Oct 252008
 

This is one for Ted Byrne. Not much art on my side here and nothing about DxO either. The review continues as soon as I have it installed here in Carinthia (it’s a pain over my slow and not very reliable connection), or otherwise am back in Vienna. Have a nice weekend.

The Song of the Day is “Oh, How The Ghost Sings” from the 1981 Lester Bowie album “The Great Pretender”. No video, of course, but the sound sample at Amazon will give you an idea 🙂

Sep 032008
 

This Sunday image was hard, and it also shows that Ted is right when he writes in a comment to “686 – Guardian Angel” that he is

… increasingly convinced that photographic art is a process consisting of an observation at the time of shutter release and discovery in PP. Thus art is a concept and that concept involves a process… which also means that I no longer think that epiphany is an instantaneous moment when the stars explode and Archimedes runs naked down the streets screaming, “Eureka!”.

Oh, perhaps in geological time the process happens in an instant, but in reality it can happen in hours or over days don’t you think?

Yes, that’s what I think, and sometimes it comes easier, sometimes it comes harder. This was hard.

This image of a hanger was taken on Sunday afternoon in Carinthia. Normally I don’t stop photographing until I have at least one safe bet for an Image of the Day, but on Sunday exactly that had happened. This was nothing but an uninspired warmup image in bad light. No problem, because I would go to a fair and there I would certainly find photographic opportunity aplenty, right? Wrong. It did not happen, and suddenly I found myself in an awkward situation with nothing but a hanger, not even inspiration.

This is the result of my third attempt at making it an image. The first drove all colors apart and to max, the second found this gaudy and converted to B&W, and the third revealed color again. Well, I guess I like it at last 🙂

The Song of the Day is “Struggle” from Apocalyptica’s 2001 album “Cult“. See them live on YouTube.

Aug 192008
 

Black & white, the last refuge of the color blind, as Ted likes to say. I don’t do it very often, but sometimes it is a no-brainer, for instance when there is not much color to begin with.

I shot these two images yesterday morning on my way to work, and the interesting thing is, that I had something totally different in mind. I wanted to use the long lens to capture the hundreds of cables above our streets, long rows of light fixtures dancing in between. In fact I did and the images were not even bad, at least workable in any case, but then this image of a bicycle rider came in between, and somehow everything else paled.

Does this happen to you as well? That you go out with a certain goal, determined to concentrate on a certain kind of subject, and then the unexpected happens? What do you do? Do you give in as I did?

For all who don’t like B&W, here is something in color. Although, it’s graffiti on a garage door, and some people don’t like graffiti either 🙂

The Song of the Day is “Dexter Rides Again” by Dexter Gordon. I have it on disc 84 of “The Ultimate Jazz Archive“. I even found a sound sample. It’s the background music to a video about “HAM Radio:PL-259 Installation Made Easy and FUNny“. Oh well.

Aug 092008
 

Yesterday I have announced that you will see more squares, well, today you get them, and I freely admit: This is byrnesque! Actually not only the final result is (and then, maybe not: Ted might have had some enhancements up his sleeve … I’d probably have as well, but not at 2:20am), no even the process is. I have done as I was told, loaded the image (4348×2964 pixels) in Photoshop, created a new image of size 2000×2000, moved the photo over as a layer and positioned it within the frame. Works like a charm.

In fact, what you see here are two views into the same image, one of them mirrored (lame question: which one :-?), and, interestingly enough, it does not even look obvious.

Shot today with my new Nikon 70-300 VR at 300mm. The air was humid and hot, thus the shimmering.

The Song of the Day is “With A Little Help From My Friends” from the classic 1967 Beatles album “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band“. Hear it on YouTube.

Jul 202008
 

Back to normal again. Amazon has recovered during the night and SmugMug is also up again. Sorry folks.

