Giggles and grins in Provence.

I have mentioned before that sometimes you just have to shoot the under-belly of the beast… the odd-ball thing… the funny stuff… the hodge podge … you know the stuff you put into a folder called… miscellaneous. I said that for two important reasons. First and foremost… is because these “small shots” can add so much to a story. They are the color and the texture that can make a series of photos so very interesting. The second reason is that it is good practice. And as you know… practice makes perfect. Or darn close. If you use the same exact creativity to capture the “small stuff”… ie composition… simplicity and perspective…. when the “shot of a lifetime” is looking you in the face… you will be ready! And people will say….”Did you shoot that?”… and you will humbly reply… “Yes, I shot that!”. Below are a few of those small shots I have shot over the last few days.

IMG_7260 copy

IMG_7291 copy

IMG_6527

IMG_3614

IMG_3198

IMG_6540

Now… take a closer look at those shots. Long lens. Short lens. Low perspective. Overhead. High shutter speed to freeze a sheep. Shallow depth-of -field to capture a strawberry in the snow. Simple compositions. Humorous. Contrast of content to add a little drama to the scene. All the things I have talked about are represented here. I won’t pretend they are award-winning… because … well… they aren’t. Nor were they captured with that in mind. On their own they are just little shots… but in the right grouping they would add color and texture to the story. And maybe a few giggles and grins.
So… don’t shy away from the small stuff. Just practice what I preach. Happy trails.

Patina. Showing one’s age is a beautiful thing.

I love old stuff. Old cars that have spent too many days in Chicago. Old brass bird cages. Copper gutters on a Frank Lloyd Wright residence. Stone discolored by water seepage. Paint gone south. The passing years have a positive look on most things. Especially if it is in Provence and painting that old wall is a non non. Why paint it… it is fine! Year after year many things change in this world… but usually not here. It is an inherit respect for age. Whether it be a grandmother or a 2000 year old bridge. Things don’t automatically go into the dust bin just because it wasn’t new yesterday. Maybe that is a major reason why I love Provence. Respect for what was done a hundred years before. So what if it is discolored by rain and sun and snow?
If it works… why knock it down? So what if it isn’t this year’s coolest shade of mauve? I love old stuff. Cool old stuff. And here… it is everywhere.
I took a walk the other day looking for textures… patterns and things that were showing their age beautifully. Yep… I was on a search for patina. Here are a few things I found and photographed. Enjoy.

IMG_6807

IMG_2886

IMG_2195 bw copy

IMG_4605

And just like so many things I photograph… I look and compose shapes and colors… not the objects themselves. Granted… it is more difficult to create a dramatic composition when all you have to work with is a discolored wall of a thousand year old church. But heh… that is where the challenge is! Look around as you walk. Add patina to your ever-growing list of interesting things to shoot. And pray that when you get that old… you will look so good that people will stop and take your photograph. Happy trails!

Roussillon is definitely an 800 year old Hollywood set.

It has to be. Just look at it! It is perched on a hill of red and ochre “rock”. Picture perfect narrow lanes wind up and down and around just at the right place and angle to catch the light. A tiny town square that looks like it is about to stage an opera. Shutters painted blue, red, yellow, orange and green. Buildings of red, orange, yellow and ochre. It is amazing.
It is Roussillon. And in reality it gets its beautiful and romantic palette from the nearby rich deposits of ochre. Ochre was mined from the late 1700’s till about 1930 for textile use. But today the hills of gold and orange are protected but one can still take a hike on them… just be sure to wear clothes/shoes you care nothing about. I literally took fifty photos yesterday…
but here is a small sample.

IMG_6593

IMG_6616

IMG_6629

IMG_6612

IMG_6630

IMG_6621

IMG_6609

In this one-of-a-kind place it is easy to make use of “leading lines”, flat graphic patterns, strong geometric shapes and interesting perspectives. And your settings? Get as much deep “depth of field” as possible… you don’t want to have anything soft… it is just too darn gorgeous. Happy trails… and remember… no white shorts.

Bonnieux… the fifth time around.

Bonnieux is one of the most beautiful perched villages in France. That is why I went there the first time. It was beautiful then… and it is beautiful now. And it hadn’t changed a bit during my several times to see it and to photograph it. Why would it? It is hundreds of years old…and parts of it are even older. Time seems to have no effect on it. I knew where the arches were. I knew where the Madonna “in a cage” is on the very top. I thought I knew it like the back of my hand. I thought I had discovered all of the great angles revealing its stunning architecture. I thought I knew all of its stone staircases. Well… yesterday I saw it again with new eyes. My son is here for a few all too short days with his wonderful and supportive wife. I say supportive because well… after “just a minute I think I see something”… for the 103rd time… one would think she would say…”Chris… put the camera away … I am chilly”…. nope. “Go for it, Chris”. My wife is exactly the same. “Go for it, Gene”.
When you are with someone who is looking at something remarkably beautiful and ancient… for the very first time… with all the excitement of Christmas morning with all of its new presents… one’s own views change. You begin to see everything differently. The “I’ve seen that”…. becomes “wow… look at that!”. And so it was with Bonnieux. I saw different angles. I saw different textures. I saw different contrasts. I saw it with new eyes. Here’s just a couple photos. More to come.

