Category Archives: Friends & Inspiring People

“Shot in the Dark” Screening at Wexford Documentary Film Festival

“Shot In The Dark”, A documentary film about 3 professional blind photographers by Frank Amann, Germany, 2016

Saturday 23rd of September, 4pm, screening with audio description  

Kilmore Quay, near Wexford town

Shot in the dark cover

A blind person is probably the least person you’d expect to be a photographer. SHOT IN THE DARK is an intimate portrait of three successful artists who have one thing in common: visual impairment as a starting point for their visual explorations. Watching SHOT IN THE DARK will introduce three extraordinary people. These blind artists insist on participating in the world of visuals. At the same time they question this world with their photographic work, in which nothing is taken for granted. This film poses fundamental questions about seeing and the imagination and enriches our understanding of perception and creation. We all close our eyes in sleep, the sighted and blind alike, and in our dreams – we see. Please note that this film with have an audio description suitable for people with visual impairment.

Also read our interview with Frank Amann and a report from a workshop with blind photographer Sonia Soberats for more information.

Post screening discussion with Director Frank Amann, Tina Paulick (Photo narrations Pictures for the Blind and Sighted) and filmmaker Laura Way.

The full programme of the Wexford Documentary Film Festival can be viewed here. Booking for the opening film is essential.

http://wexforddocumentaryfilmfestival.ie/gallery/films-2017/2/

Directions:

Kilmore Quay is located approximately 25 minutes drive from Wexford town and Rosslare Harbour.

The festival organisers are very friendly and willing to give advice on accommodation in Wexford. Lifts or shared taxies to Kilmore Quay can also be organised. Please get in touch if you would like to attend and we will arrange to meet you or put you in touch with the festival organisers. picdesc@gmail.com

Directions:Coming from Wexford: Follow the N25 to Rosslare Harbour. Approximately two miles after the Drinagh roundabout on the outskirts of Wexford, there is a signpost for the R739 which takes you to Kilmore Quay. Turn right here and follow the road through Ballycogley and Kilmore village to Kilmore Quay. Kilmore Quay is approximately three miles past Kilmore village.Coming from Rosslare: Take the N25 to Wexford town. Pass through Kilrane, Tagoat and Killinick. Two miles after Killinick take a left turn onto the R739 signposted for Kilmore Quay. Follow the directions as above from here.

By Train: The nearest train stations are Wexford O’Hanrahan Station in Wexford town
or Rosslare Europort train station. Services are limited. www.irishrail.ie

By Bus: Daily bus services to and from Wexford town are provided by Wexford Bus.
For current timetables please visit www.wexfordbus.ie

We hope to see many of you there

 

 

 

„Shot in the Dark“ – A Documentary with Blind Photographers

We talked to Berlin-based producer Frank Amann about how his newly released documentary film “Shot in the Dark” developed out of coincidental meetings with blind and visually impaired photographers and his fascination with their works. The result is an intimate portrait of three remarkable artists. The following text is translated from German and based on a telephone conversation and my research, therefore most of Frank’s answers are rephrased.

What inspired you to make a film about blind photographers?

“Shot in the Dark” is my first work as a director, I’m first and foremost a camera man. About six years ago I worked on the Spanish Basque Film “Camera Obscura”. The film is a coming of age story about a blind girl, who is overly protected by her parents and tries to find her place in a very visual teenage world. I wanted to portrayal her point of view through filming techniques and started asking myself, how this girl experiences her surroundings.

I did some research and found the blind photographer Evgen Bavcar. But his texts are concerned with the philosophical rather than the visual aspect of blind photography. Subsequently, I came across the catalogue to the exhibition “Sight Unseen”, featuring blind photographers from several countries. The exhibition is touring museums around the world for ten years now and some of the pictures captivated me long after I went to see the exhibition live.

While I was working for a different project in the USA, I spontaneously decided to call two of the photographers featured in “Sight Unseen”, Bruce Hall and Pete Eckert and asked them to meet up. At the time I didn’t have an idea for the film yet. I was just curious and wanted to meet the photographers, who made these fascinating pictures. What was supposed to be a quick chat turned into a long conversation. We discovered that our views on photography and art were very similar. However, it was a long journey from the idea to the finished feature film about Pete Eckert, Bruce Hall and Sonia Soberats.

