I‘m back ….

from a beautiful week on the Isle of Skye.

While writing this, I’m having a layover of about 3 hours in Amsterdam and hacking this in my mobile phone. All the other group members are on their ways to get home again and I’m the last one sitting in the airport terminal alone for the last hour and waiting for my connection flight. I was on a trip with some friends for seeing the beauty of the Isle if Skye. The island is part of The Inner Hebrides islands and is located at the west coast of Scotland in the Irish Sea.

As I was told before, many parts of that island look very similar to Iceland: fjords, steep hills and small mountains, few trees, green mountainsides, lots of sheep. Spring starts a bit later here, so far in the North.

We visited many famous and also less famous locations. As expected, the weather was quite mixed: warm, sunny moments were interrupted quite often by rain, which was sometimes heavy and equipped with very strong winds.

Over time, some images will pop up here. For today I attached an image of Eilean Donan Castle, located between the Scottish main-land and the Isle of Skye. It’s considered as a doorkeeper and one of the famous locations here.

Our base for exploring the island was somewhere in the middle of the island, not far away from Portree, the biggest town of the island. We had two cars for our group of seven: a Skoda Octavia and a Mercedes C220, because of the lowered down body and the low section tires. (We ordered a different car, but the rental car station did not have the ordered car). The later wasn’t appropriate for the streets. The roads are quite small and often in bad shape. Some roads even have only one track and passing points every now and then. Usually, the sides of the roads are the worst parts: many potholes and unpaved sides. To avoid hitting a pothole you have the leave the regular track sometimes. But, when you’re encountering an other car or even s lorry, you can’t leave your track without risking an accident. So, over time we got a flat front tire 😕. Unfortunately, that happened at night and there was neither a spare tire nor a bootle of repair foam in the Mercedes. 😭

While two of us tried to get the tire repaired in the next morning, the others were trying to see another famous spot. But, after a few miles an encountering lorry occupying more room of the road (he crossed the middle line of the road and drove also in our half) and thus forcing us to yield to the unpaved side, where we hit a huge pothole and thus got a flat tire on the second car, too 😕. Thanks to a spare tire in the Skoda we were back on track after a short break. Pugh. Day saved. At the early afternoon we met with the second car and used the rest of the day as good as possible.

A few times, we noticed the midges, a kind of large mosquitos which bite very aggressively. Fortunately, we had too heavy wind for them to fly most of the time. So, no-one was harmed. Usually, they come not before end of April or early May, but probably they were earlier this year because of a few very warm days. In this context, warm is a quite relative term. As our landlord said, they have about 15-19 degrees centigrade during summer! So, the 14-16 degrees we had during several days, were quite ‘hot’ for spring time. During the rainy days the temperatures went down to below 10°C, not counting the nights.

So, I recommend dressing with several layers of clothing, starting with a t-shirt. I wore a t-shirt, a hiking pullover, a thin hiking jacket without hood, a thicker hiking jacket with hood and on top of this a windbreaker with hood. The windbreaker was not always necessary. Sometime even the t-shirt was enough. Because of the cold and heavy wind I also used sometimes a pair of Norwegian gloves and my wooden hat. Hiking trousers don’t fight the wind very good, but in my opinion that was warm enough. The advantage of such material is, it dries up extremely quick after a rain. It only lasts 10-15 minutes to dry completely even after a hard rain. During on trip we got very wet. Some of us looked like they were drowned in a barrel of water. My trousers dried up as expected, but because of the heavy wind, the rain was forced through the fabric and ran down the legs. In the end, the water ran inside the shoes. In such situations, the material makes a huge difference. When having leather shoes, drying lasts days, especially when fur-lined. I have shoes made of Goretex. Although, my shoes were completely wet from inside, they were dried up in only 3,5 hours. OK, I got some help by toilet paper and a hair drier.

Regarding shoes, I recommend hiking boots with a solid tread, so that your shoes have grip and save you from slipping. Don’t expect paved paths when heading to a sightseeing spot. Thus, use boots with a high shaft and no trainers. Despite having hiking boots, one of our group members had an accident. He went over on his ankle. Fortunately this happened in the early afternoon of your last day on Skye. So, he didn’t miss much. But, he will probably suffer from the for some weeks.

