The Dream Of The Ultimate Image

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It’s been raining almost all day, and Ben’s been gone eight days now. A day as good as any to finally sit down and describe an idea, a chain of thoughts, a philosophical concept, if you will. Let me just go downstairs, grab a glass of wine, and put on some Hard Bop. I’ll have to go through about 3,000 words of notes taken and find out how I got there when I first tried to put it into words almost two months ago. I think it makes sense to present the thoughts in the sequence I had them. As a bonus, I list which song I am listening to while I am writing each part.

Giant Steps / John Coltrane
Driving in my car on a mid-October morning, this whole thing started by taking two things I believe in and putting them together in a creative context, say … photography.

The one thing is that I do believe that it is always now, and that really is all we have. The past is a memory of nows that are gone. The future is something that will happen further down the road, but when it actually happens, when we get there, it will no longer be the future. When it finally happens, it is now, and it will be then when and where it happens.

Brilliant Corners / Thelonious Monk
The second thing is that I do believe everything is connected on another level altogether than what we think life is. This connection is beyond what we can imagine, grasp and describe using our mind. It is this concept that made me think that whenever I take landscape images I take selfies because I am in there and I take pictures of all of us because we are all in there.

To finalize this first stream of thoughts I abstracted it to the max and arrived at the thought that every image we all ever take is one and the same. Forget about EXIF data, they were all taken in the now, and the subject matter is always everything. So all of us are taking that one image again. And again. And again. You should realize though, that this should be nothing to feel frustrated about. It should rather be liberating.

The Preacher / Horace Silver
A week later I was in the car again, driving along the same roads and it was no surprise that my thoughts would be going back to what I was thinking about a week before and expanding those.

Thinking about the statement that all of us are taking the same image over and over one might argue how the image can be the same when they all look different. I wasn’t talking about Tunnel View or the Eiffel Tower here, I am not talking about the forms you see in all those images. On the surface, we might think that those forms are or can convey what the image is about when they really are not.

When I say the image is always the same I of course don’t mean we all take the same image of a certain subject matter at a certain time of day under the same circumstances. Maybe it’s a picture of us looking for ourselves in the world of forms, which is desperate and hopeless. We might look there because that’s what we identify with, but that doesn’t mean that would be where we can find ourselves in our images or in the “real” world.

Scrapple from the apple / Dexter Gordon
There is a difference between those two worlds we are dealing with, the world of forms and the world of space. Our consciousness is the space in which those forms exist and in which things happen, with these forms interacting. You might have guessed by now that the ego of forms is an illusion, us identifying with form can be used as an escape from having to realize that all of the things we can touch, describe and own are not real. Not real enough to carry us and help us answer questions we can’t but would love to avoid.

It’s really all about space. About the stuff that’s in between things and forms. And that was when I started thinking about Miles Davis.

Autumn Leaves / Cannonball Adderley
Miles Davis said, “It’s not the notes you play, it’s the notes you don’t play.” It’s about what’s in between. The silence. As a photographer, you should be aware, that in photography it’s not just about what you photograph, what’s in focus, what is lit. It is also about what you do not photograph, what is out of focus. What is left in the dark.

The next step in this thought that is growing more and more while I spend time with it, this next step was even more interesting than the others before or after in terms of how it came about. All the other steps were thoughts, building on other thoughts before them, associations, and again, forms. This isn’t optimal, but for now, this had to do. This next step though came as a feeling and it was really hard to describe it. As it is something that can’t really be described and what makes it even harder was the excitement I felt when I had this impression.

Doodlin’ / Horace Silver
For some reason (the feeling didn’t give an explanation) I felt that most of the inspiration for a story about that particular image is in the darkness, in the space, in the notes we don’t play. This space, our consciousness as felt in our images, inspire not just one definite story about those images. There is not just one that fits. That makes sense. As it is the same image all over again, it is also the same story all over again. But another version, another incarnation if you will. There is only that one image and that one story. It is always now and it is always the same story really, but it can be told in so many ways.

Cantaloupe Island / Herbie Hancock
In what is omitted in the image you will see the space that holds the forms. A consciousness that is yours and also the viewer’s consciousness. A place where the inspiration for the story lies. A story you try to make your own. As I was thinking and feeling this, I was searching for meaning (as we always do). In the images, the forms, and the space. For something I could call my style. For a reason, I was doing all that. As we progress through this chaos, this onslaught of thoughts and feelings, we’ll see that we need to abandon that search. But more on that later.

