Saturday, June 29, 2013

Euro Tour - Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel at Night. Spectacular. Click on Image to Enlarge.
Copyright 2013 Francois Cleroux

So wow, these travel tours are very tiring. We have wake up calls at 6:00 am and we often don't get in to our hotels till 10:00 pm and often we head out to walk and see some local stuff or shoot at night.

I'm being rude and using the computer at breakfast here. Here is my fist posted pic. I am blogging about the trip and making notes and will post more blogs when the opportunity arrives.

Kind of funny. Not more than 10 minutes after this picture was taken my wife texted me:

"I just spoke to someone that was in Paris 2 months ago, he says we have to see the Eiffel Tower at night!"

She joins me in 5 days.

© 2013 Jean-Francois Cleroux

(Version 1 - June 2013)

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Europe Internet Access

So Internet Access at Hotels is very spotty. So far its always for sale. From 2.50 Euros to 12.00 Euros. But even when you can connect (not always) it is most often extremely slow and often un-useable. Internet now was not working at all from my room and so I am typing this from the Lobby.

Hopefully tonight I can catch up on posting my notes. For now were off to Venice.

Euro Tour 02 - Frankfurt Germany

So late in the evening yesterday the hotel received a call stating that my luggage would arrive this morning at 10:00 am.

So I headed out at 7:30 am to find Breakfast and coffee. The streets were very busy with hustle and bustle. Lots of cyclists. Throughout yesterday and my breakfast and coffee this morning I have made some observations about the German peoples. Obviously they are generalizations but I did continue my observations for the rest of the day. I have decided the german people are a beautiful people and that they are very fit. In my first day and a half I did not observe one obese person (yes a few overweight people but not very large) and when I did finally see one, the person was actually an American!

Lots of Bicycles! They are everywhere and their riders just like their automotive driving habits tend to not stop for anyone. In my first day and a half I spotted two pedestrians get run over by bicycles and several very close calls. Just like Vancouver cyclists I found many ride on the pedestrian areas as opposed to the designated cycling paths. I saw many cyclists flipping other people the bird when in fact the problems were the cyclists. I hope this is not where Vancouver is headed!

I also made several other observations; one I saw many many people in crutches. Not sure what that was all about. Not crutches for disabled people but a lot of sprained, strained or broken feet or ankles. Perhaps from cycling injuries or perhaps from the many cobblestoned streets that have missing cobblestones, holes or very un-even areas that I see people tripping over.

The second thing I noticed is there were many (not a lot but more than I ever see in Canada) disabled people with deformed arms, limbs and specifically hands but they were ALL people of Middle-Eastern descent. Not sure why that is but will look into it. Interesting.

Third I noticed that the German people were very active, lots of joggers and a lot of rollerbladers but found it odd that many, very many, are smokers.

So on this day I did not bring a camera, I just walked around, relaxed and observed. I still had to keep in contact with Delta Airlines, the airport lost baggage department and the hotel as I still had not received my lost luggage. Worst by 12:15 pm (remember the 10:00 am promise) I was told that they did not know where my luggage was or if or when I may get it. So in anticipation of perhaps lost luggage and knowing I have a tour starting, I had to go do more shopping.

In the afternoon I did bring my camera and did do some shopping and late in the afternoon I received a call and that they had my luggage and that they could not deliver it as they did not have the address to the Hotel. Its odd that they knew which Hotel I was at (obviously from the form I filled in) but not the address (also on the form). I did not have the address with me so I headed to the hotel to get the address. Five minutes later I'm back at the hotel and I'm greeted by reception and I'm told my luggage has arrived? Yep, its there!

Half an hour later I get a call from the lost luggage people following up because I had not called them to tell them the address and they needed it if I wanted it delivered! Amazing. And once I were to give them the address that it could take up to 48 hours for me to get my luggage.

"Its OK, I have my luggage I said, It was delivered a little while ago."

