Apr 262009
 



As I said in the last post, I am in Carinthia for a week. No traveling, no “real” vacations, just relaxing. It’s Sunday evening by now. It did take me some time to digest yesterday’s short trip to Slovenia.

But before we get to Slovenia’s beautiful landscape, let’s first push one thing out of our way: So far we had no dandelion shot this year, the dandelion season is short, here is this year’s attempt :)

This is the meadow in front of our house in Villach. We’ll get back to that in a week or two, when it will be a sea of white, feathery balls.

Yesterday we left Villach relatively late, at 4pm, but on the highway and through a long tunnel of more than 6km, the trip to Slovenia takes no more than 15 minutes.

Our target was the nearest town, Jesenice, a particularly ugly town that formerly was a center of Austrian k&k weapon industry. I guess it stayed on that track through Slovenia’s time in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, then the Socialist People’s Republic of Yugoslavia, but at the time of Slovenia’s independence, the high days of heavy industry were past. Today Jesenice is a town that visibly struggles to keep with the pace of the rest of the country.

The idea was, to leave the highway at Hrušica, drive all the way through Jesenice, then at Slovenski Javornik to take a small road left and up the mountains, all the way up to Javorniški Rovt, and then to take an even smaller road high up, to the west, to Planina pod Golico, and from there down to Jesenice. Google Maps does not show this connecting road, our street map does, but we finally found out that although the road seems to exist, it is to be used “at one’s own risk”, and that is not to be taken lightly in Slovenia, as we had to find out in March.



Even the road up to that intimidating sign had been extremely steep and narrow, thus we decided to let it be. The images so far were all made on the way up or on the highest point, just before we turned around. Pretty nice panorama, huh?

The only problem is, that winter is long and hard there, and that even the nearest town is half an hour of steep mountain roads away, and even then, it’s not a beautiful modern city, it’s shabby, old Jesenice :)

Well, that’s not fair. Sure, this is not a marvel of modern architecture (or any architecture), but it is a place where people live, a place that enabled people to live decent lives, so, sorry, I shouldn’t make jokes about it.

Apart from its remains of heavy industry, the area is surprisingly rural and in fact very beautiful. This idyllic spring scene was shot somewhere between Koroška Bela and Moste, while we drove down to the small town of Radovljica.

We ended up with only a short look on that walled old town, deciding that it deserves more than a fleeting look. We’ll be back to it maybe this week if weather permits, but in any case soon.

The last image is across the plain from Radovljica north. I pretty liked the clouds and the light.

All of these image were shot with three lenses: the Nikon 70-300 VR, the Nikon DX 35/1.8, and finally the wide angles with the Nikon DX 10.5/2.8 fisheye, the latter post-processed with the “Fisheye-Hemi™” plugin.

Well, I don’t really know what I thought, when I packed a bag of primes for this week, even omitting the 24/2.8, leaving the 35/1.8 the widest lens apart from the fish, but at least the fish does a very decent job.

The Song of the Day, “The Water Song“, is from the 1968 Incredible String Band album “The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter”. This was the first ISB album that I ever bought, then on vinyl, and since then I have acquired about all of their albums. Still, “The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter” will always be something special.

For a long time, ISB songs were not to be found on YouTube, but recently even this album has become available. Hear “The Water Song” on YouTube.

Apr 192009
 



Saturday was a particularly beautiful day in Carinthia. In fact it was much more beautiful than the weather report had predicted.

We drove down to Klagenfurt to find some furniture for the balcony. The idea was to enter the new IKEA shop, choose from the infinite variety, buy a table and four chairs, and probably ask my father to deliver the goods with his big car.

Well, the variety was finite, we got nothing at all, IKEA is a fine place for all kinds of furniture, but garden furniture is not their forte.

We took country roads down to Klagenfurt, I made some images with the 70/2.8, some like this B&W landscape with the Nikon 35/1.8, and finally, when we ended up dining on to of Magdalensberg, a mountain of 1050 meters with a church, an inn and a panorama to die for, I made some images with the fisheye.

The Nikon 10.5/2.8 fisheye is a remarkably good lens. It has substantial lateral CA (the type that you can easily correct), but that’s about all. It is sharp and it is very forgiving when you shoot directly into the sun.

