architecture, art, cityscape, long exposure, night, photo-of-the-day, photography, postprocessing, travel, winter, world

Throwback Thursday: One night in Frankfurt

Recently, I was talking with someone about photography. Because that guy is living near Frankfurt, I was checking, where and when I published my images taken in Frankfurt. Surprisingly, they are not here on my blog. The posts are still online but don’t have any images in. I put the images on a separate gallery server that doesn’t exist anymore and set only a link to that location in the post. So, this is kind of a repost.

I was in Frankfurt for a training in November 2009. As I would have been alone in a hotel each night, I took my tripod and my camera with me and planned to go out after the training for taking some night shots in the city. That was my first trip for night photography. The difficulty is to balance the bright lights with the extreme darks while having quite long exposure times.

First I went to a certain skyscraper where you can go on top of the building to have a view over the city. The sky was proposing, unfortunately, it was extremely windy. Setting up my tripod as planned was impossible. The wind simply moved the tripod away. So, I dialed in a quite high ISO to get my shots hand-held without the tripod. The ultra-wide-angle lens allowed me to use a quite open aperture to get a good depth of field and still have the exposure time on a handleable value for hand-holding the camera despite the heavy wind.

APS-C camera, 10mm, f7.1, 1/30s, ISO 3200

APS-C camera, 10mm, f7.1, 1/20s, ISO 3200

APS-C camera, 10mm, f4, 1/30s, ISO 1600

APS-C camera, 10mm, f4, 1/13s, ISO 1600


At that time, I wasted a lot of quality not only because I had to use high ISO instead of my tripod. I also relinquished to photograph in RAW instead of JPG. For this post, I took out the original images and retouched them as much as possible. But, there was not much possible to recover.

Whenever possible, go the extra mile and photograph in raw. You have so much more quality.

After leaving the tower I also walked a bit through the city. Now, I was able to use my tripod. These images are taken at ISO 200 and aperture times of several seconds each.


What have I learned from that trip?

  1. use RAW!!!!!
  2. I should have split that trip into parts to have the nice blue night-sky in all images
  3. I should have closed the aperture more to get nice stars around the small lights
  4. I should have taken more than one shot with different exposure times while leaving the other settings unchanged (bracketing)

Take care!

art, culture, photo-of-the-day, photography

Lens-Artists Photo Challange 134: ” From Forgettable to Favorite”

…. or the benefits of raw!

Fortunately, the subject for this week’s Lens-Artists Photo Challenge was published ahead. So, I had enough time to prepare this post. Each photographer struggles sometimes over the limitations of the photographic gear and gets images (far) away from the expected result. Fortunately, nowadays in digital photography, you have the option to increase the image in the digital darkroom. As our host this week, Tina asks to show such images as examples.

developed from RAW

You know, I’m taking my photographs in raw format instead of getting the JPGs processed automatically straight from the camera. Although this takes additional time and work, I’m usually getting better images. The link above directs you to a post I wrote a couple of years ago. Despite the abilities of the sensors increased over time, I still don’t want to throw away quality.

Usually, I don’t do much post-processing. I only sharpen my images and balance the exposure by subtly brightening the darks and shading the lights a bit, if necessary. So, the additional effort is very small and I can use batch-processing quite often.

But, every now and then I have images demanding a bit more work, just like the image I’m showing you today.

This image is taken on Helgoland in January 2016. My idea was to capture the light beam of the lighthouse. So I went out during the blue hour because I wanted to have a slight dark-blue sky instead of a black sky. The slight snow and rain that night didn’t disturb much. When I arrived at the planned location, I noticed a family walking towards the lighthouse. So, a quite short exposure was necessary to get a sharp family and get nice light beams. The exposure was set to fit the lights of the window: full-frame, ISO 2000, f4, 1/25, handheld (no time for setting up the tripod because of the family).

out-of-camera JPG

As expected from that scene, the captured image was very dark. Thanks to the raw format, this wasn’t a loss! These steps were taken to get the final image:

  1. increased exposure compensation in my raw developing software by +2
  2. decreased the lights a little bit
  3. increased the darks a little bit further
  4. un-sharp mask
  5. export to JPG

In the other image, I integrated the OoC for comparison. Click on the image to enlarge it. It’s also taken on Helgoland in January 2016. It shows the remains of an old pier.

This long exposure is also taken in raw and the exposure is aligned to the bright areas to avoid burnt-out areas. Besides a tripod, I used a gray-filter and a graduated gray filter.

full-frame, 24mm, ISO 50, f16, 10 seconds

Developing steps:

  1. remove dust spots in the sky
  2. balancing the horizon
  3. lighten the darks
  4. increased the warm tones in the clouds from the setting sun
  5. slightly cropped
  6. un-sharp mask
  7. export to JPG

These dust spots are almost always in your images when using a camera with interchangeable lenses because they are in the air and when changing the lens they can come into your camera. The same is true when you using nun-sealed lenses. When dust is inside your camera, it’s easy for the particles to settle on the sensor. You can recognize them as dark mostly round spots in the image. Most easily you can see them in a bright sky or on homogeneous areas in your image. The other possible source for the spots the lens itself. Either you might have spots on the back lens of your interchangeable lens or on your front lens. And, although the front lens is quite easy to keep clean, spots will appear. When now taking your final image in JPG format to do the corrections, you’re losing quality because the image will always be compressed with a lossy algorithm when storing it. So, it’s much better to do all the necessary work on top of a raw file and export the finished image. I’m recommending reading the post, I linked further up in this article.

