Friday, April 27

A Mist of Tower Bells


Nearing Vienna
A mist of tower bells
Glazed the Rhine
Snuggling into ears,
Muscle, and
Feeling.

I still haven't figured out how to use GPS feature on my 7D Mark II. From the date and time our Teeming River Cruise boat was maybe ten miles west of Vienna. The sky was clearing and the bells pealed. Our boat was so silent that only the waves lapping against the shore added a percussion line. Pretty moment, very typical, but nothing much deeper. Hmmmm... perhaps if I'd dropped a nude couple climbing the trees? Howzabout I dyed the two yellow? Is beauty alone sufficient excuse for making an image 

I think we use beauty up quickly. There's something about it that wears out fast. Even when the original moment startles, its image rarely invites a return to study or enjoy it. 

Oh well. You all know that i'm an Alien Skin beta tester. And I totally enjoy using their newest sophisticated application. But just now the lure of Topaz's new Impression offers so many options to dig into an image. Fact is that the two apps are powerfully complimentary. I finished this image in Alien Skin's Polaroid, creating a romantically subdued palette that I have no other way of accessing. 

A few years ago, a friend told me that she thought filters were merely devices to save a bad image. No, she's wrong. No one charges that a larger bristle brush is what is necessary to save a mediocre oil painting. Filters are tools. I've never found one that allows a miraculous one click redemptive overlay. Instead I employ my large collection of filters to work upon parts or an image - or a feeling. 

Perhaps I'm just paranoid? And yet the same folks who abhor post processing techniques are gear heads anxious to talk about the latest lens, camera body, or light array. Is this an ideological thing: progressives anxious to find new tools, conservatives determined to protect tradition? Wuddaya think? 

Monday, April 9

Dear Leader In Budapest


Got to spend a sizzlingly hot July 2017 day in Budapest. The city baked beneath a squint-making sun. Stupidly I chose a seat atop one of those sightseeing busses where the sun melted both my brain and this place's urban charm. Finally, in center-city we found an outdoor café where, from across the street, this facade glowered down - bringing to mind the Soviet Big-Brother who'd imprisoned Hungary. But in reality, this sign was cultural appropriation from another land - mine. Do young Hungarians get off on Totalitarian Art? Is that how U.S. pop music's enjoyed?
I've read Europeans intellectuals dismiss the U.S. as the place that went from savagery to decadence without passing through civilization. And  yet here Hungarians scar a grand (if dingy) piece of their architectural inheritance with this! It is as if someone stirred a stinky boot into the goulash. 
Still, I'm thinking this image of that dichotomy offers so much to both emotionally and intellectually fill exactly the right spot in a hip-elegant living space. You think?




BTW: What's the English equivalent of the word 'Mandoki'? It sounds vaguely Asian, no? Just how far east had we travelled? :-)

Tuesday, April 3

Gotta' catch up a little...


Okay, success on the internet demands the 3 Fs: Fast, Frequent, and Fresh. Which is why I am unsuccessful on the internet. I've finished 100s of images which I've meant to, but have been to lazy to... post. And I'm content with all of them. What I won't show, I trash. Well, mostly. So maybe it's time to do a little catching up? So here's a painting I did of a Mityana, Uganda Girl Scout Brownie. And...




Here are a couple of street scenes. The first is the 15th century gothic cathedral of St. Martin in Bratislava, Slovakia. It was built to match the Bratislava Castle which looms almost directly above it. The church tower's built into the city's defensive wall. Slovakia's a smaller European nation that would undoubtedly be much larger today had they not been the first European nation to export its Jewish population of 57,000 people  to feed Hitler's ghastly "Final solution to the 'Jewish Problem'". Of course that Catholic Church continued its activities as the cattle cars were crammed with writhing masses of people. A guidebook pointed out that, "A small but significant neighbor of the cathedral is a monument to the national synagogue which stood next door for centuries until the Communist government demolished it around 1970". Uh-huh, the image looks spooky, right. Well so is this street's history.

The other image is a misty morning street corner in Toledo. Spain. Can you sense the history veiling the neighborhood?