What was important to you while making the film?

I didn’t want to make a film about but with blind photographers. I saw the short HBO film “Dark Light: The Art of blind Photography” also featuring Bruce and Pete. It tries to explain with didactical and analytical methods how blind photographers work. Sighted Photographers were asked to speculate how it works and the whole thing reminded me of explorers digging in an anthill.

My film is more visual and observing. It follows the photographers doing their work and lets them and their families and friends talk. I want the audience to form their own opinions on what they see and hear without being guided and influenced by my commentary. Although sight loss and family stories influence the photographers’ choice of motives, the film’s main focus is on the artists themselves and their works.

Bruce Hall

Bruce for example does mainly underwater photography and portraits of his autistic twin sons. Together with his wife he published the book “Immersed: Our Experience with Autism”. Because he has difficulties seeing his sons’ facial expressions, looking at magnified pictures of them enables him to get to know them on a different level. The mainly non-verbal interaction with his children is important, but not the main focus of the film sequences about Bruce. Since his early childhood he uses magnifiers and nowadays large screens to piece together what he sees. He says himself he sees twice: First an impression or shape in front of the camera and later more details in the finished picture.

I also wanted the protagonists themselves to be able to enjoy the finished film. That’s why we offer audio description with the smart phone app GRETA. Additionally, I worked with sound effects and incorporated different layers of sounds. In cinema screenings the sound will move between several loudspeakers, creating an almost three-dimensional soundscape.

What is it that fascinates you about the works of these blind photographers and what do you think differentiates them from sighted photographers?

Nowadays we’re constantly flooded by pictures. To gain our attention for more than a few seconds and to stay in our mind afterwards, a picture has to show something special or have an unusual perspective or technique. With regards to that blind photographers may have an advantage, because they compare pictures less. Someone who sees nothing or very little loses him or herself less in details, thus light and shadow contrasts as well as abstract forms become more pronounced. Even I sometimes narrow my eyes to focus on the bigger picture as a whole. That however doesn’t mean all photographs taken by blind people are the same, on the contrary their motives and techniques vary as much as their remaining sight and their interests.

Do blind photographers work differently than sighted ones?

Every artist – sighted or not- has his or her own working methods. The work of most blind photographers is conceptual. While sighted people often spot something worth capturing by chance, their blind counterparts first develop the picture composition in front of their inner eye and subsequently try to assemble it.

Pete Eckert

Pete was a carpenter as well as an arts and architecture student, before he gradually lost his vision due to a genetic condition. While going blind he also took up business studies. He switched from sculpturing to woodcutting and eventually took up photography. Even today he still works with an analogue camera because it gives him more independence. Pete touches the mechanics of the camera and uses sticky marking points to differentiate the settings. Apart from getting help to select the photographs for large format prints, he works without sighted people. For Pete only a picture composed and taken without sighted help is an authentic photograph depicting the world of the blind. Nevertheless, feedback from viewers is important to him, since no artist can stay motivated without encouragement.

Sonia Soberats

As a young Venezuelan immigrant mother, Sonia lost her two children to cancer and became blind within a short space of time. Although she hadn’t done photography previously she joined a group of blind and visually impaired photographers in New York and found new fulfilment in light painting. Light painting takes place in a completely dark room where the depicted person or object is illuminated with different flashlights, which give the finished picture an almost ghostlike quality. Sonia takes her inspirations from experiences, events, smells and touchable textures. Her models are often family members and close friends, whom she talks to during the photo shoot. To put her ideas into practice Sonia has a sighted assistant. The concepts are hers, the assistant provides only technical help.

The documentary was shot in English and will hopefully be screened in other countries soon.

 

close-up of a white and pink blossom with yellow in the middle

Interview with visually impaired photographer Chelsea Stark

Tell us something about your self and why you are passionate about photography.

