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!

Up North!

Some weeks ago I went on holiday at the northern coast of Germany, more precisely, Sankt Peter-Ording. It’s a nice small village at the Watten-Sea, so there are nice museums, parks and informative exhibitions around that are connected in one way or the other to that national park.

I did not have any special photographic agenda there, but I took some shots at the Wattforum Tönning, the animal park St. Peter and the Westerhever Lighthouse. So this is an assortment but hopefully there is something in there for you to …

enjoy!

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

The tropics

Well, not the real ones, of course, but those at Hagenbeck’s zoo, anyway.Here’s a nice selection of shots inside the catacombs of the aquarium and the tropical area. The difficulty here is really to get sharp shots – any sharp shots, as it’s quite dark in the building. Another complication has to do with the thick sheets of special glass that protect the water tanks. They introduce layers of refraction, smudge and take away yet more light. So if you go inside the tropical aquarium be shure to boost your iso number quite high and be prepared to labour for each image, both in making it and in post-production. I wonder how much better the situation would be if I had a full-frame camera….

The animals of Hagenbeck

I’ve spent many weekends in the past year at »Tierpark Hagenbeck«, the privately funded zoo in Hamburg that looks back on six generations of family-ownership. The enormous costs of €41.000 a day(!) are exclusively covered by ticket-sales, donations or testaments (see their website for more information). The park is famous for its various panoramas, the skilfully laid out paths and of course its history and tradition. If you have the time, you should certainly pay it a visit.

As far as photography is concerned, the animal compounds have a high degree of naturalism to them, which is of course good for the animals, but it also allows for some stunning photographs that seem to show the animals in their natural habitats. In the following you see some of my best shots from the last 15 months, all with kind permission of Tierpark Hagenbeck. All shots here were taken in the park.

Mit freundlicher Genehmigung vom Tierpark Hagenbeck.

On Safari – Tandala Tented Camp

Going to Ruaha-National-Park is an adventure in itself. Shortly after Iringa you leave the tarmac and go on a rubble-road for 55 miles. Mean speed drops to a crawl of 15 mph max and the whole journey takes three to five hours, depending on the vehicle. Once you enter the camp, which is close to the gate of the park, bliss awaits.
Tandala tented camp is centered on two communal areas, one on poles with a thatched roof and luxurious South-African leather sofas and one under the open sky. The tents (after all, it’s called tented camp) each sit on a platform on stilts and are of the rough’n’lush kind. They keep all of the uncomfortableness of the rough nature outside and let fresh earthy air and beautiful sunlight inside. Massai watch over you day and night and the chef caters to almost all whims the European palate may come up with.
These amenities are complemented by an artificial waterhole which is frequented by elephants, kudos, impalas, baboons, warthogs, birds and sometimes even lions. The lodge belongs to Dionysia and Yanni, both coming out of families with a long history in Tansania. We’ve spent quite some time talking, laughing and exchanging ideas with each other. Their hospitality is enormous and they made me feel at home right away. Thank you for that!
From the camp you can enter the car either with your own jeep, a rental with a driver or by bus. I never managed to be in the park either in dusk or early dawn, so most animals are tucked away in the shadow of trees. That doesn’t lessen the experience (though the resulting photographs).

Rough Ruaha

The Ruaha National-Park is located in the western regions of Tansania on a highland plateau of roughly 900m. Since 2008 it has been the largest national-park in Tanzania. Surrounded by mountains it receives twelve hours of continuous sunlight during the dry season with temperatures rising to up to 35C. At night falling winds blow mightily across the plains. These pictures were mainly taken around noon when temperatures are at their hottest and most animals seek shelter under a tree. No one but tourists would go out at that time of day.

Birding

Yesterday I went to the „Weltvogelpark Walserode“, which is called the world’s largest bird-zoo, hosting thousands of individuals in six-hundred species. I attended the flight-show and some aviaries to try and get some good pictures. Alas, this time around I lucked out. When photographing birds in fight it’s all about shutter speed. a 1/2000s is preferred, so I dialled that in for a minimum aperture and an iso around 1250. That way I can control changes in light by simply dialling the shutter speed a bit up or down and a M4/3rd camera gives an immediate live-view of whether or not the exposure is good. There is no manual focusing with birds in flight, so I set my EM1 up in continuous autofocus tracking mode with high-speed sequential shutter. In doing so, the camera goes into phase-autofocus, theoretically focusing continuously on the subject I set my original focus on, so I could just follow it with my Oly 75-300ii, getting sharp pictures.

Theoretically. In reality I shot 1.800 images that way. Almost all of them utter, blurry crap. Utter, blurry crap. It’s a well-documented problem that micro-four-third cameras are not well-suited to bird or action photography but I could not believe how dire the situation actually was. That was a discouraging day-out. I’ll show some images that aren’t complete disasters here. The perching birds were shot through wires, so there are some additional problems there. Oh my.

Laboe – snaps

I will update this post with some snapshots over the next couple of days. They will have no particular topic other than that they are taken at or around Laboe. Enjoy.

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