Archive for 2012

My photo treasures: Peter Moons

The last photo treasure contribution of this year is about Peter Moons. I have originally discovered Peter Moons' photography on Flickr and really appreciated his minimalistic compositions and in particular the high voltage set and the fork series (of which one example is shown below). The high voltage and fork photographs by Peter Moons are mostly white and black with only very few or no shades in between. The forks or high-voltage cables appear almost like paper-cut silhouettes. I really like how this reduction emphasizes and reveals a shape or pattern, which may otherwise not be appreciated. Similar to the photographs of Gianni Galassi, introduced in the very first photo treasures post, these photographs extended my photographic vision and in particular my courage for emptiness. Thanks to these examples I have for example "dared" to reduce my winter tree photographs to silhouettes.
In general, Peter Moons seems to appreciate geometric or minimalistic compositions that he finds in the urban environment. For example, I enjoy looking at his photographs of the Liège-Guillemins railway station in Belgium that was designed by the famous spanish architect Santiago Calatrava - what a fantastic location for the discovery of interesting geometric compositions! Noteworthy is also the parafasis gallery, for which Peter Moons combines a photograph and its mirror image into one, symmetrical picture. Finally, I would like to mention the ICM (intentional camera movement) photographs, which document the experimenting and creativity in Peter Moons photography. The idea of these photographs is to have your camera record a photograph while it is being thrown (tossed) into the air (or moved without tossing). Depending on your skills as a catcher this may be a good experiment to justify the purchase of a new camera, but many people obtain really interesting results. There is a vibrant camera tosser group on Flickr and even dedicated webpages (or a blog)! The resulting abstract photographs, including those by Peter Moons, look very fascinating, but I have not tried this technique myself. You can find many more photographs of Peter Moons on Flickr, his personal website as well as in his Blurb book.
Forkwave © Peter Moons

2012/12/29 by Unknown
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Tree silhouette 4: Christmas tree balls

Tree silhouette 4 Tree silhouette 4: The seed balls of the London plane (Platanus x acerifolia) decorate the bare branches like christmas tree balls on the conifers that some of you may have at home right now (only less colorful). Merry christmas to everybody who is celebrating this holiday!

2012/12/25 by Unknown
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A winter theme: Tree silhouettes

As the seasons pass, light, shadows, colors, the weather and the vegetation continuously change and create new opportunities and discoveries for the observant photographer (and of course also for the attentive observer without a camera). The different seasons therefore lend themselves to different photography themes. The recently presented carcolor theme is perfectly suited for the summer because brightly lit facades and objects create impressive reflections on car bodies. Light & shadow photographs obviously also necessitate sunlight to throw interesting shadows on facades or the ground.  Here in Zurich, the winter months are often grey and cold and there may be no shadow far and wide for weeks.  Since a couple of winters I take advantage of these rather depressing conditions to photograph tree silhouettes. Although these photographs are somewhat unusual for me - I really am a "color guy" - tree silhouettes are a perfect pursuit for grey winter days.

Poplar silhouettePappelTree silhouette 1: Poplar silhouettes

According to wikipedia, a silhouette is the shape of an object or person (or any living thing) of a single, plain color.  Silhouettes are a very old form of expression and can be created by different means. Traditionally, they were cut out from black paper and mounted on a lightly colored background, but all sorts of combinations, variations and collages exist.  I may have been preconditioned to this traditional art form because my parents have paper-cut illustrations and a book of a friend of theirs, Helmut Bögel, who is known for his humorous paper-cut illustrations of people. Silhouettes can also be drawn and of course photographed.

Tree silhouette 2Tree silhouette 2: Weeping beech (Fagus sylvatica "pendula") on Lake Zug, Switzerland

I appreciate silhouettes because they are an attempt to extract the essence of something much more complex, a kind of minimalisation that I am fond of. The reduction of a convoluted whole not only represents a loss, but may even reveal a pattern or structure that is only visible when the shades of grey are suppressed.  I think that the shapes and patterns formed by bare trees are much under-appreciated.  Each kind of tree exhibits a slightly different branching pattern and most fascinating are the individual nuances observed in the silhouettes within the same species. For example, the branches and twigs of a tree growing on the edge of a forest may all point in the same general direction and thus create a regular pattern. On the other hand, a lonely tree often adopts a harmonious, roundish shape that leads to a different kind of silhouette symmetry.

I hope that you enjoy some of these photographs and that they may encourage one or the other to have a conscious look at nude trees!

Tree silhouette 3Tree silhouette 3: Apple tree (Malus domestica) silhouette

2012/12/22 by Unknown
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Once upon a time - the fairy tale of Camera and Lens Review

Once upon a time there were the twin brothers Camera and Lens Review. They were both aspiring photographers who aimed for nothing less than the perfect photograph. Clearly, perfection could only be achieved with the perfect equipment! Therefore, Camera and Lens Review set out to analyze, compare and test all existing photography tools. They even developed machines and new algorithms to determine the capabilities and shortcomings of sensors and lenses objectively. Their God numbers summarized a plethora of measurements and sophisticated calculations in a single unbiased value. Finally, every photographer (as well as editors and art critics) could easily predict or determine the quality of photographs by simply looking up the God numbers for the particular camera - lens combination!

