DoF 4: Summer Mornings

DoF 4: Summer Mornings

Observations between 4:30 a.m. and 6:30 a.m.:

  • Muted snoring from neighboring rooms
  • Peaceful village in the valley
  • Empty halls and silent corridors of concrete and wood
  • Wet dew, grazing deer blend into surroundings
  • Dimly lit forest paths
  • A lone tower on a hill, a last exhausting climb, 8 levels
  • Hills divided by lakes of fog and vast planes stretching behind
  • First church bells chime
The early bird…

Maze

Maze

The sun sets with golden rays.
Thoughts creep in, are here to graze
the mind. With rising haze,
expands, obscures, distorts, delays.
What was, what is, appraise the days
to come: never ceases to amaze
in a multitude of ways.
And I ponder here and phrase
lose myself, the world ablaze,
deep within my inner maze.

Photo Post: Printing

Photo Post: Printing

When we are not away on weekends I mainly do two things: Writing blog posts or printing photos (however, this weekend we also prepared our van for the upcoming holiday!). By now, I have stashed quite a few prints and I need to figure out what to do with them; I think we still have plenty of free space on our walls (my significant other does not agree…), but it also takes time and money to properly frame the prints. So far, I have created mainly A6 postcards on matte paper, A5 prints on semi-gloss paper, A4 matte prints with white margins, and occasionally a large A3+, all on fine art Hahnemühle-paper. I also tried some lower quality paper, but have to agree with their slogan: ‘Paper makes the difference’, visually as well as haptically it’s outstanding. While in the beginning I needed several tries for the right settings, now I can get (most) prints as I want them from the get-go. Additionally, I slowly figured out which pictures do work as print in the first place, and which pictures just do not translate to paper. And as mentioned earlier: The printing also changed my progress of photographing itself, regarding the settings, lighting, composition, and subjects. The first charge of cartridges is empty and already replaced for the next prints to come.

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.

Cantharis fusca & Triticum aestivum

Cantharis fusca & Triticum aestivum

Exactly a month ago, in my post on botanical gardens, I made the promise to inform myself (and you) about one combination of plant & insect I am coming across. Thus, I think it is time to fulfill this promise even though I did not manage to visit the botanical garden in the mean time.

We stumbled across many individuals of this beetle species already on our hike on P23. However, we had no idea what kind of species it exactly is:

Last Friday, I finally managed to go outside again and did some macro photography. And, again, I saw multiple of these bugs in the grasses, weeds, and fields. It also felt like the first genuine summer evening: Warm air coated the landscape, undulating fields of barley stretched in golden rays, the city vanished behind endless rows of trees, and its inhabitants escaped the asphalt towards the deep blue bathing lake.

And I stood in the fields and waited. Waited for this bug, waited that it flies in front of my lens, and that I don’t miss to press the shutter. And then it came:

It is (presumably) a Cantharis fusca, a species within the family of Cantharidae, in English also known as soldier beetle or leatherwings. The last name refers to its soft body; this is also why it is called ‘Weichkäfer‘ in German. There are many different sister species and often they only differ by minuscule details, at least to the untrained eye. In Germany alone, there are 86 different described species; worldwide more than 4500 – for a single family of beetles! The diversity and complexity that nature creates can be mind-boggling. They are mostly colored red, black, or golden. A wonderful visual overview is given here.

The plant it was landing on seemed rather uninteresting; most of all because it is so common on the fields in our area. At least, that’s what I thought at first:

It’s simple wheat – isn’t it? By now, I am not even sure anymore. Wheat is one of the most cultivated crops and it is an important source of food in uncountably many countries. The first record of wheat seems to be around 9600 years BC. This means, today we are 2000(!) years closer to Abraham, the patriarch of several religions, than Abraham was to the first use of wheat. I find it difficult to comprehend such time scales. However, this also means that there are countless different cultivated wheat species by now, including Common wheat, Spelt (‘Dinkel’), Durum, Emmer, Einkorn (the wild form), and many many more. Genetically speaking, a large difference between these species is the number of copies of each chromosome they have in their cells. While humans and many animals are diploid (they have two copies), it’s rather common in plants to have even more than two copies of each chromosome – this is referred to as polyploidy. (It also makes our life more difficult when dealing with their DNA sequences; but more on that at a different time.) The wild form of wheat is also diploid, but the other species are mostly tetra- or hexaploid. I still think that what I photographed is the most common form Triticum aestivum, but there are several more detailed distinctions to be made within this species.

