• 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.

  • 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
  • Landscape,  reflection,  Travel

    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.

    Rocks below Ponte dei Salti at Lavertezzo, Verzasca Valley © Julian Köpke

    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.

    Lavertezzo Verzasca Valley reflection of church tower © Julian Köpke

    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.

    Water snake at crocodile rock, Verzasca Valley © Julian Köpke

    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.

  • Architecture,  Travel

    Narni

    The drive to Narni took us from San Gemini through beautiful landscapes that we did not expect. The overcast sky offered rich variations of composition. With a series of HDR shots, more expressive images can be achieved later. An abandoned house became a harmony of cold colours.

    The abandoned house near Narni © Julian Köpke

    In Narni, it was the old town that interested us first and foremost, with alleys and archways, already devoid of tourists and being prepared for winter.

    Narni passage © Julian Köpke

    Famous is the Via del Campanile, which you automatically come across when you ascend the city from the car park.

    Narni Via del Campanile © Julian Köpke
  • Travel

    Black Forest

    A picture I like turns my gaze inwards and I stop staring at it. It is not possible for me to give the reason why I avert my gaze. For it is no longer my eyes that look.

    Is it a spell ? Has a string of my existence been made to vibrate ? Is it a vortex that draws me into its depths ?

    Farmstead in the Black Forest © Julian Köpke

    The simple shot of a farm in the Black Forest can take on the attractiveness of a shot from the early days of photography by processing the lighting conditions. Immediately, the antennas on the roofs of the farm look like evidence of a long past, although they can be no more than 50 years old.

    The first day of the new year ended at the little church of Maria Lindenberg with a warm sunshine that almost protectively enveloped the promenaders. The gaze inwards is lost in the apparent aimlessness of the walking movement.

    First sunset of 2023 © Julian Köpke

    The forest area, which takes its name from the effect its conifers have on the viewer, has not always been a Black Forest. The visitor becomes smaller to tiny when the fog makes the forest even more impenetrable.

    The farm was named after an Ignaz, locally always with the associated diminutive Nazi, but this designation has since been banned from the signs as unacceptable.

    Black Forest near Hinterzarten © Julian Köpke
  • Travel

    Italia bel paese

    A trip to Italy always has the whiff of a quest. We started across the Verzasca Valley, which is in the Italian-speaking Ticino region of Switzerland, close to Locarno. Harold couldn’t wait to see and photograph the Ponte dei Salti. There in Lavertezzo, the emerald green Verzasca creek crosses an area of streaky rocks with small depressions where the water collects and does not flow any further.

    Ponte dei salti © Julian Köpke
    Verzasca Valley © Julian Köpke

    There was a moment on the day of arrival when seemingly golden light from the late afternoon sun made the hollows look like liquid gold. The next morning, time seemed to stand still, only the electric supply showing the arrival of modernity.

    Verzasca Valley © Julian Köpke
    Morning in Verzasca Valley © Julian Köpke

    Stopover in Pavia, whose main dome shows a honeycomb-like structure, especially when using a focal length of 11mm in full frame. The river Ticino flows quietly and slowly, a counterpoint to the traffic noise of sporting Italians. The photo on the right was taken on the Ponte Coperto.

    Wikipedia tells: Pavia Cathedral (Italian: Duomo di Pavia) is a church in Pavia, Italy, the largest in the city and seat of the Diocese of Pavia. © Julian Köpke
    Sunset Pavia (Ponte Coperto) © Julian Köpke

    A short overnight stay in San Gimignano, the next morning still exploring the area at a distance from the old town. A large car park, a charging station for electrical energy in a multi-layered state of construction – in statu nascendi.

    At San Gimignano © Julian Köpke
    San Gimignano sunrise © Julian Köpke

    Arriving in Siena, we immediately studied the cathedral in the light of the afternoon sun. The contrast between inside and outside could not be greater.

    Duomo, Siena © Julian Köpke
    Colonne all'interno del Duomo. Inside the darkness there is structure. © Julian Köpke

    Probably more famous than the cathedral is the Torre del Mangia of the Palazzo Communale. We could see it from the cathedral and from the Piazza del Campo, where the annual Equestrian Festival takes place.

    Torre del Mangia, Siena © Julian Köpke
    Palazzo Communale e Torre del Mangia © Julian Köpke

    In Assisi, the accommodation did not allow us to be creative because it was far too cold. The man who handed over the flat to us could not be described as sober at all.

    Coming down from Rocca Maggiore © Julian Köpke
    Assisi © Julian Köpke

    We took up quarters in San Gemini, Umbria, and roamed the area from there. On the way there, we passed Trevi. The towns are situated on hills, which made them easier to defend in the past. Inside the old cities, you encounter a maze of alleys and bridges between the houses.

    Trevi, Umbria © Julian Köpke
    San Gemini © Julian Köpke

    At the southernmost point of our journey, in Tivoli in Lazio, we began to feel the winter change. The light and the clouds were now becoming more dramatic, the garden of the Villa d’Este was devoid of blooming flowers, the visitors might be fewer than in summer, all the more eager to take a selfie everywhere. With a little patience, it was possible to take pictures without other visitors in them.

