Sunday, July 26, 2009

Best laid plans

This month I have 2 programs back to back in different venues; or so I thought. I decided that I would take my 'proper' camera with me to Salamanca, spend the weekend in Madrid then the following week in Gredos and get three locations shot, that was the plan.
However I arrived at the tapas meet only to find out that I was going to Gredos for both weeks, AND this that week is the Young Adults program! Damn it, so much for preparation and planning.

The Young Adults were in high spirits and seemed very much up for the week. The Spaniards on the other hand seemed daunted and sleepy at first, but they soon came round.
There were a few issues during the week. We had a couple of complaints at night from guests. The problem is, people are going to socialize (an important part of the program) but in order to do so they need to be able to have somewhere to do it without disrupting others. There is little point in expecting 8/10 people to 'chat' quietly.

It would have been nice if the facilities were made more available by the hotel, as they are already there it is of no extra cost to them.
One of the participants left the program at the beginning of the week after finding it too difficult. Vaughan Town is hard and daunting enough, you really need to have at least a basic level of English to feel comfortable. I think that age is also a factor and 17 is too young; Vaughan Town is not a summer camp.

I must admit though the Young Adult programs are more work then most typical programs and they do get tiring after a while, which is why if the group do as they should, you can relax off and not 'mother' them so much.
We had an accident during the improv sketch which put a downer on the remainder of the evening; luckily she is ok, nothing broken.

Surprisingly it took the party over an hour to get into full swing - and no, it had nothing to do with my music! Marisa did a good job of keeping them together and focused.
Well I have another week to prepare for but this time with adults, lets see how that goes.

The photos of the week can be found below - enjoy ;)
Vaughan Town - Gredos - Program 166

Quick tip: I found something out recently which may be of use to you travelers. Don't bother buying a return ticket for the train. Firstly it is not like a return in the UK. There if you buy a return ticket you pay one fixed price, keep your ticket and use it to return, simple. Not so simple here. If you buy a return ticket you pay (lets say 35 euros) for the ticket and you have to buy another ticket when you actually return which is slightly cheaper (perhaps 28 euros). The ticket itself does little. It doesn't guarantee you a seat or offer that much of a reduction. However the Renfe (train) are now offering last minute tickets, which are considerably cheaper from 35 euros to 18 which is a big difference. So if possible hold out until the day before if possible it could be well worth it ;)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Santander blues

After getting home and resting for 5 minutes (more or less) we headed off the Santander to visit Sandra's sister. It's a nice place, lots to see, a beach, flowers etc; unlike Palencia, lol.

We stayed there for a few days and went out and about the city and neighbouring villages. We found a village that Gaudi built another house in. This one was decorated with sunflower tiles; perhaps Van Gogh was his inspiration?
Sadly the bad weather seemed to be following us around so lots of moody cloudy skies in the pictures I took.

I think I have now pretty much done the North of Spain from East to West. I have seen most of the middle and down as far as Granada and Cordoba, but as yet none of the South coast.

This time just for fun I have heavily edited some of the images, just to experiment and try different looks and styles. I used overlays, saturation, lomo effect, black & white and inverted images, hopefully they still make interesting pictures non the less. Below is a quick edited photo to show the benefit of enhancements. The first is the enhanced photo, then move your mouse over to see the original photo - I think you will agree a little touch up makes a big difference.

The snapshots are below and the chosen few are HERE

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Barcelona, Budgets and Blisters

We have just returned from our 3 day adventure: 1 day in Zaragoza and 2 days in Barcelona, hey we had to break up the 6/7 hour drive somehow. We didn't have too long and even less money, so we did a whistle stop tour of Barcelona; and on a budget.

Zaragoza was where the Expo 2008 was held, and a nice city too. So we dropped by, walked around, took some photos, got some rest and prepared for the several hours drive ahead to Barcelona.

Barcelona, the second largest city in Spain, everyone has raved about it, so I expected great things. Sadly from a personal perspective, I found it to be over-rated. We walked the city pretty much and what we didn't cover on foot we saw via the tour bus.
Yes, it is a nice city and has a wonderful variety of architecture everywhere. The downsides were you had to pay to see most everything and it was not cheap and the amount of construction happening within the city meant that the typically tourist places were surrounded by road works, cranes or scaffolding which obscured that one perfect photo we all want for our collections.

