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.
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.
Merry Christmas everyone !
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The strange building in the background is the new Jean Cocteau museum in Menton, a beautiful coastal town bordering Italy.
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.
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.
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.
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:
The second one, with a 85mm lens:
At times, it is difficult to decide, which one works better.
It is much easier to catch people unaware, when they are so intensely focused on what they are doing, that they simply don’t see the photographer snapping away at them.
A quiet shutter helps.
On my weekly strolls in Nice, I usually stop by for lunch in this little and cozy place called “Les Causeries de Blandine” ( Blandine’s chatters). You will find there a familiar atmosphere, art on the walls, some illustrated albums to flip through, and a great selection of salads, quiches and home made cakes.