Saturday, April 30, 2011

Learn composition by example: Borders

If you have been following this blog, you may remember a series of short posts about basic composition techniques in the Art-iculations category. These were written for beginners by a beginner (moi). My Flickr friend Rick (word artist), a very accomplished photographer with a brilliant sense of composition, has embarked upon a similar series for the Flickr group Learn Composition by Example, providing far more information and examples than I did. His first two posts, on leading lines, and on layers, were blogged earlier here and here. His third and fourth post appeared a few days ago, tackling the subject of borders and framing as a compositional technique, with 19 photographs each as illustration of his points (also to be found in his blog). I will post the one about framing in a few days; for the post about borders I have picked a beauty by my fellow Flickrite ben.pearson.007, of which Rick wrote: "This is a strong image that combines both borders within borders and the inner scene; more impressive still in that the outer subject is as busy as the inner. It is the framing elements of the car door that direct the eye towards the mirror, and the inner scene there. The mount around the mirror provides just enough distinction between the two scenes, and the leading lines within that inner image (towards a golden ratio) help keep the eye pinned within that compact scene." Like the first two, highly recommended to expand your compositional horizon.

web site

Friday, April 29, 2011


It is surprising how seldom works of art feature in the streams of my various Flickr friends. I was pleasantly surprised therefore that my Flickr friend auribins posted a series of shots he took of a fascinating sculpture by Jaume Plensa in the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. In his notes he stated "ArtRock, you'd love it!" - and he is right. This photograph  is the best of the series, helped by the dramatic sky.

All rights retained by the photographer.


Brubeck meets Bach

Simple, stylish and effective - exactly what a great album cover should be like. Marvellous geometry in black and white. This Brubeck classical/jazz crossover album cover is based on a photograph by Dorothee Falke.

All Music

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Learning to fly

A brilliant masterpiece by my Flickr friend word artist: hovering between abstract, fantasy, and reality. As usual, perfect composition with a strong diagonal flow. The small touches of colour further enhance the quality. One of the best shots I have seen on Flickr this year. Please click the link to see it larger.

All rights retained by the photographer.


Monday, April 25, 2011

Mache dich, mein Herze, rein

A logical follow-up of the previous post. Here is one of the most beautiful parts of Bach's St Matthew Passion, the aria Mache dich, mein Herze, rein, in a great historical version (1958) of Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau with the Munich Bach Orchestra under Karl Richter. The video, with suitable paintings as background, starts with the recital Am Abend, da es kuehle war, the main aria starts at 2:34.


Sunday, April 24, 2011

Bach's Passions

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 thirteenth installment, I re-examine the passions of German composer Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750), suitably timed for Easter.

St John Passion (BWV245, 1724)
My version: Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra/Koopman with Schlick, Wessel, de Mey, Turk, Kody and Mertens (Erato, 1994, 1 h 48 min)
Right from the beautiful opening choir (Herr unser Herrscher), which takes almost 10% of the total playing time, this is a masterpiece that keeps you enchanted for close to two hours. The scale may be less grandiose than its more famous counterpart, but the intimacy works very well, with delicate melodious interplay between recitatives, arias and choirs. The absolute highlight is the (almost) closing choir Ruht wohl ihr heiligen Gebeine, one of his most poignant melodies. If I have one complaint about this work, it is that many of the short choir lines are so beautiful that they end far too soon. Had Bach not gone on to compose the St Matthew Passion, this is the one Passion that everybody would have talked about it. Essential.

My version: Munich Bach Orchestra/Richter with Mathis, Fischer-Dieskau, Baker, Schreier aand Salmimen (Archiv, 1980, 3 h 24 min)
What more is there to say about this masterpiece, one of the greatest compositions of all time? Dramatic, almost opera-like, with some of the most beautiful music ever composed, never a weak moment, and emotionally gripping, even for an atheistic agnostic like myself. Highlights: too many to list them all, but I definitely need to mention Buss und Reu, Blute nur du liebes Herz, Ich will dir mein Herze schenken, Ich will bei meinem Jesu wachen, Erbarme dich mein Gott, Gebt mir meinem Jesum wieder, Koennen Traenen meiner Wangen, and of course O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden. And maybe the very best, close to the end, Mache dich, mein Herze, rein - always gets me close to tears. My favourite composition by my favourite composer. Hors concours, no doubt about it.

