Monthly Archives: July 2011

The Style Council

Always great with advice for others, but myself, no, I can’t see the wood for the trees. Familiar sentiment? I was talking with my friend-in-photography M___ a couple of days ago. We have a little photogroupduo going and are hoping to produce something new this summer. The question was: what? Great advisor that I am, I said:”Why don’t we just go out one day, shoot anything that comes in front of our lens and THEN see if there is some kind of project in it that we can isolate and concentrate on.” Oh such brilliant advice. Funny that I can’t advise myself, let alone analyse my own photography…
There I was, looking through my holiday shots, half-heartedly post-producing some stuff, playing with crops and sepia and contrast. And rather disappointed I thought to myself: “The same old, usual holiday snaps as always, Sonja. These shots have nothing in common, there is no red thread in that.” I loaded some stuff up on FB, nonetheless, a jumbled up mixture of b/w close-ups, sepia landscapes, colour plant shots, panoramic views. “Where is my style, what is it that I am seeing when I make these pictures?” The answer was frustration.
How DO you develop a style, I wonder? By shooting the same thing over and over again? By settling on a particular format? By sticking to b/w only? By favouring a particular dof over another? And IS it necessary to have a distinctive style, one that is recognisably and uniquely yours and noone elses? (Is that even possible in the day and age of digital cameras and the internet?) Or can one be a renaissance man photographer, dabbling in all sorts of styles, showing variety rather than exclusive excellence? I wish there was a Style Council (awww – had to bring that up here, they are, after all, still my favourite band…) who’d tell me what style I have (if any) or point me into a direction.
There is one thing that runs as a common thread through my recent photographs – a look at the finished album on FB revealed that virtually every photograph really was motivated/characterised/inspired by light. The sun catching the fresh green of some olives in a market. Warm candle light against a cold blue night sky. Rays of sunshine poking through a cloud-covered sky. It never occurred to me thus, when I was capturing those images. There was only one picture where I consciously wanted to record the way the light shone – spotted when I was having a quick sunbath on the lawn. Daylight backlighting. Usually a no-no – but the photo recreates quite well what I saw when I was “lying low”…
Long live the sun!


570 pics is a rather modest booty. That’s all that I shot on my holidays. Holidays, you would think, are the ideal time to do nothing but photograph. And yes, I would like to do that, but unfortunately you cannot take a holiday from being a mother, a girlfriend, a fellow traveller, and thus my duties are never fully given up when on vacation. Well, that is my excuse for not coming back with more images. So far I have only imported my images from CF onto HD, have had a quick scan over them and identified the few interesting ones that I might post-process and show.
One of the things I have been keen on experimenting with was some star trail photography – some pretty cool examples of which I saw in some of my friends’ portfolios. You would have thought that a holiday in a chateau  au bout du monde (at the arse-end of nowhere) of the Languedoc would have been the perfect place for such. No light spill, clear skies, warm nights. Well, FAIL! France is pretty well-lit, the skies decided to cloud over day and night and it was a chilling 24 degrees there, most of the time.
The best I could come up with was one night when I finally set up my makeshift-tripod and pointed the camera up at the roof. The stars did not shine for me, but I caught the full moon in a gap between the clouds. You can see them drifting in my image – the exposure time was 99 seconds, a gut-feeling manually released shutter speed – you can even make out the moon moving a bit.
Feeling like a papparazza: the stars have eluded me again.

Exhibition Hopping – FourFloors

What’s the best thing about taking part in exhibitions? Being invited to the opening night. Well, actually – opening nights are not just open to the participating artists. Anyone can go (unless it is super exclusive). And anyone can partake in the customary glass of wine on offer. Yes, certainly one of the attractions of opening nights. Depending on the quality of wine, of course. Never mind the quality of the art *haha*.
Seriously now: FourFloors is officially opened tonight. It takes place in MadArt Gallery on Gardiner Street. As the title of the show suggests, there are four floor-loads of photography on view. There is a group show entitled “Exposure v2.0” on the first floor, the De Look Photography Studio on the second, a digital art show on the third and finally “The Prism” surrealistic visions on the fourth floor. A variety of styles and contents on show in the beautiful surroundings of an old Georgian building just opposite the Custom House.
A number of my classmates from the 2nd year in the Griffith College BA in Photographic Media are represented in Exposure v2.0, including myself. (And I am on holiday. Oh no, I can’t believe I am missing this! Bummer!) Well, the wine will be gone, but I will be dropping in soon after my return and check out the offerings sans vin. It should still be worth while. But I would still urge you to look in tonight. The opening starts at 6 pm. Au revoir
56 Lower Gardiner St
Dublin 1

Must-Have Photo-Apps for *Proper* Photographers (totally subjective)

