Bokeh @ the Vitra

I have a love-hate relationship with my 50mm prime lens. Love, as it is small, light and incredibly fast to focus, hate because it means I need to use my feet to compose an image instead of zooming in and out with a telephoto lens as I am used to. I suppose it comes down to what one is used to and feels comfortable with. My 50mm has definitely been out of my comfort zone until today.

As it is a public holiday here, and having a guest visiting from the US, it was a perfect time to spend the day with friends @ the Vitra Design Museum (design-museum.de/…/the-vitra-design-museum) in near-by Weil am Rhien, Germany. Even though it is found amongst farmers’ fields and country villages, the Vitra is one of the leading design museums in the world. Wandering amongst  buildings (and furniture!) designed by the likes of Buckminster Fuller, Frank Gehry and Ray & Charles Eames, the air was simply fizzing with creative energy and inspiration (by the way, check out the amazing slide by Carsten Hoeller (design-museum.de/…nformation/vitra-campus but probably a good idea before lunch). It was also a relaxed opportunity to talk “shop”  with some very avid photographers. As four Nikons ‘hit’ the table in the cafe (gently, don’t worry!) and coffees were ordered, the conversation turned technical and along came the topic of bokeh. I have to admit that I love the effect that bokeh has, especially when I see it used for capturing images of hand-made Kinfolk-type objects (pottery and the like) and in portaits, but other than a general theoretical knowledge of what it was, I had no clue on how to use it myself, unless it happened in a photo as a “lucky mistake”.

Bokeh comes from the Japanese word boke (暈け or ボケ), meaning “blur” or “haze”, or boke-aji (ボケ味),”blur quality“. Bokeh is the artisitically blurry or glittery background you find in many commercial photographs used in lifestyle blogs, macro shots of flowers, insects or anything small, landscapes, portraits and the like. It’s effect helps to focus the viewer’s gaze on the main subject of the photo, while adding a textured background that won’t compete or clutter the impact of the image.  

But how to do this? No clue…. Well, bokeh turns out to be not so complicated, I just needed a better, yet simple understanding of how my lens worked  and a gentle nudge forward to try something new.

Looking for something to experiment with, a chair outside on the sunny patio…

and the cheerful table decoration became willing subjects for a bokeh effect.

There are many good resources on the web for learning how to bokeh your way into lovely captures. Here is one that I found to be easy to understand, just to get you started (your gentle nudge forward in trying something new)….

Digital Photography School:   http://frame.bloglovin.com/?post=5648241377&blog=567509&frame_type=none

 

 

Bauhaus By Daylight…

The morning has come early today – bright, sunny, humid and already hot. I love the curves of the Bauhaus buildings in this neighborhood and am now discovering their elegant and graceful curves on buildings I have passed by a hundred times and never bothered to look up and notice. I also see that the architecture of many of the modern high-rise apartment blocks down the street reverberate with Bauhaus ‘shadows’.

I revisited the same corner at Kikar Dizengoff this morning and took photos by daylight of some of the same buildings. They exude a completely different feeling in the morning sun. Walking further down Dizengoff Street, I also took a few photos of one of the modern buildings built during the past few years.

White City, Tel Aviv תל-אביב

White City (העיר הלבנה‎‎, Ha-Ir ha-Levana, tel-aviv.gov.il/en/Pages/HomePage.aspxis a collection of over 4000(!) original white buildings built in a unique Bauhaus or International  Style in the very centre of Tel Aviv. Built in the 1930’s by German-Jewish architects fleeing from Nazi persecution, White City became a UNESCO  world heritage site in 2003 as “an outstanding example of new town planning and architecture in the early 20th century.” The original European architectural style was adapted to the  realities of the local hot and humid Mediterranean climate by changing the exterior colour to white to reflect the sun’s rays and replacing the large areas of glass in the European Bauhaus style with smaller recessed windows to limit the amount of sunshine and heat entering the apartments.  The originally designed slanted roofs were replaced with flat ones to allow residents to use them as terraces to take advantage of incoming sea breezes. Staying in a Bauhaus apartment just down the block from Kikar Dizengoff (Dizengoff Square) (https://happyintlv.net/item/in-2017-dizengoff-square-wont-look-like-this-anymore/). I can attest to the sensibility of these adaptations as the temperatures and humidity in Tel Aviv have soared the past few days. Although the main streets are full of people in outdoor cafes and restuarants in the evenings, my street remains peaceful, deserted and very quiet at night.

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Walking home tonight, I was struck by the contrast of the curving white shapes of the buildings agains the dark night sky. I had a bit of fun post-processing them afterwards (but only a bit, I promise!) and I love the “noisy” (grainy) effect that the low light gave these photos – a bit ‘Rodchenko-esque’ (theartstory.org/artist-rodchenko-alexander.htm) by accident!

