Saturday, December 29, 2012

Keeper Dozen 2012

Picking my 12 favourite photographs of the year has become a yearly custom. It was triggered by a group at Flickr (Keeper Dozen), which was inspired by an Ansel Adams quote: "Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop." Here is the 2012 countdown from 12 to 1.

12. Mouth piece
A shot of mine that appeals to me far more than to most viewers on Flickr. In May, we took a jazz boat tour on the river IJssel. Especially the Kampen based saxophone quartet Saxozie was a delight to listen to. The lighting conditions were sub-optimal, but I like what I got here in a close-up of one of their instruments. Extreme use of dof, and placement of the mouth piece on a golden ratio point, for those interested in composition.

11. Paris sunset
This shot, a souvenir from our September trip to Paris, did not get as many positive responses as I had hoped for when I posted it on Flickr. Still, it is one of my own favourites of the year. Pushed the contrast to extremes in the post-processing to emphasize the silhouette effect.

10. Deventer patterns
This shot has become a bit of a hit on Tumblr in the course of the year. It is a close-up, through the display window, of a wedding dress, rotated 90 degrees for a more abstract feeling.

9. Shaken not stirred
One of my most popular shots of the year in terms of faves. It is a straightforward flipped reflection of Kampen houses mirrored in one of the canals near our home. It is sufficiently different from my usual water reflections to warrant including it.

8. The eye of the storm
This is a detail of a paper art work by Elsa Visser that we saw during the Kampen Art Route, a 2-day tour in April to explore the various artists our new home town has to offer. From a composition point of view, the important characteristics here are the plethora of leading lines and the golden ratio (placement of the "eye of the storm" on a golden ratio focal point). And of course the conversion to black and white to further emphasize the line play.

7. November reflections
My colourful water reflections series, usually shot at the canal near our home, turned out to be among the most popular of my photographs, as well as scoring high on my personal list of favourites. It was difficult to choose only a few for this list. Composition-wise, this is strong on the diagonals, creating a great feeling of depth as well.

6. Autumnal
Another water reflection, which is quite different from most of them. It shows the leafless trees reflecting in the canal near our home, with the yellow leaves drifting on the water - flipped upside down for more effect.

5. IJsselmuiden
This is the view, just one minute walking from our home, across the river IJssel to the little village of IJsselmuiden. The autumn fog on the river and the stunning sky make a beautiful combination.

4. Another reflected abstract
Another expressionist colourful abstract which I shot just a few minutes walking from our home, at Kampen's beautiful canal. My trademark 90 degrees flip creates an unusual pattern.

3. Eye contact
In April, we enjoyed the Kampen Art Route, a 2-day tour to explore the various artists our new home town has to offer. This photograph is a close-up of a paper sculpture by Elsa Visser. From a composition point of view, the important characteristics here are the use of negative space and the golden ratio (placement of the eye on a golden ratio focal point).

2. October water reflections
This water reflection shot, taken as usual at the Kampen canal, is my most faved photograph of the year, and scored high in Explore (the other three shots to reach Explore did not come close to my list of 12 favourites). It is also one of my own favourites of all time.

1. Harbor wall abstraction
This is my favourite shot of the year, and one of the best I have ever created in my opinion. It is actually not what many people think: there is no shadow play at work here at all. The shape I captured and cropped like this is the decoration of the Kampen harbor.

Flickr

Monday, December 24, 2012

The last dance

Last weekend was the yearly celebration of Christmas in Old Kampen, our new home city. Two days of nostalgic fun, ranging from the thirties down to the middle ages. My wife shot this beautiful moody picture, demonstrating once more that the combination of a real artist and a camera leads to amazing artistic results.

The Art of Lu Schaper

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Winter

I have posted this seasonally appropriate song before in 2008, but here is the official video. The fragile ballad Winter from her phenomenal album Little Earthquakes is one of the best Tori Amos ever recorded. In this song she goes back to her childhood days, and her relationship with her father, dealing with growing up and getting sufficient self-esteem, knowing her father will not always be there to support her. The lyrics are poetic and extraordinarily image provoking ("Skating around the truth who I am, but I know Dad, the ice is getting thin"), climaxing in the recurring image of the wild horses. The beautiful piano work that drifts through the song couldn't have been more effective and mood setting. Art Rock score: 10/10 (brilliant masterpiece, one of 200 best songs of all time).

YouTube

Friday, December 21, 2012

End of the world

With the world coming to an end today - at least according to the Maya calendar and hordes who believe in it - this seems a suitable post. Blackfield is a fascinating pop/rock formation with the founder of Porcupine Tree, Steven Wilson, and Israeli rock singer Aviv Geffen. Like most Steven Wilson projects, the quality of the covers is (almost) as high as the quality of the music, and this is no exception. More about Blackfield on the linked wikipedia page.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Chasing away

My Flickr friend andy_57 excels in any photographic genre he tackles, but his specialty remains model shoots. This is a recent favourite of mine, and one that he picked himself as one of his twelve best of the year (do check out that amazing dozen, here). Taking her place in front of the camera is his own daughter Laura, and she shows that she can model like the best of them. The smile, extended to her eyes, is a ray of light in these dark days, the red hat is a touch of brilliance, the lighting is as great as always with Andy, and the composition is excellent, in particular in terms of anchoring (wall to the left), negative space, and use of golden ratio. As usual, all rights retained by the creator.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Eleven nights


