I just panicked…

Into Darkness. And back… #1

I haven’t had panic attacks for some 9 years I guess. But last week I was out on the fields convinced I would fall. That my legs wouldn’t support me anymore. The same legs that have run ultramarathons up to 70 miles and have suffered through Ironman triathlons. But it wasn’t just that those once powerful legs threatened to give in. I was convinced that this was it. That I would kick the proverbial bucket there and then. Panic was back in my life.

When I wake up in the morning, my hands shake and when I start thinking about why that is, it doesn’t take me long to arrive at the conclusion that whatever it is, it will be fatal. Whenever I plan on leaving the house, the panic knows and it whispers in my ear that I can’t go, that I can finally break down and of course that I will die.

I have been there before and in the meantime I have been reading about that a lot, talked to several therapists and have enjoyed when people told me how reflected I was. How I could speak about my mental health with such ease and how wonderfully calm I was. And all the time the pressure was building up and I think a part of me knew that all that time. But some other part was referring to all the information I had and all the help and how all that and my intelligence would be enough to keep the horror at bay. It wasn’t.

The older you get, the heavier that baggage becomes you haven’t sorted through. So you run.

Bruce Springsteen

I had all the resources. I had friends. I had therapists. Access to all kinds of information and the brains to process all that. And most importantly I had and have Christina, who even though she had a lot on her plate as it was, was always patient and caring when I was down or worse than that.

What I didn’t have was the willingness to really change something to get well and finally be happy. I was afraid of changing anything. You’d rather stay in the misery you know than risking changes even if those could lead to something better. I was still listening to that other part which was telling me we were working on it. Until that first attack last week.

I think a panic attack is your body and brain telling you something is seriously wrong and since I hadn’t been listening for so long and ran from really changing something, it tells me using fear. Extreme fear.

A fear that is based on the fear we all have. The fear to get old, to become ill, to be left alone and of course to die. I can’t escape any of that and the earlier I make my peace with that, the better.

It’s challenging. It is hard. And sometimes it feels like I won’t make it. But I know that’s still that fear in me talking. That’s a child talking that’s still hurting and who thinks that those wounds will never heal.

I never considered myself much of an optimist, but I see this as something I need to do but also as something that will teach me a lot about me and life in general and that will influence my photography greatly. It will also tell me why I did what I did. As a photographer and as a human being. And that’s something I can’t wait to figure out.

To be continued…

A photograph’s message. If any.

“You might discover through Edward Weston’s work how basically good you are, or might become.”

Ansel Adams 1965 (in the Aperture Edward Weston Monograph “The Flame of Recognition”)

This quote by Ansel Adams is one of those that kept me thinking for years, that I felt I never had completely understood, but which also seemed to allow for more than one interpretation. One of these I will be talking about in this article. Somewhere towards the end all of this kind of unexpectedly comes full circle. Like so many things in life.

For now I’ll go back to a mid December morning two years ago when I woke up to fog over the fields with the sun just coming up in the east, casting beautiful light and promising to dissolve the fog in no time. I got up, got the camera and the dog and headed out.

Not far from my house I found the road disappearing behind some trees into the fog, leading lines from an electrical line running along the road and one of the poles being lit up by the sun on my right. The resulting image is a good example for what I want to talk about as I didn’t have any idea at capture what this was going to look like. I wasn’t pre-visualizing at all, the image just took me as think it should be. What this photograph could and should be only dawned on me later. As something else did.

When I looked through the photographs of that morning, I found the one with the disappearing road and the light coming in from the right. I knew there was something about the capture, but I couldn’t put my finger on it yet. I liked the composition, the setting and the fog. But I didn’t really feel where to go from there. So I converted to monochrome and there it finally happened. I found a mood I … well … didn’t like, that’s not the word. At the time I didn’t worry about it too much not coming up with the right word. I didn’t have to explain why the final image looked the way it did. Not to anyone but me. And for me the feeling I had with the result of the conversion to black and white and further processing was good enough.

It turned out that with this photograph I felt it was done when the mood had nothing at all to do anymore with the sun slowly dissolving the fog on a mid December morning. It was dark now. Gloomy. Breathless and promising something I didn’t want. It showed an unnatural darkness which was more than just the absence of light. It came from the inside. It felt like the anxiety I felt in me for years now. It was real.

