Life On Board a Tram Around Milan

Milan (Italy). I took this photograph some weeks ago – I think it was last June. In that occasion I discovered that shooting photos from a tram can be a very interesting opportunity for some nice situations: Milan has many trams moving all around the city, although unfortunately some of them have no windows that can be opened.

The more I see the city from the window of a tram (or even inside the tram itself), the more I understand that there’s a life from / in there. A tram offers a privileged observation point, giving to the observer those centimeters above everybody else to see the city in a different way; furthermore, trams go from the city downtown to the periphery, showing the urban transition and development. Last but not least, inside every tram there’s an entire world made of people, their faces and their stories.

In this sense, street photography cameras like the Leica Q or the Ricoh GR are great tools. They both have the exact focal length I need (28 mm, the latter on APS-C sensor). And – this is a fundamental aspect – they are fast!

On this basis, I intend to continue this sort of project, take it as a resolution. Maybe I will create a specific tag for this. Stay tuned, let’s see what I will able to do.

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Milan from the Window of Tram n. 1

Milan (Italy). This photograph demonstrates – if necessary – that in every moment of the day there is an opportunity to capture an image (and how useful and handy is the Ricoh GR camera, which perfectly fits in my raincoat pocket and is ready to use in every moment).

Yesterday I was on my way home back from the office and I jumped on the tram n.1. It is definitely a very old but characteristic coach, which dates back around 1920 – 1930 but is now fully operating after a complete and renovation work. When I was sit on one of its wooden benches, I was thinking about how watching a city from the window of a tram is an amazing experience. If in Lisbon, the famous tram n. 28 crossing the Alfama district is one of the most popular touristic attractions, why it cannot be the same here in Milan? Not to mention how nice and interesting can be photographing life from and inside trams! I’m developing a specific project about it…

Here, the tram is crossing Largo Cairoli, moving from Foro Bonaparte to Via Cusani; through the window I can see the Expo Gate and the Sforza Castle in Piazza Castello.

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ATM Tram #1503 (Piazza Castello)

Milan (Italy). Winter sunsets here in Milan sometimes have such a beautiful light! When the sun goes down, the Castle’s Tower (Castello Sforzesco) first gets colored with a warm tone of orange, then becomes pinkish and finally, when being back-lighted, turns into a dark grey silhouette.

Some days ago, I tried to capture the shapes of the Castle and the trees against the blue sky. But when I noticed this old ATM tram at the stop, I thought that the warm orange of the coach together with people waiting inside were adding something to the general composition. It was a perfect situation for my Ricoh GR camera (always in my suit’s pocket) and this is the final result.


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Testing The Leica M-D (Top – Tram of Milan)

Milan (Italy). Frankly speaking, although in the post title I wrote “testing”, this was not a proper test.

First of all, because who am I to test a camera? I’m just a “passionate user of photo devices” and I intend cameras as instruments for creating positive feelings – that’s it.

Second point, because there are so many official and unofficial tests on this camera around internet, that mine would be “just another one”. Who cares of it?

Third, and probably most important aspect: what’s the sense of testing a camera that is the essence of pure photography? The sensor? Well, it’s the “usual” 24-megapixel high-resolution CMOS full-frame sensor. The screen? There’s no screen in the Leica M-D. The effects? Please, don’t make me insist…

So, all above considered and to be more precise, this was not a test: this was an experience.

Yes, the correct title should have been “experiencing the new Leica M-D”, concentrating the whole content on my feelings and emotions with this fantastic camera. And probably, the best feeling that explains what is photographing with a Leica M-D, is the same that a swimmer has when she starts swimming from shallow to deep water – does it give the idea? For a large number of photographers, the presence of a screen on the back of the camera (to review the captured images) represents a sort of comfort zone, given by the opportunity of instantaneously check what has been photographed. The new Leica M-D – let me be a bit “hard” – gives a kick to photographers’ backs, saying “ok, if you call yourself a photographer, demonstrate that you are confident enough to survive without the screen!”. On the other side, a photographer must love this kind of challenge – at least, I did!

