This is just a short note, mostly to myself, that I have now owned and used the Pentax K-5 II for 1 year.
Now I was curious how many photos I took during this year. Fortunately, this is easy to find out with the excellent ExifTool by Phil Harvey. On Windows, you just have to run the following command in a command line:
"exiftool(-k).exe" -ShutterCount <filename>
Where <filename> is the name of the last photo you took with the camera. The tool will then output the shutter count. Of course, if you don’t have ExifTool or don’t know how to use a command line, you can just search Google for “Shutter Count” and find some online services that can show you the same info after uploading your last photo. So what’s my shutter count?
Doing some not very meaningful math with that we get about 963 photos per month, or 32 per day or 1.3 photos per hour. Thinking about it, it would be cool to make little charts about when I take how many photos, split by month or time of day etc. But that’s another note to myself.
In the beginning of 2011, I found myself on a short trip to the Ukraine to meet up with a fellow photographer. It was my first longer distance international trip in almost 8 years, so it took me a while to prepare everything.
But with a freshly printed passport in my hands, I embarked on a long and exciting journey that started around 4 am in Cologne and ended over 18 hours later in a large hotel in Kiev. Unable to sleep, I took my tripod and camera backpack and headed outside for a little walk around the neighborhood.
Back then, I didn’t have a smartphone with offline GPS navigation yet, so I had no idea where I was or where I was going. But I figured as long as I remembered enough parts of the way, I would find back eventually. I ended up walking along the Dnieper River and just kept looking for a nice view to take a photo. After passing an old, ornate bridge that was unfortunately being covered with a scaffolding, I found a spot along the river where I could see the massive Mother Motherland statue in the distance. Shooting with my (then new) tele lens, I got it into the picture large enough. After getting the shot, I decided that I was cold, tired and far enough away from the hotel to head back and get some sleep.
The next morning, I consulted a little tourist map I had received from the friendly guys at the travel agency and took the Metro to the city center of Kiev. Riding the Metro is a lot like taking the subway in Cologne. Except it only costs 20 cents per ride, the trains arrive every 2 minutes and are never late. They are also completely packed with people at all times of the day. Something that struck me as really odd was that nobody ever smiled. Not on the subway, not on the streets and not in the shopping malls. I only recently learned why Russians are not smiling and I guess it is true for Ukrainians as well.
Navigating the subway was a bit confusing for me because the stations are all very large and have lots of hallways going in different directions. The fact that all the signs and station names are in Cyrillic didn’t make things easier. I tried to learn a bit of the Cyrillic alphabet in advance and kept a little transliteration table in my pocket but I still felt like back in Kindergarten when I was just learning how to read simple words. I exited the Metro in some place I didn’t originally want to go but decided to walk around a bit and take some photos anyway. I think it feels more authentic to have some shots from a completely random place in a foreign city.
Go to the gallery to find some more photos of Kiev!
Since I only stayed in Hamburg for 2 nights and met with friends every evening, I didn’t have much time to take night photos. But one place I definitely wanted to see this time was the old Speicherstadt. I had seen many photos of it online and wanted to explore it myself.
On the first day, I was already walking to the subway to catch one of the last trains home when I passed by the Nikolaifleet. I had seen it during the day and it didn’t look very interesting. But at night, everything changes. The darkness and the artificial lights make it look like a different city. The cloudy sky reflects the light from the city below and glows in purple. The water moves slightly but gets a silky-smooth shine thanks to the long exposures. And all the colors stand out so much more.
I hastily set up my tripod because I figured I’d have maybe 5 minutes to get a picture – and that’s not much when each exposure takes 30 seconds. After I was done, I had to run the rest of the way in order to catch the subway, camera in one hand and the half folded tripod in the other. But I made it.
There is special illumination in the entire Speicherstadt at night. The only problem is that it is switched off around 23:30. And during the summer, that doesn’t give you a lot of time to take night photos because the sun is up pretty long. Also I didn’t know about that during my first night. So when I showed up to take a photo I was a bit surprised how dark everything was. To compensate, I used longer exposures. For some reason I have never been able to understand, the maximum exposure time you can enter into a camera is 30 seconds. But there are external timers you can connect to a camera that allow you to use longer exposures. Here I took photos at 30 seconds, 1 minute and 2 minutes and combined them into an HDR picture. If you look closely, you can see the length of the star trails and how it is interrupted after a short, a medium and a longer time.
It is well known that great artists steal. While I am far from a great artist, I still steal a lot. I found a photo on 500px.com that I thought looked interesting and decided to visit the same place and see how I would see the scene.
When I arrived, I immediately noticed a beautiful red Ducati 750 motorcycle parked right in front of the bridge I wanted to capture. It was clear that I had to include it in the frame. It took a few attempts to get the framing right so I was a little worried the whole time the owner might show up and ask me what the hell I was doing. But it didn’t happen.
Looking back, I think I could spend an entire week taking photos in the Speicherstadt at night. One of the reasons I believe Hamburg is the most beautiful city in the world.
During my vacation on the Baltic sea, where we planted a tree, I also took some other photos. One of them was a beautiful sunset behind a field of grain and I thought I’d write a bit about what I did to get the final picture:
About the only thing you can do on a camping trip during bad weather is sit inside and read books or visit Restaurants in the area. We had just returned from a dinner trip when the clouds opened up and the sun came through to mark the end of the day. I grabbed my camera bag from the car and the tripod from the tent and rushed towards the coast. I spotted the field of grains and immediately knew what kind of picture I wanted to take. The idea isn’t that original to be honest.
Behind the field, there was a group of trees with a gap in between. I moved around until the sun fit in the middle of that gap, dropped my tripod into the grains and mounted the camera with the Sigma 10-20mm ultra wide angle lens on it. An ultra wide angle lens can be positioned very close to an object and still capture a really big scene. This results in the grains in the front looking very large while the sky with the sun is still visible.