Sunshine in Gorizia!

Amazing things are happening... the sun is shining in Gorizia. It's the first time since last friday and finally matches can be played outdoors as they're meant to be played. Not much to rant or muse about other than that, I'll just add a shot fresh from the RAW conversion (eh eh... okay, lame joke).

Rain in Gorizia

I've just discovered that Gorizia is the Seattle of Italy. One of the, if not the, rainiest city in the country. I've been here for six days now and it's been raining everyday, some days with very little interruption. It's really depressing especially since there's a tennis tournament that's supposed to be played here. I've been able to snap just a few pictures, the one on the left is Victoria Larriere, a French player who qualified and then lost this morning against the Italian Alice Balducci in a match they started yesterday afternoon. Amazingly enough the tournament is still mostly on schedule, but that's only because the matches have been moved all over Gorizia's province, in other clubs with indoor clay courts. The weather forecast for tomorrow is decent though, so hopefully I'll be able to shoot more. I'm getting out of practice.


It's the main reason I went for a DSLR. Tennis, I mean. I've been in love with the sport since...forever, really, though not so much as a player. I did play when I was a kid but I was - still am - too lazy, basically and I hate to sweat. The only two sports I ever got actively into are swimming and horse-riding. You can't sweat in the water and horses do most of the hard work (actually, horse-riding can be really tiring BUT being with a wonderful animal as a horse makes it all worth it).

So, anyway, I love tennis as a spectator. And most of all I love to take pictures of tennis players. It can be an extremely photogenic sport and, being played outdoor and in daylight most of the time, you don't need an insanely fast lens to get decent results. Getting decent results, in my opinion, isn't hard: groundstrokes can be very predictable and once you've observed a player for a few minutes, you should generally be able to catch nice forehands and backhands with the ball well in the frame almost everytime. Providing you set a fast enough shutter speed (1/800 is the absolute minimum I try to keep it at 1/1250 or more, depending of the light), things will look nice.

Getting great results, on the other hand, is a whole another deal. First of all, your equipment starts to matter. Fast autofocus, large apertures, high fps capability, all of these things will make the difference when you're trying to capture that unpredictable moment or maybe some netplay action. And then there's the skill of the photographer and the sensibility to catch that special moment, not necessarily one of action.

I'm in the first bracket: decent results with the predictable moments. I've realized that I'm noticing the limitations of my current budget telezoom more and more and I think that's a good thing. It should mean I'm getting better. Hopefully :)

Docking Adventures

One advice you always get about photography is to never underestimate the photo opportunities' potential of anything. Look around you! self-help handbooks would say, even everyday subjects can become the most wonderful picture. It's all in the eye - and the ability - of the photographer. No, I didn't quote any actual passage of any real book but that's the general drift. And, you know, they're probably right. I've seen amazing stuff with the most trivial things for a subject.

But there's one thing even better and that's going to a location that's interesting on its own, and start shooting. And anywhere on Earth has a place like that, and I don't mean weird places hidden in the woods right behind the schoolyard (yeah, yeah, I'm watching Buffy, alright?), but just regular, everyday places that are intrinsically interesting. Like the Docks.

My town has a fairly sized port, that used to be very important before the fishing industry got in trouble. It's still pretty active and has a growing touristic section, for leisure boating and the like. So on one arm you have fishing boats and ships, on the other sailing and motor yatchs. There's plenty of interesting stuff, for all kinds of photography, from macro work to wildlife (seagulls ;)

I went on a shooting spree a few weeks ago and this one on the left is probably my favorite shot of the lot. It's the tangle of ropes that keep the boats tied to the quay. Mostly I'm happy with me identifying this as a suitable subject. Could I be developing an 'eye' of some sort? Well, let's not get carried away here. Anyway, I made a gallery just for my "Docks" pictures and I plan to keep adding material.

On a cautionary note, photographing a port may slightly be against the law, just like with train stations and such. Details are fuzzy. But this last picture I think is comforting: the sign says "No Entry" but the place - it's the south pier of the harbour - is a tourist landmark and a regular destination for anyone going for a walk - the real kind I mean, not the "walks" people take when they run away and disappear.

