The Giant Forest

The western part of the United States yields an incredible amount of natural wonders that must be admired in person, as most photography just will not do them justice. The majority of these wonders are in the form of mountains, dense forest, rock formations, deserts and vast open landscapes.

On the coastline of Northern California the world’s tallest trees,  the coastal redwood trees (Sequoia sempervirens) grow. On the eastern side of the Golden State in the Sierra Nevada mountain range, some Giant Sequoias (Sequoiadendron giganteum) can be found at Sequoia National Park. This is where we headed out to for a long summer weekend. All we knew was that these trees were not as tall as the Redwoods. 

Seeing these colossal trees inside the Giant Forest up close turned out to be astoundingly riveting and enchanting. No matter where you live or grew up, seeing trees every single day is one of the most common facts of human existence. Yet suddenly seeing an over thousand year old tree with a trunk perhaps 100 times more massive than anything you have ever seen in your life before will amaze and bewilder even the most nature apathetic person. Go see these trees in person at least once in your life and look around to enjoy the delightful spellbinding gaze of fellow travelers of all walks of life alike!

Once over several hundred years old, a Giant Sequoia is almost invincible and won’t be destroyed by fire, lightning, fungi or other natural occurrences. Ultimately the Sequoias do die, as they collapse under their own gargantuan weight. Food for thought.

General Sherman. The world’s largest tree by volume. Notice the tourist at the very bottom of the image.
Without a person for scale, you could never imagine how colossal these tree trunks are.
Close up of roots from a fallen Giant Sequoia tree.
Inside of a fallen and hollowed out Sequoia. A grown man can comfortably walk inside this tree trunk.
The immense root network of the Giant Sequoias spaced out sometimes far in between which allows beautiful light to enter the forest ground.
The cabin of one of the first European Settlers inside the Giant Forest.
Hike along the Kings river inside the adjacent Kings Canyon National Park.
Magnificent salt formation inside Crystal Cave, the most accessible cave inside Sequoia National Park.
19th century illustration of the Sequoia trees. Many people called this the “Great California Hoax”. © Wikimedia Commons

Into the Valley of Death

Can you think of any place on earth with a more ominous and foreboding name than “Death Valley”? We have all heard of this place, even if we didn’t know where it actually is. Death Valley sparks images of relentless heat and excruciating dryness. At 57°C (157F) in July of 1913, it boosts to date the hottest air temperature ever to be recorded. Sometimes in the summer, the temperatures remain above 36°C even at night.

My wife and I went on a California desert road trip to see it for ourselves in the early spring where it was “only” around 35°C at 5% humidity.  We discovered a landscape much more diverse than we expected, full of mountains, colorful rocks and salt flats, something we had never seen before. Photography in the park can be challenging due to the harsh lightning conditions throughout most of the day.

The climate is hostile but there are still more plants and water than in other deserts around the globe. Death Valley is unlike anything else. It has a unique aura as you drive across seemingly endless roads. Ghost towns and old equipment are reminiscent of the old days where mining workers labored year round in horrible conditions. Now the park is all about conserving its natural beauty.

Ascending the hills of Artist’s drive in Death Valley
Overlooking a wash at Zabriskie Point in Death Valley
Painter’s palette in Death Valley
Zabriskie point in Death Valley, one of the park’s iconic landscapes.
Uhebebe crater in Death Valley. A violent volcanic explosion created this crater and landscape around it only a few thousand years ago.
Beginning of the massive salt flat at Bad Water Basin in Death Valley. At about 80 m below sea level it’s the lowest point in North America and yes it is very hot there.
Overlooking the Mesquite Flat Sand Dune in Death Valley. Dust from all over the park accumulated here into massive sand dunes.
Strolling across the sand dunes of Death Valley on a moonlit night.
Entering Titus Canyon in Death Valley on an early morning hike.

 

An Olympic experience

The photographs below were taken on a long weekend trip in May of 2017, at the Olympic National Park on the far north-west corner of the United States near Seattle.

The landscapes in these images are so vastly different and yet all of this is less than two hours of driving between each other. Alpine mountains, fine sand beaches filled with drift wood and a rain forest bursting with life growing on top of itself. 

Stormy Ridge
Lake Crescent Lodge
Drift wood at La Push beach
Trees growing on top of a giant fallen tree at Ho Rain Forest

Telling stories about a timeless National Park

Below are some photographs from a recent trip to the famous Yosemite National Park in the Californian Sierra Nevada mountains.

Since I moved to California I had the idea of engaging more in landscape photography since the western part of the United States provides a vast amount of beauty to be explored and framed into images. For this specifically I was able to test a new DSLR and high quality lens. This was also a great opportunity to explore editing photographs based on raw files. We had terrific days of hiking and the photographic opportunities were seemingly endless.

Back home while narrowing down a selection of strongest images I ended up with a gallery of 11 pictures. Looking at all of them at once, it is striking how different they are in style, color, and lighting. In the end it all works together though because the imagery of this gallery just shows some of the diversity and the many faces of an exceptional national park.