Last morning, when posting Friday’s images, I’d almost posted these two as well. Uhmm … being days behind obviously tends to weaken my memory … or so 🙂

Anyway. Here we are with something old reflected in something new. This image, taken late Saturday morning, just minutes after the Image of the Day, shows the building where I work. I chose a B&W conversion with this bluish tint for increased drama. You may agree or not, some will certainly not. But for those I have the Image of the Day, a brightly colored triptych celebrating monetary opportunity and numeric decline 🙂

The Song of the Day is “The Price You Pay” from the 1980 Bruce Springsteen double album “The River“. There is no original on YouTube, but plenty of covers like this one.

Jul 042008
 

Yesterday’s food is from the can. I was short on time in the morning, and when I left for the train, the light was utterly flat and uninspiring. I could have delayed photographing to the evening, but on the other hand I had plenty of time for post-processing while on the train.

I always carry a bunch of files with me in a folder “TODO”, and for lack of anything better to do, I began processing some of them.

The decaying house front is not far from where I live. When I am late and take the way to work via the Underground, I always pass by, but this particular image was taken about a year ago, in the afternoon. I used my Nikon 50/1.2 and was on the way to a concert where I wanted to use this fast lens.

The next image, a garbage can in Mariahilfer Straße in Vienna, was taken last August with the then new Sigma 20/1.8. It was early morning on a bright day with blinding sunlight, and I liked the contrast between the modern design and the traces of … uhmm … neglect.

The final image, the Image of the Day, is from that Sunday morning in Florence/Italy when I was photographing with my friend Ted Byrne. This image was taken while Ted was on the other side, making the first image that he posted from Florence.

This is one of those images that I always wanted to process. I tried it one time and did not particularly like the result, so it went back into the “TODO” folder. Much to Ted’s annoyance I took all my images that morning from the tripod and I really took my time. Just as I was satisfied with the framing, a white car drove by to park in front of these poles, right in my image. I pressed the shutter only a second before. The sidelight is from the car’s head lights. While the original would have been nothing but a failed attempt, this side light makes the image, and that’s also what was so hard to bring out in post-processing. I was just a lucky man 🙂

The Song of the Day is “Lucky Man” from ELP’s 1970 debut album “Emerson Lake & Palmer“. See something like a video on YouTube.

600 – My Days Are Numbered

 Nikon 10.5/2.8 Fisheye  Comments Off on 600 – My Days Are Numbered
Jun 052008
 

So we’ve got some more, huh? Oh my, 600. The funny thing is, that when I began posting an image a day, although I was not sure that it would be easy to come up with one daily, I did not doubt that I would do this for a very long time.

Sure, I had photographed a lot before, for one and a half years with a Kodak bridge cam, and then since May 2006 with the Nikon D200, and although I had tried to photograph daily, I had never really managed to do so. When I began blogging, obviously the time was there. Since then, there has been an image for each day, and only something between 10 and 15 were not shot on the very same day.

As Ted always says, this has brought me along quite a way. I guess if you at all happen to like using a camera, there is no better training than using it. On the other hand, it slows me down in other respects. SoFoBoMo is an example. I would have had no trouble finishing in time, had I not taken it as a side project. Anyway. The current plan is still to finish it around this weekend.

The Song of the Day is “My Days Are Numbered” from the first Blood, Sweat & Tears album “Child Is Father to the Man“. Hear it on YouTube.

May 282008
 

With only three more days to go for SoFoBoMo and no book yet produced, God knows I should do anything but write about other people’s posts on other people’s blogs, but as things are, you have to either voice your opinion when the topic is hot, or nobody will listen.

Today, on Craig Tanner’s Light Diary, I ran into a reference to a post by Joe Reifer titled “Going deeper may require more abstract excursions“. Joe basically utters his frustration about the state of photography related blogs and the fact that most of them in his opinion produce junk.

He challenges us, to not ramble about questions in art theory that have long been decided, to not write endlessly about photography business as if photography taken online were a business, to not dwell on technical matters of how we shot a certain image, and to not write the seven thousandth tutorial about making sundowns more colorful in Photoshop. He challenges us to take our passion to extremes, to delve for the deep and the pure, and he supposes that

Your normal sources are not going to cut it. The internet is not going to cut it. This may take wandering around the middle of the desert for a few days to figure out. Maybe a few weeks. Probably longer.

