Grand Turk - Where Time Stands Still

In a world of constant information overload, my most recent trip to the Grand Turk island allowed me to dive into a realm of quietness like I've never experienced before. After spending a few days on Providenciales, the main island in the Turks and Caicos archipelago, a dream came true. Together with my sister in law, I spent a day in paradise. Not only because of the intense turquoise color of the ocean surrounding the smallest of the islands, but also because of the picturesque views wherever you go. From the moment we arrived at the airport I felt like I had stepped into a long forgotten era.

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While we walked the little alleys of the Caribbean island, a dog started to follow us, and then another one. I really like animals and enjoyed my new furry friends - but that was not the end of the story. Have you ever been followed by a wild donkey?

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Well, in my case, at the end of the first 30 minutes on the island I was the head of a group of two dogs and two donkeys. Needless to say dogs and donkeys got into a fight over figuring out who's the boss and soon after my sister in law and I were left alone again. 

On an island like this it's hard not to pick up your camera. Colors, light and subjects are inviting you everywhere. 

 Working in paradise

Working in paradise

 St Thomas's Anglican Church

St Thomas's Anglican Church

 Even in paradise people commit crimes

Even in paradise people commit crimes

 Did I ever mention red is my favorite color?

Did I ever mention red is my favorite color?

Hurricanes have hit the islands many times over the years and are an essential part of the history of the island. Traces of the most recent ones (Irma and Maria in 2017) can still be seen, but somehow only seem to add to the magic of the little paradise. 

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I found it quite humbling to be allowed to visit and witness the simplicity of people's lives on Grand Turk. Of course, it made me think about my own lifestyle, which is so overloaded with things and appointments. How it would feel to live on the island? Would time feel different? Would it be easier to be present, to be in the moment, to enjoy life to its fullest?

 Siesta 

Siesta 

 Simplicity

Simplicity

 Someone's Home

Someone's Home

At the end of the day, I left with my head full of questions and beautiful pictures. I took them both back home with me. The questions, which will make me grow as a human, and the pictures, which will never leave my memory again. 

This blog post is part of the blog circle I joined in January. We are a group of Lensbaby enthusiasts from all around the world. Each month we share a blog post of Lensbaby images. Every blog in the circle will end with a link to the next member. I hope you enjoyed reading about my Caribbean adventure with the Lensbaby Burnside 35. Please continue your journey and head over to Keri’s blog “Walking with the Burnside” at Keri’s photo adventures. Thanks for reading and see you soon again with more stories!

Collected Stories From My Most Recent Trips

Treasure Hunt in Lübeck, Northern Germany

Have you ever heard about the city of Lübeck? It's a picturesque small town in northern Germany listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, home of the German author Thomas Mann and many of my childhood memories. My aunt and uncle have lived there most of their lives and I try to fly back to visit them, as well as other relatives, once a year. Much of the old town has kept a medieval appearance with old buildings and narrow streets, which adds another layer of German Gemütlichkeit.

After 12 years in the US, going back to Germany always makes me think and wonder about where I came from, who I am now, and how to define home. With my German accent and taste I will never be a true American, but due to the many years in other countries I am also no longer a real German. And so every trip is a little bit like homecoming while at the same time I feel I discover an unknown universe. 

Part of the unknown universe this year was an afternoon at the Schatz Café (Treasure Coffee Store). When my aunt suggested to go out for coffee and cake, I had no expectations. The place is hidden in a quiet neigborhood and only open two days a week. They are famous for their homemade cakes that often sell out within two hours after opening. 

 

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But let me tell you, there is so much more to this place than their truly delicious cake. The moment you enter the courtyard from the street, you have just crossed into another world. What awaits you is an incredible collection of gorgeous, yet strange impressions, antiques, friendliness, and all things belonging to the past. 

 One of the many cozy corners that make you want to hang out a little longer and order another cup of coffee while dreaming and time traveling. 

One of the many cozy corners that make you want to hang out a little longer and order another cup of coffee while dreaming and time traveling. 

 Looking up into a world of all things music.

Looking up into a world of all things music.

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After looking around for what felt like hours I needed to find out who created this magical space. And so I was introduced to Imke, who, together with her husband Jan, first rented and later bought the property. Over the last years they turned it into a world of their own. 

 Imke Dürken, a master of many trades, soul and owner of the café is also working in the back of the place as a carpenter. 

Imke Dürken, a master of many trades, soul and owner of the café is also working in the back of the place as a carpenter. 

 A look into her kitchen where coffee and cake are prepared for customers

A look into her kitchen where coffee and cake are prepared for customers

 A little touch of color that adds to the overall feel of being welcome is found everywhere

A little touch of color that adds to the overall feel of being welcome is found everywhere

 Past and present in multiple frames

Past and present in multiple frames

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 Reserved emergency seating for Hubertus. Who is Hubertus? I did not meet him, but sure loved the sign. Maybe next time...