Magdalensberg has a long history. In pre-roman times it was a celtic village, the Romans later had a little town up there, not directly on top but maybe 100 meters below. Later the church secured the old place for christianity.

The Song of the Day is “Sitting On Top Of The World” from the final Cream studio album “Wheels of Fire”. See the old guys performing live at a 2005 revival concert.

Apr 142009
 



OK, OK, “911 – Spring Is Here” was probably really a tad … hmmm … lacking in the color department. Art is no democracy, but the wise artist heeds the voice of the public, even more so, when it’s really ONE voice. “Post-apocalyptic“! Guys, you really know how to motivate me. Hope you don’t mind when I choose to still pursue that way :)


Slovenia advertises with the slogan “The Sunny Side of the Alps”, and they are quite right. From Carinthia it’s only once over a mountain range (actually through a tunnel nowadays), and from Villach it takes me no more than about 15 minutes to reach the country, but at least in Spring and Summer, the climate is slightly warmer, the vegetation at least a week ahead.

On Sunday afternoon we took a short trip down to Slovenia, and to be precise, along the river Sava from Slovenia’s capital Ljubljana east to the small town of Litja.


There are roads on both sides of the Sava. We took the smaller ones, those that are so small and have so little traffic, that we once saw people playing Badminton in the middle of the road.

I used two lenses on this trip, the Nikon 18-200 VR and the Nikon 10.5/2.8 fisheye, but all images shown here were made with the fish and “Fisheye-Hemi™“. It’s simply more fun.

All of today’s images began as color images, then I have applied my now already familiar B&W process, and finally used a mask to reveal most but not all of the original color. It is very similar to yesterday’s process that did not tickle your fancy, only more subtle :)

The Song of the Day, “Down By The River”, is once again from “The Hudson Branch EP” by The Hudson Branch, a music group based in Crystal Lake, Illinois. Three of their six members are Bienerts, and although I came to know Corey Bienert as a photographer, he and his band make very good music as well. Head over to their site and download some of their music. So far it’s for free. See the video on YouTube.

Apr 122009
 



It’s just about time to give a new meaning to 911, ain’t it? It has haunted us for almost eight years now. It has been abused to introduce the worst backlash against freedom of expression that our western civilization in the so-called free countries had to endure since the totalitarian downfall in the 1920/30s.

Censorship, the wet dream of every totalitarian mind, has returned as a concept openly pursued by our governments. Don’t let them have it!

Sorry, seeing the number of today’s (well, actually yesterday’s) entry has put me in agitation mode again. Still, it’s something to consider. Freedom is either a collective experience or it is not at all. Let’s get back to normal, can we?

Other than agitating, today I want to begin with two forgotten images from Friday. The first is the morning view out of my window in Vienna.

There is so much contrast, it is impossible to capture the feeling in any normal image … and still, I experience that feeling every sunny spring morning. Here I have used a very flat conversion from RAW and then applied some Hue/Saturation layers in various blending modes, “Screen” being among them in the darker parts. You can get to the same result via Lab mode color steepening, this is just the way I do it now. I guess it looks quite OK, at least my feeling is there.

The second is actually a variation on “602 – The Day That Jackie Jumped The Jail“. It’s the same place, the same escalator, there is still a construction site, I used the same lens, only this time I am maybe a meter above the position last time, and this time I have used Fisheye-Hemi™ for distortion correction. The other image was more evocative, at least for me, but I like this enough that I had to show you.

All of today’s images were shot with the Nikon 10.5/2.8 fisheye, all were treated with Fisheye-Hemi. Actually I love the way this plugin works. You have to work with some restrictions, most important the fact that the plugin does not honor the EXIF image orientation information and always corrects for landscape format, but all of photography is governed by restrictions, lens choice is a restriction, so get over that. Think of it as a software that turns your fisheye into a landscape lens.

And an ultra-ultra-wide at that. Remember: verticals will be corrected and will behave just like with any ultra-wide. When you point the lens up- or downward, they will show strong perspective distortion. Horizontals will not be corrected at all.

If you use the fisheye in the most tame way, keeping the horizon in the middle, as I did in the last image, it is just a very, very wide lens.