Also, all information here is pure speculation from dubious internet research, also see this post on information.

DoF 1: Van Weekends

DoF 1: Van Weekends

Packing List:

  • Time
  • A direction
  • Calmness
  • Sleeping bags
  • Hot tea
  • Chocolate spread
  • Porcino ravioli
  • Book: Migrations
  • Camera body, lenses, tripod, filters
  • Solarlight
  • And Ernie (our van)
And these are the sounds at 5:30 a.m. in the middle of nowhere.

More info on this trip here (as well as earlier posts).

Degrees of Freedom (DoF)

Degrees of Freedom (DoF)

Freedom – the ability to live to ones own choices; the independence from society and imposed rules; the empty space between the obligations; the chance to chase opportunities as one desires; the brief feelings of lightheartedness; the vast sky above.

Freedom – limited by demanding work; restricted by self-imposed responsibilities; impaired by a global pandemic; overshadowed by worrying thoughts bound to circles; forgotten and lost in everyday repetition; the time constraint: one single life time.

Freedom – an evening walk in the sun; the 12th cookie in a row; an overnight trip with a van; getting up at 5 a.m. for sunrise; having shelter, food, time and money for varying hobbies; friends to rely on and partners to trust.

Freedom is many-faceted. This is the start of a mini series of different degrees of freedom I am lucky to have. Which degrees of freedom do you have?

Already my last post had dramatic skies – we have a particular rainy May this year with up to 200% the rain as usual. However, the deep layers of the soil are still very dry from the last years. Anyways, for photography it gives interesting structures in the sky with strong contrasts in the landscape around our home town.

Ray of Hope in a Landscape of Stimuli

Ray of Hope in a Landscape of Stimuli

I am stuck on a learning plateau and it’s exhausting: The current learning stimulus is not sufficient enough to induce further synaptic changes.

No matter which new skill is being learnt, it’s common to hit one or several plateaus throughout practice – and it’s also common to get discouraged by the vanishing progress with reduced or no visible improvement. But when I am starting something, I want to do it good. It sometimes feels like a curse: I will go every extra mile needed to achieve what I want to. And this has cost me not only a lot of time with missed days of relaxation and fun, but probably also some friendships, connections with people, and diverse experiences throughout life that I missed out on.

I juggled for many years, but getting beyond five balls just never really happened. Hours and hours, weeks and weeks, several years, I spent throwing stuff in the air, just to catch it one more time. While there was a lot to enjoy, it also involved many hours, alone, of focused practice to reach the next level. I also played piano for over ten years; but there, I got stuck as well. The problem was that I did not put in the required effort, even though the conditions were excellent. I learned some great techniques on the way from my last piano teacher on how to achieve continuous progress; however, I did not implement them until later in another hobby: climbing.

I am climbing now for eight years and it is the hobby where I have the most direct experience with plateaus. My piano teacher always knew the most important part and tried to explain it to me so that I can act accordingly: To overcome plateaus, the most important thing is to adapt the stimulus to your progress and vary it over time. This involves active analysis of your efforts and progress, knowledge and creativity for planning your next steps, and willpower and stamina to adhere to your plans. I have encountered many people in bouldering who wonder why they do not progress any more “even though they train as much as they did in the beginning when they progressed quickly”. But that’s the point: You cannot do the same training and expect it to work all the time! Body and mind will adapt and, thus, your training has to adapt as well. This doesn’t always mean you need to train more or harder, but often it means you need to change your training altogether.

