überlin Does Croatia: Geeking Out on Analogue Photography

by Zoë Noble

Croatian flag

Just picked up the prints from our summer holiday in Vis, an island a few hours from Split, Croatia. The reason it’s taken so long to get the photos is that I STUPIDLY left the film back in our apartment!? Yup, I’m a massive idiot. Thankfully my guardian angel/Airbnb host Ratko found the film and posted it to me – but it took two months to get here. I’d almost given up hope and then it arrived in the mail last week 😀

Usually I’d take my digital camera while travelling and I’d have all the photos on my laptop, backed up after each day – this was my first holiday ONLY shooting analogue. Why? Because, for a change, I decided to leave the bulky cameras and multiple lenses and just travel really light. When I’m not working, I want to have a complete break from carrying heavy equipment, changing lenses, charging batteries and the post-hols photo editing.

The beauty of film cameras is that they simplify your decisions, leaving you to simply enjoy the moment of taking the photo. You really have to slow down when you shoot analogue, and you truly consider every photo. You remember that you have a limited number of shots and concentrate on really nailing that exposure. So many times I’ve composed an image with my analogue camera, only to decide it just wasn’t worth wasting a shot.

This way of thinking really helps photographers. Taking hundreds of photos with a digital camera may be easier, but it doesn’t help you understand what makes a good photo. Anyone can blast out 1,000 shots and get one killer image. You know you’re a great photographer when EVERY shot is a killer image.

Anyway, enough photo geekery… we had such an amazing time in Croatia and would recommend the island of Vis (thank you Ed and Sarah for the amazing tip!) and our beautiful villa in a heartbeat. We want to be there right now!

All photos shot with Olympus OM-2, 35mm lens and Kodak Portra 400 film.

Croatia sea

Church and blue sky of Croatia

Green seas

James looking out to the sea

Peeling paint

Pink flowers

Vis beach view

Port with fishing boats in Vis

Narrow buildings in Vis

Fishing boats

Sea view in Croatia

Walkway in Vis old town

Vis old town

Fresh fish in Vis

Sun setting in Vis

Learn High-end Retouching with Pratik Naik at überlin!

by Zoë Noble

Pratik Naik High End Retouching Workshop

I’ve been a massive fan of Pratik Naik for years. One of the best high-end retouchers working today, he’s been instrumental in my development and an inspiration for the kind of sleek-yet-natural aesthetic I aspire to. That’s why we’re really excited to announce that Pratik will be leading a one-day retouching workshop in our überlin photo studio.

During this workshop, which will focus on high-end beauty and fashion retouching, Pratik will share his workflow, techniques and the basis for his aesthetic decisions. The event will develop across one intense day of work and will showcase Pratik’s tricks for optimising the use of Adobe Photoshop CS5 (or higher). If you can’t make it to the workshop, but you want to meet other retouchers and photographers, Pratik and I will be hosting a meetup on the following day (details TBC).

Click through for all the details about the Pratik Naik High End Retouching Workshop, hosted by überlin. As readers of ours, you get a super special deal – use the offer code uberlin2015 on checkout to get 15% off the regular ticket price.

Looking forward to meeting you, and learning some advanced retouching skills! (nerd alert)

On blogging: The great “viral content” swindle

by James Glazebrook

Günther Krabbenhöft street style original photo

You may have seen this dashing fellow on the Internet recently. You might have even seen these photos. If you did, the site you were looking at stole Zoë’s photos, published them without her consent, and used them to generate traffic and, most likely, revenue.  

It all started when So Bad So Good shared some photos to their Facebook page, of the alleged 104-year-old, posing on the platform for the U1 at Kotti. It isn’t clear where they got those images from, as they didn’t include any kind of credit. But we do know that the man pictured, Günther Krabbenhöft – represented by “agents for unique characters”, We Are Unlike You – isn’t 104. More realistic estimates put him at around 70.

Spotting an opportunity, I commented on the post with a link to our own blog post, a streetstyle shot of Günther walking through Graefekiez. Sure enough, that brought us a lot of clicks – about 40% more traffic than in the previous month – but it also brought the attention of websites that pride themselves on finding and sharing viral content. They refer to it as “sharing”, but we call it what it is: stealing.

The biggest, and probably the first, of those was Bored Panda (no, we aren’t going to link to them!). We found them via a trackback, a notification that WordPress sends us whenever someone links to one of our posts. Clicking through, we were shocked to see Zoë’s photos being used in a post that (apparently) now has over 180,000 views, 50,000 Facebook Likes, and is surrounded by ads that make money for the site’s owners. Alarmingly, there’s an “Add post” button that allows anyone to create their own article, with terms of use that place the responsibility for copyright compliance on the “author”.

