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

Flickr

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)

YouTube

Emotion

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

Televators

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.

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.

Flickr

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

Flickr

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.

Flickr

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)

YouTube

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

Flickr

Monday, September 21, 2009

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.

Amazon

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)

YouTube

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

Flickr

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

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.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Permanent waves

One of the classical covers of the late seventies/early eighties, Rush' Permanent waves. The cover art concept is by Hugh Syme. It sparked some controversy due to the "Dewey Defeats Truman" headline on the newspaper. Under pressure from the Chicago Tribune, Syme changed the text to "Dewei Defeats Truman". The billboards in the distance were changed from Coca-Cola (who objected to the use of their logo) to include each band members name in similar typestyle. The waving man in the background is cover artist Hugh Syme himself.

All Music

I'll be there in a minute

Once more a fantastic animal shot by my Flickr friend Lars VanDe Goor Photography Art, one of his specialities. And once more a great title to boot. I think the tiger is perhaps the most beautiful animal in the world, and this is a marvellous portrait of it.

All rights retained by the photographer.

Flickr

Monday, September 14, 2009

Feed us!

Whilst my wife was shopping for clothes, I took the opportunity to walk around a bit in Utrecht - and stumbled upon this marvellous scene of a hungry gaggle of geese in the canal. And of course, I had a camera at hand.

Camera: Canon PowerShot Pro1 8 Megapixels, handheld
Exposure: 0.001 sec (1/1600)
Aperture: f/4.5
Focal Length: 50.8 mm
Post-processing: Picasa 3.0

Flickr

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Lizard impersonation

A fun shot I took in August in the central Dutch city of Utrecht (South of Amsterdam). This dog, impressive in its immobility, apparently is somewhat of a local celebrity. In fact, I have already posted a shot of the same dog taken a year before at the same spot.

Camera: Canon PowerShot Pro1 8 Megapixels, handheld
Exposure: 0.001 sec (1/1600)
Aperture: f/4.0
Focal Length: 12.5 mm
Post-processing: Picasa 3.0

Flickr

Friday, September 11, 2009

I can't see New York

And to round off this 9/11 triptych, a beautiful video made for Tori Amos' I can't see New York. An outstanding track from her phenomenal 2002 comeback album Scarlets walk, a concept album of a fictious travel through America after the terrorist attack. No other track is clearer with respect to the overlying theme than this one, where Scarlet (Tori) feels what a woman on top of one of the doomed planes went through as she died, in expressive lyrics such as: "You said you could find me here and you said you would find me even in death and you said you'd find me, but I can't see New York as I'm circling down through white cloud, falling out and I know his lips are warm, but I can't seem to find my way out ...". One of those rare songs that always choke me up.
Art Rock score: 10/10 (brilliant masterpiece, one of 200 best songs of all time)

YouTube

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

The mirror cracked

Given the comments and faves it received, I expected this shot to have a chance to make Flickr Explore, but it was not to be. I took this one in Shanghai in an artist's loft via the cracked mirror - the artist herself unknowningly is in the shot whilst she was taking a smoke break.

Camera: Canon PowerShot Pro1 8 Megapixels, handheld
Exposure: 0.05 sec (1/20)
Aperture: f/3.2
Focal Length: 15.4 mm
Post-processing: Picasa 3.0

Flickr

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Pearl

High time for yet another fabulous shot by my Flickr friend aftab. even in his photo stream - one that shows perplexing consistency in quality - this amazing bokeh-rich shot stands out as surely one of his best of the year.

All rights retained by the photographer.

Flickr

Biko

A brilliant song by Peter Gabriel inspired by the death of anti-apartheid hero Steven Biko who died in a South African jail in 1977. A brilliantly subdued cover as well. More about Peter Gabriel on the linked wikipedia page.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Strong, American in exile

George Templeton Strong (1856-1948) is yet another lost (grand)master, and kudos to Naxos for devoting a series of CD's to him. This CD is the one I actually have, but I intend to explore the others as well, so great is the music. Strong studied in Leipzig and counted Liszt and Wagner amongst his friends. After a brief stay in New England he returned to Europe, never to return to his fatherland. Not surprisingly, there is nothing American about his compositions, which are rooted firmly in the tradition of the aforementioned composers, as well as hints of Mahler and Richard Strauss. This CD shows off his mastery of melody and orchestral colours, in particular in the extensive 40 minutes Straussian tone poem Le Roi Athur, which took him over 15 years to complete (1890-1916). The other composition is extremely worthwhile as well: Die Nacht, a suite of four short tone poems, composed in 1913. The unfamiliar repertoire is played with great panache by the Moscow Symphony Orchestra under Adriano. The notes in the booklet are extensive and informative, as we have come to expect from this label. An essential disc for lovers of late romantic symphonic music.

Amazon

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Milk and chocolate

Another brilliant shot by my Flickr friend Lars VanDe Goor Photography Art. A wonderful still life, and in his own words "No photoshop, just a blue plate, and a fancy piece of chocolat drenched in milk and clouds".

All rights retained by the photographer.

Flickr

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Yeah, and you know what...

.... this is my happy face! To give the shot its full (and marvellous) title. Strangely enough, this is actually the first time since the restart of my blog that my Flickr friend Lars VanDe Goor Photography Art is featured. Something I will rectify not only with this one, but with many more in weeks and months to come. The shot itself dates back to 2007 and was actually one of the first I faved at Flickr.

All rights retained by the photographer.

Flickr