Barcelona & Catalunya

Corky Vodka Shots and Camera Movement

There is always much blab and jabber of getting the mostest-sharpest image you can possibly get out of your camera. And there is certainly a time for that.

But, there are also circumstances when you might NOT want that sharpness. In fact, maybe you want to go to the opposite extreme and throw in a whole lot of movement and blur–on purpose.

I do have one previous blog post on this subject in which I talk about this very thing: Deliberate Blur, June 1, 2014. You might want to check that out, too.

The idea of deliberately moving the camera for a special effect occurred to me once again whilst we dined at a small place in Barcelona called Café-Bar Restaurante Reñé at Carrer del Consell de Cent, 362. It used to be a very well-known and tasty pastry shop years ago (starting in 1910) and they have thankfully retained the wonderful, 1920s-era, wooden-marble facade and interior imported from Cuba. A beautimous place, for sure. 

What caught my photographer’s eyeball was the neatly arranged and nicely illuminated rack of Corky-brand vodka flavors on one wall (and, yes, someone actually drinks this stuff). It was just begging for some creative experimentation. So, this is where I went with it…(all shot with the Sony RX100iv).

First, you could try your standard well-focused shot, maybe bumping up the ISO to give you an adequate shutter speed to compensate for the fairly dim indoor lighting. Instead of shooting the subject straight on and symmetrical, though, I chose to aim at an angle to add at least a little dynamism to the picture. And I started things off at the bottom left with a bottle that appears to be out-of-place. The colors were obviously very attractive and, for me, the major element of the composition:

Corky Vodka Shots, #4. Café-Bar Restaurante Reñé, Barcelona, 2017
Corky Vodka Shots, #4. Café-Bar Restaurante Reñé, Barcelona, 2017 (1/30th sec, F7.1, ISO1600)

 

Next, maybe you could try keeping the angle idea but doing some small, sharp, rotating movements just as you snap the shutter:

Corky Vodka Shots, #5. Café-Bar Restaurante Reñé, Barcelona, 2017
Corky Vodka Shots, #5. Café-Bar Restaurante Reñé, Barcelona, 2017 (1/8th sec, F4.5, ISO100)

 

In this one, I tried to center the camera on one particular bottle and then rotate the camera around that chosen center point as I snapped:

Corky Vodka Shots, #6. Café-Bar Restaurante Reñé, Barcelona, 2017
Corky Vodka Shots, #6. Café-Bar Restaurante Reñé, Barcelona, 2017 (1/8th sec, F4.5, ISO100)

 

If you do the same thing as in the previous example, but twist the camera around at a faster rate, this is what you might get. Experimentation and multiple “takes” with various movements and shutter speeds is the key:

Corky Vodka Shots, #2. Café-Bar Restaurante Reñé, Barcelona, 2017
Corky Vodka Shots, #2. Café-Bar Restaurante Reñé, Barcelona, 2017 (1/2 sec, F7.1, ISO125)

 

A straight vertical motion might render like this. You’ll see this technique used by some photographers when shooting trees or flowers to create sort of a ghost-like effect:

Corky Vodka Shots, #7. Café-Bar Restaurante Reñé, Barcelona, 2017
Corky Vodka Shots, #7. Café-Bar Restaurante Reñé, Barcelona, 2017 (1/8th sec, F4.5, ISO100)

 

I could have spent a good half-hour playing with the myriad possibilities, but the patrons probably would not have enjoyed the gringo with the camera lurking around their tables for so long. So, I called it quits after maybe a dozen images or so, a selection of which you see here.

Postscript: I wonder…if you have consumed a large quantity of these flavored vodka shots then perhaps all the blurry photographs I have posted here will actually be in focus, sharp as a tack??? (Except the very first one, which will actually look blurry to the alcohol-affected brain.)

Gentrification (and Tourism) in Barcelona, the Case of Vallcarca

Vallcarca, #11. Vallcarca, Barcelona, 2017
Vallcarca, #11. Vallcarca, Barcelona, 2017 (“Vallcarca…For the people…”)

 

I suppose every big, popular, and growing city has its gentrification issues. In New York, it looks like Brooklyn is well on its way and Harlem is next on the “shopping block” for well-off and motivated investors and retirees. 

