I’ve been at a scientific meeting recently and (again) was surprised of the disconnect that sometimes occurred between a speaker and the audience. If the listener (me) does not understand a complex subject that is explained, it is not solely on me! Don’t blame me that I could not follow your cluttered slides and your jumbled train of thought! Sure, sometimes I will be uninformed or not smart enough. But sometimes it is on you, dear speaker.
Explaining an easy concept complicatedly is easy. Explaining a complex concept concisely is artistry. And while I’ve set through many talks cluelessly, I admired the few speakers who mastered the art: The ones that make you feel clever just by listening. The ones that explain intricate science so well that you think you designed the experiments yourself. The ones that let you rediscover what they did and make it seem like what they are doing isn’t difficult after all.
Giving a good talk boils down to the same things that are important in photography: The subject needs to be clear. Leading lines are necessary to guide the viewer. Help them navigate the frame. Unimportant stuff is left out (and there is a lot of unimportant stuff). And everything left in has to support the main subject. Tell a story.
The following pictures do not follow these rules at all, but I hope my own talk did at least…
A brief list of some of the books I read during the last year, thanks to Fräulein Klitzeklein. The first draft of this post is already from last Winter but only now I came around to finishing it. It is mainly intended for myself: to remember which books I read, what they taught me and how they affected me, as well as what I wanted to take away.
Der Buchspazierer, by Carsten Henn
The mundane, the monotonous, the every day rhythm. This book is about those things. And how they are among the ones that matter most in life. It matters what you make out of it. It matters with whom you persevere through it. It’s the daily interactions with people around, however small they might be, that make it worth it. An easy-going story, yet scratching to the bones, about passion to detail, about finding unexpected friends, and about loyalty.
Der Gesang der Flusskrebse / Where the crawdads sing, by Delia Owens
This one invigorated my passion for nature and science as it elegantly intertwines both within a complicated story of a complicated life. It features a deep appreciation for the nature and its inhabitants. Never give up, stand up for yourself, and life can be unfair. I finished the second half in a single day, something that hasn’t happened for quite a while.
Die Bücherdiebin / The book thief, by Markus Zusak
I never would have picked this one up myself. All the more, I am fortunate that it got forced upon me: Probably the most impactful read for me so far. Deeply moving, cleverly narrated, a story of genuine humanity. Where heroes are inconspicuous, but never have been more important. Where the profound joy and all inexpressible horror of life cling to each other like there is no tomorrow. Where the smallest childhood memories become something larger than themselves. A story of innocence and trust, of apples and daunting terror, of the power of words and how they shape our world.
Zugvögel / Migrations, by Charlotte McConaghy
Nobody is flawless: There is always good and bad, even though it can be difficult to perceive it. Do not judge others, especially if you cannot relate to their experiences. Sometimes they are more similar to you as you might think. Attaining redemption is a journey, as our life, without goals other than the ones we define ourselves. And no one is prepared for the abruptness of the end as it might arrive every second of your life.
Das Flüstern der Bäume / Greenwood, by Michael Christie
An entertaining novel narrated cleverly to blend a multitude of time frames to illustrate the larger picture of our society, our history, and our planet. Has a bit of everything, and thus, a bit of nothing.
Der Circle / The Circle, by Dave Eggers
Exhausting read and quite demanding. Balances on the uncomfortable gap between surreal fiction and actual reality that keeps bouncing in your head for quite a while after. A constant warning of where humanity currently is and which direction we might be heading in a digitized world, paired with deep-reaching questions about our individual purpose of life. About the phenomenal benefit and destructive power of data, as well as societies inability to grasp the impact of what they create.
Was man von hier aus sehen kann / What You Can See from Here, by Mariana Leky
A wonderful story of love, life, death, family, and nature from the eyes of a growing human. It charms with wonderful characters that are narrated so well that you’re sure you’ve met them in real life. And even after closing the book, they occupy your mind and keep lingering there with their struggles, their joy, and their words of wisdom. This book shows how to embrace triviality, how to cope with setbacks, and how a village community manages to navigate life.
Looking for Alaska, by John Green
Several of my friends read John Greens books during high school. I never did. Maybe I am pleased with this fact. It’s like listening to good music for the first time: It’s something special; you should find the right time and place and embrace it because it’s your only chance to experience it in this way. This book has power, no matter your age. It leaves marks.
The Fault in our Stars, by John Green
An absolute masterpiece. Utterly moving. Possibly life changing. Who would’ve thought that a romantic journey of high school students can be told with such intensity. An honest, melancholic, and moving experience. See also That which remains.
Umwege des Lebens / The Book of Two Ways, by Jodi Picoult
My first one from Jodi Picoult and presumably not the last one (and I am told there are way better ones). A potpourri of topics mingled into a love story in our contemporary world. By this, it aims to please many, which comes at the cost of some tiring sections. Besides exploring complicated relationships and lifelong dreams, it focuses around the process of dying.
