I'm sure you've heard, as I have, people extolling the virtues of digital v. film. Many allege that film is dead. That digital is technically superior to film in every way. To them, I present this as evidence. Shot with a 20-year-old Pentax 67 that I picked up with a lens for under $400, on Ilford HP5 film, you simply could not ask for a better photo. It is as sharp a photo as you could hope for. The tonal gradations are smooooooooth and rich. I think I need a moment alone.
It's one of the sphinx women flanking the State Opera House in Budapest.
Many thanks to Panda Lab (www.pandalab.com), whom I used to use when I was just starting to shoot b&w in the mid 90's. They were the friendliest lab in Seattle, and they only did b&w. When I bought the 67 and needed to get the film developed, I looked them up, hardly daring to hope they'd weathered the storm that took down so many good labs. Not only had they weathered it, they appear to be prospering. They do everything, develop color as well as b&w, scan film, make contact sheets and work from digital files.
If you're into religious history, the Blue Mosque in Mazar-e-Sharif is one of a few reputed burial sites for Ali, Mohammed's cousin and son-in-law (there's a lot of that). If the history's important to you, the Wikipedia page for it is probably accurate enough.
I like it for the gorgeous, reconstructed tiles in several shades of blue (and other colors). From a distance, all you see is the blue. Up close, you see a) all the colors and b) the intricacy of the tile work. Should you happen to be traveling through Central Asia, and have a chance to visit, it's well worth it.
About an hour from Mazar-e-Sharif on a desolate, dusty dirt road lies the village of Dast-e-Shor home to refugees repatriated from Iran. The scenery reminded me of southern Saskatchewan, without the benefit of field after field of wheat.
We were visiting a vocational education site where men learn carpentry and welding, while women learn tailoring and clothing manufacture.
It was a beautiful day in the Panjshir Valley. I thought I'd work with a duotone treatment. I did the lighter areas in a yellow-brown, sepia-ish color and the shadows in a blue. I think the brown conveys some of the sense of the heat of the day and brings out the dustiness of the hillside, while the blue helps out the sky and river.
I've heard that Panjshir Province is working on developing some sort of tourism industry...if you ever have a chance, go there. It's probably the safest place in Afghanistan, maybe the world, and one of the most beautiful places on earth.
And have you heard about my sale at http://www.bpsphoto.com/store/25sale/index.html? It's 25% Off and Free Shipping (to addresses in the United States), and runs through the end of December 2010.
My favorite thing in Paris? The food. This was a cheese and meat shop (honest!) in the ... who am I kidding, I don't know one arrondissement from another, but I do know that it's near a cool little fabric store that my wife spent an inordinate amount of time in. The cheeses and meats smelled delicious, but we'd already had lunch and dinner plans were set, so there was, sadly, no point to buying.
One of my favorite landscapes on the planet is the volcanic perlite that formed these cliffs about 90,000 years ago. This photo is from a sunrise shoot that I did with both my Hasselblad 501CM and my Nikon D200. It was pure joy to be out on the beach before anyone else and to be able to study the cliffs while I was shooting. This was one of the film shots, if it matters to you. It was Ilford PanF, developed in Microphen.
This is the emergency exit from the airport in Mazar-e-Sharif. It's not the smallest international airport I've ever been to (that honor goes to Uralsk International, in Kazakhstan), but it is pretty small.
Many of my friends have heard me babbling all weekend about The Plan. It's a simple plan, really...put together 60-80 photos for a sale. I'll be printing books to use as catalogues. Photos will be available in sizes from 11x14" to 20x24", including some square photos at 12x12" and 16x16". I'll also have three sets of greeting cards. Just getting the images ready has been something of a massive undertaking, using up all of my Friday and Saturday, but now the hard part's done and all I have to do is design three books and 12 cards, ship everything off for printing and hope like hell that when I have the sale people will buy them.
I don't know if you know this about me, but I love to drive on winding dirt roads going into the mountains. I particularly love it when the roads are in terrible shape and demand a 4WD. So living in a place where I can't go driving off by myself is a little painful. But I do get to take helicopter rides over those roads occasionally.
I've been tired and frustrated lately...too many days in a row of work, too much frantic rushing about, trying to catch up. I thought about spending my day off with a fake, plastic guitar, playing Rock Band to decompress. But then I thought better of it and decided to do something far more satisfying...work on old photos in the works in progress folder.