Walkin’ / Miles Davis
It was interesting and exciting finding something out not by trying to think about it but discovering it by removing everything that is hiding it. Peeling back the layers and revealing something underneath that was there, to begin with. This was not learning but finding back what we knew all along.

So at this point, I am thinking the image is always the same and so is the story. The forms in the images are not the same, it is what the individual photographer thinks is attracting or makes for a story as an interaction of the forms with each other and also the space if the photographer is aware of that. I also got a feeling that the space, what lies in the dark is where the most inspiration for the story is hidden. I can’t tell yet why that is so, it is more or less a hunch, however strong.

Softly as in a morning sunrise / Sonny Rollins
There was a morning towards the end of October and I woke up to a thought about why I had this feeling that the next most important question was about the dark, the space, and what it was holding that was so important.

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The word that came up was “identification”. In what we call real life we identify with things so we can define ourselves, which we desperately need to do to find our place in this world. So when you look at an image like the one I posted above (“In Transit”) you look at the things and start thinking about what it all could mean? What can I make of that? But it is not those objects that will tell you anything.

When I took that image, our bed was right next to it and I woke up one day, rolled over, looked at the thing and I thought I saw a picture. I didn’t think too much then taking it, so you shouldn’t think too much looking at it. Don’t try to come up with anything. The moment you think about the image and what could be in there, you’re wrong. The space in you, which has no thingness, your consciousness will react and understand.

‘Round Midnight / Miles Davis
Coming to the question of what the ultimate image is, I’ll have to go back to what the original idea was. I was thinking about an image that would touch you so deep inside, it would make you cry and you might not even know why. That was all I had when it came to defining what it was.

Eventually, I started to try and outline that a bit more and as a next step to try and find a way how to actually take an image like that. I thought it had to be oozing with ME, with the space and the space would become so very obvious and important and it would supersede the form. And somehow the connection that exists between us all and everything would come into play when the space would be emphasized like that. But how would you go about making the space stand out and so in your face that you have no choice but to look at it? And understand what it is? If I could only answer those questions I felt I could make you catch at least a glimpse of yourself. And that could make you cry.

The reason you cry could be that it feels disturbing or confusing to see yourself in there as part of a truth you haven’t started to understand yet. It could also be you’re crying out of gratefulness and relief realizing you’re not alone with those questions, answers, and beliefs.

Jordu / Clifford Brown
I don’t think I am at a point where I can say that I have a final answer, I am sure there are more questions to come. But I find them all to be interesting and kind of necessary. I can’t find myself leaving any of those unanswered.

As for the question of how to take the ultimate image, I am at a loss for words, which might be the only right way to tackle this. The answer I have arrived at now about what the ultimate image could be is one I am not comfortable with as I am aware that getting closer to that would mean a significant departure from anything I thought photography would be.

Cascades / Oliver Nelson
For the ultimate image, you might need to let go of many things you feel define you as an artist. We as photographers want to show individual views of the world we live in. We as human beings want to be an individual so bad in order not to lose ourselves. I want you to look at my photographs, read my stories about them and then find your own stories and feelings looking at what I did.

The ultimate image might be the one that doesn’t need any form or story. The ultimate artist could be the one who gives up being an individual and embraces the oneness of us all. Who shows you the ever-changing reality in all of us. And witnesses the story we all tell in all the ways it can ever be told.

Radii. Growing And Shifting.

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“Leah On Deck” (Germany, 2021) iPhone SE 2020

A couple of weeks ago I came up with a project I call “Radii” and in the beginning, I didn’t see the connection to the Covid pandemic. But after the number of infections significantly decreased in Germany and the world in general, I connected the project more with it. Let me explain.

Originally the idea was to take images in ever-growing radii, the center always being my house. So the house would be Radius I, next could be the street I live in, then the neighborhood, the city, the county, the state, the country, the continent, and eventually the world.

This concept still applies, but now I would like to see it with the pandemic in mind. The world slowly starts opening up for us again and the radius we operate in, in which we can move about, which we can influence, increases slowly but surely.

