Monthly Archives: August 2011

Past Project

The past is my project and my future will be taken up, matching the past with the present. Confused? Simple: I am currently working on a possible final project for college, the one that I introduced here about a month ago. I am very taken with it, because I loooove looking at the past, old history head that I am.
So I have been skulking around the city, trying to find all those spots that I took photos of back in 1996. While I think my idea is valid not only on a personal level, i.e. revisiting a past interest of mine and comparing my photographic skills back then (= none) to my skills now (= pretending to have some but still just fumbling through), but also as a general interest (matching pre-boom Dublin with deeply depressed Dublin), I am encountering some difficulties with this project.
Capel Street 1996 – 2011
This is one of the more expressive shots I have taken so far. You see, the trouble is: When I went around in 1996 to shoot for my pretentious thesis, I did so with the guiding principle that I was trying to show the Dublin places as closely resembling what Joyce would have seen in 1904 as possible. That meant I avoided references to the then-present in my images. Now that works against my favour. Because my focus has shifted: Now I want to show how the present in 1996 compares with the present in 2011. But without any reference to the 1996 present, how can there be any comparison?
Thank Cod I took so many pictures back then. Sure I will be able to rustle up 5 worthy examples. This may be one of them. I so prefer the Horseshoe to the garish ethnic shop of 2011.

Never stop

You never stop learning, that is. I had thought I was really clever, buying myself a variable ND filter. Rather than having a set of filters with a particular ND value, I have a filter wheel, i.e. two glass disks which you adjust by counter-rotating until you get the desired value. So, one filter will do it all. Except it doesn’t tell you on the rings which value you have adjusted it to and therefore you can’t really work out exposure time.
Well, you can, of course, by trial and error. And luckily it didn’t really take me that long to get a half decent shot out of it. I was only passing time, anyway, sitting outside Bremen airport – huge international hub that it is… – amusing myself with photography.
Yeah, nothing to get excited about, but at least I made use of it and tried it out. It will come into use a bit more soon for one of my projects. I need to go down and take some pictures of Dublin sights. And if I want to avoid getting all those superfluous passers-by and tourists into the shots, yet do not want to skulk around the North inner city at half past 6 in the morning, I need to get a long exposure going.
f18, 24″
This pic actually had a whole flock of crows flying around the tree and some ducks on a lake (which I have mercilessly cropped out of the image). Unnecessary and gone – as are the flags, almost. The white thing in the centre of the pic is a ghostly (ghastly???) fountain. I exposed this for 24 seconds to get enough light through the filter. Dying to try this on architecture shots now.

On the go

Right, people, I am so frigging bored, I am actually *working* at the weekend. I am off to the fazerland for a few days. While I generally enjoy travelling – that is: being in foreign places, away from home – air travel post-9/11 really annoys me. Sitting at airports because you have to be there early, stressed out people around you, and yours truly often suffering from nicotine withdrawal symptoms due to lack of smoking areas.

Usually when I am bored, I pull out marky Mark and shoot away. Nothing better to replace boredom than photography. Well, but “shooting” isn’t exactly encouraged at the airport…

There is one thing, however, I always look forward to when travelling. I have this little ritual that I will treat myself to a photography mag when travelling. Serves various purposes:
1. Reading passes the time.
2. Learning tips and tricks from the mag and general inspiration.
3. Carrying photo mag under one arm has great show-off potential.

Right, you got me. Of course point number 3 is the one that counts for me. I love to see the change of looks on people’s faces from thinking “a middle-aged battleaxe” to “a cool middle-aged battleaxe”. Ha! I wish!

Seriously now, I do buy mags every time and today it is an English mag called Digital Photographer. Bloody € 7.50. Why are these mags so expensive, can someone explain that to me? A big favourite of mine is Black & White Photography. Which ones are you reading? Any recommendations?

Ooops, my gate closes in 25 minutes. I better head now. But great, I have passed the time. Tschüß, guys, see ya soon!

