A Photography Ride through Spring

So, Phillip: You haven’t published an article for three months: Where have you been? Well I sat in front of my PC for work a lot but I also was out in nature on my bike with a camera bag on my back.

Enjoying the freedoms C19 left

16.3.20: The first day schools were closed in Germany

I am a teacher so my daily routines changed completely with the closure of schools: I had no longer to be in school by 8am which gave me the freedom to do early morning rides but at the same time my workload increased significantly since new formats had to be developed to fit the new setting, individual feedback took a lot of time and digital tools had to be deployed and colleagues trained in them. So my hours in front of the PC increased a lot, so much so that it would have been stressful to invest even more hours to produce any blog content. A big thanks to Bastian and also to David and Juriaan wo kept the blog alive in the last months.

While C19 took many liberties I tried to make the most of the liberties which C19 left. Riding my bicycle in the early hours when none is around was still allowed under our relatively liberal lockdown rules.To me there is no better place to find respite from the turbulences of life than getting up with the sun and riding through the forest on a cold morning or slightly less frosty evening all by myself. We also had very sunny weather for weeks which I used to experience and capture the spring like no spring before. I want to share some of the many pictures I took in this article.

The Teutoburger Wald in spring

I live at the “slopes” of the Teutoburger Wald, one of Germany’s many low mountain ranges. It is best known for the fact that Varus lost many of Rome’s legions in it when it was a dark and inaccessible area in the roman times. Now some 2000 years later nature has been shaped by humans for many generations, the next road is never far away and there is no true wilderness left here. There are also no big vistas or iconic landmarks around here. I haven’t met a serious photographer in my area ever. But there are many more intimate scenes to be discovered and I want to show you a few in this article.

The forest is without leaves so the early sun still reaches the ground where early plants have already appeared.

 

31.3.20: One of the very few frosty mornings we had this “winter”
I have photographed the lower run of this brrok many times but only this spring did I discover this location in the Teutoburger Wald a kilometre or so from its spring. I am not yet 100% happy with it but I will have to wait until next spring to improve on it.

11.4.20: A lone mouflon close to the forest. We have had a flock of them for decades but recently there was a legal battle over them which resulted in a “death-sentence” for them but so far it seems to not have been carried out fully.
Our “medieval” castle which sits above a pass in the Teutoburger Wald. Like most castles it had become a ruin after for many many years when some romanticists decided to rebuild it into what they though was a proper castle. So what you see today is a romantic interpretation supported by nice light and a flattering framing.
A badger I just notices because it made a lot of noise walking through the old leaves
In some areas like this the forest is allowed to return to a more natural state with more dead wood
A typical vista on the eastern side of the Forest

 

The valley with the old mill

Meadow in the foreground, mill in the middle of the image and farm in the background.

There are many smaller brooks starting at the foot of the Teutoburger Forest which have shaped our landscape with its many hills and shallow valleys. Back in the day the energy of these brooks was used in many mills. One of these valleys is my favorite photo location around here. The valley isn’t large or very wild and the mill which was build in 1888 wasn’t ever an especially nice looking building but with time I have really learned to know the area and taken many images which are dear to me.

A nameless side arm of the Schwarzbach valley, a few hundred meters before the old mill
22.3.20: A few meters from the last image wood anemones cover much of the ground.
I used one of the too few occasions where the forest was wet and could be captured in all its lushness. Taken at the same place as the image before but in a different direction.
A 150m down the street from the first image this image against the setting sun shows the old mill and the brook.
23.3.20: After being locked in for many months the flock of sheep I have photographed so often is finally allowed out

Mill to the left, Teutoburger Wald in the background

5 years ago I had never seen a wild stork in our area now a few couples have been breeding successfully in the wider area and I hope for some of their offspring to settle in the valley.

The pole in the middle of the image is meant to carry a storks nest. So far it hasn’t been used.
  • The meadow and some of the trees around the old mill start to get green again
  • Not two weeks later nature has made a big leap

This year I was lucky to catch two foggy spring morning in the valley

 

 

The Farm

About a kilometre below the mill the valley has widened and merged with another one. The area is managed by an organic farm to which also belongs a forest I have often roamed when I lived just 5 minutes from here.

The lead-cow oft the farms flock of cattle is starting to get grey hair. Not a common sight.  

