top 10 images from 2018 – the details

photograph by photograph

In a previous post I shared how I selected the 10 best photographs I took over the course of 2018. Now it’s time to dwell a bit more into detail and share my thoughts about each image. The sequence of images in this post is NOT a ranking, I simply use capture date to sequence the images.

Jan 2018
Hong Kong: Cultural Centre

Nikon Df, 24mm, f/22, 1/25 sec, ISO 100; converted to b&w in LR, slightly cropped and sharpened. I initially wanted to capture the interlude between all the man-made lines of the floor and wall tiles and the natural structure of the trees. I liked the perfect peace in the middle of bustling Tsimshatsui in Hong Kong when composing the image, when all of a sudden this pedestrian walked into “my” shot. Initially, I was quite displeased with the apparently ruined image, but upon a second look, the picture started growing on me. The dynamic of the walker contrasts with the stoic calm of the scene and his slight look to the left let’s the viewer ponder about the walker’s thoughts and direction.

April 2018
Singapore: Marina Bay Sands and Flower Dome

Nikon Df, f/5, 1/125 sec, 35mm; ISO64, around 07:15 to catch the rising sun, only a light touch with LR (the colours are as “taken”). My original plan was to do long exposure shots with an ND-filter in front of the lens to get a smooth, silken water surface. When arriving on location, I realised in horror that I left the ND filter at home. I decided to go for faster shutter speeds, hoping that the quiet and calm water surface would give some good reflections – and it did! Having said that, I plan to go to this location again – this time WITH the ND filter.

July 2018
Hamburg, Germany: subway station

Nikon J5, 55mm (FF equivalent). f/4.8, 1/25 sec (IS on), ISO 3200, the purists will notice quite a bit of distortion in the upper part of the image and the grain caused by the small-ish 1″ sensor.

This image makes no sense to me. That’s exactly the reason why I chose it. A square in a rectangle in front of other rectangles, the slightly cold colours – this image somehow speaks to me in its simplicity.

July 2018
Hamburg, Germany: Elbphilharmonie

Nikon J5, f/5, 1/1600 sec, ISO 160 (base), FF focus equivalent of 62mm, taken from a moving ferry, so not much time to adjust settings, just wanted to make sure enough shutter speed to avoid camera shake. Silver Efex Pro conversion to b&w and “uprighting” in LR6. I’ve written an entire post about this stunning building, choosing a “final” from all the images was very difficult. I selected a picture that displays one of the many particularities of the building: each and every window is in a different shape. This photograph is all about diversity 😉 .

If you look closely, you also will notice that the reflection of the sunlight puts each window into a different light (hahaha – pun intended).

November 2018
Singapore: downtown – photographed from a public viewing terrace

Nikon J5, f/5.6, 1/200 sec, ISO 400, 81 mm (FF equivalent); pp in Silver Efex Pro, pulled the shadows all the way into the “dark” in LR and slight crop. Whilst setting up camera and tripod for a “city scape” shot, all of a sudden dark clouds appeared and very heavy rain set in. Initially, I was rather disappointed that the “blue sky” image was of the agenda, but then I tried to capture clouds, skyline and the rain in one photograph. After quite some trial and error (luckily, the rain lasted long enough), I got the clouds, the buildings and rain streaks.

November 2018
Singapore: Bukit Timah Nature Reserve

Nikon Df, f/4.5, 1/640 sec, ISO 400, exp comp +1/3, 35mm; cropped and mild pp in LR (shadows, highlights, clarity and sharpening), I have no clue why I chose these strange settings, better would have been something like f/8 to get more depth of field, but since it was taken at 35mm, the luck of the innocent was with me.

I’ve made this image my desktop background. The enormous range of natural greens fascinates me every time I look at it. My two internal critiquers wanted to remove this picture from the finals, both saying, “it’s just green” – that’s exactly why I left it in.

