What we feel versus what we see

I wanted to begin the new year, with an image that would transmit a sensation of freedom.

A few weeks ago, on a weekend stroll along the Menton beach, I noticed this gentleman, entangled in strange bright fabric and lots of strings. He was trying to secure with some stones a kite – finally, he extended the strings, and with a single energetic move, freed the kite from the stones and let it be captured by the strong wind. I was at a sizable distance away, and had in hand a camera with a normal lens. It looked, like his kite dance would make an interesting photograph. When I finally edited the image, this is what I got:

A beach
A beach

 

I have realized, the image was too bland, and the man flying his kite has disappeared in the surrounding landscape. Fortunately, the shot was made on a 6×4,5 negative, therefore I had some room to crop – but how?

Man in landscape
Man in landscape

 

This is how a typical landscape shot gets cropped: the horizon line runs along the longer side of the rectangle, but in this case, I thought that the most important feeling I was trying to transmit, got lost in the process.

My dreams fly high !
My dreams fly high !

 

I think, this final image is most successfully bridging the gap, between how I felt when shooting this scene, and what can be seen in the final picture. The capacity of the photographer to convey in a photo, in an unmistakable way, the  emotion he was experiencing when clicking the shutter, is a difficult art, which we have to learn through years of practice.

As time goes by

We will turn the page again tonight. Another year has gone by. I have had my share of setbacks and advances. Photographically, this year has marked a change of my approach, to a more thoughtful and organized one. Next year, should permit me to put some order in my archive and construct a portfolio. I have outgrown Flickr, and I prefer to stick to my own space for a more methodical showcasing of what I do.

Time is something very difficult to define, yet we all know how it governs our lives. It also governs our photography. As a farewell image of the year, I wanted to show something that sets free our imagination – a cruise ship homing in to Monte Carlo harbour. I believe most of us like to think about a sea voyage as something relaxing and liberating.

Homing in to Port Hercule
Homing in to Port Hercule

 

The next image has been taken with the lens fully stopped down, what has extended the exposure time 16 fold. Suddenly, everything appears more abstract, and the passage of time becomes the dominant theme.

Spirit on the water.
Spirit on the water.

 

I wish you all a fruitful 2014.

Symbiosis

I'm always on the watch out !
I’m always on the watch out !

Yes, I admit having a sweet spot for dogs. It is clear, that dogs have adapted to humans well beyond any other species, and lately some scientists claim, that even the reverse could be true. Perhaps we owe a substantial part of our evolutionary success to them. Photographically, dogs are great subjects: their expression is always “natural” and “sincere”, and people in the company of dogs usually look more relaxed too.

These guys look less scary with their dog.
These guys look less scary with their dog.

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” I don’t take photographs. Photographs take me.” – Henri Cartier-Bresson

Reflecting on the root causes of my interest in photography, I always come back to the same point: there is some mysterious transformation in the way my brain works, when I look at the world while holding a camera, it is as if I’m becoming my alternative self.

When you leave your busy, everyday mind at rest, and you open up your perception to visual experiences, you suddenly become receptive to what you see, without forcibly analyzing the chain of cause and effect events. In this mental frame, suddenly you notice, that photography can become effortless, because when a worthwhile scene presents itself, you can recognize it instantly, and it feels, like the photograph tells you: “Here I am, take me!”.

This photograph is one of my favourites of 2013. It was just one of these moments of grace, when the light, the background and the subject came together in a magic moment of sheer joy. Taken in Menton.

Peace and joy.
Peace and joy.

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.