Santa is climbing and people are leaving.

There is no doubt that this is a rather ugly picture. However it depicts, in a very close way, the condition of Milan each time a festivity of any kind occurs. Milan is a city in which nobody wants to live except while working or doing business. So tradition is to participate in a massive exodus. I am leaving too for Valtellina (Sondrio province) in the northern part of Lombardia, where my parents live. My wishes for a happy new year. I'll be back in 15 days.


quadro #21 urbana.

Casual synchronicity is one of the most amazing things in blog reading. While I was reading the crystal clear, as usual, consideration from Mark Meyer upon beauty, an other one, albeit on a quite different and somewhat more troubled side, popped up from Jim Johnson.


quadro #21 urbana. Quotation

.... Se c'è la luna in cielo
io ti penso sotto il melo
a te vola il mio pensiero
mentre mi faccio un po' di nero ...

Skiantos. Vortice. MONOTONO 1977


Cheap philosophy

Today is one of those days in which one questions itself about the meaning of things (of Monty Pythons memory).

One of these things is about the feeling of disease that started mounting in me at the same speed new blogs about photography entered my aggregator (circa 2/3 blogs per day starting from September).

So, thanks to a strong dark mood I started trying to make a reason about it. As always I ended up with several ones (why in the hell I cannot find a good singular solid answer to any question is an other question).

First Having studied Philosophy for almost 30 years I can't stand the way in which it is used speaking about photography.

Mostly all the use that I am seeing is a literal or common sense based interpretations, if not superficial use of citations in a wrong context. Some of them are so blatantly banal to make me sick. Maybe it is only me but to seriously study a philosopher it takes a time as much longer as his own life and even a bit more. Fortunately if you have studied seriously a philosopher's work you can find the thing even hilarious.

It is the case of the use of Wittgenstein's "Tractatus", one of the most sacked it seems. Here the amusement comes from the self deleting ending of the sequence of aphorisms and the subsequent studies Wittgenstein made that literally negated some of its conclusions.
I am sure, in this case, that the "citers" never reached the end of the "Tractatus":
7) What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence

Second The stubbornness in persevering in the well known ignorance of the photographer. Once justified by the quite complex process now times is less and less acceptable. It is the case of using aesthetic judgement purely based on the idea of art as a way to express feelings from the beginning of the last century. I understand here that the large diffusion of Susanne K Langer in USA (and worldwide) schools may have left some digestion problems. Even worser is the re edition of trivialities as the one relating the pure vision of childhood and innocence as aesthetics, the funny thing is that in Naples the child are also called, with good reasons, "impuniti" (unpunished). In Italy we had "Giovannino Pascoli" (1855/1912) as a proposer of the concept, eventually it came out that he had a rather twisting childhood (in the face of the proclaimed innocence).

Those aesthetic concepts were made by people who had absolutely no idea of what art was to became and what is the function of art in a mass communication based society. They are, if used literally or as a norm, of no use. Projecting Art as a mere device to express emotions sterilizes the function that Art had, and has, as a vehicle of innovation in thinking (something we badly need) and negates the possibility to communicate between humans with means other than words. The result is an endless sequence of flowers, gooses, short sighted views and other honanistic practices presented as Art (capital A), followed by bloggers asking themselves if they are producing Art or not.

No surprise if landscape photography shifted from the photographers domain to that of architecture and geography. If photography wants a place as an active form of culture it has to cooperate on the same level of competence as any other knowledge domain has. Otherwise it will be convicted to be an exotic kind of packaging of nice "feelings".

The easy sacking of history of art (better if older that 200 years). This certainly has something to do with the remake mania that pervades most of Hollywood movie makers (as if there was nothing new that could be said). So we are seeing any kind of remake of some kind of painting school.

Well there are some news here. The originals were quite better. First because they had meaning or better an extension while the remake has as only referral the original itself. Second because they had a function that was to inform or to exercise some technique. At the end what comes out is an exercise in nihilism claiming its status of Art by mere terms of being a copy of an object to which someone, in a different time and context, attributed and aesthetic value (in some cases not event that). Picturing a bunch of red tomatoes on a white table not necessarily makes a piece of Art even if the light comes from the northern sky.

The reader of this blog knows that I am a supporter of the use of the knowledge historically accumulated about painting and every other visual art as a starting point or as a toolbox for image making. But I never suggested to use the paintings as cheap models to copy unless for educational and study purposes so I do not feel guilty at all.

blogroll update

I made some updates in my blogroll (a thing, among the others, I am quite late in doing). The blogs reported are a selection of the ones that I follow via my RSS reader. As with all blogs I do not necessarily agree with everything posted there nor I am interested in any return (well some critique could be appreciated even included some considerations about my "cowish" English). Mainly the reported ones made me feel connected with them by means of experience or effort in the "photographic and human landscape".

Far from me to be selective in terms of photographic quality of any kind. This blog is related to my vision and does not want to compete with other ones more oriented to operate as a "portal", more I am also a bit against the temptation to act as a "miniaturized" critic.

As stated in the opening of this blog my main intent is to give out some resources I have found to be of some importance or relevance in the domain of landscape photography and more to present some thoughts on landscape in general. At the very beginning I did not intend to publish any of my pictures till some projects could be considered closed. But it is pretty difficult to speak of photography without a picture. Eventually looking for images to publish singularly delayed the projects even more. But also made me think about the sense of staying on the internet in a blogging style. Blogs are not well suited for projects. So I came to the idea of micro projects, something that could be developed in 3 to 6 images. I made the first attempt with the roundabout series and a second with the Halloween one.

Projects and micro projects too are somehow far from the streaming form of this media (the blog). A project is about something already happened (in photographic terms), closed and as such dead. But maybe it is my need to elaborate upon everything. Fact is that even without a reader this blog is for me the first time I had the courage to put my photographic nose out of the door and this is challenging.


quadro #20 urbana

I deeply adhere to the concepts depicted in the previous post. Sadly I have to observe that while those are, ideally, very nice principles in practice they are almost never respected. Recently, however, it seems that in architecture and human geography some tendencies toward this more conscious approach are emerging either in literature either in blog formats. Starting from the seventies of the past century a lot has been studied and published upon this subject in geography.

In epistemologic terms Geography belongs to a modern kind of science. A science who's aim is to describe reality rather than rule it. Unfortunately the realm of investigation is quite complex as much as everything in our world is. But as a landscape photographer I think that it is mandatory to have some knowledge about. At least to act intentionally. One that seems to me a good starting point is this one (pdf). You will find there either exercises in landscape reading either some good bibliographical starting points.

