Archive for November 2011

Reflective view from a Moscow hotel room

Reflections are very versatile: a welcome subject for the photographer, a means for introspection,  a mirror view of ourselves and many more. Just like the passing shadows, changing light or a blanket of snow, reflections have the power to transform the ordinary into something unexpected. In a photograph, reflections can add strong symmetry or extract the essential colors and contrasts from a scene.
It was a hot night after a long flight and much work. The room was airless but luckily and unexpectedly it was possible to open the window, which allowed me to take the photograph below and to sleep in airy air.

Nightly view from a hotel room in Moscow. I really like the almost perfect symmetry of the photograph and the combination with the unusual blue lighting.

2011/11/29 by Florian Freimoser
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Aspect ratio

I always thought and still do (although less strongly) that a photograph should be composed "in camera" and neither in the darkroom nor in the computer (this is where the photograph is developed). So at the beginning of the digital photography age I was hesitant whether I considered it acceptable to crop an image to whatever ratio. In the meantime, I have become more used to digital alterations of all kinds and refined my definition of a photograph. I now consider it one of the benefits of digital photography that we are liberated from a defined and specific aspect ratio.
In a sense, aspect ratio has always been flexible to some extent. With classical 35mm film the aspect ratio of photographs is defined to 3:2, but specialized panoramic cameras produce wider photographs. Medium format cameras feature larger formats such as 6x6, 6x4.5 or 6x7 and solutions to change from one format to another exist. Since now virtually all photographs are processed with the help of computers, even those that are taken analogously, it is easy to crop a photograph to whatever dimension a photographer might fancy. The size and format of the originally captured photographs has become so unimportant that more pragmatic aspects like the computer screen sizes, the design and layout of web pages (such as square thumbnails) and the dimensions of paper and frames may be more defining for the final aspect ratio than the capturing device's dimensions.
In my opinion, the format of a photograph should be determined, even imposed, by the subject and by your personal preference and taste. When I took analog photographs (slides actually), I was often longing for a wider, more panoramic format. The camera that I am using at the moment allows me to select and change the aspect ratio and it displays the chosen image format also in the electronic viewfinder. Since I have started using this camera I have become fond of the square format and very much like its symmetry. You may say that aspect ratio selection is completely unnecessary because our photographs can be trimmed to any aspect ratio in the digital darkroom. I would have said the same, but the experience with my new camera taught me otherwise. Surprisingly, the aspect ratio selection button is one of my most frequently used nubs of all! Changing and adjusting the aspect ratio for each subject and photograph has become very similar to changing lenses and selecting a particular focal length. I really enjoy this photographic process because it allows me to compose and take the photograph exactly as I want the final photograph to be (at least with respect to aspect ratio) on the scene. I am not sure if I could ever be satisfied again with a camera without this great feature!

A square photograph that was captured and composed as a square. First snow and red square on a square in Zurich.

2011/11/27 by Florian Freimoser
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1000 pageviews

The last fall color leaves resisting the approaching winter.

Dear readers!

According to the analytics, today the thousandth pageview on Florian's blog was recorded. A few of those were from myself (even though they should not be counted) but the majority was from visitors like you from all over the world (most from Switzerland and the USA, followed by visitors from Russia, the United Kingdom, Germany, Turkey, India, France, Canada and Latvia). The larger part of you seems to be using Apple computers (about 55%), but accesses from Android devices were twice as frequent as from iPads. But I digress and do not want to reduce you to a number in the statistics of this blog, but rather wholeheartedly thank you for stepping by from time to time, for reading and looking at my photographs. I hope that you enjoyed one or the other photograph, discovered an interesting idea or learned something from one of the texts. I would be glad to welcome you again in the future and hope that some of you will become regular visitors!

I would also like to use this opportunity to thank Gianni Galassi, Christopher Burkett, Tom McLaughlan and Paul Nicklen, who have permitted me to show one of their photographs in the "My photo treasures" series. I hope that I can continue this series and introduce you to many more photographers and photographs that I appreciate. For example, I hope to show you one of my most preferred landscape photographs ever - stay tuned! If you have a photograph or photographer who you think I should know and maybe highlight here, please drop me a line!