But I kept coming back to that question. What was the right word? Which one would do now and ever? How do I define, describe and explain the point in processing when I am convinced I’m done? From a technical standpoint that varies with every photograph. Some need more work, some less. But there is something emotional that also determines when I can lean back and the pressure is gone. When I am satisfied. When something within me is satisfied.

Is it the artist in me I have to satisfy? Then again I never called myself an artist. The term feels so abstract to me, I don’t really know what I would have to feel about me to identify with that word. So I turned to simpler words. I often heard the word “storyteller” used, but finally I settled (if I had to chose one) for the title of “picture maker”. That at least is what I am doing. And by choosing between those two I came closer to answering who I am satisfying when I think my work is done. What it is I want to to achieve with my photographs.

One could argue that I could be a picture maker and also be a storyteller. Often photographers talk about stories their images are telling, messages they want to convey in their work. Don’t get me wrong – when I make my point now about what I think I can do with my images, what I hope is in there when I’m done working on them, I am not claiming to have found the ultimate truth which you would have to simply accept as fact. I believe this is different for everyone. What is not different is the need to be aware of what we are doing and why we are doing it in order to develop as a human being and therefore also as a photographer (storyteller, picture maker, musician, writer, artist, whatever you want to call it). Those are forever and undeniably connected. The evolution of you as a human will always need and contribute to the evolution of you as a photographer and vice versa.

So I thought I was a picture maker and not a storyteller. What made those two sides of the coin for me was that I thought of what you can transport in an image, preferably a print. I cannot directly convey a message that I have predefined. As a writer I can do that, I can simply describe in all necessary detail what it is I want the world or at least the reading world to know. And if I don’t want to sound like a science textbook I will use tools like metaphors and a certain vocabulary to inject beauty and above all mood into what I am writing.

As a photographer I can not describe my message in all detail. Whatever I use in creating my photograph, the best I can hope for is to find something to put in there, be it at point of capture or in post, that will make me emotionally respond to it. Again either at point of capture or in post. I can try to recreate the feeling I had when I looked at the scene that wanted me to record it. Or I can find another maybe even stronger feeling when I am editing the photograph. By making it into something I wish it could have been or by trying to have it reflect what I feel like when I am look at it. Whatever it may be, that was my answer to the question about when I am satisfied. When my need for emotional response is satisfied.

And then what? Then I am hoping whoever looks at my photograph will also feel something. Will have an emotional response. But it is very unlikely that this response would be exactly the same I had when making that photograph.

Some of us use words to prepare for or support a certain mood when presenting their work. I like to use a strong title for the photograph as well as two or three sentences maybe going along with the images. Not to explain an image, the photo and the text have to be strong enough to stand on their own. I see it as an invitation. I show you what I thought, what my mood was and now it’s on you to give us something to continue the conversation that started with the picture I made and the words I wrote.

I see this as an opportunity for viewer and photographer to establish a connection. What I want is for the viewer to do more than just consume the image like an ordinary product. I want them to find something in themselves that would wake up when they looked at my photo. But that would take someone who is capable to be touched like that.

And that’s were I come back to what Ansel Adams wrote about Edward Weston and his work. What I quoted at the top wasn’t everything he wrote. A few lines above he wrote this:

“Look at his photographs, look at them carefully, then look at yourselves – not critically, or with self-deprecation, or any sense of inferiority. Read the material from his Daybook and letters so carefully compiled, edited and associated with the photographs by Nancy Newhall.”

What Adams is asking of the viewer (and reader) is no small feat. You should be looking at the photographs and read the words. And then you should look at yourself in a way that reminds me a lot of mindfulness. Don’t judge, forget about the context of his life and yours, don’t compare. Just take in what he created and then look at what is happening inside you. Whether there is something moving. Something twitching and slowly starting to breathe.

That’s what happened to me when I looked at Ansel Adams photographs for the first time. Walker Evans. Edward Weston. And more of those who came before me. I saw something in those that can’t be seen and I saw it because it wasn’t my eyes seeing. I felt something in their work, that made me dream and tell myself stories. Which reminded me of reading “On The Road” when I was 16 or listening to “Born To Run” and having to buy a motorcycle after.

