Il nuovo orto botanico di Ghezzano

Dopo anni di incuria lavori di preparazione, finalmente l’orto botanico di Ghezzano (frazione di San Giuliano Terme) è stato inaugurato ieri in via Lazzeri, con senza la presenza del sindaco. Specie diversissime, tutte esotiche, popolano i canali di scolo i quali, invece di fornire l’utile l’inutile servizio antiallagamento delle vie cittadine, offrono ai visitatori uno spettacolo vario e gratuito.read

Pillola di marketing su social media

Certe cose non cambiano, nemmeno nel marketing. Oggi come ieri, il proprio messaggio pubblicitario deve arrivare spesso.

Qualcuno sicuramente vende castagne a Napoli. (C) Marco Venturini Autieri 

Un esempio efficace di pubblicità in vecchio stile è il mega cartellone in autostrada: lo crei e lo piazzi, aspettandoti che per qualche mese il pubblico veda, spesso, lo stesso messaggio, il più possibile efficace, tuttavia lo stesso, ad ogni passaggio.

Con i social media la regola di base non cambia, però affinché il messaggio  arrivi spesso,  non basta scrivere un cartellone perché un post, bello ed efficace, verrà visualizzato solo per qualche ora; per ottenere visualizzazioni anche il giorno seguente, deve esserci un nuovo post, il quale a sua volta scomparirà dopo breve termine.La differenza più grande, quindi, tra ieri e oggi, consiste non nella qualità bensì nella quantità del messaggio: per ottenere molte visualizzazioni servono molti post e, affinché un messaggio abbia qualche speranza di arrivare a segno, servono molte immagini.
Oggi le immagini hanno un ruolo importantissimo nella comunicazione, esattamente come lo avevano ieri. La differenza sostanziale sta nella quantità di immagini necessaria: enorme. Non una sola immagine che veicoli in modo efficace il tuo messaggio ma un flusso di immagini apparentemente interminabile.

Oggi le immagini vengono consumate (prodotte, vendute, viste) ad un ritmo elevatissimo ed anche quelle più intense hanno un impatto insignificante rispetto ad una serie di immagini che sembra non voler finire e che assicura al pubblico una continuità ormai richiesta per poter diventare un punto di riferimento.

Il ruol o del fotografo cambia di conseguenza. Il progresso tecnico fa sì che davvero chicchessia riesca a produrre belle foto, le quali non sono più esclusivo dominio del professionista; tuttavia, scattare una bella foto non ha più quasi importanza: quel che conta oggi è essere in grado di produrre un flusso costante di immagini efficaci.
Alla luce di ciò, chi vuole comunicare oggi sui social media e non è esso stesso un professionista dell’immagine ha un bisogno assoluto di poter attingere a banche dati di immagini che possono fornire, spesso in abbonamento (che è una modalità che meglio riflette le necessità odierne di comunicazione), un flusso pressoché continuo di immagini efficaci, perché anche una o due foto ben riuscite vengono altrimenti diluite dall’insieme, copioso, di immagini deboli.

Come fotografo, io produco fotografie che vengono poi distribuite su iStock da Getty Images.

Travelling with my bulldog during the summer

Dafne cools down on the grass

Introduction: holidaying in hot weather

Bulldog owners already know they deal with a difficult breed. Travelling with bulldogs is just one of those aspects of bulldog ownership that require extra attention. Having organised a trip with my Dafne, I had to go through a series of issues: here they are, described together with the solutions I adopted.

Dafne, when she was seven months, in the rear of a first-edition Ford Mondeo

The heat is the problem

More than other breeds, bulldogs suffer hot climates: keeping them cool throughout the journey is vital.

The scenario

My trip happened in Summer, travelling from Tuscany to Sicily: hard to find a hotter scenario, climate-wise. I would use car plus ship. I would also stay in an accommodation that would become uncomfortably hot without aircon.

Dafne, four months old, comfortably looks at me as she was asking to be taken someplace…

About ambient temperature and how you feel it

Some preliminary, mildly scientific, information is needed here. Science explains the effect of temperature on humans and how we perceive it; whether humidity, wind, and other factors make us feel well. Often we read a “real feel” or “feels like” temperature indicated alongside the air temperature in weather forecasts. In fact it may happen, for instance, that if it is hot but relatively dry and windy, we don’t feel that hot. It is now important to keep in mind that the whole lot of the science behind this “feels like temperature” is designed for us humans, not the dogs. Temperature is objective but the way we feel it is different from the way our dogs feel it.

One example of how we perceive the temperature

Let’s say we are in the car and outside it’s hot. If we switch off the air conditioner and open the windows, the wind may invest us and make us feel comfortable; however we’d make a serious error if we believed our dog would be feeling equally well. In fact she would not feel the benefits of the cooling of the sweat (because they have very little of that) on the skin (because it is not directly exposed to the air but covered in hair), so she would just perceive the hot air as if there was no wind.

