A Snowy Walk in Vienna

I'm being a bit cheeky and writing this post on Friday night.  I have a feeling that this weekend isn't going to leave any time for blog posting because... this weekend is/was the Vienna Doctor's Ball. Yep, a true proper, franzy-schmanzy, ball-gown wearing, orchestra-playing, waltz-dancing Ball!  I'm sure there'll be a post coming about said Ball, but for now I thought I'd show you some pictures I took in the Vienna Forest last week. 

I had a meeting in Vienna on Wednesday and rather than flying back to Berlin only to return to Vienna on Friday night I was lucky enough to be able to work from "home" for Thursday and Friday.  Although working from home did involve some work, I also managed to get out for a long and delightful walk in the forest.  The snow had just stopped falling and I had the tracks mostly to myself, save for a few dogs and their owners.  It was really the best way to reconnect with the beauty of winter after feeling so gloomy about the grey clouds and drizzle that have been hanging over Berlin for weeks.  Plus, I've decided that snow is really quite wonderful, as long as you are just "visiting" and not living amongst it for months.  How are all you northern hemisphere people feeling about winter at the end of January?  Ready for a bit of warmth yet or happy for the snow to stay?


Colour Compensation

Have you ever noticed that sometimes, despite apparently exposing your photo correctly it ends up looking a little wishy-washy and blah? To understand a common reason why this happens you need to understand how the camera's light meter measures light.

Camera's "meter" (read light) by sampling areas within your camera's frame and deciding what settings will, on average, bring everything back to a mid-grey.  This generally works pretty well, but a camera's internal light meter tends to "make mistakes" when you are taking pictures with extremely bright or dark areas or if there is a lot of white or black in your photos.

How to adjust the bright/shade problem in photos is a topic for another week.  The other problem you run into is when you are dealing with mostly white or mostly black photos.  It is not surprising that, with the camera's light meter trying to make everything mid-grey, photos with lots of white or lots of black will tend to look grey if you take your photo with the exposure settings that the camera suggests.

Yesterday I took a walk in the forest and took a lot of photos of the fresh snow. Perfect opportunity to take some picture to show you how to think for your camera when photographing whites and blacks.
In the first photo I used the settings that the camera suggested - it's pretty dark and the white is a little grey.  The second photo is better and by over-exposing the photo to two stops (+2) above what was suggested by the camera's in-built light meter I got a photo I was happy with.
Finished photo - which has been sharpened slightly for the web.

The same concept applies for photos mostly of black.  The camera slightly over-exposes black to try to bring the tones back to mid-grey.  If we trick the camera by under-exposing the image slightly our blacks will be true black.

But how much should we over or under expose in normal conditions?  Well that depends on the photograph and what you want to be correctly exposed.  White and Black tend to need around 2 stops over or under exposure to get the correct colour.  Mid-green, red and mid-blue will generally be correctly exposed at the "true exposure reading".  Colours brigher than red (yellow, orange, skin tones) will need anywhere between +0.5 and +2 stops and darker colours will fall somewhere between -0.5 and -2.0
Barn Door

Metering using an external light meter, or grey-scale card is a much more accurate way of correctly exposing a shot, but the loose rule-of-thumb above will take your photos a long way.  If it doesn't work out you can always change your settings and take another photo.  

Intentionally over or under-exposing your photos is possible in all modes on your dSLR cameras, some bridge cameras and even some point-and-shoot cameras (although it is by far the easiest to manipulate when you use manual mode).


Carrol Jerrems

Carol Jerrems (1949-1980) is another Australian photographer that I have recently discovered and admire. She spent much of the 70s photographing counter-culture in suburban Sydney and Melbourne, mostly photographing herself and friends in both contrived and more relaxed settings.  What's particularly interesting to me is that her work still looks quite contemporary, particularly when compared to today's photographers who work with film and/or use vintage processing techniques. 

Jerrems died, aged 31 years, of a rare blood disorder.  She documented her short illness on film and donated all her work to the Australian National Archive after her death.


