Inspiration

Words of Wisdom

Photograph of a couple standing in front of an art installation providing life advice

Life Advice |  1/25 sec – f/4 – ISO 200 – 23 mm

I was kind of missing in action the past week, I have to admit, and this due to multiple reasons. First of all plenty of work for the job that pays the bills. Plus, I was severely impacted by a heavy case of jet lag during my first days in Portland. And this past weekend I was out and about in the city, preferring to roam the streets of Rose City with my camera doing some photography, rather than sitting in front of the MacBook and do blogging. Although I must admit I carried my little laptop with me in my backpack. I had some romanticized aspirations of doing some writing while resting in one of Portland’s many craft coffee shops. But with only two free days available, I ended up running around and shooting the whole time, despite frequent downpours that hit the Pacific Northwest over the weekend.

When it rains do some indoor street photography

During one of the many more intense rain periods I escaped into the (totally awesome) Portland Art Museum. True to my often published theory that when its soggy outside, shoot Street Photography in a museum. And I got a couple good ones. For some more varied shots using this light installation as a background continue after the jump…. (more…)

Improve your photography in 2019

Yellow Arrow

With the new year at our doorsteps, it is time not only to revisit our creative achievements of the past twelve months, but also to think about how we want to evolve photographically in  2019.

What is it that you aspire? Do you want to expand your creative view by exploring a new genre? Are you looking to improve the technical aspects of your photography? Do you want to study the masters? Have you been sneaking around that new camera or other piece of gear that you hope will jump-start your motivation to shoot better pictures or simply shoot more? Or are you seeking some recognition for your work, beyond the friendly comments of the peers following your blog or your social media accounts?

Whatever it is, this is a good time to set yourself some photographic goals for the new year. Time has never been better.  Excellent cameras have become very affordable and the latest smartphones are 24/7 companions that allow everyone to do serious and high quality photography wherever you are.

Focus on education, not on new gear

With the growing numbers of aspiring photographers, the amount of educational and inspirational information has vastly increased. Photography magazines, how-to books, websites and blogs provide a wealth of technical knowledge and inspiration for just about every genre of photography that you can imagine, and most of those resources are free. Thanks to this resources, improving  the technical and artistic aspects of your photography is not difficult at all if you learn to differentiate the wheat from the chaff. And if you want to take your education a step further, invest in either a web based training made available by professionals or join an in-person photography workshop, which will give yourself also the opportunity to build a network of peers. All this requires much fewer investments than a decent piece of gear and will definitely help to improve your photography more than buying the next generation camera body or a new lens.

Find a new genre you want to explore

Think about if you want to explore an area of photography that you haven’t yet practiced. Landscape, portrait work with available light or strobes, boudoir, street photography, macro, wildlife, fashion, travel, documentary; there are plenty areas to choose from. While all of those genres seem attractive, some come with caveats that are not easy to overcome (e.g. getting yourself models for portrait/fashion shootings, getting up in the middle of the night to catch the golden hours of landscape photography),  so the genres that eventually attract you will narrow down themselves. And if you really want to become good at something you need to focus. Most great artists / scientists have been or are specialists of some sorts. Sure there are exceptions. Bryan Adams is a great Rock Star and also a well-known photographer, but in music he focuses on Rock and in his photography on portraits and fashion.

Shoot, shoot, shoot

I’m sure you have heard of Malcolm Gladwell’s Book “Outliers: The story of success” in which the author writes extensively about the “10,000-Hour Rule”, claiming that the key to achieving world-class expertise in any skill, is, to a large extent, a matter of practicing the correct way, for a total of around 10,000 hours. I believe there is a certain truth to this thesis. So go out and shoot. The more you shoot, and try to implement the things you learned from studying the theory, into your practical photography, the better you will become. Master your gear and the technicalities first, then improve your creative focus.  Then your way of shooting will become second nature, you walk through your days with a “photographic eye”, picturing in front of your eyes what your lens would see. You fall into repetitive patterns that will also show in your images, will eventually show your style.

Find Inspiration

There is nothing wrong by finding inspiration in other photographers work. Browsing Instagram, 500px, flickr and the likes lets you find lots of images that attract you visually or even from a technical point of view. This goes also for finding inspirations in photography magazines or books. Once a genre attracts you, you can research it in more depth by finding image sharing platform users, websites or blogs that focus on a particular genre. Compare images, find common elements in images “that turn you on”. Identify the names of masters of the genres that attract you, look at their published images and books and study their work in more detail. There is nothing wrong in trying to replicate their work for yourself in order to understand and master their techniques. Then use the acquired skills to create your own variations or take it to a complete new level. Have faith in yourself of developing something new out of “external” inspiration.