I think I got an idea then of how basically good I was or might become. This is what Weston gave us. And those of us who experienced that and wanted to pass it on became photographers. Storytellers and picture makers. Human beings. 

Tell me who you are in a word or less

“For My Father” (France, 2022)

Recently I listened to an episode of the “Creative Banter” podcast by Cody Schultz and Ben Horne (episode 17 called “Master Amateur”), which was among other things dealing with titles. Titles like landscape photographer or nature photographer which people give themselves or are given by others to pigeonhole what they do.

Listening to what Cody and Ben had to say about this issue was inspiring enough to make me finally write down my thoughts about this. I am constantly trying to figure out what I am doing and why I am doing it the way I am. To develop an awareness for what we are doing in any of our endeavors is one of the most important things a human being can do, I think.

I have more than once expressed that the term artist does not work for me. Maybe it would have in the original sense, as the latin word “ars” means “skill” or “craft”. But the way it is used, I can’t subscribe to that. So when you ask me what I am, you won’t hear me saying that I am an artist.

So what am I? And this is not concerning this fundamental philosophical problem including where we come from and where we are headed. This is about me as a creative person. Being a creative person is connected to so many aspects of me or us as human beings or just entities, but it at least limits what I am trying to address here a bit.

On your website, on business cards, on social media – you are always required to describe who you are and what you are doing in a word, maybe two. Artist. Photographer. Guitarist. Writer. Musician. Sculptor. Painter. Whatever.

The problem is that if you name yourself any of these, chances are you are not covering everything you are and/or do. I do make photographs. I do write. I do play jazz guitar. I lice. I breathe. I think. I feel. I laugh. I cry. I’m afraid. So what does that make me?

For one thing I’d say: “Don’t ask for a single word. I give you my photographs, my words, my music. I am even willing to give you time we can spend together so we can really find out who we are and can be for each other.”

But if you really need something short, my friend Toni Lovejoy called me something the other day I could feel I could embrace. And with a few words of explanation that’s what I’ll be if you want something short.

To me you are a natural poet.

Toni Lovejoy

Webster’s defines a poet not only as someone writing poetry, but as “one of great imaginative and expressive capabilities and special sensitivity to the medium”.

As photographs are never true reproductions of the world around us, but represent emotions we had as someone experiencing a moment and trying to capture the emotional essence, we need imaginative and expressive capabilities to create such representations. An extensive knowledge how to use a medium to create manifestations of these emotions is a must and a special sensitivity for one or more mediums will enable the poet to make use of the aspects unique to a certain medium and of the interaction of several mediums when used together in creating a piece.

To be a “natural” poet I think simply means is that if we are able to let the creativity flow without forcing it and trying to “learn” it, we realize that this ability was there all along. We all can be natural poets, natural lovers, natural philosophers. We just have to find it again in ourselves, find the possibilities, the sources, the truth, the capabilities and the sensitivity.

Find the poet.

The Dream Of The Ultimate Image


It’s been raining almost all day, and Ben’s been gone eight days now. A day as good as any to finally sit down and describe an idea, a chain of thoughts, a philosophical concept, if you will. Let me just go downstairs, grab a glass of wine, and put on some Hard Bop. I’ll have to go through about 3,000 words of notes taken and find out how I got there when I first tried to put it into words almost two months ago. I think it makes sense to present the thoughts in the sequence I had them. As a bonus, I list which song I am listening to while I am writing each part.

Giant Steps / John Coltrane
Driving in my car on a mid-October morning, this whole thing started by taking two things I believe in and putting them together in a creative context, say … photography.

The one thing is that I do believe that it is always now, and that really is all we have. The past is a memory of nows that are gone. The future is something that will happen further down the road, but when it actually happens, when we get there, it will no longer be the future. When it finally happens, it is now, and it will be then when and where it happens.

Brilliant Corners / Thelonious Monk
The second thing is that I do believe everything is connected on another level altogether than what we think life is. This connection is beyond what we can imagine, grasp and describe using our mind. It is this concept that made me think that whenever I take landscape images I take selfies because I am in there and I take pictures of all of us because we are all in there.

To finalize this first stream of thoughts I abstracted it to the max and arrived at the thought that every image we all ever take is one and the same. Forget about EXIF data, they were all taken in the now, and the subject matter is always everything. So all of us are taking that one image again. And again. And again. You should realize though, that this should be nothing to feel frustrated about. It should rather be liberating.