Also, the center of the radius can shift. I will be in the hospital in two weeks, so the center of my radius will temporarily shift and the size will shrink for the three days I am in there.

If you had been infected, the center of your prime radius might have been your bed at home and the size was probably quite small, growing very slowly. If you have been in quarantine, the prime radius was your house, but we can also appreciate an increase of radius size by using communication means via the internet.

You can document all of this photographically. How you are reaching out to people. Places and things you finally see again as the radius size increases. The way you look at things and people might have changed and you see that difference in perception now as you can reach these things and people again.

I am looking forward to how people interpret this for themselves. Find me on Instagram (@holgermischke) and tag your images with #projectradii.

My Legacy, If Any…

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Photograph by Fiorillo Camesi

It seems whenever I attend one of John Cornicello’s conversations, something sticks with me and I need to think some more about that. This time somebody asked how people feel about their legacy. And then there was a lot of talk about donating work to universities and such, about the preservation of photographic work and some more ideas about what photographers thought about their legacy. Last night, during a conversation with my friends and fellow photographers Julie CorcoranJoe Iano, and Toni Lovejoy, I brought the topic up again. Here is what I thought about it.

I don’t see myself becoming a globally important photographer anytime soon, so I don’t even think about how long my photographs will stand the test of time. With the paper and ink I use, they should be good for about 90 to 100 years. I can live with that and if anyone would feel the need to complain after those have passed, I’ll be gone 🙂

I also don’t ask myself the question of how I want to be remembered. I guess that has not only to do with what I do, but with every person’s individual perception. So I am not trying to behave in a way that might make people think about me a certain way. I want to be free in what I am doing and saying, free from the outside pressure to behave a certain way. And that in turn could lead to people having the impression that I’m authentic. That would do for me.

But there is one thing that could serve as something like a legacy and that has everything to do with my nephew Fiorillo Camesi, who took the above picture in the swiss Alps. I have edited it for him, but I am really proud of him for doing what he does. He does not know yet how good he really is, but hey, he’s 15.

Anyways, whenever we meet, he asks me tons of questions about photography and that alone is really rewarding. Teaching always means you have to think about why and how you are doing things. There is so much stuff he wants to know and often I really have to think hard about what it is he wants to know. I might be doing what he is asking about every day, but I have internalized it so much by now that it takes me a moment to be able to explain.

So I see him grow as a person and as a photographer and I am proud that I can help him do that. And I hope that someday maybe he has kids or a nephew or niece and he will tell them about his uncle, who was a photographer, and maybe they’ll start asking him questions, too. And that would be my legacy. That would be something I would be remembered for.

If that doesn’t happen, I’m good with not being remembered at all. I believe at some point we all go back to something bigger and all these thoughts we had, all the things we did, will seem to be lost. But I think nothing will ever be lost. Our photographs are manifestations of moments in our lives, which in the grand scheme of things are minuscule and not significant at all. And I think I can live with that and the fact that I might or might not have a legacy. If I can only bring something good into this world while I’m around, that’ll do just nicely.

I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time like tears in rain. Time to die.

Roy Batty (Blade Runner, 1982)

Somethin’ Else

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During one of the latest photo conversations in John Cornicello’s ongoing series (see a list of upcoming and previous conversations here), Toni Lovejoy brought up an interesting question:

When Toni came off the road she wasn’t editing from a technical standpoint just because she didn’t know too much about Photoshop and such, she edited from such an emotional place trying to replicate what she felt on location. Now knowing all those technical skills, she knows she can now go back to those images and make them better. She becomes somewhat emotionally detached from them in the process though. So the question was how do we process our images? Do we start from an emotional place or do we start from a technical place and then move forward to an emotional aspect as we finish it off?

She then refines her question:

“I think about Mac Holbert and his process going from global to localized, so I think I’m thinking best practices, or are you trying to stay as close as possible to when you shot it? I feel I got to control myself from the emotion of it. So I flip-flop back and forth between kicking a couple of things in saying that’s how I felt and then reverting to what I call Mac’s process and going down this checklist sort of thing.”.

I had been just listening in on that evening but for that question, I broke the silence and typed the following:

“I would like my editing to be like what the great jazz musicians do. There is emotion, there is skill, there is technique, but it is all there at the same time and everything dovetails into everything else. I don’t have to switch from one thing to the other.”