This shop (“Dieci Dieci”) in the Chiaia District cares for pets and creates a spot where dogs can find water and food, near the entrance.

My solutions for the trip

The car: preparation and maintenance

You can’t control climate but you can do your best to control the microclimate in the restrict environment around your pet: the car. If you’re traveling when it’s hot (during the day), you need air conditioning. If the car’s engine fails, the air conditioner fails and ultimately the bulldog will fail too. So, you must take care of your car with check-ups and maintenance before departure, because the car must not stop and the air conditioner must provide fresh air.

Therefore, in addition to a thorough car check-up, I also took care of recharging the air conditioner’s gas (in this way the air will get cooler and cool faster) and replacing the car battery because in most cases there isn’t a viable way to assess its health condition.

Dafne does not suffer from car sickness, despite this picture

What to bring in the car and in the ship

Firstly, although it may seem obvious, we must take with us all the things that she usually needs normally at home: medications for instance, or all those tricky bits that we use with our bulldogs, that become daily routine and that therefore can be easy to forget because we take them for granted. Some of these things may be needed only periodically (if for instance she needs medication early in the morning and out trip is in the evening, we won’t need to take that with us), but some other things could be always handy (if we use a particular toy to calm the bulldog, that toy will be useful in the trip).

Secondly we must consider all those additional things that we could make use of during the trip. In this case my attention goes to whatever can effectively cool the dog, or keep her cool. Keeping in mind that once the heat stroke arrives, it is too late (the only thing you could do then is immerse her in fresh water, and then take her to a clinic), the stuff that I packed served the purpose of moderately cool her, and this in turn has the double purpose of avoiding overheating and keeping the dog calm, because a nervous dog with discomfort is also a dog that is more prone to overheating.

Dafne does not stay put, she wants to look outside!

Stuff to keep the dog fresh in the car

In addition to the obvious bowl and water (and the latter can also be used to wet her hair in those situations where the ambient is not fresh yet there is wind), I brought and used:

  • bottles with water and compressed air, that not only wet but also moderately cool when the gas expand on ejection. I direct this on her belly, where the hair is less, or also on her mouth. She enjoys it.
  • Instant ice, used as above in those occasions when the dog has been exposed to heat for longer than she wished for. Use only once, so quite expensive, yet don’t hesitate if you see her getting hot, because it works to prevent a heat stroke, not to cure it.
Pisa, Italy – May 20, 2013: small dogs are easily carried in a shoulder bag, and this certainly is enjoying the ride. This couple was candidly photographed on the Lungarno (riverfront) in Pisa, Tuscany, Italy. Scan from Acros 100. Focus on the dog

Going out or staying in

Most bulldogs will prefer staying at home rather than facing the oven-hot outdoors. If it is safe doing so, it is what I do. I make sure that the air conditioning is up and running and that the room is already cool before leaving her alone (in this way, should the device fail in my absence, the room will start heating up from cold). No air conditioner is sold with the condition that it won’t fail because somebody’s life depends on it (as it could be the case for some hospital appliances) therefore don’t take for granted its reliability.

She got a lift and now she needs to get off

To the restaurant

Call beforehand to book; and ask for a table indoors; ensure they have air conditioning. Especially if the restaurant is located in a beautiful spot (e.g. at the seafront), it is likely that most patrons will be sitting outside and that the air conditioner inside is left off. Be prepared to be the only ones eating inside while all the others will be enjoying the sunshine outdoors!

Dafne does not seem fully satisfied of the ride

Conclusions

It isn’t easy. The pleasure that comes from parenting a dog is perhaps proportional to the effort it requires. Bulldogs require plenty of extra effort: let us all hope there is plenty of extra pleasure for us as well!

Come pulisco lo schermo del mio MacBook

  • Pulisco lo schermo del mio MacBook quasi come una lente di un obiettivo fotografico.
    Innanzitutto tolgo la polvere con un getto di aria.
  • Poi tolgo ulteriore polvere residua con un pennello morbido, per es. quello incorporato nel LensPen per filtri e obiettivi, anche se per un uso sul solo schermo questo pennelo può essere inutilmente costoso

  • Quindi, con un panno in microfibra, di quelli comunemente usati per gli occhiali, imbevuto di Eclipse, sciolgo e tolgo lo sporco visibile.

  • Infine tolgo gli aloni con un tampone adatto.

Equipment for photographing in a pizzeria

Packing the right gear is for me the last stage of a process where I try and understand the least I can use to get the look that I want.

