animals, bird, flowers, landscape, leisure, nature, people, photography, review, seasons, sport, summer, travel, wildlife, world

Throwback Thursday: I’m back …

… from Usedom at the Baltic Sea. OK, I came already back on Saturday from my 2-weeks family vacation. Although it wasn’t a typical family vacation because I was on Usedom with my wife, daughter, and grant-son. That little guy is 5. So this was his first vacation where he was able to notice everything and he liked it a lot. One of his statements was “I like our new home more than our old home”. He didn’t realize, that the vacation home was our home only for our vacation.

Back in 2019, when we were in the Netherlands with him, he was too young to notice such a change. Back in 2018, I was already in Ahlbeck with my wife and we decided to come back with our grant son for his first beach vacation. Unfortunately, this come-back lasted longer than expected because of the SARS2-CoV / Covid19 pandemic.

This time we rented a vacation home near the middle of the town. Ahlbeck is quite small, with only about 3,400 regular citizens but with more than four times the number of guest beds. The apartment, we rented in 2018, was also very lovely, but reaching the beach from there was quite complicated because a huge rehab clinic building barriers the direct way and we had to make a long way around. Reaching the pier also lasted about 20 minutes by foot. You can see the pier in the image above from 2018. We love to walk along the surf in the evening, so we had to pull out the rental bikes first to reach the beach. Very inconvenient. That’s why we decided to get this time an apartment closer to the town and with easier access to the beach. It’s only about 200 meters as the bird flies and about 300 meters walk to reach the waterfront.

Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t perfect beach weather this time. Some drizzling nearly every day for at least some time distributed over the whole day. But, I won’t complain. We had some beach weather, we had cycling weather, we watched the neighboring towns as well as the next town in Poland, which is only about 4 km away. We also rented bikes for our stay and surprisingly the little guy was able to cope with the (quite small) distances on his bike. The longest distance we cycled in one day was 12 km with a couple of pauses. We cycled mostly along the sea on the promenade connecting the 3 neighboring towns grouped under the name Kaiserbäder. They have a lot of bicycle tracks here.

I love the area at the baltic sea for the small villages, the avenues with their chestnut or oak trees, and the forests reaching up to the coast. The sea does not have a noticeable tide (only about 10 cm), the huge beaches with very fine sand, and the flat-bottomed sea which is quite warm and less salty than the other oceans. So, these beaches are very entitled to kids, especially smaller ones.

The term Kaiserbäder (Kaiser = Emporer; bäder = baths) was chosen because these towns were visited by the Emporer of the German Empire back in the 19th century a couple of times. The word Bad (= bath) in a town’s name refers to the idea of being a place for curing and rehab. In the late 19th century, people had already come here to the coast for spending some leisure time, cure, and recuperate. Especially the rich ones and the noble men and women. Even the Emporers were here a couple of times and that’s the reason, why the towns have chosen the name Kaiserbäder to operate under that name. Nowadays, everyone can benefit from the beauty of the coast and retreat from the burdens of daily chores.

For one day (without having a certain date in my mind) it was planned to visit a nature protection area nearby (ok, 1 1/4 hours drive by car) to see White-tailed eagles (very good chance), osprey (maybe – a hope), grey cranes (quite good chance because they are quite common here but very shy), and red kites.

In the end, I saw 2 white-tailed eagles sitting in the trees far-far away and one flying from one side to the other (👍), one osprey (sitting very far away, then flying even further away, but also flying a bit closer to capture him), 5 cranes flying by, 1 stork, 1 crane with a chick in the woods (no photo possible), many grey herons and 3 great white egrets, common terns, lots of different ducks and geese, many swallows, black-headed gulls, cormorants. I’m stopping here to not bore you.

In the meantime, the others were visiting an adventure park in a town nearby very suitable for kids under 12.

For 4 days starting with Ascension Day, the German Masters in Kite-Surfing took place here right next to the pier. I watched the sportswomen and sportsmen for a few hours distributed over several days with my camera. You know, I like to see them “flying” over the water. This was an unexpected event and therefore not planned. But, very welcomed. Even the wind was unexpected those days: some competitions had to be canceled because of too heavy winds.

In the end, this was a family vacation and not a photo trip. Nevertheless, I’m quite happy about the images I was able to capture. The nature protection area has to stay on my list. I have to come again with more time and arrive earlier. Without the overcast sky, I’d have come back with less usable images because the light conditions would have resulted in either overexposed skies or in hopeless underexposed subjects.

As usual, click on an image to enlarge it!

Take care!

photo-of-the-day, photography

Monochrome Monday 8-52

Wow! Another year of Monochrome images is over! Before starting the 9th year next week, I’m showing you my personal highlights from the last 52 weeks.

Deutzer Brücke, Cologne, Germany

 

Ghost Town, Kolmanskop, Namibia

 

stair case, Germany

 

Skógafoss, Iceland

 

ostrich

 

I didn’t order them for any purpose. I hope, you like the reminder.

 

Take care!

landscape, meeting, photography, plants, review, spring, travel

Throwback Thursday: I’m back … and LAPC #188 “A Special Place”