The Song of the Day is “Spring Is Here” by Nina Simone. It’s funny that I have never used that song. If you look at the lyrics, it’s the opposite of what I actually feel, but the song is really beautiful. I have it on “The Tomato Collection”, a collection that, according to Amazon, is discontinued by the publisher, but that you can still get via Amazon marketplace, or if you are open to digital downloads, directly from Amazon. Deezer has the whole double album for you to enjoy.

Apr 082009
 



Just before I got this incredibly light, wonderfully cheap and fantastically performing Nikon 35/1.8, just before I got it – some of you may remember – I made some experiments with the fisheye and a Photoshop plugin called Fisheye-Hemi™.

Well, I’ve returned to this.

Actually I love both of today’s images. I have struggled, I have torn my hair (there’s some left, but still …), I have kept thinking and wondering, and in the end the Song of the Day has made the Image – the distinct morning atmosphere won over the semi-B&W. In the end they are both artificial, they are both made and not taken, it is only that with the bicycle image it is more obvious.

These images were shot in the morning. I leave home early now, it’s just too beautiful to have time to spend photographing and still be early at work.

Searching for a Song of the Day I tried some Leonard Cohen songs. I don’t know why, the titles did not fit, but when at the beginning of “Anthem” I heard him say “The birds they sang at the break of day“, I knew this would be it.

Yes, this is pathos, yes, this is sentimental, but Dear is this beautiful! I have several versions of this song. Today we will stick to what Leonard Cohen currently does in his concerts. You can hear it on the new double CD “Live in London”, and the video that I’d like to show you, is from the end of his concert at Eastnor Castle, Herefordshire, England. Enjoy.

Mar 112009
 



Hi everybody! These are two images of yesterday, both made with the fisheye, both treated with Fisheye-Hemi™. They will certainly not be the last, but at least for the next days you may see me shift to a very normal angle. The reason is simple: I got my Nikon AF-S 35/1.8G. What a marvelous little lens! But more about that tomorrow.

The first image, a morning image, is somehow crude and unbalanced, but it strikes me as strangely surreal. After all, what is surrealism if not the combination of things that normally don’t go together? I like it and then not. This is a kind of image that I like to keep as a marker in my mind. This is not what I really wanted, but it is a way to go.

The second image was shot in the afternoon. The sun already stood low and cast a warm glow on the Natural History Museum. I had left work early, because I couldn’t wait to get my new lens.

When shooting in such places, it usually does not take too long until some people come along and end up in just the position that you want them to. I spare you the details of processing, it’s just as usual, only that this time I have taken the blur much further into the image, especially on the left side. This has two effects: it softens the harsh contrasts, and it gives the building more of an ethereal glow.

The Song of the Day is “Sunny Afternoon” by The Kinks. I couldn’t believe that I have not used it so far, but it’s true. See a video on YouTube.

Mar 102009
 



Well, I can’t say that I am overly successful with this combination of fish and Fisheye-Hemi™. Yes, it works fine in many cases where the fish alone would not, but composing for it is a very experimental thing.

I try to always shoot more than one image, and that solves part of the problem. On the other hand, more images means more processing. Normally I go through my images after copying them from the card, and I immediately delete what is never going to be used.

With this approach I can’t do that so easily. Some images that look like rubbish straight from the fish look quite OK when treated with this filter. This is one of the reasons why it took me so long to come up with this image :)

Btw, we had the same type of elevator in “816 – Starting All Over Again“. That image had been shot with the Sigma 10-20 at 10mm, and here it is the Nikon 10.5/2.8 fisheye. Same focal length, but look at how much wider this is! Again, this is pretty useful.

The Song of the Day is “Open the Door, Homer” from the 1967 “Basement Tapes” by Bob Dylan and The Band. Hear it on YouTube.

Mar 082009
 



What did I say? Color again! Well, both images of today are from the archives. It was a decently nice day today, but I have not been out photographing. Hmm … that somehow gets routine on Sundays :)

The first image is from Friday morning and nothing special, just one of my umbrella images, because it rained like mad. I had composed with the handle of the umbrella going straight through the middle, because straight lines going through the center of a fisheye image stay straight. This is one of a series of five or six images that I made there, waiting for a satisfying constellation of people and/or trains and cars.

