Sunday, September 26, 2010

Supercrawl Streetscape (September 25, 2010)

I went out to the Hamilton Supercrawl last night with friends, and took quite a few pictures--I was really enjoying the new camera's capacity to take pictures in the dark. I had taken quite a few of them with black and white in mind rather than colour, and I thought I would post some of the ones I converted.

Supercrawl is the larger manifestation of Hamilton's monthly James Street North Art Crawl, an event held on the second Friday of every month.

I liked the autumnal look of this picture (above). It's actually a shot of two friends walking ahead of the rest of the group. Inside that tent (at right) were many delights including clothing, jewelry, second-hand books, artworks, and cupcakes and coffee.

All the galleries along James Street North have their doors open wide.

The evening was very well attended. At 9:30pm the street was still busy and the coffee shops, bars and galleries were packed.

I like shooting pictures at night because you can't quite tell what the camera will do, how much it will "capture" and how--it reminds me of the way glazes behave at very high firing temperatures (though perhaps a bit more predictable!). I also like then having the photos in black and white, because there's a shift in one's entire perception of the image. Different things stand out, certain elements are reduced or less differentiated while others become more central and/or acceptable as elements of the composition, like the blurs in the pictures above and below.

Aside from unexpected smudges, I enjoy the fuzzed, intense look that streetlamps and other light sources take on when exposed for longer periods--and the strange shifts of focus that occur as the camera tries to make sense of the extreme visual conditions.

The picture above is one of those shots that for some reason really appeals to me, though I can't figure out exactly why--something compositional, and related to the focus on the two people in the left-hand, middle third of the frame.

Apparently Supercrawl attracted 20,000+ visitors this year, running from 1pm to 11pm with several chunks of James Street North fenced off from the usual vehicular traffic. It's great to see this kind of event bringing such a lively turnout to Hamilton's downtown.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Moon Tonight (September 21, 2010)

This evening we're having an Extreme Moon Moment here, with the moon swollen to its full size and bright light a dimmed sun against the night sky. Naturally I had to take some pictures from my back deck.

One interesting thing is that I couldn't get the shot I wanted, in the moment, from my new digital camera. I decided to cheat and pull out the old one, which still works but inconsistently (hence my decision to replace it). While the new camera is amazing at making the most of available light even in the dark, this tendency actually has a sad effect on certain kinds of night shots. It over-exposed the moon pictures, showing not the pearly bright against dark but rather what looked almost like full sunlight. I wasn't able to produce the shot below with my newer camera, but captured it with the older one:

Friday, September 17, 2010

Cows of Milan (May 16, 2007)

These six pictures are of a series of sculptures in Milan, more of the entertaining public art that seemed to pop up thought the city (when I was visiting, at least). Without knowing what the actual project is about or what's it's called, I've been calling it "Cows of Milan". For this blog post I sought to find out, at last, what these cows were all about--and whether they had any relationship to Toronto's Moose in the City.

Cow #1: "Zebra". Artist: Selection SRL. Undetermined location, but almost certainly in or just outside the Galleria Vittoria Emanuele which leads from the Piazza Duomo to the Piazza della Scala and contains some of the most high-end boutiques in the city. The day I took these photos would have been the first time I went walking around the city on my own--I started at Piazza Duomo, a pretty obvious choice, and was drawn into the Galleria since it is the most impressive-looking thing in the square (aside from the Duomo itself).

Cow #2: "Muuusica" Outside La Scala (Piazza della Scala). Artist: Terrakuarello. I was surprised and very pleased to discover this second cow, outside the famous La Scala opera house--fittingly decorated with little people singing. At this point I realised there was a theme going, and I started looking for more cows along the way.

Cow #3 "Hot Milk". Artist: Marijana Savic. I'm not sure the exact location, but it was somewhere around Piazza Cordusio--I was walking toward the Castello Sforzesco and I went along Via Dante, shooting a photo on that corner right before I took this one.

What my online research tells me is that these cows were part of something called CowParade. It was, and is, a kind of art-show-plus-philanthropy event, and it has "travelled" through over 70 cities worldwide. New cows are create by a new set of artists in each city; the cows would stay in place for several months before being auctioned off for charity. It's a pretty novel and amusing idea, probably owing its success to the creativity and humour generated by the chosen motif and also to the public element of the project, which takes away the exclusionary aspect of "philanthropy"--in a sense sharing the good cause with everyone (even those who cannot afford to donate or purchase).

Cow #4 "Mucca Urbana", Via Dante. Artist: Birgitta Latis.

Via Dante is a relatively long, straight stretch of street (for downtown Milan), accommodating pedestrians and bikes, though I wasn't clear about the rules for cars. I think this is why there were several cows placed along it (#3, 4 and 5 on this list)--a spacious thoroughfare lined with interesting shops, offices, caf├ęs and restaurants.

Cow #5: A roll in the hay... or rather, "Felicity", Via Dante. Artist: Rafaella Cosco. I love this one in particular because a happy cow is a cute cow, obviously. She looks like she's wiggling her legs about and smiling with glee.

