culture, nature, review, travel, world

Throwback Thursday: The flooding in July 2021 in Western Germany

Currently, Europe is parted into two. A line is drawn from north to south from Finland to Italy. While the regions east of the line are ruled by heat, the western half is suffering from cold.

Hot air can carry more moisture than cold air. So, the moisture comes down as rain in the area where both air masses are meeting. In addition, the high-pressure area and the low-pressure area are very stable and don’t move. Instead, the rain comes down over and over again for days in nearly the same place: in western North-Rhine Westphalia and north-west Rhineland-Palatinate, two German states near the borders to Belgium and the southern Netherlands.

After a nice start into summer end of May, the weather changed by early June. It became colder and the rain began to fall. End of June, the first extreme rain appeared here in the region. A friend of mine reported an overflooded underground car park in his newly built apartment building. Fortunately, they were able to save all cars ahead of the flooding.

Because of the constant and sometimes havier rainfalls, the lakes, rivers, and creeks were already full and the ground was already saturated with water.

Tuesday last week, the weather forecast announced another heavy rain field. For about 120-150 km long and 30-50 km wide. You can see the size in the left map below. Btw. I’m located right in the middle of the pink area. Find Düsseldorf, our state capitol, and take the letter ‘o’. Now, move up and see the horseshoe-like bend of the river Ruhr. I’m near the right side inside the area. The color indicates the amount of rain in mm per 24 hours. Up to 200 liters of water were have been falling per square meter, but no-one said to the people move their valuable belongings to higher places or even leave the area completely. The situation was recognized early enough to warn. Warnings were even sent out, but the people didn’t understand the warnings.

You can find these maps, created by Deutscher Wetter Dienst (DWD), in their official Twitter account. DWD is the official German Meteorological Service.

The next images are not mine. I got them via Facebook. It’s a city quarter of a neighboring town. This place is only about 15 km east of us as the bird flies after only a few hours of rain. The stones are the result of a landslide. It looks bad, but other areas west of us were hit even harder. You can find an article on Wikipedia with a couple of images and containing also descriptions from other affected regions.

The area west of Bonn was hit the hardest. A few smaller towns and city quarters are literally wiped away. Either, because rivers re-conquered stolen land (people built houses in riparian areas or water meadows) or by landslides when the soaked soil slipped down the hillsides. In the town of Erftstadt, we had to watch another phenomenon: in the flat area, the river Erft left the bed and flooded the fields used by farmers to grow food. Unfortunately, the ground wasn’t stable. So, the soil was washed away and left a huge and rising crate, several meters deep. This crate swallowed even complete houses while widening. The only image I found online showing this, is the header photo in this article:

https://www.faz.net/aktuell/gesellschaft/ungluecke/hochwasser-in-erftstadt-dramatische-lage-und-tote-nach-hauseinstuerzen-17440280.html

Among very few hours, creeks with usually one 30cm of water were able to grow up to several meters of water. One river with usually 60cm was reported to grow up 8 meters!!!! Despite this vast amount of water, about 24 hours later nearly all of the water was gone. Only the devastation remained. Many, many people lost everything, including their houses. About 172 are reported up to now even lost their lives here in Germany and 31 in Belgium. While 155 people in Germany are still missed. Yesterday evening the last alarms were deactivated. All the danger points are secured. Fortunately, there was no additional rain. But, many parts in the affected area still don’t have electric power, telephone, water supply, and cellular mobile telephony. Reconstruction works will last months and I guess, some people, having lost everything, will move away.

The railway company announced 600km of railways were destroyed (7 tracks) and 80 stations. No-one knows up to now how many streets and motorways are damaged or completely destroys. Not counting the pipes for water and natural gas, the wires for telephony, internet, and electric power, or the animals (wild and farm animals).

The most affected area also includes an important wine-producing area and vacation spots.

The town, where I live, wasn’t affected. First, we don’t have a river or a lake (not in town nor uphill). Second, The hills are covered with houses. So, the soil couldn’t slip away. Third, some years ago, our city government enlarged the canalization system. Luckily, it was big enough to cope with all the additional water.

