Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Venice, June 2012 : Sunflower at San Marco

Camera :  Leica M6TTL    Lens : Voightlander 21mm f4    Film : Ilford HP5     Developer : Ilford ID-11

A thunderstorm had just broken the heat and humidity of Venice in June - and flooded the Piazza San Marco!  I was watching as the staff assembled raised boards to enable visitors to enter the Basilica without getting their feet, or ankles and knees, wet.  I was hoping to get a few expressions of visitors coming out into the flood, having entered in blazing sunshine, I thought there may be a picture or two pending.

I turned briefly, more to check whether there was any further imminent likelihood of another downpour, when the lady with the sunflower appeared in front of me.

No time to focus, I raised the camera and pressed the shutter release as she approached and passed, followed by a crocodile of Chinese tourists - all following the sunflower...



Venice June 2012 : One Man and His Dog

Camera : Leica M4     Lens : Leica 35mm f3.5 Summaron    Film : Ilford HP5+ @ ISO 400         Developer : Ilford ID-11.

It was 33 degrees Celsius. Comfortably uncomfortable. Too hot for working – but not for walking.

 Others had the same idea and the Piazza San Marco was as busy as we’d seen it during any of our holidays in Venice.

I was in front of the Basilica, just standing, watching people coming, going, standing, watching.

This gentleman came walking towards me. He had been with his wife (at least, I assumed it was his wife) and I had noticed him pushing the small pram a few moments earlier. They had their backs to me and I assumed (the heat brings me out in assumptions…) that the pram held a small child – perhaps a grandchild (another assumption – it must have been really hot!).

I was pleasantly surprised and smiled when I saw the small dog in the pram. Completely comfortable, making no attempt escape from its confines, content to be wheeled around in the sunshine. I noticed a retractable leash sitting in the small tray near the handle – ready for any situation where self-powered-dog-transportation couldn’t be avoided.

I took just one photograph before they passed me. I noticed the pram had a small maker’s logo and bore the title “Outward Hound”…


Monday, 19 August 2013

Las Vegas, September 2011 : Impressions of Las Vegas #2

Leica M6TTL   Lens : Voigtlander 21mm f4   Film : Ilford HP5+    Developer : Ilford ID-11

We drove to Las Vegas from Phoenix, a distance of around 340 miles or so.  We left Phoenix on the Carefree Highway – where else could you find a road with a name that makes you feel like you’re on holiday?  Along the way we were constantly aware of the desert on either side of us. We passed countless saguaro cacti, their upturned arms like surrendering soldiers everywhere, and a forest of Joshua trees (surely evolved specifically for photographic purposes).

Las Vegas Boulevard, “Sunset Strip” or just “The Strip” as the locals referred to it, leaps from the landscape and is visible long before you’re anywhere near it.  The approaching desert is flat; covered with what look like residential buildings – nothing over a few stories and covering many square miles.

However, despite the long distance view, arriving the Boulevard is still a shock to the senses. It’s a madcap place. It’s as if someone has drawn a line in the road at each end to mark the boundaries of both the luxury hotels and the relaxations of normally-permissible behaviour.

As we walked along The Strip I mentioned to my wife that it felt like we were surrounded by illusions.

Promises of instant wealth line the outside of casinos, roller coaster rides sit on top of hotels, scantily-clad showgirls pose for photographs with passers-by, people queue to watch volcanoes erupt or fountains spout water in time to music, pirates climb the rigging of sailing ships while hydraulic pumps hiss to make the ships move and sink – the result of a direct hit from cannon fire.  It’s possible to take in the view from the Eiffel Tower, buy Prada from a Street in ancient Rome, get a hotel room in a pyramid or take a gondola ride on a canal inside the Venetian Hotel.

This picture was taken on Las Vegas Boulevard.  The Eiffel Tower calls in the background, while palm trees remind us we’re in the desert (although we didn't see any on the 340 mile drive…).  Most prominent is the “hot babes” truck, one of two which seem to circle endlessly up and down The Strip, promising that they can not only find a woman who wants to meet me, but also arrange for her to visit. I mentioned to my lovely wife that I thought that this would be an impressive feat – to finally find a woman who wanted to meet me – and might be worth the price of a phone call.

She muttered something along the lines of, “Talk about surrounded by illusions…” and walked on in the sunshine, shaking her head...