Toni was questioning whether it was still possible to have that emotion and aesthetic in the process and therefore in the image since we are all on those computers now and not in the darkroom anymore which seemed to allow for some mystique and romance.

Well, I don’t think the magic is gone and I for one feel those emotions all the way from clicking the shutter to hanging the print on the wall. Which doesn’t mean that you are doing something wrong if you don’t. Let me just explain what I mean so you can reflect and evaluate.

First off I am a very emotional person. I do cry. Sometimes I do feel more than I care for and can explain. For everything I see, hear, touch, taste, for everything that enters my consciousness this way or another there is an emotional reaction. Which sometimes is not a good thing. Anyhow this is why I can’t switch to unemotional matter-of-fact working on an image.

I don’t engage in pre-visualization, at least not consciously. I think it was Ernst Haas who said: “Don’t take pictures. Be taken by your pictures.” I think being taken by my picture instead of taking it is when I look at something and I feel the need to raise the camera and photograph it. At that moment photography becomes meditational to me.

I don’t think about it. Not then. All that thinking has been done before. I don’t see. I perceive. A truth that is very personal as everything I ever did, felt, saw, read, loved, hated, my whole life is there with me deciding when to click the shutter. And if I get it right I feel the excitement. That I got it right, that this is a keeper. Still, I don’t see what I am going to do with it later. But I don’t worry. It will all be there when I need it.

So I come back home. Sometimes I work on the photographs right away, sometimes later. I still find images from years ago on my drives and sometimes it is then that I finally understand or can feel them, so I start working on them all those years later.

So this is when the jazz musician kicks in. In music, you learn the theory, scales, phrases, and such to build the base for that moment on stage when you interact with other musicians. This is not the time to think about what you learned, it is the time to use it. In reacting to the musical statements by the other musicians you use all those skills you learned to create something beautiful. You can always hear the player who is just repeating patterns, who is very aware of what scale they are using right then. Forget all that and a magic moment might happen where you are lost in time and music and talk to the other musicians on the stage in another language.

And that is pretty much what it is. When you have learned a language well, you respond without thinking and you can convey what you feel and think in a very personalized way so people not only understand the information you want to get across but also the way I and only I want it to be understood.

So back to editing. About 30 years ago I shared an apartment with my best friend who was photographing film back then. He had a makeshift darkroom in the bathroom, developing his photographs there. That would have been the perfect time for a good story about how I got into photography. But it wasn’t. It had to go digital for me to be interesting. So I disagree that computers remove emotion and aesthetics from the process.

I like using Lightroom and Photoshop. And even that is causing emotions. I have written about how my feelings change depending on what cameras and lenses I use. It can even be that way depending on what software I use. I feel different using Lightroom 5 and Photoshop CS5 as opposed to the latest versions. And when I use them I want to be that jazz musician who can’t be bothered to think about processes, best practices, which values to use, or checklists. I want to have all that internalized so I just do. So that I just react to what the image tells me it needs. To what I feel it needs.

And that may change every moment. This is why I re-edit images ever so often. At moment of capture, the image represents not only what was in front of my camera, but also everything that happened in my life up to that point. So a day later, a week, years later, I might and probably will feel very different about some of my photographs and would edit them in a new and different way.

Another point proving that I feel something during the entire process is the prose I write. If you have followed me for a while you have realized that I write something for pretty much all of my images. But it is never at the same point of the process. Sometimes I have something in mind when I am out there. Sometimes I come up with it when I listen to jazz, having a glass of french red and firing up Lightroom. Sometimes when I wait for the printer to finish the first print of the photograph. Those words are heavily emotional and since they can pop up at any point in the process I conclude I am feeling those emotions all the time.

Again, I am not saying that this is in any way the one way one should approach this. As with my prose, I give these thoughts to you. Now go and find your own answers to Toni’s question. Being aware of what one does and why will allow for a sense of direction and therefore personal development. Which of course will mean better photographs in the sense of being more interesting. Just as you are.

P.S.: If you’re asking yourself why this articel is titled “Somethin’ Else”. This was the title of the album by Cannonball Adderley I was listening to while writing.

