Weekly Photo Challenge: Shadow

My life between cities, countries and airports, with 2.5 flights per week on average (my normal life, that is), doesn’t leave me as much time as I would love to have to put my hands on the ton of fantastic shots of Cuba and Mexico. Well, luckily Weekly Photo Challenge is a much more manageable task than filtering through 2400+ shots.

This week’s topic is Shadow. There is a lot, in fact, I can write about shadow: every photographer can. If light is fundamental to a great photo, shadow is something much more elusive and far less controllable – yet sometimes even more important to capture the mood. You can measure the light and its sources in very precise units – but there is no scientific method to control shadow: its depth, color, its light (shadows also have light, what do you think)? Shadows are elusive, too. Shadows have character. They are like cats: you have them here and now, you half-press your shutter button – and off they go before you complete your work. That’s why shadows, to me, are much more magical than the light. I love them, I flirt with them, I constantly chase them with my camera.

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Havana, Cuba kissed by the first rays of light

Here is what I have on my first sunrise in Havana: shadows fill it with sheer magic. They hide the imperfections, help the mystery of the night prevail for yet another moment and set the stage to the first rays of sun. To me, Havana is most beautiful when the sun just rises (or starts setting down).

After all,

There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.

– Leonard Cohen

Remember?

🙂

Weekly Photo Challenge: Solitude

The theme of this week’s photo challenge is Solitude. Now, solitude is something that almost never happens to me (or to most people today, for that matter). Except for the time I spend in the air or when I am one on one with nature. One on one with nature is a special type of solitude: more profound, more spiritual, the one asking good questions and the one answering them. (Plus, it does not get ruined by empty time-killing airplane conversations thrown by people who just can’t tolerate being in their own company.)

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A teenage boy leading the caravan of camels in Morocco desert

Somehow being in the nature makes you feel alone even if you are surrounded by people – and think about things that really matter. That means, about 90% of your usual every day thoughts: work, getting from A to B, grocery list, to do list, goals list, any other task that list can be made of, – fade away. You understand what’s important and that important is few. Much fewer than we normally think. You finally hear “less is more”, and hear it in your heart.

I took this picture in Morocco desert, listening to the well-rhymed steps of the camel that was carrying me – so soft that they seemed to be sinking in the sand, – and the steps of all the camels behind it, in the caravan. There were at least ten people behind me, and I could neither hear them or feel their presence.

🙂

Weekly Photo Challenge: Repurpose

First, the theme of this week’s Photo Challenge has caught me off guard. I mean, “Repurpose“?.. But then it has dawn on me: Cuban cars! As I have just wrote in my 10 Facts About Cuba You Did Not Know (And You Should), Cuba is full of gorgeous, colourful, shiny American cars of 1920-50s, brought to the island before the embargo. In fact, many of them hit Cuban ground before their official appearance on the American roads, because their manufactures were using Cuba as a trial driving range before the grand opening at home.

These cars are impeccably maintained – or at least they look so. However, with the embargo in place from 1962, how do you maintain all these classic beauty? You repurpose. Car reparation became a special art in Cuba, the one people are proud of, – and rightly so. Anything goes: spare parts of not affected by embargo Mitsubishi, Toyota and even less compatible oeuvres of Soviet making. In fact, often the only thing left from old American cars is their shiny, seemingly untouched by the time, frame.

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Streets of Havana, Cuba, filled with fully operational cars more than half a century old

The very purpose of these cars has evolved over time as well. From means of transportation (and, without a doubt, demonstration of social prestige of their owners half a century ago) they have evolved to ta lucrative tourism revenue stream. Almost all of these cars are now private taxis. With the official taxi business (embodied by new “cool” air conditioned Chinese and Korean cars) owned 100% by the state, such as almost any business on the island (in fact, even hotels are at least 30% owned by the Ministry of Defense), classic cars is almost a unique private business in Cuba. How cool is that? Investing in beauty (and being creative in maintaining it!) brings dividends over time.

So much about conventional wisdom, uh?

