MICHA.ELMUELLER

 

B/W Devil’s Mountain

Went to the old american field station on the Devil’s Mountain in Berlin and took some black/white analogue photos.

 
 
 
 
 
 

Experimenting with black/white film

 
 
 
 

Going Analogue

 

I got myself a little present: a nearly forty year old analogue film camera — the Olympus OM-2n with a 50mm f/1.8 lense. I have quite some fun with it and since two weeks I photograph solely with this camera. I don’t even take a digital camera with me anymore.

The photos in this post have all been shot with the OM-2n. It is noteworthy that I haven’t post-processed them further — no color grading or other effects — these are the photos as I got them straight from film development.

 
 
 
 
 

Backpacking South America (Part 8)

 

Right now we are back in Germany and look back on a wonderful time. There were also negative events during our holidays — we nearly got something stolen three or four times, strange remarks on World War 2 directed to us, tourist agencies overly stirring the fear of criminality for marketing purposes, or nasty ways of trying to get money from us — but I barely mentioned them here. I feel that the good parts of such a journey should — and do — stand out more. There were also a lot of small incidents when I had to chuckle. I remember one particular time when we were getting breakfast in a peruvian upperclass hotel (i.e. not really “upperclass” and quite cheap) and I noticed that the forks, knifes, etc. were a wild mixture of pieces from different airlines imprinted with labels such as “LAN Airlines” and little plane logos :).

Back in Germany I am amazed by how much the landscape and culture here differs from Peru. I am currently in the south of Germany and the summer, the dense forests, and the wide fields amaze me. Today I had a longer train ride through this rural landscape, mostly along the Danube river. This amazed me a lot and I spent most of the time just looking out of the window. There is so much beautiful countryside here! I would love to show some foreigner from e.g. Peru around. I would probably take them on a walk in the nature along the Danube, which is so full of green and sprouting vegetation at the moment. I would go on a hike to an alp hut with them and eat a cheese platter there. I would take them to an original German brewery restaurant with thick and tasty beer and rich food. And I would take a long train ride in a rural area with them and visit some old town district. There are so many details when living here which are different to the cities which we visited. On the first day back in Germany I saw a kindergarten group doing a leisure trip on a nice summer day. On a secluded train station in the middle of nowhere they were waiting for their next train. Each kid held hands with another kid and they were lined up in pairs. Two very enthusiastic ladies were looking after the whole group. To me this feels like something very characteristic to this country and it was quite nice to have this kind of “welcome” here.

Nevertheless, it needs time to get accustomed to being back here. On our trip we tried desperately not to get into contact with other Germans, but here they are just around everywhere! Furthermore I can now safely keep my mouth open when showering, I can now actually use zebra crossings again and in cars I need to remember that there are safety belts. Pleasantly, the noise level in cities here is very low, especially compared to large cities like Sucre or Lima. Lima is actually so disturbingly loud that there are “horns forbidden” street signs. Besides the constant horns triggered by vehicles there are many other factors which increase the noise level. For example, the streets in many areas are so bad that passing buses trigger the theft alarms of cars which are parked on the street.

Another thing which for me is the overall conclusion of all my travels that gets affirmed more and more with each country which I visit, is how similar people are everywhere. It really is quite strange, that a peruvian man of my age who had a totally different upbringing, education, and lives in a very different cultural background, has the very same longings and goals in life. It is indeed very easy to relate to somebody in this different culture and I think that the western media and news reporting oftentimes yields a different impression of the world.

I shot the photos in this post with the same throwaway camera that I had with me on a couple of journeys before (they can be found in older posts tagged with throwaway camera). They are all analogue and I quite like the grainy, unsharp, somehow washed out look of them.

 
 
 
 
 
 

Backpacking India

 

I have been backpacking through India since the Christmas days for about three weeks. Together with Eva I flew to Kochin, where we met up with two other friends and traveled in this constellation for the remainder of the journey.

I didn’t have a culture shock or anything of that sort. I think this might be due to my experiences in Guatemala, Mexico, etc. — those countries have similar problems of hygiene and waste. Furthermore, we have only visited two states and have not been to Mumbai. I was quite surprised by how little of my stereotypes held true. India is quite a big country with quite a large population (> 1.2 billion) and 29 states. Over 100 languages are spoken in India and there are a number of different writing systems. It is entirely possible for two Indians to meet and speak English with each other, since it could be their only common language. These statements should give you a rough idea of just how diverse the culture, infrastructure, etc. might be in different parts of India.

We have visited two (neighboring) states: Kerala and Goa. These two states were enough to already see differences in mindset and culture and I have to say that I liked Kerala (the self proclaimed “God’s own Country”) more. From my impression the mindset of the people was directed much less towards “tourist = money”. This might be due to Kerala being one of the “richest” states in India (well, “rich” in Indian terms…). Kerala is also a state which has declared the war on alcohol: starting from 2014 over a period of ten years they plan to ban alcohol. In the last years they have already limited the consumption of alcohol in restaurants by allowing only a very small number of restaurants to serve alcoholic drinks. This has lead to the odd situation that even though no beer is available on the menu you might still succeed in ordering one. Though, you shouldn’t wonder why it will be served in coffee cups! As part of the draining efforts the sale of alcohol has been limited to scarce liquor stores. The one in Varkala is the most shady, prohibition-like place I have ever been to (photo below).

