Dog day II

Taking it easy
Taking it easy

After several normal posts, I feel it’s time to relax a bit by posting some non pretentious pictures of dogs. These shots tend to automatically accumulate in my “warehouse portfolio”, because, as I’ve already explained before, I am a victim of the knee-jerk dog photographing syndrome.

Thanks for posing
Thanks for posing

One thing you learn, while approaching people with dogs, is that they tend to be a bit more relaxed too, and it is easier to persuade them having their picture taken, if the apparent object of it all is their pet.

Dog on the road
Dog on the road

Another interesting observation I’ve made, is that among the various tramps and clochards who go around with dogs, the level of care they devote to these animals is very high. At times, it seems that they keep better their dogs, than they keep themselves.

Benchmark dog
Benchmark dog

Most dogs in Nice are small. The benchmark size is probably around a Jack Russell Terrier.

Retired
Retired

Trying to observe, if there is a specific category of people among the dog owners, you will likely point to the retirees, particularly the lonely ones.

Closer
Close

But in the end, dogs are very popular here, and you find them in company of all kinds of people.

Heavyweight
Heavyweight

Just like people come in all kinds of types, so do the dogs.

Featherweight
Featherweight

I’ve learnt from Elliot Erwitt, that when shooting dogs, the legs sometimes can be more interesting than the rest.

Safe heaven
Safe heaven

Some dogs are shy, while others like to control the situation, just like us, humans.

Dominant position
Dominant position

It’s nice to spot sometimes a resemblance between the dog and owner.

Bohemien dog
Bohemien dog

It can be resemblance of style, or even age.

Puppies
Puppies

And even resemblance of the sense of purpose.

Tandem
Tandem

Till the point, when it all merges in one.

Mandog
Womandog

Let’s wrap it all up in a relaxed way, with our gaze wandering over Nice through the Baye des Anges and us and our dog lost in meditation.

Lost in meditation
Lost in meditation

 “Meditation” – Dexter Gordon

A walk around in Menton, or about looking for images – part II

Geometry lesson
Geometry lesson

As the streets narrow and the sun raises, the geometry plays start to suck you in. It is better though to look around for some sign of life.

The architecture starts getting more interesting
The architecture starts getting more interesting

There is always a constant state of flux between what light you get at a given time of day, and the people you luck on meeting while you are waiting for your compositions to unfold.

And the subjects too
And the subjects too

A good balance is found, when you find a person that  is interesting, yet integrates seamlessly with the surroundings.

Artefacts
Artefacts

Inside the maze of old streets, the space becomes so tight and dark at times, that you start gasping for air.

Way out
Way out

Not all aspects are negative though – during the warm season, extensive shade has its cooling benefits

Abstraction
Abstraction

I continue being split between these unexpected plays of light and shapes, and a desire to document human presence.

Postman to the rescue
Postman to the rescue

I manage to cross a postman on his duties, and after a short wait luck out to shoot him as he emerges from behind the corner whistling a popular melody.

Opposing figures
Opposing figures

This combination of old architecture and atmospheric light, sometimes plays out in a serendipitous way with some patterns created by unfolding life.

Stone carpet
Stone carpet

The square in front of the cathedral has this interesting stone mosaic as pavement, but even though I waited patiently, there was nothing extraordinary to focus the image on.

Housewife
Housewife

Imagine having an apartment with two balconies like these, overlooking the cathedral square with that beautiful paving, and with a breathtaking view spanning over the frontier with Italy up to the hills behind San Remo. What do you use it for? Evidently, not for posing topless… This lady has been scrubbing the floor for good fifteen minutes, and eventually stood up and disappeared inside the home leaving me just with this single shot.

Cornered
Cornered

Then I managed to get a glimpse of this pair, neatly placed in a tidy corner of the composition.

The story is over
The story is over

As I walked down towards the parking lot, this pair of elderly people gracefully made the closing image. In all I shot 5 rolls of 120 film x 16 frames each, which makes 80 frames. Then I went for a well deserved lunch.

