Thursday, December 31, 2009

Angel

What would be more appropriate to close out the year for the category of Flickr favourites than one of many yet unposted faves from the stream of my Flickr friend aftab. This is such a brilliant minimalist shot. The idea in reverse (a bit of black on a vast field of white) is not new (I have done a few myself), but in this variation I had not seen it before. Pure art.

All rights retained by the photographer.

Flickr

Keeper Dozen 2009

Inspired by a Flickr group started in 2008 by my Flickr friend word artist: Keeper Dozen. Ansel Adams said: "Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop." What are your dozen keepers? The best of your best. Your masterpieces.

Here are my choices for 2009. In 2008, I had about 9 clear candidates and picked another 3 to make up the dozen. This year, 24 would not have been enough to collect all the shots I am really happy with. Trimming it down to 12 was a nightmare, but here they are, ranked from 12 to 1 (see the numbers in the mosaic above):

12. Fantastic
Sometimes you know the moment you take a shot: this will be one of the more popular ones you have taken. That happened to me last April when in the tourist trap that is Shanghai's Old Town I saw this stand selling fans. The combination of the shapes, colours and textures made this an obvious hit

11. Don't yank my chain
Spotted whilst walking a street in Shanghai - even from the other side, the chain's shadow immediately jumped out at me,

10. Seeing red
A shopping window display in Antwerp, Belgium. Shot throgh the glass, but the end result is still satisfying. Very Magritte.

9. Come into the light
When I visited my wife in Shanghai in April, there were occasions where we attended a business dinner, and I sneaked out with my camera whilst she was talking to colleagues. This is one of the results, a corridor of the restaurant. Almost matrix-like in its atmosphere - the main challenge being to handle the low light intensity with a handheld camera.....

8. Black is beautiful
Another souvenir of a day trip to Antwerp. This was a display inside a high end fashion shop. Whilst my wife was looking at the clothes, I was peeking behind one of the interior walls to stumble upon this perfect scene. The vignetting, a rare feature in my pictures, was done to get rid of a too white spot in the top right corner.

7. Abstracted architecture
Back to Shanghai, zooming in on one of many fascinating modern architecture construction. I love the abstract feeling of this architectural detail and the combination of lines and curves - as well as the optical illusion effects they cause.

6. Silhouette du soir 2
A second shot taken within a few minutes in the French city of Blois (Loire) as evening fell - the first one is still coming. Although the two are rather similar, they are sufficiently different to treasure them both.

5. Luxembourg legs
Another souvenir from France - taking advantage of someone else's model shoot in the Jardins des Luxembourg. Of all 12 shots, this is one that really grew on me.

4. Silhouette du soir
The first of two shots taken within a few minutes in the French city of Blois (Loire) as evening fell - the second one is at number 6. Quite some postprocessing to get to this intense black and white feel.

3. Modern art museum
Shot in the fascinating Museum of Modern Art of the City of Paris, a (for my stream) rare example of using the frame-within-a-frame composition technique.

2. Through the ice
A typical Dutch windmill, reflected in ice and turned upaside down to give the feeling of being under the ice and looking up/ By all rights, it should not even exist. It is part of the last set of shots that I uploaded to my desktop before it crashed. The crash came too soon to have them back-upped. And normally I delete the shots from the camera once I check that they are on the computer. For some reason, I forgot that last part and this shot was still in the camera.....

1. Cutting edge
I was a bit surprised that in the end this one came out as my shot of the year, all things considered. I have used this building, which is five minutes walking from our home, before as a subject a few times, but this is the one I like best so far. The extreme angle (realized by rotating it in post-processing), combined with the black and white conversion, turns the building into an almost abstract shot, with a fake reflection that is uncanny.

It is interesting to note by the way that in the course of 2009 I had 41 pictures in Explore, and that of my 12 final pic(k)s of the year only 5 received that honour......

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

We huddled closer as the chill closed in

As the year draws to a close, and winter is really setting in in the Netherlands, a very appropriate picture. Another one of those fantastic abstract images of my Flickr friend kate mellersh, complete with highly imaginative title. Even better when viewed on a completely black background.

All rights retained by the photographer.

