Prague or Bust

Family Leaving Prague Czech Rep 1024x826 Prague or Bust

Family Leavi…ech Rep)

We have a passion for travel. It is one thing that my wife share deeply. We want to understand this world we live in and we know that the best way to do that is through travel. This year we are going to Prague and this is the start of our adventure.

I have decided to try to tell this story just as it unfolds for us. From the decision, through the planning and into the trip. The hope is to keep our family abreast of what we are doing and share some my the pictures.

Screen Shot 2014 09 24 at 6.32.41 PM Prague or Bust

Bridges over River. Photo borrowed from an article in the NY Times by Evan Rail.

Why Prague? 
Simply put it is the Paris of Eastern Europe. I love how some key cities are labeled “the Paris of the ABC” but in this case it might be more true than not. Prague is a capital of art, literature and wonderful architecture. It has seen many governments come and go and has suffered greatly from plagues and oppressive governments, but it has bounced back with renewed youth an vitality.

My wife and I have long wanted to come but timing is important when traveling the world. Prague is going through another renaissance which makes it a perfect time to go and see what this wonderful city is all about. In so many ways it is ahead of its time and in so many others it is lost in its past.

Planning Prague…
This was largely my wife’s doing. She opted for an apartment which would cost less and give us easy access to the old town. She then booked private tours which are essential when traveling with kids. She made sure that we did not have each and everyday filled with activities giving us a chance to relax, and giving me a chance to squeeze in two photography tours.

Bags Prague Czech Rep 1024x902 Prague or Bust

Bags (Prague, Czech Rep): iPhone

Packing Prague….
As you can see from the iPhone picture we packed a bunch of stuff. This does not include the kid seat for the car. But aside from the toiletries I had to pack the gear!

As you can read HERE, I have recently picked up a Micro 4/3 camera and a couple of lenses. The goal being to enable me to take a camera anywhere and to help with my street photography. This kit would be light, fast and easy but by leaving my Nikon D800 behind I would be sacrificing dynamic range, and some amazing detail. No the D800 had to come with me.

Then I went through my lenses and after a search in Lightroom I found that I routinely shoot at a wide aperture. Out of the Nikon Trinity lenses that I have most of my shots come from the 24-70mm f/2.8 followed by the 14-24mm f/2.8 and finally the 70-200mm f/2.8.

Prague Kit Prague Czech Rep 1024x768 Prague or Bust

Prague Kit (Prague, Czech Rep): iPhone

So logic would dictate that if I want to cut down on weight I should leave the long lens but the problem is that I have one image I really want to take which is of the Astronomical Clock. A close up of the face, camera tilted, with a perfectly exposed shot to bring out all the colors. I need my 200 to get this image and it is worth carrying the heavy lens even if I only use it once.

Due to weight and complexity I decided to leave my OM-1 film camera and the GoPro. This was not easy as I had a time lapse idea I really wanted to get using the GoPro but since this trip is not only about photography, I needed to make the tough decision and leave this behind. I would only take my D800 and OMD.

In terms of bags I took my Aiport from ThinkTank for the flight and my new Think Tank Retrospective 7 for my daily carry. I wanted a small bag, that would fit the lenses and if pressed, the camera too. I normally take a larger bag but find that my camera is always around my neck leaving the bag largely empty. I am trying this setup to see if it is less bulky carrying a bag for two lenses while the camera and one lens are being used.

I left all flash and will rely on the pop up if needed. I am slow taking the OMD little flash just in case. I do not do much with flash photography on these vacations as nights are usually left to family affairs.

I also bought a wrist sling from Black Rapids to try on the OMD. The camera is so small it feels odd around my neck. I usually carry it by hand and wrap the neck strap around my wrist. I will do a little review later on how it worked out.

A circular polarizer, ND filter, batteries and memory cards round out the packing. Overall it is less heavy than other vacations but still a big load. One day they will weigh my carryon and the gig will be up.

Mode of Transport Prague Czech Rep 768x1024 Prague or Bust


Mode of Transport (Prague, Czech Rep)

It’s not just about the destination….
What a load on nonsense. In this case it is all about the destination. The trip itself is long and tiresome. We flew from Perth to Dubai over 11 hours. Got into the Dubai airport hotel to catch a few hours sleep and a hot bath only to get on another plane going for six hours going from Dubai to Prague. Economy is rough and being 17 hours on a plane with three kids is not the most enjoyable of experiences.