In the pizzeria I wanted to achieve a good backlight effect. I had tried, without success, with a smaller and sturdier beauty dish, but eventually settled for my largest softbox, an Elinchrom Rotalux 90×110.read

The best lighting for pizza

Pizza is food so, traditionally, benefits from (moderate) backlighting. Pizza is also large and flat: a large(r) and flat light source was my choice. The Elinchrom Rotalux 90x110cm softbox, placed about 30cm above the pizza, slightly angled, was large enough that I could use its “tail” like some sort of moderate backlight. A small reflector carved out of cardboard provided an almost invisibile fill-light.read

Warm, soft light for food, with one light source

I would not call a 90x110cm Elinchrom softbox “portable”, however I set for myself the limit of one light source or when I want to shoot food outside of my studio, and albeit I tried and get the results that I wanted with a beauty-dish reflector (smaller and sturdier), I decided I would not settle for less than my biggie.

However, since I still need something to fill up the shadows a bit, I prepared some foam board.

Inside the softbox I used the golden reflector for warm light. In order to achieve some colour contrast and fill the shadows with cooler light, I prepared my foam core boards with some blue paper stuck on it. I also added some aluminium for extra reflection.

My softbox was placed hanging above the food, slightly inclined, so that most of the lighting surface would be “behind” the food, and lower.

In the end, this is what I got (Fujifilm X-T1, Fujinon XF 35/1.4 @ f/7.1):

Morning light for food

My aim here was to re-create a bright morning light and illuminate with it some food objects. Not very happy with the composition but the subject was hastily arranged to test the light, of which I am rather satisfied.
At my right I used a double-baffled softbox with neutral light (translucent internal reflector, powered at 1.0). At my left, behind the table, I used a beauty dish with a golden reflector (powered at 2.9).

The set, with Elinchrom stuff, photographed more or less from where I was with the camera

Things to note:

  • I did not get a soft light but, rather, something more similar to direct sunlight. In fact I used a reflector as main light. A softbox would yield a rather different mood.
  • Typically food is lit with a backlight. My light was behind the subject, but not directly behind.
  • The softbox that I used as a fill: I prefer keeping it rather low, in order to fill also those shadows that fall below the plate’s border, if visibile.

About the warm look that I wanted to achieve: I used a golden reflector inside the beauty dish, however that alone would not achieve the intended look. In fact, if I simply wanted everything tinted in yellow, I could have easily done this “in post”, digitally, by simply keying in a different overall colour temperature. However, my intention was to give a warm look to  the main light only, exactly to simulate direct sun, that normally enters a room which also is illuminated, perhaps through other windows, by the sky and therefore with bluer/whiter light. This is why I kept the shadows cooler, using a fill-in softbox with neutrally coloured light.

Headshot portrait in “chiaroscuro” style

“Chiaroscuro,” light and dark. The light usually comes at some expense (I used one Elinchrom strobe), the dark is very cheap.

For a simple portrait I wanted a simple lighting scheme: one black cloth backdrop, about 1m behind Vincenzo, and one light, at my right, quite close to him, but not too close
The most difficult part, the make-or-break aspect of the portrait, was the exact placement of the light: I wanted Vincenzo’s face lit better and more than his shoulder, so I moved the strobe until I was pleased. I made sure that the strobe was close (in order to enhance the chiaroscuro effect) to his face but not too much to his shoulder, where the light mostly arrived “feathered”, that is from the transtion light/dark.

I took two portraits because I wanted a soft one and a harder one. I used, respectively, a gridded softbox and a gridded beauty-dish.

On my left, there was a white wall, at about 2m, that provided a really minimal fill for the shadows.

Here a used a gridded beauty-dish
Here I used a gridded softbox

Strobes in continuos-light mode for shallow-focus effect

Studio strobes can be used in continuos light mode with their modelling lamp, which obviously give a lower light output than the flashes. Besides videos, this mode can be used in combination of large lens apertures in order to have a shallow focus. Unfortunately, it usually happens (but it depends on the strobe model) that whilst the minimum setting for flash gives too much light (and hence a smaller aperture should be used), the maximum that the modelling lamps can output is not enough for relatively fast shutter speeds, even considering that a portrait ought to be… still in most cases.
I experimented a very soft light, pointing two large softboxes towards a white wall and placing the model (myself in this case) in front of a lightly coloured paper backdrop. The light investing my face was coming from the white wall, uniformly illuminated, windowed somehow by the softboxes themselves. This can be seen in the reflection in my eyes, where at the centre of the white wall the tripod-mounted camera can be seen.

The portrait, lightly edited
The two softboxes pointing at the white wall which in turns illuminates the model
The reflection in my eye

I used a Fujifilm X-T1 with the 35mm at f/1.4 and a shutter speed of 1/6s at ISO 200. Of the two Elinchrom strobes, I only used the modelling lamps at their maximum output, although all diffusing baffles were in place so the light output was greatly reduced. Perhaps the biggest drawback of this scheme is the lack of contrast given by the virtual absence of the black pupil, which gets the reflected light.