Thursday, December 16, 2010

Miniature Dresdner Striezelmarkt

Miniature Dresdner Striezelmarkt from Alex Bird on Vimeo.

After the first experiment I made a point to try to capture the Streizelmarkt with this effect, since it's not around for long, and especially with the snow. Fortunately, the old Kreuzkirche stands overlooking the almarkt, and for 2.50 euro you can climb to the top of the tower. So I took my camera and tripod up there, and was surprised to find my self all alone up at the top. And then I realized that is was cold and extremely windy up there! You can tell in the video, as the wind was pushing around the camera on the tripod. And I couldn't protect my hands or face much because the way I had the camera perched on the ledge I was afraid a large gust might push it over, so I had to be ready to grab it without actually touching it. I had to duck inside the tower between shots just to keep warm enough to continue.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Tilt-Shift Time Lapse

You may have seen some of these videos recently, where somebody takes a time lapse movie of a scene from a high vantage point, then processes the individual photos for a "tilt-shift" effect (essentially just applying a blur to the image such that it appears as if there is a very shallow depth of field, which gives the impression that one is looking at a a very small scene filmed with a macro lens or something). Usually the saturation is also cranked up in these movies so that everything looks painted or plastic, adding to a miniature/toy effect. Here's a couple photos I snapped of the model train set at Bahnhof Neustadt. This is basically the effect you want.

I decided to give it a go making the real life movies now that I have a digitial SLR as well as Photoshop at my disposal. Here's my first attempt, filmed from outside my bedroom window looking down Rothenburgerstrasse in Dresden:

Not bad for a first attempt, I think. I took images at one second intervals, the playback is at 6 frames/second. Going up to 10 frames per second is less jerky, but then everything is just too fast. Next time I'll probably take 1/2 second intervals. Also, I live on the second floor (first floor for Germans). So this isn't really high enough to get a good effect. But it's enough to give me confidence to go seek out interesting places around town, where I can get higher up, and look out a bit further (e.g. from Nudel Turm looking over Albertplatz). I hope to have some much cooler movies of familiar places soon.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Holga in the Heide

For my birthday I got one of these Holga cameras, the old cheap Chinese plastic job that has become more popular in recent years for the old school aesthetic you get using a kinda messed up lens and 120 film. I'm sure there's an iPhone app now to emulate every kinda feature it produces, but really, it's pretty fun to go back to some high quality big ass good ol' film. I took it for an initial spin on a bike ride out through the Dresden Heide ("hills", a large park area), and was quite pleased with the results. Especially considering there's basically one shutter speed (1/100) and two aperture options (f8 and f11). Below are a couple of the images I got, for the rest checkout this Flickr slideshow.

Sunday, November 07, 2010


I've sort of picked up a hobby over the last few years of making cocktails at home. In the last couple months I've been taking pictures of them occasionally, and now I enough photos of most of my favorites to share them.

At some point Colby gave me a nice cocktail/bar recipe book, which I've used as the starting point for many of the cocktails I have here. Really, this is one of those cases when relying on the internet can be a big mess. There are probably a hundred different recipes for any given cocktail, some worse than others. And visiting a cocktail recipe website will give you tens of thousands of recipes where anybody can upload something. Nobody has time to try all those out.


The Manhattan is probably my favorite cocktail, and my go-to cocktail because it's quite easy. Bourbon, sweet vermouth, and Angostura Bitters (plus a Maraschino cherry for decoration.) As you see in the photo above I found these pretty cool cocktail sticks, that actually look like little silver sticks.


Another classic cocktail that I make often is the Sidecar. Also simple, it's just Brandy, Cointreau, and lemon juice. One way to make cocktails like this to taste GREAT is to simply use fresh squeezed lemons - world of difference.


Maybe the most popular, and easiest, cocktail to make of course is the Martini. Gin and dry vermouth. Only recently have a I really started making Martinis on a semi-regular basis, as I've found a way to give them just a subtle interesting kick - a few dashes of orange bitters.


Similar to the Martini, and sometimes considered the predecessor, is the Martinez. I make it with gin, sweet vermouth, Maraschino Liquor, and orange bitters. That makes it of course significantly sweeter than the Martini, and for my taste the trick is therefore to be very conservative with the non-gin ingredients, especially the Maraschino liquor, which can quickly overpower any cocktail.

