Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Early winter in the mountains

We spent the last weekend in the Kleinwalsertal, the Austrian valley that is only accessible from Germany and building a part of the ‘Allgäuer Alpen”. Mid November is an unusual time to spend a weekend in the mountains, ski areas are not open yet and the hiking season is over since it is getting colder and wetter and the first snow is covering the mountains. But anyway we had a great weekend, sunny days, some snow and cold nights.

Pentax K100D, DA 18-55, 55 mm, 1:8, 1/30 s, ISO 200
First snow in the Kleinwalsertal with the dominating mountains: Elfer, Zwölfer and Widderstein

We did some small hikes along ice covered creeks up to the snow covered parts of the mountains. The thin layer of snow and the building ice crust were made to shot some pictures.

Pentax K100D, DA 18-55, 55 mm, 1:8, 1/30 s, ISO 200

Pentax K100D, Sigma 70-300, 210 mm, 1:13, 1/500 s, ISO 400
Gras looking through the first snow of the year

Pentax K100D, DA 18-55, 18 mm, 1:11, 1/20 s, ISO 200

Pentax K100D, DA 18-55, 30 mm, 1:8, 1/30 s, ISO 200
Streaming ice – icy streams

Pentax K100D, Sigma 70-300, 160 mm, 1:4,5, 1/4000 s, ISO 400
Waves of Snow

More pictures from the Kleinwalsertal in other posts.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The new Porsche Museum

We still wait in Stuttgart to see the opening of the new Porsche Museum. The opening is planed for early December. I took a look today how far they are. It is still a construction site but they work inside and even today on a Sunday there were people in. That's the way it looks on November 9:

Pentax K100D, Sigma 105 mm, 1:16, 15 s, ISO 200

Pentax K100D, DA 18-55, 26 mm, 1:16, 15 s, ISO 200

Pentax K100D, DA 18-55, 20 mm, 1:16, 15 s, ISO 200
The new Porsche Museum almost ready for the public

The old Porsche Museums is quite small and can only show a few cars at one time. The new Porsche Museum has quite an impressive architecture and will be located at Porsche-Platz in Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen. On their Website Porsche is still not talking about the opening!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Autumn walk

A beautiful autumn day lead us to the vineyards above the Neckar river between Mundelsheim and Hessigheim, 30 minutes north of Stuttgart.

Sinuosity of the Neckar River

Thr Trollinger is ready for the harvest

Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus/Turmfalke) is hunting between...

...and above the vineyards.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Sailing trip to Tuscany and Liguria

This year’s sailing trip leads us again to Castiglioncello on the coast of Tuscany, Italy. Last year we went southwards to the Tuscan archipelago, this time we sail northwards. On board 6 friends.

Saturday Castiglioncello (Marina Cala dei Medici)
We arrive in Castignocello, were we charted our boat just before noon. We do the check-in with the friendly staff of North Sardinia Sail to receive our boat Canopus, a Beneteau Oceanis 411 Clipper. While checking all functions of the sailing boat we discover a little cut in the main sail. Whether it was already there or it just happened while we hoist the main sail, like the North Sardinia Sail staff claimed, will never be clarified. But anyway we repair it with the support of North Sardinia Sail. Multiple layers of adhesive fabric and a few stitches should work well. Finally just before 6 pm we leave the harbor for an hour of sailing in front of the marina, to test the boat and our sailing capabilities with nice 3-4 Bft and a sunset mood. The marina in Castiglioncello is very nice and well equipped and the sanitary facilities are proper.

Sunday Sailing to Marina di Carrara
We decide to get up quite early to get today as much north as possible to pass by the flat northern Tuscany shores and to get as close to the La Spezia and Cinque Terre region where we want to spend most of our time this week. We leave the harbor at 8:15h with sunshine and almost no wind. Right after we finished our breakfast on the see the wind comes up and we have the chance to sail by Livorno, Marina di Pisa and Viareggio. As the weather changes we arrive at Marina di Carrara with light rain and almost no wind. Marina di Carrara is mostly an industrial harbor with a few old jetties from the Yacht Club. We stay the night for free but unfortunately we are locked out as a gate at the jetty is locked. The Yacht Club in the middle of this industrial harbor has seen its best times decades ago and so the facilities.

In the harbor of Marina di Carrara, sourounded by big commercial ships

Monday Sailing to Chiavari
With partly cloudy but windy weather we pass by the gulf of La Spezia, the passage between the islands of Palmaria (Isola Palmaria) and Tino (Isola del Tino) and reach the coast of Cinque Terre. As the wind stops, we have to continue with our diesel engine. While watching the steep coastline a group of dolphins passes by.

Dolphins at Cinque Terre

We pass Levanto and Sestri Levante to stay this night in Chiavari. Chiavari is a nice city that hides its beauties behind a line of hotels that have seen their best times back in the 60's and 70's. Chiavari has nice buildings, streets with arcades and the recommandable osteria we found for dinner: Osteria Luchin. The big yachting harbor (>450 boats) is well equipped although some of the transfer berths are without electricity.