Even small towns are not immune…Boulder (Colorado), Jackson (Wyoming), Traverse City (Michigan), Portland (Maine), to name a few. The common cadence: long-time residents being pushed out due to rising real estate prices and general cost o’ living. Some places, like our fine burg of Boulder, recognize what is happening and have attempted to ameliorate the process with “affordable housing programs” for people who ordinarily wouldn’t be able to live there–you know, poor, low income folks like firemen, policemen, school teachers, and so on.

Here in Barcelona, the barrio known as Vallcarca, uphill from Plaza Lesseps, has been the epicenter of a similar fight. Their chief complaints:

–Real estate speculation and development (much of it corrupt!?) which threatens to force out long-time residents.

–Urban growth master plans that don’t necessarily take into account the desires of the local population.

–An emphasis on tourism which also threatens to permanently alter the face of this neighborhood.

Perusing Google, I came across a doctoral thesis that examined this very topic in excruciating detail (382 pages!):  Prácticas y poéticas de un barrio en transformación: el caso de Vallcarca en Barcelona, by Marco Luca Stanchieri (November, 2015). Read through it if you would like further info, including some interesting background on the okupa movement in Barcelona, their philosophy and activities.

Some images…

Save the old nucleus of Vallcarca…Barcelona is not for sale…” implores the large mural, in Catalan. Many empty lots, from the initial phase of de-construction, can be seen in the area–eventually to be converted into large apartment buildings, unless the resistance somehow prevails. The 2008 recession stopped a lot of this development–for now–and many open spaces are currently used for sports, walking the dog, and social gatherings: 

Vallcarca, #8. Vallcarca, Barcelona, 2017
Vallcarca, #8. Vallcarca, Barcelona, 2017

 

Some impressive urban art can be found along the walls of these vacant lots:

Vallcarca, #6. Vallcarca, Barcelona, 2017
Vallcarca, #6. Vallcarca, Barcelona, 2017

 

The electric hippo-triceratops (is that what it is???) is one of my favorites–found in yet another vacant lot:

Vallcarca, #3. Vallcarca, Barcelona, 2017
Vallcarca, #3. Vallcarca, Barcelona, 2017

 

A close-up of another impressive mural. The paper poster says, in Catalan: “Together we build the neighborhood in which we live…Neighbors, wake up, Barcelona is not for sale.

Vallcarca, #10. Vallcarca, Barcelona, 2017
Vallcarca, #10. Vallcarca, Barcelona, 2017

 

Núñez, get out of this neighborhood…Enough [real estate] speculation.” So says the graffiti on this wall. José Luis Núñez was president of Barcelona’s famous football (soccer) team for 22 years but, more relevant here, he is a major real estate developer. Núñez, along with his son, were recently fined a few million Euros and then spent some time relaxing in prison–their reward for being found guilty of bribing tax collectors and of tax evasion (“Caso Hacienda“). Currently, the father-son team is back at the construction and development business.

Vallcarca, #7. Vallcarca, Barcelona, 2017
Vallcarca, #7. Vallcarca, Barcelona, 2017

 

The poster on the left says,”Núñez and Navarro…guilty of the destruction of Vallcarca…we don’t forget…we don’t forgive.”

Vallcarca, #9. Vallcarca, Barcelona, 2017
Vallcarca, #9. Vallcarca, Barcelona, 2017

 

Here and there, throughout Barcelona proper, you may run across the attractive advertising signs for ex-felons Núñez and Navarro. Their slogan: “Building Barcelona together.” Obviously, not all would agree, especially up the hill in Vallcarca.

Vallcarca, #15. Barcelona, 2017
Vallcarca, #15. Barcelona, 2017

 

A more direct insult: “Not Núñez, nor Navarro…Capitalism Fuck Off!”

Vallcarca, #13. Vallcarca, Barcelona, 2017
Vallcarca, #13. Vallcarca, Barcelona, 2017

 

More slogans, this time the theme of tourism infiltrates and rears its cranium…”For a neighborhood for all locals…no tourists, no hostels, no excavators…Tourism kills the neighborhood…In Vallcarca we don’t forget…Don’t let Núñez and Navarro build on top of the homes that they themselves tore down!…Speculators out of the neighborhood!…Núñez and Navarro guilty of the destruction of Vallcarca…we don’t forget…we don’t forgive!