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Kids on Plane (Prague, Czech Rep): This was taken in the last leg of the trip after about 15 hours on a plane.

We shall see what the days ahead have in store for us and if this trip was worthwhile. I have some images I want to take in mind and I am hoping that the photography tour will highlight some other great shots.

I will end with the first shot that I actually took in Prague using my iPhone.  This is the view from the apartment which we rented and I could not have asked for better.  Right in front we have the astronomical clock which will make it easy to capture it in perfect light.

Prague View Prague Czech Rep 1024x768 Prague or Bust

Prague View (Prague, Czech Rep): iPhone

Family Beach Shots

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Gabriel Cotts Sunset (Perth, Australia): OMD5, 12-50mm shot at 50mm, f/7.1, 1/125sec & ISO 1000.

Can’t go to the beach without capturing some shots of the kids.  Here are the shots I took with the OMD5.  I also took my OM-1 film camera and took some shots of the family but I will have to wait to develop those shots.

The shot above is of Gabriel and I used my height advantage to use the ground as a backdrop.  Usually I do not like shooting down on kids but this gave me a fairly clean background.  I grabbed the shot because I had some great light from the sunset.

Lucas in Cotts Perth Australia 1024x768 Family Beach Shots

Lucas in Cotts (Perth, Australia): OMD5, 12-50m shot at 50mm, f/7.1, 1/125sec & ISO 1000.

The second shot above is of Lucas where I used the same high vantage point and relied on the rocks as background.  The light was wonderful but I liked this in B&W.

The final picture below is a little more artistic as it shows Sabrina walking to the water leaving only her footprints behind.

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Sabrina At Water Edge (Perth, Australia): OMD5, 12-50mm shot at 12mm, f/7.1, 1/60sec & ISO 1600.

Street Shots on the Beach

Edge of Cotts Perth Australia 1024x680 Street Shots on the Beach

Edge of Cotts (Perth, Australia): OMD5. 12-50mm shot at 27mm, f/7.1, 1/80sec & ISO 200.

While out at Cottesloe I took my OMD5 and decided to practice some street shots.  People seemed really relaxed about it and I tried not to bother anyone too much.  I limited myself to one or two shots and moved on.  I kept away from the bathing suit clad people (they are not very interesting anyway).

I grabbed the shot below from a fisherman who was very intense.  While he looks rather upset I can assure you it was not directed at me.  I believe he was seeing some other fisherman in his spot.  I love his expression however.

Mad Fisherman Perth Australia 683x1024 Street Shots on the Beach

Mad Fisherman (Perth, Australia): OMD5, 12-50mm shot at 50mm, f/7.1, 1/125sec & ISO 1250.

Afternoon at the Beach

Beach at Botts Perth Australia 1024x576 Afternoon at the Beach

Beach at Cotts (Perth, Australia): OMD5 12-50mm shot at 17mm, f/7.1, 1/125sec & ISO 200.

Some great friends invited us to a picnic at the beach in Cottesloe beach.  We went in the evening as it is still cool here and enjoyed a great picnic and a walk along the beach.  I took my OMD-5 with me and enjoyed a great time with some great friends.

Contemplating Sunset Perth Australia 1024x820 Afternoon at the Beach

Contemplating Sunset (Perth, Australia): OMD5, 12-50mm shot at 27mm, f/7.1, 1/320sec & ISO 200.

 

Below are a few tips for beach photography that I have learned over the years.

  • Do not change lenses.  Avoid sand inside your camera and just choose an all around good lens and have some fun.
  • The ocean is NOT photogenic.  It looks great live but does not photograph well.  Look for a subject that is NOT the ocean and use the beautiful blue as a backdrop.
  • Take a moist rag with you.  Use it to wipe your hands of any sun screen.  It makes your camera slippery, makes sand stick to it and can remove some of the printed emblems on the housing.
  • Sun rise and sun set are wonderful…seriously just look through Google images and you will see hundreds.  Make your more unique with silhouettes of people or things.
  • Street photography is much easier at a beach.  People expect to be seen and hence are usually less concerned about privacy.  That being said follow the same street rules….do not photograph kids and do not focus too much attention on any one person.