There you have it. As someone guilty of most of that, am I offended? Not at all.

Do I feel the need to defend my position? Not really. I find the notion interesting. It resonates with my own doubts about what I do. Don’t get me wrong, I am not particularly prone to doubt, but from time to time …

Whenever I have written a really lousy post, whenever an Image of the Day is only some image of the day, whenever I have posted another Photoshop tutorial (did you know that about 95% of my visitors come for maybe 5% of my posts, and would you have expected, that all of them happen to be either Photoshop tutorials or posts about my Nikon D300?), always in these situations I ask myself, “Was this necessary? Did the world need that?”.

It didn’t, and yes, probably it was necessary. Jay Watson already pointed it out on his blog, that much of what we do in blogging is about exposure and fulfilling expectations. We post to get seen, and in a world of blind but literate search engines, we get found much easier when we write. That’s one of the reasons why I always select a Song of the Day and mostly title my image after it. It’s incredible how many people arrive from Google searches for song titles.

It’s similar with my images. I know that some of them are quite good, and I know equally well that many are not. Do I care? Yes, I do, but I post them anyway. This is a daily photoblog, and the expectation is, that there will be a new photo every day.

Most of my visitors don’t comment (which is a pity), but from the comments that I do get, I understand that nobody expects me to post earth-shattering images every day. I do what I can, and people seem to accept it.

And then: I can’t remember having seen much earth-shattering art in my life at all. Most art does not shatter. It comments.

It comments on concepts, sometimes in a very precise way (much of what Ted Byrne does is of that type), sometimes rather vaguely, like commenting on beauty. And if it does not comment on concepts, then it may comment on feelings, reflecting the outlook of its creator.

Joe Reifer pointed to Roger Ballen as an example of a photographer whose art “blew his mind”. I didn’t know Roger Ballen, but I absolutely understand the notion. This is high-class Art with a big capital A. No doubt about that, and I am thankful for the link. I find Ballen’s images disturbing, surreal, absolutely classic in their formal structure, even beautiful in their negation of traditional beauty … and I can’t imagine why he does so many of them and nothing else.

These images fascinate me, they hold me for quite some time, they are even one of the reasons why this whole topic drew me into writing another lengthy post, and producing them would be an interesting project, but producing nothing but them, would bore me to death.

I am not a big fan of big projects. I enjoy doing some of this, some of that, from time to time circling around one subject (bicycles are one of them), without forcing myself, always trying to keep this a passion, not a job.

My own Art is what happens in that process, what gets fueled by my joy. I produce it because I feel an urge. I offer it to everybody who will care to look, but if only a very few did, like it was for a long time in the beginning, I probably still would do it. I do not rely on my Art economically, and that frees me of having to make compromises, gives me the opportunity to explore dead ends, the opportunity to try and to fail. I wouldn’t want it otherwise, and that is a kind of purity that I miss with much of what many “names” in the Art scene produce, all those luminaries who have “found their style”, as the euphemism goes for “have found something that sells, and stick to it”.

Purity and depth cannot be forced. They must be found, and I fully agree with Joe that deserts may help in this regard 🙂

I further agree that risks must be taken. I am not so sure about his examples though. Yes, Ballen is a photographer who wanders the disturbing realms of dreams, but this is not risk, this is mainstream since almost 90 years. He does so in a very convincing way, and had he one book in that style, I would be amazed. Seeing that all his work repeats that same recipe, I can’t see the depth any more. The repetition uses the effect up, the work freezes into an empty pose.

I firmly believe that passion is the key, and that in order to find the purity and the depth, we have to wade through shallow murk at times. There is no way around it, neither for the artist nor for the visitor. Nobody can produce a masterpiece every day, but if you don’t try, if you are not productive, it won’t ever happen.