Vallcarca, #12. Vallcarca, Barcelona, 2017
Vallcarca, #12. Vallcarca, Barcelona, 2017

 

And just in case the anti-tourism message didn’t get through, here’s an especially in-your-face version. If you have walked Las Ramblas or tried to shove your way through La Boqueria market recently, you may sympathize. Barcelona can indeed appear to be inundated by gangs of red umbrella-following tourists, many coming from the parade of monster cruise ships that dock regularly at the port.

Still, don’t fret if you have travels plans to Barcelona. My experience has been that most locals you meet are actually quite friendly and accepting, and will kindly give you directions to wherever you might be headed (especially if you can toss out a few words in Catalan rather than Castellano/Spanish, or English!).

Vallcarca, #14. Barcelona, 2017
Vallcarca, #14. Barcelona, 2017

Self Portrait Series (Legs and Balls…so to speak)

Having fun with composition and perspective along a Barcelona sidewalk, despite the many and constant sidelong glances of passers-by…

“I’m on top of the world, lookin’ down on creation…”

Song: Top of the World, The Carpenters (1972)

Self-Portrait, Legs and Balls, #1. Barcelona, 2017
Self-Portrait, Legs and Balls, #1. Barcelona, 2017

 

Self-Portrait, Legs and Balls, #2. Barcelona, 2017
Self-Portrait, Legs and Balls, #2. Barcelona, 2017

 

Self-Portrait, Legs and Balls, #3. Barcelona, 2017
Self-Portrait, Legs and Balls, #3. Barcelona, 2017

Ghost Women in Barcelona

My eye keeps finding more images for my Ghost Women series. This time, on the walls along the streets and alleyways of Barcelona. (See more of this portfolio, along with an explanation, under the Galleries tab above.)

In this photograph of some urban graffiti and poster advert detritus, I was seeing two couples–but their relationships are quite different. Perhaps one couple (upper) has managed to find accommodation and contentedness while the other (lower) is dealing with resentment, fear, perhaps even abuse?

Ghost Women, #51. Barcelona, 2017
Ghost Women, #51 (Dos Parejas, Un Contraste). Barcelona, 2017

 

Can you see the face of self-destruction in this next photograph? Torn and disfigured…disappearing…perhaps due to unspeakable childhood traumas…the disintegrating effects of an addiction, maybe…

Ghost Women, #52 (Autodestruction). Barcelona, 2017
Ghost Women, #52 (Disappearing Self). Barcelona, 2017

 

Apparently comfortable, happy and healthy in their own skins in this urban space–what are their 3000 personal stories?

Ghost Women, #53 (What is their story?). Barcelona, 2017
Ghost Women, #53 (What is their story?). Barcelona, 2017

 

All I want is respect…dignity…you know, all those standard human rights we all ought to enjoy…

Ghost Women, #55 (Deserving of Respect). Barcelona, 2017
Ghost Women, #55 (Deserving of Respect). Barcelona, 2017

 

High voltage 69…authorized personnel only…

Ghost Women #56 (High Tension 69). Barcelona, 2017
Ghost Women #56 (High Tension 69). Barcelona, 2017

 

In a bar…on the street…a furtive glance. But who is he, really? Perhaps just a mere phantom of her own personal opera?

Ghost Women, #57 (A Furtive Glance). Barcelona, 2017
Ghost Women, #57 (A Furtive Glance). Barcelona, 2017

 

Is she in pursuit of a life-saving superhero? Ah, but superheroes are often distracted, with other, grander (!?), things on their minds. Or maybe they just want to go out alone on the balcony for a pensive smoke now and then…

Ghost Women, #58 (In Pursuit of a Superhero). Barcelona, 2017
Ghost Women, #58 (In Pursuit of a Superhero). Barcelona, 2017

 

And, finally, we have Leonardo’s reflective Mona Lisa selling Louis Vuitton handbags. I wonder what da Vinci would think of that? Would Lisa del Giocondo approve? And who were the Madmen/women who came up with this mad marketing campaign, anyway?

Ghost Women, #59 (Mona Lisa Marketing). Barcelona, 2017
Ghost Women, #59 (Mona Lisa Marketing). Barcelona, 2017

How to “judge” an image

Barcelona Dawn, #1. Barcelona, Catalunya, 2015
Barcelona Dawn, #1. Barcelona, Catalunya, 2015

 

Whether you like an image or not is often a very personal affair. One person’s elegant Louis Vuitton purse can easily be another’s shit-covered sow’s ear.

Still, there are certain key ingredients which tend to be found in all the very best works of art, including photographs.