This boat has been sitting there, waiting since July of 2008 for me to do something with it. My first, automatic, thought was to make it a black & white, but clearly, the gorgeous light of a Greek summer sunrise, the faded, once-bold blue and red begging for a return to their former glory and the blue shadows in the water all called for color. Besides, if I had shot this on film, it would have been Velvia all the way. So here you are, from the dry, dusty air of Kabul, a summer morning on the beach in Greece.
On this last trip, I collected yet another new aircraft, a Russian-made Antonov AN-26 (as if the exit sign weren't enough of a clue as to the plane's origin). It was a decent, if noisy plane, twin prop with wings jutting from the top rather than the bottom.
The very interesting thing to me was that in an emergency, the passengers would use the rope on the right of the frame to escape. Even better, the rope was held together with very tightly wrapped thread. Seemed fairly secure, but I would have preferred something like clamps, a rope braided together, a ladder.
Abstract Americana. A hot summer night, cars ripping around a 3/8 mile circle, kicking up the dust, making a racket almost as loud as a metal concert. I love auto racing. The environmentalist half of my psyche is offended by the redneck half. But then, the runner half of my psyche is offended by the half that lives for chocolate muffins, too.
More in a set at facebook.com/bhneely.
I had a chance to get out the other day. Driving (well, passengering) through the streets I had three observations. A) I need a point & shoot...specifically Sigma's DP2...so I don't have to wave a giant camera around in the car. B) The traffic, though chaotic, is much friendlier than it was in Almaty. C) I am so glad I don't have to drive here.
Updates will be sporadic, though once my hard drives arrive, I'll be able to work on art projects and post those. Thanks for your patience.
It was a chilly, misty April day in Prague. I was full of garlic soup and Pilsener Urquell (which is an outstanding meal for such a day). The repetition of imbricated tiles grabbed my attention. I shot several versions, and this is the one I like best. The rooftops all look like they're from the 18th C or so, making for an idyllic scene.
One variation I might try with it would be to crop out the rather flat sky, make it an 8x10 format with a greater amount of contrast between the white buildings and the dark hills.
On the visit to Son Kul Lake, I saw a demonstration of how traditional Kyrgyz felt products are made. The process is laid out in some detail at my Facebook page.
Currently, this particular alakiyiz is in a box in a shipping crate somewhere in Europe. We probably won't see it again for a year, maybe two.
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So after last night's post, I worked a bit on this shot, and decided that I like it better.
Today's story? When we were leaving the petroglyph site, a family was setting up a picnic at the edge of the bone-dry grass. They hadn't brought cooked food, because you cook your shashlik (kebabs) at the picnic. Pre-cooked shashlik are just wrong.
Now, when I said, "at the edge of the bone-dry grass," I meant with the 4-foot-tall grass waving over top of them as they set up the stones for their fire. And look at these thistles. Do they look like they've seen water recently? So the family takes up some of the dry grass they flattened out for their picnic area and uses it as tinder.
Dry grass, once it becomes embers, floats upward. Where it impacts other dry grass. Which ignites. Which drops embers to the base of the grass. Which ignites. The wind blows a bit. And you have a prairie fire before you can say, "Crap, get the fire extinguisher."
As the family beat at the trailing edges of a rapidly growing fire, we took self-preservation in hand, hopped into our truck and sped off.
At Tamgali, there are petroglyphs showing continuous human usage of the area for at least 3000 years. Many of the symbols are very similar to those found elsewhere in the world - sun gods, antelope, man, earth mothers and so on.
Unfortunately, they wouldn't let me take my camera onto the site. Not even with the offer of paying a little extra for my entrance fee (that shocked me). So I took pictures of the dry thistles along the road.
Right outside the War College in Almaty, Kazakhstan, you'll find Panfilov Park. It commemorates Kazakhstani dead in the great wars of the Soviet Union - the Revolution and the Great Patriotic War (WWII to the West). During the Great Patriotic War a rag-tag bunch of Kazakhstani shepherds defeated a German Panzer division in defense of Volgograd or Stalingrad. The tanks were melted down to make a set of sculptures that are some of the darkest, most frightening war memorials I've ever seen. Sergeant Hulka is one of them.
I don't know how much of the above story is true. I do know this, though, the first time I saw this statue, I immediately thought of Sgt. Hulka from Stripes, and that is how I will always remember this:
"When I tell you move, you'll move fast. When I tell you to jump, you're gonna say, "How high?" And make no mistake. I don't care where you come from, I don't care what color you are, I don't care how smart you are, I don't care how dumb you are, 'cause I'm gonna teach every last one of you how to eat, sleep, walk, talk, shoot, shit like a United States soldier. Understand?"
