Monday, 9 May 2016

Paris... Again.

2014_Paris_0086bI have said before that I consider Paris to be the spiritual home of street photography. I find that when I visit Paris, I automatically switch into seeing everything in black and white as I try to emulate the great street photographers of the past. On this visit, in keeping with the spirit of "pure" street photography, I also tried to limit myself to using a small point and shoot Fuji camera. I was somewhat successful - all but four of the snaps below were taken with it.

Street photography is so very, very different from portraiture. When shooting portraiture, I have to think things through ahead of time. It is a very methodical and proactive process, whereas with street work I just react to what is already around me. Such as buildings. I love the graceful lines and geometries of French architecture, especially in the ceilings of the public buildings.

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Of course shooting ceilings in Paris is very common. Almost all the tourists do it.

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Not everyone in church is there to look at the ceilings. Some people are more, uh, contemplative.

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Some ceilings are just as pretty on the outside as they are on the inside.

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One of my favourite buildings is the Musée d'Orsay. I cannot get enough of the building or the art it houses.

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The clocks always attract my attention.

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While it is as famous as the Musée d'Orsay, I had never visited the Centre Georges Pompidou until this trip. There was an HCB exhibit that I had to go see. I am not sure the janitor (lower left) felt as strongly about seeing the exhibit.

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On the top floor of the centre is an external walkway in a Plexiglas tube, which can give you a unique perspective on the people below (assuming you are not fighting vertigo the whole time you are looking down).

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The only place I know that is never busy (or at least has never been busy when I have been there) is the Musée de l'Orangerie. It is a great place to go and reflect in near solitude upon Monet's brilliance.

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It was while we were at the Musée de l'Orangerie that I developed the notion that the French have a thing for curved lines and high contrast - something I became more certain of at the Grand Palais.

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The nice thing about Paris is that even when walking from museum to museum, there are an infinite number of subjects that catch my eye. It appears I have a thing for people walking away from me.

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I loved the way the condensation rolled off of ice at a fish market. I wonder why I do not notice these things at home?

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Sometimes, though, I see things not quite so mundane, and I am reminded of how fortunate I am to be able to afford to go to Paris to visit and enjoy myself; not everyone has the same luxury.

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On a more pleasant note, Paris is also a great place to see street performers. These guys were dancing up a storm, including doing back flips.

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There are three things one simply must photograph while in Paris. One is the Eiffel Tower.

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The second thing that is a "must photograph" item is the Seine or anything along the Seine.

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The third thing I always try to capture is a scene of people engaged in that quintessential Parisian activity: sipping a coffee on the sidewalk. Even if it is cold outside, Parisians just bundle up and find a spot in the sun.

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Of course not everyone drinks coffee. Some prefer more spirited beverages.

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I must say that I quite liked the portability of the smaller camera, but I was constantly cursing its inability to focus quickly and the fact that I could not see what I was shooting due to an unusable optical viewfinder and a very dark screen. Most of the above shots were taken "blind"; I had to guess the composition as best I could. From what I hear, these issues have long been resolved and I suspect a replacement will soon be in my camera bag.



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Friday, 25 March 2016

Barcelona

2013_Spain_F4_0249When Sissel and I left Tamariu, we decided to spend a day in Barcelona. I had never been to Barcelona, which I only knew about from songs (Spanish Burgundy), from sports (Messi / Barça), or from architecture (Gaudi). So I was curious about how Barcelona would match my expectations, such as they were, during a day's walk around the city.

The first thing I think of when I think of Barcelona is the Sagrada Família and Antoni Gaudí. I never really thought the term gaudy to be very complimentary, and I always thought that the term derived from Gaudí's name, only to later learn that it was used at English universities long before Antoni Gaudí was born. Gaudí's work is, uhm, different, and I wanted to see it firsthand, so it was off to the basilica.

I was quite disappointed for two reasons. First, there was a huge line-up wrapping around the church as many people were waiting to get inside. While I desperately wanted to see the interior, hoping that it would offset the gaudy exterior that I was familiar with (from photos), I cannot stand queuing. Some 2.5 million visitors come to Barcelona each year to see this church, and I think half of them were in the queue when we got there. So no inside visit for us.

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The second reason for my disappointment was not being able to fully see the exterior. Notice the scaffolding and the protective wall? That is because the exterior is still under construction. Gaudí never finished the work, it being only about 25% complete when he died. Cost and time over-runs on modern mega-projects are pretty common, but this one will take the cake; the church was started in 1882 and is not expected to be finished until 2026, making it some 144 years in the making. So I should not have been surprised to see several cranes and a lot of scaffolding, which hid much of the structure from view, but I was. Not only did I not get to go inside the basilica, but I had a very a limited view of its outside as well.

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I could see enough of the exterior to recognize it, and to agree that Gaudí's neo-Gothic style certainly is not as appealing to me as Gothic churches like Notre Dame in Paris.

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However, a walk around the basilica did reveal some interesting details. I quite liked the use of colour as a warmer decoration than the plain stones seen in the traditional Gothic style.

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I also much prefer the smoother gargoyles and sculptures here to those at Notre Dame. They are just a little bit less scary.

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I quite liked the use of text as an embellishment. All over the church there are excerpts from the Bible in various languages. This piece is from the Passion facade.

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I find that the church is still under construction to be very surprising, in that since it is so ugly, I would have thought the project would have been long canceled. I found out that the church and the land are actually not owned by the church, but by a secular board convened some 100 years ago for the purpose of building this work. So the construction is largely outside the purvey of both the church and the Barcelona city council.

There were other sights to see in the area besides the church. Some of the street entertainers were interesting. In particular, a bubble-maker caught my eye. He had a neat trick where he would create one bubble and then surround it with another one.

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I wasn't the only one who wanted to get a photo of this trick. One photographer went right to the lion's mouth to get a shot!

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Of course I have no idea how his shot turned out, but I did think a better view (to show the colours of the bubble) was from the side and not the front.

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Of course nothing lasts forever, especially soap bubbles!

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From the Sagrada Família it was over to Park Güell. Along the way I noticed the Spanish are very anti-propaganda:

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And presumably also anti-tax:

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I also noticed a very lovely little street. There was something about the yellow hue of the sun and the reflection off the leaves and the walls that made it surreal.

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Park Güell, like Sagrada Família, is one of Gaudís works. And like Sagrada Família, Park Güell was wall-to-wall with people.

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In Newfoundland, we would say it was maggoty with people.

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I wanted to capture the smooth, flowing lines of the buildings, but it was impossible to take a photograph without getting people in the frame. Ironically, almost all of the people in my photos were taking their own photos. I wonder if that is like looking into a mirror from a mirror where the image stretches off to infinity?

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Everywhere I looked, I could see people taking photos. I wonder if the people in the plane were also trying to get a photo as they flew past?

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I sat down and watched this particular spot for several minutes and it was never clear of people - all of whom were taking photos. As soon as there was an opening on the top, someone would step in and fill it.

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There were no guard rails, and with that many people bumping into one another, I was surprised no-one fell off!

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This enterprising person found a great spot to have a bite to eat.

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I don't really have much in the way of photos to show for my visit to the Park, but I can say it was more of the same that I saw at the basilica. The colours were intense, especially the whites under the hot Spanish sun.

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I noticed more blues in the decoration here, which makes sense since the cooler hues like blue are more popular in a hot climate like Spain's.

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My conclusion from our short walk around Barcelona is that I have to return one day, preferably when the Sagrada Família is finished, and preferably during the low season for tourists. I look forward to spending some quality time exploring the church and the park close up, without the hordes of people.


My other blog post from this adventure is about Tamariu.




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