Sunday, November 27, 2011

A Weekend at the Center of the World

Rome is surreal.  It appears dug-up from antiquity by the gods themselves.  With ruins scattered throughout the city, the people, cars and modern buildings seem to create a frail, make-shift shanty town which exists in the grandeur of a people and time long past.  Known once as the center of the world, Rome has to be seen to be believed.

These pictures were taken in various places around Rome.  The shots of the Colosseum were taken hand held at a l/8 of a second.  Other shots are a mixture of HDR and some make shift tripod work.  Rome truly is a beautiful city with a ton to offer any visitor. 



Sunday, November 20, 2011

Edelweiss and Milk Bottles

With the wife away in Portugal this weekend, I was forced to find new and creative ways to feed myself.  Being a horrible cook, I figured that trading food for something I was decent at would be my best option.  When Edelweiss offered another all inclusive weekend up Borovets in exchange for taking a few photos I jumped all over it.


Milk bottle diffuser
I took a new approach to this job.  I tried experimenting with a DIY diffuser made from a translucent milk bottle.  After cutting a hole in the bottom of the bottle, I proceeded to point the speedlight straight up and place the milk bottle over the head of the flash.  It turned out to be an excellent diffuser for large rooms and acted as great fill light outdoors to give detail to the shadows.  I experimented with tilting the bottle/flash combination to create subtle shadows as you see under the nurses nose above.  I liked what I got from it and I will definitely use this again.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Communist Fall

Beside the obvious play on words, I have been searching for a way to inject colour into the urban landscape of Sofia.  Since my arrival, I have noticed that Bulgaria is a stark contrast of natural beauty and square, grey, suburban communist architecture.  Although the city center is a collection of impressive cultural structures, I sometimes feel trapped by the contoured liquid rock that forms the buildings within which I work and roads on which I travel.  The mountains, parks and countryside provide a convenient escape when the rigid grey walls seem to creep in.

This is image is less a photography, and more a representation of the diverse city of Sofia.  The bottom layer of this image is an HDR photo of Boris Gardens in Sofia while the top layer is a black and white photo of one of the many buildings found here in Sofia.  The two photos were merged using Photoshop.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Bell Tower Bike Ride


Colors, concrete and contrast dominated my day on Sunday.  As I stepped out of the apartment I was met with a brisk, refreshing breeze that tightened my skin and caused my eyes to widen.  Suddenly I was awake.  With the first two rotations of my bike's pedals, I was already enjoying the fresh weekend breeze.  The steady whir of my tires grew louder and smoother and a began slowly wound my way down hill and through intersections towards the Ring Road, and eventually the Bell Tower.

Taking my usual path to work, the initial plan was to start in the direction of school and find my way over to the Bell Tower by using well known roads.  The Bell Tower Park is the location of a communist monument and park which served to commemorate peace.  There had been some controversy over the purpose of the monument as some claimed it had a less peaceful purpose.

As I crossed the ring with cars whizzing by on either side, the little boy in my took hold.  My eyes opened wider as I saw a path leading from the highway into the woods.  The next 3 hours were spent riding through the beautiful colors of fall at the base of Vitosha in search of the Bell Tower.  I would eventually find the tower and park, but I have to admit, the journey was the true fun of this adventure.

The pictures were taken with the purpose of experimenting with mood.  I took all of the pictures within 5 minutes of each other.  I was trying to get that cold, communist feel and contrast it with a more warm fall-like feeling.  All shots were taken with the 17-40mm L4.0 lens and I played with some of the tonal curves to create the effect that you see in the pictures.

Bells from various countries line the base of the monument.  This is the Mexican bell that can be rung by visitors to commemorate peace.  

Monday, November 7, 2011

Fortissimo Fest 2011 - Janice Eteme and Kevin Deas

Fortissimo Fest 2011 came to a close last night with a performance from Janice Eteme, Kevin Deas and the Sofia Philharmonic Orchestra.  The 7th floor of NDK was awash in deep vocal harmony as Kevin, Janice and the orchestra filled the auditorium with music ranging from Oprah to American classics.  Kevin's deep, booming vocals were accompanied by Janice's stunningly accurate range to create a dynamic and captivating performance.

