Around the Block in Barcelona (Our new home!)

Window on the Dawn. Parc del Forum, Barcelona, 2015
Window on the Dawn. Parc del Forum, Barcelona, 2015

 

‘Tis true–we will be moving to Barcelona sometime this summer/fall! Our new apartment awaits us on Carrer Provença in the L’Esquerra de l’Eixample area of downtown Barcelona!

Collons!

I am certainly more of an outdoor, smaller town, guy than a city guy, so this transition will be interesting. Thankfully, there is plenty to do and see within a few hours (and often much closer) of Barcelona: rock climbing, hiking, white water, via ferratas, snorkeling and scuba, sunning on the beach, quaint villages, interesting landscapes of all kinds for the photographer, and so on.

Out of curiosity, though, I thought I would take a very close gander at our new neighborhood in l’Eixample. To that end, I took a little exploratory stroll, starting at the entrance to our apartment building, at Calle Provenza 162, and walked around the block, noting in my little book the different businesses that were to be found. Normally, going around the block would take you about 5-7 minutes, but I took about 30 minutes with all the note-scribbling and such.

The quantity and variety of businesses turned out to be waaay more extensive than I expected. If you have never lived in a cosmopolitan city, it will likely surprise you as well.

Moving clockwise around the block, here is everything I encountered… Click to continue as the list is looong!

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

On The Road (Again)

Just Another Urban Sculpture (The Horse Before the Cart). Barcelona, Catalunya, 2017
Just Another Urban Sculpture (The Horse Before the Cart). Barcelona, Catalunya, 2017

 

For us, back to Barcelona…for Sal Paradise, it was back and forth across the United States and into Mexico.

The beat goes on. Can you dig it?

IMHO, here is the best single sentence from Jack Kerouac’s, On The Road:

“And for just a moment I had reached the point of ecstasy that I always wanted to reach, which was a complete step across chronological time into timeless shadows, and wonderment in the bleakness of the mortal realm, and the sensation of death kicking at my heels to move on, with a phantom dogging its own heels, and myself hurrying to a plank where all the angels dove off and flew into the holy void of uncreated emptiness, the potent and inconceivable radiances shining in bright Mind Esence, innumerable lotus-lands falling open in the magic mothswarm of heaven.” (Part 2, Chapter 10)

In response, I would quote:

“You said a mouthful, Doc.” –Seldom Seen Smith, The Monkey Wrench Gang, (Edward Abbey, 1975)

Longmont Neo-Topgraphics

The march of progress continues along a southern section of Airport Road in Longmont, Colorado (as it does all along the entire Front Range). The constant drone of generators and the pop-pop-pop of the air guns as they relentlessly and ceaselessly drive nails into the wood framing…the sound of jobs…the sound of new homes in the making…the sound of a “healthy” economy.

So…I now have two more examples for my Neo-Topographic portfolio.

These new apartments or condos are going up along Airport Road, on the southwestern outskirts of Longmont. Note how Nature (here, as exemplified by that sliver of a glimpse of Longs Peak on the far horizon) is slowly being boarded up. The storm clouds are gathering–no coincidence. A “worm” or “snake” in the foreground tempts our eye into the image:

Longmont Construction, #1. Longmont, Colorado, 2017
Longmont Construction, #1. Airport Road, Longmont, Colorado, 2017

 

Here is another, very similar, view. We still have the storm clouds and Nature in the distant background slowly being extinguished but, to this composition, I add a hilly foreground that rhymes with Longs Peak in a certain way–they are both mountains of rock and dirt, but the former is a result of short-term human economic activity, the latter a very, very long-term project of the geologic forces–plate tectonics–of the Earth:

Longmont Construction, #2. Airport Road, Longmont, Colorado, 2017
Longmont Construction, #2. Airport Road, Longmont, Colorado, 2017

HUGE Photo-Poster and Flywheel Sports

Brooklyn Bridge, Nightscape #1. New York City, 2015
Brooklyn Bridge, Nightscape #1. New York City, 2015

 

I am very excited that I just licensed one of my images (above) to Flywheel Sports of New York City and, rather than on a typical website page, they used it in a most unusual way.

First, who is Flywheel Sports, you ask? Lets get that out of the way first.

Well, they are an up-and-coming sports-exercise company with a unique take on the more traditional stationary cycling classes you have probably already sweated, groaned, and screamed your way through. Flywheel has group cycling classes on high performance bikes that track exactly how hard you are working on a big “TorqBoard” for all to see (or not–your, and the instructor’s, prerogative). Looking at the numbers thus displayed, you can compete just with yourself, adjust your workout to your personal specific fitness goals, or you can compete against others. Groups can even compete against other groups…one Flywheel class versus another class…friends v. friends…enemies v. enemies. Upper body exercises can also be woven into the session. The competitive and motivational possibilities are limitless. And all of this accompanied by a super high-energy, pulsing, pounding musical sound track and top-notch super-fit instructors to keep you focused and majorly motivated.

For more on this…Slate Magazine did a nice report a few years ago on what this latest craze is all about and you can read it here: Flywheel: SoulCycling for the Truly Sadistic, April 10, 2013.

And here is a very recent (yesterday!) article/press release about their expansion plans: Flywheel Sports Announces Plan to Extend Studio Cycling Experience Into the Home, May 17, 2017.

It all sounds like a seriously fun and strenuous challenge (“Sounds dangerous. Count me in.” –Alan Shepard, in Top Gun). And since it may be coming to Denver soon, I just might get a chance to give it a whirl, so to speak.

Now, to the commercial use of the above abstract image of the Brooklyn Bridge…

They took my full file from the D800, which measures 7360 x 4912 pixels at 300 ppi (that’s a 24″ x 16″ print at 300dpi), and they blew it up…and  up…and up… and UP! They eventually stretched it into what looks like a 10-foot by 30-foot giant wall poster. Pretty impressive! Kudos to their art folks for recognizing the possibilities here–it’s all about depicting motion, movement, energy, and so on.

Of course, the fact that it was an abstract image gives the printer a lot of leeway when it comes to going BIG. A tack-sharp landscape might not look quite as good at this size (although up on a highway billboard, with a viewing distance measured in the hundreds of feet, it just might).

Here are a couple of snaps of the finished product, as it now appears in the new Flywheel building in Brooklyn:

Flywheel, #1. NY, NY, 2017 (Photo courtesy of Flywheel Sports)
Flywheel, #1. Brooklyn, NY, 2017 (Photo courtesy of Flywheel Sports)

 

Flywheel, #2. NY, NY, 2017 (Photo courtesy of Flywheel Sports)
Flywheel, #2. Brooklyn, NY, 2017 (Photo courtesy of Flywheel Sports)