The road's last bend, the world does end
right here. The sphere succumbs,
a lonesome spot remains.
Mountains looming, all consuming
The soul gets lost and tossed around
between the dunes and seagull sounds.
This place will stay when we decay,
mere joy engraved that does transcend
the end of our finite time.
The vastness of the Cairngorms was especially appealing to me. With 1107 square kilometres, the Cairngorms are Scotlands largest national park – perfect for getting lost in nature and a paradise for hiking. Apparently, it’s also a paradise for capercaillies as we noticed pretty quickly: They were quite abundant and apparently the courtship was in full swing. They didn’t display for the camera though, in contrast to Stonechats and Wrens. Especially for the latter one, it was a treat to see it so close in the late evening hours. Besides, the Cairngorms host 5 of the 10 highest mountains of Scotland – watch out for one of the next posts which will be all about the Munro mountains.
There is always a first time: For a change of scenery, todays post will be in German. Don’t worry, though – the next one will be in English again.
Altbau-Büro, bald grau – heilfroh, dass Schottland kommt, dass flott Strand kommt, das raue Meer, ins Blaue, mehr entspannen, ohne Pannen: Urlaub kommt. Und, mit Verlaub: es ist auch Zeit. Bereit zu Zweit, wir sind soweit. Für eine kleine Ewigkeit. Ciao Tagesschau und Alltags-Stau, ich schau stattdessen in den Guide der aufgestauter Fantasie jetzt Deutlichkeit verleiht: Weite Landschaft, breite Strände, steile Gipfel, Landzungen-Zipfel, gelb und grün hinein getupft. Die Vögel kühn, die Landung sanft, die Brandung tost tief unten. Die bunten Puffins sind gehüllt in Nebel der die Bucht erfüllt. Und kaum erdacht, schon ist man Fracht auf einer Fähre durch die Nacht. Halb acht, wacht auf, habt acht, bedacht: Der Linksverkehr führt gleich ans Meer, die Küste naht als wüsste sie wo unser Pfad heut enden wird. Mehr braucht es nicht, wir leben schlicht; die Straßen leer, der Ginster dicht. Wir fahren frei – der Sonne nach – der Wonne nach, wie's uns gefällt. Kein News-Beschuss, nur Bus-Genuss. C++? Mitnichten. Frei von Pflichten, nur noch Dichten, Vögel sichten: Tordalks, Möwen, Trottellummen, die Welt singt los und wir verstummen.
A large milestone of my (work) life is due at the end of this year. A distinct goal I am working towards; a goal that shouldn’t be missed. Accordingly, I themed the next months as the ‘Time of Progress’. Every day with progress, no matter how much, is a good day. I also have been using (my own implementation of) the Theme System for my work journal for the past three years; however, rather poorly in the recent months. It is time to properly reinvigorate the daily journaling (and themes) – at least for a while.
More lately, I’ve also come to the conclusion that my photography will benefit from a theme-based approach. While pictures on a single post are mostly from a single day and, thus, already appear to follow a theme, I am looking for something more long-termed and directed. So far, I am going out and capture whatever works with the current conditions in nature. And I will keep doing that. But I am also fond of having an artistic project that spans a longer time frame than a single summer afternoon and that results in a ‘finished’ collection of pictures following a common theme – suggestions welcome.
The alarm clock goes off at 5 in the morning. Fortunately, in anticipation of my morning mood, past me already crammed everything into the backpack yesterday evening so I can get started right away. Why today? Because the forecast promised heavy fog for the whole morning. So, despite the apparent lack of fog at this early time, I hop onto my bike, and drive off into nature. All trust placed in the forecast. I have visited this wood many times before; last time in late winter when everything looked naked and cold. So how about today? It’s a different world:
The fog appears as the sun rises. First, it lingers on the fields and streets, but then it slowly creeps into the forest. And with every passing minute it becomes more dense as it wraps around the trunks and branches. The greens get so intense it looks like someone slipped on the saturation slider, while old leaves are scattered across the ground. The birds already conclude their morning symphony, everything is calm and peaceful.
I drift around, on paths, off paths, through the scrub, across small glades. And, as everytime, I realize: photographing woodlands is hard. Everything is cluttered, without structure, entangled. But with enough patience even the woodlands become untangled, as does the mind.
The land is flat and stretches out,
it seems that here the birches sprout
quite willingly in swamps and marsh,
the light is golden, never harsh.
The birds sing different and fly
towards far places, as the sky
turns orange and leaves us behind,
vanishing traces in the mind,
condensed adventure, precious time,
forgetting it might be a crime.