Intimate Verzasca Valley
Intimate landscape photography is a term I can’t translate literally, although intuitively I think I immediately understand what it’s about. Historically, Eliot Porter (1901-1990) is considered the founder of this style of photography. I came across this style through an article by Charlotte Gibb, whom I had the pleasure of meeting personally in Yosemite Valley in February 2020.
The photographer’s gaze does not seek to capture the whole scenery of a landscape, but is concerned with a closer look at parts of the landscape. The sky is usually not part of the picture in this style and the light dynamics, which are often dramatic due to the sky, are greatly reduced. The tension in the picture is created by the arrangement and relationship of the objects. Reduction and simplicity become important components.
The church of Lavertezzo has become known from many photographs, especially its reflections in the Verzasca between the peculiar rocks. Unfortunately, the main building was completely scaffolded for renovation in November 2022 and not photogenic. I planned the following shot because of the beautiful, sometimes almost flowing rock formations that make the Verzasca appear as if it were lying in a fountain basin. The church tower is somewhat blurred by the movement of the water surface. While processing the shot, the colour selector showed me what a bath of colour had been created by mixing the colours of vertical rocks and horizontal water.
Not very far from the last picture, I had been walking around on the rocks and found this shot. Climbing can be very arduous on the rocks of the Verzasca. The rocks are of course slippery when wet, but even the dry rock does not always give the grip you want or expect. Everywhere you can read the warnings about this problem: 10:21h selfie, 10:38h search action begins. Expressed in typically Swiss terseness. It pays to take your steps carefully.
A large part of the spectrum is present in the photograph. The green of the Verzasca was not as emerald here as it usually is. The rocks in evening blue. A rock in stronger red. Golden shimmers a reflection down from the ridge. I only noticed the sea serpent when I was post-processing.
At a certain point, there was no more water for a composition. The stones there speak to me through their colour and their shape and their relationships to each other.
I could not express it in words. Even weeks later, I can’t express it in a sentence. It is beautiful in any case.
The valley of the Verzasca is famous for its clear water, which makes its way through rocks and takes on a characteristic green colour. Correspondingly, many people are attracted to it. Actually, you’re here for hiking. The Postbus stops at manyplaces and spits out large groups of hikers.
The first day I wanted to try out different locations to see what to expect.
The bridge, named Ponte dei salti, with the two arches is from Roman times and is good for many selfies. With a long-term exposure one can see the arcuate construction with its reflection in the water. And the many visitors who flock on the bridge are miraculously invisible.
Swirling water can be found everywhere, in a natural way picturesque photographs are created.
To my surprise, the sun was seen and felt in the valley for along time. It got really hot. Only in the evening, when the rocks gave off their heat, did it become less agitated.
Diamond Beach (Jökulsárlon)
With a slight disappointment we arrived at the Jökullsárlon for the third time. The weather forecast had promised sunshine and we were already there at 9 o’clock. We were alone at the location, a rare privilege. However, we encountered an almost closed cloud cover, which could not be pushed away by the strong downwind of the glacier. Only on the glacier itself was a remnant of blue sky to be found.
The name Diamond Beach comes from the small pieces of ice that come from broken icebergs that the glacier has calved into the glacier lake Jökulsàrlon. They glitter in the sun like fairy-tale diamonds – when the sun is shining.
Using frame averaging, I was able to get long-term recordings without using a neutral density filter. I left this one in the car. In 8 seconds, with around 45 pictures that are averaged, I achieved vivid results in landscape photography.
A day at Vestrahorn
The furthest eastern destination of our trip was the Vestrahorn. With a private beach of black sand, this place is interesting at low tidal ranges because of its reflections. The nice lady at the entrance gave us a ticket for morning and evening. So we came there in the morning and in the evening hours.
The blue colour of the reflections deceives the fact that a warm morning sun illuminated the beach. My friend Detlef is almost lost in the vastness of the beach.
Sometimes I find it difficult to make panoramic shots because I can’t plan the picture in my head. Every panorama always contains a small surprise. On the Vestrahorn I made this panorama with reflections from 2 shots with identical parameters.
The German philosopher Karl Jaspers described in his memoirs the boy’s experiences with the sea. The sea, he noted, is a symbol of philosophy, because it makes infinity present to us.
Is a photo on the beach enough to bring us closer to the infinity of thought? Maybe at that moment, I think, when we stop thinking focused when we look at the photo.
Different motifs are able to change our inner view. They don’t have to be pictures of the sea. But with these, our feeling is often more evident.
Technically I did three longtime exposure of 15s, which is a sort of time fusion. I used a 6EV Lee filter to photograph these three stones at the beach short after sunrise. You can see the colourful reflections of the morning sky in the sea and on the damp beach.