Some photographers too got there early, albeit following different paths and more on the side of the artistic intuition. Among these are the ones who attended to the "New Topographics" exhibitions since 1975.


fondovalle. Freedom and democracy in landscape

What if somebody comes to you and says that your garden is not worth the efforts you have put in it ? According to the Council of Europe landscape quality and determination are basic rights:
Aware that the landscape contributes to the formation of local cultures and that it is a basic component of the European natural and cultural heritage, contributing to human well-being and consolidation of the European identity;

Acknowledging that the landscape is an important part of the quality of life for people everywhere: in urban areas and in the countryside, in degraded areas as well as in areas of high quality, in areas recognised as being of outstanding beauty as well as everyday areas;

from "European Landscape Convention Florence, 20.X.2000"


fondovalle (valley floor)

A small interlude from Milan's Urban views. The previous post image and this one are from an other theme I follow when in Valtellina (Sondrio Italy). Here is the location on Google maps


Landscape photography, circulation and use

My blog list in akregator has grown to 350 blogs regularly coming in (considering only those related to photography). Of those feeds almost the 60% are about landscape. This is a small part of what is published on a daily basis regarding Landscape (out of a circa 1.200.000 photo blogs of any kind). I am not considering here the photographer's sites or other containers as Flickr or Photo.net or similar.

Most of what gets published (95%) will never be seen in a gallery or a museum and will never be printed (except in the case of auto printing). This set of considerations lend me to a little update on the theme I went on a few months ago: circulation.

Circulation in image making is an "elemental" component. Circulation is determined by the function (in communication terms) and competes in the formation of the aesthetic value.

If we look at the imaging history the second great revolution in circulation (after the introduction of the canvas) happened with the ability to print images with some kind of perceptual fidelity: halftone printing. The technique greatly increased, for the image makers, the options for reaching a large public. Images lost their aura given by the scarcity (or uniqueness) . But I'm not going to speculate on this point, tons of ink have already been used to write upon the effects. The only thing to consider, socially, is that printing needed a capitalistic infrastructure to reach large sectors of population. Few ones where able to have access to those technologies. This meant that some kind (whatever) of control was imposed on what was to be seen and what not.

A lot of you will remember how things, in the imaging world, worked till, say, 20 years ago. Except for cases of direct circulations (very restricted) there was always somebody with the power to decide what was worth to be seen. The power was divided between editors museum/gallery curators and critics. But in any case it was not the one making the image who had the final power to decide upon. This led to several distortions including the birth of several fairy tales about the way in which photographers were supposed to work. One of the best example is that of "Cartier Bresson" who's photos taken in the mythical "decisive moment" where perfectly in line with the "you push the button and we do the rest" of kodak's memory. By the way does any of you know the name(s) of the developers and printers of his over or under exposed famous clicks ? Does any of those had the name printed along with his pictures ? As photographers we know that post processing is as important as the taking in terms of outcome. Clearly a blatant lie propagated either for propagandistic or for marketing reasons or worse to disguise the industrial, and not individual at all, process. A cynical one could also argue that the grainy aesthetics was not intentional (who intentionally does a bad exposure ?), eventually it became an aesthetic norm as consequence of the fable.

And so we get to the third revolution: Internet. Publishing there did not require large amounts of capital. The need to publish photos with ease was certainly the driving force behind the huge success of digital cameras. But what did loose the image in such a case ? In the first place the support. Reduced to a bunch of bits images could freely circulate along the Net. But this was not the only thing images lost. At the end they also lost the controllers. Well the latter orphanage is still not completely resolved given the highly relativistic aesthetics coming from this. A lot of people still seems to need some kind of guide (oracle) to know if an image has some aesthetic value or not. But from the advent of internet it is only a matter of individual knowledge, taste and skill in using the instruments. So, as of today, images lost the context (in the case of the canvas), the uniqueness (Half tone printing) and finally support and selection (Internet).

But back to the beginning of this post. What is the use of the published Images on blogs ? Again, the aesthetic value follows the function. And guess what ? The function is not to produce art but to communicate. With a nice anachronism the use of the term "art" is getting back to the Renaissance mean. Something more related to an ability (or a quality ?) of the maker.

And in terms of landscape what do we communicate ? Personal visions of the world. But I will get back on this in the (hopefully not to far) future.

POST: I am speaking here of still images. From frescoes to digital painting.


quadro #19 urbana

Life is full of contradictions. Back in the seventies I was involved in politics (in the so called extreme left) but at the same time I cultivated my interests in making photos and studying art by my own. My "comrades" always looked at me with a lot of suspicion given that those interests were seen as a manifestation of clear influences from the "consumer and imperialist devil". With time, and a bit more of positive perception of myself, I came to understand that in reality I was not that interested in "ideology" instead I was simply following my own view of the world. By the way that also made me quite suspicious of any kind of assimilating community.

One of the most striking contradictions I had in that time was my liking of the futurist art movement from the early 1900. In Italy, after the II world war, culture was almost all in the hands of the left. Futurist where, in some ways, strictly forbidden given their relations with fascism. Today I do not believe anymore in any ideology but I still like a lot "futurists".

It is not easy to differentiate "futurist" from, say, "cubists" or other "avangarde" tendencies of the beginning of the last century. The simplest thing that I can say is that "futurist" focused more on the rendering of the dynamism of the subject as opposed to the dynamism of the observer as in the case of the "cubists" (the connections are, in reality, more confused given the vast exchange that went on between the various movements).

When the futurist movement rose to fame Italy was entering a state of diffused industrial and economic growth. The city was the symbol of all that. The new materials used in architecture started to alter the time scale upon which the landscape could change. The change in landscape become perceptible on a one man's life time scale, and more, a it became a value. One of the "futurist" seminal paintings about this is "La città che cresce" by Umberto Boccioni.

Today things are a bit different. Given the tragedy we are producing in the ecosystem we no longer appreciate the modernist idea of changing as a positive value. But adaptation to a more environment wise world will require a lot of changes. Is this an other contradiction ?


quadro #18 urbana the return

After the brief snowy interlude I am continuing the series of my views of the area nearby home. As stated before this is a series of ordinary views. Something I see every day. There already are a lot of photos of this area. Most of them has the vernacular as the focal point. Other ones are made with spectacular intents ending up in a view that has little difference from any other metropolitan area. What I am at is to show how the various signs (in semiological terms) contribute to the formation of the urban landscape and consequentially to the formation of the perceived identity of the places. Living in a place with a lot of history behind is almost ideal for the purpose. But to combine all the various semiotic strata in something that could be seen is a more complex and challenging matter.

