Fotoeins Fotopress

One photo at a time – one journey to last a lifetime

Posts from the ‘Personal’ category

First time sweetness at Heidelberg’s Café Gundel

Moving to Germany

In 2001, I moved across the big Atlantic pond from Canada to Germany. Knowing only “bitte” (please) and “danke” (thank you), I flew sight unseen to Frankfurt am Main, followed by a shuttle-bus to the German university town of Heidelberg. I would live and work in Heidelberg for two years, and I couldn’t have known the experience would change my life.

Heidelberg is one of my favourite “hometowns” in Germany, my adopted country.

1st Time in DE, 1st Time in HD

An early memory is a stroll down Heidelberg’s Hauptstrasse (“main street”). I spend a long afternoon up and down streets, through small cobbled alleys, learning locations of stores and services, and getting an immediate lay of the town.

At the eastern end of the Altstadt (Old Town), I step into an attractive and brightly lit Café Gundel and sit down at one of the tables. My eyes are bigger than my stomach. I decide to do the sensible thing, and order the first reasonable thing that comes to mind: Apfelstrudel and a latté macchiato.

It’s relatively quiet in the café, and I’m quickly served “coffee and cake”. The strudel has large chunks of apples, surrounded by very light flaky pastry and topped with a fine dusting of powdered sugar. The cake isn’t too tart or sweet, and there’s a generous mouthful of cinnamon and nutmeg. Did I also mention there’s fresh whipping cream (Schlagsahne) on the side? That’s not spray-on stuff from a can, which, as I learned later, is sacrilege of the highest order.

I walk up to the counter to pay and I express my gratitude. With hand gestures and attempted English, I ask to buy an additional selection of cookies, small cakes, and sweets. I’m sure the lady behind the counter thinks I’ve completely lost my mind. In broken English, she tells me there’ll be more tomorrow, and plenty more the day after that.

This memory has served as an introduction to both Heidelberg and Germany, and has stayed with me over the years. I’ve returned many times to Heidelberg since leaving in 2003, but I’ve returned to Gundel only twice.

Guess it’s time to go back “home”, back to Gundel, and make some new memories …

Cafe Gundel, Hauptstrasse (Karlsplatz), Heidelberg, Germany

Café Gundel

Cafe Gundel, Hauptstrasse (Karlsplatz), Heidelberg, Germany

Do I have room for these? Why yes; yes, I do …

If you’re in Heidelberg, walk to the eastern end of Hauptstrasse to Café Gundel. Press your nose up against the window, and look, drool at the sweets on display. When you’ve worked up an appetite, head inside, relax, and enjoy your “Kaffee und Kuchen” (cake and coffee).


Café Gundel is both Konditorei (pastry shop) and Bäckerei (bake shop), making a wide assortment of sweet pastries and hearty breads. The main and larger Gundel is located at the eastern end of the Hauptstrasse at Karlsplatz (Charles Square). The smaller version, der kleine Gundel, is located at Universitätsplatz (University Square).

You can easily walk the mile-long Hauptstrasse. Alternatively, you can take a bus or tram from the train station to Bismarckplatz, and transfer onto bus 31, 32, or 33 into the Altstadt.

This post appears on Fotoeins Fotopress at fotoeins.com.

The 75000 most important clicks with my camera

The setup

For the seventh time, I’ve “flipped” or “rolled over” the four-digit image-counter on my camera. I’ve made over 70-thousand exposures, which is a great accomplishment for both camera and me. Unfortunately, exposure number 75000 will prove to be a bad omen.

I own a Canon EOS450D (Rebel XSi), an entry-level digital crop-sensor camera which was introduced to the consumer market in the first-quarter of 2008.

The camera has no weather-proofing, poor to average low-light capability, and a small burst-rate, but the camera is affordable, portable, and easy to use. The kit-lens doesn’t have great build-quality, but the lens is lightweight with a decent range in focal lengths for my kind of photography.

The camera is dead! Long live the camera!

It’s early August 2013, and I’m in the Czech capital city of Prague. I’m standing in front of the Television Tower in the Zizkov neighbourhood.

I’m wearing a confused frown, because the photos are coming out vignetted. I realize quickly the metal leaves which make up the shutter have gone loose, and aren’t opening and closing properly: something like this.

The dreaded error message “Err 99″ pops up on the camera display. I turn the power off and on, and press the shutter button. “Err 99″ persists, and there’s a new grinding “whirring” noise inside the camera.

Just a couple of days ago, I’ve reached the milestone of exposure number 75000. But apparently, I’ve now reached the end: after 5 years and 2 months, my camera has stopped working.

Why so many clicks? What’s the point?

Some have asked: “Why did you take so many exposures? If you took fewer photos, your camera could’ve lasted longer!”

These questions miss the point of owning a camera.

Making so many exposures is how I got used to the camera. I wouldn’t have to think about what to do, or to figure out what button was where. After frequent use and learning the “manual” functions of my camera, shooting became almost “automatic.” When the moment came, it took a few quick movements to fiddle with the camera settings with “finger-memory” to make the shot.

How does one become good with their camera?

Go out and make lots of photos. Learn, use, and memorize the camera functions. Work on small projects to photograph to get better: explore, screw up and fail spectacularly. Learn, improve, repeat.

Shoot, shoot, and shoot some more, so that getting the shot is first nature, and making the shot is second nature.

