Archive for September 2014

Watercolors 9: Calanque d'En Vau 1

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The Mediterranean coast between Marseille and Cassis impresses with a formidable cliff line and rocky coves - the Massif des Calanques. Bright grey limestone cliffs rise out of the sea and are in stark contrast to the clear, turquois water of the mediterranean. Supposedly one of the most beautiful of these coves is Calanque d'En Vau, which is accessible by a nice hike over limestone gravel and rocks, through mediterranean pine forest and macchia. When we hiked there last spring, the small beach at the base of the Calanque d'En Vau was filled with hikers as well as some climbers - the Calanques are a prime territory for rock climbing.
In comparison to a bog-standard shot of the turquoise Calanque waters and the bright rocks, the photograph above is certainly a rather unusual composition. However, for me it is linked to a memorable photo session and quiet observation of the water surface for almost an hour. I have been standing right above the water surface on a limestone ridge. The direction and strength of the wind was changing all the time, sometimes a cloud cast a shadow, and thus the reflected colors and the patterns on the water surface varied constantly. During my watercolor photo session I captured many different compositions. The capture shown above is the first example that I would like to share; more will follow. In the meantime, also have a look at the other watercolor photographs shown so far.

2014/09/29 by Unknown
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The interchangeable leg tripod (ILT)

For a long time, I have been searching for the perfect tripod: light and heavy, small and high, versatile and yet simple. As I grew older and taller, my tripods became smaller and shorter, but also used more scarcely. Especially when hiking with a backpack full of clothes, food and drink for the entire family, carrying a regular tripod was a pain; often in vain, because more than once the tripod was not used in the end. 

The ILT: In this particular case, hiking poles and a converted, old Gitzo leg are used. This is my most preferred TrioPod configuration for hiking.

To relieve my fragile knees, I am hiking with poles anyways and have therefore become interested in the Novoflex Quadropod tripod system, which foresees the use of dedicated hiking poles as tripod legs. However, as its name implies, the Quadropod has four legs! Who would want to carry four tripod legs? In my opinion, this pushes the quest for stability to the point of absurdity. Therefore, I had already considered designing my own Interchangeable Leg Tripod (ILT) that would somehow accommodate the legs of my existing tripods, as well as my hiking poles. Luckily, in that moment, Novolflex finally released a three-legged tripod system; the wonderful TrioPod.

With the QP RED 1/4'' adapter plate, any tripod leg can be converted into a perfectly fitting TrioPod leg.

In effect, the TrioPod is only a kind of tripod mount; a base onto which different legs (only three!), as well as a tripod head are attached. The design lacks a center column, which I find a most welcome omission (if I wanted (I don't) to put my camera atop a long, slender, shaky column, I would use a monopod). Besides hiking poles, Novoflex offers different aluminum and carbon legs for the TrioPod (and Quadropod series). However, since I already owned two tripods that have become used less and less over the years, I thought it would be most useful if the legs of these could be recycled for the use on my newly acquired TrioPod.

At this point, a drastic measure was required: I had to destroy my old tripods! I cut off the top part of my tripod legs and had a locksmith attach adapter plates (QP RED 1/4", also from Novoflex, about 10 Euro per plate). Thanks to the QP RED plates, all my "old" tripod legs now perfectly fit the TrioPod and depending on the situation, I can attach the most appropriate legs. For example, when hiking, I use only one short tripod leg and attach the hiking poles whenever I need a tripod. The ILT can thus indeed be light and heavy or small and high. For me, it is the egg laying wooly milk pig of tripods and the perfect tripod solution!

Any tripod leg, short or long, thick or slim, can be converted to become a TrioPod leg.

If you possess an old, maybe little-used tripod (that you dare to destroy in the process), converting its legs is economical (much cheaper than original Novoflex legs), easy to implement, and very effective. Above all, I much prefer recycling existing equipment to adding more and more. Whenever I add a piece of equipment, instead of replacing something that is broken, an existing and functional piece becomes an unused dust catcher in the back of a cupboard. What a waste!

2014/09/26 by Unknown
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Autumn 2014 has started!

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This week, autumn has started; at least here in Switzerland. The mornings are refreshingly cool and a little foggy, the sun is bright, but not burning anymore, the sky has a intense, dark autumn blue, and the trees and leaves start putting on their colorful display. It is the combination of all of the properties and mostly the latter one that make this my most preferred season! For once, the actual percived start of autumn coincides with the astronomical calendar: In Zurich, the September Equinox 2014 was on Tuesday, September 23rd.
This year, I will accompany fall with regular leafcolor contributions, such as the one above. Since many years I have been searching, collecting, and scanning interestingly colored, fallen leaves. The imagery shown under the leafcolor label are thus not photographs, but high resolution scans of autumnal leaves. In my opinion, the detail, patterns and arrangements of colors are often really amazing.

