Sunday, May 31, 2009

Celestial staircase

Spiral staircases are a popular photographic theme, but this is the best rendition of it that I have seen so far. There is an almost abstract feeling to it, even hints of fractal art, and then that perfect moon in the centre - amazing. It was shot by fellow Flickrite anguemel.

All rights retained by the photographer.

Flickr

Kites

Kites by Simon Dupree and the Big Sound is the only sixties' one-hit-wonder that has stood the test of time in my opinion. The band hated it, but their manager loved it, as its psychedelic sound was exactly right for the time (1967). The colourful tones of the mellotron create a distinctly Asian atmosphere, enhanced by the images of the lyrics (the white kite flying in the sun, with a message of love on it), and topped off by the recitation of an Asian sounding poem by actress Jacqui Chan, who apparently reproduced phonetics taught to her by her grandmother with the result that no-one knows what she is saying or even what language it is in. Great video to boot.
Art Rock score: 10/10 (brilliant masterpiece, one of 200 best songs of all time)

YouTube

Eeeeeeeeeeek!

Flickr Explore is a funny animal. This is the 16th shot of mine to reach that list of 500 most interesting shots of the day - and for the first time this happens to a shot that I personally find just good enough to post at Flickr, and nothing special. Normally, I would not have selected it for this blog. The subject is a modern art sculpture exhibited at a roof terrace in Shanghai. I liked the contrast with the apartments in the background.

Camera: Canon PowerShot Pro1 8 Megapixels, handheld
Exposure: 0.001 sec (1/1600)
Aperture: f/4.0
Focal Length: 9.3 mm
Post-processing: Picasa 3.0

Flickr

Saturday, May 30, 2009

The girl with orange lips

For the longest time, the designs of covers for classical music albums were rather uninspired: usually, they were reproductions of paintings (preferably from the romantic era), or alternatively straight forward photographs of the main performers. This CD by American soprano Dawn Upshaw, my favourite female singer of classical music, was a welcome variation when it was released in 1991. The intriguing cover shows the beautiful Dawn as photographed by Joel Meyerowitz.

All Music

Friday, May 29, 2009

Stillness overcomes me in the night

Time for a trip down memory lane. Over 2 years ago, just after I joined Flickr, I came across the photostream of a Dutch lady courtecy of an interview with her in a Dutch TV guide. I was (and am) mightily impressed by the photographs of solea, and this was actually the very first shot I faved on Flickr. Hard to believe that this landscape was shot in the Netherlands.

All rights retained by the photographer.

Flickr

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Sweet dreams

Another candid street shot from Shanghai, and my 15th photograph to reach the Flickr Explore pages of 500 best shots of the day. The people in Shanghai really can sleep any time, any place, which makes for some nice photo opportunities. This one received a comment which may have been the most complimenting one I ever got: "I find I look at your pictures these days as documentary or journalism, rather than simply photographs. I mean that as a compliment, but these images seem to transcend mere imagery and have something to say. These are affecting pictures".

Camera: Canon PowerShot Pro1 8 Megapixels, handheld
Exposure: 0.005 sec (1/200)
Aperture: f/4.0
Focal Length: 19.1 mm
Post-processing: Picasa 3.0

Flickr

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Ready for the successes

The Milan based band Covariate may have failed spectacularly to qualify for the finals of the 2009 Eurovision contest, their first album shows little humility in the title. Ready for the successes, indeed. And all scepticism inside, why not? Their euro-pop sound combines catchy melodies with fiery dance rhythms, and singer Giovanni Trentino shows off his remarkable range, evidence for his operatic training. Better than you would expect - give it a spin.

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 Covariate.
[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 Randy K. Milholland: We all have a few failures under our belt. It's what makes us ready for the successes.
[3] The illustration: pick a suitable one from my Flickr collection. My picture, Pipe dreams, can be found here on Flickr. The on-line editing was done with the programme On-line image editor, the font settings selected were Binner Gothic 60 Yellow and Due Date 45 Silver, 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.

Life is short

Once in a while you encounter a photograph on Flickr that makes you realize how much you still have to learn - if you are ever going to produce a masterpiece like that at all. A case in point is this stunning portrait by my Flickr friend aftab., as part of an intriguing series to match 40 ideas/suggestions to make life even more beautiful with appropriate pictures. This one is #9 "Forgive sooner than later". Marvellous details, and mind blowing angle.

All rights retained by the photographer.