I did like the Casa Batllo - a house that Guadi designed which cost 32 euros to visit; however worth the money. The inside was amazing and groovy. I would certainly live in a house like that. The feel and flow of the rooms was very cool, nice shapes and contours and photo ops everywhere (if only I could get rid of the damn tourists in my way - oh that's me too :S )
So after seeing the house, the park must be amazing, right? Wrong!
We get to the park, its a cloudy day threatening to rain at any moment - but still it held off. Again the instant you arrive you see the Gaudi influence and photos are a must. You make your way up past his museum into the main courtyard (I guess) and see the swirly tiled seating areas; very cool. But that is it! The gardens as big and as vast as they are offer little else except long winding pathways further up the hill.

When I go to Retiro Park, you see the photo ops, the people and hidden little gems within the park, the atmosphere and are able to relax and take in the park. Here sadly it was take the photo and leave (and that's just what people were doing, at any one time as many people were coming as going). There was no little gems to be found, the atmosphere was missing and it wasn't really the kind of place you could relax on the grass, as there was wasn't any. Just that long winding path that leads you up to a cross which is a view point where you can see the city.
For all the colour in Gaudi's artwork it was distinctly missing from the landscape, no flowers, no colour, no shape or form; a pity I think.

The night life was bustling with people and days were VERY hot. After walking so much my feet got blisters between the toes - owwwWW! But we carried on regardless. With only 2 days to see as much as possible it really was a whistle stop tour and maybe that is why I didn't appreciate the city to its fullest?
We had no problems with pick pockets or even seen any problems occur, maybe the fear of fear is worse than the reality or perhaps we were lucky!?

On the last night we went to watch La Bella y La Bestia (Beauty and the Beast) as I got to see Cirque Du Soleil in Gijon. It was a wonderful performance, great acting, music and costumes; again sadly no photography allowed, so no pics to share :(
As we were getting ready for the show, I thought is it worth taking the camera? I decided no! We emerge from the metro station into main plaza around 9.30pm, to hundreds of people gathered on several levels of steps, fountains spraying water to the rhythm of music and coloured lights flashing on and off in the water also to the music, it was a wonderful display - I reach for my camera... ...DAMN IT!!!
Another lesson learnt, take your camera everywhere!

The collection of snapshot photos from our trip can be seen below and the more professional photos are on my WEBSITE

Monday, July 13, 2009

Krysalis is born

I have been working hard for the past few days on a proper website, rather than a blog to highlight my photography, and so Krysalis Photography has been created.
Whilst in the process of putting this together the hardest part was finding a name. I first sat down and went through the obvious choices. They were SO obvious in fact, they were taken. Back to the drawing board, what message did I want to convey, who did I want to appeal to, should I use my own name; lots of questions.

Now it may seem obvious to use your own name, afterall, a self employed photography needs to be known and what better way, well some draw backs to consider. How easy is your name to say or spell? How common is your name? If the business were to fail that is directly linked to you! So I decided on a ambiguous but hopefully inspired name. Krysalis. Why this spelling? Firstly Chrysalis was gone, secondly the K is a strong character, thirdly the idea of something stored safe inside a moment like a cocoon and finally something beautiful emerges.
This of course led to the design of the Butterfly wing incorporate in the letter K.
I told you thought had gone into this!

There was no Superman like even though Kry - is in Krypton! Well not intenionally away who knows how my subconscious works, or my conscious for that matter.

I now have a Macro lens too, so LOTS more extremely close up shot to come!
So far it has been an extremely enjoyable journey, I hope it continues to grow from strength to strength as I progress in this art.

So why have I chosen to focus on photography? To start with pictures are all around us, from billboards advertising things, magazines, to lost puppy flyers. Pictures are everywhere. It is reported that 80 Billion photos were taken last year alone!! When you consider that even mobile phones now have cameras it shouldn't suprise us with the fact that everyone want to take pictures. I want to take photos that last and mean something, rather than snap shots of a moment in time. I would to have my work bought, shown and appreciated to some degree; what are the chances?? I will never know if I don't try!
The thing that I like is the medium is it is so vast, you could do portraits, weddings, advertising or modelling and much more, or maybe even a combinations of all and subjects are everywhere: family, people on the street, items in your home or garden etc.

The only limits appear to be your imagination and of course your finances.

But thats not all folks, we also travelled upto Gijon to watch Cirque Du Soleil: Varekai (my favorite remains La Nouba) with the help of Sandra of course ;)
This was my belated birthday present and it was very good, we got to walk around Gijon (which is better than Palencia), rest on the beach, take photos and later enjoy the show. Sadly there a no photos as Cirque Du Soleil have a strict no photography rule. It is a real shame too as the lighting and costumes were awesome. In part I understand it, afterall if you are just about to do a dangerous jump the last thing you want is 200 flashes going off in your face. After the show we went to find the fun fair, which didn't seem that far; it was!