That’s also what David duChemin describes in “Towards Mastery. Again”, about becoming proficient with your own camera gear, whatever gear you might have.

Exit stage right …

The broken shutter assembly needs replacing, and judging by what I’ve read online, the cost of parts and labour is equivalent to a significant fraction of the price for a new camera or a new piece of glass. The shutter isn’t worth replacing.

So, what’s next? I have no intention on going back to a crop-sensor, so future conversations will involve the phrases “full-frame” and “better low-light performance.”

Goodbye, 450D: you’ve been a trusty servant and guide on my photographic journey.

To celebrate and mourn its passing, here are the first and last photos I made with the 450D.

Waikoloa Beach, Big Island, Hawaii

One of the first photos: Waikoloa Beach, Big Island – Hawaii, 19 May 2008.

Zizkov TV Tower, Prague, Czech Republic

One of the last: Žižkov TV Tower with “Miminka” (“Babies”, by David Černý) – Prague, 4 Aug 2013.
What are some experiences with your camera? What did you do when your camera broke? Please leave your impressions and (sob-) stories below!

PostScript: The autofocus ring on the “original” EF-S 18-55mm IS kit-lens failed while I was about to visit New Zealand’s Milford Sound. I purchased a replacement EF-S 18-55mm IS II lens weeks later in Sydney, Australia. This type of lens cannot be used on a full-frame camera. Fortunately, that latter lens now has a warm and loving home with fellow Canadian and traveler Kate Clarke.

This post appears on Fotoeins Fotopress at fotoeins.com.

My guest video interview for YVR Bloggers

Published author, blogger, and fellow traveler Ricky Shetty asked if he could interview me for YVR Bloggers. It’s a community based here in the Vancouver area of people who blog fervently about travel, business, cars, events, fashion, food, lifestyle, parenting, social media, technology, and more.

I jumped at the opportunity, and I agreed to answer questions and talk about travel, my year-long trip around-the-world, and travel-blogging.

Thanks again to Ricky Shetty for his time and generosity. Our Google Hangout from 3 March 2014 also appears here on YVR Bloggers. This interview reemphasizes a need I’ve had for some time: a good quality external microphone! The present post appears on Fotoeins Fotopress at fotoeins.com.

Photobook 1: “Basilian Days”

Basilian Days, photobook, fotoeins.com

Basil is one of the oddest felines I’ve ever met. As an aging cat, he’s slowed down some, but what’s always true is he’s unique. He allows very few into his personal space, and I’m honoured I got to be one of the selected few. For friends and caretakers, I wanted to make this short 20-plus page photobook highlighting his “ornery” character and how he spends his sleepy days. I wanted something tangible and on record showing he was around to enrich my friends’ lives for many years. I photographed Basil in Sydney, Australia from March to May 2013.

The first time I met Basil was in 2002 in the German university town of Heidelberg. Whenever my friends were on travel, they asked me to stop by their apartment and to ensure Basil had enough food and water. Occasionally, the encounters were fraught with uncertainty: he’d sit in an inconvenient place, and suddenly leap across to “attack” or “bat at” my feet as I walked past. I thought I was the only one to whom he’d react in this way; clearly, he sensed danger in my Canadianness. Eventually, we realized other visitors witnessed and experienced the same thing. I admit I was a little disappointed.

Basil is a well-loved cat, and he knows it. He’s lived in the U.S., Germany, England, and Australia. Through all of the moves, an important change over time has been the availability of a backyard, an open space into which Basil can roam and monitor his domain. After a number of visits with friends, Basil and I have come to an informal yet “mutual and beneficial understanding”: I ply him often with canned tuna, and he agrees not to draw blood from my legs. It’s really quite simple, but I know he’s free to change the terms of the agreement at any time.

Basil is now 16 years old, and he’s beginning to show signs of his age: overall appetite has diminished, he’s slowed down, and he’s sleeping a lot more. But tap a fork against a can of tuna, his eyes light up, and he’ll rush into the kitchen for a round of “furry figure-8′s” around my legs in anticipation.

Thanks to MB and DZ, for giving this hobo a place to stay, and for trusting me to ensure Basil’s well-being over the years. Basil, I know you don’t trust easy, but when you finally allowed me to pet you on your fuzzy head, I knew it was a big deal; I just never realized I’d learn something new about my own trust issues from a cat.

This photo-book is for you all, a family of three.

Basilian Days

I produced and published the photobook, “Basilian Days”, in June 2013. This post appears on Fotoeins Fotopress at fotoeins.com.

Vancouver Eastside Thanksgiving on Instagram

In Canada, the Thanksgiving holiday occurs on the second Monday in October. The shorter growing season ends earlier at higher northern latitudes compared to the United States, which also explains their “turkey holiday” towards the end of November.

Beautiful weather in mid-October got me to thinking about how I would view Thanksgiving Day in my neighbourhood. I’ve been back in Vancouver, Canada for a number of weeks, and I’ve been relearning the Strathcona neighbourhood on the city’s east side. The saying goes: “the more things change, the more they stay the same …” That’s especially true after being away for almost twenty years.


“I am a leaf on the wind … watch how I soar …”


Autumn colours


T-shirt and shorts on Thanksgiving


“Social media”


“Union & Hawks”


“OH HAI; it’s a harvest …”

I made all of the photos above on Thanksgiving (Mon)Day, 14 October 2013. This post appears on Fotoeins Fotopress at fotoeins.com.

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