12 months

Twelve months ago today this man met me at the airport with a bunch of roses in one hand and a woolly coat in the other.  We've built a home together, had 17 sets of international guests, attended 2 weddings, visited 3 countries, built 4 different Ikea "things", had numerous fights in English (but none in German), eaten 8 homegrown tomatoes and 1 homegrown fig, attended 1 opera, 4 Symphonies, celebrated 1 Australia Day,  1 Austria Day and through all of this cried, laughed and danced our way into falling in love with Berlin.

Matthias, du bist mein Lieblingspartner und ich liebe dich uher.
Dome and TV Tower


November Desktop

A little treat for the beginning of the month - I really enjoyed making last month's ones, so I decided to try and make this a bit of a regular thing. Download your particular size by clicking on the button above.

Have a lovely last weekend of October and Happy Halloween for those celebrating.


Anthro Patchwork Blankets

I think I'm gong to go with Option B on the blanket - thanks for all the suggestions last week. I still haven't quite decided on a backing, but my heart is leaning towards some soft flanel in a soft, moss green.  I have this image of me stumbling across the "perfect" blanket at a fleamarket and it turning out beautifully.  We'll see.

Funnily enough just after I posted about my blanket I was doing a bit of Anthropologie stalking and found these amazing blankets made from upcycled cardigans and jumpers.  For a brief moment I contemplated making something like this as the backing until I realised that that would be 100 times more work than just sewing my 12 squares together in the first place. Plus I don't own a sewing machine so sewing anything is a challenge requiring many hours of hand-sewing or some investigation about where I can "hire" a sewing-machine from.

Sometimes I wish I had a Doppelganger who knew how to do everything that I thought of.  And then I would say "Doppelganger, find the perfect backing for my knitted squares and while you're out, you could pick up a few cardigans and make a second blanket just like this one".  And then I would go do something else and a couple of days later they'd be finished and I'd have all the happy feelings that you get from completing a project, without the stress and torment of it not working out.  Silly thoughts for a Thursday morning.
Blankets available at Anthropologie


Autumn Walk

This weekend when I ventured out of the house I discovered there were more leaves on the ground than the trees.  The seasons have turned again toward winter - snow weather it not that far away and soon it'll be time to put away the bikes and use public transport again.  In the meantime, I'm trying to catch the last of the colour with my camera and enjoy riding my bike to and from work every day.
53/365 : Rain
autumn walk collage


The Cowl

Was is worth waiting for?  The infamous cowl, which looks nothing like what I thought I wanted (see post here). But I like it all the same.  It is soft and squishy and niffty buttons allow it to be wrapped up tight or to hang down loosely as the need fits.  It matches my coat and it was quick to make. Everything I could ask for in a cowl.


Isolating ISO

Two weeks ago we talked about shutter speed.  This week it's all about ISO.  Most automatic cameras will allow you to play with ISO.  Get out your manual (yes really) and see if this option is available for your camera, it's something everyone can use to improve their picture taking skills. My Canon IXUS has an ISO range from 80 - 1600.

ISO stand for "International Organisation for Standardisation" and comes from the greek work isos, meaning equal.  I find it easiest to understand ISO if I think about film photography.  Film photography is based around the concept of light passing through a material (film) and the film absorbing the light to differing amounts to create a 2D image.  Here there are two things interacting with each other - the amount of light reaching the film and how reactive the film is to light.  ISO describes the second element - the films potential to absorb light.  The higher the ISO, the better the film is at capturing light.  Put another way - film with a high ISO allows you to take photographs in situations without much light.  If you are using a film camera, as a general rule, you cannot simply "change" the ISO but need to choose different films with different characteristics.
Photo 1934 by Marianne Breslauer 

Now, lets convert that knowledge into digital photography.  The same concepts can be applied here.  The higher the ISO, the more light sensitive the camera is and the better it is at taking pictures in dark situations.  A fortnight ago we talked about the relationship between shutter speed and camera shake, and how without a tripod, at slow shutter speeds your photos will be out of focus due to your hands natural shake.  One way to get around this in dark situations is to increase the ISO.  The camera will now need less light to capture the same  image and you can use a faster shutter speed  (and therefore avoid a tripod and blurred photos). 

