Catch my breath

Moo cow

I feel like I’m doing the opposite of what the “normal” person does. The normal person travel all through Summer and then gets back into a groove of work, maybe school, but basically stops traveling once Fall hits, and that hasn’t been the case here, at all.

We stayed home almost all of Summer with only me taking a trip to visit my friend in Leipzig, in July. But that’s pretty much it. Now though! it’s been go-go-go and all I can say is I’m looking forward to staying home this weekend.

Through all of this, I forget that blogging is there. I used to write all the time with my other blog, and now I have to remind myself that YES you DO have a blog again, and it means posting more than the occasional one a month. This is a process I must re-learn!

For the past three weeks, we did a trip to Austria to see those amazing cows above, then I turned around the next day and took a 4 day trip to Bavaria by myself for a photography workshop, THEN less than 48 hours later, we were driving BACK to Bavaria and Austria for the weekend to see Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest and do the Sound of Music tour…quite different, yet, appropriately combined adventures! Those are all 4-5 hour drives each way for all destinations, and all I can say is: I’m beat!

germany bavaria mountains
Me in Bavaria
eagle's nest germany
Hitler’s “Eagle’s Nest”

Mixed in all this, I’m also taking German classes and that just adds a whole new level of time-consuming stress that I can’t even explain…unless you’ve learned a new language as well, and can commiserate. But if not, just know: its tough! I find myself lying in bed each night thinking of how to form sentences and what a particular word means, and what was the different between, “gegen, geben, gegeben, again? and is it gibt es, or es gibt..and will I ever figure out how to use that properly!??” 

All this keeps me up at night. My own version of nightmares…

So, my guilt levels are high as I go through each day thinking I need to spend my time listening/learning German over playing on the internet (we are paying for these classes after all), while still maintaining the home, and all that fun stuff. It’s silly, isn’t it?

There’s a balance for everything, and I suppose if I didn’t enjoy my mornings like I do for as long as I do, I’d probably feel less guilt. 😉 but, let’s not think about that.

Dirndls and Lederhosen

I feel like there’s some things you have to do if you come to Germany.

See castles
Visit Christmas markets
See a concentration camp
Eat bread and cheese
…and schnitzel, and spätzle, and pretzels
Walk through historical villages
and what some may deem the most important:

Visit Munich’s Oktoberfest, aka their major beer festival.

It’s almost a rite of passage in Germany and something that must be done if you’re here in the fall. Thing is, it’s awfully crowded since people from all over the world attend the festival, and the cost of trains and hotels skyrocket because of it. That makes it less than desirable to attend.

But what’s great is there’s another beer festival that’s just as fun, just as popular, but less known, and that’s the Cannstatter Volksfest. It’s more a place where the locals go, and since it’s closer to us, is where we went this year!
Octoberfest, Volksfest
It was my first time, and I was so excited to go! I bought a dirndl, a traditional Bavarian dress, last year in hopes of going, but schedules got in the way, and sadly that dress sat in my closet untouched. I wasn’t sure I’d ever get to wear it, but as luck would have it, we got tickets for a reserved table, with tickets for beer and chicken (a necessity) and had a hard date set.

german dirndl
Trying it on, last year.

Though I was excited to get dressed up, I never imagined G would don a lederhosen outfit, and figured he’d go in his normal “going out” clothes, but I was shocked when the day before, he went to pick out an entire Bavarian outfit from head to toe. I’m talking: hat, shirt, pants, socks, and even shoes! He went ALL out, and I was doing cartwheels inside.

german lederhosen
Very similar to what G wore!

So, come Saturday, we both got all dressed up, hopped on the train, and headed to Volksfest. I was nervous at first to walk around in my dirndl since we were literally the only ones around dressed up, but after changing trains, we blended in because EVERYONE was wearing either dirndls or lederhosen. It made me feel a lot more comfortable and excited to get there.

Germany volksfest, octoberfest
One of the many “tents” at Volksfest

I had no idea what to expect, but the second we walked into our assigned tents (there’s different beer sponsored tents with tables and live music), I was hit by the noise level. It was deafening. Everyone was cheering, singing, laughing, and talking while the live band blared their music. Everyone, and I mean everyone, was standing on the benches at their table. You only sat if you were eating.

It was crazy!

We got to our table and got food and a beer. Not your typical pint or half pint of beer, but a liter…each. A liter. Think on that. The stein is enormous and we had tickets for three each!
dirndl, octoberfest

((I’ll give the spoiler now….we didn’t drink three each!))

I can’t even imagine drinking that much beer, but I watched as some had 5,6, and even 7 liters of beer in a matter of 3-4 hours. That’s almost two gallons, if you can believe that! Lots of bloodshot, half-opened eyes and stumbling going on. Despite that though, the crowd was a lot of fun, singing and dancing to the music. The atmosphere was nothing I’d ever been in before, and it didn’t matter you didn’t know anyone around you, within 15 minutes, you were already good friends sharing extra beers with one another.

