Skyscapes

What do you do if you do not have enough time to go on longer trips to frame the world around you? Since a couple of weeks, I have the problem that I do not find any time to go out and take photographs. I would have time to roam downtown and try to get some nice street photography frames. But that is not really my piece of cake.

I was just sitting on the balcony, drinking some tea and hanging around with my thoughts while watching wonderful formations of clouds passed by. After a while, I grabbed my camera, mounted a tele lens and framed some formations. In the evening, I started to take a look on these frames and found they provide wonderful opportunities for post-processing. Clouds show so many distinct shades of grey. It is just in the hand of the person who does the post-processing to get the right mood out of a photograph of clouds.

 The next time I ‘hunted’ cloud formation, I tried having the final frame in mind. Certainly, this does not always work. But on the figure below, I had exactly this vision. I wanted to create a photograph that looks more like a stormy sea from above the clouds than a skyscape. I really felt in love with this photograph… 

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Favorite places?

Favorite places? Photographers like to talk about favorite locations, places, objects, and so on. I just wonder do we really have to have a favorite place to go to frame photos? Or do I have to travel far to get the freeze the same impressions that thousands of photographers have taken before me (and probably much better than me).

I guess everyone has different opinions about favorite places. I cannot really say that I have a favorite location. I have places I like or I liked to make photos. But every now and then, these places change. Sometimes it is because I am moving to a new area; sometimes I just get bored because I have taken the same photo over and over again and I think, I have seen everything there. From my point of view there is hardly THE favorite place. It develops with time. It might be that a small mushroom attracts me for hours because everything around it looks so stunning. On another day, the same mushroom does not attract me at all and it is just boring for me. 

Just recently, I came across a beautiful book by Iain Sarjeant, ‘The Pool’ (Triplekite Publishing). It shows only photos from the same little pool. The photographs are almost abstract. Iain focused on small think, like little waves, leafs, branches, reflections. Never, he showed the whole little pool. Maybe, the pool as such is boring and uninteresting. But focusing on the small things in and around the pool he made them interesting. 

 The last couple of photos I have made are impressions while I was sitting on my balcony. It is nothing very special. Just some lavender, some photos from the sky. Actually, it is very ordinary. But I feel that both frames are special…  

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Thinking back

In 2006, I bought my first DSLR. I felt that a pocket camera is not the right toy to take photographs for me. I have not read any books about photography then. I was just fascinated by the possibilities you get by using a DSLR. Clearly, a good bridge camera would have been a good choice, too.

I have chosen Nikon that time but any other brand would have been fine, too. Actually, I was aiming for a Pentax. If I remember correctly, it was the K10D I wanted to have that time. Unfortunately (for Pentax), the camera was not launched in time and I bought a Nikon D80. I was very ambitious during that period. I just graduated and I did not have much money but I wanted to have a decent camera. It came with the Nikkor 18-70 and bought a tele-zoom lens, which I regretted just a couple of month later. I cannot really remember the details but it was some Sigma 70-300 without any stabilizer. I loved the Nikkor lens (till it broke in 2011) but I never got used to the Sigma lens. I replaced it after half a year by a less heavy lens. Anyway, I started to try to take photography a little more seriously and tried to learn as much as I could by taking photographs. There were lots of bad once… (and there are still) And there are some good once. Some I still like very much.

I just wonder what would have happened if I would have tried to learn photography not just by doing? Would it have changed my development drastically? I do not know. I can just speculate.

If I would have the chance to start again, I think I would by the same camera again. It perfectly fitted my needs. But instead of buying a long tele-lens, I wonder whether it would have been better to go for a single prime lens. Back in 2006 there was already the excellent Nikkor 50/1.8, which was very cheap. Nowadays, there is also the option of the Nikkor 35/1.8, if you do not want to spend too much money. Both lenses you can get for almost nothing and they are very good in quality. Taking pictures only with a prime lens changes how you see the world. You have to move more. You have to think about your composition much more carefully. For me it is too late to go back and change how I started photography. But if you want to start, try to take photographs only with a prime lens for half a year or a year. Probably, you learn much more than using any zoom lens. I do not regret that I did not start like this. I did not know better. Sometimes, I mount only a prime lens for several weeks and try to ‘improve’ my way of seeing the frame. You see it is not too late to learn these things. But probably it is easier to do it right from the beginning.

The other day, I went to Heidelberg only with a Nikkor 50/1.8 mounted on a full-frame camera. It was so much fun to be not distracted by zooming back and forth to get the right crop of a scenery. I walked around or was sitting and observed my surroundings to ‘see’ good frames. I would not say you make better photographs using a prime lens but I would say you ‘see’ the world differently.