… from another trip. Thanks to the relaxations from the COVID restrictions it was a quite comfortable trip. Sanitizing hands and wearing a mask during transportation, in closed rooms, and wherever a proper distance can’t be kept is quite easy to follow and a level of restriction easily can be kept. Either way, we were able to enjoy the Mediterranean sun for a couple of days. This year’s destination for our carnival escape was the beautiful Balearen island of Mallorca.
We used Port d‘Alcúdia as our base for exploring some parts of the island. Nearly all of us were in the past already on Mallorca, but partly already decades ago. From Germany, this island is reachable in approximately 2 1/2 hours. Thus, it‘s also one of the most attractive destinations for party people. When talking about Mallorca as a vacation destination, you’re most probably faced with one of the bad images of this island. To name two of them, we have an island of the cleaning ladies (because traveling to Mallorca is quite cheap and requires in many parts of the island no knowledge of Spanish, so anybody can go there). I already named the other group, party people. Because it is so easy to reach Mallorca, and so many flights start each day from every German airport, even young people can travel to Mallorca and have a vacation with nearly guaranteed sunshine.
It’s a shame, people travel to Mallorca only to go to parties and get drunk. The island has so much more to offer. Wonderful landscapes from the sandy beaches with low water and only little tides, nice old town, restaurants with very good and tasty food, a mountain range, that parts the island in the northern part from east to west. These mountains are quite steep and craggy and up to 1.445 meters high. The island, located 170 kilometers off the Spanish mainland,  is about 98 kilometers in an east-west direction and 78 kilometers in a north-south direction. The mountains are approximately 90 kilometers broad with the 15 kilometers broad Tramuntana mountain range as the most important part.  The airport is located near the west coast in Palma, the capital of Mallorca as well as of the Spanish region of the Baleares, a group of islands where also Ibiza, Menorca, Formentera are part. Heading east with our rental cars, we needed approximately 45 minutes to reach Port d‘Alcúdia.
You can find a couple of towns twice on the map, because some towns are located at a safe distance from the sea, have founded a second town centuries ago at the sea to make it easier during the fishing season. The names of these towns start with the word „Port“. Nowadays, most of the hotels are located in these towns located at the coast, while the similarly named town located away from the sea has the Old town. So, when coming to Mallorca, never forget to visit the towns inland.
Unfortunately, the people have committed construction sins starting from the 1970s. So, we find many huge hotels along certain beaches. These concrete mountains mutilate the beautiful landscape. This is also the reason for becoming the most preferred vacation destination for generations of people, especially in Germany, the UK, the Netherlands, and the Scandinavian countries. Over the last 2 decades, people from the former Eastern bloc countries like Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, or Ukraine also learned to love that Island.
It‘s very sad, that this island has such a bad reputation. Besides the beautiful landscapes, beaches, and towns, you can find a lot of tasty products like wine, olive oil, cheese, or gin. Also, the cuisine is very tasty. Besides seafood, you can also get rabbit, lamb, goat, and beef. When paying attention to the restaurant, you can be sure, all the products are local.
When we started last Friday, alone from our starting airport there were 6 flights to Mallorca, 4 of them run by the same airline. And, that’s end of February. You could say, it‘s off-season, and you’re partly right. It’s too cold to go swimming. During the days, the temperature went up to 26 degrees centigrade, but the air is certainly much colder, only 15-17 degrees centigrade and around 4-7 degrees at night. That’s enough to see the island less crowded and enjoy the landscape while going hiking or cycling. Many hotels are prepared for giving cyclists and their bike room for the night. The people are generally very friendly and helpful. In the big hotels, you can find always someone speaking some German or at least some English. But, as always when traveling to a foreign country, it’s much better to know some words and sentences in the local language.
For this trip, we had a small list of planned visits:
– rough Northern cost around Soller / Port de Soller
– neighboring town Pollença (the market at Sunday morning) / Port de Pollença
– Cape of Formentor (the lighthouse at sunset)
– the center of the milky way
– Palma, the capitol, with Old town, cathedral, and a bit of shopping for the ladies
– hiking along a small part of the southern coast
– an old fisherman’s town
As well as a few optional destinations. But, our main motivation to go to Mallorca at this time of the year was seeing the blooming almond trees. And we did. Huge fields of white blooming trees. It was amazing.

Unfortunately, some of the plans were unable to realize:
– Cape Formentor was unable to reach because of a closed road. The only road going to the lighthouse was closed for road construction works about 5 kilometers away from the lighthouse. Too far to walk because we would have walked back in the dark and not knowing if we would have passed the closing by foot.
– photographing the Milky Way had to be skipped because we were unable to find the proper place. Mountains were hindering us from looking in the right direction. Ok, the island is quite big, but also has a problem with light pollution as soo many other parts in Europe too, and we only had a small time frame between rising of the Milky Way at about 4 a.m. and sunrise at 7:30 (twilight starts much earlier). How annoying!
– visiting Palma was also a disaster. That day the Day of the Baleares was celebrated. Ten thousands of people were in the streets, but shops and the
cathedral were closed. Instead, many tents were set up to offer street food, wine, olive oil, and so on while in other places music groups, dance ensembles, sports clubs, and other artists were entertaining the masses. So, the streets were extremely crowded and we left early.
– the planned hike along the coast also raised a problem. One of us was wearing sports shoes instead of tracking or hiking boots. He also is a little bit over-weighted and the path was a natural path and not a paved one. After about 1 kilometer (which lasted approximately 45 minutes) we turned back. The whole round track would have been 8 kilometers long. Nearly impossible under these conditions. Very sad.
– another lighthouse was fenced so that we were unable to get to the right spot.

Our trip even had a bad start. As I told you, there are at least 4 regular flights from our departure point scheduled to Mallorca: 6:00, 8:30, 11:00, and 16:50. While the majority of our group booked for 8:30, two had to take the flight at 16:50 because of their working hours. The day before our take-off, we got a short notification about our flight at 8:30 was postponed to 12:10. After a little investigation, we got aware, this was due to a warning strike of the security personnel. When getting to the airport, we noticed only the 8:30 (postponed to 12:10) and the 16:50 flights were supposed to be operated, while the others were canceled. Phew! Blessing in disguise. Our airline was able to get everything managed as well as possible and was very organized to make the best out of that situation. So we finally arrived at Mallorca with a couple of hours delay, but we did!

Nevertheless, I don’t want to complain. It was a very nice trip and it was so great to see the sun again, not to mention the joy of being outside wearing only a T-Shirt. I was writing this while sitting in my plane back home. This morning, I was getting up while it was still dark and -4 degrees to start working. Each vacation comes to an end and almost always it feels like days were shorter when on vacation.

 

All of my images are still in the camera, so I only have a photo of blooming almond trees taken with my smartphone for you. It’s edited by using the AI module from Luminar Neo for removing the power lines between the palm trees and some of the almond tree twigs automatically with only one click. The other click was to automatically correct the verticals. Great job! <ad> you can try this with your own images, head over to Skylum, and get your own copy. As always, you get a 30-days money-back guarantee. </ad>

This post is also part of the LAPC hosted this time by guest host Karina from Murtagh’s meadow. Thanks for this challenge!

