Just to let you know: There will be a few pictures of mine in an exhibition in Dresden from the 14th to the 21st of December 2013. So, if you happen to be in Dresden during this time, come and check it out! I will be there on opening night as well if you want to have a chat.
Nur um es euch wissen zu lassen: Ich werde ein paar Bilder in einer Ausstellung in Dresden haben vom 14. bis zum 21. Dezember 2013. Wenn ihr also zufällig in Dresden seid in der Zeit, dann kommt und schaut es euch an. Ich werde auch bei der Eröffnung dabei sein falls ihr Hallo sagen wollt.
Here the announcement / Die Ankündigung in deutsch findet ihr weiter unten:
14.-21.12.2013 exhibition “No Time No Space No Soul”
The exhibition accompanying Maulkorb #12 at Hole of Fame is taking shape.
Exhibition opening on the 14th of December, 7pm – photography, graphic design, painting and sculpture by Anja Jurkenas, Anne Rosinski, conny cobra, Eric Vogel, K.C. Wagner, Klaus Roth, Lilly Schwartz, Linda Geisdorf, Mathias Pfeiffer, Silke Rilke, silvio colditz and Wouter Mijland.
Next (8pm): Der Maulkorb #12 – Relaeseparty – among others author readings by Katja Bohnot and Stephan Zwerenz + music: Dirk Fröhlich.
In cooperation with the Hole of Fame on 15.12. from 5pm-8pm Jazzsession of the HfM, 19.12., 7pm Drone, Drone, Drone, 20.12. LYRIKsession (poetry).
On 21.12. 8pm Finnisage with the fantastic Chimaera Ambient/Drone from Dresden.
Open daily 15.-21.12. from 4pm.
You can find the Hole of Fame in Dresden, Königsbrücker Straße 39.
14.-21.12.2013 Ausstellung “Keine Zeit Kein Raum Keine Seele”
Das Ausstellungsprogramm zum Maulkorb #12 im Hole of Fame nimmt Gestalt an.
Am 14.12. 19 Uhr Ausstellungseröffnung – Fotografie, Grafik, Malerei und Skultur von Anja Jurkenas, Anne Rosinski, conny cobra, Eric Vogel, K.C. Wagner, Klaus Roth, Lilly Schwartz, Linda Geisdorf, Mathias Pfeiffer, Silke Rilke, silvio colditz und Wouter Mijland.
Anschließend oder 20 Uhr: Der Maulkorb #12 – Relaeseparty – u.a. lesen Katja Bohnot uns Stephan Zwerenz + Musik: Dirk Fröhlich.
In Kooperation mit dem Hole of Fame am 15.12. von 17 -20 Uhr Jazzsession der HfM, 19.12., 19 Uhr Drone, Drone, Drone, 20.12. LYRIKsession.
Am 21.12. 20 Uhr Finnisage mit den großartigen Chimaera Ambient/Drone aus Dresden.
Vom 15.-21.12. täglich ab 16 Uhr geöffnet.
Das Hole of Fame findet Ihr in Dresden auf der Königsbrücker Straße 39.
A couple of weeks ago I showed you the final selection for my portfolio. I handed it in today and thought I would tell you a bit about my process.
The selection was probably the hardest thing. I needed to come up with series that fit together in some way. I was quite surprised to see that I actually have a few unintentional themes running through my pictures, but still it was difficult. I spent several days going through my archives and refining the selection. I started off somewhere entirely different from where I ended up finally. This process of selection was actually really helpful. Not only did it show me that there was a thread running through my work, but I also had the opportunity to revisit a lot of old pictures that I forgot about. It was maybe even the most rewarding part of the entire process of making my portfolio.
The second part of the process was to find a good printing service. I tried one of the cheap labs and was horrified about the results, because they actually ran image optimisation over all my already enhanced pictures. The result was ugly! At that point I was already willing to pay 6 times the price of the cheap lab with a local specialised and professional lab here in Berlin, although their prices made me gasp for air. Before I had the opportunity to order some test prints though I stumbled over a fantastic printing service: Saal Digital. This is a German service that is not only fast and cheap – cheaper even than the first lab I tried -, but it also has excellent printing quality and colour management. As the test print of the 20×30 print I ordered a really difficult picture, black and white with lots of tonality and contrast, all on professional matte paper. Together with the 20×30 print I also ordered a set of 10×15 prints on the same paper to see whether the pictures needed some colour changes. The results were stunning! The 20×30 print was brilliant and only one other picture needed a crop change. The colours and tonality were all fine! I ordered the rest of the prints on the same day on which I got my test prints in the mail and had the rest of the prints 2 days later. Fast turn around with excellent quality, that’s my kind of lab!
