• Travel

    Wild Atlantic Coast

    The flight to Ireland from Germany is relatively short. On arrival, you feel as if you’ve crossed a bridge: you’re not far from the start of your journey and yet you’ve arrived somewhere else.

    Samuel Beckett Bridge, Dublin, crossing Liffey © Julian Köpke

    People have passed through garden gates in the course of their lives, but on the Irish island they can give the impression of entering an enchanted world. Not many people visit the gardens that are offered to visitors. This may also be due to the tight schedule of guided tours.

    I walked through the gate and entered a magical forest. I soon came across a shy deer, which took off in feathery leaps as I emerged. © Julian Köpke

    We were travelling on a relaxed schedule, with a reasonable vehicle that was suitable for the terrain and our equipment. Exploratory drives and hikes alternated over the course of the day.

    The trees often showed a tendency to be overgrown, which is probably reinforced in the German observer by the fact that we have more industrial forests in our country, with straight trees, rarely with branches. In Ireland, there are families who have dedicated themselves to maintaining their park, which virtually excludes straight-grown trees.

    Derreen Garden © Julian Köpke

    Several times we came across walled gardens that had been developed into attractions. In addition to greenhouses, there were continental elements laid out with almost baroque geometry next to sections of park that appeared almost random.

    Leaving walled garden of Kylemore Abbey © Julian Köpke

    The coast in the south-west has the surprise of looking like a lakeshore for newcomers, even though the Atlantic and its tides wash around the hotel every day. There are plenty of rocks to see, lobster traps at low tide when you go for a walk. And rapidly rising water at high tide.

    Wild Atlantic Coast at Parknasilla, Kerry, Ireland © Julian Köpke

    The island’s coasts are varied, often rocky. At Kinard Beach, the sea is coloured red by the rocks that have been eroded there over millions of years. When my friend Harold and I arrived at this place, we didn’t know what to expect. There was a mixture of serenity from the sea and the erratic dynamics of the crashing waves, which turned red near the rocks due to the force of erosion.

    Rough and calm sea at Kinard Beach, Kerry, Ireland. Red rocks colour the water red. © Julian Köpke

    High cliffs play a role, but they have been converted into tourist attractions, with opening hours, entrance fees and security fences. These can make it difficult for photographers to find a good time and a good location to take pictures.

    Cliffs of Moher and seastack, Ireland © Julian Köpke

    Why is the island green? Because it rains a lot. Golden rule for visitors: if you don’t like the weather: wait 5 minutes. That’s almost sufficient.

    Seastacks at Dunquin Pier, Dingle peninsula, Ireland © Julian Köpke

    More pictures of Ireland in my Flickr album.

  • Travel

    Minimalism in landscape photography

    I hadn’t realised that I had taken photographs that had minimalist qualities until I came across a challenge at Landscape Photography Magazine. While searching for motifs, I came across a surprising number of shots, three of which I submitted.

    Geographically, we are for the first photography on the so-called elbow of the North Frisian island of Sylt. The beach section in this photo shows the northernmost part of Germany. You can see the sandy south coast of the Danish island of Romo above the centre of the picture. The border between the Kingdom of Denmark and the Federal Republic of Germany runs somewhere in the middle of the sea between Sylt and Rømø.

    The North Sea can be very choppy. In the photo, you can see a few waves in this section of the sea, which connects the open sea with the tidal flat side that lies between the islands and the mainland. The cloudy sky also has little structure. Slightly sloping is the sandy beach, with a few footprints on it.

    In earlier times, groynes made of stone, wood or iron were built on Sylt to fortify the beaches or to reclaim the land. Nowadays, a sandy beach on Sylt is fortified by means of sand washes. The wooden groynes sometimes stick out of the water like rotten teeth. The iron groynes are rusting and have gaps and holes.

    In this photo, a rusty groyne is a welcome break in the vast expanse of sea, clouds and beach. I took the picture with my Nikon D810 A at ISO 200, f8 and 1/350s with a focal length of 52mm.

    Two coast lines: Denmark and Sylt © Julian Köpke

    Iceland is a paradise for minimalist photography. In many places, you hardly have the opportunity to let the landscape have a contemplative effect on you. Because you are rarely alone, however, the lighthouse of Raudinupur in the northeast of the island can only be reached on foot, over dirt roads and sheep pastures, always accompanied by wind.

