Just Odd

The Balanced Box, Barcelona, 2018
The Balanced Box, Barcelona, 2018

 

Lots of touristic passersby photograph this particular wall (above, and behind the box) with its 19 different, apparently random, objects glued thereon. If you pay attention, you’ll find the unusual urban art “exhibit” near the beach in the colorful Barceloneta section of Barcelona. 

But…who thought it was a good idea to leave the giant cardboard container up there? What arrived in the box? What might still be in the box? A severed hand?

 

Brief backstory…

The wall behind the box was a 2011 project involving a large number of kids from some 26 schools in the area. The idea was to decorate what was up until then a monsterous eyesore of concrete. The 19 objects they came up with, built, then pasted there are all related to the story, “El principio de la sabiduria” by Pere Calders–which, interestingly, begins with the finding of a human hand (the left one, to be morbidly precise) by a rich man’s gardener.

Having read the story, I would assume the objects, then, are items that the school kids imagined might have been lost–and then found–in the rich man’s garden, much like the hand was. (You have to read it to get it.)

Yep. Kids mixing it up with art, literature, and culture in general…it is definitely a consistent trend here in Barcelona, the city of 100+ museums.

(At the link in the first sentence of this post you can see the wall in its entirety. And go HERE if you want to read Pere Calders’s story itself–it is quite short but it is in Spanish)

Barcelona Year End Odds And Ends

As a reminder, the end of Pope Greg the 13th’s calendar year is certainly a great time to back up all of your digital images onto at least one or–even better–two or three separate portable hard drives. That is, if you don’t do it even MORE regularly, which you definitely should! Keep one of the drives off-premises, say, at your Mom’s house just in case some disaster befalls your personal abode (theft, flood, earthquake, fire, computer virus, large Labrador run amok, whatever).

Even 5TB portable hard drives are relatively cheap these days, so lack of memory is not a good excuse. To wit: I just saw on Amazon a 5TB Seagate portable external drive with USB 3.0 for $129.00. That is inexpensive insurance for those thousands of pictures you have of that new grandson or granddaughter of yours.

So, yes, I’m currently in that very process of endo-year backing up (my images, not my physical direction of movement). I do this every few months but I know of some who do it weekly.

Whatever flips your shutter.

Also as part of this end o’ the year transition, I cleaned out some images from my iPhone and Sony RX100 point-and-shoot miscellaneous files–previously unposted photographs I made whilst going to and fro on errands or just strolling about town (Barcelona). These are things that simply caught my eye but don’t really fall into any kind of a “project” category, so I haven’t worked them up in post for anything other than web viewing.

A few samples…

A little “film noir” effect here. Perhaps the beginning of a Barcelona series using this type of interpretation (post-processing) of local scenes:

The Saint, Barcelona, 2018
The Saint, NBA Café, Barcelona, 2018

 

This was part of an advert on the side of a bus stop…don’t some of those lines look like they actually bend in places?

Optical Contusion, Barcelona, 2017
Optical Contusion, Barcelona, 2017

 

The little sticker on the wall (hard to see in web view) says “Fools”, thus the title. A comment on the state of western civilization and its over-reliance on technology and business at the expense of philosophy and general wisdom???

Tower of Fools, Barcelona, 2018

 

Down by Barcelona’s port, that’s Chris Columbus pointing off toward the sands of Algeria for some reason. In contrast, we have three contrails, possibly from New World-bound Airbus jets, dissipating in the sky. Maybe four to six weeks back in Chris’s time; six to eight hours for the crossing today. These days, Columbus’s stock is falling rapidly in many places around the world based on the consequences of his voyages as well as his personal (and his crew’s) actions:

Colom i Nuvols, Barcelona, 2018
Colom i Nuvols, Barcelona, 2018

 

The composition and treatment I gave this one takes me back to about 1936 for some reason:

A Seagull in Passing, Barcelona, 2018
A Seagull in Passing, Barcelona, 2018

 

One of the illuminated fountains at Plaça Catalunya. Back in the day (1980s), my wife worked her radio program, “La Noia de la Nit”, from that top floor on the right where the lights are still on. I was playing with ghosts and camera motion in this one:

Plaça Catalunya, Barcelona, 2018
Plaça Catalunya, Barcelona, 2018

 

The Ups and Downs of Life (and Festivus)

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and a Wonderful Kwanzaa, for most. And a Fantastic Festivus for the rest of us!

