When traveling I often meet people that are beautiful (on the inside I mean).
Then there’s the type that’s hard to figure.
And then there’s the somewhat bizarre variety.
I’ve got a picture of the somewhat bizarre variety that I’ve been itching to publish.
But I might not ever do so as one of the people in the photograph can be identified.
It’s a picture of a group of nudist bathers at a remote lake in a remote part of Germany.
Clearly, conservative New Zealand got to me and I found the complete nakedness and banal conversations between strangers very surreal.
I didn’t join in stripping of my undies.
It all seemed like a scene in a movie and the final impression was rather comical.
It could have been a mikey take of the Germans by the ‚Pythons‘.
It wasn’t the nakedness that was bizarre, I’ve seen this kind of behaviour before in other countries.
It was a small collection of mixed-age Germans that kept singing ‚Hallelujah‘.
Across the lake drifted religious chants by this group of completely naked people who were waving their arms at the sun.
And that I have a picture of.
It appeared that to all the other naked Germans around the lake it all seemed very normal.
What God was thinking I don’t know.
Today I am confused.
Last night I dreamt I was in Asia.
Not sure where exactly I was, but it was one of those vivid dreams that remain clear after waking up.
Perhaps it had to do with the stiflingly hot temperatures last night and the muggy weather.
The expected thunderstorm never arrived and the mosquitoes stayed frantic.
Luckily we had the good sense to invest into a mosquitoe net some time ago and the mossies never got to us.
But this morning, for a moment, I didn’t know where I was.
I felt the same sensations I remember from my travels in the equatorial east.
Somehow I didn’t expect to feel like this in Germany and remain surprised at the variety and ever changing environment in this country.
The forecast for today is 30 degrees celcius, followed by thunderstorms during the night.
I assume it will be quite a show.
I’m in the western Muensterland.
The land is flat or gently rolling.
Holland is just a stone’s throw away and it shows.
It’s not all little white hats and wooden clogs but it’s not too different either.
It’s Germany of course but the dutch influence is quite pronounced.
Everything is neat and tidy – in contrast to the Harz region – and bicycles are everywhere.
The cycle culture is unique and very different from New Zealand.
Everyone is cycle proud, cars take a lower priority.
No mountain bikes here. None of this shoot-down-the-mountain-come-hell-or-high water to get an adrenalin rush.
Not too many herds of road racing cyclists either.
Rather groups of families and friends, instead of business men frantically discussing the next deal wearing lycra shorts.
Here the cycling is genteel and gentlemanly and graceful.
I’m reminded of the penny farthing and times gone by.
The sitting position is upright, the pace seems distinctly slow motion, and the predominant type of bike is akin to what my grandmother used to ride.
The wheels on the bikes are enormous and a whole industry exists supplying add-ons and travel equipment.
These are high-tech bikes of course, designed to eat up and spit out the miles.
Accordingly the Muensterlaenders spend a lot of time traveling on their bikes to enjoy the countryside on specifically chosen and constructed cycle routes.
I have joint the crowd – although there is no crowd – and have been getting around on a borrowed bike.
I’ve been noticing a lot more of my new environment than if I was sitting in a car.
At first I missed my mountain bike and it’s gritty attitude and knobbly tires.
Now I enjoy this new style of cycling and the relaxing pace and meditative rolling through the countryside I find very refreshing.
I’m guilty at times of not following the above headline.
As photographers the images we create are often informed by photographic history.
We don’t work in isolation and, being passionate about what we do, we make ourselves aware of what others have done before us.
In landscape photography the name that often pops up, a man who is still one of the most recognisable identities in the tradition of western photography, is Ansel Adams.
Ansel, in general, sweated the big stuff.
He is very famous for his studied black & white landscape images of the american west.
The images and grandeur of Yosemite National Park in California, as captured by Adams, have become iconic and still inspire many photography students and accomplished photographers today.
In my own landscape work I don’t work in large format and I rarely work in black & white.
I’m influenced by Adams in that I tend to seek the bigger views. The open skies and magnificent vistas that New Zealand has to offer.
Now I am in northern Germany and the topographical layout of the land is very different to New Zealand.
Gentle rolling hills or flat lands are all around me. What views exist are mostly restricted by fields of sweet corn which are approaching two meters in height.
To find grand vistas requires that one grows into a giant, or carries a tall ladder, or fix a platform on the roof of a car (Adams again).
I’m neither a giant, don’t like to carry ladders through the landscape and also don’t own a car.
Hence I need to change what I see and again learn to notice the small things under my nose.
It’s all possible of course, and even though uncomfortable to start with a new challenge brings opportunities and it is fun.
Below are images of the small stuff.
A grass that grows in the Harz mountains of Germany.
The region is famous for its hardy stock.
The people are quiet and a grunt can mean many things depending on the pitch and context.
It’s the only region in Germany where no one mows their lawns, not even the local authorities. They apparently never have and according to local knowledge can’t understand why anyone would anyway. Why bother when the grass just grows straight back again.
Ok, I get this!!! But it’s a kind of logic that seems anathema to German thinking and somewhat skews my stereotypes.
So I have fallen in love with this region.
The plants in the Harz are also hardy. To survive in the cold and windy environment takes effort.
Accordingly many plants grow smaller than in other parts of Germany. Others cling to the ground and don’t much like to put their heads up.
But then there is always a surprise.
Grass grows amongst the pine tree forests that have established themselves in this environment.
It is very soft and delicate, and spreads in carpets anchored on moss.
Listening to the locals there is nothing better than to spend the afternoon in the occasional sunshine, frolicking with your loved one on one of the grass carpets and to………ok……..we have to stop here, this is a ‚G‘ rated show.
To finish…sometimes to sweat the small stuff is really worth the effort.
The locals agree.