Out of these 80 frames, I’ve selected about 40, have shown  23, and there are 3 or 4 that I like quite a bit, which confirms a rule of thumb, that your decent images are between 3 and 5 % of what you take ( divide this by 10 if you are a digital photographer). Then, if you are lucky, out of all these “best” images, you select one or two frames in a year that perhaps can stand out.

Hmm… what a waste of film !

“Flim” – The Bad Plus

A walk around in Menton, or about looking for images – part I

Let's begin with a selfie
Let’s begin with a selfie

On these rare occasions when I can be on my own planning for making photographs, I usually see to exploit the closest surroundings of Monaco. Yes, after some time it gets increasingly difficult to keep your eyes sharp while looking at well known places, but I happen to be lucky enough to be in an area that offers a wide variety of themes, from the sea to the mountains, passing through old and new architecture, beaches, busy markets and narrow streets filled with people. If you season this with the marvelous light that pervades the Riviera, there is enough subject matter to put under your teeth.

A view from the port
A view from the port

Menton has a fabulous seafront promenade, beginning at the adjacent Cap Martin and terminating at the frontier with Italy, but also an interesting old hilltop town reminiscent of the other “vertical villages” on the Ligurian coast. Moreover, it is home to several beautiful botanic gardens. The peculiarity of it’s old part, is the cemetery, placed at the very top, where you can find the graves of people like William Webb Ellis – the inventor of rugby, or several dozens of “white” Russian refugees, who fled the bolsheviks in 1917, including a heir of count Leo Tolstoj.

Fusion
Fusion

I’ve decided to write this post , composed of two parts ( as the photos are numerous), to show how such an outing, focused on looking for interesting images, evolves. Inevitably there are many shots that don’t quite make the grade of successful, but should give you the idea about the work involved in getting one or two decent results- if you are prepared and lucky.

A knee-jerk seascape
A knee-jerk seascape

Yes, I know, I am a sucker for seascapes, and the fact that I’ve finally managed to learn how to effortlessly swim freestyle isn’t going to make me any less fascinated with this topic.

Local expat
Local expat

Before heading towards the Old Menton, I’ve spotted this British lady selling summer clothes, and she kindly consented for a portrait with the mirror.

Knee-jerk dog
Knee-jerk dog

You know I also cannot avoid taking pictures of dogs, so here’s one.

Perhaps it might be interesting for someone how I prepare for a such a shoot – about. The general rule is: the smaller the distance necessary to cover on feet, the bigger the format. In this case I’ve opted for 6×45: two Bronica RF cameras with the 45, 65 and 100mm lenses.

On the edge
On the edge

You will find this old well right at the bottom of the path leading up into the maze of narrow streets.

Gouaches decoupees
Gouaches decoupees

The interaction of contrasty light and old architecture makes people appear often only as cut-outs, or gouaches decoupees – made famous by Picasso and Matisse.

Flipper
Flipper

The staircase leading to the St Michel cathedral looks from the sea as a giant flipper board, and people moving up and down appear as balls rolling in the game.

Vertical space
Vertical space

As you move in, the space suddenly loses its natural horizontal extension, and becomes predominantly vertical. At that point you discover who rules the skies.

First catch
First catch

This is probably the firs decent shot of that outing. I’ve frozen in an uncomfortable position for several minutes, pressed between the pavement stones and a wall in order to maintain the proper frame, and then waited for somebody who would trigger the picture. This was probably the third or fourth attempt, but it was worth insisting. I like this image a lot.

“Looking For Somebody” – Fleetwood Mac

 

 

 

 

Toothache

Look at me now !
Madame Monte Carlo – Look at me now !

I have a persistent toothache today, and it won’t be before tomorrow noon that I will see a dentist. At this point, I thought I won’t be able to produce a longer post, and have opted for one strong image – I hope you are going to like it. It has to suffice till I’ll recover.