IMG_6656 copy

IMG_6658 copy

So today’s “lesson” is not one of settings and getting up early to make sure your battery is charged. No. The lesson is… no matter if you have seen something before… there is nothing like seeing it again with new eyes. Thanks Chris.
Happy trails.

Fog or brouillard… it is still magical.

Weather events… you gotta love them… if you have a passion for photography! A dusting of snow… right after a good downpour… or an ice storm… thunderous cloud formations… all present the photographer with a look that just doesn’t happen every day. Fog is especially generous with its beauty. It is almost a built-in depth-of-field setting. It is mystical as everything recedes into the quiet cauldron. Obviously, if it is “thick as pea soup” and you can’t see past your nose… then that is just too much a good thing. Then… just wait. It will thin out. Also… it is just what the doctor ordered if you have intentions of transferring the color photo into black and white. Nature has already done most of the work for you.
Click on a few buttons and voila… it is art. But here are a few tips… one… having it “backlit” is a good thing. The subjects close to you will “go black”… and become milkier as they recede. Yummy stuff.
Here are a few recent shots I have taken in the fog.

IMG_4777 copy

IMG_4780 copy

IMG_2400 copy

IMG_3861

Now… when you are shooting… since nature is automatically supplying most of the “depth-of-field” settings for you… set your camera at F-22 or as close to that as possible. And perhaps you will need a tripod… but probably not. It looks gray but believe me… there is plenty of light in the sky. An added bonus of shooting in the fog is that you don’t have to avoid the sky… make it part of the composition. It is not going to harm anything. So… when the cold air hits the warm ground… make sure your battery is charged and get out there and capture one of nature’s most beautiful weather events. Happy trails.

Patterns, textures and things… oh my.

A philosopher once said….”If it catches your eye…. shoot it”. Or was that my first photography teacher way back when? No matter… it is true. Before the age of digital…. meaning yesterday… one would have to think twice before pushing the shutter willy nilly. First… it cost moolah to buy the film and then it cost more to develop and print it. But still… if you didn’t shoot it, sharing with others what you saw…. would be out of the question. Of course digital is a very sharp double edged sword.
Yes, you can shoot and erase to your heart’s content… but also with the unbelievable images from around the world comes thousands of images of “a basket full of kittens”. Tell them to stop that! Ahhh… but I digress.
One category of images that I shoot time and time again is “textures, patterns and just plain things”. I can’t stop myself. If it catches my eye… I shoot it. Why? Well… it caught my eye. Something about the juxtaposition… or the color against color… or the ordered chaos… or the humor or just because. I am not really thinking about showing it to others… I am only pleasing myself at the moment. Instant gratification. And heh… I can always view and erase. Below are a few that found their way into the “P,T andT” folder.

IMG_4597

IMG_1998

IMG_4975

IMG_6022

IMG_3938

Shooting this type of photograph is also a great way to practice lens selection, aperture and composition.
Especially composition. And some day… the light will be marvelous… you’ll grab the “right ” lens… compose it with ease and you will squeeze the shutter. And voila… what was just a “thing” yesterday will today become art. And people will ask… “Did you shoot that?” You know the answer.
Happy trails.

Alain et Valerie.

Simply said… they make hats. More correctly said… they are true artisans designing and creating by hand their passion… le chapeau. Hats for ladies and gents specifically for Provence in the hot summer months. Lightweight. Airy. Exquisite craftsmanship. And pretty darn snazzy. I met them at an outdoor cafe. Later Alain told me that is what they do on a Saturday morning. Go to their favorite cafe… have a cafe… and meet friends as they stroll past. After endless hours of designing and creating hats… the cafe is a chance to relax… sit in the sun… and catch up on the “latest” with their many friends. Not exactly a Facebook encounter. One on one. Laughing. Giggling. Sharing. It is a beautifully simple life. One based on art and people. I like them. I was invited not to their shop in the village… but to their home to photograph them and the creation of… le chapeau. Some photographs can tell a story… but it is sometimes difficult to capture a passion for a craft let alone a connection between two human beings. They like each other. A lot.
I can only hope these fleeting photographic moments do their craft and them justice.

IMG_6191

IMG_6158

IMG_6180

IMG_6274

IMG_6352

IMG_6433

The photographs themselves are a mixed bag of low indoor light, filtered sun light, shallow depth of field and deep focus, hand-held camera, tripod, still life and moving energetic people. A fun photographic challenge. A fun day. It is days like this and people like Alain and Valerie that have made this adventure so productive and so so enjoyable. Did I tell you she also makes a killer orange preserve?
Happy trails.

I heart Provence.