I’m o-hoff!!!!!!!!! Yep, I am gone. On holliers. Away from it all. But no letting up for you, dearies. I will churn out my posts even while I am on holiday. I was actually going to continue my sort-of-live posting via BlogPress, a handy app aggregator with which you can write blog posts on the iPhone. It even integrates photos and let’s you manage your postings remotely. Well, that’s if you have access to the internet while on holidays. And it turns out that my mobile provider does not have any cooperation with a French provider, hence it would have to be done via roaming and thus is effing expensive. *doh*.
So instead I am sitting here, days in advance, thinking up blog posts that will keep 2picsaweek running while I am away. I’d much rather like to spoil you (…) with up-to-date impressions of my aventure française, alas it shall not be. However, I am trying to make this kinda useful. I have decided to give you my low-down on the must-have photo apps to install on your smartphone. Mais non, I have not decided to leave marky Mark at home and to shoot only on iPhone *tuttuttut*. The camera is going to accompany me, naturéllement. But I have a few gizmos installed on the iPhone that I find quite useful when I am out and about with the 5d2. So much so that I would recommend you download them, too.
First up is FreeSpirit. This is a free iPhone app (as a rule, a miser like myself never pays for apps… except for the BlogPress app which I now can’t use *doubledoh*.) that does exactly what it says on the tin: It is a spirit level in your phone. Why do I find that useful? Maybe I am lopsided, maybe I have some kind of visual defect, but I never get my images to be straight. FreeSpirit has saved me an extra step in PS a few times, just because I aligned it with the camera (on tripod) and adjusted it to be perfectly straight. (For the Android users out there: There is a similar spirit level app available for you, too, called SpiritLevel Pro Free.)
Then there is Digital Grey Kard. I have recently been converted to using a grey card when shooting. Again, a time-saver for post-production. The app opens a 18 percent grey card on the screen of your smartphone. Incorporate that in your first image (of a series in constant lighting conditions) and use it later as a reference point for setting WB, colour and exposure. No need for a separate grey card – even though they come in handy little reflector-type shape nowadays – so cuuuute. (I did search for an Android-compatible version of this but it does not seem to exist, yet. Sorry, my poor little cousins…;-))
I won’t really suggest you get yourself a lightmeter app. Modern cameras all come with in-built TTLs, so need for that anymore. Unless you shoot with an old, analog manual, possibly. For that purpose, I recommend the free Pocket Light Meter app. (Android has several on offer, too, e.g. Light Meter. Free, of course.)
I am much more excited about the last app I am going to showcase here: gps4cam. Confession up-front: I have not put it to the test yet, but that is exactly what I am going to do on my holidays now. Anyhow, gps4cam helps you geo-tag your images. It basically localizes all the pictures you have taken with your digital camera through recording your coordinates on your GPS-enabled smartphone. You only set off the app once at the start of your photo excursion and then it records all the GPS data automatically. No synchronising with your camera needed. You merge the data afterwards with the help of a specifically generated QR code once you have downloaded your images onto your hard drive. gps4cam is currently not available for Android but apparently under construction. But ooops – it does come with a price. € 1.99 in iTunes.
Right, that concludes today’s journey into Gizmoland. A perfect combination of my love for photography and my day-job as a gadget tracker… ehm… online journalist. Salut!


Summer is great in Ireland. I am not talking about the weather here. I am talking about the annual PhotoIreland event that takes place all July this year. Am I preaching to the converted here? You probably know about it already if you are based in Ireland.
Never mind, we are more than two weeks in and I have attended a few events already, only my summer hols preventing me from taking in more. The programme of the festival focusses on photography – naturally – but includes more than only exhibitions. In week 1, for instance, I attended a guided tour through the photography section of the RHA annual exhibition. It was my second time looking at the images in there after checking it out previously with my friend A___. But I jumped at the chance of learning more about the exhibited photographs as I had found it difficult to see their significance due to the lack of any blurbs or artists’ statements (see my posting The Good, The Bad and The Ugly).
The tour was guided by Irish photographer and member of the RHA, Amelia Stein. The one-hour lunchtime tour did not provide enough time to talk in-depth about each and every photograph in the show. However, Stein gave explanations about artists and their body of work wherever possible. Personally I particularly pricked up my ears when Stein was talking about the selection process for the annual RHA exhibition: Artists deliver their artworks to the gallery where they will then literally be paraded in front of the panel members in-situ. Whatever grabs the jury’s attention may be examined a little bit longer – and therefore may have a chance of being chosen for the exhibition. Stein seemed to suggest that it was more advantageous for photographers to submit a number of prints from the same project to the panel rather than a portfolio that consists of pictures showing a variety of themes and techniques. – In recent years more and more photography has been selected for the show. This year there are over 40 photographers represented. Bearing in mind what Stein suggested, having a shot at inclusion in this renowned show might be worth-while. Judging from the number of red dots under selected images, the exhibition does work as a showcase where artwork finds buyers.
Anyhow, the RHA is offering another guided tour of the photographic submissions tonight. According to Amelia Stein, there will be some of the photographers present in the gallery when the tour takes place, so that should make this event even better than the tour I was on. So head on down tonight, Thursday, July 14th. The tour starts at 6pm, is free of charge and does not require booking.
15 Ely Place
Dublin 2

