Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Attila Durak

During our March trip to Paris, we stumbled upon an exhibition of a relatively unknown photographer, whose art made a great impression on me. Born in Turkey in 1967, Attila Durak is now based in New York and Istanbul and creates themed series such as the Jazz inspired Echoes of the street from which this example (part of the aforementioned exhibition) was taken. He has not made wikipedia yet, so I link to his web site instead.

All rights retained by the artist.


Dorian Opera

My wife and I have a special connection with this band, as I have internet contacts with their brilliant keyboard player Andrew Roussak, and they used a painting of my wife for the cover of their first CD, No secrets (blogged here). Their music is best described as melodious prog metal, and my review of their first album (published e.g. here) is very positive, save for the somewhat congested sound. Give them a try if you are into the likes of Riverside or Dream Theater!


Monday, August 30, 2010

The saints are coming

This is a song that diehard U2 fans and diehard Green Day fans often hate. I like both bands, and I love this collaboration. The story is well-known: this song dates back to the catastrophic days of Hurricane Katrina, which swept away most of New Orleans exactly five years ago today. It is a cover of a relatively obscure Skids song from 1978, which I have not been able to track down further. The new version appropriately starts with a few lines of House of the rising sun, before turning into a thrusting rocker that is amongst the best hits of the new century, and with a clear message.
Art Rock score: 9/10 (very strong song, one of 650 best songs of all time)



Here we have another regular contributor to this part of the blog who has been absent for a while due to holidays: my Flickr friend peggyhr. Once more an excellent example of her seedhead studies that open up new ways of looking at them. I encourage you to visit her page and watch the complete set of them that she links to.

All rights retained by the photographer.



Creativity can also reflect in simplification - and this is a great example. One of my favourite TV series in the sixties, the Thunderbirds, sported a memorable logo that gave a sense of strength and tension. And I bet if you are my generation that you are now humming or whistling the musical theme as you read this (Thunderbirds March by Barry Gray).

web site

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Barnacle fin

A new name under this heading. I have encountered the work of fellow Flickrite Peterhdr a number of times in one of my favourite Flickr groups, Learn composition by example. This is by far the best work I have come across in his stream. Thanks to his fascinating post-treatment the whale scene takes on a mixture of abstract image and oriental ink drawing.

All rights retained by the photographer.


My wife's new brochure

During her recent stay in Shanghai, my wife had a new brochure on her art printed by a Shanghai Editing House. I am very happy that she chose one of the pictures I took of her in March in Paris (Pont des Arts) as the cover image.

The Art of Lu Schaper

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Celestial bodies

Few have made such an impact in a short time on my list of Flickr favourites as my fairly recent Flickr friend Caecilia Metella. Another gorgeous creation, transforming concrete bollards into a beautiful and high impact piece of art.

All rights retained by the photographer.


Slide show: my 100 best

Just a heads up: at the bottom of the page I installed a new gizmo today: a continuous slide show of my 100 best photographs as collected in an evergreen Flickr set (see here).

Brooklyn Bridge

More photoshop brilliance taken from the advanced photoshop contest section of Worth1000. Here is a shot created by their member dwarf for the Modern Ruins 7 contest - famous landmarks depicted in the future with severe deterioration. An excellent (and thought provoking) piece of work.

All rights retained by the creator.


Friday, August 27, 2010

Composition part 11: lead room

Continuing a series on basic composition rules to further enhance the quality of your photographs if you are not aware of them yet. Previous subjects:
1. The rule of thirds
2. Choice of background
3. Framing within the frame
4. Leading lines
5. Viewpoint
6. Cropping (general)
7. Cropping (special shapes)
8. Balancing elements
9. Symmetry and patterns
10. Creating depth
I hesitate to tackle the subject of lead room, because to me it is very intuitive. However, it appears that people still fall into the trap of doing this wrong, so here we go. Simply stated, the rule requires that if the subject is in motion, there should be plenty of space in front of it included in the frame to give the viewer an idea where it is going. A variation on this is when a subject is clearly looking at something, there should be plenty of space in front of it included in the frame to give the viewer an idea where he/she is looking. Like all rules, it can be broken to great effect in special circumstances, but in general it holds up very well. As an illustration, my shot In flight. This would be much less effective if the heron would be placed top left in the frame on another lines of thirds focal point, whilst still flying in the same direction.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Echo Beach

The Canadian band Martha and the Muffins was one of the finest New Wave bands to emerge in the early eighties, but they are doomed to be remembered only by their hit Echo Beach. As great as that song from their debut album Metro Music is, later works, especially the album This is the ice-age, were even better. That should not be held against Echo Beach itself of course, which is a great song with tremendous drive and a superb refrain. I post it on the occasion of its 30th birthday as a world wide hit - alerted to this fact by an email of the band themselves.
Art Rock score: 9/10 (very strong song, one of 650 best songs of all time)


Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Flower shots rarely receive a fave from me, but my Flickr friend jenny downing is one of the few exceptions to that rule. Wonderful composition, perfect colours and lovely bokeh. A really beautiful shot. The title is a delightful play on words: the geranium flower derives from the Greek geranos, meaning crane - which is also reflected in the shape here.

