Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Jack Vance -.- Unspiek, Baron Bodissey

For more than 30 years, my favourite author has been Jack Vance. Science fiction, fantasy and mystery novels have been the subjects of his books but even his science fiction and fantasy are difficult to pigeonhole and this may account for the problems publishers had to appreciate Vance. But this became nuncupatory as Vance has always been highly regarded by critics and colleagues, and a vast base of loyal fans soon emerged. Between 1999 and 2006 an Internet initiative has published all Jack Vance's work, edited the way he preferred it, as The Vance Integral Edition of which I bought the 2nd printing: 45 delicious leather bound volumes full with the incomparable prose of the Master.

My favourite character appears scattered throughout his oeuvre: Unspiek, Baron Bodissey in which we maybe recognize the voice of Vance himself. Here are a few quotes of the Baron's wisdom:

  • [On religious wars] of all wars, these are the most detestable, since they are waged for no tangible gain, but only to impose a set of arbitrary credos on another. (From Life, Volume I; The Face, Chapter 3)
  • "Morality", the most troublesome and confusing word of all. There is no single or supreme morality; there are many, each defining the mode by which a system of entities optimally interacts. (From Life, Volume I; The Book of Dreams, Chapter 3)
  • We must not confuse statistical probability with some transcendental and utterly compelling force. (From Life, Volume II; The Star King, Chapter 2)
  • Only losers cry out for fair play. (Night Lamp, Chapter 2)

* * *

But let me finish with my favourite poem by Navarth, 'the mad poet', another one of Vance's fabulous persona:

Tim R. Mortiss

Drinking whisky by the peg,
Singing songs of drunken glee.
I thought to swallow half a keg
But Tim R. Mortiss degurgled me.

Not precisely comme il faut,
To practice frank polygamy;
I might have practiced, even so.
But Tim R. Mortiss disturgled me.

Tim R. Mortiss, Tim R. Mortiss,
He's a loving friend.
He holds my hand while I'm asleep,
He guides me on my four-day creep,
He's with me to the end.

To woo a dainty Eskimo
I vowed to swim the Bering Sea.
No sooner had I wet a toe:
When Tim R. Mortiss occurgled me.

A threat arcane, a fearful bane
Within an old phylactery.
I turned the rubbish down a dram,
Now Tim R. Mortiss perturgles me.

Chorus (with a snapping of fingers and clicking of heels in mid-air):
Tim R. Morriss, Tim R. Mortiss,
He's a loving friend.
He holds my hand while I'm asleep,
He guides me on my four-day creep,
He's with me to the end.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Akebono unagi restaurant in Sendai

One of the great things of knowing people who live in the town you are visiting is that they can tell you the great little restaurants in the area. For example, the best unagi in Sendai is served in Akebono's restaurant, a tiny restaurant hidden away in a maze of tiny streets behind a shopping street. The restaurant might be a bit smokey and dirty, the broiled eel is delicious and the best you'll ever eat. The restaurant has been in the family for about 140 years and the master and his mother were kind enough to pose for a photo. Click here for the location in Google maps.

Camera: Pentax *ist DS, lens: Sigma 18-50mm

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Zoom-In Travel Photography course (2)

Today was the last day of the course where we had to present the series of photos we had taken around the subject we had chosen. All in all the teacher was happy with my work. Especially the photos I blogged earlier under 1, 3 and 5 and both photos on the left went down really well. Working on a project like this was very different from what I've done before and it really helped me to focus on what I wanted to achieve.

Part of the lesson was to bring in all the photos we had taken for this project, every embarrassing experiment and failure. This was really the best part of the course as it helped to understand what works and what didn't work.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Zoom-In: assignment (6)

Two more photos in my series of benches. I wanted to have a doubledecker bus in the top left corner to give this photo a link to England, but I had to wait forever for the right type of bus to come along.

The details of the first photo are F1.7, exposure 1/500 sec., and the details of the second photo are: F1.7, exposure 1/1250 sec.


Camera: Pentax *ist DS, lens: Sigma 20mm - 1:1.8 EX DG Aspherical

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Simpsons Movie - Fantastic!

Went to the Simpsons Movie today; it is not officially coming out until Friday but the cinemas have already started showing the film, at least in Uxbridge they had. Well, the reviews have been fantastic and very deserved; the movie is great, entertaining and very, very funny. When you visit the official page, don't forget to make an avatar of yourself.


Does whatever a SPIDER PIG does
Can he swing
From a web
No he can't
He's a pig
He is a SPIDER PIG!!

Zoom-In: assignment (5)

Slowly I'm getting more and more photos together. Still ten more photos to go and I'm sure already that I will never reach that.




Camera: Pentax *ist DS, lens: Sigma 20mm - 1:1.8 EX DG Aspherical

Zoom-In: assignment (4)

Still on the subject of benches, I want to sneak in a photo I took 2 years earlier. I'm stretching the subject a bit as the bench is hardly the subject of the photo. F/13.0, Exposure: 1/250 sec. Focal length: 25mm. I took the lightmeter reading of the sky right of the setting sun.

