Monthly Archives: December 2010

Greetings from the Plains

Another remote post, this time from the great Northern Plains. The Northern plains of Germany, that is. A beautiful spot – largely unrecognised and underrated by anyone who is not a local. Awww, how misunderstood we are, us Northerners… But seriously – “Germany” evokes visions of 500 and one varieties of beer, busty blondes in “dirndl” dresses, mountains, fairytale castles, sauerkraut, Munich beerfest,  hevvy acsents and verry littel untershtandink of humor. Unfair – the North is nothing like that. And proud of it.

I know what I am talking about. I am a Northerner by birth – in fact, a true Hanseatic Northerner, born in Bremen – but I spent almost 10 of my (young) adult years in the South of Germany, Bavaria to be exact. Before I moved away from home, I always thought that Germany was Germany and Germans were Germans – no matter where they came from. I couldn’t have been more wrong, as I soon found out when I settled in the city of Würzburg. The food, the accent, the lack of humour, the effing mountains closing in on me all the time – it never let me forget that I was not at home.

In the early days of my Bavarian exile, I used to take the train home every few months. A major trip of eight hours, it was. And the best bit came shortly after Hanover, about 6 hours into the journey and nearly home. For a long time I could not put my finger on it – why I suddenly felt so uplifted once the train left Hannover and what it was that made me smile and look out of the window expectantly. Was it the fact that everything was familiar? Was it the close proximity of many places which I knew?

Eventually I found out what it was – it was as if the heavens had suddenly opened up, once the train entered the great plain of Northern Germany. The landscape completely flat. No mountains to frame obstruct the view. Instead., a huuuge expanse of blue above, dotted with white clouds, the occasional church steeple piercing the sky, sometimes endless avenues of Poplar trees competing with the steeples. The heavens coming down right to Earth, kissing life and embracing light. Ahhh – home, that was coming home.

I am still utterly fascinated with the Northern sky. I adore the big expanse of it. When I am home, I can’t get enough of it and after years and years of admiring it, I still take pictures of it. Others find the North boring – the horizon just a flat line, nothing to see and do. But what else do you need, when you have the sky touching you deep in your soul? There is, after all nothing more perfect on Earth than the view of the sky above.

*Ignore*

Self-confessed fan of Christmas that I am, I have completely ignored the same here in this blog. Amazing – could it be that my passion for photography transcends that for all things Christmas?? In any case, you’ll be glad that I will spare you any further reference to Christmas – we are all Christmas-sed out at this stage, I presume. No atmospheric candles, heaps of colourfully wrapped presents, not even a sodding Christmas pudding! I will go on with my ignorance and proceed with a different winter shot.

Yes, that IS winter time. The shot was taken on an early December day. Not this year, I admit. But that is winter in my adopted homeland: The most colourful time of year in Ireland.

Seriously, it is. And even though I love the snow, I also love the mild Irish winters – when I am hiking. Not only because the weather here makes it possible to go hiking any time of year, but also because it is never as  colourful out in the hills as it is now. Just look at the picture: Fitting for the Emerald Isle, the grass is green, even if a bit faded. Weeds and reeds have turned brown and ochre. The fir trees still keep their dark green needles and the bracken has turned a wonderful rusty red colour. In the distance, on the hills, the remains of the heather still appear as a vague purple haze. The rocks in the hills are grey. A powdery blue sky promises a dry hike. And the sheep, dotted in the landscape, appear as white spots here and there.

Talking of sheep – I get slagged all the time by my Irish friends for including sheep in my shots. “Jayus, you really can’t get enough of them, can you? Such a prejudiced view of Ireland you have!” one of them once said to me. I can’t help it, I like those fluffy creatures. Especially in shots of landscapes otherwise totally devoid of signs of life (disregarding plant life), they give a bit of focus and sometimes add a bit of humour to the scene. See the old girl in this shot? She seems to say “Who are you?”. Well, I say: “Move it, baby. Yes, pose a little bit for me. Ah, you are great. Fantastic. That is a really strong look you’ve got, baby. Keep it coming.”