From an arts supply store I also ordered 50 sheets of black cardboard 450g/m² to mount the pictures, some gum based glue that can be removed easily and a simple black portfolio with straps around the corners. I read online that some art schools don’t really like the black cardboard, but I didn’t really care, because I knew it would look great to me. Since the whole art school application process is more of a lottery anyway, I just wanted to make something that I would like without much consideration for the preferences of this or that art school. Of course the portfolio fit their requirements, but on the details I was just doing the kind of thing I like myself.
Glueing the pictures onto the cardboard was a bit of a mess, I got dizzy from the slightly toxic fumes of the glue and it sure was a good choice to use gum based glue. I got the glue on the front of one of the pictures by accident, I used too much, I put it on my fingers instead of the paper and it also ended up on my desk. That glue is fantastic though. Once it’s dry you can just rub it off and it leaves no stains. This also means that once I get the portfolio back I can take the pictures off the cardboard and put them in frames to hang them somewhere.
I had to mark the back of all the pictures with my name, so I wrote it on sticky labels together with the running number of the picture. On the first page of the portfolio I listed all the pictures with technical details (camera, exposure settings or film type) and titles. Most of the pictures don’t have titles, but the series do and with the numbers it is easy to look up the technical details as well.
Last night everything was ready, so I took these quick pictures of my work and packed it all together with the documents that I needed for the application. They wanted a CV, some transcripts and I had to fill in their application form as well. As usual with forms I had the problem that my life story is a bit too strange to fit the available choices. For example: “Did you study in Germany or abroad?”, well, both, but there was no such option. “What were your subjects of study?” meant that there was no option for either of my previous study programmes. As forms go this one was quite reasonable though. I remember filling in the employment form of my old German university years back and that was so much more difficult! (Working for the university in Germany also means that you’re employed by the state, which in turn means that you have to sign a standard statement that you won’t free any prisoners. Random!)
So, this morning I put the portfolio in a slightly too small plastic bag and made my way to Charlottenburg. The UdK building where I had to hand in the portfolio is between Ernst-Reuter-Platz and Zoologischer Garten and so I had to walk quite a bit in the icy cold out there. My hands were freezing from carrying the bag with the portfolio (and occasionally taking pictures). The UdK building sure was a sight for sore eyes when I finally reached it, outside an old beautiful building, inside white pillars and lots of light. I had the distinct feeling of having been inside before, but to be honest, I can’t remember. Maybe on one of my photo tours. I always tend to sneak into places where I don’t really belong. I can’t be sure though.
It immediately became obvious how much of a lottery the application process is: The room with the portfolios was big and several people had to handle the process, because there was actually a line of people waiting to submit their work. Also on the way there and back to the station I saw several people with portfolios, which really shows how many people apply for this. And as I suspected, my portfolio was one of the small ones: One girl in front of me had managed to exceed the limit of the portfolio requirements, which means that her portfolio was heavier than 10kg, probably already due to the weight of the paper for an A0 portfolio – 118.9 x 84.1cm. Crazy! Mine was A3, 42.0 x 29.7 cm. Tiny in comparison. The girl then spent ages sitting on the floor outside the room trying to choose which of her works to take out. She looked as if she was on the verge of tears, poor thing! The actual process of handing the portfolio in was rather anticlimactic for me. The girl handling my application took my portfolio, stapled my paperwork and said “That’s it, you’re done”. I said thanks and walked out of there. I stayed in the building for a bit though, because I hadn’t quite warmed up yet after the wind and icy temperatures outside.
I can only imagine how all of this must seem for people who have actual hopes riding on this. For me this is more of a game and I’m not expecting to get far with this. In fact I expect to get my “No talent” letter with the first batch of rejections, so I’m really not expecting anything at all. It was really a lot of fun to make this portfolio though and I learned a lot about printing, screen calibration, glue and paper. Yes, and I also learned how much of a klutz I really am! I suspected it already, which is why I bought the special glue, but it was still quite amusing to see how much of a mess you can make with just a little bit of glue.
