Archive for the ‘Articles’ Category

We’re on Strike!




Why am I seeing this weird image on your index page?
Did I break the interwebz? What is wrong with this guy?

One might think, I have gone a little lunatic, but I am not. My mother had me tested. All kidding aside though, this topic is extremely important to me and that’s why I support #OccupySOPA.

You have never heard of SOPA?
You have come to the right place and before someone asks, no, I am, by no means, an expert in this field!

SOPA is short for “Stop Online Piracy Act”. A bill swirling around in the US Senate as PIPA (Protect IP Act) and the House for quite some time. It’s Hollywood’s last straw to grab in order to maintain profits without innovation. Nothing more. Nothing less. If you look at all the networks, TV channels and movie studios supporting SOPA/PIPA, it becomes clear what is behind all that.

But because I could never express it a such a short and informative way, I urge you to watch this short video; to educate yourself and to think about what this could mean if the US government passes the bill. Internet-based companies, start-ups, all innovation over the last decade and the future are possibly in danger. The freedom of the internet and what we all love about it – Facebook, Google, Wikipedia. Gone for good. Take action. This is serious.

PROTECT IP / SOPA Breaks The Internet from Fight for the Future on Vimeo.

For further information and to take action, please refer to one of the following websites:

Mono Lake Was Just The Beginning – Stop California State Park Closures




This May, California government announced to close 70 of its 278 state parks, in order to save $22 million. The parks on the closure list represent thousands of acres of land, recreation areas and wildlife reserves, which are an essential part of our ecosystem.

One of the parks on the list was the bizarre, yet beautiful Mono Lake State Reservation area, pictured below during a crisp August sunrise over the calcium-carbonate spires rising from the interaction of freshwater springs and alkaline lake water, just east of Yosemite National Park and the Eastern Sierra Nevada.

Mono Lake Sunrise

Mono Lake, which covers roughly 65 square miles, is considered one of North America’s oldest lakes with a probable age of over 1 million years. Aside from the beauty these alien-like tufa-towers provide, Mono Lake is an essential part for the well being of our ecosystem. Each year, as many as 65,000 California gulls are hatched at the shoreline of the lake, making Mono Lake the second largest breeding colony behind Utah’s Great Salt Lake. Additionally, the waters of the lake are home to 4 to 6 trillion brine shrimp – a species only to be found at Mono Lake.

So why the past tense? This past Friday, December 2nd 2011, it was announced that the Mono Lake State Reservation area was taken off the closure list. What a relief. But does it really change much? Will it have an impact? Why did this first success not go viral? How can I help?

I am not from California – heck, I’m not even from the US. So some might wonder why keeping those parks is so important to me. Well, the answer is pretty easy. Because the landscapes, historic structures and sights need to be protected for future generations – the reason they were created in the first place. I’m not here to preach, far from it, actually. It would just be sad to see these beautiful areas gone for good. The old saying, “You won’t miss it until it is gone” certainly applies here for many, it seems. There was no public uproar (at least none that I remember), it wasn’t on every station but I do believe that it needs to be, more people need to know about this, more people need to care about the lands in danger. I am sure most know everything about the divorce of Kim Kardashian though. (Add cynical commentary here.)

A Break In The Storm

Just a couple of hours ago, I came across a project that really grabbed my eye and is the reason for this blog entry. The guys behind “The First 70” require funding for their documentary film about the state park closures.

With passion and a lot of commitment, they want to show the beauty of the parks in all their glory, as they think, and I fully agree with them, the whole case didn’t quite grab the media outreach it deserved.

Without further ado, please watch the trailer below and consider helping them out by either contributing at or by sharing this blog entry, the link to the trailer and other info across the interwebs.

The First 70 Trailer from Heath Hen Films on Vimeo.

For a full list of parks on the closure list:

Thank you.

Everything on the Internet is Free




I had planned to share some more images today but this idea was quickly turned down by a thoughtful post on Tony Wu’s blog that I felt needed my commentary here too.

Tony Wu is a professional underwater photographer whose work I regularly check out because it takes your breath away. Got it? Underwater photography – breath…. never mind. Anyway, I highly recommend checking out his portfolio. It oozes greatness.

While we’re at it and this is the whole reason of this blog post…

Can I have one of your images for free, Tony? It would make a great background for my non-commercial site! Thanks in advance.

The problem is right there. Everybody believes anything on the internet is free to use for any matter you can think of and to some degree, I think this is true for about anyone on the internet, me included. Hey, I am not Mother Theresa either but truth be told, a quick Google image search revealed my images on blogs in Japan, Brazil, Zimbabwe and a couple dozen other countries; most recently on a photography website in Portugal. Yes, they gave me credit – at least.

However, I can’t even count the numerous times I have gotten requests to use my images for free for whatever reason, which I sometimes felt bad to decline, but mostly was just annoyed or even amused to some degree about the impolite way of asking for it. As a person trying to make a living with photography, you just cannot live off of water, love and image credit. You need money in the bank to support your family and travel to all those fancy places you like to decorate your homepage with, you save the environment with and help a fellow of yours out for a great cause. That’s fine and all, but while you help others, you’re not helping me. Every image spread across whatever medium that I did not get paid for, is one place less traveled and photographed. Think about it. Do this a couple of times more and you might have nothing left to take for free.

Tony’s thoughtful blog post covers just this experience and the way to handle requests. There is just no perfect way to respond but Tony’s way of dealing with it proves to be a real time keeper, raises valid points for the “right-grabbers” to consider and to eventually change their habits. (Which, in all honesty, I doubt.) Read the whole response here and share with whomever you think might enjoy it. It’s free!

So let it be that, another rambling. Remember, not everything on the web is free! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Summer Update: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly




Without further ado, I am back in the saddle again after what seems like a terrible long late spring and summer break and before I even realized, the fall season starts to kick in with some really nice days for us here in Germany.