Tuesday Sailing to Vernazza
We start the morning with a breakfast and some grocery shopping in the city of Chiavara. Finally we leave the harbor with sunshine and no wind, we cross the gulf of Rapallo to make a short loop in the legendary harbor of Portofino.


Rock formation north of Cinque Terre

Right when we leave Portofino, wind from northwest comes up and gives us a ride back towards Cinque Terre. The wind from aft directions forces us to open up the main sail all the way, unfortunately the old sail rubbing on the cross tree leads to a second small cut in the sail. We stay this night on a buoy in front of Vernazza. None of the five Cinque Terre villages has a harbor big enough for our boat (2m draft). Vernazza offers buoys and outside Monterosso there is the possibility to lay on anchor. We fix the new cut with the left over adhesive fabric. The night in Vernazza is quite rough with wind and waves from different directions, but the view towards the village is worth it.

Cinque Terre

Wednesday Sailing to Portovenere
Today we have to pick up a friend, we choose Portovenere to do this. A 3 Bft wind from east gives us another sailing day passing the southern part of Cinque Terre.

Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre

We decide to be quite early in Portovenere to make sure we find a place in this little harbor to pick up our friend. And this was absolutely the right decision, during the afternoon the harbor fills up with some quite big motor yachts. We spend the afternoon with a stroll through the beautiful historic village and we have the dinner in a funny osteria (Antica Osteria del Caruggio) with the host singing songs, a rough but still lovely waiter and an old lady on the bar. The harbor is really small, but nice situated, the sanitary facilities are proper.

Portovenere by night...

...and in the morning

Thursday Sailing to Viareggio
And another windy (4 Bft.) and sunny day brings us closer to the start-/ending-point. Our last stop will be Viareggio. Before landing in Viareggio we go on anchor for swimming in front of the never ending beaches of the northern Tuscany shore. Unfortunately the yacht harbor is full this evening, finally we find a spot for our boat on the dock at the channel which is kind of challenging to fix the boat. Lying on the dock has a nice atmosphere, nicer as to stay on the standard yacht harbor, but off course there are no facilities.

On the dock of Viareggio

Friday Back to Castiglioncello
The last sailing day is a perfect one, after we leave the harbor, the wind strengthens and we rush southwards with up to 6 Bft. eastern wind and sun! We have to shorten the main sail and the foresail two times! And yes, all our sail repairs stand the strong wind! On the way southwards the four-masted barque Sea Cloud is leaving the harbor of Livorno and is crossing our way.

The Sea Cloud

With a perfect landing maneuver we arrive in the marina Cala di Medici. Other boats around us coming in later have really difficulties to land, including one hitting us and one coming back with a big hole in the sail.

Finally another wonderful sailing trip ends here.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Visit at the Lapidarium Stuttgart

The so called „Städtisches Lapidarium“ is an open air museum of the city of Stuttgart showing statues, sculptures, columns and the likes from roman tombstones to notable ruins from bourgeoisie buildings destroyed in WWII. This is a travel in stone through almost 2000 years of Stuttgart. All exhibited items have their origin in and around Stuttgart. The museum is arranged in the style of an Italian renaissance garden, located on the slopes of the Karlshöhe in Stuttgart (Mörikestraße 24/1). It is a wonderful quiet place in the middle of the city. Unfortunately the place is only open in summer month from mid Mai to mid September.

Official Website (only German)

English Website of Stuttgart Marketing on the Lapidarium

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Hiking through the karst formation of „Gottesackerplateau“

The “Gottesackerplateau” is the widest karst plateau in the Alps stretching out several square kilometers. It offers fantastic rock formations and a wonderful world of mountain plants including orchids and the likes. The plateau is located west of the Kleinwalsertal and southwest of Oberstdorf, partly in Austria (Vorarlberg) and Germany (Bavaria).

This August we stayed with friends for one week in the lodge of our Skiing Club in the area of “Wäldele” in the Kleinwalsertal. This makes a perfect starting point for the hike to the Gottesackerplateau. If you stay elsewhere in the region you want to start the hike at the “Auenhütte” (base station of Ifen skiing area) which can be reached by car or bus.

To shorten the trip a little bit we took the chair lift from “Auenhütte” up to “Ifenhütte”. From the “Ifenhütte” the hike starts quite steep, if you are not warm yet, you will be soon. After half an hour we reached the edge of the “Ifenmulde”. “Ifenmulde” is a little valley in the shadow of the “Hohen Ifen”-mountain.

During the hike along the rock wall of the “Hohen Ifen” through the “Ifenmulde” I took several pictures of the “Hohe Ifen” to stitch them together to a panorama.

Hoher Ifen

The further hike towards the “Hahnenköpfle” which is the mountain north to the “Hohen Ifen” is accompanied by a variety of mountain plants including alp azalea and gentians.


After around 1½ hours we reached the top of “Hahneköpfle”, this offers a great view over the “Gottesackerplateau”. Unfortunately from the west clouds were moving in covering the view towards Lake Constance.