Hilde Louise (Asbjornsen) is a Norwegian jazz singer whom I came across for the first time a few months ago. Her style is in-between straight jazz and cabaret, and very engaging. The cover of her 2004 debut album Eleven nights is stunningly effective in its simplicity, a monochrome portrait with her lips and eyes in colour. The use of red font was a great choice as well.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Steam filtered

His brilliant series of photographs from Myanmar (Burma) may have finished some time ago, but that does not stop my Flickr friend cormend from posting high quality pictures taken at other locations. This is my favourite from recent weeks, a beautiful black and white study of the Norris Geyser Basin at Yellowstone National Park. As usual, all rights retained by the creator.

Handel's Organ concertos

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 seventeenth installment, I re-examine the organ concertos by German/English composer, Georg Friedrich Handel (1658 - 1759). Invariably, this composer scores high in all-time favourite lists, usually making the top 10, whereas my recollection of his works was far less positive. To give him the best chance, I chose the organ concertos (my favourite instrument in my favourite type of orchestral music), in excellent versions.

Organ concertos op.4 (1735-1736)
My version: Concertgebouw Orchestra/Rifkin with Peter Hurford (Decca, 1986, 72 min)
Organ concertos op.7 (1740-1751)
My version: Concertgebouw Orchestra/Rifkin with Peter Hurford (Decca, 1987, 89 min)
Organ concertos 13-16 (1739-1747)
My version: Concertgebouw Orchestra/Rifkin with Peter Hurford (Decca, 1986-1987, 70 min)

Well, I tried. I listened twice to all four CD's. And after that I listened to five other Handel CD's from my collection, including the later concerti grossi, water music and royal fireworks music. I don't get it. It's all musical wall paper to me, pleasant background music, but it does not engage me at all. From the baroque period, I'd prefer Vivaldi and Telemann over Handel any day, let alone JS Bach, who I rank as my all-time favourite composer. Oh well. If I ever have to start collecting again, Handel will not make the cut.

Summarizing recommendation, based on my own taste:
Hors concours: None.
Essential: None.
Important: None.
Good to have: None.
Not required: All organ concertos.
Avoid: None.

Friday, December 14, 2012

A miracle and mystery

This disc has got to be on your Christmas wishlist this year. The Italian neo-classical formation Connexon from Naples have taken twenty Ambrosian and Gregorian chants, and transformed them to instrumentals of stunning and consistent high quality. Bassoons, oboes and flutes take over the major vocal lines, with the three violins, viola and cello providing a suitable aural backdrop. Original and fascinating. And essential.

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 Connexon.
[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 H.G. Wells: We must not allow the clock and the calendar to blind us to the fact that each moment of life is a miracle and mystery.
[3] The illustration: pick a suitable one from my Flickr collection. My picture, Waiting forever, can be found here on Flickr. The on-line editing was done with the programme On-line image editor, the font settings selected were Old English Text MT 65 Gold Metallic and Underground 110 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.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Teaching George (RIP Ravi Shankar)

And yet another great and influential musician passed away: India's Ravi Shankar, aged 92. He was instrumental in getting the sitar exposure in contemporary classical music and pop/rock. The YouTube entry I link to is a rare video of him teaching George Harrison how to handle this instrument. Rest in peace Ravi.

YouTube

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Songs and dances of death (RIP Galina Vishnevskaya)

One of the great sopranos has passed away today at the age of 86: Galina Vishnevskaya. Here she is in her prime, singing Mussorgsky's Songs and dances of death with her husband Mstislav Rostropovich (who died five years ago). Rest in peace.

YouTube

Monday, December 10, 2012

Dynamism of a football player

Dedicated to Lionel Messi, who broke the record for most goals scored in one year yesterday, and will probably be recognized as the greatest footbal (soccer) player of all time in the future. This painting from 1913 is by Italian futurist artist Umberto Boccioni (1882-1916), three years before he fell in World War One - and one of the few paintings my masters on this subject. More on Boccioni in the linked wikipedia article.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

November reflections 4

My colourful water reflections series, usually shot at the canal near our home, turns out to be among the most popular of my photographs. This one is no exception. Composition-wise, this is strong on the diagonals, creating a great feeling of depth as well.

Camera: Canon IXUS 115 HS, 12 Megapixels, handheld
Exposure: 0.01 sec (1/100)
Aperture: f/5.9
Focal Length: 20 mm
ISO Speed: 320
Post-processing: Picasa 3.0

Flickr

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

View of Kampen

Our new home has inspired my wife in many ways - including making a cityscape like this, unlike anything she made since we left Asia. It is the view of our part of Kampen from the river the IJssel. Lovely impressionist feeling.

The Art of Lu Schaper

Monday, December 03, 2012

Links [27]

Once more an overview of interesting links on topics related to the blog, that I encountered recently, but that will probably not make the blog as separate entries. The picture above is by myself.

Thirty bestselling singles of all time in the UK.
In Pictures: 90 Years of BBC.
Vandalized Rothko Could Take 18 Months to Restore.
In Pictures: 20 Years of Lomography.
Indian trains by Steve McCurry.