I’m still undecided as to whether the best part was doing the selection or seeing my pictures printed. They sure looked like something in that size and with that kind of printing quality. I can only recommend to you to try it out. Find yourself a good lab and get some of your pictures printed, it’s such a different experience than to just see them on the screen!
And now, after the portfolio comes the more difficult part: I seriously need to practice my drawing skills and break in my newly acquired acrylic paint. It’s going to be quite an experience as well.
Almost a year ago I started this 365 pictures in 365 days project. After 326 days my blog now has 301 followers and it has had 44,000 views. If I hadn’t taken a break from daily posting while I wrote my novel, it probably would even be more by now. Although it’s too early to give you a real overview over the last year, I can already tell you that starting this projects was one of my brighter ideas.
I have learned so much during this project! Before I started I didn’t know my camera at all. I knew nothing about cameras in general or about lenses and filters. Even before I started the project I had times when I took many pictures, but to be honest it was all glorified point-and-shoot, mostly with dedicated point-and-shoot cameras. Such cameras nowadays do a very good job in taking the skill out of photography. People who just pick up a camera and take some holiday shots can easily say “This camera takes nice pictures” (a statement that proper photographers hate), since all they do is maybe to compose the shot. I’m always surprised when I see tourists with a bulky DSLR around their neck taking pictures in automatic mode. Most point-and-shoot cameras do a good enough job for holiday photos and are not that heavy. I guess it’s because a point-and-shoot with an almost comparable image quality costs just as much as a beginner DSLR.
I personally shoot in manual mode now. Sometimes it makes you slow, especially when you move from an area with lots of light to an area with low light (or the other way round), but the added control really makes a difference. On my 450D there is a silly way to control the aperture in manual mode. Since there is only one dial that is normally used for the shutter speed, you have to press a button when you turn the dial to change the aperture. I can never find the right button unless I look at it. This is annoying and usually lets me stick to similar apertures, but I still can quickly change it if I need to, without losing control over the shutter speed. I’m too blind to focus manually with my DSLR (the viewfinder is just too small), but in low light I sometimes still try when the autofocus stops working.
How to use my camera properly is not the only thing I learned though. No, I also learned that with digital cameras you often have to do a lot of post-processing to get a good picture. I shoot in RAW, so that I can change things around and have control even after I took the picture. Sometimes, especially when shooting quickly after changed lighting conditions, I still get slightly under- or overexposed pictures. Then a little tweaking in Photoshop can often still save the picture.
So, my processing workflow currently works like this:
1. Initial adjustments: I open the RAW file in Camera Raw, crop and straighten the picture and adjust the white balance by selecting Auto and correcting with the sliders. I also make sure as little detail as possible is lost by adjusting the fill light and recovery sliders. After this I adjust the rest of the sliders a little depending on the picture. For street photos I normally add some Blacks, up the clarity and contrast. For portraits I usually take the clarity and contrast down a notch to smoothen the skin a little (without making it look fake). Then I take it into Photoshop itself.
2. Copyright: The first thing I do in Photoshop is to add copyright information to the picture. I don’t watermark my pictures, and since I never upload pictures that are large enough to print, this is not actually to prevent people from “stealing” my pictures. If someone wants to do that they will do it anyway. They just crop the watermark out and strip the exif data, so I don’t see the point in even trying. It’s a reality of the internet culture. I only add the copyright information in case someone wants to contact me. For this step I only have to press F1 on my keyboard, since I defined a keyboard shortcut for an Action.
3. Sharpening: Depending on the picture I sharpen by using Filter -> Sharpen -> Unsharp Mask. Especially with pictures I plan to convert to black and white I push the slider up a lot, because this adds some grain. I’m definitely a fan of grain in black and white pictures. I still need to find out a bit more about Sharpening methods actually, but this part is simple and enough for pictures to be posted on the web.
4. Pop: The next step is to adjust the Levels to make the picture “pop”. Some people prefer doing this adjustment with curves, but I do it with levels. I used to do this in a more sophisticated way by selecting black, white and middle grey points, but actually this is not necessary if you are already sure about your white balance settings. Since I adjust the white balance beforehand I now just adjust the sliders. To tighten the histogram I pull the left and the right slider as close to histogram as possible (usually this only involves the right one). To give the picture more pop I push the middle or left slider a notch to the right, selecting the slider depending on which one lets me lose less detail.