I will share some shots of the family and some street shots I managed to capture while on the beach but I will leave that for later this week.

Friday Close Out

Love Locks Melbourne Australia 1024x768 Friday Close Out

Love Locks (Melbourne, Australia): OMD5 45mm, shot at 45mm, f/1.8, 1/160sec & ISO 200.

I love Fridays not just due to the impending weekend but also because it gives me a chance to close out the week.  An opportunity to sit back and look at what I have accomplished, what I failed to do and take stock in the direction I am going in.

Window Melbourne Australia 687x1024 Friday Close Out

Window (Melbourne, Australia): OMD5 45mm, shot at 45mm, f/1.8, 1/160sec & ISO 200.

I am posting some of the last pictures I took in Melbourne, that wonderful city that deserves so much more of my time, and from some shots taken in Perth.  Again I will mix B&W and color and won’t ask myself “why” but just enjoy the emotion they convey.

Keep Walking Melbourne Australia 1024x768 Friday Close Out

Keep Walking (Melbourne, Australia): OMD5 45mm, shot at 45mm, f/1.8, 1/160sec & ISO 200.

It was a busy week…but a good week.  I have accomplished what I needed to, I have learned a bit and even got a chance to do some things that I wanted to.

 

 

B&W vs Color Street Photography

Waterfront Melbourne Australia 1024x768 B&W vs Color Street Photography

Waterfront (Melbourne, Australia): OMD5 45mm shot at 45mm, f/1.8, 1/250sec & ISO 200. This image I saw as a B&W when I shot it. The textures of the waterfront just begged for a B&W conversion.

Street photography is all about emotion and it is an area where B&W photography continues to reign supreme.  It is difficult to imagine but when color photography came out it was assumed that B&W would disappear much as it has in mainstream film.

Well I took some pictures this past weekend that really brought the question about B&W versus Color for a street scene.  Most of the time I like B&W for a street scene but occasionally it is the colors that really speak to me.  I decided to dig a little deeper into this subject to understand what other photographers do and how they decide on B&W versus color.

This first video is nice and short but does a great job explaining how we see color.  I could not find a better video that explained so much is such a short period of time.  Have a look.

0 B&W vs Color Street Photography

While digging a bit I stumbled across this video from Adorama that goes into some detail about how color impacts B&W images.  It is about 22 minutes and in it Mark starts off with some color plates but then uses a model for some real world examples.  I also like this video because he uses Lightroom for the B&W conversion.

0 B&W vs Color Street Photography

Amazingly enough there is very little out there on why photographers opt for B&W versus color.  The vast majority of things I read or videos I watched chalked it up to personal preference.

A great site that explains the emotion of B&W is this one here.  It is a short blog post but covers a bit of everything in it.  Mrs Coulson explains an important concept rather quickly.  For example:

The art director on a book once said to me ” a colour image is only valid when the colour is great colour.”  Hence if the colours jar, or they are not harmonious or are distracting that is when I convert an image to black and white.

I must agree.  Most photos I prefer to see in B&W unless there is a story that the color is telling. If the color is distracting to the story I convert to B&W.  But there are other considerations to be sure.

The single best quote that Mrs. Coulson uses to explain our love affair with B&W is one by Toroslab.

“Black and white is an attitude, a different way of looking at things. I knew many photographers like Cartier-Bresson and Robert Doisneau who preferred to work in black and white. There is an indescribable magic in black and white that is impossible to explain, it is the shadows and the highlights, in the details and in the mystique. Black and white treads that fine line between reality and fantasy.”

I have to agree with ‘Toros’ on this one.  Why we love B&W may indeed be impossible to explain but the emotion is clear.  It is as if by switching to B&W we strip away distractions and leave only the emotion of the person or scene.

Shoe Repairs Melbourne Australia 661x1024 B&W vs Color Street Photography

Shoe Repairs (Melbourne, Australia): OMD5 45mm, shot at 45mm, f/2, 1/100sec & ISO 200.