My biggest fascination of all is how plants and trees are able to grow on ground, granite and mountains that look hostile for life. Nature always finds a way.

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The improbable dissociation of content and emotion

The photograph you can see below was taken while casually strolling down by myself towards the Fields Museum on a Sunday morning in Chicago. Its one of these side of the road pictures that I have come to enjoy more over time but cannot quite pinpoint why.

The rails above the street are part of Chicago’s famous public transport system called “the L” which is basically a subway that is mostly overground in the down town area. As the author of the picture, it is challenging to dissociate the graphical and compository quality of this picture with the emotions of this wonderful holiday. It shows a moment of peace and serenity with time for introversion which I don’t often get to have. I will post a gallery of several of these sort of pictures in the future.

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The hidden beauty above us

Right above use at every instant of our lives there is something breathtakingly gorgeous that is sure to appeal to anyone no matter the age or cultural background. Yet we can hardly every appreciate it in its full beauty.

I have recently spent a few weeks in Australia. It was my first experience in the area and I wished to see some of the famous landscapes that central Australia is known for, such as Uluru (Ayers Rock). All of what I saw during daytime was wonderful but it was after sunset that the greatest thing of all came to shine: starlight across the horizon as I had never seen it before.

On the second night of camping I took the long exposure photograph you see below. It took the camera thirty seconds to capture what your naked eyes can marvel at constantly. The campfire that shines brightly in this picture was almost extinct and two of my fellow travellers where chatting well beyond midnight. At least a hundred kilometers away on the horizon, lightning strikes from a storm illuminated the night sky and just about every minute a shooting star flew above us. The bright area across the photograph is our Milky Way galaxy, which I had never seen before.

It was with this view that I fell asleep in a swag outside and it was with that view that I woke up before sunrise to continue the hike. Something you will never forget.

The ongoing expansion of artistic possibilities

I began getting into photography in the middle of the digital camera revolution in the early 2000s. Back when analogue photography was still common, digital photography opened a whole new world of possibilities, mainly because I knew exactly how the photograph looked right after it was taken and could thus play with colors, depth of field, blurring, composition and more.
Since then, my digital photography was always one with relatively little digital editing and alterations.

It was 2013 when I realized that the tiny camera on my new cell phone has incredible image quality and is even able to include esthetic color features as well as dynamic panorama stiching simply on the fly. The results of my experiments with this during a recent trip to Chicago are composed below.

Meanwhile, after a couple of photoshop tutorials I also realized that manipulating the content of photos (not just colors) has become so easy and accessible. Combining new camera features and software continues to open yet more and more gates to endless possibilities of photographic creativity with millions of people being able to join in and exhibit their great work to the world.

Does that make it easier or harder than before to achieve outstanding artistic work? I leave this question to you without an answer, as I yet need to find out myself.
Chicago Panorama

Your photography sucks! – A wake up call from 2007

Click here to read the full article and all photographs of this project page!

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It was in fall of 2007. I had only recently moved to Paris for a year of university abroad and had discovered a university photography association which I gladly joined. The concept of the weekly meetings was, each of the 3-6 people that joined brought a couple of photographs either dealing with a certain assigned topic or whatever he/she saw fit. The classes were informal and heavily based on critisicing the artist.
At that time, I was more convinced about the value of my photography much more than I am actually now. I usually had around five photographs on a USB stick with me and we huddled around an old computer screen to discuss them. One afternoon, as I brought in five pictures on a USB stick that I was rather proud of, I got very heavily criticised about my selection for a good. It was painful and I had a hard time understanding why it seemed like everything I showed sucked.

The realisation came later: Whenever you show more than one photograph, each image stands in the context of the rest.

Click here to read the full article and all photographs of this project page!

Snapshots of our life

Post - Snapshots of our lifeLooking down on Lake Como, Italy – August 10 2013 7:24 pm

Since I started this website in 2009, I have mostly avoided displaying photographs with very personal content, avoided to specify clearly where the picture was taken, when it was taken and even the date I wrote the article. Why? Because I either wanted to abstract the image and emphasize on the general thoughts of the article or simply display what I define to be art in my photography. The problem is, that this also sets bounds to what I share with the world. It is time to once again crack these walls I set up because ideas evolve and photography needs to breathe fresh air.

While browsing through pictures of a recent holiday to Italy I stumbled upon the photograph you see above. It is uncropped and virtually unedited. It was taken just before a gorgeous sunset over the Swiss alps after a long day of driving to Lake Como at the Italy-Swiss border. We were alone, bought two beers at a shop and sat down at café that had already closed. I got up to capture the beauty of the scene and took several photos. I also took a step back, asked my girlfriend to turn around and as she did the mirror of my DSLR flipped up, capturing one of the final instances of our vacation.

Later I realized that this picture is the only one that in my sentiment transmits the beauty and feel of the scene that I felt because its not abstract but instead very personal. Its the context that makes the picture and not just the elements in the composition! The picture is unrefined, simple and does not match with most of my photographs I most appreciate. Still it is my favorite picture from this trip because what it captured is a marvelous unique snapshot of our lives that will live on as we grow older.