There's a tacit understanding about this "no-entry" thing: the sign is there because it has to be but nobody is ever going to stop you. It's difficult to explain, it's one of those Italian things where the law is more of a guideline. So I think I should be able to keep shooting fish boxes, seagulls and people walking ;)

To buy or not to buy

Dear Blog, I'm in a bit of a quandary. Nothing remotely serious, mind you.

I was set to buy a UWA (that's ultra wide-angle for you) before the summer, eager to try out weird perspective shots and work on my landscape photography skills, which are sorely lacking. To this end I had decided to postpone the upgrade of my less-than-stellar Tamron 70-300, due also to severe indecision on what to upgrade to - I have at least 4 candidates, possibly 5. On the UWA front, things looked way easier: the Sigma 10-20 was clearly the winner in my mind: cheaper than Canon's 10-22, even cheaper considering it comes with a hood and the Canon does not, and not so distant in terms of IQ to justify the extra cash. The 12-24 from Tokina and Sigma I excluded from the start: I wanted to go wiiiiiiiiiide and those 2 mm count, especially since I'm not planning to go full-frame anytime soon. Finally, Tamron 11-18 didn't look so hot. Therefore, decision made. Right? Wrong!

While I was choosing the online retailer (I have a few favorites I always go back to, like most people I suspect), here goes Tamron announcing a 10-24 UWA that may or may not be on par or even better than the Sigma and may or may not cost less money. It's a mystery, because the lens isn't on sale yet, but it's not the good kind of mystery when you're about to fork out a nice amount of cash. It will be f3.5-f.4.5, and that is for sure better than what the wigma (its catchy nickname on english-speaking fora) has to offer.

To complicate matters even further, now Tokina is selling her new 11-16mm lens, which seems to be the new king of the hill in the UWA arena and offers a constant f2.8 aperture. Now, I may be a newbie photographer, but I can appreciate a large aperture as much as the next photography enthusiast. It's not such a big selling point if you're going to use your UWA for landscapes only, but really, if you could have it, wouldn't you want it?

So here I am, riddled with doubts once again. Although the real dilemma here is whether getting the Sigma and start having fun now or postpone my UWA purchase until the Tamron is out and there's some user feedback to go by. The Tokina appears to be a fantastic lens but 11-16 is such a small focal range that I'm afraid it will limit its use, at least for me. The 10-20 and, especially, the still up-in-the-air 10-24 from Tamron can function as walkaround lens: think a small medieval town (there's quite a few of those here in Europe, you know), with narrow streets and very little room to zoom with your feet. I don't think a 10-24 will ever leave my camera, in such a situation. I mean, on a crop-body that's the equivalent of 16-38. Plenty to work with.

I really want to see what Tamron will offer. Their 17-50 is considered one of the best lens in its focal range, the 28-70 is another very well-regarded lens of theirs and the new 70-200 f2.8 seems to be a cracker from the first reports.

So, I guess I'll be pondering this for a little while longer. In the meantime, I'll buy a real tripod. No doubts about that one, I did my research well and found a perfect solution for my needs. Amazing, uh?

Discovering Buffy

After watching for the nth time the precious jewel that is Firefly, I've decided it was high time for me to get on board with Joss Whedon's previous creation. I have tried half-heartily once before and was unlucky enough to catch a weird episode built around a demon-infested computer. Now, I know some of my friends would swear that's a regular condition for a computer, but the whole thing was so silly I couldn't bear it for more than 10 minutes. And I changed the channel, never to return again.

But, on the aftermath of the depression (well, now there's a strong word for it) that always sets in for me after finishing Firefly (insert customary curse toward Fox Network here) I thought Buffy - and eventually Angel - could give me at least one of the things that make Firefly so great. Namely, Whedon-style witty dialogue. And, maybe, a taste of those effortless character building and interactions, too.