5. Colours: For a colour picture I’d now make final touches to the colour with either a Hue and Saturation adjustment layer or a Color Balance layer. This is not always necessary, but it helps if you couldn’t quite get the white balance right in Camera Raw. For converting to black and white I normally use just a black and white layer, adjusting the sliders so that the picture still keeps a good dynamic range. Some pictures are more difficult than others, for example if some areas of the picture need different color casts then others. Sometimes you get a spot in the picture where you end up with hair the same shade of grey as the wall behind, because this specific setting makes a sign pop in another part of the picture. If I run into this problem, I use a channel mixer layer underneath the black and white layer, possibly with a layer mask attached that limits this adjustment to certain parts of the picture. With this I usually manage to separate the colours well. For black and white pictures I usually also add another contrast and brightness layer and increase the contrast, since black and white means black and white and not dark grey and light grey.
After almost a year of post-processing I now know quite a bit about Photoshop and I’m still learning new things every day. I actually knew quite a bit from before, but I used it more for design purposes, which involves quite a different subset of features. It’s such powerful software and even if you heavily process your pictures, you will probably still never encounter all of its features. And then there are even more features to explore in plugins. These days I stumbled over Alien Skin Exposure and realised that it has a stunning number of great colour and black and white presets. These can simulate the colour cast, contrasts and grain of different analog film types, which makes nice effects available without much fiddling. I’m not a big fan of the textures in the plugin, since it only includes a very limited selection and I also prefer to tweak texture blending myself.
The picture above, which I took on Sunday, was made with a combination of two textures and layer blending. It was quite a complicated and long process that involved blurring some layers and not others, different layer blending modes and some more Photoshop kungfu. I like the outcome very much. The original picture might not have been taken yesterday, but since the outcome is very different from the original I can say that I *made* this yesterday. I guess I’ll ease up a little on the daily picture taking, since sometimes I’m just not inspired to go out and point my camera at things. Instead when I’m in that mood I’ll just look through my (by now extensive) archives and select a picture that I can turn into something completely different. Probably the results will also be more interesting than my pointing-camera-at-random-things-in-the-flat pictures.
When I noticed that the flower seemed to be eating the little figurine, or whatever you could call it, I immediately had to think of Day of the Triffids. It’s one of my favourite post-apocalyptic books and I really enjoyed the sinister BBC TV production from the 80s as well. If you don’t know it, do check it out. I guess this picture also explains why I don’t really get along with plants so well. They are just scary!
My brother painted this and I took a picture of it years later (which was already months ago). Makes sense, eh?
I lived alone for 5 years before I decided to go to England. The latter involved staying in student accommodation for about 1 1/2 years and in shared houses for probably the same amount of time. I have to say that I didn’t care much for living with other people. Flatmates can make your life very annoying especially when they turn their unbearable “music” up in the middle of the night, steal your food or leave their dirty dishes out while they’re gone for a holiday, basically inviting rats and cockroaches for dinner.
In university accommodation it was usually loud and smelly from cleaning products and you were thrown together with people that you either liked or not. I had to change rooms once, because my flatmates were just unbearable and after that I still had problems with people stealing food. In shared houses in town I wasn’t very lucky either and ended up with random people. I didn’t have much in common with them and there were always arguments about the heating.
However, sometimes it was also different. Although there were always aspects that I disliked about living with people, I had some great times too. I was glad that I could talk to someone and sometimes I also didn’t have to eat alone. And with a few flatmates we would even watch a movie, go out together or have long conversations over a cup of tea. Then I could forget that many of my belongings were back in Germany and that I had given up a lot to be in England.
I had a real home once. It was a flat which I didn’t have to leave in a matter of months with all my books and my belongings. I had a life with friends close by, goals and – as it seemed then – a reasonably clear future. I also had my peace and quiet and didn’t have to deal with flatmates.
Almost all of this is still something I have to rebuild. These days all apart from the living alone bit. Ezequiel left a few days ago, so I’m back to my solitary existence alone in my flat with just my computer and a few books for entertainment.
Isn’t it ironic sometimes? All of a sudden I don’t care much for my peace and quiet anymore.
