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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

How can you give life to a block of marble?

How can you give life to a block of marble? Well, sculptors do. They know how to make a 2 tons piece of unanimated rock turn into something alive. Michelangelo fired his hammer against his Moses once it was finished asking ”Perché non parli?” (Why don’t you talk?), and if you are like me and like sculptures, you will be probably staring at a statue in awe mouth open and with your head going blank.
I’m not a great fan of paintings, or I should better say not as much as I am of sculptures. Classic sculptures are my favorites, from the ancient Greeks and Romans masterpieces to Donatello. Funny to admit it; being a photographer or at least someone who is in love with photography and working on his learning process, painting should be the thing to look at with more attention. The use of light, then rule of thirds, the search for the third dimension, all valuable inputs any photog should grab from the master painters. Yet it is harder for me to understand how a man can sculpt the body of The David and Goliath, than painting The Last Supper. Probably I have the wrong concept that if you make a mistake while working on your canvas you can go back and somehow fix it, but if the scalpel knocks out too much marble your work has gone for good.
Now, just to make something clear I’m not an educated lover of sculpture, paintings or art in general. Yet I grew up in a city like Rome and spent long summer holydays in Tuscany, hence art and architectural beauties where around me all the time. I’m pretty sure that my small brain and my short sighted eyes absorbed all that beauty like sponges, and stored it somewhere. Now it floats to the surface and every once in a while, when I have the chance to witness shows of manmade wonders I breath it deeply, and if I have the camera with me I grab my vision of it.
Wandering around the Vatican Museums for a whole day has been such a grateful experience that I almost thanked my wife for dragging me there. I was scared to go, mid August, crowded with people, sticky hot… not a great plan. My longing to see the museum was being beaten by my laziness, but thank God I was not alone. To my surprise, once inside the Museum I was alone. Not that the thousands of people grazing around have gone at once, just that when I put my eye behind the viewfinder of my Nikon everything softened out and quieted down.
My wife had her ear glued to the audio guide and never interrupted me in my inspired journey through those wonders. I was literally absent, walking on a cloud and filling GB of images. Thus, I wasn’t shooting like a madman; neither was I looking for the most famous statues or masterpieces. I mostly shot what I liked, the way I liked it and using the available light as much as I could. Looking back at the images I have the exact proof of what I’m now stating so confidently. The only real good images I have are those I shot with the most passionate feeling, being attracted by the details or the rim of light coming through the windows, or the composition I managed to get by moving around it and profoundly looking for the best possible angle (at least for me).
Last but not least I shall not forget the editing work in Lightroom. I couldn’t be happier of my reading of David duChemin book “Vision & Voice”. His work is having a profound influence in the developing of my images and especially for things like sculptures, I believe that the editing process is utterly important and I tried to take care of it the best I could. I hope that they manage to convey what I want them to, and the way I felt about them.
There’s still a long way to go but we’re working hard J

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Three from Rome

I have been few days in Italy visiting the family and enjoying my vacations; needless to say I had an amazing time. Few days in Rome and few others in Tuscany allowed me to grab quite a few Gigabytes of images with my D90.  For these two weeks I borrowed a Nikkor 24-70 f2.8 that I have used a lot. Is not a lens designed for an APS sensor but I must say that was tough for me to unscrew it from the camera. What a superb piece of engineering! What a sharpness! It has been an unfortunate move to carry it with me, now I brutally raised my quality demand, and in addiction to that I also put my eye on the 70-200 f2.8VR to replace the already sold 18-200VR.  I’m longing for a fast bankruptcy because they would both work well with a FX body…..

Anyway, back to Rome for the moment. I took my wife for some brief sightseeing visits and collected most of the shots during a late afternoon one that eventually stretched into the night. Being together with someone who wants to see things and walk around at a different pace than yours is not the best option to do the things properly but she’s patient and I had my share of time. As a matter of fact I also carried my tripod, which is not known for being a tool that fastens things up.
The Gianicolo is one of those spots you must visit. Is one of the roman hills and the view you get from there is quite staggering. Rome spreads in front of your eyes like a renaissance painting, the old mixes with the new and the churches’ domes scratch the polluted sky. The sky was dark but the sun was finding its way through the clouds giving me the chance to grab at least a dramatic light. For this image I did a bit of work in Lightroom, transforming it in a duotone and pumping up the contrast. For the original shot I used a ND Grad filter but I enhanced a bit more the sky with an additional grad filter in post.
Then it got dark and it was that magical hour when the tungsten lit buildings create that amazing contrast against the dark blue sky. I love this time of the day, even an average image collects few extra points, and most of them are quite elegant to say at least. Doesn’­­t last for too long though, so you have to work pretty fast to seize the moment. In this case I had a problem with quite a bulky and dark object in the foreground, name it statue: Marco Aurelio’s. I took a first shot, and it was quite poor. With a 30 seconds exposure I had the sky well exposed as well as part of the building, but the statue was pitch dark and the lights burned out. So I took a different approach; slowed the exposure to 20 seconds and pulled the SB800 out of the waist jacket. I don’t know how many times I have used the speedlight so far to dramatically change the result of an image, being this animated or not, this for sure has been one of those. With the camera on the tripod, during the whole length of the exposure I painted the statue with the flash and pulled out most of the details not long before hidden in dark shadows.
When the sky turned black I was still around Piazza Venezia trying to figure out how to make a decent image with so many people around, work in progress, cars and bad lights. Finally I decided to go for the Chiesa del Santissimo Nome di Maria, in front of the Foro Traiano including the famed Colonna Traiana. There’s nothing really special in this image, but I had a ball working on the HSL in Lightroom retouching saturation, luminance and hue in most of the colors.