The image above was taken in my walk around Flinders Station in Melbourne.  I love this picture of the worn building and the gentleman up early working his craft of a cobbler.  The texture of the sun shade above his window and the door really cry for a B&W treatment.  The detail that my little OMD5 was able to capture in complicated light really amazed me.

Street Art Perth Australia 1024x767 B&W vs Color Street Photography

Street Art (Perth, Australia): OMD5 45mm, shot at 45mm, f/6.3, 1/500sec & ISO 200.

This image of a woman painting a wall was taken in Perth.  We were driving by and I saw this scene and had to stop for a couple of pictures.  What drew me to this was the turquoise color wall.  I tried converting to B&W and spent a considerable amount of time trying to get the conversion right.  But the scene lost what drew me to it in the first place.

This wonderfully dressed woman, with tattoos on her arms painting on this bright wall just does not lend itself to a B&W conversion.  I simply could not do it justice so I opted to leave it in color.    So here B&W failed in the emotion I was after.  Color transmitted this far better.

Family Blowing Perth Australia 1024x768 B&W vs Color Street Photography

Time Passes (Perth, Australia): OMD5, 45mm, shot at 45mm, f/1.8, 1/1250sec & ISO 200.

During the same outing I came across a broken fountain with these three faces set to spray water.  The texture and lack of color really made the decision easy to go with B&W.

So after spending the better part of a day reading, watching and thinking about B&W vs Color I believe it boils down to the emotion that is felt.  There are times when that emotion is best transmitted in B&W and other times where color is the best medium.  Frankly there is nothing left to understand.  If you shoot digital convert to B&W and see.  Ask others for their opinion and ask yourself why you were drawn to a scene.

 

 

Melbourne Streets

Flinders Street Station Melbourne Australia 1024x768 Melbourne Streets

Flinders Street Station (Melbourne, Australia): OMD5 45mm shot at 45mm, f/5, 1/800 sec & ISO 200.

I had to take a trip to Melbourne for work and managed to escape for an hour and capture a few pictures.  For those who have never been it is an amazing city that deserves allot more time than I was allowed to give it.  I was staying in a wonderfully restored historic hotel across the road from Flinders Train Station.  Due to my limited time I stuck around the station and captured some street shots there.  I wish I could have stayed all day.

This is the reason I bought my little OMD5 as it allows me to take it on these trips and use what little spare time I have to go out and capture some images.  While I miss my D800 on these trips it would be impossible to carry that along with me.  The OMD5 fits the bill perfectly.  You can read more about why I went with a Micro 4/3rds kit HERE.

The shot above is of the famous clocks at Flinders.  There is a local phrase here which says “meet you under the clocks” which means this spot.  It is said that many great romances began here as it is a common place for couples to meet at.  I am sure it can tell its fair share of stories of broken hearts as well.

Flinders Station Melbourne Australia 768x1024 Melbourne Streets

Flinders Station (Melbourne, Australia): OMD5 45mm shot at 45mm, f/8, 1/320sec & ISO 200.

Flinders Station can easily be spotted from afar thanks to the beautiful dome and classic green and yellow paint.  The shot above captures the dome as well as a historic light post taken from a bridge nearby.

If you want to see some more images of Flinders Station the You Tube video below does a great job of using different vantage points to capture some great time lapse images.

0 Melbourne Streets

Around the station you have an elevated portion of the tracks that leads into the city.  Under these tracks there are all kinds of interesting things happening.  Unlike what you might expect there are plenty of well heeled people running around.  But a few steps away and you see the seedier souls of the city which you would expect to hang around under the tracks.

Fight Club Melbourne Australia 1024x638 Melbourne Streets

Fight Club (Melbourne, Australia): OMD5 17mm shot at 17mm, f/4, 1/60sec & ISO 640.

In the picture above I captured one of the shops that have been built under the tracks.  This one is a boxing club which does not appear too inviting.

To capture this image I passed the place the first time and took a mental note of it.  I kept walking taking some more pictures and on the way back I prepped the camera as I came close.  I did not want to stand around fiddling with settings so I wanted to capture it carefully but quickly.  I set the camera on auto ISO and set a aperture of f/4 (with a 17mm lens DOF at this distance is not really an issue).  I then quickly framed it and took two shots and moved on.  This prevented anyone from noticing me and allowed me to take a candid image of what they were doing.