The methodology followed is the usual of making detours conceptually predefined but not strictly planned except for the starting point.


quadro #17 snow

For this one I had to get back to my usual processing. Most of the controls in RawTherapee are operated by sliders, this does not give room to workout singular areas with a heavy cast (green in this case).


quadro #16 snow

Couldn't resist. So here is my snow in Milan. This thing of seeing how it is going in other parts of the world reminded me this nice podcast: "Photography as Transportation" from Jeff Curto.

The picture has been processed in RawTherapee.


quadro #15 balcony

I had the temptation to entitle this: homage to Rodchenko. Certainly he is one of my preferred photographers. He developed a photography based on a strong peculiar and subjective look at things. A very extraordinary time/space location helped a lot. What strikes me more is the level of credibility (trustfulness) his framing confers to his images. By using extreme perspectives he communicates us his own position (and look) in relation to the object. A subjective truth if you want. But don't get fooled, he was a master liar when needed. It is also a rhetorical strategy that to choose a bold point of view (vantage point) to raise a sense of spontaneity, in his propagandist images this becomes evident, and he was well aware of that.

The picture has been processed in RawTherapee.


quadro #14 urbana

Enter rawTherapee

I have to confess that as a Computer Scientist I am devoted to open source software since its first beginnings. I still remember when I ordered, via Byte (the magazine), a tape full of every thing for 10$ (plus 40$ for shipping) directly from the GNU (at the time in person as Richard Stallman: RMS) , it was the 1986. My usual operating system has been Unix, HP/UX and then Linux.

As a photographer I had a split personality, in terms of software. For my pictures I have had to resort to MS Windows and Adobe software. The main reason was the lack of a decent CMS (Color Management System) for Linux. Recently I started to use argyll with my "eye-one display 2". It works pretty nice and given the display architecture of Linux the benefits of a calibrated monitor are available to any software package (even if not color managed).

But a CMS is not itself enough. A photographer needs to process his/her images. For computer graphics I usually work with gimp (for buttons, icons et similia). But I do not like to use it for my pictures. Mainly for its RGB orientation. I got used to work out my pictures in LAB. The separation of the luminosity layer from the color ones is for me a necessity.

Last year several RAW processors become available for Linux as a viable tool. RAW processing is present on linux since a long time with dcraw. Unfortunately when it comes to photography my personal need is to forget that I am an hardcore technician so I need as much as every other photographer something to work with and forget about.

Some weeks ago, having finally calibrated my linux display (i still have some issues with the black point), I decided to give to one of the evaluated programs, RawTherapee, a serious try.

The program has almost averything one needs, almost, cause it lacks some very important ones. I won't write down a list of interesting features. If you are interested have a look by yourself, one of the interesting things in open source is that you can experiment as long as you want without having to pay. Insetead I going to display what is seriously missing.

  • Color samplers. A photo, from a formal point, could be considered as a set of color and luminosity constraints. Colors samplers let you organize the constraints between the parts of the image. The more the better.
  • Curves for colors and a way to set a point onto the curve by means of cliking on a point of the image (command click in PS). Simultaneous curves for diverse color spaces (RGB LAB and CMYK) could be the optimum as in CurveMeister for PS.
  • Channel operations and surgery. As Apply image or Calculations in PS. Channel operations in RGB and LAB mode are very powerful. See Dan Margulis for a good explanation on this.
  • Horizontal and Vertical perspective correction. Distortion, rotaiton and CA correction are in place. Here the ideal solution would be to give the option to interface an external program like PTlens (available on linux) that I like a lot and is well automated for lens distortion correction.
  • Consistency in numbering. If there is a luminosity channel and an A and B channel it is useful to have a corresponding LAB lecture, currently the values displayed are RGB. It is a bit of a guess to find the correct luminance position in the related curve . In PS, do not know in RawTherapee, the LAB luminosity channel is not a linearly derived form the RGB channels hence the difficult projection. By the way a nice thing to have could be to use the same scales as PS in numbering, even if they are not so correct.
  • Masking. At least for sharpening. Scaling is on the rough side.
The nicest thing is the interface for cropping. It is almost ideal for squaring out pictures. I am still trying to figure out a good workflow. Anyway from now on I will point out if an image has been processed with RawTherapee. This one is the first. For the success or less of the experiment I will let you know about any development.


quadro #13 urbana

We usually associate the idea of unordered growth as a property of natural things. The cities, the gardens and the landscape are usually associated with a somewhat imposed order among things. In reading various cheap considerations on landscape photography among the first presented rules is the one to impose order in the view. Culture however is something that grows in not ordered ways itself to the point that Hegel called it a second nature.


quadro #12 urbana

As a landscape photography avid student I have always visited the area of theoretic Architecture. Starting from the seventies of the last century, landscape (and its representations, or recursive landscape) has been taken into focus by several transversal disciplines. Here (PDF document) is an interesting point that recently inspired me a lot. The idea of the Stalker as a modern (and a bit dark) insider of the landscape is intriguing.


quadro #11 urbana

Starting with this one I am going to publish a small series realized on the "Alzaia Naviglio Grande" near home. I followed the usual routine to take a walk along a prefixed path trying to see what everybody else could see looking west. This area is constantly changing since the heavy second world war bombing. Here is the Google Maps location.


quadro #9

In Milan, as in all the cities in this world, there is a lot of life in the rooftops. This could be a theme for a nice project in ordinary landscape photography. There are some problems, the first being the light along with the accessibility of the place. I am still looking for a way to get organized. However if some of you in Milan lives (or has access to) on a floor higher than the third I would be very grateful to be invited to take an overview.


quadro #8

I took this one while thinking about the "equivalents" from Alfred Stieglitz.


quadro #7

Yet an other "no intended mean". When taking pictures from my balconies I usually do not focus on the word meaning the things I am seeing have. More or less I follow Klee's didactics that you can find in his diaries regarding the time he was teaching at the Bauhaus. The idea (very simplified) is to abstract from the substance of the things using simple vectorial schemes. A very simple example is the one of the basic abstraction of arrows from a pine tree, more complex is the case of the human skeleton and its equilibrium/movement vectors.