The path leading from the valley to the farm

One of the opportunities you don’t plan for: In the early morning the farms’s pond is steaming with a lone Eurasian coot in the middle of it

A new bike gives many new photo opportunities

A bicycle has always been my default mode of transportation. After owning a car for half a year I was very glad to get rid of it. So after really starting to work and earn money I decided to buy a new bike for the first time in my life. So in March I got a gravel bike with 40mm all terrain tires and the handlebar of a road bike. This kind of bike is nearly as fast a a road bike on the street so I can quickly get to a location at 30 km/h but it can be ridden on rougher terrain as well so I can get anywhere I want in my area.

 

I got the bike more for exercise and to get to work but while nature woke up this spring I started to realize that my new bike would also have a profound effect on my photography. First it increased the number of locations and opportunities available to me. On my daily photo rides I usually spend between 1 and 1.5 hours on my photo tours and I am much faster with the new gravel bike, than with my old trekking bike. Since I could cover more ground in the same time I started to really discover the Teutoburger Wald and other locations. I also visited my little valley a lot more often because it was now easily accessible within an hours ride. Secondly I got into an daily routine where I am now out with my camera almost every day, combining exercise and photography. So I have many more photo opportunities and I also am fitter than I have been in a long time.

 

Photo Gear

As I described the gear purchase that had a really positive effect on my photography was a bicycle. At the same time I didn’t buy any lenses. After my a7II stopped to work properly (all the buttons on the back are dead) I got myself a well used a7rII but otherwise I used what I had. Usually I carry

in my Think Tank Turnstyle 10 V2 which is great for cycling. I wrote a little piece on the bag here.

With the upcoming holidays I think I will find some time to write a few reviews for example of the Voigtländer 1.2/35 SE and a few legacy lenses and we plan to record the next podcast.

Conclusion

I hope you enjoyed this little photo tour, maybe you can even take some inspiration from it to better learn to know your local area,  maybe even on a bicycle. It took me many years but now I appreciate what I have here here around me very deeply.

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I have two hobbies: Photography and photographic gear. Both are related only to a small degree.

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34 thoughts on “A Photography Ride through Spring”

  1. Back in 2015/16 I did a one year long nature project where I live in a suburb outside of Stockholm city. We also have some nature patches but it is hard not to get any man made objects in the pictures and I had to use the same places several times but in different weather and times of the year. It is quite challenging but also very learning to have to be creative in an environment where one thinks that one has already seen it all and already have shot everything that is worth to cature. My project is here: https://youpic.com/photographer/lattesweden365/

  2. Nice story, backstory and some pretty pictures! I’ve been thinking of getting a bike too, it’s just easier to stop sometimes along a road and as you say it can have a positive effect on your overall health. One can only walk so far and the car is a different proposition. Empty country roads at sunrise and sunset can certainly produce lookers.
    It’ll be interesting to read about the 35/1,2 SE. I’ve seen various shades of bokeh, though not anything just like the “classic” 1,4, thankfully.

    1. If you enjoy bike riding in general then it could be really for you. Now that I have a bike I really enjoy and another hobby I can combine with bike riding I get a lot more exercise than before.

  3. Lovely photos Philip. Your ability to make beauty in your local area has been a big inspiration to my photography and style. I used the 35-70 and 75-150 Minoltas for a while before just recently getting the 21mm and 40mm Voigtlanders. Absolutely amazing lenses. Thank you for all the reviews and lovely photos.

  4. Thanks for all the reviews Phillip! Don’t worry, these people held the fort pretty well (and I also thank them for that).

    I’m spanish and it’s curious to see that teachers everywhere also spend way more time working in this situation than we normally do and maybe (just maybe) want to go back to school to work a bit less….

    I’m a bit jelous of your “coronarides” from the beginning though. I needed to hide the camera when I was taking the dog out, and old Minoltas, a dog and a leash, focusing and watching out for cops are not really that compatible.

    1. It really helps to start at 5.30 AM when nobody is around I guess ;).

      Also our “lockdown” was a pretty soft one, compared to other countries even before the easing so I never felt a need to hide the camera.

  5. Very nice collections of photos around your area! Good to hear you still keep some vintage lenses. I saw a post that you had a converted Contax G into a Pentax lens body. How did you achieve that? Can you please share some info? Thanks.

