20 Feb, 2014
Tech Tips 5/14 - Data Security



If you worry about your data, think of all your information in categories from confidential to public. I do that and it gives me peace of mind.


Everything digital that I really care about I only store locally on my computer and on encrypted hard drives. I use mail servers located out of the US to be sure national data privacy is effective (NSA spying is not taken into account). I once talked with T-Mobile and asked them how they store geo data. They were astounded and said they didn't store it at all because we're in Germany and not in the US. Everything I put in iCloud, especially Calender, Notes or Pages in the Cloud, I agree somehow to that being stored and reused by third parties potentially. That's not great but hey, those services are for free and in the end the only thing people want to do with those information is make money by placing personalized advertising. Fair enough, I can stand that.


Everything else that I want nobody or only my closest people to know I simply don't put on the internet and not even my computers at all, I write it down, talk to them in person, call them or write SMS, simple. It's just a matter of awareness and carefulness, not a big deal. We need to overcome laziness from time to time.


If you want a secure Cloud service use Wuala, it's the safest there is. It's as safe as storing locally on your computer. If you have digital data you need to store the safest way possible put it on an AES-256-encrypted hard drive and only connect to your computer when you're not connected to the internet. It's pretty impractical but very safe.





12 Feb, 2014
Weddings 2014



With wedding season ahead make sure to pick a photographer for your special day that takes images you can enjoy for the rest of your life. If you like my style I can cover your day from dress up till last dance. These are some of my photos from the last years ...



If you're interested just drop me a line.





11 Feb, 2014
Photography - Difference between a sub-frame and a full-frame camera, quick ...



Why would you want to shoot a Canon full-frame camera that costs more than twice as much (3.700 € incl. the lens for the Canon, 1.330 € for the OM-D), weighs a kilo more (1.609g vs. 587g), is much bigger and bulkier and doesn't even look as good?


Simple, because it gives technically better images. How much better lies in the eye of the beholder and whether it outweighs the above downsides as well.


Full-frame gives you better noise performance at higher sensitivities, about a stop in this case. With 4 times the sensor area (2,0 crop factor) I would expect the Canon to do better, the OM-D really has pretty little noise, but the Canon is still superior. I don't give too much on noise. Out of my over 100.000 images I've shot not a single one was ruined because of noise, so what.


The reason I shoot full-frame is you get a big finder. The 5D finder is smaller than of classic film SLRs but much bigger compared to sub-frames. The OM-D actually has a pretty nice and big electronic finder, the 5D's is just bigger.


The second reason, probably the most important, images look like they did with film in terms of depth of field. With full-frame and a fast lens you can nicely blur backgrounds and emphasize your subject, it's much more difficult with sub-frames. To show you what I mean I shot both cameras wide open, the Canon with a 35L at f/1.4 and the OM-D with the 17 1.8 at f/1.8, its widest setting.






You know what I mean?


If that doesn't impress you, forget full-frame and use the cheaper sub-frames, the OM-D is a wonderful little camera, I really like it. If images count, like on a wedding, I grab the Canon. Its images are just superb.


Happy shooting ...





7 Feb, 2014
Tech Tips 4/14 - A robust and serious backup strategy



The following is for Mac users in particular but the same applies to Windows as well, I just can’t recommend any special programs for Windows at the moment because I’m not using it. You have to look it up and try yourself whenever I mention a specific program for Mac.


Ok, do you care about backups? Not really? A lot of my friends don’t and I am trying to explain now why it can be fatal and how easy and cheap it is to backup.


First of all, what is a backup? It’s a copy of your original data on a different drive, a different physical hard drive other than the one that is in your computer. Some people, friends of mine, say they didn’t have valuable data so they don’t care. But they probably haven’t experienced any hard drive failure or let down before.


If the hard drive of your main laptop fails all your data stored on it is gone. Sometimes it would be possible to recover it but cost would be enormous so I don’t take that into consideration. If you haven’t backed up your data, all your files will be gone forever. Even if I had no valuable data the snapshots I took with my cameras over the years are reason enough to backup because I would be incredibly sad if I lost them.


