Jul 302014

You know me, I’m strictly opposed to the prevailing totalitarian idea, that surveillance, if done thoroughly enough, will prevent all crimes and make people happy and safe. It doesn’t. It just makes controlling the masses easier, and in order to sell it to the electorate, our politicians always have to ramp up the hysteria about terrorists and child pornographers. Meanwhile, what really happens is, that all that data gets abused by bored officers and by the corporations that have collected it in the first place. End of rant :P

Photographically this image is proof of how far we have come with Micro Four Thirds. The sky was bright, the camera was not lit from the underside, thus it was an extremely high-contrast situation. This is not HDR, it’s just a regular RAW file with plenty of dynamic range to take advantage of. You see me smile :)

The Song of the Day is “Watching The Detectives” by Elvis Costello. I’ve used it more than six years ago for another image title. Incredible how time goes by. Hear it on YouTube.

Jul 292014

In the Austrian dialect, “Öd” means something like boring, bleak or dull. Well, in reality this is not graffiti, it is the shop sign of a second-hand shop called “Trödler Jakob” and I took the liberty to frame a word out of the middle.

The Song of the Day is “Boring” by The Pierces. Hear it on YouTube.

Jul 282014

By and large my new office building is well made. In the old office we have always suffered at the peak of summer, and I can’t tell you how disappointed I was, when I heard, that the new building would be without air conditioning.

The architect told us, the building would be built in a way that it would keep cool all by itself. Needless to say that I didn’t believe a word – but it does. So, my biggest concern turned to be unfounded and I am absolutely happy.

On the other hand, if you look long enough, there is always something, isn’t it? In this case it is what you’re looking at. It’s a connection between two parts of the office complex, shared by two departments. We call it the “Bridge” and it has a lot of smaller conference rooms. They have a peculiar wall pattern made of small, regular holes, spaced maybe one inch in between, completely regular, a raster pattern. Now, when you sit in a conference and look across the table, you have to be very careful to ignore the opposite wall. Fail to do so and you end up with something very similar to motion sickness. It’s not only I either, almost everybody says that. That pattern makes you sick :)

Apart from that, well, when the sun shines in through the windows, you may get the bonus of the interference of the shadows of the grates with the pattern on the wall. It’s crazy, but thankfully I don’t have to spend much time there. The rest of the building has normal windows and normal walls :D

The Song of the Day is “Crazy” from Ben l’Oncle Soul’s self-titled debut album. Hear it on YouTube.

Jul 272014

My widest lens, the Olympus 9-18, is not wide enough. There was a light in the upper left corner that would have made a nice accent. I’ve tried to go all way down to the floor and include it, but then I lost the perfect angle on the stairs and I had to cut them without any viable option for the lower corners. Didn’t work.

The Panasonic 7-14 that I sold last year would probably have been wide enough, and in this particular image, I would not even have had a problem with any lights in the frame … unless of course I would have tried to include the light, that was the reason to wish for a wider lens in the first place :)

Olympus will have a 7-14/2.8 next year, I expect it to be free of the reflections that plague the Panasonic on Olympus bodies, but of course it will be large and heavy and expensive. Hmm … nothing. Really :P

I guess the perfect lens for this image would have been my old Sigma 8-16, but that lens has gone as well.

Reality is, I don’t mind. Yes, once in a while I fail to make an image that I once would have easily made. On the other hand, guess how often I carried the Sigma 8-16 with me. Imagine how many images were not made because of that. And finally there are a lot of images that I am able to make, only because I have a wickedly stabilized camera with more depth of field than I once had. There are always two sides to a story :D

The Song of the Day is “The Call Up” from the Clash album “Sandinista”. Hear it on YouTube.

Jul 262014

No idea whether you’re interested, but here’s some more about my reading habits.

Like I said, most of what I read is in English. Once I had the ambition to learn Spanish, in order to read Mario Vargas Llosa or Gabriel García Márquez, but, well, life is short and you can only learn so much. I had to use the pretty good German translations, and the same thing was true for Albert Camus, Andrzej Szczypiorski or Italo Calvino, to name just a few.

I do happen to read and write English well enough to be able to enjoy English literature though, and therefore, whenever I am able to read the original version of a book, of course I do it.

I got back to German literature (Austrian even) last fall with my second (and equally unsuccessful) attempt at Robert Musil’s “Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften”, I’ve read the whole Kafka a few years ago, and I deeply enjoyed Stefan Zweig‘s “Die Welt von Gestern” this winter.

After that I read a lot of dystopian Science Fiction. “The Hunger Games”, “Lockstep” by Karl Schroeder, “Daemon” and “FreedomTM” by Daniel Suarez, they all paint a future of a world sliding into totalitarianism, and although Suarez offers an entirely satisfying solution (at least to this computer programmer), it is sometimes naively optimistic and depends on the unlikely chance of a dying genius spending his last years solving the problems of a future he won’t even see. Basically it is the techno equivalent of divine intervention. Still, it’s satisfying :)

But after all that and in the light (or shade) of recent events, I just needed something more optimistic. Stefan Zweig’s “Sternstunden der Menschheit” was a wonderful book and I can’t even begin to describe how greatly I enjoyed for instance the chapter about Haendel’s “Messiah”. I followed up with Sten Nadolny’s “Die Entdeckung der Langsamkeit“, a beautiful fictional biography about the British Arctic explorer Sir John Franklin, a book that I’ve promised myself to read for 34 years and that suddenly got back in focus when its author turned seventy – a man whom I remember being younger than I am now, when I heard him read in 1980 at the competition for the yearly Ingeborg Bachmann Prize.

