Record temperature highs all around, forest fires all over Europe, and an advancing drought that threatens food and energy production – only a small glimpse of what will come.
So, instead of exposing ourselves to the constant stream of news, we enjoyed some of the beautiful nature nearby by hiking the P25 trail near Kleinalmerode. It’s one of the newest premium trails in Hesse and the closest one to our home. Normally, Kleinalmerode is known for its cherry blossom in late spring; but during this time of year we strolled through barley fields, found lots of insects scaling cornflowers, and observed bumblebees exploring the landscape of flowers. It also revived my passion for macro-photography and hopefully I’ll manage to use some more of these long Summer days to pursue photography.
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 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.
Staying at home is easy; but getting up and doing something – especially these days – requires effort. Excitement helps in doing so. And what is more exciting than spring and the flight of the first wild bees? So I was heading up to one of the botanical gardens to chase some pictures. Not only for the anticipated result itself, bur more so for some distraction from the sorrow. This time around the wait was fruitless. Until: A lonely bumblebee came around. The only one, sluggishly exploring the flowers, interrupted by long rests in the sun light. Excitement faded, work called, and the suffering continued.
Spring, flowers, sun. Finally some motivation to go outside again and search for the most beautiful early bloomers. This year, I could profit from all the scouting I did last year: Besides the botanical gardens and large patches right in front of the town hall, I now know about several other spots: Off the beaten track at the river, hidden deep within in a small forest, and at the outskirts of the city. All of these locations have on thing in common: They are calm, quiet, and you have them for yourself. And, as always, there is lots to learn every time I go outside. The main insight this year so far is quite straight-forward: isolate the subject and have clear edges of the frame. The subject should emerge from within the frame, not from outside. But you can judge for yourself which ones you find most intriguing:
Who doesn’t like Top Ten lists? Admittedly, I couldn’t resist and here is a list of mine, however, it doesn’t contain ten elements. Instead, I have searched the archives for my favorite pictures from the last 12 month – because today it’s this blogs first birthday.
Two geese, Hometown.
Morning mist & our local pond: A perfect match.
A small pine, Harz.
The mystical Harz mountains. One of my early pictures and, until today, probably the best conditions I have ever had in Harz.
Bee in action, Hometown.
Looking forward to the time of the year when nature is coming alive again.
Toad on migration, Harz.
Also in the Harz mountains, in one of the most remote regions. I was quite excited when we saw a single toad on our hike. An hour later there were so many that it became difficult not to step onto one.
One of the last exercises in an introductory course to programming I teach is to implement a straight-forward approach for modeling population growth over discrete time steps with a logistic growth function: The population x of a species at time t+1 is determined as x(t+1) = r * x(t) * (1-x(t)) where x(t) is the population at time t, and r is a fixed reproduction parameter. The choice of r influences the long term behaviour of the resulting time series – thus, the growth of the species population; for example, for r < 1, the series tends towards zero – the species goes extinct. However, for r > 3 the series oscillates – it exhibits a periodic behaviour (for some values of r the series even becomes seemingly random without a fixed period, see e.g. here). The length of the period depends upon r, but it never reaches an equilibrium; like a pendulum, swinging around its only stable position in the middle. Like life pulsating between non-steady positions, but never reaching a balanced state.
Oscillations are present constantly. The term (1-x(t)) models the environmental restrictions that prohibit unlimited growth. Restrictions which prevent us to come to a rest. The fantasy of a steady state is a futile one. There are times where a stable position seems in reach; until external restraints pull us back into another direction. At the moment, it’s the direction of work; and hence, photography and blog posts are somewhat neglected. Winter already fades again, making way for summer. Left are only some solitary pictures of oscillating camera movements and colorless nature.
Peace is comfortable. Conflicts only appear in the newspapers – neither in our streets, nor in our reality. But out there is war. And with every day we keep ignoring the climate crisis it comes closer. Climate refugees knock on our doors right now – and there will be more. And even though the conflicts haven’t even reached us yet, I am not fighting for what I believe: Basic human rights. The right to use our only chance on life. A chance that we could provide rather easily right now. Instead, I repeatedly choose comfort over action. Security over uncertainty. Every life lost in the Mediterranean, at the British Channel, at the Polish border, is lost forever. And even worse: the tide may turn. When it’s not a handful, but millions who seek shelter, water, food. Will there be a time where we have to defend what we have? Where we have to flee ourselves? So, sometimes, I engage the thought: Fight, flight, freeze? What is it worth fighting for? Would I fight? And why not now?
This topic deserves a longer post, I guess. But there is little time (another excuse to not fight right now…). Anyway, I like this selection of photos. Although they are from two different walks at two different lakes around here, they fit together: The combination of light and dark, the muted colors, the mood they reflect – nature during these early winter days. White and black, peace and war.
Being here, being caught, having fought the fleeting thought.
Being here, we fear but strive, shed a tear within this life.
And the universe presents: a random sequence of events.
Samples from a multitude; is the distribution skewed?
In a hectic world where time is measured exactly and partitioned carefully, boredom has become uncommon. Days are planned precisely, work is scheduled tightly, and everyone is his own Scrum master in the evening. Not many hobbies require as much patience as photography: Visiting the same locations over and over, waiting for the right moments repeatedly, or: getting that one picture of a mid-air dragonfly.