Take care!

Computer, feedback, macOS, photography, postprocessing, review, software, Windows

Review Luminar Neo

Since Thursday, Luminar Neo is finally available. There were already a lot of rumors around on social media as well as a lot of complaints because of the huge delay. This time I got a review copy again. So, I was able to have a look at it. I’m tagging this as an advertisement, because of setting affiliate links.

First, the GUI looks very familiar when comparing it to the previous versions since Luminar 4. But, under the hood, a lot of progress was made to teach the AI editing photos according to Skylum. As a long-time follower, you know, I’m not a fan of AI editing photos. But, I have to admit, the results are great. You don’t have to rely completely on the AI, you still have the option to adjust the edits done by the AI or level how strong the AI should influence the final image.

According to Skylum, the Luminar Engine was built from the ground up to help creatives do more. Using artificial intelligence to analyzes your photos
unlock new, AI-driven editing possibilities:

RelightAI builds a precise 3D Depth Map of the 2D image to provide quick, targeted control of scene lighting, allowing artists to independently adjust lighting and color warmth for far and near objects across the scene and help easily fix portraits where the foreground subject is underexposed.

RelightAI isolates problem areas for correction, leaving the rest of the image untouched. Combine RelightAI with other scene-aware tools and photographers can precisely adjust the lighting of any photo.

Remove Dust Spots — Automatically identify and seamlessly remove small artifacts, like dust spots, from every photo with the help of AI.

Remove Power Lines — Uses AI to automatically identify and effortlessly remove power lines from landscape photographs to create a pristine image free from clutter.

Layers — Combine different images into unique compositions and include new elements from built-in overlays and object libraries.

Presets — Instant style changes designed by professional photographers of every stripe. Or, build and save your own unique looks for reuse on future shoots.

Luminar Neo is significantly faster than LuminarAI for complex photo editing tasks. Driven by the new Luminar engine, artists can now enjoy the following performance gains.

Luminar Neo ships from February 17th, 2022 with RelightAI, Presets, Layers, and other powerful new tools. Portrait Background RemovalAI and MaskAI are planned for the first free update to Luminar Neo, scheduled for release in the spring of 2022.

Luminar Neo is available as a stand-alone application in the App Store for macOS and the Microsoft Store for Windows as well as a plugin for Lightroom Classic and Photoshop and as an extension for Apple Photos.

To learn more about Luminar Neo and sign up for updates, visit

For demonstration purposes, I picked one of my images taken last year in Namibia. It’s taken in RAW format. In the lower-left corner, you can see, what the camera saved and the photo viewer brings up. In the upper left corner, you can see, what level of details is still in the image. The brightness control is turned to the maximum. In the final image, we still have the ambiance of the scene, but we have all structures in the dark parts. I’m quite surprised, at how well Luminar Neo developed the image and coped with the quite hard light conditions to preserve details as well as the ambiance. Btw. it can also handle ProRes DNGs from iPhone 13 Pro 😲.

 

You can click on the image to enlarge it. The bending in the sky is due to the JPG compression level. In case, you want to try Luminar Neo on your own images, head over to Skylum and get your own copy. As always, you get a 30-days money back guarantee.

I also tried a couple of the other AI features and was extremely surprised by how well they worked, especially the power line removal tool was extremely helpful. Below, you can see the crop assistant in action. Surprisingly the assistant had no other advice for cropping the image than to confirm my composition.

 

But, another issue still exists. There’s still the necessity to work with the catalog. Even when using the edit single photo option, you can only export the final edit and not a workfile like in Luminar 2018 and earlier.

Take care!

landscape, leisure, nature, photo-of-the-day, photography, review

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge 184: “What travel has taught me” and LAPC 185 “Change”

Again, I’m combining two Lens-Artist Photo-Challenges. Last week Amy asked for what “travel has thought me” and this week John is asking for “Change”. I was extremely busy last weekend and over the week I’m following my own schedule. But, knowing the topic in advance, gave me the time to prepare a post although this weekend I’m very busy again.

You know, I was in Namibia last year for visiting and experiencing a desert. Namibia has lots of them. They are different from the sand deserts of the Sahara. But, you can see, how the sun dried out the country. Every now and then, we were crossing sand-filled valleys by using bridges. These valleys are rivers. According to my experience, rivers consist of water. In Africa, rivers cal also consist of sand and dust for some time during the year. They dry out.  Here in Europe rivers don’t dry out. Even during the extremely hot summers of 2017-2019, the rivers had at least some water. The water level was very low and even for river Rhine, shipping had to be stopped for a couple of weeks. But, for Africa, it’s quite normal that rivers dry out.

We have to be very, very careful with our activities as they have an impact on our environment. I’m not an ecologist, but Global Warming can’t be denied. Glaciers are melting and the additional water is diluting the salty water in the oceans, which makes the inner-ocean streams (i.e. Gulf Stream or Humboldt Stream) collapse which results in climatic changes on the continents as well as collapses of fish schools. Increasing temperatures are affecting the countries, especially around the equator. Bigger areas of heat and no rain at all will avoid growing food because of the lack of water. Monsoon-like rain at quite low temperatures in other parts will also avoid growing food because the rain will wash away the fertile soil.

 

 

We are the generation to initiate the change. Michael Jackson sang in his song “Man in the mirror” (written be Glen Ballard / Siedah Garrett):

I’m gonna make a change
For once in my life
It’s gonna feel real good
Gonna make a difference
Gonna make it right
….
Who am I, to be blind pretending not to see their needs?
….
That’s why I want you to know
I’m starting with the man in the mirror
I’m asking him to change his ways
And no message could’ve been any clearer
If they wanna make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself and then make a change
I’ve been a victim of a selfish kind of love
It’s time that I realize
….
Gonna make that change come on
(Man in the mirror)
You know it
You know it
You know it
You know
Change
Make that change

 

Earlier this week I watched a documentary about people living in the Zambesi plains in Zambia. The people make their living with fishing. Traditionally, they were fishing with self-made traps and caught only the big fish, while the smaller ones were able to escape. So, over millennia, the system works well. Over time, more and more people came up with the idea to use nets instead of traps, because with the nets they were able to catch more fish. Unfortunately, they now also caught the small and young ones. Guess, what, the number of fish decreased enormously. So, the government forbade using nets but the people didn’t care. during the documentary, fishermen were interviewed by the film team. Surprisingly, they are aware they are exterminating all fish and killing the base of their lives. Their excuse: Even when I stop using nets, the others still use them. So, they will have more fish to sell, than me.