ISO 800, f/1.4, 1/160

ISO200, f/1.4, 1/25

The above pictures aren't the greatest of subject material, or quality, but I was a little rushed lastnight trying to finish off this post (oops).  But they still illustrate the point I wanted to explain.  In the first photo at ISO800 I could use a shutter speed of 1/160, whereas to capture the same image with my ISO set to 200 I needed a shutter speed of 1/25.

The downside of a high ISO  is that you sometimes get grainy images.  This is commonly referred to as "noise".
In digital photography the noise is caused by the camera not "seeing" the colours correctly and blurring pixels together.  How well your camera 'sees' at higher ISO range is, unfortunately, really a cost thing.  The more expensive the machine, the better it is at coping with the higher ISO ranges.  However, you can still use even small ISO ranges (100-400) to your advantage, as I will explain in the next few weeks.

Next Week: Capturing Reflections


In which I rant about my Visa

Am Freidrichshain

The Cowl is well and truly finished now and I've been happily wearing it to work everyday.  It has turned bitterly cold in Berlin.  Well, not bitterly, but cold.  Cold and wet and a few times this week I've thought that perhaps I wouldn't ride my bike to work, but I have.  Mostly anyway.  I've made a semi-deal with myself that if I can ride my bike more-or-less everyday until I go on holidays in mid-November then I've "done well" and can ride the tram to work without feeling guilty when I get back in December.  But I'm getting slightly off topic.  The point is that the Cowl is finished and I've been meaning to take a photo of me wearing it so I can post some photos this week, but the self-portraits just aren't cutting it this week and Matthias is away.

How's your week been?

I was asked recently what bothered me about German efficiency.  The honest answer would be nothing really.  It's one of the nice things about living here.  But given that the comment was essentially an open license to whine, allow me to tell you about my Visa situation.  The German Auslanderbehorde (immigration office) superficially pretends to be another cog in the efficient German beaurocratic wheel.  Yet in reality it is one of the most unfriendly governmental departments I've ever had to deal with.  The Berlin headquarters are huge.  In what one would think is the interests of communication, it assigns countries to particular departments according to the countries official language.  Australia get bundled up with the US, New Zealand and several dozen African countries.  Turkey gets its own department.  There's another department for the former soviet states etc etc. The joke is that noone who works in the respective 'language' departments speaks that language.  Everything is in German, which would be fine except that really it's not.  At one point while waiting for my Visa in January, Matthias translated a sign which explained to everyone (in German) that if they needed a translator they should bring one along as there was no in-house translation service.  It would be funny if it wasn't so tragically unfriendly and, perhaps, a mirror reflecting how Germans really feel about immigration.  Actually it would probably be funny if it wasn't happening to me.
Cars at Night

The Auslandebehorder also has no telephone number. And it's website clearly requests that you don't show up "unannounced" but receive a writen notification of your appointment time in the mail.  Rather helpfully it provides a fax number and an email address so that you can request an appointment.  Four emails and two faxes later I'm still waiting for a response.  In the end, I know that I'm going to have to turn up and wait in an endless line to be eventually told that I should have emailed them for an appointment and the next appointment time is two months away, at which point my Visa will have expired and I'll have to start the whole process all over again.  So I'm frustrated and a little sick of German xenophobia.  Incidentally, many Germans don't actually consider me an immigrant which apparently makes them feel comfortable about mouthing-off  while I'm in the room about how immigrants are really only interested in  sponging off the government.  When I point out that I'm an immigrant who doesn't speak German very well and for all intensive purposes hasn't really assimilated into German culture yet, they look at me as if I'm stupid and say something along the lines of "we mean the other immigrants". Yeah, right.

But enough of my rant.  I'm feeling much better now that I've vented.  Thanks for asking.  Oh, and have a lovely weekend.  I'm planning on celebrating the Austrian National Holiday with Goulash and Austrian white wine imported for the occasion. Yep, Matthias and I are the "good" immigrants. Definitely.
49/365: Shopping Trolley

The pictures are completely unrelated.  I was mucking about with exposure and focus on my way home from 'Eat, Pray, Love' at Potsdamer Platz.  'Eat, Pray, Love' is one of the worst movies I've seen in a long time.