This image is funny. Somebody had written “KILL”, and someone else had corrected it to “KISS” later. Doesn’t it bring in an interesting aspect if I tell you that the whole original text said “KILL ALL RACISTS”? Sure, killing is not my thing, but kissing?? Ambivalence is everywhere and art is always a comment.

The Song of the Day is “A Thousand Kisses Deep” from Leonard Cohen’s 2001 album “Ten New Songs“. Hear it on YouTube.

May 172008
 

It’s Friday, I’m sitting on the train, and here is another bicycle portrait. In a comment, Ted Byrne recently asked me to present my images of bicycles in some kind of collection, on a separate web page, in a photo book or something like that.

Well, I’ve already thought about that, and it would have been an interesting SoFoBoMo project. Trouble is, that SoFoBoMo rules require at least 35 images shot within a 31 day interval between first of April and last of May (that’s what Paul Butzi, who invented SoFoBoMo calls a “fuzzy month”). 35 good bicycle images, that’s quite a lot to be shot in a month. That would have required finding more than one bicycle per day on average. Suffice to say that I gave up on the idea.

I registered on Paul’s SoFoBoMo announcement page, but ever since then I’ve held back. I lacked a project. Part of the problem is my weekly travel from Vienna to Carinthia and back. Now that I think of it, bicycles wouldn’t have been such a bad idea. You find them in both places 🙂

Another idea was to photograph portraits of strangers on the train. After all, I spend eight hours a week traveling, and most of the time I could ask someone. Let’s see, that’s four weekends, probably five if I position the “fuzzy month” well, though creating the last images in the very last days would mean to severely press my luck. What if I didn’t find anyone on the last weekend? OK, that means four weekends, nine images per weekend, and that could mean at least three people with three images, but better two images per person, probably 17 people and a self-portrait as the last image. Still, quite a lot, probably manageable, but I soon found out I had another problem: On most weekends I need that travel time to catch up with my daily blog!

Finally there is the fact, that I am not even excited by the idea. It would have been an interesting project, but probably not for me. I enjoy having silence and peace on the train, I enjoy working here, and when it’s busy in the compartment (just as it is now), then I hear music. Sacred music by Mozart at the moment. You see, I’m probably not the type for this kind of assignment 🙂

Still, reading Paul Butzi‘s blog, Paul Lester‘s and Gordon McGregor‘s (all three have finished their books by now), seeing the SoFoBoMo site, and not having a book of my own, that’s unsatisfying, to say the least.

There are only two weeks left now, I still have no project, not a single image, the only thing I have is an InDesign training DVD that I’ve bought, eight hours of training and I’ve seen not a single minute so far.

Anyway, this lack of a book is nagging me. I was already sure to give up (oh that bitter taste of defeat!), when I thought about it again today, and suddenly I saw the whole idea of a project from a new angle.

It’s hard to find unrelated objects of a kind, at least 35 of them in one month, and then take good images of all of them, images that also combine to a meaningful sequence. It’s even harder when you have a day job, and my weekly travels contribute to the problem. I can take landscapes on weekends, but in Vienna I do mostly street photography. How do you select a common kind of object?

So what, did I think today, if I don’t spread picture taking at all? What if I select a single day in Vienna or in Carinthia and do all my photography in that one day? Impossible? Maybe, but probably not if I re-think the concept of a project.

A book, regardless of type, literature or photo book, is by its very nature a sequence. What if I center the project around a naturally sequential concept?

So what is sequential? Order? The passing of time? A journey? Life?

Every book is a journey and so is life. That looks promising. I still have no clear vision of what I want to do, so let’s inspect some options.

I could let time pass, but stay in one place. Well, that’s fine for a year, with seasons, different weather and all the small changes that happen in a year, that may even make an interesting book. Probably this could even be done in a city like Vienna, standing at a busy corner. Something like “From Dawn Till Dusk”. It needs a busy, interesting place with much variability during the day, some luck, and it could well work. “Naschmarkt” comes to my mind. It’s the biggest market in Vienna. People begin working there at sunrise, and at night it ends with a big cleanup. I’d have to ask the shop owners, but I am quite sure most would agree.

