Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Flowery fish-eye photos

I first purchased a fish-eye lens in 2012. That was an ASP-C f3.5/12mm lens that found much use for my "Looking up" series. When I bought the full-frame f2.0/6.5mm lens, I was able to triple the scope of my viewing to 190°. In contrast to the older lens, the new one produces a round image. 

Here is the same room (the baroque palace in Ludwigsburg) taken with the 12mm (effectively 18mm) and 6.5mm lenses:

Obviously, if you are photographing people, you have to be careful to not have them at the edge of the picture because they will be distorted. With a normal wide-angle lens the distortion will be the opposite, making them look broader.

In order to make the image look a bit more normal, I usually move the distortion slider in Lightroom to +100 and add a -100 vignette with +100 roundness and no feathering to create a clear black frame around the center of the photo.

The following pictures were taken in the gardens around the palace, also in Ludwigsburg. I've maintained the black border, left and right, as a frame.

As you can see, the fish-eye lens allows - almost forces - you to get up close to your subject, giving the viewer the feeling of being right there splashing in the water or smelling the flowers. The starburst appears when you close the aperture all the way to f22. I like that effect.

Which of these images is your favorite? Why?

Sunday, January 23, 2022


In 2021 we were in a lockdown, in home office, dealing with home schooling, not on vacation, looking for new ways to express ourselves since the old ways apparently might prove fatal.

While I still did a good number of portraits and weddings, I found myself not getting out into nature as much as I used to. Perhaps this stay-at-home attitude affected my way of visual thinking and I turned to my fish-eye lens again and again when I did go out.

Here are four relatively different views through the fish-eye lens, a bit of optic trickery which allows the camera to capture 190° with one shot (I was using a f2.0/6.5mm lens from Meike - affordable and good).

At f22 the sunlight turns into a starburst.

The photo-within-a-photo genre takes on new possibilities with this lens because so much of the worlds are captured by the extreme range of the lens.

For my attempts to make my photos take on an abstract quality, the fish-eye is often helpful.

The larger the frame, the more expansive is the story you can tell with one shot. I like reflections in puddles for the multi-layered experience they offer.

Have you used fish-eye lenses during your shoots? What do you most like using them for?

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...

...to 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!