Friday, May 31, 2013

Costa Rica Travelog | Sand & Surf

Didn't take long to blow my plan for the daily CR travelog to close off the trip but, as expected, Life got in the way.

Our time in Costa Rica started, frankly, on an abysmal note.  Horrible travel and a 22 hour day before getting to our hotel in the dark.  Hit the sack with extreme prejudice as completely tired having only about 2 hours sleep the night prior thanks to a completely borked flight plan.

But waking up to see our proximity to the beach and shores of Playa Tamarindo served to wipe all that from our collective memories.  The beach was huge, deep and beautiful.  

It was surprising hard packed and smooth, so much so that it was apparently easy to navigate on a bike.  Was surprised to see this dude casually coasting along.  This one still makes me chuckle.

The nature of the sand and high tide created interesting patterns along the shore that always caught my eye...

And said patterns also created interesting lines and textured which become even more striking in black and white...

Incidentally that shot above is the first time I tried a vertical stacked panorama - multiple shots stitched together from top to bottom to form one large image.  The file is massive, about 40MP in size.  Billboard, anyone?

The beach was also punctuated by rocky outcroppings which we'll see more of later...

On our last morning before heading on to Destination #2 I grabbed this.  As soon as the soon peaks over the horizon you skin starts to melt off your face, Raiders of the Lost Ark style.  But also gives me the backlight I needed to cut the line of the shore.

That's it for now.  Hopefully I can get back to the daily regime to close the rest of this series off.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Lemons to Lemonade

So I check into a little boutique hotel. Little room. Little space between the adjacent building.

Hence this view:

But a quick look to the right offers something a little more interesting with lines, texture and contrast.

Still a lousy view, though.  At least they put a chocolate on my bed for nighty night.  And otherwise still a cool hotel.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Hunchback of Notre-Dame

The Hunchback of Notre-Dame.

That would be me.  With my camera firmly resting on a tripod (Really Right Stuff - you guys rule), aimed up at the monolithic structure that is the Notre-Dame Basilica in Montreal.  And me bent down trying to frame the damn thing.  Even with a 24mm lens it barely fit.

According to Wikipedia it is 200 feet tall and 151 feet wide.  Trying to get a shot from further back was a waste as too much traffic and pedestrians, and the perspective would have been skewed.  So I just went to the base and exaggerated the whole thing, waiting for the sky to get down to around the same level as the blue lights under the main arches.  Ultimately the exposure balanced and I was done.  A final shot of the entrance with the "ND" inlayed into the concrete and then I headed back to the hotel.

Looking forward to printing the first one.  Lots of room, there, as even the cropped version leaves me with a mere 28MP.  Ridiculous.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Costa Rica Travelog | Ticos

Round Two for the week.  Wanted to share some images of the good folks of Costa Rica, also known as Ticos.  They were a warm bunch, open, and revelled in their philosophy of Pura Vida or "pure life". Enjoy what you can when you can.

The town of Tamarindo where we started our trip (actually, we were just a short walk from town at the very cool Hotel Capitan Suizo) is a funky surfing village.  Rustic and rambling, lots of fun.  Cool shops and bars and restaurants.  Like anywhere, there are people putting in a hard day's work or just going about their business.

Personally I'd be laying down in the fetal position with such exertion as hoooo boy it was toasty warm and muggy.  That said, sticking a tico smack dab in the middle of our winter would yield a similar perspective.

Now, there's working hard.  And there's hardly working.  As stated above, Tamarindo is a surfing hot spot.  We were actually scheduled to take a crack at it but the growing population of head injuries and lacerations with others in our group steered us away.  These dudes, however, had no such concerns.  The guy balancing the surfboard didn't just do this quickly for the camera - he was walking the full way down the road with it perched up there.

The young stud driving the CrSurfAdventures truck saw me panning with him as he passed and flashed me a smile and the horns.  I was hoping to capture some of the ever-present movement of traffic in town but unfortunately someone found their way into my frame.  Hence the creative cropping.  Buddy in the Hostal balcony looks like he's showing me some 'tude but immediately after this shot when I put the camera down and shot him a thumbs up he gave me a grin and a wave.  Then went back to chilling.  

Blessedly close to our hotel at the edge of town was the Super 2001 convenience store.  Had everything we needed for noshing and washing said nosh down.  Interesting characters milled about the entrance.  Here's me copping my inner Jay Maisel through the blinds of the store.  

Hostals appear to be a popular waypoint for travellers in this town.  Passed quite a few.  I'm not sure one is expected to find salvation at this particular location, or if the guy at the base of the tree is associated with either the salvation or hostal part, but I just found it amusing.

As we walked back to the hotel with my head on a swivel, I noticed these fellows taking a smoke break.  Doing the Pura Vida thing.  I lifted my camera, they looked at me, and I did the universal "Tilt Head Towards Camera to Ask If I Can Photograph Them" move.  Guy in the middle shrugged, guy on the left grinned, and I took the shot.  Waved and they waved back and off we went.

I tell myself that subconsciously I framed the scene with that Odd Couple poster firmly in mind.  This became one of my favorite shots from the trip and that I've captured.  Looks very nice in print.

Maybe not "odd" but a couple nevertheless.  These guys may have been father and son, older and younger brothers, uncle and nephew, or flat out two strangers.  Regardless I liked the scene, and a wee bit 'o butt crack adds a touch of humour.  We later found out that "typical food" simply means traditional or local fare.  For those technically inclined this is yet another example of the power of shooting in RAW format; there was no way to capture the brightness outside the scene and the folks in the shadowy interior at the same time.  Digital rule is expose for the highlights, develop for the shadows.  Much of that detail would be lost in a simple JPEG, but you can dig way into the RAW.  Same with the surf driver above.  There is a surprising amount of shadow detail to be lifted in a RAW file.

