Funchal and Porto Muniz

Funchal is the municipal seat of the autonomous region of Madeira and its largest city with roughly 112 thousand people. Built into the mountainside it comes across as a rather large city, because there is a lot of footwork involved when you want to explore it. One of its most interesting features is the cable car that takes you from the coastal region high up to the mountaintop of Funchal.

the cable-car ride

There you find two botanical gardens, the „regular“ botanical garden, which requires yet another cable-car ride and the tropical garden, which is right next to the station. There you can spend many hours walking, enjoying the plants, artists‘ exhibitions and sculptures.

a sculpture in the tropical garden

The sculptures differ widely in their range, as the garden is subdivided into a number of zones, e.g. the chinese garden and so on.

another sculpture

Walking down the garden you come to a central spot with an old colonial looking house and a waterfall, which is the main image of this post.

tropical garden, full view

It’s a sight to behold. The waterfall with the central pond is quite amazing, actually and harks back to the many levadas in Madeira.

This is a long-exposure with the camera sitting on a bench, probably at f22 to get the exposure time to around a second. #nofilter

Back to the bottom of the city, you find the cathedral located in the centre of the city.

inside the cathedral of Funchal

In the old-town part of the city there are yet more sculptures and picturesque alleys with painted doors.

But of course, as everywhere in Madeira, the beaches are really rocky, which is why there are bathing facilities made of concrete, which I find interesting, because they seem so fallen out of the 1960s.


Leaving Funchal, one might drive to the north-west of the island to find other great places. I rather liked Porto Muniz, where you find amazing vulcanic rocks forming bathing spaces that look much more natural (they are artificially separated from the ocean, though).

Porto Muniz

And a restaurant located right in the rocks where you can eat while a gentle breeze comes from the ocean.

I hope you enjoyed this one.

Ponta do Pargo and Sao Vicente

Madeira has a lot more to offer than whale-watching, as was to be expected. Most people go off on hiking-tours and we did so as well, when we visited the Risco-Waterfall. Apart from that we toured to the extreme west of the island, to the Ponta do Pargo for a spectacular sunset and Sao Vicente for the vulcanic caves. In a later post I will write about Funchal and Porto Moniz.

For most of these outings I brought my Olympus OMD Em10 Mark II and the 25mm f1.8 (50mm, f3.6 equivalent), a simple, light and effective kit, which is surprisingly flexible.

a view over Sao Vicente. In the foreground the entrance the grotto’s multimedia-experience

Sao Vicente is a small village with about 3000 inhabitants in its district and is probably most famous for the Grutas, the volcanic caves that can be explored as part of a guided tour.

a look inside a side-tunnel

The tour is quite short, though, as it covers only about 700m, but it ends on a multimedia-experience in which the genesis of Madeira is explained, which is quite nice. Through the caves runs a river of pure water that was filtered by the vulcanic rocks, which is drinkable. The small stream forms lakes underground which are very nice to look at.

a small -artificial – lake inside the caves

Outside of caves, you can find some nice restaurants and of course the extreme cliffs that are part of every coastal town in Madeira.

a vista from Sao Vicente

From Sao Vicente you can go along the coastal roads, which for a large part are not tunneled, which is an amazing experience in and of itself. You drive high up the cliffs along meandering roads and you’re sometimes able to catch a view over a valley and the landscape or the open sea.

a view to the south from Ponta do Pargo

At other times, the road leads you straight through a forest. It’s scenic, it’s wonderful and uplifting. I need to go back in order to get some images to prove the beauty of the northern coastal roads.

sunset at Ponta do Pargo

After a lenghty lunch at Porto Moniz, we went to Ponta do  Pargo at the western-most point of Madeira and thus the perfect spot for a spectacular sunset. There is a lighthouse, which is still in use and only some other tourists were around for the view.

sunset at the lighthouse

The temperatures in Madeira are mild day and night, so we spent some hours there before and after the sunset, exploring the small space near the lighthouse photographically. Apart from the other people there were only some curious goats that alternatingly viewed us as interesting and fear-inducing.

the goats cannot decide what to do about me

I surely hope you enjoyed this small blog, today. Ahhhh, I think I can throw in just one more picture as an extra. Enjoy!