The B&W conversion is a mix of “High Contrast Red Filter” and “Maximum Black”, along with the familiar gradient and some dodging and burning. Again I have treated this image with Fisheye-Hemi™, and again the result is extremely satisfying.

In fact, that’s what I did most of the day: trying this new plugin on old fisheye images.

That’s really important. When you use such a beast, you have to get a feeling for what it does to your compositions, after all, you can’t see it through the viewfinder. Thus, to increase my hit rate, I have to get familiar with the mapping, have to acquire the ability to predict the final outcome.

Well, so far there is room for improvement. I can say though, that the mapping seems to be mostly just what I wish for. Kinda magic :) In any case I’ll go on like that for a few days, at least until I get the new Nikon 35/1.8.

Apropos get: when I was at the local electronics and media store yesterday, I saw a long-expected box tagged “LG Flatron W2452-TX”. This 24″ monitor is the new incarnation of the successful 2452-T, only this one is a wide-gamut monitor.

So far I have only “calibrated” it visually, using the supplied software and a couple of monitor test photos, but I am certainly impressed. Tomorrow or the day after, I’ll try to get the same monitor for Vienna. It has the ability to throw out almost obscene colors, it is evenly lit, has great contrast, and the stability against varying the viewing angle is much better than with the cheap Samsungs. For a price of €260 it is a steal.

Oh, in all that chatter I completely forgot about the Image of the Day! This is an image of yesterday. I stood in the middle of a bridge and tried to capture as much of the sky as possible. Pretty nice clouds, huh?

If you have ever tried to take such an image with a fisheye, you know that the horizon at the lower end is invariably curled. In this case I have composited two versions of the same image, one with Fisheye-Hemi for the land and the clouds immediately above the mountains, one with the original fish for the clouds, because I really liked the curl at the top. I think that’s pretty neat. Best of both worlds. Of course you can’t do that all of the time. Normally you won’t find a smooth transition, but here there was just enough blank blue sky to make it work.

The Song of the Day is “In The Sky” from Mark Knopfler’s 2007 album “Kill to Get Crimson”. Nice song, nice album. Here’s a video.

Mar 082009
 



Here we go again. These two images are from yesterday, Saturday, early afternoon. It was a bright, sunny day, I had some business in Klagenfurt, and on my way back to Villach, I passed the highway for some good old country roads.

I had not yet given up on the fisheye, but my hopes for a usable image were low. You know, the fisheye does not particularly lend itself to landscape photography … or so did I think.

Both of these images were shot with the fish, both were converted in DxO Optics Pro, but without the default rectilinear mapping, and then they were run through Fisheye-Hemi™ again. All the other treatment is the same as in the last shots (yes, I’ll be back to color again, don’t worry), but the spectacular thing is really how Fisheye-Hemi turns the fish into a perfectly usable general-purpose landscape lens. Sure, it’s wide, in fact it’s ultra-wide, but that’s the whole point of it, right?

Just look at the trees! They’re straight. That’s what we expect. The landscape, the horizontal lines, they still bend, but that’s completely unimportant especially in a landscape. Nobody could tell how those lines are in reality anyway. All that counts is, that familiar things look familiar, and here that’s what the trees look like.

Sorry for bothering you with that plugin for the second time, but I’m simply thrilled. It’s like having bought a new lens :)

It’s another second time for the Song of the Day. Again it’s “‘Til A Spring Wind Blows Again” from Clarence Bucaro’s new album “‘Til Spring”. We had such warm spring winds yesterday, I could not help but being reminded of this song.

The album is finally out now and you may really like it. Check for extensive samples on Clarence’s own page.

Jun 192008
 



Wednesday I’ve been working almost until 11pm. I took some images while on my way home, but post-processing them was absolutely out of the question.

It’s interesting: the fisheye gets absolutely familiar now. for a time I have used it exclusively to get into it, but now I keep returning when I am in the mood. Yesterday I was.

The Song of the Day is “Rattlesnake Shake” from the time when Fleetwood Mac still was the Band of the great Peter Green. “Then Play On“, their 1969 album is one to absolutely have. Wanna know why? See here or here. Oh well!