Sunset over water: The power of black & white

Sunset over water: The power of black & white

In February this year, I invited readers to join Marine Café Blog’s search for the best black and white photos of sunset over bodies of water. I thought it was an interesting, if difficult, challenge for photographers. Only two took up the challenge and submitted three pictures each for a total of six entries. From these I have selected three which I believe brought out the power of B&W photography without making the viewer feel that the image was obviously manipulated.

Click on the images for a larger view.

‘Night Star’
© Darrall Slater
Photo shows the Star of India heading back to port in San Diego, 2008.

Untitled (1)
© Paul Seymour
Photo taken in Trinity Bay, Newfoundland & Labrador, Canada.

Untitled (2)
© Paul Seymour
Photo taken in Trinity Bay, Newfoundland & Labrador, Canada.

~ Barista Uno

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‘I am a feminist’: A male writer speaks up

‘I am a feminist’: A male writer speaks up

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, feminism is “the belief that women should be allowed the same rights, power, and opportunities as men and be treated in the same way”. Going by this definition, I can call myself a feminist. Indeed, I am one.

I may not shout slogans or brandish placards, but I try to highlight through my writings women’s contributions to society and to civilisation itself. If anything, it is to drive home the point that, given the opportunity, women can realize their full potential as professionals, artists, poets, photographers and whatever they dream of becoming. I draw inspiration from the words of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the soldier and statesman who founded the Republic of Turkey and transformed it into a modern secular nation:

Humankind is made up of two sexes, women and men. Is it possible for humankind to grow by the improvement of only one part while the other part is ignored? Is it possible that if half of a mass is tied to earth with chains that the other half can soar into skies?

It’s a long and hard road to achieving social and economic equality for women around the world. I believe, however, that everyone can help pave the path towards this goal by showing a greater respect for women. The lack of such respect really lies behind all the abuses, physical and otherwise, that women have had to endure from men throughout history.

I am fortunate to have learned from early childhood to comport myself in a respectful manner when dealing with women. It is a legacy from my late father, who was born and grew up in a small Muslim fishing village in Zamboanga City, Mindanao. His family belonged to the Tausug tribe, which is known for producing warriors. He was an army officer when the phrase “an officer and a gentlemen” had not yet gone out of fashion. He never uttered a harsh word to my mother and sisters and always treated them kindly.

This show of respect and benevolence towards the opposite sex would influence my mindset as an adult. I consider men who abuse and mistreat women and children as the worst of the human species. Sadly, the world teems with male chauvinists and misogynists of every shape and colour. Not all of them are cruel to women, but they share the same misguided and atavistic view that women are inferior to men.

Simone de Beauvoir, the French author and existentialist philosopher, had a resounding message to such males. “No one,” she wrote, “is more arrogant toward women, more aggressive or scornful, than the man who is anxious about his virility.”

~ Barista Uno

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Sunsets at sea: Colour versus black & white photography

Sunsets at sea: Colour versus black & white photography

Sunsets at sea: Colour versus black & white photography

In a world addicted to colour, it takes a bit of courage to photograph a sunset in black and white. Doing so can be tricky, but going off the beaten track has its rewards. The use of greyscale enables the photographer to show a different aspect of reality that has been hidden by colour. It is a challenge to both the eye and the mind.

To illustrate the point, I have selected three colour photographs of sunsets at sea. All are from the public domain. For comparison, I have converted them to black and white (with no other adjustments made) using Photofiltre.

This is a stunning photograph that fills the viewer with euphoria. The problem is that one can find so many other pictures like it. What is beautiful can become ordinary, run-of-the-mill.

Transposed to black & white, the photograph surprises with a dramatic view of a sunset at sea. Undistracted by colour, one can focus on the interplay of light and dark, the small ripples of the sea, and the overall mood of the picture.

The tree silhouetted against the setting sun and reflected on wet sand makes for a beautiful photograph. The dominant tones of blue and blue grey create a serene atmosphere.

The same photograph sans colour is just as beautiful but in a different way. The subtle gradation of light evokes a sense of calm as daylight gradually vanishes and night comes.