And then, there is my beloved new hobby: Photography. Lately, I am also feeling kind of stuck. I am not satisfied with the results; as always, I want more. However, I did not implement the lessons I learned in climbing so far: I not only need to put in more precious time, but I also need new stimuli. I am eager for our next holidays, but I should also try street photography, portraits, city scapes, anything else from nature.

But maybe even more important: I think I have to learn how to set lower goals for myself. I have to learn how to be happy with the journey, even if it’s is slow, instead of focusing too much on the results. I have to stop moving my goal posts before I even reach them.

A Plea for Empathy

A Plea for Empathy

This read is meant genuine and was written with honest intention. Please take your time to read it properly and don’t read it on the side when you have no time.

People can be spiteful and violent, people can be nasty and devious: It’s the warlord who terrorizes an ethnic group, the president who declares war and is backed by the country, the company that fosters child labour without consequences. In our privileged daily life we are experiencing mostly the little misconducts of fellow humans: The person who jumps the queue when shopping groceries, the reckless car driver who doesn’t care about your bike, the ignorant dog walker that neglects his duty to use a leash, or the friend who talks ill behind your back.

This world can be a depressing one: It seems that everybody is in it for themself, no one cares about the others, and maximizing ones own profit is the goal. Suffering from this are the poor and the lonely ones, nature and the planet, minorities and discriminated, the polite and modest ones. And what else is left than to surrender to the overwhelming forces of negativity? What else is left than to join the circle of hatred, fear, and egoism?


Empathy.


Let me convince you that this is a better way. Don’t join the others, better bridge the gap between the others and you, because: we are all in it together. It’s not only you who had a bad day. It’s not only you who feels tired and offended by the doings of others. It’s not necessarily you who is in the right. And also, sometimes, it’s not important who is in the right to begin with. What is important is empathy. Be kind. See the good in other people. Embrace differences and allow for discrepancy. Engage in discussion, but not to win, but to understand the validity of other opinions. Retrace their line of thought; carry it on with better arguments. Only then you can get their side. And don’t make fun of the ignorant or uninformed. Instead, be kind and teach. Share your knowledge, humbly, and offer your wisdom that you were lucky enough to absorb in your life. It’s easy to judge, but most often it’s not your place to judge. Instead, support them in resolving their own struggles. Have compassion; show compassion. Help the weak and poor, help your friends, help the people you dislike. Don’t do it to feel better; do it honestly and because it improves someones life. Do it because you want to. Demonstrate courage. Don’t be the one who sees the wronging and summons a smart phone for the fleeting amusement of strangers on the internet. Don’t be the one who points at others when it’s your turn. Step in and act according to your beliefs. Be courteous. To the queue-jumping shopper, to the leash-less dog-walker, and to the reckless driver. Not because they are right, but because it’s the right thing. And because it makes the world a better place.


This doesn’t mean you should accept the wronging of others, nor does it mean you should welcome the brashness that someone displays. But it means you should question every bad thought you have about someone before jumping to conclusions, or worse, actions. And this won’t be easy. It will be difficult, exhausting, and demanding. And I get it: Your own day was difficult and you are tired. But this means it is even more important to practice, day in day out, to make it not your second, but your first thought in every situation: Do I show empathy? Do I judge? Do I know where the other person is coming from? And with enough practice, it will become natural: To be kind and welcoming. To be compassionate and courageous. To be courteous when the opposite isn’t. And to be it out of belief that it brings something good to this world and not to feel superior. And sometimes it won’t help, sometimes it will come to a tough point where empathy does not resolve. Then, stand up for justice and defend your beliefs. But always critically question your actions. And I know, this post reads like an idealistic vision. But I don’t think it is. And even if it were, what is there to loose in not trying? Go for it – to make this world a better place.

This post was closely related to my earlier posts on labels and shall remind myself to practice: Empathy, compassion, and kindness.

Also: My camera body is not weather resistant. But I received a rain cover as a birthday gift! That’s why there are so many snails on the pictures – I went out during rain for the first time and its so much fun: No people, and so many droplets everywhere on macro photos.