Toronto's Moose project is, as it turns out, a spin-off of the Cow idea. Since Toronto wasn't one of the cities included in the CowParade project (Sydney, Australia and Auckland, NZ did participate), I suppose they felt they should come up with some other (more Canadian?) idea for themselves. Halifax did the same, replacing cows with Lobsters, and Hamilton, Ontario, had a similar project involving doors (I'm not quite sure how that happened).

Cow #6: "Ecow", found outside the Palazzo dell'Arte in Parco Sempione. Artists: Matteo Thun & Antonio Rodriguez. Apparently there was at least one other cow in that area, but I didn't know it at the time and sadly I missed out.

CowParade Milano ran from 14 April to 17 June 2007. It included 100 artsy cows placed all over the city, only seven of which I saw (the one missing from my photos here is a cow I spotted at the airport, on my way back to Canada). A helpful directory of the Milano cows, with their names and pictures, is provided here.

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Sunday, September 12, 2010

A Privileged View (January 30 & 31, 2010)

This picture, which I took in January in New Zealand, cycled by in my wallpaper backdrops the other day; I am struck by it every time. I think it's probably that it looks like a scene from The Lord of the Rings, and was indeed taken in a forest where a number of segments of those movies were filmed. I suppose it's the evergreens framing that mountain in the distance; you could be peering out from the thickness of Fangorn--looking to spot the next roving band of orcs. Like in the photo below, which was taken on the Te Anau-Milford highway on the way to Milford Sound; it would have seemed fitting if a white horse had appeared in the distance, galloping along the line where the forest meets the grass.

In reality how those films were made was of course a combination of "straight shooting" (heh) and the of collaging different shots taken from here and there to create the right look for the locations described in the books. Isengard is an example--what I didn't know what that the mountains in the picture below (another I took in Mt. Aspiring National Park) were used as the backdrop for Saruman's stronghold--while the foreground, including the river you can see here, was replaced with Orthanc and its surroundings.

I think having grown up in New Zealand it wasn't much of a leap for me to associate the familiarities of our landscape with the one described by Tolkien...the translation into film was only the last and more specific step of that imaginative process, which is probably why--no matter how much I dislike some aspects of them--I'll always love those movies.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Favourite Field (Summer, 2000)

After the past few harried weeks, I've had little energy to post in my picture blog--so today I'm going to put up some photos of something nice and restful. It's a fairly good precursor to next week's back-to-class madness as well (though most universities started again this week, ours begins a week later due to religious holidays).

The pictures were taken in a field on Mont-Royal, a somewhat secluded spot where I used to enjoy sitting quietly with a book, enjoying the sound of the breeze ruffling the trees behind me, which screened me out of view of those walking up the Chemin Olmstead. With this path that (still) leads down through the trees that look tunnel-like, I've always liked how this spot is tucked away just beyond range of notice.

They don't mow the grass too often here--there's no real reason to, of course. Though there are people walking through (the path into the field leads, eventually, down one side of Mont-Royal) you can sink into the long grass and be ignored. I sometimes stopped here on the way to my dishwashing shift, if I felt like walking all the way to work. Once I and a friend had a small pre-noon (pre-work) picnic there, which consisted of a bottle of red wine drunk from inappropriate cups.

Above: a blooming muddle of plant life in the long grass of the field. Alongside daisies, those red things are seed pods from dock plants, or so I was taught when I saw them as a child in New Zealand. We used to feed them, dried out, to our pet birds. The leaves in the picture below belong to the same kind of plant, I think.

Below: thistle plants. The are odd-looking things, their spindly necks topped with bulbous buds that look for all the world, as they open, like droopy purple-dyed punks letting their hair grow out. I remember having fun with focus when taking some of these pictures, using a wide aperture because of the light and then playing with the extremes produced by limited depth of field.

I love coming to this field near afternoon twilight--I still do this now when I visit Montreal. In the summer the light bathes you indirectly, reflected back against the sky, from beyond the crest of Mont-Royal. In a few of these pictures it's faintly warm orange. Near dusk you can hear the complementary thrumming notes of traffic (which sounds distant, but isn't) and warm-weather insects. It's one of the best places from which to experience the feeling of being both within, and apart from, the murmuring heart of the city.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Silver lining (August 30, 2010)

I've been out of commission for the past week or so due to moving house, and a delay in getting the Internet connection hooked up at the new place. I wanted to post something quickly now that I have everything sorted at home (including wireless--finally!).

I took this picture the other day from the bus window on Highway 407, on the #47 GO bus from Hamilton to York University. I love it when the clouds look like this--crystal clear with that perfect edge of light--and these ones have a lovely misty aura through which the sun shines as if through morning fog. You can also see the "rays" of light as they shine around the cloud and create lines against the darker blue of the sky. This looks even more dramatic since the clouds are dark grey, rather than white. A striking effect, as if the sun is exploding from behind the clouds (as in one of those old medieval woodcuts).

Pictures like this also remind me of a lovely Simon & Garfunkel song.