10 years

Lofoten islands, Norway

Photo: Boats at rest in Ågvatnet, Å I Lofoten, Norway.  2001

I know the above photo kind of sucks.  I shot it 10 years ago within a couple hours of stepping foot on Lofoten for the first time.  It’s taken with an old Nikon FE and a crappy 35-105mm lens on Fuji Provia 100, hand held sometime shortly before midnight.  I made a print of it, where it hung on my wall for 5 years before I was able to return again.  Over the years I’ve tried to take a ‘better’ version of this photo, but I’ve never encountered proper conditions.  Despite all its faults, it’s still one of my favorites.  I can remember those moments with stunning clarity; it was the point where I knew I had ended up someplace special.  With luck and hard work, Lofoten will be my home by the end of the year.  Something I’ve dreamed about all those years, yet never managed to make much progress towards.  Maybe I just needed to get a little older.


schmitsch Smicz, Prudnik, Poland

Schmitsch – Smicz

schmitsch Smicz, Prudnik, Poland

Photo: Freshly plowed fields in autumn, Schmitsch/Smicz, Poland

[UPDATE: April 2014 – I have written an updated post about with further information into the Hindera (and other) families – CLICK HERE ]

Rarely do I visit a place that I have a personal connection with.  The tiny village of Schmitsch/smicz is an exception.  It’s the place where my great-great grandfather, Albert Hindera, was born.  In those days it was part of Prussian Silesia.  Today it now lies in Prudnik county, in the south of Poland.

This history of Schmitch, now named Smicz in Polish, is a complex one.  At the center of Europe, the Silesian region (Schlessien) has fallen under the rule of numerous duchies, kingdoms, and empires throughout the centuries.  By the mid 18th century the Prussians gained control over the region from the Austrian Habsburgs.  In 1871 Silesia then became part of the newly formed German empire (Deutsches Reich) where it remained a part of Germany up until the end of WWII, when a majority of the region was transferred to Poland.

In 1879, at the age of 17, Albert, along with several brothers and sisters, left the German port of Bremen for America.  Landing in Baltimore he took the train to Nebraska, eventually ending up with land in western part of the state.  He built himself a house out of sod and started a farm.  After 5 years, he was awarded the deed to his land, upon which he sold it and bought another farm in the southeast of Nebraska near the town of Steinauer, where the soil was better.  There he married another Silesian immigrant, Anna Lempka and in 1889 my great-grandfather George Hindera was born.  Looking at family records it seems like half of Schmitsch must have traveled to America during that period.  The names of the Nebraska census closely match those from the war memorials, cemetery, and church records in Smicz.

I was granted the privilege to look in the hand written church birth/baptism registry where I saw the names of long forgotten family and the records of their births from centuries past.  Even finding a few new names of my family line further back in time.  It was somewhat difficult to read the old German handwriting.  Especially once I got used to one persons writing style in the book, and then a new person took over with even worse handwriting!

I unfortunately was not allowed to take any photos of the books, not sure why not.  It’s a bit frustrating to realize how much information is locked away in those old books with their deteriorating paper and fading ink.  And there is no real access to it outside of going there, and hopefully having someone who speaks the language of the local priest.  I guess I should also be thankful that my family records have survived two wars and dramatic political changes.  Hopefully I can return in another few years and keep looking back further in time and maybe try and get permission to take some photos.  The records go back to the 1500’s.

Looking at the war memorial in the city center, I guess it is a good thing my family left.  The names Brinsa, Hindera, Mellar, and Peschel are all of direct ancestry to me, and probably nephews/cousins of Albert.  It seems a large toll was taken from this small town of 500 souls.   The cost of the second world war was even greater.

Schmitsch smicz poland bilingual sign

Photo: Bilingual Polish/German city sign.  The region where Schmitsch/Smicz lies is one of the few areas in Poland where German has recently become an official recognized language once again.

Rural road in poor condition, Smicz, Opole, Southern Poland

Photo: Main road into town.  Could use some paving.

Schmitsch smicz poland

Photo: Downtown Smicz.  Other than the asphalt and power lines, it probably hasn’t changed much since Albert left.  When I return I’ll see if the family home still exists.

German war memorial schmitsch smicz poland

Photo: WWI memorial.  A lot of names, both German and Polish, for a village of 500.

Tuolumne Meadows Yosemite

Tuolumne meadows yosemite landscape

Photo: Sunset from a flooded Tuolumne Meadows over Lembert Dome and Mount Dana, Yosemite national park. June 23, 2011

Over the weekend I was on a short camping trip with my dad and brother.  While I’ve taken trips with each of them individually in the last years, it’s probably been 10+ years since the 3  of us sat around a campfire together.  Highway 120 to Tuolumne Meadows just opened last weekend, so we were some of the first to enjoy summer in Yosemite’s high country this year.  The sky was cloudless and the sun was hot.  Snow seems to be melting quite fast and the river are quite big at the moment.  These first two photo’s show the current conditions of the meadow which is quite flooded at the moment.  Mosquitoes still haven’t arrived in the high country, but were quite viscous at the campground.