    The change of pace provided by a hike after long stretches by car did us good. An approaching fog bank completely covered the sea, and the way back would be less sunny. It was very bright on our rock; the exposure took only 1/2000s at ISO 800 with an aperture f/11. Without a tripod, I took the shot so that I could always change my perspective quickly.

    In no time, the lighthouse disappeared in the fog after I had taken the photo. Minimalism can be that simple: a sheep, a lighthouse and a looming fog bank.

    Lighthouse Raudinupur © Julian Köpke

    I took the last picture of this blog entry in 2012 on Mauna Kea at an altitude of 4000 metres. Two weeks earlier, the moon had given us a beautiful solar eclipse in Arizona. The next morning, a transit of Venus was due to begin, for which we had travelled to Hawai’i.
    A transit of the planet Venus that can be observed from Earth occurs about 4 times in 243 years due to the inclination of the planets‘ orbits to each other. The last two transits were in 2004 and 2012, and the next one will take place in 105 years.
    We can enjoy a full moon every month – weather permitting. Below the moon you can see the growing shadow of Mauna Kea in the evening sky.

    Full Moon on Mauna Kea © Julian Köpke
  • Architecture,  Travel,  Venice

    Punta della Dogana

    At the beginning of the 19th century, William Turner spent a long time in Venice. I always imagine how he had a gondolier take him out into the lagoon to paint his watercolours in the setting sun’s light.

    Nowadays, the lagoon’s islands can be reached by vaporettos, an essential part of local public transport. But you don’t necessarily want to see them in a photo in the blue hour.

    This is not the only reason why I decided to take a long exposure shot after sunset on the quay wall of the Santa Maria della Salute church. But also to transform the surface of the water into a colourful surface because the movement of the waves always makes the viewer’s gaze wander back and forth restlessly.

    Doge Nicolo Contarini vowed to build the church of Santa Maria della Salute after a plague epidemic in 1630 killed a third of the city’s population. It was inaugurated in 1687, 6 years after his death, and is an attraction of the cityscape.

    The lighter blue of the lagoon literally illuminates the deep blue of the cloudy evening sky. The white walls of the church complex still retain some warmth

    Blue hour at Santa Maria della Salute © Julian Köpke

    I took the picture with 15s, f/16 and ISO 31 as well as an ND filter. This text was created by me as part of the Blue Hour Assignment and edited by Landscape Photography Magazine, where you can find some of my pictures. 

    Punta della Dogana is at the end of the quay, if you walk to the left of the columns to the end of the Dorsoduro. It is easier to recognise the character of a point or a pinnacle from San Marco. It is where many people gather.

    Santa Maria della Salute with haze © Julian Köpke
  • Food

    Strawberry pareidolia

    This strawberry reminds me of a hand © Julian Köpke

    I immediately thought this ripe strawberry with its intense colour, which looks like a hand or a baby’s foot, was suitable for being photographed against a dark background. All other tasks were quickly cancelled.

    With my IQ4 back on the Phase One, the size of the image exceeds the size of the fruit, so the image fits the definition of a macro. It quickly became clear that by adding small details, the message of the image could be influenced.

    At first I thought of a first date for which someone would like to present a bouquet of flowers and scoured our garden for small blossoms. I found the smallest specimens with the light blue forget-me-nots right outside the front door.

    Flowers in the studio remain living creatures that constantly reorient themselves in the changing light. The following picture is taken at ISO 800 in 30 seconds. The attempt to photograph at ISO 50 with 8 minutes failed due to the movement of a part of the forget-me-not.

    Forget-me-not and strawberry © Julian Köpke

    To express creativity through a hand, the idea of a painter with brushes in his hand seemed suitable to me. The brushes had to be small, of course. Very small. Fortunately, I found two suitable ones in my wife’s make-up utensils. The metallic finish of the brush hairs created a reflection of the red strawberry in the handle of the brushes.

    The painter's hand © Julian Köpke

    It takes a lot of luck to find a four-leaf clover. They are very popular as a sign of good luck. My wife is a master at finding them. So much luck makes the hand invisible.