Beliefs and Answers

Looking up a guest blog post I wrote in January 2020 for the blog of my friend and mentor Harold Davis, I realized I never published it here. So finally, here it is:

To live a life I think you need to believe in something, need to find some answers. Without those beliefs and answers, there is no sense of direction, which will make it hard to find it in yourself to make an effort, since you don’t even know whether the next step is getting you closer to where you want to be or further away.

The answers can be found everywhere. Sometimes you already heard them and didn’t recognize them. Sometimes you knew them all along. It’s just that the right questions were never asked.

When I read Ansel Adams’ 1965 article about Edward Weston, one sentence struck home with me: “You might discover through Edward Weston’s work how basically good you are or might become.” The questions I asked myself after reading this and pondering it for a while made me realize something I knew all along. About who I was. And about my work as a photographer.

When They Come
“When They Come”

It is no coincidence that most people will tell you when asked where they go to wind down, relax, find peace, recharge, that they’ll find all that in nature. I believe that we all feel that way in nature is because we are basically going home. It’s where we belong, it’s where we came from and will go back to. And it’s what we feel disconnected from when we’re back in the everyday “real” world.

X Marks The Spot
“X Marks The Spot”

I am often asked why there are rarely any people in my photographs. I think they are always there. When I take pictures of forests, mountains, the sky, the sea, a sunset, then you can find yourself in there. You, and all the rest of us. I believe that everything in nature is connected and even in this day and age when he have managed to be so out of touch with nature if we are willing to be open, we can find ourselves there again.

Big Sky
“Big Sky”

So when I show you Marram grass in the wind under a stormy sky along the coast, it is you. When I show you fir trees aching under the weight of the snow, it is me. And when I show you the moon reflecting in the ocean stretching out to the horizon, it is all of us and all you will ever need to know. Because at this point the questions will start forming inside you and point you to what we knew all along. And what will help you discover how good you are or might become.

A Wind Is Rising
“A Wind Is Rising”

“I know now wherever I go, the path will show itself with every step I take. I’ll never be lost.” This is my idea for The Path (France, 2018).

The Path
“The Path”

The Making Of “See You In The Morning”

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Yesterday I was out in the Eifel which is about an hours ride form here, hiking for some five hours with Christina, my sister and my nephew (who are the persons you see in this image). And of course Leah, the dog.

For most of the time I was miserable. You may think because it was colder than I thought and because I am so out of shape that I didn’t want to celebrate with my smart watch when I hit the 30.000 steps mark. But what really annoyed me was the cloudless blue sky. I can photograph clouds forever and I really like a moody sky. But just nothing but blue? Boring.

Often when the sky is featureless on those cloudless days or when it is just a two-dimensional grey, you are told to exclude the sky from your composition. Mostly I took that advice, but when I saw that group of trees, there was something about it that made me stop. The idea was to wait until the others went over the top of the hill out of sight and then take the photograph. I did that, but before they vanished, I felt I had to capture the moment when they were on the top of the hill. And right I was, it was the frame which spoke to me most. Even though I usually avoid including people in my images.

So once I got home, imported the images to Lightroom, I still liked the composition, but didn’t really know what to do with it. As dropping in some clouds in Photoshop is no option for me I had to find another way.

Good thing I had found one when editing “The Way Home” as described here. I used the Full Spectrum preset as a starting poiint and added a red filter to darken the sky even more. There was a gradation in the color image already making it look like maybe the sun was setting behind the hill. Of course there were still things to do with the image, but the general idea was to darken down the sky so much that it didn’t even matter there was nothing in the sky. In “The Way Home” there at least was something in the sky and fog on the ground, but the concept worked on this one as well.

Also in both images it changes the mood and the feel completely. Which of course also has an impact on the story I will write for this picture as it already had an impact on the title, which only popped up after the image had changed so dramatically. And I am really glad “The Way Home” turned out to be more than just a one-time coincidence.

Going very oldskool

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If you know me at all, you know that I have a thing for everything old. I drive a ’97 Volvo, play a huge Epiphone jazzbox, my cameras are not the newest latest and my Macs are both from 2011.

So when the last update for Lightroom and Photoshop hit, I felt like back in my videogame days. Back then I had to update my computer frequently to be able to play new games. More RAM, a more powerful graphics card, you name it. Needless to say, those games were absolutely necessary. But when Adobe’s updates appeared in the Creative Cloud app and the need to upgrade from High Sierra to at least Mojave to be able to install them, I asked myself whether I really need that (given that the update to Mojave included patching and flashing and changing the graphics card to one that night sacrifice the boot screen, but hopefully not brightness control, vital to display calibration).