Speaking of street scenes, well howzabout a watery street's scene? This one's along the Danube between Dornstein and Melk, Austria. These folks live next to a busy floating highway. You think they have wet basements?


Here's a Spanish finca growing Valencia oranges in Spain. Finca? Uh-huh, these are country homes, usually plantations or farms of some sort. Usually is a tad old fashioned way to describe fincas. Today in hispanic countries the country home of affluent people are frequently called fincas whether or not they grow or raise stuff or animals. Pretty rich?

And this street scene's from the middle of Vienna - yep - the Austrian Vienna :-) Sooner or later I'm going to post a passel of totally gorgeous Viennese scenes. My dear friend Andreas Mannesinger hosted me for an entire day in the Austrian capital. It was wunnerful. But this image could be from almost anywhere, huh? But this thing jiggled my imagination for some reason - probably the reflections in the rear view mirror... And the jiggling caused this semi-poem to tumble free:

Through back-eyes Truck
Watches history suck
Time through a tiny
Vanishing point.
.
Watching and holding speed constant
To average 60 seconds per minute
Is what Truck does.
.
But larky:
Sometimes Truck’ll
Stutter-foot momentum.
Or jerk at the wheels.
.
Causing things to:
.
First seem longer
Than it takes for
Right-guy to text
The gal who gave
Up her info.
.
Or when Truck
Gooses its gas how
Time shrinks shorter than
The hours before a life-test.
.
And when Truck jerks
At the wheels?
.
Its windows reflect a
History that’s swirled,
Snarled, and sqooshed
Together In clots and breaches.
.
Truck’s wondering though
What happens to
History if …
.
If even for an instant
.
The truck stops here?



Jeff & Gina Paglialonga are the owners of Teaming River Cruises. It was their riverboat that drove us through the epicenter of Europe (Amsterdam to Budapest)  during the summer of 2017. Jeff's personality's bigger than the kilometers his river boat travels. OTH the food on The Royal Crown - his company's flagship - is good enough to gobble. So? Why not, huh?

Okay - I'm neither fast, frequent, nor fresh - but it was a turtle who beat the rabbit, right?

Saturday, September 23

HDR Experimenting (1)

Thanks to my friend and gifted Austrian photographer Andreas Mannesinger (See his link there on the right?), I got a guided tour of his Vienna on Wednesday August 2, 2017. I'll have much to write later about that day, but I've nostly used the outtakes of that shoot for this HDR experimenting.

I took a new camera to a 14 day European river cruise on the maiden voyage of  Teeming River cruises which included a day and a half in Vienna. It's a 7D Mark II. I upgraded from my 7D Mark II instead of going full frame so my three lenses would still be compatible. In addition to the cool reviews of the Mark II's processor's ability to conquer low light and high contrast, I was very interested in it's HRD and GPS capacity. While I generally switched on the GPS software, I've not yet examined the results. Instead, I've first examined the HDR capabilities in cooperation with Photoshop CC's built in HDR Pro. I own Photomatix Pro 5 and expect to eventually pair it with the 7D's HDR files. But first here are some immediate results with the PSCC + Canon features.


NOTE: I expect to add to this posting over the next days, as I work upon additional HDR images. Recall also that HDR is essentially exposure bracketing. Meaning the camera fires a burst of images, one which the meter judges as right on, and others that either over or under expose around that initial setting. Thus some of the images expose for shadow detail, others for highlight detail. By combining the images Photoshop CC HDR Pro (PSCC HDR-Pro) attempts display the average exposure, then pull in detail in both shadows and highlights from the other images made in that burst.

For example.... (1)

Subway Bustle
Here's an entirely meaningless grab shot from the Vienna subway. You may click on any of these images to enlarge the details. I purposely used a slow shutter speed to enhance the sense of commuter hustle-bustle. So the effect I intended is enhanced but so are the details in the shadows and highlights except for the streaks of dark and light where I intended to enhance the tone with some dramatic color slashes. Comments? Without HDR, this RAW image is entirely flat. Incidentally, PSCC HDR-Pro flattens the various shots from a cluster shot into one that is 16 Bits deep. Say what? Think of the image laid flat on a tabletop. Now take a ruler that measures in Bits instead of say inches or meters and measure the depth of the image. The thicker the image the more information that  sits at any one spot. Information that can be mined. In PSCC you can dig into layers to reveal the photos that exposed for highlights or for shadows revealing that information from above.

