Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Scene at the Seine

Let's close out September by returning once more to the scene of our recent holiday. Strolling along the Seine, near the Louvre, we saw a man with his (grand) child in a scene that begged for a photograph. And of course, I always have a camera with me. Once more it failed to make Flickr Explore, but this detailed comment by my friend Rod Anzaldua (a very good photographer who has featured before in this blog under Flickr favourites) is worth more to me than that distinction: "Wow man, I think this is the most beautiful picture i have seen in a long time. First of all the perfect technique to turn it into a black and white shot, perfect whites, perfect blacks and lots of gray shades in between. Second, the composition, great positioning of the main subjects. Third, the natural framing, the tree at the top is the icing on the cake, and fourth and best part of all the LOVE you can see in it, from the grandfather to his grand daughter, amazing job Hennie, a moment to remember, I really hope you got their phone number and give them a copy of this masterpiece. I'm thrilled, I really am!".

Camera: Canon PowerShot Pro1 8 Megapixels, handheld
Exposure: 0.002 sec (1/500)
Aperture: f/4.0
Focal Length: 30.5 mm
Post-processing: Picasa 3.0


National Grand Theatre Beijing

Staying in Beijing for the next topic as well. The National Centre for the Performing Arts, colloquially referred to as The Egg, is an opera house in Beijing. It is an ellipsoid dome of titanium and glass surrounded by an artificial lake, and seats over 5000 people. It was designed by French architect Paul Andreu. Construction started in December 2001 and the inaugural concert was held in December 2007.

More on this building can be found in the wikipedia link below.

What you see might not be real

The one year anniversary of the start of the financial crisis has inspired a lot of news reports, as well as artists, and in this case a news report on an artist. This sculpture by Chen Wenling was displayed at a Beijing gallery last Sunday. The artwork is a critique of the global financial crisis, with the bull representing Wall Street and the man pinned to the wall representing Bernard Madoff. Not my type of art, but a nice piece of photojournalism with an art angle.

All rights retained by the photographer.

web site

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Lucy in the sky with diamonds

No, it is not about LSD, no matter what all the urban legends say - Lennon himself has made clear that the title came from his then three-year-old son Julian Lennon's description of a painting he had made in nursery school. It is undoubtedly one of Lennon's best songs with its lyrics full of psychedelic references, easily one of the best tracks of the landmark Sergeant Peppers lonely heartclub's band album. There are few songs that so successfully evoke a distant dream world, in both the sonic textures and words.
Why post this today? Lucy Vodden, who provided the inspiration for her class mate's Julian Lennon's drawing has died after a long battle with lupus, only 46 years old. RIP.
Art Rock score: 9/10 (very strong song, one of 650 best songs of all time)



One of my wife's three paintings currently on display in the first 60-70-80 Contemporary Chinese Art exhibition, in Tours (France). It has a rather unique blend of Eastern and Western techniques: Chinese ink on canvas. We attended the first few days of the exhibition and her work was very well received.

The Art of Lu Schaper

Monday, September 28, 2009


The American band The Mars Volta is frequently hailed as one of the best modern representatives of progressive rock. I am still on the fence with respect to their musical qualities, but their cover designs are excellent. We have encountered their album cover for Frances the Mute before in this blog, and here is a brilliant single cover for their song Televators. More about The Mars Volta on the linked wikipedia page.

An elegant night out

Another great vintage poster, bringing back memories of our Paris trip. This art deco advertisement, an invitation to a gala dinner, was designed by an artist called Vila, and dates back to the thirties.

Vintage Posters

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Zulu 13:16 - Incoming Train

Another one of those fascinating shots by my Flickr friend yushimoto_02 [christian]. A stunning study in symmetry and colours with the few commuters adding just that bit of asymmetry and human interest that lifts the shot to another plane. This one was taken in the Munich subway (U-Bahn Station Georg-Brauchle Ring - Line U1).

All rights retained by the photographer.


Pont Gustave-Flaubert Rouen

When we lived in the French city of Rouen (2002-2004), there was talk of building a new bridge over the Seine to ease the traffic congestions. We returned for 2 days last week, and I was pleased to see that this plan has become reality, especially given the unusual type. The Pont Gustave-Flaubert (Gustave Flaubert Bridge) is a vertical lift bridge, especially designed with the Rouen sailing ships event in mind. It officially opened on 25 September 2008, has a total length of 670 m and a longest span of 100 m. More on this bridge in the wikipedia article linked to below.