In small, this is the situation, we see all over the world. No-one is willing the do the first step. No government, no company, no women or man.

I want to hand over a loveable and lovely planet to our children. I want to make them see and experience the unique beauty of this wonderful tiny blue pearl in the black and cold universe. I don’t want to forbid. I want you to think about what you’re doing. Re-think it from end to end. When Sting published his song against Cold War in the 1980s, he phrased “The Russians love their children, too”. I believe this. Not only the Russians, all people all over the world. When people don’t have health anymore, who should spend money on products? When we don’t have enough water to grow plants, what do they want to eat? Do CEOs want to go out in the fields to grow and harvest their food on their own, because there are no farmers anymore?

The sentence «S’ils n’ont plus de pain, qu’ils mangent de la brioche.» (if they don’t have bread, they should eat cake) is attributed to the French Queen Marie-Antoinette and is supposed to be the final spark to start the storm of the French Revolution. The result is written in each history book.

A quote supposed to be said by either Chief Sitting Bull, Chief Seattle, or part of a prophecy of the Cree reads “When the last tree is cut down, the last fish eaten, and the last stream poisoned, you will realize that you cannot eat money.” Regardless, who was the first one having said this, it’s true. Thus, I’m reciting Michael Jackson “start with the man/woman in the mirror and make the change!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Take care!

landscape, leisure, nature, photo-of-the-day, photography, review

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge 183: “Memorable Events”

Thanks, Ann-Christine, for giving me the opportunity to remember a once-in-a-lifetime trip to the Seychelles Islands back in October 2010. For two weeks I was in paradise. La Digue is one of the bigger islands forming the country Seychelles. It’s located in the Indian Ocean and belongs to the African continent. You can find it on a map when staring with your finger in Mombasa at the Kenyan coast and moving to the east and starting with your other finger from the Jemen-Oman-border going south.

Seychelles is south of the equator at 4°16′ S 55°46′ E. So they are outside the cyclone area. No dangerous animals are living on the islands. There is even no malaria threat in Seychelles.

The islands have a tropical climate. It’s hot and the humidity is quite high. Because of the short distance to the equator, there is no twilight. When the sun goes down, it becomes dark nearly at once. The sun rises at around 6 a.m. and goes down at around 6 p.m.

 

first sight of the paradise aka Seychelles

 

the church is already decorated for the upcoming national holiday
one of the fantastic beaches around La Digue

 

a big print of this image is in the image’s rotation box and thus hanging every now and then in our living room for a couple of weeks.

 

nightfall is very fast so close to the equator

 

I loved watching these pretty white long-tail tropicbirds when they were in the air. It seemed to me, they really have fun and enjoy flying fast and amazing courses. 

 

When you want to read a bit more, you can find my posts here. Scroll down to the bottom of that page to start with the oldest post.

Take care!

photo-of-the-day

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge 182: “interesting objects”

It’s Saturday evening, so it’s time for LAPC and Patti is our host this week.

The first object is from my “toy box”. It’s a view inside a (broken) hard disk.

Many people love lighthouses. This one is not in use anymore for a couple of decades. One of the famous comedians in Germany in the 1970s and 1980s used to live here: Otto Waalkes. Now, it’s used by the nearby city government for weddings.

 

Even (street) signs can offer something to look at. Decide on your own, which sign you need to follow. I found this in Normandy, France, a couple of years ago.

 

Or maybe, you’re interested in street art. Some war-knitting activities affected these poles in a street in our state capitol, Düsseldorf.

I met this strict-looking lady inside the botanical garden of Barcelona. It’s a memorial for the famous flamenco dancer Carmen Amaya (1913 – 1963).

Or, maybe you’re more in details. I illuminated this chain with two flashes, each with a gel attached to color the light.

This is another memorial, I found in Barcelona. I have to admit, I don’t know the meaning nor the artist. But, I liked the shape, the color at night-fall, and the minimalism in this image.

When you’re not familiar with a place, have a look for these telescopes. They usually point by default to an interesting area. In this case, it’s Hotel W in Barcelona.

To give your photographic eye special training, take your camera and walk around in your house or apartment. Try to capture interesting things. To make the challenge even harder, you can try to tell a story in only one image

 

It was a lot of fun, to dig into my own archive and assemble this tiny gallery for you. I hope you liked it. As usual, click on an image to enlarge it.

Take care!

 

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

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge 181: “Double Dipping”

This week Tina challenges us to show some work out of our own page. hmmm, I usually don’t participate in other challenges than LAPC. So, I don’t have something to say today and I was considering skipping this week. But, I have two other pages for you:

  1. Monochromia: when you’re a lover of monochrome images, this site is for you! You can find images published at least twice a day from many very talented photographers around the world working in different fields of photography. I’m a regular contributor over there. My slot is Friday 13:00h/1 p.m. New York time. But, I’m always reblogging it here, too.
    Here’s one of my last images, I published over there:
  2. The other one is my other, my personal, Blog. Currently, I’m running a poll to find the images for my next calendar. You’re invited to participate. Simply jump over and vote for your favorite images. The instructions are on top of the page in German first and in English below. It’s completely anonymous. I’d be very happy to get a lot of participants.

 

Take care!

 

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

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge 180: “2021 – a review in images”

Today we have the first day of a new year. I often compare this day with a blank sheet of paper laying in front of me waiting to get written on. But, it’s also the perfect day to look back on the just past year and remember. So, this is kind of a follow-up to my yesterday’s post.