Accidents and Compliments

I love accidents. I wish I could say they weren’t accidents, but they were intended experiments. Something I had deliberately planned to do and executed accordingly. However, once an accident shows an interesting result, they can be replicated and become intended artistic (um…) statements. Like this one:
Ready to rock
This happened to me today. I was in the garden, taking a picture of something I had just made for my other blog. Essentially I pulled my iPhone out of my bum pocket and accidentally released the shutter. The movement was so fast (watch out, Pale Rider, I am the fastest puller East of the West!), the background was blurred and shows the direction I was pulling the iPhone to.
I have lately gotten into blurriness. My recent experiments with traffic images were already an indication. Blurriness suggests the vague, the notion of the fleeting moment, the quick passing of time, the impossibility of halting time. As such it goes against the conventional view of photography as a record of a given moment in time – documenting in all detail a scene, a sight, a situation. 
Blurriness leaves room for interpretation. Because the objects are out of focus and unsharp, they can not be made out clearly. And they could take on a meaning that they would not possess if they were seen in sharp detail. 
All a bit theoretical? So be it – as anything you see in art, in photography, it is highly subjective. The image above appeals to me for various other reasons, not just my attempt at intellectualising it. Colour plays a major role in my appraisal of images – and I love the fresh green and the bright red in this image. I love how the green and the beige become a gradient mixture on the left of the pic while the right hand side of the image show clearer demarkation of the colours. I like the way the picture is split in half – you can make out what is depicted on the right while the left is all vague. And I love how the movement has produced soft curves. 
A happy accident – and lots of self-complimentary talk. Well, the devil always shits defecates onto the biggest pile, as we say in German…

Homeless Gallery

Despite my advertising for Homeless Gallery (in my little “notice panel” on the left), I never got round to putting stuff into it this year. Have I become complacent? No, I don’t mean to look down upon an uncurated photo exhibition. After all, I am still and without a doubt an amateur. But somehow the summer break has made me lazy. I simply couldn’t get my act together and apply for a spot in the HG – even though I had three prints ready for putting up in there.

Looks familiar? It’s one of my recent series of long exposure experiments. The sort of stuff that was only a fun way of passing the time rather than a serious project with a large canon of theoretical deliberation and big-worded artistic expression of intent behind it. And therefore acceptable for a group show that lays no claim to artistic perfection.

I did go to the opening of the Homeless Gallery, however, because a number of my friends had images in there. Danuta Stawarz was showing her Book Project, Alan Bennett had some beautiful b/w images in there, Cindy Morrissey showed more from her coast project, and Marta Watus displayed a new project, too.

But to be honest, I felt the whole show was overkill. There was just too much to look at. While I loved the variety of the forms of presentation, I certainly did not have enough patience to look at anything for more than in passing. Some of it, I already knew from previous exhibitions I have been at this summer. And that made me wonder whether it is a good idea to “pimp” out the same project again and again and again. Not that I am any better – I’ll show my “Tracing Mainie” images for the third time this summer in the “Four Floors” exhibition at the MadArt Gallery.

Frankly, I am sick of my pics at this stage. Have seen them far too much, overkill of another type. My attention span is not exactly long… Showing the same stuff over and over again looks limiting and limited, plus it is difficult to garner support from friends and family if they have already seen the images in another show. Better get started on something new. Toodeeloo…

“Clean your finger before you point at my spots”

Dang! Four and a half months in, and marky Mark is on its way to becoming a spotty teenager. I am horrified to have just noticed a big spot on all my recent images. Like this one, taken from inside the skylight of my house.
Spot pretty much in the middle of the photo, shot at f22.
Or rather “clean your sensor, before you point at my spots”, as Benjamin Franklin might have said, had he lived to see modern-day digital cameras. (Um, or any camera at all, he died before photography was invented, actually.) But I am rather surprised at the sudden appearance of this spot on the sensor. It is not on the lens – I have changed my ways and am meticulous about keeping the lens cap on after every use of marky Mark. And I have barely changed lenses, too. So it must be on the sensor – which gets automatically cleaned every time you switch the 5d2 off. But where the hell does the dust come from, if I don’t open the body of the 5d2???
Has anyone got any suggestions for cleaning the sensor or should that strictly only be done by the professionals? I am rather reluctant to fumble in there and risk damaging the sensitive technology. I guess, I am going to have to shoot with large apertures from now on – that way, the spots do not show up.