I didn’t write anything about Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxemburg, and France. I’m not ignoring them. The reason is, our news didn’t broadcast much about their suffering from the flooding. So, I simply don’t know enough to write about. I only know, the Belgium area bordering the hardest hit German area was also hit very hard. I suspect the people are facing the same problems as they do here.

This last weekend. Germany was hit again: in Bavaria and Saxonia further floodings happened with similar effects as I already described.

I’m so glad for not being affected and feel very sorry for all the affected people wherever they lived. Although this isn’t the first flooding in Germany, it’s IMHO the biggest and the first (?) one in our state. I assume it won’t be the last one.

I just got the forecast for the next thunderstorm to be arriving this weekend, which is expected to hit the already pained region again. 😭

Take care!

Computer, gear, photography, review, software

Get your own copy of Excire Foto *** sweepstake powered by the creators of Excire Foto***

Today, I have something special for you. I’m currently preparing a review of the most recent version of Excire Foto. In my opinion, each photographer needs such software, regardless if one is a pro or a hobbyist. While I was preparing the post, a marketing email reached my inbox with keys. I got voucher codes for Excire Foto to raffle them off among my followers. So, you can win one of the serials.

To win one of the vouchers, I want you to post in the comments two things:

  1. why do you want/need Excire Foto
  2. how big is the pile of images on your disk to dig through for finding a certain image i.e. for using it for a competition, a blog post, or friends and family

I’m putting all replies into a hat and ask my daughter to draw the winners.

I’m running the same drawing in my German blog, too. I’m putting each commenter’s name in the hat only once. The comment has to be filed here in my blog on WordPress.com or on my German blog. (No Twitter, no Instagram, no Facebook). The drawing will take place after my vacation: June, 14th. Only comments with a timestamp before June 14th, 00:00h are eligible for the drawing.

When entering your comment for a chance to win, you’re accepting to receive a one-time email in case you’re drawn containing the voucher code and some instructions on how to get the software. The data will not be used for any other purpose.

The key feature of Excire Foto are

  • analyzing the contents of your photos by subject, color, shape
  • tagging your photos by using AI
  • maintaining a database with some basic metadata like Camera, focal length
  • everything is analyzed locally on your computer (no upload to a cloud)
  • manual tagging possible besides the AI tagging
  • searching and finding images based on Camera, color, tag, similarity, and many more criteria

Update June, 14th: the raffle is closed. The winners are notified – congrats to the winners 😊

Take care.

Computer, feedback, history, photography, postprocessing, review, software, technical

Throwback Thursday: huge machines

A few weeks ago, I was on the road quite early for capturing flowers right after sunrise. Unfortunately, they were not blooming when I arrived, because of the too cold temperature we had during the last couple of weeks.

On my way back, I stopped at this huge machine, standing in a vast hole in the ground. I’m standing at the edge of the hole. In the back, you can spot another of these machines right above the edge of the excavation. Also, compare it with the white car. This car is a pickup. So, it’s not that small. I’ve never before been so close to such a huge machine. It’s used as a stacker to put the unusable earth back in the hole because they only want to have the brown coal.

I already published images from that digging pit a couple of times. In this post, published about 10 years ago, you can get a bit of an overview. Or, here, you can see, how it looks at night. While you can here find an image of the hole taken with a fisheye lens.

Although I hate how they treat the earth so badly by grabbing brown coal from the ground for using it inefficiently to burn it for producing electricity power, I find these huge machines really fascinating. Nevertheless, I’m looking forward to the day they are not needed anymore.

Take care!

 

art, culture, leisure, photo-of-the-day, photography, review, urbex, work

Throwback Thursday: RIP Photokina ?!?

One week ago, I got an email from the Photokina team, the team behind the (former) world-leading fair for photography. Since 1950, every second year in September all eyes worldwide were directed to Colone in Germany to see the latest products and services for photographers: cameras, lenses, tools, gear, paper, printing machines, and so on.