There are so many things to say about this photo. There's a cow in the middle of the road. Or there's a road across the prairie. Or the prairie is at 10,000 ft, and that line of hills in the distance are 16-18,000 feet high. The mountain prairies (or jailoos) of central Kyrgyzstan are among my favorite places on the planet. Although I'd go out of my mind with boredom (or perhaps not) I would love to live with the shepherds for a year and see life from their perspective.
We were about 2 weeks early for the huge party that's about to descend on the jailoo. Every summer the shepherd clans gather here for festivals, marrying off their children, trading, seeing the children they've married off and games of buzkashi (goat polo - see pictures at siananjim's travel blog). I love the idea of something like a giant Boy Scout jamboree taking over this vast grassy plain.
I had a red 4x4 Nissan Patrol turbo diesel that I loved. I loved it so much I named it after Sammy Hagar, who in the 80's you'll recall was known as The Red Rocker, because he always wore red and even wrote a song as a paean to the color.
Sammy and I drove to the top of a 14,000-ft mountain right to the Kazakh side of the Kazakh-Kyrgyz border. We drove across the open steppe, multiple times. We got stuck in a swamp (you read about that a couple posts ago). I learned about 4wd hi and low and how to drive on "roads" that make the forest service roads in the Cascade Range seem like highways. I drove on highways that make the forest service roads in the Cascade Range seem better than highways. In the city, I could drive as aggressively as I needed to, because he was bright red and had a no-bullshit look. I could say, "Yeah, I'll take out your Mercedes if you won't let me into the traffic stream."
Sammy was awesome. And I miss him.
On a trip through Italy, we spent a rainy, rainy day in Spoleto. From its belvedere you can see a chunk of the ancient aquaduct as it crosses a valley. But obviously, this post isn't about that.
As my family did whatever it is that they were doing, I wandered the streets looking for Photographs. Sometimes I just look for pictures to take, but on this day, I wanted to Make a Photograph. And I got madder than hell when Appropriate Scenes didn't present themselves. I even started to hate the rain...and I love rain usually, especially for photography. It makes everything soft and evenly lit. And it keeps all the other people away from my scene.
This was a basement workshop with a window that opened about knee level, and which I thought was a charming sight, but it wasn't the Appropriate Scene I wanted. I only took a couple shots and (obviously) didn't bother to position myself to keep the grating out of the scene. The angles are all kinda wonky and it was just a lucky thing that the crossbar blocked the bare light bulb. And it's my favorite photo from the day.
The day wasn't a complete wash out, because we found a trattoria that had a great bean soup, and the cafe made a very nice cappuccino.
It's 6:30 am, on July 4. At sunset the night before, a shepherd with a Kamaz truck pulled my beautiful 4x4 out of the swamp that I had driven it into. Along with a small army of shepherds I had spent the day trying to dig and coax it out of the greasy clay. We spent hours pulling with man power and with horse power to no avail. Now, though, in the peace of early morning, it's resting quietly next to the yurt we rented for the night. We slept in the milk-curing yurt owned by one of the shepherds who'd helped, so we had butter and sour cream and yogurt and kymiz (fermented horse milk) to inform our dreams. Cattle rubbed on the walls of the yurt and on the truck all night. I loved that truck. I miss that truck. I recently learned that it still lives in Kazakhstan, and that the gas cap I lost was finally replaced.
Shot with a Hasselblad 501CM on Bergger 200 film, probably developed in Agfa Rodinal.
I like this one a little better than yesterday's. I think the repeating angles that cross each other make it a stronger image, much closer to what I had in mind.
It was a beautiful day in the forest. Obviously a nearly clear, blue sky, and a temperature that made jeans, hiking shoes and a long-sleeved t-shirt the perfect clothes. I didn't end up hiking as far as I had thought I might, but then, I hadn't expected to get such great views straight out of the parking lot.
After being traumatized by about 10 gazillion people at the Cherry Blossom Festival, I decided I needed a day with very few people. So the following morning I went out to Skyline Drive, and saw very few people.
I'm starting to grow fond of the hardwood forests of the Mid-Atlantic. I finally noticed this winter the spare beauty of leafless trees, showing the underlying structure of the woods.