Flickr

Norwegian landscape

It has already been over a year since I featured this artist for the first time in my blog: expressionist grandmaster Karl Schmidt-Rottluff (1884-1976). As with the previous post, I have seen the original of the painting I selected for this post in the impressive Buchheim Museum for Expressionism in Germany. This one dates back to 1911. More on Schmidt-Rottluff in the wikipedia article linked to below.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Faces

Throughout the year I have posted a lot of examples of my own photography, be it because they ended up in Flickr Explore, or because I really liked them myselves (and occasionally both). In hindsight, this is one I should have posted before as well, if only because of the art angle. I have blogged before about our September visit to the exhibition of Yan Pei Ming (born 1960) in the royal castle of Blois at the Loire. This is a shot I took at the exhibition itself, with my wife and her hat blending into the displayed art.

Camera: Canon PowerShot Pro1 8 Megapixels, handheld
Exposure: 0.05 sec (1/20)
Aperture: f/2.4
Focal Length: 7.2 mm
Post-processing: Picasa 3.0

Flickr

Verdant

This is such a beautiful abstract, a very poetic impressionist image with its soft tones and soft focus (or to quote the photographer: soft focus, which is a euphemism for out of focus). A masterpiece by my dear Flickr friend jenny downing.

All rights retained by the photographer.

Flickr

Monday, December 28, 2009

Conversation

A painting dating back about two years, showing the usual theme of expressionist style oriental women in qipao dresses - times two.

The Art of Lu Schaper

Sunday, December 27, 2009

A season of hope

Chances are that you have not heard of Claudette Lali yet - but she has become a sensation in her native France over the past few weeks courtecy of her success in the TV talent show Presence. The parallels with Britain's Susan Boyle are obvious - Mademoiselle Lali is not exactly an attractive appearance but she does have a marvellous voice. The record companies have tried to cash in as quickly as possible by releasing her first album last week just 4 days after starting the recordings. There is of course a reason for this rush, as they have controversially opted for a christmas album as debut. Sixteen traditionals, surprisingly all sung in English, whereas one would have expected that cashing in on her fame in France with a French album would have made more business sense. The album itself is OK, but nothing special, and I honestly can't see this make any impact on the international market. One can only hope that Claudette Lali will be given a second chance with less traditional material.

The idea of this little game is to create an album cover for an imaginary artist/group, as well as an imaginary review, following these instructions:

[1] The artist/group: go to the wiki random page generator. The first random Wikipedia article obtained this way is the name of the band or performer. In this case, I ended up with Claudette Lali.
[2] The title: go to the random quotations site. The last four words of the very last quote of the page is the title of the album. The random quote that came up was by Robert Veninga: Human pain does not let go of its grip at one point in time. Rather, it works its way out of our consciousness over time. There is a season of sadness. A season of anger. A season of tranquility. A season of hope.
[3] The illustration: pick a suitable one from my Flickr collection. My picture, Blitzen, can be found here on Flickr. The on-line editing was done with the programme On-line image editor, the font settings selected were Sophie MF 80 Silver and Brush Scipt MT Italic 80 Red, respectively.

Note: this is a variation on the "Debut album game" that has been making its rounds around bulletin boards and blogs for some time now - the original version called for a random Flickr Explore photograph to be used as the cover. I have been trying to find out who had the original idea, but so far no success.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Solitude

A recent favourite - one of many - from the stream of my Flickr friend aftab. I find the warm cosy mood very fitting for the Christmas season. Composition, colours, creativity, all top notch as usual.

All rights retained by the photographer.

Flickr

Fairytale of New York

Not only one of my all-time favourite Christmas songs, but this 1987 hit single came with a simple but beautiful cover design as well. A once-off collaboration between the Pogues and Kirsty MacColl, it was frequently voted to be the best Christmas song of all time in the UK and Ireland. More about the Pogues (and this song) on the linked wikipedia page.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

This is a love song

This may well be the most amazing macro I have ever seen, and its warmth and subject is well suited for Christmas Eve. The mother of all close-ups of a candle flame, creating a gorgeous abstract feeling. Who else than my Flickr friend aftab would have the imagination to see this and the technique to pull it off?

All rights retained by the photographer.

Flickr

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Sleepy and Snory's winter holiday

This is one of my rare shots that is just for fun, and as such more suited for my Potpourri blog. However, to my utter amazament it became my 46th shot to reach Flickr Explore, and as I posted the preceding 45 in this blog, I thought following suit would be best - so here it is in Art for Art's sake. These are two figurines from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, given away for free at the local supermarket. I got Sleepy in duplicate, so I christened the second one Snory. And after taking some "serious" photographs last Saturday using the snow covered garden table as prop, I snuck in this one.