Darkroom studio II (glasses)
My darkroom studio is convenient for flower photography and high contrast, especially white. Today I tried out glasses with reflections and a nearly complete homogenous white vase. The only variations are reflections imposed on it from little light leaks of my improvised studio.
A photograph of a glass in a more documentary style is the following. The representation of the glass cutting is realistic. The stem out of the focal plane is appropriate for the focus of the photograph.
The combination of black and green thrilled me in the composition with traditional wine glasses for regional white wine. Unexpectedly, I got some copper allusions with some warmth in the transparent glass.
A more cool representation is the following composition with more glasses, including a tasting glass for Whisky. Is it the morning after a roaring party ? No leftovers can be seen so far …
A more detailed view ist the following photograph, which is more on the warm side. The glasses get a copper-like appearance.
Everyone has an idea about infinity. Infinity always confronts us with the question of wether we can see or recognize it at all. Modern mathematics knows that infinite series of numbers may well have a finite limit. The ancient greeks had realized that Achilles will always outrun a tortoise, but they couldn’t prove it. For the solution remained hidden.
Photographing a single, well reflecting steel sphere I got on the surface pointing to my macro lens a distorted image of the surrounding. One can see the tree in our garden, the lens and the tripod of my equipment, even the photographer’s legs are visible. That’s why I think it’s sort of a selfie.
Immediately, I thought of my friend Harold, who had worked a lot on photographing water drops and who had made a book about the photography of water drops. In the juxtaposition of several water drops the environment is displayed several times side by side in the drops.
Well, this happens as well, if you place two well reflecting steel balls side by side. So far, there is nothing unexpected.
On closer inspection, the opposite sides of the spheres show further images of the surroundings slightly outside the original image, well visible on the tree. These images of the tree become smaller and smaller lying within the circular image of the first reflection.
An infinite series of images in one picture is created by the reflection on the surface of two adjacent steel spheres. As the reflected images become smaller and smaller, the total area of the image is finite. A similar effect is known with water drops as well.
Snow and sunshine
It is a nice experience to walk the same path under changing light conditions at daily distance. In winter there is not much botanically happening, only the snow can be more or less – or the fog. The possibilities of imaging with a camera essentially change with the extent of the available light. A sunny day shows a maximum of available light.
Does sunlight make a picture atmospheric ? With cloudy skies or even some fog, the conditions for background and foreground change substantially and pictures without sunlight can be be very varied and gain a special depth of expression.
The above image shows: shadows during a day with a blue sky are blue, too.
The detection of expressive light situations without a tripod and without HDR technology requires a limited amount of light that the sensor can still process with out blown-out lights or drown depths.
Old Bridge Heidelberg
The Old Bridge in Heidelberg has the same attraction to visitors as the Charles Bridge in Prague or th Bridge to the Castel Sant’Angelo in Rome. Not everyone that the connective building between the two white towers houses an apartment. You come to the bridge early in the morning, you’re almost alone. This lonelyness is especially emphasized by a single walker.
The morning calm is reinforced by the fog. Even the car traffic is not so loud as usual. Maybe the noise will decrease even more with electric cars. That would do us good. The view form the bridge downstream shows ships tied up on the shore. Only a few rowers are on the river with trainers whose voices hardly penetrate.
The castle exercises the rule over the city. The strong contrast of the castle ruins over the roofs off the Old Town on the river bank is attenuated by the morning mist.
Most of what we do see with our eyes is a reflection. Any light from a bouquet of flowers is just reflection. Looking through a bottle shows beside reflection some refraction. The only exception, where we don’t see reflected light is e.g. offered by an open fire or a light bulb. The sight of a star also shows direct light, which is usually subject to refraction due to the atmosphere.
Our eyes seem to absorb the light when we see. In fact, they can also reflect the incident light. We know this phenomenon from cat images that we have mistakenly photographed with a flash light.
Sitting in front of me my right eye is on the viewers left side and the left eye is on its right side. The instrument uses a red and a green laser at a harmless energy dose.
With different wave lengths of a laser an ophthalmologist is able to see different structures of the fundus and uses this property for diagnostic purposes. Looking at the green color only that stems from the green laser, the result is a monochrome image that shows vessels of the surface of the retina and smalls nerves joining the papilla.
Looking at the red channel displaying the reflections of the red laser light, monochrome images show deep vessels behind the retina.
Beside the medical point of view there is an aesthetic one, too. Dr. Gösele, to whom I owe these beautiful pictures, confirmed to me the impression of an astronomical night shot, which other viewers also feel. With a courageous crop you get there:
This is how the central part of my sensor looks like when creating photographs or X-rays. My wife immediately urged me not to fall into a narcissistic trap ….