My name is Chelsea Stark and I am a 36-year-old visually impaired woman. I started taking photos when I was about 12. I found that it was a great way for me to see the world around me. And I really enjoyed it. Over the years I have had several kinds of cameras. The two cameras I really enjoyed using so far are my IPhone 6 and my Sony a 6000.

 

How did you and do you learn to take good photos?

I have not taken any formal classes or training. All I know comes from practice, practice, practice. I tend to take a picture when I see something that interests me, or something I want to see up close. And sometimes just that little act of wanting to know what’s around me helps me to get some amazing shots.

 

Do you get inspirations from works of other photographers?

My inspiration comes from my loving husband Robert Park. He is a fine art landscape photographer. He has some amazing skills and amazing images. I learn so much from him every time we go out.

 

Small waterfall surrounded by green

What equipment do you use and did your visual impairment play a role in choosing the right camera and accessories?

 I have used several different kinds of cameras. Recently I have been using a Sony a 6000 and an IPhone 6. For each piece of equipment that I have used or purchased over the years one key factor was that it must have a live View Setting or capability. It is the only way I can see what’s around me and compose a photo.

 

What are your preferred subjects to photograph and do you think your choice of objects and styles is influenced by your visual impairment?

I like to photograph animals, flowers and occasionally landscape when it moves me. I use the camera mostly to get a better view of my world around me.

silhouettes of horses on a beach

How do you find your subjects as a legally blind person? Do you have an idea in your head before you go out to take pictures?

I do not go out with any plans or ideas. I find that my best images just appear. I just go out with my equipment and shoot what presents itself to me. I have found that planning sometimes leads to disappointment. And that random photo that you never expected tends to be the best photo you’ve taken all day.

 

How do you choose which photos to post on your blog and social media? Do you get sighted people to describe them to you?

When I decide that I want to post something on my block or social media, I usually just post what I like. Sometimes I will get an opinion here or there. But It is my page with my rules and my images and I just go with it.

 

You always write a short text to each photo where it was taken. How important are the location and the story behind the picture to you?

I give a location if possible because the first question I always hear is: where was that taken? By putting the location out there that question is no longer a problem. I believe it’s very important to write a little something about each image that you post. It helps people to get in the right frame of mind while they look at your image. Plus it helps with Google’s indexing.

 Inside of an Southern European looking restaurant

Do you use photo shop programmes and how accessible do you find them?

I use either a program called Aperture or IPhoto. But often I will use built-in features on my IPhone or IPad. The latest version of IOS does a decent job on photo editing. If it needs more work than that, I will have my husband or someone else do some minor tweaks to the image in their photo editing program of their choice. But a lot of times it’s just straight from the IPhone or IPad. The already mentioned Aperture is fairly accessible and also allows me to catalogue photos.

 

Do you think photos taken by visually impaired people are different to those sighted people take and do you think it is fair to compare them?

I believe every photographer has their own style. And everybody’s images are different, regardless of whether they are blind, visually impaired or fully sighted. I’m not sure if it is fair to compare photographer’s work based on whether they have vision or not.  But if vision is left out of the equation being compared to other photographers is perfectly fine with me.

 

Would you disclose your visual impairment if you were to enter a photography competition and why yes or no?

Yes I would disclose my visual impairment. I belief letting people know about my visual impairment helps them to understand my work better and makes them see the artwork in a different way.

 

How do people on the street react when they see you taking pictures?

I’m not really sure. I’ve had nobody say anything to me regarding me taking photos. But I’m sure I’ve gotten some weird books once in a while.

 Three bottles of sauce

Could you imagine making photography your profession? And what are your aims for the future with regards to photography?

It would be cool to make photography my profession. Right now my goals regarding photography are just to take some interesting images around me. And maybe sell some here and there. But at the moment it’s just for fun.

 

Do you have some general tips for blind and visually impaired people who want to take up photography?

My suggestion for any visually impaired or blind person who wants to get into photography, is to get yourself an IPhone 6. It may sound like a silly thing to start with. But it is easy to learn and will cost a lot less then a good camera.  If you find that you actually enjoy photography and you want to get something that will give you the ability to have larger images, the next step would be to do some research on cameras and see which one fits your preferences and your capabilities with your hands and eyes.

