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Alaska exhibition in Stuttgart opens tomorrow

Just a quick last minute reminder that my exhibition “Alaska – The Last Frontier” in the James-F.-Byrne-Institut, Charlottenplatz 17 in Stuttgart will open tomorrow at 7 p.m. I am quite excited to see my images as large format prints and nicely framed on display again – the cellar’s just not a good place for them. I am also surprised to see that most of my top picks of 2009 are still among my favorites, although so far I took out three of my old images and will probably take out two more that I’m not quite happy with anymore. I will also add five new images. You can preview these below.
The decision about which ones to add was a tough one once again, I could easily have added another twenty – for one there are no porcupines among the images I have on display. As a small consolation to myself and maybe some of you, I will show most of the close contestants in the slide show for my opening talk tomorrow evening. I hope to see some of you in Stuttgart, but even if you miss the vernissage tomorrow, the images will be on display until September 21. This means that at least the Germans should have a chance to look at them.

PS: Looking through my images and additions again I have to say, I do love my bears.

Alaska Exhibition in Stuttgart, Germany

Finally here is the invitation card for my upcoming exhibition in Stuttgart, Germany (June 15 – September 21, 2012).

You can also download the invitation as a pdf here.

I will be exhibiting many of the same prints I also had on display in my exhibit at the Carl-Schurz-Haus in 2009, but plan to add a few from the original as well as a more recent trip to the panhandle in 2011. I hope a fair number of people will show up for the opening, during which I will show many more images from my 2008 trip, as well as a recent trip from last year and talk about the making of a few of the images on display.

My talk will take place at 7 p.m. on Thursday June 14.

Postmodern Schlock and Screwing Tortoises

Wednesday on my visit to Side I had not one but two novel experiences. The first was a visit to the Manavgat waterfalls, which both of my guide books praise highly as an idylic retreat, the other were two screwing tortoises and later two others. Apparently it’s that time of year, at least if you’re a tortoise.
Watching tortoises during copulating is a view at once endearing and ridiculous, which – if you think about it – is probably also the way human intercourse would look from a tortoise’s perspective. The way it works as far as I could tell is that the male bonks the female’s shield repeatedly (a sound that is quite distinctive and led to my discovery of the second pair) to get her all fired up between periods of mounting for which he makes the most bizarre noises + cum face. All in all quite a sight to behold.

Tortoise cum face

The other major revelation was the “waterfall.” It’s more of a rapid really and part of an ensemble made to resemble … whatever … something, the sunken city of some place or other, probably. They built terraces all around the “waterfall” and then flooded them over. Now they charge admission and there are “professional photographers” all over the place who take your picture with your loved one and sell it to you, I bet they make a decent living since there are tons of young courting Turks. Naturally their pictures are underwhelming. Add half a dozen or so gift shops with pirated sweaters, shoes and other trash and you have a fairly good idea. The whole setup was so incredibly bizarre, and reminded me so much of a DeLillo novel, I gladly paid the 3,50 lira. The fact that I was pretty much the only non-native was a nice change.

The sunken city (?) at the Manavgat "waterfalls"

Lastly I couldn’t let you go without at least a half way decent image. This one was taken last night above the Dimcay dam, on the way to Gemüseauflauf [vegetable casserole], as a fellow touristess called it.

Scene above the Dimcay dam.

Thank the Almighty for Rental Cars

Faithful readers,

it took me only about an hour in Antalya to realize that He must have had travelers such as myself in mind when in His infinite wisdom He invented rental cars. I received a first strong pointer when I was trying to find dinner. Hardly anybody here seems to have a clue of what “vegetarian” means; naturally, trying to explain what a vegan is seems even more hopeless – which speaks for the kind of people who usually stay in Antalya.*

Even more bizarre about this section of Turkey is that fact that everybody speaks German, or some version thereof, and everyone immediately addresses you in German, tourists as well as Turks (this is only true of the town, not the country, noone speaks anything but Turkish as soon as you leave the tourist ghettos, which does not mean you won’t get invited for çay and smile at each over the Babylonian language barrier). I don’t think I have ever been so fully embedded in Ruhrpott culture as these last two days. My neighbor has brought a gigantic Schalke flag which covers his entire balcony. He also has a Schalke towel, and I think I saw him wear Schalke shorts the first day. He refers to Bild as “the newspaper,” in exactly the tone of that snooty TV ad for the Taz, which some of my German readers may recall. Right now he is in great dismay because the internet has not been working all day (“Dat geht mir auf den SACK, ey”).