    1. I got the G90 converted by an enthusiast who put it into the helicoid of a Pentax K 4/50 Macro. It now focuses much closer than before.

      But I have little info on the process and he didn’t seem to enthusiastic about sharing the process so I have little to passt on.

      1. Thanks Philip, if you were ever going to let go of this interesting Contax G90, let me know, I am interested. Cheers from the UK.

  6. Hallo Philipp,

    habe deine Artikel wirklich vermisst, gerade auch während der etwas zähen letzten Monate. Ich muss sagen, dass deine Eindrücke aus Ostwestfalen bei mir über die letzten Jahre wirklich äußerst positiv hängengeblieben sind. War zwar nie dort #Bielefeldverschwörung habe aber Freunde in BI und dank deiner “Werbung” auch wirklich Lust mal hochzufahren 😀

    Schön zu hören, dass ein Review vom neuen CV 35mm ansteht, freue mich!

    1. Wie gesagt, man muss es sich echt erarbeiten, aber dann lohnt es sich.

      Ich freue mich auch endlich mal wieder nen Review zu schreiben, war jetzt doch wieder ne ziemlich lange Pause.

  7. Great bike choice!
    I do ride bike alot and always regret when i don’t take a decent camera with me (i.e. carry only a phone) to capture those beautiful and rare moments that can happen throughout the seasons.
    Usually the space in my backpack is quite limited because i need to carry 1st aid, extra clothes and repair stuff on longer/remote rides. Also i usually put the sport first, so i’m only willing to carry a P&S, formerly the RX100 and recently i got myself a used Ricoh GR ii which i can easily carry (250g) even on rough MTB rides.
    While being a fixed 28mm the 16MP output is far superior to the 20MP on the RX100, the lens is even sharper than my FE 2/28mm, dynamic range is a different story…

    1. Usually I put photography first which means starting when the light is good and a quick ride for 10 to 20 minutes on the street to the general location and from then on I am usually on a gravel/dirt track where I am riding a lot slower not just because of the terrain but also because I enjoy the nature. Only when the light turns boring will I keep my pulse up for the whole trip and maybe even leave the camera at home.

      My setup with the ~2.5kg camera bag would certainly not work well for tours a lot longer than 1.5 to 2 hours.

      1. although i envy the photographic opportunities when putting in such effort, i’m (still) too much of a casual photographer for it..

        i’m well aware of very helpful artciles on this blog when trying to downsize a photography kit.
        https://phillipreeve.net/blog/best-sony-fe-landscape-lenses-light-traveler-hiker/
        https://phillipreeve.net/blog/what-would-we-take-into-the-mountains/
        So far the GR ii has been an excelent choice for me, but ofc i’m very excited by the A5 rumors i hear about as i miss the weight/size of the orignial a7 compared to the a7ii.

  8. Wieder einmal ein sehr guter Artikel!

    Ich verfolge eure Seite seit mehr als 1 1/2 Jahren und mir ist jetzt erst aufgefallen, dass du aus Bi oder der Nähe kommst. 😀
    Nun bin ich nochmal deinen kompletten Flickr Account durchgegangen und erkenne jetzt auch viele Ecken wieder.

    Komme selbst aus der Nähe von Hamburg und bin alle 2 Wochen in Bi bei meiner Freundin und werde demnächst wohl auch mal mit dem Bike durch den Teuto düsen!

  9. Hi Phillip,
    your comments about shaped landscape and roads stuck a well known chord in me. In Rheda-Wiedenbrück where I live there are not even slopes to break up the massively cultivated area – the Teutoburger Wald only waving on the horizon.
    How to take landscape images in such environment?
    Your images have always been a big inspiration how to use the light in the landscape and take pictures in the woods.
    Thanks a lot and keep up the good work 🙂
    Maybe I should ride out on my bike early tomorrow, to get rid of the home office flubber and escape from the local current corona outbreak into the woods.

    1. I lived in Hannover for some time and found it very difficult to take pictures there because it was so flat but also because it took 20 minutes to get out of the city.
      Lets hope that this Tönnies mess has really been mostly contained. At the moment a regional lockdown looks more likely to me though 🙁

  10. Great to read and see Phillip. Especially lovely with the mist/fog and sun., Combining biking and photography sounds a really good practice. Sorry to hear about the A7II. I’m enjoying the A7RII now too. Thanks for sharing.

