alan little’s weblog archive for june 2009

snow white

15th June 2009 permanent link

Pretty much as soon as I moved to Munich ten years ago, I realised Bavarian beer was superior to the English stuff I grew up on and clearly the best in the world.

It took me until this year to appreciate that the neighbours aren’t too bad at it either. As my wife and I have been spending more time in the mountains, one apres-ski activity we’ve taken to enjoying is trawling Austrian supermarkets for obscure local beers to sample and take home with us. Schladminger Bier, for example. We discovered Schladminger Bier last weekend whilst showing the Alps to some friends of my wife who are visiting from Moscow. A great time had by all, including dinner on Saturday evening in Hotel Matschner in Ramsau, where they had a superb weizenbier (wheat beer).

From the label it appeared to be local, and my wife thought the beerglasses were cute and wanted to buy one. She asked the waitress, who asked the hotel manager, who wasn’t sure. So, at nine o’clock on Saturday evening, he called the wife of the brewer (who turned out to be in the very next village). Of course, she said, give the lady a glass.

So I am now morally obliged to advertise her husband’s beer on my blog. I hereby unreservedly advertise the Schladminger Brewery, especially their wheat beer “Schnee Weisse” (“Snow White”), and also Hotel Matschner in Ramsau. Nice people, good food, outstanding beer.

dachstein glacier

You don’t have to go to 2,700 metres on the Dachstein Glacier to enjoy Schladminger Beer. But should you want to, it’s available at the mountain hut just to the right of this photo. The weizenbier was sold out on Sunday; the other Schladminger beers turned out to be good too, although the weizenbier is definitely the star.

snappy snaps

8th June 2009 permanent link

Some things the internet doesn’t know yet, as I mentioned to fellow bloggers Brian Micklethwait and Michael Jennings (blog even more moribund than mine) whilst lunching with them in London last Sunday.

My pro photo lab episode at home in Munich ended in tears as a result of a defective usb stick (mine, not the fault of the lab in any way), resulting in me urgently needing to get large, high quality digital prints done in London on a Saturday.

Googling revealed no pro labs in central London that appeared to be open at weekends. (Lots of pro labs used to be open at weekends, to enable Saturday’s sports and theatre photographers to get their pictures into the Sunday papers. Not any more, apparently.) I didn’t want to take my precious work of art to some random one hour print place. So what to do?

What to do, I figured out, was go to a pro camera shop and ask the people there what they would do. Calumet on Drummond Street is big, reasonably central and open on Saturdays, so off I went. “Snappy Snaps on Wardour Street”, the young lady there said immediately. “Don’t be put off by the name; they’re franchises and they’re all different. He’s good.”

Indeed he is. The place has a fresh looking coat of Snappy Snaps bright yellow on the front, but apart from that it looks and feels totally like a professional lab that’s been serving the Soho journalist trade for decades. It has The Smell. The price list prominently features the correct now becoming obscure items like medium format film and slide processing. I start talking to the guy about profiles and proofs for large format digital printers, and I strongly suspect he’s the old school film guy, because he quickly calls a young lady over to deal with me. She fires up the Mac – no Windows PCs here, another good sign – and helps me choose which of the various versions of my file are going to look best on their printer. The prints, collected the next morning, are great.

“Ah, but now you’ll blog this, and then the internet will know it” Brian pointed out, correctly.

related entries: Photography

smelling the past

8th June 2009 permanent link

They say smell is the most evocative of the senses.

I’ve given up on trying to print my own photos on an inkjet at home. I’m not going down the full Ken Rockwell Luddite road. I don’t doubt for a second that it is possible, by investing large amounts of time, and careful attention to calibrating and profiling everything, to get spectacular prints out of today’s high end inkjets. Michael Reichmann is no fool, and I’ve seen marvelous inkjet prints in exhibitions by world famous photographers like Andreas Gursky and William Eggleston.

But you have to be willing to put in the time and effort, and I have other priorities at the moment. I was getting increasingly unhappy with my Epson R800. It only had one big flaw: murky green-tinged skin tones in shadows. But the vast majority of photos I want to print these days are pictures of grandchildren for grandmothers, so a major flaw in skin tones is a fatal flaw. I downloaded different printer profiles, I spent hours staring at soft proofs in Photoshop. Problem not fixed. I stopped using the printer a year ago and switched to online print services; last month I finally sold the printer.

But last week I wanted something bigger and fancier than a run of the mill online print as a birthday present for my mother. Admittedly still grandchildren. But a big, top notch print of the grandchildren.

Quick googling revealed that the Munich pro lab I used to use back in the days of film is still going, albeit under a new name and at a new location that is less convenient than the old one, but nicer.

I walk through the door, USB stick in hand, and bam! That pro lab chemical smell is still there, just as strong as it ever was. Some professionals are still using film. I knew that anyway, intellectually, but I hadn’t set foot in a real lab for a long time and I wasn’t expecting The Smell to still be there. It took me back to my first few years in Munich. I was single then, working freelance, traveling a lot. I was in my first flush of enthusiasm for both photography and yoga.

My life is very different now – still good, but different. It surprises me that just walking through a door I had never walked through before, and smelling a smell that used to be associated with a major part of my life, can trigger such a big wave of nostalgia.

related entries: Photography

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