Go out and shoot – and shoot what you want to shoot

The best goal for the new year is simply to go out and shoot.  And shoot what your heart tells you to shoot. Shoot for yourself, not for an audience. Shoot the scenes that you yourself want to capture, where your senses tell you to press the shutter because something in front of your lens stirs your emotions. Don’t take images because you assume they generate lots of likes on the social networks or image platforms. Repetitively capturing what inspires you personally is the best way to find a focal point for your photography, discover the style of images that are satisfying for yourself as a creator, an artist. And the best motivation to go out and do more photography is when your own results “turn you on”.

Use the new year to broaden your photographic horizons with an open mind. If you explore, experiment and work with dedication and passion, and if you are your own hardest critic, your photography will certainly improve and you will find and evolve your own style. Enjoy it as a journey, and don’t be afraid of any turns your photographic road will take.

For a quick start check out all my tips and inspirations around photography in my free Learning Center.

I wish you a great and creative 2019

Marcus

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Go out and shoot

1/60 sec - f/2 - ISO 1000 - 12mm

1/60 sec – f/2 – ISO 1000 – 12mm

Christmas is behind us, and with it the seemingly endless flow of festivities and opulent meals. My calorie balance is deeply negative in the past four weeks, but as the saying goes, you don’t gain wait between Christmas and New Year but rather between New Year and Christmas.

So now is the time to grab the camera (maybe the new one you got for Christmas) and head out into the streets. Roaming through the cities provides not only for plenty of street photography opportunities, it also gives you the opportunity for some brisk walking in fresh air to shake off those holiday cobwebs and re-energize yourself, creatively and physically.

This is why street photography is such a great genre, it keeps you out and about, and you can combine exercise and creativity!

If you look for tips and inspirations around photography check out my free Learning Center.

The photograph was taken with the Olympus PEN-F and the mZuiko 12mm F/2. Image specs 1/60 sec @ f/2 and ISO 1000. Post-processing in Adobe Lightroom Classic CC.

Wish you a great Saturday!

Marcus

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Instant Inspiration (28) – Handholding slow shutter speeds

1.3 sec - f/5.6 - ISO 200 - 12mm

1.3 sec – f/5.6 – ISO 200 – 12mm

“Instant Inspirations” is my series for you if you look for something to overcome “Photographer’s Block”  or simply want to shoot something that you have never tried, or at least not recently. Episode 28 is for you, if you think you have those really steady photographers hands.

Last night I grabbed my camera and headed into town, using a short window where the rain of the last days actually stopped – here in Nuremberg we can still dream of a White Christmas, but it won’t happen. Forecasts call for a real wash-out. Global warming?

The Christkindlesmarkt in the Old Town was packed with visitors, as everybody used the opportunity for Glühwein and Bratwurst without getting soaked.

While I did have Glühwein and Bratwurst, my real goal was to experiment with slow shutter speeds, and doing this handheld. And I mean reeeally slow shutter speeds, as in one and a half seconds. I wanted to capture the motion blurred movement of the strolling visitors, while keeping the stationary background sharp.

1.6 sec - f/7.1 - ISO 200 - 66mm

1.6 sec – f/7.1 – ISO 200 – 66mm

I was shooting with the Olympus OM-D E-M1 with my trusted all-round 12-100mm F/4. This lens has actually built-in image stabilization, that can be combined with the camera’s internal 5-axis image stabilization. With this cam-lens combo I frequently do shoot 1/5 sec and know that I can get real sharp results. But 1/5 sec is not enough to capture the motion blur I was after. So I was doing trial and error shooting while slowing down the shutter speed even more. Isn’t that creative, experimental approach something that makes photography even more fun? I feel like a little child doing playing in my photographic sandbox. In the end I found that dialing in a 1.6 second shutter speed gave me the best results. One point six seconds. Count slowly “Twenty-one, twenty…”. And this while holding the camera above my head using the foldable back screen to compose.

I was totally amazed that the wooden stalls and the buildings in the background actually came out pretty sharp. I know I have steady hands when photographing, but would never have thought I can get away with shooting one and one half second and get a sharp background. But see yourself. Amazing technology.