Art you can eat by Akiko Ida and Pierre Javelle

Thanks to Jenny Downing for alerting me to this one. It may not be the most profound kind of art, but the construction of landscapes from food and action figures by the duo Akiko Ida and Pierre Javelle is clever and works quite well. I liked this one best, where marshmallows are transformed into an antarctic landscape.

All rights retained by the artist.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Silhouette du soir

Today the wife and I celebrate that we got engaged 10 years ago. To mark the occasion one of my favourite romantic shots from our recent trip to France. This one was an early evening shot in Blois (Loire), severely post-processed to give it a special feeling - not just a black and white conversion but also playing with extreme contrasts and shadowing. Scorned by Flickr Explore in spite of a rapid number of favourites - never mind, I love it.

Camera: Canon PowerShot Pro1 8 Megapixels, handheld
Exposure: 0.006 sec (1/160)
Aperture: f/4.0
Focal Length: 50.8 mm
Post-processing: Picasa 3.0


Fire water

It's been a while since I last posted a fractal art picture, and here is one by one of its masters, Manas Dichow. A fascinating plethora of shapes and colours.

All rights retained by the creator.


Red storm rising

This title of one of the better Tom Clancy novels comes to mind when seeing the pictures of this week's sand storm hitting Sydney - its worst dust storm in decades. Having seen the bridge under more normal conditions, I find this quite an eerie shot.

All rights retained by the photographer.

web site

Friday, September 25, 2009

Stained glass

One of the things I missed most due to two weeks without internet is browsing my Flickr friends' streams, in search of new favourites. I was glad that the few minutes spent last night this way immediately paid off, courtecy of my dear Flickr friend jenny downing. She is a wizard whenever her camera gets near wine glasses and bottles, and this stunning study is surely one of her best efforts.

All rights retained by the photographer.


Paroles paroles

I was oddly moved by seeing the memorial sculpture for French singer Dalida in Paris' Montmartre last week - she killed herself aged (only) 54. She was probably the most successful female singer from France (well, technically Egypt/Italy). In the seventies she scored hits outside France as well, including a #1 hit in the Netherlands with Gigi l'Amoroso - a song I can't stand! By far her best song is Paroles, paroles (Words, words), a duet with French movie star Alain Delon, and one of the best chansons of all time. The song's theme is about hollow words of love. Dalida laments the end of love and the lies she has to hear, while Delon speaks his lines full of cliches. She reacts, comments and scoffs at the compliments that he gives her, calling them simply empty words. The melody is great and the instrumentation in bossanova style quite effective.
Art Rock score: 9/10 (very strong song, one of 650 best songs of all time)


Thursday, September 24, 2009

Femme a l'eventail

Well, we are back from our trip to France and of course there will be several posts related to our experiences the coming weeks. One of the highlights was our first visit to the Modern Art Museum in Paris, unjustly neglected by most visitors in favour of the Louvre, Orsay and Pompidou. An excellent collection, and one of the most impressive paintings was this one by Amadeo Modigliani (1884-1920), painted one year before his death. More on Modigliani in the wikipedia article linked to below.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Chairs in technicolor

An image from our August day trip to Antwerp, Belgium. Nothing special as such, but the line-up of the chairs and the various colours made for a nice photographic subject.

Camera: Canon PowerShot Pro1 8 Megapixels, handheld
Exposure: 0.008 sec (1/125)
Aperture: f/4.0
Focal Length: 20.9 mm
Post-processing: Picasa 3.0


Wine label designs

Who would have thought that wine bottle labels could be so interesting and artistic? The linked web site (part of weburbanist) gives a great selection including this stunning Lichtenstein merlot design. Intriguing.


Monday, September 21, 2009

Solve Sundsbo

One of the leading fashion and glamour photographers of the moment is Norwegian Solve Sundsbo who has worked with various high-profile clients including Yves Saint Laurent, Hermes, Nike, Lancôme and Mac cosmetics, as well as shooting album covers for Royksopp and Coldplay. Depicted is a 2007 shot of Australian singer/actress Kylie Minogue, part of an H&M campaign. Not included in wikipedia, no own web site, but a bit more information can be found on the linked site.