Whiskey Sour

Another easy classic, just bourbon, lemon juice and simple syrup. I make this less and less because between the sugar and lemon juice I just can't seem to add a small enough amount not to drown out the bourbon.

Mint Julep

I only started making this this summer, mostly because before I never had fresh mint around. But I planted some, and was very impressed with what I could come up with. Just a bit of simple syrup added to some bourbon with mint leaves. After my experience with whiskey sours, I figured it would be a waste of time to use a higher-quality bourbon for this, but I did a taste test and was TOTALLY WRONG. Just a tad of simple syrup and a few muddled mint leaves, and the complexity of the bourbon still comes through.


The classic. Again, using fresh limes here means ALL the difference. Also, as with most other cocktails, keeping the glasses in the freezer gives a nice frosty appearance and keeps them cooler that much longer.

Other favorites, that I haven't remembered to take photos of, include the Brandy Alexander (with Heavy Cream, Creme de Cacao, and Nutmeg; like a dessert), the Brandy Crusta (similar to a sidecar), the Gimlet (just gin and lime juice), and the Sazerac (think Whiskey Sour with a kick, by adding a little Absinthe and some Angostura bitters.)

And then occasionally I try something new. For example, an avocado margarita:

This looks pretty, but was a lot of work, and didn't taste like anything I'd ever want to make again.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


This year mom and I continued our tradition of meeting someplace in Europe for a week or so in the summer. Last year it was Reykjavik, the year before Venice. This year Mom and her friend Nora rented a flat in Istanbul. I've put all the pics contained in this post, and more, up at my flickr site for better viewing.

I was only joining for about 5 days, but didn't want to try to pack the days with sights so tight that it was more stressful than relaxing. I did of course check out the must-sees, such as Hagia Sophia, the 1500-year old Cathedral-turned-Mosque-turned-museum:

Also the Topkapi Palace, including the buildings of the Sultan's harem:

My favorite sight, though, by far, were the ancient city walls, which are very much still intact.
I've had a keen fascination with old city walls ever since moving to Europe, and these are of the most impressive in history.

To add to the fascination, right before the trip I read a book entitled 1453 :The Holy War for Constantinople and the Clash of Islam and the West, about the famous siege of the city by the Sultan Mehmed. The book was very vivid and featured the city walls very prominently. Thus, it was quite amazing to walk over and inside these very same walls, visualizing what it was like 500 years ago as a soldier. These were some of the most impenetrable city walls every built, due to their architecture, sheer size, and extent. The most amazing thing about the walls today is that they cut right through the middle of the city.

Small sections of the wall have clearly been rebuilt, so as to illustrate what they may have looked like so long ago, and some nice green areas have been landscaped before some sections, but for the most part they appear largely ignored, not only in terms of upkeep, but by the residents that live in and around them as a whole. The outside of the walls follows a highway, while the inside butts up against middle- and lower-class neighborhoods. Walking on the inside at one point I noticed a man had made the inside of one of the towers into his personal little workshop, doing some sort of machine work in the darkness.

I took a subway ride out to the walls one day to walk along a bit - and ended up walking back the entire length of the wall and then on home - they extend about 4 miles long on the Western side.

The flat we were staying in had an amazing view over the Bosphorus. Here you can see the flat:

The arrow points to the flat

From this vantage point I was able to get some nice photos looking out towards the Atatürk bridge.

In the last one you see Mom with an iPhone!! She's checking and sending emails and photos, on vacation. Never thought I'd see that. I don't even have an iPhone.

One interesting thing about Istanbul is that there are cats EVERYWHERE. Especially in our neighborhood. They were just everywhere.

On our last day, we took a boat trip up the Bosphorus. We passed this fortress (Rumelihisari) I had read about that Mehmed built in the run up to his conquest of Constantinople. Amazing it is in such condition 500 years later.

At the halfway point of our boat trip we were dropped at a little tourist-trap village where we ate lunch and I was able to get some great photos of kids jumping off our boat into the sea.