Hard drives fail from time to time, same as nuclear power plants. Not terribly often but of the 12 drives I bought over the years 2 seriously failed, and I’m only buying quality drives like those from Western Digital.


Ok, I recommend anybody to backup, letters, photos, files, personal documents, programs, downloads, which are all much to important to risk a complete loss.


How should you backup? Seriously, I keep at least 3 copies of all my data (including the Master copy of my computer), one at a different physical location than the other drives, plus I use Time Machine for constant backup of temporary files, Carbon Copy Cloner as Clone solution for my boot drive and Wuala as Cloud Backup. What does all this mean and why is it important?


Three different copies in general are important because we have to consider a hard drive fail. If it happens and you only got one copy left you already find yourself in an uncomfortable situation of relying only on the last copy. Just in case pure coincidence caused a drop of this last backup drive in a hurry or anything else went wrong you've lost everything as well. It’s very unlikely that two rare accidents happen at once but you never know. So three complete copies of your data is mandatory in my opinion, every extra copy is more of a prevention of unlikelihood.


It’s important to store one of the three copies at a different physical location as the others because there are cases where both or all three copies would go lost at once. One could be your house burns down, another could be all your stuff gets stolen from your flat. If that happened and you had all your copies at home you were screwed. A good and easy way is to store your third copy at a friend’s place or in a locker or your parents’ house. I am using an extra drive with the temporary third copy to bridge the times during which you can’t backup on the far away location. This transport drive is additionally helpful for rearranging storage or temporarily delete from one drive before you save to another for example.


What kind drives do you need? I’m buying Western Digital and trust them. Seagate seems to be good as well. I’m generally using three small 2,5“ drives (extra transport drive and Time Machine/Clone drive) to be able to take all my data with me and easily connect without need of extra power supply. Because 2,5“ are more expensive (small size) the other two drives I’m using are 3,5“ drives. They are much cheaper. You have to calculate how much data you have, how likely it will fill up, so how much you need in the future and give a little extra space on top. I have 1,8 TB of data in total so at the moment 2 TB drives are fine but I will have to extend storage space later this year again. Generally I would recommend to buy 1 or 2 TB drives, the bigger they are the cheaper they are per TB, there are also 4 TB drives. 1 TB drives are very cheap if that’s enough for you.


Alright, we got at least three drives now (including your computer). How do you back up now? The easiest way is to use Time Machine with Macs. You just plug the external drive in and set the drive as backup volume. Your Mac does the rest. If you keep the drive attached the Mac makes an updated copy every hour. It’s incredibly handy and gives you peace of mind. And you can set more than one drive as Time Machine Volume and backup to the other drives manually when you plug those in. It’s actually the easiest way. BUT, some people, for example Lloyd Chambers, say Time Machine was unreliable sometimes. He doesn’t trust Time Machine any more than as a constant temporary extra backup. I believe him and think it’s a good idea to use dedicated Clone programs for real backups. Another disadvantage of Time Machine is that it’s not bootable. In case of a faulty drive in your computer other programs let you boot from your external drive and you can keep on working without any loss at all. You simply swap the faulty drive and be set.


The safest way and best program I know is Carbon Copy Cloner for Mac or something similar for Windows. It doesn’t matter if you're using only one master drive in your computer or different partitions with a separate boot drive for system and programs like I do, so I need an extra backup drive for that.


My recommendation is to keep one drive attached for hourly Time Machine backups (you don’t need to do that, but I remember how annoying it is sometimes to be thrown back only a couple of hours). Partition your first backup drive into one Time Machine partition and one for regular Clones or use two separate drives for that. Use Carbon Copy Cloner once a day or whenever you think a backup was necessary. CCC makes a complete bootable Clone of your computer on the external drive. Do this Clone backup to the backup drive that you have in your flat, the Clone drive with the Time Machine backup partition, you may as well only use the Time Machine backup at home. I don’t do that as mentioned above, it’s a matter of personal security threshold. And use the fourth recommended transport drive to backup the third copy that you take with you all the time or leave it somewhere away from your flat, f.e. your office, during the times you can't do the proper third backup to the far away backup drive. Carbon Copy Cloner is not very practical for the far away drive because you might not always have your computer with you to do the Clone but the transport drive. You just copy the new files manually to the far away drive. The great thing about Carbon Copy Cloner and Time Machine itself is they make incremental Clones/Backups so they only add new stuff after you have run a Clone/Backup for the first time, that makes it pretty fast, too, especially when you have USB 3.0 connection.


