travel

Backroads Indiana

The road less traveled is almost always more interesting, especially for photography. And sometimes we're traveling real light, without even a full-on camera, just the iPhone. That's the theme of this story. 

Near Richland

Near Richland

At the very least, driving such routes is usually much slower than the highways, giving us travelers a chance avoid a possibly frenetic pace and may even reflect. At best, for us photographers, we'll have a chance to find some interesting compositions. 

Such was the case on a recent drive from Cincinatti, Ohio to Indianapolis, Indiana. I had the choice of a major interstate highway (72) or a country highway (52) running parallel to the interstate.   I chose the country. 

I think this was near Rushville

I think this was near Rushville

The wide angle view of the iPhone lends itself to the broad, big farm, countryside vistas in the U.S. Midwest. It nicely mimics the sweeping views the human eye perceives, at least my eye.

Near Rushville

Near Rushville

After a while, some of these panoramas begin to look the same. It's at these times, I wish I had my 'real camera', an Olympus OM-D E-M5, with me to better capture the nuanced differences from one scene to another. 

On Rte 46 over the Whitewater River in West Harrison

On Rte 46 over the Whitewater River in West Harrison

But iPhoneography it is for this trip and the idea is to see what interesting scenes the camera phone is able to capture.

Faraway farm Near Arlington

Faraway farm Near Arlington

Color iPhone shots convert nicely to B&W. I like to use Snapseed for post processing and the B&W conversion in this editor gives some pretty good results. 

Near Posey

Near Posey

Try it sometime. Travel with only your mobile phone camera. Use it as a self challenge to see what you can create. You might just be surprised. 

 

 

#iPhoneography #B&W #midwest #travel #travelogue #snapseed

Trans Siberian Orchestra with m4/3

Shooting a concert with micro 4/3 - the Olympus OM-D E-M5 

I like how everything works to isolate the blond head of this rocker, even the other one is silhouetted and the audience is partly hidden

I like how everything works to isolate the blond head of this rocker, even the other one is silhouetted and the audience is partly hidden

We saw the TSO tonight and what a show!  As always, TSO puts on a spectacle of incredible music, showmanship, storytelling, flames, smoke, lasers and more.  Playing everything from Bach to Zeppelin, they wowed us for 2 ½ hours at the TD Garden in Boston. 

I really liked the interaction between gazing crowd and rockers flaunting all they've got 

I really liked the interaction between gazing crowd and rockers flaunting all they've got 

This time I brought my camera, an m4/3 Oly and put it to the test in these somewhat demanding conditions. 

For the photographically curious, all shots are from the single vantage point of our seats in the balcony, so the point of view doesn't change across all of these compositions. I don't know how far it was from our seats to the stage, but it was some considerable distance, perhaps 40 yards / meters.   

One of the rockers is this woman, who's profiled so dramatically against the lighting rigs

One of the rockers is this woman, who's profiled so dramatically against the lighting rigs

To reach across that distance, these were all shot with an Olympus 45mm 1.8 lens mounted on an OM-D E-M5. This little lens is really great, it's sort of a mini-telephoto, but the lens itself is downright tiny.  The entire camera + lens setup is almost, but not quite small enough to fit in a coat pocket.

Given the interaction between crowd and stage, it's possible to overlook the guy up on the rig

Given the interaction between crowd and stage, it's possible to overlook the guy up on the rig

I was particularly excited that the camera could shoot so well from such a distance and do so in alternating dark & super-bright circumstances.  

Straight light beam  lines  contrast the freedom & wildness of the dancers

Straight light beam lines contrast the freedom & wildness of the dancers

The OM-D is not new and it's well known as a tool which renders colors well. But capturing the myriad colors and ever changing brightness generated by the concert lighting system is quite a nice test. It's a testament to the ability of this sensor and this glass to reproduce this color and these details so nicely. 

As you may discern from the variable sizes of these snaps, these are all cropped down. All were processed using Apple Aperture, my favorite post processing tool. Too bad it's going away. I really hope the replacement is equally powerful and easy to use. 