To anticipate the inevitable questions that I expect to arise, I took it with a Contax 645 and 80/2 Planar @ 2.8. Tri X @800 in Diafine. Yes, it has been done in Monte Carlo, and YES ! – whatever you are looking at now, it is VERY expensive…

“Oh ! Look At Me Now” – Peggy Lee

LOOKING AT NICE # 12 – or about knee jerk photography

Impulse # 1
Impulse # 1

What is a knee jerk photography ? It is clicking the shutter when a photograph is “taking you” more than you are taking the photograph.

Impulse  # 2
Impulse # 2

This process is actually quite revealing, it is like taking a psychology test to verify how you place yourself against the backdrop of the average Joe. It will tell you more truth about yourself than you might like to admit.

Impulse # 3
Impulse # 3

You can see what moves you, if you have ordinary taste, if you are curious, if you like life, if you are extrovert, even if you are a psychopath.

Impulse # 4
Impulse # 4

When you interview people asking how they would rank themselves on a range of virtues and skills against the average, the inevitable outcome is, that most of us will believe ourselves to be vastly superior to the mean. This cognitive bias is called “Illusory superiority”.

Impulse # 5
Impulse # 5

It is the same with photographic skills. This is why taking these knee jerk photos, and looking at them later is so useful.

Impulse # 6
Impulse # 6

You can understand a bit better how far you are from banality, what themes interest you sincerely, how you react to light, and even which lens you tend to prefer.

Impulse # 7
Impulse # 7

It is best, if these shots happen when you don’t have any particular type of project in your mind, but are just out and about with your camera.

Impulse # 9
Impulse # 8

Make sure to collect these photographs in a separate file ( or pile ) and look at them every now and then to see if something is changing. Then, erase  and start all over again.

Impulse # 10
Impulse # 9

Hopefully, you will be able to reveal your subconscious mind to yourself more easily, and if you won’t like what you see, you might work on corrections.

Impulse # 10
Impulse # 10

What do I see in my knee jerk photos ?  Curiosity, solitude, fascination with light and detail. And what do you think ?

” On Impulse” – Sonny Rollins

The Law Of The Hammer, or about serendipity in a 35mm camera

Good morning
Good morning

I believe, I have already mentioned in some earlier post,  Maslow’s Law Of The Instrument. Simply put, it says, that if you have a hammer in your hand, everything appears to be resembling a nail. The underlying observation was criticizing a simplistic approach in trying to resolve new problems with old tools.

Path companions
Path companions

As I am writing this, only a few days separate me from the end of annual holidays. In September the usual routine will resume, and the photo opportunities during the week will shrink down to a couple of 20 minute walks to and from the office, plus an odd exit to buy some food.

Dog walk
Dog walk

Monaco is little longer than a couple of kilometers, and I cover that distance twice a day. In the mornings, the typical company are people walking the dogs and the sanitation workers washing the pavements.

Anti Geox treatment
Anti Geox treatment

Anybody would understand quickly, that there is not much to be expected from street life at 7AM or 10PM, if you walk a narrow path along the sea, even in a place like Monte Carlo. Yet, somehow, the simplistic rule of the hammer can be your friend if you insist to always bring your 35mm camera along. My typical “viaticum” is a Leica with a 35mm or 50mm lens.

 Chiaroscuro
Chiaroscuro

All the pictures in this post have been made like that: during these daily routine walks, plus occasional exits for some quick shopping. Admittedly, they at most can be considered to be “almost” photographs, and as Gianni Berengo Gardin said: an “almost” photograph amounts to nothing.

Keep the eye on the ball
Keep the eyes on the ball

None the less, keeping your eyes open every day is important. It maintains your vision sharp.  Moreover, when you try to make yourself receptive to generic visual stimuli, you activate the diffuse thinking, which can reward you with important insights later.