Turns out, I don’t. With the D300 and D7100, Lightroom 5 was good enough and that I had sitting on the shelf ever since I subscribed to the photography plan. But what about Photoshop? When I looked at the books by Harold Davis, Jeff Schewe, Martin Evening and Vincent Versace (which are permanently on my desk), I realized that those books were written using Photoshop CS5 or even CS4 so everything I had learned form those could be done using an older version of Photoshop.

My very dear friend Jörg Wüstkamp gave me a copy of Photoshop CS5 for my birthday, so I was all set. I even had a version of Lightroom 3, so with LR3 released in June 2010 and PS CS5 released in April of the same year, my 2011 Macs were very happy and authentic and working with the D300 files felt like 11 years back. Which will keep getting better once I get my hands on a D700 which is the plan.

This doesn’t mean we all have to go back to old software and I didn’t have a problem with Adobe’s subscription model. I was just so happy to be freed of this need to have the latest version of everything Adobe, a pressure I put on myself. Which meant I was also able to take that pressure away by finding out what I really need. All I am left with now is what everybody back in 2010/2011 using Photoshop CS5 felt: When will CS6 come out?

The Making of “The Way Home”

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The original shot out of camera, taken at 9:20 in the morning

A few days ago I woke up to the sun rising and still some considerable ground fog over the field. I grabbed my camera, the dogs and my wife and we set out for a walk.

Only about half a mile form our house I found this frame. It had foreground, background, leading lines, all the goodies. Not that I thought consciously about any of those at the time, but obviously it’s all there. The light from the rising sun coming from the right spreading over the grass on both sides of the road, the fog between the trees in the distance, I knew this was going to be good.

Although I didn’t have the 35mm prime with me I would have preferred for this, the 18-70 did nicely. I took a couple more shots just to make sure I got what I wanted and continued on for some more promising fog images.

Later in Lightroom I decided to work on this one and did all the basic adjustments in Lightroom and went on to NIK Silver Efex Pro 2 for the black and white conversion and further adjustment. And that’s when my personal perception of reality kicked in.

Something in the mist, the light scross the grass and the shadows under the trees must have triggered something in me and the image got darker and gloomier with every setting I changed.

I have been suffering from anxiety disorder, panic attacks and depression for the better part of my life, so my perception of any given scene will be very different form what you see or feel. I feel more or less constantly threatened and I have to deal with fear pretty much every day.

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The final image

So the image got very dark, the fog in the distance should barely show the trees standing there so including the fact that the road slighty bends to the right behind the trees on the right so we can’t see where it is actually going, we are following a road we have no idea of where it is leading and it doesn’t seem to be very encouraging to move on.

I don’t see the image is absolutely gloomy. At least we are on a path, probably moving somewhere, wherever that might be. Looking at the title, we will be going home and I hope home will not be a misty, dark place. That’s what the past has been often enough. But looking at what is right in front of us, that’s not too bad. It has some light we’re not sure of where it’s coming from, there is no source. But the road seems reliable, we can see for some distance. The clear view and the crisp details of the close surroundings, the now, will be moving along with us as we move further down the road. Somewhere in here is hope in all this darkness.

This image also is a good example for my idea of what needs to be in good images: reality and truth. My reality as I perceive it is of course heavily influenced by my experiences of fear and anxiety, but also the hope that keeps me moving along. This perception leads me to my personal truth in my images. This might be the underlying sadness, but also the delicate but never absent feeling of hope. If I can make this truth felt, I have done well. If you can see this truth in my images and can connect to that, you will love them and will never be tired of looking at them.

Why This Image Was So Important. To Me.

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“Perfect Imperfect” (Germany, 2020)

About two months ago, I was walking around the town of Brüggen with the dogs and I captured a couple of frames. With those of the posts against the sky I had a feeling, there could be a keeper among them. You know when you feel there is something there, you might not exactly know what yet, but there is definitely something of interest.

At the time, I “only” had a Nikon Coolpix P7000 with me, which beats the iPhone, but it could have been better. After printing it on an A4 sheet though, the resolution proved to be good enough. At 3648×2736 pixels, I could print at about 9×12 inches at 300dpi. But enough about the technicalities.