Camera and Lens Review became celebrities! Photographers finally realized that their quest for perfect photographs was nipped in the bud by the low performance of their cameras and lenses and kept buying new equipment continuously. Camera manufacturers were even more appreciative of Camera and Lenses' work. Not in their wildest dreams could they have invented a better marketing strategy. They eagerly provided pre-production test items to Lens and Camera Review, who in return published their in-depth, objective analyses. Similarly, Camera and Lenses' friend, Rumor Site, was provided with insider information to create even more hype, pre-reviews and discussions about products that did not even exist yet (there are persistent rumors that Rumor Site was not a photographer at all, but rather a marketing whiz).

Everything seemed perfect. Camera and Lens Review had turned their measuring into veritable businesses and could have analyzed lenses and cameras ever after. However, every once in a while, a nagging thought took hold of their minds. What about the perfect photograph? Now, that they knew everything about photography, they should use this knowledge to actually take those perfect shots. Why not start with the perfect portrait photograph? Very quickly it dawned upon Camera and Lens that the perfect photograph also needs the perfect subject! So they repeated what had worked so successfully for the assessment of all the equipment options: They measured, analysed and reviewed face after face. It was much more complicated than they would have thought. How do you determine the number of pixels in a face? What about dynamic range, the color depth or the low-light ISO (Induced Skin Opacity) properties? The solution was another flash of genius by Camera and Lens: The Deep-Skin Light and Resolution (DSLR) scanner! This breakthrough for portrait photography is a handheld device to scan your models in order to determine the perfect camera-lens combination and to predict image quality! There were unconfirmed, mischievous rumors (Rumor Site was not involved this time) that the DSLR scanner causes permanent skin damage and in rare cases tumors, but neither of these allegations could be confirmed in animal tests. However, as a cautionary measure and to avoid deterioration of their models prior to photographing them, Camera and Lens DSLR scanned their potentially perfect models only after having taken photographs with all lens-camera combinations. Thereby, Lens and Camera could select the perfect shot afterward by just consulting their DSLR scan results and a perfect model was not lost, even in the (unlikely) case of skin damage by the DSLR scanning!

After many years of hard work, feverish testing and dedicated DSLR scanning, Camera and Lens finally produced their first prints. Masterpieces! These must have been the most perfect prints the world has seen, they thought, and were really proud of themselves. To proof the superiority of their prints scientifically and impartially, Camera and Lens Review turned to neuroscientists and computational biologists. They employed functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) and computational models as well as electrocorticography (ECoG) to determine the thoughts and emotions of test subjects who were viewing one of the perfect prints or an imperfect control print that was taken with low-grade equipment or non-optimized camera-lens combinations. Surprisingly, the perfect top-notch prints did not evoke more positive thoughts than the ordinary control pictures. In some cases, terms such as dullmediocre or even unsophisticated crossed the minds of the test subjects admiring one of the perfect prints. Disillusionment set in. Zero correlation between the God numbers, the DSLR scans and the neurologic testing! Could this be possible? All the years of deprivation, dedication and optimization in vain? Camera and Lens Review did not realize that their theoretically perfect equipment was irrelevant in the real world. The "imperfect" nature of a scene (or of a face) miraculously wipes out theoretical differences between equipment. The composition and character of a photograph is much more important for the impression it creates than invisible technical details.

NO, this could not be the true! Camera and Lens Review were sure that they must have made a mistake in one of the formulas or accidentally flipped a tiny switch. They set out to troubleshoot their protocols, re-analyzed their data and scanned, tested, calculated and compared happily ever after.

Two survivors
Red survivors - that last autumn colors were surprised by early snow (Zurich, 2010).

2012/12/19 by Unknown
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Flora: Hippeastrum - Amaryllis

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug Amaryllis 1: Showy large (up to 12 cm in diameter) amaryllis flowers (Hippeastrum sp.)

For a change, I would like to share a few interesting facts about and three photographs of the cultivated plant commonly named amaryllis. The amaryllis is an attractive houseplant that is particularly popular around Christmas because this is the time when it is flowering (which also makes it a frequently used gift). These bulbous plants are also praised by plant breeders, who have reared an overwhelming variety of flower shapes, sizes and colors (as a google immage search reveals). There are over 600 cultivated varieties! Of course, all cultivated plants have wild relatives or ancestors, and this is where things get confusing with amaryllis. The free growing relatives of cultivated amaryllis belong to the taxonomic genus Hippeastrum, which comprises around 90 species native mainly to south and central America and the Caribbean. The botanic name Amaryllis, on the other hand, refers to a group of plants home to southern Africa (there are only two species A. belladonna and A. paradisicola - the latter one was only described in 1998). The designation Amaryllis goes back to Carl von Linné (more about Linné can be found HERE or on "his" website) who described and named the genus in 1753. However, at that time Hippeastrum and Amaryllis were one and the same and therefore the popular houseplant became known as amaryllis. However, taxonomists take names and distinguishing marks very seriously and later decided that the south American and African plants belonged to different genera and after long debate decided on the names Amaryllis and Hippeastrum for the african and south american plants, respectively.

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug Amaryllis 2: Pink amaryllis flower detail composition

Although the taxonomy behind amaryllis or Hippeastrum may be interesting, it is not at all necessary to appreciate the beauty of these flowers and even less so to cultivate them in your home. The plants grow from a large bulb and if planted and watered six to eight weeks ago, impressive showy flowers are about to appear now. Amaryllis are considered undemanding plants that reward the gardener's small effort with long lasting and showy flowers year after year (however, we were not always successful in bringing our amaryllis to flower the next year).