– Posted from Dublin Airport using BlogPress from my iPhone

Location:Swords Rd,,Ireland

G’lough Revisited

The last time I was in Glendalough, Co. Wicklow, I was there for a little postcard project of mine which I shot with the help of a friend. It was a coldish March morning and there was lots of to-ing and fro-ing with tripods, climbing onto fences to get different perspectives and some long-exposure/ND filter experimentation at the waterfall. Not to mention some extra excitement thrown in when a couple of lively dogs needed rescuing at a stream. No such kicks last weekend, if you ignore the appearance of the Irish SAR helicopter hovering over the lovely vale of Glendalough for all of two hours, involved in a rescue operation for a climber who had lost his footing above the old mining village at the Upper Lake.
Glendalough, Kroll-esque
No Ansel Adams, as you can see, despite the landscape well affording Adams-esque vistas. But I am not shooting with a large format camera, like Adams did, nor am I familiar with his Zone System of photographing. (Have you ever looked at that? Far too complicated for my taste!) I have deliberately embedded the image above in its original size because the small version of it here in the blog just doesn’t do it justice. Click the image to enlarge, and you can see the detail of the mining village at the end of the valley.
Which brings me to a question: Do you watermark your images? I really hate watermarks on images. And that is not because that would make stealing other people’s images difficult – I don’t do that (because I have no need to do so, ha! ;-)) – but because they are simply ugly and for me destroy any aesthetic merit an image might have. As silly as it sounds – I just can’t look beyond a watermark, it obstructs the picture for me despite its transparency. How stupid that blogger does not come with a disabled right-click-copy. Or does it? If so, please let me know!
PS: TWIMC – I have an ND filter now…

Taking the Opportunity

Are you spontaneous? I often feel that photography is about being spontaneous. Literally seizing the moment and taking pictures. Whether it is that clear sky that you have been waiting for for weeks in order to catch some plane trails, the “decisive moment” when everything comes together on a street shoot, or the rare event of the whole family having gone camping for the day and you are free to do whatever you want…
I had one of those spontaneous moments last week. Now, I never leave the house without Marky Mark, and I had imagined that I might take some pictures when meeting a friend for a drink on a boat. In the end I was too engrossed in chatting than to pull out the camera and shoot. But when we left the spontaneous moment presented itself.
Samuel Beckett Bridge
Samuel Beckett Bridge links the Northside of Dublin with the Southside across the river Liffey. It was designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. Its shape is supposed to be reminiscent of a harp lying on its side. Normally the bridge is choc-a-bloc with traffic, but this time it was closed to traffic. They were testing the bridge opening up, I think. So out came Marky Mark and away I shot. Of course I didn’t have a tripod with me, so I had to shoot at high ISO instead. Nonetheless – it was one of the more successful spontaneous sessions of recent times. And it has reinforced my belief that it is always necessary to carry the camera with you at all times.

Project Generation

August. I have been on college break since May. College seems soooo loooong agooooo. Time to slowly ease myself back into learning mode. And especially so as I am now facing the final push: Year 3 of my BA. A scary thought, especially when considering that my classmates and myself are expected to turn up at the beginning of the semester with a number of project ideas. *eeeeek*
Last weekend I tackled one of my project ideas – which I have christened “Revisiting Dubliners”. The Dubliners in the title do not refer to actual people. It refers to the collection of short stories of the same name by James Joyce. Joyce published the book in 1914. Its focus is the city of his youth which he left forever in 1904 but immortalised in all of his works.
This is not the first time I have looked at Joyce’s Dubliners in an academic context. 15 years ago I wrote my university thesis on it. Wanna have the whole high-brow title of the bloody thing? “Dublin und die Dubliners – eine Betrachtung des topografischen Symbolgehalts der Kurzgeschichtensammlung sowie ihrer Klassenrepräsentation unter besonderer Berücksichtigung des landeskundlichen Aspekts“. Approximately translates into “Dublin and the Dubliners – a look at the symbolic value of topographical references and class representation in the short story collection with particular consideration of its cultural symbolism”. Or something like “I am a well-educated but pretentious and therefore insecure little git who thinks it’s a sign of intelligence if you use the inflated language of academia”. Anyhow, what it means is,  I interpreted the names of the places in the context of the story. 
Looking back now I can see that I was doing something else entirely, though – as part of the thesis I went around Dublin taking pictures of the various localities mentioned in the book. I spent a couple of months in Dublin, researching everything and walking around the city with a camera, attempting to catch all the mentioned places on film. Ha! Even then I was already interested in photography. I was just still on my pretentious journey to the academic ivory tower…
So that was 15 years ago. Times have changed. I do not live in an ivory tower. Dublin has risen in a boom and sharply fallen in the unavoidable, effing recession afterwards. And I don’t use sophisticated language anymore. But the pictures from back then remain – and even though that was not intended at the time, they have become a record of pre-boom Dublin. That is what I am interested in. I want to revisit Dublin – and compare 1996 with 2011. Much has changed – how will it translate in the images?
On a personal level it certainly will be interesting for myself to see how I have developed as a photographer since 1996. I was an interested amateur back then, shooting with a Pentax Espio compact camera. 15 years and two SLRs later I am on the way to getting a degree in photography. Progress? Hopefully so.
So there is the basis for a project, I hope. I will explore it the next few weeks, probably talking to myself here in the blog about it. But if you have any suggestions or ideas, please let me know!