Antalya itself lies in a pretty enough spot: the Mediterranean on one side, the mountains on the other and it has a castle overlooking the water. The city has exhausted its potential, photographic as well as otherwise, in a not too busy day, however – unless your idea of having a good time is getting sunburnt, and enjoying the all-inclusive buffet and free drinks at the hotel – which for a lot of people seems to be the case. I, on the other hand, have decided it’s serious rental car time, for although I enjoy a day at the beach or pool, I would feel too much like wasting my time if I ignored the surrounding area.

Yesterday [Monday] I went to the East as far as Anamur and quite enjoyed the coastline. I also added another member to my growing family, for I found another long lost brother – or rather he found me. This new addition to my family, Hayati, as opposed to my previous two Jordanian brothers, who were hospitable to the point of embarrassment, was obviously more interested in hustling me for money, which over an extended trip from his village to Anamur and back he half-craftily did. All the while he was addressing me as Thomas, which, curiously, happens to be the name of my cousin from the estranged side of my family. While I did not buy any rugs or knickknacks (nor did he try to sell any), my new-found brother (“Meine Mama ist Deine Mama”) got more and more drunk with the money he “borrowed” from me, while insisting that I should let him drive, for he still could, and that I should drink a second beer and some of his vodka for the police wouldn’t care anyhow – which may or may not be true. In the end he entertained / embarrassed / harassed / amused me for most of an afternoon and into the pitch black night at which point he was so shitfaced his excuses for not giving me back my money got more and more flimsy and he starting praising scenery which, for lack of light, no one could have seen. His company was charming / obnoxious / hilarious and culturally enlightening enough to have been worth the price of the vodka he drank “on the house” – although he of course promised to give me the money back when he’s in town on Thursday. I’m of half a mind to test his honesty. In large part because he claims to work for an outfitter who takes people waterskiing and I wouln’t mind trying waterskiing. Although I do not expect to ever see him again, maybe this will be one of the rare occasions in which mankind positively surprises me. I will also have to ask my parents what else they have kept hidden from me; I am sure there are some more skeletons in the closet considering how many brothers I have all over the world I have never heard of.

I think I will head back East tomorrow morning, when the imam faithfully reminds me (around 4:30 a.m.) that it is my heavenly duty to use the best light for my photography. Although I would personally set him half an hour later, his praise of Allah is a good incentive to get out of bed, for the very thought of sleep is laughable for at least ten minutes while he’s at it, and afterwards you are so awake you might as well get out of bed. Also on the list of places to go in the next few days are Antalya, Side and Dimçayi. I might also try my luck at just driving into the mountains to see what they have to offer. And I still have the lecture to write I have to hold two days after getting back. It’s on the topic of postmodernism and Antalya seems to be about as appropriate a place to write it as I can think of, the only place more appropriate I can think of would be Las Vegas [edit: I found an even better place, Manavgat-Selalesi, the dream escape of Turkish families and postmodern kitsch beyond belief].

PS (Wednesday morning): He also has a Schalke bathing suit. While he seems nice enough when you talk to him, I am beginning to really worry. In other news: there’s still no internet: “maybe tonight.” Whatever, I’m off to the West for the rest of the day. I hope I will be able to post this tonight.

* After a while I found that at least some restaurants have a vegetarian selection, with always the same three items on the menu, the difference between which – if there is any – is so slight it frankly escapes me.

For those who have read (or skipped) this far, here are some images:

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Strange Days & Upcoming Exhibition

Dear readers,

please excuse the long silence. My life has recently been full of work and taken a few unexpected turns, which have kept my priorities focused on other things than updating my blog. Among other developments I now once again live in my native town of Freiburg, Germany, something I would not have considered possible as recently as three months ago. The city and its inhabitants have treated me very nicely so far, however, so I expect to stick around for a while and explore Europe some more. There are also a few things worth mentioning regarding my photography:

To begin with there are some excellent news: I was contacted by the German-American center in Stuttgart last week. They want to exhibit my Alaska images. The exhibit will open June 14 2012 and I will give a talk on my travels through Alaska on opening night, and show some slides. I also plan to switch a few of the images exhibitied three years ago in Freiburg, take out one or two I don’t like anymore and add one or two new ones from a short trip through Alaska’s panhandle last year and possibly include a few from my 2008 trip I overlooked last time.