All rights retained by the photographer.



I love this image by my Flickr friend word artist and the philosophical words to go with it: There is only one way to go. You can fight it, stave off fate, but there is no escaping that which awaits: all is inexorably drawn to the same end. The shape of the vortex is beautifully captured, leading the eye to the centre of the vanishing point with excellent colours.

All rights retained by the photographer.



He has been absent from my blog for a while, because he was absent from Flickr (holiday), but making a welcome return with a fantastic shot: my Flickr friend aftab. Perfect composition, wonderful brooding figure with the bottle opening up several lines of thought - and an excellent colour palette.

All rights retained by the photographer.


Light effects

Due to our trip to Paris, I did not have time for the usual Flickr Favourites Sunday post, so here it is on Wednesday: four very different shots I recently faved. Starting with another one of those fantastic abstract shots by my Flickr friend sannesu. Picture this on a 200x150 cm canvas hanging in a modern art museum. I love it. One of the best in an outstanding series.

All rights retained by the photographer.


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Abstract architecture photography

Abstracting architecture is one of my favourite themes in photography, and the linked web site gives a good summary of tips for this theme (using one of my shots, Shanghai architecture abstracted 2 as the illustration for the first tip), as well as 80 excellent examples - make that 79 and one by yours truly, appropriately titled Abstracted architecture, which I blogged about before here.

web site

Mercedes-Benz museum Stuttgart

German car manufacturers have an excellent reputation, and few can boost a better and longer performance in this respect than Mercedes-Benz. It is fitting therefore that a museum was constructed to house a collection of over 160 of the most special models ever created. It so happens that the architecture of that museum, which opened in 2006, is very interesting as well. Designed by UN Studio, the cloverleaf shape combined with a double helix interior maximizes exhibition space to great effect.

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

Monday, August 23, 2010

Candid camera

When I took this quick candid of a tourist near the Paris Pompidou Museum, I did not realize what shot I had until I saw it on the computer. The mix-up of the guy's head and his wife's hands holding the camera is amazing.

Camera: Canon EOS 400D Digital 10 Megapixels, handheld
Exposure: 0.005 sec (1/200)
Aperture: f/7.1
Focal Length: 134 mm
ISO Speed: 400
Post-processing: Picasa 3.0


Sunday, August 22, 2010

The background makes the shot

The linked web site, found via a Jenny Downing buzz, gives a delightful overview of fifty interesting photographs where the subjects are either accidentally or intentionally captured against backgrounds that dramatically enhance the overall image. Sometimes the combination makes you think, sometimes it is just pure fun like the one above.

web site

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Vogue July 1929

Another art deco masterpiece by designer Alison Settle for the July 1929 edition of Vogue. I am still hoping to come across an original magazine from that time on a second hand market.


Friday, August 20, 2010

Michael Gray

London born photographer Michael Gray was one of my first discoveries on Flickr, where he posted as darkenergy777. Since then he has moved away from Flickr, and his dedicated web site confirms my initial impressions that he is a tremendously gifted photographer, especially excelling in black and white landscapes and mood scenes. A case in point is this beautiful rendition of the Battersea power station, a building famously depicted on a Pink Floyd album cover.

All rights retained by the artist.


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Schubert's song cycles

Between 1986 and 1999 I built up a considerable collection of classical music CD's (exceeding 2000 CD's in total). For various reasons I have played them a lot less in the past decade, but I am embarking on a rediscovery tour that I intend to share in this blog. In the sixth instalment, I re-examine the song cycles of Austrian composer Franz Schubert (1797-1828). One of the initiators of the romantic movement, and one of my all-time favourite composers. His songs are too much to handle for a retrospect in my blog (I have over 30 CD's of them), so I focus on the three song cycles for voice and piano.