Reserved emergency seating for Hubertus. Who is Hubertus? I did not meet him, but sure loved the sign. Maybe next time...

 And who is this moose? 

And who is this moose? 

To help digest the cake I went outside where Jan's universe, the Schatzkammer - in many ways also the other half of Imke's world - waited for me to be explored. 

 Jan and his Schatzkammer is a great resource for anything related to the past. From antique dolls to random knick-knacks, you can literally spend hours in his kingdom of forgotten treasures. 

Jan and his Schatzkammer is a great resource for anything related to the past. From antique dolls to random knick-knacks, you can literally spend hours in his kingdom of forgotten treasures. 

 Big red barn doors welcoming you into the Schatzkammer (House of Treasures)

Big red barn doors welcoming you into the Schatzkammer (House of Treasures)

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 Collection of signs from all over the world

Collection of signs from all over the world

 Everything you see is for sale; even the bike hanging from the ceiling. 

Everything you see is for sale; even the bike hanging from the ceiling. 

 If only this bear could tell his story. 

If only this bear could tell his story. 

 Once loved. 

Once loved. 

 These guys are ready to report for work!

These guys are ready to report for work!

Thinking about why I felt so at home at this place of random connections, I realized that it looks a lot how I feel: a good mixture of cultures, decades, and colors. Welcoming in its strangeness, and at the same time a little odd in a world of order and rules. I think this sums up how it feels to come back home once a year and realizing it no longer is home, but still a place where I feel very comfortable. 

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Thank you Imke and Jan for a wonderful afternoon. I hope to come back one day and enjoy more of your art of welcoming strangers and all things odd!

So long, Germany, it's time for me to go. Leaving the old and known behind, returning to  my home far away from home. 

 

This blog post is part of the blog circle I joined in January. We are a group of Lensbaby enthusiasts from all around the world. Each month we share a blog post of Lensbaby images. Every blog in the circle will end with a link to the next member. I hope you enjoyed reading about my Lübeck adventure with the Lensbaby Burnside 35. Please continue your journey and head over to Keri's blog "Walking with the Burnside" at Keri's photo adventures. Thanks for reading and see you soon again with more stories from my upcoming trip to the Turks and Caicos!

Click Away 2018, Amelia Island, Florida

Ten days ago I went to Florida to attend Click Away 2018, a conference for photographers. Imagine being surrounded by the beach, good food, even better company, all things photography related: you get the picture. 

My lens of choice for this event was the still new to me Lensbaby Burnside 35. Looks like our relationship is turning into a longterm thing. I really enjoy the storytelling quality that the 35 mm focal length gives every picture, as you can see in following beach shots.

 Amelia Island Beach inviting you to walk for hours

Amelia Island Beach inviting you to walk for hours

 Soft light, the ocean and white sand equals photography heaven

Soft light, the ocean and white sand equals photography heaven

In between workshops there was plenty of time to make new friends and explore the beautiful island. I started every morning with a long, foggy beach walk. 

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 A random stranger showing me a sand dollar she found that morning taken with Lensbaby Burnside 35. I love the circular bokeh and how it helps to separate the main subject from the background. 

A random stranger showing me a sand dollar she found that morning taken with Lensbaby Burnside 35. I love the circular bokeh and how it helps to separate the main subject from the background. 

With a view like in the following picture it's hard not to be excited about photography. It's safe to assume that I took this picture every single day, because I loved watching how the colors changed over the course of the day. 

 Afternoon glow at the Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort

Afternoon glow at the Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort

 Morning light with ocean view

Morning light with ocean view

The best part with these kind of events is hanging out with friends who get you. So here is a glimpse behind the scenes. And yes, it is normal for us to belly dive into a picture.

 Lucy in action...

Lucy in action...

 ...and this is the result. 

...and this is the result. 

This blog post is part of the blog circle I joined in January. We are a group of Lensbaby enthusiasts from all around the world. Each month we share a blog post of Lensbaby images. Every blog in the circle will end with a link to the next member. I hope you enjoyed reading about my Florida adventure with the Lensbaby Burnside 35. Please continue your journey and head over to Birgit Fostervold's blog (Lensbirdie). Thanks for reading and see you soon again with more stories from my upcoming trip to the city of Lübeck in Northern Germany!

Beta testing the Lensbaby Burnside 35

Last month I was approached by Lensbaby to beta test their newest creation, the Burnside 35. Once the lens arrived at my house, I could not wait to try it out. Like all Lensbaby lenses it is a manual lens, which I like a lot, because it makes me think harder and slow down before I take a picture. An added bonus is the little switch at the side of the lens, that let's you add a vignette to the photo. But the true beauty of this lens lies in the circular bokeh that it creates. So I ventured out and tried everything from landscapes, to selfportraits, to street style photography and of course environmental portraits. Let me tell you, it did it all. This lens is extremely versatile. To create the delicious bokeh I learned there are some rules that need to be followed. Distance from subject to background is key. In the beginning that was a little strange, but once I got the hang of it, I fell in love with the pictures, that you can create with this lens. But please, have a look. Because a picture says more than a 100 words. 

