THREE LIGHT SOURCES


Staircase, Meissen Cathedral, Germany

The Meissen Cathedral has many interesting architectural details. When I was ready to leave one of the chapels and stepped into this spiral staircase, I knew immediately I had a picture. The light that came through the small window and from the room behind me was complemented with light from a small lamp in the staircase. The mix of daylight and incandescent light from the bulb were actually well taken by the camera (white balance was set to Auto), but I knew only the development of the photo in black & white will do justice to the subtle impact of all three light sources.

OLD ARCHITECTURE


Alley in Meissen, Free State of Saxony, Germany

Ever since I live in North America my appreciation of interesting medieval architecture has grown. I grew up downtown in the German city of Bautzen, which is over 1000 years old. Being surrounded by old castles, towers, buildings, and structures, built 500-600 years ago, makes you not think much about it all the time.

During our recent visit in Germany we spent time in my home town Bautzen, in Dresden, Berlin, and also made a day trip to Meissen. This old city is even older than Bautzen and is the home of the famous Meissen porcelain. Here is a link for people that like to dig deeper: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meissen 

Old towns like Bautzen or Meissen, built around castles on the rocks above the river banks, don’t have many straight lines. The play of light and shadows can be very complex and a rainy day with less contrast seemed to be a good time to capture the character of the narrow cobbled streets. I like how the reflection of the sky on the cobblestones leads the eye into the picture, the only one I was able to make without people in the frame. This city attracts a lot of tourists…

Sure, I could post “candy-colored” photos of the Albrechts castle, the Meissen cathedral, or many other places, as you may find them in the latest travel brochures, but working in black and white is the way I like in order to hide the modern touch of life better and tell the story of this old architecture. I have a few more, so please stay tuned if this is your cup of tea…

DRESDEN - FRAUENKIRCHE


A couple pictures from our trip to Germany earlier this month. One of the world-famous landmarks in the city of Dresden, the capitol of the German state of Saxony, is the Dresdener Frauenkirche. The Baroque church was destroyed in the bombing of Dresden during World War II. From the time of my childhood I still remember the ruins and pile of rubble that was left as a war memorial for almost 50 years. If you like to read a little more about the history of this wonderful church and its restoration between 1992 and 2005, here is a link you may want to use: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dresden_Frauenkirche

It was my first time that I had a chance to see the Frauenkirche from the inside. I didn’t bring a tripod with me on this trip but handholding the camera with the Nikon Nikkor 16-35 f/4 attached and utilizing vibration reduction led to some acceptable results. It wasn’t until the late afternoon that the gray overcast of this day finally broke apart. When the sun hit the historic silhouette of the city during late afternoon, it made me quickly forget all pictures I took earlier…

DIFFERENT TOOL


This shot wasn’t exactly intended when it was made during the very cold days we had last week. Two Downy Woodpeckers (out of actually ten!) had an argument about who can eat first at one of our suet feeders. It was made during the late afternoon, it was snowing, and light was fading away quickly. I shot at 1/50 s, nothing unusual for me even with the long lens, but that was definitely too slow for this outburst of energy between the two birds. Stories can be told in different ways and motion blur is one tool I like to explore more. I think I I like the outcome…

PAINTING WITH LIGHT


During the last few weeks I watched several KelbyOne online classes by photographer and Nikon Ambassador Dave Black about painting with light. That is something that has interested me since a long time but I have never tried it before. If you are not living in the Midwest of the United States you heard it at least in the media, it was really cold here lately, thanks to a polar vortex, and I guess long cold winter nights are perfect for starting such a new photography adventure.

I tell you upfront, it looks easy when you watch the video classes but I had more than 30 attempts before I had results that reflected what I had in mind. I wanted to keep it simple and used just the turntable and a couple of my favorite vinyl records as a background for my first lightpainting project. The light source was a LED flashlight with a very bluish color. I wanted a cold light for this photo but it was a little too much and so I countered it by setting the white balance in the Nikon D750 to 10,000 Kelvin. I attached a little snoot, made out of paper, to the head of the lamp in order to give the light more direction and not spill it all over the place while painting. The room was pitch dark, the shutter was open for 30 seconds at f/20 and I started painting. It takes a little while to find out how much light every element in the frame needs and at the end there is no two photos that look alike.