Finding Rhythm

After a long day at the office
This is by far my favourite photo of the week and was a little lesson in why I insist on lugging my DSLR around with me everywhere. Typical story really - 9pm at night and on the way home from German I still haven't taken my photo of the day - I'm half-heartedly contemplating cheating and just taking it tomorrow.  And then I see this - this dog, sitting quite happily if not somewhat ambivalently on the tram seat as if, say, he's coming home from work, or German, or whatever occasion might cause someone to be out at 9pm on a wintry night.  And so I quickly grabbed my camera and snapped a few shots. He didn't seem to notice or mind a bit and everything about this shot makes me giggle from the inside-out.

As for rhythm this week I haven't really done too much.  I'm in Vienna for the week, so no yoga practice or much grocery shopping but I am planning on getting out for a walk in the forest and I'm convinced that connecting with the rhythm of nature's seasons must count for something.  Plus I've been crossing off a few major knitting projects which have been looming over me for months.  I finally finished the long awaited vest which will get it's very own post once I can get Matthias and the vest outside to photograph and I also started some better-late-than-never baby gifts for a few babies born in December and January.

Linking up to Lisa's Creative Challenge this week too 


Fingernails, eyelashes, button lips and Tinnie-tiny toes

For the past four months I've been busy making little fingernails and eyelashes, button lips and tinnie-tiny toes.  It makes me smile to know that this little international "Bean" (for that's what we're calling it) has already travelled the world in it's protective home and taken in the sights of it's two Heimats*. I've been lucky, really, and whilst travelling through Australia I felt little more that a fatigue that did not respond well to protests, bribes or even stubborn objections.  I slept through much of my trip to Australia, my body demanding the bedtime of a two year old. That, and I briefly and scarily had a complete and utter aversion to coffee. There may have been tears at the thought of never, ever wanting go to near a Latte or Cappuccino again.  Thankfully that past and all that is left now is a growing Bub who loves Spinach. A lot.  Apparently I'm having Popeye's love-child.

* Heimat strictly translated means "Home", but a better translation would be a feeling and yearning that comes from your mothercountry, place or homeland.  Australian aboriginals would translate this as "country".


Green Week

It's Green Week in Berlin - apparently the biggest exhibition of Food, Agriculture and Horticulture in the world. We went along to the food part of the exhibition yesterday and ended up spending the whole afternoon taste-testing our way through europe, the middle east, asia and the americas.  So much yummy food on offer and happily most things were available in small "take-home" sample sizes and not just big wholesale quanities.  We ended up buying  some delicious Italian cheese,  smoked Hirsch (deer) and a few bottles of South African red wine. Yum!
I think one of my favourite parts of the event was seeing everyone in their traditional costumes.  Lots and lots of central europeans walking around in lederhosen and distinctive Baravian hats.  It was also funny to see what product each country or region had chosen as their "thing".  No surprises that Australia chose Kangaroo meat in all its permeations.  I think one of the strangest products I saw for sale was in the Russian area where they were promoting 'Milsch Konservative Kombinate', which translates as preserved milk made in Soviet-style cooperatives. It comes in a solid block, a little like butter or cheese.  Sounds really appealing, doesn't it?


Mabel Pike

I saw this last week on Poppytalk and couldn't resist re-posting it this weekend. If you only have a few spare minutes the first 30 seconds are wonderful - Mabel tells the story of her passion for her art in a way that I think we can all relate to. Had me nodding my head and saying "Yes, exactly!" as I was listening.


Winter Light

It's back!  It's been a few months since I did a Photo Know-How but I am trying to get back into the groove of things and I have a few ideas for the next few weeks... but, if you have any requests, please let me know - I'm more than happy for new ideas!

Today I'm going to talk a bit about working with winter light and in almost 'no light' conditions. Berlin is pretty grey in winter.  I can count on one hand the days that I've seen blue sky since November.  If you read my blog you probably know all of them - they are such a rarity here that I get so excited that I almost always mention them here on Pampelmuse and Me.  On top of that the daylight hours are short (9am-4pm) so I'm usually photographing in the dark.  I don't have any fancy photography equipment - I use a Canon 400D and although I would love one, I haven't got an external flash.