December 2018
Switzerland Klosters: the dark river disappearing

Nikon Df, f/5.6;1/125 sec; ISO 200, 35mm; pp in Silver Efex Pro (high contrast and detail preset), in Adobe LR I reduced the shadows to turn the river into a “black stream”. I keep loosing myself in this image. The inverted “Y” of the two merging rivers disappearing in the distance, the almost symmetry between the lower and the upper part of the image and the massive, almost threatening looking fur trees on the right domineering the scene. And last but not least the plethora of structures.

December 2018
Switzerland: Klosters

Nikon Df, 85mm; ISO 100; SilverEfex Pro and cropped and sharpened with LR.
At first, the photograph looked like an attractive image of a light transition from the lower left to the middle right and then further upwards (bright – dark – mid tones). But then, all of a sudden, when the eye wonders across the image, the group of trees “peeking” out of the mist towards the upper right add a completely new dimension to this photograph. Beauty at second glance.

December 2018
Switzerland: Klosters

Nikon Df, 85mm, ISO 100; some serious “slider” play in Colour Efex Pro and Adobe LR.

I’m – under most circumstances – NOT a fan of colour-filters, but in the case of this image the filters brought out the clouds, mist and structures of the trees much better than the original image and much more pleasantly and eye-catching than any other pp-method. So whilst initially not a fan of that “purple haze”, the more I looked at the image, the more I liked it.

December 2018
Switzerland: Davos winter wonderland

Nikon J5, lens flare is obvious, I decided not to even try to remove it; set black and white points, sharpened and slight crop in LR. This image violates all classic composition techniques (straight into the sun, too many structures, no focus point that catches the eye, etc), but capturing that many aspects of nature’s beauty in one photograph made it rather easy to award a “top 10” position to this photograph. I spent probably one hour in freezing temperature at this location shifting camera position, focal length, metering method and other parameters until I managed to get this image.

I hope you enjoyed looking at the pictures and found my “scribble” either entertaining or helpful. It is 2019 already, so off to new photographic adventures.

btw: my best of 2017 collection can be accessed here and here 


top 10 photographs of 2018 – the journey

Originally inspired by pro-photographer Martin Bailey (website), I just compiled – what I most humbly consider – the 10 best photographs I took in 2018.


My target was to have a “top10 2018 collection”, containing 5 b&w and 5 “colour” images.


Adobe Lightroom (kind of a love-hate relationship) is a valuable tool to make cataloguing and selecting/grouping of pictures a relative breeze. I started out with app 1500 pictures, removed all family photos and selfies, leaving me with app 750 pictures. I removed the family pictures and selfies, because I’m not a particularly good and diligent people photographer and also to preserve some privacy. From the 750 I got to 80 within approximately 60 minutes. Then it got difficult.

the split

I’m really struggling to mix colour pictures with black and white images during the selection process, hence I decided to split the 80 into a “b&w” sub-collection and a “colour” sub-collection. After a bit more of “culling”, I ended up with 29 colour pics and 26 b&w. Then it got hard.

the last 26 of the b&w set

So a good two dozen b&w left: some determination was necessary. In one way or another, I liked all these images, otherwise they wouldn’t be in the final 26 (just to state the obvious).

the last 26 black and white images “standing”

First, I removed anything which still has (too) obvious flaws and second, cut images that IMHO lack “oompf”. I struggled quite some time to remove the two images showing the beautifully structured leaves. Then, out of the seven autumn/winter landscape pictures (second last and last row), some had to go as well.


the five chosen black&white

After some “fierce” debate with my two family-internal critiquers, I needed another 30 mins to reduce the selection down to the final “5”.

that was tough… so here we are: the FINAL FIVE!
the final stretch for the colour photographs
the last 29 “standing”

Left with 29, I removed those that had a story to tell, but the story didn’t come across as clearly or as evidently as I wanted to when taking the photograph. For instance the crane and the signboard about the monkeys.

down to 12 for the colour set
getting there, but still 7 (SEVEN!!!!) need to go
from 12 to 5

then it got painful, really really painful.
The fire-works shot: I was initially very pleased when I caught the fireworks, the smoke AND the lasers from Marina Bay Sands Casino in Singapore in one photograph. However, at closer, final inspection, there is too much noise and the composition isn’t quite there either.