The Preacher / Horace Silver
A week later I was in the car again, driving along the same roads and it was no surprise that my thoughts would be going back to what I was thinking about a week before and expanding those.

Thinking about the statement that all of us are taking the same image over and over one might argue how the image can be the same when they all look different. I wasn’t talking about Tunnel View or the Eiffel Tower here, I am not talking about the forms you see in all those images. On the surface, we might think that those forms are or can convey what the image is about when they really are not.

When I say the image is always the same I of course don’t mean we all take the same image of a certain subject matter at a certain time of day under the same circumstances. Maybe it’s a picture of us looking for ourselves in the world of forms, which is desperate and hopeless. We might look there because that’s what we identify with, but that doesn’t mean that would be where we can find ourselves in our images or in the “real” world.

Scrapple from the apple / Dexter Gordon
There is a difference between those two worlds we are dealing with, the world of forms and the world of space. Our consciousness is the space in which those forms exist and in which things happen, with these forms interacting. You might have guessed by now that the ego of forms is an illusion, us identifying with form can be used as an escape from having to realize that all of the things we can touch, describe and own are not real. Not real enough to carry us and help us answer questions we can’t but would love to avoid.

It’s really all about space. About the stuff that’s in between things and forms. And that was when I started thinking about Miles Davis.

Autumn Leaves / Cannonball Adderley
Miles Davis said, “It’s not the notes you play, it’s the notes you don’t play.” It’s about what’s in between. The silence. As a photographer, you should be aware, that in photography it’s not just about what you photograph, what’s in focus, what is lit. It is also about what you do not photograph, what is out of focus. What is left in the dark.

The next step in this thought that is growing more and more while I spend time with it, this next step was even more interesting than the others before or after in terms of how it came about. All the other steps were thoughts, building on other thoughts before them, associations, and again, forms. This isn’t optimal, but for now, this had to do. This next step though came as a feeling and it was really hard to describe it. As it is something that can’t really be described and what makes it even harder was the excitement I felt when I had this impression.

Doodlin’ / Horace Silver
For some reason (the feeling didn’t give an explanation) I felt that most of the inspiration for a story about that particular image is in the darkness, in the space, in the notes we don’t play. This space, our consciousness as felt in our images, inspire not just one definite story about those images. There is not just one that fits. That makes sense. As it is the same image all over again, it is also the same story all over again. But another version, another incarnation if you will. There is only that one image and that one story. It is always now and it is always the same story really, but it can be told in so many ways.

Cantaloupe Island / Herbie Hancock
In what is omitted in the image you will see the space that holds the forms. A consciousness that is yours and also the viewer’s consciousness. A place where the inspiration for the story lies. A story you try to make your own. As I was thinking and feeling this, I was searching for meaning (as we always do). In the images, the forms, and the space. For something I could call my style. For a reason, I was doing all that. As we progress through this chaos, this onslaught of thoughts and feelings, we’ll see that we need to abandon that search. But more on that later.

Walkin’ / Miles Davis
It was interesting and exciting finding something out not by trying to think about it but discovering it by removing everything that is hiding it. Peeling back the layers and revealing something underneath that was there, to begin with. This was not learning but finding back what we knew all along.

So at this point, I am thinking the image is always the same and so is the story. The forms in the images are not the same, it is what the individual photographer thinks is attracting or makes for a story as an interaction of the forms with each other and also the space if the photographer is aware of that. I also got a feeling that the space, what lies in the dark is where the most inspiration for the story is hidden. I can’t tell yet why that is so, it is more or less a hunch, however strong.

Softly as in a morning sunrise / Sonny Rollins
There was a morning towards the end of October and I woke up to a thought about why I had this feeling that the next most important question was about the dark, the space, and what it was holding that was so important.


The word that came up was “identification”. In what we call real life we identify with things so we can define ourselves, which we desperately need to do to find our place in this world. So when you look at an image like the one I posted above (“In Transit”) you look at the things and start thinking about what it all could mean? What can I make of that? But it is not those objects that will tell you anything.