The picture is a macro of a halved fig. They are not quite as tasty as they were back when I used to live in Spain, but nevertheless they are still quite nice.
Yesterday I managed to get a better picture of how the streets actually fit together in my neighbourhood. Maybe I have to clarify: My sense of orientation works in some way like in those strategy games. In those games you at first have only this blob of known area surrounded by total darkness. When you explore you see more things on your map until you’ve pieced it all together and then corridors of known space combine to a neat map of your surroundings.
I knew the area around Alt-Moabit, Turmstraße and Perleberger Straße as separate areas. Until yesterday when I connected them all together through walking along Rathenower Straße from Alt-Moabit to Perleberger Straße. There is a primary school and a youth centre on the way that seems to be partially abandoned. The building of the youth centre seems to be a bigger complex of connected buildings and it is covered in graffiti. Instead of the usual relatively old and beautiful buildings in the area there are more unappealing apartment buildings across from the youth centre. I probably wouldn’t want to live across from that half rotting youth centre in any case.
I’ve now explored a considerably big area around where I live and can say that I know it a bit. Moabit is neither particularly pretty nor ugly, it doesn’t seem dangerous although there seem to be quite some drug issues too and it’s very multicultural with a big Turkish community along with quite big Turkish supermarkets. So, in general it’s neither a very good nor a very bad area. I’m sure there are better areas too, but for now it’s more than alright. And before I run out of things to photograph I still have a few backyards to explore!
The picture was taken across from the court house. Someone had obviously lost a pacifier.
Yesterday I spent some time walking around after my driving lesson taking pictures. I went back to my previous practice of exploring backyards and encountered two very photogenic crows which even stayed on the spot through me changing lenses. The lighting conditions were difficult with the quite harsh light from above and the deep shade in the backyard. Although I now have some reasonably good pictures of these two fellas the photos seemed to have something lacking. I can’t quite figure out what is missing, but in the end they are just … pictures of crows, if you know what I mean.
Further down the street right in front of the prison here in Moabit there were some bushes with sparrows sitting in them. They were all ruffled in the cold air and looked a bit grumpy. I also took some pictures of them sitting there. And it suddenly reminded me of one of those nights when I was walking back home through the city park after a night out in my hometown. It was about 1 1/2 hours walk, but I sometimes preferred it to waiting for a tram in the cold. Sometimes I also just wanted to think.
One night there were clouds in the sky and I remember that there was more light than usually. It was probably late autumn, because there were hardly any leaves on the trees which I didn’t pay much attention to at first. I was just walking, looking at the ground, thinking, almost not paying attention to where I was going. At least half an hour of the way is just walking straight ahead and in the dark you don’t see too much apart from the looming dark trees. The path was illuminated by orange street light and the sky was not quite black, maybe it had a dark blue colour, although it was still far from dawn. And maybe it also just seemed this way because the sky wasn’t obscured by the trees like in summer.
At some point I found that there was something odd about how things looked. As if a particular stretch of the way seemed darker than others and I kept wondering what the difference was. I largely ignored it though and just carried on walking. Until I heard a very strange sound. It took me a moment to realise that it was just a bird flapping its wings. What was strange about it was that the sound was not continuous like it is when you hear a bird flying away. No, it seemed as if the bird was just stretching its wings, flapping them once and then there was nothing. And that was the first moment that night when I consciously looked up at the tree tops. The sight made me stop with a probably quite audible gasp. The tree tops were black against the sky, like very long alien fingers with very thick black knuckles. And way too many of those knuckles too. For a moment I wasn’t sure what I was seeing, but then I heard another flap, then another and suddenly the alien knuckles turned into wings flying up into the sky. The air filled with excessive crowing and for a moment the sky seemed black with birds.
It was one of these cinematic moments, where you’re waiting for the birds to come down at you nosediving and trying to hack your eyes out. Or did you ever stand right behind your front door on the way out and you suddenly hear a thud and crash which makes you wonder whether you should check the TV before leaving? You know, for signs of a zombie apocalypse?
Obviously the birds didn’t attack me and the zombies didn’t come crashing through my door. They never do. Still, boys and girls: If you ever hear a strange noise coming from your basement. Don’t go down there and check what it was … that’s just plain predictable and stupid!