Saturday, 17 August 2013

Arizona, September, 2012 : Out of Context

Leica M6TTL    Lens : Elmar C 90mm f4     Film : Ilford HP5+      Developer : Ilford ID-11

I guess a photographer's "job" is to look at what everyone else is passing by and see it a little bit differently, then present it with a "look what you missed" in the form of a photograph.  Taking things out of context begins as soon as you look through the viewfinder to compose the image. What the photographer leaves out is as important as what is left in.

These are buffalo skulls, not from the deserts of Arizona - I walked some remote sandy areas with a guide and there definitely weren't any of these Plains-loving animals to be seen - but from the main street of Sedona, a tourist town in a very picturesque part of Arizona known as "Red Rock Country".

They can be found outside the Clear Creek Trading Company premises, piled against a barrel as advertising for the general theme of the store - native American goods, leathers, crafts and drums amongst many other things.  There's no hint of their store front location from the composition and framing chosen, though. So a viewer can put their own thoughts and story to the image (at least, they could have up to the point where I spilled the beans...).

I'd recommend a visit if you're in the area - both to Sedona  for the many walks and amazing landscape views it offers and the Clear Creek store for the seven rooms of interesting stuff they sell. Oh, and the skulls, of course...



Las Vegas September 2012 : You wait ages for one...

Leica M6TTL   Lens : Voigtlander 35mm f2.5  Film : Ilford HP5+  Developer : Ilford ID-11

Along Las Vegas Boulevard they come in all shapes and sizes - Elvises, that is.  Tall ones, short ones, thin, plump, dark-skinned, light-skinned and any permutation on the theme.  Some sing, some with a guitar, some without. Some, thankfully perhaps, don't sing at all.

For reasons beyond my understanding they all choose to model the white jump-suit that couldn't possibly have been designed for life on the street at 35 degrees Celsius in the shade. I assume they gave the "comeback-all-black-leather-jacket-and-trousers" outfit a try and opted for the jump-suit.

All are happy to pose with "fans", passers-by, adults, children, male, female - for a small consideration, of course, say, $5 or so...

Here we have a range of sizes to suit any height / weight / age. It may have been the team brief just before the start of shift; a group huddle for motivational purposes. This being Las Vegas, of course, they could have been making a little wager among themselves for best / worst performance of the day - financial or musical...



Venice June, 2011 : Lost in Venice #1

Camera Leica M4    Lens : Elmar C 90mm f4    Film : Ilford HP5+  Developer : Ilford ID-11

One of the most common sights in Venice is a tourist reading a Venice street map.

One of the most common frustrations in Venice is the realisation that Venice street maps don’t include the names of all Venice streets.

One of the most common discoveries in Venice is that Venice street maps almost certainly will not include the name of the street, square or bridge that you’re currently standing in / on or trying to find.

The gentleman in the photograph walked past us as we were sitting at lunch, or rather, as we were sitting at lunch and I was viewing passers-by and mentally categorising them into “people I would like to photograph” or “uninteresting” (and therefore not worth my expenditure on film materials). He had been placed firmly in the former. However, lunch on holiday is a leisurely affair and I hadn’t expected to see him again, given the time between the first sighting and the end of the food.

It was a pleasant surprise, then, to see him again just a couple of hundred yards away from the restaurant. Standing on a small bridge, map open, looking first in the direction he’d just come from, then in the direction he was heading, then at the map, then at the name of the bridge fixed high on the wall of the adjacent building. This cycle was repeated several times while I watched. I stood at the foot of the steps of the bridge and took two photographs of him during the repetitions.  He seemed, like so many in the medieval maze that is Venice, to be lost.

I moved up the steps and stood opposite him, intending to take at least one shot with a wider-angle lens. At this point he noticed me and, apologising for getting in the way of my photograph, ducked and walked down the steps on the other side of the bridge. I followed him and asked if the needed help. “Are you offering to help me?” he asked.  I noted his accent and thought that he might be German or Austrian. “Well, I know that the Rialto Bridge is in that direction and the Railway Station is that way,” I said, indicating the relevant directions with a wave of my hand.  “They are the two most prominent landmarks on this street.”

“I’m trying to find the name of this bridge,” he said. His English was excellent.  “I have been in two restaurants, one was good, one was bad. I want to tell my friends the name of the bad one so that they don’t go there when they arrive.”  I wondered briefly whether he was going to include the name of the good restaurant in his advice, which I thought might have been more useful i.e. knowing where to get a good meal would be better than knowing where not to get a good meal. 