The photos of our trip can be found at HERE and the 'specially chosen' ones can be found at Krysalis Photography

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Photography 'exposed'

I have been snapping away and capturing some wonderful shots (even though I do say so myself). However on several of my photos I was over or under exposed - you know the types of photos, where everything is ghastly white or extremely dark, my solution before was to use the flash or to move to another position, what else could I do!?

Well nothing that was until I came across a guy called Bryan Peterson - then I literally had a light bulb moment. This guy is awesome. he explains in simple terms (thank goodness) what exposure is and how to use it effectively or compensate for it.
Now in order to prove my learning I went out today and shot some photos in a parque in Vallodolid, as they have roaming peacocks, flowers and some nice fountains.
All I really wanted to do today was put into practise the exposure tips and boy did it make a difference in light or shade I managed to get a perfectly exposed photo!!!

I spent a day reading his book and watching several of his short classes on Youtube, all of which where useful and informative. I must say he is actually a great presenter too. he starts off by posing a question, qualifies who he is, then gets into the action, leaves you with ideas and wanting more. On the otherside of the coin, he does remind me of Nick Nolte gone off the rails with his wild hair and even wilder shirts, lol.
Link to his WEBSITE
Really worth checking out and get hold of his books by any means possible! The thing I like about his style is he has a 'who cares' approach (yes, but he is that good, he can afford to) but it does take off some pressure when you think what are the exact setting for this photo or for this photo!?! Also and more importantly, he makes you want to pick up your camera and go take photos.

I spent maybe.... ....well too long watching BS home made videos on youtube offering little additional help or even contradicting what you had heard before (never good). As for the presenters OMG, they are awful! Boring, monotone, lifeless and several of them never even shown a photo of their own or the subject they were teaching you?!

I am pleased to say my photography is improving, but does have a long way to go. Its funny everywhere I look now I see pictures and photos or even opportunites for photos - the old addage "you get what you focus on" is SO true, no pun intended that time.

The sad thing about this is my friends in the UK are learning photography too, but I cant be there and learn with them. Instead I'm here in Spain, yes it is nice, but I saw only 2 photography clubs and both were on the coast. It would be nice to share knowledge and experiences with other photographers. When I was learning as a magician, it was a slow process, then once I got into the Magic Circle my learning excelled as there were so many talented people willing to help and share info and effects.
It took me a while to call myself a magician - at least until I felt capable of handling myself in any situation and I think it will be the same with photography it will be a while before I can consider myself a photographer.

Well if your interested in seeing the progress I speak of check out my Flickr Page

Thursday, July 02, 2009

A 'wasted' day

Yesterday I spent the afternoon on a large strip of wasteland. Kind of a cross between someone's 'used to be' home, school and field.
The purpose of this was not because I was homeless and looking for refuge but to help me find interesting things to photograph and let me tell you the place was full of things. Apart from the buildings themselves, there was a river (very dirty and smelly) but where there is water there is life, flowers and insects, and of course lots of rubbish :(

It was a pleasant afternoon alone, the only other person in the area was a jogger; to be honest it is FAR too hot to run anywhere; unless you are being chased.
I managed to get some nice photos, and practise different things with the camera such as angles, shadows and depth of field techniques. Oh and a lesson learnt - don't waste your time chasing butterflies - you wont win!

I have entered some of my photos into online competitions just for a giggle, but amazingly I have won several of the contests!! Hussain a friend of mine in the UK, says I have a natural talent as I am artistic in nature; he's too kind. Really I just like being free and seeing what I can see and do. To be honest I know its taking hold as I am looking at the world with fresh eyes, which is nice, the big question is... ...could this be my calling!??!

As photography equipment is SO expensive I have sought cheaper but hopefully effective options. This is my DIY kit so far - a car sunscreen reflector, one small and one big floodlight and I have also bought lots of offcut material from a textile shop in town.
So far so good - really its all practise if/when I turn pro, I will consider upgrading. Although I was amazed to see that one professional uses a stick in a can as his stands - cheap and simple option that works wonderfully.

UPDATE: I have built a lightbox out of an old cardboard box with sides cut off and paper put on all sides. So far so good - why not give it a try.

If you want to see my latest exploits click HERE
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