Neues Projekt

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My 365-Projekt that I did all of 2016 has come to an end (here are the results: It was a very nice experience to pick up the camera every day and take pictures of even mundane stuff. It really became second-nature, and still is, to take the camera (or a camera, even cell-phone ones) with me. But I also realised that I shot within my comfort-zone a lot. I did assign myself tasks here and there, and also incorporated them in my 365-project, but they were scarce.

Thus, I started a 52 project this year. Having one assignment for a week might suit me better and helps me focus more on that one task. The guys over at posted a cool 52-project calendar for everyone to complete.

I hope some of you guys join me and share their results here with me. I will post mine regularly here and on flickr as well.

Have a great 2017 all y’all!

Dealing with failure

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Not ever picture is perfect. That is a basic truth that we mostly forget about when watching or seeing photographs of the „big shots“ in photography. We never get to see the throw-outs. I guess they have less images that they throw out, maybe – but they still do throw out.

But what does throwing-out mean? Especially in the digital age and the age of quasi-infinite storage?

For me, throwing out means actually throwing out. Still. I try to keep as little bad/mediocre stuff as possible. I actually erase it from the harddrive. Not keep it somewhere as a backup. The failures are erased. Why you ask? Wouldn’t it be useful to go back to the bad images and learn from them? Yes! Absolutely! It is vitally important to get back to your failures regularly and remember them at the right moment.

But my point of this blog post is, is that you do not need the image to do that. The memory of how you shot the bad image and what you messed up is there in your brain, whether the image sits on your hard drive or not.

So here goes my failure of the past week: an astrophotographic work of about 40 minutes standing in the cold at night and pointing the camera at the Andromeda galaxy. I took 30 frames of the galaxy, and 30 other frames to do the stacking in post. Post took up about 2 hours. Only after those 2 hours I saw the final image. I was disappointed because it was too noisy, which meant the stacking didn’t work the way it should have.

So, I did some research which took another hour, and learned what (probably) went wrong. Do I need the images to remember what I learned from google-ing? Nope. So, off they go. A couple of RAW-files less on my hard drive. Only this one image I kept and it lives only in my WordPress-Library:

Stack of 10s x 20 and 20s x 10 Lightframes; 20 Darkframes and 15 Biasframes

Projects – II

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Second part of my essay and thoughts about projects in photography. Short summary: I was shooting gas stations to learn about how Hopper’s famous painting „Gas“ works. So, in order to do so I was looking for a similar scenery that I was looking at in his picture. I found it, oddly enough, on my daily commute to work – in a building that I never noticed before.

As I stated in the previous post, the discovery of the architectural object may have been accidental. That which followed wasn’t, however. The decision to make this in to a project was very deliberate. The choices to start the project were very deliberate, too. I deliberately chose to shoot close-ups of the object first. The „getting a feel“ of the object can be very easily achieved in architecture, because you can actually walk into and around, up close, far away from the object itself.

So the first few days of my commute to work I got off a station earlier and walked the gas station for no longer than 5 minutes, maybe. The darkness of the early-year mornings helped, I guess. In hindsight, the darkness lets you see shapes more clearly, because all the distraction in the background is sucked up in the dark.

So, to sum up – this might be my first insight into starting a project: to be deliberate about starting it. And finding one key element or detail that you start photographing your object. I say object a lot, because this is not only true for architecture but for all photographic subjects.

In the next post I will go into how and when you have to stop being deliberate and just „go with the flow“….


Projects – I

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About a year ago I became obsessed with „Gas“. No, not THE GAS everyone and their mom is talking about (i.e. Gear Aquisition Syndrome). No, I am talking about Hopper’s painting. Thus I became obsessed with gas stations. And the perfect light.

It was a real nice project that took a few months. You know, on and off. It was not the only thing that I was shooting. But it was in the back of my head all the time. In my free time I would think about the light in the painting. Why Hopper made it that way, what his intention was. And how, or what parts of his work I could copy using my photography. It was clear to me that I couldn’t create a piece of art such as his using just my camera. Not even using just my Photoshop-skills. There is something about painting,  that will always be lightyears ahead from us photographers.

Anyway, I was struck by this gas station that I have been passing for the past 2 years almost every day – on my commute to work. And never really noticed. You know how your perception of things, not just the thing that you are photographing, changes when your perception of said one thing that you are photographing has changed? I think this project helped me see many other things differently. And photograph things that I wouldn’t have photographed otherwise.