    Four-leaf clover and strawberry © Julian Köpke

    In any case, anyone who encounters a real dinosaur needs luck. But the dinosaur is much bigger than the sensor, so it’s no longer a macro shot.

    T-Rex eyeballs strawberry © Julian Köpke

    For me, pareidolia is a source of inspiration or creativity when an image won’t let go of me and I keep searching for an answer or an understanding. With these sweet strawberries, there was a physical pleasure at the end.

    Sweet hedgehog © Julian Köpke
    Tasty elephant © Julian Köpke
  • Architecture,  Travel

    Rialto bridge

    The Rialto Bridge, as we know it today, is made of white stone and was built between 1588 and 1591 and opened to traffic on 20 March 1591. It connects the Sestiere San Marco with the Sestiere San Polo, which are separated by the Grand Canal.

    The term „Rialto“ is probably the short form of Rivo Alto („high bank“) in Venetian dialect. There have been wooden bridges at this location since 960, with an uncertainty of 59 years. The earliest was called Ponte della Moneta, certainly a reference to the local market that has always existed and has survived to this day („moneta“ is Italian for „coin“).

    Staircase Rialto bridge © Julian Köpke
    Rialto bridge before dawn © Julian Köpke

    The early wooden bridges were repeatedly burnt down or collapsed due to overloading and therefore required constant renovation. Beside, the Rialto Bridge was the only footpath connecting San Marco and San Polo until the Ponte dell’Accademia was built in 1854.

    Night ends at Rialto bridge © Julian Köpke
    Ponte di Rialto with Acqua Alta © Julian Köpke

    In the early morning, when photographers are finishing their shots, a stream of pedestrians swells up, consisting of locals and first tourists. Somewhere, work is waiting for these Venetians you wouldn’t have expected.

    At the Rialto Bridge on the way to work © Julian Köpke
    At the Rialto Bridge on the way to work © Julian Köpke

    See more images in my Flickr album.

  • Landscape,  Travel

    Winter in Elmau Valley

    It’s been a long time since we’ve seen so much snow as in this small Alpine valley on the border with Austria: Elmau. A wonderful area in all seasons, in winter with plenty of peace and quiet and no tourist overload. Certainly not a destination for hardcore winter sports enthusiasts.

    Farewell to the Elmau Valley © Julian Köpke

    For us, it was perfect for a quiet time with walks in the countryside, swimming in wonderful outdoor pools, reading or taking photos. Few motifs are immediately apparent to the photographer. Repeated viewing or, better still, „sticking with“ a composition brings about the happiness of a better picture as if by itself.

    Wintery Elmau Castle with some sunshine © Julian Köpke

    The event of the week for me was a 4-day daily photography course for hotel guests, which focused on photographic composition. A topic in which I had been aware of my weaknesses for some time without having improved through reading.
    The central question of the course instructor Micha Pawlitzki was always: what does the picture do to you? This question is aimed at the emotions, which are a always good guide.

  • flowers,  Fusion imaging,  Lightbox,  X-Ray

    Transparencies

    HDR photography of flowers with a light box creates the illusion of translucency, which is very attractive in itself. By fusing X-ray light and visible light in flower photography, one expands the photographic possibilities by reproducing the inner structures of the photographed plants or objects. The illusion of translucence is enhanced by the physical transparency of X-ray light. Even photographically non-transparent objects can be given the illusion of transparency by fusing X-ray light and visible light.

    A publication by the dPunkt publishing house in „foto espresso“ gave me the opportunity to present this idea in the May 2023 issue.

    Two lily blossoms © Julian Köpke
  • Egypt,  Travel

    Land on the Nile

    In my mind, Egypt is associated with the friends and acquaintances from this country whom we have known for almost a lifetime. And with pyramids, sculptures, painting and literature, sailboats on the Nile and palm trees in oases. Last but not least, with a rising full moon behind remote settlement houses on the Nile. But one after the other.

    Photographs of the pyramids of Giza like to show them with the desert as their surroundings. They appear to stand free under a clear, steel-blue sky. At the time these monuments were built, there must have been a strictly organised activity for the mummification of corpses and the documentation of their past lives. A lot of people must have worked there permanently, as scribes, painters, sculptors and not least as tomb architects and workers. Today we would call this an industry.

