Category: Life

Visual stories from Spain

January 7th, 2011 — 9:16pm

I spent the last three weeks in Spain with the family - a very enjoyable experience for all of us. Photography was not the main purpose of the trip, as it was more of a family visit, but I took my D700 with the 35mm f/2 and the 85mm f/1.4 and carried the camera in a small bag wherever I went.

In 2011 I want to focus mostly on story-telling photography, still with a focus on people, but less so on pure portraiture. I kept that in mind when I was photographing in southern Spain, and I wanted to share some of those images along with the context for the story.I am not as interested in technical feedback on the images as I am on your emotional or intellectual response to them - do the images speak to you or move you in some way? do they make you want to know more? Technically all the images are done with ambient light, and in some cases with a pretty high ISO.

1. Flying over me. This place in Seville is popular with kids and families, as the birds are used to people feeding them and only fly away when some dog gets assertive with them. This is what happened here, and I simply pressed the shutter as the doves started to fly towards me. This images speaks to me of the old fashioned parks in Europe, like this one built in 1929.

2. Skipping horse manure. Spaniards, including children, dress well. Here I captured two sisters with their pretty coordinated outfits maneuvering around horse manure from horse carriages in this historic district in Seville. I liked the contrast between their preppy looks and the dirty streets.

3. Rowing with suspicion. Seville built a massive square for the 1929 World Expo, the Plaza de Espana, which has been recently renovated and people can again rent a boat and row in the semicircular pond around the plaza. I caught this family rowing and they caught me too. I liked the suspiciousness in their faces, especially the boy.

4. Last goodbye. This was hard to watch. I was strolling in Carmona, a town near Seville, where the toll of bells spoke of death. I approached the group of people waiting outside a church, where a funeral limo was waiting. Eventually the relatives of the deceased appeared, and much to my surprise, the driver of the limo did as well, carrying a small white casket by himself. These two images capture the moment in which the tiny casket is placed in the car and the grief of the mother.

5. Sand lipstick. Taken in the Mazagon beach, a beautiful stretch of sand. I loved the absurdity of the older woman applying makeup while the sand truck was coming. The only story here is whatever we want to fabricate.

6. Living on the edge. With the economic boom in Spain immigration has greatly increased, especially from Latin American countries. Making a living in Spain these days is tough, as the economy has turned sour and unemployment is rampant. One way to try to make a living is selling stuff on the streets, but permits are nearly impossible to get, and vendors are constantly harassed by local police. I think this image shows how nervous the vendor is, watching out for trouble.

7. Spanish pride. This couple lives in Vejer de la Frontera, a beautiful white village in Cadiz. They rent a room in a tenant house that was built adjacent to the Moorish city wall. In fact, they hang their laundry to dry on top of one of the wall towers, which makes for a funny tourist experience - big underwear hanging next to 700 year old stones. Here the man of the house shows his pride and his wife to the camera.

8. Maintenance. There is some ambiguity in this capture of a couple of guys fixing their horse carriages. They are actually changing one of the horse shoe’s in the middle of the street, but it looks as if they are concerned with the thin tire around the cart wheel. I spent some time talking with them and suggested that they charge tourists for picture taking, as it would be more profitable than waiting for passengers. They looked at me funny at first, and then they immediately saw the truth in my proposal and started to discuss how to place a sign requiring tourists to make 1 euro to take pics of their tired horses.

9. Tapas bar at noon. This is the interior of Bar Tino in the heart of Sevilla, a tapas bar that’s been there since the time of the Romans  The bar has a terrance outside where people sit to have some food and wine, and also a counter whence I took this photo.

10. Freshness between the Virgen and St. John. This photo was taken at the Triana Market, where they sell the freshest seafood. This shop keeper was helping her customers with a smile on her face. On the back wall I noticed two religious images, the Virgin Mary, and the Spanish Saint John of the Cross. There is quite a bit of traditional religious fervor in this Triana neighborhood.

11. Fishing village in Portugal. Not much of a story telling picture, but it does reflect the calm and simplicity of living in a fishing village by the ocean. This picture was created in Tavira, Portugal, where I had the most wonderful seafood lunch I can remember.


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Santa Fe and Taos in winter

November 29th, 2009 — 11:27pm

My wife and I took the children to Santa Fe and Taos this Thanksgiving weekend to enjoy the beauty of New Mexico, and avoid eating and shopping too much. We spent three days in the area, and we had a wonderful time.