1.6 sec - f/8 - ISO 200 - 50mm

1.6 sec – f/8 – ISO 200 – 50mm

The above photograph I had in mind taking when heading into town. I knew that on the Children’s Christmas Market was a carousel and a little ferris wheel, I wanted to combine the vertical and horizontal motions into one motion blurred image. Also this one I shot holding the cam above my head.

I was quite happy with the results, although using this technique is a lot of hit and miss. But hey, that’s why we shoot digital.

Obviously, you can use a tripod to achieve the same effect, probably with better and much more consistent results. But in certain situations, like on a packed Christmas Market, there is no way to set up a tripod, so this technique comes in quite handy.

All photos post processed in Adobe Lightroom Classic CC

If you feel inspired to take your camera and experiment with handheld shooting at very slow shutter speeds, post the links to the results in the comments below.

A lot of other tips and all previous episodes of my Instant Inspirations around photography you can find in my free Learning Center.

Wish you a great start into a creative weekend!

Marcus

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Instant Inspiration (27) -Alternative Postcard Shot

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

1/20 sec – f/4 – ISO 1600 – 100mm

“Instant Inspirations” is my series for you if you look for something to overcome “Photographer’s Block”  or simply want to shoot something that you have never tried, or at least not recently. Episode 27 is for you, if you are tired of taking the same “postcard” photographs of famous attractions that everybody else shoots.

When in Berlin the other week, we stepped onto Alexanderplatz where the famous huge TV tower is situated. Affectionately called “Spargel”, with its height of 368 metres (including antenna) it is the tallest structure in Germany, and the second-tallest structure in the European Union! Located in Berlin Mitte, you can take a lift 207 meters up and have a 360 degree view of the German capital! On top there is also a bar and a restaurant where you can eat and enjoy the fantastic view while sitting!

First reflex would be to take a photo of the big tower, maybe combine it with the red Berlin City Hall or the bell tower of the Nikolai-Church. The Postcard Shots. Which of course I have taken as well during prior visits. There is nothing wrong with Postcard shots. Everybody back home would be disappointed if you don’t have the classic shot everybody knows from magazines and coffee table books. So take one. But then, to satisfy your creative genes, go look for slightly different perspectives. For some ideas continue after the jump…. (more…)

Instant Inspiration (26) – Shoot an optical illusion

Ship in the Sky | Olympic Mountains | 2018

Ship in the Sky | Olympic Mountains | 2018

“Instant Inspirations” is my series for you if you look for something to overcome “Photographer’s Block”  or simply want to shoot something that you have never tried, or at least not recently. Episode 26 is about shooting an optical illusion.

The shot above was taken with my Olympus PEN-F and the mZuiko 40-150mm F/2.8. Image specs are 1/250 sec @ f/6,3 and ISO 200, with 150mm focal length (300mm full frame equivalent).

What do you see? A ship, crossing the sky like an airplane? Let me tell you, there are no flying ships in the skies above Washington State, even with innovative aircraft manufactures like Boeing in the area. But why is there a mountain, the clouds above, and then a ship?

I took this photo up on Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park. It shows the Juan de Fuca Strait below (the narrows between Olympic Peninsula and Vancouver Island), the sea fog near the shore and a some kind of freighter behind.

It is not always as it seems. Especially visually. Grab you camera, go out and look to capture an optical illusion. Please share a link to your results in the comments section.

Wish you a great Sunday

Marcus

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Accidental X-Ray

X-periments

X-periments | Nuremberg | 2018

Photographers are similar to children. They wander the world totally open-minded, use the creative tool in their hands to try out new things, finding new and creative ways of capturing light onto their sensor. Digital photography sometimes reminds me of kids using crayons and paper to ban their thoughts and fantasies onto paper. It doesn’t cost much, nobody confines their creative process. There are no limits to the creativity of children. Children love to experiment. And sometimes, they achieve interesting results just by accident.

This is what also happens to photographers. I love to experiment, try out new ways of producing art with my camera. Not necessarily art in the sense of intending to make money with it, but art that I personally find visually pleasing and that makes me go to bed with a content feeling of having achieved something to satisfy my creative aspirations. And sometimes, just like with children, things happen by accident.