Right, getting ready for New Year’s now. Are you? I am taking myself and the camera off to the fatherland. And I am hoping for some nice camera opportunities over there. Not with snow. I am officially snowed out for this year. But I am thinking of some experiments with fireworks – of which there will be plenty on New Year’s Eve in Germany.

Oh, and yours truly is very close to buying a new camera kit. After-Christmas-Sale is the perfect opportunity for camera shopping in continental Europe. Ok, off now, to do some pre-Sale price-comparing and camera-shop-spotting. Wish me luck!

Mooning ;-)

Ever tried mooning? Excuse me for lowering the tone in this respectable little blog… No, what I mean by mooning is not “exposing one’s buttocks” to an audience, but the process of shooting some nice images of the moon. Earth’s little satellite is a worth-while photo object – and yet it is not that easy to take a picture of the moon, even on a clear night with a full moon.

Well, in a way I am exposing myself to you today – by sharing some thoughts about a recent photo experience that went sliiiiightly wrong, but from which I have learned a good bit.

Take this image, for instance. It was taken not long ago, full moon, still night. When I stepped outside and saw the silver moonlight reflected on the calm sea, I knew it could translate nicely into an image. And I knew enough about photography to grab my tripod as this would need a long exposure to get captured on film the light sensor. I was quite chuffed with my resulting, above image – from what I could see on the little display of my DSLR. But what I saw on screen when I transferred the image to my archive, did not thrill me quite as much.

Ok, I did say that I was not going to turn this into a monoblogue of photospeak, but I have to back pedal a bit in order to explain what went on here. Gee, I hate picking my own image apart – why I am doing this?? In order to get as much light into the camera as possible while keeping the shutter speed as fast as possible, the image was shot with an aperture of f4.5. This still required a shutter speed of 15 bloody seconds – much too long for Miss Hand-Held here.

Right, as I said, I was clever enough to shoot this with the camera mounted on my flimsy plastic tripod. And yet, if you look closely at the coloured lights on the left, there was some camera shake. It took me a while to figure out how that happened, while on the tripod. Conclusion: Releasing the shutter by pressing the little button resulted in movement which was translated into the image. It’s quite possible that even the mechanical opening and shutting of the aperture added to the slight shake and blurred the details *doh*. The rickety tripod could also have added to the effect.

And here is another thing that makes shooting the moon difficult (pointed out and explained to me by fellow photographer Graham – thanks, man!): The Earth’s rotation and the moon’s own movement in the sky can be noticeable in your image if you expose for anything longer than 20 seconds. Yeah, that’s astronomy in motion practice!

Have I succeeded in putting you off “mooning”? That was not my intention – but rather to pontificate again about the usefulness of knowing how photography works and why it is beneficial to understand the mechanics and interrelation of aperture and shutter speed. It’s not that difficult, really – even for girls…

See ya soon – off to enjoy Christmas now!

Playing with Light

For the season that is in it, I was going to take a picture of a little angel at my table – all white, shiny, and blond rows and flows of angel hair. A lichtgestalt – figure of light. Instead I received this:

I know what you are saying: “Should’ve used the fill flash!” Well – NO! If photography is (literally) drawing with light, then I was playing with light here. The photo was taken indoors against very strong sunlight at 200 ISO. With a small f-stop of 5.6 in order to get the required dof, I was able to shoot at 1/2000 of a second and receive a black silhouette rather than a lit-up portrait. That enabled me to pick out the little wisps of blond hair catching the sunlight from behind.

Without becoming too much of a techie photo geek here – knowing why you do what you do when you take pictures is important. Not only in to be able to recreate an effect, but to have the creative choice. That is what photography is at best: not just a snapshot, but a conscious decision how to represent a certain moment in time. And a photo stands out from all the other or similar versions of a motive when it is a different take on a familiar theme. And thus my little angel has turned out a black silhouette – with none of the dark mood associated with the “colour” black.