For many, this time of year can be an emotional wild bronc ride, full of heavy jolts and terrible twists. Hopefully, for you, it is more of a smooth “up” escalator.

(At a very bare minimum, we can all at least be grateful we don’t have to wrestle George Costanza’s father!)

Escalators. Barcelona, 2017
Escalators. Barcelona, 2017

Magnets For Hanging Your Photographic Prints

For some reason, we photographers often feel compelled to mat and frame our photographic prints–at least many of us do. I know I have matted and framed a small Viking burial mound of them.

And, yes, matting and framing is still quite appropriate for many presentations and exhibits.

Or, we stick them on metal, wood, or onto a gallery wrap.

And, yes, these methods have their place, too.

But, they are all fairly costly–and no one gets to really see the fine detail in the print!

So, for a long time, I have been searching for a new(!) and improved(!) method–for the home as well as for my next show. Something cheaper…and, especially, something that would be a better experience for the viewer.

Maybe this is it???

MAGNETS!

Advantages…

–It is a very simple system.

–It is very, very cheap.

–You can swap out prints quickly and easily whenever you get bored with what is on the wall.

–There is no glass or acrylic between your print and the viewer.

Disadvantages…

–You need to take great care to make sure the metal screws are placed correctly–use a level, a tape measure, a helper, and perhaps even a cardboard sheet the exact size of your prints as a pattern.

–Your prints are naked and exposed to splashed spaghetti sauce, sneezes, drooling babies, fingerprints, dust, close examination by pixel-peeping photo fanatics, and so on.

 

To give you an example, here is what we have done in our living room…

 

 

These are 19×13 prints on Epson Exhibition Fiber paper. This is a fairly heavy paper (325gsm) but the four small magnets do the trick quite well and you can make small alignment adjustments with ease: 

Magnets, #1, Barcelona, 2017
Magnets, #1, Barcelona, 2017

This is just a part of our in-home gallery. We actually have three rows of four images, plus another wall with space for two portrait-oriented 13×19 photographs. We plan to swap out pictures every couple of months or so. Obviously, I can’t vary the size or orientation of the prints since the screws are set in the wall, so consider that before you launch ahead. 

 

Here is a close-up of the magnet I used. If you hang larger (and heavier) prints, you’ll need larger and/or thicker magnets. (Duh!) Tip: take a piece of your photo paper to the hardware store and see if one magnet over the paper and on the screw on one corner of the print will hold the weight–that will give you an idea about what size magnets to choose. (BTW, I think very large prints–like 40×60, for example, would look astounding this way. You would just need to get whopper magnets.)

Note that my prints have borders. Obviously, if you print borderless the magnet will be on top of your image. This may or may not be an issue for you (coat your prints with something like Premier Art Print Shield and it should mitigate scratching):

Magnets, #2, Barcelona, 2017
Magnets, #2, Barcelona, 2017

 

Under the print are these screws. The heads on the screw are about the same size as the magnet and I made sure they were nicely attracted to my magnets when I picked them out. The length and exact type of the screw will depend on the nature of your walls:

Magnets, #3, Barcelona, 2017
Magnets, #3, Barcelona, 2017

 

This, to give you a sense of the size again. The magnet is about as thick as a penny and almost exactly the same size as the home button on your iPhone:

Magnets, #4, Barcelona, 2017
Magnets, #4, Barcelona, 2017

 

And who can resist doing something surrealistically artistic with one of the above images. I liked the bizarre finger and the ominous shadows:

Magnets, #3 (As Art), Barcelona, 2017
Magnets, #3 (As Art), Barcelona, 2017

The Foixarda Climbing Tunnel, Barcelona

Is this perhaps a new project that is bubbling up from my amygdala? 