Flickr

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Postprocessing for dummies 2

In Postprocessing for dummies, I explained my usual way of converting shots from camera to get them ready for posting on Flickr (or in this blog), which comprised a series of steps with the freeware programme Picasa. We will now look at some special postprocessing techniques, for which I use the on-line editing programme Picnik. To illustrate the effects, I have taken my shot Drake (#1 above) and converted that with three different effects. The picture above may be too small to look at the details, therefore I also uploaded it in large size to Flickr here. Just click all sizes to see larger.
The Orton-like effect (#2 above) simulates the actual technique invented by Michael Orton, which involves overlaying two or more images of an identical scene with very different exposures on slide film. One image is sharply focused and the others are very out of focus. The result is a strange, and sometimes compelling mixture of focus and shimmering blurriness. One example where I used this Picnik Orton simulation to good effect is my shot Citroen a la Orton.
The Lomo-like effect (#3 above) aims to recreate the low-fidelity photographs taken by cameras constructed in the eighties by the Russian company Lomo. This camera has achieved quite a cult following in recent years, and the effects can be simulated pretty well with Picnik. Applying this effect can turn a rather bland scene into something more catchy, and can even lift shots to a new level, as I did for my shots Impression and Impression Deux, where the Lomo-like colour scheme creaated a very special atmosphere.
The Holga-like effect (#4 above) likewise aims to recreate the low-fidelity photographs taken by cameras constructed in the eighties by the Chinese company Holga. The Holga's cheap construction and simple meniscus lens often yields pictures that display vignetting, blur, light leaks, and other distortions. The camera's quality problems have become a virtue among some photographers, with Holga photos winning awards and competitions in art and news photography. I use this technique to make shots that lack spice more interesting, especially if the subject depicted is old, and maybe shot in mediocre light. An example is my photograph Krakov.
Although experimenting with these effects is fun, in my experience 95% of my photographs will not be enhanced by them. But for the other 5%, these special postprocessing techniques can make the difference between a mediocre shot and something more interesting.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Guitar king

On the sad occasion of the death of their lead singer Pierre Beek this weekend at age 63 (cancer), here is a flashback for Dutch readers and a chance to see unknown Dutch seventies' pop for the others. Around 1975, Hank the Knife and the Jets scored two top 3 hits in Holland with their guitar rock and roll - which was already at that time considered retro. But good fun nevertheless. I picked their Guitar King as my favourite song of this band. RIP.
Art Rock score: 8/10 (great song, I'd put it on my MP3 player)

YouTube

Don't yank my chain

Now here is a shot I kind of expected to make Explore, that did not. Surely a candidate for my best shot of the year once December comes. On the other hand, it got excellent comments by some of my favourite Flickr friends, and in the end that is more valuable than the whole Explore thing.

Camera: Canon PowerShot Pro1 8 Megapixels, handheld
Exposure: 0.033 sec (1/30)
Aperture: f/3.2
Focal Length: 16.1 mm
Post-processing: Picasa 3.0

Flickr

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Diamond, the brilliant American

With apologies for the title, I could not help myself. I find it baffling that the works of American composer David Diamond (1915-2005) are not more widely known. They may not be the most revolutionary - tonality is never far away - but they are excellently crafted and a pleasure to listen to. Allegedly, when Diamond asked Schoenberg about the possibility of study with him, Schoenberg said, "Why do you need to? You're the new Bruckner...I never meant the twelve-tone technique for everybody." This Naxos CD gives a good introduction to this undervalued composer, with two of his eleven symphonies. The second symphony (1942) starts with an adagio funebre that indeed recalls Bruckner without ever getting derivative, and although it meanders at places, it is well worth listening to. The more concise fourth symphony of 1945, perhaps his best known work, shows some influences of Ravel and Martinu, but the finale, with its jazzy rhythms, is as American as they come. The performances by the Seatlle Symphony Orchestra under Gerard Schwarz, taken from the original Delos recordings that I own, are impeccable and the sound is fine. A bargain introduction to one of the greatest American composers.

Amazon

Green rain

It is always fun to discover favourite shots by (for me) new photographers on Flickr. I saw this shot by fellow Flickrite leontjew this morning and it was an instant fave. Wonderful minimalistic abstract with the umbrella adding just that bit of extra. Marvellous title as well.

All rights retained by the photographer.

Flickr

Wish you were here

Still 4 weeks before I see my wife again - here is a fitting song that both of us have been playing a lot lately. The ninth studio album by space rock kings Pink Floyd was their best: there are few albums that can compete with the beauty that is Wish you were here. The album is understandably dominated by the encompassing Shine on you crazy diamond, but the title track is fantastic as well. The song starts with the sounds of a radio switching stations, after which David Gilmours tranquil guitar playing sets the scene for the most passionate song in the Floyd catalogue, the nearest they ever came to writing a straightforward love song, although it was actually inspired by the absence of former lead man Syd Barrett. The Roger Waters lyrics are stunningly beautiful as well, with immortal lines like "We're just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl, year after year, running over the same old ground. What have you found? The same old fears".
Art Rock score: 9/10 (very strong song, one of 650 best songs of all time)

YouTube

Demons and Wizards

Roger Dean will of course mainly be remembered by his series of striking album covers for Yes, but he worked for other bands as well. One of his best efforts is the cover for Uriah Heep's marvellous 1972 album Demons and Wizards.

All Music

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Love

A recent work by my wife, inspired by her stay in Shanghai. This is a technique she has experimented with before: Chinese ink on canvas, a further mixing of Eastern and Western ideas.

