Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Glass Flowers

At Harvard University we visited the Natural History Museum, mainly to see the world-famous collection of highly-realistic Glass Flowers:

The glass models were created between 1887 and 1936 by Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka in their studio near Dresden, to ease teaching and studying botanics at Harvard:

The level of detail and the accuracy with which the models were made are nothing more than stunning. Even after an hour of visiting we didn't really believe they were made almost entirely of glass.

Apart from the Natural History Museum, Harvard University didn't have much to offer for us. Most of the buildings were closed, and their architecture and integration into a coherent Campus Site was not as impressive as in Yale or Princeton.


The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is one of biggest names in computer science. For any software engineer, it is on the same level as Stanford University and everything that has been invented in the Silicon Valley. No wonder the MIT was a must-see on our trips to Boston.

We couldn't make it into most of the buildings, but the most spectacular (and most controversial) building on the MIT Campus, the Stata Center, designed by Architect Frank Gehry, is visible to everyone:

The Stata Center hosts the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, which is inextricably linked to names like Marvin Minsky, John McCarthy, Richard Stallmann, Joseph Weizenbaum or Tim Berners-Lee. Its architecture is really fancy, everything is somehow slanted and looks a bit strange, with many different kinds of surfaces, textures and materials. I was totally amazed and I suppose this is a pretty cool place to work, think and invent.

PS. Sadly enough, but I didn't want to withhold it, the Stata Center is (very) close to the spot where the MIT police officer Sean Collier was shot to death after the Boston Marathon bombings.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Martha's Vineyard

Today, we visited Martha's Vineyard, the famous "island of the rich" near Cape Cod:

The Obamas may want to stay here all summer (probably for good reasons), but I really didn't like it at all: not really beautiful, almost no public beaches, too many cars, too expensive, and so on. I might be wrong, but I don't see any reason to ever come back.

Sunday, April 28, 2013


Of course, many of you know who that is, but any ideas where it might be?

Hint: You can see a small piece of the "IBM Mark I" computer in the background ;-)

Saturday, April 27, 2013


I saw this "fish" on a sidewalk in Woods Hole today:

Entirely made from light and shadow - I couldn't resist to photograph it:

Half an hour later, it was gone - most likely forever (feel free to send me a counterexample if you like ;-). Despite working on serious documentaries and visual stories most of the time, sometimes I just like to play around with my camera and take silly pictures. Do I have to worry about that?

Friday, April 26, 2013

Plimoth Plantation

No stay in Plymouth without a visit to Plimoth Plantation, a museum that shows the settlement of the Mayflower Pilgrims arriving in Plymouth in 1620. The museum features a re-creation of the 1627 English Village and the Wampanoag home site, both equipped with actors in old costumes, showing ancient techniques and speaking in ancient language.

We were afraid that the whole thing would be a little bit too entertaining, too colorful, too loud, too much fun - but it turned out to be quite reasonable. The actors were friendly and eager to answer all questions, and their costumes, behavior and language gave a good sense of that time. We wouldn't have wanted to pay the full 35 $ admission fee, especially as the Mayflower II couldn't be visited right now, but for the discounted price we got from coupons by our landlord the museum was well worth it.

Fox on the Beach

I have never seen that before:

A fox walking the dunes, catching prey!

I wish I had a longer lens, but only brought the 2.8/12-35 (a 70 mm equivalent). Anyway, the resolution of the lens/sensor combi was good enough to learn that the little guy really was a fox:

Seen near Provincetown, Cape Cod.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Nine days after...

...the Marathon bombings, it would have been just unbalanced to show images of beautiful Boston without showing at least a few pictures that had to do with the terror attacks. Even though we're on a vacation trip (planned long before the bombings), leaving it out would have been against my photojournalistic instincts and would have made me feel dishonest.

Actually, if you're exploring the city, you cannot overlook the bombing sites. The region around Boylston Street is very busy and crowded with media teams and tourists. There are several spots that serve as makeshift memorials for the victims of the attacks. People gather at these spots and you can easily feel their sadness and their sympathy for those who were killed or injured.

PS. After the bombings, there was a discussion in the media about which pictures could be shown and which should be held back. With a few exceptions, the newspapers ran only cropped versions of the most graphic images, and there were also cases of improper manipulation (see http://nppa.org/node/60892 for a discussion on the issues). For those of you who'd like to see a painfully realistic and detailed depiction of the devastation caused by the bombings, take a look at the image collection at http://cryptome.org/2013-info/04/boston-bombs/boston-bombs.htm. But be warned, the material is very graphic and hard to look at! Thanks to my friend for sending me the link.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013


Today, we visited Boston.