Review: gps4cam in action

Upon request (!) I am giving you a tech post today. Nah, no need to worry, despite being a self-confessed nerdette, I lack the abyssmally deep insight that would be needed for super-nerd-omity. I am, however, pretty good at faking it *heehee*. So let’s get down to it – my critique of geotagging app gps4cam.
How it works: At the start of your walk you launch the app and decide which tracking mode you want to use (more about that later). Then you activate gps4cam by hitting the “start a new trip” button. Back into the pocket with your smartphone and off you go on your shoot. At the end of your trip you open the app again and press the “Export” button. The app now generates a QR code which you need to take a picture of with your SLR. And that’s all for the moment. – Back at home you import your images whichever way you usually do. (I used Lightroom 3.) Then you launch the software which you have to download for free from the gps4cam website and “upload” your folder with the images. The images will now be geotagged automatically and receive the corresponding information in their EXIF data. And that’s it.
The whole thing is as easy as it reads. The user interface on the app is very intuitive and free of unnecessary crap – or in other words: There’s not many settings to fiddle with, which makes it perfect for impatient technophobes like yours truly. Essentially you only need to decide which tracking mode you want and then to hit start.
The tracking modes, however, should be explained a bit, because this is where the cookie crumbles. There are four different modes: Standard, precise, energy saving and manual. The standard mode will take a GPS reading every 1, 5 or 10 minutes. This, of course, requires a continuous running of the app i.e. connection with the satellite – which can take its toll on the battery, not to mention the app eating your mobile phone data allowance as it will be linked up via mobile internet. That would be even more so with the “precise” setting, which will capture your geographical position every 20 seconds. You can save energy (and costs) if you set the app to the “energy saving” modus. In that case the app will record your coordinates via GSM. That means it localizes you via the mobile phone antennas on the ground that are all over the place. Every time you change locality and your mobile switches to a different antenna, this will be recorded in the app – and your coordinates will be captured. Lastly, you can also manually record your position by simply giving your smartphone a cheerful little shake – every time you take a picture, for instance.
Now, to tell you the truth, so far I have only tried out the standard tracking mode because I was in Ireland and not worried about data usage. If I were abroad, I would probably switch to the energy saving mode – cost saving mode, more like, as mobile connections abroad are notoriously  expensive. I suppose, the manual tracking modus is an option, too – that is if you remember to move it and shake it, baby…
The first bit of using the app was so easy that I expected the sh*t to hit the fan with the second part:  “synchronising” the images with the app-recorded geotags. For that purpose I imported my images through Lightroom in a folder on my XHD. Then I opened up the gps4cam software. Again, no unnecessary fuss: All you see is a window with an address line for the input folder and another for the output folder. All that was left to do was to hit “go” – the software then matched the images with the GPS data from the app and added the localisation details to the EXIF data.
Suspicious as I am, I checked if the geotag was in the EXIF. And lo and behold – it is visible in the picture properties. However, when I uploaded a test image into Flickr, it showed neither as automatically tagged, nor did it have the coordinates in the EXIF data in the network. But when I sent it to be tagged on the little map in Flickr, it was magically placed on the map where it was taken. Actually, not quite – it was not 100% accurate, but well, could’ve been me.
Liffey View
So, this is the verdict of the German jury: 9 out of 10 for gps4cam. Supereasy handling, no-fuss interface, cheapo alternative to pricy extra gadgets from camera manufacturers, intuitive interfaces of app and software, very fast tagging process.
There is only 1 point I am deducting: usefulness. Do you *really* need to geotag photos? Probably not. But if you are a nerd like me, it’s not the practical result that counts, but the fact that you have the app.
Snap on, geeks!