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Hospital Ship Gil Eannes

In Viana do Castelo, a lovely city in Portugal, there is an extremely interesting boat-museum, the Hospital Ship Gil Eannes. I happened to stumble upon it with a friend, while visiting Viana do Castelo for other reasons. Fortunately, I was carrying Zoe.

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The ship was a hospital and support ship for the Portuguese White Fleet. Built in 1955, it provided a wide range of services such as a hospital, tug, icebreaker, mail ship and supply ship. Between 1963 and 1973, it also started to operate as a passenger and reefer ship during the periods between the codfish fishing seasons.

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After its last trip in 1973, the ship lost its functions, staying abandoned for many years and intended to be demolished for scrap. In 1997, a campaign to save the historical ship from demolition was launched and, in 1998, Gil Eannes was restored with the support of several institutions, private companies and citizens. Part of the ship was turned into a youth hostel, while the rest was restored according to the original features and became the museum.

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This was a very lucky find for us. We were in Viana for a concert and spent the night there. The next morning, we went sightseeing before going home and saw this big ship with a sign saying “Museum” and went inside just to check it out. It ended up being one of the most interesting museums I’ve visited in a while. The entrance fee is cheap, and we spent 2 hours there just looking at everything. There’s a specific path you are taken through (by following arrows) to see the engines, the captain’s quarters, the helm, the operating rooms, the sick bay, the cafeteria, and everything else. There were also a few exhibitions: photographs of the time when the ship was in function; science exhibit about sea pollution; examples of many different sailor knots; and others. It was quite a find and we left exuberantly happy with our visit.

My creative process

I was watching the Art of Photography video about self portraits and decided to try it myself, after discovering that Zoe has a timer for her shutter! Ted Forbes, who runs that channel, also talks a lot about environmental portraits, and how one can involve the environment around the person being photographed to say something more about them. I was also heavily influenced by his video on photo sequences and how a sequence of a few photos can tell a story or expand more on a concept. So, this little experiment is a kind of mixture of all those photography concepts combined.

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Self portrait(s): I guess I can call these photos a self portrait (or even each photo as its own self portrait, I guess?), as I am photographing myself in a way that I feel actually represents me (except for the foot… maybe). The fact that I barely show my face is definitely on purpose.

Environmental (self) portrait: I feel that these photos can also somewhat be considered environmental portraits, I guess, because of the way I involved my piano. Music has always been a huge part of my life, and is my absolute most beloved hobby. I still haven’t gathered the courage to share it in this little blog, because there’s an underlying feeling of incompetence that for some reason feels a bit more pronounced than in my other hobbies. Maybe one day I’ll take one hundred deep breaths and be able to press that publish button to share a bit of this hobby with you. Maybe.

Photo sequence: When I was taking these photos, I didn’t take them in the order that they ended up in this improvised photo sequence. I know that for these types of projects, a bit of planning beforehand is recommended, to understand the concept that is being explored and how to best make it work. But, when I was taking these, I was only thinking of getting a self portrait, and I took different photos in order to find the one that I felt best represented me. I thought about different feelings when taking each photo:

1BI don’t think anyone can tell, but in this first picture I am actually looking at the camera, just with my hair in front of my face. I was trying to convey the shyness I feel when thinking about showing my music to the world. Sharing one’s creation is extremely frightening, but thinking about doing it anonymously kind of subsides that horrible feeling of vulnerability.

2BWith the second picture I was trying to show the feeling of defeat when one is trying to create something and nothing seems to be working. In this case, that feeling of wanting to give up when nothing seems to sound the way you want it to.  When you try hundreds of different things and nothing feels right. It’s a constant for me. This was actually the first picture I took of these.

3BIn the third picture, I was trying to express the feeling of immersion when you are listening to music (whether your own creation or someone else’s) that feels absolutely right, that pushes all the right buttons and gives you chills. That experience of being almost inside a musical piece, almost living it while listening to it, and the absolute joy that it is when you create something that works like that for you.