Since my interests are in photography what I am looking for are basic form conglomerates to extract from "reality".


quadro #6

After a brief stop here we go again with squared out exercises. I am still working on a "more nature than urban" section. The pictures from the balconies are more on the formalistic side. The content has no intended mean.


Plato's theory of vision.

And so in the vessel of the head, they first of all put a face in which they inserted organs to minister in all things to the providence of the soul, and they appointed this part, which has authority, to be by nature the part which is in front. And of the organs they first contrived the eyes to give light, and the principle according to which they were inserted was as follows: So much of fire as would not burn, but gave a gentle light, they formed into a substance akin to the light of every-day life; and the pure fire which is within us and related thereto they made to flow through the eyes in a stream smooth and dense, compressing the whole eye, and especially the centre part, so that it kept out everything of a coarser nature, and allowed to pass only this pure element. When the light of day surrounds the stream of vision, then like falls upon like, and they coalesce, and one body is formed by natural affinity in the line of vision, wherever the light that falls from within meets with an external object. And the whole stream of vision, being similarly affected in virtue of similarity, diffuses the motions of what it touches or what touches it over the whole body, until they reach the soul, causing that perception which we call sight. But when night comes on and the external and kindred fire departs, then the stream of vision is cut off; for going forth to an unlike element it is changed and extinguished, being no longer of one nature with the surrounding atmosphere which is now deprived of fire: and so the eye no longer sees, and we feel disposed to sleep. For when the eyelids, which the gods invented for the preservation of sight, are closed, they keep in the internal fire; and the power of the fire diffuses and equalizes the inward motions; when they are equalized, there is rest, and when the rest is profound, sleep comes over us scarce disturbed by dreams; but where the greater motions still remain, of whatever nature and in whatever locality, they engender corresponding visions in dreams, which are remembered by us when we are awake and in the external world. And now there is no longer any difficulty in understanding the creation of images in mirrors and all smooth and bright surfaces. For from the communion of the internal and external fires, and again from the union of them and their numerous transformations when they meet in the mirror, all these appearances of necessity arise, when the fire from the face coalesces with the fire from the eye on the bright and smooth surface. And right appears left and left right, because the visual rays come into contact with the rays emitted by the object in a manner contrary to the usual mode of meeting; but the right appears right, and the left left, when the position of one of the two concurring lights is reversed; and this happens when the mirror is concave and its smooth surface repels the right stream of vision to the left side, and the left to the right (He is speaking of two kinds of mirrors, first the plane, secondly the concave; and the latter is supposed to be placed, first horizontally, and then vertically.). Or if the mirror be turned vertically, then the concavity makes the countenance appear to be all upside down, and the lower rays are driven upwards and the upper downwards.

From "The Project Gutenberg Etext of Timaeus, by Plato"

Certainly Plato had a somewhat twisted theory of vision that did not work for optics. But to get to what is of interest here we must consider this as a theory of knowledge (based on introspection and not on some kind of  metrics applied to facts).  The idea that the object exists as a mere projection has as a consequence the rise of a highly subjective idea of truth. Straight photography, lost the aura of truth of the mechanical objectivity, has to rely on both the viewer and the photographer. For sure the color in photography is decided by the subjective look of the viewer. And it is subjective even for physiology given the many genetic or at large accidental variations.


Film scans. A last one from lipari

I am posting this last one from the batch I scanned for a series in my upcoming site. Taken on Agfa Portrait in 1998 as study for using low contrast film in landscape. Lipari's lights have great contrast even early in the morning.



From the statistics I see that a lot of you are from USA and I suppose that some are Obama voters.

Regarding the recent poor performance of our Prime Minister (Mr. Berlusconi) I have to say that I am ashamed for the words he recently used mentioning your new President.

Hope you can understand that his party represents only a part or us Italians and certainly not me. He is, anyway, the President of the Government of my Country so here are my sincere apologies.


Film scans

The debate over film versus digital is, as usual, high in a lot of forums. I think that most of the debate is based on a misleading question: Resolution. The problem, I suspect, is not of major or minor resolution instead it is a matter of "chaos".

In some ways a film is itself a discrete sensible support as much as a digital sensor array (the grains of the emulsion are in finite quantity) but the atomic information is scattered along a more random distribution compared to a digital sensor. In digital you can correct the excessive order by using an unsharp mask. I am not meaning the Photoshop (or what else tool) but a traditional unsharp mask like the one used for film printing.

Digital is neither better nor worse than film. It is one of the different sensible devices we have to take pictures . As usual when you have a choice there is something you loose something you gain. But a thing that I really miss was the freedom of choice in film makers.

You still have the choice in digital but you have to build up a duplicated set of camera and lenses.

I stopped to take pictures on film when Agfa shut down its production. I really loved the way Agfa rendered the greens. What I really do not miss are the film labs with their absurd prices and bad practices.

I have a huge archive sitting there waiting to be scanned. The time it will take to scan is gigantic, and I am using one of the fastest scanners you can find on the market.

I took this photo in Lipari in 1998 while I was out with my daughter. She always gets bored in assisting me. So we ended up in a play.


Tools for better images (guaranteed)

"The contrast between man's ideological capacity to move at random through material and metaphysical spaces and his physical limitations, is the origin of all human tragedy ... Half winged -- half imprisoned, this is the man ..."
from Paul Klee Moholy-Nagy "Pedagogical Sketchbook".

I have already pointed to an other of Klee's small sized, and low cost, pearls in a previous post.

In times of economic struggle as the ones we are in it could be nice to start thinking about the price we are paying for our needed (more or less) tools. And a good book is a tool as much a lens or a camera is for landscape photography and image making in general.

Paid this one 7$ plus 12$ for delivery. You can still find it used at amazon's. Even for a bit more it won't require a mortgage.


Halloween landscapes

Well Halloween is not an Italian tradition. But till I was six I was a happy Canadian boy and still I have my skeleton suite. The celebration, however, is of celtic and pagan origins and Valtellina (SO) certainly has deep celtic roots.

The pictures I am publishing are from an obscure and misterious place in the Tovo S.Agata (Sondrio Valtellina Italy) mountain.

In the local oral tradition this was the place where witches and daemons had their sabbas . The paintings on the rocks are a trace of this ancient belief and maybe also a trace of the bloody hunt and destruction of the remaining local pagan culture operated by the Catholic church in the middle age.