When I took that image, our bed was right next to it and I woke up one day, rolled over, looked at the thing and I thought I saw a picture. I didn’t think too much then taking it, so you shouldn’t think too much looking at it. Don’t try to come up with anything. The moment you think about the image and what could be in there, you’re wrong. The space in you, which has no thingness, your consciousness will react and understand.

‘Round Midnight / Miles Davis
Coming to the question of what the ultimate image is, I’ll have to go back to what the original idea was. I was thinking about an image that would touch you so deep inside, it would make you cry and you might not even know why. That was all I had when it came to defining what it was.

Eventually, I started to try and outline that a bit more and as a next step to try and find a way how to actually take an image like that. I thought it had to be oozing with ME, with the space and the space would become so very obvious and important and it would supersede the form. And somehow the connection that exists between us all and everything would come into play when the space would be emphasized like that. But how would you go about making the space stand out and so in your face that you have no choice but to look at it? And understand what it is? If I could only answer those questions I felt I could make you catch at least a glimpse of yourself. And that could make you cry.

The reason you cry could be that it feels disturbing or confusing to see yourself in there as part of a truth you haven’t started to understand yet. It could also be you’re crying out of gratefulness and relief realizing you’re not alone with those questions, answers, and beliefs.

Jordu / Clifford Brown
I don’t think I am at a point where I can say that I have a final answer, I am sure there are more questions to come. But I find them all to be interesting and kind of necessary. I can’t find myself leaving any of those unanswered.

As for the question of how to take the ultimate image, I am at a loss for words, which might be the only right way to tackle this. The answer I have arrived at now about what the ultimate image could be is one I am not comfortable with as I am aware that getting closer to that would mean a significant departure from anything I thought photography would be.

Cascades / Oliver Nelson
For the ultimate image, you might need to let go of many things you feel define you as an artist. We as photographers want to show individual views of the world we live in. We as human beings want to be an individual so bad in order not to lose ourselves. I want you to look at my photographs, read my stories about them and then find your own stories and feelings looking at what I did.

The ultimate image might be the one that doesn’t need any form or story. The ultimate artist could be the one who gives up being an individual and embraces the oneness of us all. Who shows you the ever-changing reality in all of us. And witnesses the story we all tell in all the ways it can ever be told.

Radii. Growing And Shifting.

“Leah On Deck” (Germany, 2021) iPhone SE 2020

A couple of weeks ago I came up with a project I call “Radii” and in the beginning, I didn’t see the connection to the Covid pandemic. But after the number of infections significantly decreased in Germany and the world in general, I connected the project more with it. Let me explain.

Originally the idea was to take images in ever-growing radii, the center always being my house. So the house would be Radius I, next could be the street I live in, then the neighborhood, the city, the county, the state, the country, the continent, and eventually the world.

This concept still applies, but now I would like to see it with the pandemic in mind. The world slowly starts opening up for us again and the radius we operate in, in which we can move about, which we can influence, increases slowly but surely.

Also, the center of the radius can shift. I will be in the hospital in two weeks, so the center of my radius will temporarily shift and the size will shrink for the three days I am in there.

If you had been infected, the center of your prime radius might have been your bed at home and the size was probably quite small, growing very slowly. If you have been in quarantine, the prime radius was your house, but we can also appreciate an increase of radius size by using communication means via the internet.

You can document all of this photographically. How you are reaching out to people. Places and things you finally see again as the radius size increases. The way you look at things and people might have changed and you see that difference in perception now as you can reach these things and people again.

I am looking forward to how people interpret this for themselves. Find me on Instagram (@holgermischke) and tag your images with #projectradii.

My Legacy, If Any…

Photograph by Fiorillo Camesi

It seems whenever I attend one of John Cornicello’s conversations, something sticks with me and I need to think some more about that. This time somebody asked how people feel about their legacy. And then there was a lot of talk about donating work to universities and such, about the preservation of photographic work and some more ideas about what photographers thought about their legacy. Last night, during a conversation with my friends and fellow photographers Julie CorcoranJoe Iano, and Toni Lovejoy, I brought the topic up again. Here is what I thought about it.