OK... Now most RAW images are 8 bits deep... jpg images for example. RAW images can be much deeper and PSCC allows us to dig into either 8, 16, or 32 bit deep surfaces. Here I chose 16 bits which allowed me to pull out those vivid yellows and see the flashes of green and blue? Hence while details are blurred, the color glimmers add an illusion of sharpness to the image.

Then here in (2)...

Street Worker

I wondered how a grab shot of a Viennese beggar might work when rendered as an impressionist painting. The lighting was viciously contrasty on a Viennese mid-day in August. I'm not at all happy with the result. I opted to leave the blue cast of the shadows, perhaps removing it might enhance the overall impact, but it just appears gimmicky and forced to me.  

In (3)...

Lineup

So I decided to combine HDR with heavy texture to play with the wonderful human shapes lined up to refill their water bottles in downtown Vienna. The skin tones are perfect, and the shadows invited the texturing revealing suggestive detail and glimmers of color. Here I think that HDR will allow a lot of conceptual narrative. But this particular meaningless image was ready for the trash yet it provided a good chance to even out a harshly high contrast moment where the figures were in full sunlight and background in shadow. Oddly, as I look at it there seems to be a Norman Rockwell something wafting from this image. Y'think?

Now (4)....

265

Here the spooky colors of HDR totally pop. I could have muted those blues in particular but their drama seemed too dramatic to overlook. Notice the depth of field (DOF) here in the early morning sun (all images were hand-held) allowing for a smaller lens opening while utilizing a higher shutter speed. Thus the image is sharp while DOF is dramatically deep. You can easily peer down the street. There's really no value to me beyond craft in this image... It makes no comment beyond those that the building's owners might enjoy. Still it is high-craft thanks to the ability HDR allows for digging into highlights... Look at the sun and  window reflections while revealing the detail I wanted (note the area beneath the  under-hang under the number 265). 

Now here's (5)...


Maybe A Church?


Crunchy? U-huh. this one of those typical church-like buildings which seem to pock the streets of European cities. It may not even be a church steeple, perhaps a library? Regardless, it's pretty, but says little more to me. However there's a postcard attractiveness that sucked in my lens. Here I experimented with the Edge Glow and Edges Strength sliders in PSCC-Pro. Which results in a crispy-pop to details. I can sand my nails on the texture in this image. To what effect? The image is pretty without meaning and the effect's reduced its underlying charm. However it does show the power of PSCC-pro to inflate the edges of knife-like details. I can imagine using it sparingly in some images to create a purposeful distraction. I also almost completely removed all shadows from this mostly back-lit tower which also makes my brain say... "Whu?" It's a terrible fake, useful only when I might want to create a terrible fake to make a statement. And again, particularly in the blues, the colors are, well, creepy, don't you think?

Now lettuce look at (6)...

He's Eyeing Me!

Here the intention was to go surreal with a surreal Viennese billboard. In monochrome which I'd then selectively recolor by hand. Okay... technically it works, but it's a podge of purposelessness. Hey, everything doesn't sear into deep meaning, okay? 😥 However I got a lot more of that crunchiness in the grass and the horizontal slats in the upper right than intended. Apparently the edge sliders are considerably more powerful than they appear when working in PSCHD-Pro. Moreover the colors I chose are even creepier than the stuff that comes out of HD. Ugh! But the tonal map here is generally more believable and coming under better control.

Which brings me to (7)...
TWA? What's That?

Better. The idea was to create a travel poster for the Teeming River Cruises. Have you ever seen the classic TWA travel posters? They generally depicted paintings of  high-key iconic scenes from far-away places that hung behind the desks of travel agents. Here was my first chance to intentionally exaggerate the edge slider power in PSCC HDR-Pro. See how there's a white fringe around the edges? While I deleted some where it was most distracting, I emphasized it in this image then processed it through Alien Skin's SnapArt 3's oil painting filter. 