My advice: always care for good boots and proper clothing when going on a trip.

Take care!

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Throwback Thursday: editing cranes with Luminar 2018 Jupiter!

Recently, I got a review version of the upcoming version “Luminar 2018″ V. 1.2.0 Jupiter. for a short time.

Upgrade was as easy as usual: simply drawing the app in my Applications folder. I had the feeling, the software start doesn’t need as long as before. The interface seemed familiar without any noticeable changes. All presets seemed to be still available. Also, the workflow is the same.

So, I took some of my images for my crane trip last fall and developed them from raw again.

(click on the image to enlarge it)
APS-C, 800mm (~1200mm), f8, ISO 400, 1/6400s

(click on the image to enlarge)
35mm, 155mm, ISO 800, f7.1, 1/500s

(click on the image to enlarge)
APS-C, 800mm (~1200mm), ISO 3200, f5.6, 1/125s

I was quite impressed by the results when comparing the outcome with the one from last fall using Luminar V. 1.0.0: more details, better results in the mid-tones and much better noise-reduction. The noise reduction is so good now, than I’m considering deleting the old app “Noiseless CK”.

For me, a good noise reduction is crucial. When doing wildlife photography, I have to use high ISO settings because I want very short shutter speeds for getting sharp images. You know the apertures triangle: ISO, shutter speed and aperture. As I usually have to use long focal lenses, which are not so fast as shorter focal lenses because of physical limitations. Additionally, the longer a lens, the smaller the field of depth is. This brings in another level of light shortage.

Some of the other new features are:

  • higher speed during import and processing
  • automatic distortion correction
  • improved Demosaicing and green balance
  • support of DCP profiles (Mac)
  • higher speed when importing raw images (Mac)
  • the functionality of the Windows version is adapted to the Mac version by adding support for batch processing, free transformation, rotation and mirroring

Luminar 2018 Jupiter comes as a free upgrade for all current users of Luminar 2018. Users having a previous version of Luminar are eligible for upgrading on a reduced rate. For those of you, not having Luminar already, might consider giving it a try. There’s a free evaluation version available for download for MacOS and for Windows.

When using this code “SOLANER” you can save some money and get your perks anyway 😃.

Take care!

Throwback Thursday: Carnival Season

Here in my area we have two of the German carnival capitols: Cologne and Duesseldorf. Carnival festivities take place in the public as well as in many indoor locations. Carnival season starts on November 11th and lasts until Ash Wednesday (the exact date differs each year, because carnival depends on Easter. On that day the Lenten season starts for 40 days ’til Easter)

How are these festivities related? The bible tells us the background.

Easter = resurrection = Jesus Christ rose from his grave
Good Friday = Jesus was nailed on the cross, died and was buried

This festivity is the most important celebration in Christian believes.

Because of Jesus himself lentened for 40 days to strengthen his own belief, there is a 40 day Lenten period.

The word ‘carnival’ has it’s origin in Latin: carne = meat + val = without. It marks the beginning of the 40 day Lenten period.

In medieval times, people started to celebrate before the Lenten period started and to use up nearly all of the food remaining from last year. So, these supplies were used for big festivities (also celebrating the end of the winter). During these days, the established hirachy were turned upside down: the fool became mayor and everyone masqueraded. For one of the days, the Thursday I mentioned in the first paragraph, even became power: they were allowed to reign for 1 day (Altweiber / Weiberfastnacht). All of these isn’t meant serious, but foolish, because everything is turned upside down.

The magic number of carnival is the 11, because you can turn it upside down and it’s still the same.

Over the centuries, carnival starts now on November 11th at 11:11. On that date, the indoor festivities start. These are meetings with a president, a meeting committee and lots of speeches (all funny but usually political). This type of carnival was a foolish reaction to the strict government by the Pruss and Napoleons France. The participants wear costumes inspired by official uniforms of that times soldiers, but with a funny skirt or flouncy sleeves. They also play special music. Often played by marching bands looking like they were kidnapped from the 17th century. Simple melodies and very foolish lyrics (easy to remember, even when drunk).