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A blind art photographer tells her story: Part 5.2 Portrait Photography: General Tips

After reading about the different ways to categorize portraits, you may think you’ll have to learn all this by heart now, but the categories are only general guidelines and a great source of inspiration. Most of you already know some of the basics and do them right instinctively. Here are some more helpful tips for taking good portraits.

1. Background

 

You can either include the background as feature of your portrait or focus exclusively on the person. Even in a landscape portrait there shouldn’t be too many other people or details in the background, since this distracts the viewer’s attention from the small main person. Ideal for landscape portraits are natural scenes, buildings or art objects like statues. If you want a more lively surrounding, the main person should be bigger than other people in the background.

2. Focus

 

The focus is not only important for close-ups. Landscape shots often fail when the main object is somewhere at the margins instead of occupying the centre, where viewers tend to direct their attention first. Especially if they don’t know the depicted person, they are uncertain where and what the main motive is. In this situation the brain finds it hard to differentiate what is important and what not.

As blind photographer you can try to hear where your object is and focus accordingly. If you’re not certain, move the camera slightly around and take lots of pictures. This increases the chance of having a photo with the right focus in the end.

3. Perspective

 

The rule is, the photographer changes his or her perspective not the person who is being photographed. Moving around for the photographer often makes the model feel unnatural and the result are artificial, stiff pictures. If the model is allowed to sit or stand in a comfortable position, the result will look more natural and expressive.

The posture of the photographer too is important. When photographing someone who’s sitting it is often useful to take a few steps back and to crouch down.

4.  Facial expressions

 

A good way to get natural facial expressions is to talk to the model about random topics, maybe about him or her herself or your work. While talking you can walk around, taking pictures from various positions. With this method it is important to take many photos from the same position, because facial expressions can change within seconds. Most cameras and phones can automatically shoot many pictures within seconds.

5. Cropped view

 

Especially in close-ups often parts of the hair or the whole forehead aren’t visible. This method emphasises certain parts of the face, especially eyes or forehead. However, sometimes it simply looks as if part of the face was cut off by accident.

 

6. What to do when and how?

 

There is no right or wrong. It is important to have the model in the centre and to be careful with the background. Otherwise simply trust your instinct. What do you know about the person? Guess his or her mood or feelings at the moment? And if you feel comfortable with and are allowed, touch the person to get an overview about face, stature and clothing. Just try out different positions and perspectives.

 

If possible start by trying out the various options with the same person for a while. This makes it easier to get a feeling how each perspective and setting changes the appearance of the person and how different impressions and moods are created. It helped me a lot in the beginning and it was great fun.

 

Hopefully I could give you some inspirations.

 

Happy photographing!

 

Yours

Nadine

 

Translated from a German post by Nadine Alexander Meißinger with advice from Keith Harness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A blind art photographer tells her story: Part 5.1 portrait photography

Hello to all hobby photographers,

After talking about the technical basics, it’s now time for some practical advice on how to actually take good photos. So, let’s start with the different types and categorisations of portrait photography. Generally speaking, every photo partially or completely showing head and body of a person is called portrait. The only exception are photos where you see someone from behind, but I’ll talk about that later. Angle and perspective effect the viewer’s perception of an image.

There are several ways to categorize the various types of portrait photography:

1. Format:

 a) Landscape format:

As the name already suggests landscape format portraits focus on people and the landscape surrounding them. Although the background is important it should remain simple. Too many details and people behind the main objects can be distracting and the photo appears too ‘hectic’.

b) The portrait format:

on the other hand focuses on the main person in the picture. There shouldn’t be many or only blurry details in the background, in order not to distract the viewer’s attention away from the person in the foreground.

 2. Distance between photographer and subject

This describes how far apart from each other the photographer and the depicted person are and how much of the person’s body is visible in the picture.

a) Total view or entire scene

Total view: person standing in front of a tree

A person surrounded by landscape can be photographed from greater distance to depict emotions like feeling lost or lonely but also positive feelings like freedom. The closer the camera goes to the person, the more he or she moves into the main focus and the background loses its importance. The midway option between these two extremes is suitable for group photos, where, depending on the size of the group, a bit of background should still be visible. The total view focuses on the person and how he or she is positioned within the surroundings.