I think I will split this into several posts, because it is too many thoughts, that are just waiting to be put down. But for now, I will say this: projects are good. Projects are awesome. And: you do not find them. They find you. I was never interested in gas stations. Still am not. I am interested in art, however. And the way that art moves us.

Soothing Space

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I’ve been hooked to astronomy ever since my teen-years. Watching Robert Zemeckis‘ Contact in the movie theater – twice, on two consecutive days took the cake completely. I joined an astronomy club that I am still a member of, and also got started a little in astrophotography. It was a lot more complicated back then. Multiple exposure stacking was not possible, and ASA1600 was a lot for film.  Which meant you had to expose for several minutes. Straight. Usually your telescope mount had automatic tracking to counteract the earth’s rotation, but it was not precise enough to allow long tracking at say 500mm or more. That meant you had to stand by the telescope and manually correct the tracking device. Doing that for half an hour straight at night, in the winter even, really pulled in your nerves.
But it was and still is a soothing experience. To look at and photograph the stars, I mean. Somehow, just taking in the night sky as a whole and realizing how far away all those stars are, and how far away the other stars are that we can only see as the milky way, and so on… it grounds you.
Nowadays technology allows us to photograph the objects in the night sky so fast and at such a quality, it is really amazing. Back in the day the picture of Orion Nebula below would have taken 5 – 15 minutes, if you used color film. With my camera, which is not even state of the art (look at the Sony alpha7 for example) I had the picture in 30 seconds. Working at reasonable ISO 1600. It makes shooting space a lot more simple and  comfortable. i am not getting younger, and do not have the time to spend nights on end staring into space any more either. But, I do still remember the good old times when I did just that.

30 second exp. @ 300mm, for tracking, OGPS-1 unit was used. Seeing was 5-6.

30 second exp. @ 300mm, for tracking, OGPS-1 unit was used. Seeing was 5-6.

Maybe that is the point. Every photo of an object in space is a memory of that object. The light from the object was travelling thousands or millions of years until it hit the sensor of my camera. That means that image on the sensor is only a memory. That object doesn’t exist in that same way as it looks in the camera anymore. The same with my memories from the nights in the observatory. The pictures I take today bring back those memories…

Maxed-out Christmas Season

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I was shooting at home, indoors and after sunset yesterday. The family was there and the kids had fun playing. I decided to get the camera out and get myself used to shooting indoors again, low-light situations, y’know – Christmas is coming.

I was amazed at how the images came out. I didn’t have an ISO-range or noise-cancellation activated, because I just plainly forgot. The image below was shot at f 5.6 (which is wide-open at that focal length) and 1/125s. At that shutter speed and the EV-setting that I chose, the camera chose its maximum possible ISO setting – which is 51.200. I corrected the white-balance a little – but other than that, I didn’t do any corrections with it.

When I looked at it at my 21″ monitor this afternoon there was noise. Of course there was noise. I expected that, but you can still see detail. Yes, it is noisy, but it’s not super BAD noisy. Wouldn’t you agree?

You know, the past years I tried to circumvent noisy images by choosing longer shutter speeds. This resulted in a lot of blurry images, because image stabilization can only go so far. I learned, the hard way, that noisy images are far (FAR) less bad than blurry, shaky images.

That is all I wanted to share today, take it easy during Christmas! Enjoy the holidays and enjoy photographing your loved ones.

ISO 51.200

Machismo – part deux

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ohne-titelI have talked about this on my (still dormant) podcast before. The topic has come back up quite recently when I joined a new photography club. I noticed one interesting thing. In the old club that I was in, the discussion would move towards gear pretty quickly. The 3rd or 4th question when anyone would show their pictures, would be „What camera did you take that picture with?“. I don’t mean to talk crap about my colleagues there. They are very nice people all together – and I learned a lot. The thing is, that most of the clubbers there are not that big into Photoshop or post-processing in general. So, I think at least, the topic HAS to move towards gear, because there is not that much more to talk about with most pictures.

Let’s be honest, no one – not even an Ansel Adams or Edward Weston or…or…or – produces 100% perfect images with every shot. Most pictures tell a story in the context of all the other pictures that they are shown together with. If that makes sense. What I try to say is that very very very few images are such great entities on their own to make a crowd go „WOW“. Most of the time it is the 20 or 50 images you see of someones travel to a foreign country or their slideshow of their wedding or whatever that tell a good story. Anyway, the point is that with most pictures the ways to analyse them are limited. Thus the topic moves on to…well, as I said, tech talk.

