Saturday, November 7, 2020

Autumn leaves

Often it takes little more than a glimmer of interest from a friend to give me an idea for a photo project. In this case a friend made me aware of the fact that where she lives they don't have deciduous trees, so she misses the colors of fall leaves as they turn from green to yellow to orange to red to brown. Evergreens are just that and, while she can still bask in the sun on the beach, she misses this floral rainbow.

From the violet heather that adorns many a doorstep on our street... the lone magnolia tree near our house.

And the last roses of the season hang on to their stalks, presenting themselves with mature saturation.

This frail looking tree is covered with gorgeous colored leaves, each one proof of the resilience needed to shine in the autumn of life. I had forgotten how lucky I was to be able to see this spectrum every year as Thanksgiving approached. 

This one reminds me of a bird flying directly at the camera. 

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Looking around inside

Even though we are allowed to go out and take walks, there is a lot to explore in the home, especially when beautiful flowers land on the kitchen table. This time the flowers were among my favorites: tulips!

I like the intimacy of this one.

The innocent feel to this one touches me.

The dramatic lighting and the shadow make this one a winner.

This flower is doing one more dance before it loses its petals.

Do you notice how the two petals in the foreground are sharing a secret from the others?

Light and shadow create the composition here. 

Contrasts in light/dark and focus/blur make this one interesting.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Hallia Venezia 2020

Little did we all know but in one month we would all be wearing masks at home in quarantine! On February 16, 2020, however, things were still fairly normal, and yet even in fancy Schwäbisch Hall this spectacle was not really normal.
A week later gusting winds would cause the Carnival in and around Cologne to be cancelled or held in a limited fashion, for example, with no horses in the parade on Rosenmontag.
But in Schwäbisch Hall the tradition of Hallia Venezia continued. One week before Carnival-Sunday every year (since 1998) the town turns into a colorful display of elaborate costumes, beautifully set against the backdrop of the rich old town.


In the morning approximately 200 masked (a Covid omen?) and costumed people traipsed through the town and posed for the approximately 400 photographers, who had come from all over the region for the opportunity to capture pictures such as these. The weather is not always good in late February, but this year it was perfect. At 2:00 pm the participants gathered at the top of the 54 steps leading up to St. Michael. The photographers and other onlookers gathered below. The sunlight accompanied the couples as they slowly and gracefully descend the steps.

Some take the opportunity to draw extra attention to themselves. This tall man, dressed like Gene Simmons of KISS, thoroughly enjoyed the event and the applause he drew for his homemade costume.

Schwäbisch Hall (and every other German city with "Hall" in its name) was originally known as a source of the valuable commodity salt ("salary" comes from the root word for "salt"). Today this town - called only "Hall" by its residents - is best known for this cultural spectacle and the theater festivals that take place both on the steps of St. Michael's and in the Globe Theater there. The Kunsthalle Würth is an incredible (free!) art museum and well worth a visit anytime you are in the area.

The entire town becomes a backdrop for the beautiful costumes, some of which are made anew every year for this spectacle.

Children also enjoy the spectacle, sometimes as viewers...

...and just as often as participants.

It is quite a challenge vying for position to get the right motif, the perfect light and background, and no photographers with their modern equipment in the picture. Sometimes you succeed.

That's why you must have patience and the right lens(es). I had a 70-300mm lens on my Sony A7iii body for this event. Many photographers had two big cameras slung around their neck, one with a wide-angle and the other with a telephoto lens on a camera body. I just had my Sony RX 100iii in my pocket for the wider shots, those being the first two shown here and the picture of the two couples and their dogs.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Auf dem Württemberg

Up in the little town of Rotenberg across the river from me there is a most picturesque mausoleum where the former Queen Catherine Pavlovna, who died at the age of 30, lies next to her second husband, King William 1 of Württemberg. His first and third wives, both cousins of his, are buried elsewhere. Princess Caroline Augusta of Bavaria, the first wife by arrangement, was divorced from him after a six-year marriage which, they told the Pope, had never been consummated. Wife #3, Pauline Therese, suffered the same indignities of playing second and third fiddle to Wilhelm's lovers as did Katharina, and was left out of his will. The bridge in Stuttgart under which the drug addicts and winos hang out is named after her.

I've posted many pictures of the mausoleum which I took from our house; it's always the same perspective, only with different weather and light. Above you see a picture from the mausoleum back to our house.
When I go to Rotenberg, I challenge myself to see the building anew. Sometimes it becomes a tangle of architectural lines, as in the photo below.

However, when you are over there on a sunny day in autumn, you are drawn to the colorful vineyards surrounding it. And so from the vineyards you get a fresh view of the building.

Sometimes you are surprised by what - or whom - you see up in the vineyards.

Man vs Nature - man with nature.

Then I saw these very self-assured pigeons sitting up on top of a hut and took a quick snap from the road.

But I knew the shot would look much better if I had a colorful background, so I climbed up the hill and shot down, which didn't bother the birds one bit.