4BThe last picture wasn’t supposed to be a part of this set. I took three more photographs with this concept – playing the piano with limbs other than your hands: one with my elbow, one with my knee, and one with my head. The head one was very similar to the second picture of this bunch though, and the other ones didn’t work out that well. But when I looked at them after development, I realized what I was actually trying to convey with them. When you try something enough times and it still doesn’t work… you try something different, something that you’d never even considered, that might have even sounded ridiculous before. And sometimes, it works. Sometimes, that little experiment that you did just for fun, just to take a breather from your normal way of doing things, is actually exactly what you needed, is actually exactly what finally works.

It was when looking at these photos after they came back from the lab that I realized that none of these photos felt exactly right on their own. Sure, they could work, but I feel like they work best together – for me, at least. They express my feelings about music and about myself in regards to my own music. A process that loops around being shy, wanting to give up, immersing myself, and trying different things. Of course the order varies, but I believe all these steps are part of my creative process. And so, that is what I decided to name this little experiment of a photo sequence:

My creative process

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Quick note: you may notice these photos were cropped to be squares. This was done for two reasons: first, I believe that this final result of the four photos together works best if they are squares, as it makes the final picture also a square. Second, there were some objects in the left part of the frame that I didn’t notice as I was taking these with a timer, and I felt that they were too distracting.

Overall, this was definitely an extremely interesting experiment. Despite the somewhat serious tone of my text so far, I even feel like this sequence is kind of funny. In a way, it also expresses a bit of the frustration one can feel when creating something. I must admit I am quite happy with how these turned out. I will try more self portraits, more environmental portraits, and more photo sequences in the future, perhaps disconnecting them from one another. Yet, I definitely recommend you try something like this! It’s a wonderful way of figuring out how to express who you are. I must say I’m extremely glad that this is the way I decided to introduce myself for the first time here.

A day at another beach

Now that summer is ending, I thought I should reminisce about the only day that I went to the beach to do stuff that people usually do at the beach: lay around in the sun, play volleyball, go for a swim in the ocean, annoy the people around me with my incessant playing of the ukulele… wait, other people don’t do that? Weird.

I went to a beach near Lisbon (during the weekend I spent there) in Costa da Caparica and, to celebrate my first day at the beach in around 3 years (besides that other time, which was only to take pictures), I had some fun with Zoe.

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If I’m being honest, I’m not a huge fan of the beach. I don’t like being under the sun for more than an hour, as I get sunburned really easily, so I need to keep applying sunscreen or just give up and go to the shade (which I always eventually do). The sea is the only redeeming quality and even then, only if it’s calm – I don’t like big waves ever since I was “attacked” by one when I was very little. I must confess I only went to the beach because my friends were dying to go and I had gone to Lisbon to be with them, so I made an effort to try to enjoy it. I didn’t adore it, but I also didn’t hate it – the company got me through it. And my ukulele.

Streets of Porto #2 (and a story about a dog)

I warned in a previous post that more photographs of Porto were coming. I don’t have much to say about them, though. I’m quite happy that I tried to be a bit bolder and photograph some strangers. My favorite photo of this bunch is definitely the one with the couple (second to last).

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All these are in downtown Porto, and all were taken with Zoe, my Zenit TTL.

I do have a somewhat funny story about the second picture, the one with the dog. I had like 4 photos left in a roll and I had to go to my lab’s area to run some other errands so I decided to take Zoe and spend those last few photos while running those errands, and then stop by the lab and leaving the roll to be developed. I took the 4 photos and the film advance lever still turned, so I thought “okay, I have maybe a couple more, cool” and kept shooting. I took 3, maybe 4 more photos and the lever still turned to advance the film. It was around this time that I found the dog, resting right next to the sign that says ‘a house is not a home without a dog’. I took a picture and was so glad that I still had film to capture it! I kept walking around, taking 4, 5, 6 more photographs… and that’s when I started to get very suspicious. I mean, it wouldn’t be out of the ordinary for me to miscalculate how many shots I had left in the roll, but an error of more than 10 photos was too ridiculous!

