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…

FLOODING AT THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER


The Mississippi River is flooding and many places I visit frequently around Dubuque, Iowa are not accessible at the moment. I went out twice today in different weather conditions. Here are some photos.

11:20AM, Mud Lake

The park with boat ramp, campsite, and recreation areas was completely under water. The water reached the railroad tracks and I guess the park ranger had to drive through to reach his residence in the park.

11:43AM, John Deere Marsh

It rained and the fog didn’t even allow to see the main channel of the river. I have never seen the access to the trail under water. However, some ducks and geese didn’t mind it at all. The dyke leads into the marsh and finally to the main channel of the Mississippi.

4:54PM, John Deere Marsh

Same place, just five hours later. The rain and clouds went away, the sun came out and this gentleman made the best out of the situation and launched his canoe on the trail. The current was pretty strong, although the main channel is almost 1,000 meters away from this point.

5:42PM, Mines of Spain, at Julien Dubuque Monument

A freight train approaches the bridge that crosses Catfish Creek. At the bridge little Catfish Creek meets the mighty Mississippi. The high water pushed into the side valleys and flooded much of the lower parts of the valley.

REMEMBERED: SHOOT IT NOW!


Mississippi River, Dam #12, Bellevue, Iowa

In his book “It’s Not About The F-Stop” much admired photographer Jay Maisel says, Never go back. Shoot it now, When you come back, it will always be different. This came to mind today on my way back home from a trip along the Mississippi River. While slowly driving through the town of Bellevue, IA, I saw out of the corner of my eye this scene, the dam painted with gorgeous golden light. For a second I thought, maybe another time, I’m tired, I want to go home. I have done that at other occasions and always regretted my decision because it wasn’t the same at another time later. Today I made the U-turn, changed the lens, and zoomed with my feet in order to keep branches, lamp posts, and other annoying objects out of the frame. Any time I go to the Green Island Wetlands or other locations to the south along the river, I always look briefly at the dam #12 in Bellevue, but never had experienced such a warm light on the structure. There is only a short period of time every year when the point of sunset almost lines up with the dam.

In addition, it’s warm here, the snow from last week is mostly gone, and the Mississippi has open water even above the dams. Maybe my photo helps to tell this story too…?

OUT WEST #30 (LAST PART)


Horseman, Badlands NP, South Dakota

Nikon D750, Sigma 150-600mm / f5-6.3 DG OS HSM S, @480mm, 1/640s, f/6.3, ISO100

This will be the last part of my photo story about our trip through the mountains and grasslands of the west in September. I have quite a few more images but for this last post I wanted to use a couple photos that leave no doubt about where they were taken, OUT WEST. Both photos were made the morning of our last full day in Badlands National Park. A horseman, who camped in the same campground as us, went on a ride and gave his horses some exercise and a big American Bison, the iconic animal of the west, gave us a nice gesture with his tongue while interrupting grazing just briefly.

I hope you enjoyed this journey and had as much fun as I had while stitching the 30 stories together. Your echo and opinions helped me to grow as a photographer and I’m thankful for everybody who stops here in the blog on occasion or every day.

American Bison, Badlands NP, South Dakota

Nikon D750, Sigma 150-600mm / f5-6.3 DG OS HSM S, @500mm, 1/640s, f/6.3, ISO200

OUT WEST #16


Beartooth Highway, Shoshone National Forest, Montana

It has been a while since we visited Yellowstone National Park. This time we wanted to make a different approach and entered the park trough the northeast entrance. In order to get there we drove north into Montana and followed the Beartooth Highway all the way to Cooke City. All three images were shot during stops along this spectacular highway that winds from Red Lodge, MT through Shoshone National Forest and over the Beartooth Pass.

Overlook at Beartooth Pass (3,347 m / 10,947 ft)

Beartooth Lake with Beartooth Butte, a fossil repository that was pushed upwards during the last 75 million years.

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… 😊

FIRST TIME CAMPERS


We are just back from another paddle / camping weekend. This time we paddled a nice tour on the Northern Raccoon River near Jefferson in Central Iowa. Last night we were joined by our grandsons and their dad in our camp at Squirrel Hollow County Park, a wooded area next to the Raccoon River. This was the first time for the twins to camp in a tent and I can tell you, they had a blast. An unwritten rule of camping is that the household chores are shared. We didn’t have to point that out this morning to Anthony and Teegan. They were eager to grab the empty water canisters, walk across the whole campsite to the location of the water faucet, and fill them with daddy’s help.

When we watched the boys walking away, the sun just appeared over the top of the oaks in the forest and made their blond hair standing out. I ran to the car, grabbed the camera, and made this early morning shot of this memorable moment.

True campers, Teegan and Anthony

The help didn’t stop there. According to their dad Danny, they insisted and carried the full jugs all the way back.

Breakfast with Oma and Opa

There is a German saying, “Wer gut arbeitet soll auch gut essen!” (Who works good, should eat good!). Oma Joan feeds the boys Pflaumenmus-Brötchen (plum jam bread). Looks a little messy but tastes soooo good!  Can’t think of a better morning…

This afternoon we were invited to an early birthday party for the boys. On Monday they will be three years old. Happy Birthday Anthony and Teegan!

ON THE VOLGA RIVER AGAIN


Joan and I finally paddled one of our favorite rivers here in Iowa last weekend, the Volga River, a tributary of the Turkey River. It is a very scenic stream, with cliffs on both sides, and some very secluded portions. We actually didn’t meet any other people last Saturday during our trip. It isn’t exactly a novice river tour and has a few tricky turns, a couple rapids, and several portions with ripples that require some attention, as you can see on Joan’s face while she navigates a section with pretty strong current. Kayak-dog Cooper wasn’t always thrilled about some of the bumps we went over…

We have paddled this river in high water and another time in very low water before, but this time we enjoyed it probably the most, with a good water level after some rain. The smile comes back after a difficult section, just Cooper closed his eyes and seemed to say, not another one again…

I was brave and took the camera and a couple lenses in a waterproof bag on tour with me. Both photos were made with the Nikon Nikkor 70-200, f/4. This lens is light weight and shooting it wide open at f/4 allows to catch the action on the bottom of the canyon without cranking up ISO.

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.

BERLIN, ALEXANDERPLATZ


I knew ahead of time this was the perspective I would consider at Alexanderplatz, in the center of Berlin, for telling the story about location and the pulsating life there. I grew up in eastern Germany and Berlin was the playground during my time as a young engineering student for almost three years back in the late 70’s and early 80’s. The famous World Clock in the foreground, S-Bahn station (rapid transit train station) Alexanderplatz in the back, and the whole scene overlooked by the Berlin Fernsehturm (television tower) was the way to go. I took a few shots but wasn’t happy at first. When the yellow street car pulled into the station I knew I had my picture. The color contrast helps to overcome the harsh light of an early afternoon and draws away the eye from an almost cloudless boring sky.

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…😉

NATURE CLICKS #408 - SAVANNAH SPARROW


Savannah Sparrow, near Dubuque, Iowa

While on the “hunt” for the Bobolink during the last couple evenings I also came across a Savannah Sparrow. Not a first sighting but I never have made a photo of this summer guest in a natural setting, means without a wire fence in the picture. The prairie like grassland is the perfect habitat for this small sparrow. They feed on seeds, insects, and spiders. The yellow eyebrow makes it easy to identify and distinguish from other sparrows that make eastern Iowa their home for the summer.