The photograph below was taken with a Nikkor 35/1.8 mounted on a Nikon D7000. For postprocessing, I cropped the frame to 6x6 and converted it to black and white.

Thoughts.November

My most favored scene at the moment. Every time I go up that little hill, I have to stop and take a photograph of it. I try to capture all the feelings about this location in the frame. I do not really know why I love this place so much. It might be just the play of the colors. The grass is still very green and the sky usually full of big and dark clouds. Maybe it is the contrast between the bright green that gives hope and the dark clouds that take hope away... It is like November without snow.

Flat.

Editing a body of work

Editing photographs can be a time consuming task. It would be so much nicer if your camera would be connected to your brain and you take the image that you see with your inner eye. Everything would be right framed, colors would be just as you intended to be and the point of view would be perfect.

Unfortunately, the camera is not connected to our brain and we have to do some post-processing to get to the final frame. During my last photo walk I had this inspiration of getting a couple of frames processed in the same way. Trying not to post-process several frames too differently. All photos should have the same kind of look. They should transport the same I felt while I was out there. It was a quite cold and cloudy day. Clouds were just hanging in the sky like big and dangerous pillows. But there was also a tiny bit of blue sky giving hope. 

 To express the feelings I had, I have chosen a ‘Graduate Filter’ to darken the sky so that it is getting more prominent. Additionally, I adjusted ‘Luminance’ and ‘Saturation’ of green, blue, and purple. In a last step, the ‘Tone curve’ for blue and green was lowered a little to get the desired effect. For all frames, I kept the post-processing very similar. I just made some minor corrections on the filter for each frame. I posted all pictures of this body of work on my Picasa page. There you can find some blurry photographs too. I played a little with longer exposure times and moving the camera while exposing the scenery. I might write an short essay about this technique. 

Check  out my new photographs and feel free to send me comments or requests for prints. 

Way to somewhere
Tree.II.
Tree.I.

Autumn reflections

Autumn finally arrived. Days are getting shorter. Rain is falling almost every day. Temperature is and nights are getting pretty cold already. Autumn is a good time of a year to reflect achievements and to set or reset goals for the next year(s). Just sit down with a cup of tea or hot chocolate and think about what you have done during the last year. Was there any spectacular photo you have made?

Besides reflecting what did yu achieve during the last months it is also a good time to refine skills or learn something totally new. Or take a look on some videos. I just started to watch the “The Created Image Video Series Vol.1” series. The videos were recorded during the Created Image Conference earlier this year. I have to admit it is even fun to watch it. David duChemin is a very good entertainer and he tells lots of personal stories during his ‘lectures’.

 ‘It’s not important how we create, but that we create’ [Freeman Patterson] 

Line of trees

DxO Fimpack 3 for free until October 31

If you like film effects on your digital imagine you might want to take a look on DxO Labs nice give away. The Filmpack 3 (plugin and standalone) can be downloaded for free from their website. All you have to do is to register in there website to get the free license key. Note, the offer is valid until October, 31st 2013.

Which questions to ask?

Earlier this week, David duChemin published a wonderful article about ‘Better Questions’. It is worth to read it and to think about how to approach questions about photography. Is it really necessary to poke a photographer with question like ‘What camera/lens/color-space did you use?’? Or is it better to ask the relevant questions about feelings, intensions, and angles? 

In my opinion, the second set of questions should be the relevant one. Usually it does not matter what kind of camera you used. Most of the cameras on the market are able to produce high-quality pictures. 

Clearly, there are differences in cameras and lenses. But keep in mind that the photographer does the composition while making a photo. He or she has something in mind while pressing the trigger and freezing the moment. 

There are people who produce wonderful and strong pictures just using a smart phone or a point-and-shoot camera and it is really hard to tell the difference to a pro camera. Therefor, the equipment is not the main player in this game. 

Again, I strongly recommend to read the article by David and to think about your style of questions you should ask. It also helps to understand your intentions better if you ask about feelings in your pictures. It will guide you to more awareness about what you are doing while ‘just’ pressing the button. 

 Go out and make photos, not just take them. 

Still I

Looking Back-Fields of Poppies

Autumn starts tomorrow. Trees and meadows or still green but slowly (or overnight) everything will turn into red, yellow, orange and brown colors. Days are getting shorter and soon there will be the first snow.