So, I found a darker spot and opened my camera… and the roll was dislodged. Which meant that every time I was turning the lever, the film wasn’t advancing. And you know what that meant? You guessed it: all those photos I took after the film dislodged didn’t exist. I left the roll in the lab to be developed, still hoping that some of the pictures had survived, but alas, it was not meant to be. The last photo I actually took with that roll was basically the first one of that day. I was heartbroken, I liked the photos I’d taken, but especially because of the dog! A few days later, I was again walking around that part of town with Zoe and I took a detour through that street just to see if the dog was there, but no luck. I gave up and thought I’d never ever get an opportunity like that again. And then, one sunny day, I was gonna meet a friend I hadn’t seen in a long time and I took Zoe with me to take some pictures of my friend. The way to the coffeeshop where we were meeting involved passing through that same street. And you wanna know who was there? You already know, because you’ve already seen the photograph, but that’s right! The dog! Exactly in the same spot, resting against the window with the exact same sign! I was so happy that I took two almost identical photographs, just in case something went wrong with one of them. I can’t say it’s a very good photograph, but I absolutely love it!

A weekend in Lisbon

In early July I spent a weekend in Lisbon, Portugal. A few of my closest friends have moved there and I missed them so much that I decided to go visit them. I took Zoe, of course, and we had an amazing time.

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It wasn’t the first time I visited Lisbon, but it was the first time that I looked at it while thinking about what to photograph, and I must say, it definitely helped me see the city’s beauty – something that we, residents of the somewhat rival Porto, are usually a bit reluctant to do.

Mannequin (aka Cheating at Variations)

In a previous post, I showed the photographs that came out of my photo assignment on Variations (inspired by the photo assignments series on the Art of Photography youtube channel). The assignment was to take as many different photographs as possible of the same subject – I chose a mannequin. Well, I must admit that after taking those photographs with my digital camera, I cheated. Actually, I cheated in three different ways.

The first way was by also taking photos with Zoe, my film camera. It’s quite obvious that I was going to get different photographs by using different cameras, specifically by changing between digital and film cameras. Still, I managed to find different positions in which to place the mannequin in relation to its background, so I think these may not be considered cheating – or at least they wouldn’t be if I’d taken them with the same camera as the other photos (Sophie).

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Though, I must admit, I’m biased to the film look that my Zoe gives me, so I’m quite pleased that I took these with her.

The second way that I cheated was by using my beautiful friend as a model next to the mannequin. I think this should be considered extra cheating because using a model makes the subject much less clear: is it the mannequin? Is it the model? It is the combination of both?

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The third and final way that I cheated might not be considered actual cheating by some people: I edited the photo. I mean “heavily” edited, not just cropped or adjusted the brightness or little changes like that. I absolutely adore the photo of my friend hugging the mannequin from behind, but I wanted to try and make it look like my friend’s arms were actually the mannequin’s. After a long couple of hours in paint.net (I don’t have the money nor knowledge to use other editing softwares yet), I managed to make it kind of look like I wanted. Of course, I encourage you not to zoom in, as the patches of yellow copy-paste will become very obvious.

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Overall, I’m quite happy with how the photo turned out.

I might try to learn how to use another photo editing software, though I need to find one that is either free or relatively cheap. Photography is, after all, just a hobby for me, and though I’m falling more and more in love with it, I can’t let it get too expensive. Especially considering that I mostly take photos with Zoe, my film camera, and rarely edit those – and I need to pay for film rolls and their development!

 

More statues

know I said in a previous post that I would try not to take the comfortably easy photographs of statues. Well, I tried.

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This last photo is definitely my favorite. I was taking a photo of the statue when a stranger passing by decided to get into frame and pose. For a brief second I thought about not taking the photograph, and waiting for him to go away. I’m so glad I took it anyway. This photo is so much more interesting with him in it. So thank you, stranger, for your spontaneity!