 The following options depict only parts of a person’s body:

b) American shot:

depicts a person from the knee upwards.

c) Medium shot:

depicts a person from the hip upwards.

d) Medium close-up:

depicts a person from the middle upper body upwards. Because this is the way we normally see people when looking at them, medium-close ups appear natural and familiar to us.e) Shoulder close-up: depicts a person’s head and shoulders.

medium close-up of a couple in festive clothes

e) Close-up:

depicts the person’s head and sometimes part of the shoulders.

f) Extreme close-up or cut-in:

extreme close up of a foot

depicts only one body part or small detail of a person e.g. mouth, eyes or hands.

g) Italian shot:

depicts only a person’s eyes.

3. Position of the person’s head

Sometimes a slight turn of the head can change the way viewer’s interpret a portrait significantly.

 a) Frontal view:

is very popular with hobby photographers, especially in the day and age of selfies. The person is positioned straight in front of the photographer. Professionals use this perspective rather seldom. It often looks stiff and artificial, because it depends exclusively on facial expressions.

b) Quarter-profile:

The person’s still looks at the photographer but her or his face is slightly turned away. This position is more popular, because it conveys more emotion for example thoughtfulness

c) Half-profile:

half profile of a woman

The head is turned so far away, that one eye is still clearly visible. The person can still look at the photographer but more often the gaze is turned slightly away from the camera.

d) Three-quarter-profile:

The face is turned even further away from the camera. The second eye is only partly visible or insinuated. This gaze into the far distance conveys thoughtfulness.

e) Profile:

Only one half of the face is visible. Like the frontal view this position is rather static and therefore seldom used by professionals.

f) Lost profile:

or three-quarter profile from behind. In this position frequently only the contours of the cheek bones are visible. The viewer’s perspective is as if he or she looks unnoticed over the person’s shoulder.

g) Back View:

back view with water panorama

Even though a person is in the scene, the main subject of the image becomes the landscape which the person is viewing. The person is used to attract the viewer’s attention towards a given area of the total scene. Therefore he or she becomes a pointer (visual aid). The head or body itself may become a silhouette depending on the lighting conditions. This technique draws more attention to the background and is frequently used in landscape photography e.g. a person looking at a water surface, mountains or a sunset.

4. Perspective

a) Normal perspective:

is commonly used for snap shots. The person is captured at eye level, making the picture look accustomed to the spectator.

b) Frog perspective:

The photographer captures the subject from below eye level e.g. by kneeling on the ground like a frog. Make sure to ask the subject to tilt their head forward as you don’t want to shoot the image looking up their nose. This perspective can portray a person as powerful, threatening or distanced.

c) Down angle:

frog perspective of a man

A person is photographed from a position above his or her head, suggesting smallness or subservience. It can also make the viewer wanting to protect the person.

5. Line or direction of sight

Maybe you want to ask now why you should pay attention to this, since you’re already considering the position of the person’s head. However, taking the direction in which a person is looking into consideration can intensify or counterbalance stylistic effects suggested by the perspective.

a) Averted gaze:

The person appears to be alone and lost in thought looking at something else in the scene or out of the frame in at a distant point. You can use a subjects direction of sight to help you as a photographer point to another area of the image you would like to stress to the viewer.

b) Direct gaze:

The person looks straight into the camera, thus making eye contact with the viewer. The picture is not so much about what the person may feel or think, but about the gaze and what feelings and memories this look suggests to the viewer.

This should be enough to start with. In part two I’ll give some more general tips regarding portrait photography.

Until than!

Yours

Nadine

Translated from a German post by Nadine Alexander Meißinger with advice from Keith Harness.

 

detailed view of the Casa Batllo Balcony

Barcelona through the senses by Nivi Morales

My name is Nivi Morales, I live in Leamington Spa in the UK. I have a mild case of Retinitis Pigmentosa and have gradually been losing my peripheral vision for the last 14 years. My interest in photography intensified in the last 5 years. The fact that my eyes naturally frame scenes really helps producing interesting images.