Honegger, Swiss tone poet

Pick any article on tone poems (symphonic poems), and alsmost certainly it will include the name of Arthur Honegger (1892-1955). Yet, how many classical music lovers actually have these tone poems in their collection - or other works by this neglected Swiss grandmaster for that matter? Yet especially his symphonic output, including five excellent symphonies and four tone poems, is well worth hearing. This Naxos CD offers us the two most famous tone poems. The locomotive noise inspired Pacific 231 from 1923 is one of the essential examples of the genre. Less famous, but an interesting composition is Rugby (1928), which puts a sports game to music. The third composition on the disc is the more conventional Pastoral d'ete (Summer pastoral), dating from 1920. You will also get a glimpse of Honegger the symponist, courtecy of his Symphonie Liturgique (his third) from 1946. It reflects both the horrors of the war and the prospects of peace, a powerful piece. Exemplary performances by conductor Takuo Yuasa and ther New Zealand Symphony Orchestra in great sound. An absolute bargain.


Sunday, September 20, 2009

Ice palace

More photoshop brilliance taken from the advanced photoshop contest section of Worth1000. Here is another original shot created by their member gaydin for the Bizarrchitecture 8 contest - architectural structures that are bizarre, but at the same time oddly appealing and inventive. A beautiful rendition, taking the Bilbao Guggenheim into unfamiliar surroundings.

All rights retained by the creator.


Saturday, September 19, 2009

Composition part 4: leading lines

The fourth in a series on basic composition rules to further enhance the quality of your photographs if you are not aware of them yet - the first one, dealing with the rule of thirds, can be found here, the second one, dealing with the background choice, can be found here, the third one, dealing with framing within the frame, can be found here. I am using an article on the site Amateur Snapper as a guideline here, but providing examples from my own stream. One of the most important tools in defining a good composition is the concept of leading lines. When we look at a photo our eye is naturally drawn along lines, so we can use these to guide the eye to the main subject. Lines can be literal lines but also more abstract lines. Take the example above (Photographer in action). The main focus of attention in this shot should naturally be on the photographer's face and camera (which on purpose are located within the frame according to the rule of thirds). There are three natural leading lines towards this main subject: the top of the small wall to his back, both from left and from right, and more subtly, his right leg which automatically directs the eye from the left bottom corner to the subject.

Friday, September 18, 2009

I won't let you down

On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of my own Ph.D., here is the UK band of the same name. One of the most appealing one hit wonders of the eighties: I won't let you down. The characteristic high voice of Scottish lead singer Jim Diamond (of later I should have known better fame) really carried this song with its strong searing melody and great instrumentation (especially the organ part) into the UK top five. One of many British acts of that time that made no impact whatsoever in the USA. And a crappy video, really early MTV style, to laugh at.
Art Rock score: 9/10 (very strong song, one of 650 best songs of all time)


Thursday, September 17, 2009

Abstraction in paws

Although it did not make Explore, and it will not make my 12 best shots of the year, I am kind of proud of this particular one, A close-up of a dog's paws on the red floor of an Amsterdam restaurant, making for a rather original abstraction.

Camera: Canon EOS 400D Digital 10 Megapixels, handheld
Exposure: 0.010 sec (1/100)
Aperture: f/14.0
Focal Length: 78 mm
ISO speed 1600
Post-processing: Picasa 3.0


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

World Wildlife Fund

The World Wildlife Fund is rightly famous for its creative advertisement campaigns, aiming for a better planet. The linked website gives a great overview of the various shots used, including the turtle depicted above.


In the wrong building

There is something disturbing about this first release by Alabama's folk rock band Legend of the White Cowl, not in the least because several American white supremist splinter groups have embraced their music as anthems for their cause. The band's name, actually derived from a Russian orthodox story, obviously triggered such reactions in the first place, but even in their music there are ominous references. This is particularly evident in the two instrumentals, which are called "Noose" and "Coon", but also in a song like "Crossing the burning line". Lead singer and main lyricist Joe White (no kidding) has so far vehemently denied these associations, but it does make you wonder. These objections aside, this is solid country rock with a strong folk element, and well worth giving 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 Legend of the White Cowl.
[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 Charles M. Schulz: I know the answer! The answer lies within the heart of all mankind! The answer is twelve? I think I'm in the wrong building.
[3] The illustration: pick a suitable one from my Flickr collection. My picture, M50, can be found here on Flickr. The on-line editing was done with the programme On-line image editor, the font settings selected were Morpheus 75 Silver and Vampiress 85 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.