While I wasn't able to capitalize on the Surf Driver above with a panned motion shot I did happen to grab this woman speeding by on her scooter.  These are everywhere, and you'd best keep your wits about you stepping off the curb or crossing the street.

We ultimately found ourselves in the luxurious confines of the Westin Playa Conchal.  Beautiful resort, absolutely massive grounds.  We started in the main lobby, a hulking open air structure with massive fans lining the ceiling in a vain attempt to cool things off.

So long as you made small movements it was a nice place to relax, but we spent very little time there.  Actually found ourselves in an "interior resort" - a private club that was a healthy ride up and down the hillside from the main lobby.  The Westin buildings, grounds, and adjacent golf course were kept meticulously clean.  Service was amazing, and we had the good fortune to have a concierge looking after us in our "tower". Once and awhile he got a break from us.

One of many things I was looking forward to on this trip was a chance to kick back with a cigar (or two) and a nice beverage.  The environment is conducive to this sort of thing.  We were fortunate one day to have a local cigar street vendor approach us while we sipped mid-morning cocktails (hey, it was five o'clock somewhere).  He had an envious supply of Cohibas in every style.  No idea if they were legit or not, but they were nice!  And we closed off our stay in CR watching a local cigar roller ply his trade at the airport in Liberia.  Hand-rolled on the spot, it was great to watch him work.

On deck... scenes from the beach.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Costa Rica Travelog | Color Me Late


Finally finished the &$%# photobooks from our Costa Rica trip.  Good news: faster than previous books by orders of magnitude.  Bad news: they still took a freaking long time.  First the "family" version complete with multiple iterations of The Wife and friends posing to show off their choice of evening wear.  Second, my version.  All arty and shit.  Still waiting for that one to arrive (via Blurb).  It not only marks the first such style of book that I've done for myself, but also my first foray into bookmaking with Adobe Lightroom (which acts as a front end into Blurb).  Up until now I've used Apple with good success, but working via Lightroom and Blurb offers other advantages that I'll be using more (hopefully) going forward.  Perhaps even need to pen a tips section.

But I digress.

This has kept me from filling space at Ye 'Ol Blog with some frames from the trip.  I'd like to fire these off at a daily rate over the next week but Life will probably get in the way.  To start I have chosen the subject of color.  Because, that (after the outrageous heat) was what struck me first after I rose from my travel coma on our first full day.

There is color.  Lots of it.  Everywhere.  

Of course there are trees galore, foliage in abundance.  I was amazed to find out we were actually at the peak of the drought season and so the land wasn't even lush yet.  On the other side of the country is where all the rainforest action is.  Along the western shores it's practically a dessert (I kid, I kid).

I am a sucker for backlight.  It offers drama and luminosity.  It glows, and it's also tough to work with so it's easy to see why so many avoid it.  Exposure? Cover the highlights and let everything else fall wherever.  Our hotel included a nice atrium complete with these massive fronds (above).  You could use one as a blanket.  Overlap a pair and stick a blazing hot sun behind and you have a recipe for absolute color vibrance, pattern, texture, and graphic form.  

Same thing works when the sun is out of frame but you still put something between it and you.  These firery red Malinche trees dot the country side.  They pop out as bursts of color amidst a sea of green.  Offset against the blue sky (a polarizer helped) and exposed for those red highlights and pop goes the color.

Not that hard sidelight ain't cool.  While walking into the nearby town of Tamarindo the cacti against the vivid yellow stucco caught my eye.  Simple, graphic element and the hard shadow adds the third line (odd numbers somehow work better).

You really don't have to look far to see it.  Bursts and blasts everwhere.  I like how the red pops against the yellow, along the texture of the rock and wall.

Speaking of walls, I have an unnatural fondness for photographing windows.  And doors for that matter.  I like the graphic nature of it.  Sometimes clean, sometimes not.  The first of the following two photos was taken in the town of Tamarindo.  The window of course is framing the windows and the house beyond.  The trees are repeated as well, and between those and the stained wall add a bit of rough to the clean line of my window.  In contrast are the uber-clean lines of the second photo taken at the Westin Playa Conchal while waiting to depart for ziplining (more on that in the future).  Hard light and hard shadow can play exceedingly well together.  A simple open window creates cool shape, that bit of bluish glass sets off against the yellow stucco, and I like the splash of light in the shadow that separates the frame of the window.  That's what the inside of my brain looks like.  I see this stuff everywhere and camera or not I'm compelled to shoot it.  It's a sickness, really.

Funny thing is, where there's not color people will put some on...

Even the public utilities...

Pick a restaurant - you'll probably get blasted with color there, too...

One last before I sign off - graphics (again), shape, and a vivid red of a painted cart on the grounds of our hotel.  Carts are generally utilitarian things, purpose built tools to get stuff from A to B.  Who says you don't need to look good while doing it?

Next up (and hopefully on schedule), a smattering of local folks living the Pura Vida.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Robson Street (Again With the Light)

Vancouver is a crazy beautiful town when the sun is shining.  Was in need of air at the end of the day and so shuffled off from my hotel down to Robson Street.  Interesting mix of people.  Even more interesting mix of light.  Late afternoon, hard, all sorts of contrast.

Love it.

Just walked, looked, on occasion waited, and shot.