For me it is one of the places where I took some of my first pictures when I was thirteen. Back in my youth I wanted to contribute to the preservation of this place so I invited here a couple of persons from the "belle arti" (an Italian institution for the preservation of Italian artistic resources). Those ones dated the paintings, which were in best conditions than today, to 1200/1300 A.D, and attributed them to the school of "Valorsa" and then, fortunately, forgot everything so they are still in place.

Those pictures are also part of a series I am preparing for a project called "Memory of the Mountain" that I hope will be in my ever near to be finished web site.


roundabout #7

This picture closes the series. I am not that happy about the whole. But I was already feeling that way while I was taking the photos. I've been in this place a lot of times and I have seen better light scenarios.


roundabout #6

Till I was young I always liked to look at things. Photography came as a need to communicate what I was seeing. Then it came the necessity to be very sure of what I was doing and feel I was really choosing among alternatives. Is intentionality a way to truth ? I do not feel that it is as easy as it comes. This of the roundabout was a small experiment I tried to have a small scale project. I think I will go on with other roundabouts in the area, by now there are two more pictures left from this series.


roundabout #5

Valtellina's (Sondrio Province see here on GoogleMaps) population lives along the road that traverses it since remote times. Roads where built (and abandoned) on the basis of the locomotion historically in use. As in many western world places it is the car which dominates the shape of the current landscape. New houses differentiate themselves by colors. This is a relatively new introduction occured in the last 2 decades. Once the only color was the gray of the granite sables coming from the Adda river.


roundabout #4

In my youth (1970/80) i did a lot of so called "conceptual research" with photography and other materials. Results where almost disappointing, boring in the best case. However I conserved a bit of that experience, mostly in the need to act intentionally . In this case the idea was to explore on the visual plane the integration of "alien" objects in a landscape with ancient memories. The views instead where not taken with a prefixed plan. That is the conceptual art part I left off.


roundabout #2

Roundabouts as a traffic regulator are around from a lot of time. As usual we Italians discovered them late and now, in a great hurry and without thinking to much about it, we are distributing them everywhere. I run across this one near the place where I lived my youngest years of life. I am working photographically on these places as a mean to regain some "sense of place" that I lost for a lot of reasons. However alienation seems to me the best word to describe my feelings. People here went to a total separation from the land in which they live. I do not know if this has some connection but in the Sondrio province suicide is 5 times higher then in the rest of Italy. A few ones have pointed out that the fracture between everyday life and the land could be one of the causes. I do not want to get into, as a photographer, albeit amateur, I just want to look at.


roundabout #1

As I mentioned some post before one of my aims at landscape is to depict an ever changing world. In this case and for a few of next post I would like to make some considerations, either visual either written, about the possible use of photography as a medium to reason about the ordinary landscape. J. B. Jackson is one of my references here. The way in which he writes about the ordinary landscape is not only interesting for the contents but I consider it as highly remarkable in itself as a creative use of the written word. I see no reasons why pictures of informational use could not be also good in themselves, instead when it comes to human geography the intrinsic value of the pictures is quite low. Far from me to say that my ones are better...

The roundabout here depicted is from Sernio a small village in the Sondrio Province North Italy. But more on the place and the roundabout in the next posts.


can't believe it

I came across this interview with "Canon Inc's most high ranking executives, Director and Chief Executive of Image Communication Products Operations". Apart from the usuals what catched my attention was the following:

"EF-S is perhaps more appealing to the younger market and female market, who appreciate the light weight"

I suppose he forgot homosexuals and communists.

More about convergence and circulation

Till the advent of the Internet (and browsers able to display pictures as the Mosaic) landscape photography as a form of expression was confined to specialized galleries or in the books. There were, and are still there today, some magazines specialized in the field but mostly they are/where devices for selling photographic gadgetry, ever once magazines more specialized in the photographic flesh market did publish some landscape photography too.

The advent of the Internet disclosed several opportunities to several photographers willing to display their work. But in the beginning there was a big problem. Internet connectivity was at large very slow. But the bonus was so high that photographers started publishing their work in a very small format suitable to run across low speed connections.

The main idea was that the small displayed pictures could be a key to sell printed versions of the same along with some workshops so to pay back the effort.

In the beginning (between 1996 and 2000) most of the pictures were taken with analog cameras and films. Scanners where the main device to get the pictures in a suitable digital format. Meanwhile digital cameras made their appearance and started to get less expensive at any new product round. The large diffusion of digital cameras made it relatively easy to take pictures to publish on the web, technical barriers also went down as digital cameras inherited all the automation of the previous mass cameras plus the bonus of not having the chaotic combinations due to diverse film and treatments that was the nightmare of the small print market.

As you know most of the Internet content is for free (as in beer). So the ones who started trying to sell prints remained on the usual business model consisting of selling enlarged printed versions of the published icons or on workshops, along with some incomes from advertising in various forms.

But the discovery of the potentials of user contributed content made things evolve along other new lines. Users wanted to display and exchange their pictures, evaluate or have them evaluated in a word they wanted their own images to circulate. Landscape photography sites (the ones with icons) where taken as repositories from which take inspirations or models to emulate and derive from.

Number of users become the main measure of aesthetic appreciation and user content contributed sites gave the opportunity to photographers (of whatever kind) to have their 15 minutes of notoriety as depicted by A. Wharol.

We are still at the beginning of this traumatic change in the way aesthetic values are defined and established. The first to absorb the impact are certainly the critics and the photographic magazines editors, then comes the photographers to whom it must be clear that with prints they cannot in any way compete with flikr for diffusion and circulation.

It remains to understand in which way a landscape photographer could make a living displaying for free its own work which is still made from hard and strenuous application to the matter.



I always appreciate smart marketing moves. In the photo accessory marketing things must be quite difficult. Every body sells, more or less, the same stuff. A couple of big producers recently introduced video in their DSLRs. Bingo! Every body is speaking about. So here is my turn.
Convergence happens at the end of the chain, not at the beginning. The convergence already happened. People wants to see video, pictures and what else on a screen and a HD one. That is the convergence. Content production follows the demand.

This thing is also happening with prints. Users want to look at pictures with a video. So the demand for low cost but color friendly screens is going up. And production is preparing to fulfill the demand. This may be bad news for the ones making a job selling prints (still have to know one) but it is otherwise good news for the environment (did you consider how polluting are the inks and the plastic papers of your ink jets). And is also good news for photographers interested in not having a split personality: one for web and one for the prints or the book.

