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.


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


  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.


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:

Best of 2017, picture by picture, the 8 black and white

best of 2017, the black and white winners

My thoughts and some technical background information about the eight black and white photographs that survived the “best of 2017” selection process described in an earlier post.

Image 1, image 2 and image 3 were all taken in a similar location, in the north western part of Switzerland. Hand-held with the Nikon J1, all at base ISO of 100 and shutterspeed > 1/360. Subsequently converted to B&W with Silver Efex Pro, then cropped and sharpened in Adobe LR. The entire Nik collection is available for free from Google as of Feb 2018. However, Google sold the software, so the days of a free download might be over soon

Image 1

I like the interlude between the different silouettes in this image, some man-made and others natural, In addition, if you zoom into the image you will notice the sunlight on one person’s face – that just adds to the magic of it. This was an easy choice!

Image 2

Abstracted to two vertical lines which seem to be talking to each other. The little tree carefully taking side with the actor on the right. The slight slope on the left puts one actor into a slightly different position in this discussion. Also an easy choice for me for the final list.

Image 3

First a straight journey towards the horizon, then a left turn and an unkown ending. It is up to your imagination where the path will lead to. The tree on the right as the silent observer of the path’ journey?

Image 4

Nikon J1, handheld at base ISO 100. Livorno in Italy, remnants of a glorious (and sometimes not so glorious) past. Normally, I don’t like pictures with a blown-out sky, but in this case the pure white of the sky contrasts the moldy and murky quay and water very well. I also like how the eye is guided from the left side of the frame to follow the buildings and the water into the distance.

Image 5

iPhone 6+. Walking to a coffee shop for a much needed morning dose of caffeine stimulans, I spotted these tiles. The line of my shadow matches the lines between the tiles well, and the wide gradation of greys adds to the attraction of this picture.

Image 6

The white water terraces in Yunnan, China. I like the white foreground contrasting with the dark trees and the more neutral background. I was struggling for a while whether to include a color or a B&W in my final list, ultimately went for the B&W for the reasons mentioned above.

Image 7

Another iPhone 6+ photo taken from a cable car gondola, so I guess it qualifies as an “aerial” photograph. It’s an intersection of two dirt roads. Converted to black and white in Silver Efex Pro, then cropped and added the vignette to emphasise the “white structure”. Maybe I’m reading too much science fiction recently, but the structure clearly inspires space ship designs…

Image 8

Marina Barrage in Singapore, taken with the DJI Phantom 3 Professional (the drone was inside allowed flying zone….);  captured in Adobe DNG, to give me a little more wiggle room for post processing. Lawn, concrete, water. I like the juxtaposition of the different patterns, horizontal waves on the right, the horizontal/vertical in the middle and the apparent chaos of the lawn.

Best of 2017, picture by picture, the colourful 8

best of 2017, the top 8 color photographs

Some thoughts and technical background information about the  eight color photographs that survived the “best of 2017” selection process described in an earlier post.

Image 1 & 2

The first two, very colorful images were taken during a Nikon School workshop. We had the task of capturing the “spirit” of Chinese New Year. The second challenge was to take no more than 50 pictures whilst out and wondering about for two hours. A good idea in the days of digital photography, where “spray and pray” often is just too tempting.

Both pictures taken with the Nikon Df, 85mm f1.8 @ ISO 100, handheld, then adjusted the blacks and whites in LR, sharpened and slightly cropped. In the picture showing the old man, I slightly lightened up his face via a radial mask in LR.

Image 3

Museum of Modern Arts in Brisbane. I liked the structure of the wall and the colors of the floor; decided to give the picture some manual “shake” with the iPhone to make it a bit more interesting.

Image 4

I was on the way to the gym, when this beautiful flower literally landed in front of me. I put it gently into the pool and took the picture with the iPhone.

Some post processing in LR as shown here:

image 5

Initially, this was a “so what” photograph, but the more I look at it, the more I like it. The tilt to the left adds momentum, almost as if something or somebody would enter the picture from the right any moment. Secondly, the path leading out of the frame leaves many questions open. And last but not least, the different hues of green. Nikon J1, handheld, LR post processing.

image 6

Another iPhone 6+. How I wish, I would have had a “real” camera with me for this photograph. I really like the juxtaposition of different structures in this photograph. The apparent chaos in the foreground, the verticals in the corn field, the forest behind, which looks like a whale emerging from the corn sea and last but not least the clouds towering over all of it.

In order to bring out the clouds a little more, I applied a gradient filter with about -1 stop exposure in LR. The grain is really ugly, because of the small iPhone sensor… Never mind, still a really good photograph (IMHO)

image 7

Not the best shot technically, the limitation of the small sensor of the DJI Phantom 3 Professional coming through. But with the clouds (gradient filter in LR to darken the sky somewhat) and the elevated perspective, this frame deserves to be in the final 8.

image 8

OK, for the pixel peepers, the white balance is slightly off, but that’s all I managed to do. A rare inversion weather situation, the solo cross country skier apparently gliding towards the sun – that did it for me. Nikon J1 handheld, some pp in Adobe LR.

Hope you enjoyed it and if all goes well, another “best of” will come in 12 month! Thanks again to Martin Bailey for the inspiration.