Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Canino Market, Houston

Canino Market, Nikon D300
Just like everyone else, I have been going to supermarkets for years, for convenience. We all have to go buy some food once in a while. In most cases, stands of fresh products look quite nice and can even bring up your appetite. However, with the exception of fish and meat where you buy from the counter, it lacks human interaction. To me, grocery shopping soon became an annoying activity we all have to do.

Thanks to some friends who recommended Canino Market, we checked out this fresh market in The Heights. The first experience was such a blast, we decided, from that point on, only to go there for fresh vegetables and fruits.

Supermarkets all look alike, wherever you are. Sure the food may differ slightly but the feeling will still be the same. A supermarket in Dubai is not very different than one in London, Tahiti or Houston. On the contrary, each fresh market is original, has its own culture. I now try to check out one in each country I visit, or even city. I am sure I will have the opportunity to share more of this in the future.

Canino Market, Lomo
Houston is quite famous for its hispanic community and clearly Canino Market has a mexican flavor. I feel like learning to speak Spanish again. Traveling to a foreign country, whereas in vacation or business, does not always give you the luxury of cooking with fresh and local products. When you live somewhere exotic, or not, it is best to cook local dishes using local ingredients. Of course, it is even better if someone knows what to do with it. I am the lucky one, not only is my wife a fantastic cook, she likes experimenting. So far, the produce we bought at Canino's has a lot more flavor than artificially ripen supermarket produce. What is interesting too is that everything is mixed together, which I am sure can bring ideas to the cooks to think about dishes to make, flavors to associate, colors to mix. But what's best is buying from friendly people who live from their passion, enjoy their job and know their products.

Canino Market, iPhone
Now let's talk about photography. I find this place unique because of the market stands holding such a diversity of products, shapes and colors. I doesn't matter which camera I carry, I always want to take pictures, but I end up spending all my time shopping for fresh produce. Perhaps I should go with just this purpose in mind one day. I took pictures using my camera phone, my Lomo and my Nikon D300. All give very different results but all will give you the taste for the place.

Central Market, Lomo
I thought it would be nice to compare traditional markets with more industrial supermarkets, just because most supermarkets are boring. To justify such comparison, I chose the best location in H-Town, Central Market. All the guests we have received to visit us, have agreed, it was the most interesting supermarket they had to buy from. I still think it is much more monotonous than the lively Canino's, but that is entirely my call. 

With my Nikon D300, Canino Market:

Canino Market, taken with a Lomo

Left, Canino Market using an iPhone, right, Central Market, using a Lomo

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Muiron Reef, Exmouth - Western Australia

Coral Reef, Muiron Islands
Scuba diving is another great passion of mine. I have never been a big fan of water until I discovered the underwater world in French Polynesia, Moorea to be more precise. Not only had I one of the most amazing experiences of my life when breathing underwater for the first time, a new world opened to my eyes, a world so beautiful it is worth preserving at all costs. Snorkeling is often enough to appreciate the beauties of coral reefs. 

On my first dive, a friend took his underwater camera to take a few shots. I was fascinated by the results and wanted to do the same so badly I invested in a Canon Ixus 800IS with its underwater case, the WP-DC5 model. 

The picture quality is great especially in places with clear water, like the Ningaloo Reef, on the western coast of Australia, near Exmouth. 

Life around the reef is very abundant and I could have chosen to share some photographs of colorful fishes. Instead, I am showing some pictures of an unusual reef, at least to my knowledge. Muiron Islands are well preserved reefs building up like trees in a forest. The competition for light is fierce under water. It is so much fun to dive in between those tall columns or better, along steep faces .