The soft glow of sunset envelopes the bridge to accentuate its graceful lines.

In black & white, the same photograph dons a minimalist look. The sensitive eye can see that it is sunset time by the luminosity in the lower region of the sky.

~ Barista Uno

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Which is correct: ‘in a boat’ or ‘on a boat’?

Which is correct: ‘in a boat’ or ‘on a boat’?

Boys in a Dory, 1873
Watercolour by Winslow Homer (American, 1836–1910 )

Prepositions can be tricky. Should one say “in a boat” or “on a boat”? A stickler for proper English, I always choose the former when the reference is to small watercraft such as a fishing boat, a dinghy or a skiff. Tradition is on my side on this issue.

Consider the following excerpts (underscoring mine) from the works of famous writers:

From Edward Lear’s 1846 collection of limericks, The Book of Nonsense:

There was an Old Man in a boat,
Who said, “I’m afloat! I’m afloat!”
When they said, “No, you ain’t!” he was ready to faint,
That unhappy Old Man in a boat.

From Joseph Conrad’s 1912 autobiographical work, A Personal Record:

He was the oldest member by a long way in that company, and I was, if I may say so, its temporarily adopted baby. He had been a pilot longer than any man in the boat could remember; thirty—forty years.

From Ernest Hemingway’s 1952 novella, The Old Man and the Sea:

Sometimes someone would speak in a boat. But most of the boats were silent except for the dip of the oars. They spread apart after they were out of the mouth of the harbour and each one headed for the part of the ocean where he hoped to find fish.

The case of yachts and ships

Interestingly, it is customary to say “on a yacht” instead of “in a yacht”. The following exerpts from two British newspapers illustrate the usage (underscoring mine):

Everyone on the yacht was rescued and rushed to safety. Three divers suffered minor injuries, the company said.

One crew member on a charter yacht said clients on her ship sometimes asked if the water they served came from plastic bottles, but did not mind spending weeks on a boat that guzzles fossil fuels.

There’s a reason in such cases for using “on” instead of “in”. A small boat has no deck. A person is literally in the vessel. On the other hand, a sailing yacht would have a deck for the sailor to stand on. Luxury yachts such as those owned by American and Russian billionaires have a superstructure and more than one deck.

The same is true for a cargo or passenger vessel. One would rightly use the phrase “on the ship”, not “in the ship” (the latter sounds awkward anyway).

 

From The Washington Times news headline, 16 April 1912:

In ordinary conversation, people often use the word “boat” in lieu of “ship”—e.g., “he got on the next boat to Tokyo”. I daresay that the use of the preposition “on” in this instance is correct inasmuch as the speaker is clearly referring to a ship and not some small boat. Context sometimes matters.

~ Barista Uno

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Women in boats: A celebration of beauty

Women in boats: A celebration of beauty

Women in boats: A celebration of beauty

Paintings of women in boats wearing vintage dresses fascinate me. Is it the way the women maintain their poise while out on the water? Is it the flow of their garments in sync with the gentle ripples of the river or lake? In any case, it is a beautiful sight. I am reminded of the opening lines of William Wordsworth’s poem ‘Perfect Woman’:

“She was a phantom of delight
When first she gleam’d upon my sight;
A lovely apparition, sent
To be a moment’s ornament…”

Here are five paintings on the subject (click on the images for a larger view):

Woman Rowing, Sketch, 1892
Oil on canvas
Maria Wiik (Finnish, 1853–1928)
Courtesy of the Finnish National Gallery

The boat in Giverny, c. 1887
Oil on canvas
Claude Monet (French, 1840–1926)
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Woman in a Rowing Boat, study for Girls in a Rowing Boat, 1886
Oil on canvas
Albert Edelfelt (Finnish, 1854–1905)
Courtesy of the Finnish National Gallery

Alice Gerson in Prospect Park, 1886
Oil on panel
William Merritt Chase (American, 1849–1916)
Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art

On the River, c. 1910
Oil on canvas
Guy Rose (American, 1867–1925)
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

~ Barista Uno

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