We arrived late and only got to enjoy our table for 1 1/2 hours, but in that time, I drank one stein successfully.
germany octoberfest

germany octoberfest, beer
No, I wasn’t chugging it. just pretending to, promise. 😉

Something to be proud of… Or not, I’ll never say, 😉 but I walked out of the tent and back into daylight without any stumbling of my own.
I’m not a drinker, let alone of beer, so I wasn’t sure how I’d hold up, so I was glad I felt pretty “with it.” I’ll thank eating the chicken dinner at the beginning and taking things slow for that. And for not being a beer drinker, I will say the beer was pretty good. Its a special kind that only comes out during the festival, so it makes it all the more special.
germany festival

One thing that makes the festival even better is it’s for everyone young and old. They have games, rides, and loads of different food vendors. There’s absolutely no reason to go into a tent, if you don’t want to. This was the first time G and I had ever been to a fair (of sorts) and he won me a teddy bear at one of the games. I was impressed by his dexterity!

We were smart and didn’t go on any crazy rides, but I was really surprised the amount of {drunk} people that did. These weren’t cute little gentle rides. These were full-on carnival make-you-puke kind of rides. I’m just glad I didn’t see anyone actually puke!

It was a long day and we were out cold by 9pm, but it was such a fun and enjoyable day at Volksfest. If you find yourself in Germany, and it happens to be around this time, consider going to Cannstatter Volksfest in Stuttgart. Or if you’re into crazier crowds – Munich’s Oktoberfest. Buy a dirndl or lederhosen, reserve a table, and have a sip of beer for me.

You’ll be glad you did.

Lightning storms and my attempt to capture them

lightning storm
Living in Germany, I get to enjoy a lot of different weather. Even though it’s Summer, it’ll be in the 90s (without a/c, mind you) one week, and then barely getting over 70 the next, with lots of rain. It’s mildly bi-polar here, but I honestly love it.

Last night, we had quite the thunderstorm, and as I was lying on the ground, with my head against the balcony glass door, so I could look straight up at the sky, I watched as lightning bolts streaked the sky. They were so bright, I would be momentary blinded by the flash.

It was awesome!

After about ten minutes of watching it dance across the sky, G, who was sitting next to me, asked if I wanted to grab my camera. It was perfect timing, because I was dreaming of having my camera all set up to capture the gorgeous sight. It’s been one of my goals to shoot lightning!

So, I jumped up and ran downstairs, but not before asking G to google “Canon settings for lightning,” because I may know how to shoot in manual, but I sure don’t know the first thing about shooting lightning! After grabbing all my gear, I set up the tripod, got the settings to what trusty Google said they needed to be, and starting taking photos.

The majority of the bright bolts right overhead had passed, but off in the distance, we still had some pretty impressive streaks. The settings proved to work, (thanks, Google), leaving me with some nice shots, and me dreaming of my next chance to shoot a lightning storm.

Even though I’m an amateur and have only done this once (technically that should make me an expert, right? ;-)), I’ll post my settings below each picture, just in case they help you when you want to shoot lightning. Every camera is different though, so, it’s important to know what you’re working with to ensure you’re getting the shot you want.

I have a Canon 5D Mark III and used my 35mm 1.4 for the night.

lightning stormLens: 35mm, Shutter speed: 13 seconds, F/stop: 8, ISO: 100

lightning stormLens: 35mm, Shudder speed: 20 seconds, F/stop: 8, ISO 100

lightning stormLens: 35mm, Shutter speed: 20 seconds, F/stop: 8, ISO 100

You can see I didn’t really tweak with my settings too much, only changing the shutter speed from time to time; opening the shutter up longer to let in more light.

These bolts happened when I first started shooting, and it was fun knowing I was capturing at least a couple.

As the night wore on, the storm was passing and less and less lightning was appearing. When G and I would talk about packing up and calling it a night, another bolt would strike and we’d vow that we’d wait for “just one more” and then head to bed.

lightning stormLens: 35mm, Shutter speed: 25 seconds, F/stop: 8, ISO 100

We got excited seeing the one above and really hoped the camera got it in all it’s glory. When we saw it did, I quietly set up for the next photo, while G sat there unmoving. We weren’t packing up. We weren’t calling it a night. We didn’t want to miss out on another potentially awesome lightning bolt!

lightning stormLens: 35mm, Shutter speed: 25 seconds, F/stop: 8, ISO: 100

And thank goodness we didn’t because I got this gorgeous shot shortly after. We were wowed by it, and so glad we stuck around, which had us wondering if maybe our “one more” rule should be tossed out the window.

We stuck around for another five minutes or so, and definitely noticed the lightning getting few and far between. We called it quits after I got this very last shot below, and hurried downstairs to look at the photos.

lightning stormLens: 35mm, Shutter speed: 25 seconds, F/stop: 8, ISO: 100

Its always amazing to me to see God’s work. Lightning and thunder leave me in awe of his power, and I’m so glad I got the chance to witness the spectacular show, last night. If I get another chance to shoot lightning, I think I plan to change lenses and mess with the settings again, but if I don’t, then I’m happy as a clam I have these for my memory.

Is there something you’ve always wanted to photograph but haven’t yet? Share in the comments, I’d love to chat about it!

edited to add this one super important tip:

There’s one thing I completely forgot about that is just as important as all the other camera settings, and that’s the FOCUS! Because it’s so dark out, your camera will not be able to “find” an object to focus on, so it’ll constantly be looking and blur the image because it’s unable to lock onto something.

So, it’s really important you put your lens on infinity and then switch it from “AF” to “MF” – auto focus to manual focus. By doing this, the lens will stop looking for something and you’ll have full control. By setting it to infinity (the little sideways looking 8), it’ll put the lens looking at the furthest possible point (ie. the sky) and have that be sharp and in focus! Which is exactly what you want!