Finally, a common theme in my recounts of my travels has been the food. Istanbul was of course no exception to interesting and tasty food. The best dish I had was lamb on top of this sort of eggplant mush. It was incredibly tasty. Next best I'd say was the baklava. I ate it until I got sick.

Mom and Nora fell in love with this mint-lemonade concoction a guy whipped up where we were eating lunch.
Afterward they guy suggested we take a peek from the view of the tables on the roof. Look at this. Nobody was even up there. What an incredible view, they were hardly advertising it.

A few nights, I just went out roaming for random take-out that looked tasty and brought it back so we could eat out on the balcony. The last night I went out and got a dürüm for myself, just to compare it to the dürüms I get in Dresden. I have to say, it was much more different than I expected, almost a different dish altogether, and the meat was clearly of a higher quality.

One morning I went out to get milk from the local convenience store. But when I got in there I realized I had no idea what the Turkish word for 'milk' was. I found a white refrigerated carton with a cow on it, that I was pretty sure was milk, but still had my doubts. Just at this time, I heard a couple speaking German behind me, which was odd because we were not in a particularly touristy area, and at a random little shop. So I took the opportunity to use my German and ask them what milk was - and it turns out that what I almost bought was actually a yogurt drink.

It is rare that speaking some German comes in handy outside of Germany, so it was really surprising to use it again in Istanbul. A couple days later Mom had a little swelling in one of her ankles, and although not painful, a little concerned of the deep vein thrombosis things having just gotten off an international flight. So we went over to the nearby hospital to check it out. Turns out, one of the receptionists did not speak English, but did speak German (it was a "German" hospital) - so I was able to translate instructions to Mom for waiting to see the doctor, etc. Turns out there was nothing wrong with the ankle, but Mom got to see the self-proclaimed best doctor in Turkey!

I was just getting comfortable getting to know my way around the neighborhood when it was time to go. The streets were most confusing mess and craziness. Like Venice, but with hills. Clearly, five days is just not enough to get a good feeling for Istanbul.

Sunday, August 29, 2010


Speaking of France, if you don't know the band Phoenix, you should really really take a look.
This is easily my favorite band that I've never seen live. There's nothing better than goofy looking rock stars with great voices/songwriting. Check out these Acoustic/Stripped Down performances by Phoenix:


Phoenix - 1901 from KEXP RADIO on Vimeo.

"Lisztomania" and "Armistice" in the same session are also amazing with Thomas Mars' voice just booming out there, but here are some different recordings for variety.....

Lisztomania/One time too many

Take Away Show: PHOENIX part2 from vincent moon / temporary areas on Vimeo.

By the way, if you don't know about La Blogoteque shows, you should also really check it out. If one of your favorite bands is on here, you will REALLY enjoy it.


All these tunes were from Phoenix's last album.

Monday, August 02, 2010


Back in May I went to Paris for a long weekend. It was my first time to Paris, my first time to France in fact. I never had a great desire to visit Paris. I don't know exactly why, it just kind of seemed like it would be extremely touristy, and as an American I always just heard of how much the French hate American tourists. So it never really appealed to me. Plus, I always figured I'd get to Paris at some point in life, and I should be spending my efforts while living in Europe going to places like Krakow or Istanbul or Reykjavik. But I kind of had an opportunity I couldn't pass up when a friend of mine from Paris, a bit shocked I'd never been to France, suggested tagging along to Paris on one of her relatively frequent trips back.

One of the things I knew I'd like was the food. Ariane had looked up the bakeries in Paris that had won various awards in the last year (e.g. best croissant, best baguette, etc.) so that we could hit them and have a sampling. The first thing we did when I got into town was hit an award-winning bakery and sample the macarons (not to be confused with macaroons). I'd never had or even heard of these things before, but my goodness they were good. Sweet and bursting with a variety of flavors, and so soft and creamy. I can't even describe them, and apparently these were of a different class than the average macarons around Paris.