The Professional Photographers of America (PPA) has identified 12 such ingredients.

EXERCISE: Before you read through the list that follows, pick out a few of your very best prints and set them in front of you in good light. Now, as you run down the PPA’s master list, try to objectively “judge” each of your prints based on these criteria. How do they measure up? Purse or sow’s ear? Or something in-between?

The 12 Elements of a Merit Image

Impact is the sense one gets upon viewing an image for the first time. Compelling images evoke laughter, sadness, anger, pride, wonder or another intense emotion.

Technical excellence is the print quality of the image itself as it is presented for viewing. Retouching, manipulation, sharpness, exposure, printing, mounting, and correct color are some items that speak to the qualities of the physical print.

Creativity is the original, fresh, and external expression of the imagination of the maker by using the medium to convey an idea, message or thought.

Style is defined in a number of ways as it applies to a creative image. It might be defined by a specific genre or simply be recognizable as the characteristics of how a specific artist applies light to a subject. It can impact an image in a positive manner when the subject matter and the style are appropriate for each other, or it can have a negative effect when they are at odds.

Composition is important to the design of an image, bringing all of the visual elements together in concert to express the purpose of the image. Proper composition holds the viewer in the image and prompts the viewer to look where the creator intends. Effective composition can be pleasing or disturbing, depending on the intent of the image maker.

Presentation affects an image by giving it a finished look. The mats and borders used, either physical or digital, should support and enhance the image, not distract from it.

Color Balance supplies harmony to an image. An image in which the tones work together, effectively supporting the image, can enhance its emotional appeal. Color balance is not always harmonious and can be used to evoke diverse feelings for effect.

Center of Interest is the point or points on the image where the maker wants the viewer to stop as they view the image. There can be primary and secondary centers of interest. Occasionally there will be no specific center of interest, when the entire scene collectively serves as the center of interest.

Lighting —the use and control of light—refers to how dimension, shape and roundness are defined in an image. Whether the light in an image is manmade or natural, proper use of it should enhance an image.

Subject Matter should always be appropriate to the story being told in an image.

Technique is the approach used to create the image. Printing, lighting, posing, capture, presentation media, and more are part of the technique applied to an image.

Story Telling refers to the image’s ability to evoke imagination. One beautiful thing about art is that each viewer might collect his own message or read her own story in an image.

You can find more information about Professional Photographers of America, as well as the “12 Elements” at the website: www.ppa.com

Pensive Zombie

Contemplating the River Styx. Barcelona, 2014
Contemplating the River Styx. Barcelona, 2014

 

Zombie: A reanimated human corpse.

River Styx: To reach the Underworld, it must be crossed.

What would a zombie do if faced with this barrier? Do zombies get free ferry passes to travel to and fro between Earth and the Underworld at their whim?

Of course, the man in this photograph is not really a zombie…but what might be on his mind, all alone on the pier at dawn? Thoughts of the Underworld, perhaps?

I was just reviewing, sorting, printing, and updating my various portfolios and ran across this. It is one of my favorites from the piers along the Barcelona sea front.

An Evening Beach Photo Walk, in Monochrome

Here is a baker’s dozen from a photo stroll yesterday afternoon-evening, all captured with the handy little Sony RX100iv. From the Metro stop Ciutadella/Vila Olímpica, we walked the coastal section from the big mesh-metal fish to Hotel Vela (W Hotel).

The idea of the “seeing” exercise was to look for street/beach/urban scenes that would work in B&W.

Do they?

 

Is it about to roll off onto the ground? Does it bother you? Hope so!

Ball and Layers. Barcelona, 2015
Ball and Layers. Barcelona, 2015

 

My title, not his. It looked like he was simply out to enjoy the water, But, I wonder if it didn’t cross his mind, however fleetingly.

Contemplating Suicide. Barcelona, 2015
Contemplating Suicide. Barcelona, 2015

 

In the sand, until the next wave.

Signs of Friday. Barcelona, 2015
Signs of Friday. Barcelona, 2015

 

Catching another photographer in action, hunting for that unique perspective.

Dedicated Photographer. Barcelona, 2015
Dedicated Photographer. Barcelona, 2015

 

A diagonal-vertical motif.

Monoliths, Small and Large. Barcelona, 2015
Monoliths, Small and Large. Barcelona, 2015

 

Kids at play.