    Pyramids of Gizeh © Julian Köpke

    Modern Cairo is getting closer and closer to the site of the Giza pyramids. The city limits are only a stone’s throw away from the new Egyptian Museum. It is as if this structure is a last warning before the city finally swallows up the pyramids. If you look from the Citadel towards Giza, you almost think the skyscrapers are as tall as the pyramids.

    The first step pyramid was erected between 2720 and 2700 BC by Pharaoh Djoser. As with many other ancient statues, its face was destroyed, probably by Christian fundamentalists who wanted to put an end to the statue’s possibility of having an effect on the population. Photographing these statues is only possible with patience, searching for the best perspective and a moment without visitors in the line of sight. Then you can imagine the grandeur and splendour that these works must have once radiated.

    Statue of Pharao Djoser. Old kingdom, ruling 2720 - 2700 BC. Builder of the first step pyramid. Nose cut off presumably by Christian fundamentalists in ancient times. © Julian Köpke

    The ancient Egyptian museum houses a lot of ancient statues from the old empire. Fortunately, some of these works remained intact due to sand drifts. One can then see the earlier extent of the drifts before the excavations by the boundaries of the fundamentalist destruction.

    The bust of the pharaoh Userkaf made of black stone is not only well preserved. Its presentation in the museum makes it reminiscent of a magician who does not want to be recognised. The bust was found at his sun temple at Abu Ghurab. Userkaf was the last king of the 5th dynasty. His pyramid, now ruined, is located a few hundred meters from the northeast corner of Djoser’s 3rd dynasty step pyramid at Saqqara.

    Bust of Pharao Userkaf found at his sun temple at Abu Ghurab. Userkaf was the last king of the 5th dynasty. His pyramid, now ruined, is located a few hundred meters from the northeast corner of Djoser's 3rd dynasty step pyramid at Saqqara. © Julian Köpke

    From the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt by Pharaoh Mentuhoteb II in the years 2030 to 2021 BC, the pharaohs wore a larger headdress symbolising the two parts of the empire.

    Statue of pharao Mentuhotep II © Julian Köpke

    Less than 200 years later, the pharaohs intensified the cultivation of the Fayyum Oasis for vegetable production by diverting water from the Nile into the area, which was up to 45m below sea level. At that time, a huge lake was created. Although the area has been permanently settled and cultivated for almost 6500 years, sometimes the feeling of a precarious existence of a desert oasis still imposes itself.

    Group of palm trees in Fayoum © Julian Köpke

    There is a relaxing contrast to the oasis when you travel the Nile by boat. Then you are in the middle of the Nile as a lifeline with a green strip on both banks. Apart from numerous cruise ships, barges, sailboats and rowing boats also move on the water.

    Ships on the Nile © Julian Köpke

    As the sun set one evening, the last full moon before the beginning of spring rose in Esna. Four weeks later it would be Easter because of this. The lighting conditions favoured a single exposure shot to get a satisfactory result. At 135mm focal length and f8 with ISO 3200, it took me what felt like a very long 1/30s to take the picture.

    Moonrise at Esna, Egypt © Julian Köpke
  • General,  Heidelberg,  Landscape

    Infinite avenue of trees

    On Sunday we met with friends to walk in the castle gardens of Schwetzingen, especially to the cherry garden of the mosque, because the cherry trees are starting to blossom. Weak intermittent clouds created a diffuse light in the park with warm intermediate tones. The well-designed baroque grounds everywhere show the joy of technical possibilities to expand – or even deceive – the human horizon of experience.

    There is a small section in the park with a trompe l’oueil designed to make infinity tangible. In summer, ivy grows along the tunnel-shaped lattice to create a tube view.

    Trompe l'oeuil at Schwetzingen Palace Garden © Julian Köpke

    When photographing the following avenue of trees at the edge of the mosque, it was of course clear that the perspective should give the impression of a long path. I tried 2 days later to increase this effect by repeating the image in the picture, which can easily be done with digital photography and post-processing. After the second repetition, I think the eye is very well deceived and no longer perceives a real end.

    Compare to the original here.

    Infinite avenue of trees in the Schwetzingen Palace Garden (virtual reality) © Julian Köpke