Afternoon in the village of Pentalofos, in the Kozani Prefecture. The animated guy to the right is our Greek language instructor, Achilleas. The only woman in the photo is my wife. It isn't that the women aren't allowed exactly, it's that rather than hanging out at a coffee shop, they're hanging out at someone's house. The other thing I noticed, that I hadn't realized before, is that the young guy is sitting on the fringe, waiting for someone to die to clear out a space at the table for him.
Most of these guys grew up together, but now they live in Boston, New York, London or Melbourne, and they only see each other for a month every year. Greeks tend to go on vacation en masse, centered around August 15th, the day many branches of Christianity celebrate Mary's assumption. For the Greeks, it's a bigger holiday than Christmas and almost as big as Easter. They all go to whatever ancestral village they call home and relax in a way that is utterly relaxing...they do nothing but talk and drink coffee, and if the village is on or near the sea, they swim a lot. None of this American-style constructive relaxation where you have be productively relaxing by going to amusement parks, seeing the Grand Canyon or doing something. And they do it for a month.
In prepping some landscapes for a group exhibition I'm participating in, I came across this sunset that I hadn't previously posted. We took a cruise-by-ferry last summer of the Cyclades, including Milos, Paros & Mykonos.
Milos was made famous by a farmer in the 19th C who went into a cave that nobody had entered for more than 2000 years and found a gorgeous statue of Aphrodite. The French renamed her Venus (because apparently they liked the Roman names for the gods more than the Greek) and acknowledged the place she was found, thus we have Venus de Milo, the Greek statue with a Roman/French name. She lost her arms on the ship between Milos and Paris.
But clearly, this isn't a photo of a cave. The cave was very unassuming. No, this is the sunset from the Utopia Cafe in Plaka. It was one of the most beautiful sunsets I've ever seen. I hope to see it again someday.
The great thing about being an early-morning runner is that you get to see the world in a way that others don't. When you're on your way to work or home from the party at 5:30 or 6, you are consumed with thoughts of the papers that need pushing or of the consumption you've just experienced. But when you're running, even with Megadeth yelling in your ears about the alien lifeforms at Hangar 18, you have a chance to look at things. And if you wear a groove in the sidewalk from running the same path repeatedly, you get a chance to pay attention.
This silhouette of the Evzones at the Tomb of the Unknowns is one such moment. An hour or two later, and the square is filled with tourists and pigeons. During peak season you can easily forget that the Evzones are even there. But at 6 am, you get to see this. The reflections from a light drizzle that had fallen earlier in the morning was a huge bonus.
There's a set of these at my facebook page.
We've had an insane amount of rain this year. I've heard Greeks say that we got as much as 15 years worth of rain in September and October. I don't think it was that much, but we did get enough that though it didn't rain in November, the entire country is still green. It's weird.
So here we are in mid-October in Monastiraki Square, the newly-laid marble looking fresh and beautiful.
The Macedonian flag is beautiful at sunset. Even better was the wedding that we were there for.
If you were at the wedding, visit BH Neely Photographer on Facebook. I guess, even if you weren't at the wedding, you can visit, but the people & activities in the photos probably won't mean much to you.
So Achilles killed Hector and was dragging him around the plain in front of Troy. This dramatic painting by Franz Matsch is huge, spanning the landing of a grand staircase with wings. But what makes it most interesting is that the horses' manes are flying, people are falling, dust is rising in the air, and yet, somehow, the chariot's wheel is utterly still. The hazards of painting from a set.
Perhaps more impressive than Athenian Acropolis for sheer size and engineering is the acropolis of Ancient Corinth. It's on a mountaintop from which you can see armies coming from any direction, with at least a day's notice if not more. From the southwest, the Spartans would have to come up a long valley, and from the east Athens or Thebes or Macedon would cross a long, flat plain and the Corinthian Isthmus to mount an attack. Once they got here, they'd have to climb an imposing mountain, perhaps 1000 meters high, then get through the the thick walls. Tough job.
Even better, there was a temple to Aphrodite here, where the rituals were decidedly Bacchanalian. Paul, famous for his letters telling early followers of Jesus not to have any fun, devoted a good chunk of his letters to the Corinthians in railing against this temple.
Breasts aside, this statue was carved in the 2nd C CE, just as yesterday's was, but look at how the marble looks like carved wax drippings rather than layers of cloth. Same era, both are wives of Roman patricians, but this one looks more raw, more sexual, while yesterday's looks stately.
Also, it looks like this one was the winner of the wet toga contest, doesn't she? Spring break, Roman style.