Saturday, January 26, 2008

Who is Your Favorite Photographer and Why?

Someone asked me recently the following question: Who is your favorite photographer and why?

I found this to be a very difficult question to answer. For as much as I love photography, I never really considered who my favorite photographer was. Certainly, there are many photographers that I admire, but my focus has always been on the image itself and not the person who captured the image. Rather than try to pick a favorite photographer, I found it much easier to decide what my favorite form of photography is. I choose photojournalism. In my opinion, the essence of photojournalism is to capture images that tell a story. I find that the most compelling images are those that effectively convey a story.

My favorite photographers are some of the great masters of photojournalism who are members of Magnum Photos. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Magnum Photos, here is an excerpt from their website:

"Magnum Photos is a photographic co-operative of great diversity and distinction owned by its photographer-members. With powerful individual vision, Magnum photographers chronicle the world and interpret its peoples, events, issues and personalities. Through its four editorial offices in New York, London, Paris and Tokyo, and a network of fifteen sub-agents, Magnum Photos provides photographs to the press, publishers, advertising, television, galleries and museums across the world."

"Within the library, most of the major world events and personalities from the Spanish Civil War to the present day are covered. There are constantly updated profiles on most countries of the world, covering industry, society and people, places of interest, politics and news events, disasters and conflict. The Magnum Photos library reflects all aspects of life throughout the world and the unparalleled sense of vision, imagination and brilliance of the greatest collective of documentary photographers. In short, when you picture an iconic image, but can't think who took it or where it can be found, it probably came from Magnum."

Recently, I was fortunate to receive as a gift, a copy of Magnum Stories by Chris Boot.

Magnum Stories is a collection of some the photographic work of 61 members of Magnum Photos. I find this book fascinating because each of these photographers discuss their careers and philosophy toward photography while showing key images from their portfolios.

This book allows the photographers to tell the stories behind some of the most recognizable images of the last sixty years. We also get a sense of the very real danger these photographers face when covering wars and other conflicts around the world. I highly recommend you check out this book.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Aruba Vacation - Day 6 + 7

On day 6, we decided not to do any sightseeing. Instead, we simply enjoyed another quiet, relaxing day lounging by the pool.

On day 7, our last full day in Aruba, we went back to Eagle Beach. This was the first day that we experienced some rain during our vacation. When we first arrived at the beach, we were greeted by a light drizzle of rain for about 10 minutes. At the horizon, we could see heavy rain and ominous storm clouds passing by. Luckily, the heavy rain did not reach the beach and we were able to enjoy the day.

This is my favorite picture from our vacation. I really like how the clouds look and I think the patches of rain in the horizon are very interesting.

After a short while the storm clouds passed and the sun came out for the rest of the day. My nephew enjoyed playing in the sand.

Later in the evening, we had dinner at Chalet Suisse. Our favorite dish by far was the Chocolate "Marquis" which was recommended by our waiter. This dessert, which we shared, was made with dark chocolate, served in a Bailey's Grande Anglais sauce and topped with creamy Hazelnut ice cream. My fiancee described it as a "little piece of Heaven".

Our dinner at Chalet Suisse capped our last night in Aruba. The next morning, we checked out of our villa at 10 a.m. and drove back to the airport for our flight back to New York City.

As is true with most vacations, our Aruba vacation seemed much too short. I can say, without reservation, that I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Aruba. I definitely wish to return again.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Aruba Vacation - Day 5

On day 5 we checked out one of the nicest beaches in Aruba -- Eagle Beach. I immediately noticed that the sand was extremely fine, soft and clean. Furthermore, Eagle Beach is very long and wide, so you never feel crowded even though there are several resorts and time shares along the beach. Eagle Beach was my favorite beach in Aruba.

Another beautiful sunset in Aruba:

I wanted to take some pictures at Eagle Beach at night, but we had dinner plans. This black & white image is my attempt to simulate a night time shot during day time conditions. I set the exposure of my camera to properly expose for the sky. As a result, the ocean and sand came out darker as if it was night.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Aruba Vacation - Day 4

On day 4 of our Aruba vacation, we went to the northwest end of the island to Arashi Beach, one of the northernmost beaches in Aruba. Arashi Beach is near the California Lighthouse.

The California Lighthouse was named after a ship with an interesting history - the Californian. According to Aruba-Travelguide .com, the Californian has the distinction of having been in proximity of, and having received distress signals from the Titanic as she was sinking in icy waters of the Atlantic Ocean on her maiden voyage in 1912. The Californian's radio operator was off-duty and asleep at the time of the disaster. A few years after the Titanic disaster, the Californian sank in rough seas off the Aruba coast and is now a popular dive site.

I'm sure you've noticed that I had fun with the fisheye lens during this vacation.