The offending article on Bored Panda

Bored Panda set the tone for all the other articles we were able to find through trackbacks and Google reverse image search (which we learned about from @eljojo – thanks!) Have a look here – each of those thumbnails leads to at least one article that has used that image in those dimensions. That’s just one of our three images of Günther, and it doesn’t included photos edited beyond recognition by Google’s bots.

Most of the articles we found included the 104, many with that weird get-out that “the Internet” is getting its facts wrong, and all featured images alongside ours from sources who presumably weren’t contacted for permission either. A lot of them completely ripped off the “original” Bored Panda article. But, as it’s not their content anyway, why should they care?

When we contacted Bored Panda, we received an email from the article’s author saying that they’d decided to remove the images. The fact that they responded so quickly, to an email sent via a form that actually has a field for “removal request”, leads us to believe that they subscribe to the school of thought that one should “ask for forgiveness, not permission”.

Günther Krabbenhöft close up

Bored Panda were only closing the barn door after the horse had bolted. By the time our images were taken down from that site, they were all over the “viral” Internet. It takes just one website to turn stolen content into fair game, and other sites are happy to rip off photos, as long as they include the name of the source, and a link to it. Those second-tier sites are legion, and rarely have contact details through which to demand a removal.

A couple of bigger websites approached us for our permission (denied), and, when pushed, a national British newspaper offered an insubstantial amount of money. Given the circumstances, we were almost flattered that people had thought to ask us, but Zoë can’t pay her rent with “credits”, and we can’t build an audience on the clicks of curious people wanting to ogle an apparently ancient “hipster”. Our uptick in traffic came primarily from my comment on So Bad So Good’s Facebook post, and those people won’t be back. If we were playing the same “viral” game as these websites, those clicks would translate into money. But we aren’t – we’re focussed on creating original content.

And that’s the most depressing part of all of this: watching the Internet cannibalise itself. As soon as one online entity had a “hit” with the Günther photos, everyone else had to have them. Major newspapers and best-selling magazines aren’t above this – everyone wants the hot new thing to post, in the hopes that their improved Google rank will inch their audience, and profits, up ever so slightly. This “viral” layer of the web relies on content creators like us to thrive, but we won’t be able to create the content it needs if we can’t make a living. It’s pretty disgusting to see this up close.

So where does that put us? We’ve been advised that we are in a position to demand our content’s removal from all these websites, and to even invoice them for the revenue they likely generated from it. But how do you contact a site that doesn’t feature so much as an email address, and what are your chances of getting a response, let alone compensation? Right now, we’re focused on INTERVIEW.de, who aren’t responsive despite me taking to Twitter and Facebook to complain (sound familiar?) We think they’re taking Andy Warhol’s art of appropriation a little too far…

Let’s be clear: we love it when you share our content. When you tweet one of our photos and @-mention us, you could bring us followers; when you link to our website, we may gain readers. Sharing the photo without a credit isn’t exactly in the spirit of Twitter, but at least you wouldn’t be making money from our creative work. To all our genuine fans, thank you for sharing!

And to all the people out there creating unique content, keep up the good work. Take solace in the fact that this is one of the few cases of plagiarism we’ve (knowingly) experienced, and it can be traced back to us “putting ourselves out there”. Let us know if you ever encounter anything like this, and we’ll be happy to share our learnings and give you some support. Together, we’ll kick some web ass!

Günther's kick-ass shoes

EDIT: INTERVIEW.de have since responded to my Facebook post and taken down the photos. However, I still take exception to them using the photos in the first place. Here’s how that conversation is developing…

What is überlin?

by James Glazebrook

I recently read a great article by Travels of Adam, in which he talked about getting back to the basics of blogging. It made me think about a fundamental and (for me) important question: what is überlin?

In short, überlin is a blog, coworking space and photo studio. The online part started when we arrived in Berlin four years ago, and the bricks and mortar followed last summer. For the most part, it’s just two of us – James and Zoë, a married couple who moved from London in search of a better life.

But that’s deceptively simple. For years now we have wrestled with an identity crisis, because, going into this, we never thought about what we were doing or what we stood for. We just wrote about our experiences, first privately, then for our friends and family, then for a growing audience who seemed to like what we were up to.