The learning curve is steep and it is easy to make mistakes that ruin the whole photo. Sounds like a lot of work, but it was instead much fun and a very satisfying process. The possibilities for painting with light are endless and I’m sure even after this polar vortex has weakened, there is another cold winter night waiting for me to start another project…

Nikon D750, Nikkor 24-120mm / f4, Induro GIT 404XL tripod, RRS BH-55 ballhead, @ 48mm, 30s, f/20, ISO100

“DE IMMIGRANT”


“De Immigrant” Windmill, Fulton, Illinois

Yesterday, at the turn around point of my trip along the Mississippi River, in the city of Fulton, IL, I stopped at the Dutch windmill that was built on a flood control dike. “De Immigrant” was fabricated by native millwrights in the Netherlands and shipped to Fulton, Illinois. It was assembled in 1999 and grinding of wheat, buckwheat, rye, and cornmeal started in 2001. It is a great attraction but the mill and the Windmill Cultural Center were closed for the season.

I arrived about 45 minutes before sunset and it was immediately clear that I had to use the warm sunlight on the backside of the mill for my photo. The color contrast between the windmill and the dark blue sky worked well, but the thin hazy clouds didn’t nearly create the drama as I finally found in the black & white version. It was important to have an eye on all the lines and geometrical shapes the wings, ropes, and structure create. I made other images, showing more of the windmill building, but this close-up shot at 24 mm made for a stronger picture, at least in my books…

If you like to read more about the windmill, here is a link: https://mississippiriver.natgeotourism.com/content/de-immigrant-windmill/mspe125a382cb0d9770e


OUT WEST #1


DIGNITY of Earth and Sky, Chamberlain, South Dakota

No activity for almost three weeks in my blog? Yes you guessed it, we were on vacation, a time I usually take a break from posting here in the blog. Joan and I, and of course our little dog Cooper, made an 18-day trip out west to the grasslands and mountains of South Dakota, Wyoming, and Montana. If this is something that may interest you, stay tuned for the next few weeks. As I slowly work my way through all the pictures that were taken, I will try to tell a story with my photos of our journey, about the landscapes we discovered, and some of the wildlife we found.

Any time we head out west it is mandatory for us to stop near Chamberlain, South Dakota, just before we cross the Missouri River. New at this rest stop along Interstate 90 is the statue “DIGNITY of Earth and Sky”, dedicated September 17, 2016, and created by sculptor and South Dakota artist and laureate Dale Claude Lamphere.

“Standing at a crossroads, DIGNITY echoes the interaction of earth, sky, and people. She brings to light the beauty and promise of the indigenous people and cultures that still thrive on this land. My intend is to have the sculpture stand as an enduring symbol of our shared belief that all here are sacred, and in a sacred place.” Dale Claude Lamphere

Crossing the Missouri River, Chamberlain, South Dakota

It was our fourth time that we stood at this vantage point together, overlooking the Missouri River, and it is no coincidence that a truck with parts for another giant wind turbine rolls by. Many of them were on the road, telling the story about how the true decision makers in this country, the leaders in economy and business with a view beyond just local interests, understand the need for change in energy and climate policies.

Black-tailed Prairie Dogs, Badlands National Park, South Dakota

Our first place to pitch the tent was at Sage Creek Campground in Badlands National Park, South Dakota, a campsite we have been before three times, and one of our favorite places to be. New was that the Black-tailed Prairie Dogs have now expanded their territory into the camp area. Sitting in a camping chair behind tripod and camera, having a beer or glass of wine, and shooting these funny critters in the killer light of the setting sun is a great way to start a vacation, at least in my books… 😊

THE FINAL MIX SHOW BAND


It has been already a week ago when these photos were created. “Dubuque- All That Jazz” is a free Friday night concert series, taking place once a month during the summer on Main Street, right at the clock tower in downtown Dubuque, Iowa. The sad part of the story is that I haven’t been there for almost two years, the good part is that I enjoyed it as much as any time before during the last decade.