I am a self taught photographer and see the art as a way of therapy. It makes me feel grateful for being able to see and capture images. I enjoy sharing those images with others. The aim of my photos is to capture the moment. I work at my best when I stand still, take a look at what I am trying to photograph and let it talk to me. On occasion I would use multiple shots and select the best one. I try to play with natural light and refrain from using flash.

Occasionally I find myself cropping photos when post editing, because I did not see things appearing at the periphery as you might imagine, the camera sees better than me.

 Barcelona

Last Christmas I had the opportunity to travel to Barcelona. This was my first trip abroad after going through a period of considerable sight loss and making subsequent adjustments. In this blog post I would like to talk a little bit about the trip, my experience as a tourist with visual challenges in a busy city and how I am adjusting my photography technique to fit around this new phase in my sight.

I had been to Barcelona a few times before and enjoyed the visit. Yet this time I was coming back with my assistant, the white cane. I had a mix of anxiety and excitement about the idea to experience the city and the Spanish culture I have known my whole life in a different way. I was very lucky to have been invited to stay over at a very close friend’s so that left the worry about accessible accommodation out of the way. Since my friend had to work a few days during the Christmas period, I decided to venture out and visit a few Gaudi buildings. Here are my recollections.

Casa Batllo

 

the facade of the Casa Batllo lit in the dark

Built between 1904 and 1906 as a private home for the Batllo Family, who made their fortune out of trading textiles, this architecture masterpiece is well known as structure that has no straight lines. My favourite areas were the balcony and the loft, featuring original wavy arches.

Casa Battlo facade in daylight

There is also a stunning open structure in the middle of the building which ensures that natural lighting and air get through every room. It is covered by blue tiles. The colours, reflections and structures made me feel like there was an acquarium in the middle of the house. Truly magical! I manage to capture a few details of the balcony and the roof, despite the fact that it was a very busy day.

Palau Guell

a lamp and walls inside the Palau Guell

This was one of the first important commissions of Antoni Gaudi when he was young. It was built between 1886-1890. I felt truly blessed to be able to see his style in raw state. The whole structure mixes gothic architecture with Gaudi’s own ideas. It’s probably one of my favourite buildings so far.

The building was designed for the Guell family as an extension of their home in the Ramblas area. It had a space for visitors to park their horse carriages. The design allowed the members of the Guell family to peak and see how other visitors were dressed before receiving them, and then probably go and change themselves accordingly to receive their guests.

Guest hall of the Palau Guell

The hall, with high ceiling can also be used as a private chapel. Palau Guell is rather dark, most mosaics and walls are brown and grey; sometimes it reminded me more of a church rather than a family home.

La Pedrera

Internal balconies of the La Pedrera

One of the most famous modernist buildings in Barcelona; it was built between 1906-1912. The work was commissioned by Pere Milà i Camps and his wife. The idea was to create a family home as well as a block of flats that could be rented.

One of my favourite corners of this place was the roof, with its wavy chimneys and vents that look as though they came from another planet. I also loved the fact that each of the internal windows of the flats had a unique design around them. Finally there is a beautiful staircase leading to the art gallery – which I did not have the change to see. The staircase itself is full of colours and intricate design with furious attention to detail, typical of Gaudi.

New photographic challenges

The main challenges I faced were finding a comfortable way of shooting now that one of my hands is busy with a cane, fitting in my mental image with what appears on the camera, and shooting in bright day light.

To get around the first one, I chose to use the cane elastic and sling it around my wrist. For shooting I increasingly found myself using the viewfinder, instead or relying on the camera’s LCD screen as I did in the past. This made it easier to shoot in daytime, when it is brighter. It also helped me see the details of what I was shooting better as well as fitting the image I wanted to produce with what came through the camera.

I have also learned to trust the camera, as I cannot tell as well as I used to whether the image is focused or not, but I do know the functions of my camera well enough so I take the shot when it is telling me to do it. I still have the challenge of finding things making their way into the periphery of the images – like road signs and people – without me noticing – but I am finding my way around it through post-editing.