A week ago, I wrote about my yearbook. It’s also a book of memories (photographically). So, for today’s post, I’m just digging a bit more into the image folder to find the absolute essence of 2021.

Winter:

In early January we got a little snow for 3 days and in February ice rain and on top a quite solid layer of snow for about 2 weeks. A few crisp and clear nights gave me the opportunity to go out for photographing the night sky and some deep-sky objects.

 

Spring:

Spring started as usual, but too cold. The bluebells were not ready to get photographed, but the tulip fields were great again. Unfortunately, late snow destroyed many blossoms. So, fewer fruits grew on the trees.

Summer:

While June started great, by mid-June the weather turned. Gray skies and a lot of rain. The worst day was July 14th when huge amounts of rain fell over a very small band of land devasting the areas. Small creeks and rivers got soo much water, that they were overflooding the streets, railways, and towns besides them. Meters of water was standing in the streets. Up to now, the damages are not removed. Many people still have no heating in their houses in those areas. Many people lost everything except their lives while others were not so lucky because those also lost their lives.

Because of the bad weather, I didn’t go on excursions over the summer.

Fall:

Because of the weather, I didn’t go on any excursions during the fall, except using the first opportunity to see the cathedral in Cologne without any scaffold. The whole summer and most of the fall the weather was quite bad. Only a few hours of sunshine but even these days were cold. So, the Namibia trip from the second half of November dominates this section.

During December, I was busy developing my images from Namibia. So, there’s nothing to add.

You can find the corresponding posts published by our hosts here: Tina, Patti, Ann-Christine, and Amy

Take care!

nature, photography, review

Throwback Thursday: 2021

Last week, I got my yearbook: 60 pages with the best images from 2021. Best means, most important, most touching, or simply special. The 4 images on the cover page are:

  1. Astro: Orion nebula in January representing winter
  2. Wildlife: a European bee-eater in flight in June representing spring
  3. Astro: a partial solar eclipse also in June representing summer
  4. Nature/Landscape: a sunset in Sossusvlei in Namibia in November representing fall

From a nature photographer’s perspective, this year wasn’t a good one, although we had about 2 weeks of real winter with a dense layer of snow covering the landscape. Most of the time, restrictions because of wave 3 were in place. So, I went out alone most of the time.

In April winter came back and brought us snow again. Many blossoms didn’t survive. As a result, in the fall we didn’t get the same amount of fruits as usual. In mid-July, a severe rain front devasted some regions. People lost railroads, streets, bridges, houses, and even lives because of enormous over flooding. There are still a lot of problems in the affected regions. Even all of the houses aren’t reconstructed up to now.

Since mid-June, the sky was gray and rainy. Overall, the weather was more fallish, than summerly. And having the ongoing pandemic in my mind, the situation wasn’t encouraging and motivation to go out with the camera.

Starting from September, the 4th wave of Covid began spreading out. The trip to Namibia, planned for November, became endangered again: would it be possible to travel? Will all the booked planes operate? Which regulations do we have to follow to enter Namibia (a negative PCR test max 7 days old was enough)? Which regulations in Namibia (everything fine)?

Unexpectedly (only one day in advance and we were aware of it only from the news on the internet, not by the airline), we had to do another PCR test on our last day in Namibia to get permission to fly back home (done – thanks to the help of the owner of our last stay in Windhoek). And in addition, 14 days of quarantine had to be followed with another PCR test on the last day of quarantine. So, nothing too complicated. But, it was frustrating and annoying.

Thanks, God, I’m still not infected and I’m set free from the quarantine. So, I’m looking forward to the upcoming holidays and I’m able to celebrate with all my family members. All of us are vaccinated twice and boostered. In addition, a self-test is a voluntary obligation.

 

Ad

To find certain images in your archive more easily, I’m recommending Excire Foto, an AI-driven photo indexing and tagging software with an intuitive user interface for finding a certain image in your archive. You can download a test version (fully functional for 2 weeks) for free and test it with your own archive.

From Dec. 15th – Dec. 31st you can save 25% when using the code “CHRISTMAS-24” during check-out!

\Ad

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.

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

Lens-Artists Photo Challange 129: “Favorite Photos of 2020”

Ok, it’s January 1st. So, it’s time for a look back on the past year. Did you like it? Did you love it? Or did you hate it?

I don’t want to review the year again, because I already did it twice.

My top landscape images are already published. So, what’s missing now? The birds are missing! And here they are:

In addition, I have the top 9 by votes of Instagram for you:

This post is part of the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge. This time it’s organized by Tina Shell. Head over to her site to see her motivational post and links to many other posts inspired by hers.

architecture, art, cityscape, culture, landscape, leisure, night, people, photo-of-the-day, star, street, urbex, work, world

Throwback Thursday: 2020 – what a year!

December 31st, the last day of the year! Time for a look back. I guess all of you are happy, this wired year finally came to an end. All of us are tired of the regulations, limitations, and lockdowns we were faced this past year and had to follow even if we didn’t want to.

Right before Christmas, I got my 2020 yearbook. During the lockdown in March-May, I feared, my 2020 yearbook would be quite thin, there was no possibility to go out and take photographs. But, I was wrong. I even had to work very hard, to reduce the number of images to fit in a book. So, I want to name the major topics now:

March      - forest animals
April      - blue forest
May        - birding + stars
June       - Iceland
July       - comet Neowise
August     - birding (bee-eater)
September  - heathland
October    - fall

In the end, I created 4 books this year Iceland, Iceland monochrome, Iceland wildlife, and my yearbook. So, 2020 was a very productive year and without the limitations, it wouldn’t have been possible to have all my 2020 images developed up to now.

But, there were also a couple of downsides this year. Our vacation at the sea in April was canceled because of the lockdown. Our family vacation in May was also canceled because of the lockdown. The extended weekend trip end of September for visiting my brother in Switzerland was also canceled. But this time for bad weather (first heavy snowfalls and closed streets).  Our plan was to make a trip to a wine-growing area in October. But, because of the increasing number of infections. We didn’t book a hotel in advance to be able to react short-term to the weather conditions. So, we stayed home instead. Around the first of Advent, my wife wanted to visit a couple of Christmas markets. You guess it: canceled – no Christmas markets were planned or set-up. Visits for Christmas with my parents or our moved-out children??? Very distributed and no gathering.