Camera: Canon PowerShot Pro1 8 Megapixels, handheld
Exposure: 0.001 sec (1/1000)
Aperture: f/4.0
Focal Length: 20.9 mm
Post-processing: Picasa 3.0

Flickr

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Clouds over the Calatrava tower

The Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava is one of my favourites in the genre - here is a lesser known masterpiece by him. This is a shot of the Torre Telefonica, rising high above the 1992 Barcelona Olympic site, by my Flickr friend tom.wright.

All rights retained by the photographer.

Flickr

Sunday, December 20, 2009

An echo of passion

There is a nice link between the previous post and this one: my dear Flickr friend Ambreen (story.teller, who made previous appearances in my blog under the name batedbreath) dedicated this beautiful soft-toned flower abstract to our mutual Flickr friend aftab.

All rights retained by the photographer.

Flickr

Deep inside

Time to bring a bit more warmth into the blog on these chilly days - another recently faved shot by my Flickr friend aftab. He did not offer an explanation, but most likely this is a flower macro pushed by postprocesssing to form a gorgeous (and warm) abstract. A very painting like quality.

All rights retained by the photographer.

Flickr

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Walking in a winter wonderland

With work and all, I did not have time yet to go out and shoot some winterscapes this week (maybe this weekend if the weather cooperates), so I dug into my archives. This is a shot from 2 years ago when freezing mist had turned all of Holland into a winter wonderland. The scene is in the park just 5 minutes from our home.

Camera: Konica Minolta Digital Revio KD-400Z 4 Megapixels, handheld
Exposure: not available
Aperture: not available
Focal Length: not available
Post-processing: Picasa 2.0

Flickr

Friday, December 18, 2009

Silence

The moment I post this, 8 of my 15 most recently faved shots on Flickr are by my esteemed Flickr friend aftab - and I have only posted two of them so far in the blog. Maybe I should create a seperate subject for them. Anyway, here is a beauty I faved earlier this week. Wonderful idea, flawless execution. A unique shot.

All rights retained by the photographer.

Flickr

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Water colour ducks

Last Sunday whilst walking the dog, my eye got caught by these wonderful colour reflections in a local canal - the ducks swimming into them were a nice bonus. And of course I had a camera with me. My 45th shot to reach Explore.

Camera: Canon PowerShot Pro1 8 Megapixels, handheld
Exposure: 0.005 sec (1/200)
Aperture: f/4.0
Focal Length: 50.8 mm
Post-processing: Picasa 3.0

Flickr

Monday, December 14, 2009

Weather forecasts and ecomonists

This is the weirdest CD that has landed on my desk this year. According to the brief press release package, List of Jehovah's Witnesses publications is a new band from Debrcen, Hungary, consisting of four conservatory students in their early twenties. How they got their bizarre name, or the equally bizarre title for their first album, typo and all (Weather forecasts and ecomonists), is a mystery. Their web site, the link to which is courteously included on the back of the CD, contains neither photographs nor text, except for one line in capital letters: WE DO NOT KNOW EITHER. After all this, it is probably stupid to expect any connection between their music and the strange cover art - and indeed, I could not find one. Anyhow, to the music. You guessed it - bizarre. Although their basic music patterns fall under the instrumental post-rock genre, every so often they go off on a tangent. Fragments of czardas dances, a string quartet playing Schubert, a brilliant impersonation of Pavarotti singing Puccini's Nessun dorma, and samples of Russian speeches by Brezhnev - to name a few. In the end, all this madness works surprisingly well, and when the album had finished, I just had to play it again. Weird, absurd, yet fascinating stuff.

The idea of this little game is to create an album cover for an imaginary artist/group, as well as an imaginary review, following these instructions:

[1] The artist/group: go to the wiki random page generator. The first random Wikipedia article obtained this way is the name of the band or performer. In this case, I ended up with List of Jehovah's Witnesses publications.
[2] The title: go to the random quotations site. The last four words of the very last quote of the page is the title of the album. The random quote that came up was by Kelvin Throop III: Isn't it interesting that the same people who laugh at science fiction listen to weather forecasts and economists? Yes, I made a typo, but in the context it worked well enough not to change it.
[3] The illustration: pick a suitable one from my Flickr collection. My picture, More shoes, can be found here on Flickr. The on-line editing was done with the programme On-line image editor, the font settings selected were Onyx 85 white and Madfont 24 white, respectively.

