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.

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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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Umweltfotofestval “Horizonte Zingst”

This post is a translation from my German blog, where you can find a gallery with some images taken during the festival to give you an impression.

End of May, I was in Zingst attending the annual photo festival  “Horizonte Zingst”. It’s called environmental photo festival, because it is focused on our environment and how we treat it. I was there for the first time, but it was held for the tenth time.

Zingst is located at the German coast of the Baltic sea in the state Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. It’s a small seaside resort.

For one week, photography rules the town. Many, many exhibitions are held outside as well as inside. More than 120 workshops were organised on so many different topics. And everything took place in a very relaxed atmosphere.

The festival lasts for 8 days, starting on Saturday and lasting ’til next Sunday, while the main time is Thursday ’til Sunday. All days have a full loaded schedule where you can pick the topics of your interest or just sit on the beach and enjoy the great landscape.

Each day, there are several exhibition openings with speeches or at least an interview of the photographer. You can learn the idea behind the images or about her style of work. I’d recommend, visiting the exhibitions of your interest at least twice: first alone and for the second time when the photographer is there. Im my gallery I have some impressions of the exhibitions for you.

Each day there are also lots of workshops you can attend. There are workshops for beginners as well as for pros. You can learn the basics of photography or special techniques and sharpen your skills. In sum there were about 120 workshops held during the week.

On the beach they set up a big screen every evening to show a compilation of what happened during that day, called “Bilderflut” (image flood). In approximately 1 hour you can have a brief overview of  what happened during the workshops and see resulting images of the participants. It’s kind of a news show on television but with 2 anchor men standing life in front of the screen and the movies (short documentaries) are not the screen behind them.

You can attend it while either sitting in the sand, standing on the pier or (if lucky enough) sitting in one of the deck chairs of the beach club, set up only for supporting the Bilderflut.

the media team has a very hard job. 8 guys starting on 7 a.m. each day to film and cut the movies to bring them life in the evening. The result is not only played on the big screen on the beach, but also streamed to the internet. At Facebook (unfortunately nor on Youtube), you can follow the show, even when not in Zingst.

Central point of reference it the Max Hünten Haus. Max Hünten was a painter, born 1869 in Düsseldorf. During the 1920s he move to Zings after having visited The Darß, a wild forest between Zingst and Ahrenhoop. Nowadays the area is a preservation zone. That forest is untouched since many centuries.

Max Hünten also was a photographer. At the local history museum they have found 500 glass plates. It’s the same technique Anselm Adams has used. The 500 glass plates were taken during the 4 years lasting world travel of Max Hünten from 1910 to 1914. The treasure was the initial impulse to establish Zingst as a location for photography. It’s also the spectacular landscape and the special light here at the coast, that make Zingst a special location. So, the festival was founded and backed by some of the major companies in photography.

As a festival focused on the environment, you can see many images showing the beauty and the ruined beauty of our plant. Photo students, photo journalist as well as established landscape and nature photographers displayed there fantastic images. I really recommend having a look on the gallery in my German post.

Between Thursday and Saturday, the town became even more crowded than the days before. I guess, not only because of the very nice weather and the prolonged weekend (that Thursday we have had a public holiday, so that many took the Friday as a bridging day off). During those so-called core-days, they also have had a photo market in town. Lots of tents holding booths of dealers and the major photography companies. You were able to chat with sales engineers and expert adviser, try gear or even get some gear lent to test it outside in combination with your own gear. What a chance!

I guess, that this wasn’t my last visit in Zingst.

Here I have the “Bilderflut” of the last night (Sunday). It’s twice as long as the shows of the other nights. But, it gives you a brief overview of the whole festival. Even it is stored on Facebook, you can watch it without begin a member of Facebook. Btw. at minute 44:50 you can see on of my images as a part of “Best of Zingst” in the category “Landscape” as #3 out of 15.

Much of fun!

Adélie : Terre & mer – A book review

A brief look inside the two books. Enlarge by clicking in the image.

Recently, I stumbled upon a documentary on one of your TV channels. That channel is a cooperation among public TV stations from Germany and  France. So, we literally have two channels with the same programs, but one is in German and one is in French.

That documentary was about two french photographers (Vincent Munier and Laurent Ballesta) working for some time in the french research center in Antarctica. They were there for taking photographs of the landscape and the emperor penguins among others. One of the two photographers was focused on the white landscape and its habitants, while the other one was active below the ice as a diving photographer. Every now and then, there were standing images (photographs) shown in the documentary for a few seconds. Really fantastic images, taken in both areas: above and below the ice.

When the documentary ended, I did some research about the two photographers, to find out, if there is a book available containing these fantastic images. And fortunately I was successful to find it. It’s called “Adélie: Terra & mer” (meaning “land an sea”). It’s not only one book, but two of them combined in a box as a single product bound together as two aspects of a foreign world. Each photographer assembled one of the two books. Because of the origin of the two photographers, the entire book is in French. My French is very, very limited. So, it was kind of risky to order the book. There was no “look inside the book” or even sample pages available. Will I be able to understand anything inside of them? Despite all of these considerations, I ordered an exemplar. Two days ago, I received my box.

Inside a solid box, there were two books with 90 full-sized images distributed on 104 pages in each book. The books are sized a little bit bigger than DIN A 4 (35 x 25 cm) and very high-graded produced. The images are printed on a thick fine-art paper. The book by Vincent Munier is white and contains the images taken above the ice. Laurent Ballesta was the diver. His book is dark blue and contains the images taken below the ice. Although, it’s very pricey, it’s worth the money.

And yes, I’m very happy with the books. Fortunately there is only a short foreword in French. Next, there are all these fantastic images: one full-sized image per page without any disturbing text. At the end of each book you can find an appendix of three pages with thumbnail images and a (very) short description of the contents of the image. One can handle it with support of a dictionary. 🙂

Adélie: Terre & mer. (land and sea)

For the first time, photographers Vincent Munier and Laurent Ballesta have travelled together to discover the natural treasures of Adélie Land, in Antarctica.

Vincent Munier explored the ice field and the bird colonies, while Laurent Ballesta dove under the ice; one observed the emperor penguins and snow petrels in the open air, while the other dove with the Weddell seals and photographed the astonishing and unknown biodiversity of the Antarctic depths… Both have brought unique pictures from this exceptional trip, where the whiteness of the ice contrasts with the submarine blue.

« Adélie, Land & Sea » is the result of artistic and technique challenges, as well as a very fine object: it gathers two volumes (one white, one blue) in a beautiful slipcase.

Text in French only (very short – two poems by director Luc Jacquet)

source: publishers website

You can order your own copy via Amazon in France, Germany, UK, US (and several others, too) by following my link above and simply changing the “.de” in the URL to the TLD of your Amazon store (i.e. “.co.uk” , “.fr” or “.com”)

Take care!

2016 – A review in images

dsc_6129-e_wToday, we have the first day of 2017. 2016 is definitely over. 2016 has had 366 days, because it was a leap year. What happened during these days?

First of all, I’m alive, healthy and full of plans for the future. Although, there are a few little things, where I’m able to feel, I’m not 20 anymore 🙂 On the other hand, I was very, very busy for the last 2 months. A bit more than usual. I miss the time to be able to have a look at my friends blogs. I hope, this will change soon in January.

Since this late spring, I’m posting more often on Instagram and I also reactivated my accounts at 500px and Viewbug. Up to now, there is nearly no overlapping with this blog. But, I reduced my activity at G+, because of the huge changes in how to create posts and upload images. In my opinion, it’s way to complicate now, to publish at G+.

In 2016 the weather has had big impact on the country. In late spring and early summer we have had more than 4 weeks of very hard rain. Many region were over-flooded for some time. Houses, cars, streets, acres and lives were destroyed. Later, in summer, the rain was missed were hard in some regions and the lack of rain endangered the harvest. Fortunately, the weather conditions changed to the better. So, the harvest in sum wasn’t thus bad. Although, some farmers have had a very, very bad year.

Over the year I was on several trips. I assembled the best images in a short movie (30 MB), just like I did in the last two years. I put it on my other webspace, to save the available room here on WordPress. Just follow the link. It will open in a separate window of your web-browser

  • In January, I was on Helgoland for seeing the seals.
  • In February / March I was in northern Norway for the Aurora Borealis
  • In May I was in East-Frisia at the Germany North sea coast
  • In August / September I was in Brittany for the summer holidays
  • In November / December I was in the Erzgebirge

The image above is a symbol. Assume, each foot print as a station, a mark or an event of the past year. Assume also, the sand is your life. So, everything happens during a year leaves a mark on your life. Although, you’ll forget several things which happened, many of them stay in your memory and will change you forever. I’m collecting these memories with my images. This blog helps me to remember as well as the photo-books I create after an important trip or at least the yearly review book containing about 50 – 70 image from the whole year.

I encourage you to review your images from the past year. How to do so, I described in one of my tech-posts: “how to select your best photo from the bulk“. Now, take the best of your images and put them together in a folder on your disc. Copying them instead of moving. Now bring them in an order you like: i.e. oder them by theme (landscapes, people, animals, ….) or order them by date. Do so, by renaming them! That’s important to ease the handling in the next step. Give them a numeral prefix 000, 010, 020, and leave room between the prefixes to insert further images between them later.

Now, when having your images sorted properly, go and find a company making a book from your images. I guess, there are some where you live. Usually the companies printing your images are also able to produce books. They will offer either a web form or a dedicated software to be installed on your computer (or even on your mobile / cell phone). Now, follow the advice given by that kind of software to upload your images and distribute them in your book-to-be-created. I’m usually creating landscape shaped books, because the majority of my images is taken in landscape mode. I almost always put only one image on a page to fill the page. For portrait images I put two of them on a page.

The uploaded images are put in a pool area to be used for the pages. The pool is already sorted because of the work I did before uploading them. All kinds of book creation software I know (web-apps as well as installable software), have an option to hide already used images from the pool of unused images. So, I can simply fill one page after another and the book creating process does not last unnecessary long 🙂

The last step is to review and proof the created book. Usually the automated process does some quality checks and maybe even with some basic spell checking. The results of these check are warnings i.e. images are placed out of a page or the image resolution is too low for a selected size. Try hard to eliminate all of the warnings before finishing the book design and placing the order. Don’t forget, to give the book an appropriate name on the cover and the spine (i.e. “My Year 2016”). Below, you can see my yearbook 🙂

In case, you need some more details, help or examples, drop me a note.

Starting this week, I’m changing my schedule a bit. Instead of 3-4 posts a week, I’m trying to publish 4-5 times a week from now on. And I changed the order a bit, too.

  • Monochrome Monday (until now on Tuesdays)
  • Travel Tuesday (an in detail post from a current trip – until now on Thursdays)
  • Wordless Wednesday (simply an image; regardless of current or from the past – unchanged)
  • Throwback Thursday (something from the past; maybe a reminder – new)
  • My Friday post is following the theme “Weekly Photo Challenge” by “The Daily Post”, as far as I have the time for this post. (as before)
    I usually write my posts on Saturdays in advance and schedule them for the proposed time. But, the Fridays post is always ‘live’. So, when I don’t have the time for the post on Friday evening, I’m skipping it.

 

Take care!

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Visiting the craftsmen in their workshops

610_8291_wDuring my latest trip, I also visited a few wood-carver workshops and manufacturer production halls as well as their showrooms or shops.

It’s so amazing, what fantastic and filigree things these people are able to create from wood.

I really recommend, visiting the open workshops or the craftsmen in their workshops to look, how they create their products. Then you’ll understand why the prices are so high. Everything is hand-made. Even the manufactories have a high percentage of hand-made tasks. And it’s stunning to see their artistry. In Seiffen you can find at least two big manufactories with enough room for a group of visitors. The craftsmen’s workshops are tiny and don’t have room for more than one or two visitors. The young lady in the image above shows her skills on the Christmas market in Anaberg-Buchholz. Some more images are in the gallery below.

Enjoy and have a peaceful Advent time.

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I’m back ….

610_8312-e_wThis week I have some more images taken during my last trip. Because I’m currently extremely busy, I didn’t write much. Nevertheless, I included a collection of images taken at different Christmas Markets in the Erzgebirge region.

While Christmas Markets are very common in Germany, they are quite new in those states once forming the German Democratic Republic (East Germany). You know, as a result of World War II, Germany was parted in two independent countries. In the eastern part Christianity was suppressed by the communistic / socialistic dictatorship. But, after the reunion in 1990 people were free again and many formerly suppressed traditions awake. So, Christmas Markets became popular here, too.  So, i.e. the Christmas Market in Seiffen was held for the 26th time this year. Thus, they started their Christmas Market right after the reunion.

A Christmas Market usually has many booths offering Christmas related decorations, candles and so on. You can also find booths offering food like bratwurst, grilled steaks or traditions winter food like Grünkohl (green cabbage), goulash or pea or lentil soup. Most popular are usually the beverage selling booths, where you can get i.e. Glühwein (a spiced, hot wine), Jagertee (a hot alcoholic drink from Austria), punch (similar to Glühwein, but often without alcohol), Lumumba, Grog (hot water with rum – common especially in the coastal areas).

Usually you can find a stage, where musicians, music bands or dancing groups perform. Often these are classes from local schools, private music schools, private ballet schools or private dancing schools.

Enjoy and have a peaceful Advent time.

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