Winter-Wonder-Land Part 1

Winter-Wonder-Land Part 1

First snow, crisp air,
blue frost, white glow
buries despair,
and slow I go
onward. 
From 
parallel trees
lined up with ease,
to twigs that please,
like limbs, appease
the camera.
And clouds rise high
try to defy 
the gravity.
As does my mind
left far behind,
outpaced by steps
towards the peak,
wandering blind
through some old week.
But now and then
it sure does speak,
with care: Beware! –
Do neither sink
into the past,
nor outrun now;
instead allow
to be, at last:
right here, right now.
And here, right now,
it's marvelous:
Another world,
curled into snow,
furled onto film,
pearled, carefully,
by ice and frost;
my soul gets lost.
And save to say:
Somehow,
it's winter now.

1000

1000

It’s less than a year ago that I started this little project, and what an adventure it has been. What I hoped to be, proved to be true indeed: This is way more fun than social media. I care little about how many people engage and whether you like it (although I am very glad about the positive feedback of some of you!), but instead I can focus on what I want to create.

While I did not really had any idea about the written content of the blog when I started, I knew that there will always be photos. Of nature, animals, landscapes, birds, trees, whatever I might encounter. But I didn’t knew how many – by now, it’s already above 1000!

1000 impressions, 1000 compositions, sometimes interesting, sometimes boring, but, with every picture, I could learn and improve. And behind the 1000 shared photos, there are at least fifty times that many, deleted long ago, or sleeping on my hard drive. I am looking forward to the next 1000 images…

In the meantime: Thanks to everyone who is reading these entries, thanks to everyone who is enjoying the pictures, thanks to the few who are following this little undertaking.

Blurring the Line

Blurring the Line

A triplet of brief thoughts about photography:

Someone recently told me that she doesn’t like the ‘blurred’ images I have started to share frequently. For a moment, I was a little taken aback. But actually, by now, I am pleased she told me. It reminded me that I picked up photography for myself. I think some of these images are among the best I have taken so far. Others are among the worst. I greatly enjoyed taking all of them, and I find great pleasure looking at them: Blurring the line between reality and fiction.

When I started photography I had no plans, no vision. Now, I have countless. And it has gone far beyond the plain attempt to depict some sort of reality or to take holiday photos. It’s way more: abstract, documentary, emotional, attractive, engaging. Blurring the line between photography and art.

In the beginning, I thought that light plays one of the most important roles in photography – and sure, it’s important to a certain extent. But by now, I’ve seen the most incredible pictures from all conditions imaginable. And I, myself, can go out in most conditions these days and come back with something that might work. Sometimes, blurring the line between light and shadow.

Sundays

Sundays

Car keys jingle and I mingle
into the traffic. With no single 
destination.
Brief stop at the gas station.
I leave behind the city smog.
And then: into the rural parts.
I search and wander, at times wonder
where to go in all this fog;
A yellow birch, a distant church, 
I calm down, forget the town.

And then, quite suddenly, the sun appears, 
and all the fears of all past years
are gone, 
forever, no more tears,
fallen into oblivion. 
Smog got replaced by haze that stays
for long, the bells chime distantly: 
Ding, Dong. 
It leads me ways I haven't walked,
towards where horses graze.
A lonely tree, a distant boat
afloat the lovely lake. 
Most leaves are gone, a mid-flight swan,
a slight cold breeze, my warming fleece.
All earth holds still and is at peace.

I strive to capture, to collect 
some memories, every aspect
of nature into photographs.
But as I try to wrap
this life, this moment, 
carefully, into my trap, 
I fail.
It's too elusive, scurries by,
under the sky, so high above.
Instead, I sail on thoughts away.
Shove my glove on freezing hands,
just take it in and feel some love.

Hidden Places

Hidden Places

The wet grass absorbs my footsteps as I carefully navigate through bushes and cows. Autumn: the season of fog – however, this is only the second time this year that the colors and sounds of the environment are muted and everything seems calm and silent. My paths leads me out of the city, along the country road, and then into nature: The trees still cling onto their last leaves, the muddy ground hinders my movement, and thorns damage my precious jacket: First into a small valley, then into an old quarry followed by a steep ascent. Next, along a hidden path into the woods. The edge of the small forest is already in sight and after I cross an untreated field, there it is: A hidden gem in our landscape, an old orchard, far off from society. Every time I have been here, together with plenty of wildlife, I can feel at peace.

The Sixth Extinction

The Sixth Extinction

66 million years ago dinosaurs became extinct – an inconceivably long time span. However, they roamed the planet for even longer: astounding 165 million years. Our species has only been around for ~300.000 years now. When the dinosaurs died, three-quarters of all plant and animal species vanished with them, also known as the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event. The cause was, to our best knowledge, the impact of an asteroid with devastating effects. The precise number of such large extinction events is under debate, but by many the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction is regarded as the fifth and latest one.