In comparison with other sites, a thousand pageviews may seem little, but I am very happy with the number of visitors and my blogging experience so far. Since August 27th, 29 post were published (this is post 30), which means that I posted about three posts per week. Sometimes I had to force myself to sit down and write a new text and a few times I deleted what I had written, but overall I enjoyed this writing experience so far and the ideas for posts came naturally. I hope that I can manage to keep up the same frequency in the future. I also find a thousand pageviews (a little bit more than 10 per day) so far respectable because I have done very little advertisement for my blog and I deliberately refrain from certain topics (for example I do not mention the latest cameras and lenses from Canikon, Leitax or Lumipus, which would certainly bring in additional page visits). I will mention tools and techniques from time to time, as I have already, but I will most likely continue to abstain from brand and equipment fanaticism. I try to live by certain principles, even if they may be disadvantageous to some extent (I strongly believe that in the long term they pay off, but this may be a topic for a (photo)sophical post one day).

I do not want to end without saying THANK YOU for your visit again and to encourage you to let me know if you have any suggestion, questions, requests or criticism.

Have a nice day!
Florian.

2011/11/21 by Florian Freimoser
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Triangles, pyramids and reflections


A rather abstract photograph from the "reflections" gallery in the "man made beauty" collection (it was already shown off in this post). The photograph shows glass pyramids reflecting the sky line of Hong Kong. I have taken this photograph in 2010, while I enjoyed a few free hours after an exhausting working weekend. It was a very hot and humid afternoon with beautiful lights and shadows and plenty of photography opportunities. I may post a few more photographs in the coming days.
I like about reflections that they show the usual in unexpected and new ways. Here, the different surfaces of the glass pyramids reflect buildings and sky from different orientations and stack these reflections behind each other, which I quite like. In addition, I find the interplay between the clean surfaces and the distorted reflections of buildings very interesting and blue is one of my preferred colors. I hope you enjoy.

Have a nice week!
Florian.

P.S. The photographs in my blog usually link to the photograph on www.floriansphotos.com. Recently, I have been fighting with the slideshow on the HOME page and with the gallery view. Things should be more or less fine again, but I am sorry that the site was partly out of order over the weekend.

2011/11/20 by Florian Freimoser
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My photo treasures: Olivier Föllmi

I have a special relationship with one particular photograph by Olivier Föllmi (photograph "00150" on http://www.follmiart.com/sauvage/, the first image from the left in the second row*). It was one of two photographs that decorated the wall in my girlfriend's room when we first met and later in our first apartment. Although this photograph is not really representative of Olivier Föllmi's work, it is one of my most preferred mountainscapes. Every time I look at it, I am amazed at how the light radiates from behind and below the hillside, as if it was emanating from earth's center.
Olivier Föllmi has become well-known for his photographs from the Ladakh, Tibet and Himalaya, which not only show the beauty of nature, but first and foremost depict the beauty and unity of human beings and their environment. For me, Olivier Föllmi's photographs convey a harmonic and almost spiritual quality that I think must stem from a deep appreciation of human beings and their lives. Although these portraits of mankind seem completely natural and spontaneous, the photographs are very carefully planned. Olivier Föllmi obtains the vision for his photographs by sensibly observing his environment and then tries to create the scene accordingly. It is a very deliberate and conscious image taking process that reminds me of studio photography except that the studio is the whole world and the models are "normal" people and everyday life. With this approach, Olivier Föllmi creates perfectly composed and framed photographs (without any thorns) that do not look artificial but rather capture spontaneity and lightness, which I admire. This interesting and unique approach to photography can be much better appreciated by reading the little book Conseils d'un photographe voyageur (the book seems unavailable directly from amazon.com, but is in stock at amazon.fr) or by watching the documentary below (this is only the first of three parts, but the second and third part are also worth watching; both the book and documentary are in French but the photographs should be accessible to all languages).


It is of course negligent to limit the work of Olivier Föllmi geographically, since his long list of publications reveals that the globe is really his studio. And last but not least, Olivier Föllmi's dedication and compassion for human beings is also documented by the foundation of the Human Organisation for People and Education (HOPE) by himself and Danielle Föllmi.

*As a matter of principle I show photographs from other photographers than myself only if I have received the explicit permission from the artist. Unfortunately, I have not obtained a reply from Mr. Föllmi and therefore I cannot show his beautiful photograph (I would have linked to the photograph directly, but this seems not possible). But please have a look at his webpage; there are plenty of photographs worth looking at.