Madeira (c) Torsten Drever

Instagram Photowalk – Terminal Burchardkai

Recently I was chosen together with a couple of other photographers to be part of Hamburg’s container port anniversary. It’s been fifty years of highly technologized globalization! Yay for Hamburg!

The marketing department contacted @igershamburg to select photogs and we met at the Terminal Burchardkai for an extended behind the scenes tour of the port. And boy, what a tour it was! We went up to a container gantry crane, where the star warsian driver’s cab is located a lofty 50m above ground. Initially I thought that the technology is simply kind of brutish, a lot of steel and heavy engines with little sophistication. Wrong I was!

Each crane is stuffed with a datacenter of its own, so that the whole process of unloading the containerships is gaplessly connected to the ordering party and obviously the logistics centre that is in situ at the terminal.

For me personally, I was quite overwhelmed by the shapes, sizes and primariness (if that’s a thing) of the colors and honestly struggled to get interesting shots, even though it was enormously interesting to me personally. I do hope that you like the images, though.


Urban photography

Over the last weeks I went out twice with rather wonderful Yang to do some urban photography here in Hamburg, which is part of my ongoing project of trying to appropriate this city for myself. As we could only meet after work in the dark, we decided on bringing our tripods in order to be able to do some long exposure work, light streaks and generally be able to use ISOs of less than 3200, which is stretching the micro-four-thirds sensors of our Olympuses a bit (even though its not quite as bad as some YouTubers make it seem).

The first outing was to the Reeperbahn where we had to fight really bad weather with rain, sleet and temperatures below freezing point. I got accosted very early on for not giving enough money to a homeless person (she asked me for money in passing by and questioned my grip on humanity) and Yang got told off for taking out his camera in a closed of red-light district. We had fun.

The second tour went to the Hamburg Dammtor station and Yu Garden, a gift from Shanghai to Hamburg, where I expected to being able to witness a tea ceremony, but it was closed and doesn’t offer regular tea ceremonies, least of all to uninvited visitors. Bummer.

Still, we had a good time and got some nice images of which you can find a selection here.



Bows and arrows

Yesterday I went to a friend who – amongs a wide variety of other things – builds traditional bows and arrows. The idea is craftsmanship, i.e. building the weapons from scratch with traditional materials like horn, sinew, wood and leather, albeit with modern machinery. He has built dozens of bows and scores upon scores of arrows, which are intricately detailed and deadly as f*#@! The sheer beauty of them is fascninating and almost touching. The details in fabrication and painting work on all senses. These bows look great, sound and even smell good. Moreover, there is a sense of danger about them that makes touching them very special.

A modern carbon fiber bow says deadly with more immediacy, but I doubt that it is possible to have the same level of attachment to a modern tool as you can have towards these new, but traditionally crafted arms. The process of making the more complex composite bows takes up months as it takes a lot of time for the animal glue to set.

While it is easy to appreciate these arches of mayhem in person, it is quite hard to photograph them appropriately. This is my first attempt. The idea was to go from overview to detail. Bows (and arrows) are long and pointy constructions that do not lend themselves easily to image formats that are popular at the moment. A panorama might lend itself and I am going to attempt that at a later stage. But for now I tried to present them in the context of the workshop in which they were built, going ever closer to mimic the process of a visitor who first encounters these little marvels of aptitude. In going from form to detail I relied on a single flashgun pointed at the low-hanging white celing, which emulates soft daylight. I guess it works out nicely.