I have quite a few English books on my virtual shelves, but after finishing Nadolny’s masterwork, I wanted to read at least one more German book. The author of “Hundert Tage”, Lukas Bärfuss, is certainly not widely known, especially as most of his works are in drama. He did write three novels though, and for his last one he earned a prize in 2013. I don’t remember what prize, I just found him because I was searching the Wikipedia page “2013 in Literature” for people unknown to me who earned a prize – just as Nadolny had in 1980.

I know, it’s a strange way to find literature, but is it so very different from reading what your newspaper recommends? Try it one time, you may be in for one or the other surprise.

The Song of the Day, unrelated again, is Cab Calloway’s “Lonesome Nights”, a song that’s at least a good match for our lone bicycle. Hear it on YouTube.

Jul 252014

Like I said, I read a lot lately and it is interesting to see how much my reading habits have changed. I was always interested in background, but apart from the fact that I couldn’t carry around an encyclopedia, if you look at it, even if we had owned a printed encyclopedia, who would have constantly bought updates? If they had even been available!

The book that I currently read, “Hundert Tage” by Lukas Bärfuss, is about the hundred days of genocide in Rwanda. It happened from April to July 1994. If I had bought one of the two big German encyclopedias, Meyer or Brockhaus, at the time when I started earning my own money (as had intended but never did), it would have told me about a developing country that did comparatively extremely well, about a peaceful and slightly boring small country on its way up. It wouldn’t have told me anything that could have eased my understanding of the conflict.

Wikipedia has changed all that. Sure, sometimes there are edit wars about who has shot down a particular plane, sometimes there is astroturfing, but by and large Wikipedia is pretty accurate and, whether you like it or not, in the long run it will be the only encyclopedia left, because at least the commercial alternatives won’t make it for another decade.

I’ve read the main article about the genocide, I’ve read about the assassination of the dictator Juvénal Habyarimana and Cyprien Ntaryamira, the event that started the massacres, I’ve read about the racist ideology of “Hutu Power“, about short time Prime Minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana, about several specific massacres, and so on and so on. I even skimmed the articles about the first and second Congo War, just to get a feeling for the aftermath. I could do that immediately as the need arose, and it actually did arise after the first few pages of the book.

But it is not only Wikipedia. I have an offline maps application called “Maps With Me” on my tablet and my phone. Sure, you can read a book without a map, but having one is so much more convenient. When I have Internet connectivity (not now on the train, but normally, when I read on the tablet at home) I can even use Google Maps and see photos taken in Kigali.

As a result I am far from being an expert for central African history, but I feel I have a good foundation for understanding every aspect of this particular book.

Really, it is crazy how fast the world of reading has changed, has it?

The Song of the Day, completely unrelated by the way, is “Lookin’ Around Corners For You”. Hear the Tommy Dorsey rendition on YouTube.

Jul 242014

I don’t really know why, but somehow I have less time for photography at the moment. This may be connected to stress at work, but it may also be simply due to the fact that I read a lot lately. I even have found pleasure in reading modern German literature. I haven’t done that in a long time, maybe 90% of what I’ve read during the last 20 years was in English. Well, I won’t run out of books either way :)

Here’s another railway station image. I took it for the shadows and got the light as a bonus :D

The Song of the Day is “Standing In The Way Of The Light” from Birdy’s 2013 second studio album “Fire Within”. Hear it on YouTube.

Jul 232014

I know, it’s always the same fence, but for once it is opposite my office, and then, there is an infinity of images hidden there. But don’t fear, you’ll get to see only a small, small fraction of infinity. An infinitesimally small fraction, I might say :D

The Song of the Day is “La Triste Réalité” by Amadou & Mariam. Hear it on YouTube.

Jul 222014

The street between Villach’s main railway station and the main bridge across river Drau (and then on to the main square), is not exactly crowded but nevertheless enjoys a steady stream of pedestrians. It is marred though by a would-be construction site that has been waiting for years to become a shopping center. So far it didn’t, and only the sketched crowd of happy shoppers on the canvas cover of the fence seems to believe in such a future. Meanwhile the canvas gets shabby and torn.

The Song of the Day is “Reasons For Waiting” from the Jethro Tull album “Stand Up”. I have used it two times in the past, the last time 1829 days ago. That is a long time :D

Hear it on YouTube.

Jul 212014

Same weekend as the last two posts, two more primes, 12/2.0 and 25/1.8, both used in a range where any lens would do. I didn’t enjoy using those primes at all, but I also didn’t want to give up so easily.

The weathered inscription on dark green background in the shop image reads “Weapons” on the left and “Fishing” on the right side, but I guess no animals were endangered by the shop’s goods in a long time.

The Song of the Day is “Between The Bars” from Madeleine Peyroux’ album “Careless Love”. Hear it on YouTube.