Pure Luxury

Port View #3. Barcelona, 2013
Port View #3. Barcelona, 2013

Just how much is enough? How much wealth does it take before it becomes…well…just a tad excessive (to be polite)? Today’s story offers up one example…

Just out of curiosity, I Googled the yacht in my December, 2013 photograph above–the big one closest to the Hotel W, the one called “Eclipse“. Here is what I found out–prepare yourself, it’s straight out of an Austin Powers or James Bond flick:

–At 536 feet long, it is the world’s second largest private yacht, completed in 2010 for Russian billionaire, Roman Abramovich, for a cost of somewhere around $475 million–although some estimates claim as high as $1.5 billion. (The largest yacht is the 590-foot Azzam.)

–It has two helicopter pads, two swimming pools, a disco, and its 24 to 34 VIPs require a crew of 70 to run everything smoothly.

–For coastal excursions, it comes equipped with three launch boats and–oh, why not–a mini-submarine capable of depths up to 150 feet.

–To assuage the potential paranoia of shipboard guests, it has its own missile defense system, the bridge is armor-plated and includes bullet-proof windows. (But where is the giant laser? Read on, for a surprise.)

–The ship is now available for charter through SuperYachtsMonaco, although I couldn’t see the prices on their website–I don’t have the client access passwords just yet. Besides, you know what they say: “If you need to ask…”. I guess the charter gig gives Mr. Abramovich a little cash flow.

–Oh…you asked about the laser? Well, apparently, it has a system that can somehow detect digital cameras and then shine the laser at you to prevent you from getting those humiliating celebrity pics the National Enquirer hired you to shoot. Sounds pretty far fetched–and I got my shot, right!

Oh, and this is just one of five motor yachts in “Abramovich’s navy”.

The quote that haunts me

Park Güell View #9 (Double Agbar). Barcelona, 2014
Park Güell View #9 (Double Agbar). Barcelona, 2014

I can’t remember where I read it or heard it…or who said it, but I find it constantly banging about in my brain bucket whenever I look at my images and whenever I am out with my eye to the viewfinder.To wit:

“Show me something I haven’t already seen before.”

That’s pretty much it in a tiny seashell. How do we make images so different that the viewer reacts by taking a step back and exclaiming, “Wow, I haven’t ever seen anything like that before!” (Caveat: some photographs take time to decipher and understand, so the “wow” can be delayed in some cases.)

This is REALLY hard to do and most of my images fail when I objectively apply this particular test. How about you? The hope is that, with time, one does begin to collect a file of images that are truly different from anything else on the planet. This is possible based on the simple fact that no one of us is alike in how we see things…so, theoretically, if we can dig down into our inner mini-me (nice and deep) we should be able to tap into an individuality that can be reflected in our photographs. Theoretically.

Ahhh…it’s all so easy to say.

Park Güell and the giant burger

Park Güell #15. Barcelona, 2014
Park Güell #15. Barcelona, 2014

When I originally framed this image in my viewfinder a few weeks back, I was thinking mainly about the lines. I was striving for something a bit different–maybe tending slightly toward the abstract–something I hoped would be an alternative to the billions of other tourist photos made in this very spot. (But, as the saying goes: “It is easier for the photographer to pass through the f/32 aperture of his macro lens than for that same dude or dudette to make a truly original image of an oft-trampled, UNESCO World Heritage, tourist site.”)

After working on it in post, though, I realized that I had inadvertantly achieved my original goal by creating a giant, abstract, Frankenstein hamburger! Can you see it there in the right 2/3 of the photograph? You kind of have to let your eyes relax…just let yourself sink into the optical contusion (sic and sick!).

This opens up a whole new arena of possibilities as I try to incorporate this idea of the optical illusion into my “seeing”.

Young sailors and their little paper boats

Sailor On Watch. Barcelona, 2014
Sailor On Watch. Barcelona, 2014

Barquito de papel     by Joan Manuel SerratBarquito de papel,
sin nombre, sin patrón
y sin bandera,
navegando sin timón
donde la corriente quiera.

Aventurero audaz,
jinete de papel
que mi mano sin pasado
sentó a lomos de un canal.

Cuando el canal era un río,
cuando el estanque era el mar,
y navegar
era jugar con el viento,
era una sonrisa a tiempo,
fugándose feliz
de país en país,
entre la escuela y mi casa,
después el tiempo pasa
y te olvidas de aquel
barquito de papel.

Barquito de papel,
en qué extraño arenal
han varado
tu sonrisa y mi pasado,
vestidos de collegial.

Cuando el canal era un río,
cuando el estanque era el mar,
y navegar
era jugar con el viento,
era una sonrisa a tiempo.

The YouTube video for your enjoyment:

For a rough English translation… Click here!

Why black and white?

Curve and Round. Barcelona, 2014
Curve and Round. Barcelona, 2014

Here are a few “whys” I have collected over time. (This is all quite subjective, so don’t let the declarative nature of the following sentences tweak your big, bad, bent, beak.)

So…Why black and white?

–B&W is timeless.

–B&W places the emphasis on forms, tones, shapes, and textures.

–B&W emphasizes light and shadow.

–B&W is abstract fantasy–except it isn’t; it is reality–except it isn’t.