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug Amaryllis 3: I even find the wrinkles of wilted and whithered amaryllis flowers beautiful

I do not often photograph still life or staged objects almost like in a studio setting. However, sometimes I discover details and compositions that I would like to capture and find pleasure in photographing a particular flower of a bouquet or our house and balcony plants. I will show these photographs in the cultivated plants gallery and hope you enjoy!

2012/12/16 by Unknown
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1 peek: Carcolors 13

Carcolors 13Carcolors 13: Yellow balcony with red geranium reflection
The thirteenth addition to the Carcolors gallery. The building reflected here is, according to my opinion, one of the ugliest buildings in Zurich: Brown with bright yellow balconies. However, the bright colors make for great reflections. Another version has already been shown in Carcolors 6.

2012/12/15 by Unknown
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1 peek: Snowy branches, golden leaves

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMugDark forest, snowy white branches, golden leaves

It has been snowing quite a lot here in Zurich yesterday (already the second time this winter) and therefore I would like to share a fitting photograph. Although the composition above fits the season and the general scene when I look out of my window, the photograph has been taken a few years back (in 2010) and not even in Zurich (near Siegsdorf, in Germany (the link is for the german wikipedia entry because the english text is very minimalistic)). However, I really like this capture (which is part of the trees gallery) and how the snow marks and highlights the branches of the trees on the edge of the forest. It is wonderful how snow can transform and reveal things that are inconspicuous otherwise!

2012/12/09 by Unknown
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1 peek: Carcolors 12

Carcolors 12Red car + blue sky + yellow building =  Carcolors 12
A minimalistic and seemingly abstract photograph of a shiny red car. It is of course not at all abstract, but very much real and visibile for any observant passer-by; like all the examples in the Carcolors gallery.

2012/11/21 by Unknown
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Family photo book season

November and December is family photo book season for me. It is time to go through our family snaps and to document our journeys and excursions of the ending year. Although I am continually pre-processing our photographs throughout the year, this is still a monumental task. Most of my evenings are spent selecting, developing and arranging photographs and only little thought and effort on other things. Therefore, this blog is updated less frequently and with less text and more photographs - I hope you do not mind.
Although preparing these books requires a huge effort, it is well worth it! Intensely looking at most of the photographs of an entire year lets me re-experience some of the nicest moments of the last twelve months and sometimes brings together the whole family in front of the screen (although most of the editing is done when everybody except me is asleep). The books are also appreciated gifts for our children, grandparents and close relatives (I hope). This year I am already preparing the sixth "edition", but the resolution to put together family books retroactively, for those years when I was not completely "digital" yet, was in vain so far (probably due to the post photo book compensaiton phase that will follow in January).

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMugAutumn color reflection in the river Limmat, Zurich, Switzerland

The autumn color photograph above is a composition from last year (that is not part of our family photo book). It shows an unusually (for Switzerland) brightly red colored autumn tree that is reflected in the river Limmat, in Zurich (Switzerland). I have discovered this beautiful tree on one of my photo bike trips within the city borders of Zurich!

I hope you enjoy and wish you a nice week!


2012/11/18 by Unknown
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1 peek: Carcolors 11

Carcolors 11(Pink-blue-white) Carcolors 11
Another plain blue car that does not look plain at all. Check out the Carcolors gallery to discover more car bodies that are painted in the wildest colors by reflections.

2012/11/12 by Unknown
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1 peek: Carcolors 10

Carcolors 10 Carcolors 10
A new addition to the Carcolors gallery: Reflected and distorted building in a shiny, expensive car (to the disappointment of the owner, I showed no interest in photographing him together with his car).

2012/11/06 by Unknown
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Flora: Ocotillo

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Ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens) stems in Joshua Tree National Park, California, USA

When I first visited a desert (the Chihuahuan, Sonoran and Mojave Deserts), I was rather surprised. I had expected a bare landscape composed mainly of sand and stone, but the place was very much alive: Flowering cacti, tiny plants, shrubs, and also hummingbirds, lizards and Jackrabbits. One of the most memorable sights was the Ocotillo.
The Ocotillo is an iconic desert plant and therefore rather exotic for me. Its scientific, latin name is Fouquieria splendens and it belongs to the plant family called Fouquieriaceae*. Interestingly, Fouquieria is the only genus within this family and in total only 11 species are distinguished. In other words: The Ocotillo and its few relatives are very different from any other plant! All Fouquieria species inhabit drylands of Mexico and only Fouquieria splendens and Fouquieria formosa spread outside of Mexico; the former to the southwestern US and the latter to Guatemala. The other nine species of the Fouquieriaceae are endemic to Mexico (i.e., they only occur in Mexico and nowhere else).
Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMugOcotillo ( Fouquieria splendens) flowers

For me, the Ocotillo is as exotic as a plant can get: It forms bunches of long stems (up to 10 m) without twigs, has no leaves throughout most of the year, is covered with threatening thorns and is pollinated by birds (and carpenter bees). Most of these are morphologic adaptations to heat and drought - so called xermorphic adaptations. In the course of evolution, leaves or whole twigs have been reduced to spines, photosynthesis is performed by the stem (which is therefore green - it contains chloroplasts with chlorophyll), and leaves are tiny and shed before the hottest time of the year. I saw Ocotillos in March that were flowering and showing "fall-colored" leaves at the same time! These adaptations to withstand heat and drought come at a price: the Ocotillo, as most xeromorphs, grows very slowly. However, in an environment where hardly any plant manages to survive this does not pose a problem.
The Ocotillo is the only Fouquieria species that is cultivated, therefore you could even plant it in your garden, for example as living fencing, but only if you live in a desert. The stems of the Ocotillo have also been used as walking sticks or cranes and preparations of the bark, roots or flowers have already been used by Indians as food and as medicine to treat conditions from cough, to fatigue, wounds, swellings or fulid congestion
Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMugSpiny Ocotillo ( Fouquieria splendens) stem