Documenting what goes on at this urban, open-air, climbing site could be interesting…it has sort of a grunge-zoo, hippie subculture atmosphere at times.

There are so many excellent climbing photographers who work in the traditional glossy-color-for-the-slick-magazines way (Jimmy Chin, anyone?) that I would most certainly need to focus on how I uniquely see things.

Maybe something like this:

Toward the Light, Foixarda, Barcelona, 2017
Toward the Light, Foixarda, Barcelona, 2017

An “Almost” and an Abstract

Boy With Paper Airplane, Barcelona, 2017
Boy With Paper Airplane, Barcelona, 2017

 

I always keep the little Sony RX100 in my jacket pocket whenever I walk around the city. You never know what you might see.

This image is an “almost”, not quite skewering that Cartier-Bresson-ish “decisive moment” street photogs yearn for. I only had one chance to get it correct in the frame as he ran through and I missed. If the paper airplane were more distinguishable–possibly a faster shutter speed?–that might have helped. If there were better separation of the boy and the leaves, that would have helped as well–maybe the leaves in front of the boy and the boy just entering the frame?

Also, if he were running through the frame of that square window to his right and down below, might that have been better?

Another idea might be to simply retitle the image, “Boy Chasing the White Dove of Peace”, or some pseudo-arty-farty shenanigans like that. (Since you can’t readily tell it is a paper airplane in his hand, and it looks more like a bird anyway.)

Ah, well. All you can do is stay alert and keep trying!

 

Near that same area of Barcelona, I came across a very different scene that made for what I thought was an OK abstract. Hopefully, it will disorient you for a few seconds before you figure it out…or, perhaps, it is obvious:

Reflejos, Barcelona, 2017
Reflejos, Barcelona, 2017

December in Prague: Random Travel Comments, the Sony RX100ii, and the B61 Bomb

Prague, #43, Czech Republic, 2017 (Spanish Synagogue)
Prague, #43, Czech Republic, 2017 (Spanish Synagogue)

 

What I learned on my visit to Prague

–The climate and history must weigh heavily on Czech humor. Yes, a decided dourness abounds, but nothing a few words in Czech can’t penetrate (at least learn “thank you”, or děkuji, if nothing else). I think the Czechs would say that American service employees are two-faced, with their false friendliness and smiley helpfulness intended only to improve profits, not to gain friendship. With the Czechs, on the other hand, you get honesty–WYSIWYG.

–Russian matryoshka dolls are the Prague equivalent of the flamenco and bull fighter figurines you find in many cheap Barcelona curio shops. And those furry USSR hats? Yep, same category.

–The Charles Bridge is the Prague people-and-touron–watching equivalent of La Rambla in Barcelona…or Times Square in NYC…or Pearl Street Mall in Boulder. OK, I’m stretching it a bit on the last one.

–The Charles Bridge is mostly empty at sunrise–except for a dozen or so tripods with their attached cameras and photographers.

–There are probably 10,000+ locks in and around the Charles Bridge area (not counting the locks the boats use), all left behind by hopelessly enamored couples confirming their committment to each other. How many keys are at the bottom of the Vltava River? How many couples now wish they could return to Prague with a pair of heavy-duty bolt cutters?

–I wonder what the rest of Prague is like? The heavily-touristed city center is gorgeous, but super-trampled. What is life like in Prague for the typical resident not living or working in the tourist zone?

–There are penguins in Prague, albeit yellow plastic ones. And giant brown-bronze babies, too.

–Some people who write on the Lennon Wall are outright idiots with no sense of culture or history. A few are thoughtful. Not too many.

–Winter is freezing-ass cold, what with the fog and humidity and all…and it wasn’t even quite winter for us. Oh, how it cuts right through all your lumpy layers whilst you wait in line for your warm trdelník.

–I could definitely live here–from April through October, that is. The city is gorgeous and there is a lifetime of history and architecture to explore. The cold rest of the year? How about Mallorca!?

–It was crowded as hell the first week of December…what must the busy summer tourist season be like???

–The public transportation is awesome. With the Metro, buses, and trams, there is almost no need to use a car or taxi, especially downtown.

