Monaco’s peculiarities

Meeting point for would be love struck ? No, the nearest defibrillator.
Meeting point for would be love struck ? No, the nearest defibrillator.

Monaco is a place with it’s peculiarities, and there are many you would not think about.One of them, is the ubiquitous presence of defibrillators – there are 26 in a country that covers a surface of 2 square km, in other words, on average there is one every 150 meters. Why should it be so? Well, Monaco is a country of extremes. One of these is the life expectancy and median population age.  Both are highest in the world at 90 years and 50.5 years respectively. With female life expectancy reaching 94, it is not uncommon to see ladies well over 90 on a stroll along the beach with their little dogs. If you add the fact, that there are lots of stairs to climb here every day, defibrillators can be handy.

Monaco is a country of stairs and elevators.
Monaco is a country of stairs and elevators.

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Christmas rites

Christmas brings to most of us two inevitable associations: family and food. Enjoying a meal in company of your closest relatives is an ancestral ritual aimed at tightening bonds and celebrating prosperity of life. Today we have some rain, but a scene like this could be seen in Nice only a few days ago.

Essence of social life.
Essence of social life.

Tonight, animals will speak

There is a legend in Poland, and likely in some other countries too, which claims, that animals will speak to us once a year, at midnight on  Christmas eve. While I have seen no proven cases of this happening, I don’t really think that’s important, because, if you want to listen, animals speak to us all the year round.

OK, you're the boss, but now, scratch my tummy please !
OK, you’re the boss, but now, scratch my tummy please !
I love the simple life !
I love the simple life !
It's nice to be erybody's darling !
It’s nice to be everybody’s darling !

 

Merry Christmas everyone !

A stop frame

As with many other watershed inventions in our history, we owe the development of the capacity to “freeze time” to a case, or actually, more precisely, to a fancy bet.

At the origins, photography was a lengthy affair. The plates and lenses were so slow, that usually exposures running into minutes were necessary, in order to obtain a useful image.

In 1872 an American railroad magnate and horse racing fan Leland Stanford, made a $25.000 bet against Dr. John D. Isaac, that there was a moment, when a horse in full gallop would have all four hooves lifted above the ground, and was advancing in mid air by the sheer force of momentum. The problem was, that unaided human eye was unable to establish if this claim was true, due to inability to observe horse’s motion accurately enough.

Stanford has empowered a known San Francisco photographer, a certain Eadweard Muybridge, to invent a way to prove his point by means of a series of photographic images. Five years later, Muybridge has accomplished the task, and has subsequently combined the images on a spinning disc called Zoopraxiscope, to create the illusion of movement.

The bet has never been played out, however it could be seen, that indeed Stanford was right. As a side effect of this rich man’s caprice, photographers learned, they could “stop the time”  ,  and the basis for the motion pictures industry has been established. Where  does this leave us? Freezing of time in a single photographic frame is a self evident fact to anyone shooting pictures with a shutter speed high enough. However, somehow the perception of this “freezing” gets enhanced, when we portray things, that are typically seen in swift motion. What can be more dynamic than birds in flight? Catching birds suspended in mid air, is one of the favourite pastimes of coastal photographers.

Frozen time
Frozen time

There is something fascinating in observing fluid gestures suddenly made still and sculpture like. On the other hand, a tiny amount of blur usually enhances the sensation of movement.

Feeding frenzy
Feeding frenzy

Birds can animate an otherwise static landscape, and add some dynamic and sense of rhythm and proportion. It usually takes some patience and many failed frames to get a worthwhile result.

A view with a swirl
A view with a swirl

Random variation

There is no question about it any more. What has been long suspected, or deduced from observational studies, has now been amply explained and proven by modern genetics.

All life on earth evolved according to one principle: rewarded random variation. The constant random mutations of genes inside all cells are responsible for the emergence of ever new forms of life, and the survival of the fittest assures the rest.

It is estimated, that genus homo sapiens is about 8000 generations old. However, only four generations ago ( about 100 years), the average life expectancy, even in Europe, was still equal to that of hunters gatherers. It has been argued, that since the average pre -adolescent mortality among the humans has virtually collapsed during the last four generations, our evolution has now probably reached a standstill.

This however, does not stop people from exhibiting original traits and behaviour. The diversity of people, is one of aspects, which attract me to street photography.

A retired post office clerk, or a rodeo hero?  A bar in one of Nice's main streets.
A retired french post office clerk, or a rodeo hero?
– A bar in one of Nice’s main streets.

A sweet spot

I have a sweet spot for strong light, graphic contrast, clean composition, a frame in the frame, people in the street, and dogs. All these elements come together in this picture.

An instant favourite frame.
An instant favourite frame.

 

The strange building in the background is the new Jean Cocteau museum in Menton, a  beautiful coastal town bordering Italy.

Landmarks

Embraced by a palm tree
Embraced by a palm tree

 

Cote d’Azur has many visual landmarks. My favourites are the palm trees, perhaps because they always evoke in me the association with something exotic, as I grew up in the north of Europe, where pines and oaks are the staples.

I have come to appreciate their visual impact after looking at photographs of Mark Surloff, whose Miami landscapes are often filled with these characteristic silhouettes.

 

 

Mind reading

Have you ever wished, you could know, what’s going on in other people’s minds ? Science is already going in that direction. I have seen some rudimentary images, translating what we see, into graphics, on basis of brain wave imaging alone. Soon, they say, it will be possible to record your dreams on a video.

Meantime, every now and then I manage to catch some insight about what others think about, on basis of their facial expressions.

Are we happy in this relationship?
Are we happy in this relationship?

Good morning

 
A romantic welcome to your working day
A romantic welcome to your working day

I tend to work long hours every day, but when I walk in the morning along the sea to my office , I find partial compensation in being able to observe scenes like that very often. On average, there are 303 sunny days a year in Monte Carlo.

A double take

 

Many photographers try to work on an idea of an image through multiple takes. This is most often seen in landscape photographs, where an identical scene and framing can bring completely different effects depending on the light, time of year and atmospheric conditions.

Sometimes, the use of a different focal length can be beneficial. Here is a photograph I have retaken at a distance of a couple of weeks. Both photos are shot on 35mm camera. The first one with a 50mm lens:

 

A soft frame
A soft frame

The second one, with a 85mm lens:

An impression of a woman
An impression of a woman

 At times, it is difficult to decide, which one works better.