In other news: I booked a last minute (!) trip to Turkey, something I have never done before (but figured I should do once in my life as a self experiment), and will fly there tomorrow morning. I expect German tourists and sociological oddities. Fortunately I also booked a car, so I can escape from the holiday ghetto I am spending my nights in. I will post images if I get anything worth sharing with the world. I am excited since I have never been to Turkey before, but a bit worried about my vegan food options.

2011 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,400 times in 2011. If it were a cable car, it would take about 23 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

The Great Bear Rainforest

Earlier this month I had the opportunity to visit the Great Bear Rainforest. The GBR, originally known as one of the most special places in British Columbia and home to the illusive spirit bear, one of the major photographic goals of my trip, sadly has recently become a place which has received less positive media exposure as the object of desire of Alberta’s Enbridge company which is planning to end its Northern Gateway oil pipeline in Kitimat, just outside the Great Bear Rainforest. As if this was not bad news enough in itself, considering Enbridge’s record of leaky pipelines and a general tendency towards hubris in our species, Enbridge furthermore plans to send super tankers down the coast, a body of water which has a reputation of being exposed to really severe weather conditions and is difficult enough to maneuver even in favorable conditions. The idea behind all this is to open the Asian markets for Canada’s tar sands, which in themselves are another major environmental concern. Staying with the topic of having around 225 oil tankers a year cruise up and down a rough body of water along a pristine ecosystem, however, I do not believe that it takes a genius to figure out that this is calling for trouble (besides continuing the great Canadian tradition of trampling Native land claims under foot) – trouble that could easily reach the proportions of the Exxon Valdez catastrophe in the late 1980s when one of the ships runs on ground as it is bound to sooner or later. If you are as concerned about this as I am, Pacific Wild’s website might be a good place to start, but there are literally dozens of other groups opposing this madness, offering petitions to sign etc.
Now to my trip, though. It would be an understatement to say that the trip exceeded my expectations. Among the highlights were the chance to see and photograph spirit bears (initially a somewhat hyperreal experience considering how much I had read and image-searched earlier, but eventually a very special moment), see four humpbacks breaching almost in perfect synchronicity literally 30 or 40 meters from our boat, photographing coastal wolves (though from afar), seeing and photographing my first pine marten, and finally witnessing one of the most obscenely gorgeous photographic scenes I had ever seen: grizzlies in front of a rain forest scene with the early morning sun burning away the fog; a scene so perfect one could not have improved it with a brush and canvas – oh, and did I mention the two eagles sitting in the tree to the left?
Anyway, I will be silent so you can have a look at my images. There are more images from the trip on my website.

A bald eagle taking off.

Curious pine marten.

Black Bear on Gribbell Island.

My first spirit bear. Spirit (or Kermode) bears are black bears who carry a recessive allele that gives some of them white fur. There are only a couple white hundred individuals, most of them around Princess Royal Island.

Breaching Humpback Whale.

Grizzly Bear in the Great Bear Rainforest.

The first (and possibly last) arboreal seal I have ever seen.

Coastal Wolf in Rescue Bay. These wolves fish for salmon along the creeks and are pretty damn elusive. This image was taken with my 500 mm lens, but nevertheless turned out to be more of an animal scape.