–B&W makes a more subtle statement–except when it is more dramatic.

–B&W is nostalgic–we grew up with it (well, some of us older farts, anyway).

–B&W reduces an image to the essential.

–B&W is classy and romantic.

–B&W makes you think; color often simply makes you react.

And while we are bad-mouthing color (all in good fun, of course!):

–Colors are too quotidian.

–Color takes away the mystery.

–Color is too distracting.

–Color is often merely decorative.

–Color distracts from the underlying truth–it muddies the message.

Finally: B&W is an attitude, dammit!

OK…OK…You could write a similar list of the advantages of color–so put that beak back in place!

“The Armstrong Lie”, A Film

Setting Up the Sprint. The pro peloton in Denver, Colorado in August, 2013. (Here's hoping they are all clean now!)
Setting Up the Sprint. The pro peloton in Denver, Colorado in August, 2013. (Here’s hoping they are at least mostly clean now!)

Just saw this film last night. The interesting thing is that, being in the bike-crazy town of Boulder, we were lucky enough to have the producer, Frank Marshall, as well as Betsy Andreu and Jonathan Vaughters (Team Garmin-Sharp manager) on hand for a post-show panel discussion and Q&A.

First, the movie. Originally to be a documentary focusing on Lance’s 2009 comeback, it went through some interesting production contortions once all the doping mess started to come to light–Floyd’s and Tyler’s revelations, the federal investigation, and finally, the famous Oprah interview–before it was finally released last year in its final form. Click here for the rest o’ the story.

Going light

Dove and Three Windows #3. Boulder, Colorado, 2014 (with Nikon D90)
Dove and Three Windows #3. Boulder, Colorado, 2014 (with Nikon D90)

Much of the time, in Barcelona, I was schlepping around my fairly brick-like D800, three lenses, and a tripod–especially on the morning sunrise shoots. That is a hunk of weight even though my Think Tank waist bag does a journeyperson’s job handling it all. Once I was at work making pictures I loved having all that capability with me, but the Sherpa work to get to the summit I didn’t enjoy.

Now that my D800 is on its way back to Nikon for repairs, I get to downsize and in some ways it is a huge relief. I am now walking around with my old, 12mp, Nikon D90 and a 35mm f/1.8 fixed lens (50mm equivalent). What a massive difference–the thing feels like a toy!–and I am never wasting brain cells on focal length decisions. As many other photographers have said, simplicity like this can be very liberating and force you to think more about “seeing”, which is what it’s all about anyway (along with the hokey-pokey).

It’s nice to know that one of the big trends in camera technology today is packing ever more capability into ever smaller packages. One interesting example is the new Sony A7R with 36 megapixels in a box WAY smaller than a D800. My post-D800 life (in a few years) will likely include one of these new, lighter wonder machines (54 megapixels, ISO 12,800 in an iPhone-sized body? Maybe!).

Anyway, back to the smaller, lighter, older, and (as some would say) nearly worthless D90. Here are a few examples of what can happen in 15 minutes with this “outdated” photo tool at the local mall… the late afternoon winter shadows got me thinking about doing this short essay:

Mall Shadows #3. 29th Street Mall, Boulder, Colorado, 2014
Mall Shadows #3. 29th Street Mall, Boulder, Colorado, 2014
Mall Shadows #4. 29th Street Mall, Boulder, Colorado, 2014
Mall Shadows #4. 29th Street Mall, Boulder, Colorado, 2014
Mall Shadows #6. 29th Street Mall, Boulder, Colorado, 2014
Mall Shadows #6. 29th Street Mall, Boulder, Colorado, 2014

“Photography for a Change”, Photography Show

In a blog post back in September I wrote about Dana Bove’s new website concept for promoting quality nature photography while, at the same time, helping out selected non-profit organizations. The website is called Photography for a Change and is still going strong and gaining interest and popularity.

Here is a brief update

–Dana has selected his second group of photographic artists and their online show is now up on the Photography for a Change website: Alan Bogart, Bryce Bradford, David Silver and Dana Bove.

–An additional non-profit organization has recently been added to the program for a total of three. So, when you buy a print online from Photography for a Change you can choose which one(s) will get the profits from your purchase. The three: Attention Homes, Western Resource Advocates, and Boulder Bridge House.

–Finally, and perhaps of most interest, Dana has organized a real show (as opposed to virtual) at the Boulder eTown studio in which selected prints from Photography for a Change artists are being displayed. The show is open an hour before each scheduled eTown taping session and runs through February 28, 2014 and is well worth a visit (a great plan: work it so you can stay for the radio show after viewing the photography). Seeing actual, large, framed, quality prints on the wall is always a wonderful experience and beats squinting at them on your iPhone, iPad or desktop computer by many country kilometers. Again, profits from prints sold at this show will benefit the three non-profits. The featured photographers are the four I have already mentioned above along with Dan Baumbach.

Heeeeeere’s Dana!…host of the eTown photography show:

Photography for a Change. Show at Boulder's eTown through February 28, 2014


The eTown building at 1535 Spruce Street, Boulder, Colorado:

eTown Hall, Boulder, Colorado
eTown Hall, Boulder, Colorado