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Capturing Feelings

When life gets a little too stressful and my mind goes into overdrive I often pick up my camera and go for a walk on the beach. The sound of the ocean, sand between my toes, and the smell of water, is like a magical highly potent recipe for finding quietness.

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Overcome space, and all we have left is here. Overcome time, and all we have left is now.

~Richard Bach, “Jonathan Livingston Seagull”
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Walking along the waterline and allowing the ocean to wash all my worries away. 

 Late afternoon sparkles. Taken with LB Twist 60

Late afternoon sparkles. Taken with LB Twist 60

Once my mind calms down, the magic happens. I start seeing beauty everywhere. I love how taking photos with my Lensbaby lenses allows me to translate my inner peace of mind into my pictures. 

 Redondo Beach, CA

Redondo Beach, CA

In the end. Only three things matter. How much you loved. How gently you lived. And how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you.

~Richard Bach “Jonathan Livingston Seagull”
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This post is part of the Lensbaby blog circle that I recently joined. In this blog circle a group of Lensbaby enthusiasts from all around the world comes together. Each months we will share a blog post of Lensbaby images. Each blog in the circle will end with a link to the next member. I hope you enjoyed seeing my pictures. Please continue your journey and head over to Martina's beautiful blog at Moerkrum I find it extremely inspiring and fascinating to see what other photographers do with their Lensbaby lenses. There can never be enough inspiration in our life as artists. 

About love, light and inspiration

I always have an urge to pick up my camera. My camera really is my happy place and if I don't get out to do what I love then I feel incomplete. 

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I wish I could work with a concept in mind, but that's not how things work for me. So I go out, without an idea, just my feelings and things slowly develop while I work. Taking pictures completes me, and it's sort of like my personalized diary.

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Welcome to the world of Ute

How do you start your very first blog entry? I guess I'll do it with a warm welcome to you my friends! In my mind I'm sitting here with you while we drink coffee, and share our ideas about photography, life and love. 

  Yellow Vase, one of my favorite cafés here in the area. Come and have a seat with me. 

Yellow Vase, one of my favorite cafés here in the area. Come and have a seat with me. 

It took me a very long time to allow me to look at myself as an artist. Too deeply engraved was the fear of being a meaningless starving nothing in this society. Even though it turned out that it is extremely hard to make money in art, I discovered another truth. A far more deeper and meaningful way of looking at things. 

When I received my very first camera at the age of 10 I was excited beyond description. For as long as I can remember I have loved to listen to stories. In my mind I was already seeing all the wonderful stories that I would now turn into photos. After receiving the first prints that feeling changed quickly into nothing but disappointment. Holding the pictures in my hands I couldn't find the story that my heart had seen. Instead my cheap little point and shoot had captured a brief moment in time from the worst possible angle. The little village celebration that I had tried to capture, looked like a population of ants size wise and the joy that we all had felt that day? Nothing, not a single trace of it in my pictures. Over the years I tried a lot to get better pictures. I got a new camera, a better lens, I traveled to new locations, I tried prettier objects, but nothing seemed to help. Eventually I even figured out how to use my camera in manual mode. And yes, my pictures now looked a little better. But still, I couldn't find my heart in it. Far worse, I wasn't even aware of what it was that I was missing. I felt so lost. 

But then something amazing happened. I attended ClickAway, my very first conference for photographers. Yes, you heard me right. Me, the amateur with the expensive camera at that conference. It was actually as intimidating as it sounds. The level of creativity and professionalism almost made go back home and burry my camera for good. The only reason I stayed was the fact that I couldn't get on another flight back home. So I hung in there until the very last night. And how lucky I was that I did. 

That night I made my very first photographer friend - Lucy. We clicked instantly and with her support I gained hope, eventually confidence and most importantly many more very talented friends. 

  ClickAway 2015, San Antonio, TX, Lucy and I

ClickAway 2015, San Antonio, TX, Lucy and I

The bigger my circle of friends grew the more energetic I felt about my work. I realized that we are all in the same boat. All of us have very high standards. And with that, we set us up for a lot of disappointment but also for growth. Within this group I found the room to show my work. Even the stuff that wasn't good enough to be seen by  the public eye, that I felt embarrassed about. One of the biggest life lessons was to understand that all the mistakes, the wrong turns, the moments of disappointment were a vital part of my journey.

To gain confidence was the most important push in my journey as an artist. To be confident enough to show my true self in my work made me produce the work that I've always wanted. Pictures from my heart. 

  ClickAway 2015 with  Anda  and Lucy.  My kind of morning. Friends, coffee and beautiful light. 

ClickAway 2015 with Anda and Lucy.  My kind of morning. Friends, coffee and beautiful light. 

So here I am. A lifetime of learning later, ready to tell you my stories. Enjoy!