Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Montmartre, or the 19th-century Paris theme park

Some time ago I read this sentence about Paris: "If we didn't have Paris, we'd have to invent it."  I first laughed, but then had to stop and think about it because, in the end, it's true.  Paris, as a city, seems to be the model and center of everything that's refined, urbane and sophisticated... even if it is (or perhaps especially when it is) about art and la vie bohéme.  For that, we have the hill of Montmartre in Paris, dominated by the great Sacré Coeur church.

The facade of Sacre Coeur, with a gorgeous sky as background. 

From the steps in front of Sacre Coeur, with a lens not too long, one can capture a multitude of human types.  She struck me because of the color of her hair, which shows a lot of attitude in a place that values it..

Must admit this is a cropped shot. She had revised her photographs several times in her camera screen and then she tossed her head and hair with some impatient gesture.

The man has some cool shades...

This man decided to give an impromptu concert on the steps.  He performed several popular songs in English and French, and whenever he didn't know the lyrics or forgot them, he just screamed "blah, blah, blah!" and the crowd roared.  Not something he could do for a paying audience, but then, we were in Paris, on the steps of Sacre Coeur, enjoying a beautiful afternoon. 

Side entrance to Sacre Coeur. 

Crepe maker at a place near the Place du Theatre (I believe).

Tightrope walker near the Place du Theatre.

Tearoom Grenouille in Rue Norvins. 

The girl in glasses was being portrayed as a cartoon by the man in the hat. She heard the shutter of my camera and didn't seem too pleased about being drawn and photographed at the same time. She wasn't alone; lots of people were having their likenesses done by local artists and I admit to having thoughts about it too.

Scene on our way back home, at the Abbesses metro station (the deepest in Paris). 

One parting shot: Macadame Manivelle, a lady in the Place du Theatre performing Edith Piaf songs. 

Thanks for reading this far!  Soon enough I won't have internet access but for as long as I have things worth taking a look at, there'll be something here.


Monday, May 22, 2017

Paris in color

Well, I didn't really plan on doing this when I typed the last paragraph of my previous post, offering more images from Spain. I had already planned on traveling to Paris this summer (it's our 25th anniversary after all), but instead of packing my puny Fuji X-Pro 1 as I had initially considered, I chose the Nikon D700 in the last minute.  This is a city worth the pain of carrying a large rig, just to get the images I want, as opposed to capturing images that will leave me unsatisfied.  So, without further ado, here are some early testimonies of my travels with my Nikon D700 (this time, with the AF-S 24-120 VR f4 beast... just as beastly as the AF-S 24-70 f2.8 I have, but with a bit more reach).

Icon of Paris, the Eiffel Tower, in front of the Trocadero Palace.

Here comes another view, this time including the Pont de Iena.

Upon arriving to the Hotel de Ville...

I spotted this young lady and decided to try my lens at its longest.  See the result:

From the Hotel de Ville en route to Notre Dame I decided to photograph La Conciergerie

Waiting in line to enter Notre Dame... and here are its magnificent bell towers (with 2/3 overexposure).

I admit my shots aren't even postcard quality, but then, I don't pretend to sell them either.  My intention is to capture what I see as quirky, unique and singular in this beautiful city... things like the two ladies below, who were taking each other's photographs in front of the church.

That was a long walk for me (not for the family, their feet are made for walking), but fortunately it wasn't fruitless.  I continued with them to the Quartier Latin (home of the Sorbonne), in which streets and store fronts have a unique look to them.

This is the Rue Galande.

Store in Rue St Julien Le Pauvre.

Man in front of the Shakespeare and Co. bookstore.

That's all, folks, for now!  I promise to return soon with more images.  In the meanwhile, let's add a touch of class... 

Classy Parisian lady walks her bicycle on the Pont Au Double.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Cafe Concert!

While in Toledo, Spain, we visited several spots in the city and found one we became very fond of: the Plaza de San Justo.  

There is a beautiful atmosphere about the place, perhaps because it's right at the foot of San Justo's church.

In this particular spot there's a place called "Café Virtudes", where there's live music (they have a calendar and this website).  Here's an informal view...

In July 2016, while we were still in Toledo, they had a live concert with an Argentine tango singer.  Some view it was... under the beautiful night of Spain (boy, that sounds corny!). 

The stage lights added a touch to the evening.