I just came out of a department store where I shot shoppers moving up and down escalators with a low shutter speed of 1/15 sec to achieve some motion blur effects. Coming out of the store into bright sunlight I forgot to switch back to P-Mode after shooting with shutter priority. So my shutter speed was still 1/15 sec. Chip in the fact that the whole day I was shooting unintentionally with ISO 3200, I was way above correct exposure of the backlit street scenery that I wanted to capture outside the store in bright daylight. After I took this image of shoppers standing in the sun in front of the reflective storefront windows, I checked the results on my LCD screen, saw it was way overexposed, realized my mistake, dialed in P-Mode and retook the shot, now correctly exposed.

But only later, when downloading the taken photographs to Lightroom Classic CC, I realized that I much more like the x-ray style shot I took completely unintentional and by accident by shooting way overexposed with 1/15 sec @ f/22 and ISO 3200. And which gave me the blueprint to in the future go out and intentionally go after similar effects.

This is what I love so much about photography, the infinite possibilities of endless creativity, be it accidentally or intentionally.

For all my tips and inspirations around photography check out my Learning Center.

Have a great week!

Marcus

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Rainy Streets

Rainscape

Rainscape | Nuremberg | 2016

My son asked me to post this photograph as this was his favorite image of my Saturday Street Shoot in rainy old town Nuremberg. These are reflections of Nuremberg’s Sankt Lorenz Church and of a Bratwurst Hut on the wet cobblestones of the Karolinenstrasse.

I photographed this puddle reflections with the Ricoh GR II down on my knees in pouring rain to the amusement of the passing shoppers who must have wondered about this crazy guy who took photos of a puddle.

I then flipped the image in Lightroom and worked a bit with curves, increased saturation and clarity.

Next up is an “Instant Inspiration” about puddle shooting 😉

Have a great day!

Marcus

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Go out and experiment!

Playing a guitar for himself

For himself | Porto Azzurro | 2016

Walking through Porto Azzurro the other week I was passing through the small shady alleys of the old town trying to find some protection from the blazing midday sun when I heard someone playing a bass.  Through the open doors of an otherwise empty bar I saw this guy sitting in front of wide open windows, seemingly  fully ignorant of the world around him, playing away some experimental tunes on his bass guitar. Even while improvising he played full of passion, and I felt very attached to the sights and sounds of this particular scene.

Shouldn’t we all do some more experimenting of our own? Playing around with things and in ways we are not familiar with? Ignorant of those who tell us what we should do and ignorant of the first achievements while expanding our creative horizons. After all, expanding our knowledge and horizons through experimentations is deeply embedded in our genes, as this is exactly what children do when they “discover” their world. And children don’t really care how the initial results look while singing, drawing, building etc., they rather enjoy the activity itself, the process of experimentation and discovery.

As photographers we can learn a lot from the trial and error approach of children. First of all it helps you to get your creative juices flowing when trying out new photographic styles.  Experimenting around is fun, and don’t let yourself get discouraged when initial results don’t meet your usual standards. And don’t let other people tell you what you should or should not do, or what looks nice and what doesn’t. Just experiment with things you like and see how the results gradually improve. Enjoy the road of discovery.

Photography is my passion, Street Photography is the style that works best for me, but photographically I have tried many genres and still try out new styles. For example during this years summer holidays I experimented a lot with portrait photography.

And also creating “Streets of Nuremberg”, starting a blog to write  about my photographic endeavors was (is still) an experiment to open a new creative outlet for me.

By experimenting more try to expand your horizons and find out what works best for you. Inspirations you can find everywhere, in books, other websites and blogs, social media or by talking to friends and connections in the digital world.

Discovery through experimentation can help to overcome the dullness of daily routine and  to find happiness, purpose, and more motivation to live.

So go out and experiment!

Have a great Sunday!

Marcus

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Off Topic – Studio Anywhere

Off Topic – Studio Anywhere

Portrait of Teenager Daniel

Daniel | Porto Ferraio | 2016

With today’s post I’m venturing far away from my usual posts around Street- and Travel Photography. But vacation time is not only time for intensified photography around documenting our family trip to Italy.

Holidays means also having finally time for a lot of (photography) related reading of books, blogs and websites to get fresh doses of inspiration. And also having time to try out a few things off your usual beaten paths.

In this case I decided to do some portrait photography with my (more or less willing) family. First victim up was my son Daniel. To see more and learn how this studio-like portrait was taken without help of any flash on a 1m stretch of white wall inside our rented apartment’s bedroom continue reading after the jump.

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