2014/09/24 by Unknown
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Nearby: Re-reflection zigzag

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I just felt like sharing another composition of amazing light and shadow reflections taken at the skyscrapers on Hagenholzstrasse; a kind of sequel to the photograph shown earlier this week. The whole building complex has just been completed and it is really nearby - I can even see parts of it from our kitchen window. This year, I try to broaden my view (I photograph more often with a wide-angle lens) and thus search for wide, complex scenes instead of tiny details. I often find them in reflections and particularly at these skyscrapers.
In my opinion, the reflections and re-reflection in the composition above are quite amazing. First of all, the original light and shadow pattern is reflected both, in the glass panes on the right, as well as on the granite pillars on the left. In addition, in the upper left part of the photograph, the reflection in the glass panes is re-reflected on the shiny granite. Since my reflection photographs are quite different in style (much more colorful), this composition has just been added to the light and shadow gallery as well as to the nearby collection.

Have a nice weekend!

2014/09/20 by Unknown
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Watercolors 8: Prismatic Caumasee

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Caumasee is a wonderful lake that can be reached by foot or bike from Flims, a mountain village and popular skiing location in Switzerland. When we visited this beautiful lake last year, rainbow colors, light and shadow patterns were dancing across the ground of the lake and thereby transformed the shallow shore into a mesmerizing display of abstract, prismatic patterns. Also note how the ground is distorted in some places; almost as if some pebbles were seen through a magnifying glass. In contrast to the other watercolor photographs shown so far, in this composition the colors and patterns are not reflections on the water surface, but rather projected onto the ground. Yet, the patterns and colors are still created by the shallow waves and ripples on the water surface and I am still amazed by the beauty of the scene. I could have watched and photographed for hours!

2014/09/16 by Unknown
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Objective pointlessness - subjective meaning

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Reflected light reflection in Zurich Oerlikon; a photograph from my light & shadow collection. I really enjoy searching, seeing and photographing new subjects and overlooked details of beauty in deserts of concrete and asphalt (despite the fact that I much prefer nature). In this photograph, taken at the skyscrapers at Hagenholzstrasse (already shown in a very different photograph a long time ago), I like how the beam of reflected light in the foreground and its reflection lead straight into the frame and add depth to the composition - ironically in a direction where there was no depth at all; I was just a step away from the glass window.

It has been a (long) while since I have written about my philosophical thoughts; not because I have stopped thinking, but rather because I have hesitated if to write at all and which thoughts to share. Often, I have the impression that too much is being written by too many people and that all I can add are platitudes.

Today's truism is following me since a long time: The nagging awareness that there is no higher, objective meaning of my life, of life in general, or of anything at all. In moments when I become aware of this objective pointlessness, a feeling of vast, all-encompassing emptiness and discouragement may overcome me. Most attempts to fill this void with meaning, for example by objective reasoning, are doomed. However, the antidote to the venomous influence of objectivity is a subjective, inward look at life.

Meaning is by definition subjective; inherently linked to the person, the subject, who seeks meaning. The meaning of my life are thus my experiences and the lasting, happy and appreciative memories they create in my brain. Such a subjective view is also comforting for less fundamental questions than the one about the meaning of life. I often pondered decisions at length because I sought the "right" decision, not realizing that it was not a question about right or wrong, but rather about personal preference.

Please do not misinterpret and conclude that all I advocate is subjectivity. This is not at all my point; after all, I am a scientist! All I am saying is that life without meaning is really quite miserable. It is my objective conclusion that the only way life can have any meaning is with a good shot of subjectivity. I think the label "subjective objectivity" would be a funny, but fitting concoction for this point of view.

It seems to me that photography may actually exemplify the quest for meaning and the importance of objectivity and subjectivity. I believe that many people photograph so that they get an object - the photograph - of their experiences. It is an attempt to attach an objective meaning to their experiences by collecting objects (pictures). On the other hand, the activity of searching, seeing, creating and capturing a photograph may be incredibly fulfilling and rewarding to photographers - to photograph, not the photograph itself, gives (subjective) meaning to their lives.

I wish yo

2014/09/14 by Unknown
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Watercolors 7: Türlersee Watercolors

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A watercolor composition from close-by: Reflections of a grey and blue winter sky on the surface of  Türlersee. As a child, we have visited Türlersee regularly, but since then I had not been there often. It is a beautiful lake between meadows and forests and there is a comfortable and short walk around the entire lake. Also check out the other six watercolor photographs!

2014/09/10 by Unknown
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Watercolors 6: Sol Duc River watercolors 1

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Our summer holiday of 2013 was a prolific and creative watercolor period. Although I had "collected" compositions of colorful and interesting reflections on all kinds of water bodies here and there before, it was during those five weeks that the watercolor theme really materialized. Today's example arose from an exciting photography session at Sol Duc River in Olympic National Park in Washington State. When I suddenly saw these colors, lights, and shades dance on the fast-flowing water, I had to photograph. For me, this composition perfectly captures the beauty and essence of that moment.

2014/09/03 by Unknown
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