I don’t see myself becoming a globally important photographer anytime soon, so I don’t even think about how long my photographs will stand the test of time. With the paper and ink I use, they should be good for about 90 to 100 years. I can live with that and if anyone would feel the need to complain after those have passed, I’ll be gone 🙂

I also don’t ask myself the question of how I want to be remembered. I guess that has not only to do with what I do, but with every person’s individual perception. So I am not trying to behave in a way that might make people think about me a certain way. I want to be free in what I am doing and saying, free from the outside pressure to behave a certain way. And that in turn could lead to people having the impression that I’m authentic. That would do for me.

But there is one thing that could serve as something like a legacy and that has everything to do with my nephew Fiorillo Camesi, who took the above picture in the swiss Alps. I have edited it for him, but I am really proud of him for doing what he does. He does not know yet how good he really is, but hey, he’s 15.

Anyways, whenever we meet, he asks me tons of questions about photography and that alone is really rewarding. Teaching always means you have to think about why and how you are doing things. There is so much stuff he wants to know and often I really have to think hard about what it is he wants to know. I might be doing what he is asking about every day, but I have internalized it so much by now that it takes me a moment to be able to explain.

So I see him grow as a person and as a photographer and I am proud that I can help him do that. And I hope that someday maybe he has kids or a nephew or niece and he will tell them about his uncle, who was a photographer, and maybe they’ll start asking him questions, too. And that would be my legacy. That would be something I would be remembered for.

If that doesn’t happen, I’m good with not being remembered at all. I believe at some point we all go back to something bigger and all these thoughts we had, all the things we did, will seem to be lost. But I think nothing will ever be lost. Our photographs are manifestations of moments in our lives, which in the grand scheme of things are minuscule and not significant at all. And I think I can live with that and the fact that I might or might not have a legacy. If I can only bring something good into this world while I’m around, that’ll do just nicely.

I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time like tears in rain. Time to die.

Roy Batty (Blade Runner, 1982)

Somethin’ Else


During one of the latest photo conversations in John Cornicello’s ongoing series (see a list of upcoming and previous conversations here), Toni Lovejoy brought up an interesting question:

When Toni came off the road she wasn’t editing from a technical standpoint just because she didn’t know too much about Photoshop and such, she edited from such an emotional place trying to replicate what she felt on location. Now knowing all those technical skills, she knows she can now go back to those images and make them better. She becomes somewhat emotionally detached from them in the process though. So the question was how do we process our images? Do we start from an emotional place or do we start from a technical place and then move forward to an emotional aspect as we finish it off?

She then refines her question:

“I think about Mac Holbert and his process going from global to localized, so I think I’m thinking best practices, or are you trying to stay as close as possible to when you shot it? I feel I got to control myself from the emotion of it. So I flip-flop back and forth between kicking a couple of things in saying that’s how I felt and then reverting to what I call Mac’s process and going down this checklist sort of thing.”.

I had been just listening in on that evening but for that question, I broke the silence and typed the following:

“I would like my editing to be like what the great jazz musicians do. There is emotion, there is skill, there is technique, but it is all there at the same time and everything dovetails into everything else. I don’t have to switch from one thing to the other.”

Toni was questioning whether it was still possible to have that emotion and aesthetic in the process and therefore in the image since we are all on those computers now and not in the darkroom anymore which seemed to allow for some mystique and romance.

Well, I don’t think the magic is gone and I for one feel those emotions all the way from clicking the shutter to hanging the print on the wall. Which doesn’t mean that you are doing something wrong if you don’t. Let me just explain what I mean so you can reflect and evaluate.

First off I am a very emotional person. I do cry. Sometimes I do feel more than I care for and can explain. For everything I see, hear, touch, taste, for everything that enters my consciousness this way or another there is an emotional reaction. Which sometimes is not a good thing. Anyhow this is why I can’t switch to unemotional matter-of-fact working on an image.

I don’t engage in pre-visualization, at least not consciously. I think it was Ernst Haas who said: “Don’t take pictures. Be taken by your pictures.” I think being taken by my picture instead of taking it is when I look at something and I feel the need to raise the camera and photograph it. At that moment photography becomes meditational to me.

I don’t think about it. Not then. All that thinking has been done before. I don’t see. I perceive. A truth that is very personal as everything I ever did, felt, saw, read, loved, hated, my whole life is there with me deciding when to click the shutter. And if I get it right I feel the excitement. That I got it right, that this is a keeper. Still, I don’t see what I am going to do with it later. But I don’t worry. It will all be there when I need it.