One of my favorite shots;  the musician bowing, as if in abeyance to the crowd, upward lights symbolizing their gaze

One of my favorite shots;  the musician bowing, as if in abeyance to the crowd, upward lights symbolizing their gaze

One of my favorite shots in this series;  the musician bowing, as if in abeyance, to the crowd, upward lights symbolizing their gaze.  This composition doesn't render especially well on mobile  phones in portrait orientation, it's a bit too dark.  Perhaps I should have brightened up the rocker a little bit, to emphasize his figure a bit more, but I tried not to radically change any of these pics.

Almost of these shots were enhanced with sharpness, some with a tiny bit of definition, many with a white balance adjustment and all were cropped down in some fashion.

While I first began shooting at ISO 650, I quickly realized that's way too high.  It would expose too much.  Having some aspects of a composition in the dark, lends them a sense of mystery. Shooting at lower ISOs let me expose for the bright spots, leaving parts in the shadows, so I reduced the ISO to 400. 

Before the end of the concert, I'd further reduced it to 200, the lowest setting on my OM-D.  Most of the shots here were taken at ISO 200 with a shutter speed of 200 using spot metering.  The exposure compensation I dialed individually for each shot, depending on how nice the contrast looked through the view finder.

Part of the climax, most musicians are on stage, lights are going crazy

Part of the climax, most musicians are on stage, lights are going crazy

Of course I was also thinking of the dramatically reduced noise I'd get with ISO 200 vs 640.  The low noise levels may not be readily discernible in these reproductions, as they're a) JPEGs and b) reduced to 1500 pixels for web hosting, so they're a bit different from the original RAW files.

I particularly like how the yellow highlights a few audience members, connecting them to the guitarist

I particularly like how the yellow highlights a few audience members, connecting them to the guitarist

Now that I've seen what the 45mm lens does, I'd really like to try the put the Oly 7mm 1.8 to the test under these conditions. I supposed, given similar seats, I could really get some close up shots of the performers, though I wonder if it'd be too close to also include some of the scene. 

Some I processed as B&W, mainly because I felt that color detracted from a few individual compositions.

Not sure why, but these audience members seem frozen in time, as if characters captured in a painting 

Not sure why, but these audience members seem frozen in time, as if characters captured in a painting 

Perhaps it's the very white, almost coherent nature of the lights upon the audience, but they do seem sort of frozen in time, similar to scenes I've seen in some old paintings.

Sometime I'd really enjoy shooting a concert with the ability to walk around, perhaps with a press pass or similar access, so I could get really close to the action.  This spectacle features too many pyrotechnics for that to work, but for a bit more mellow show, that'd be quite a photographic adventure.

 I have to say the Olympus made it reasonably easy to get some shots with which I am quite happy.  ...and ultimately, I take these for myself. Olympus marketing won't want to hear this, but I'm not sure how the improved E-M1 could have made this experience much better.

 

 

See sandtosnow.net/blog for other photography commentary

Norway 8 - The Rorbuer

Our Norwegian home was a rorbu - a cabin;  refurbished from raw, working, fisherman's hut to tourist cottage.

Some of the robuer where we stayed in Reine, the right most rorbu is on stilts. Those are fish (drying) racks in the foreground.

Some of the robuer where we stayed in Reine, the right most rorbu is on stilts. Those are fish (drying) racks in the foreground.

Traditionally, rorbuer (plural) consisted of just a couple rooms; a working / storage area and sleeping quarters. Fishermen often stayed 2 or 3 to a cabin, perhaps sleeping head-to-toe to maximize sleeping space. 

In this rainy view, you can still make out the stilts on which this rorbu has been built

In this rainy view, you can still make out the stilts on which this rorbu has been built

Nice views even at night

Nice views even at night

The basic layout of a rorbu hasn't really changed too much in probably hundreds of years. Even today, they're typically refurbished without the level of luxury one might expect of a nice hotel room. The one we occupied was well furnished; simply, yet beautifully, in wood - wooden floors, wooden walls and otherwise rustic wooden furnishings. It was simple and functional in an attractively and uniquely Scandinavian way.  It was fundamentally cozy, comfortable, traditional (I suspect they all are) and offered stunning views around Reine Harbor.

 
Drying racks and walkways to the stilted rorbuer

Drying racks and walkways to the stilted rorbuer

Rorbuer are usually situated partly on the rocky shore and partly on stilts in the water, the latter to enable docking of the fishermen's row boats. Many of them are covered with two kinds of roofing materials; slate shingles and grass. The latter is so traditional, I even noticed one local guy had gone to the trouble of constructing a tiny little grass roof over his mailbox. 