The snow canons: When I spotted the lined-up canons, I immediately thought of a picture called something like “man vs nature”, because the canons were so neatly lined up “against” the mountains. I took a few pictures from different angles, thinking confidently that I “nailed” it. However during post-processing and the final stage of the selection process, I cringingly realised that the message is NOT coming across. Hence, it was mentally “painful”, that I missed this image, but quite straightforward to remove the photograph. And: I have a target to go this location (in Switzerland) and try again next year!

The bench and the colourful waterproof bags: “killed” by my two internal experts.

and here we are: the final 10
hooorrrayyyy – it’s done: the best of 2018 are chosen!!

I will elaborate in more detail on some of the images in an upcoming blogpost. For the moment I’m just very happy with the pictures and slightly exhausted from the selection process!


why it is soo difficult

I’m thinking a lot why “fake news”, “simplistic populism” and other contemporary movements have gained so much momentum over the recent decade (or more). After all, in a world in which information is largely open and freely available, the days of being obviously miss-informed should be over, shouldn’t they?

A simple solution for a complex problem appears to be the way to win political elections and other contested posts. However, in the vast majority of circumstances there are NO simple solutions for complex problems. Otherwise, humanity would have stumbled upon the perpetuum mobile a long time ago.

So when I spotted (and bought) St. Pinker’s most recent book, I was already elated by its subtitle (see the image). “Finally”, I thought, “somebody makes a point for science, for reasoning and for enlightenment”. 

S. Pinker’s 2018 book

But then as I read the book, whilst being OK with most of its content, I started asking myself: who on earth will change his/her opinion because of a book like that? It takes the author several pages, graphs and chapters to try to convince the readers that the world is a better place today. In case of infant mortality and similar measures he definitely is correct. 

I expected more on the “how” to take populism the wind out of its sails and much less of preaching to the converted. So after the reading, I left the book somewhat disappointed. After all, those who read this book, are mostly likely aware of improved infant mortality numbers already.

Maybe Mr. Pinker keeps the “how” to himself because he wants to either write a second book and/or he plans to run for an election and doesn’t want to give his “line” away too early? We shall see.

late November: year end panic

Since last year I adopt a practice of choosing – what I consider – my best pictures of the year. Pro-photographer Martin Bailey inspired me to embark on this journey. I gave the process my own spin by choosing my “best of colour” and a separate set “best of black and white”. I find it estetically so much more pleasing to show the two on a separate virtual canvas each.

With 2018 being over soon, I had a quick glance over my 2018 oeuvre as it stood late November. Lightroom’s catalogue function is very helpful here. I opened the filter bar with the “\” key,  selected “2018” in the metadata column, then selected “cameras” to Nikon J1, Nikon J5, Nikon Df and Apple iPhone 6+. I needed to do this selection because my Lightroom catalogue also takes care of pictures that other family members took and I didn’t want to get praise for their work! Lastly, I deselected all pictures with family members on it and removed all selfies from the selection as well. I did this for two reasons: first, I’m not a diligent portrait/people photographer, so the people pictures are mostly snaps and secondl I’m trying to preserve a little privacy.

black and white is fine

I glanced over the 2018 black and white pictures first: scrolling through the images gave me a lot of comfort: I most humbly think there are a plenty of pictures to choose from and certainly a few worthy ones to end up in the “final” selection “best of 2018 b/w”. Hence, all appeared good in this section.

colour — oooooo very very thin

But when I looked for appealing colour photographs, I started panicking. Firstly, there were not that many and secondly, the ones I saw, didn’t exactly scream “quality” at me. Panick reigned in. Having said that, I will choose my best of “2018 in colour”, simply because best of 2018 is best of 2018, regardless how good I think the pictures are. These best of 2018 might not make it into my “best of the 21st century” list, but that is a different matter.

