Mittlere-Isar-Kanal

A little processing and a little stitching can get you a long way in photography. Some time ago I decided to visit the Isar channel on the outskirts of Munich. The Isar channel is an artificial water channel feeding a number of water reservoirs north of Munich. The idea was that the channel and the reservoirs (several rectangular water areas next to each other) would present opportunities for nice photographs. My initial intention was to visit the channel at dawn, but on second thought I decided to scout the area one afternoon and spare me the early morning rise from bed on a Sunday. I was lucky to get very nice, sunny weather with a stunning sky while I was there. Initial impressions however weren’t particularly positive. The problem was that the channel is “too artificial”. The banks are made of concrete, they are quite high and there isn’t a lot of vegetation next to the channel. The water isn’t very clean. Worse of all, the water reservoirs are not full of water. Despite my initial disappointment, I decided to take advantage of the perfect weather and walk along the bank.

Nice geese in flight against an ugly background

Nice geese in flight against an ugly background.

A few minutes later I saw the first geese; unfortunately the proved to be very camera shy. I am not a geese expert, but I would bet that those geese were not permanent Isar channel residents, but rather passing through – hotel guests so to say, otherwise they would be familiar with seeing recreational walkers along the bank. Soon a pattern was established: I would approach the geese. They would swim to the opposite bank as far away from me as possible. That made any attempt to photograph them pointless, as I always saw them against a grey concrete background. When I approached closer than say twenty metres, they would fly one hundred metres down the channel and land again. I would follow and the pattern would repeat itself. I took several photos of them taking flight, but always against the ugly opposite bank. I am not experienced in photographing wild animals so I lifted my camera with the zoom lens every time the geese took off and shot several photos in rapid succession hoping that one or two would be good. The one above is the one where I like the geese the most. During this time, the sky was spectacular and I had some nice reflections on the water, but the overall scene wasn’t nice enough to motivate me to photograph it. I did take one or two photos of the sun’s reflection on the water though, which proved to be very useful during post processing because they gave me the idea to combine the photo of the geese above with one of them and get rid of the ugly concrete:

That's more like it!

That’s more like it!

The water background you see in this photograph hasn’t been processed at all. I liked the colours and decided to adapt the geese to it, rather than the other way around. So apart from filtering the rest of the first photo out, I increased exposure, saturation and colour temperature of the geese to match the general lighting of the water. I also moved them left in the frame to give them more space to fly into. Initially I forgot to paint their shadows. Then I created another version with shadows, but I never really hit on the right tones for them. So you see the shadowless version here.

A couple of kilometres further on I reached a curve on the channel and decided that the apex would be a good location for a panoramic shot that would be so grand that the opposite concrete bank would diminish in size and importance. I set up the camera but had two issues. Firstly the channel was already curving in both sides, so I didn’t know how the stitching software would deal with this curvature. Secondly, I was facing south and wanted to photograph 180 degrees from left to right. The shots to the left were facing away from the sun, while the shots to the right were facing directly against the sun. So the camera settings needed were completely different and I had the dilemma of using the same or different settings for the two extremes. I decided to measure both extremes and then set the camera shutter speed exactly in the middle. Aperture setting was obviously constant. I took five shots at portrait mode and this is the final stitched panorama:

Isar channel panorama

Isar channel panorama.

The channel looks much wider in the middle than at the edges. I don’t remember any more how it really looked while I was there, so I am not sure whether this needs some correction or not. On the positive side, the sky and the reflections are spectacular and the opposite concrete bank really looks less prominent that in reality.
To conclude, the Isar channel didn’t take my breath away, but with the help of a spectacular sunset I got a few passable photos. The place is not at the top of my “revisit list” until it snows. I suspect that some snow will completely transform the area. If only this wasn’t the warmest winter in living memory in Munich (not that I am complaining).

Next to my parked car I took some photographs of a picnic table covered with moss. This is taken with a normal lens; a macro lens would probably have given me more options:

Moss on picnic table.

Moss on picnic table.

On the way home I saw something else, which made me happy to have my camera with me:

Orange smoke. Not something you see everyday.

Orange smoke. Not something you see everyday.

The last rays of the setting sun were illuminating this column of smoke while everything at ground level was already in the shadow. I found this orange colour (the photo hasn’t been processed at all) so beautiful that I spontaneously stopped the car and took a couple of photos. Literally three minutes later the smoke was gray-black again.
Not every photo outing gives you the perfect, spectacular shot that wins contests. But it doesn’t have to. If you like it, shoot it, immortalise it and nothing else matters.

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