Over the last couple of years, there was already a change visible. In my 2016 Photokina review, I already talked about it. 2018 was the last year the fair was held in the traditional way. Starting from 2019, they changed the frequency and the time of the year to face the changes in the photography business: Starting from 2019 the fair should run each year in May. (I wasn’t at Photokina in 2019, because I was in Wales at the same time). In my opinion, changing the time to May was a bad idea. It’s already vacation time. New consumer electronic products are already introduced at CES in January and for the shops, it’s too early to order products for Christmas. So, I really wonder which audience they want to address.

The other problem is, although we’re taking more photos than ever, only the tiniest part of them is ever printed and put in an album. In my opinion, more than 99% of the photos are taken with a cell phone and will never leave the device (expect from being put on FB or Instagram or being forwarded by a messaging service like WhatsApp, signal, or telegram to only name a few of them). And instead of printshops and laboratory, we only need a computer, software and maybe a desktop printer. And, we have an enormous diversity spreading from the pro wedding or product photographers to the ordinary snappers.

Over the last couple of years, we can notice an increase in camera and lens prices, while, on the other hand, the revenues of the manufacturers are decreasing. In 2015 I was asked by a fellow blogger about my opinion on the future of cameras and wrote a post on it (sorry, it’s written in German, but hopefully, this link works for you to translate it into English). When looking into it today, I see, many things I prophecized are already a reality.

Back to Photokina. In 2020 Photokina was canceled because of the Covid19 pandemic. 2021 now is also canceled because of the still ongoing pandemic and no-one is able to predict if we’re able to run a fair for several hundred-thousand visitors safely. So, this cancelation was already overdue. Now, the email is titled by “Photokina bis auf weiteres ausgesetzt” (suspended until further notice).

Now, the Photokina team has to use the time very carefully to re-invent themself and come back with a (new) concept attracting the manufacturers as well as the audience. CeBIT is an example, where the management did the wrong decisions. CeBIT is history (1986-2018). Is Photokina also already history? When looking at Gamescom (2009-), you can see, a renewed concept can make a fair successful. In the beginning, in the early 1990s, one of the fair halls at CeBIT was dedicated to gaming. Over time, gaming became more and more room. But, at some point, someone came up with the idea to dedicate a complete fair to only gaming, and it became a huge success. Even changing the location from Leipzig to Colone wasn’t able to stop the success.

As I stated above, the audience is extremely diverse in their needs and interests. Photokina could stay relevant when concentrating on pro-level photographers, and leaving out the consumer part. But, the fair needs to refinance itself by getting the entrance fees. During the last years, the entrance fee was already quite high and raised each time. So, I was wondering about many of the visitors. I had the impression their only purpose was filling the room. Many, many visitors seemed to be completely uninterested in the exhibitions. When planning with fewer ordinary visitors (this would probably re-attract more pros), the entrance fees would need to be increased even further. Although pros might be able to deduct the entrance fees from their taxes, I’m not sure if that’s enough.

CeBIT has had similar problems. Once, computer and IT were a small part of the Hannover Messe Industrie (industrial fair). Spinning the computer sector off, was a great and successful idea. But, with the upcoming success of computers, more and more ordinary people interested in computers became attracted by the fair the halls became extremely crowded. Gamescom was able to absorb many of the people interested in gaming, but still, too many people were visiting the fair making it more and more uninteresting for the businesses because they were unable to talk to their business customers. House fairs, organized by either the manufacturers or by big distributors, were taking over and the importance of CeBIT decreased.  In 1995 about 755000 visitors and 7500 exhibitors were visiting the fair. In 2018 only 200000 visitors and 2800 exhibitors found their way to Hannover. That was less than during the first CeBIT in 1986.

visitors exhibitors
2014 124.731 752
2016 125.995 694
2018 116.218 529

source: https://www.auma.de/de/ausstellen/messen-finden/messedaten?tfd=koln_photokina_150229

photography, review

Happy Anniversary to me and you!

