Oct 28, 2009

Close encounter of the analog kind

Europalia, the largest cultural festival in Europe, dedicates its 40th anniversary edition to China. From October 2009 through February 2010, hundreds of breathtaking events will celebrate the diversity of Chinese culture. Our recent Belgiumdigital shooting day led us by the Tea Hose, one of the Europalia venues on Brussels' Mont des Arts. And there we saw the guy below...

How often do you run into a Cambo 4"x5" view camera on the busy streets of a Western capital city? With someone taking his time to carefully frame a shot, determining exposure the 'good old way', and then bringing out a cassette with a single sheet of color slide film? Needless to say that our bunch of digital shooters - quite a few of them never having shot roll film, or even film altogether - were stopped in their tracks and gathered around this Chinese photographer, fascinated by the moves and rites of operating a large format camera.

It must have been a strange, perhaps intimidating experience for our dear Chinese friend, suddenly being surrounded by some 40 DSLRs and becoming their primary photo target! I am not sure he realized at first what was happening there...

Even more remarkable: almost no one paid equal attention to the photographer's first assistant who, after all, was only using a Blad with a MF digital back... But the pair of assistants/guides/interpreters quietly observing from a distance in the back did seem to have a very good time!

Gear notes: D700, 24-70/2.8

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Oct 19, 2009

Prime time: Antwerp City Theater

Three more from a walk around Antwerp's 'Stadsschouwburg' (City Theater), just with a 50mm prime.

Into the sky

I was stopped by this reflection of rooftops into the glass front of the building. And then I noticed the similarity: how nature and man were both reaching up towards the light above.

Layers of steel

A patchwork of barriers, building up to an abstract composition. All ready for an emergency that hopefully will never occur.


Could you resist this invitation for a warm hug? It ain't easy to be jobless on the streets!

Gear notes: D700, 50/1.8

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Invasion of the Pixel Snatchers

Imagine this: you let a pack of fanatic photographers loose in a national parliament building. What will happen? Will they quietly take over the country (but no one else will notice)? Will they quickly pass a bill allowing unrestricted picture taking in public areas? Will they outlaw HDR processing or make video on DSLRs mandatory?

You guessed right: none of the above! Witness here what happened when 40 Belgiumdigital members were granted access for a couple of hours to the corridors, salons, meeting rooms and main assembly hall of the Belgian Senate (our 'upper house'). They swarmed all over the place, capturing every detail and corner of the room, acting like a group of forensic science students that overdosed on CSI.

Can you count the number of cameras in this picture? And can you imagine how complicated it got to shoot a decent view of the entire chamber - without fellow photographers in the frame?

Fortunately, there was more than one room for us to 'attack' and enjoy. To get to make the shot you want, there's the three P's to observe: you need an upfront Plan, you have to claim the 'ideal' Position, and then you apply a lot of Patience until the field clears...

These wonderful settings (in reality, not as vast as these wide-angle shots let believe) presented a fine challenge to fight perspective distortions and deal with multiple light sources of broadly varying intensity. I had plenty of opportunity afterwards to exercise my post-processing skills, applying my two most valued complements to Adobe's Lightroom software: PTLens and Photomatix Pro.

If you like these results, there's more to see here.

Gear notes: D700, 17-35/2.8, 24-70/2.8

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Oct 12, 2009

Life along the streets: Brussels

You don't have to travel far to observe the daily life going on around you. Just grab your camera and take a walk along the streets. Or whenever you are on the go on another shooting occasion: keep an eye to what's happening left, right and behind you.

Some people will be very busy and hardly notice you, others are taking a break and enjoy a moment of peaceful rest. Spot them, and don't miss placing them in context when taking the shot. Respect their privacy: make eye contact, get a silent approval to take the picture, and if in doubt walk up to them and ask for permission. You will be rarely disappointed.

It always amazes me how simple street scenes take on that special character when shot in black and white. For one part it might be that this treatment helps reducing the picture to its very essence. But I am also convinced that some of it comes from our 'visual education' through classical photojournalism.

Anyhow, take advantage of these photo opportunities that are free and ready for you to grab. I for one love the creative boost that comes with them.

Gear notes: D700, 28-200G, 24-70/2.8

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Oct 6, 2009

Rain. Fall. Fifty.

There are no good excuses for resisting the urge to go out and shoot.

I push myself to free up some time to practice my photography. One way is to take advantage of any little 'in between' time gaps in an otherwise loaded schedule. So today I left about an hour early for a downtown meeting appointment and took along a small camera bag.

Afraid of the rain, you ask? I have become a fan of Op/Tech's Rainsleeve, a simple plastic cover keeping my (otherwise already well sealed) D700 away of major harm. It doesn't look great, but it works, it's cheap and I can easily buy a new one whenever I need.

Furthermore, I feel much inspired and strongly challenged by Bert Stephani's 50/50project. Bert currently captures impressions from his daily life using just a 50mm lens, and this during 50 consecutive days. I am not that ambitious, I will walk his path only from time to time. The 50mm focal length isn't even my preferred choice, I lean more towards either 35mm or 85mm. But for today, my 20-year old 50/1.8 would have to do - better not swapping lenses out in the drizzle.

And so I offer you these few shots from around Antwerp's City Theater. All taken within some 30 minutes and within a limited area.

When you dare to put your mind to it, no rain, wind or world can stop you from seeing the pictures that await you.

Gear notes: D700, 50/1.8

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