Starting from Altweiber, the carnival festivities encroach to the streets. Carnival music floods the streets and the radio stations. Carnival meetings are broadcasted by some TV stations. While you won’t remark all of this during winter, is nearly impossible to ignore it during the last week before Rosenmontag (Carnival Monday).

Not everyone likes this!
One of my friends works in the middle of Cologne. Even during the days marking the summit of the carnival festivities (Thursday to Tuesday), when the silly music with their haunting melodies creating earworms to eat up the remains of your mind. Most of the businesses in areas with such a long tradition of celebrating carnival that intense, are closed for these days, because no customer would come, the employees won’t be usable (too tired and drunk) and drunk people probably would trash the unsecured rooms.

His company does not close, because they have also to support customers in areas, where carnival isn’t a topic at all. So, he goes on vacation. Some other friends of us, also working in similar areas, where they don’t have to work. My company office at that time was located in Duesseldorf, but a bit out of the center. So, I left the office always early to avoid encountering with drunk people.

Because all of this, he got the idea, to use these days for a short trip and our annual carnival escape was born.

Over the years we usually visited a famous city in the south, but also Berlin and London. Not everyone was able to take part in every trip. So you won’t find all of them here.

This time was different. Despite we were traveling south, we didn’t the reach the warmer mediterranean countries. Instead, we stopped in the Bavarian Alps for a hot-air balloon flight.

Take care!

Luminar and Aurora by Macphun

You know, I mentioned Luminar and Aurora by Macphun several times here in my blog and I’m using them on a regular basis for my images, as well as the older product Tonality Pro.

Macphun will now officially be known as Skylum!

In order to celebrate this, they’ve prepared special exclusive bonuses and freebies which are included to every purchase of Luminar or Aurora HDR. Both software products are available for Mac and Windows.

Both products are currently availlable with a special discount and some bonuses. So, give it a try. Free trials are available for download on the Luminar 2018 trial page and the Aurora 2018 trial page.

Or check out the perks you can currently get:
Luminar 2018 FEBRUARY OFFER  
AURORA HDR 2018 FEBRUARY OFFER

Take care!

Throwback Thursday: Lisbon

This time, three years ago, I was in Lisbon. Time to remember. There are still many undeveloped images on my disk. I have an enormous backlog 😦

Carnival is a huge event in our region. I guess, I mentioned this fact several times here in my blog. With a few friends, I flee these days as often as possible. Most times, we head to the warmer south.

Take care!

Review: Aurora HDR 2018

For a few days the latest version of Aurora HDR from MacPhun is available. This new version is not only for Mac, it’s also for Windows. I got a review version for testing.

Yesterday, while out with my photographers roundtable, I visited a former coal mining building, now a museum. That mining buildings are notable because of its wonderful architecture made from brick-stones. The mine was open from 1899 – 1955.

Most of the time I was inside the machinery hall, a very modern building for that time, but with an unusual architecture style for a mine. Many parts inside reminded me to the movie “Metropolis” by Fritz Lang from 1927.

Being inside a quite dark building on a dark and rainy day gave me the opportunity to take some images by using bracketing. That is a technique where you’re taking one image just the way the light meter says, but two (or more) additional images with exposure correction (+ and – i.e. 1 or 2 EV) to develop them later with HDR or DRI software like Aurora HDR. Often HDR or DRI images have over-saturated bonbon colours, which I don’t like. So, you don’t see many of them here in my blog.

While the user interface of Aurora HDR did not change much and the preset sections are also still available, I won’t waste too much time on these parts. Have a look at my last review.

I want to focus on the new results and an unexpected feature I discovered: distortion control. The export results are much better in quality, than in the original version. I like the resulting colours more and the results don’t have so much noise in it. The auto-alignment feature works quit good. But ist’s still better to have exact aligned images by taking them with a tripod instead of free-hand. The distortion control feature is nice. I’m using DxO Viewpoint for distortion control. The results are great. Compared to Viewpoint, Aurora is too complicated. Here they have some work to do.

When you own some other tools from MacPhun, you can use them as plugins inside Aurora HDR and vice versa. They are also available as plugins inside Photoshop.