I know, a lot of you will think that the feeling of a print will never be matched... Well to have a reasonable living illusion is sometimes a necessity.

For something more precise and technical see this article on The Luminous Landscape.


Over the internet

Few posts ago "Mark Hobson" at "The Landscapist" gave the cyclic set of explanations of his framing techniques. This time I followed the whole chain and and the most referenced photographer was: Peter Henry Emerson.

So I made some searches with google and came up with the very pleasant discovery of the photography section of the Internet Archive.

I am not a great fan of Microsoft but when it comes to culture I have to say that their fundings are well spent. Well done and a gratefull thanks.

There inside I have found the "Naturalistic photography for students of the art (1889)"
by Peter Henry Emerson himself.

I have read the intros from several other authors too. Along the intro you will always find a dissertation upon theory of photography a thing that is missing in a lot of modern photography handbooks. Such a dissertation, as a side effect, reveals from the beginning the position of the author/photographer. The newest handbooks I found with such dissertations where from Feininger 1960/70.

Since photography is such a practical art when the writer is a true photographer the theory rapidly becomes a personal statement about the artist's inner vision of his/her art.

That's the part that I value the most. While techniques come and go (and not always for the best) the essence, the photographer, remains.

Anyway reading online those books is a great Internet experience, you can also download them in various formats.


quadro #5

While i was composing this one, and trying to not elaborate to much on it, an analogy with free jazz came to my consideration. This series, the squared one, is a study on the use of a square frame format, adapting myself to compose squared in a rectangular viewfinder. The contents are intended as abstractions. So getting back the analogy was partially due to my listening for several days the "Art Ensemble of Chicago" production and partially following my way of seen that has always privileged the dynamics of the scene. I still have to find a way to fully transpose it in a photo. By the way this has been one of the main motivations of my photographing.



All the picture subjects in this series are from Milan near or along the "navigli area". I went to live here in 1977. Even if tightly integrated in the city and partially destroyed in the WW2 it presents a lot of "melting" areas where the new interacts with the old. The old too is undergoing what we could call "Disneylanding" were old themes are either built ex-novo or decorated in heavy supposed to be traditional/vernacular taste.

In geographical term it is a difficult and complex area to study. Cultural layers of at least a couple of millennia nest together.

Actually this series could be a future project but i am better considering it an exercise.


Exceptional and ordinary

Recently several interesting photography blog posts has been centered on the uniqueness or beauty or exceptionality
of the subject in photographic sense, see George Barr for an interesting set of considerations.
I've found this post on http://pruned.blogspot.com to be pretty amazing as an example of exceptional landscape. See also the followup.


quadro #3

Composing for a square frame with a dslr camera is an interesting challenge. The only trouble is that you loose a lot of information along the process. However this exercise is making me to try harder in previsualizing the outcome why trying to not fixate to much in it.


quadro #2

As in previous posts this is part of a series of exercises in using a square framing.

A funny thing is that i was considering to use for the series a numbering based on the Russian word for square: площадь devoting the whole to Kazimir Severinovich Malevic and his black square. At the end i opted for a more modest Italian prefix: quadro.


Square it. Here we go. quadro #1

As told in the previous post i am going to experiment with square framing. The images are from a series i had been working upon for some months and are taken from my balcony. The biggest difficulty is to get used to a viewfinder that is not exactly what your are going to get as a final result. However there is also a bonus, you can chose more cropping points and see later what holds or not.


Square it stupid

Home pages are the most valuable real estate in the world. Each year, companies and individuals funnel millions of dollars through a space that's not even a square foot in size.
Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox, May 12, 2002

One of the first problem one has to face publishing photos on the web is that the picture you are publishing is of rectangular (at most) shape. Web can be considered a recursive nesting of rectangular shapes. So the shape you are publishing will have to fight for its own attention among several others starting from the shape of the monitor.

I am speaking here of the diffused rectangular shape dating back to the old days of 35mm film. This shape transmigrated, almost untouched, in DX, FX and 4/3 digital formats.

I am using horizontal to mean a rectangular frame who's longest side is on the upper and lower side, vertical otherwise.

In landscape the horizontal frame is not a big problem till you get to something you want to insulate that is pretty vertical. The braindead rule here is that horizontal things go horizontal and vertical go accordingly. However this is not that useful at all. If you put something vertical in a vertical shape you will have two vertical vector competing for predominance.

Sometimes vertical can be carefull composed in a horizontal frame but it is not the norm.

To get things worse web is not vertical friendly. First the monitors tend to have an horizontal frame, and the omnipresent wide screen are even more pronounced in this shape.

Second typical web and browser formats are vertical like 800x600 or 1024x728.

If you chose to go vertical you will have to scale the image more than an horizontal one and you will have a pretty predominant set of horizontal vectors either from the monitor either from the browser.

Recently following and reviewing the web pictures of one of my preferred contemporary landscapist, Mark Hobson, i have appreciated his use of the square format. In web terms it is simply perfect. In compositional terms i not so sure for it's use everywhere. Certainly it is far better in vertical situations where the vertical of the composition can live in a better way.

Next i am going to publish some experiments.


On Painting and Photography

Either painting either photography is part of the much broader human communication system generally called ``imagery''.

The common container tells us that there is without any reasonable doubt a family culprit in both.

At a first sight things stop here. Each imagery technique has it's own workflows.

So how could we get some profit from lecturing history of painting (and most important seeing them) regarding to photography.

The first problem is that art historians are not that aware of the photographic workflow, it is funny how respectfull are historians regarding ancient painting techniques while getting to absymal obvious regarding to photography. So eccept few cases do not expect a clear path, you have to find out your own.

A good support, at least for me, has been the reading of John Berger's writings. Looking at paintings the way they were conceived and for the use they were thought out gives you a lot of liberty margins to freely move trought the time.

Since this is a blog I will leave a lot to reader's own initiative in getting deeper here and there. I do not pretend to give out explanations but only to show pointers.

Conclusion will all be yours.

Being it analogical or digital modern photography workflow can been subdived in phases. The biggest reference here is Ansel Adams in his trilogy ``The negative'', ``The Camera'' and ``The print''.

Invention, Taking, Post processing/Printing, Circulation.