So off I went, determined to really give Buffy a chance this time, and here I am after having watched the whole first season. Well. I'm not into vampires. And supernatural phenomena. And fantasy in general. I'm a sci-fi fan, from hard sci-fi (basically non-existent on television) to space opera. Of course the supernatural creeps into everything these days on screen, big and small, and I'm not a fundamentalist. I had a blast playing Vampire The Masquerade Bloodlines, for instance, a great unsung CRPG commercially doomed by way too many bugs at its release and the closing of the development studio (the mod community stepped in and released a bunch of unofficial patches). Great game, all about vampires. Highly recommended. So I can dig it, if the occasion warrants it. Still, not my thing usually.

Apparently Buffy's first season isn't all that to begin with, according to Buffy fans. I can confirm that. It's the season of the demon pc, btw, as I've discovered. Yuk, that sucked. But, the witty dialogue is there, though a bit forced at times. And Sarah Michelle Gellar is spunky. Nerdy Willow could be my twin soul. And Armin Shimmerman (Quark in DS9) has a recurring guest role. There are seeds of potential greatness in this. There's also a lot of silliness, cheesy monster-of-the-week plotting and a lot of camp (the latter is not necessarily a bad thing, mind you). I'll stick to it though and watch season 2 as well. After that, if I'm not hooked, I'll give it up. And probably take out my Firefly DVDs once more. Ah, Fox, thou shall suffer greatly.

BTW Joss's working on a whole new show, tentatively (?) called Dollhouse. Tahmoh Penikett, aka Helo on Battlestar Galactica, is one of the principals. It went in production last month and should air in 2009. On Fox. Could Mr. Whedon be a little on the masochistic side?

Powerboat P1

This past weekend my town hosted a leg, the first leg of the 2008 calendar actually, of the Powerboat P1 World Championship. For those who don't know - and believe me up until last Friday most of the people here didn't have clue about it, and that includes me - the Powerboat P1 is supposed to be to off-shore racing what Formula 1 is to car racing. I won't get into details but their website has a lot of over the top descriptions of the whole thing for those interested.

Suffice to say people here went nuts, the harbour and the beaches were packed to watch the races and I dutifully took the opportunity for some shooting. It was fun although my results were overall disappointing, especially regarding the pictures of the actual races. Single boats make for boring images, my reach (300mm on a crop-body) wasn't quite enough to capture interesting details and being completely inexperienced with the sport didn't help. I did have the opportunity to practice panning, though, and I managed to get the hang of it, though it will take time to approach the kind of astounding pictures I've seen done with this technique. But it's not just a theoretical notion for me anymore, so... progress!

My favorite shot of the lot turned out to be the one posted here. I shot it from a slightly elevated position - I was on the external arm of the south pier - and had a CPL filter on my kit lens (the much maligned ef-s 18-55), which explains the very blue sky and overall saturated colors. This is almost straight from camera, minimal pp including the RAW conversion. I really like it. I've uploaded more favorites to the gallery.

Photographic woes aside, it was a lot fun, the atmosphere was fantastic and I really hope they'll be back next year, although I don't see how this event may ever be compatible with the sea-life sanctuary that's about to be established in our waters. Oh well, maybe we'll get a sailing competition instead.

And so it begins...

Well, this is going to be my first post. And it doesn't have anything at all to do with photography. Because, Dear Blog (yes, I won't pretend I have readers), I will use you as a tuttifrutti rambling tool... what I mean is, I'll write whatever crosses my mind.

So now that we got that out of the way, I'll let you know that I spent half an hour choosing a template for you and went with the 'Minima Dark' because, I'm embarrassed to say, it was the easiest to modify the header for. I like it well enough, though, simple, clean and easy to read. Not sure about the background color yet, I may revert to the original black one. We'll see.

Well, Dear Blog, this wasn't much of a post, but it's the first. Things will improve. I mean, we wouldn't want to start with some wonderful witty entry and then being unable to follow, would we? No, better to begin at the bottom, so we can only improve from here. L8r, c-ya, and all those sort of things.