What about an abstract, conceptional journey from far to near? Think about a forest seen in a distance. Now the same forest, a little nearer, nearer still, a group of trees at the side of the forest, a single tree, a branch, some leaves, a single leaf, part of a leaf, concrete to abstract. If this is not enough to yield a minimum of 35 images, I could use the same concept for two, three, maybe four such “journeys” and make these parts of the book. A forest, a mountain, a village, a river. “Inspections”. Nice title 🙂

What about a real journey? Well, rather a short trip, I guess. Something like walking from one end of Vienna to the other. If I carefully plan my way, I’ll hardly have trouble finding interesting places, but even if not, if I have to use something “unrelated” for part of the trip, then it will still be related, simply by the fact that it is there, on my route.

I have not decided yet, but it is clear that I better do something this weekend in Carinthia (that would be Sunday, I think) or during the next week in Vienna, though that would almost certainly need a day off from work. In any case I have to have the images ready before next weekend. That will leave me eight more days to produce a book. Crazy? Sure. Funny? Certainly! Possible? I have no idea 🙂

It seems like SoFoBoMo is not over yet. Stay tuned.

The Song of the Day is “At Last“, and the version I mean is the one by the ever so fantastic Mary Coughlan. It’s on her 2002 album “Red Blues“. Of course I have no video, but there is one of Etta James‘ version. It’s different, but it will give you an idea. While Etta James is very much Rhythm and Blues, Mary Coughlan is strictly Blues. Well, both are great and it’s a great song.

May 042008
 

The inspiration to this image came from Ted’s post “Pigeon“. There he presented three times four ways to have fun with a lighthouse. All of the images are gorgeous wide angle shots, and one of them has a whale’s jaw in the foreground, lying in the grass.

Gosh, I thought, it’s a long long time since I last did wide angle. Of the three processing variants that Ted presented, the third – his choice, he called it “heavy metal” – did not really ring with me, but it sparked an idea. In that particular series of images I would have liked a softer variant, but contrasted with an object. Something like the whale’s jaw in composition, but an object that would be clearly out of place. A surreal element.

The other thing that led to today’s image is, small wonder, the image of yesterday, “In Children’s Stories“.

It was clear now that I’d do a wide angle shot, it was clear that I would do it from the tripod, using HDR if necessary (which it was not), and the idea of the forest, of green filtered light, still kept me.

That was the concept. An image in the forest, and in the foreground an out-of-place object. Now I needed only two things, an object and a place. Thinking of yesterday, I first thought about a children’s toy, ideally an old, damaged doll. This would have given an element of danger, but unfortunately I had no doll. Hmm … must remember to find one.

From there it was not far to the book. It would have to be bound in red, preferably a big old book, if at all possible something that would survive lying on the ground, and so I finally selected the Collected Works of Shakespeare, that I had once bought very cheaply.

The first place that came to my mind was the gorge where I have shot a series of images about 16 months ago (see “Quake in a Gorgeous Gorge“, “Down Again“, “Probing Deeper” and “Substitutions“). Forest, water, book. Looked good to me. The only problem is, that I have recently seen wood workers around that place. I wanted to avoid any traces of human presence, thus I decided to simply try my luck with a new place.

The first choice was another gorge, but that one was completely inaccessible, at least from the side that I tried. I gave it up for today and instead drove to another place that I know. I have shot “Logging Again” there and almost a year later “Happy Birthday“. There is no water, but the logs would do as well.

On my way there, about two curves before, I found what you see here. Water. Not waterfalls, not even much water, but I absolutely loved how the water repeated yesterday’s metaphor of the way. Here we are now.

The Song of the Day is “My Book” from the 1990 Beautiful South album “Choke“. See Paul Heaton perform it in the original video on YouTube.

Oh, by the way, it’s “Richard III” where the book came to rest. Whatever that means.