For the next 2 images, I also embedded the original image into the final one.

  1. lighten the darks in the face to reveal the eyes a bit
  2. slightly cropped
  3. un-sharp mask
  4. coverted to monochrome by using software that emulates monochrome film instead of desaturating the colors
  5. adding a subtle dark vignette
  6. export to JPG

This is a wildlife image. Despite using a 400mm lens, I was too far away from the seals for my planned composition. You know, gray seals are raptors and you have to stay at least 30 meters away from them. They are much faster as you might think. So, you better respect the recommended distance.

  1. lighten the darks
  2. increased the warm tones a little bit
  3. slightly cropped
  4. un-sharp mask
  5. export to JPG

Take care!

landscape, nature, photo-of-the-day, plants, seasons, winter

Throwback Thursday: wrong lens

… or: being prepared.

The week before last, my son got himself a new lens that has had to be tested. He bought a long telephoto lens, so we planned to go photographing birds. So, Saturday before last we went to a lake where I’ve never been before, but it proposed some good sightings according to my researches. As we were going for wildlife photography, I took only my wildlife camera with an APS-C sensor, the long telephoto lens, and my monopod with the gimbal.

None of us was there before and so we went around scouting the area for a probable return. At one point, I noticed this junction of two creeks and I liked the reflection very much. But, I definitely had the wrong lens with me for this scene. Fortunately, he has had an additional lens in his bag: a 35-70 mm. It’s taken with an APS-C camera at 70mm (~105mm on 35mm-film).

In the end, it was a quite successful stay despite we only had 3 hours time and the location is worth a return. The heron image, I showed you yesterday, was taken there. A few further images are already in my Instagram account.

Take care!

architecture, cityscape, culture, history, photo-of-the-day, photography, street, travel, world

Monochrome Monday 7-39


Inside the castle of the former king of Saxonia. To the right, you can see the colonies of the former royal stud. Now, people using the area to cut short from the river Elbe or the new town on the other side of the river to come to the old town.

Take care!


art, culture, photo-of-the-day, photography

Lens-Artists Photo Challange 133: “My Photography Journey”

This week, it’s fun to participate in The Lens-Artists Photo challenge. Amy is our host is week.

MY photographic journey started early. Very early. I guess I was in the second year of secondary school (6th year of schooling. So, I might have been 11). The funfair came to our town, as usual, each year in June. My grandfather, my father, and I went to the funfair (I can’t remember if my brother was also with us. He’s 5 years younger than me). In one of the raffle ticket booths, they had a camera as a prize. My grandfather was often very lucky with buying fortunes. So, I got my first camera. My father bought me a 6×6 roll film. I guess, there was room for 12 images. When the film came back from the lab, we noticed, the body wasn’t lightproof. Sometime later, I got a Kodak 126. This camera is still anywhere.

When I finished school, I went to Bavaria for a few weeks to visit my uncle and his family. A friend of mine lent me his Rollei 35. When I earned my own money a few months later, I researched for buying my first SLR. Finally, I got a Minolta X-500 with a manual 35-70mm lens. It already had a lightmeter build in, but no AF. It was already invented but with very poor performance. For the next years, I changed lenses as well as camera bodies. A good friend of my father was a professional photographer with his own studio and lab. So, I got an introduction on how to work in the lab one evening. Buying a used enlarger, the necessary tools, and chemicals, and my own lab was ready to run. In the meantime, I also got an 80-200 tele-zoom and a 60mm macro. The introduction to laboratory work was the final step to prepare me for bringing final drawings of i.e. logos from paper to serigraphy for a small advertising company.

In 1999 I got lent a digital point-and-click camera. Very expensive, bad results, and very high consumption of battery power. 5 AA batteries lasted for only 3-4 images. So, I went with a cable drum and the power adapter attached through the garden for taking photographs. About 2 years later, I bought a cheap digital point-and-click, which was replaced by a better one another 3 years later when I got it in a sale for a reduced price. And in 2008 I finally went digital with my SLR.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t happy with that camera: APS-C + 18-55 and 55-200. Way too slow and I didn’t get used to the focal lengths. Changing the camera body, replacing the wide-angel zoom to 18-105 after only a few months were the right steps ahead.

In fall 2012 I went full-frame. Finally not only the bigger sensor but also faster lenses.  Especially the wild-angel lenses are very slow for APS-C sensor cameras. I still have an APS-C camera, but only for my wildlife photography. Over the decades, I guess, I did nearly all possible kinds of photography except microscope and underwater photography. Landscape, nature, bird, and travel photography started already when I had my Kodak, people photography with my first SLR. My first astrophoto was in 1985. I learned much by trying or from books and magazines. At that time, there was no Youtube or browsing the internet. Go to a library and find the necessary information.

But I have to admit, the results became faster better after switching to digital. The learning was much slower with the film. You had to write down the settings and compare it with the results when the developed film came back from the lab and there was no possibility to improve the result. Only when doing the development in your own lab, you were able to take action for improving the results.

In the gallery below, I tried to include a bit of many different kinds and tried to show images from many different years. Below each image, I show you the year when it was created. In the second last row, you can find a scan of a print taken with my old film SLR and developed in my own lab. I guess it was an Ilford HP5 film because that was my preferred film in those days for everyday monochrome images. Unfortunately, I don’t know any further details like shutter speed, lightning, f-stop, or paper.