Dreaming of High Flight. Barcelona, 2015
Dreaming of High Flight. Barcelona, 2015

 

A pause in the action on the sand court…a sailboat in the tranquil distance.

Volley to the Center. Barcelona, 2015
Volley to the Center. Barcelona, 2015

 

Another image with the in-between theme.

Sailboat and Airliner In-Between. Barcelona, 2015
Sailboat and Airliner In-Between. Barcelona, 2015

 

Rooms starting at 300 Euros, going all the way up to over 10,000 Euros (around $13,000) for a night in the “Extreme Suite“…all yours at the “Hotel Vela“.

Hotel W. Barcelona, 2015
Hotel W. Barcelona, 2015

 

Contrast of curved architecture with the traditional.

Hotel W and Olympic Towers. Barcelona, 2015
Hotel W and Olympic Towers. Barcelona, 2015

 

Playing around with two possible sets of leading lines.

Two Friends. Barcelona, 2015
Two Friends. Barcelona, 2015

 

Symmetry and tranquility.

The Contemplative Cyclist. Barcelona, 2015
The Contemplative Cyclist. Barcelona, 2015

 

Experimentation.

Self-Portrait in Aluminum. Barcelona, 2015
Self-Portrait in Aluminum. Barcelona, 2015

Portrait of a Barcelona Master Baker

Daniel, Panadería, #10. Barcelona, 2015
Daniel, Panadería, #10. Barcelona, 2015

 

In some ways this is sort of a working vacation here in Barcelona. My very special spousal unit and I are working on a photography project for a family member who will soon open a healthy food café in the city.

The photo project? Images of the food providers for the new café and close-up images of the individual food products themselves.

This is something very new for us, and slightly out of our comfort zone, which I suppose is a good thing, right? Perhaps at some point I will post some of those pictures to this blog, along with some lessons learned.

In the meantime, the rest o’ this particular story…

As part of the project, a few days ago we visited the panadería, Panes Creativos de Daniel Jordà, where many of the bread products, muffins, rolls, etc. will come from for the new restaurant. Ah, the glorious aroma of lightly browned and golden-crisp baguettes fresh from the oven! And all the different breads (of every shape, size, and recipe) were about as close to grandma’s home baked stuff as you can get–all heavily infused with much love and attention by Daniel, the master baker and owner.

I naturally worked the photos we needed for the project (as above, for example), but I was struck by how wonderful Daniel was as a portrait subject. His passion and pride for his work glittered in his eyes and he wore an aura of peace about him. It would be wonderful to have an environmental portrait session with just him.

And, of course, if you are looking for pretty much the best bread products you can get in Barcelona, look no farther than his modest bakery.

 

It’s all in the eyes. A couple of the big round loaves of his famous bread are in the background…

Daniel, Panadería, #14. Barcelona, 2015
Daniel, Panadería, #14. Barcelona, 2015

 

And a more messiah-like expression…

Daniel, Retrato. Barcelona, 2015
Daniel, Retrato. Barcelona, 2015

Tourism in Barcelona

Nice Outfit! Barcelona Tourists, 2015
Nice Outfit! Barcelona Tourists, 2015

 

Barcelona is a wonderful city in many ways, from its history dating back to Roman times (and even earlier), to its lively art, music, and theater scene, to its architecture, and yes, to its uninhibited night life. And lots of folks around the globe have figured that out.

So, today, as you walk down the crowded La Rambla, or as you aggressively shoulder your way in to buy some sweets in La Boqueria market, you will find yourself mixing it up with thousands of other tourists, many just recently disgorged from a monster cruise ship in the nearby port. In the minority in many areas are the local Catalans, strolling about or out to pick up a few things for the evening meal.

Thus the growing debate.

How do you bring in those tempting tourist dollars yet preserve something of the authentic, original Barcelona (whatever that might be) for those who actually live, work, and raise children here? How do you maintain a pleasant environment for long-time and settled Barcelona residents yet keep the place from turning into a noisy and shallow Disneyland, selling trinkets and T-shirts by day, and morphing into a loud, obnoxious, party-til-you-puke, throw-the-beer-cans-on-the-beach, disco destination by night?

Those tourist dollars are indeed wonderful–but at what cost? What might be the right balance? And then, how to achieve that balance?

 

Stop the Noise! Near a Barcelona tourist area, 2015
Stop the Noise! Near a Barcelona tourist area, 2015