If you buy a WD drive they come with hardware protection so you can set a password to make access to your data reasonably difficult. If you really have valuable data that nobody else should be able to see use TrueCrypt, a program that lets you encrypt your drives with the latest security standards. I have my mobile drives encrypted with AES-256 encryption. Nobody who finds the drive will be able to access.


Phew, what else to tell, let me summarize to make sure I got everything.




1. Calculate how much data you have and how much you need in the future. Buy at least two (ideally three backup drives, one small transport drive) of f.e. 2 TB each, one 2,5“ and one 3,5“ (about 200 €).


2. Partition the drives or use separate drives for Clone and Time Machine, recommendation: Set the mobile 2,5“ drive to one partition using Time Machine, f.e. 500 GB.


3. Let Time Machine make a backup on the mobile 2 TB drive. Clone twice to the other partition or drive and the 3,5“ drive.


4. Now you got 3 copies plus Time Machine, your computer as the Master, a partition of the mobile drive as Time Machine drive and the other partition as first external Clone backup and the 3,5“ external drive as second Clone backup of your Master computer. You may include a transport drive as fourth drive for rearranging drives, deleting and as temporary backup drive.


5. Leave the mobile drive attached to let Time Machine make constant temporary backups and clone once a day or whatever you consider an appropriate interval to make clones to the other two drives. Use the fourth transport drive to bridge the times you can’t backup to the far away drive.




Hope it helped.


Keep it safe …





6 Feb, 2014
Photography - What makes a great photo?



What is it that makes a great photo?


The answer is nearly as difficult as the one to what great art was. Photography has so many different types and genres that it‘s quite hard or nearly impossible to define a special type of photograph that is great. You could pick hundreds of completely different photos that could be all great in a different way.


The quality of a photo lies in the eye of the beholder. One photo may be great to me but pretty average to others. But I can try to explain what impresses me about photos and how I as a photographer try to achieve a good photo.


When I think about photographers those like David LaChapelle or Gregory Crewdson come to my mind quickly, but it‘s more because they create impressive artworks, that are loud and in your face and stay in your mind. I do not particularly love them as photographers but more as artists. Their images have more of a painting or a staged play captured with one exposure. But to be honest it‘s actually not what I love about photography.


Great photography to me means capturing a moment, to freeze life in one photograph. That creates a whole lot of different scenes you can imagine to fit that purpose. It can be a portrait of a person that is happy and the capture of this happiness, during a wedding or just a stranger in a restaurant. It can be a sport event and a fascinating moment of the hit of the ball. It can be a sad moment in your family. It can also just be the sky and a crazy formation of clouds. It can also be a flower and its intriguing colours. It may as well be just a normal daily street scene in your hometown.


The subject doesn‘t really matter, life gives you endless opportunities to create a great photo. But what is it that makes your photo stand out?


It‘s hard to define one way that makes a photo great, I think there are many. Let me give you an example, a photo of a woman I shot in Vietnam. To me it's pretty much a perfect portrait. I saw this beautiful old woman in a little village. She allowed me to take her photo. Not only does she look amazing, it's also her clothes and this perfectly balanced background that just emphasized her magnificent expression. You could have done the same in a studio with someone casted and pose this way. But the great thing about this image is it's completely natural and I managed to just captured this graceful attitude. It's one of my most favorite portraits ever, I just love it.



But a photo of houses in Hongkong may be as interesting to you. What I like about this photo are those crazy lines that give it dramatic expression. I shot the image late in the day and the light was just perfect and created all shades of crazy colours. It's a completely different genre of photos and still I love them both in their own way.



A photo to me has to tell a story at best in an arty or powerful way. For example you can take a photo of someone in the streets by just point the camera straight towards her or him. But you can make it a better photo by including some of the surrounding into the photo in an interesting way.