As the blog grew, we were called to think more and more about what überlin means. As people interviewed us, as brands pitched us and we approached brands, as we weighed up the pros and cons of putting all our money into a real-life business, as we struggled to justify keeping this thing alive on top of very demanding day jobs… As we did all this, we were forced to do the one thing that we’d avoided from the start: to define ourselves.

So we had editorial meetings. A lot of them. We had circular arguments that ended with a single piece of paper and these words: “IT’S A BLOG”. We struggled to decide: can we compete with other Berlin blogs run by bigger teams or people with more time? Do we even want to? Are we bloggers with a side-business, or a coworking space with a blog? So many questions!

And what have we concluded?

Mostly, that we’re going to stop worrying about all of this. We run the blog, and the space, because we want to – and that’s how it should be. The people who like us, just like us – our personality, our sense of humour, the fact that we say what we’re thinking. That’s why they read the blog, chat with us on Twitter and Facebook, and sign up to come work with us. When we overthink what we’re doing we risk losing everything that makes us, us.

We’ve also realised that überlin is bigger than the both of us. The best part of running a coworking space is being surrounded by interesting people, and we think there’s room for other personalities on the blog too. While the core of überlin will still be Zoë and myself, we’re happy to share the “spotlight” with writers, photographers and interview subjects who offer a different point of view on Berlin.

This year, we’ve purposefully avoided thinking up resolutions for ourselves. But if we were to set some loose goals for überlin, they’d be: do more, worry less, be ourselves and ask for help. If you like the idea of helping to shape the direction of one of Berlin’s biggest English language blogs, or one of the city’s smallest coworking spaces, just drop us an email at contact at uberlin dot co. Let’s make it up as we go along, together!

überlin The ü

In Case You Missed It: Snow in Berlin

by Zoë Noble

Olive and Adrian playing in the snow

The Iceman Cometh! Oh wait, that’s just James… So we may not have had a white Christmas in Berlin, but we had the next best thing – a pleasant drift of the white stuff a few days later, and then streets clear of sludge by New Year’s Eve. Just in case there isn’t more snow to come, we made sure to get out in it, with Olive and our awesome visiting friend Adrian in tow. Both of them seemed to have fun!

Olive in the sun

Tree branches covered in snow

Adrian and James walking

James in black and white

Maybachufer frozen canal

überlin logo in snow

Swan flying over Maybachufer canal

Admiralbrücke canal

Lens flare and branches

Olive in the snow

Ask überlin #2: Snap Chat

by James Glazebrook

Ask überlin #2 Snap Chat

Find out the secrets of Zoë’s success! For this week’s Ask überlin we help out a reader who’s looking for photography work here in Berlin. Listen in to learn about the humble beginnings of Zoë Noble Photography, how to set yourself apart from all the iPhone snappers out there, and which Berlin photo blogs and instagram profiles we go to for inspiration.

Oh, and if you’re a figurative artist and/or a fan of Käthe Kollwitz, then we need your help! A reader who’s moving to Berlin in the new year is planning a study of the local art icon, so if you are able to help, or know someone who can, then we’d love to hear from you. Drop us a comment on this blog post, or our SoundCloud, or send an email to the address listed below. Thanks a lot, art nerds!

Got a question for us? Stick it in an email to ask@uberlin.co and we’ll answer you on an upcoming episode of Ask überlin!

Fantastic photos from Berlin’s biggest Christmas market

by Zoë Noble


Tis the season! While all the other bloggers are seeking out the quaintest, most traditionally festive Weihnachtsmarkts in Berlin, we thought we’d go to arguably the worst and take the best photos of it! Wintertraum, which stretches from Alexanderplatz to Jannowitzbrücke, bills itself as Berlin’s biggest Christmas market, but really it’s a funfair – complete with candy floss vendors, vomit-inducing rides to test the stomachs of adventurous candy floss eaters, and what seems like a billion flashing lights. So what better place to test out the steampunk-y Petzval lens I had on load from Lomography?

The Petzval comes in stunning gold, and apparently “is a stunning reinvention of the legendary Petzval Lens, which was first conceived of in Vienna, Austria, in 1840.” It works with both analogue and digital cameras, and allows you to take photos with a narrow depth of field, producing a trippy bokeh effect in the background. I really enjoyed using it to capture the insanity of the Wintertraum Christmas market, including the creepy clowns, retro rides like “BREAK DANCE”, the possibly-BER-inspired “Chaos Airport” … and James’ beard! A photo opportunity if ever there was one. 😉