Editing photos

Palau Guell parking area

Finally for post-editing I have been relying more and more on my large monitor to fine-tune images. This has helped tremendously. As a mac user, I found a piece of software called Affinity photo, much more affordable than Photoshop but with very good quality. To avoid eye strain, I try to edit small batches of images at the time and take regular breaks.

Putting all these measures in place is allowing me to continue to enjoy this art I love so much.

Tips for visually impaired and blind travellers

I have always been fairly adventurous in my travels, but as I live with a progressive eye-condition that has flared up a bit over the last year I found myself getting a bit anxious about finding my way through Barcelona’s busy streets and new travel routes. I managed to tame my anxiety by putting a few adjustments in place which I would like to share.

  • Book in advance online or via telephone: Most travel landmarks will allow you to purchase the ticket online or via telephone. They might even give you a time slot for visiting or charge an extra fee to avoid queues. Use these facilities to book your ticket, I found it facilitated my visit enormously. Also booking a morning slot will ensure skipping most of the long queues and crowded streets.
  • Learn about the landmark you are visiting: Doing homework about the places you are visiting when travelling is common sense, but it becomes even more critical when you are using your senses in a different way. Most touristic attractions websites will have information about their structures, accessibility access put in places and challenging areas for visitors with mobility challenges. This will make it easier for you to request assistance when visiting the site.
  • Study the travel route: Map route options from where you are staying. I strongly advise making your visit in the morning especially if you are using public transport as it is going to be less crowded; depending on your knowledge of the place, consider asking for assistance when travelling by bus or metro/underground. Most countries in Europe will offer this service. If unsure, find a reliable taxi that can get you to the venue and back.
  • Ask for assistance: On arrival at the venue ensure to inform the people you might require assistance. If you did your homework well you are likely to know which areas are going to be challenging – i.e. stairs or low lit spaces. Also remember to book your audio guide. Assistance is always available for disabled visitors. Also, as I soon found out it will also give you the opportunity to learn things about the site than what you would have through the audio guide. You will also be able to feel the kindness and warmth of the people at the place.
  • Give yourself extra time: Because we use all of our senses in a different way it is important to take more time to grasp it. Use your hands to feel the handrails along the stairs and – if allowed – feel the pillars and walls. I learned this lesson the hard way as I was trying to rush through Casa Batlo. It made my visit less enjoyable than I would have liked. I made up for it spending more time in the other two sites I visited.

Casa Battlo macro shot of balcony

Looking back I feel Gaudi’s work is smooth, it flows through all the senses with its intricate structures, attention to detail and flawless finishing. I have been to Gaudi’s buildings in the past but I have never experienced it this way as I was mostly relying on my sight. I feel very fortunate to have been able to experience it and photograph it in a different way.

Text and photos by Nivi Morales

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A special perspective – photography and retinitis pigmentosa

There are so many inspiring blogs out there!

Wonky Vision

This post is an edited version of an article I wrote which was  featured in the Warwickshire Vision magazine for December 2015 

Photography has been in my life from very early on. When I was 5 years old my mum bought me my first camera and photo album. Both my parents are keen photographers and had SLR cameras which they would alwaysplay around when they travel.

I believe this is how I developed an interest for photography. My main interest always was capturing the moment, not so much understanding how cameras worked technically.

This interest gradually started to blossom into full passion when I owned my first digital camera. It was great to see the results of my experiments straight away, but it was when I discovered the macro option on a mobile phone camera that my word shifted.

I started taking close up photos of flowers as I walked…

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App Review: can Image recognition Apps be Useful to Blind and Visually impaired photographers?

Nowadays the app store offers a large variety of free and paid image recognition and magnification apps. Most of them are designed to help blind and visually impaired people to identify everyday objects such as written documents and household items like cans or bottles. However, all these projects take visual impressions and convert them into text or speech output, which in a way makes them similar to our photo descriptions. Of course our descriptions are written by real people, putting their own interpretations and associations into the texts, and not by machines, using image databases to recognize objects. Still, we were wondering, if some of the apps could be useful for artistic purposes e.g. to help blind photographers to identify what’s in front of their camera or to sort photos after they were taken. I found numerous detailed tests of the various apps, but none of them focused on the artistic aspect.