Gottesacker from Hahneköpfle summit

After a rest for lunch at the “Hahneköpfle” and filling up our water bottles at the “Bergadler” we headed towards the “Gottesackerplateau”. The path is marked well every few meters and still it is strongly recommended not to walk through the plateau with bad weather since you have to walk over the rock and no obvious path is visible, you have to search your own way step by step, rocks are separated by gaps and cracks from some millimeters to dimensions that can swallow trucks.

Look out for this, not to get lost

And don't step in there

Even if we had to watch our steps permanently one can enjoy the strange rock formations, the gaps the columns forming this karst area. The name “Gottesacker” is a rarely used German word meaning cemetery! If you want, the area where the rock columns stand could be a turning point returning the way you came so far. That area is reached after 1 to 1½ hours depending on the time you spend enjoying the views.

After two hours of hoping from rock to rock and a little bit of climbing in between we reached the former “Gottesackeralpe” that is the intersection of several hiking paths. From here on we start our decline back to the valley. The way leads still over rocks through little canyons and is framed with a beautiful range of plants.

On the midway of the decline we passed an archeological site we some years ago scientists found tools, bones, fireplaces etc. from stone age 6000 B.C.
The whole decline took us another two hours it stays rocky almost to the end and stretches quite long. The whole hike including breaks, the time to take some photos etc. took us seven hours. The pure walking time is rather 5½ hours.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

10000 exposures and a new lens.

Recently I did the exposure number 9999 with my digital SLR. I own the camera for about 20 month and it is unbelievable how much pictures you take with a digital camera, since it is basically free of any costs. Of course I deleted a lot of them, since very often I did some experiments to get the best picture possible. I calculated that with my old analog SLR I did in 12 years around 800 exposures!

And yes finally after 10000 exposures I have a new lens, the Sigma MACRO 105mm F2.8 EX DG. And I enjoy it! To bad I didn't have it for the orchids.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Orchids around Stuttgart

This weekend we went for a walk in a natural reserve north of Stuttgart close to the historic village of Markgrönningen.

In this natural reserve you find several orchids. Unfortunately only the "Dactylorhiza" was still in blossom, of the other varieties we found only some faded ones.

So next year we will come back about two weeks earlier to see more of these fantastic flowers.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

'Frühlingsfest' (Spring Festival) in Stuttgart

From Mid-April to early May the 'Frühlingsfest' is held in Stuttgart, it is the little brother of the 'Cannstatter Volksfest'. It is a combination of a beer festival and an amusement park. On the evening of April 20 the air was quite dry and I had a chance to take few nice long exposures. Although the original reason why we went there was a ballon glowing, which was finally done without the ballons due to some stronger winds.
When the air humidity is higher the warm and humid air arising from the festival area produces some fog over the festival which results on the pictures in a brown and dirty sky.
With the zoom I tried some explosion style effect. I guess this effect was very popular when the first zoom lenses have shown up in the seventies.

'Frühlingsfest' Stuttgart by night

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

My first HDRI experiments

With the development of digital photography the phenomenon of HDRI (High Dynamic Range Image) got more and more popular. What is HDRI? Regular digital camera sensors can’t “see” such a dynamic range like the human eye and computer screens typically show even a smaller dynamic range than what the camera sensor is saving. In simple words the idea of HDRI is to visualize in a picture the high dynamic range the human eye can see. A series of pictures with different exposure values is taken and composed to a new picture with more details in the light and in the dark areas. Read more about HDRI on Wikipedia.

Generally I prefer photographs with a natural "out of the camera" style. HDR images very often tend to have an artificial touch. The typical raw-converting and digital image editing I do normally is restricted to simple adjustments like white balance, brightness and minor changes to the graduation curves.

Reading quite often about HDRI I decided to get a little bit deeper into the topic. With some internet research and a special edition of a magazine I tried to understand the theory. And of course I had to use my new knowledge about HDRI for some experiments. Since I couldn’t find the time to create a series of long time exposures as a base for a HDRI experiment, I looked up my stock whether I have some suitable photos in raw format to create a series of different exposures out of them. Although I know that the idea of a real HDRI is to take a series of photographs. I found two pictures I took about one year ago doing actually some experiments with grey (ND) filters. One picture shows the Neckar River in Stuttgart at the blue hour, the other picture shows the castle Rosenstein in Stuttgart by night.

Original picture: Neckar River

Original picture: Castle Rosenstein

With the raw converter I generated for both pictures a row of under and over exposed JPGs. In the case of the river from -2 to +2 aperture values and for the castle from -3 to +2.The JPGs with an aperture value of +3 were quite noisy.

For the creation of the HDR-Images I used no special HDRI-software but my old Photoshop 6.0 – it is copying together the different versions of the pictures, selecting the light areas step by step and add mask layer by layer. This is some manual work but it gives you also a clue what HDRI means in detail and you have good control step by step.

And here comes the result. For the placement in this blog I reduced the size to 900 x 600 pixel, I did a very light sharpening and finally I saved the pictures as JPGs with a compression that results in a picture size about 150 kB.

HDR-Image: Neckar River

HDR-Image: Castle Rosenstein

It is quite impressive how much more details are shown in the light and dark areas especially on the picture of the castle.