This image is not important to me because it proved I can take the P7000 with me without having to be afraid I will be disappointed. It is important because I needed an image like that right now to feel good about where I am going with my photography.

I have been making photographs of nature most of the time and looking at my website, most people would probably classify me as a landscape photographer. But looking at those images (and I do look at them often because on the wall I am facing when sitting at my desk, are about 20 of them) I was asking myself what it is I am looking at. What did I see there? What was the thing that connected all of them? And for a while, I felt I was getting closer to an answer and strangely enough during that time I was almost afraid of making new photographs as if this could disturb the process of finding out what my images were really about.

But then in May, I found the image above, which I eventually named “Perfect Imperfect”. And it sat there for a couple of weeks before I got to edit and print it. For one thing, I found out that I really need to print my images to feel I am done working with them. And then I felt that this image for the time being, for right now, best represents what I am as a human being and a photographer (totally avoiding the a-word. I have talked about why I don’t feel comfortable calling myself an “artist” before).

The sky looks like marble or an angry sea or just as what it is – dramatic clouds. And the post, as strong as it seems, just doesn’t hold up against the sky, something nature created literally out of thin air. So the wires enter the frame but leave it again right away like the human-made portion of this image just knows it can’t compare to the marble/wave/sky. I like how Chip Forelli divides his landscape images into three categories: “No Man”, “Hint Of Man” and “Hand Of Man” (see these at chipforelli.com). I would put “Perfect Imperfect” into the “Hint Of Man” category and I will keep photographing in those three, maybe less in the “Hand Od Man” category just because I don’t like it that much.

There is no doubt mankind has achieved many great things and we can be creative and just plain wonderful. But apart from that, we can also be the complete opposite, we as a whole seem to forget ever so often that nature is where we came from and where we will go back to. That it is there where we are all connected. That every photograph of nature is a selfie really. And so the images from the “Hint Of Man” category will mostly show us what we really are and what we think we have to be. The sky is who we are and the post is the mark we think we must leave.

It is exciting to see the path ahead clearer now and to realize why I love the photographs I make.

Feel free to trash your zoom lens

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Pretty much from the beginning, I fell in love with prime lenses. A month after I bought my first DSLR, I also bought the infamous 35mm f1.8G and never looked back. I added the 50mm and 85mm f1.8G and for some time even had a Samyang 10mm f2.8, but that was never too much in use.

I was totally happy with those because they were sharp, affordable and there was something about the simplicity of them which I liked.

When I bought a used Nikon D300, it came with an 18-200mm zoom lens. And that was when I got lazy. It is a great lens and I like the convenience of carrying just this one as opposed to the other three, which wouldn’t even cover the whole range. Originally I had just thought it would be nice to have something wider than the 35mm again and to use the long end also to get that shot of the tree on the other side of the lake without cropping 80% of the photograph.

But it made you work less. And think less. I just stood there and zoomed in and out. And I didn’t have to be so aware anymore of what I was doing. If I missed a frame, I didn’t have to go back. I just turned around and zoomed in.

The other day out in the field I noticed that the VR wasn’t working anymore and something was in my viewfinder that shouldn’t be there. Two flat cables inside the camera had come off and were visible as a blurry shadow in the images.

So I had to go all prime again. Which was beautiful. On a hike about a week ago I just took the 35mm (and the 50 as a backup, but I never used it) and I enjoyed that I had to think and move again. And the photograph I liked the most from that day (the one above) wasn’t even cropped that much. I just wanted it to be square and took off some of the sky, which didn’t have anything to do with focal length.

On the next hike two days ago, I made it “50mm day” and it changed everything. I had to move even more and I noticed I later switched from trying to fit the widest view into the frame to just finding views with a narrower angle of view. Something like in the image below.

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Today I tried the 85mm version but it didn’t work out that well, which means I will have to practice with that lens more. I don’t see why I shouldn’t be able to make a landscape photograph with a portrait lens, which will then make it a landscape lens.

But I do like how taking just one focal length along teaches me to see different, find subject matter I can work with that particular lens, be creative with it. It will be less frustrating when I have the “wrong” lens with me and will give me new ideas when I am out with all of them.

Nevertheless, I will have the 18-200 repaired 😉