 
Sod roofs and slate shingles are the norm

Sod roofs and slate shingles are the norm

What about this word, Rorbu?   It seems bu is Norwegian for little house, though it may also be an alteration of the word bo - to live.  The word is used in similar contexts, such as redskabpsbu -  tool shed.   

 
Our domicile in Reine

Our domicile in Reine

As for the first syllable, it's ro as in rowing, a reference to the fact that all early fishing was conducted from rowboats. Apparently in Norwegian there is the concept of 'rowing fish', which is present in modern Norwegian in the phrase 'ro fiske' - I heard locals might even use a phrase like 'Lets go row some fish,' even though they may indeed head out in a motorized boat. 

 

But why fishing cabins built for overnights?  Why not just return home in the evening? 

Apparently, the winter fishing in the Lofotens is so rich with Cod and other species, that fisherman would travel from far away to participate.  They'd supposedly row their open boats for weeks to get to the islands and Lofoten became a destination.  

Fish drying racks are not old-fashioned relics, but are in use today and found everywhere you find rorbuer

Fish drying racks are not old-fashioned relics, but are in use today and found everywhere you find rorbuer

It's said that in an effort to support the burgeoning fishing industry in the early 1100s, King Øystein Magnusson had cabins built in Kabelvåg (formerly Vågar)  for the migrant fishermen. I suppose this is some sort of an indication of just how long rorbuer have been around and how important fishing was to the Lofoten.

The rowboats are beautiful.  We saw them stowed underneath many rorbuer.

The rowboats are beautiful.  We saw them stowed underneath many rorbuer.

Why does it seem all of the cabins are red?  National color of Norway?  No, apparently red fish oil paint was the least expensive and therefore the most used color.  At some point the burnt yellow (ochre?) came into use as well.  Today, it seems all rorbuer are either red or yellow and I'm guessing the colorations represent more of an upholding of tradition, than a need to paint inexpensively. 

Gorgeous wood work on these rowboats.  Hard to imagine putting out to sea, The North Sea, in these little things.

Gorgeous wood work on these rowboats.  Hard to imagine putting out to sea, The North Sea, in these little things.

As we drove around, it seemed every village, no matter how small, offered tourist rorbuer. For those wishing to stay in The Lofoten, it seems picking the village / area where you'd like to stay is the defining factor, not the availability of rorbuer. 

 

Our time in Norway and especially in Reine was so delightful, we're already scheming about going back.

 

Some Links about rorbuer

Norway 6 - Ferry To Moskenes

Nothing says adventure like putting out to sea.  Monday afternoon was that time and we were finally ready for the final leg to our actual destination. 

A view  from the ferry  in a roughly southern direction, having left Bodo 20 minutes ago

A view from the ferry in a roughly southern direction, having left Bodo 20 minutes ago

From Bodo, a 3+ hour ferry ride brought us to Moskenes, the southernmost ferry port on the main chain of the Lofoten Islands.

Yellow dots show Moskenen, the southern Lofoten ferry port. Topo overview from Apple Maps, detailed map from Norgeskart.no

Yellow dots show Moskenen, the southern Lofoten ferry port. Topo overview from Apple Maps, detailed map from Norgeskart.no

There is actually ferry service to some outlying, inhabited islands, such as Sørland, not connected by road to the main island chain.

Just leaving the port of Bodo, the ferry sailed past this hamlet, a tiny enclave called Kvalvika

Just leaving the port of Bodo, the ferry sailed past this hamlet, a tiny enclave called Kvalvika

Immediately upon entering the passenger area of the ferry, we got a sense of just how cold North Atlantic travel is, compared our more southern latitudes. Rescue gear on these ferries is quite a bit more serious than the life vests or even rescue rings we're used to seeing.  

On break.  I wonder if that's his dry-suit hanging over the railing?

On break.  I wonder if that's his dry-suit hanging over the railing?

Instead, we were greeted by full-body, dry, survival suits.  I guess the idea is that, as the ship is sinking, you need to allocate time to get yourself completely zipped into one of those things!  I just read where the waters in the Bering Straits was 12º F, so I wouldn't necessarily want to test the temperatures around Norway.