Comparable to the diversity of vegetation encountered in rain forests, the variety of different corals is mind boggling. I had the chance to dive slowly in this very special environment, admiring the colors and shapes of colonies of polyps. I hope to master the art of diving which is a perfect control of the buoyancy to be able to take sharp pictures. I clearly need some practice and hopefully our next trip to Turks and Caicos will help. 
And who knows, maybe one day I will even be good at underwater photography! In any case, I really enjoy it.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Art Deco in South Beach, Florida

Ocean Drive
This post is not about the white sand, palm trees and nightlife that make South Beach so famous. Here, I want to talk about the Art Deco buildings on Ocean Drive. I believe this street owns the largest remaining concentration of Art Deco. Bright neons are awesome at night and, in addition to a very clement weather all year long and a miles long beach, literally 100 yards away, participate in making this city the nightlife mecca in the US.

My favorite, Colony Hotel, South Beach

I just needed to use a tripod and a 17-55, f/2.8 lens to capture what I enjoyed about this place. For once, I found it was best after dusk when the sky is black as I only wanted to catch the artificial light. Using an ISO of 400 and an exposure of 1/10s to 1/50s was best.

For the story, as I was carrying a fairly voluminous gear, I was stopped many times by random people asking me who I was after. I didn't understood at first, and then realize this place is full of celebrities. For some reason, they thought I was a paparazzi. There is no chance I could become one, I would not recognize anybody, mostly because I have only heard about 10% of them, at max, and secondly because I would not believe my eyes even if I was facing Nicole Kidman or Julia Roberts.

Ocean Drive, using a Lomo

During daylight, I used my brand new Lomo, a shoot camera without the point. I decided to shoot without framing which is the idea behind this concept. I really liked the result, leaving a sense of time out.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Wildflowers of Western Australia

Wildflower, Perth, f/2, 1/8000s
September is the perfect time to visit Perth, on the West Coast of Australia. I haven't mentioned that I work for an australian company, BHP Billiton, as a petroleum geologist. The company has an office downtown Perth which I had the chance to visit on a mission. The hotel I was staying at is located downtown as well, just a short walk away from the beautiful King's Park. I will probably make a post on the park later, as I find it is Perth's jewel.

Back to our story. September is Spring time Down Under, and Spring is when flowers usually bloom, right? Well, it appears that Western Australia is very famous for its wildflowers. I had no idea, of course, but went for a usual walk to the park. It was a wonderful surprise to see King's Park, a botanical garden, was hosting its annual wildflower festival, displaying amazing flower beds. I only had two days left so I came back three times, before and after work when the light is at its best. So focused on my camera, I did not take the time to take notes, especially of the flowers names. On purpose, I will not mention any names as I would probably induce mistakes. I take pictures of flowers for their beauty anyway, and by no means am I a botanist. I was actually very bad in Botany,back when I was in school.

Japanese paintings, f/3.5, 1/80
I decided to use only one lens, my Nikkor 50mm f1/4. I haven't invested in a macro lens yet. I have been able to get the effects I wanted with my 50mm. I know I won't be able to take details of flowers at this stage but it is a good start. I wanted to show you a selection of the diversity and beauty of wildflowers I have seen, which makes a perfect subject on a visit to Perth or Western Australia in general.

Ieoh Ming Pei in Paris

Ieoh Ming Pei's pyramid in Le Louvre, Paris
Ieoh Ming Pei is the brain behind the controversial pyramid in Le Louvre, Paris. When François Mitterrand decided to expropriate the Finance Ministry to Bercy in 1983, to expand and renew the museum, I.M. Pei was awarded the design. It may have shocked many people after the grand opening of the Grand Louvre in 1988, those who call blasphemy this mix of modern architecture with historical monuments. I personally will be eternally grateful to Mr Pei for his genius idea. The museum entrance is below the pyramid, which brings a lot of light into the lobby. From there, the access is easy and short to all aisles of this gigantic museum.

Even better, at dusk, tourists leave the esplanade to the enjoyment of those who love this magnificent historical monument, with the pyramid in the middle. This is pure magic, thanks to the reflective pools. I don't think I have been particularly imaginative when I took these shots as I didn't have much time to think my composition through (only got there a few minutes before sunset). What I can assure you is that there is an infinite source of angles to shoot from. Move around, take your time. And a tripod, of course.