The nicest thing is that there wasn't a stage, properly speaking, but rather the whole area near the cafe was the stage.

The attentive audience...  good food, good drinks, good music... what else can one ask for?

On our way back home we encountered another event: a rock concert.


It wasn't nearly half as good as the other... but, again, it speaks of the active cultural life in Toledo.  The best part of the evening was walking right under this landmark.

The "Arco de la catedral", which actually joins two different buildings (the Cardinal's palace and the cathedral, I believe), is a landmark and give a great view of the Plaza del Ayuntamiento.  But at nights it can be a very discreet, charming and yet intriguing spot. 

I will return with images of a completely different nature, always from Spain.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Toledo, Spain, summer of 2016

New photographs from Toledo, Spain, including musicians, artisans, people walking the streets, and the streets themselves.  Let's see something from my this visit.

Smoking man in "Calle del Hombre de Palo."

In the "Solarejo" bar.

On the "Calle del Hombre de Palo" at night.

Door in the Jewish neighborhood.

Tourists admiring an artisan at work.

Lute player from the "Grupo Z" playing in the Plaza del Ayuntamiento.  He happened to be part of a group of Greek music, performing that evening...

... Along with this accordion player (algo Greek)...

... and this young lady, who was their singer, and came all the way...

... from Cyprus!!  But they loved her, and it showed.

On July 22 there was a tango concert at the café "Virtudes."  I'll post some photographs later.  I also will return with more Nikon D700 images from Madrid, Toledo, Salamanca or Avila (all of these places in Spain), or fresh off the Cornfest in DeKalb (which is coming up), there will be more stuff to talk about here.  

Monday, August 22, 2016


I'm back... with musicians under different light conditions! These images were all done in May 2016 in DeKalb, with my D700 and 24-70 f2.8 lens.  No flash (of course!) and at ISO 6400.  I concentrated on composition mostly, thinking of getting a photograph that I'd like to see as a CD cover.  The performers are a good, local band, the Barb City Stompers, known for their repertoire of jazz and dixie and bluesy numbers. They're extraordinary performers and very well esteemed in this community.

I think I switched the image from FX to DX for this shot. It was the only way to get the framing I wanted.

Same here: I went from FX to DX.  Something one can only do with an FX body!

I like the effect of the dead space and the positioning of the player here. Not only is it unusual, it creates a contrast between the background and the idea of the music the player is performing. At least, that's what it does to me.

I will come back with another set of photographs from the Barb City Stompers... under very different lighting conditions.  In the meanwhile, let me get my newer Toledo shots ready too!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Sports Ain't Easy!

On November 6th 2015, we all attended a volleyball game at the Convocation Center of Northern Illinois University (where I teach). There was a game: home vs. U of Toledo (OH). Our reason was that my wife (also a professor) was going to get an award at the half-time ceremony.  Not one of us had attended a game, even though we had played volleyball in our lives, so we went and I discovered that shooting sports is twice as hard... no, three times harder than I thought.

First, when one has no choice in seating, there's the problem of location.  Then, when exactly should one shoot?  Ball in the air, ball in the hands of a player, being hit, on the floor?  And, finally (to get technical... it had to happen), when and how does one focus?  On the darn ball?  On the players?

Fortunately, I let the camera make two choices: exposure and white balance (although, in the end, I decided that in the future I'll check with Live View first about the white balance).  The problem I ended up having was composition.  See for yourself...

 Where is the ball?

Isn't that a desk in the lower left corner?  When did that happen?

Half volleyball in the air...

Well... I guess there's only so much one can do with an AF 24-120 that has been cropped to show only a frame the size of an APS sensor.  But then, not everything was that bad.  At least I took some moderately decent photographs... See below.

 This is a fait accompli and the point was scored.

 And the ball in the air, right in the middle...

I really liked the two pairs of hands up in the air... and far, far away from the volleyball!

So, I learned to be happy with my results... and that I'm not in any way, a sports photographer.  How can one show the excitement of the game in one or two shots?  I guess sports shooters already know how to get their images... and, if it's not them, their editors know what to pick.  In any event, we enjoyed the evening so much we're planning on returning...

And I'll be there, with my camera and lens.  

Coming soon... Snow!!  We had lots last weekend, but I wasn't going to step out and shoot icicles like I've done in the past.  No... I have something nicer... but it's still in the card.  So long!