It wasn’t really a photo trip for me so I didn’t shoot too much.  Though I still managed to get myself up at 4:00 am on a couple days and go looking for images.  Didn’t end up with anything interesting.

Tuolumne meadows yosemite landscape

Photo: Sunrise from a flooded Tuolumne meadows, Yosemite, California.

Tuolumne meadows yosemite landscape

Photo: Dawn reflection on Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite, California.


Summer day, Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite national park, California

It’s kind of sad to think that after today the days are getting shorter again.  Though here in Santa Barbara at 33˚ N latitude, we don’t really get long summer days anyhow.  Nothing cool like walking along the beach at 10pm and watching the sun sink into the North Sea from and Ostfriesland island.  Or the simply endless days of the arctic.  Here, summer generally means less sleep.  I need to set my alarm for all too early in the morning, and need to stay up far too late in the evening.

At the beginning of the year, it had been my plan have been living on the Lofoten islands right now.  I wanted to start a book project today of 1 photo a day for an entire year, showing the dramatic transition of light and dark that occurs every year.  I still have hopes of getting back to Lofoten before the end of the year, but things are still up in the air.  It was probably too ambitious of an idea anyways, and would have stretched my creativity to the limit while trying to produce a unique image after the 3rd straight week of rain.  I might try and complete a more scaled back version of the idea, focusing more on the seasonal changes of the islands.  But it all really depends on if someone at the Norwegian embassy believes in me enough to grant me a work visa, or if they just consider me some lazy dreamer.  I’m also getting the feeling that I need to call myself an artist rather than photographer.  People seem to get more street cred as an ‘artist’ for some reason.

I’m heading up to Tuolumne over the weekend for a short family trip.  Will have to miss the Santa Barbara solstice parade unfortunately, which is about the only interesting thing us Californians do for midsummer, as opposed to the cool festivals/bonfires all over Europe.  The photo above is from a couple years ago, of a nice and green (and mosquito filled) Tuolumne meadows.  This year I should return with a more wintery collection of images.  The pass just opened last weekend, so winter still hasn’t quite heard the news, it’s summer now!

Lofoten Islands Hiking – Steinetinden

steinetinden, stamsund lofoten islands norway

Photo: Winter view from Stamsundheia towards Steinetinden in distance.  Mar 2009

Steinetinden (sometimes called Steinstind, Steinstinden) is a relatively small 509 meter high peak located between Stamsund and Steine on Vestvågøy in the Lofoten islands.  By Lofoten standards its not anything spectacular.  The main attraction of the peak is its close location to the Stamsund youth hostel, about a 5 minute walk across the street for the beginning of the trail.  If you have access to a car, I would recommend setting you’re sights on more aesthetic peaks.  If you just got off the Hurtigruten in Stamsund, are lucky enough to have some fair weather, then Steinetinden is the perfect introduction to what the Lofoten Islands have to offer.  The views aren’t bad, just not as good as elsewhere on the islands.

Steinetinden is the highest peak along the circular mountain ridge towards the east of Stamsund.  The most direct and straight forward way is walk up ‘Ringveien’ street which is located across from the Joker market.  From Ringveien one has several options.  One way is to turn on Halsbakken street and continue walking east towards the mountain.  When you see a yellow house with what looks like a parking area  for 2-3 cars in the street before it, head into the bushes at the back of the parking area.  You should detect a faint and probably overgrown trail.  This way will take you up and over Mannfallet first.

Otherwise, from Ringveien take the pathway into the forest at the back of the road that heads towards the lakes (this is also the cross-country ski route in winter).  After several hundred meters on the trail, there should be a sign and a small trail coming from the left.  Once on this trail, there are also two options when one comes to the fork.  Towards the left takes one up the middle peak of Mannfallet (308 meters), towards the right the trail continues through the forest and up a steep, often muddy trail towards Steinetinden.  Personally I think hiking up Mannfallet first is the more scenic route, and even slightly easier.  I generally save the steeper, more direct route for the way down, to make a bit of a loop out of things.

Whether going over Mannfallet first or heading direct towards Steinetinden you will eventually find yourself in a flat grassy area between the two peaks.  From here the trail steeply climbs about another 150 meters up to the summit of Steinetinden.

A word of caution:
while for the most part the trail is not anything technical, there are several locations where it passes quite close to high, steep cliffs and one is exposed to a possible fall of 400-500 meters.  In wet conditions the trail can also be quite slippery/muddy.  There are also several short rock steps that need to be negotiated, again with some exposure to a possible long fall. Go with a group of people if possible, and especially if you’re new to mountains.  Be sure to have proper footwear and don’t be afraid to turn around if necessary.

steinetinden, stamsund lofoten islands norway

Photo: Final climb towards summit.  July 2006

steinetinden, stamsund lofoten islands norway

Photo: Summer view from Manfallet towards Steinetinden.  July 2006


steinetinden, stamsund lofoten islands norway

Photo: Spring view from Mannfallet towards Steinetinden.  April 2007

steinetinden, stamsund lofoten islands norway

Photo: A bit of exposure near the summit.  July 2006

steinetinden stamsund lofoten islands

Photo: View of Stamsund from summit. Aug 2010



Reflecion in window

I was going to post something of a rant today which had been brewing most of yesterday afternoon.  A nights sleep and I’ve thought the better of it.  Wasn’t anything of much importance anyhow, mostly just frustration at the giant wall I’m staring at.  Instead, a reflection.  One of my favorite photos for some reason, from one of my favorite places.