Work in progress

Throughout the next weeks we are collecting apps to feature in our comparison. The aim is to get a comprehensive list of apps and to test them not on household items, but on photo motives such as landscapes, people and animals and artworks like paintings, sculptures and photographs from our blog. Therefore, we encourage you to send us names of image recognition apps and pictures of the above mentioned things as test motives. Of course you can also do tests yourself and send us your results to be published here. Are there any other apps you use to take or modify pictures? I’ll do my tests with an IPhone and IOS apps, but Android tests are also welcome. Some of the below mentioned apps work with live-recognition, so I’ll try them on potential photo motives.

I’m especially interested in how the apps deal with more complex motives such as portraits, group shots and images working with light and shadow as well as subtle colour shades. Are the live-recognition apps good enough to focus on an object before taking the actual picture? And are apps working with already taken photos good enough to help us to sort pictures or even to decide which ones are ‘good’ and ‘bad’?

Here are my initial lists of apps and thinks I want to try them out on. This is just a very general outline of the test, so feel free to add suggestions in the comments below or e-mail us at picdesc@gmail.com

Apps to test

Some of the apps are especially designed for visually impaired an blind users, others are shopping and price comparison apps.

  • Aipoly Vision (iOS, Free)
  • CamFind
  • Leavesnap
  • TapTapSee
  • ThirdEye Technologies Inc. (iOS, Free)

Test objects:

Naturally I can only test things I’ll find in my surrounding or objects we have pictures of in our blog. This is just a random list of things coming to my mind at the time of writing.

  • Different animals
  • Beach, mountains
  • reflection in water or glass
  • sky, sunset, moon
  • fire or candle
  • Portrait, only part of a body
  • group of more than 2 people
  • tree, leave of tree, flower
  • house, staircase
  • car
  • food
  • writing on a sign or wall
  • shop window
  • statue,
  • painting

Please feel free to send us items to add to the list of apps and objects. We look forward to reading your suggestions.

Facebook Group Challenge: Find the Blind Photographers in “Photographers with Disabilities”

I recommend the Facebook group “Photographers with Disabilities” to everyone wanting to get in touch with other disabled photographers. As the name suggests, it is not specifically for blind and visually impaired photographers, and personally I like the openness of the group. It helped me realize that other disabled photographers require different equipment and working environments to photograph. While I need a big display, speech software or tactile buttons an someone to help me to select the good pictures, others may find it difficult to hold a camera, or to get the right location and perspective while sitting in a wheelchair.

Most members post examples of their work in the group. Sometimes with comments where, when and how it was taken, but without alternative text (caption describing in more detail what is to see in the picture). I’m “guilty” of this myself. Thus, while being a member of this group if you are completely blind, may not be that rewarding, there are occasional links to articles about disabled photographers and discussions about photography and equipment in general. The group currently has around 450 members, but not all of them are constantly active, so there isn’t too much traffic. It offers a great platform for questions, discussion and inspiration.

Challenge: Find the Blind Photographer

I recently posted a link to an article by a fantastic blog called Sandy’s View entitled “How do blind people take pictures of things” under which some blind photographers contributed their motivations to take pictures. Out of this discussion developed the idea to ask EVERY group member to post one of his or her best pictures in the comments. Subsequently, everyone who wants to take the challenge is to like every picture which he or she thinks is taken by a blind or visually impaired photographer. This is not intended to single anyone out and it doesn’t really matter if you guess right or wrong. It’s just to make people think and to show, that after all there isn’t such a difference between sighted and blind photographers. It’s more about the photographs themselves and the emotions and feelings they convey, than about the person who took them. However, to make this  a meaningful experiment please share a picture in the comment to the link posted to the group by Tina Franziska Paulick on the 15th of January and don’t forget to like only the pictures which you think were taken by blind or visually impaired people

Join the Group Here.