Sunday, August 30, 2009

Waiting for autumn

Autumn colors, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Glass, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

There are more and more autumn colors. From further away, forests seem still green, but closer you see some of the leaves in autumn colors. More and more leaves are falling to the ground as well.

And there is less light. I'm starting to use f/2.0 again, and even then I'm resorting to longer shutter speeds, up to 1/4 second handheld. Soon it is time to either increase ISO or to start to use a mini-tripod once again. On the other hand, between 6 am and 6 pm there is still plenty of light available, so it is not so bad yet.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Colors and forms

Clouds, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Forms, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Clouds, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

During the last few days, I have had quite a lot of exercise in various forms, mostly outside. And the weather has been good, despite occasional light rain.

There has been some opporturnities for photography, but much less than usually. And I haven't been very eager either, my interesting in taking photographs is not so great now. But when the autumn leaf colors start really to appear, this will probably change quite a lot.

In any case, here are some photographs taken during the last two days. I'm interested in forms of various kinds, but colors are starting to be attracting again, although I'm still shooting regularly in b&w also.

Update: I have now over 5000 photographs stored at Flickr, much more than I initially was planning for. Despite some flaws, Flickr has worked well for my purposes. I hope Flickr continues to provide services for several years to come - too many web sites close up after a couple of years.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Best in black and white

Windows, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

View, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Currently, I'm taking more photographs in black and white than in color. (Even though the autumn colors are a great temptation.) But b&w brings out the forms and relations much better, and I want to see these things. Here are two photographs from today, taken at the Luukki park.

Autumn approaching

Leaf, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Curved, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

There are more and more signs of autumn approaching. In a way, it is a good thing, because the leaf colors are a great subject for photography. But days are getting shorter, it is starting to get dark at bedtime.

Here are two photographs taken today. It was a nice evening for a walk with the family.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Round and round and round

Gills, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Nest, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Two, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Here are three photographs from this weekend. I was interested in the circular forms, which is clearly seen here.

As another topic, I'm re-reading The Art of the Personal Essay by Phillip Lopate. There is surprisingly much similarity in this form of writing with the kind of photography I'm interested in. Small things are worth telling about. I'll come back to this topic later on.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Sunny August

Three trees, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Calystegia sepium, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Here are two photographs taken today. A sunny day. A busy week.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Foreign vs native language - color vs black and white

Drops, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Vine leaf, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Recently I have been reading good books (in Finnish translations): "Accordion Crimes" by Annie Proulx, "El libro de arena" by Jorge Luis Borges and "L'écriture ou la vie" by Jorge Semprún.

It is remarkable how much easier it is to read books in your native language, something I haven't done much recently but now have started to enjoy again.

If I read a book in English or Swedish, it takes days, sometimes weeks. But in Finnish, it is not uncommon to finish a book in a day. (And there is plenty of time for reading if you don't watch tv. You even can get to bed early after finishing the book.)

Recently I have been thinking whether black and white photography might really be the native language for me. After all, when I was young color photographs were rare in newspapers and books. Even the television was black and white for a long while. And in the northern parts of Finland, there are days when the sight is adapted to the dark and you don't see colors for hours.

It may thus be that black and white is a natural way of seeing, despite the attraction of the color. This needs to be explored a bit more.

Returning to the topic of language and the matter of translating, I must thank the excellent translators we have here in Finland. We have a great opporturnity to read classic books in Finnish. This is a profession all too often underrated.

Which reminds me of "Tao Te Ching", the Derek Lin translation into English. It so happens that there is also a Finnish translation by Pekka Ervast dating from 1925 available on the net. But this text is (at least to me) mostly either completely incomprehensible ("lost in translation") or extremely misleading, at least compared to the Derek Lin version.

There are several other Finnish translations, which I haven't looked at in detail. Today I got from the local library "Laotse, Tao te ching" translated by Pertti Nieminen. Nieminen made the translation originally in 1956, but my slightly edited version dates from 1986.

This translation is very good, including the preface where Nieminen tells how the original taoist philosophy was corrupted into "vulgar taoism" which all but erased the original thinking.

Nieminen has translated a lot of Chinese poetry into Finnish with excellent results. I have several of his books but didn't realize until now that he has translated also Tao Te Ching.

I got also another translation into Finnish, titled "Dao De Jing - salaisuuksien tie". This is based on a version edited by Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English and translated into Finnish by Annikki Arponen. My feeling is that this book is much more verbose, and not so clear as the version by Nieminen.

In any case, reading Nieminen's translation already cleared up a few difficult lines. This is a good (although perhaps not definitive) version to start reading Tao Te Ching in Finnish.

Canon PowerShot S90 - replacement for Panasonic LX3?

Higher, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

The recent introduction of Canon PowerShot S90 is highly interesting. If the promised two-stop improvement in high-ISO behaviour is true, the camera will be the new low-light king with its 28-105 mm f/2.0 lens. And the camera is even smaller (and thus pocketable) than the LX3.

The most interesting thing about the 1/1.7" sensor is the decrease in megapixels (compared to Canon G10), to 10 megapixels. A very sensible decision from Canon.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Forest in black and white (experiments)

Forest blur, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Sunny, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Forest floor, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

I have continued my b&w experiments, with and without motion blur. Here are three images from yesterday. I many cases I have a feeling that it is easier to capture the forest in b&w than in color. But I'm not doing a great job of it yet.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Tao Te Ching and Spotify - old and new

Nymphalis io, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Shoe, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Spider, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

I have been reading Tao Te Ching (translation by Derek Lin), which is said to be written by a sage named Lao Tzu over 2,500 years ago. It is slow going, and half of the stuff (despite the annotation) doesn't seem to make sense.