*All living organisms are grouped by a hierarchical biological classification. The binomial, scientific, latin name of a species comprises the genus (e.g., Fouquieria - think of it as the family name) and a species designation (in this case splendens - a little bit like a first name). One or more genera belong to a family (Fouquieriaceae). The next levels of classification are order, class, phylum, kingdom, domain and life (all living organisms). It may be surprising to many of you that the classification of organisms is far from definite. Entire careers of scientists are spent on classifying organisms. For example, it is not even agreed upon how many kingdoms there are (due, at least partly, to the fact that scientists do not agree on what a kingdom really constitutes). At least the kingdoms of multicellular life forms seem more or less clear: it is the fungi, plants and animals (where we belong).

2012/11/05 by Unknown
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1 peek: Carcolors 9

Carcolors 9 Carcolors 9
A holiday carcolor composition: Reflection and distortion of a palm leaf in beautiful and sunny Andalusia, Spain.

2012/10/28 by Unknown
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Different opinions on orderliness can be a constant source of annoyance and conflict - I know from my own experience. I have come to believe that orderliness depends on how we see and is therefore linked to photography. Why are some people more orderly than others? Why is it that some people are bothered by the tiniest swirl of dust, while others see past even the worst disorder?
There is a huge spectrum from cleaning obsession to complete chaos, but even in the middle ground of orderliness, the degree of disorder that demands action varies hugely. Such dissonance among people who consider themselves medium orderly is probably the most disturbing of all. There are several potential explanations why people may differ in their orderliness. Various degrees of laziness, complacency or the lack of time are possibilities. However, I believe that the most important factor is what and how people see.
Somebody's vision may be particularly sensitive to color (or even particular tones of color), be strongly stimulated by contrasts of light and dark or respond to geometric patterns. We may also rather perceive an overall image, the impression of a scene, or be particularly attentive to details, the individual elements of a scene. Such differences are certainly founded both, in nature and nurture - they can be due to biology (e.g. the way our eyes function) or "history" (e.g. experiences and culture). I believe that our visual preferences are mainly shaped by what our sense of sight is most sensible to and that this also determines seemingly unrelated characters such as orderliness. Therefore, photographs reveal more about the photographer than you may think!

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug Facades are a treasure trove of regular patterns and for the discovery of geometric compositions. Here, the facade of an office building in Zurich, Switzerland, provided the orderly pattern.

2012/10/26 by Unknown
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1 peek: Carcolors 8

Carcolors 8 Carcolors 8
Another nice dark blue car (can you guess what kind of car it is?). The owner wondered why I was photogaphying his car but did not mind. If you are interested, also have a look at the growing carcolors gallery or at one of the earlier posts.

2012/10/21 by Unknown
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1 peek: Red splash

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug Colorful autumn leaves blowing in the wind. I am always fascinated by "individuality" - also in other organisms than humans. Of course, the more the more closely I look, the more likely I will discover individual differences. In the autumn color photograph above, a few leaves have "decided" to turn red, while the remainder were just about to turn yellow.

2012/10/14 by Unknown
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1 peek: Carcolors 7

Carcolors 7 Carcolors 7
Also have a look at the carcolors gallery or the more extensive description that was posted earlier! This versions is less distorted but I like the pattern and colors.

2012/10/04 by Unknown
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1 peek: Carcolors 6

Carcolors 6 Carcolors 6
More reflections and distortions on car bodies are found in a new gallery and a slightly more extensive description was posted in an earlier text.

2012/09/29 by Unknown
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My photo treasures: Guy Tal

Some of the photographers that I like and whose writing and photography I am following are filed (only in my brain) under different stereotypes (by which I identify them for example to my wife, who has to listen to my photography gibberish in length). Guy Tal is the philosopher photographer, even though this does of course not at all do justice to either his writing and much less his art (as no stereotype ever does). In fact, one of the first things that I read from Guy Tal was a rather technical ebook on Creative Digital Printing.
Guy Tal is a very interesting person, thoughtful writer (check out his blog) and sensible observer that I have become to appreciate. He has a genuine attitude towards life and making a living and has been described as an artist, photographer or writer (teacher or philosopher could also be added) - in German I may have used the title Lebenskünstler, for which I have not found a satisfactory English translation (according to Leo, bohemien is a possibility that I quite like). Here, I would like to primarily mention Guy Tal's photography, which I think may be the tie for his passions and the main source for his wide acclaim.
It is not the well-known and famous landmarks that are Guy Tal's motifs, but rather hidden gems of natural beauty that he finds on his treasure hunts in the Colorado plateau. Guy Tal's photographs, as well as his writing, convey an intense and personal relationship with the wilderness that is his home; they are truly intimate landscape photographs in the very sense of the word.

Cottonwood in Slickrock Bowl / Fine Art Landscape Photograph by Guy Tal Photograph © Guy Tal. Cottonwood in slickrock bowl from the Sandstone Worlds portfolio.