Pasando... and other stuff

Hello! And a special big hello to everyone who popped over yesterday from 'For the easily distracted'. I did a guest post for Rhianne yesterday but in the blur of yesterday's "busy-ness" forgot to tell you all about it.  If you missed it, you can read it here. Anyway, I had such a wonderful response to yesterday's post and now have a few new followers, so I can only assume that you are "Rhianne's friends".  Hello and welcome.

And... in other exciting news "that" forest photo has been picked in Simplicity's "top 5" photos for last weeks photography challenge. This was the first time I have entered anything in one of Faith's challenges, but I saw the theme ("Light") and it was too good an opportunity to pass up.  You can imagine I was totally bowled over when I saw it had been picked in Faith's top 5 for the week.  You can vote for my photo as your favourite here (I'm shameless).
But onto more important (or at least interesting) things.  Do you know Anika Toro?  She's a photographer and mixed-media artist and I'm a little bit smitten with her work.  I've been meaning to post about the cool 3D cards that I won in a giveaway she was having for ages, but I keep forgeting to take photos of them when it's light.  I've now given up on that idea and instead posting using her photos.  Her cards are really very cool though - you should check out her etsy store for 3D-cards and other nifty stuff.
One of the things that I really appreciate about Anika and her blog Pasando is that she is whole-heartedly believes the "whatever camera in your hand is a good camera" manifesto that I was raving on about here.  She is currently doing a 'creepy countdown' on her blog where all of her photos are taken using her phone camera and then manipulated using "something".  To be honest I have no idea how she creates her creepy images but they are pretty scary for someone with an over-active imagination. Perfect for this time of year!

For more of Anika you can find her at these places.

Pasando blog

Photo credits: Anika Toro



Well, not quite, but almost.  Have you ever tried tilt-shift photography?  I had no idea what it was until last weekend when I look up this tutorial on how to do it.  The editing is a little bit fiddly at first and I think there's a skill in finding the right photos for the effect - it works much better when you have a photo shot from above.  But once you get the hang of it, it's a little more-ish.  I spent way too long searching through my archives for appropriate photos to "make mini".

If you need something else to add to the list of things that keep you glued to the computer screen then this is for you.  I promise an evening will disappear before you've had time to admire the cuteness of your miniature world!

Flickr Group for inspiration : Tilt-Shift Miniature Fakes
And link to a Tilt-Shift Maker: tiltshiftmaker.com
48/365: Bikes at the Wall


Knitted Squares

This is the post where I get all self-indulgent and ask for your help.  As many of you know, I have a soft spot for knitting and other crafty pursuits that require wool, sticks and some quiet, meditative time. I also love receiving things in the mail and earlier this year decided to combine the two and join a little knitting swap. Our little group of 12 european knitters have been busy making 12" squares for each other and sending them off in the post each month.  Each month, one lucky lady receives 12 squares of her choosing, enough to make a small patchworked blanket.  Well, my month has come and gone and I have receive my 12 lovely sunny squares.  The only problem is that I'm not sure what to do next, in particular, I'm not really sure how to sew them all together.
I think I need to create a border to frame each one and give the blanket a bit of "togetherness".  At one point I contemplated taking these little squares off my doomed, beach dress and creating a border from them.  I still haven't gone completely off that idea.  It also need a backing, only I'm not sure what.

So ideas?  I'll take any suggestions.  I'd also love to know which option you like A or B  (they're different, I promise).


White Balance

This week we're taking a break from the triad of Shutter speed, Aperture and ISO to talk about White Balance. 

First up, some basic science.  For the purposes of this tutorial, let's think of light as a wave.  Visible white light is made up of all the colours of the rainbow.  Each colour has a slightly different wave frequency and travels through space with a different energy or temperature.  When all the colours are added together we see white light. Below you will find a copy of a colour wheel for light - in a later post we'll be talking more about this wheel and how it can help you with photography, but for now its enough to understand that different colours have different temperatures.

Now, intuitively and practically we know that at different times of the day the temperature outside varies.  Cooler at sunrise, hotter at midday and cool again at sunset.  It therefore makes sense that at different times of the day, different colours (with different temperatures) will dominate the light spectrum.  We often don't see these differences because our brains are programmed to see light as "white" and will balance what our eyes see automatically.  Yep, our brains have a very clever, inbuilt automatic white balance!  Unfortunately our cameras do not and without correcting for white balance we can sometimes end up taking funny looking photos where the colours look completely out of whack.  In the photo below, shot undercover the colours are much too yellow.