Critter Care

As mentioned in my last post I joined the lovely people of The Association for the Protection of Fur-Bearing Animals for their visit to Critter Care earlier this month. Critter Care is the only shelter in the Lower Mainland devoted exclusively to fur-bearing animals and so seems to be a natural partner for the Fur-Bearer Defenders. Luckily they wanted some decent images of the animals to promote their fund-raising for Critter Care so this is where I came in.
The shelter is, not surprisingly, a shelter. While they keep their cages as close to a natural environment as possible their room and resources are very limited and they have a lot of animals to take care of. While all the animals are well-loved and -cared for, the logistics make it very hard to take ‘wild’ looking images of the animals. It might be possible if I were to spend long stretches of time with the animals and make them comfortable with my presence, as I tend to when photographing in the wild. But this of course runs contrary to the idea behind the shelter. They want to rear animals that can be released into the wild and will not end up in people’s backyards after a week, because they are too comfortable around humans which is the reason they try minimize contact with different humans. There was nothing to do but to compromise my photography in the interest of the animals (which I was happy to do of course, wildlife photography should be about the animals, not the photographer’s ego). To make matters even more challenging, however, a lot of the animals were so small they were not yet released to their outside cages but fed inside the main office. As a result I decided to focus on images of human-animal interaction, since I felt that these would be the best images I could get in the limited time I had.
Whatever the photographic possibilities and challenges, however, seeing baby animals is good for the heart; it is nowhere as good as seeing a wild animal (I am still a wildlife photographer with all my heart – more on that in the next post), but, hey, a baby otter peed on my sweater and I pride myself that there are not many people who have had that experience – not even among wildlife photographers.
Below is a slideshow of some of the better images from Critter Care. A few might end up in the Fur-Bearer Defenders’ next newsletter if they like them (I am meeting executive director Lesley Fox later today), so keep your eyes open if you are a member, if not become one NOW :). Quite obviously all photos are of ‘captive’ animals.

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The Association for the Protection of Fur-Bearing Animals / A chance to use my photos for animals

Kessi and I went to a meeting of The Association for the Protection of Fur-Bearing Animals last Saturday and were impressed enough with their work and professionalism to join the Association on the spot, and to sign up to volunteer at one of their info tables, at the EPIC tomorrow, in fact.

Furthermore folks at the Association are in desperate need of a wildlife photographer (well, I might be exaggerating a bit), and seem really interested in using some of my images (which I will be donating) for their newsletters, campaigns to ban trapping for fur, the trapping of so called “nuisance animals” like beavers and coyotes and so on. I might also get a chance to sell some prints at their info tables, in which case I would of course donate some of the profits.

What is even more exciting, is that it looks as if I will be joining the Fur-Bearer Defender staff on their visit to a shelter for orphaned and hurt North American animals in early June, Critter Care in Langley. The shelter is not usually open to the public and this sounds like a great chance to get images of some rare and / or small animals I might not easily get to photograph in an ethical setup, i.e. not a zoo or one of those despicable game farms that some so called wildlife photographers chose to support.

I hope I will manage to take some good photos, from what I have seen of Critter Care so far the shelters were not exactly set up with photography in mind. I will keep you posted once I get results.

So as not to upload another post without images here are a few images of fur-bearing animals and some background on how they are affected by trapping and hunting, the list is of course much longer and I won’t even go into the issue of fur farms, not today anyhow:

Beaver, Alaska

Communities like to trap and kill beavers as they see them as “nuisance animals,” at least when the little guys have the temerity of establishing their home base next to people’s houses. While it is true that beavers occasionally cause flooding, they are extremely predictable in their habits and there are a number of cheap, non-lethal alternatives such as pond levelers and Beaver Deceivers (I just love the name) to ensure that people and beavers can happily coexist.
Furthermore scientists are beginning to understand that beavers have a positive impact on the environment, e.g. by re-naturalizing rivers and thus providing salmon habitat.

Coyote, Alberta

Don’t ask me why but coyotes, too, have a really bad rep throughout North America. Maybe it has to do with the fact that most people can’t tell coyotes and wolves apart, and that wolves have been leading actors in way too many scary stories. Considering the love most folks have for dogs their neglect or hate for wolves and coyotes strikes me as extremely irrational, especially when one sees how closely wolves, coyotes and dogs are related.
Anyway, communities and other undereducated members of the public like to trap, shoot, maim and kill coyotes for various reasons. On top of that the RCMP has apparently recently added coyote fur trim to some of their winter jackets in addition to the muskrat fur they use for their caps. Great job, Constable Fraser and company!

Remember those silly black hats the guards outside Buckingham Palace wear? Unbelievably they are still made out of Canadian black bear fur, one bear per hat. Talk about unnecessary cruelty …
Having spent quite a bit of time with these magnificent animals in the wild this is one point that particularly riles me. It is just as bad as those pathetic cowardly $#%& who want to reaffirm their manhood by shooting defenseless bears (did someone say Sarah Palin) – which of course is also still legal in BC…

Website Update (Costa Rica 3)

Being, as always, a last minute person I have uploaded some new images of Costa Rica literally minutes before leaving for the airport to fly to Texas.
Check out the Recent work folder on my website, and stay tuned for some images from Big Bend National Park in the near future.