Invention subsumes any kind of action, theory or else used to get to the decision of actually taking the picture. I borrowed the term from Leonardo Da Vinci ``inventio'' as used in his ``treatise on painting''. ``Inventio'' includes previsualization as practiced by Ansel Adams. Printing is any kind of stable projection of the image on a support (or format) suitable for the desired circulation. Inventio is more on the side of finding and assembling things in inespected ways instead of creating them ex nihlo.

Circulation: an example of a possible reuse of history of painting

Circulation. Looking into history there have been several changes in the way imagery of various type has been circulated. One of the most important, also from the point of view of photography, has been the introduction of the canvas between XV and XVI century.

As usual in those times things of culture happened in Holland or in Italy (Venice in the specific case). Rich traders had the necessity to show their own status to correspondants living far away (in relation to the times). The introduction of the canvas gave to painting a way to travel or to be exchanged, a thing frescoes could not do. Painting demand was baked by the will to show to others or more privately admire the owner's possesions from where they were painded. But most important, instead of representing desirable objects paintings become objects of desire by themselves. Objects of desire where precious and rare objects, pieces of owned land (landscape) and females.

A connected area of study could be the naissance of the phenomenon of copying. A mobile image if one that can also be locally copied. We know that a lot of painters started their work by copying other ones paintings. Some as a job some for emulation and study.

The XVIII/XIX century English painter ``Turner'' started copying as a job.

The relation between desirabilty of the displayed content and the object itself (the image) is one of the valued and recognised ambiguities in photography.

Most of photography is about the display of objects of desire.

A photo can be an object of desire itself at what conditions ? Some times ago Mark Hobston pointed out the question of size. There is a funny connection between image size and lanscape. Both have a common ancestor in real estate, in painting it has been true too.

But most important. For whom a photo itself could be an object of desire ?


Searching ways

After reading some great works of J.B. Jackson I have come to the conclusion that the best work a landscapist could do is to give readouts as plainly and cute as he can. I good way to go is also to tell it in a correct and pleasant way.

Here are two snapshots I took in Corsica. Mostly they regard the way in which vernacular is expected to be consumed.

I am not that happy with them. Using a handheld snapshot camera is not my regular way to take pictures.



Being away from the internet for a total of 25 days in the last two months left me with a load of feeds to update myself to. After 2 days I am still at it. To be honest I have 2 hours a day dedicated to blogs so its 2 days for a total of 4 hours.

While scanning several blogs, you know how it works, you can have a better feeling of the recurrence of some themes the following is one of them:

Is there any sense in digging deeper in landscape photography to search for innovation or some kind of advancement.

More, is there anybody interested in those pictures ? Or in the lower end what to photograph for a landscape ?

In recent times (and not so recent for it being a recurring theme) i stumbled upon similar questions.

First a brief note: in the last decades (3 at least) the word ``innovation'' has shifted to a new meaning not that positive.

In some ways those thoughts seems to depresses me a bit. So i became used to this easy answer: I would like that there was some sense in taking landscape pictures anymore.

This feeble hope is based on the assumption that there is a genuine interest in knowing the way in which others see how life (almost only human as of today) goes on in this planet and the variety of ways of seeing that earth still offers and yes, there are no more European rhinoceros but there is plenty of suvs.

To cite one of my preferred:

``Just remember that you're standing on a planet that's evolving
And revolving at nine hundred miles an hour,
That's orbiting at nineteen miles a second, so it's reckoned,
A sun that is the source of all our power.
The sun and you and me and all the stars that we can see
Are moving at a million miles a day
In an outer spiral arm, at forty thousand miles an hour,
Of the galaxy we call the 'Milky Way'.
Our galaxy itself contains a hundred billion stars.
It's a hundred thousand light years side to side.
It bulges in the middle, sixteen thousand light years thick,
But out by us, it's just three thousand light years wide.
We're thirty thousand light years from galactic central point.
We go 'round every two hundred million years,
And our galaxy is only one of millions of billions
In this amazing and expanding universe...''

Monty Python ``Galaxy Song''

In taking pictures of the landscape there is always a documentary component, the need to document and communicate, at least, the event of seeing or its memory as in painting. I still do not understand much about truth (i am a bit to much on the relativistic side) but if it is the private vision which could convey it I am one interested in.

Observing the web it seems that there is still a lot of spaces to fulfill. New born on line magazines are coming in, the sizes are still poor but this could be a way to pursue an income. Certainly a more relaxed than blogs lecture could have it's own benefits for landscape photography. Sites could be a lot better and more intriguing. We could waste less in printers, papers and inks.

By the way the speed of the propagation of concepts is now astonishing. Ten years ago in the Internet (and in the the major US photo magazines about landscape) the ``sublime'' ruled in landscape. Today, it is possible to have different needs and satisfy them too (if properly displayed on a computer screen).

A last word on the term ``Landscape''. I have pointed out in earlier posts that there are several good definitions in geography for what is to be considered a landscape. But coming to photography, as usual, the term gets semantically ambiguous. Landscape is either a subject and either an outcome of the whole photographic process. It is a pretty recursion of landscape forming actions starting from the way the subject has been shaped. Photography has been and it is a powerful landscape shaping tool.



I have to confess that while on vacation i did dot pursue any photo project. Instead i went to follow several directions. I know that this is exactly the contrary of what is usually considered a proficient workflow.
The reasons are multi faceted. First the idea of project is something that has come to mean, for me, a deep knowledge about the subject, which takes time not available. Second i have to come to a place several (distant) times to feel the need to take pictures.


Incidents (French).

"The animal scrutinizes him across a narrow abyss of non comprehension ....
The man too is looking across a similar, but not identical,
abyss of non comprehension"

John Berger 'Why look at animals' 1977


Origins of landscape as a concept

Late but nevertheless there , i recently started reading a book by John Berger titled ``On looking''. In the first chapter he enters in questions concerning the immanence of certain relation we, as humans, have established with the animals, among them looking and being looked at.

I am using here a concept of immanence borrowed from Jan Baudrillard in ``L'illusion de la fin''.

Later, thinking about landscape, it came to me that a long time agoa human also happened to be a prey for other animals, see here .
Say till the end of 1700 AC, in Europe, later in America, earlier in Japan and China (could be i am not sure of it).

