Why Do All My Pictures of Northern Europe Suck?

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In the eight years I’ve lived in Northern Europe, I don’t think I’ve taken one good picture of it.

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The problem, I’ve concluded, is the flatness.

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Not just the low altitude. Even at its postcardiest, the land here seems to merge with the water, then with the sky.

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Last year I read this Stephen Jay Gould essay where he talked about how the human mind is designed to notice variance over constants.

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Like how the roar of a waterfall is ignorable, but a drippy faucet, a fly trapped in an empty room, is unbearable.

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It’s easy to come up with examples of this in hearing, but harder with seeing.

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Lately I’ve been trying to explore my surroundings more. Get out of Berlin, bike quaintward, see how northern Germany looks after the freeways thin out.

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I wish I could say I’d discovered some hidden gem, a town, a forest, rich in history, poor in gift shops.

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But I really really haven’t. Everywhere you go, it’s water, land, sky, different amounts but always the same mixture.

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Back home, the scenery makes you feel tiny. You’re a speck on a mountain, a dot in a lake.

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Here, it makes you feel tall, like you’re the only punctuation in a long sentence.

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Maybe that’s why all my pictures all look the same. I’m used to looking for the drip, when everyone around me is listening to the roar.

4 Comments

Filed under Berlin, Germany, Pictures, Travel

4 responses to “Why Do All My Pictures of Northern Europe Suck?

  1. i actually find poetry in geographic flatness. i cannot say how many debates i’ve had with people coming from places where mountains or hills determine the landscape about how there’s nothing more beautiful and subtle to me than a flat baltic landscape 🙂 a sort of humble sublime.

  2. Helen

    Well then, as you discovered with that gorgeous photo of the apple blossoms, you concentrate on small details.
    That feeling tall thing – I had that in Ireland, on the west coast, where the landscape is mostly grass and rocks. Germans who come to N.America always comment on how big the sky is.

  3. Your photos might suck, but your writing doesn’t!

  4. Charlie

    Or you can embrace the flatness, then take it to the max. It worked for Andreas Gursky when he too the most expensive photo on the world. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhein_II

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