Trips to the airport are nerve-wrecking. It always involves waiting or saying goodbye. People get anxious, taxis here and there, buses, trains. It always ends up less relaxed than it should be and often, especially when my man is leaving, I have to go back home alone. Today again I was dreading the part where I would open the door and it would be empty and quiet. So, I wandered.
Instead of taking the bus right home I got off early, walked into a mall, bought some things in a supermarket and looked through a couple of shops. It wasn’t a particularly nice mall, so there was not much to see. Instead of taking the bus I got on the subway to continue my journey. At Leopoldplatz I poked my head out of the subway entrance, because I thought I remembered seeing a particular shop at this station. I was mistaken, so I changed lines and continued my journey home. Down in the station I witnessed how 6 police officers searched a couple of youths. For one of the guys it was such a routine thing that he calmly finished his soft drink before emptying his pockets.
At Osloer Straße I stopped for a moment, watched the people walking past, waiting in line for the ATM machine, eating. There was something strange about how these people wafted past each other, more focused on their mobile phones than on each other. I felt disconnected from them, as if I was watching strange bugs crawling over each other in a box. Then somehow the feeling left again and it hit me that all these people, every single one of them, had their own little lives with their own little problems, places to be, people to meet. Humanity invaded the box. Not bugs, glorified apes. Glorified apes going around the world in glorified boxes.
I like breathing in when I get out of the subway. The air down there is stale and it smells of rubber. Burnt rubber. When I left Osloer Straße just a couple of blocks from my house, the air felt so cold and crisp. It was as if someone splashed water into my face. I looked up to the sky and I saw this:
Just a couple of backyards here there are some rugged views like this. The picture was taken on the way to the shop and I really had fun with my 18-55mm lens. After months of shooting with 50mm only it was really liberating to have the freedom of a zoom lens. I love the sky in this picture.
A lot of people start their year with new resolutions and end up forgetting about their big goals by February. Motivation is sometimes hard to maintain when the only person you are accountable to is yourself. I’m not sure my own daily photography goal would have had any chance without this blog. It really helps me to focus, I get a lot of nice feedback and it has a big part in keeping me motivated. It’s always easier to do things together with other people who encourage you. Blogs are great for that because it’s just so likely that there are many other people out there in the “blog-o-sphere” who want to achieve similar goals. Especially when it comes to photography there are a lot of people out there trying to get better at it every day, which means that there is a lot of support out there too.
Having resolutions is a good start, but sharing your progress is way better, because then everyone knows whether you stick to it or not. It’s more likely that you’ll succeed with a little bit of pressure. Sure, it’s tough sometimes, because it means to put yourself out there. It means that you sometimes have to own up and post mediocre work. It also means that you have no control over who reads your blog and although the internet is vast, eventually you might have good reason to censor yourself. It’s not all happy sunshine out here in the open. Still, I can only recommend it to anyone who just came up with a shiny new resolution prompting you to train for a marathon, shooting a picture a day or any other such insanity. Start a blog, share your experiences, it really helps!
This picture was taken in Hamburg on Saturday. We had quite a pleasant surprise when we realised that the flat where we stayed actually was really nice. It had a living room, bedroom, a kitchen, a dining room and a nice bath tub! It was a really nice change to my own flat, which only has a tiny bathroom, a reasonable size kitchen and a living room with a bed in a corner. While Ezequiel was working to prepare for a meeting in the morning, I went out to hunt for some food and thought I’d try to take a picture of the evening sky. On the camera it just looked like this light blob in the middle of black nothingness and also in the jpg preview it didn’t look like much. However, I was shooting in RAW and by pushing down the contrast and blacks presets to the lowest settings I managed to recover quite a lot of detail from the picture. To my surprise the noise wasn’t even bad, although it still looked best in black and white.
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!
Quite some time now I’ve been wanting to check out a street that I once drove through in a driving lesson. Back then I was pondering whether I should just stop and tell my driving instructor that I just have to take a couple of pictures. However, in the end I didn’t and I also forgot a bit about it. Yesterday I got the chance to see that street again. Originally we headed out to take a look at the book shop I mentioned the other day which is in a remote corner of the market hall down the street. When we got there the market hall was closed though which is probably normal considering that it was just before 6pm on a Saturday. We kept on walking and eventually I recognised a street close to the one I wanted to see, so we made a turn into that street and already found some very cool old houses. Then another left turn and we were there: Kruppstraße. I only recognised it when I looked it up on the map, but it definitely was that street.
About halfway down we found a really old building that was pretty run down and looked a bit abandoned. On closer examination it turned out to be a police station although part of it is probably disused. The building was neither repaired nor redecorated after the war which means that there were actual shot holes in the walls. There was an entrance on the side with a big metal door and a sign that said it was the Abteilung Verbrechensbekämpfung, the department for fighting crime, specifically fraud. There was a reasonably big standup ash tray with fresh cigarette buds as it seemed, which was probably the only sign that the building is actually still in use. Imagine working there, or even worse: imagine being brought in for questioning into a building with shot holes! The original house entrance was actually facing away from the street. A light blue door, rotten with the light for the house number crumbling and grimy. Someone had written initials next to the entrance in blue marker together with a little heart. Who’d choose a place like this for such signs of affection?
On the way back it occurred to us that the autumn weather with the fallen leaves, the cold wind and the crisp temperatures really added to the sinister feel of the place. Black clouds were moving in fast and we were walking briskly to get home before the storm hit. Obviously it was too late though. Yesterday’s picture was taken only a couple of blocks from Kruppstraße, but quite a way from home. We got caught in heavy rain without an umbrella. However, it was well worth it, because it added to the atmosphere of the rotten old police station. Interesting stories happen in this kind of atmosphere.