–They might be using the Euro currency in the Czech Republic by 2020, but they currently still use Czech crowns, or koruna. Current exchange rate: roughly 24-25 koruna to the Euro.

–Prague is part of the Schengen group of countries in the European Union. What does that mean? It means no customs or passport controls when traveling to/from these countries. This is a major convenience…like going from Colorado to California, for instance.

–McDonald’s and Ryan Air must use the same interior decorators. You need sunglasses to visit both…then there are the fast food ads on the backs of the airline seats that look they came from a Dairy Queen menu.

The B61 Nuclear Bomb

Finally, and soberingly, I was once a young F-16 pilot (“lawn dart”, or “viper” driver), based in West Germany, tasked with the job of “laying down” a B-61 nuclear bomb (or “dial-a-disaster”, as the kiloton yield could be adjusted with a dial on the bomb itself) on some underground Warsaw Pact communications center outside of Prague. That is, if the big bad balloon had gone up and the USA and the USSR had pressed their respective and figurative red doomsday buttons. All this, of course, IAW the SIOP…which carefully integrated the US military’s triad into a massive end-times attack as the ultimate of various options.

Ah, fun times during the Cold War.

The real B61 nuke “device” to some, had a beautiful mahogany nosecone and was much smaller than you’d think–less than a thousand pounds and easily stored in most standard living rooms on a very sturdy coffee table. Upon delivery of the “package”, even at Mach-snot, the Escape Distance Actual was less then the Escape Distance Required, if I remember right. That was way BITD in 1987-1989. Then The Wall came tumbling down and suddenly we were all friends, Trabants (“spark plugs with roofs”) were putt-putting into Berlin to buy stuff (anything!), we shook hands with the guards in East Berlin, rented a hammer and chisel from a couple of young Turks, and ended up with a multi-colored piece of The Wall on our mantelshelf.

Interesting how times and politics change. Thank you, Slim Pickens!

Oh, yes, photography!

As to the photography theme…I used the Sony RX100ii exclusively during this trip. It fits in your pocket–a huge convenience–and has a 20mp sensor that does pretty well in low light despite its small size. Its image stabilization works fairly well also, thus making for a good handheld system for a traveler. The lens has a 28mm to 100mm equivalent optical zoom (f/1.8-4.9). Newer versions of the RX100, starting with the iii (3), have a 24-70mm f/1.8-2.8 equivalent lens–so, you get a much faster lens for low light at the expense of telephoto range.

In the following pics, I will give you the basic EXIF data with each of these images (along with a few relevant comments) so you can judge for yourself how effective this little Sony might be in your personal paws. (They are up to version 5 now; the one I used on this trip was a version 2, or ii.) Click here to see a selection of Prague images, with commentary. Thanks!

The Ghost Women Return

Here in Barcelona, I have found a few more for the collection.

As in previous such photographs, it’s about juxtaposition of odd, found elements (in the detritus of old posters) that seem to work together (at least for me) to carry a story or message about women and their experiences.

 

The Queen sticks out her tongue in zombie-like psychedelic irony at the many class and testosterone-fueled revolutions of history:

Ghost Women, #101, Barcelona, 2017
Ghost Women, #101, Barcelona, 2017

 

Woe to she who takes one step beyond, striving upwards, bumping against the glass ceiling, or (surprise!) even cracking through it. “How do you sleep at night?” (“¿Duermes?”), asks the threatening bearded Neanderthal caveman:

Ghost Women, #103, Barcelona, 2017
Ghost Women, #103, Barcelona, 2017

 

“Dad’, screams the daughter, “put down your stupid phone and come to dinner!”, as her goofy older brother and no-longer-caring-and-blacked-out mother look on:

Ghost Women, #104, Barcelona, 2017
Ghost Women, #104, Barcelona, 2017

 

The flower girl, pursued by five small fish (or, perhaps, large whales writ small), says, “When a flower doesn’t bloom, you fix the environment in which it grows…not the flower.”

Ghost Women, #104, Barcelona, 2017
Ghost Women, #104, Barcelona, 2017