The other day I had a conversation with Ezequiel about cultural stereotypes. Germans for example always know how things are supposed to be and feel entitled to have an opinion on just about anything. I immediately remembered one of the questions from the driving theory test for which I was studying that day:
“There is a traffic jam and through your side mirror you see a motor bike illegally passing through the gap between the cars. What do you do?
a) Don’t let him pass.
b) Let him through.
c) Honk and note his licence plate number.”
Option a and c reflect German stereotypes and b is the correct option. Which reminds me of my driving lesson yesterday. Someone drove out into the street right in front of me and stopped to park their car. I would have just changed lanes and gone past, although I admit that it was a bit annoying. However, my driving instructor told me to stop right behind that car so that the driver would not be able to park there. My instructor already stepped on the breaks before I could object. Then he started lecturing me on how inconsiderate people drive here and how this is the reason why traffic is such a nightmare in Berlin. “And these people think that if they just drive out into the street without looking properly that they’ll get to their destination more quickly. Well, the driver in front of us now has to wait even longer. That’s how you deal with such people”.
Sometimes I think that only in Germany people feel they have the right to tell people how to do things. I’ve never encountered this kind of behaviour anywhere else and Ezequiel neither.
Our conversation also led us to my old Swedish flatmate Robin back when I was living on campus at the University of Sussex. One day Robin knocked on my door. He asked me “Hey, tell me, are you very German?” I was baffled! What a question to ask out of nothing! I said “No, why?!” and he said “Oh, I was just wondering whether you had a hole-puncher”! I pulled a face, mainly because … well, I had one of these things. They say Germans are very organised. They have things like hole-punchers and staplers and stuff like that. I had a hole-puncher, but only because someone gave it to me! I think that hole-puncher was out of the ominous box in Kent House where people just left stuff that they didn’t need anymore. Someone must have assumed that a German girl like me can use a hole-puncher at some point. I didn’t even use it once. After all I didn’t even use any paper as a computer science student! Nevertheless I was stuck with the “very German” label immediately.
Yesterday’s picture was taken at the Spree Bogen which is where the Bundesministerium des Innern (Federal Ministry of the Interior) is located. A cobbled street, shadows from low golden hour sunlight and reflections in the wall and the window. No wonder that I like it a lot!
Sometimes it’s just not possible to keep up a daily blogging schedule. I was just too tired to write last night after not having slept very well the night before. I have been struggling with insomnia for ages, so it’s not quite surprising that every now and then I have restless nights. This was also the case after Ezequiel left on Tuesday. I brought him to Tegel airport which is only 10 minutes from here on a bus. It is only a small city airport and not a very pretty one either. Still, I spent some time walking around, climbing up stairs to see what’s around. It was raining, so I tried to keep my camera dry by taking pictures from under overhanging roofs and through windows. It definitely changes your perspective a little.
Apart from that my day was rather uneventful. I went to a shop to pick up some groceries and then spent the evening watching episodes of Star Trek Enterprise from a few years back. It’s quite different from other Star Trek series, because there is not the usual moral high ground involved. There is no big organisation that dictates directives or what to do in outer space and the universe is not just a big friendly space on the territory of the good guys. There is crime, slavery, a bit of frontier spirit and so on. For one or two seasons they managed to keep the story lines quite well together, but I think they were struggling with low viewer numbers and tried to spice things up a bit. The third season is therefore far away from the usual Star Trek spirit and goes way too far in questions of morality. I was not impressed at the time. No wonder that they got cancelled after that. It’s a shame though since the fourth season is really quite something. It for example explains why Klingons look so different in the original series.
And yes, I’m re-watching the series after I’ve already seen it twice. I’ve actually seen every Star Trek episode ever produced at least twice apart from some of the original series episodes which I only vaguely remember from my childhood. All of the series have something special about them, something that distinguishes them from the others while still maintaining a similar spirit. That’s what made the entire franchise so successful: There is something in it for everyone. And every now and then there are very special stories in them too like the TNG episode ‘Inner light’ or the Enterprise episode ‘Carbon Creek’ that don’t happen on star ships. There is just this incredible range of topics that can be explored in Science Fiction which I have always found fascinating. It has the whole range of “what if” to play with which makes me wonder whether they will even come up with a new series at some point although the franchise seems a bit dead at the moment. It would definitely make me happy!