When looking at my job, it came out, I’m not affected by the lockdown and the limitations to go out for work. I can do my work perfectly from home. All I need, is my company notebook, a headset to telephone, and a connection to the internet. Lucky me! My wife is working at a pension home to keep the inhabitants mentally active. So, she’s working in a secure place.

All in all, it’s good to know, the first vaccines are already approved, and also the pop-up vaccination centers are ready. So, the most endangered people are getting their vaccines now (if they want) and all others will follow during the next months following a priority plan.

 

In my personal life, there were also a couple of changes. I started a completely new job. I changed from being a project manager for IT projects to vendor management. Instead of reporting to clients, I now get the reports from our vendors. A very interesting change of view.

My daughter also started working again in February. Back in 2016, she started getting educated in nursing but had to quit because of her baby. Despite being a single mum, she’s working shifts (early and late, but no nights) as a nurse in a pension home. She got employed in March after 4 weeks of working voluntarily in that pension home. For 2021 she’s planning to start again to get educated in nursing so that she will be able to earn a bit more money. She also moved to a new apartment in June (after living again with us for about 9 months, because of some problems with her apartment and since February because of her work). Now, she lives only 300m away from us, so that we can take care of her son when he’s not in kindergarten.

Our older son was able to convert his fixed-term contract into an unlimited one and our youngest wasn’t limited too much by the lockdowns to learn for his job. By the end of 2021, he has to pass the written exam and in January 2022 he has to pass the oral examination.

My wife is currently recuperating from the lung inflammation she got surprisingly early December.

So, 2020 was a bad year in many perspectives, but it wasn’t a complete disaster. There is always some light in the dark.

This is the sun at noon on Dec. 24th. That’s a very typical winter sky here in my region. You can see, how low the sun is in the sky. It’s taken from your bathroom window on the second floor. From the street, I would be unable to see the sun at all. The trees are not that large and are about 100m away from our house. But the sun is standing so low during winter.

The image above is also a good illustration of my year 2020: there was a lot of struggling and complicated situations. We were pained by strict regulations to fight against SARS2-CoV. But, there was still some light. Think about your past 12 months. I guess you are also able to find some enlightening memories. Keep them well and let them carry you through the remaining time of the pandemic.

See you next year! Happy New Year!

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!

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!

 

 

Computer, macOS, review, software

Gemini 2 by MacPaw (review and ad)

Recently, I reviewed another software: Gemini 2. You know, as a sign of the zodiac Gemini is the sign for twin and that seems to be the reason for the name.

Each owner of a computer knows the problem of constantly shrinking free space on the internal disk. Not only new files occupy the precious disk space, but also duplicate files are consuming space. Gemini 2 should help one to reclaim the space occupied by unnecessary doublets.

After starting the program it asks for permission to your user folder and then starts scanning for doublets

When finished it presents a summary slide showing how much space probably could be reclaimed.

But, don’t trust this! Check the found doublets very carefully which one of the doublets could be deleted without causing problems. It scans the folders as well as your iTunes-library and the photo-mediathek. So, it finds i.e. photos exported from your photo-mediathek to the disk, when they are still in the mediathek as well.

Just in case, you want to try it on your own computer, there’s a free trial version available.

Take care!

composing, photography, review

creator vs. taker (ad)

Isn’t this a quite funny headline? You know, I’m a photographer. As a photographer, I show you the world the way it is and how I see it. To bring my images to your vision, I need to develop them. For developing the raw data recorded by my camera, I need some software known as raw developer. It’s just like in the old days where the photographer took the exposed film out of his camera and put it in some chemicals to magically get colorful images out of a grey stripe of plastic.

In 1988, the first version of Photoshop was introduced. This was initially an image manipulation program and became later quite popular not only for advertisers but also for photographers. I personally don’t need these functions for my images. Beside working on deeps and highlights, vibrance, cropping, and sharpening I do nothing to my images. Thus, I only need a raw developer and nothing else.

One raw developer I work with is Luminar by Skylum. This product appeared first in 2016 for MacOS only. Now, it’s available for Windows also. When Syklum started integrating artificial intelligence for some reason, these features became more and more powerful and made life easier for people photographers as well as for landscape photographers.

The current version, Luminar 4, replaces all previous versions of Luminar, including Luminar Flex. So, saving edits as editable separate files isn’t possible anymore and I suspect, this won’t come back anymore. Even the option, to export an edit as a PSD file for Photoshop only saves it as a flattened file.

This past week, a new version of Luminar was released: Luminar 4.2

Although, this is a new minor version, the changes are remarkable! This version brings new tools to your hands. These tools are powered by artificial intelligence to enhance your images in a very natural way. I guess, most of the skills were taken over from Photolemur, a company Skylum took over after 2018. With Luminar 3 AI skills were introduced for the first time and enhanced with Luminar 4. Now, Luminar steps up quite further and brings some additional creative tools to your hand. To show you a bit about what’s possible, I attached one of my Images.

Here we are in Tromsø, standing at the edge of the harbor and looking over the fjord to the part of the city located on the other side of the fjord with the famous Arctic Cathedral. I included the clouds from an image taken about an hour earlier from the same place looking in the same direction while waiting for the blue hour. The other two objects (aurora and planet) are taken from the standard library supplied by Skylum with the installation package.

Despite, I don’t like these make-offs, it demonstrates what’s possible and how realistic it looks like. I have to admit, the software does a great job. Although, I focused here on the tools for landscape photographers,  I also encourage people photographers to have a look at Luminar 4.2, as it also includes some great AI-supported tools for them (AI Skin & Portrait enhancer and shine removal)

To test it on your own with your own images, there’s a test version available to download for free to check all features out. It’s available for Windows and for MacOS. A license is good for two computers.

When using the code “SOLANER” during checkout, you can save a few bucks.