a panic excursion

Having said that, I couldn’t let that “thin selection” sit with me. Hence, the first weekend in December, I packed my Nikon Df with the wide angle zoom and the 85mm f1.8 and headed for the Bukit Timah nature reserve in an almost last minute attempt to “make up” for what appears to be missing from my 2018 colour-collection. Creativity under time pressure: an ideal set-up for failure 🙂

Gutenberg gallery test

Waddling through the jungle in Singapore, battling the high humidity, the occasional heavy downpour and some very slippery paths was not ideal, but still I managed a few decent outdoor shots.

Gutenberg has a gallery function, which is much easier to handle and offers a bit more and better functionality than the “classic” editor ever had. You choose a “gallery” block, then simply drag and drop pictures into it. This really is neat and so much more efficient than in the previous editor.

However, it appears that the functionality still is rather limited. For example pictures cannot be rearranged once the gallery is set up. At least, individual pictures can be added and removed and the layout can be adjusted via changing the number of columns.

WP & Gutenberg bugs
  • it appears that the preview option under WP 4.9 doesn’t offer options “desktop/tablet/mobile” anymore?
  • as of writing this, WP converts the “featured image” of a post into a neat blue “slush” when viewed in Safari.

Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg

First time I saw a picture of this building, I was simply blown away by its outer-worldly beauty. I had to go and visit it. Herzog De Meuron designed something extraordinary. I’m sure archeology professors and students will ponder about the significance of this building and structure when they discover it under water (global warming,,,,) in a few thousand years from now. 
The shape of the roof: sails, waves, wind – take your pick.

So came summer 2018 and an opportunity to visit Hamburg for a few days. Enjoy the sights below.

pictures – set 1

pictures: set 2

for the photographers:

Pictures were taken with a Nikon J5; kit zoom lens, handheld, recorded in RAW. Postprocessing in Adobe LR (cropping, straightening up and sharpening) and Silver Efex Pro for the B&W conversion and “tickling” some contrast and details out of the images.

and a video

shot with the Nikon J5, editing done in Davinci Resolve v14

for the voyagers

There are hotels in the vicity of the building, if you want to indulge yourself choose the hotel that is right in the building. It might be worthwhile to pre-book a slot for visiting the viewing platform, which is the level marking the transition from the old, brick wall building to the new structure. This can be done via the web. 

The view from the Elbe river is spectacular; I suggest to take public boats which are easy to find and do exactly the “route” a curious tourist needs to see. There are many “cruise” options available as well – your choice.

here is Gutenberg – move over “classic”

After a few month of watching the Gutenberg development by WordPress unfold, I have decided to move over from the “classic” editor.

why?

The classic editor served me well. I used it extensively for this personal blog and for my company’s website. No bugs, text editing functionality was there and the basic formatting options available as well. A big thank you to the developers! However, it always felt a little clumsy, not really sure whether it wants to be something like a “MSWord ultra light” or another, more convoluted entity.

Hence, I welcomed the announcement of “Gutenberg” a lot, when I got aware of it early 2018. I decided to let a few beta-versions pass before jumping the bandwagon. Im an early adopter of technology, but I’m hardly ever a v1-adopter.

a classic farewell to the classic editor:

Farewell! thou art too dear for my possessing

And like enough thou know’st thy estimate

Shakespeare, Sonnet 87

my first impressions are positive

  1. bug-free installation
  2. fast learning curve
  3. the “block” system needs some time to get used to, but it is so much closer to a real writing flow, where structure and flexibility (at least for my writing style) are in dire need
  4. once you get the hang of the “block” flow, you start realising the many advantages of it
  5. Blocks can be ‘saved” as reusable and moving blocks around in a post is very intuitive
  6. embedding videos from a third party site is much smoother and esthetically more pleasing than under the old editor (although sure there must have been a neat plug-in…)
  7. the gallery block is much better than before: it allows rapid and easy customisation. I hear all of you screaming that third party plug-ins provide more customisation, certainly correct.
  8. editing images is possible directly in the menu bar on the right, i.e. no need to flip back and forth to the media library