So, I walked randomly around Milan downtown for more or less one hour. A sort of touristic tour around Piazza Duomo, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II and Piazza dei Mercanti, capturing photos and being exclusively concentrated on what I was doing. No distractions. No feeling a sense of accomplishment, because I had no idea of what I had captured. My eye was only on the street through the viewfinder, not down on the screen zooming-in&out to see the result of my previous clicks, and potentially risking to miss another shot (I guess that film photographers perfectly understand). Yes, this is the true difference of the Leica M-D: with a screen camera, you constantly bear the risk of being distracted by the screen itself (eventually missing a better capture, the next – decisive – moment) and of feeling the sense of accomplishment that a photographer should never feel. With the Leica M-D, photography is a pure action, done straight forwardly to the subject, the scene, the situation.

This is my feeling. And I think I will experience it again, since I’m seriously considering to buy this camera. Yes, because – as clearly stated here in my blog’s manifesto – I buy the cameras I use, and I’m totally free to say what I think.

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From the Tram Number 2

Milan (Italy). The “2” is a tram moving around Milan. It’s an old model (not the oldest one, though), which still gives the possibility of opening the windows (new trams don’t, unfortunately). When I jump on trams like the number 2, I like to stay in the back of the last coach and take some photos of Milan from this privileged and quite unusual position. When the tram moves, with a slow shutter speed you can get nice effects (maybe I will post something in the future), but when it stands waiting for the traffic light becoming green, you can enjoy a bit of street photography without being noticed.

The photo I’m posting here is just a “quick&dirt” sample. But I have an insane idea… stay tuned and follow my blog!

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Istiklal Caddesi

Istanbul (Turkey). Thousands and thousands of people walk day&night along the popular Istiklal Caddesi (Street), the main pedestrian street in Istanbul, characterised by the old tram back and forth between Taksim Square and Tunel.

[UPDATE] On March 19th 2016, Istiklal Caddesi has been shocked by a terrorist attack, which has killed five people – including a suicide bomber – and wounded 36. For those who have walked at least once time along this street, loving its shops and its 24/7 life, it’s difficult to forget the incredible energy that it transmits. But now that this iconic place has been bloodily raped, I want to use this image taken some years ago to remind everyone – especially terrorists – that this is Istanbul, and their bombs will never stop this city. Never!

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The Bica Funicular (Ascensor da Bica) in Lisbon

Lisbon (Portugal). A quick-and-dirty tip about Lisbon: I understand that probably the main city attraction – the one that everyone coming to Lisbon has been recommended to do – is a downtown tour with the tram n. 28, crossing all the main touristic sites of this wonderful capital, including a very special passage through the Alfama district. But for this reason, the hop- on and hop-off with the tram n. 28 can be a serious challenge, since many tourists share this recommendation and the coaches can be very overcrowded and hot.

So, consider to leave the 28 to locals and to “tripadvisor.com” short-sighted tourists, don’t be lazy and walk the city using your legs! It’s much better, you will always find a place where to sit down and relax for some minutes (contemplating the beauties of Lisbon), you will discover the city much better in a less conventional way and – last but not least – you won’t complain about your choice when you will see the tram passing close to you totally overloaded of people.

And if you want to shoot a picture highlighting the typical streetcar system with the challenging slopes of Lisbon’s districts (such as the Bairro Alto), the Bica Funicular (Ascensor da Bica) is probably what you are looking for!

All above considered, enjoy Lisbon!

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Commuting Life in Milan

Milan (Italy). Tonight I was going through my photo catalog, and I noticed this image I took some weeks ago when I was on a tram in Milan – I like jumping on a tram with my camera, standing in the back of the coach and photographing life inside and outside – and I was passing from the same crossing where I met a nice juggler (I already wrote a post about him).

Well, I shouldn’t explain my photographs and everyone should have personal and intimate feelings watching an image. For the same reason I shouldn’t explain why I liked this photo… I can only say that I could find something interesting in it, especially in the tram coming from the other direction completing the composition. I imagined about commuting, about moving every day from one point to another, about how life goes on, both inside and outside the tram – the same environment where I was when I took this photo. Trams are like cinemas, there’s always a movie outside and people should try not to get used to the daily show.

For this reason I always have a camera with me: if I think about the world around me as a huge circus (as it is, indeed) or a cinema, there always will be something interesting to photograph. Here we are: this is the reason why I found this photo interesting: because in its normality – in its routine, typical of commuters – it describes something that at my eyes can be perceived as special. And in my opinion, this somehow can be considered as a big privilege.

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