Arashi Beach is a very, very nice beach. The water is clear and calm. In my opinion, the only negatives are that there are only a few beach huts available for shade, so it is best to avoid the midday sun.

Later in the evening we had dinner at The Old Fisherman.

The fried cornbread was very good.

However, unlike Papiamento from the day before, the service at The Old Fisherman was poor. Additionally, while my seafood dish looked good, it was overcooked to the point of being slightly rubbery. Most of the rest of my dinner companions liked their food.

This was my mixed seafood dish:

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Aruba Vacation - Day 3

Day 3 in Aruba brought us to a wonderful spot known as Baby Beach. Baby Beach is a shallow lagoon on the southeast end of the island. The gentle waves are great for children and the water is shallow enough for most adults to stand in even far from shore.

These first two pictures really show how calm the waters are and how far out you can walk.

The water level is generally about waist high in the lagoon, but deepens significantly towards the inlet to the ocean. The inlet is teeming with marine life and is a good place for snorkeling. If you don't have your own snorkeling gear, you can rent some from the snack shack on the beach.

I borrowed an underwater housing for my small digital point-and-shoot camera from my fiancee's cousin and was able to take some pictures of the fish I came across in the inlet. A nearby snorkeler had a small bag of bread so the fish really swarmed around us.

I took this picture just before we left the beach to go back to the resort. This is a good example of what the landscape looks like near Baby Beach.

Later in the evening, we had dinner at Papiamento, a terrific restaurant which specializes in Caribbean seafood dishes. There is seating inside the manor house and outside by the pool. Some of the steak, lamb, lobster, shrimp and fish dishes are served on a super-heated stone for guests to finish cooking at the table. Personally, I would stay away from the "on the stone" dishes unless you enjoy that sort of participation. I had the grouper covered with shrimp and scallops. It was delicious.

Besides the excellent food, the best quality of Papiamento is their outstanding service. The staff made sure we were well taken care of, but in an unobtrusive way. Our water glasses never ran empty and we never waited too long between courses. I was a bit clumsy that night and dropped my fork off the table two times. Before I had a chance to pick up the fork, a waiter was there to pick it up and offer me a new one.

Everyone in my party thoroughly enjoyed their meals. I highly recommend Papiamento.

This picture of the front of the restaurant gives little indication of the wonderful dining experience to be had inside. I enjoyed my meal so much, I forgot to take pictures inside!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Aruba Vacation - Day 2

After a good night's sleep, I was ready to enjoy my first full day in Aruba. The plan was to explore the grounds of the resort and relax by the pool. We spent most of the late morning and early afternoon alternating between dips in the pool and naps under the umbrellas.

There are lots of iguanas in Aruba. This large one seemed to like to hang out by the edge of the pool. I don't know much about iguanas so I didn't try to touch it. However, I swam to within a couple of feet of it and it didn't seem to mind me getting close.

In addition to the iguanas, we frequently saw smaller lizards around the grounds. They are harmless and usually run away if you get too close. This one was right next to my sun umbrella.

The sunsets in Aruba are so beautiful that I couldn't help but take pictures whenever I could.

It was New Years' Eve and the entire island seemed to be setting off fireworks. People in Aruba really like their fireworks. There were fireworks every night that we were there.

I didn't bring my tripod on this trip because I wanted to travel relatively light. I took this picture hand held at a slow shutter speed - about 2 seconds. As much as I tried to hold the camera still, there is noticeable camera shake. In order to get crisp fireworks shots, you MUST use a tripod. Shooting at a slow shutter speed allows you to capture the trails of light. I would recommend setting your shutter speed to at least 4 seconds or slower and shooting in manual mode. Once you set the shutter speed, set the aperture to f/11 or f/13. Adjust the shutter speed or the aperture accordingly until you reach a proper exposure.

This is my fireworks picture taken hand held:

My next post will be about Day 3. We went swimming and snorkeling at Baby Beach on the south end of the island.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Aruba Vacation - Day 1

Around New Year's, I spent 8 days / 7 nights at the Aruba Marriott Surf Club Resort. The trip was planned on just two weeks notice.

The balcony overlooks the pool area, but if you look to the right, you can see the ocean.

This is one of the pools that we could see from our balcony.

To the left of our balcony, we could see the lazy river pool and the neighboring Aruba Marriott Ocean Club.

I was very excited to be in Aruba, but I could only stay awake for a little while and decided to call it a night.

Over the next several posts, I am going to tell you about each day that we spent in Aruba.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

I'm back from vacation

I haven't blogged in almost 2 weeks because I just returned from an amazing vacation in Aruba. Needless to say, the weather was perfect. 85 degrees and a gentle breeze to keep you cool. The island is beautiful with many great beaches. This was the best vacation I've taken in a long, long time.

Over the next several days I am going to post numerous pictures from the trip. Stay tuned.