Obviously there’s much more photos in the laptop’s hard disk but either I had not much time to edit them, or they were not worth it. Soon more stuff about Rome though, maybe some museum….

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Habano now available in three sizes

We finally have three different sizes of the Habano, one of the stickbaits that excited me the most during the last season. A superb design by Alle's lures

The 20cm came first, a lure designed for GT, Cuberas, Tunas and big animals in general. Now we have added a 16cm X 70g and a 13cm X 45g, more appropriate for smaller fish, like Bluefish, Leerfish, Snappers, Barracuda, Kingfish and also again for some big pelagic, like a Tuna that is more interested in smaller offerings.

As always the construction is very meticulous, the wood is deeply impregnated with protective resins to avoid water absorption when bitten by a toothed critter. Six layers of paint that stick chemically to prevent peeling, and three layers of epoxy especially developed for the tropical treatment complete the armour. All lures have a sturdy wire-thru construction and carry oversized swivels of the highest quality

So far available in two colours but later we will have more. Soon available the 11cm X 30g size, a beast for the Sea Bass.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Molix T-Jerk, amazing Sea Bass lure

After the fabulous fishing that has given me in Cork I doubt I will take too long to put it in the store. The Molix T-Jerk Suspending 11.7 cm has really surprised. First, it casts very well, the ball bearings in the body do their job perfectly and the small bib is not so much of an aerodynamic issue. But what has impressed me, especially considering that I'm not a fan of this type of lures who travel below the surface, is the action it has.

I tried several different kind of retrieve, slow and even, slow jerks and pauses, fast jerks and stops, fast and steady with no pauses, and finally very quickly paying with the rod tip up and down, producing violent jerks. The T-Jerk responds perfectly to each one of these actions, and never fails or starts swimming in a weird manner. Being suspended as well, during pauses and stops it stands still, and has been precisely during these moments I've had most of the strikes, until I finally managed to smash the bib against the bridge’s pylons.

Let's say that somehow this lure made me come to terms with the family of the "swimmers”. Two strikes few feet from the boat were as good as those I had on top water, and I have learnt something new

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Fox introduces the first twin speed fixed spool reel

Check out this novelty, I have red about it in a forum and really caught my attention. Not that I'm a big fan of two speed reels but this onesure marks a new level as far as fixed spools is concerned. read the Fox press release

Stratos 20000 TS

Introducing the new Stratos 20000 TS Twin Speed Spinning Reel. The first reel of its kind to be specifically designed for high speed jigging in deep water. The unique gearbox of the 20000 TS allows you to change seamlessly, with the flick of a switch, from a high 6.1 to 1 ratio, to a low 2.1 to 1 ratio to cope with the demands of high speed jigging.

At 6.1:1 the retrieve speed is perfect for working large deep water jigs to induce the best action and increase the strike ratio. Once you have hooked up on a large Amberjack or GT you can then reduce the retrieve ratio to 2.1:1 to help you crank your specimen up from the depths. We have all suffered from dreaded lock up on fast retrieve reels and the stalemate situation that then follows; this reel makes that a thing of the past!

Our two speed gear box has taken three years to perfect and is protected by a worldwide patent. The high torque gearbox runs on stainless steel gears for maximum strength and is supported by 16 top quality stainless steel bearings.

The drag system is not only smooth but also immensely powerful and may be adjusted to a maximum of 35 lb of pressure. The inertia start up is absolutely minimal ensuring an ultra smooth operation. The drag itself is fabricated from high quality carbon lubricated with our own special oil. The design of the system has resulted from thousands of hours of testing in a vast range of temperature and climatic conditions. Once you have set your drag there is a secondary locking knob to ensure that it does not back off or tighten during a long battle with a heavy fish.

The ultra-strong body is made from top quality machined aluminum for lightness and integral strength. All body parts have also been specially treated to ensure a high corrosive resistance.

The line capacity is enormous allowing you to use in excess of 300 yards of 80 lb braided line. As well as being ultra-strong this is a stunning looking piece of kit and comes in at just under 40 oz in weight.

The Stratos 20000 TS will allow you to get the utmost out of high speed jigging as well as similar big fish disciplines that require speed, strength and cranking power.