The Art of Lu Schaper

Friday, May 22, 2009

Destruction time again

The process of systematically destroying Shanghai's old neighbourhoods to make space for high-rise apartments continues. The good news is that the local government finally realizes that some of the best-preserved longtangs (traditional stone house neighbourhoods within a wall) should escape that fate. And most likely that will include the shikumen house in which we have our apartment.

Camera: Canon PowerShot Pro1 8 Megapixels, handheld
Exposure: 0.004 sec (1/250)
Aperture: f/4.0
Focal Length: 23.9 mm
Post-processing: Picasa 3.0

Flickr

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Dimma

English cocker spaniels, and especially blue roans, have been in our family since the late sixties - we are currently at numbers four (our Jazz) and five (my brother's Amy). I am glad I got permission to post the very best cocker spaniel photograph I have ever seen on Flickr in my blog. Even if you do not particularly like dogs, or this breed, you can appreciate the photograph for its excellent qualities. It was shot by fellow Flickrite Agnes Geirdal from Iceland. One of the first shots I faved at Flickr back in 2007.

All rights retained by the photographer.

Flickr

Monday, May 18, 2009

Ceramic flares

This shot by fellow Flickrite cormend is a great example of how photography can give a new spin on existing art exhibited in a museum. The subject is a ceramic work in the De Young Museum, San Francisco - but the photographer gives it a different spin by shooting from an original angle and in an original frame. A really beautiful abstract result.

All rights retained by the photographer.

Flickr

Lost

This is one of the paintings I bought ten years ago in May 1999 in Singapore from an interesting young Chinese artist called Yang Lu. Interesting in more than one aspect - a few weeks later we had our first date, and we've been married for over nine years now. The style is more impressionist (Monet is an obvious influence) than what she is making now.

The Art of Lu Schaper

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Fourteen in Explore

Well, my one month absence from Flickr apparently has not made a dent in the possibilities of my photographs reaching that mysterious Flickr Explore medium - the 500 most interesting shots uploaded per day world wide. This is the second of the recent batch to get there, and the fourteenth in total. A shot that is typical for my style of photography - impromptu, camera at hand to take whatever comes my way. In this case, a guy transporting an ridiculous amount of boxes on his bicycle though the streets of Shanghai.

Camera: Canon PowerShot Pro1 8 Megapixels, handheld
Exposure: 0.002 sec (1/640)
Aperture: f/4.0
Focal Length: 8.1 mm
Post-processing: Picasa 3.0

Flickr

PhotoFunia

This website is an endless source of fun. It gives you the opportunity to see your own photographs in predestined surroundings, such as billboards, TV screens, magazine covers, or as in this example with my shot Windmill in ice, as a jigsaw puzzle. Some of the options are based on face recognition and cast a face from your picture into a scenery. Great fun.

web site

Saturday, May 16, 2009

La solitude

The fourth time that my Flickr friend Il malmostoso features in the blog, and it will not be the last. This is one of his trademark moody shots, which bring to mind film noir stills. The black and white conversion works brilliantly.

All rights retained by the photographer.

Flickr

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Caroline suspected this was rather important

Talk about stunning images. My Flickr friend kate mellersh is definitely one of my favourite artists on Flickr, and this may well be her best photograph yet. I can keep on staring in awe at this shot.

All rights retained by the photographer.

Flickr

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

No secrets

I have been hesitant to feature this 2008 album in the beautiful album covers series, as undoubtedly I am biased: it is based on an oil painting by my wife, Lu Schaper. However, when I came across a review in Music in Belgium, which ended with the lines "One more note: a very nice photo on the cover of the booklet, which represents a fragment of an original work (oil painting) of Lu Schaper, a painter and photographer from Shanghai", I felt vindicated. The band is Dorian Opera from Germany, and this is their debut album. The music is prog metal style - an extensive review of mine was published here. A recommended album, and indeed great cover art, designed by Berndt Roehrig. For more information about this band and their album, I link to their home page instead of the usual AllMusic page.

Dorian Opera

Monday, May 11, 2009

Berg, the serial romantic

Any classical music lover who dismisses the dodecaphony (twelve tone) movement originated by the so-called second Viennese school (Schoenberg, Berg, Webern) as calculative and emotionless high-brow art should be forced to listen to this CD, and especially to the very last composition of Alban Berg (1885-1935). This two mevement violin concerto with its telling subtitle "To the memory of an angel" was composed for the sad occasion of the death at age 18 of Alma Mahler's daughter Manon Gropius. It is an incredibly moving piece, easily amongst the 10 best violin concertoes ever writen in my opinion. On this CD, it receives a beautiful performance by Rebecca Hirsch. The two other pieces are also amongst Berg's most accessible works. The Lyric Suite (1926) was originally in six movements, composed for string quartet. After a successful premiere, Berg decide to re-cast the second, third, four and six movements for string orchestra. The much darker Three Orchestral Pieces date back to 1915. The performances by the Netherlands Radio Symphony Orchestra under Eri Klas are exemplary and the recording quality is great. An essential disc in any classical collection.

Amazon