You can try to compose a photo in a very symmetrical way to make it look more appealing. Photographing only straight lines sometimes make a great photo.



There are different factors each possibly contributing to a good photo. Subject may be one factor. A photo of a beautiful woman may be great just because it‘s a great looking person. But to me photographing obviously beautiful people or things often lead to not so interesting photos although the subject may be interesting. That‘s why I never really liked photographers like Helmut Newton or Peter Lindberg too much. Without a doubt you have to be recognized and proven to be a really good photographer to get the chance to shoot celebraties or Supermodels, but there‘s not such a great story behind it in the end.


To me a photo is more interesting when the person is not amazingly beautiful in the first place but becomes beautiful the way you take a photo of her/him and tell their story in one exposure, maybe by including some of the natural environment the person is working or living in. A photo to me is more interesting when you see someone on the streets that could be a Supermodel but simply isn‘t. I rode a bike on the countryside in Myanmar and passed this young woman. I turned around after a couple of meters and went back to take her photo. It‘s one of the most beautiful people I‘ve seen last year and on this trip. She was just sitting beside the street in a little booth to sell some goods to the village people. It‘s a completely natural portrait.



Good photos draw peoples attention and stay in their heads. But it‘s very difficult to tell what this special something has to be. Light for example plays a huge role in almost every photo and morning or evening light is much more pleasing because its softer and often gives interesting skies and colours.



Compostion has a huge impact on a photo. Placing a person or couple right in the middle of the frame is not as interesting as placing it on the sides or the bottom sometimes.



Timing is a key factor in making a photo special. To capture the exact moment of a unique situation sometimes make the photo a winner.



Sometimes it's simplicity that makes a photo powerful.



Very noisy images with lots of different things going on like in a street scene can be as interesting, too, though.



Sometimes it‘s one factor alone that make a photo good but often it‘s only a combination of all those factors that make a photo great.



I‘m very critical for example. One photographer that I am probably the most amazed of is Henry Cartier-Bresson. He used to shoot for Magnum, one of the greatest photo agencies in the world. Bresson's photos are outstanding. They often combine a very special moment in life with incredibly interesting people, his ability to hit the exact neccessary moment and an incredible talent in composing all this in an image you will never forget. Bresson is one of the very few masters that I consider an idol for me. And his images keep me hunting for those moments in life that are very, very hard to put into a photograph quite the same way. If you succeed you got a great photo, only others may tell if it was truly outstanding.



As photographer you always think you could have done better ...


I think this can only be a Part One of what makes a great photo, there's so much more to write about it ...





1 Feb, 2014
Society - What's in the pipeline?


Apple always sets new standards with their inventions but I really don't want those new things. The finger print sensor scares me. I would paste it over with tape. They say it was stored locally on the phone. That may be true but it's only a salami tactics to accustom us to the feature. Apple is negotiating with PayPal at the moment to make mobile payment by fingerprint the next big thing. Then of course your finger print can be everywhere. They always say it was for security reasons, but Chaos Computer Club has shown that the sensor is no more secure then traditional methods. In contrary it's just another way to give up your personal rights. And this Health App that monitors your body via watch is a step in the exact same direction. It's the most personal information nobody else apart from your doctor or relatives should know. Why would I potentially give it to big companies who may capitalize on all this data. This has absolutely no real benefit to me other than total convenience. The price you pay for that is your most private things to completely go public. No, thanks! ...