Camera: Pentax *ist DS, lens: Sigma 18-50mm

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Zoom-In: assignment (3)

The third installment of the assignment for my photo course I took in a park close to our apartment; F1.7, exposure 1/4000 sec. Just after 7AM, on my way to work, this park with the upcoming sun gave the me lighting I wanted.

Camera: Pentax *ist DS, lens: Sigma 20mm - 1:1.8 EX DG Aspherical

Zoom-In: assignment (2)

The second photo I'm satisfied with. Taken in Regent's Park, F1.7, exposure 1/250 sec. You can tell I had a good look at the photos of Jeff T. Alu.



Camera: Pentax *ist DS, lens: Sigma 20mm - 1:1.8 EX DG Aspherical

Monday, July 23, 2007

Zoom-In: assignment (1)

This is the first of the photos I'm happy with to hand in for the assignment for the Travel Photography course I took a week ago. The theme I selected is around benches while still trying to introduce a sense of displacement. I thought to select a manageable subject, but it is growing over my head already. The above picture was taken just after torrential rains had stopped, around 8AM, F1.7 and an exposure time of 1/400th.

Camera: Pentax *ist DS, lens: Sigma 20mm - 1:1.8 EX DG Aspherical

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Rhône wines -.- Gigondas & Vacqueyras

Maybe not as famous as the big Bordeaux wines, the Rhône wines certainly have quality. The most famous among them are the Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines (Cinsault, Counoise, Mourvèdre, Muscardin, Syrah, Terret Noir, and Vaccarèse grapes), but the Gigondas and Vacqueyras (Grenache Noir, Syrah, Cinsaut and Mourvèdre grapes) certainly deserve more recognition. When visiting the Mont Ventoux, make sure you pop by the caves in those areas and taste and buy the wine.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

London Eye, December 2005

The day before Christmas we finally had the courage to queue up for the London Eye. How often hasn't it been the case that I visit all the sights when I'm away but I simply don't think about visiting the sights in the town I live? However, the London Eye is really worth the visit; the view over London is really unique and has the same effect as what the Eiffel Tower does for Paris. I really like the photo above as it gives a little different angle of the Eye.

Camera: Pentax *ist DS, lens: Sigma 28-300mm - 1:3.5-6.3

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Paris streets -.- Paris part 5

One of the nicest things to do in Paris is just to stroll around and enjoy the atmosphere. From a bar to tiny grocery shop with the most delicious cheeses and wine. The Marais is the perfect area for that.



Camera: Pentax MZ-3, lenses: Sigma 18-50mm - 1:3.5-5.6 DC and Sigma 28-300mm - 1:3.5-6.3

Monday, July 16, 2007

Japanese secret onsen (1): Nyutou onsen

The nicest hot spring I have visited thus far in Japan is not located in Yufuin or any of the other famous onsen resorts, it is located in Nyuto onsen in the Akita province located in the Tōhoku Region of northern Japan.

Nyuto onsen is a collection of hotsprings located in a mountainous area where people come to hike and soak. Spread throughout the valley are little wooden shacks built around the natural heated water baths or they come as an outdoor rotenburo. One word of caution, the baths are really hot :-)
Many tourists in Japan want to enjoy an onsen experience but the threshold is a bit high and being naked in front of others can be a bit scary too. My advice: just do it, it really makes your Japan experience so much more genuine. In case of questions, visit the Japan Guide forums.

GPS Waypoint.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Waterlilies and Japanese bridge -.- Monet

In Giverny, about 80km from Paris, you can visit the house of Claude Monet with the garden where he made his most famous paintings. In contrast to Vincent van Gogh and other contemporaries, Monet had money and lived in a comfortable home with a nice studio. The whole house is filled with ukiyo-e woodblock prints which many of the European painters collected and used as inspiration. Van Gogh included  some ukiyo-e in the background of his painting of Le Père Tanguy and copied a famous ukiyo-e print by Hiroshige in the Bridge in the Rain after coming across ukiyo-e in the gallery of his brother Theo.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Zoom-In Travel Photography course

Today was the day I had my first session of the Travel Photography course I had booked at Zoom-In in Clapham. Today's session was mostly basics and discussing the travel photos we had brought. I had made a mix of photos I liked and photos that should have been great pictures but weren't. The analysis was very thorough and helpful. We have now received an assignment to find a motive and create a collection of 15 photos around that. That's going to be hard. Luckily the teacher was quite pleased with almost all my black and white photos and a lot of my colour photos. To my pleasant surprise, the photo above went down really well while usually I'm am the only one liking it.