My version: Collegium Musicum Tuebingen Chamber Orchestra/Rehm with Lehmann, Kuenstler, Jelden and Schaible (Brilliant Classics, 1990, 1 h 58 min)
Long ascribed to the grandmaster himself, it is now believed that he arranged someone else's composition for four voices, chorus, orchestra, and continuo to meet an urgent deadline for Good Friday in 1730. It does have some typical Bach touches, especially in the recitatives, and in some obviously recycled material from the St Matthew Passion. Only one aria really stands out, for the tenor near the end (Lass mich ihn nur noch einmal kuessen). All in all, it is in quality clearly below the two main passions and most of his cantatas. There is still a lot to enjoy here though - even though it is not vintage Bach (or even Bach at all).

My version: European Union Baroque Orchestra/Goodman with Covey-Crump, Jones, Burrowes, James, Agnew and Tolonen (Brilliant Classics, 1990, 1 h 41 min)
This work is almost certainly by Bach, but almost certainly not in the form it is performed: most of the music has been lost centuries ago, and several attempts to reconstruct it have been undertaken (more information in the wikipedia link). The work as performed has some nice moments, but makes a patchy impression and I honestly had a hard time sitting though it while refraining from touching the "next" button. 

Summarizing recommendation, based on my own taste:

Hors concours: St Matthew Passion
Essential: St John Passion
Good to have: St Luke Passion
Not required:  St Mark Passion

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Abstraction in green

A rather popular shot from my recent Shanghai trip, turning ceiling lighting decoration into an abstract photograph. Some of the comments I received: "One of those photos where the repeated object creates an irregular pattern despite it's regular shape", "Classic Art Rock shot! It's lovely, patterned, has beautiful color, and completely abstract. It has it all", "Somehow it's almost an optical illusion", and "Boggles the mind with endless patterns". With a handheld exposure time of  two tenths of a second, this was quite a challenge technically!

Camera: Canon PowerShot Pro1 8 Megapixels, handheld
Exposure: 0.2 sec (1/5)
Aperture: f/3.2
Focal Length: 16.1 mm
Post-processing: Picasa 3.0


Friday, April 22, 2011

Shanghai - United

Please click the thumbnail above to open the image in a separate window. In spite of its vintage appearance, the depiction of the modern Shanghai betrays that this is a fairly recent poster for United, actually dating from 2007. I picked it because today my wife and will be re-united upon her return from Shanghai.

Vintage Posters

Monday, April 18, 2011

Mother Goddess of the World

If a picture paints a thousand words... then why do I bother to post lines under it. Just watch (preferably large, at Flickr) and get lost in its sheer awesomeness. The most impressive picture I have ever seen of Mount Everest, thanks to my Flickr friend cormend.

All rights retained by the photographer.


Red skies over paradise

A different type of creation by my wife, at the occasion of her return to Holland later this week. This is a sketch she made on red A4 size drawing paper, during the time we were dating. I chose the title, inspired by the excellent Fischer Z album of that name.

The Art of Lu Schaper

Sunday, April 17, 2011


A beautiful early  morning study of garden leaves, one of the recurring subjecst in the outstanding photostream of my Flickr friend jenny downing. Even without those dew covered criss-cross lines it would already be a great shot, with them it is magnificent.

All rights retained by the photographer.


Saturday, April 16, 2011

The image composer

I have blogged about the "Learn composition by example" special subject essays of my Flickr friend Rick (word artist) twice before, now it is time to draw attention to his own blog. The image composer features the aforementioned essays as well, but also offers compositional analysis of isolated photographs he found on Flickr. Always fascinating choices, always very worthwhile to read his comments. Highly recommended.

web site

Electricity lines (or Diagonal Electrical)

Here is one of the shots from my Shanghai trip that I like, but was not sure whether to post here or not. Then I found out it had been featured in the Habitables site, with a review so encouraging that I had to share it: "I am completely in love with todays photo. The diagonal lines criss crossing the image make deciphering the content of it somewhat difficult, but in the search for location and building lies its beauty. The lines between inside and outside, one building and another have been blurred to the point that the viewer is constantly questioning exactly what they are viewing. Highly captivating photo, love it." It was shot in the evening at Huahei road, the remaining light of office buildings forming a fascinating pattern. Technically, the main trick was to keep my hand as still as possible....