India is the most vegetarian-friendly place I have ever been to, we had exclusively very good (and very cheap) food. Astonishingly this journey was by far my cheapest one yet; with flight, food (three meals a day, always restaurants), accommodations (no dormitories, only private rooms), etc.. I have had total costs of about 1.000 euros, with the flight being the most expensive part (~600 euros). But of course this is at the expense of hot showers and other things. In Kerala we were staying in a place where I heard a suspicious gnawing in our room at night. The next night I spotted a rat climbing the outside wall of our neighboring hut and had a hunch. The next morning “someone” had eaten through the backpack of my roommate — he had forgotten to remove an open bag of peanuts from his backpack.

In Palolem we discovered something nice: if you walk to the very end of the beach (on the right side when facing the ocean) you can walk to a very small island at low tide. There are some huts and we stayed there for a couple of days. The natural foreclosure whilst high tide makes this a quiet and secluded place with very little wild dogs or tourists. Interestingly all huts on the beach are built from scratch each year, since the monsoon is too devastating.

All in all it was a very nice trip and I would like to go to India again. Maybe even this year?

I have attached some photos to this post. As on the other journeys, I had an analogue disposable camera with me (besides the E-M10 Mark ii). I very much like the color faded, blurred look of the analogue photos. Since I got MediaGoblin running again a few days ago, I have uploaded the below photos in a high resolution there as well (under CC-BY, link).

 
 
 
 

Backpacking México and Guatemala


Acro Yoga. Comic Convergence Festival. Guatemala
 

Over the Christmas / New Years Eve period I have been backpacking through México and Guatemala again (for three weeks). Two friends of mine are on a longer travel period and currently stay in Central America. We catched up with one of them in San Cristobal de las Casas and travelled with her to meet up with the other friend in San Marcos (Guatemala). There we stayed at the Lago de Atitlán for several days. We also joined in for the Cosmic Convergence Festival (where I had also been over the new years eve last year). After the festival we went back to México: first to San Cristobal and from there to Mazunte, where we stayed for the rest of our time.

As last year, I got a lot of impressions. Good ones as well as negative ones. Let’s first get over the negative impressions, before we come to the cool stuff. My main negative impressions are corruption (having to pay “special fees” when aiming to cross the border) as well as the water quality. I think a lot about a story I heard: a teacher who is afraid of stating how disruptive corruption and criminal structures are for any society. Just imagine what goes along with this: a generation of kids growing up without the understanding of how bad these things are for society and with the believe that this is “normal”, since nobody tells them otherwise. Oh my.
Concerning the water quality: this is not just a thing of comfort, it is essential. If you are not able to brush the teeth with tap water or shower with a mouth open because of fear of parasites this affects all parts of your life. E.g. you can’t just cook vegetables or prepare a salad. You need to sterilize these things first by letting them soak in a special solution. You also need to be careful about dishes — have they been properly cleaned? Are they still wet? Not paying attention to these things can lead to complicated problems. I suspect that the bad water quality in some regions (where the sewage system was build to cheap) goes along some path related to corruption.

My most positive impressions are the people. Natives as well as foreigners. There is a huge scene of hippies and dropouts in México and Guatemala and I have the impression that such countries — with fewer regulations than in Europe, and not so enforced restrictions — attract a crowd of interesting, unusual people. Maybe because they don’t fit anywhere else. Or maybe because they have more possibilities there. Or maybe because they find people like themselves in those regions.

I have to mention the extremely fertile vegetation — seeing wild cotton and coffee growing…that’s just beautiful. I also met dropouts who own a 2 hectar permaculture farm. This amazes me a lot. I have the impression that whatever you plant within the vegetation in those regions will just grow. The land makes an incredibly fertile impression. In one hostel in Guatemala I drank coffee which was grown, roasted and grounded within a one mile radius of the hostel.

The two friends I met up with are experienced backpackers, whom I have been to Central America with last year. Whilst I continue studying, they have decided to take time off to travel the world. So far this works very well for them. One of them has been hitchhiking through the USA, México and Guatemala with his tent. Staying here and there. Getting to know interesting people. Before we met up with him he had been helping out teaching at a local school. The other one has joined a yoga community in México and is diving deep into yoga, permaculture and meditation.

Even though I travelled with very good friends I needed to sometimes get some lonely time. If this would have been a longer journey I would have needed to split up. I got two main lessons from this journey: travelling alone often yields more personal freedom and speaking the language of a country is key to the people. I strongly feel as if journeys into such countries expand ones worldview and give one a more appropriate picture of ones own situation.

Now that I am back in Germany I am still a bit off. Quite a hard cut to be in deep México one day and thirty hours later in a totally diverse Germany. Quite hard to go back to the ordinary everyday life. Traveling gives life a different feeling. I want to go back traveling.

 
 
 
 

About Me

I am a 28 year old techno-creative enthusiast who lives and works in Berlin. In a previous life I studied computer science (more specifically Media Informatics) at the Ulm University in Germany.

I care about exploring ideas and developing new things. I like creating great stuff that I am passionate about.

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