Monday, August 9, 2010

LumiQuest Softbox III for fishing portraits

At last I could use the Lumiquest Softbox III for my fishing photos. I took it to Ireland and to be honest it really worked wonder. Compared to the sort of light I can get from a bare speedlight, this small softbox delivers a fairly radical change, providing a much softer light with less harsh shadows and certainly a way more interesting atmosphere.

It's compact, lightweight and foldable; it only takes less than a minute to mount it on the flash, quite some advantages when handling a fish on one side and the camera in the other, well quite literally.

From the pictures I've done in Kerry and Cork there is one that I favour over the others, and for one simple reason. Apart from the light which is nice, what strikes me is the reflection of the small softbox in the fish's eye, something, in my humble opinion, which works pretty well and is way cool.

On the next trip I will try to bring the Orbis Flash too, this time it wasn’t possible due to luggage overweight problems. I’m very curious to see what kind of reflection will leave in the fish’ eye.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Ireland, July 2010. Can life be better ?

Don’t really know where to start from, the country, the people, the fishing…. Have you ever had that kind of feeling that EVERYTHING has been perfect or nearly so? Well, this is the taste my latest Irish trip had; one week spent filming two fishing documentaries for Sky TV in Italy.

I spent a jolly good afternoon roaming around Dublin waiting form my friends to come, and had the chance to take some photos of this beautiful city. I missed Dublin since mid nineties and I was very happy to be there again. At nigh an enjoyable dinner and some pubbing and clubbing completed the day. Travelling with me Boris Salnikoff, the director of the show, and Vania Corá the cameraman, both great guys to travel with. The plan was to film fishing for Sea Bass and Pollock both on flies and lures, from shore as well as from the boat. The shore fishing was in Kerry again, with John Quinlan, and the bay of Cork was our scenario for the boat fishing, with guide Kevin Murphy.

This is a blog so I won’t make it too long; I think that the photos will speak mostly for themselves. The first two fishing days in Kerry have been a tad slower than usual. We had to work a bit harder to find the fish and due to a severe change of weather happened the week before our arrival; the Sea Bass wouldn’t cooperate too much. I managed to land 5 fish mostly on softies and Boris had none, fighting against the wind and with fish swimming too far for his fly rod. Fishing for Pollock has been another story altogether. We found them good, in a place with not such difficult access and caught a good deal of them. Boris with an ultra fast sinking line had 4 and I hooked the same on soft plastics and landed 3. John, our guide I think had more that any of us, even though he fished for a shorter time. As usual great food and relaxed atmosphere at the Thatch cottage lodge. (John just dropped me an e-mail 5 minutes ago: Suprise, suprise the bass have turned up in numbers not long after you left. Two of us have had about 40 in the last 3 days up to 7lbs. All were caugh early in the morning on the beaches. Its a pity we did not find them when you were here but I suppose that's fishing)

In Cobh we found a different environment, and a whole new experience was waiting for us. Kevin Murphy had put us on a nice non stop fishing plan, and boy, was it good or what? We arrived at the Bellavista hotel, had a chance for a brief chat and a tea with Kevin and Michael Hennessy, and hopped on the boat for our first afternoon of fishing. For some reason we couldn’t find the Sea Bass willing to snack on our candies but the Pollock were just swarming all over the place. Probably Boris caught 20 plus while I was skimming the surface in search for Bass, and three of those hit my walking the dog without being hooked. Eventually, when the sun went down the Pollock came up and hit the surface lure ravenously, and I had my share of fish too.

Next two days in the Cork Bay have been nothing short of amazing. The Bass showed up, in numbers and in size. Boris lost his virginity on the Irish Labrax and managed to land 5 of them on small gurgles and streamers and I had 9 fish up to 7lb on quite a big walking the dog, (Habano by Alle’s Lures) and on a Molix T-Jerk chartreuse that nailed 3 fish, including the biggest of the week, in less than half an hour fishing downcurrent a large pylons bridge.

Ok, if you like fishing light tackle, if you are a fly fisherman, if you love Sea Bass, enjoy being in a nice place with nicer people, drink good Guinness or Murphy beer and have a jolly good time, go to Ireland and fish with my friends. They will not only put you on fish, in the best spots, at the right time, but also make you laugh and feel at home.

There are few sincere thanks I’d like to put on writing. Fabiana Marraccini and Orla Woods at Fâilte Ireland, the National Tourism Development Authority, you girls are just great! Lynn & John Quinlan at Thatch Cottage Ireland in Kerry, Kevin Murphy at Bass Fishing Ireland and Michael Hennessy of the South Western Fishery Board. Knowing you and being with you has been a true enjoyable experience I’m very much willing to repeat as soon as possible. Thanks for everything!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Is the Euro still floating ?

A concept more than a photo. 5 cents floating on a thin layer of water poured on a black vinyl background. A side light provided by an SB800 through a Lastolite EzyBox to enhance the texture of the coin yet not reflect on the background, trying to keep it as black as possible.

Is our currency still floating? The Dollar is coming back strong and we are loosing power with the major international currencies. Maybe is good for the Euro zone export economy, but sure is not for those who import a lot of goods from non Euro countries.