3581 – Running in Parallel

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Aug 082016

It was early April. I got an offer I couldn’t refuse 🙂

DSLR-Forum is a very active community of german-speaking photographers and they have a lively marketplace. I’ve sold most of my Nikon gear there and I’ve also bought some Olympus and Panasonic lenses. It’s all private to private, it’s all based on trust, but I’ve never had any problem when I’ve payed in advance. Everything always arrived in exactly the condition that was advertised.

I can’t really say that I need something, but I still have the habit of browsing the Olympus sales forum at least once a month. You never know, do you?

Early April I was electrified: I saw an Olympus PEN E-P5 in silver, with VF-4 and without a kit lens, for a very reasonable price. Low count of exposures, good condition, what was not to like?

This is a camera that I’ve always wanted to buy. It came out while I had the OM-D E-M5, shortly before I switched to the OM-D E-M1. Basically it’s E-M1 tech in PEN format. No weather sealing, but otherwise the same perfect stabilization, an external electronic viewfinder with the same resolution. It’s elegant. A beauty.

When it was new, I found it too expensive for a second body that I’d probably rarely use. It’s also not the camera for big and heavy lenses like the 40-150/2.8 PRO. Now, after almost two years, I got it for substantially less than half of the initial price.

I added a Kalahari leather wrist strap and a Garitz half case. The latter is pretty mandatory, because the grip of the E-P5 is exactly as bad as everybody says. It contains the WiFi antenna, therefore no good external grips are available. With the Garitz case I’ve got a pretty decent hold on the camera. I had to order it from Singapore though. It’s not made any more, not available in Europe, and the few US shops still having it refused to ship to Austria. Well, it was cheaper in Singapore anyway.

Here we are, I’ve got a second body 🙂

3504 – RS at Night

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May 232016

F3.2, 1/13s, ISO 6400. Dark again, but not only is the blue in the image much cleaner than it was from Lightroom, this time you have to look at the red fringe in the background. It’s clean and vivid, while in Lightroom it was completely washed out.

Can you improve a correctly lit daylight image using DxO PRIME? No, you can’t. To the contrary, it will cost you detail. Not much, but it will.

Above ISO 800? Seems like a safe bet on Micro Four Thirds. At ISO 1600 pretty much every camera will profit, and at any higher ISO it will work pure magic. You see me impressed.

3503 – The Circus is in Town!

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May 222016

F1.8, 1/13s and ISO 6400? I suppose you agree: it must have been dark there 🙂

By the time you read this, the image should already be on Flickr in full size. Look at it at pixel level.

Not impressed? Ok, now look at the small red inscription on the green glass in the upper left corner. Look at the small yellow reflexes on the chrome against the dark sky. That’s what I mean when I praise DxO PRIME’s color purity. I’ve never seen anything like that before.

3501 – The Sky’s the Limit, But There’s no Limit to the Sky

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May 202016

OK, I admit, yesterday’s post was a little longer than usual. We’ll leep it short and sweet today.

Although this image was taken at base ISO, I’ve done pretty cruel things to it in order to make the reflection on the black polished facade more seamless. Basically I had to raise levels in the drak parts by a few stops. DxO Optics Pro’s PRIME noise reduction did an excellent job to keep noise out of the picture.

May 192016

I took these images while waiting at the gas station for my turn at the car wash.

The DIY store on the other side of the street has just been taken over by a big German chain. It sports some big advertising banners along the main street, that have been changed to show the new design. Actually I had liked the old design better. It was more stylized and it had, although being gaudy, a much more tasteful combination of colors. The new big posters with artificially smiling “friendly faces” get quickly annoying when you see them every day 🙂

Apropos friendly faces. Next Sunday we have the run-off election for the presidency in Austria. The first ballot didn’t come as a total surprise, but nobody had expected such an unusual result.

From six candidates, only one, Richard Lugner, owner of a big construction business and something like a harmless Donald Trump, was considered chanceless. So he was.

Irmgard Griess, a former judge, entered the race as an independent candidate. For my taste she was a bit eager to get elected, tried to get support from almost any political party, and was in the end supported by the NEOS, a neo-liberal party that’s relatively new in Austria.

Alexander Van der Bellen, a professor for economics and for years head of the Green Party, was leading in all the polls.

The Social Democrats nominated one of their ministers, Rudolf Hundsdorfer, a man rooted in the unions. It was clear that he would not make it into the run-off, but then, the ruling party just had to nominate someone.

The Social Democrats are in a never-ending coalition with the Conservatives, a coalition that looked like a grid-lock for ages, a marriage without love. One of their mightiest politicians, Erwin Pröll, the governor of Lower Austria, was expected to be their candidate until February, but then even he finally realized that he is extremely unpopular everywhere but in his own province. He drew back, which is bad luck for Lower Austria. A lost election would have been an elegant way to get rid of him.

They also had to nominate someone who could be sure not to win, and so Andreas Kohl became their candidate. He is an intelligent, cynical former secretary of the party, the architect of their catastrophic coalition with late Jörg Haider’s right-wing populists, a man well acquainted with intrigue.