Note: this is a variation on the "Debut album game" that has been making its rounds around bulletin boards and blogs for some time now - the original version called for a random Flickr Explore photograph to be used as the cover. I have been trying to find out who had the original idea, but so far no success.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Afscheid

When I heard a Robert Long song on the radio this morning, I wanted to check out when he died - I had the feeling it was just about a year ago. Turns out I had the date spot on, but incredibly already 3 years have gone by since he succumbed to cancer. Robert Long first enjoyed some success in Holland as lead singer of the band Unit Gloria around 1970. In 1974, he released a solo-album of Dutch songs, Vroeger of later. It was a shattering debut, swerving between ballad and cabaret, with many texts controversially dealing with Long's loathing of religion and his homosexuality. The album contained one absolute gem: the song Afscheid (Farewell). It is a simple song, with Long's voice accompanied only by piano, but the text is of literary quality - it could have been a poem. Two lovers find that they have drifted apart, and that it is necessary to say goodbye. The total effect is incredibly moving, and should be able to transcend language barriers.
Art Rock score: 10/10 (brilliant masterpiece, one of 200 best songs of all time)

YouTube

What do you dream?

Flower macros tend to bore me from here to eternity, and it takes a good and creative photographer to show me one that I love. More often than not, that will involve a large degree of abstraction, as in this example by my Flickr friend word artist. Sublime softness and colours.

All rights retained by the photographer.

Flickr

Reflections

Subtitled "Colourful icy layers", this is another superb (icy) water reflection shot by my Flickr friend peggyhr, whom I have nicknamed the Queen of water reflections for good reasons. That yellow in contrast with the dark colours makes for a breath taking abstract.

All rights retained by the photographer.

Flickr

Cutlery

The first of three recently faved shots on Flickr, approaching the abstraction theme from quite different angles. First off, we have once more my dear Flickr friend jenny downing. She sees photographic themes in every day situations that most people would never even think of. A case in point is this wonderful abstraction of cutlery, with amazing dof and gorgeous pastel tones. Surely one of her best.

All rights retained by the photographer.

Flickr

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Silhouette du Soir Deux

After our return of our September trip to France, Silhouette du Soir was the first shot I uploaded to Flickr. In spite of many positive reaction and faves, it did not make Explore, the 500 most interesting shots of the day. Well, I had a variation on the theme available as well, shot a minute later at the same spot (Blois at the Loire, France). And what do you know? After uploading that one this week, it became my 44th shot to reach Explore.

Camera: Canon EOS 400D Digital 10 Megapixels, handheld
Exposure: 0.002 sec (1/500)
Aperture: f/11.0
Focal Length: 115 mm
ISO speed 400
Post-processing: Picasa 3.0

Flickr

Just the two of us

It is naturally impossible to go to Namibia and not come back with shots of the famous red dunes, reaching 170 m heighth. Of course, if you are my Flickr friend aftab, this means not just shots but masterpieces. He has posted two so far, both instant faves. I selected this one for my blog, but make sure you see the other one as well (here).

All rights retained by the photographer.

Flickr

Friday, December 11, 2009

Rouen cathedral

The beautiful gothic cathedral of Rouen is known in art circles for the series of paintings Monet made of its outside - but its inside is beautiful as well. As my Flickr friend andy57 commented: "These amazing buildings astonish the 21st Century mind so I always figured they must have completely blown away the 14th Century mind. There was nothing on Earth like a cathedral. The very definition of an awe-inspiring experience, to tremble in the presence of god." From a photography point of view, the main challenge was the long exposure time (low light) whilst holding the camera.... My 43d photograph to reach Flickr Explore.

Camera: Canon PowerShot Pro1 8 Megapixels, handheld
Exposure: 0.1 sec (1/10)
Aperture: f/3.5
Focal Length: 21.8 mm
Post-processing: Picasa 3.0

Flickr

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Field of names

Well, I have no clue what they sound like, but German prog rock outfit Alias Eye sure knows how to use great covers, as this 2001 album Field of names shows.

All Music