Animal Farm – ‘Grun 80’

Today was the first really Spring-like day this year; sunny with deep contrasty shadows, warm enough to throw coats and caution to the wind, flowers popping their heads up everywhere you look. Just lovely! The perfect day to visit “Grun 80” or “Grun Achtzig” (parkimgruenen.ch)  – not far from home. Many years ago when I first moved here, a dear friend introduced me to this beautiful park in Spring; to the swans a-swimming with their cygnets, very photogenic ducks in thier pond, flowers and trees a-blooming, the herb garden, orchard and many other lovely growing things – all near the centre of the city. There are outdoor concerts on Sundays, a waterside cafe and a small working farm complete with animals. At present, the main attraction is the new “crop” of baby lambs. The adult sheep come right up to the fence for a pat by curious children and their parents. I love the way the sheep’s horns curl around their ears and how one rather cheeky sheep kept sticking his tongue out at the little girl stroking his back! 

Alpenhorn Sunday

New Year’s Day was glorious – a bright blue sky, sunshine and cold! Perfect for a walk around town with my dearest, followed by coffee by the fireplace at a favourite downtown cafe. Little did we expect the Marktplatz to be full of alpenhorn players getting ready to “ring” in 2017 with a blast!

Alpenhorns are native instruments to Switzerland, Austria and other alpine countires, where they were orginially used to communicate between mountain villages. They have a special sound that evokes memories of mountain walks and Swiss folklore (Alepenhorn World Record).

Basel is basically flat Basel-The Pocket Metropolis, no tall, snow-capped mountains in sight, so to find over a hundred alphorn players in one place was a rare treat – and a lot of fun! One of the musicians explained that theyhad come from all over Switzerland and had connected by email to create this impromptu concert. My favourite of all – the curly alpenhorn – a real individualist!

*For a better look, click on any photo to view in gallery format.

Eccelston SQUARE

Yesterday was cold in London: frost on the top of cars and bright red mailboxes, commuters folded into their coats and thick scarves as they rushed to (delayed yet again) trains at Victoria Station. Only  a few streets away from all of this frenetic movement, there is a little oasis of calm and reflection locked away behind a metal gate in Eccelston Square– a natural escape for the few to enjoy in a busy city. Walking past the gate, I was drawn to the contrast of straight angles and curved lines, the juxtaposition of forged iron and the natural forms of trees and leaves.

This shot also led me to think about the effect picture format has on the way we view images. Playing with the focal point of pictures – where is the eye of the viewer drawn? – as well as symmetry and form; lines, grids, and texture, I have been thinking about how a square photo format can enhance symmetry and draw the eye to the centre of the image.

Here are two versions of the same photo – one traditionally rectangular, the other using a square format. Which version is more effective? Which one do you prefer?

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“In Flow” – thanks Otto!

I “borrowed” (stole?) today’s title from a photo blog that continues to have an important influence on me, and has raised some great questions and topics which have impacted the way I am learning to visually think about photography. The blog is called In Flow  by the talented Norwegian photographer Otto von Munchow. Highly reccommended for anyone involved in creative pursuits or who just wants to explore new ideas.

Flow…. in London, the flow and tides of the Thames defines the city; its post codes, neighbourhoods, history, even the way people pronounce and use words, are defined in part by the Thames and one’s location in relation to its flow. For an inland city, flowing water has a powerful hold on the city. There is a little square, across from Borough Market, between some office towers and within sight of Tower Bridge, which is cross-crossed by sunken troughs of flowing water. I took a shot there several years ago which I turned into a photo-etching, and now I have returned to take more photos with the hope of making prints from them sometime soon. Please let me know what you think and how to improve!

 

‘Pretty’ just makes me happy….

Winter is in the air – the days are getting shorter, the light sharper and the temperatures icier! I came across this photo this evening and it made me think of good times and sunny days this past summer. It is one of those shots that just makes me happy! (Photo taken at the opening of the Gottard Tunnel in a neighbouring Italian-speaking Swiss village, full of stone houses and good wine!)

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Chalk and Cheese…

How I love this British English expression! I learned it when I lived many years ago in London, and somehow it has stayed in my vocabulary. It means to compare two things which are completely different from each other  – with a rather ironic tone. I still have a little giggle each time I use it.

Lately, I have been in London making my annual  creative “pilgrimage” to Central Saint Martins University of the Arts for courses in photography and printmaking, so there has not been a lot of time for looking through the shops. The huge number of tourists on the streets and the hot weather have also been deterents. I did manage a day out with my youngest son who needed an “update” to his student wardrobe, so we visited Primark (sheer claustrophobic madness!) and afterwards a little detour to Liberty for mummy and a look around through the fabric (haberdashery – another British word I love!) department. Actually, any excuse to vist the iconic Tudor building which houses Liberty  (liberty.co.uk/…etails/article/fcp-content) is a good excuse, as the shop’s architecture is incredibly beautiful, not to mention their scarves and other lovely flowered things.

I thought it was an intersting contrast to take similar photos from a mezzanine above the main shop floor. Both locations were captured within 40 minutes of each other.

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