I tried to capture with the images below what I like the most about New Mexico:

  • The precolombian Pueblo heritage (#1, #2, #3)
  • The beautiful landscapes (#4, #5)
  • The high sierras and the snow (#6)
  • The Spanish influences (#7, #8)

Taos Pueblo

Taos Pueblo

Taos Pueblo at the end of the day

Taos Pueblo at the end of the day

Pueblo woman selling jewelry in Santa Fe

Pueblo woman selling jewelry in Santa Fe

Aspen trees neAr Santa Fe Ski Area

Aspen trees near Santa Fe Ski Area

View from Capulin volcano near Raton, NM

View from Capulin volcano near Raton, NM

Taos Ski Resort slopes

Taos Ski Resort slopes

Lobby at Santa Fe motel where we stayed

Lobby at Santa Fe motel where we stayed

St. Francis in front of Santa Fe cathedral

St. Francis in front of Santa Fe cathedral

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May 19th, 2009 — 11:37pm

I wanted a natural portrait of me as a photographer, but without an obvious camera on my face. I also wanted color, the warmth of indoor lighting contrasting with a cool background. Some of you may recognize this place as the table where I photographed my son Paul doing his music homework. I wanted to light my selfportrait, as lighting is one of the things I enjoy about photography. I finally decided to include my kitchen lamp in the photo as another symbol for light and lighting. Including the kitchen lamp will also add some compositional interest, I am hoping.

For the photo below I used a camera on a tripod and a remote trigger, which I am holding in my hand with the light meter. I used three portable flashes and the tungsten ceiling light in my kitchen area.

D700 with 35mm f/2 lens, f/9 at 1/13 sec, ISO 200, Tungsten white balance, camera on a tripod. I had to shoot at 1/13 sec to capture the ambient light, namely, the lamp over my head.

Key light: Nikon SB24 on a lightstand with a home made snoot pointing down at my face, with a full CTO gel.

Accent light on the equipment: Nikon SB800 with a full CTO on a stand, pointing down to the equipment on the table.

Background light: Nikon SB25 flash with no correction gel, sitting on the table and pointing up to the wall behind me.

Hair light - 100W tungsten lamp over my head.

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Travel photography

March 26th, 2009 — 10:05am

I spent last week in Rome with the family.   While the purpose of the trip was not to create images, it was a good opportunity for me to be a travel photographer and develop some of the skills needed to capture the essence of places, which is different but related to capturing the essence of people.

I was very inspired by a travel photography book I read before I left, “Spirit of Place” by Bob Krist.  A couple of ideas stayed with me from Bob’s book:

  • One is the idea that the spirit of the place has to shine thru the images.  It can be so subjective and “personal” that others see the photographer and not the place itself.  The photographer’s vision is the channel that root the images on “the thing itself”
  • The distinction between being a “traveler” and a “sightseer” - the traveler seeks engagements with the local people and picture, while the sightseer just clicks off sights in the guidebook.  A sightseer “steals” pictures from the distance while the traveler gets close and personal and the resulting pictures are more intimate.
  • Clutter spoils more pictures than any other compositional flaw.  Bob talks about keeping it simple, thinking of the frame as containing only what’s essential to tell the story or create a feeling - remove everything else until removing more hurts the image.  This cannot be done out of conscious decision-making processes, it has to be done out of intuition built on experience.  So the only way to get there is the old, hard way, by doing it over, and over and over, until it’s built into the photographer’s intuitive intelligence.

I am attaching a few pictures from Rome here.

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From the airport

January 20th, 2009 — 12:47pm

It’s early afternoon on 1/20/09, a historic day, as the 44th president of the United States is sworn into office.  This terminal of the airport is nearly deserted,  as not many people seem to be flying to Newark from Dallas today.    I walked around the terminal and notice the massive escalators to the Skylink platform, so majestic and empty.   After asking security if it was ok to take pictures of the escalator, I captured a few images of it for my stock library, at a high ISO, even though the escalators are next to large windows.  Hopefully ISO 1100 on the D700 will produce acceptable stock images.

UPDATE: The images were accepted into my stock library - you can see one here.

I returned from Guatemala a couple of weeks ago - the family and I spent a week there, mostly on the western highlands, exploring Antigua, Lake Atitlanm and then further north, the Chichicastenango market and the Cuchumatanes mountains where the Ixil triangle is located.   The country has not only magnificent volcanos, lakes and mountains, but what really delighted me where the people of Guatemala.  In most case we met people with very little money and a simple way of making a living.  Their humanity, gentle ways and hospitality were an inspiration for my entire family.  I took many portraits of people in Guatemala, most with their awareneness and consent, some candids.  I will be posting some images here once I have access to a full computer.

UPDATE: Here are some images from Guatemala.

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Welcome to my blog

March 29th, 2007 — 3:32am

Well, finally I made the time to get my blog set up. If Web 1.0 was all about static websites, Web 2.0 is all about shared content and communities. I created my first website at work back in 1994 - I saw incredible promise in what I saw - one of the first websites I visited in 1994 was the site for The Louvre Museum in Paris. I felt like I have the world at my finger tips!

Much has come and gone since then. These days I marvel at the power of the internet to create communities. I am fortunate to meet wonderfully helpful people online, at bulletin boards, all over the world - to have friends everywhere. I love it when online friendships or relationships become “real” - I ride my motorcycles with friends I have met online, I work with models and make-up artists I found online, I have worked with photographers that I met online. I love the intersection of the online world with the real world.

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