Take care!

nature, photo-of-the-day, photography, review, travel, world

Throwback Thursday: A review of 2019

As usual, I did a review of my images taken during the year for creating a photo book with the best images and the most memorable images. I should represent the activities I made during the past 12 months as well as remind me in a compressed way, of what I experienced.

You know, I often create photo books containing the best images taken during a photo trip (i.e. to Wales in June). But, the annual review often contains also images that didn’t fit in such a book or were taken at other opportunities.

When preparing the book, I was very surprised about the change in kind of the images. In the past years, most of the images were landscapes or flowers beside some wildlife photos taken at certain opportunities. This year, animals (especially birds) were dominating the selection 😳. Only 3 quite bigger piles of landscape images were on the desk: Wales, The Netherlands from our summer vacation and the trip to the heathland in fall. OK, there were some other landscape images, too, but theses were mostly only single images.

Here are my top 12 images from 2019: (click on the images to enlarge them)

Take care!

 

photo-of-the-day, photography, review, seasons

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #77 – Favorite Photos of 2019

For the last Lens-Artists Photo Challenge in 2019, we were invited by Patti to look at our images taken during the past year and pick the best of it. Long-time followers know I do this every year and I already prepared the post for next week. Stay tuned.

So I had a look at my photos published on Instagram for this challenge and looked for which once the guys voted most.

Take care!

Computer, photography, postprocessing, review, software, technic

Luminar 4 is just around the corner

You might have noticed some images online on social media created with Luminar 4 beta. I was also able to have a short test on the beta version recently. I gave it a try, hoping the flexibility and image quality of Luminar 2018 would survive and bring it to a new level in terms of supporting more recent cameras, too.

When starting Luminar 4 and looking at the user interface, it’s very similar to the older versions. As a user of the older versions, you’ll feel being at home at once. Slowly, you’ll discover the improvements, as most of them are under the hood.

For those of you, not familiar with older Luminar versions: it’s a photo editing software in means of processing and enhancing an image just the way the lab did in the old film days. It’s not for doing compositions and montages. It’s for processing raw files and develop them as well as enhancing jpg files i.e. lighten the darks, correct the horizon, remove dust or noise, correct distortions or enhance contrast. All the tools are organized into 4 groups (essential, creative, portrait and pro), plus raw development (canvas) and levels. All edits are done without changing the original file

A very important improvement is the progress in the AI filters. AI is short for “artificial intelligence” and means, the software is analyzing the image and tries to improve it in a means of a very natural mood. I tried it with some of my own images and I was very impressed. Here, in this post, I included an image taken during my recent trip to the baltic sea. It was taken at a windy fall afternoon. The sky was mostly grey with some small blueish areas in between. Not, what you want to have in your images. The bracket fungus on this tree is located on the shadow side of the tree. So, we have a kind of backlit scene that helpt blowing out the sky in the image while having the correct exposure for the tree and the fungus.

out-of-camera JPG

You know, I’m a raw shooter and don’t use the out-of-camera jpg’s, because I know, the raws have much more details, which are lost when shooting in JPG only.

The next image is still the same raw but handed over to the AI of Luminar 4. I know, other raw developer software can do the same, but it’s not as easy as with Luminar 4.

sky enhanced by AI

No further processing, then simply clicking on the AI for analyzing and improving the sky parts. Done!

But, the AI can do much more. You can also use it for replacing the sky. Although I don’t need it in my workflow and don’t like such editing in general, I tried it for you. Luminar 4 comes with a set of different skies, but you can also use your own skies. So, you could take a photo of the sky in addition to your photo and combine them in Luminar 4 for getting the final image.

sky replaced by AI

There are many more options to try and to use for improving your images. In general, the improvements look very natural and much better than they look after using HDR software to process them.

I don’t want to conceal a disadvantage of Luminar 4: Just like Luminar 3, all your edits are saved in the Luminar catalog. Maybe, saving the edits as separate files will come back, as several testers brought this up as a complaint. Remember, it came back with releasing Luminar Flex as a result of the complaints on this same behavior when Luminar 3 was released. Luminar 3 and Luminar Flex are the same, but with the difference in the style of saving the edits: Luminar 3 saves them in the catalog while Luminar Flex saves them as separate files.

Advertisement because of set links:

Currently, Skylum offers Luminar 4 with a Launch-Discount either as a pre-order or you can get Luminar 3 at once and Luminar 4 as soon, as it is released. Remember, the release is just around the corner: Nov. 18th, 2019!!! So hurry, to save some money and get Luminar 4 as soon as possible. As in the past, Luminar 4 is for Windows as well as for macOS. You can use it either as stand-alone software or as a plug-in to Lightroom, Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, Apple Photos. On the other hand, other plug-ins like Aurora HDR or Nik Filter are usable from inside Luminar 4.

Nevertheless, when you can live with this disadvantage, Luminar 4 is a fantastic software to bring up the details in your images without too much work. So, it can ease your workflow when improving your images! Not convinced yet? Skylum offers a trial period with a money-back guarantee for 30 days!

meeting, photography, review, travel, world

Photo & Adventure 2019

Yesterday, I was in Duisburg for visiting the fair “Photo & Adventure 2019”. For two days you were able to talk with people organizing photo travel trips. Several big dealers of photo equipment and a few brand stands were also set up to answer questions or give hands-on experience for cameras, lenses, tripods, filters, printers, photo paper, and much more stuff you need as a photographer. All the booths summed up to more than 150 exhibitors. One was also invented to attend some presentations on technology, image processing and / or travel destinations. There were also sold tickets to attend some workshops on different topics.

For me, this was a first time experience. In the past, I was in fear of the chaos because I know the venue. And it was, just like expected. Although I was their right for the opening, the parking ground was already overly filled. Fortunately, I got a free spot and headed to the entrance. At the info desk, I first had to clarify if I’d get permission to enter simply by showing the PDF of the online ticket, as I left the printed version accidentally at home – too far away to drive back for fetching it. But, fortunately, the scanner at the entrance was able to read the barcode right from the screen of my smartphone and I got in!

I wasn’t there for any particular reason. Just looking around, to get used to this kind of fair and compare it to photokina. It’s way smaller. The man focus is different. It’s similarly crowded, but worde to reach – at least for me.