Last week I was finally able to catch a sunrise over the Ore Mountain ridges with a little fog settling in the valleys below, becoming illuminated by the wonderful warm sunlight hitting just the top layers and creating a somewhat mysterious atmosphere.

Kingdom of Light

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Then, I am on to share another shot from Germany taken some months ago at one of my favorite spots for lupines in the whole region. This year, the flowers were not as abundant as in the previous years but the sky was certainly one of the best I have ever seen here. Enjoy.


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Now for the bad and ugly and back to the good. An odyssey in the customer service industry in Germany.

Many of you know, as a landscape photographer, your shooting and well-feeling in the field, stands and falls with your gear and we’re not talking about cameras and lenses here, but rather hard- and soft-shell jackets and pants, water-proof boots, etc. Either way, I was pretty disappointed in recently acquired gear, two hardshell jackets to name it, that literally failed on the first time wearing them.

I contacted the manufacturer, who, in the US, is known for the best of the best in customer service, but apparently, things move at a different speed here in Germany and my experience was far off of pleasant. I honestly did not expect them to send two new jackets out my way but at least some sort of apology with the request to send the jackets in for inspection of the matter or anything in this direction, but not so, instead they send me the following lines back. “Of course it is always a pity if a beloved product doesn’t function the way it used to.” What? Excuse me? Did you just say beloved product? I am really sorry, but I didn’t have time to enjoy said product(s) at all because they failed miserably the first time out in the field.

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Long story short, I contacted the online retailer where I got both jackets and this time, I was more than pleased and received more than I ever expected after the first experience with the manufacturer. Not only they offered me to send me in the gear at no cost, picked up from my doorstep, the communication was super friendly and I knew at any point what was going on, where my gear has headed, etc. They handled the matter to my fullest satisfaction, but now you need to know who I was so pleased to deal with, huh?

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bergfreunde logo is where it’s at, folks. At least if you want to shop for outdoor gear in Germany.

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For recommendations on where to buy your gear, please refer to the links section of my website. Thanks for letting me rant. Oh wait, this is MY blog. Haha!

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I know I said this in the past and failed, but it won’t be too long till the next update.

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Dodge and Burn โ€“ A Darkroom Technique Digitalized




This is going to be my first written tutorial ever, so please bear with me. I will try to keep this short, fun (How fun can it be to sit in front of a screen instead of being out shooting?) and informative, even though that aspect might not lie in my hands as I don’t know your skill level, after all.

Dodging and burning an image, in other terms, lightening and darkening pixels has been around since the dark age of film photography โ€“ just without the pixels though. One person who brought dodge/burn to the next level and perfected the craft was certainly Ansel Adams. Without wanting to get too much into the history of photography, this technique has been around for long and will continue to be so and for good reason.

But all that aside, let’s get down to business. As you might have heard, Adobe Photoshop has specific tools for those actions (Shortcuts โ€“ Mac/PC: “O” [“Shift” + “O”]), but while using those tools on a layer of pixels gets the job done, it is not advisable to do so. Working directly on your image and not an adjustment layer of any kind will in the long term degrade the quality of your work. Think of the following situation, you worked for hours on a scene, improving, tweaking and refining. You save your work, get it printed and then realize you dodged certain areas too much or too little, all the tweaking you did introduced noise, artifacts or halos where dark edges stand against a bright ground, which was not noticeable on the screen but now becomes problematic in print; but you cannot simply go back and alter the adjustments as you worked directly on your image layer. All the effort you put in, all of a sudden, becomes useless and you need to start off another Photoshop session.

A non-destructive workflow is the magic word here and I am sure you have heard about it but were never too sure what it involved. While this is not my topic for this tutorial, please check out Sean Bagshaw’s thoughtful post on the PhotoCascadia blog, where he shares deep and helpful insights in his processing workflow:

So how can I make use of this technique for dodging and burning? Please read on. The basic idea is to “outsource” the technique from the pixel layer to an adjustment layer that can be altered whenever you open your PSD or TIFF file.

First thing we need to do is to create a new layer and fill it with 50% gray.
To do this, hold “Shift” + “Command” + “Option” + “N” on a Mac and “Shift” + “Ctrl” + “Alt” + “N” on a PC; which will create a new layer on top of the current layer you are working on.
Then, go to Edit > Fill (or use the shortcuts: “Shift + “Delete” on a Mac / “Shift + Backspace” on a PC) which will open the Fill dialog box. Set the “Use”-option to 50% gray, blending mode normal and opacity to 100%, as shown below.

Fill options

We’re almost done. Last thing we need to do, is to set the blend mode of the dodge and burn layer to soft light and we’re good to go.

To save you some time, I have created a Photoshop action for you to download. Just read on, the download link will be found at the end of this tutorial.

But how does it work? Who is familiar with the blend modes in Photoshop knows that the soft light blending mode will proportionally highlight or darken the layer underneath by the amount it is lighter or darker than 50% gray. That said, painting white on the dodge and burn layer will highlight the portion (dodge) while painting over it, while black will darken (burn) the part of the image. All this can be revoked by painting over the layer with 50% gray set as you brush color. Fairly easy, huh?

Results? You asked for them. Here is a recently reprocessed image from Mesa Arch in Canyonlands NP, Utah. I used a dodge and burn layers to highlight some of the foreground rocks that were touched by the presence of the rising sun but still felt a little too dark and to darken the sunbeam for a more aesthetic appeal, as well as light dodging and burning to even out the exposure.

Final image: (Mouseover for the pre-dodge and burn image!)
Solar Explosion - Mesa Arch, Canyonlands NP

Dodge and burn layer:
dodge burn layer

Download PDF of this tutorial Download Photoshop action