🙂

Weekly Photo Challenge: Graceful

This week’s challenge theme is Graceful. To think about it, grace means different things to different people in different times. In the 30s, grace was in the cinema (and even more so, in real life) looks of Grace Kelly – such a twist of words! In the 50s, grace was captured in the photos of Henri Cartier-Bresson and reinvented in the silhouettes of Chanel’s drawings. Twenty previous centuries have defined grace so well, that there is little that XXI can add to it on the image front.

So in our time, grace is all about being: how you build your brand, maintain your relationships, develop your career, which books you read, the vibe your home has, your screen picture, how you spend your time when nobody sees you (assuming there is a time like that), what you leave after your Presidential term (and how you leave), and how you drink your tea, – how you live your life, really.

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For me, “graceful” has a lot to do with one of the central themes of my thoughts – and my life, really – balancing act. Being graceful was easier a century ago, when every gender had a role and grace had its own part of the script for both. Open the doors, offer flowers, be smart and well-read – say thank you, accept, put the flowers into water and ask good questions. Better fit with some personalities than others, but at least grace had its well defined place. Now being graceful is more of a choice, among others, sometimes more of a luxury – and sometimes more of a challenge. How do you remain a graceful host while working, gracefully of course, a 60h+ week? A graceful partner when you are tired and upset? A graceful parent? How do you insist, gracefully, on your point of view once it was rejected, sometimes in your face and often not gracefully at all? How do you remain graceful in the world, where grace has become something of an antiquity? When being graceful often puts you at a seeming disadvantage?

You do it by sticking to your values – and to your ways of being. Because being true to yourself is the most graceful act of all. For me, this building in London with a golden ballet dancer, – old fashioned and tiny in the shadow of a modern skyscraper, – is a perfect illustration to that.

For no one knows the dance you are dancing better that you do.

🙂

Weekly Photo Challenge: Ambience

You might think that I have completely lost interest in travelling and blogging, and that the only thing I do this day is photography. It is not quiet true: in fact, I am preparing something in my usual several-A4-pages format which I hope will inspire you as much as it did me. So stay tuned 😉

Meanwhile, this week’s photo challenge is Ambience. Ambience has much to do with light, an intangible substance which is essential to how a photograph comes out and pretty much defines its mood. And our mood, when we see it. Ever since I have upgraded my camera body to the one without an in-built flash (and we still call it an upgrade…), I keep on experimenting with natural light and how it changes throughout the day.

Here is a snap of Lisbon at golden hour, a short period of time that separates night from day and results in some amazing sun-kissed photos. When the day and the night are splitting the rights for the city, it comes out in all its glory: in the magic of the dusk, with imperfections of the day hidden in the tender shadow, and night starting lighting up its flames.

🙂

Weekly Photo Challenge: Names

I simply love words. The magic of connected letters has captivated me since I was a child. Since then, I have always been surrounded by books: novels when I was growing up, books on strategy and economics when I was studying, books on self-development and growth now, when I am done with degrees (with an occasional history reading, like the book on Cuba that was my vacation reading binge).

When I am not reading (and not working, or writing in my blog or IG), the magic of words still captures me on the streets. I have a lot of pictures with street signs, hashtags and city graffiti walls that have captured my imagination in different cities during different trips. For this week’s photo challenge, Names, I have chosen words with coffee from last year’s Roland Garros.

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Roland Garros 2016: the coffee

Happy tasting!

🙂

Weekly Photo Challenge: Anticipation

I will probably not be original in posting a Christmas picture on the Weekly Photo Challenge post in response to Anticipation theme.

However, happiness often hides is predictable places, doesn’t it? I was strolling through the streets of Christmas Market of Salzburg filled with this magical, seasonal anticipation of wonders. You could almost seize it in the air, in the yammy perfume of the Chrismas sweets and the mulled wine, Christmas tree ornaments, in the smiles of people, addressed in a rare moment to strangers in the crowd and to everyone at the same time. In Salzburg, I could feel that we all are still waiting for miracles – at least once a year, at least a little bit.

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Christmas Market in Salzburg, Austria

🙂