Saturday, April 23, 2011

A Journey Down Under - photo book

I have created this book recently based on a business trip I did two years ago to Australia and Perth in particular. To me, books are the greatest way to showcase your work. I spend countless hours to select the pictures that will make a compelling story. Does it always work? Not really. I have been trying for many years and until recently did not really grasp how everything should fit together. There is still plenty of room for improvements but when compared with my earlier work, I am happy about the progression.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Using a 55mm under low light conditions

55mm, f/1.4, 1/40s
55mm, f/1.4, 1/60s
Low ambient lighting can be used to your advantage when shooting  portraits. I shot these pictures at my corporate Christmas party where everybody dress up to attend a very nice diner and an after party. That night, I decided to go with the smallest gear possible that would still make great pictures and chose my 55mm lense with a maximum aperture of f/1.4. 
I used a key moment when all my friends where listening to my CEO's speech. They listened well and therefore did not move much. It allowed me to increase the time for exposure while using the largest aperture. Everything is about light in photography and with low light conditions, it is vital to capture the most of it. Here the light temperature was great.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The beauty of snakes - Houston Zoo

Red-Tailed Green Rat Snake, 55mm, f/4.5, 1/60
Everyone of us has some irrational fear of some sort, I do to. I used to be afraid of sharks and to a smaller degree, of snakes. Their beauty helped me overcome my fear. Both families are just fascinating. I have traded fear for caution.

Snakes are shy, they usually run away before you can even notice them. They will only attack at the last resort, although some are more aggressive than others. Inland Taipan, notorious to be the most poisonous snake inland will give a warning bite before injecting venom.

Copperhead, 55mm, f/3.5, 1/25s
Snakes can be lethal and therefore must be approached with extreme caution. I chose the easy option by  always keeping a glass between us (if they are poisonous) or by staying far away.
Snakes are also one the most beautiful creations of Mother Nature. I was amazed by the patterns and colors I discovered. Snakes are just masters in the art of camouflage and thanks to a very knowledgeable Houston Zoo's herpetology staff, I was immersed in a world I had no idea it existed. Having a passion for photography helped me taking the time to appreciate what I was seeing. Get close and stop for a while.

The Red Center - Australia

Uluru and Kata Tjuta, two sandstone rocks piercing the desert floor of central Australia are some of the highlights of the Outbacks. Aboriginals have settled long ago around Uluru making this place of unique spiritual heritage. Since then, an airport was built, the roads, paved. National Parks and iconic places always bring many tourists. Walking up the trails let you avoid the crowd but it was difficult to feel the solitude of the outbacks.

I still managed to feel very much alone: after admiring the sunset on Kata Tjuta, I returned to the car park. With nobody around, I tried to open my car. It was locked. I had no cell phone coverage and the closest town was 75km away. After a few seconds of panic, I decided to walk for a couple of miles, in the dark, to the closest emergency phone I had noticed along one of the trails and called the rangers. They showed up, around midnight, towed my car and I eventually went to bed, around 4 in the morning as we had the surprise to discover another empty car on our way back, which meant a rescue attempt. Using headlamps this time, we found the lost guy who was starting his night in the wild, not without fear. Looking at his eyes when we discovered him, he was really relieved. That is my own personal experience of the Australian outbacks. Next time, I will be prepared.

Uluru (Ayers Rock) in Black & White - Australia

Uluru, Australia
Uluru, also known as Ayers Rock, is clearly one of the symbols of Australia, this giant country / continent. This massive rock made of reddish sandstone, remnant of a much larger eroded formation,  stands out in the middle of the gigantic desert of Australia. It seems so flat for hundreds of kilometers around. I flew over the desert from Sydney to Ayers Rock. The red center was indeed red with patches of green, and particularly flat. Uluru stands out, and it is not a surprise it became a mystic place for the aboriginal community.

I went at the end of August, jut before the end of the winter to avoid extreme heat. I got there, and it was raining! My dream of seeing one of these incredible sunsets, when the rock suddenly becomes bright red, vanished. It wasn't the end of the world, as it turned out to be very pretty. A cloudy sky increases contrasts.

I have chosen to only display black & white pictures on this post. It gives a different perspective, with improved contrasts.  Twenty hours were way too short for a stay in a place like but I still managed to make good use of all my time. Walking around Uluru took me 4 or 5 hours, although I am usually walk very fast and then stop for a long time when I find something of interest. I had the opportunity of taking a few shots of this very strange and spiritual rock.

Opera House, Sydney

The Opera House in Sydney is an iconic building, so unique, that the city is always associated to it. All travel magazines and tourists ads use it to promote Sydney or as one of Australia's symbol. It is probably the first thing that any tourist will want to see and I am no different from anybody else, except I wanted to see it at dusk and wasn't so interested in it during day light.

Armed with my tripod, I left the hotel not long before sunset, after a long and tiring day walking along Bondi Beach. I was heading to Quay, a restaurant facing the Opera for a fantastic dinner, sadly on my own, one of the fallbacks of business trips. Both the food and the view were truly amazing.

I had seen the building in many books and I was still pleasantly surprised by the design. Not many cities are established in such a beautiful natural setting, which clearly creates a nice atmosphere.

The Rocks was just behind my back, it was time to go listening to some good Aussie's live music at a local pub.

The Opera House, Sydney

Arche de la Défense, Paris

Esplanade de la Défense, Paris
The Arche de la Défense is located in the heart of the business district, near Paris. This building, inaugurated in 1989 by French president François Mitterrand for the commemoration of the French revolution, is built along the historical axe running through Paris, from Le Louvre to the Arc de Triomphe and the Arche de la Défense.

The design is inspired by a four dimensional hypercube projected into our third dimensional space, forming a nearly perfect square, a very unusual design for a building. I particularly enjoy photographing perspectives and I must say they are countless ways of looking at this controversial piece of architecture.

Until very recently, the building was opened to the public, with a spectacular ride in a transparent elevator. The roof was accessible, offering a very interesting view of Paris. As I was passing by on my last visit to Paris, I am glad I stopped and payed for the quite expensive ride. It was closed just a few months later.

Arche de la Défense, Paris - 12mm, f/9
A museum dedicated to the ages of computer sciences was located at the top. I would have passed through pretty quickly if it wasn't for a retrospective of Apple's computers. My family had so many different versions of Apple's that many good memories came back in a couple of seconds.

It is a shame that they decided to close it under the pretext they couldn't invest in repairing the external elevator. This monument is now kept for government employees.