Hadselfjorden – Norway

Hadselfjorden vesteralen norway

Photo: Autumn storms over mountains of Vesterålen while traveling on Hurtigruten ferry through Hadselfjorden, Norway. Sept 2009

I think Hadselfjorden is not really a fjord but a straight, separating some of the Vesterålen islands and a bit of Lofoten as well.  But in Norwegian, if its made of salt water, and you can see land from it, they call it a fjord. Forget about firths, bays, straights, bights, coves, channels, etc.  Fjord it is in Norway. (Yes, I know this is not totally true.  I’m attempting to be slightly humorous.  No need to correct me.)

I usually have pretty good luck with dramatic light and stormy weather while traveling along the Norwegian coast, making it one of my favorite ways to get up and down the country.  Maybe its just always stormy.  These images are from one autumn afternoon while traveling on the Hurtigruten from Sortland to Stamsund. 


Stormy seas of Hadselfjord, Vesteralen, Norway

Dramatic skies over rising mountain peaks of Vesteralen viewed from Hadselfjord, Norway

Steep mountains rise from sea, Lofoten islands, Norway

Dramatic light over mountains of vesteralen as viewed from Hurtigruten

Moonrise over Vestfjord

Full moon rising over Vestfjord, Stamsund, Lofoten islands, Norway

Photo: Full moon rises over Vestfjord on a calm autumn evening, Stamsund, Lofoten islands, Norway.  Oct 2009

The last month has been pretty slow for me so I’ve been processing some older stuff to send into my agencies.  Mostly its crap that I passed over for a reason, but I’ve found a few decent images here and there.  I think looking back on work after a year or two gives a different perspective than that of immediately after the trip.  Perhaps the separation of time means I look more at the image alone, without the added memories or emotions that may be associated with it.  Or maybe I was simply going for a particular look or theme immediately after a trip.  Whereas now I can look back and figure if its a halfway decent photo, I might as well see if my agency wants it.  Though I’m sure there are slightly more productive things that I should be doing, like writing a business plan that will hopefully allow me a work visa for Norway.


Sgurr Mhairi – Isle of Skye

Sgurr Mhairi - Glamaig and Red Cuillins in winter, Isle of Skye, Scotland

Photo: Winter view towards Glamaig – Sgurr Mhairi and Red Cuillin hills, Sligachan, Isle of Skye, Scotland. Jan 2011

Some years back I was making my way down Glamaig, back towards Sligachan to hitch a ride back to Portree.  I’m not sure if I was on a people trail or a sheep trail, the latter I think, when I came upon some more-than-normal-looking boggy section.  After a quick estimate, I set myself up to jump across most of it, figuring I’d end up a little above my ankle in mud, but would otherwise avoid too much of a mess.  Ha!  I ended up nearly to my waste as my leg plunged into the bog.  My momentum, and the unexpected depth of my step took me flying into the ground on the other side of the pit.  Quite lucky really, as I could have ended up totally submerged.  Once back at Sligachan, I was left to wash off as best I could in the river before attempting to catch a ride up to Portree.  Luckily it was getting near dark so my true state couldn’t be seen and a ride came along after not too long.

2011 Tübingen Stocherkahnrennen

Tuebingen stocherkahnrennen punt boat race

What do you get when you cross a historic German city, a river, punt boats, some creative costumes, a bit of friendly competition, and lots of (somewhat drunk) Germans?  The Tübinger Stocherkahnrennen – The Tuebingen punt boat race.  The race draws thousands of spectators who fill the city to the brim.  Lining walls, bridges and riverbanks all to watch the race, and chaos of the day.  Once things are over, it’s time to head towards a river side biergarten for some afternoon shade and some yummy käsespätzle

For 2011, the race occurs on Thursday, June 23.  Events start at 12:00 noon.

I advise arriving a bit early to try and get a good position.  Eberhardsbrücke is a good place to watch from and is the center of most of the action as the boats try to circle the bridge.

Tübingen is located in the center of Baden-Württemberg, on the banks of the Neckar river.  Numerous trains run daily from Stuttgart (45 min – 1hr), Reutlingen, Munich, Freiburg, and other larger cities.  By car, Tübingen is about 45 minutes south of Stuttgart.

My images are from when I was there in 2008.

Tuebingen stocherkahnrennen punt boat race

Tuebingen stocherkahnrennen punt boat race

Tuebingen stocherkahnrennen punt boat race

Tuebingen stocherkahnrennen punt boat race

Tuebingen stocherkahnrennen punt boat race