We walked along the Freedom Trail, which turned out to be a very clever idea to discover a city that you've never seen before. The weather began rather cold and cloudy, and changed to sunny and nice around noon.

Actually, I liked Boston a lot. In my opinion, it is a very "American" city, with a strong european flair. Boston is not overwhelmingly impressive, like Paris, Rome, London or New York. But overall, it was quite charming, with a lot of things to see and to do and a bunch of nice spots to be discovered.

Enjoy the pictures, we enjoyed the trip!

Of course, during these days, Boston is more than just beautiful pictures. But that is left over for another posting....

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Plymouth Rock

Today was rainy and cold, so we designated it as our lazy shopping day. I still managed to get a few shots of Plymouth Rock, taken with my lovely OM-D-Lightroom pinhole camera ;-)

Plymouth is called "America's Hometown", as the "Mayflower" with the first pilgrims arrived here in 1620. It's one of the oldest cities in the States and very important to US American history.

Plymouth Rock is the traditional site of the disembarkation of the pilgrims. The rock is placed at sea level and protected from souvenir hunters by a roman portico built around it.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Woods Hole

A year ago, we bought a little picture called "Nobska's Grace" from B J Anderson, a painter in the Torpedo Factory:

B J told us that the image depicts a place on Cape Cod, somewhere near Nobska Lighthouse. At that time we had no idea where Cape Cod was, nor whether we'll ever make it there. However, since I liked the composition, I looked up the exact place in Google Maps and put it aside - just to be prepared in case we should ever visit it.

Today was the BIG day:

The conditions weren't exactly like in BJ's image: no sunshine, no blue sky, and no leaves on the bushes; it was cold and windy, and there were no telephone posts along the road.

However, the similarities are obvious, and I'm happy I was finally able to photograph that little lighthouse. For those who are curious, the exact spot is here, in the middle of the white beach, south of Nobska Pond, pointing the camera to the Southeast.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

New Haven

After many more hours of driving, we finally made it to Plymouth today. However, the major attraction was New Haven in Connecticut, home of the world famous Yale University. The campus is huge and is tightly connected to the historic district of New Haven. Students are everywhere, and behind each and every corner one of the university buildings pops up.

Old Campus

Inner courtyard of the Music Library

Ezra Stiles Buildings and Payne Whitney Gym (in the background)

Water Polo practicing inside the Payne Whitney Gym

Inside the Sterling Law Building

Law School Student Reading Room

Music Library

Sterling Memorial Library

Saturday, April 20, 2013


South Main Street, Norwalk, CT.


As some of you know, Katja and I are on a vacation trip to the New England area right now. Our first day consisted of eight hours of driving, until we finally reached our overnight stay in Norwalk, CT.

After about six hours, we reached a service station at New Jersey Turnpike. A few miles west of New York City, we were able to see the skyline of Manhattan, though from a somewhat unusual perspective:

The tall blueish building in the distance is the Freedom Tower at the Ground Zero area in Downtown Manhattan. Also known as One World Trade Center, and to be finished later this year.

Stay tuned, folks, I plan to post at least one picture per day (for the next 12 days or so).

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Two Ladies

Long time no see, I know.

The US American income tax return took me more than two weeks to complete, and a number of other activities held me back from posting here. Could you imagine anything more complicated and tedious than a German tax declaration? Come to the US and you'll see!

I not only have to pay business tax and personal property tax in Alexandria, but also sales tax in Virginia, state income taxes in Maryland and Virginia, and finally federal income tax for the great country itself. All of them with their own forms and procedures. The main federal tax form ("the" 1040) comes with more than 200 pages of instructions.

Unfortunately, "Turbo Tax", the american equivalent of "WISO Steuer", is only partially helpful. It doesn't know, for example, what a "married non-resident alien" is, and which forms to use if you are a self-employed spouse of a German diplomat (who doesn't have and never will get the social security number that the software thinks is absolutely neccessary). Quite some fun to get along with that... ;-)

Anyway, here is a picture that I shot today:

Just playing around with the new 1.8/75mm on the OM-D. What a great piece of glass! The lens is a bit on the heavy side, but its optical qualities are fabulous. Nobody has ever posted a negative comment on Amazon.com - and neither will I.

Stay tuned, there'll be more on Potomac Adventures soon!