So, what does the title of this post refer to? It refers to right now: this millennium, this month, this day. Today, a lot of species are dying. Forever. They will be lost for all of the remaining time this planet exists. Estimates vary from 24 up to 150 species every day. It’s neither possible to precisely guess the actual number, nor it’s easy to evaluate how drastic the estimated numbers really are. The question at heart ist: How much larger is this decline of species than the background noise of species extinction that happens naturally? Some people argue it’s 100-1000 as much as it would be without human interference. Others say these numbers are inflated and global mass extinction is, for now, not as drastic as proposed (because the common assumption that decline in habitat area is highly correlated with decline in diversity might not hold true). One of the major hurdles in assessing the severity of the current biodiversity situation is not only that estimates of dying species vary widely, but also that the total number of species that are currently living is still largely unknown.

In 2010, the UN agreed upon 20 major goals for the upcoming decade regarding biodiversity, including specific plans for the conservation of nature and variety of species. The last decade was even termed the ‘United Nations Decade on Biodiversity’. So, how are we doing so far?

Pretty bad! And irregardless of how accurate the estimates on global diversity decline might be, some other numbers are well proven and unambiguous: There is a large decline in animal populations across most domains of life. Since 1970, populations show an average decline of 60%. In south America, due to deforestation of rain forests, the decline in biodiversity is already estimated at 94%. The number of insects in Germany has gone down 70-80% in the last 30 years alone. 25% of all plant, fungi, and animal species are endangered. To quote a rather optimistic assessment: If we presume a total of 8 million species, we will loose at least 1 million by the end of the century. And these effects can mostly be traced back to modern agriculture alone. As soon as climate change really hits (very soon), these numbers are expected to increase significantly again. And even if these changes do not necessarily mean a decline in global biodiversity, the effects of declining local biodiversity are the ones we will pay for.

So the UN agreement from 2010 didn’t turn out well – and by now, I doubt that the Kunming declaration from this year will cause any large-scale systemic change. For me, reading about these events evokes two opposing feelings. First, sadness and helplessness. That we, as a society, are responsible for this undesirable change. That I, as an individual, am responsible for this horrible change. And second, relief. At least five times life has recovered from the most harsh conditions imaginable. And it probably will continue to do so until the heat death of the universe. It’s unclear though whether the species Homo sapiens will survive this next great extinction; by several scientists, this threat is estimated to be even more dangerous than climate change.

Yesterday, the winners of the European Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2021 were announced. Check them out here. Stunning pictures all around! The winning picture of this year also entails a grave background story about our influence on precious nature.

Rock

Rock

As climbers and boulderers we come into contact with rock; a lot. Probably more than most people (except geologists). This comes with a certain appreciation for different types of rock. Around our region alone we have a combination of granite, limestone, sandstone, and basalt. The granite is rough and sharp – during summer nearly impossible to climb without destroying your skin. The limestone is smooth and slick, sometimes with nasty and small finger pockets. In comparison to Fontainebleau, most of our sandstone is fragile and crumbly, however, it had always a certain charm on me with its intricate structures and fascinating shapes.

Thus, a boulder can be aesthetically pleasing, especially if a clearly defined line from bottom to top is visible that begs to be climbed. It can inspire, motivate me to push harder than before. I guess everyone who had the pleasure to wander through the woods of Fontainebleau can empathize. But seldom, I had the same appreciation for the rock of mountains when hiking as I have for rock while bouldering. The dolomites thought me differently.

The masses are not here yet. Silent nature with the occasional gurgling of distant water: Calming. Few brown bears roaming the mountains: Concerning. Light is absent, stars occupy the dark canvas. Heavy breath, swampy steps, a steep ascent, a large plain to cross, another steep ascent. Never ending sedimentary rocks. Some ancient coral reefs, reaching into vast sky. Distant light. And finally: the mountains shoulder. Structures everywhere, patterns every. This rock is different. First views towards west. Rolling alpine meadows, interrupted by jagged peaks reaching high, layer by layer, color by color. Rocks on fire.

The Cunturines peak as seen from Lavarela after several hours of steep hiking. The colors are no exaggeration; the east side of every peak was on fire when the first sun rays hit.

We only stayed for two and a half days, most of which was characterized by heavy rain storms. But we used all the moments in between to explore the Fanes-Sennes-Prags national park. And I am confident when I say: I have never seen mountains as beautiful as these. Again, I started in the very early morning hours in hope to reach one of the closest peaks, Lavarela. But this time I underestimated the pure scale of this monumental landscape and could not quite reach the summit after 3.5 hours of hiking. It didn’t affect the view with a large panorama towards west. I guess this was and will be my nature highlight of 2021.

The Mountains are Calling

The Mountains are Calling

The night is young, but the warmth of the last day has already faded. The cold creeps beneath my jacket. It’s 1:30 a.m., the goal in mind is Hochiss: the highest mountain of the Rofan mountain range at 2299 meters height above sea level. Thus, 1359 meters in altitude to go. Lone clouds are scattered across the sky and the moon peaks cautiously behind to throw dark shadows. During the first 20 minutes I pass the small village Maurach; a single car turns up the music as it passes. Then, I leave the streets and houses, and with them the dim lighting of civilization that seems to be present everywhere. I need a brief stop to retrieve the headtorch deep within my backpack; it hasn’t been used for a long time. After only 30 meters I need to change the batteries – and then the mountains begin, then I walk.