While classical landscape photographs capture the vastness of the environment, intimate landscapes depict details from a close and personal angle. I do not feel qualified to describe, let alone define, intimate landscapes, but there are numerous essays including highly recommended articles by Guy Tal and many others (for example HERE or THERE; in addition I also like THIS text). Guy Tal beautifully describes intimate landscape photography as "... the artist’s attention to detail that allows them to expand their repertoire and find nuggets of beauty in practically any situation, with almost any subject and any light." Along the same line, the intimate landscape master William Neill (whom I have introduced in an earlier post) describes intimate landscapes as "little gems of nature (that) are lost without a conscious effort to slow down and to look for the picture within the larger picture."

2012/09/26 by Unknown
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The most important decision ...

... is whether to take a photograph at all!
I am sorry for this overdone title. No decision concerning photography is REALLY important. However, for the pursuit of your passion, photography, pulling the trigger is an act with many implications.
Photographs take up space on your memory card and computer and need to be transferred, evaluated, labelled, organized and developed. Eventually you likely want to publish or even print your oeuvre. If your life is just remotely similar to mine, time is scarce and it is challenging to keep up with all of these tasks (and many photography-unrelated ones; I contemplate petitioning for 48 hour days...). I  assume that many of you face similar problems and would like to spend more time taking photographs and less time processing them.
The solution is simple: Spend more time composing each photograph and take less versions of each photographs. 
The more photographs you take, the more time you will have to spend processing and comparing all your digital files. You can quickly take a gazillion of captures in a few superficial minutes with your motif (after all, your camera boasts 4.563 FPS) and then spend countless hours in front of the computer dealing with your prey. Alternatively, you could also slowly approach and inspect your subject from different angles before taking any photograph at all. Once you have contemplated and envisioned the final photograph, just one shutter release might suffice to capture the composition you want. The result: You interact much more intensely with your motif, spend more quality time with your camera and reduce the gigabytes of image files that you have to process. In addition, I am convinced that you will end up taking much better photographs. I would call this at least a triple-win situation!

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Autumnal underwater maple leaf, Cunningham Falls State Park, Maryland, USA
(I have only taken 2-3 expsures of this motif and only kept this one)

The digital revolution has dramatically changed the photographer's chores. When I started with photography, I used color slide film that was sent in for development and prints were arranged to be done by a lab of confidence. As a pupil, slide film was expensive and development and printing color slides myself was way beyond the possible. This past may explain my still enduring stinginess with slide film (ehhh, memory card space). Nowadays, memory card space is hardly limiting, photographs are recorded digitally, developed and printed out at home and published on the web. These developments open up endless possibilities but also raise the standards and demand a whole new set of skills that are largely unrelated to photography. Try not to get overwhelmed by them!

2012/09/24 by Unknown
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1 peek: Carcolors 5

Carcolors 5
Carcolors 5
A new project and gallery of mine. For more details have a look in THIS recent post.

2012/09/21 by Unknown
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Flora: Martagon lily - Türkenbund - Lis martagon

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Martagon lily (Lilium martagon) flower

The Martagon lily (Türkenbund in German, Lis martagon in French, Lilium martagonin Latin) is a beautiful and conspicuous (when flowering) perennial plant that grows in valleys and mountains all the way from Europe to Asia. The flowers are pinkish to white with dark dots and effuse a sweet odor in the evening and at night in order to attract nocturnal pollinators such as the Hummingbird Hawk-moth.
The Martagon lily is a protected plant and therefore you should most definitely not dig it up (only take photographs and leave nothing but footprints). However, if you bought bulbs of one of the martagon lily cultivars, you could admire their golden-yellowish color. In medieval times, miraculous curativeness was ascribed to these bulbs and alchemists used them to transform base metals into gold. Luckily this attempt was in vain and therefore we can still enjoy the sight of Martagon lilies in the wild.
The origin of the name "martagon" seems dubious. It either refers to the Roman god of war Mars, who alchemists believed to have a hand in the transformation of metals, or originates from the Turkish word turban. Some types of this headdress come in shapes remotely similar to one of the Martagon lilie's flowers. In contrast, many (German) colloquial names of the Martagon lily (e.g. Goldapfel, Goldbölla, Goldknopf, Goldlilgen, Goldpfandl, Goldruabn, Goldwurzl, Goldzwifl, Poms d'or) refer to the golden bulbs and their origin is thus much less dubious. 

2012/09/18 by Unknown
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This summer, I have delved into a new project: abstract, colorful compositions that are found in the reflections and distortions on car bodies. I have filed these photographs under the theme CARCOLORS.
I have started this project because I am fascinated by how the slightest change of the viewing angle bends and distorts reflections on the curvy car body in unexpected ways. Depending on the lighting and point of view, the original color of the lacquering may be completely altered and the resulting photographs are a mélange of the colors and patterns in the surrounding. Such carcolor compositions may resemble abstract paintings or even details of nature (sometimes I am reminded of butterfly wings).  Nevertheless, be assured that I only took photographs of plain-colored cars that I found in the streets of Oerlikon or elsewhere. The only bias is towards bright and shiny cars, which happen to be dark-colored more often than not. I am also still getting used to the astonishing "depth" of the carcolor reflections, which only reveals itself in close-up views and by focusing manually (in my experience autofocus is very unreliable for this kind of photographs).  
Here, I am showing you the first four photographs of this new project of mine. It is an ongoing work, like all of my projects, and I will try to document the growth of the carcolors gallery with "peeks" of newly added carcolor compositions.