Camera: Canon EOS 400D Digital 10 Megapixels, handheld
Exposure: 0.02 sec (1/50)
Aperture: f/5.0
Focal Length: 51 mm
ISO Speed: 1600
Post-processing: Picasa 3.0


Friday, April 15, 2011

Ries, Beethovens secretary

Here we have a very obscure early 19th century composer, who has been brought into the spotlight recently thanks to a series of CDs issued on Naxos and CPO: the German composer Ferdinand Ries (1784-1838). He was destined to become just a footnote in music history, his main claim to fame being that he was Beethovens secretary and pupil. His own music, on the crossover of classical and romantic, is a revelation: well crafted, melodious, and effective - certainly at a similar level as say Louis Spohr and Carl Maria von Weber. Especially his works for piano and orchestra, including nine concertos and various other concertante works, stand out as great compositions. As an example I have picked a CD with one of his best piano concertos (the 7th) coupled with an intriguing set of variations on Rule Britannia and the Introduction et Variations Brillantes. Excellent playing by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic orchestra under Uwe Gridd, with Christopher Hinterluber as the soloist. A must for lovers of this genre.


Monday, April 11, 2011


Like I said about her album which featured before in my blog: I must admit, I have no clue what this pop music by Cheryl Cole sounds like (although I fear the worst), but one thing is for sure: this lady knows how to package her products in design covers that are very classy, whether it is the album or the singles. This one was actually shot by one of the leading fashion photographers of today, Nick Knight (who appeared in my blog here). More about Cheryl Cole on the linked wikipedia page.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

After another cold night

An appropriate post for this time of year, with winter giving way to spring. A pansy surviving the night frost, beautifully captured by my Flickr friend sannesu. I love how this shot conveys an abstract feeling even with a clear subject.

All rights retained by the photographer.


Saturday, April 09, 2011

Composition part 13: the diagonal

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:
The topic for this post is an important one for composition - and one that beginners often do not realize, as I know from experience. The astonishing power of the diagonal. Lining up the main subject(s) along one of the diagonals gives a far more dynamic feel to the composition, and effectively leads the eye through the shot. This holds for instance for shots that derive their interest from patterns (see many examples in my Flickr stream), but its application is far wider than that. As an illustration, my shot Crocodile rock. This picture would be much less dynamic and direct with the animal featured on a horizontal line, as might seem a natural way to take it.

Friday, April 08, 2011

The dark side of the loom

A brilliant idea, brilliantly executed, and doubly appealing because I am a huge Pink Floyd fan. I came across this image by fellow Flickrite aldoaldoz via the Twisted Sifter web page.

All rights retained by the photographer.


Thursday, April 07, 2011

Crusade 1212

A beautiful cover for the second album of German prog metal band Dorian Opera, a concept album based on the historical Children's Crusade. I absolutely love the CD - you can read my review here. The link below will take you to their home page.

All Music

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Learn composition by example: Layers

If you have been following this blog, you may remember a series of short posts about basic composition techniques in the Art-iculations category. These were written for beginners by a beginner (moi). My Flickr friend Rick (word artist), a very accomplished photographer with a brilliant sense of composition, has embarked upon a similar series for the Flickr group Learn Composition by Example, providing far more information and examples than I did. His first post, on leading lines, was blogged earlier here. His second post appeared last weekend, tackling the subject of various types of layers as a compositional technique, with 19 photographs as illustration of his points. For this post I have picked a beauty by my Flickr friend cormend, of which Rick wrote: "Despite the obviousness of tone and prominence, it is not the foreground which stands out to the viewer of this image at first glance. It is the enormity of the mountain that peeks through the clouds. We need only that glimpse of it to realise how it dominates." Like the first, highly recommended to expand your compositional horizon.

web site

Monday, April 04, 2011

PhotoFunia [3]

I have blogged about this interesting site twice before, but they keep on adding so many new features that I think another post is warranted. 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 as a painting in progress, based on a portrait I took of our dog early last year.

web site

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Abstraction in reflections

Abstracted reflections feature regularly in my photostream, the reflecting medium usually being water, sometimes ice. This shot is different: the reflecting medium is the bottom part of a highway overpass, taken from a pedestrian bridge near the People Square of Shanghai in the evening. The traffic lights and car lights reflect to give a great abstract impression.

Camera: Canon EOS 400D Digital 10 Megapixels, handheld
Exposure: 0.050 sec (1/20)
Aperture: f/5.6
Focal Length: 134 mm
ISO Speed: 1600
Post-processing: Picasa 3.0