Visual exercise
Visual exercise

Sometimes I get a bit more lucky when out to do the shopping. This usually is a round trip of about one kilometer.

Strange fruit
Strange fruit

One has to believe in serendipity, or to be completely rational, in the concept, that luck favours those who are prepared.

Law and order
Law and order

Sometimes, it takes a bit of gymnastics to grab the Leica and focus quickly, while you hold a couple of shopping bags in your hands.

Sway
Sway

I don’t think I’m at all original in saying all this, but like always the proof is in the pudding, and nowadays more than ever to believe is to see.

Lucky strike
Lucky strike

At times you don’t need to hope for the impossible, and just accept to take images that happen right in front of you.

Fancy
Fancy

When the evening sets in, the scenario becomes more difficult, owing to less generous illumination.

Motion blur
Motion blur

Evening images necessarily have to be more sterile and abstract.

Moon geometry
Moon geometry

I’ve come to appreciate the deep contrast and ambiguity of night photography,  although it’s not so easy to do it hand held on film.

Moon post
Moon post

The shimmer of the moon on sea is often providing an attractive backdrop, just like the illumination of the railings.

Light path
Return home

Thinking, learning, making photographs makes me feel alive.

“Viaticum” – Esbjorn Svensson Trio

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LOOKING AT NICE # 11 : A fly on the wall, or a slice of life photography.

Internal traveller
Internal traveller

Showing people in various life situations in a way which does not let you perceive they were aware of being photographed, is called in the PJ jargon  “a fly on the wall” photography, where the role of the fly is obviously assumed by the photographer himself.

Literary addiction
Literary addiction

Old Nice is made of narrow streets, cramped boutiques and small cafe’s, which usually spill out their tables in the streets.  All this makes observing life easier, and it is not so difficult to disappear in the flow of tourists, each with a camera hanging from their neck.

Confessing to Mephistopheles
Confessing to Mephistopheles

I usually try to have a couple of small cameras at the ready, when the scope is to “catch life unaware”. A rangefinder with a 25 or 28mm lens ready in hand, and another one, or even an SLR, with a 50mm or something slightly longer around the neck. Typically, the wider lens is set on a hyperfocal.

Self portrait with a rangefinder set
Self portrait with a rangefinder set

Above, you can see my shadow with a typical set: Voigtlander Bessa R4A + 25/2.8 Biogon ZM and Leica M7 with the Summilux 50 pre ASPH.

A frpzen memory
A frozen memory

But to be the fly on the wall is not an end in itself. The real scope for me, is to freeze a memory, and at the same time create a visual record of a scene, and a personal reminder of how a moment in the life of the person depicted looked like.

Everyday chores
Everyday chores

Contrary to what most of us think, our memory is not homogenous, it divides in the so called STM (short term memory),  WM (working memory) and LTM (long term memory). The working memory takes care of everything that we need to remember in order to function normally performing various tasks,the LTM is a store of relationships between various memory items, and  the STM gives us the immediate impression about things  we are capable of recording here and now in our surrounding environment and which we are able to perceive through all senses.

On a lookout
On a lookout

While the STM, or as some call it “the immediate photographic memory” is capable of taking in a selective quantity of information, it fades away very quickly: we forget 50% of it within 3 seconds, and within 18 seconds 90% is gone. This, in my perception, is what makes pictures so appealing as a document: they are capable of freezing even a minute detail of your life for centuries. Perhaps this is another reason why the selfies have become so popular.

Background detail
Background detail

The photographer has also the power to choose the degree of detail necessary, and decide selectively what part of an image deserves to be exposed. Inverting the typical concept of background blur in a portrait can sometimes yield interesting outcomes.

Real story
Real story

I love to steal little spontaneous everyday gestures,like the girl here adjusting her hair,  which in my eyes are infinitely more photographically appealing than fancy poses. One of the masters of this genre is the American photographer Mary Ellen Mark. I like particularly her series on bathtubs.

“Are You Real ?” – Benny Golson Quintet