I hope you enjoy and wish you a nice weekend!

2012/09/15 by Unknown
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Flora: Coltsfoot - Huflattich - Tussilage

In order to do justice to my name and to share my interest in nature and botany, I have started a Wildflower gallery. Here on my blog, I will show wildflower photographs and share links and interesting facts about different plants under the label Flora. The goal of these photographs is to package little bits of information into the accompanying notes of wildflower photographs. The photographs are therefore mostly documentary, but this does hopefully not prevent you from enjoying them.
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Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) flowers - harbingers of spring

The first flower that I am featuring is a harbinger of spring - the Coltsfoot (Huflattich in German, le Tussilage in French, Tussilago farfara in Latin). It is hard to admit, but the French name is clearly the most fitting because it indicates that this plant has something to do with cough (the latin word tussis translates as cough). The leaves of Coltsfoot are one of the oldest medicinal plants and have been used for their antitussive and mucolytic powers (a very good German text is found here, an English text is there). Unfortunately, Coltsfoot also synthesizes chemical compounds (so called pyrrolizidine alkaloids) to defends itself against herbivores. These defense molecules are also toxic and carcinogenic for us if consumed in large doses (instructive texts are found HERE and HERE, links to more articles are listed on THIS page). Due to these health concerns, the commercial use of pyrrolizidine containing plants has been restricted or even banished in some countries. This, in turn, has stimulated research and lead to the discovery and in vitro propagation of pyrrolizidine-free Coltsfoot (a summary article in German is found HERE). A less toxic but in certain situations more useful application of the wooly, hairy coltsfoot leaves is indicated by its colloquial name "hikers toilet paper."

As long as its flowering, Coltsfoot is very easily recognizable. The Coltsfoot flowers are some of the first to appear in spring and they usually grow in disturbed, bare locations. However, since the medically relevant leaves appear only after flowering, fatal mix-ups can happen. Plants with similar leaves include the Butterbur (Petasites) or species of the genus Adenostyles, both of which contain more pyrrolizidines than Coltsfoot! To those of you living in Europe, Coltsfoot should be a common plant: it is widely distributed in Europe and Asia. However, it has also been introduced in North America. In the photograph above I particularly like how the two flowers intertwine and shine like two little suns; they almost look at you.

2012/09/09 by Unknown
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1 peek: Staircase light, shadow & reflection

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The fifth peek into our staircase. What I like about this photograph is the brightly lit stripe of reflected light, which adds an eye-catcher to the (otherwise boring) light and shadow patternThis phenomenon can only be observed during a short time of the year and only on sunny eveningsIf you are interested in other light and shadow views that were observed right in front of our entrance door, have a look at the photographs in the light teeth, staircase light stripes, staircase light and shadow or  staircase impression 4 posts.

2012/09/02 by Unknown
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1st anniversary

Yesterday, on August 27th, was the first anniversary of this blog! One year is of course a ridiculously short period of time and I doubt that anybody remembers her first anniversary. Figuratively, this blog is still an infant. However, one year - the first year - is still a significant period with profound development and growth. Including this short post, this blog featured 74 articles in its first year (a little over 1.4 per week) and according to Google it obtained more than 7600 page views (although I am not certain what this exactly means because different tools report different numbers). By a very large margin, the majority of visitors came from the USA, followed by Switzerland and Germany. Although this blog is mainly about photography, and in particular about photographs that I have taken myself, the two most popular posts were about "other" artist. The most visited text was the "my treasures" post on Ueli Lüthi, which was followed by the similar post on Rudolf Mirer. I am glad that these two contributions about artists that I like were appreciated.
The first candle (is a match in this case).
Most important for me was the fact that I enjoyed launching and maintaining this blog and that it attracted visitors with very little advertisement. One of the only forms of advertisement that I did was to register Florian's blog at Photoblogs, where quite a few people found it and commented from time to time (thank you!). I have even realized just now that this blog is listed by two Photoblog members in their blog lists (Landlicht and Trompe-l'oeil), which is very kind indeed (thank you very much!). The texts that I enjoyed writing the most were those of the "my photo treasures" series. Except for one case, every photographer that I asked allowed to show one of his photographs (thank you very much!) and my inquiry sometimes resulted in short "e-mail conversations", which was nice.
In contrast to this blog, the demons from the social media abyss such as Twitter, Google+, Flickr or  Facebook (which I do not use at all) do not suit me well. I have no time and energy to also engage in media that require constant attention and I am also far too deliberate for such spontaneous "chat". A blog is a medium that I like me much better! Therefore, I am glad to go about the second year of Florian's blog and hope that I will manage to regularly write and continually attract readers and visitors from far and close. If you have a comment, suggestion or question for "my" second year, please let me know!

I thank everybody for visiting and hope that you enjoy!


2012/08/28 by Unknown
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1 peek: Staircase impression 4

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The fourth Light & shadow composition to document my quest for interesting photographs right in front of our entry door! If you are interested in variations on this theme have a look at the light teeth, staircase light stripes or staircase light and shadow from earlier posts.