The FINAL MIX Show Band rocked the place last Friday and their mix of R&B, Jazz Fusion, Blues, Hip-Hop, and Rock’n Roll was a solid performance, enjoyed by the kids as much as by the older folks.

Del "Saxman" Jones, Band Leader

The avid readers of my blog know me mainly as a wildlife and landscape photographer, with the occasional excursion into architecture or technical stuff with historical relevance, like airplanes or cars. To be honest, the only time I enjoy photographing people (beyond family memory photos) is when they are at creative work or during candid moments. That leads mainly to artists, musicians, sportsmen, etc.. Well, concert photography is right down this aisle.

The FINAL MIX Show Band started to play during daylight and making a “documentary click” would have been a breeze. I’m more interested to reveal the essence of the musician’s engagement during the concert and that’s why I started shooting only 45 minutes before the final chord. The quality of stage lighting was mediocre, to say it mildly (it was actually lousy), but shooting from backstage or any spot you like without security interference is absolutely priceless, and I will stop complaining right here!

On a side note, I was hoping to name every musician under each picture but the band’s website is obviously not in sync with their current cast. It doesn’t matter, it was a good concert and the band members were very cooperative during my humble attempt to create some art.

CASTLE HOTEL


Althörnitz castle hotel, Saxony, Germany

I have nothing new worth to show or talk about in the blog today but some of my faithful followers have asked to see a little more from our recent trip to Germany. As mentioned before I pursued photography not very seriously this time, nevertheless a few clicks were made.

This is Schlosshotel Althörnitz (Althörnitz castle hotel) where we stayed for my mom’s 80th birthday celebration. It is located in the southeast corner of Germany, the tri-state area between Poland, Czech Republic, and Germany. Some of the rooms are in a modern addition to the castle, that has been greatly integrated into the old structure. The big trees on the right allowed me to keep it out of the frame, although the integration of the new part into the complex is one of the best I have ever seen. The castle lies in the foothills of the mountains to the south (Zittauer Gebirge) and its setting in an old park makes it an architectural jewel. The oldest part of the castle was built between 1651 and 1654. It had many different owners over the years and it opened as a hotel in 1996.

STREET ART


Street artist, Berlin, Alexanderplatz, Germany

As you know, I’m not a big portrait shooter or people photographer. So let me file this image under travel photography, at least that’s how I do it in my books. This young artist delivered an incredible performance with his puppet and the music they produced was just great. I have seen a lot of street artists in many countries of the world but this was one of the best I have ever seen in my life. It was a sunny day back in May and high contrast scenes were the standard all day long. I was happy that this young artist was in the shade of a building, right at Alexanderplatz in the center of Berlin, Germany, making it easy to get a shot.

BAUTZEN / UPPER LUSATIA / GERMANY


Oddly enough we had only a few hours to visit my over 1000 years old home town Bautzen in the Upper Lusatia / Germany. It was a holiday weekend and almost all my friends were out of town for a hiking weekend (a tradition we established when our kids were little), but Joan and I used the short time for a walk across the whole city from west to east.

This photo is one of my favorite views of the old part of the city, taken just a stone throw away from where I used to live before I came to the United States fourteen years ago. The picture shows several of the landmarks always worth a visit. In the foreground is the Old Waterworks, to the left Church of St. Michael, and the tower behind it belongs to St. Peter’s Cathedral, Eastern Germany’s only historic interdenominational church edifice. The tower on the right marks the town hall, the center of the historic city.