So I come back home. Sometimes I work on the photographs right away, sometimes later. I still find images from years ago on my drives and sometimes it is then that I finally understand or can feel them, so I start working on them all those years later.

So this is when the jazz musician kicks in. In music, you learn the theory, scales, phrases, and such to build the base for that moment on stage when you interact with other musicians. This is not the time to think about what you learned, it is the time to use it. In reacting to the musical statements by the other musicians you use all those skills you learned to create something beautiful. You can always hear the player who is just repeating patterns, who is very aware of what scale they are using right then. Forget all that and a magic moment might happen where you are lost in time and music and talk to the other musicians on the stage in another language.

And that is pretty much what it is. When you have learned a language well, you respond without thinking and you can convey what you feel and think in a very personalized way so people not only understand the information you want to get across but also the way I and only I want it to be understood.

So back to editing. About 30 years ago I shared an apartment with my best friend who was photographing film back then. He had a makeshift darkroom in the bathroom, developing his photographs there. That would have been the perfect time for a good story about how I got into photography. But it wasn’t. It had to go digital for me to be interesting. So I disagree that computers remove emotion and aesthetics from the process.

I like using Lightroom and Photoshop. And even that is causing emotions. I have written about how my feelings change depending on what cameras and lenses I use. It can even be that way depending on what software I use. I feel different using Lightroom 5 and Photoshop CS5 as opposed to the latest versions. And when I use them I want to be that jazz musician who can’t be bothered to think about processes, best practices, which values to use, or checklists. I want to have all that internalized so I just do. So that I just react to what the image tells me it needs. To what I feel it needs.

And that may change every moment. This is why I re-edit images ever so often. At moment of capture, the image represents not only what was in front of my camera, but also everything that happened in my life up to that point. So a day later, a week, years later, I might and probably will feel very different about some of my photographs and would edit them in a new and different way.

Another point proving that I feel something during the entire process is the prose I write. If you have followed me for a while you have realized that I write something for pretty much all of my images. But it is never at the same point of the process. Sometimes I have something in mind when I am out there. Sometimes I come up with it when I listen to jazz, having a glass of french red and firing up Lightroom. Sometimes when I wait for the printer to finish the first print of the photograph. Those words are heavily emotional and since they can pop up at any point in the process I conclude I am feeling those emotions all the time.

Again, I am not saying that this is in any way the one way one should approach this. As with my prose, I give these thoughts to you. Now go and find your own answers to Toni’s question. Being aware of what one does and why will allow for a sense of direction and therefore personal development. Which of course will mean better photographs in the sense of being more interesting. Just as you are.

P.S.: If you’re asking yourself why this articel is titled “Somethin’ Else”. This was the title of the album by Cannonball Adderley I was listening to while writing.

Beliefs and Answers

Looking up a guest blog post I wrote in January 2020 for the blog of my friend and mentor Harold Davis, I realized I never published it here. So finally, here it is:

To live a life I think you need to believe in something, need to find some answers. Without those beliefs and answers, there is no sense of direction, which will make it hard to find it in yourself to make an effort, since you don’t even know whether the next step is getting you closer to where you want to be or further away.

The answers can be found everywhere. Sometimes you already heard them and didn’t recognize them. Sometimes you knew them all along. It’s just that the right questions were never asked.

When I read Ansel Adams’ 1965 article about Edward Weston, one sentence struck home with me: “You might discover through Edward Weston’s work how basically good you are or might become.” The questions I asked myself after reading this and pondering it for a while made me realize something I knew all along. About who I was. And about my work as a photographer.

When They Come
“When They Come”

It is no coincidence that most people will tell you when asked where they go to wind down, relax, find peace, recharge, that they’ll find all that in nature. I believe that we all feel that way in nature is because we are basically going home. It’s where we belong, it’s where we came from and will go back to. And it’s what we feel disconnected from when we’re back in the everyday “real” world.

X Marks The Spot
“X Marks The Spot”

I am often asked why there are rarely any people in my photographs. I think they are always there. When I take pictures of forests, mountains, the sky, the sea, a sunset, then you can find yourself in there. You, and all the rest of us. I believe that everything in nature is connected and even in this day and age when he have managed to be so out of touch with nature if we are willing to be open, we can find ourselves there again.