So, what have I learnt:
1. Get a tripod; you can make your own (books, sweaters, chairs) or buy one.  The advantage of a "proper" tripod is that you can manipulate the height a lot better than a stack of books and it gives you a lot more flexibility as to where you set-up your photos.  In low light conditions you need to have a stable surface - your shutter speed will almost always be too slow for hand held photography unless you use a flash.
2. Learn how to use your self-timer; even if you are using a tripod, at slow shutter speeds pressing the shutter will move your camera ever-so-slightly resulting in a blurred photo.  Using the self-timer (or a remote shutter) will keep the camera absolutely still while you take your photo.  Remote timers are one of the cheapest investments you can make in terms of photography - you can pick them up for as little as $5 and they are also great when taking self-portraits.
3. Custom White Balance; I used to think custom white balance was more effort than it was worth. In most lighting conditions I think the Auto White Balance setting (AWB) on most cameras does a pretty  good job and in low-light conditions I used to just switch to Tungsten for a bit more accuracy.  Plus, I generally shoot in RAW where you can adjust the white balance to your liking in the editing phase.  But... I've found that neither AWB or Tungsten do a very good job in my apartment at night - the lighting is just too poor.  Custom White Balance has been incredibly helpful during my post-work photography shoots - no fancy equipment required either, I use my white dinner plates as my white balance reference.
4. Turn off your flash; Unless you have an external flash you are probably going to get "flashy" photos with your cameras in-built flash.  Switch to Aperture Priority or Manual mode, turn off your flash and embrace the slow shutter speeds.
These two photos were both taken at around 8.30pm in my apartment.  No flash or any special lighting was used. In the first photo I slightly desaturated the colours, but didn't do much else in the editing phase.  In the second photo the background is my kitchen window. When I was editing, I brought out the blacks a little more so that the small amount of reflection from the window disappeared making it look like a black surface.

4. Crank up the ISO; Generally I hate increasing my ISO, but sometimes is necessary.  The downside will be that, especially with less sophisticated cameras, you'll get a lot of noise - and quickly.  My camera starts getting "noisy" with ISO800.  Instead of hating it, embrace it - there are times when the grain can enhance a photo. Grainy photos often look better in black and white so if you're unhappy with your colour photo, try a black and white edit.
Eric and Harriet
62/365: Pasternak
This trick also works well with outdoor night shots where bright street lighting can sometimes overpower the shot - a simple black and white conversion calms the lights down and can bring out the details that you initially saw with your eyes.


Harold Cazneaux

Harold Cazneaux (1878-1953) was a founder of the Sydney Camera Circle and his work greatly influenced the development of Australian photography. One of the Sydney Camera Circle's key aims was to reframe Australian photography so that it embraced "our own Australia in terms of sunlight" rather than the grey shadows typical of European photography at the time.  Looking through his photographs, it's interesting to see how he slowly embraces this ideal in his own work.  I especially like the last two portraits of the 1920s women - the way he plays with the light in these photos is wonderful.

'Passing Storm'
 'Fresham School'
 'Doris Zinkeise'


Week Two

Week Two, and so far I haven't missed a day although there was an "almost".

See that black and white in the middle?  Well, that was snapped on my way home at 10.30pm and there is not one single object that is even vaguely in focus.
"But it's atmospheric" I hear you murmuring.
Yes, but any bigger than 200 pixels and it looks really crummy. Not a keeper, but you live and learn.  Oh, and the Dim Sim next to it?  Also not in focus? Well, Matthias believes that photos should be spontaneous and he refused to hover the Dimmy over the soy sauce while I took my excruiatingly slow photo (Korean restaurants are not known for their studio lighting).  At the time I told myself that the movement gave it a dynamic quality. A-hem.

And because Wednesdays are turning into my 365 show-and-tell day I'm also using this post to keep myself accoutable to my pursuit of 'Rhythm'. Alongside my 365 photos I'm going to start listing the little things that I've been doing to try and find rhythm in this city of mine.

** I started yoga again. It's been quite some time since I reguarly went to classes and my first time in Germany.  The studio I went to was small and they practice a fairly pure form of Hatha Yoga with lots of chanting, breathing exercises and meditation alongside the poses.  I think I liked it, although I've never "ohmed" before and it was a little strange - I'm going back which I'm taking as a good sign
** I've also started German classes again.
** I updated my 'current city' to Berlin, Germany on Facebook
** We've made a change to shopping for groceries twice a week instead of everyday.  When to shop has been a source of great debate in our household.  I'm a planner; Matthias likes to be spontaneous. He'd prefer to shop on the way home from work and I didn't think it bothered me too much.  Turns out that it does.  So we're changing it up and doing it my way for a while.  Stupid as it sounds, my little heart beats much more calmly knowing that there are groceries in our fridge and I don't have to think of a new "thing" to cook every night on my way home from work.

