble is supposed to be.

The quarries in the mountains above Carrara number by the hundreds, and when you take the winding road, that is used today for transporting the blocks by truck (as opposed to using sledges and ox-carts from Roman times until only 150 years ago), you get the sincere impression, that they are systematically taking apart the whole mountain.

And still, considering the thousands of years, even taking into account the acceleration of the past century, there is so much left, it’s hard to imagine an end to this treasure.

Pretty much at the highest point of the road, at least the highest point that is accessible to the general public, there is a marble museum, a shop and an underground mine that you can visit. We didn’t, we even skipped the museum, but we bought a mortar and pestle 🙂

The interesting thing in Carrara is, that every quarry looks exactly as if the mountain consisted of nothing but marble. It even may, but then the sheer number of quarries is puzzling. It looks like a whole army of ants trying to eat a mountain, from all sides, chaotic, seemingly without system or order. It’s fascinating.

And in the middle of all that, a village. Colonnata, home to the cavatori, citadell of anarchism, home of the famous Lardo di Colonnata, a white bacon, cured with rosemary in troughs of pure marble.

It’s delicious. Not as salty as bacon is here in Austria, and it is served warm on toasted bread. While we ate, I took the image of the stairs, of course constructed from marble as well.

In fact, the whole village is made of marble. There is a big monument dedicated to “Al Cavatore”, and behind it a small church, all made of marble, and there are these two (and maybe more) inscriptions:

Well, here in the mountains, in this village, then so far off of any city, they found a retreat.

Unlike communism, anarchism never could muster broad support. It’s in its principle, I guess. Not enough organization, too much individualism. Well, having just finished Heinlein’s “The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress”, those marble plates, commemorating the “anarchist companions, fallen on the road to freedom”, somehow touched me deeply.

The image of the truck and the building was made up at the highest point of the street, where the marble museum and the shop are.

The image to the left is an HDR, made from five bracketed exposures. The sun was already low when we stopped at the cemetery, and without HDR, the valley would have been in deep shadows.

Speaking of the cemetery, this is extremely impressive as well. It was the wrong time of the day, I suppose I should be there in the morning, no later than noon, depending on the time of the year. I did not go in, it would have taken me at least an hour, it was already late, light was bad and we had a long way back to Sestri Levante.

I just made a series of images from the other side of the valley, six exposures taken with the Nikon 70-300 VR, and then stitched in Photoshop to this panorama. The “thumbnail” links to an image of 4181 x 768 pixels, the original is 14069 x 2584 pixels. Hmm … I really should try to print it 🙂

The Song of the Day is a cheap pun: Gershwin’s “Too Marvelous for Words“, interpreted by Frank Sinatra. I have it on “Concepts”, this collection of songs that I bought for, I don’t know what, five Euros? May have been a mistake on Amazon’s side, because some days later it was back to $180 🙂

YouTube has the song in a version seemingly taken from a TV show.

Hmm … did I promise a shorter post in the last post? Guess I did. Maybe next time 😀

Jun 292010
 

Today is Tuesday and I am almost a week behind. Sorry, can’t help it. At least I am forced by chance to stay one more week in Carinthia, which gives me more time for working on images, than I would have had in Vienna.

Wednesday last week was mostly about Camogli, a small town north of the peninsula of Portofino, but on the way there we made a short stop in Rapallo.

With a population of around 30,000, Rapallo is more than just a small tourist center consisting mostly of hotels and restaurants. It’s a place where real people live, who don’t work in the tourism industry. The day before I had seen some places where I wanted to photograph, but in the end it was just this one with the biker and the scooter that remained. I like the movement in this image, and how the different directions of the biker and the scooter take up the zig-zag of the street decoration.

After leaving Rapallo, we crossed the peninsula and made a short deviation to its highest peak. From there, using the Nikon 70-300 VR, I took some images of Camogli below. Here is one at 84 mm, before and after processing.

It’s really challenging to get anything out of these images. We have fairly long distances, atmospheric haze, due to the heat twisting and bending light in fancy ways, low contrast and a blue cast in the distance, so I guess it is not too bad what I got out of post-processing. It’s more an illustration than a real photograph, but at least it illustrates something 😀

The next image is from the same point of view, zoomed further in, and finally with the Image of the Day we are all way in at 300 mm, an effective focal length of 450 mm on my D300.

Camogli is really the most wonderful of places, a dreamland for any photographer. As you can see, it’s a narrow strip of beach, and then everything is built into the mountain. It takes quite some minutes down along the winding street, until you reach the lowest parking area. Most of the town consists of these long, high buildings, and in the center, the roads are narrow, many of them not accessible by cars, with the historic core a pedestrian area anyway.