The beauty in the cage – Gedanken zur Tierfotografie

Zootiere stellen für viele Hobbyfotografen ein spannendes Betätigungsfeld dar. Im Zoo kann man eine Vielzahl an Tieren bestaunen, ihre Interaktionen beobachten oder einfach ihre Schönheit bewundern. Als Fotograf kann man in einem einigermaßen geschützten Raum Kameraeinstellungen ausprobieren und sich an der an sich nicht leichten Tierfotografieren üben, da die Gehege sich nicht ändern und die meisten Tiere ihre Routen und Orte in den Gehegen haben, so dass man über die Wiederholung ausprobieren kann, wo man sich ideal positioniert, um die besten Fotos zu bekommen.Die Fotos, die auf diese Art und Weise entstehen, sind vielfältiger Natur. Es können vornehmlich Portraits sein, oder Bilder, die Spiel, Fütterung, Interaktion darstellen. Dabei variiert die Komposition und gibt über das Framing unterschiedlich viel Gehege in das Bild. Meine Portraits blenden das Gehege, die Zäune und selbst die verräterische und selten lebensraumnahe Natur weitgehend aus.Neben der darstellerischen Leistung hat die Zoofotografie auch unterschiedliche Funktionen für die Fotografen. Es mag hierbei um das kulturell oder gar genetisch verankerte Gefühl von Schönheit oder Niedlichkeit gehen, welches im Zentrum der Intention des Fotografen liegt. Es mag um die Imitation bestimmten fast archetypisch verankerten Tierbildern gehen: der stolze Löwe, das lustige Erdmännchen, die schöne Giraffe, der kluge Affe. Möglicherweise sollen die Fotos im Wettbewerb mit anderen Fotografen mehr Schärfe, mehr Auflösung oder anderes haben. Vielleicht sollen sie den Kern des Tieres für den Betrachtenden offenlegen. Meine Portraits sind von der Intention getragen, die Würde der Tiere, ihren eigenen Blick einzufangen, den Betrachter zum Füllen der Lücke einzuladen.Insbesondere aber die Würde der Tiere bleibt in diesem Prozess zweifelhaft. Welche Würde hat ein Tier? Einfacher zu beantworten ist vielleicht die Frage nach den Rechten. Tiere sollten das Recht haben, eben wie der Mensch, in Freiheit zu leben. Dieses Recht wird ihnen im Zoo genommen. Entweder sie werden in Gefangenschaft verbracht oder sie werden dort geboren. Tiere sollten das Recht haben, ihren Lebensraum zu nutzen, wie es ihrer Natur oder gar ihren Absichten entspricht. Auch dies wird durch die Architektur der Zoos und der ständigen Eingriffe der Menschen verhindert. Die Beschneidung der Rechte der Tiere betrifft jeden ihrer Lebensbereiche: welches Futter nehmen sie zu sich? Wann tun sie dies? Ist es ihnen möglich, einen Partner frei zu wählen, wie in der Natur? Ist es ihnen möglich, den Zoobesuchern auszuweichen? Werden ihre Gruppenstrukturen und ihr Bewegungsverhalten respektiert? Diese Fragen werden in unterschiedlichem Maße in den verschiedenen Zoos mit einer Variante des ‚Nein‘ beantwortet.Die Tiere haben dort für den Besucher und Zoofotografen die Funktion, den Zweck, auffindbar und ansehnlich zu sein. Sie repräsentieren die Leistung des Menschen, sich die belebte Natur unterzuordnen und eine alternative Natur zu konstruieren.Es ist möglich, Zoos als Verbrechen gegen die Rechte der Tiere zu sehen. Natürlich wird gerungen, die geltenden Tierschutzgesetze einzuhalten, so dass ein Verbrechen im juristischen Sinne hier eine zu ahnende Ausnahme darstellen dürfte. Moderne Zoos versuchen mit viel Aufwand, alte Gehege zu modernisieren und die Bedürfnisse zwischen Mensch und Tier auszugleichen.Gleichzeitig übernehmen Zoos eine aus ihrer Sicht wichtige Aufgabe in der Erhaltung des Artenschutzes und des Genpools von stark gefährdeten Arten. Hier kann man argumentieren, dass diese Aufgabe eventuell besser in der Hand von staatlich geförderten Institutionen liegen sollte, weil sie ein Zweck an sich ist. Ein Zweck, der keine Besucher benötigt. Eine andere Intention von Zoos ist es, Menschen, die keine Möglichkeit haben, Tiere in ihrem natürlichen Lebensraum zu sehen, die Möglichkeit zu geben, eine Bindung zu den Tieren und einen Willen zum Schutz der Tiere zu erlangen.Darüber hinaus ist es auch naiv anzunehmen, es gäbe noch viele echte natürliche Lebensräume für wilde Tiere, vor allem für die, die in Zoos als besonders ansprechend angesehen werden, also Löwen, Tiger, Elefanten, Leoparden, Eisbären und andere mehr. Selbst die Nationalparks Afrikas können als Superzoos betrachtet werden, in denen zwar nicht gefüttert wird, aber in denen auch mehr und mehr Fototouristen ihre Spuren hinterlassen.In letzter Konsequenz bleiben Zoos aufgrund ihrer Natur problematisch. Die Tiere sind unfrei und der Mensch stellt oft einen störenden Einfluss auf ihre Natur dar. Hierbei konstruiert die Bilderflut der Zoofotografen eine parallele Welt, die aus spielenden Tierbabys, genüsslich schlafenden Löwen und mächtigen Gorillas besteht. Die Situationen der Tiere werden in die Konstruktion oft nicht einbezogen oder in der Nachbearbeitung verändert, entfernt oder entschärft. Zäune verschwinden entweder im Beschnitt oder über das Einfügen von Blattwerk aus anderer Stelle. Schilder werden überstempelt und alles Störende fällt der Bearbeitungsmacht der digitalen Werkzeuge zum Opfer. Die Zoos selber verstärken diesen Trend über Regelwerke, die die Abbildung von Gehegen als solche oder Zäunen, Seilen und Absperrungen verbieten. Es entsteht eine Welt, die stark von der rechtlichen und politischen Situation der Tiere abweicht. Eine Traumwelt.Meine Portraits sind sicherlich mit allen Konsequenzen ein Teil dieser Traumwelt.

Hamburg’s nights

Lately I’ve been walking around late at night and made some images that exemplify what Hamburg looks at night. Here’s a collection of the quieter and more bustling sites along the Elbe all taken with long exposures, so that it’s the movement of the machines, not the humans that gets the focus. I guess I’ll be working on this a lot more in the future, so a part II will come (whenever that is). Enjoy!

The gnat-fen

Well, in German it’s actually »Schnaakenmoor«, a waterland-conservation area in the north-west of Hamburg. Fens are mires in which the water accumulates because the area is slightly lower than the surrounding land, so that there is always an excess of water that rises to ground-level. Mires are inhabited by peatforming plants. As the plants die, they form peat which traps CO2 from the air, as the ground itself is separated from the oxygen in the air, the decomposition processes make it climate-neutral. Most mires nowadays have to be conserved so that they actually keep the water, if they don’t, they will transform into woodland with birches being the most common pioneer species (if around). In that process they will lose their CO2 and release it into the atmosphere, adding to climate change. For that reason it seems appropriate to appreciate these areas and raise awareness for their uniqueness.

The gnat-fen here is in the process of transforming back into wetland, so there are quite some trees around that have to be removed by conservationists.


Planning a great shot

Most of my shots are ’sort-of-planned-in-advance‘, i.e. I know where I go (always helpful) and I know what I’m interested in, so I can bring the right lens and accessories. And that’s ok. But when I went to Sankt Peter-Ording a couple of weeks ago, I knew I wanted to have a postcardish shot of the famous lighthouse there. So on my third day there, I approached the subject much as I approached my other stuff, packed my camera bag, brought a tripod and decided to drive to the lighthouse. There I realized that I had to walk a couple of Kilometers only to get to the lighthouse, that I would have to wait for two hours in the cold to wait for sunset and that I had already got soggy-wet shoes from the saltmarsh. So, no. I had to get back.

At home I downloaded PlanIt!, a photography app that tells me the time of sunrise/sunset, the position of the sun and that can previsualize a shot based on Google-Maps and the information I entered about my Olympus EM1. That way I had a good understanding of the situation before I returned the next day to take the shot.

The photographic problem that the lighthouse presents is that it is only accessible from its northern side so that it is hard to even get some light on the lighthouse together with the sunset. But as it is situated in a national park it is not nice or ethical to simply walk around it. The solution light-wise is to make an HDR image. I decided on three brackets as you could only stand on rather squishy ground and I did not want my camera to wobble too much over the course of taking five images for each bracket. Having fixed the camera on a tripod I decided on doing a five-step panorama in portrait orientation (you can see a bit of that below).

Stitching all fifteen images together in Photoshop was a breeze and the result is somehow campy, but I like the colors a lot. You get a bit of background in the slide-show below and the actual image is on top of this blog-post. Enjoy!

coming towards the lighthouse – notice the difference in light quality

the final panorama

the shot from a different perspective

from car park to lighthouse

contact sheet