Okay, that's not Vienna, you caught me: But this image combined so many of the iconic Slovak details of their capital city along with their fearless use of primary colors that it cried out for the TWA treatment. For the first time the tools created exactly the feeling I'd preconceived. And note how even with the distraction of the oil effects, there are still shadow and highlight details where I intended them?  Okay, I'm getting somewhere... Um, right? 

Life's about learning, right. Critique and comments madly accepted either here to through the email on the right. Thanks...



Thursday, September 7

Ooops!


We boarded our Teeming River Cruises river boat on Friday, July 21. Ahead, a 12 day journey from Amsterdam, up and down rivers to Budapest. The Royal Crown carries just 90 passengers, and left Amsterdam at around 2:10 pm on Saturday with 89. Now why was that? 

Later I learned that Captain Hans de Gelder delayed leaving for a full 10 minutes beyond his scheduled 2pm departure. But the rules of the river, berthing, and crew assignments meant moving off even though a search for one missing passenger turned up nothing. Before disembarking they'd even called the Amsterdam police to see if the tardy guy was hurt, or perhaps hospitalized. Seems he left the boat around ten that morning to, "Wander around my favorite city.
Yeah, it was me. Without European cell service my iPhone, away from WiFi, was useless. Stupidly certain that the boat was leaving at 4, I contentedly snaped pix until about 1:55 when I decided to go back even though 4 was still way off. But the day grew hot, the mid-day lighting grew awful, and crowds were everywhere thick as July humidity. 

Imagine my surprise approaching the slip when, well, there wasn't a boat! 

At about 2:20 an empty Teeming Rivers slip adjoined Viking Cruise berths where greeters awaited their passengers. So I walked over and met a happy Irish fella in charge. Teeming River equips all of their disembarking passengers with identification cards that carry their boats' telephone numbers. The Viking guy got right on it. He sent me inside to relax, called the boat, and arranged a reasonable limousine service to meet the boat at a place called Roosseveltlaan, in Utrecht some  24 miles and 40 minutes away. My driver in a sparkling new Mercedes town-car described landmarks along the way. The Royal Crown's  captain detoured through a residential neighborhood's canal about twenty miles beyond Amsterdam. There the driver and I, along with a gaggle of curious neighbors, stood waiting (as a light drizzle fell) on this X for the Royal Crowne to poke its nose under that lovely bridge up there in the distance. 
 And, after about 20 minutes, it did poke under. But, as you can see from the picture here on the left, this was not a dock with no provisions for gangways or ladders. Instead the boat almost stopped, a guy grabbed my camera, while two other BIG fellas snatched either of my arms and flipped me like a cod onto the boat's deck. FWOOOP! As 89 passengers and a bunch of crew laughed and cheered, I became a celebrity. From that moment on, the crew and a lot of the passengers helpfully reminded me of departure times at each stop. 

BUT: The toughest part of all of this wasn't mine. Nope, my poor wife Rita was so worried. As the minutes ticked toward departure, her anxiety blossomed. Our reunion was tender yet, what is the exact word? Judgemental? Yeah, you remember that financer-guy Bernie Madoff? Well I know how Bernie felt. Fortunately I'm married to saint. 

Okay, with that outta' the way... How was the cruise? Where'd we go? What'd we see? Hear? Smell? Eat? Feel?




Sunday, September 3

Yeah, But Is It Art?