The image of the little waterfall was taken down from a bridge between the area of the Hotel Cenobio dei Dogi, probably the most beautiful hotel that I’ve ever seen, and the old town.

The complex at the far end of the beach, as seen in this image on the left, that is the Cenobio dei Dogi. We didn’t stay there 🙂

Actually I think that Camogli is an excellent place to stay for some days. Only don’t expect to leave very often. This town has everything: hotels, restaurants, a medieval center, art, a fishing harbor (last image in this post), enough beach, and everything is integrated with the past.

This is not your typical tourist town, some remains of the past, surrounded by an uncontrolled sprawl of bad architecture. Camogli has character, and I guess this is mostly because there was is no space to extend, no way to build modern roads. They would have had to tear down the whole town. Thankfully they didn’t, and so we can still enjoy one of the most beautiful places in the world.

Whatever you associate with the magic words “Italian Riviera”, Camogli has it, and in all its splendor it is not posh. Sure, the Cenobio is pure luxury, but there are all sorts of price classes here, and everything is in walking distance from the beach.

It’s a big difference between Camogli and Portofino, the latter being a former fishing village, now an overpriced and snobbish assembly of designer shops. Dior, Armani, Zegna, Ferragamo, Gucci, all are there, and upon entrance to Portofino, you are greeted by several juweler’s shops. The big 50 m yachts of Portofino, they are missing in Camogli as well, but the one thing that Camogli has and Portofino has not, that’s life.

I spent about one and a half hours photographing in Camogli. First I went along the beach, down to the church, using nothing but the Sigma 8-16, most of the time at 8mm. Then I changed back to the Nikon 70-300 VR for some images of the cliff-like facades. I took them from the farthest point, near the church.

Finally I changed to my most favorite lens, the Tamron 17-50/2.8 VC. At this day I really needed all three lenses. Believe me, in Camogli you have a Manhattan problem. Granted, the buildings are not that high, but this is made up by how narrow everything is.

Take the image on the right, of the people walking in front of these buildings. OK, the foreground is obviously exaggerated, but the buildings in the back, it would do absolutely no good to cut them off at the top. This is what you feel, this is what it looks like when you’re there.

Same thing with the church. Of course when you see those things in reality, you may see only part of them at any time, but the way our mind works, we put everything together, create one impression that is made up of so many images. That’s where the 8 mm help. Actually Camogli was the first time at all, that I felt a need for 8 mm.

Camogli. I could have spent much more time in this town, days even, and I think I may return one day, but for that afternoon I was completely exhausted. It was a hot day under a glaring sun, and when I returned after those 90 minutes of concentrated photographing, I was glad to give up and have a drink.

The title of this post and of the Song of the Day, Gershwin’s “How Long Has This Been Going On?“, is inspired by the long time that it took me to come up with it.

What did I do? Well, I have made about 1200 images, many of them documentary, the greater part made with SoFoBoMo 2010 in mind, many variants, and wading through all that costs me time. That’s the reason. But don’t worry, I won’t build up another post like this one. I hope to catch up soon.

The Song of the Day is a cover version by Jon Bon Jovi, taken from jazz harmonica player Larry Adler’s Gershwin album “The Glory Of Gershwin”. Singers include Sting, Elvis Costello, Peter Gabriel, Kate Bush, Oletta Adams, Elton John, Cher, Sinéad O’Connor and many more. Fabulous album, highly recommended. YouTube has the song.

Jun 252010
 

This year I had no idea whatsoever, what I would do for SoFoBoMo 2010. Well, my friend Ted Byrne helped me out with the plan, and I have to say, it helps to know what you’re looking for.

This entry is three days late, sorry, it took me some time to figure out what I want to post, I rejected my initial choice and simply had to try a little bit harder.

In general I am quite successful in finding those layers of new above old, this mixture, that is so very common in Italy, even when Tuesday was not the most successful day.

We decided to visit Pontremoli, a town in the mountains, just over the border in Toscana, a town once famous for its book sellers, a town with an annual book festival.

Let’s say we expected at least something book-related, I don’t know, a library, a monument in form of a book, at least a big book store …

What we found was nothing. The town could probably be a tourist attraction, it has an interesting medieval core, interesting history (imagine a town where people had to build a wall across the center to keep the parties from murdering each other), but it would need a lot of money to make all that more accessible.

As it is, you have narrow medieval alleys where you hardly see anybody, closed doors, no shops, no restaurants, apart from those on the main Piazza. It didn’t help at all, that it began to rain after we had our coffee.

It was still an interesting day though. The image of the day is from Pontremoli, the last is from back in Sestri Levante, and the other two from our way to Pontremoli.

The Song of the Day is “Try (Just A Little Bit Harder)” from Janis Joplin’s album “Pearl” (or any other collection of her songs). YouTube is supposed to have it, though I can’t check it here from the hotel.