however…

  1. where are the “fonts” ?
  2. how to insert a special character (e.g. the greek beta)

then look at this:

inconsistent spacing between blocks

look at the spaces between first text block and the title “a classic…”; then the space between the “a classic…” and the start of the quote “farewell…” – this is rather ugly and very inconsistent. And last but not least, the space between the end of the quote “…Sonnet 87” and the next title block “my first…” is again different..

stay tuned

As I keep using Gutenberg and discover more of its features and hopefully a few bugs only, I will update this blog.

the ultimate stalker app

I couldn’t resist and signed up (free nota bene…) for Strava. This is the ultimate stalker app. Join Strave, upload your workouts and make some friends over there. Very soon you will find out what I mean!

BTW: if you are a Polar “person” like I am, you can set your Polar account to automatically send your workout data to Strava, which is very convenient.

Strava

Marina Bay Sands, Singapore – Early Morning Glory

One day in March 2018, don’t know what got into me, I decided to get up early, cycle from home to the Marina Barrage with the complete photo gear AND the  drone to take a few pictures and movies

So, I had the DJI Phantom 3P in the hardcover backpack, a tripod attached to this hard case with a few carabiners, plus a sling bag with the Nikon Df and two heavy zoom lenses over my shoulder. What a stupid idea. I looked and felt like a complete idiot cycling along the Singapore river at 06:30 making my way through other cyclists and dog walkers. The 5 km cycling trip from home to the barrage felt like a 40 km cross-country mountain bike race, I was huffing and puffing upon arrival.

I managed to set up “shop”:

Google Attribution is here

So far so good, but then things went a little off the rail…. I realised that I forgot the ND filter, a fairly crucial accessory when trying to blur the water in the foreground, at home. Secondly, something was wrong with the drone: an error message “gimbal disconnected” kept creeping up. So, my plans of filming myself and the scenery with the drone whilst the Df was auto-clicking via interval timer went south straight-away.

Anyway: with a great mess comes great opportunity. Luckily, I had the polarisation filter with me. With a bit of scrambling I got a few decently looking photographs. Recommendation #1: when taking pictures at dusk or dawn in the tropics, mosquito repellent is worth its weight in gold!!!

Post processing: Colour Efex Pro and Silver EfexPro, a little bit of detail extractor, cropping and some minor adjustments to taste in LR; sharpening and export as jpeg with LR as well.

All done and dusted by 08:00, so I could get myself ready to start working at 08:30. In hindsight: this was very well worth it! Next time WITH the ND-filter.

Here we go. I upload large files for your viewing pleasures:

supertree grove singapore

MBS Singapore

Marina Bay Sands, Singapore

and yes: Marina Bay Sands Singapore

pictures are (c) www.jrbc.net 2018; please ask for permission prior to reproduction!

more on: hiking in Hong Kong

Luck had it that I could spend a number of weekends in Hong Kong between Nov 2017 and March 2018. Hong Kong is a hiker’s heaven all year round, but the relatively cool winter months make it a paradise. Once back home, I started thinking how I could possible blog (aka diary-ise) all these beautiful hikes.

Several ideas came to my mind:

  1. describe every hike at great length and detail – probably not… too many details.
  2. just show a few pictures – mehh, not good enough either
  3. pick and choose just one or two, sort of a “best of series” – good idea, but how to choose.
  4. then it hit me: export the GPS file of every hike I did from the Polar website; then upload all those GPS files into a single Google earth window and capture the piece of art with a screen grab. The dark blue “worms” crawling all over Hong Kong in the pic below represent all the hikes I did. Only after completing this drawing I realized that I hiked almost the entire Lord Wilson trail (with the exception of stage 10 and a bit of stage 9… so there we still have a target….)

    Et voila, here we are: