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

Whale-watching in Calheta, Madeira

As I wrote recently, I was tipped-off about the beauty of Madeira, especially in terms of whale-watching there. So I stayed in Calheta, located in the south-west of Madeira, where the Lobosonda team organises whale-watching tours. As Madeira itself is a huge volcanic rock protruding high from the Atlantic ocean, there are no slopes falling gently towards the beach.

in the region of Calheta

Au contraire: the cliffs rise almost directly from the waterline to hundreds of meters and then some. From there you can go even higher towards the centre of the island where you find forests in the clouds with numerous waterfalls you can go visit. I did. There, my camera and flimsy tripod fought with gravity on a bridge across a gorge. They lost. It’s another story.

Back to Calheta.

We stayed at the very affordable yet highly comfortable and spacious Bela Vista Apartment overseeing the mountains to the west, giving us almost perfect sunsets. (In all honesty, they gave us no sunset at all, because of the pastoral mountains… does that amount to „almost perfect“? I do not know, there was a cow in the valley below, so that was nice.)

Booking two tours at Lobosonda gave us double the chances of not only seeing dolphins, but also larger whales like sperm whales or fin whales. The whales did not accept to the invitation to be spotted, though, but we saw lots and lots of bottle-nosed dolphins and Atlantic spotted dolphins (Stenella). The former do not seem to care for whale-watchers so much and just follow their route through the sea, but the Stenellas circle the boat out of curiousity or some other reason. The two trips were on two different boats, too. First the „Stenella“, named after… the Stenellas, a speedboat, and then an old fishing boat.

the Stenella speedboad

Both give two very different experiences. The Stenella is a fast and low boat with which you can easily follow every spotted school of dolphins.

a school of dolphins

The Ribeira Brava on the other hand is a more comfortable ride, gives you a longer line of sight, because you sit higher above the sea level, but you are not as flexible when taking pictures, because if things happen on the other side of the boat than the one you sit on, you actually have to walk over, find a stable seat and then make your images. That doesn’t work, dolphins are fast. Still, it is much more communicative and I would recommend it if you want your trip to be more social and less pragmatically focussed on „getting the shot“.

There are a couple of possible sightings, as I found out. More often than not, you simply see the fins of the animals as they swim towards their destination. That is quite impressive and is obviously also an opportunity for the animals to breathe.

an Atlantic spotted dolphin coming up to breathe.

This kind of behaviour is probably the most common to see, as most other behaviours like diving or jumping are either inappropriate for seeing the animals or simply very quick actions.

dolphins in front of a vista of Calheta

You can get these kinds of shots with almost any kind of camera gear. A 24-70mm (or equivalent) kit lens will go long enough and the f-stop almost does not matter as there will probably be enough light or the ISO does not interfere with the image quality, because you will not get fine details anyway (we should all be concerned with other things than ISO-grain, anyway). A shutter speed of 1/640 should also be sufficient. The picture above, though was shot at 1/1000th of a second at f8, ISO500 and 300mm equivalent. I shot with a fixed shutter speed of 1/1000th, and had ISO and f-stop on automatic, with a +.3 exposure compensation. If I had to do it again, then +.7 or +1 would have been better as I almost always had to up the exposure in Lightroom.

Another kind of image is the underwater shot, which you can get when the dolphins decide to swim by the boat. They have a different kind of quality to them, more abstract, but quite pleasing to the eye, I think.

a dolphin swimming by the boat

This one was at 86mm (equiv.), ISO400, f5.6 (equiv), 1/1250th with +.3 exposure comp in camera.

Then of course you want to get the dolphin in all its glory, jumping, showing its face and smiling, with a sunset in the background yet fully front-lit as if by magic, no less. Good luck with that. I guess I have to come back to Madeira soon to be more lucky. Still I got some nice shots that are similar, but do not expect those to come easy or be fantastic out of the camera with any kind of consistency. Once you realise a dolphin jumps, it’s almost over and I guess you need a lot of experience to figure out how long a dolphin will swim submerged (and how long of a distance it covers) once it has jumped. It’s a numbers-game, really. Every 50 shots there’s a keeper and every 200 shots there’s one I consider really good. Over my total of 1200 shots there was none that I considered „great“, but that’s wildlife, no one said it was gonna be easy.

almost fabulous, but very far away

The shot above sort of has its merits because there is background to include.

Atlantic spotted dolphin gets its face wet

Here there is good sharpness and a great dynamic to the shot, but who wouldn’t want to see its face?

Bottle-nosed dolphins mocking me

This one I like, but it shows an additional calamity: where to point your camera? Will the one below jump soon or should I stay on the one in the top of the frame?

Sparkling!

Here I had a sequence, but at the end of the buffering speed of my automatic drive, i.e. the shot before this one showed almost nothing, and here, the face of the Stenella is already submerged.

now we’re talking!

I do leave you with this almost great shot of a bottle-nosed dolphin, jumping right away from us!

Mallorca’s nature

This is part two of this small Mallorca series. Apart from touristic spots in cities and villages, I found that the natural environment was especially fascinating. I always wanted to do long exposure work with water, but up to now I found the spots here in northern Germany less inspiring to my taste.

Around Peguera there are so many little coves with rough waves, rocks and trees that really spoke to me photographically. Additionally, the amount of light pollution was low, so I could also do a little bit of astrophotography.

So here are mainly long-exposures, some done at night, some during the daytime with a big stopper, all on my flimsy travel tripod.

Enjoy!

 

touristic Mallorca

A couple of weeks ago I went to Mallorca for holiday, tired of the gray and cold in Hamburg, it seemed like a good idea for all the right reasons. It was.

That being said, I did not expect too much as I did not know a lot about the island apart from it being the center of cheap – binging and behaving as the worst stereotype of your home culture as you possibly can. So we stayed in a pensioners‘ apartment hotspot. Good choice, well executed. Bingo! (except for the bingo part, there was no bingo, nowhere, I’m not good with numbers anyway)

We did all the sightseeing stuff we wished for, learned how fleur-de-sel is harvested, artificial pearls are made, went to the dragon’s cave (I was curious, but no, no dragon, probably never, so sad) and went to Valdemossa, a wonderful town terraced into a mountain. I do envy the people who are able to live in such a spectacular landscape. Not only, if you think about it, because I envy them for not having a need for vitamin D supplements.

This is part one of two, seascapes coming a bit later.

Enjoy!

Hagenbeck Collection

In order to lighten up the bleak wintertime, here is a collection of images from Hagenbeck that is practically bursting with colour. Most of them are from the end of last year, but some are from last weekend. I haven’t been very regularly to Hagenbeck lately as I have been trying to answer questions for myself that I wrote about extensively on this blog.

Still last week I just had to get out of my apartment, so I enjoyed this slightly guilty pleasure at the zoo. As it was a sunny winter’s day, the zoo was packed with people, which was a bit too busy for my liking. Still, this is a nice collection, I think and the pictures might even lighten the mood on a dreary day.

As always, enjoy!

All images used with kind permission by Tierpark Hagenbeck.

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.

Hagenbeck’s primates

I guess everyone likes primates, apes and monkeys, because they remind us of ourselves. At least that’s the main reason I like them. Hagenbeck is home to a range of primates from sakis to tamarins, from baboons to orang-utans. Especially the baboons are fascinating to me, because they are so lively, social, funny and frankly raw. Here are some good images from the last couple of visits. 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.

Enjoy.

Spring in Hamburg

Well, it’s sort-of-finally come. As the sun-hours finally coincide with my circadian rhythm I went out to snap some pics of flowers and such. Here is a small collection from the Hirschpark and Planten un Blomen. Not much to say, really.

Enjoy!