Following the obligatory boat-tour around Paris, we met a friend of Ariane's for dinner at a little place near where I was staying. Although I had recently converted into a pseudo-vegetarian, I took advantage of one of the many exceptions I've allowed myself in meat-eating (It's okay in foreign countries, as not to miss out on culinary cultural experiences), and ordered a big steak. When the waiter wanted to know how I wanted it done I said "medium rare" not wanting to overcook a great steak. Neither the waiter nor Ariane could translate what that meant, so Ariane ordered for me. Then she told me she got me the most well-cooked option. I was upset, thinking I would not be getting a real French experience with an overcooked steak. Then she told me the translation was "pink". She ordered hers "bloody", the middle option, which left "blue" for the least cooked. But what I got would be by all American standards "rare", and it was PERFECT.

For lodging Ariane knew about a little hotel in the middle of everything that was super-cheap. It was totally no frills (think shared toilet, stained carpet, creaky stairs), not even their own website. But something like 40 euros a night in the middle of Paris. And this was the view from my room:

That's Notre Dame cathedral in the background.

While in Paris I of course went to see the über-famous Eiffel Tower. I did not know the tower was right next to a river, I guess it's never in in any of the photos. Behold:

And then of course I had to have a photo of me and the tower:

And some more images I thought turned out nice:

One of the requests I had while in Paris as part of the culinary experience was to try escargot.
So we met Ariane's sister and found a nice little place and ordered a whole mess of stinky frenchy goodness:

The highlight of course being the escargot. It was actually pretty tasty. Well, rather it tasted like something rubbery baked into an overwhelming garlic butter sauce, which was tasty. But I'd totally get it again. Funnily, more than a couple customers in the busy restaurant commented that they were a bit surprised to see three young people eating a lunch of stinky cheese, random raw meat plate and escargot - and more so because one of us was clearly American - so atypical!

That night a tight group of Ariane's friends that all went to school together had a little party - I guess on the occasion that Ariane was back in Paris and they were all around - that was fun. Although I have to say I expected a party of young intellectual
20- and 30-something Parisians in the middle of Paris to be the essence of sophistication. On the contrary, this was all about cheap booze, 7-up shots, loud pop music, potato chips, etc...also fun!
I have some funny movies from that night, but as I don't speak French I don't know if there's anything unsuitable or implicating in there so I won't release them into the internets....

I did a bit more touristy stuff - took a walk around - went into Notre Dame cathedral - and of course had to go into the Louvre, where I saw the Mona Lisa:

which was most interesting for the mass of cell phone cameras held over people's head trying to get a snapshot. Why would you want a crappy cell phone snapshot of the Mona Lisa behind glass when there are hundreds of high-quality photographs online? I don't know, I guess to somehow prove you were there? But then why not get in the picture yourself? It all boggles the mind.

What was quite crazy was Napoleon IIIs lounge:

For which it turns out there are also tons of online images, but it's my blog, so pffffft. Plus that photo ain't so bad....And finally, returning to the food-theme, on the last day we went to the bakery that won the award for the best croissant in Paris, and got a couple of raspberry(?) croissants, yummmmmmmm.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Balkon Bilder

I finally broke down and set up a Flickr photostream, to have a nice way to share photos with a reasonable viewing interface. I'll keep my Shown'd gallery for a small set of my favorite pics, but this way I can share more than a handful at a time.

Here's the first set, these are all photos I took on my little balcony garden, where in addition to a small variety of vegetables and herbs, I have a little Lantana bush, because it reminds me of Austin/Texas. They are all of two bees and a puddle of water on a dead leaf.

These were taken with a Nikon 60mm AF micro nikkor lens on my D300s. On a 35mm SLR this lens gives 1:1 reproduction of the image in size (i.e. the size of the image on the negative is the actual size), so in front of a 12 MP DX format sensor you can get some potentially really close up images.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010


I'm still delaying on posting about my trip to Paris because I have several pictures and stories to go with them and I've been lazy. But if Jeff can post 4 times in 2 weeks, I can drag something out this month. I was in Edinburgh last week for a conference. I didn't take many photos, but here are a few from the Castle. The weather was nice. But the way the locals were freaking out about it made me not want to live in Edinburgh. It seems like a fun town with lots of beautiful architecture and history, which I get a kick out of. But if it seemed a bit gray and dreary on the best, sunniest day of the year, I'm wondering what the norm is.

this was a dog cemetary for soldiers' dogs in the castle

Finally, this reminded me of the beer situation back at home in Saxony....