2011/11/16 by Florian Freimoser
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Posing collared lizard


I have been thinking about which photograph to write and this one came to my mind. A small (traditional) print of the original slide is usually hanging in our alleyway, but I have just wrapped it and put it in a box because we are moving soon. 
This beautifully colored collared lizard posed for us in Arches National Park. It was a warm sunny afternoon in September on our way back from a hike to Delicate Arch. This little reptile (at least in comparison to the largest representatives of its class, the dinosaurs :-)) seemed to enjoy our attention, at least for a while, and we even tried different poses during the shooting. Apparently, collared lizards can run on their hind legs, but unfortunately this specimen didn't exhibit this ability.
I am not much of an animal photographer, even though as a boy I was very much fascinated by animal and bird photography. I may not be spontaneous enough and therefore usually pursue other subjects. I have only very few animal photographs that satisfy me, but I do like these two collared lizards. I really like how the tail of the lizard in the photograph above meanders backward.

2011/11/13 by Florian Freimoser
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My treasures: Ueli Lüthi

Blumenwiese III (Ueli Lüthi)

This post is an exception. As you may have noticed, it is not a "photo treasure" but "only" a treasure - about a painter, to be exact.
Ueli Lüthi has a very interesting vita. He is a draughtsman by education, was once one of the best ice hockey players in Switzerland (he won the swiss ice hockey championchip in 1967, played at eight world championships and participated in the Olympic Games in 1972) and after his career he moved to the little town Borgonovo (the birthplace of the famous swiss artist Alberto Giacometti) in the Bergell, a remote valley in the Swiss mountains.
I have first seen paintings by Ueli Lüthi at a gallery where I live and was completely mesmerized. I most appreciated (and still do) his various paintings of flower meadows. Ueli Lüthi's meadows are gaudy flower carpets that seem to extend upwards towards the mountain summits and the sun. For me, the cheerful colors, subtle patterns and the impressionistic style perfectly capture the essence and essential of flowering alpine meadows. Ueli Lüthi captures the substance of his subjects so well that the botanist may even surmise the particular species of flower that some of the dots and streaks represent. 
Unfortunately, I have not found much information about Ueli Lüthi and his work online. If you are interested and live somewhere close to Zurich I would recommend visiting the current Ueli Lüthi exposition in the Reppischhallen in Dietikon (the exposition will be open until November 28th). For those of you who understand German, there is an article introducing Ueli Lüthi in the Tagesanzeiger Zürich from 2007 and webpages from his hometown feature the Galleria Lüthi in Borgonova (another link is here). There is also a movie (see below) and photographs from an earlier Ueli Lüthi exhibition at the same location as the current display.
The photograph above this text is "our" Ueli Lüthi alpine flower meadow; a small oil painting on metal that hangs in our alleyway and enlightens our days; particularly when a reflected sunbeam makes the colors glow.

Enjoy and have a nice weekend!

2011/11/11 by Florian Freimoser
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Natural beauty & man-made beauty

Last weekend, we watched the movie The Adjustment Bureau, which was filmed in New York. I wouldn't rate it as the best movie ever, but it features several nice and thoughtful ideas and is worthwhile being watched. In the "making of" there is a lengthy discussion about how great it is to film in New York, how the movie shows New York like it has never been shown and how man-made beauty abounds in New York. I was struck by that expression; not for anything that had to do with the movie, but because this is a perfect category description for city photographs. 
My motivation to photograph is my love for the beauty of nature and more recently also for man-made beauty. I photograph things I like and care about; scenic views, beautiful details, order and geometric patterns in natural and man-made environments. As already written earlier, I think that beauty can be found in many places - natural or man-made, in large things or tiny details and even in neglected, forgotten and discarded items. Beauty lies almost everywhere and is just waiting to be discovered, appreciated, photographed and shared. With immediate effect, natural beauty and man-made beauty are the two categories of Florian's photos. All galleries fit either of these, although in some cases the allocation was not completely evident. For example, I have hesitated whether cultivated plants, such as Dahlia, are "natural" or "man-made" (I have decided to file them under "natural beauty" - although cultivated by humans, they are alive after all!). There are some photographs that will need to be reassigned, but I am very happy with these new identifiers.