Bar Melbourne Australia 1024x547 Melbourne Streets

Pub (Melbourne, Australia): OMD5 45mm, shot at 45mm, f/2.2, 1/8sec & ISO 200.

The image above was taken at a local pub where we stopped for lunch.  I loved the bar with all its bottles and wanted to capture it with the bar tender moving.  I set the camera up with a f/2.2 kept the ISO to 200 forcing the shutter speed to creep to 1/8sec.  This gave me a fast enough capture to hand hold the camera while allowing for some movement.  I took three shots and liked this one the best.

Friday has Arrived

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Patrick & Gabriel (Perth, Australia): D800 270mm shot at 70mm f/4, 1/250sec & ISO 800.

Well it has arrived in Australia at least!  Here is a shot from a couple of weekends ago shot by my wife of me and my youngest.  The odd lines on our faces is due to the bug screen shadow but in spite of that I love this photo!

Most importantly so did Gabriel so I printed it up for him.  Well that is all I got for now.  Enjoy your weekend with family…and why not take a few photos of them!

 

Its raining…time for some Flower Macros

Flower Back Yellow Fill Perth Australia 1024x682 Its raining...time for some Flower Macros

Flower Back Yellow Fill (Perth, Australia): D800 40mm Macro shot at 40mm, f/8, 4 sec & ISO 100.

This weekend it has been raining cat and dogs here in Perth.  A cold front came through and between the wind and the rain it is miserable out.  Fortunatly for me we had a friend over for lunch and he was kind enough to bring my wife some flowers.  So after he left I pulled out my Nikon D800 with the 40mm DX macro and had some fun!

Light was fading fast so I needed to work quickly.  I set up the tripod and put the flowers on a bench and began working.  Flower Macro shots have been done to death but they are fun especially if you can look for an innovative perspective.

Below is a short list of the things I try every time I shoot Flowers…it is my go-to cheat sheet.

  • Try shooting the flower from below.  We always see them from above and with a macro lens (even the cheaper one I have) you can see some great detail.
  • Try using a little bottle of water to spray a mist over it.  Due to the lack of time I did not try it on this shoot but it is easy and fun to add a little dew on the flowers.
  • Try a single big drop of water.  Sometimes it is not dew you are after but an interesting reflection.  There is a whole genre of photography that puts different images in the reflection of a single drop of water.
  • Finally don’t shoot the whole flower.  Try getting the composition right with a single section of the flower.  This adds a bit of action into the composition and gives it a bit of adventure.
Nectar Perth Australia 1024x819 Its raining...time for some Flower Macros

Nectar (Perth, Australia): D800 40mm Macro shot at 40mm, f/8, 1/6sec & ISO 100.

Nice, simple and fast.  These are the recipe that I go to every time I am out shooting flowers.  Just remember that when shooting macros any movement is your enemy.  below is how I handle that.

  • Use a tripod.
  • Wind is your enemy.  Get away from it!
  • Use a remote trigger to avoid any movement when pressing the shutter.
Orange Purple Flower Macro Perth Australia 1024x683 Its raining...time for some Flower Macros

Orange & Purple Flower Macro (Perth, Australia): D800 40mm Macro shot at 40mm, f/8, 0.7sec & ISO 100.

Some Food for Thought

Perth Work Ahead Perth Australia 1024x768 Some Food for Thought

Perth Work Ahead (Perth, Australia): OMD5 45mm shot at 45mm, f/8, 1/250sec & ISO 200.

Street photography is one of my favorite genres to enjoy and by “enjoying” I mean look at.  Shooting street photography is one of the most challenging genres to master.  I wanted to understand a little more about why it is so frustratingly hard so I spent a little time looking at my street photography attempts, those of the experts and some people’s thoughts on the subject.  So here is what I learned…

Street Photography Types

There are two types of street photographers out there and both are legitimate.  The first group is the one that uses people as the main protagonist of their photo.  I searched through hundreds of photos of great photographers that are masters at doing this.  The more recent discovery of thousands of images from photographer Vivian Maier has shown us some of the best examples of this style of photography.