Also, I'm testing out Spotify, a new music-listening service with a wide collection. Works ok, but I'm not yet convinced a service of this type can survive in the long run. But as it is free, it is easy to test out.

Also, here are three photographs in color. All are subjects I have used previously, but I like these anyway. All were taken today, at the Pirttimäki outdoor area.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

No obligations, no deadlines

Mutinus ravenelii, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Feather, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

What I like about photography as a hobby is that there is no need to perform. There are no deadlines and nobody is making demands. So, to celebrate this here are two images from today, which was a wet day: stinkhorns and a feather. Opposites complementing each other?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Should photographers work for free?

Run, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Evening shadows, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

I got recently a proposal to take photographs of "running", for a hobbyist (?) web site they are building up. An interesting (and a well-meaning) proposal, but I'm not keen on such things.

As I have written here previously: "What I don't want to happen is that photography becomes too serious. That happened with my writing. In my teens I was writing for fun [...] but later it turned into work - now I'm at over 600 published texts and several dozen books. [...] I don't want to turn photography into a profession as well."

I have a feeling that when photography starts to become too serious, I'll start running away, fast, and invent some other fun thing to do.

In any case, here are two recent black and white photographs. I'm back to work from vacation, so I'll be quite busy for a while and do less blogging.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Blur and basic shapes in black and white

Blur, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Small house, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Here are two photographs, both recent experimentation with b&w photography. In the first, I explored motion blur, getting a nice blur with some sharp parts of the image, thanks to shooting while walking past the subject. In the second image, I was exploring the interesting shapes created by the evening sunshine. This image wouldn't be interesting in color, I think.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

I'm not giving up color (yet)

Flower visit, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Water jug, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Drop gathering, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Despite shooting in black and white more and more, there are situations when color is needed. Or perhaps you can say that it is the light which requires color for the message to come through.

But then there are cases when color breaks down the picture, such as in the last image of the three shown here. In black and white the image works, but in color the message was diluted all the way to the vanishing point.

I feel that shooting in b&w simplifies things, makes it easier to understand what I'm aiming at. Perhaps this is due to the matter of too many choices. Make it simple, and things click into place.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Learning black and white photography with the LX3

Chair, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Two chairs, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Curve, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Here are three photographs in which I have studied forms, shades and textures, the important aspects of b&w photography. I don't think that any of these images would have worked in color, but in b&w each does seem to have something to say.

What is great about the LX3 camera is the ability to see a preview of the b&w image on screen, so you learn a lot by just looking. On the other hand, I'm not sure whether this can become a handicap of some sort in the long run. Relying on the camera to show the b&w image may not be the best way of learning to see in b&w.

But at least the LX3 makes it easy to start shooting in b&w. All these images were taken with the "dynamic b&w" film mode, with contrast and noise reduction turned down by -1.

Valkmusa national park - 90% swamp

Valkmusa marsh, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Cranberry, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Lycaenidae, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Valkmusa view, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Valkmusa view, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Here is a little story in photographs about Valkmusa National Park, which is situated between the cities Kotka and Kouvola near the coast in eastern Finland. It is a great place for looking at different swamp types (30 different). A lot of butterflies and other fauna and flora is found there.

This was our first visit to the area, and what a nice day it turned out to be. Lots of butterflies, and they were not afraid to sit on humans, so you could study them in leisure while they were sitting on your hand. And there was a lot of other colorful stuff to be seen as well.

The photographs are both in color and in b&w. I'm making a lot of experiments in b&w photography, but some things are starting to click in place.

An interesting aspect of b&w photography is that the LX3 battery seems to last longer when not shooting in color - I'm getting well over 600 photographs with one charge, when I used to get something between 500-600 images.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Black and white experiments

Marsh, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Fallen, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Drops, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

I have continued to take b&w photographs. These were taken yesterday near the Halkolampi lake in the Luukki area in Espoo. We picked some blueberries and raspberries (and a couple cloudberries), and had a nice walk.

One interesting aspect of b&w photography is the importance of texture. I have a feeling that there are cases when the texture is the most important part of the image. Also, as b&w images tend to be more abstract than color images, the forms and their relations became important.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Forest, black and white, motion blur

Blur 2, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Blur 1, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Last autumn and winter, when it was dark, I made a lot of experiments with motion blur photography. This summer I have done little of such photographs, but two days ago I noticed a new possibility: combining b&w photography with motion blur.

Here are two such images of a forest. It seems (counter-intuitively) that the motion blur makes the feeling of the forest stronger, by giving a kind of fluidity to the landscape.

Do you think this is something to explore? It is interesting that there doesn't seem much done in this type of photography, combining black and white photographs with motion blur.

Closeups of nature - small discoveries

Dandelion, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Red and brown, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Acer tataricum, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Bug, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

One nice thing about a compact camera such as the Panasonic LX3 is that you can bring it everywhere and take closeup photographs of things, especially nature. The camera is a sort of magnifying glass, both giving access to things hard to see with the bare eye, and making it possible to look at these things later at leisure.

Here are four such images from yesterday. As photographs, they are not the best I have taken, but as subjects they are important to me, parts of nature I like to explore in detail.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Seeing different in black and white

Evening light, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Leaves, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Stuff, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

I have continued experimenting with b&w photography. I didn't realize how differently you have to see to be able to take good images. Here are three attempts which I found interesting from the learning point of view. Light and form, in a more abstract sense than with color, are key to images, but it seems to take a long time to learn to see. In many cases, the image wouldn't work at all in color, and vice versa.

The "dynamic b&w" mode of the Panasonic LX3 helps, as you can see a preview of the image on the screen, and thus get some kind of idea what you are going to get.