Die schoene Muellerin (op.25, D795, 1824)
My version: Protschka/Deutsch (Capriccio, 1986, 67 min)
Hard to believe that this was almost the very first song cycle composed - and by a 27 years old as well. These 20 songs on poems by Wilhelm Mueller form a satisfying cycle, depicting a young wanderer in love going from optimism to despair to suicide in the brook that is central in the story - in the best romantic tradition. Wonderful melodies, exquisite piano scores, and an arching story line to hold it all together. Highlights: they are all great, but let's say Das Wandern, Am Feierabend, Der Neugierige, Ungeduld, Mein, Die liebe Farbe, Trockne Blumen, Der Mueller und der Bach and the wonderful closing lullaby Des Baches Wiegenlied. Tenor Josef Protschka shows a natural affinity with the music, accompanied to great effect by Helmut Deutsch. One of the best song cycles ever composed. Essential, no question.

My version: Fischer-Dieskau/Brendel (Philips, 1985, 69 min)
Right from the start, this sombre and dramatic cycle is absolutely spellbinding, one of the best compositions ever regardless of genre (the wikipedia link gives a great synopsis of the story). All 24 songs, based on poems by Wilhelm Mueller, would on their own be regarded as highlights of the romantic Lieder repertoire - and the cycle is a clear example of the whole being even better than the parts. Highlights: even better than the others are Gute Nacht, Gefrorene Traenen, Erstarrung, Der Lindenbaum, Fruehlingstraum, Der Wegweiser, Das Wirtshaus, and the fabulous closer Der Leiermann. The performance is exemplary, with Fischer-Dieskau's baritone and intelligent diction being eminently suited for this music, and Brendel providing the right counterparts on the piano. Beyond essential, this is hors concours.

My version: Koningsberger/Braun (Brilliant, 2002, 65 min)
Now here is a rarity for sure - a Dutch version. Singer/songwriter Jan Rot tackled the 20 songs and provided great translations that maintain the story and still adhere to the melodies of Schubert hardly without making an artificial impression at all - a real tour de force. Baritone Maarten Koningsberger and pianist Roger Braun give an impressive reading of this unique version. If you understand Dutch, this is a highly interesting alternative, although it certainly does not displace the original - somehow German seems to be the natural language for this cycle.

My version 1: Prey/Bianconi (Denon, 1985, 51 min)
My version 2: Fassbaender/Reimann (DG, 1992, 68 min)
It is not even clear that Schubert intended this combination of songs to be a cycle, and indeed it lacks the coherence of the two Mueller cycles. The cycle leads off with seven songs based on poems by Ludwig Rellstab (sometimes an eighth is added, Herbst, D945), followed by six songs based on poems by Heinrich Heine and one based on a poem by Seidl. Although falling short of the immensely high quality of the two earlier cycles, there are many great songs here. Highlights: Kriegersahnung, Fruehlingssehnsucht, Abschied, Herbst, and Ihr Bild. The version by baritone Hermann Prey and pianist Philippe Bianconi follows the traditional lay-out (though including Herbst) in accomplished if unspectacular performances. Mezzo soprano Brigitte Fassbaender and pianist Aribert Reimann choose a different path altogether. They kick of with the Seidl song, then add four more late songs based on the same poet outside the cycle, followed by the Rellstab songs (with Herbst inserted, but next-to-last), and the Heine songs in a completely different sequence than usual, ending with what is usually the first Heine song, Der Atlas. In general, I prefer the second version, but that is also because I think Fassbaender is a far superior Lieder singer compared to Prey.

Summarizing recommendation, based on my own taste:

Hors concours: Winterreise
Essential: Die schoene Muellerin
Important: Schwanengesang
Good to have: Winterreis
Not required: none

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Transparent toaster

Combining a simple yet elegant design and a functionality that you would think people would have invented before, this toaster allows you to taste your bread to just the right degree of crispiness.

web site

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The lady from Shanghai

My own lady from Shanghai will finally be retuning home today after four and a half months, so I thought this vintage movie poster would make a suitable post. It's a great stylish poster as well, especially in the French version.

On a side note, I will be off-line until Sunday. The blog will continue with pre-posted contributions, but any comments will be unpublished for a few days,

More on this movie in the IMDB article linked to below.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Up up and away

It is not a particular newsworthy shot, but as a photograph it is beautiful with all those colours and lines and the tiny silhouetted man to create perspective. It was shot earlier this year for Tucson Balloon Rides.

All rights retained by the photographer (AP/Charles Rex Arbogast).

web site

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Lost in her scent

This is such an amazing exquisite soft abstract shot by my Flickr friend SteffenTuck. Really mesmerizing, I can keep on staring at it. A flower macro unlike any other.

All rights retained by the photographer.