Archive for December 2012

My photo treasures: Peter Moons

The last photo treasure contribution of this year is about Peter Moons. I have originally discovered Peter Moons' photography on Flickr and really appreciated his minimalistic compositions and in particular the high voltage set and the fork series (of which one example is shown below). The high voltage and fork photographs by Peter Moons are mostly white and black with only very few or no shades in between. The forks or high-voltage cables appear almost like paper-cut silhouettes. I really like how this reduction emphasizes and reveals a shape or pattern, which may otherwise not be appreciated. Similar to the photographs of Gianni Galassi, introduced in the very first photo treasures post, these photographs extended my photographic vision and in particular my courage for emptiness. Thanks to these examples I have for example "dared" to reduce my winter tree photographs to silhouettes.
In general, Peter Moons seems to appreciate geometric or minimalistic compositions that he finds in the urban environment. For example, I enjoy looking at his photographs of the Liège-Guillemins railway station in Belgium that was designed by the famous spanish architect Santiago Calatrava - what a fantastic location for the discovery of interesting geometric compositions! Noteworthy is also the parafasis gallery, for which Peter Moons combines a photograph and its mirror image into one, symmetrical picture. Finally, I would like to mention the ICM (intentional camera movement) photographs, which document the experimenting and creativity in Peter Moons photography. The idea of these photographs is to have your camera record a photograph while it is being thrown (tossed) into the air (or moved without tossing). Depending on your skills as a catcher this may be a good experiment to justify the purchase of a new camera, but many people obtain really interesting results. There is a vibrant camera tosser group on Flickr and even dedicated webpages (or a blog)! The resulting abstract photographs, including those by Peter Moons, look very fascinating, but I have not tried this technique myself. You can find many more photographs of Peter Moons on Flickr, his personal website as well as in his Blurb book.
Forkwave © Peter Moons

2012/12/29 by Unknown
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Tree silhouette 4: Christmas tree balls

Tree silhouette 4 Tree silhouette 4: The seed balls of the London plane (Platanus x acerifolia) decorate the bare branches like christmas tree balls on the conifers that some of you may have at home right now (only less colorful). Merry christmas to everybody who is celebrating this holiday!

2012/12/25 by Unknown
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A winter theme: Tree silhouettes

As the seasons pass, light, shadows, colors, the weather and the vegetation continuously change and create new opportunities and discoveries for the observant photographer (and of course also for the attentive observer without a camera). The different seasons therefore lend themselves to different photography themes. The recently presented carcolor theme is perfectly suited for the summer because brightly lit facades and objects create impressive reflections on car bodies. Light & shadow photographs obviously also necessitate sunlight to throw interesting shadows on facades or the ground.  Here in Zurich, the winter months are often grey and cold and there may be no shadow far and wide for weeks.  Since a couple of winters I take advantage of these rather depressing conditions to photograph tree silhouettes. Although these photographs are somewhat unusual for me - I really am a "color guy" - tree silhouettes are a perfect pursuit for grey winter days.

Poplar silhouettePappelTree silhouette 1: Poplar silhouettes

According to wikipedia, a silhouette is the shape of an object or person (or any living thing) of a single, plain color.  Silhouettes are a very old form of expression and can be created by different means. Traditionally, they were cut out from black paper and mounted on a lightly colored background, but all sorts of combinations, variations and collages exist.  I may have been preconditioned to this traditional art form because my parents have paper-cut illustrations and a book of a friend of theirs, Helmut Bögel, who is known for his humorous paper-cut illustrations of people. Silhouettes can also be drawn and of course photographed.

Tree silhouette 2Tree silhouette 2: Weeping beech (Fagus sylvatica "pendula") on Lake Zug, Switzerland

I appreciate silhouettes because they are an attempt to extract the essence of something much more complex, a kind of minimalisation that I am fond of. The reduction of a convoluted whole not only represents a loss, but may even reveal a pattern or structure that is only visible when the shades of grey are suppressed.  I think that the shapes and patterns formed by bare trees are much under-appreciated.  Each kind of tree exhibits a slightly different branching pattern and most fascinating are the individual nuances observed in the silhouettes within the same species. For example, the branches and twigs of a tree growing on the edge of a forest may all point in the same general direction and thus create a regular pattern. On the other hand, a lonely tree often adopts a harmonious, roundish shape that leads to a different kind of silhouette symmetry.