And then there was of course the populist Freedom Party, formerly led by Jörg Haider, then and now a safe haven for nasty nationalist politics with strong fascist tendencies. They tumble from one scandal to the next, but it does not seem to hurt their standing. During and after their last time in government, they were involved in innumerous dubious affairs, many leading to prosecutions, but somehow the so-called “wave of refugees” last year has washed that memory away.

Norbert Hofer is their candidate. He is the “friendly face” of the party, a man who gets across as humble and congenial on first and maybe second sight. Incidentally he is also the youngest of the candidates.

People in Austria tend to be pretty xenophobic. I found it surprising, that our current government didn’t give in to right-wing pressure when Angela Merkel opend German borders for Syrian refugees, but then, they were only travelling through. We greeted them with a toast and waved them good-bye.

Carrying the real weight cost the German government dearly. Angela Merkel’s popularity tumbled, and finally Germany began to close borders. Austria was next. In a desperate attempt to re-gain popularity, our goverment turned their stance and began to act as hard-liners in Europe. It was too late though. Currently everybody agrees, that if we had general elections now, the Freedom Party would come ahead by a considerable margin.

The result of the first ballot was grim. Norbert Hofer of the Freedom Party, the man whom everybody and their polls has expected to come in as second after a strongly leading Alexander Van der Bellen, Norbert Hofer earned 35%. Alexander Van der Bellen, my personal favorite, was lucky to make it into the run-off with 21%. Suddenly the race was very, very open at best, although many commentators already see Norbert Hofer as our next president.

Would that matter? The answer is yes. The Austrian president has a very powerful position, and it is only due to tradition, that the presidents don’t use their power to determine politics.

The president can, for instance, dissolve an elected government if he thinks they don’t do their job. You can take it for granted that Norbert Hofer has visions of what a government’s job is, that run contrary to everything the current government stands for, and likely to most of what his current voters expect or desire.

As a president, Norbert Hofer could dissolve the government at any time, and of course he would do so in a situation that most favors his Freedom Party. If they came out as winners of general elections (as it’s likely), he would hardly accept a government without the Freedom Party (if it were possible at all) and he would make sure that H.C. Strache, their party leader, is the next chancellor.

Would that matter? Well, if you look at the protagonists, I fear it would. Strache is likely a puppet. He, a former dental technician with an ever leering grin instead of intellectual prowess, has a long history of contacts with the extreme right. I don’t deem him a leader, but he is a symbol for what has become possible in the wake of Jörg Haider. Hardly anyone in his retinue is better.

Norbert Hofer is probably even more dangerous, because he is definitely intelligent. He is the main author of the party’s current program, and in the meanwhile the friendly mask has worn thin. Hofer sees his chance and he is not only determined to win, he is also determined to change this country.

As all the nationalist populists in Europe he is extremely anti-european, against the Euro as a currency, and most of all against open borders.

If you think of it, among the many things that the EU has improved in Europe, the open borders of the Schengen-zone and the Euro are probably what normal people enjoy most. The borders have become symbolic, you can just drive across to Italy for a coffee and you can even pay it in your own currency. It is a dream-come-true, but not for the lurkers in the brown swamp at the right.

Hungary and Poland are good examples of what right-wing populist governments can do to a country. In Hungary Viktor Orbán gained almost the majority needed to change the constitution, while in Poland the new government has at least an absolute majority. In both countries there are repressions against journalists and dissidents. Both governments do their best to change the rules, in order to make sure that they never again can lose an election.

Therefore: if you are Austrian and if you have not voted yet, do us all a favor and vote for Alexander Van der Bellen. Do it, even if you don’t like him. Do it, even if you were disgusted by everyone and had decided not to vote at all. Go out and do it, even if you think he’s just the lesser evil. He may be so, but for sure he would be so by a giant margin.

Thanks for making it down here 😀

3430 – The Beauty of the Forest

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Mar 102016

For some reason I think this is a particularly beautiful forest image. I find it harmonic and I like its colors and all, but I guess the real reason is something different.

It’s a forest like I’ve never seen it in my childhood. In Carinthia we do have deciduous trees, but they are sprinkled in between. Mostly our forests are a sea of spruces, spruces, spruces.

I knew forests like this one, but I only knew them from illustrations in fairy tales. This is a magic forest, the forest of my fairy tales. I guess that’s what makes much of the beauty that I see in this picture 🙂

3429 – Red as Fire

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Mar 092016

This is another small trophy that I took away from Mauerbach. Sometimes I’m happy that I don’t have to print all those images. If there is anything like “Color Gamut Hell”, this must be close to it. Believe me, I know, I once printed the picture in this post, a picture now hanging on a wall in my apartment in Vienna 🙂

Mar 082016

The church of Mauerbach was closed, the monastery only open for visits on Sundays in Advent and then again after Easter or something like that. In any case I was not able to get the pictures that I had come for.

When I left through the old monastery gate, I found today’s Image of the Day, a complicated arrangement of light, shadow and lines in various angles. Small loot, but sometimes you have to be thankful for what you get 🙂