  11. Excellent article. Amazing photos. Your site is awesome and a constant inspiration. Always useful tips and reviews and the pics are exceptional.
    I read your site the last years and I am very glad everytime your team posts something. I was happy to know that photography is not your job! I spent my money (when ever available) as an amateur photographer in lenses and camera etc but finding people that do the same thing “for the love of it” makes me glad! Keep up the excellent work. Thank you very much for the articles and the photos.

  12. The countryside is beautiful! Not much opportunity for bike rides like that, here in the New York City metropolitan area. Little parks and trails for hiking, but nothing like you have there. Fantastic pictures!

    1. I lived in a “big” (waaaay smaller than NYC) city for some time where I could only get into nature on the weekends and after an 1 hour train ride and when I had a whole day to spare. That took away quite a lot of quality of life for me.

  13. Klasse Beitrag, wie immer. Aber viel zu wenig Fragen zum Bike hier. 🙂
    Bin gerade auch auf der Suche nach einem Gravel und der Markt ist ja leider ziemlich leergefegt.
    Wie zufrieden bist du denn mit dem Berner?
    Kannst du vielleicht was zu deiner gewählten Ausstattung, Größe, Gewicht, Lieferzeit etc. sagen?
    Das wäre ganz wunderbar, danke!

    1. Ich bin mit dem Berner Gravelix sehr zufrieden. Da ist wer mit Leidenschaft und Sachverstand bei der Sache. Vielleicht manchmal nicht ganz perfekt organisiert, aber wenn ich nen weiteres Rad bräuchte würde ich das wohl auch wieder dort kaufen.
      Ich war letzt Woche da und Timo Berner meinte da, dass die Versorgung mit Teilen gerade richtig schwierig sei und er aktuell Lieferzeiten um 6 Wochen hätte. Im Laden hingen viele halbmontierte GraveliX Räder an der Decke, weil die Gabeln fehlten.

      Ich habe das Gravelix in Standardausstattung außer der GRX 600 2×11 und Schwalbe G One Allround Mänteln. Gewicht liegt um 9.5 kg.

  14. Hi Phillip,
    you switched to an a7r-camera. Could you explain for what reasons you chose the a7r2 over the other 3 camera-models? Was it the smooth reflections app?
    Thanks for giving some insight into your process of making this decision … because I´m in a similar situation!
    Stephan

    1. It was a decision mostly driven by price. I paid 800€ for that used a7rII. A new gey imported a7rIII would have been 1800€ and a a7rIV 2600€, a used one wouldn’t have been any cheaper.

      I would have enjoyed the better EVF, many handling improvements, and better AF or the newer cameras but I was already mostly happy with what the a7II offered me so I decided against spending big on a new body. The a7rII is still a nice upgrade in terms of sensor improvement and also some handling aspects as well as AF so I am happy with my decision.

  15. Hallo Phillip, als alter Bielefelder ist es immer wieder nett Bilder aus der alten Heimat zu sehen. Die Sparrenburg im Internet,wo gibt es das sonst 😄? Eigentlich müsstet Ihr von Sony zum Ritter geschlagen werden, ich denke nicht nur ich bin durch Euch an Sony gekommen (a 7 u a6000) . Super flexibel mit allen Objektiven nutzbar und unschlagbar im Gewicht (zB zu meiner Canon DSR mit 50 mm Sigmar Art gegen a6000 mit Meike 35 1,7) und Spaßfaktor. Wie zufrieden bist Du mit dem Handling der 7rii auch im Bezug auf die Größe/Gewicht?
    Beste Grüße Thom

    1. Hallo Thom,
      schön, wenn zu den ins Netz geposteten Fotos solche Anknüpfungspunkte vorhanden sind 🙂

      Vom Handling und Gewicht gibt es zwischen meiner alten a7II und der a7rII keine großen Unterschiede. Bei meinen nicht so langen Touren ist das Gewicht kein großes Thema. Erst bei vielstündigen Trips wünscht man sich manchmal die fast 200g leichtere erste a7 generation zurück.

      Viele Grüße
      Phillip

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