The headtorch bounces around in the dark forest, as do my thoughts in my head, mind and legs wander around together: Have I packed everything? Will I arrive in time for sunrise? Will I find the correct way? What will we eat tonight? How does the story of my current novel turn out? How fast are raindrops when falling from the sky? How good is the vision of cows at night? Will my knee hurt again?

All senses are sharpened, every noise of the forest seems loud and intense; but in comparison to the days, humans and nature are mostly sleeping. The path is steep and gets even steeper with every step. The stone I want to step on quickly jumps out of the way. Startled, I watch the toad disappear in the wet grass and everything goes back to silence.

From time to time I look into nature, and sometimes it looks back: small dots in the dark, reflecting the light, belonging to hidden bodies: Is it a sheep? A bear? An ibex? Sometimes their movement gives it away, sometimes they stay anonymous. The rabbit is pretty obvious though as it hops across the meadow, as are the cows with their bells that cling revealingly. Walking and thinking goes together, especially when alone. Thoughts come and go, as the surrounding landscape, from forest to meadow to rocky paths. Sometimes thoughts are easy and without any obstructions, but suddenly a steep and slippery slope awaits around the next corner.

I am fast, faster than anticipated at least. Another more difficult section waits below the summit; especially with limited light. Already at 4:10 a.m. I approach the last ridge towards the lone cross on the peak. Darkness makes it difficult to guess the distance but it doesn’t look too far. And indeed, 5 minutes later I am there: On top of the world – not exactly, but at least on top of the Rofan mountains, the Hochiss. I shut off the headtorch and look around at this miraculous scene illuminated by moon and stars: It’s simply breathtaking. 360 degrees of stunning views. Most haze got washed away by the severe rain falls the day before. A clear summer morning with crisp air. No other person in sight. Other peaks stretch below in every direction. The east-facing walls are already glowing in warm light.

Sweat and wind are never a welcome combination, especially when it’s also freezing cold. I try to dry my clothes from the sweat and put layers on layers on layers to stay warm. Gloves in July; later that day people will be amused by the thick jacket at my backpack. But later that day, the sun will also burn down on the innocent hikers and I will get a sunburn because I didn’t consider sunscreen when I started in the middle of the night.

Back to now: Already 90 minutes before sunrise it’s clear where the spectacle will occur: In the east, the very edge of the sky has started to shift towards a pale yellow. With every minute it conquers the sky and gets more intense. We follow our 360 degree view clockwise and see the huge mountains in the distant that belong to Berchtesgaden. The tones are shifting more towards a fiery orange, magenta, and lavender purple.

Towards south, Zillertal and Inntal are covered in a sea of thick and low clouds; just to the right of Inntal, the large mountains of the Karwendel are hiding in dark blues. In front of this spectacle, I can see all the way back to my starting point, the path winding below, towards the muted lights of Maurach.

It turns out that being early is better than being late. The time flies and I nearly miss the moment I came for. Secretly, the sun is already looming behind a far mountain. I have to change lenses and all settings in order to take a picture, but it’s already too late to properly prepare it. I did it no favor in banning it on canvas with the structure of the clouds across the valleys til the mountains at the horizon. The sun also seems as big as I have never seen it, as it covers the tip of a single mountain in the distance.

The light stays magical for another 15 minutes, but then, the miracle is over. After 5.5 hours, the second part of the day starts: Hiking across several other peaks to the summit Rofanspitze to meet up with Mädchen Klitzeklein. In the other direction, this can be done as a long via ferrata over five peaks; on my route, I am doing two of the peaks (Hochiss and Spieljoch) and go around two other ones (Rosskopf and Seekarlspitze).

On the way back I am first meeting some of the mysterious nightly lurkers. This time, they aren’t scary at all, skipping around the rocky hillsides like its a 5+ route. At 7:30 a.m. I also meet the first person who does his regular morning walk from his private cabin towards the peak. He is surprised to have oncoming traffic at this time.

After another two hours of fast hiking, my power is abandoning my body. Also, concentration is dwindling away – as is probably yours after this unusually long post. My day ended, comfortably, with the cableway back down and a lot of food and early sleep. So I’ll leave you, as usual, with some final photos.

Photo Post: P1

Photo Post: P1

Last weekend we walked a hiking trail around the mountain Hoher Meißner. Unfortunately, the only time the alarm clock wakes me up lately is on weekends. The sun rose at 4:30 a.m., so in order to have good light, one needs to be up on time. While we were early, the sun already was high above the horizon when we started hiking. Nevertheless, the cold air and wet grasses made it feel like morning. The landscape was wonderful, but difficult to photograph during plain sunlight; thus the abundant insects had to serve as objects, including additional species of the soldier beetle, ladybugs, and bees.