Last summer we could enjoy some pretty amazing almost cloudless full-moon nights. Not far from where I lived in Bonn there is this little Gothic church that I could see from my window. The view of the crosses under the full moonlight was quite remarkable!
I had to cheat a little bit and make two exposures to get this one right. Taking pics of the moon is tricky, as it is way brighter than it looks. So I used one really quick (about 1/1000s) exposure to get the moon properly, and a slower one to get all the nice shapes and details in the sky and cross.
More wildlife from Soria. During my visit to Cañón Río Lobos I had the chance to spot some griffon vultures overflying us. Even though they were flying low, the distance was considerable and required use of telephoto. In this case, I had my old 70-300mm, but a 400 would have come fancier.
Wildlife photography is really challenging. Besides the general high-speed movement of the vultures, harsh light conditions and the dusty, hazy air resulted in a bit of softness and some extreme blue fringing at the tips of the feathers. If I ever decide to go further down the road of nature/wildlife photography, I would probably need to get a sharper telephoto lens, but in the meantime I will stay on budget and keep the old one.
In my recent visit to Soria (Spain) I got the chance to wander around the Cañón de Río Lobos Natural Park. Very different from the deeply green natural parks I visited recently in Germany or England, and even further from the tropical climates in Tayrona, this part of Spain has a harsh almost desert climate, vegetation limited to small bushes and a few trees that can endure the lack of water and the temperature fluctuations.
Rio Lobos is a well known place for spotting birds of prey: vultures, hawks, sparrowhawks, and owls. Although my visit was a very short one, I was lucky enough to catch a few shots of this little owl (Athene noctua).
Similar to another wildlife shots, this is taken with a 300mm telephoto, wide open at f/5.6. Very narrow depth of field and tricky light conditions. Fringing was very strong in the whole series of shots, even near the center of the lens, but could get rid of most of it in post processing.
At the entrance of St Pancras, one of the most dauntingly beautiful train stations I’ve ever seen, these two statues commemorate a scene that has happened, with different leading characters, countless times all over the world and ages. Whether the kissers are about to depart away from each other, or they just reunited after a long time away, that is for you to decide…
The sculpture is “The meeting place”, created by Paul Day in 2007.
Train stations are always fun to shoot, even if sometimes the security guys can get kind of annoying. This picture is from St Pancras train station, London’s international train station where one can take the Eurostar train for a quick link with Paris or Brussels.
The whole space is getting revamped now in preparation for the Olympics, but the few spots free of scaffoldings and works in progress are still nice to look at!
The picture is a three exposures (handheld) hdr. The sky behing the glass ceiling looks kind of boring but in this case this is not due to blown highlights, but simply to the usual London cloudy thing.
One more picture from Colombia! This one is from the gardens in the Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino, in Santa Marta. All over the place one could find trees ranging between 200 and 400 years old. On the top of on of this trees, lazily sunbathing, there was a huge iguana.
The photo is a “standard sniper shot”. Telephoto extended to the longest 300mm range, wide open so that the shutter speed woud be as high as possible. To keep it steady needed to crank up the ISO a little bit, but not too much noise came out of that.
During the last days of his life, Simón Bolívar, seriously affected by a tuberculosis, moved to Santa Marta to enjoy the milder climates of the sea side. He installed himself in the Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino. Today’s picture is the room where he died, preserved just as it was that day. The clock in the wall is stopped at the time of Bolivar’s death.
The photo is an hdr made of two handheld exposures, merged with Photomatix and retouched in Photoshop.
This photo was kind of a happy accident. Walking in the city center of Santa Marta, all full of colonial style houses, I had been playing around with some camera settings in manual mode. Now, if you are into street photography (or photo journalism), one of the basic principles to always bear in mind is always to keep your camera in some safe quick-shooting mode, in case something happens.
There is a saying in photojournalism (that some attribute to Allen Hopkins, some to Robert Capa, and some to Arthur Fellig) “f8 and be there”. This rule means that it is more important to be at the right moment and the right place than to worry about the technical details of the camera setup. Some take it as a hint to keep your camera ready to shot no matter what the conditions are.
Well, this photo is certainly not the best example of this rule. The street we walked by was dimly lit, and the settings of my camera completely scrambled when I put it to my eye and snapped the shot, resulting in a very weirdly underexposed shot. In my haste to reset the camera before the couple walked away, I didn’t pause to erase the faulty picture, and this was the result. There are so many things that are technically wrong with this pic that they are not even worth enumerating, but much to my surprise even with all the scrambled settings it still kind of makes for a strong image, so I decided to keep it as a remainder for the future.
Once we reached (by boat) the deeper beaches of Tayrona, stayed there to enjoy the nice weather and the Caribbean tiepid waters. Rest of the day involved mostly swimming, snorkeling in the coral riffs (sorry guys, don’t have the equipment for underwater photography!) and having a lunch consisting in the most delicious fresh fish. Every now and then, this lady, who would refer to herself as “la negra, pa’ servirles” came by and offered us some delicious Colombian sweets that costed virtually nothing. I found really impressive how she could walk with that huge basket perfectly balanced on her head while wiggling her hips from side to side. Many a catwalk model could have taken a lesson or two from la negra!
After a couple of days in Bogotá, went north to Santa Marta. From there I went on a guided visit to Tayrona National Park. After passing by the beach of the seven waves, this is the beach where we came out of the truck in order to continue our trip by boat. Probably the most amazing feature of all these beaches, even more than the wonderful blue waters, is how trees keep growing almost all the way to the sea.
After the visit to Monserrate and an amazing traditional Colombian lunch, it literally started pouring down, so we had to look for cover inside a coffee place, where I could enjoy a steamy cup of another of the Colombian national treasures. Once the rain stopped, we still had a few minutes of light that we used to walk around the nice neighborhood of La Candelaria, featuring nice houses of colonial styles. Wandering around, we ended up in Plaza de Bolívar, one of the main squares of Bogotá, where a free traditional South-Pacific Colombian music concert by Inés Granja y Santa Bárbara de Timbiquí. Probably because of the rain, the square was not very crowded and we could move around easily. We spotted this guy dancing all by himself like there was nobody else there and looking like he was having a great time, and I really wanted to capture the moment.
It was already dusk and I didn’t feel comfortable blinding the guy with my flash, so I cranked up the ISO to 1600 and kept the lens wide open to get a reasonably quick shutter speed (1/45s). My aim here was to get a focused enough photo so that the dancer’s facial expression would still be visible, but still capturing the dynamic of his dance. I think it did’t come out bad. Let me know what you think in the comments!
PS: In case you are curious about the music style around, you can see the band playing here (video from a different concert, music starts after the first minute):
Upon arrival to Bogotá, after a resting sleep and a healthy breakfast we headed towards the Monserrate mountain, one of the highest points in the city, in the hope to get some nice panoramic views. The weather was not particularly well suited for landscape viewing, as it was very cloudy and rainy at times, but the walk around the mountain was still nice. In one of the gardens I spotted this little fellow battering his wings like crazy. The thing was moving so damn fast that it was impossible to take a sharp shot until he decided to take a break. This is a kind of hummingbird commonly known as shining sunbeam, or “colibrí de alas largas”, very common in the higher parts of Colombia.
Remarks, opinions, compliments and hate letters are welcome in the comments!