I’m back …

2 beach chairs in the setting sun on the green beach of Friedrichskoog in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany

… from the North Sea.

Sitting sun-kissed, mosquito-bitten, cooled down from rain while cycling and quite relaxed. That’s how I’m back to my desk at home. Most of the laundry is already done, fridge is full again and the pile of mail is worked through. During the last two weeks I was on vacation. Our vacation home was on the west coast of Schleswig-Holstein, the most northern state of Germany bordering south to Denmark. Schleswig-Holstein has two coasts: the North Sea to the west and the Baltic Sea to the east.

Fortunately, I scheduled my blog posts in advance as usual. It was our first vacation home without WiFi for very long time. I forgot to double-check the availability of WiFi in the vacation home while booking. To make it even worse, we were in a region with extremely bad coverage with mobile internet. Only few spots were usable to check emails or social media. The allowed data volume is consumed very quick under these circumstances. Even the local restaurants didn’t offer WiFi to their guests.

We were in the area called Friedrichskoog (a Koog named after King Frederick of Denmark, when it was created more the 150 years ago), a part of the grater area Dithmarschen. Dithmarschen is well known as being a source of vegetables and geese. We saw many, many fields growing different kinds of cabbage, carrots, chard, leek, onions, strawberries, potatoes, wheat and rye. While the rangers in the bordering state Lower-Saxon rise cows for producing milk, you can find here huge herds of sheep instead of cows (despite there are also cows here). Especially along the coast sheep are literally on every dike. I already wrote about the dike sheep and how near you can come to them in a past post. Although, that sheep were on the dikes in East-Frisia, which is part of Lower-Saxon. But, here’s the same – only the herds are bigger and there are more dikes. Btw. Dithmarschen is part of North-Frisia 🙂 wich is part of the state Schleswig-Holstein.

You might ask, why does Schleswig-Holstein have more dikes than Lower-Saxon? That’s because the locals tried to wrest additional land from the sea. You know, the North Sea consists of mudflats. During low tide the sea ground falls (nearly) dry, while high tide or flood the area is below the water again. This moving water brings silt and lays it down, where the streams are weak. So, people have started to put up rows of wooden piles in the mudflats called Lahnung (sing. / pl. Lahnungen). They are meant to give the mud some extra room get laid down. Over time, new areas of land were gained from the sea and parted by a new dike from the sea. This is called a Koog. The technique is quite similar to the Polder in the Netherlands. Because of the growing of the Koogs, there are some dikes one after another, just as the land grew. Nowadays, the still set up Lahnungen to gain new land (and save the dikes!!), but they don’t build new dikes anymore to part them from the sea. The new gained areas are left open to the sea as Salzwiesen (pl. salt meadows). Very special plants grow here. It’s also a breeding area for many sea-birds. And it’s a huge resting area during the biannual bird-migration in spring and fall. Thus, the salt-meadows are parts of the national park „Wattenmeer“ and thus under protection.

As usual, we picked our vacation home near the beach to be able to have an evening walk after diner alone the sea. It’s great to watch the sinking sun, the expanse of the sea (or the mudflat during low tide 🙂 ). Here we have that certain view, too. But the beach is different compared to other beaches. We have had to cross (climb up some stairs) the dike and walk down to the sea limit without having to cross sand or pebbles. We even does not need to climb over rocks. Here, the beach is green. It’s covered with grass. A strange experience. It looks like a lake or so, but not like being at the sea. It doesn’t make any difference. It’s the salty odour, the sound of the birds, the rolling waves and so on.

This land is quite flat. The highest points beside buildings are usually the dikes. This, and laying between two seas make the state the perfect land for producing electric power from wind. So, alone in the area Friedrichskoog, a small part of Dithmarschen, you can find over 90 wind farms with a total of  205 mega-watts, as I read in a local publication dedicated for the tourists.

It’s also a region ideal for biking. Fortunately, there were bikes in our vacation home included, so we didn’t have had to rent some. So, we rode around to see more of the environment. We also made a few trips to other towns nearby. That’s more to tell later :). I also was on the hunt for birds with my camera.

Stay tuned and see, what’s coming next 🙂

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