2012/08/21 by Unknown
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My photo treasures: Cole Thompson

I have discovered the much acclaimed photography of Cole Thompson a while ago and have been following his blog ever since. Cole Thompson is a sophisticated black and white fine art photographer and a master of long exposure photography. For example, have a look at the impressive captures of The Ghosts of Auschwitz-Birkenau: Regular visitors at this memorial of horror have been turned into ghosts by long exposure times. The photographs are also presented in a YouTube clip and Cole Thomson tells the story of this portfolio in writing here (you have to scroll down quite a bit). If you like such beautiful but also reflective and weighty photographs you may also want to look at the Portrait of Breast Cancer. 
However, most of Cole Thomson's photographs do not include humans and feature visions and compositions from man-made or natural environments. A wonderful example is the symmetry and unexpected beauty of ceiling lamps when looking at them straight up. I also particularly like the Dunes of Nude and Harbinger portfolios and last but not least the Fountainhead album, which is an ingenious collection of photographs of distorted reflections of sky scrapers on ferrotype plates.  The procedure is explained in an interesting interview of Cole Thompson that is worth being read. The name of the portfolio is borrowed from the novel The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand, which apparently was an influential book for Cole Thompson and similarly so for myself. 
Photograph © Cole Thompson. The Fountainhead No. 4 - Minneapolis, MN - 2010.
In general, I like the careful and thoughtful composition and development as well as  the diversity of themes in the photography of Cole Thompson. It is a perfect example for the value of themes or series! By looking at these portfolios (many photographs can also be enjoyed on YouTube) and while thinking about what to write I have come to the conclusion that collections of photographs with a coherent theme add authenticity to the photographer and her or his vision. In addition, the photography of Cole Thompson may appear so authentic because it is a work of passion - Cole Thompson purposefully decided not to pursue a career in photography but to photograph out of love, meaning as an amateur. Last but not least and on a personal note, I can very well relate to the writing and "photosophy" (maybe even philosophy) of Cole Thompson, which is of course not necessary in order to appreciate a photograph but nevertheless worthy of mentioning (you can learn more about Cole Thompson in further interviews here, here or here). 

I hope you enjoy!


2012/08/08 by Unknown
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1 peek: Staircase light stripes

Light and shadow in the staircase
Another Light & shadow composition that was taken right in front of our entry door, in the staircase of the building we are living in. The light projects these shadows onto the ceiling (the underneath of the stairs to the upper floor) and then hits a wall to paint the light teeth shown in an earlier post.

2012/07/27 by Unknown
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Magenta file corruptions

I had a streak of computer bad luck. After the hard drive failure, the tricky repair and my contentment when everything was restored, many photographs started to look like the example below.

A light & shadow composition that was pepped up by copying errors!

I was very alarmed! Had the Lightroom database played havoc with my photographs? Google searches revealed that I was not the only one experiencing such corruptions, which wasn't really a consolation! However, different commenters were convinced that the real source of the problem was somewhere else. I was still doubtful and tested a few Lightroom alternatives, but the same files always looked similarly corrupted and the problem did not propagate - the same files stayed corrupted and no new ones became corrupted. According to the knowledgeable comments in a Photoshop help-forum, the most likely sources of file corruptions are:
  1. the storage card
  2. the card reader
  3. direct transfer from the camera to the computer
  4. hard drive or other computer problems
  5. defective cables between external drives and computers
  6. moving image files from one location to another
I could exclude the first three possibilities because I know that the files were intact once (I look at all the photographs at least once during the first screening). As I have already mentioned, I did indeed have hard drive problems, but had just installed a brand new hard drive. I was also not aware having changed the cables attaching my external hard drives. Therefore, copying errors seemed the most likely, because I had moved the entire image file collection during the restoration of my computer. Luckily, I also backup all image files immediately after transfer to a second backup drive. This backup has not been moved or touched in any way. After restoring the working copies of all images  from this backup with a dedicated sync/backup tool all photographs are perfectly fine again!
Such copying errors can be scary and permanently destroy images. I was lucky since no permanent harm was done and I even learned a thing or two that I am sharing with you hereby. Based on my experience I would highly recommend to:
  1. immediately backup all image files after transfer to your primary location (and even create a backup of the backup)
  2. never move your files from one location to another (by drag-and-drop) - ALWAYS USE BACKUP/SYNC SOFTWARE
I hope that these recommendation will prevent some of you from loosing precious images. If you have other or additional recommendations, need more information or have questions on my workflow please do not hesitate to contact me! 
In my particular case almost exclusively RAW files were corrupted (the reason may simply be that bigger files are more likely to get corrupted). It may therefore also be worthwhile saving a copy of each image file in a regular format (not RAW) or to record a RAW and a jpg-file simultaneously. I have not done so in the past but may start doing this in the future.
I am really glad that Lightroom most likely had nothing to do with the file corruptions at all (I even apologize for having thought otherwise at the beginning). All my digital photographs are handled by Lightroom from beginning to end and it would have been an incredible effort to learn a new piece of software and to reestablish a workable order. Even more so since I really really like Lightroom, although such a statement may be misinterpreted as undercover marketing (I do not receive any form of compensation for writing that and have bought all versions of Lightroom myself).   :-)

2012/07/25 by Unknown
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JON$ES and undercover marketing everywhere

We have recently watched the movie THE JONE$ES, which tells the story of four people, played by Demi Moore, Amber Heard, David Duchovny and Ben Hollingsworth, who earn their living by pretending to be a family. In reality, they are undercover marketers whose job it is to seduce their friends and neighbors to their consumerism lifestyle. It is a kind of marketing and product placement that goes much further than just advertising a particular product. The "family" (in the movie it is termed a "unit") is very successful until one of their neighbors commits suicide because of the debts that the consumerism competition with the Jonses ran him into.
Interestingly, an experiment with "real" Joneses has been conducted by Martin Lindstrom and revealed that such deceptive undercover marketing is extremely powerful. Unfortunately, undercover marketing projects do not become publicly known very often because they are carried as top secret operations. In a few instances, smaller scale stealth marketing campaigns have become public. For example, one company targeted undercover marketing specifically at teens and mothers, actors were used to secretly market mobile phones by different companies, and social networks are frequently used for deceptive marketing campaigns (an interesting documentary clip can be found HERE). 