“I’m from Switzerland,” he went on, “Have you been there?”  “Only once, on business,” I said, “Many years ago. A very brief visit and no time for sight-seeing, I’m afraid,”. “I came here by canoe,” he said.  My eyebrows rose involuntarily, “All the way from Switzerland?”  “Yes,” he confirmed, “And every year I spend three months in Canada canoeing in the wilderness there. It’s much better in the wilderness if you are on your own.”  Three months solo in the Canadian wilderness sounded even more impressive than the Switzerland to Venice trip.

We examined his German language Venice street map, but there was no clue as to the existence of the bridge where we stood, let alone its name. I took out my English language Venice street map (never leave home without it…).  Again, no reference to bridge, street or canal could be found.

“When I left Switzerland and navigated here, the Pole was always the Pole,” he said. “I managed to make my way to Venice with a compass and a map of the sea. Canada’s wilderness is full of rivers and lakes, it’s easy to be lost. But the Pole is always the Pole. Now I’m standing here in Venice with a street map in my hand and I can’t find the name of this bloody bridge!”  

We shared a few comments and laughed at this absurdity. “Thank you for helping me,” he said as we parted, reaching out to shake hands – although the grin we gave each other was in clear recognition of the useless nature of my contribution.  “No problem,” I replied, “If you don’t ask questions, you’ll never learn anything!”



Monday, 12 August 2013

Glasgow, 2012 : Still not a bargain...

Leica M4   Lens : Summaron 35mm f3.5    Film : Ilford HP5+    Developer : Ilford ID11

Glasgow Sauchiehall Street at winter sale time last year.  Unfortunate, but fairly prominent, positioning of graffiti between two BHS window displays.

Still didn't seem like a tempting offer to me - but to each his own...


Sunday, 11 August 2013

York, July 2013 : A Crack In The Seat

Leica M9   Summicron 50mm

Fashion and functionality are rare bedfellows, more often they are poles apart. In the days of "Oxford Bags" a trouser belt would be fastened around chest-height, giving a man a feeling of safety and security - not to mention preventing chilblains in areas they are definitely not required.

The current trend seems to be for trouser waistlines to sag around hip level, revealing the fashion follower's undergarments - preferably with an embroidered designer monogram such as "Calvin Klein" or similar - the whole effect causing the crutch of the trouser to hang approximately halfway down the inner thigh.  Thus giving the walking wearer the appearance of a nappy-wearing toddler who has had an unfortunate toiletry experience.

My 80-year-old mother-in-law, still as bright and brisk as a good Autumn morning, was sitting to my immediate left when I took this photo. She was writing a postcard home at the time.  During a pause for thought (it's always difficult to know what to say and to compress the events of the holiday into the small space provided) she was looking for a place to put her pen for a moment.  I remarked it was a pity we weren't sitting in the seats in front of us, since there seemed to be an ideal pen-holder available there.  No doubt other options for practical uses are available - which would, at the very least, provide a much-needed link between functionality and fashion ...


Saturday, 3 August 2013

A few comments on comments

Bruce over at The Online Darkroom (a blog well worth viewing, if you haven't been there already) kindly gave me a rather long mention on one of his posts recently, following which someone - who wishes to remain anonymous - asked why he (or she) couldn't leave an anonymous comment on this blog. It seemed they had attempted to leave a much-valued comment, but weren't allowed to without a profile of some sort.

With complete understanding regarding why anyone would want to remain anonymous on the internet (although I'm pretty sure the NSA and a whole load of other three-letter-acronym-type-agencies already have more than enough information about any of us...) I checked to see why anonymous comments were being rejected.

Using my IT skill (that's singular, not plural) I quickly found the fault, which I can summarise for the even-less-IT-skilled-than-me as follows:
  1. I'm an idiot when it comes to IT stuff.
  2. See 1.
There is a very clear list in the Template for a blogger to select re' ID's for comments - including "Anonymous". For some reason (hmm... see 1 and 2 above, I would suggest...)  I had picked an option limiting who could leave comments - a bit silly, really, considering they are one of the most useful  things in the blog, and I welcome any feedback, however brief.

I have now ticked the correct box, which should enable all readers to leave a few (or many) words without revealing an ID or needing a profile.

Hopefully, Anonymous will leave that comment sometime...

Best Regards