Not too bad of a beginning, really.   


trying something new

Winter Seeds
Sometimes it's fun to try something a little different and experiment with a style you don't usually gravitate towards.  Yesterday while walking around the Tiergarten the sun was shining on these old seed heads turning their stems a beautiful redish brown. Maybe it's all the Spring weather we've been having, but I was feeling quite dreamy lastnight  and when it came time to edit these shots I ended up over-exposing the shots, softening the focus and cross-processing the colours turning everything a pretty girl-ish pink.



After a very snowy and cold December, this weekend it felt like spring had come early.  I know it's too early for it to be truly spring weather but the sun peeked through the clouds and there was definitely a spring feel to the place.  Yesterday we decided to visit Teirpark, the Zoo in the east of the city.  One of the strange things about Berlin is that post-reunification there are still two of  many public institutions - two concert halls, two opera companies, two theatres and... two zoos.  I planned to take lots of photographs, but the place was actually quite depressing,. Most of the cages looked like they hadn't been renovated since the 1960s and harked back to a time when there was little recognition that animals need enclosures that closely resemble their natural habitats in order to feel safe and secure.  Lots of tiny cages with nowhere to hide away from staring eyes and flashing cameras.  In contrast to the animal enclosures, there were many forested walkways and more formal gardens for us humans to enjoy and I think we ended up spending more time walking around them than actually seeing the animals.

Back home, my hyacinth's have decided to flower for a second time which has made me incredibly happy as the first flower heads only lasted a few days.  They are filling the kitchen with the softest scent of "fresh flower" which I love coming home to in the evening.  This is really the first year that I've had bulbs in my house and I've decided that this year I'm going to buy all sorts of different bulbs as they come into season.  It's so nice to have a bit of colour and life in the house when everything outside is still hibernating until spring.


15 authors in 15 minutes

ratita de biblioteca

Stephanie of Sunbeam Soapbox tagged me to list fifteen authors that had influenced me back in December.  I'm usually really bad at getting around to doing these sort of things, but the topic really appealled to me.  The challenge is to spend 15 minutes thinking about 15 authors who have influenced you in some way.

"Don’t take too long to think about it. Fifteen writers who’ve influenced you and that will always stick with you. List the first fifteen you can recall in no more than fifteen minutes. Tag at least fifteen friends, including me, because I’m interested in seeing what authors my friends choose."

So... my list. In no particular order
1. Roald Dahl
2.EE Cummings
3. David Malouff
4. Kazuo Ishiguro
5. Margaret Atwood
6. Robin Klein
7. Tim Flannery
8. Peter Carey
9. Paul Farmer
10. Charles Bukowski
11. John Keats
12. Enid Blyton
13. Tim Winton
14. Jane Austen
15. AA Milne

Amongst the mix is a collection of childhood authors who instilled in me a love of reading and a curiosity to pick up books and discover the worlds within them.  There are quite a few Australian authors, mostly based on books I read in my last years of high school - I still have a copy of a very dog-eared, highlighted and bent out of shape "Fly Away Peter" which I must have read twenty or thirty times before sitting my final english exams in Year 12.  And then there are Paul Farmer and Tim Flannery, two passionate scientific men who have brought very important topics (access to healthcare and climate change) to the masses.

And now it's your turn, I'm supposed to list 15 other bloggers who should also participate.  This is the part that I hate.  Incidentally it's also why I tend not to reply to blog awards. I mean this in no way as a criticism to those who are brave enough to give and receive awards and I am humbled everytime I am tagged. But it reminds me of high school and I was never really "good" at the high school popularity thing.  

So, if you are interested in taking part in this challenge (and it's a worthy task to spend 15 minutes thinking about authors who have influenced you), please link back to me so that I can see who makes it to your list.  And because I think these people might be interested, here are some blogs I read who have, at one stage or another, showed an interest in reading too.

E tells Tales,
Cracks in the Pavement
Tea with Lemon Photography
Striking Keys
Resident on Earth
We Heart Books
Pieces of Me
For the Easily Distracted
Emerging Em

I just realised that this short list also provides a view of my fairly ecclectic blog reading.

Happy Weekend!