So, I am obviously not a big fan of Delta Airlines. This story is not complete but rather much longer with many other little problems with Delta AIrlines and the contracted company in charge of lost luggage. But, at least I have my luggage! And, my party from Chandigarh has arrived.
We walked to the Main River to "scope" out things; the lighting and the location of the Sun in relation to the main Cityscape and where to best shoot from when it gets dark. Along the way we noticed many locals drinking beer bottle in hand.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Euro Tour Day 01 - Frankfurt Germany


So the day did not start well. When boarding my Delta Airlines plane in Vancouver I was told that my luggage would be delivered directly to Frankfurt and that I would not need to care for it until my arrival. My flight had a scheduled stop over where I was not supposed to change planes. Upon our first stop I was to the plane would no longer be going to Frankfurt but rather we would need to disembark and change “Equipment” as they stated. So, on to a new plane to Frankfurt.

After some time waiting by the carrousel I noticed I was the only one left standing around. No luggage in site. Off to the Airport lost luggage office to put in a claim.

“No problem they said, what airline did you come in with?”

“Delta Airlines.”

“Oh, all their systems are down so we can not look it up on their systems. But, we have another system we can look at."

"It shows your bag is in Amsterdam. Thats common, Americans don't know the difference between Amsterdam and Frankfurt. They will get it here later today, perhaps.”

So cab ride to the hotel to check in. And some sleep, I need some sleep.

When I wake up I ask myself, Now what? No toothpaste or brush, no change of clothes after a long flight. I had been told I can buy what I need and Delta Airlines would pay for the bills. So for a walk and shopping I go, underwear, clean shirt, toiletries, water, oh and I need my medications.

It turns out you cant buy Aspirin or Zantac in stores that look like common North American drug stores like London Drugs, Shoppers Drug Mart and the like, you must go to a “Pharmacy”. Thats all they are, they don't sell anything else, just drugs. Oh, and it turns out the one I chose doesn't take credit cards. I asked about the cards and if it was common in Germany.

“Oh not common, just our chain doesn't take credit cards”

So I pay cash and head out Ranitidin in hand.

A attractive young lady approaches me and says she over heard me asking about the credit card thing. She explained in good english with a real German accent,

“Oh, its fairly common for stores not to take credit cards, specially if the total is under 10 or 20 Euros.”

Thanks I said. She throws me a big smile and says “have a nice day”. Well that helps.

Throughout the day I found a familiar Starbucks. And yes, they have free Wi-Fi. So, Iced Latte (Its 95 degrees outside) and a nice table and Internet. I checked my mail and then tested my toll free line and made a Wi-Fi Phone Call using the great iPad app, Line 2 to my wife. All good. I had already setup a Rogers Cellular Europe package with 200 minutes talk, 50MB Data and FREE incoming calls. Now when its convenient and when I have Internet I can also call out for free!

I was hoping to get out and shoot some landmarks and the Main River at night, but oops, no tripod, its in the suitcase.

I'm typing this now using my iPad at a great Iris pub called Four Corners enjoying a pint of Guinness. A better ending to the day, but still without luggage!

© 2013 Francois Cleroux

(Version 1.00 - June 2013)

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Classes and Cyanotype Updates


So I haven't been very photographically productive in the last few weeks as I have been very busy with work and as usual in the few weeks before leaving for holidays work always seems to get a little busier.

In the past few weeks I have finished my last class with Russel and Wendy Kwan in the exceptional and artistically awakening “Chasing Light Stranger” classes. I have mentioned their classes before but I will praise them again now. Wow! What great classes.

These are not your usual photography classes filled with technical information about shutter speeds or apertures or even advanced classes about lighting or the “Circle of Confusion”. No, these are about guiding or awakening the artist in you. They are about focusing your art into a project and guiding you along and finally bringing your project along to a theoretical completion. Not that your project is finished, but rather all the required elements and information are in place and have been passed down and discussed. With all this information you have a clear concise path and a focus.