Screen Shot 2014 09 07 at 8.35.51 AM Some Food for Thought

Photo by Vivian Maier

 

Vivian Maier’s images are amazing.  Much of what draws my eye is the time in which the images were taken.  An everyday street scene in 1950 is a work of art in 2014.  But after skipping through those images I found touching moments of people captured perfectly.  The simple image conveys an emotion across 64 years of time and hits you like a brick.  How did she and other street photography greats manage that?

I tried to understand what makes a simple portrait a masterful photograph and I found this explanation from Mimo Khair on Flickr Moment (you can see it HERE).

Screen Shot 2014 09 07 at 8.27.53 AM Some Food for Thought

Photo take by Mimo Khair

In the video Mrs. Khair explains that she is looking for “moments of connection” or “when someone is inside a moment”.  That explanation really nails the hundreds of excellent street photography images that I have seen.  Mrs. Khair really has  a knack for capturing these moments as can be seen in the image above.  The street provides the backdrop, the leading lines and the compositional tools.  But the image is not about the street but rather the two people clearly in love sitting on the floor.

This style of street photography is the one that pulls me the most.  It uses the “street” to give a background to the real story of peoples lives.  When done well and people are captured “inside a moment” the results are mesmerizing.  I can look at some of these images for hours.

The second group of street photographers tell a story about the street, buildings and events and leave people to play a supporting role.  These images may not even have a person in them. They tell a story of a place that we may very well recognize but have never really taken he time to look.

Screen Shot 2014 09 07 at 8.44.25 AM Some Food for Thought

Photo by Jay Maisel

Jay Maisel is said to be one of the greatest street photographers and he is indeed an inspiration to me.  Looking through his pictures I have discovered that this is the type of photography he really excels at.  People are protagonists in many of his images but they play a supporting role to tell the story about the place.  More recently the main protagonist of his images has been color and Jay Maisel uses it better than anyone else to tell a story.

That is not to say that photographers can’t do both.  Below are a couple of images where Vivian Maier uses people as a supporting role and Jay Maisel allows people to be the lead protagonist.

Screen Shot 2014 09 07 at 9.02.53 AM Some Food for Thought

Photo by Vivian Maier

 

 

 

I can see that above Vivian uses the lady walking to provide scale, depth and symmetry (using the reflection).  But the photo is not about the lady but about the place.

Screen Shot 2014 09 07 at 9.03.41 AM Some Food for Thought

Photo by Jay Maisel

 

 

In the image above Jay Maisel captures the man in a moment.  The expression and eyes convey boredom at first glance but then we see something else…resignation.  He appears to convey a message of having to go someplace that he does not wish to but must go.  The fact that he is framed in the window of a bus helps convey the message of travel…

Street Photography Under Threat

The other thing that I have noticed is that while street photography is very popular to look at it is suffering a bit in this day and age.  I am beginning to see more people take images of the street instead of images of people on the street.

I occasionally like to stop by and see a few minutes of the discussions on “The Grid”.  Much of the content is a bit forced but there are some good discussions if you can work your way through some of the fluff.  In Episode 151 (41 minutes in) Scott Kelby shares a story of walk around Paris with Jay Maisel when they were confronted by a lady who did not appreciate her photo being taken.  From Mr. Kelby’s description it seems that it was a very traumatic experience for him and has driven him away from street photography.

This is a fear that we all share.  No one wants to cause someone pain or anger with our hobby.  But should we allow street photography to die?  In an age of cell phone images being taken all over the world should we stop and suddenly put our cameras away for fear of invading someone’s privacy?  If someone does not want the image taken can they not just ask us not to?  Is it reasonable for them to become irate without having tried a discussion?

Tailor at Work Singapore 866x1024 Some Food for Thought

Tailor at Work (Singapore): D800 24-70mm shot at 70mm, f/8, 1/90sec & ISO 400.

 

Before starting this post I always thought that my street photographs lacked something because they did not capture people in a moment.  Now I understand that there are times when the story is about the street and through careful composition, the right timing and a little luck these images can be mesmerizing in their own right.

I have also realized that while the fear of rejection can push people away from street photography I do not believe that to be right.  I believe that if I am respectful in my image taking and will immediately delete any image of someone who asks me to I will not allow a few rude people to drive me from a genre that I love.