The Cows of Prague

Posted in Mixed Nuts on November 21st, 2008 by MadDog
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If Prague were an animal I think it would be a platypus. It’s just a little bit of everything stitched together into something that’s more interesting than any of its parts. I guess it’s a synergism.

Anyway, we had lots of fun there. Here’s a panorama from the top of St. Vitus Cathedral. It was a long, long climb up 287 steps:

Prage Panorama from St. Vitus Cathedral

We had to stop and rest several times. That was a little difficult since there is a line of souls ascending and descending at the same time (a philosophical conundrum) elbow to elbow. When we came to a window, we could just squeeze back against the sill and stand there panting for a few minutes.

Prague also has it’s share of scary escalators. This one is worse than the one in Budapest:

Prague Escalator

I’ve been a pilot, climbed mountains, jumped out of airplanes and other stupid things to numerous to mention, but I can’t remember having knees as wobbly as mine were when I stepped onto the top of that one.

Here’s another scene using what’s called the Tilt-shift Miniature technique:

Prague as a miniature replica

It’s supposed to look like a photograph of a miniature scale model. Click on it to enlarge so that you can see the effect more clearly.

Now, to the subject of the post. I’d never been any place where the Cow Parade people have done their thing. Let me tell you, it’s a remarkable phenomenon. There were cows all over the place. They are all made the same size, but they are decorated in incredibly imaginative ways. It was fun to go cow spotting:

A MadDog with a Cow

If you want to know what the cows are about, check the link above.

I think that this one was Eunie’s favourite. I never realised that she was a gold-digger. Man, did she marry the wrong guy!

Eunie with her Golden Cow
If you are still craving cow, check out this one on THETHEORY’s Flickr photostream.

There seems to be a church or cathedral on every block. I love this giant bronze rooster on top of this one:

Giant bronze rooster

And, here’s some yummy stained glass:

Yummy stained glass in Prague

Another shot from the top of a cathedral shows the incredible complexity of the flying buttress construction:

Flying butresses at St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague

I’d go back to Prague at the drop of a hat. Of course, I could say that about a lot of other places. The food is splendid at modestly priced restaurants. There is an acute glut of culture. It has a nice, quirky ambience that delivers a little surprise around every corner.

And, it is absolutely crawling with tourists.

Oh, well. You can’t have everything.

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The Rule of Thirds

Posted in Photography Tricks on November 13th, 2008 by MadDog
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The ancient Greeks did a lot of thinking. So much thinking, in fact, that much of it still affects nearly every aspect modern life.

The Greeks thought a lot about what was good. They thought about what looked good. Greek mathematicians came up with an idea that they called the Golden Ratio. There’s a lot of fancy maths involved, but we don’t need to be concerned with that.

It boils down to the idea (hugely simplified) that square stuff and round stuff and stuff in the middle of other stuff doesn’t generally look as good as rectangles (especially the Golden Rectangle), odd shapes, and things that are off centre.

The Golden Ratio turns out to be close enough to one-third for our purposes. (Well, actually  about 2/3, but, never mind . . .)

So, how do we put this time-honoured secret of ancient artists of all stripes to work for us in our point-and-shoot camera? As it turns out, it doesn’t make a hill of beans difference what kind of camera you have, because it’s all in your head.

One gets so used to thinking about the Rule of Thirds that it becomes automatic. When I took this photo of a cute little hermit crab this morning, I wasn’t thinking, “Remember the Rule of Thirds.”I just snapped what looked good to me: (Thanks for the identification of the species Coenobita cavipes (juvenile)  from our correspondent ‘Curlz’.)

A little Hermit Crab demonstrating the Rule of ThirdsHowever, as you can see, it does comply:
A little Hermit Crab demonstrating the Rule of Thirds (with lines drawn in) - Jan MessersmithSo, what is  it?

Well, as you can see from the second shot with the lines drawn in (please don’t check the accuracy of my lines, I was guessing), the idea is that the photo will be more interesting if you place an important point of interest (usually the most important) near a point where two lines cross or along one or more of the lines.

Why is  this? Don’t ask me. It just works.

When does it work? Well, almost always:
Some guys demonstrating the Rule of Thirds by pouring cementI could have centred the workmen and the cement truck. It would have been okay.

But, look at how the negative space of the poured cement forces your eyes towards the workmen and the truck. The cement has its own story, but because there’s so much of it there and it’s so uninteresting, it pushes your attention to the real subject of the image.

Here’s another example of when it works nicely:
A young man looking out a window in Florence, Italy demonstrates the Rule of ThirdsThe wall was pretty much the same everywhere. The young man looking out of the window (In Florence, Italy, if you’re wondering) is the focus of our interest. I could have cropped it differently so that the man in the window and the window above were both on intersections. I tried it. I didn’t like it.

In this shot of a blacksmith at a cultural show in Prague, I’m using two of the vertical lines:
A Prague Blacksmith demonstrates the Rule of ThirdsThere are two points of interest here: the blacksmith and the people watching him. To accent the watchers, I blurred everything but the faces that are turned toward the blacksmith. It’s easy to overdo this sort of funny business and I nearly did so here.

Here’s a shot that uses two intersections:

I'm sitting in front of the Elimo Hotel in Eriche, Sicily demonstrating the Rule of Thirds
It was very hot in Sicily that day. I had to have a rest.

Sometimes the Rule of Thirds works even if taken to extremes. The kind of cropping that you see here is extreme:

Friends demonstrating the Rule of Thirds in the Vienna Woods
The shot works. The couple said that it is one of their favourite photos of the two of them together.

I really had no choice. The couple was standing next to some other people. I had to crop very closely on the man to get rid of a beer can in someone else’s hand. It was a misty morning up in the Vienna Woods. I wanted to get the mood of the scene. The couple seemed to be almost intrusive. I took the shot anyway, thinking that I could crop them out later. When I saw it on the screen, I said, “No way.” They look as if they belong there.

It takes a little time to begin to think of composition when taking snapshots, but sometimes it pays.

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