Well… it is February 14th… Saint Valentine’s Day. Wikipedia says…..The day was first associated with romantic love in the circle of Geoffrey Chaucer in the High Middle Ages, when the tradition of courtly love flourished. By the 15th century, it had evolved into an occasion in which lovers expressed their love for each other by presenting flowers, offering confectionery, and sending greeting cards (known as “valentines”). Valentine’s Day symbols that are used today include the heart-shaped outline, doves, and the figure of the winged Cupid. Since the 19th century, handwritten valentines have given way to mass-produced greeting cards.
Well… there you go. Saint Valentin… the man… is a little bit more murky. Beatings… beheadings… miracles performed… it all gets very too “Middle Ages brutal” for me… so I will just stick to the Hallmark version. So much nicer.

I shot the photo below a few days ago… it is one of those times when the camera is a terrific tool just to record stuff. A snapshot if you will. And that is just fine. I have folder upon folder of archived photos…. ie snapshots. Of course… don’t ever tell the folders marked “art” that the “snapshot” folders even exist… much less let them know they are sharing storage space with them.

IMG_4604

Fame….Je t’aime pour toujours et √† tous √©gards.

Animal House.

This little “post” is all about shooting things that you have no control over and things that you have almost total control over. First the “no control” subject. Yes. Goats. In particular… baby goats… the original kids. They do not listen. They do not slow down. They don’t pose. They don’t understand French or English or any of the Romantic languages. They don’t do anything except move like a pin ball in a pin ball machine. Erratic… off the wall bundles of joy. They are hilarious. And when they are not outside… they are usually hanging out in a large shed eating and working on their game of antics. So for a photographer… there in lies the challenge. They are usually dark in color…. moving quickly and they are in a low light situation. What to do? Now if you want a blurry shot… then you have no problems. But if you want to actually see them in focus… here is what you have to do. Change your settings. Immediately.
First… bump up your ISO ( light sensitivity number)… it should have been at 100 for a smooth look… but we are desperate here… we want the shot so we will accept a little bit of “grain”. Go ahead… bump it up to about 400 or 800. Choose an F-stop that will allow the shutter speed to be as quick as possible… that is right…anything below F-5.6 should do the trick. Now… put your camera on “multi-shot”… because …. well you just never know what is going to happen in a split second. Now… you are armed. Go and capture those little guys! Now… it is not everyday that you shoot a goat… pardon the expression. I know some one will be saying… just shoot them with the flash on. And I say… I hate the flash. So…. the next time you are shooting goats or kids… or anything that moves quickly… in a low light situation… apply those settings and go to town! Forget one of those settings and you will not get the shot that will have people saying…”Did you shoot that?”.

IMG_5880 copy

Now… on the other hand or hoof… when you have total control… or close to it… it is indeed a completely different animal. Let’s talk Chevre cheese. Yes… it is a delicious product of goat’s milk but…. It doesn’t move. You can pick it up … turn it around and you can put it almost anywhere to shoot. I chose an old wooden serving plate. I placed it near a window for a little light. Now…. the options come in. Angles… angles… angles. You get to choose… you are the photographer. It is not going anywhere so I got to shoot it anyway I wanted. Also… I chose a pretty shallow depth of field… ie… an f-stop of 3.2 or 3.5. Love that look! And the shutter speed didn’t matter… just so I didn’t dip below 1/25th… because I can’t hold the camera perfectly still any slower than that. I chose not to get out the tripod… well… I really didn’t need it and anyway… it was in the car.

IMG_5943

IMG_5947

IMG_5956

So… when you have the time… take your time. Move it around. Try different angles. It is up to you. And of course the best thing about
shooting food is… well…you get to eat it afterwards…. which is not an option when you are shooting kids.
Happy trails.

Gordes. The quintessential French perched village.

Well… first let me say to all those folks who were expecting this post to be about a funny farm animal ( because I said it was) … they will have to wait a couple more days. Instead…. let’s talk about Gordes. It is beautiful. It faces directly south. It is older than all get out…. you know… well over 2000 years old. It is made of yellowish stone. It has a great church. It has a castle. It has narrow streets of worn cobbled stones. And a photographer’s dream. Unfortunately, there is one view… across the gorge that 99% of anyone wanting to shoot a cityscape… well… let’s just say it is the “go to” spot.
That is a problem in itself. How to make YOUR shot different from someone else’s. In your favor is your passion to get something different. After standing where most people stand… what is left is… the time of day! Most people who are not as passionate as you will get up… have breakfast… plan the day and around noon go out and “see what they can get”.
It is what separates the “men from the boys”… the wannabees from us… the snapshot from the photograph. Timing.
I chose sunrise because I knew the look would be different from the others. And I knew I would be the only one out there… who in their right mind would get up at 5:30… drive a half an hour… set up the tripod in the dark…in the freezing cold and wait.
My friend, it is the early bird that catches the worm… and a congenial wave from the bus driver. And hopefully… a nice photo.

IMG_5929 copy

Yes… the exposure was long… about 30 seconds. F-22 to make sure everything was in focus. And many shots… because the sun waits for no one… it is rising come h___ or high water. And with it comes different settings.
But remember… always look at the scene and if you have the time…ask yourself, “How can I make this different?”.
Your thoughts and answers will determine if it was worth getting up with the chickens and the bus driver.
Happy trails!