The virtual photography cosmos - all the photography blogs, galleries and review sites - is also an environment where undercover marketing abounds. In most cases, the advertisers are of course not directly payed to advertise and the honest and responsible authors acknowledge the receipt of test products or any other form of compensation. However, the experts who test gear and write reviews are not doing so because it will improve your or their photography, but because this is how they earn money. All the parties involved, the online photography experts and the whole photography industry, have a strong interest in creating an extremely technology and consumerism centered view of photography. The constant talk about the newest products and the rumor hype about upcoming, not even yet existing products, manipulates people's opinions. Many consumers believe that it is impossible to take a good photograph with a camera that is older than a year or two and that the decision for one brand or the other will determine whether their photographs end in the trash or bring cash. Leitax, Konicon or Canolta does not matter at all, remember this for once and all!
Interestingly, many people do not seem to mind being marketed to stealthily. This is disturbing. As mentioned earlier, I find it very important to distinguish facts from opinions. I think we should form our own opinions based on our own evaluation of the relevant facts. However, the experiment described above revealed that most people seem to rely on the opinions of their friends, neighbors, online contacts, role model or, in the case of undercover marketing, the advertisments of companies. It is almost as if people just wait to be told about great products so that they can go out and buy them! There is no own opinion, but just a void that waits to be filled by others, including advertisement through undercover marketing! The worrying and deceptive element of undercover marketing is the fact it disguises commercial advertisement as personal opinions.
I really love to delve into the photography cosmos and highly appreciate the huge pool of information that is available to form my own opinion on things. I think we are very privileged to have such easy access to so much information and that we should take advantage of this possibility to reach more informed conclusions and opinions. The movie The JON$ES has lead to all these interesting thoughts and also provided 96 minutes of good entertainment and is therefore highly recommended (you do not have to buy it - we have loaned it from our public library).

2012/07/15 by Unknown
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Florian's photos: Light teeth

I have not posted in a while because we had "computer problems"... a broken hard drive of our main computer. Thanks to more or less regular backups nothing was lost and I finally managed to install a new hard drive. I have lots and lots of disc space now and can slowly start thinking about photographs again - instead of fighting with backups, restore discs and installing. For me, the lesson learned is to not only backup and archive regularly, but to be really prepared for the worst. I hope that the next time we will be up and running again much faster.
Use this as another reminder to really really follow some sort of backup routine! Would you be safe if your hard drive broke down THIS VERY MOMENT? Or if your house burnt down? You should be able to answer with YES! If your answer is NO, please set up a backup procedure immediately or ask somebody to help you!

Light teeth on a shadowy wall in our staircase

The picture of today is again a light and shadow composition and emphasizes that an interesting photograph (at least to me) is sometimes very close. This particular photograph was right before our front door. Every year during the summer months the setting sun shines through our staircase and projects interesting light and shadow compositions onto the walls. I will show you more of these in future posts.

All the best


2012/07/13 by Unknown
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1 peek: Light bars

A third Light & shadow composition of the not guilty building in Zurich Oerlikon (number two is HERE). Again, I like how the shadow hides and the light reveals detail. But there is also a subtle spot of reflected light on the base of the shady face of the pillars that I appreciate.

2012/06/30 by Unknown
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Florian's photos: Light arrows

Light arrows on pillars in Zurich Oerlikon, Switzerland

I have just added the photograph above to my Light and shadow theme. I have pondered a long time  on the development of this photograph, in particular the shadow detail. As you can see, I have decided in favor of completely black shadows (in agreement with my son). Many people (including my wife) probably prefer less contrast and at least some detail in the shady section of the pillars. However, by looking at my light and shadow gallery it is apparent that I really like black shadows. For me, one value of shadows is their capability to hide detail and irrelevant parts of a composition. When I am attracted to a light and shadow scene, I imagine the shadows as silhouettes that blind out distracting parts and create interesting patterns or shapes (like here fore example). Many photographers avoid conditions of direct and bright sunlight BECAUSE of the harsh shadows and the loss of detail in the shades. With my light and shadow photographs I try to take advantage of exactly these properties: bright sunlight and completely black shadows. In contrast to Billy Joel, I do not see only shades of grey, but rather black AND shades of grey (please note, I do not write "black and white"!). I think it is important to have absolutes, such as absolutely black shadows, because they help to concentrate and emphasize what is considered relevant. Interestingly, at least in photography these absolutes (shadows) change during the day and throughout the year!
The photograph above was taken at a building that I visit regularly on my photo walks (or rather bike rides). In my lightroom catalog it is entitled "not guilty building" because it houses a restaurant with this memorable name (along with other businesses and apartments with less catchy names). The exact same building was already shown in an early photograph (depicted here) and I will post more photographs in the future (I have been working on them over the weekend).


2012/06/18 by Unknown
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