2011/11/09 by Florian Freimoser
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A thorn in my side (eye)

A "simple" photograph without a thorn, at least for my side (eye). This photograph was taken in 1995 on slide film with a manual focus camera. I photographed these buildings in San Francisco during my first trip to the US ever. Although the weather was foggy before and after, we had two beautiful and sunny days in San Francisco and the sky was dark blue (also due to the polarizer).

This text is about thorns in my side and how I avoid them. In German, something that really annoys somebody is "a thorn in your eye", but if I am correct, the english version of this expression is a thorn in your side. Isn't it interesting? Why is it the side in English while in German the eye is the sensible part? For once (at least with respect to photography) the German expression is more appropriate.
Even as a young child, small details could seriously disturb me. For example, I vividly remember a moment when my brothers, parents and I were watching the news. My problem was a recalcitrant bunch of hair that escaped the order of the otherwise perfectly tailored hairstyle of the speaker. I found this so disturbing that I could hardly concentrate on the news. Also in other situations I can be bothered by details and it is the same with photographs: tiny details can pull away my sight from the main subject like a powerful magnet and completely bungle my viewing experience. 
What is the solution? For me, it is identifying and avoiding potential thorns; both in life and in photography. This may sound strange - almost as if I was not deciding what to photograph, but rather what not to photograph. I do of course take a positive decision about what to photograph as  well, but the statement still makes perfect sense for me. I strongly believe that beauty and beautiful subjects can be found almost anywhere. Whether or not you discover them depends largely on your attitude. However, viewing a photograph displaying even the most beautiful subject can be an enervating experience if thorns disturb my eye (or brain).
So what are the thorns in a photograph? I can only speak for myself. If I look at a photograph, my eye wanders across the image and will, hopefully, come to a rest on the main subject. A thorn is like a magnet that attracts the eye, that pulls the eye away from the main subject, that forces the eye to look at it again and again, even though it is not the main subject. If I look at a photograph with a thorn, my eye does not rest and is not at ease but constantly jumps around, which is what makes me nervous eventually. You can experience this yourself: try to consciously perceive the movement of your eye across an image. Is your eye at ease or constantly bopping around? Does the movement of your eye determine whether you like looking at a photograph? For me, how my eye is guided through a photograph and where it rests in the image largely determines my viewing experience.

Have a nice sunday!

P.S. One example of thorns, at least for some people, are watermarks. I am completely aware and can even understand if you should belong to those people who detest these markings. Nevertheless, at least for the time being, I still prefer to "sign" my photographs with a watermark. I hope that you respect that decision as I respect your attitude - maybe sometime in the future I will change.

2011/11/06 by Florian Freimoser
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Why I like my EVF

I remember my first experience with an electronic viewfinder (EVF) very well - it was rather unpleasant. I did not know EVFs even existed at that time and was hence surprised by the yellowish faces and lagging display of the scene as I moved the camera around. I never spent much thought about the topic again and put EVF in my "useless" drawer. To my surprise, I ended up buying a camera with an EVF last year and I am enthusiastically using it ever since! Technology has of course advanced very much and the most recent generation (even the one before) is much superior to the version that bungled my first EVF experience. 
For me, the main advantage of using an EVF is the fact that it shows an image that is much closer to the actual photograph than an optical viewfinder can. The EVF shows an image that resembles the scene under the actual exposure settings. This is an enormous advantage when I manually adjust exposure or when using neutral density filters to prolong exposure times. Normally, this would render the viewfinder so dark that you can not recognize anything at all. The EVF will show a clear picture of what you are shooting. During our recent holiday I have been experimenting with neutral density filters and really learnt to appreciate the workflow. The only tiny problem is the autofocus, which refused to work under the artificial low-light setup. However, this is easily resolved by focusing before adding or darkening (a variable) neutral density filter or by manual focus. If you use autofocus, do not forget to switch to manual focus mode before darkening the scene with the filter because otherwise the autofocus will get crazy.

This is an example photograph of the coast of Maine in Acadia National Park during bright daylight; photographed with an exposure time of 15 seconds thanks to neutral density filters.

There are of course other advantages of EVFs: the overlaying of camera settings and histograms, 100% view of the frame or automatic adjustment of the frame format. For me, these are all just icing on the delicious cake of being able to view my composition under the actual exposure settings. I do not miss my old viewfinder at all!

2011/11/01 by Florian Freimoser
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