As you work your way through to the 3rd semester, you learn about marketing your images, discussions on Pricing, Editions, Galleries, Displaying and the like. All aspects are covered including the required legal and business gobbledygook. I am looking forward to semester 4 that doesn't exist. I can feel that withdrawal already. What i'll miss the most besides the great knowledge and wisdom passed down to us is the great discourse between all the students, all the other artists! I have found the acceptance of being with a group of 'artists' really helps foster creativity. Its great being with a group of like minded individuals with similar goals.

With all my business work and some class homework I have had little time to do any photography and with the not so great weather I have not had many opportunities to work on my sun required cyanotypes. I did have a few opportunities however and they have helped me with some of the logistical and technical challenges of creating the cyanotypes.

Logistically this project became difficult right away just based n the sheer size of the images I want to create. The 16.5" by 21.5" images created on 22" by 30" paper is a challenge. The negative is the easy part. I have been able to create some great Digital Negatives with great density. I have been working on the proper “curves” for my negatives in relations to the cyanotype process and the formulary I am using. I did run into some consistency issues with the sun, clouds, time of day and so on but thats easy to figure out. Nothing a test strip print wont solve. The curves have been developed and I will soon post my techniques and my results. OK, perhaps not so soon (read below).

The most challenging issue has been the paper or specifically the size of the paper. One needs a lot of space in order to work with such large prints. One also needs special equipment! For starters, where do you find a contact print frame that large? You make one! I started by creating a cheap frame which has worked very well for me but I do have plans on building a proper wooden unit. I will post a blog on the cheap unit I built and another on my final wooden contact frame.

Once your image is exposed in the contact frame you need to develop or wash your print in a tray. Again, where does one find such large developing trays. The typical large trays are 20" by 24" inch which is too small. Even at these sizes the trays are very costly but I needed bigger. Note that plastic (or glass) is required here. Do not use metal trays for cyanotypes. So, ask an old world darkroom friend for help and they'll suggest you use large trays designed for placing under washing machines. With a little research I also found that there are some Pet trays that can do the job. Again, I will post a blog on the tray issue with links to what I found.

So, with logistical obstacles taken care of, I was then left to deal with the technical issues. Which chemical formulary to use? The age old Cyanotype formula, the New Cyanotype formula or some hybrid process with enhanced or reduced contrast? I have played with this a bit and again will blog on my findings but most of my current research I have used the simple age old formula. Now that the curves have been developed, I will start working on the final formula selection and once that is done I will further refine the curves.

The greatest technical issue has been one of eavenly coating the paper so that my final print is clean and free of spots, blotches or streaks. This has proven to be a difficult process and one that has been enhance because of the sheer size of the papers that need to be coated. I have used and tested sponge, brush (I use a high quality Japanese Hake brush), roller, coating rod, floating and complete immersion. I have one other process to try that I think will yield the best results. Again, more on this later.

One thing that did work well and one process that I highly recommend is making sure you size your paper. There are various chemical formulas one can use for sizing papers and some are more suited to the cyanotype process. Sizing the paper is a coating that pre-fills and saturates the fibres in the paper allowing the final chemical coating to float on top of and adhere to the sizing material itself. This smoothens the surface, reduces the potential for blotching and can reduce the amount of chemicals used as the paper will not get saturated. This can save money by using less emulsion, perhaps not so much with the cyanotype process but is a must when dealing with silver and platinum salts. for now I have been playing with different concentrations of Arrowroot starch. Again, more details to follow.

So like I said, I haven't been productive in the way of shooting or creating images but I have been busy. As for not creating my Cyanotype posts, I'm in flight now en route to Frankfurt Germany for two tours I will be leading. So, no Cyanotype stuff for 6 weeks but I hope to post images from the tours and some commentary on the tours and students in days to come.

© 2013 Francois Cleroux

(Version 1.01 - June 2013)