Other than with my wildlife photography I have no problem to clone out elements in Photoshop that hurt my esthetic feelings (to say it mildly). On the balcony on the right was a satellite dish, GONE! Down at the bridge that crosses the Spree River were some new tourist information signs, GONE! And a contemporary street light disturbed the view as well, GONE! Would you have known if I hadn’t told you? 😉

THE ZWINGER / DRESDEN / SAXONY


The Zwinger, Dresden / Saxony / Germany

We are back from our trip to Germany since two weeks and I have only shown one photo made during our journey. On the day of our arrival we used the afternoon and evening for a nice walk through parts of Dresden, the capital of my home state Saxony. It was late in the day when we wandered through the Zwinger, a palace, built in Baroque style and designed by court architect Matthäus Daniel Pöppelmann. It served as the orangery, exhibition gallery and festival arena of the Dresden Court. Today, the Zwinger is a museum complex that contains the Old Masters Picture Gallery, the Dresden Porcelain Collection and the Royal Cabinet of Mathematical and Physical Instruments.

Dresden is visited by over 4 million tourist every year and it is difficult to take a picture of any of the attractions, like the Zwinger, without any people in the frame. It was almost 8PM when this shot was taken and even then we were not alone on these historical grounds. I guess a little luck is sometimes necessary…😉

VOICES - MURAL ART PROJECT IN DUBUQUE


Last Saturday I was in town for a visit of the Dubuque Museum of Art, which hosts at the moment three photography exhibitions. The most remarkable is “Remnants of the West”, photography by Edward S. Curtis and Mark James, but I can recommend the other two, “Dimensions of Photography: Dubuque Camera Club 5th Annual Exhibition”, and “Curious Constructions”, photography by Les Allen, as well.

While killing some time before the opening hour of the museum, I discovered that downtown Dubuque has a new attraction. A variety of colorful murals has been painted by several artists on the sides of old buildings this summer. The project is called “Voices” and didn’t just impress only me. Several people took pictures with their phone cameras or DSLR.

I like to keep as many distracting elements out of the frame as possible, without producing a ‘mural-art-only’ photo. Too many cars parked in front of the mural can be very distracting and can take away from the subject. And don’t get me started on wires and power lines hanging between buildings! To say it mildly, the power grids in many cities here in the US are very old fashioned and fragile in comparison to other parts of the world. For photographers it means that many cityscapes and interesting views the architects had in mind are spoiled up to some degree. And maybe that’s the real challenge, coming back with a decent image despite all the distractions?

Nikon D750, Nikkor 16-35mm / f4, @ 35 mm, 1/1000s, f/5, ISO 100

‘ROMANCING’ A RAILROAD BRIDGE


Mississippi River, Swivel-Railroad bridge, Dubuque, Iowa -----

Some of my favorite subjects for architecture photography are the bridges across the Mississippi River. Unless it is a totally new subject that I haven’t shot before, there has to be a certain quality of light before I consider to take the camera out of the bag. This happened one evening earlier this month at the swivel railroad bridge in Dubuque. I had never made any close photos at the north side of the bridge and discovered just recently the access for this shooting location.

By the way, these bridges are a great subject to become familiar with new gear, like cameras, lenses, or teleconverters. Learning about depth of field, light fall off, sharpness, etc. in a controlled environment, but still with an interesting subject in front of the lens, is priceless (beats test shots in the backyard by far 😊).

This photo is another try to ‘romance’ my landscape photos with Macphun’s Luminar software. I still have a tear in my eye because the good old NIK collection is on it’s way out, but any time I gain more experience with Luminar I love it a little more. It is intuitiv for someone who has worked with Adobe Lightroom and NIK before, but I can see why it might be a little overwhelming in the beginning for someone who is new in post processing their images. There are a lot decisions that can be made how to process an image and I will be the first one to admit, overdoing it is very easy…

STORY OF TRANSITION


There are not very many farms left here in the Midwest where the old buildings and farm structures are preserved. Unfortunately beautifully crafted wooden barns, stables, and farm houses have been or will be replaced by simple metal structures, concrete, and plastic siding. This is somehow understandable because the economy of farming dictates many of these changes, but the historic charm will be gone forever.

The farm in this picture has a mixture of old and new buildings and the photographer can still tell the story of transition with his image. Including the bright clouds gives the photo some visual depth. The eye will most likely go to the brightest part of the picture first, but from there it will move through the frame.

Photo: Nikon D750, Nikkor 24-120mm / f4, @46 mm, 1/640 s, f/8, ISO100