ISO125, f/2.8, 1/100, AWB

Now let's just digress momentarily and image we're heating a piece of metal over a fire.  At first it turns red, then blue and then white.  As it cools down it will change back to blue, then red again.  This is exactly what light does during the day.  At sunrise and sunset, visible light will be slightly redish/orange, as the day heats up blue with dominate and at the hottest part of the day visible light will be mostly white.  Different light sources also have different colour temperatures, for example, fluorescent light gives a green-ish hue.  Correcting for white balance or correcting for colour cast simply means that you adjust your cameras settings taking into consideration the colour cast (temperature) of the prevailing light. 
Unless you have using a very old camera, your camera should have something called AWB, or Auto White Balance.  This is your camera's "brain" trying to naturally bring everything it 'sees' back to a neutral white colour.  Mostly it does a good job, but sometimes you photos will look unrealistically red or blue or green.  This can be corrected in post-processing, or you can try to change it "in camera" by adjusting your white balance based on the conditions.

Both my Canon IXUS P&S and my Canon 400D have rougly the same white balance settings.

My DSLR also has a custom white balance - this allows you to program the white balance you want, by taking a photo of a white or coloured piece of paper.  The  camera's internal computer will convert this into a white balance setting allowing you to customise the white balance to your specific needs.

By changing my white balance to the prevailing conditions I can be more confident that my photos will be 'true to life' colours, particularly in difficult lighting conditions.
ISO100, f/4.5, 1/250, AWB

In the photo above, I was shooting on a sunny day and had our orange sun-blind covering the balcony.  The overall effect is a really yellow/orange photo.  But look what happens when I change my white balance settings to Tungsten, which effectively provides a blue filter to the camera. and stops some of the red light  being absorbed.  The colours are much more realistic and with some post-processing this photo will 'pop'.  Click here, if you want to see my final processed photo.

ISO100, f/4.5, 1/250, TUNG

If you get the white-balance wrong "in camera" it is also possible to change it with some simple editing.  Most editing programs will allow you to add a filter to the photo.  Below you can see what happens when I add a blue filter to the Japanese vegetables - again a much more 'true to life' look.

ISO125, f/2.8, 1/100, AWB - (blue filter added in editing stage)

The other way to use these settings is to enhance your photos.  For example, say you want to really enhance a sunset photograph and get the maximum "golden" cast possible.  If you set your camera to 'Sunny' WB, you would be effectively adding a red filter to your photograph resulting in an enhanced sunset.  (Remember from above that sunny conditions are relatively "hot light temperatures" creating blue/white colour casts and to balance this out the 'Sunny' WB adds a red filter.) 

A word of caution: If you do alter your white balance settings, try to ensure you set it back to AWB at the end of your photo session.  There is nothing worse than picking up your camera, taking a few photos and having them all come out looking terrible because you had your white balance on flourescent after last weeks birthday party and now you're taking pictures in the midday sun!

The take-home message for this week is that white balance and colour casts are related to the temperature of the light when you take the photo.  You can correct colour cast by changing your white balance setting in camera or adding a filter in the post-processing stage.  Secondly, white balance can allow you to enhance your photographs by effectively adding a filter to enhance the current light conditions.

Next week: Isolating ISO


Scavenger Hunt

This was a tricky week.  Couldn't manage to get all the photos for the week.  Its been grey and cloudy here so no Sunsets.  And then the faces in nature - well that required some very creative "dreaming" on my part.
Forest Light III
Side Lighting - From the Usedom trip last weekend.

jack o'lantern

Jack O'Lantern - A rainy day and a Scavenger Hunt challenge, we ended up spending a few hours on Saturday making these Jack O'Lanterns. Great fun!

Faces in Nature - So this was a bit of a stretch and required some 'digital dreaming' on my part.  I took a few photos from my stay in Africa and created some faces in nature.

Sunset - Again, from Africa.  Africa really does have the best sunsets of any where I've visited.

43/365 : Knitting
Warm - Lovely warm knitting.  I've almost finished my cowl which will be keeping me warm all winter.

And that's it for this week.  For more Scavenger Hunts (which are hopefully more on track that my selection), visit Ashley Sisk's site.