What do you think? Drop me a line and give me your thoughts…

Anti?Social Media

I am a self-confessed social media addict fan. Twitter, Facebook, newsgroups, blogs, you name it – I am there. I simply love communicating. While face-to-face communication remains my favourite form of social interaction, I find internet-based communication increasingly handy and fascinating. Never have I been in such close contact with my friends and family who live all over the world. One status update reaches all, in a matter of seconds. We can chat, we can exchange links and we can look at photos. The old prejudice that internet communication is anonymous and false does not hold true for me. I am genuine – and so are my contacts because most of them are “real” people whom I have actually met in the matrix… ehm… real world.

However, I do admit that my fascination with social media occasionally veers into the obsessive. And certainly ever since I got my swish and fancy iPhone 4 *showsoff*, the addiction need to inform everyone on my contact list about my latest experiences has become virtually impossible to suppress. I am not alone in that, statistics console me. According to a 2010 study by Nielsen Media, Facebook users on average visit the network 19 times each month and spend a total of six hours in the network. (Um, only *six* hours per month? I get that per week…)

Right, you are wondering why I am writing about all this in my photo blog? It is reason enough for me to start looking at the social media phenomenon from a photographic point of view. If people nowadays “live” in the cloud, how does that actually look like? Where do people blog/update/tweet? Which devices to they use? Is social networking a lonely occupation? These are questions I would like to explore (photo)graphically.

Now, don’t worry, 2picsaweek is not going to become a branch of Facebook. But occasionally I will use the blog to document my project “Anti?Social Media“. This post is the first in the open-ended series. And therefore I end this entry with image number 1 entitled “Couch-booking”.

Got any comments? Would love to hear from you, especially if you have any suggestions, criticisms regarding the project and/or social media in general. Feel free to pass this on to your friends. And if you happen to know anyone who is willing to be part of my project, drop me a line to 2picsaweek@gmail.com – I’d love to play voyeur photographer and take pics of YOU while you’re networking!

Wishing on a Star

A couple of weeks after my initial post, 2picsaweek is now finally online. Noone was more disappointed than yours truly that technical difficulties delayed further blogging until now. So “ad astra” (to the stars) now!

 
And quite literally! December 13 is the day night for you stargazers out there. Meteorite showers are going to fill the night sky with shooting stars, leaving trails which are discernible even to the naked eye. If that isn’t enough, you can also spot Jupiter just below the Moon (no, this is not a musical, it is astronomy).

I would love to go out and catch some star trails with my camera. But weather and city living is preventing me from that. Ever tried catching star trails? No, that doesn’t mean you hire Soyus II and make for the moon. You simply place yourself and your camera out in the wild and away from city lights, point your lens at the stars and set maximum shutter speed. In order to get a proper impression of the stars moving (or rather: your camera and  yourself moving on the rotating Earth), you need a good few hours, plenty of battery capacity and a hip flask of Whiskey! A bit of nice company with plenty to talk about might also help pass the time. The results are magical: curved light trails in a dark sky.

Mind you, the only stars I have lately caught on camera are the ones above, taken recently at Christmas market in Germany. They are quite beautiful themselves – their only drawback: you can’t really wish upon them…

Nightynight!

Two Pics A Week…

… is title and programme of this blog. The concept is easy: I will be posting two pictures a week – all my own work: experiments that went spectacularly wrong or were satisfyingly successful, images which are subjectively noteworthy, fun captures and personal highlights. All of them will be accompanied by my private ramblings musings, mainly on photography, but also on life in general.

So who am I? I am a photographer and journalist, currently studying for a BA in photography. Writing this blog is giving me the opportunity to combine my two great passions for photography and writing. Creativity is my middle name, so to speak 😉 , but I also answer to Sonja. I write this blog from Dublin, Ireland, but am not an Irish colleen but a German Fräulein Frau.

I would love to hear back from you, readers – with suggestions, applause, criticism. Well, maybe not on this posting – not much to comment on here. But I’ll give you my first picture for 2picsaweek – an image that is meant to describe the current situation: snowed in in Dublin.

More pics soon!