Big Sky
“Big Sky”

So when I show you Marram grass in the wind under a stormy sky along the coast, it is you. When I show you fir trees aching under the weight of the snow, it is me. And when I show you the moon reflecting in the ocean stretching out to the horizon, it is all of us and all you will ever need to know. Because at this point the questions will start forming inside you and point you to what we knew all along. And what will help you discover how good you are or might become.

A Wind Is Rising
“A Wind Is Rising”

“I know now wherever I go, the path will show itself with every step I take. I’ll never be lost.” This is my idea for The Path (France, 2018).

The Path
“The Path”

The Making Of “See You In The Morning”


Yesterday I was out in the Eifel which is about an hours ride form here, hiking for some five hours with Christina, my sister and my nephew (who are the persons you see in this image). And of course Leah, the dog.

For most of the time I was miserable. You may think because it was colder than I thought and because I am so out of shape that I didn’t want to celebrate with my smart watch when I hit the 30.000 steps mark. But what really annoyed me was the cloudless blue sky. I can photograph clouds forever and I really like a moody sky. But just nothing but blue? Boring.

Often when the sky is featureless on those cloudless days or when it is just a two-dimensional grey, you are told to exclude the sky from your composition. Mostly I took that advice, but when I saw that group of trees, there was something about it that made me stop. The idea was to wait until the others went over the top of the hill out of sight and then take the photograph. I did that, but before they vanished, I felt I had to capture the moment when they were on the top of the hill. And right I was, it was the frame which spoke to me most. Even though I usually avoid including people in my images.

So once I got home, imported the images to Lightroom, I still liked the composition, but didn’t really know what to do with it. As dropping in some clouds in Photoshop is no option for me I had to find another way.

Good thing I had found one when editing “The Way Home” as described here. I used the Full Spectrum preset as a starting poiint and added a red filter to darken the sky even more. There was a gradation in the color image already making it look like maybe the sun was setting behind the hill. Of course there were still things to do with the image, but the general idea was to darken down the sky so much that it didn’t even matter there was nothing in the sky. In “The Way Home” there at least was something in the sky and fog on the ground, but the concept worked on this one as well.

Also in both images it changes the mood and the feel completely. Which of course also has an impact on the story I will write for this picture as it already had an impact on the title, which only popped up after the image had changed so dramatically. And I am really glad “The Way Home” turned out to be more than just a one-time coincidence.

Going very oldskool


If you know me at all, you know that I have a thing for everything old. I drive a ’97 Volvo, play a huge Epiphone jazzbox, my cameras are not the newest latest and my Macs are both from 2011.

So when the last update for Lightroom and Photoshop hit, I felt like back in my videogame days. Back then I had to update my computer frequently to be able to play new games. More RAM, a more powerful graphics card, you name it. Needless to say, those games were absolutely necessary. But when Adobe’s updates appeared in the Creative Cloud app and the need to upgrade from High Sierra to at least Mojave to be able to install them, I asked myself whether I really need that (given that the update to Mojave included patching and flashing and changing the graphics card to one that night sacrifice the boot screen, but hopefully not brightness control, vital to display calibration).

Turns out, I don’t. With the D300 and D7100, Lightroom 5 was good enough and that I had sitting on the shelf ever since I subscribed to the photography plan. But what about Photoshop? When I looked at the books by Harold Davis, Jeff Schewe, Martin Evening and Vincent Versace (which are permanently on my desk), I realized that those books were written using Photoshop CS5 or even CS4 so everything I had learned form those could be done using an older version of Photoshop.

My very dear friend Jörg Wüstkamp gave me a copy of Photoshop CS5 for my birthday, so I was all set. I even had a version of Lightroom 3, so with LR3 released in June 2010 and PS CS5 released in April of the same year, my 2011 Macs were very happy and authentic and working with the D300 files felt like 11 years back. Which will keep getting better once I get my hands on a D700 which is the plan.

This doesn’t mean we all have to go back to old software and I didn’t have a problem with Adobe’s subscription model. I was just so happy to be freed of this need to have the latest version of everything Adobe, a pressure I put on myself. Which meant I was also able to take that pressure away by finding out what I really need. All I am left with now is what everybody back in 2010/2011 using Photoshop CS5 felt: When will CS6 come out?