anniversary-2xYesterday, 10 years ago I started this blog and I’ve never thought it would remain so long!
At that time, a project I was managing with co-workers and suppliers from Sydney, Los Angeles, Buenos Aires, Paris, London, and Poland ended. As the communication language was English, I acquired some proficiency I was kind of proud of. At the same time, I came up with the idea to be able to show some of my photos to a broader audience. While discussing the second topic with a co-worker, he recommended giving blogging a try and I did. But, instead of blogging in German, I combined it with keeping my English skills active and started writing in English from the beginning. When looking back to the early posts, I really wonder how much my English skills increased since that time.
I wrote nearly 2000 posts, nearly 7000 comments were made, nearly 1000 followers alone here at WordPress, and on average 100 visitors coming over each day. (OK, there were times with more than 200 visitors a day, but it seems to me, many people gave up blogging for Instagram and Facebook as I see many blogs, I follow or used to follow, are abandoned or even closed).
A big thanks to me for writing all this and a huge thank you to all of you out there, for reading, liking, reblogging, pingbacking, following, and commenting. You kept this blog running!
On the other hand, I’m not sure, how long this blog will remain. The recent changes in the backend, especially the force to use the block-editor, are horrible. Up to now, I was able to ignore the block-editor and work with the so-called classic editor, which works well for me and is IMHO even better than the block-editor. In the interface of the classic editor, I have everything right at hand. The interface is very well designed and fast. The block editor as well as the recent admin interface are ugly and slow. The block-editor forces me to use design elements like a page designer. But, I only want to write and not design each post. I’m a photographer and not a web-page designer. So, I’m quite unsure about my future of being a blogger.
I know the new admin interface and the block-editor for a long and still hate it. Many things are so complicated when having to use them or even impossible. Newly created WordPress blogs it is even impossible to use the classic-editor. So, I feel forced-out by Automatix and wordpress.com.
Another option for me could be, moving away from WordPress. Either using a different service or moving the whole blog to my own webspace, where I have another blog running for many years and everything works still fine. But, who guarantees that the self-hosted blog will remain to be able to use the classic-editor withing the wp-admin interface.
photography, review

5 years of Instagram

While checking some security settings on Instagram, I noticed, I had an anniversary earlier this week: On September, 21st 2015 I created my account on Instagram.
In the beginning, it was a personal account without the intention of building a community or something like that. Instead, I wanted to learn about it and see, if it could replace or complement my blogging. After some time, I started using Instagram as a complement to my blog and it still is. Most of the time, I’m posting images I’m currently working on but sometimes I also post instantly current encounters, which are considered more personal.
For some time I’m considering creating additional accounts to separate wildlife from the landscape and personal images. Some time Instagram got the ability to manage more than one account. What do you think? I’m still unsure.
Computer, gear, photography, review, software

Review of Excire Foto 1.0

For this review a got a review copy of Excire Foto 1.0 for free, but no-one tried to influence my review. I’m reviewing the MacOS version, but the Windows version should look and feel the same. The installed version occupies nearly 600 MB of my disk space and an additional 900 MB in my home folder in ~/Library/Application Support/excire-foto. This is the database and thumbnail images of the pile of analyzed images.

After installing the software and starting it for the first time it asks you for the place where to find the images about to get analyzed. Now, the first step is reading all the images and in a second step, they are analyzed and tagged by the internal AI (artificial intelligence). I directed Excire Foto to an image folder on my local SSD containing about 20.000 images in web resolution (~13 GB) distributed among 318 sub-folders. The intake lasted amazingly only about 4 minutes. The analyzing process lasted another 50 minutes.

While playing around with the result I noticed a few things. I sent an email to the support with these things and got some answers very fast. I’m including the answers here as a statement by the support (but translated to English by me).

  • I’m quite disappointed about recognizing the lens information from my exif-data. I already double-checked a couple of images with exiftool and they all contain the correct lens information. I aussume, not all possible exif-tags are analyzed correctly, as it is not standarized which exact tags have to be ues by the camera or software manufactorers. I included some data extracted from my images as an example
    => we’ll check it. If this is correct, we’ll fix it in a future release
  • It’d be nice to correct exif-data maually, as i.e. 2 identical cameras are recognized slightly different because of the usage of different software for developing the raw-images. (= normalizing of data)
    => we’ll check it, if possible from a technical perspective. If so, we could add such a feature
  • Editing / correcting i.e. copyright information in images
    => it’s planned to add an IPTC editor
  • Is there a technical reason, why only 49 images can be selected for tagging? When coming back from a shooting or a trip there’s always the necessity to tag all images with some common / basic tags (i.e. the location)
    => yes, performance it the reason for this limit. We must change this.
  • Do you think about adding a feature to take carre of GPS data?
    => yes
  • It’d be nice to move tags instead of delete and re-create to build hirarchies afterwards or insert an addition layer (i.e. country – germany – _NRW_ – Duesseldorf)
    => it’s already in our backlog
  • showing file and folder names would be helpful for choosing the correct tags. There’s already an option to bring an image to full-screen view (including i.e. the filename), but for using those information for tagging this isn’t really helpful
    => we’ll optimize this
  • for filtering images according to the metadata you’ve chosing boxes instead of circles. When seeing checkboxes, I’m expecting to be allowed to filter for more than one argument instead of radiobuttons.
  • I’d like to reccomed some further filter like 35mm equivalent, sensor size (35mm, APS-C, middle format, MFT, …)

I like the software and how it works. When you start tagging your images now, it’s useful despite the findings mentioned above. Buying the software isn’t a big deal, as it is not that expensive. It’s already useful and helps organizing (and finding) your images. My test was with version 1.0. Before publishing this review I installed the latest update version: 1.0.5. but the behavior is still the same. Surprisingly my installed version didn’t notify me about the update, although it has such a function implemented.

Another surprise was version 1.0.5 finds still 20.066 images but states to show 43.339 images in the default view with no active filter. I guess, here’s an inconsistency,as the numbers seem to be correct when really filtering.

Take care.

 

culture, history, landscape, nature, photo-of-the-day, photography, review, travel, world

I’m back …

… from Iceland (again – finally).

This trip wasn’t planned long ahead. Instead, a friend asked for company for his trip with the option to fit my own plans into the schedule. It was a fantastic road-trip around the island in 15 days. While Iceland and its weather were very cooperative, the surrounding circumstances weren’t 😬 Our departure tickets were booked for June 13th in February, but the governments decided to open the borders not before June 15th and my departure airport was not offered until a week later. So we needed to re-schedule the flights and I had to book an additional train ticket to Frankfurt 😕. The next problem was the connection train to Frankfurt was canceled, but an alternative worked (despite the extra effort for further train changes 🙁). Fortunately, the departure terminal in Frankfurt also changed, but to the one reachable more easily and even faster.

The way back home also came with lots of problems. Online check-in didn’t work by using the airline‘s mobile app. When using my computer I noticed, my flight was canceled without notification. So, I hung in the queue for getting an agent to help me solve the problem. Originally I booked a flight with a stopover in Oslo. Suddenly the Webpage said, my flight was rescheduled to July 1st instead of June 30th and would end in Oslo instead of Düsseldorf. My travel agency was unwilling to help me keep my schedule. The only offered a cancellation with a refund.

So, I booked on my own with a different airline by using the airline sales portal instead of ordering via the travel agency again. But instead of departing at noon, my flight started at 7:45 a.m. which meant I had to get up at about 3:15 a.m. In addition, I had no breakfast and lost 6 hours on the phone. So, the last day of the trip was a complete disaster. While writing this, I‘m sitting in Copenhagen waiting for my connection flight. 2 hours are over, two more to wait.

Now to the better part 😊. In the end, I have 515GB images (= 18.700 raw files) and about 1000 images taken with my mobile on my disk 😳. All the images are presorted but still not reviewed. So, a lot of work is waiting for me 😲.

Our trip led us counter-clock-wise around the island. Nearly 4000 km! That’s about 2400 miles. Our days started early: about 8:00 with breakfast and at around 9:30/10:00 we sat in the car, a 4×4 offroad pickup with a hardcase above the platform for our luggage and containers with food. Despite the hardcase a lot of dirt came inside the cargo bay 😳😲😫. Apartments and hotel rooms were booked ahead, each for 1-2 nights. Usually, we were able to get in the rooms without assistance, as we usually arrived very late. Often around midnight: midnight-sun made it possible! 😊😊

During the last days, I was thinking about, which image I’d choose for today’s post. I wanted an image representing not only a certain part of Iceland or a special event. Finally, I decided to take an image taken with my smartphone instead of my camera (only 4 of my camera images are developed until now). Despite it is taken at a very specific place and thus can’t represent the whole island or the whole trip, it does represent Iceland.

When the Vikings arrived in Iceland more than a thousand years ago, they were astonished by the nature of the island. Initially, they assumed to have arrived in Valhalla, the heaven in their belief because many parts seemed to have sprung up from their sagas. In one place they met a pool, where the water quite regularly sprung high in the air, which they named: Geyser. And nowadays the name of that first natural water fountain is the generic term to describe all of these hot springs around the world.

The term ‘geyser’ dates in English to the late 18th century originating from Icelandic Geysir, the name of a particular spring in Iceland. It is related to the Icelandic word geysa ‘to gush – Wikipedia

Sidenote: the original geyser isn’t active anymore but a couple of meters beside a new one erupts approximately every 5 minutes. Once, the fountain of Geyser was 70-80 m high, while the fountain of Strokkur only reaches 25-35m. Gesyer erupted last in 2000 after an earthquake.

Take care!

flowers, landscape, nature, photography, plants, review, seasons, spring, world

Throwback Thursday: mouse view

There are different ways to make images more interesting. One of the technics to do this is changing the point of view. You might remember my post on this a couple of weeks ago. Here I used an existing small animal’s trail for bringing your eye-level way down to the eye-level of a mouse or a frog.

Take care!

 

animals, bird, gear, nature, photography, review, technic, travel, wildlife, world

A special head for wildlife photographer

In the past I wrote about tripods. A tripod always has a head to mount your camera on. There are many discussions, what kind of head is the best: ball-head, one-way tilt head, two-way tilt head, and three-way tilt head.

Some tripods came with a certain head attached to the middle-column which is not replaceable while other come with replaceable heads or even without a head, where you have to buy one on your own choice.

The head of my old tripod wasn’t replaceable while my new one came with a replaceable ball head. My monopod came with a replaceable 1-way tilt head.

For wildlife photography these heads are not really helpful. The tilt heads are not fast enough to follow the animals and the ball head can’t be fixed fast enough to be a stable ground. Therefore I have a gimbal. I simply dismount the head from either my tripod or my monopod and attach the gimbal instead. Because of the design, the gimbal is quite stable but I can move it around very fast, if needed.

When sitting in a hide where I have enough room to set-up a tripod, I mount the gimbal on top instead of the ball head. When I want to move around in the field or wait in a tiny hide, the gimbal will be mounted on the of the monopod. Both work very well.

My gimbal is made of aluminum and weighs about 1 kg. It’s 19.5 * 7.5 * 21 cm ( 7.7 * 3.0 * 8.3in). It has the correct screw thread (3/8 “) to attach it directly on most of the tripods and monopod with detachable heads. The plate to mount the camera follows the arca-swiss standard.  So, if you already have such a plate, it will fit here too, if not, never mind, the gimbal brings one. There are also some long tele lenses around where the lens mount flange is also fitting in an arca-swiss mount without a separate plate. According to the manufacturer’s specifications, the gimbal should be able to carry gear up to 18 kg (39.7lbs).

The heaviest lens I used a couple of times weighed about 5 kg. When adding my camera there was about 6,2 kg attached to the gimbal, resulting in about 7.3 kg to carry for my tripod. 

To mount such heavy gear to the gimbal needs some fine adjustment to distribute the weight equally. That’s why the lens mount flange is below the lens and the flange is that long. Even when the screw on the top left side is loosened the camera and lens have to be in balance. Now, you tighten the screw a little bit, that you can still move the camera easily up and down but it does not have to swing back automatically. The same for the horizontal turning.


I own this gimbal for about 3 years and I’m very happy with it. Compared to the standard heads, this is really a game-changer, also for the monopod. In my other post, you can read about me first struggling a bit when using the monopod. The gimbal helped me out a lot.

 

When I got the gimbal, it was quite hard to move the swing, but after a short time, the oil inside became softer and the swing was easier to swing up and down.

Take care!