The concept of landscape, ``paesaggio'' in Italian came to western culture in between 800 AC and 1200 AC. Caution here since the roots are different, the concept come to England from Holland and not directly from Italy. The beginnings in painting is conventionally located in Siena see here. A nice landscape was one well ordered and well connected to the city. In those times a city with such a landscape was considered powerful, consider the problem to nourish large armies.

Now suppose you were a traveler approaching one of those city . At the moment you entered the landscape of the city you were a bit more safer. No more wolves considering you the main entry at least. We've lost such feelings: fear and relief looking (or scanning) the landscape (fear for the opposite of nice landscape, negative we could say). Those feelings could have survived somewhere.

All thinkings are under ``artistic licence'' as usual.


Painting, miniatures and photography

As i said in a previous post there is a lot to investigate in ancient painting and mostly in what is called "ars illuminandi".
The reason are interesting. First some facts.

All miniaturists where also alchemist. They had to prepare colors, the paper, the brushes et al. by themselves.

A funny and recurring theme is that of the production of simile gold. Simile gold was used for all the imaging going on till renaissance. It is not astounding if some of the alchemist were also at the search of the real gold formula.

Alchemy had some interesting
heuristic methods lost with the advent of the more precise, and somewhat more successful in term of outcome, science. The main source of knowledge came form patient the observation of reality, looking for causal connection of simply some kind of analogy or similitude or even bizarre theory. Reality, the world, was mostly looked at. It was the scientist who changed the game. Instead of looking and contemplating more aggressive ways of testing and representing were found. Science with its experiments and models was based upon the idea that not always what we see is how the things work, instead each sense could be fouled.

Today there are at least three professional categories still cultivating such approach to the world. Tibetan monks, homeopathist and guess who ? photographers. Could photography, with its necessary interaction with reality, be the heir of alchemy as a collection of euristic methods based on looking ?

An interesting, albeit difficult, reading is the "de clarea" a latin fragment form XI century all about miniature and "ars illuminandi" tecniques.

For an idea about alchemy see here for a version (do not know how authorittive) of the "corpus hermeticum" attributed to Ermete Trismegisto (a mithical figure),

I am a bit imprecise here for several reasons. The first is that there is almost no written or provable evidence in the above considerations. Second, as i already said i am working under "artistic" licence, where coherence is the last of the desirable properties in forging new concepts from old ones.


history of painting, miniatures

Getting back to find a beginning of the concept of landscape i got in some kind of detour. The techniques of the miniaturist or it is better to say "illuminati" from "Arte Illuminandi" (supposed from "alluminandi" which has its meaning in the preparation of the basis for manuscript decoration).

To have a general idea go here.

Unfortunately i could not find the most interesting one "De arte illuminandi" online. But i found an interesting translation from Italian to English of "Trattato della pittura di Cennino Cennini da Colle di Valdelsa". The amazing thing is the amount of technical data and detail on how to make colors and other components. They had to do everything by themselves. The interesting thing is that miniaturist and later painters also had to know some notions of alchemy. But on this more in a next post.

The English one.
The Italian one is here.

As a photographer there are lot of entry points. The most interesting ones are those about luminance and color related to body parts. The reading takes 2 to 3 hours (skip freely to get down to the minimum).



a very nice contribution

While all the links in this post are pretty useful and entertaining the number 2 is invaluable (scroll down for the English version).

Doing a media jump may i suggest an archaeological background noise while you are at it.

Have a nice weekend.

Photo environment: species at risk

"Those of you who are still (maybe always) rank amateurs and dilettantes, whether by happenstance or intent, I mean you no disrespect. I think making photographs for any reason whatsoever is a fine and dandy thing. It's only that you're not the folks I write for, primarily. No hard feelings nor disrespect intended, okay?".
Just stay away from those nice gorilla females and everything will be fine.

Last statement added by me (sorry could not resist) the rest comes from here.

Come on, what does it mean being serious (or pro) in photography ? that you have to smile to your customer if he tells you that the model (or the spouse) looks a bit fat while actually being a whale ? Or pretend to live on the fine prints you are selling at such low prices that even an hamster could not be fed by ? Or that you have to make a bank loan for a, "pro", camera while you amateur dentists can buy three of them by the monthly income ?

I find this offensive. First because a lot of photographers who did great works where amateurs or still are. Second, yes i live well being a computer scientist while studying and trying an awful lot at photography and, by the way, serious computer scientists can give you a nice match in understanding what is going on in a digital darkroom (but i suppose that is not pro since there are no pro computers).

Fortunately the forest in which you live does not present great interests and maybe it does not even exist. But be aware that species evolution is not always for the best.

May i suggest that cooperation is better than exclusion when the matter gets harder or more complex to understand ?



"May i use a simile, the simile of a tree ? The artist has studied
this world of variety and has, we may suppose, unobtruvesly found
his way in it. His sense of direction has brought order into the
passing stream of image and experience. This sens of direction in
nature and life, this branching and spreading array, i shall
compare with the root of the tree.

From the root the sap flows to the artist, flows through him,
flows to his eye.

Thus he stands as the trunk of the tree.

Battered and stirred by the strength of the flow, he moulds his
vision into his work.

As, in full view of the world, the crown of the tree unfolds and
spreads in time and space, so with his work.

Nobody would affirm that the tree grows its crown in the image of
its root. between above and below can be no mirrored reflection.
It is obvious that different functions expanding in different
elements must produce vital divergences.
And yet, standing at his appointed place, the trunk of the tree,
he does nothing other than gather and pass on what comes to him
from the depths.

He neither serves nor rules he transmits.

His position is humble. And the beauty at the crown is not his
own. He is merely a channel"

From "On Modern Art" Paul Klee 1924

I found this used for 7$. Invaluable.


Second house. White sky

This is the second picture i took as a study in white skyes rendering and use in composition a la "new topographers"

second house: a house were you rarely go. The second house is a typical way in which we italians waste the land. These areas were almost wild 40 years ago. Generally owned by small store owners they were built by a constructor who was also a local alderman. Some of these second houses were also built without clearance and regard for the presence of water, electricity and so. Every 5 years or less they were condoned by the national administration in charge. The cost of the condones were high since the local administration had to provide the above mentioned unplanned infrastructures. The infrastructures were provided by the usual local alderman who also owned a private small building firm. From the point of view of human geography they provide an interesting object of study due to the presence of decorative elements coming from people with a really low education and as such well exposed to television and others media suggestion, generally the builder shared the same low level of education. Some of these houses where also built by placing first a caravan and progressively raised condone by condone.