Or should there be more of the lovely landscape in the shot?

Or concentrate on only one bird?

The sky that day was captured by many photographer friends of mine. The particular atmospheric conditions allowed the contrails to stay visible for a long time and you could even see shadows of the vapor trails. And yet, I didn't see any pictures of the trails with a trail sign!

Monday, October 21, 2019

WWPW 2019

The Worldwide Photo Walk in 2019 was similar to the last eleven I've been on and yet it was in many ways different.

Again, a dozen photographers gathered at the appointed time and place and tried to take some interesting shots to enter in a worldwide contest offering a host of prizes for the top ten images. Once again, the leader - in this case two leaders, Beth and Martin - shook our hands, glanced at our glass and then they introduced themselves. And the introductions went around - again much too quickly, so I repeated the names to myself as best I could - and camera brands were duly noted. Ronja also had a Sony Alpha 7, I noticed. Otherwise, Canikon and phone photographers.

What was different was that I knew the leaders from our walk last year in Tübingen. And they really set the tone for the next several hours that we spent together. And my good friends Andy and Adi were there with their two boys. We have been on over a dozen photowalks together over the years. but what was really different was that the people smiled and looked at each other. Call me strange, but I found this odd in a very good way. These were not artists set on winning the grand prize and showing off their pixel power. They were people who wanted to see Esslingen on a nice fall day (it had just stopped raining) and meet some others who had this similar goal for the day. We even stayed together throughout the walk and took some shots together and taught each other to see in various individual ways. It was fun to be out there again!

Down in the town it was difficult for me to get excited about much that I saw. I was still trying to feel my way into the group, the town, the groove. When we walked up the hill, though, and looked out over the city and saw the vineyards, the groove tapped me on my shoulder and said "Here I am."
Actually, it was just a leaf that Andy had put up on an old gate, but it was enough to get me going.

Then, since Beth had told us to try to surprise her, I started thinking outside of the box. let's go abstract, I thought.

But there wasn't enough direct sunlight to give the photo above what it needed to really shine.
Walking around the corner from this house there was a lot of construction going on which could have provided some real highlights. After all, my biggest show was entitled "Construction without consensus". Now, I may be best known for my series "Looking up" but here I had to look down and look through.

But unfortunately there wasn't a whole lot going on either way. And a construction site without people or some interesting gesture is just a construction site.

Still, I thought the fish-eye reflections in the drainage pipes looked interesting.
Back to abstract thinking. "Ab-stract" means "detached" or "pulled away from". I tried to pull away from reality and representational images and shoot something that was only a composition. That's more difficult than it sounds in photography. When I'm drawing, most things tend toward the abstract. Here is another attempt.

Continuing to think in terms of composition, I came to an underpass as we walked back into town under the main street. With compositions, as with portraits, color rarely distracts from the image. In the photograph above I kept the colors because there were only two and they play a role in the composition. Below, however, the image works better without any competition from the palette.

I was finally rolling, shooting this architecture from various angles until I was satisfied with the image above.
Then we came upon a cute little street in the Beutau-Viertel and saw this possibility. I thought it was pretty cool and imaginative, but nowhere near perfect.

I love playing with reflections because they enable us to see two things - different perspectives, emotions, realities - at once. In a side alleyway I noticed a Vespa and tried a few shots in the rearview mirror, trying to line up the gutter and the vanishing points, or leading lines, as a photographer might call them. I was happy with it, but still not totally satisfied.

I had been to Esslingen numerous times, but had never seen this sculpture before (which doesn't mean it hasn't been there for years; only I had never noticed it before). I tried to make the most of it, but this is all I could manage without wading into the canal.

Then finally, shooting in bracketed bursts (-2, 0, +2 Ev), I passed by the window of a hipster restaurant and, thinking of my best shot from last year in Tübingen, pressed the lens to the window and shot a burst. The +2 shot was taken at 10,000 ISO, but with the Sony A7iii that's like 800 ISO with my old A77. I think this one sums up the afternoon quite well: There I was looking for light (the bulb is out) and patterns and something different in the old town and here it is all in one shot. The overexposure makes it look somewhat out of the ordinary, which is what I like so much about it.

Shortly after 6pm nearly all of us congregated at the Roter Hirsch für some wonderful Swabian food and a very pleasant conversation and exchange of tips and tricks for the future.
I sat myself down in the S-Bahn and headed home. I was so caught up in looking at my pictures from the day, however, that I missed my stop and decided to continue on to the Wasenfest, something I kinda wanted to do anyway. I had a second battery and plenty of room left on my 64GB card; plus, I had a second in the other slot anyway.
The great thing about going through the Wasenfest at night (if you can avoid all the puddles of this and that) is that you are among other photographers who are also looking for great light. I found some.

And some fun gestures.

And some unexpectedly serious faces.

Thanks to Beth and Martin, Andy and Adi, Ronja, Stefan and Dominik and all the others who made this a terrific day!