At a street market in Amsterdam there is a vendor selling boxed sets of compact paint spray cans. They come in sets of complimentary colors (including shading hues). And the boxes are cleverly open with an over-the-body strap that allows the user to dangle the cans at waist level for rapid access. European cities are more densely tagged with grafs than most of their US counterparts. They also seem to be far less political and/or gang related.
Questions: (1) Is this display on the corner of Elandsgracht and Derde Looiersdwars Straats in Amsterdam’s Centrum… art? Before rushing an answer, look how the city’s allowed that advertising box along the wall, and planted weed-like street signs. Look how bikes are strewn all about. See the utility boxes screwed to the walls. Is any of that, art? How should this scene look? Who makes that decision?
(2) Uncovered walls in Pompeii are wrapped in millennia-ancient tags. While much of the Pompeian graffiti seems advertising related (“Buy Deficia’s Big Sausages”) lots just reflect a passion of people to declare that they were there.. Is their an instinctual artistic need to brand a historic instant with their presence?
GEEK STUFF: Grabbed with my new Canon 7D through its workhorse 17-85mm zoom. Mid-day sun tested the 7Ds ability to capture HDR groupings… I’m thinking it dramatically passes that test. Right?

Thursday, July 6

Granada 10/26/17



I  hope you’ve reviewed my 2016 feelings of; Madrid, Toledo, Cordoba, and Seville - right?Well after a 2 and 1/2  hour bus trip of some 156 miles we arrived in Granada on Wednesday October 25th.

An hour by car from the ports of the Mediterranean, Granada sits at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains which feed the four rivers that converge at the city which is home to a quarter million or so people and its entire market’s population’s about the same as Lancaster County, Pennsylvania - maybe a tad smaller. 



Sisters Deb & Joanne travelled Spain with the legacy, spirit, and love of their brother Bill.

Yeah, I captured this moment below in Granada. But without that title would you wonder if this man ran the New York Streets? Marseille's? Istanbul’s? Maybe Vienna, Dublin, Mbarara, or Lancaster, Pennsylvania? With the slightest switch in scenery – and I do mean ‘slight’ – here’s a big-city, 21st century morning moment. I wonder, did up-scale men scramble for exercise in 3rd century Rome? 2nd century Cathay? How about the Baghdad streets of say 1,500 BC?
Have men (and now women) always run for fitness when civilization’s security walls grew sufficiently thick? Or have they only recently begun to scamper in Moscow, Vienna, Tehran, or Bangalore? Is this a historically accurate urban cliché or just a momentary – yet widespread – fad?

Hmmmmmm? 
Our AM stop in the river city was...
Down below see? That’s Bruno of Cologne the founder of the Carthusian order of cloistered monks in 1084 in Calabria, Italy. In fact the Carthusians are also called the Order of St. Bruno. The man lived (1030-1101) within the eye of the theocratic/regal storms that roiled over Europe, and while he personally affected the role of a hermit, he was a learned confidant to both the Papal See (from the ecclesiastical Latin meaning holy seat: the name of of the Pope’s throne) and to worldly monarchial palaces.
This grotesquely beautiful statue adorns one of the most elaborate (some might say decadent) altars in the Catholic world, occupying the epicenter of Granada’s Carthusian cloistered monetary.
Bruno was apparently never tortured much less martyred so there’s little to explain the damage the sculptor imagined to his left eye nor the various carvings into his face. While he personally lived in austerity, he had access to assive resources which he used to endow churches and both the Carthusian and Cistercian orders of priests and lay brothers which he was instrumental in founding.
The statue (like much of the art in Granada’s Carthusian monestary) is grisly and consistent with the imaginations of directors of over-the-top horror movies. I have no idea how that connects with the quiet piety and deep scholarship of St. Bruno. But then, that’s the purpose of travel, right? To experience the puzzle of other cultures..
An example? Well here’s Eric discovering the grisly imagination of acclaimed 14th century artist Juan Sánchez Cortán.
TravelTime hostesses Lori and Courtney took turns as my gentle keeper. Okay, the camera distracts me so I straggle. Notice how casually Courtney stands there like, “Who Me?ME? Watching you Ted? Nah… "