Rocky desolation - the ferry leaves Bodø harbor passing right by many, seemingly uninhabited, rocky islands.  

Rocky desolation - the ferry leaves Bodø harbor passing right by many, seemingly uninhabited, rocky islands.  

While the ferry ride itself is pretty average, the departure from Bodo is scenic and the view arriving in the Lofotens is spectacular

A classic and beautifully simple Norwegian scene - this house on the rocky bluff overlooking the fjord.

A classic and beautifully simple Norwegian scene - this house on the rocky bluff overlooking the fjord.

Given a late evening arrival in early September, we figured the sun would be setting at a similar time to our native New England.  We were wrong.  This far north of the Arctic Circle, early September sunrise & sunset times are more like New England summer time sunsets.  Although the ferry didn't arrive until 9pm, the sun was just setting behind the mountain chain which makes up the Lofoten Islands.  

Sunset over the the mountains which comprise the Lofoten Island chain - this was the view from the ferry as we approached Moskenes.

Sunset over the the mountains which comprise the Lofoten Island chain - this was the view from the ferry as we approached Moskenes.

As the ferry got closer the islands, this produced dramatic silhouettes of the mountains.  Despite a bitingly cold, north sea wind, many people were on deck taking photos.  What a great way to celebrate our first arrival in the Lofotens; beautiful sunset,  shadows hiding much of the detail, leaving us with tantalizing glimpses of what was to be enjoyed the next day.

Norway 5 - In Bodø

Norway 5 - In Bodø

It's a total visceral experience to hear the throaty whine of military jet engines, watch fighters scramble off the Bodø peninsula, scream across the fjord and realize that powerful, bone penetrating noise is being generated miles away!

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Norway 4 - To Bodø

In the spirit of making the journey itself interesting, we decided not to fly the Oslo-Bodo leg, though we could have flown from Oslo to Bodo in less than two hours.  But Sara had never been on an overnight train, so we decided to take a train from Oslo to Bodo.

Sara was thrilled with the overnight accommodations, she wasted no time texting about the experience

Sara was thrilled with the overnight accommodations, she wasted no time texting about the experience

For Sara, this was the realization of a bucket list item.  The idea of our own cabin for an overnight  trip was sort of romantic.  Of course the cabins were tiny, with small bunks ...the the single kind.  How romantic is that?  I think my summer camp bunk, built for a kid, was larger than the one in the train cabin.

An Apple maps screenshot showing our final destination in Reine on the end of the Lofoten Island chain

An Apple maps screenshot showing our final destination in Reine on the end of the Lofoten Island chain

As you can see, Oslo to Bodø is not a short jaunt.  Bodo (not marked) lies directly across the bay from our final destination at Reine (red pin). This leg of our journey had us departing Oslo at 16:00 and arriving Bodo at 9 or so the next morning, with a change in Trondheim to get on the sleeper car. As you might imagine of the Scandinavians, trains are clean, efficient and depart with hair-trigger accuracy.  A few hours north of Oslo, I saw this lake (or fjord?) and just had enough time to snatch & click the camera for this moody, dusk scene.

It ended up being quite a bit of time on the train in order to fulfill a bucket list wish.  But, the spectacular early morning views approaching Bodo along Skjerstadfjorden made up for the long train bound hours. This capture from OpenStreetMaps shows the fjord along which the train approaches Bodø.

OpenStreetMaps showing the fjord, Skjerstadfjorden, which the train skirts on approach to Bodø

OpenStreetMaps showing the fjord, Skjerstadfjorden, which the train skirts on approach to Bodø

One things about photography and trains - it's really difficult to snap photos from a moving train. You never know when scenery will flash by next, what nearby obstacles will impede a distant view, if the reflections in the window are too strong or the dirty window too dirty.  I tried nonetheless. After all, digital photography is about nothing if not experimentation.  And, despite constantly changing light, reflections, etc... I got a few that I like.

This is tidal water and it's out

This is tidal water and it's out

Since it carries the word 'fjorden' as part of the name, I expected to somehow be riding around the edge of steep, glacially carved walls jutting up from the water.  Instead, the train skirts around a gently, even pastorally sloping shoreline of Skjerstadfjorden.  It was actually more delightful than dramatic.

 

In the next post:  Spending the day in Bodø