I hope that you enjoy some of these photographs and that they may encourage one or the other to have a conscious look at nude trees!

Tree silhouette 3Tree silhouette 3: Apple tree (Malus domestica) silhouette

2012/12/22 by Unknown
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Once upon a time - the fairy tale of Camera and Lens Review

Once upon a time there were the twin brothers Camera and Lens Review. They were both aspiring photographers who aimed for nothing less than the perfect photograph. Clearly, perfection could only be achieved with the perfect equipment! Therefore, Camera and Lens Review set out to analyze, compare and test all existing photography tools. They even developed machines and new algorithms to determine the capabilities and shortcomings of sensors and lenses objectively. Their God numbers summarized a plethora of measurements and sophisticated calculations in a single unbiased value. Finally, every photographer (as well as editors and art critics) could easily predict or determine the quality of photographs by simply looking up the God numbers for the particular camera - lens combination!

Camera and Lens Review became celebrities! Photographers finally realized that their quest for perfect photographs was nipped in the bud by the low performance of their cameras and lenses and kept buying new equipment continuously. Camera manufacturers were even more appreciative of Camera and Lenses' work. Not in their wildest dreams could they have invented a better marketing strategy. They eagerly provided pre-production test items to Lens and Camera Review, who in return published their in-depth, objective analyses. Similarly, Camera and Lenses' friend, Rumor Site, was provided with insider information to create even more hype, pre-reviews and discussions about products that did not even exist yet (there are persistent rumors that Rumor Site was not a photographer at all, but rather a marketing whiz).

Everything seemed perfect. Camera and Lens Review had turned their measuring into veritable businesses and could have analyzed lenses and cameras ever after. However, every once in a while, a nagging thought took hold of their minds. What about the perfect photograph? Now, that they knew everything about photography, they should use this knowledge to actually take those perfect shots. Why not start with the perfect portrait photograph? Very quickly it dawned upon Camera and Lens that the perfect photograph also needs the perfect subject! So they repeated what had worked so successfully for the assessment of all the equipment options: They measured, analysed and reviewed face after face. It was much more complicated than they would have thought. How do you determine the number of pixels in a face? What about dynamic range, the color depth or the low-light ISO (Induced Skin Opacity) properties? The solution was another flash of genius by Camera and Lens: The Deep-Skin Light and Resolution (DSLR) scanner! This breakthrough for portrait photography is a handheld device to scan your models in order to determine the perfect camera-lens combination and to predict image quality! There were unconfirmed, mischievous rumors (Rumor Site was not involved this time) that the DSLR scanner causes permanent skin damage and in rare cases tumors, but neither of these allegations could be confirmed in animal tests. However, as a cautionary measure and to avoid deterioration of their models prior to photographing them, Camera and Lens DSLR scanned their potentially perfect models only after having taken photographs with all lens-camera combinations. Thereby, Lens and Camera could select the perfect shot afterward by just consulting their DSLR scan results and a perfect model was not lost, even in the (unlikely) case of skin damage by the DSLR scanning!

After many years of hard work, feverish testing and dedicated DSLR scanning, Camera and Lens finally produced their first prints. Masterpieces! These must have been the most perfect prints the world has seen, they thought, and were really proud of themselves. To proof the superiority of their prints scientifically and impartially, Camera and Lens Review turned to neuroscientists and computational biologists. They employed functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) and computational models as well as electrocorticography (ECoG) to determine the thoughts and emotions of test subjects who were viewing one of the perfect prints or an imperfect control print that was taken with low-grade equipment or non-optimized camera-lens combinations. Surprisingly, the perfect top-notch prints did not evoke more positive thoughts than the ordinary control pictures. In some cases, terms such as dullmediocre or even unsophisticated crossed the minds of the test subjects admiring one of the perfect prints. Disillusionment set in. Zero correlation between the God numbers, the DSLR scans and the neurologic testing! Could this be possible? All the years of deprivation, dedication and optimization in vain? Camera and Lens Review did not realize that their theoretically perfect equipment was irrelevant in the real world. The "imperfect" nature of a scene (or of a face) miraculously wipes out theoretical differences between equipment. The composition and character of a photograph is much more important for the impression it creates than invisible technical details.

