Top: World's first 360-degree Panorama of Ushguli, Svaneti, Georgia, Feb 24/2009, from 12 separate photos...

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Textures, Ushguli, Svaneti, Georgia

I was given a copy of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by a friend for Christmas 1992.  It has joined my shortlist of "books to reread for the rest of my life", though I wouldn't say that I agree with all of Mr. Pirsig's conclusions.  One of the exercises he describes giving his  writing students was to detail a wall, starting off with one single brick.  They left the class looking at him with pity or horror as one might a madman, but came back to the next lesson with wonder in their eyes - and torrents of prose on their pages, unstoppable.

Today's images are my own version of this process of looking at details and hardly knowing where to stop once you start.  Not that anything was a great surprise for me as I rediscovered cracked paint and fantascically chaotic rusted sheet metal and window frost in Ushguli, but the delight was new as it is every time.  It is heightened by my having read enough on chaos in natural processes - like the young hero of The Sixth Sense who finally blurts out his terrible secret, "I see dead people", I don't go around (or didn't until now) telling everyone that "I see structure everywhere I look...". Chaos reading, and fractal exploration, have done this to my vision.  I wouldn't change it for the world.  Every tree, cloud, old painted or rotted or rusted surface pulls me in to stare at its patterns, and to try to photograph them if I have the camera with me.  So yes, maybe I'm a bit mad, but typical of such people I'm quite at home in my condition, and even think that others need to see things this way too.  Another thing it does for me is, it convnces me that God IS a geometer; but His geometry is fractal, not simple lines and smooth curves.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

The Haiku of Fences: Ushguli, Svaneti, Georgia

I've said it before, but I don't mind repeating myself, especially with hot-off-the-press new images to support my observation. Handmade wooden fences in the snow hold something magical for me, for which the nearest literary analogue I can find is Japanese haiku poetry. Both are minimalist, spare, hardly there, but in both, every element counts to the maximum and is sharply differentiated from its neighbours. Here are yesterday's finds as I returned home from visiting the school - not a motion-blurred shot among them! The top and 3rd images are in greytones only; in the others, the newness of the cut wood is obvious. Give it a few more months in strong sunshine and its browns and yellows will have bleached to greys.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Ushguli, Svaneti, Georgia

Welcome to visiting country no. 95 - Luxembourg - and my new total of 5 blog followers... Will I reach 100 cuntries as the total number of visitors hits 10000?! It's not far off now.

I seem to be stuck on this slow shutter speed thing. Yesterday evening I took in some of the daily footie (a.k.a. soccer), which takes place conveniently close to my house. I stuck to blur as my approach to the subject, panning with the camera to show motion but also to stop anything in the frame which was moving at roughly the same velocity as the camera was. Rest assured, those of you who are getting motion-sick from all the streaks: I'll move on soon, or at least mix in some more still images. (My new blog profile photo is also from yesterday, shot in a mirror.)

This morning was -11 C, a bit colder than yesterday, after a night of light snow and partly clear skies. Nothing for a Canadian. The evening gave us a quick glimpse of only one bright object in the sky - Venus, I think - before clouds obscured it.

Stay tuned, faithful visitors.

Monday, 2 February 2009

On the Road, Central-Upper Svaneti

Lots to report today!

This is the first time I've been able seamlessly to make the transition from Tbilisi to Svaneti without missing a day, even, of blog posting. I played it safe by putting yesterday's post up a day in advance in Tbilisi, using Post Options to have it show up on the blog automatically yesterday. I had earlier taken the setup - laptop, cellphone and cable - back to a Magti office in Tbilisi, to complain that their late November '08 setup which worked on the spot didn't work on the field, and could they please redo it? Success this time, great relief. Per-megabyte costs for this kind of internet have gone down significantly in the year since I last had success with this method, with special rates: I chose to buy 5 GB for a month for 60 GE lari (about US$40), which is much cheaper indeed than last winter. This way I can be as free as I need on the internet, not needing to watch the MB go by - 5 GB/month is more than I need for sure.

So 2 days ago I took the night train from Tbilisi to Zugdidi with the fellow pictured here, Mikho, Ushguli's new marshroutka (public minivan) driver; and he then drove me and several others up to Ushguli yesterday, which took a further 8 hours or so. The road was quite wet with snow melt as far as Svaneti's capital, Mestia, but from there to Ushguli it was colder, with a nice ploughed snow surface - almost as good as asphalt, as he'd said earlier, to my mystification. I decided not to waste the journey. My Canon EOS digital camera came into its own yet again as I was able to experiment, see the results instantly in the LCD screen, make corrections, and continue. My approach was mostly to use slow shutter speeds - 1/15 to 1 second or so - and allow the scene to shake around, to give an impression of our bumpy journey. Not everyone's cup of tea, but a fun thing to try out with few other possibilities available to me at the time. The top shot, however, is relatively sharp, to show the rockfalls which can hinder one's way. Most of the frames have window dirt or water drops and reflections in them, as well as a bit of fog softening the scene; no matter. I also tried fill-in flash a bit (3rd shot), to freeze Mikho in action while allowing some motion blur at the same time. Note the typical Georgian driver's ornaments, at the top of the windscreen - icons, in this case of St Nino and the Virgin Mary, and a cigarette ad. The bottom shot shows how the immediate forground, at the bottom of the picture, was racing by horizontally while we were bouncing up and down, which is more evident in the blur of the mid- to background. Quite pleased with the results, and with the freedom to play which the new machine allows. NWB, don't tire of having me say Thank You for this gift - I mean it every time.

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Ushguli, Svaneti, Georgia

Shots from my departure from Ushguli in December 2008 as I enter it just over a moth later.