I liked the images shown in the photo exhibitions. I also liked the supporting program: a few cosplayers acting as Jedi Knights, stormtroopers, Darth Vader and some further characters from the Star Wars saga, a troop of cheerleaders and a burlesque dancer. They all were there for entertaining the photographers and pose for some images.

Overall, it was an interesting event. But, right now, I unable to say if I’d go again.

Now, enjoy some impressions in the attached slideshow.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

culture, food, history, landscape, nature, photography, review, travel, world

I’m back ….

…. from North-Wales.
The week before last, I was in Great-Britain again. My destination was the Snowdonia National park and the island Anglesey, both located in North Wales. Wales is a part of the British main island and is located in the southwest, right next to the Irish Sea. Those of you, being able to understand German, can read this post in German language here.

Wales is a long-time part of the British empire and the integration path was very bloody. So, you can see impressive castles built by the Norman king Edward I. at the end of the 13.th century to overawe and rule the native Celtic folks living in that region. Also, he established roads for moving his soldiers more easily and more quickly.

Wales is dominated by agriculture: mainly sheep growing. You can not only find them on many meadows, but also in impassable mountain regions. Although, Wales is located at the sea, there are quite high mountains right behind the coast, just like the Snowdonia National Park with the eponymous mountain Mount Snowdon with a hight of 1085 meters.

In the past, there were many mines in Wales: coal, copper, and silver were dug out of the ground. But, these times are long ago. Compared to mining costs in other parts of the world, the costs in Wales were too high. Thus, mines (and other factories, too) were closed and people got unemployed. Just like in my own region, mining towns got deserted. Nearly everywhere in the small towns, you can see signs at the houses or in the front yards telling that that house is for sale. Rural exodus or rural depopulation seems to be an important topic here, too.

On the other hand, Wales is changing to become a tourist region. Hikers and climbers are to be addressed. The National Park lends itself to this. Many supermarkets are around to support hikers with food. Even in small villages, the supermarkets are open 7 days a week from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. or even longer. You can not only find the regular products for a supermarket, but you can also find a large variety of prepared sandwiches and other convenient food to take away on your hike. You can also find a lot of small restaurants, pubs, and inns with quite a good value ratio. Often you can find very good products like cake, scones, or sandwiches far away from regular life in the middle of nowhere, but in touristic interesting places. Only with the coffee one notices that the British drink tea. Don’t get me wrong. You can find coffee nearly everywhere on the menu: filter coffee (coffee americano), cappuccino, or latte macchiato. Unfortunately, the taste is sometimes not good. Either you taste the usage of instant coffee or the coffee is way strong or too thin. But, you nearly always get a nice topping made from frothed milk and some cacao powder.

The National Park is equipped with a cog railway. It needs an hour for climbing uphill to Mount Snowdon and after a pause of half an hour back to the foot of the mountain if you don’t want to walk down on your own. We walked down. but, I don’t recommend this trail to an untrained person. Often the path looks more like a creek bed than a beaten path. Big stones and very steep parts make the path quite challenging. We needed about 4 hours for the way down. High shaft hiking boots are the absolute minimum for mastering the path. And take a lot of drinking water with you. There is no option to fill up your bottles after leaving the top station of the cog railway. There’s also no opportunity to change your mind after leaving the top station on foot. Buy your tickets early, they get sold out quickly. Diesel engines drive the carriages on the track and one old steam train is also still in operation.

You have a fantastic sight in all direction from the top of the mountain and during the hike up- or downhill you get fantastic views of the side valleys.

The hike is very rewarding. Personally, I got impressed by a group of three young men hiking uphill. One of them was blind. He walked up to the mountain as calmly as if he were walking in the city on a flat walkway by trusting his friend on his right arm and his blind man’s stick the left. Several people came to us in different places that jogged up the mountain in bright sunshine and temperatures beyond 25 ° C. Amazing to what the human body is capable of with appropriate training.

As I said earlier, you can also find places for bouldering.


But there are also spots for more relaxed sports like canoeing, fishing or paragliding. The many lakes and treeless mountainsides are ideal for these many different sports in such a small area. Small parking areas beside the streets make it quite easy to stop every now and then, enjoy the landscape, take photographs or start a hike or a walk. Most of the lakes we passed, were easily accessible. On some of them, canoeists took their quiet laps. At the coast, you can start sailing or enjoy the beach life with sun-bathing, swimming, beach volleyball, and other typical beach activities. But, beach lovers should check in advance whether the location is equipped with a sandy beach. The beaches, I saw, were usually very flat-angeled, so that the sandy area was broad while low-tide but very small (or even completely gone) while high-tide.


Off the coast of Wales, you can find the quite big island Angelsey. It’s connected to the mainland by two bridges. Angelsey is even calmer than the Welsh mainland and the town are even smaller. The agricultural areas are mainly used as meadows, too. Despite you won’t see many cows or even horses, you can see lots of sheep of different races.


In the restaurants, you can usually find a small menu containg fish&chips, burger (much, much better that those you can find in the big burger restaurant chains)


steaks or local food. They use beef, lamb and pork. Some restaurants have some dishes for vegetarians on their menu. The offer is usually supplemented with soups and salads.

As a special feature you should mention, that often the order at the counter is expected (the food is then brought to the table), where partly also directly paid. Some restaurants also expect that guests do not just sit down somewhere but ask a receptionist to be assigned a table.

Just like in Germany, I noticed the missing of flying insects. Although this mad hiking a bit easier, by when looking on this from an ecological point of view, this is a disaster. Beside gulls, I saw many common birds: tits, robins, white and grey wagtails, magpies, crows, and ravens but very few swallows. I also saw ducks, geese and grey herons. Unfortunately, I was able to spot the national bird of Wales, the red kite, only once: from inside the cog railway uphill to Mount Snowdon.

You can reach Wales via the airports of Cardiff, the capital of Wales in the South (~150 miles), Birmingham in the east (~200 miles) or Manchester north of Wales (~100 miles). The distances are relative to the Snowdonia National-Park.

Take care!