    Villa d'Este, Tivoli © Julian Köpke
    Villa d'Este, Tivoli © Julian Köpke

    In Orvieto, in Umbria, north-east of Tivoli, we then found the perfect fog. The entrance with the car a bit tight on both sides, nevertheless we got away without any scratches. The sunset after the foggy day in the medieval quarter of Orvieto with a break in style because of the electric street lamps.

    Avenue of pines on the entrance road to Orvieto © Julian Köpke
    Sunset medieval quartiere Orvieto © Julian Köpke

    The front of the cathedral was for me of outstanding beauty, always accompanied by a demonstration of former power and wealth, yet also of simple beauty. Before sunrise, the building seems almost threatening, the outer splendour only coming to light in the morning.

    Dark Duomo, Orvieto © Julian Köpke
    Piazza Duomo, Orvieto, at sunrise with clouds and rain © Julian Köpke

    On a foggy and rainy day, Orvieto was a good place to pass the time in the Pozzo di San Patrizio or the city’s underground economic spaces dating back 3 millennia. On the Torre del Moro there was fog at first without any view. We were also not really oriented about the points of the compass. We philosophised about Ed Weston and Ansel Adams, who also argued about whether one should hold out in a place or better moving on. Ed Weston was for staying, Ansel Adams for moving on. Harold, however, did not want to accept my suggestion to simply leave the tower on a trial basis, that the fog would have a chance to clear for me. After one and a half hours, the time had come. In just a few minutes, the sunlight broke through the fog of the old town and exposed magnificent compositions.

    Pozzo di San Patrizio © Julian Köpke
    Duomo Orvieto with fog © Julian Köpke

    We had come through Switzerland and driven through Tuscany via Umbria to Tivoli in Lazio. The last stopover of our Italy trip in a bright red electric car took us from Orvieto to Florence. If a farewell is to be particularly difficult, one must leave Italy from Florence. Florence would be our last stop together on this trip through Italy. Arriving at the hotel, we found ourselves in rooms overlooking unappealing walls and buildings. The exhaustion of driving was not to overtake us at all. It seemed to me that Piazzale Michelangelo was made for taking farewell pictures of Florence. The walk to Piazzale Michelangelo took us from the hotel next to the Uffizi across an uncharming car bridge to the opposite bank up a steep slope. The photo equipment became heavier, the sun made us even more exhausted. A warm sun greeted us with the last of its summery strength, the arrival of winter already noticeable here.
    The sun bathed the city’s buildings in an ever-changing light through shifting clouds. There were not so many visitors in the early afternoon of this Friday, so the corner on the parapet at the front right with the best view of the city was free. Images of cityscapes appeared in my mind’s eye. The Ponte vecchio seemed to me to be made for a photographic city view, which I wanted to make from a series with different exposure levels. In this way, the finest differentiations come into their own best.

    Giardino delle Rose, Florence © Julian Köpke
    Ponte Vecchio, Florence © Julian Köpke
  • Travel

    Alpe di Siusi

    The Icelanders‘ second season: „winter is coming“. In the Dolomites, the onset of winter is felt with the onset of autumn. The first snowfalls above 2500m are visible and the clouds also give it away.

    Winter is coming. Alpe di Siusi. © Julian Köpke

    In the course of a day, the light situation often changes fundamentally, which is what makes the Alpe di Siusi so special for photographers. Craggy rocks and autumnal pastures melt into an almost picturesque overall impression.

    Piz Ridl Alpe di Siusi © Julian Köpke

    White clouds float light as a feather in the late afternoon sun over the pasture area. It was getting warm once again and our own clothing is not adequate for the second time in the course of the day. Once again, summer unfolds its power.

    Cloud over Alpe di Siusi © Julian Köpke
    Tourist hike up to Schlern houses © Julian Köpke
  • Landscape,  Travel

    High above sea level

    In autumn in South Tyrol, the changeable weather is a series of photographic opportunities. On mountains above 2200m there is already a loose layer of snow. A little below that, autumn shows itself after a hot summer.

    Autumn starts at Alpe di Siusi © Julian Köpke

    The changeability unfolds a grandiose spectacle of clouds and peaks on the Dolomites around the Alpe di Siusi. All you need is a good seat in the café by the cable car to comfortably watch the light change and react to it.

    If it really does rain during the day, a visit to the archaeological museum in Bolzano is a good alternative to board games in the holiday flat. Digital registration is worthwhile, but less significant in autumn.

    The poor man who died 5300 years ago from a painful arrowhead in his left shoulder, probably in shock due to the rupture of the arteria subclavia, is a treasure trove or stroke of luck for science, which has made many research opinions have to be reconsidered.

    The artistic reconstruction of the body by Adrie and Alfons Kennis from the Netherlands does not reflect the finding situation of the glacier mummy. It appears fragile and vulnerable, almost old and tired. One should not be deceived by the physical impression of the fictitious reconstruction. His last ascent from the valley over extremely rough terrain up to the Tiesenjoch at 3210m within about 6 hours was a physical challenge and probably a masterstroke.

    Photography was allowed in the Museum of Bolzano if it was not organic material. This artistic representation made of silicone does not correspond to the finding situation. Ötzi's personal misfortune was a stroke of luck for science. © Julian Köpke