NO, this could not be the true! Camera and Lens Review were sure that they must have made a mistake in one of the formulas or accidentally flipped a tiny switch. They set out to troubleshoot their protocols, re-analyzed their data and scanned, tested, calculated and compared happily ever after.

Two survivors
Red survivors - that last autumn colors were surprised by early snow (Zurich, 2010).

2012/12/19 by Unknown
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Flora: Hippeastrum - Amaryllis

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug Amaryllis 1: Showy large (up to 12 cm in diameter) amaryllis flowers (Hippeastrum sp.)

For a change, I would like to share a few interesting facts about and three photographs of the cultivated plant commonly named amaryllis. The amaryllis is an attractive houseplant that is particularly popular around Christmas because this is the time when it is flowering (which also makes it a frequently used gift). These bulbous plants are also praised by plant breeders, who have reared an overwhelming variety of flower shapes, sizes and colors (as a google immage search reveals). There are over 600 cultivated varieties! Of course, all cultivated plants have wild relatives or ancestors, and this is where things get confusing with amaryllis. The free growing relatives of cultivated amaryllis belong to the taxonomic genus Hippeastrum, which comprises around 90 species native mainly to south and central America and the Caribbean. The botanic name Amaryllis, on the other hand, refers to a group of plants home to southern Africa (there are only two species A. belladonna and A. paradisicola - the latter one was only described in 1998). The designation Amaryllis goes back to Carl von Linné (more about Linné can be found HERE or on "his" website) who described and named the genus in 1753. However, at that time Hippeastrum and Amaryllis were one and the same and therefore the popular houseplant became known as amaryllis. However, taxonomists take names and distinguishing marks very seriously and later decided that the south American and African plants belonged to different genera and after long debate decided on the names Amaryllis and Hippeastrum for the african and south american plants, respectively.

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug Amaryllis 2: Pink amaryllis flower detail composition

Although the taxonomy behind amaryllis or Hippeastrum may be interesting, it is not at all necessary to appreciate the beauty of these flowers and even less so to cultivate them in your home. The plants grow from a large bulb and if planted and watered six to eight weeks ago, impressive showy flowers are about to appear now. Amaryllis are considered undemanding plants that reward the gardener's small effort with long lasting and showy flowers year after year (however, we were not always successful in bringing our amaryllis to flower the next year).

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug Amaryllis 3: I even find the wrinkles of wilted and whithered amaryllis flowers beautiful

I do not often photograph still life or staged objects almost like in a studio setting. However, sometimes I discover details and compositions that I would like to capture and find pleasure in photographing a particular flower of a bouquet or our house and balcony plants. I will show these photographs in the cultivated plants gallery and hope you enjoy!

2012/12/16 by Unknown
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1 peek: Carcolors 13

Carcolors 13Carcolors 13: Yellow balcony with red geranium reflection
The thirteenth addition to the Carcolors gallery. The building reflected here is, according to my opinion, one of the ugliest buildings in Zurich: Brown with bright yellow balconies. However, the bright colors make for great reflections. Another version has already been shown in Carcolors 6.

2012/12/15 by Unknown
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1 peek: Snowy branches, golden leaves

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMugDark forest, snowy white branches, golden leaves

It has been snowing quite a lot here in Zurich yesterday (already the second time this winter) and therefore I would like to share a fitting photograph. Although the composition above fits the season and the general scene when I look out of my window, the photograph has been taken a few years back (in 2010) and not even in Zurich (near Siegsdorf, in Germany (the link is for the german wikipedia entry because the english text is very minimalistic)). However, I really like this capture (which is part of the trees gallery) and how the snow marks and highlights the branches of the trees on the edge of the forest. It is wonderful how snow can transform and reveal things that are inconspicuous otherwise!

2012/12/09 by Unknown
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