Time to look back. A couple of month ago, everything was green and flowers started to blossom. In mid-June I went out to shot fields of poppies. I love the contrast between red and green. The way poppies dandling in the wind looks so friendly and positive.

Poppies are already gone since quite some time.

Still II

Unusual Christmas Eve shoots

Last years Christmas Eve. There was a small layer of snow covering the landscape. It was not fresh, not powdery. It was more this crispy kind of snow that crushes if you step on it. Each step gave that noise of crushing snow. I felt like walking on some crispy candy. I just snapped my camera mounted with a prime lens (Nikkor 35mm/1.8) to get some quick shoots from the landscape.

After walking around for quite some time fog rose up from the bottom and created a mystic layer between me and the objects I was hunting for. Everything got a spooky touch. Maybe the perfect touch for Christmas Eve. I got a couple of nice shoots in the forest and on a meadow. 

Back home I started to screen through the photos. I was looking for shoots that expressed the feelings of that day. With some post-processing (mainly cropping to 1:1 ratio, b/w conversion and adding some grain) I felt I managed transport the feelings I had when I was walking around through while looking at the pictures. I wanted to have 'old' photos taken with a film camera and a high ISO film.

Maybe, Santa was waiting behind one of the trees... who knows.

Xmas II

Kungsleden stuff

While screening through my photos last night, I found shoots from my Kungsleden trip in July 2010. The Kungsleden is a long hiking trail in Northern Sweden. Depending on when and where you start, you might be lucky and do not meet many people.

Probably the most famous starting point is “Abisko Mountain Station” with its fabulous view towards Lapporten ("The Lapponian Gate"). I have chosen to start further south in Saltoluokta. Later I passed Sarek National Park and went down to Kvikkjokk, where I jumped into the bus that brought me back to civilization. I did not expect to meet so many people, especially from Germany. It seems that the Kungsleden is a quite attractive hiking trial even though it takes quite a lot to go there. 

Below are three photos taken on the journey through endlessly wide landscapes. It was quite a challenge to carry a backpack with 25 kilograms and take photos while roaming around. The first shoot shows an impression from my first day after I was hiking for a couple of hours. Big clouds were hanging around. Fortunately, the gates did not open and I arrived dry at the camp site where the sun was shining and I could enjoy my meal. The second photo was taken while sitting in a small boat, crossing lake Sitojaure and chatting with the owner of the boat, a friendly and talkative old man. The last pictures gives some impressions of the beauty of Northern Sweden. 

Stromy clouds
Blue.blue.blue
Hope.

Old photos

Last night, I have taken a look on old photos and selected some that I will upload during the next weeks. I just realize that most of the pictures need a second round of post-processing as I am not very satisfied how they look like or there is too much dust visible in the sky. It has taken a while till I discovered how to remove dust from pictures. Particularly, dust is a problem in pictures with large homogeneous areas (e.g. sky, snow).

I managed to post-process and upload a couple of picture today. I think it is easiest if you just take a look and click on 'Portfolio' in the top-right area. There you find my different collection. Just click on one of the collection to see all the photos inside a particular one.

The picture below is one of my all-time favorites. I like straight lines in photos that divide pictures into two or more parts. The photo quite old. I took it in 2006 just a couple of weeks after I bought my first DSLR, a Nikon D80 (which I still use as a backup body). Before that, I have taken hardly any photos. Film was too complicated for me to handle on the long run.

Stay tuned for new photos coming up during the next days. Until then, feel free to send me comments, press the Facebook LIKE button on the bottom of the page or like my Facebook profile. Later today, I will post a new so far unpublished picture on Facebook/Google+.

BridgingRosental Dezember 2006

axelkunstnerphotography.com is born

Since quite a while I had this idea - to create my own website about photography. During the last days I just came across koken, a wonderful system for creative website publishing. It is fairly easy to use and it comes with a bunch of themes. Maybe, this was the last kick I needed to start this website.

Right now, there is not much published. In the Portfolio section you will find a selection of my photos. During the next days or weeks, I will add some more old photos that are already published on my Google+ page or on my Facebook page. And of course, new photos will follow.

Here, in the Essay section, I will write posts about photo trips, outdoor experiences, photography and so on. I am looking forward to see how this site develops during the next weeks. Stay tuned!

If you like my page, why not pressing the like button further down or visit my Google+ profile or on my Facebook page? I appreciate every like.

A selection of my art can be seen on seen.by and you can even order prints of my work.

If you find dead links or something that does not work, do not hesitate to contact me. I am also open for good ideas about how this site can be improved.