The London underground was the usual horror to get to Clapham with lots of unannounced line closures for undefined reasons and taking me an hour longer than it should have been for the 15km short trip. One can only wonder how they can organize the 2012 Olympics with such a crappy public transport :-(

Friday, July 13, 2007

La Tour Eiffel -.- Paris part 4

The most visible landmark in Paris, the Eiffel Tower is still going strong as a major tourist attraction in Paris which is already blessed with loads of other attractions.

I always wanted to photograph the Eiffel Tower by night as the lit up tower is much more attractive than the tower at daylight. However, I just learned that the result of the new, in 2003 installed lighting display on the tower is that night-time photos of that display, and the complete tower therefore, now fall under copyright and cannot be published anymore. In a recent decision, the Court of Cassation ruled that copyright could not be claimed over images including a copyrighted building if the photograph encompassed a larger area. This seems to indicate that they cannot claim copyright on photographs of Paris incorporating the lit tower. 

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Seoul, South Korea

The photo on the left was taken from Namsam Park and apart from the immense city with all the highrises, it also shows the steep hills in the background which surround the whole of Seoul and make up most of the landscape in Korea.

You have to pass a metal detector entering South-Korea. From the airport I took a limousine bus to my hotel and explored Seoul in the following days. The palaces and museums are fabulous. After a couple of days I stepped into a travel agency and booked a hotel and train trip to Kyongju (also written as Gyeongju). The photo on the left is the Cheomseongdae observatory in Kyongju, one of the oldest observatories in Asia.
Back in Seoul, I had noticed all the street carts with food being wheeled in every night and I tried some out. For little money, the food was great and spicy! I really enjoyed eating at them. Otherwise, the basements of the department stores are also great places to get cheap food like the Korean versions of sushi (kimbap) or tempura usually way overpriced when eaten in Japan.


Camera: Pentax MZ-3, lens: SMC Pentax F4-5.6 35-80mm

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

A rose by any other name -.- Macro

I got a Sigma 50mm F2.8 EX Macro lens which I, unfortunately, don't use too often as zoom lenses are a bit easier to use for normal day use. Too bad, really; if you click through on the photo you'll see that it is great little lens for Macro work and I'll make sure to bring it on my next trip.


Camera: Pentax MZ-3, lens: Sigma 50mm F2.8 EX Macro

Monday, July 09, 2007

Iceland in Black&White

The colour photos I took you can find here. Even though the colour photos are already very much Black&White, the photos I took with Black&White paint an even more desolate  picture of Iceland.

The white snow on the black volcanic ashes, the icebergs in the glacial lagoon at Jökulsárlón were great subjects for Black&White.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Mont Saint-Michel

The famous and touristy Mont St. Michel is certainly worth a visit and a stay in one of the hotels in the village. When you have the time, take a walk on the mud-flats, but don't go too far without guide as the tide comes in with a speed of one 

meter a second. Both times I visited, cars that were parked in the spacious car parks at low-tide, ended up halfway in the water after the tide came in. Stay away from the famous Mère Poulard gallettes (sort of omelettes posing as a soufflé) as they were a disappointment to all of us who ate them.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Tour de France Prologue -.- London 2007

This year's Tour de France started in London and we went to St. James Park where the Prologue finished on The Mall. I took 94 photos, but these came out best. Unfortunately, none of my favourite team, Rabobank came out well.


Louvre Pyramid -.- Paris part 3

The above image is another composite from two Black&White photos joined together with the Photoshop PhotoMerge Panorama function which makes it really easy. If you click through on the image above, you'll find the original two photos in the same folder as the composite.

When I first moved to France, the controversy was still raging but it seems to have quiet down a lot now. To me, the juxtaposing of contrasting architectural styles works well.
In case you're wondering, there never were 666 panes in the pyramid no matter what Dan Brown mentioned in The Da Vinci Code, there are in fact considerably more. I guess that that wasn't the only inaccuracy in that book :-)

Friday, July 06, 2007

Kinkaku-ji -.- 金閣寺

Kinkaku-ji (Golden Temple) is the informal name of Rokuon-ji (鹿苑寺, Deer Garden Temple) in Kyoto. For photographers, the garden is very generously designed as no matter how many visitors are in the park, there is always a clear view of the temple visible without lots of other tourists in the fore- or background. A feat in itself.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Mount Titlis, 3,238m -.- Switzerland

In 1999, the company I worked for invited all developers for a seminar in Engelberg, Switzerland. Not all our time was spent improving the product line so there was plenty of time left to go up Mount Titlis and enjoy skiing.  

The Titlis is of course famous for the first rotating cable car, the Rotair, although there is little to notice if the car is packed with eager skiers and you end up in the middle.
Even in summer the trip to the summit is very enjoyable; a year later, my wife to be, another friend and I took a trip around Europe and passing Engelberg, we went up again. At that time a busload of people from Singapore were enjoying their first ever taste of snow. Never seen so many grownups go crazy without alcohol being involved. ^_^