A few weeks ago I managed to meet the people at the photography club at the place we moved to recently. All very nice people, too. All on a similar level knowledge-wise. But a totally different approach to photography. I was kinda blown away, really. Because most pictures that I saw were not of landscapes or „holiday pictures“ that I was used to up to that point, but they were all heavily photoshopped. Most of them were portraits of cosplayers. So heavy photoshopping really works for those kinds of images. I liked them, too. It’s not really my ballpark, but hey. They know what they are doing and it looks good.

What I noticed was one thing. Upon the question „How did you edit that picture?“ Some would actually open up their .psd files and boast (nicely) about the 200+ layers that they used, and frequency separation that they did and on and on….

Interestingly, the gear-question didn’t come up any time during that evening at the new photoclub. That when it hit me. This is the gear-machismo only in software. And I realized one thing: the gear- or software machismo does not stop. It is natura. It is the way we humans are wired. And thus, it is OK ( to a certain extent).

To sum up, although there are the same human traits at work everywhere, it is very refreshing to get into a new crowd. It really broadens your horizon. I would never ever spend days on a 2GB .psd and generate hundreds of layers, but there is always something to learn for your own photography for sure.

Scaling down

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little companion
My every-day companion (Lumix LX7 with hot-shoe-mounted EVF

A couple of weeks ago, on a trip to the big city, my car was broken into. Of course, I had the big camera with me. Figured that I never was there before and maybe, after work, there would be a little time to take some night-skyscape pictures. Hence the DSLR. Hence it being in the trunk. And hence it being gone when we found the car with the window smashed in.

This will not be a post about safety. I will always bring my camera with me wherever I go. Just might think twice about leaving it in the car from now on.

This is not a post about which camera to get, either. This is a post about how to NOT get a camera.

Yes, primarily due to the fact that I simply cannot afford a new piece right now, I decided to leave the thought about replacement gear all together. Instead, I will keep my small Lumix by my side from now on. My goal being to master this little monster, which can go a lot for its small size…

Yes, it is limiting. Yes, I will not be able to take delicious night-sky photos as I planned. Yes, I will not be able to use my tilt-shift lens.

That is also kinda the point, though. My plan is to, his scaling down, to push me to find new ways to photograph. Step off the beaten path and try something new. Yes, we are trained to think that this is only possible when you get NEW and BIGGER gear. ‚You are only able to grow, when the great grows, too‘ is basically what they always say.

Well, I plan to disagree. Because it is not about the camera. That is another thing, that everyone says. Still we are always pushed to buy new stuff.

By force, literally, I was made to try the opposite direction.

I will keep you updated on how it goes…

Neues Land

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I haven’t let hear from me in a long time. We had our second child and also moved to a new place a couple of weeks ago. We moved to the black forest. A beautiful landscape, much different from the type of countryside we have been before. It is striking though, how much at home you can feel in a new place.

Lifi Ísland!

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It was 10 or 15 miles east of Reykjavík. The wind was trying to blow my bike into the ditch and then it started raining. No drizzle – real hard rain. I had no idea how to get to the hostel, about 25 miles out in Hveragerði. It was not important at this moment. I was in pure survival-mode. Not really thinking, just trying to push my bike along the road. That’s why, when the guy that pulled his pickup truck over and greeted me with a „Bad weather, eh!?“, I was not able to say anything. I just nodded.

We pulled the bike onto the truck and we drove for about 15 Minutes. I don’t remember whether or what I said to him. I know that I told him I’m from Þýskaland and I planned to cycle the ringroute. I must have looked awful and not very reassuring…

Anyway, that story always comes to me first when I think about iceland and the icelanders. What I do remember about that dreadful 2nd afternoon on the island of ice and fire was that the guy that helped me out never wanted any money. We shook hands, said goodbye and that was it. In case you are wondering: I did cycle the whole ringroute. It was one of my best experiences that I made as a human being.

At this point, thirteen years later, I want to thank this unknown guy – margir takk! And I wish him and his family a great time watching the icelandic team rocking the EM!

All pictures below are from my trip thirteen years ago. No editing done to them, because that was something I wasn’t able to do back then. The camera used was my first digital camera – an Olympus C-720 UZ with 3.0 Megapixels.