31 Jan, 2014
Society - The fairy-tale of endless growth ...


I had a conversation yesterday with a friend about economic growth. The situation we're in today reminds me of a car engine that is running without oil for quite a while now, faster and faster every year. Experience and physics have shown that at some point it simply stops dead. The illusion of never ending growth is explained quite simple by a smaller model of our world, for example a village on an island with no connection to the surrounding world (same as our world with no connection to the surrounding universe). On the little island might live a hundred people with different abilities that all produce useful things and work to keep the society alive. But there will never be a need of things or services for a 1000 people because it‘s only a tiny island, so there's naturally a limit of useful goods in this society. In our world today we have well exceeded the natural demand of everything. There's much too much of everything, one third of our food is kicked in the bin for example, ironically there're still millions of people starving. But to stick to the growth, we do have one problem in my mind that keeps this motor running without oil till it breaks, although common sense tells us it's dangerous and lets our society develop into a wrong direction for years. It's the doctrine of shareholder value. The influence and size of capital markets in our world today way surpasses markets of "real" values, for example food or car production. The capital markets do not create any great new products, they are just moving billions of dollars around the globe helping only themselves to grow even larger every year. And tragically even when there comes the point when those gamblers have gone too far, like every couple of years, it's the normal people that bail them out so they can go on with this idiotic and harmful game for the rest of us. There are good books and I'm also a proponent of atonement. I think we all shouldn't have bailed out the banks six years ago, we should have let them go bankrupt, that's what they were anyway, it would have done nothing bad to the world at all other then setting the limit our society is willing to except but not go beyond. Iceland did this successfully, banks got state-owned and had to start from scratch. It lets a society retain its dignity and penalises people who failed to give them a chance to change their behaviour in the future. By bailing out the terrible banks in 2008 and afterwards we did the exact opposite. We trusted the bankers and made sure that we and they still believe in the fairytale of endless growth. It's going to be painful next time ...





31 Jan, 2014
Photography - Quick dynamic range test


Today I just quickly made a new dynamic range test with my fullframe Canon 5D Mark III and my Olympus OM-D E-M5. Dynamic range is the spectrum the camera is able to record with a single image from bright highlights to dark shadows. I know that Canon is not the greatest regarding dynamic range, but it's not bad at all, you just have to be careful sometimes.


This is how the cameras' jpegs look. I shot both at the exact same settings (the base ISO of the E-M5 is 200, the Canon's 100, so I took that into account; they are similar regarding actual sensitivity, means they both give the same brightness for a scene at identical settings). The jpegs usually are somewhat limited in dynamic range and you can see that in the images below, most of the windows' detail is blown due too digital clipping at values over 255, it's pure white (with film you have a smooth shoulder characteristic in highlights, means you can pull back overexposed areas very nicely).






With digital the highlight range is much more limited and therefore you have to be careful, once white, always white. But you can pull back about a stop (one brightness level in photographic terms) in RAW images, you can see that below.


5D, I pulled back highlights and shadows at once to easily show dynamic range.




As you can see both cameras are able to recover highlight detail, and shadows can be opened nicely as well. The OM-D actually has a slight edge in highlights, shadows are about the same, the 5D shows much better colour and of course detail.


Here are crops from both highlights and shadows, Canon left, Olympus right.




and shadows


It's a shame, though, given the 5D is 2-3 times more expensive and has a four times bigger sensor (2x2 crop factor). I don't really know why Canon is losing in this regard. It's by no means bad, but with such a big sensor you physically should be able to achieve a wider dynamic range. Oh well, you always find a way to work around.


I'll show some samples comparing depth of field of a crop camera compared to a fullframe, in this case the physical difference will show, no doubt.





28 Jan, 2014
Photography - Canon, can you hear me?


Look, Canon, this is what the Autofocus does in my 5D Mark III, your best and highest resolving camera for people and nature shots. Does this look out of focus only to me?



But that's not the whole story. I bought the camera nearly a year ago and it has been to Canon Maerz Berlin, to Okam in Zwenkau and to Canon Germany in Krefeld, too. Only Maerz in Berlin admitted after the second time the camera had been in for adjustment it had a defect and they didn't know how to fix it. The 5D has been away for over two month in total.


I took the 5D on a dedicated two and a half month photo trip that brought me to ten different countries. I shot over 10.000 photos with it during that time. But now comes the trick, I only used the Single Center AF point to focus, reframing every of those 10.000 shots. 61-point AF mode would have been totally unreliable and would potentially have ruined every single of my unique shots from this amazing trip through Poland, Ukraine, Moscow, Kyrgyzstan, China, Hongkong, Singapore, Cambodia, Thailand and Myanmar. Not so great!


How do we get together about this?





22 Jan, 2014
Society - Facebook, mal ein paar Beispiele ...


Heute zeige ich mal kurz auf deutsch, was sich auf facebook manchmal so tut.