But the stark cold monastery corridors all led to its central chapel which seems, well, un-monkly. 
Remember, these guys took vows of poverty in a land of enormous wealth that was concentrated in very few hands. Large hunks of the population were impoverished… while the monks of St. Bruno’s built this...
And this… Look familiar? (Hint: see the second image up above)
When it looks like gold… In 15th century Spain… it was gold.
Although downtown Granada wears it’s modern wealth  with comfort… There are, since 2009, numbers of once-elegant now-empty stores along its richest street. 
Bernie Hershberger frames the entrance to La Alhámbrá which  lets you feel the Moorish dreams that an army of stone masons built into this mighty 13th century citadel/palace overseeing Granada. Still mysteriously placid, the property transferred peacefully to the Catholics leaving its masonry un-cracked along with ancient ghosts.
The Alhámbrá’s a Sultan’s 700 year old palace with the Spanish city of Granada wrapped around the base of its hill-perch. As you can tell from this typical palace doorway, the Disney people have visited here a lot, Right?
You wander the Alhámbrá halls and feel the Moorish Sultan’s presence. What’s below though isn’t a window or door – just an alcove in an almost forgotten corridor. It’s a cranny carved into this space when much of Europe was only just opening its eyes to the Enlightenment. Years before ‘enlightened’ (yeah, that’s sarcasm) Christians expelled the Jews from Spain in 1492. 
Yet today when Christian Europe struggles against sharing chunks of its culture with new, largely Muslim, annexers whose ancestors they also expelled – the dusty beauty of this insignificant niche seems relevant. If a human is the sum of his/her ideas, it’s important to remember that culture is all about gathering, defining, and defending those ideas. Cultural clash threatens what people are – and yet this dimly lit niche glimmers a serenity that resonates across cultural battle lines.

Stairway To Heaven?
See the pedestal next to the steps below? It’s probably where a Seraglio’s guardian stood, like in Eduard Charlemont’s legendary 1878 painting <http://www.philamuseum.org/collections/permanent/102792.html>. Okay, Charlemont took a tad of artistic license, what can I tell ya? Still, can you image the fantasies this doorway to forbidden Seraglio chambers triggered 700 years ago when it was, um, fully functional? I’m thinking that Freud probably loved the symbolism of the structure, huh? (Don’t know the word “Seraglio”? Look it up! ;-)

Moorish architects understood the tension between the need for interior light and the rigors of Mediterranean heat. Their ingenious solutions involved the delicate latices which formed lace-like patterns across portals open to the skies. Here, in the torpor of an October afternoon, that exquisite workmanship allowed the interior in this corner a shimmering glow. A glow that reinforced the mysteries that once-awaited above.



And upstairs… Um, here’re are honeymooners - Robin & Michael.
The Alhámbrá  sprawls like the Topkapi Palace I’ve pictured among my Turkish images. I could narrow my eyes and easily imagine myself in Istanbul. The Alhámbrá's breathtakingly detailed with architectural accomplishments unrivaled throughout Europe for a century at least. And yet for all of its grandness, there are quiet spaces with mysteriously gentle lighting like these small rooms that sing to their solace.
Sometime in the 700s, the Sultan of Granada walked the gardens in his Alhámbrá palace. This corridor wanders for about a quarter of a mile parallel to another pathway to the left. Throughout there are water features and these intricately executed mosaic walkways.
The Moors ruled much of Spain from the 700s until the end of the 1400s. At their height of power, Granada was a richly artistic home of scholarship and science. And the Alhámbrá  was the boast of its affluence. Can you imagine the demand for stone masons, sculptors, painters, wood workers, carpenters, plasterers, plumbers, glass makers, and mosaic artists?

Actually all of the beauty and exquisite detail was a sort of marketing campaign. See, Granada's Alhámbrá was built in the middle of the 14th century by the caliphs of the Nasrid dynasty. Seems the Moors who'd invaded Spain in 711 were, by the 1300s, worried about their image of waning power. How better to project their dissipating might than to create a dream of heaven on earth? The place was created from plaster, timber, and tiles. Look at the serene workmanship around this pool that's survived  some seven centuries - even Napoleon's attempt to blow the entire place apart.












Feel the Moorish dreams that an army of stone masons built into this mighty 13th century citadel/palace overseeing Granada. Still mysteriously placid, the property transferred peacefully to the Catholics leaving its masonry un-cracked along with ancient ghosts.








And afterward...  a 310 mile, 6 hour bus ride to Valencia which meant...


And what about Valencia? Next time...