For some reason my health is not so good these days. One might have to add that this is fairly normal for me, since I have many food allergies and a history of bad health in cold weather. Since it’s autumn and almost October now it’s no real surprise that I’m starting to feel a bit rough. Every year it comes as a bit of a surprise though and it takes me a few weeks to adjust to to it again. It’s no big deal, but it always unsettles me a bit for a little while.
I dragged myself to my diving lesson and that’s about all I managed to do. I hadn’t been driving for about two months and now had to change driving instructor and car which was quite weird. My new driving instructor actually gets quite a bit of road rage going. If someone is just in the way for no apparent reason he gets really annoyed and immediately thinks these people are doing it on purpose just to annoy him. I find that quite amusing actually and have to constrain myself to not laugh about him and his temper. Luckily he doesn’t get impatient with me, although he interferes more in my driving than the last guy. It’s just a matter of style I guess.
Well, with my health and all it was really no wonder that I wasn’t feeling like taking pictures at all. There was a bit of a pretty sunset and I took a few pictures then, but I wasn’t concentrating or trying to get it right. Actually I just wanted to go home and lie in bed. Surprising that I still got at least a half decent picture out of it.
Originally we were thinking of going to the Pergamon museum yesterday. However, it didn’t seem as if the sudden warm weather was agreeing very well with me, so we just walked around Unter den Linden for a bit and then returned home.
In front of one of the buildings of the Humboldt University that is just across from the Staatsoper there is a little used book market very much like the one in front of the Mensa at the Düsseldorf university. When I still studied there I used to dread this used book market, because I always ended up spending way more money on books than I could actually spare. It’s not surprising then that Ezequiel and me both ended up buying books. However, he can regard himself lucky that he cannot speak the language, or else he would have bought many more books than he did. I tried to limit myself and only had a brief look at the GDR Science Fiction section. I hoped to find a nice old GDR edition of some soviet SciFi where I wouldn’t mind the translation into German. And indeed, I was lucky: I found Fiasco by Stanislaw Lem who is one of my favourite Science Fiction writers.
Everyone probably knows Solaris which is pretty amazing, although in my opinion it is not even his best book! Among the ones I read The Invincible is quite likely the most impressive:
Contact is lost to a starship when investigating a planet which at first sight seems like a pretty barren lifeless rock. They send another ship, i.e. The Invincible, to see what’s going on and they only encounter a very strange form of mechanical life that reminds of insects. By themselves they are not much of a threat, but they can self-organise into big swarms that show complex and dangerous behaviours. In the end the fight against them has to be given up. I remember enjoying it immensely!
I’ve also discovered with yesterday’s picture that if you zoom in on the TV tower here in Berlin you can see a quite cool example of futuristic soviet architecture. From down below it already looks impressive enough, but with this magnification it looks just great! A perfect picture to go with my new book.
I’m not very good with travelling to be honest, especially with flying. I hate the queues, the waiting, the security checks, the blatantly obvious attempt at selling you overpriced crap that you don’t need. And I dislike that most airports just look so similar, especially in England. Yesterday however, when I was flying from Gatwick to Düsseldorf I had one of the purely delightful moments of flying, namely when you look out of the airplane window and your jaw just drops in awe. I just had to take a picture of this sunset over the clouds!
I generally had a nice last day in Brighton. I bought some juggling balls and my friend Miro with whom I was staying in Brighton gave me a first lesson in juggling on the beach. I’m still far from anything that looks like juggling at all, but it was a lot of fun! And after all now I have lots of time to improve my skills since I have finished university. I generally feel like doing all the things that I wanted to do “someday when I have time” and I can instantly think of 5 things that fall into this category. And now I have the perfect opportunity to do these things!
You can imagine that this freedom is generally giving me a very good feeling. It also falls together with some nice things that happen around me. For example, tomorrow – and hereby I admit that I’m a real geek – I will go to a Star Trek convention! The last time I went to one was before I started to study. I’m sure it will be a fantastic opportunity to try out my new 55-250mm lens I just bought. And as soon as I arrive back in Berlin on Thursday there will be a concert of the Einstürzenden Neubauten, one of my favourite bands which I’ve been dying to see in concert for years now. Somehow they were always sold out or playing too far away or something else got in the way. A perfect start for my holiday indeed!
It is always strange when you get the feeling that you’re leaving a place for good. I have lived in Brighton for about 3 1/2 years on and off and I have to say that I didn’t particularly enjoy it. The quality of the houses is bad, it’s too expensive and there is an extensive drinking culture that is really not my thing at all. However, you can get used to just about anything and of course Brighton has also many good aspects. I can have fantastic gluten free cake here, they know how to make crisps and bacon, there is free wifi in many cafés and of course I still have friends here. However, leaving generally feels like another step into a better life. And one of the best things about leaving Brighton is that I won’t be bothered by seagulls anymore. I seriously dislike these beasts, they’re really the rats of the sea …
Today I will be travelling back to Germany, but before going back to Berlin I will first travel to Düsseldorf to visit my dad. I have lived there for many years and – contrary to my experience in Brighton – I tend to get sad that I don’t live there anymore. I still feel at home there somehow, although it’s more a vague feeling that is connected with a certain time in my life rather than with the place itself.
These days also everyone seems to ask me what my plans for the future are. Seriously, I just handed in my dissertation, all my plans ended right there! Now I just want to relax and not have plans and due dates in my near future at all, so I say with pleasure: I have no clue whatsoever! However, one important part of the future will be to finally have a home again. And it will neither be Brighton, nor Düsseldorf, that’s for certain.