Ein Post von heute, nach einer anstrengenden Diskussion:


So, ich poste es jetzt nochmal, weil manche mich offensichtlich falsch verstanden haben. Nach der Oxfam-Studie, die seit einigen Tagen einsehbar und kurz vor dem Weltwirtschaftsforum in Davos erschienen ist, besitzen die 85 reichsten Menschen der Erde genauso viel (Vermögen) wie die ärmeren 3,5 Mrd. Menschen. Das ist gruselig. Es gibt immer noch Hunger auf der Welt und der Trend geht in die falsche Richtung, da die Arm-Reich-Schere immer weiter auseinanderklafft. 1 % der reichsten Menschen der Erde, das sind 70 Mio. Menschen, besitzt 110 Billionen Dollar, das ist fast die Hälfte des gesamten Vermögens auf der Erde. Um diese Ungeheuerlichkeit anders auszudrücken, habe ich gestern gepostet, dass die 70 Mio. reichsten Menschen, die alle mehr als 1,5 Mio. Dollar besitzen (Zahlen aus der Oxfam-Studie), jedem der 3,5 Milliarden armen Menschen über 10.000 Dollar geben könnten und dann immer noch Millionäre wären. Irgendwie hat man mich so verstanden, als sei das ein Lösungsansatz, um alle Missstände zu beheben. Nein, es zeigt lediglich wieviel Geld vorhanden ist und wer es besitzt. Gleichwohl bin ich der Meinung, dass man diese Ungerechtigkeit sehr einfach beheben könnte. Das scheitert aber an der Bereitschaft jener Menschen, die in einflussreichen Positionen sitzen. Das gilt für westliche Industriestaaten gleichermaßen wie für diktatorische oder quasi-diktatorische Regime wie Russland, der Ukraine, China, Myanmar, Kambodscha oder Thailand.


Hier übrigens die Infos von Oxfam.



Ein weiteres Post:


In Amerika investieren große Konzerne wie Shell oder Coca-Cola Jahr für Jahr 1 Milliarde Dollar in selbstgeschaffene Scheininstitute, die entgegen aller wissenschaftlichen Erkenntnisse behaupten, es gäbe keine durch Menschen verursachte globale Erderwärmung. Auf ihre Behauptungen stützen sich dann Politiker und Lobbyisten, denen natürlich daran gelegen ist, die billigen, aber völlig umweltschädlichen Produktionsweisen der Unternehmen beizubehalten. Der hohe finanzielle Aufwand hat Erfolg, in Amerika glauben die meisten Menschen tatsächlich, dass die Unternehmen, aber auch der hohe Energieverbrauch privater Haushalte nicht für Global Warming ursächlich sind. Das kann man als erfolgreiche Propaganda wider den gesunden Menschenverstand bezeichnen. Der Nutzen für die Großkonzerne ist immens und um ein vielfaches höher als die läppische Milliarde, die sie für diese Strategie investieren.



Und meine ersten Gedanken zu einem Artikel über das Freihandelsabkommen:


TTIP/Freihandelsabkommen - Damoklesschwert oder ein weiterer Pakt, der gar nicht so schlimm ist wie "alle" sagen? Ich werde einen Artikel darüber schreiben, der allerdings etwas tiefergehende Auseinandersetzung bedarf. Nicht ohne Grund beraten die Beteiligten schon seit langer Zeit, unter Ausschluss der Öffentlichkeit. Vielleicht ist letzteres auch besser so, fragt sich nur für wen? Wenn ich meinen ersten Recherchen Glauben schenke, habe ich wenig Hoffnung auf einen Vertrag, der uns allen nutzt oder sagen wir der Mehrzahl der Bürger, so wie man es von einem demokratischen Institut erwartet. Ist das der Grund, weshalb hinter verschlossener Tür verhandelt wird, genauso wie auf dem Weltwirtschaftsforum in Davos oder einer Bilderberg-Konferenz? Das lässt sich herausfinden ...



Dies passiert gerade in Kiew.


Und dies war ein Interview zum Weltwirtschaftsforum in Davos.