This performance, being the last of Fortissimo Fest 2011, forced me to reflect on the event as a whole and consider the take aways that would stay with me after the festival was long gone.  It did not take long to come to the conclusion that a love ... no ... obsessive passion for music was the undercurrent of the festival.  From Sarah Chang, through Romaneno and up to Janice and Kevin, the event has been characterized by committed and skilled musicians that enjoy sharing the talent that they have been so lucky to receive.  These people serve as inspiration for us ... inspiration to embrace our creativity and expressive nature ... inspiration to take the internal art, whatever form it may take, and externalize it.  This is the lesson that lives on from Fortissimo Fest 2011 in my eyes.

The images captured during this event were taken in a similar way to the previous three posts.  The only changes that were made were that I shot most of the images in manual mode with at 125th and 4.0. This was successful due to the fairy consistent lighting arrangement in the venue.  I also continued to play with some different tonal curves in post production.  

On a different note, I did explore recording and posting some of my processing procedures only to discover that my computer was too slow to support screencasting and Lightroom at the same time.  This is a positive thing as I am not in the market for a more up-to-date computer.  Enjoy the images!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Fortissimo Fest 2011 - Roma Rhythms

Simple.  The highlight of Fortissimo Fest 2011 to date.  This unique blend of Cuban rhythm and Dixie Land showmanship coupled with a splash of accordion jazz made for one of the highlights of Fortissimo Fest.  Romaneno performed their unique brand of music to standing room only audience at the Sofia Live Club last night.  The popularity of the band and their music became increasing evident as the performance time grew near.  People slowly filtered into the venue until seating was full, audience members were peaking around poles, sitting on end tables and relaxing on the steps in front of the stage.  None of them were disappointed.  This is an excellent band that is a must see if they are neck of the woods.  You can check out the band's profile and music here and here if you are interested.

I was personally unaware of the plight of the Roma people until moving to Europe.  More information about the Roma can be found here.  The discrimination and racism that they are subjected to can be quite harsh.  Some would justify this treatment by providing information about thefts and other illegitimate acts the that they have conducted.  I see this as a bit of a chicken and egg argument as the racism and prejudiced seems to have oppressed the Roma to a point where they have no real option for legitimate income.  In any case, it was wonderful to see such a large crowd turn out to see such talented musicians, despite their ethnic background.

After shooting Guitar Trio last night, I decided to take a different approach to this shoot.  I continued to use the high ISO values with a wide open aperture but this time I used some different processing techniques.  I was aided by the fact that the lead signer was wearing a white shirt.  This helped me use the RAW file data to obtain a more accurate white balance for the photos.  I also decided to experiment with different tonal curves.  This has opened up a whole new world of processing for me.  As I continue this blog experiment, I am considering creating some videos on my processing techniques in the hopes that people will comment and help me along in this visual journey.  Stay tuned as I hope to include some short videos in upcoming posts.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Fortissiomo Fest 2011 - Guitar Trio

Sofia Live Club lit up last night for Bulgarian brothers performing an energetic and entertaining classical guitar concert.  Accompanied by violins, violas, a cello and drum the music entertained the serene crowd in the dark and relaxing venue.  As the music gently flowed around the room, the communication between the members of the trio seemed almost extrasensory.  Looks and glances communicated changes and shifts in the music's tempo and rhythm while the more than occasional smile displayed the musicians' pure joy with their opportunity to play music.  While the performance was of the highest quality, it was also an entertaining display of professional musicians enjoying their craft.  The involved and expressive communication between band members created a warm mood in which to enjoy the performance.  When attending these kinds of events I always marvel at the talent of artists like the ones I saw last night.  Whether you are entertained by the style of music or not, it is always a treat to see such talented people who have found their calling in life.

While shooting the Sarah Chang concert, I felt that the low light conditions were the most challenging that I had faced to date.  Well, the anti was raised last night.  The dark venue and colored lights played havoc with white balance and the simple availability of light.  I shot this concert in Av mode at 4.0 (wide open) at 3200 ISO with a 70-200mm 4.0L without flash.  Although I didn't think that these images would work out due to the grain of the high ISO, I had to continue as these were the only settings that would allow me to stop the blur of the performance.  Come on Canon 1DX!  I need that low light sensitivity.