Scenes from Goslar, Germany at Christmas

Scenes from Goslar, Germany at Christmas

Decorations

Scenes from Goslar, Germany at Christmas

Over the last year of staying in the USA I’ve tried to make the most of my time at home, but “the itch” for travel never went away. I wish I could say exploring Christmas markets in Goslar, Germany for a few days was enough to satiate my hunger for travel, but the trip went by faster than a car ride on the Autobahn and I can’t wait to hit the road again.

I loaded my camera bag with pretty much every lens I own when I shot a wedding last month. It was time to simplify in a big way, so I brought just three prime lenses: the ultra wide Rokinon 14mm f2.8, the medium wide Sigma 35mm f1.4, and the “normal” Canon 50mm f1.0L.

If you don’t care about the lenses, skip down to where it says Goslar below.

 

The ultra wide Rokinon 14mm f2.8 lens

Goslar at 14mm

Goslar with the Rokinon 14mm f2.8 lens

The Rokinon 14mm f2.8 lens is seriously sharp, sharper than most of my Canon “L” lenses. It’s also one of the least expensive lenses I own. “Good” and “inexpensive” rarely exist together in photography. The Rokinon is thus one of the best deals out there especially when compared to Canon’s 14mm which costs more than 7x as much. The Rokinon is manual focus only, but focusing hardly matters at such a wide angle. Either everything is in focus, or nothing is.

The ultra wide angle dramatically distorts perspective, making things at moderate distances appear extremely far away. This means that you need to get very close to your subject matter to shoot anything worthwhile. The lens is difficult to use for street photography, but it’s a fun challenge to figure out what works at such a wide focal length.

Goslar at 14mm

Goslar at 14mm

 

The medium wide Sigma 35mm f1.4 lens

Goslar at 35mm

Goslar at 35mm

The Sigma 35mm is a new addition to my bag and I like it quite a lot. Optical designs are usually a compromise, where a desirable trait such as lens sharpness might lead to undesirable qualities like lens flare or chromatic aberration (my Canon 50mm f1.0L is full of awful quirks but the trade off is the insane speed of f1.0.) I believe that with this 35mm, there is no trade off. The Sigma f1.4 is the best there is in every category, even beating out far more expensive offerings from Zeiss and Canon.

The medium wide focal length of 35mm is perfect for all sorts of photography. It’s wide enough that you can capture street scenes, but it’s also long enough to produce some nice bokeh (background blur) at f1.4 as seen in the shot below. 35mm is about as wide as I like to get shooting portraits.

Beer in Goslar at 35mm

Beer in Goslar at 35mm

 

The “normal” Canon 50mm f1.0L lens

Goslar at 50mm

Goslar at 50mm and f1.0

Shooting at f/1.0 only a hair’s width might be in focus. Even swaying backward or forward slightly while taking a picture is enough to ruin your shot. The challenge is worth it though, because backgrounds quickly melt away into a gorgeous, dreamlike blur.

This lens has a lot of, shall way say “endearing” qualities. Flare is rampant and chromatic aberration is common. Sharpness is not nearly what you’ll find in far less expensive 50mm offerings today (the “plastic fantastic” 50mm f1.8 is a fraction of the price and offers better sharpness.) The only real reason to shoot with this lens is for the signature look. Despite all the flaws of the 50mm f1.0, I absolutely love this lens because when you get down to it the overall look is the only thing that matters.

I also love shooting at 50mm because the focal length imparts a familiar, cozy feeling to images. That’s thanks to the natural perspective* which closely approximates human vision. It’s perfect for shooting Christmas markets where a cozy feeling is desired. It’s also great for previsualizing shots – without even looking through the viewfinder you already have a pretty good idea of how your picture is going to come out.

*While 50mm approximates the perspective of human vision, I believe that 35mm more closely approximates a person’s field of view. There is no lens that captures images identical to what we can see.

Tree at f1.0

Tree at f1.0

 

Goslar

There are quite a few big name markets in Germany, but I wanted to avoid the crowds and the tourists. After logging many hours online with tripadvisor.com and google, I finally discovered Goslar, a small city about 3hrs north of Frankfurt by car.

While some cities might simply put up a Christmas tree and call it good, or open a few stalls and call it a market, Goslar does Christmas better. Each year an entire FOREST of Christmas trees is built right in the center of the town. The forest is surrounded by stalls selling everything you’d hope to find at a German Christmas market: decorations, souvenirs, brats, pastries, and of course delicious mulled wine called gluhwein.

Everything about the city screams German Christmas. Bricks line small alleyways, narrowed on each side by beautiful wood framed houses. Lights and decorations are everywhere, adding warmth to the otherwise chilly air. The city feels quaint and local, to the point that it is one of the more challenging European cities to travel in without knowing the language. I can hardly think of a better place in which to spend a few days in December.

I tried to impart an old school romance to the pictures because that’s how Goslar felt. I hope you enjoy them.

In the forest, looking up

In the forest, looking up

 

Inside the forest late at night

Inside the forest late at night, after everyone had gone home. Can you think of a more romantic place to spend a holiday?

 

Goslar

A gluhwein stall, the Christmas tree forest, and live music. Is this even real?

 

Drinking Gluhwein

Drinking Gluhwein

 

Goslar

Canon 50mm f1.0L

 

Goslar Christmas

Goslar Christmas Canon 50mm f1.0L

 

Goslar at 14mm

Goslar at 14mm

 

Goslar at 35mm

Goslar at 35mm

 

Santa!!! 35mm

Santa!!! 35mm

 

Goslar Market. 35mm

Goslar Market. 35mm

 

Reindeer at 35mm

Reindeer at 35mm

 

Goslar, 50mm

Goslar, 50mm

 

Decorations

Decorations

 

Decorations in Goslar

Decorations in Goslar

 

Golsar at Christmas

Golsar at Christmas

 

Eagle in Goslar

Eagle in Goslar

 

Golsar at Christmas

Golsar at Christmas

 

Golsar at Christmas

Golsar at Christmas

 

Tree with decorations

Tree with decorations

 

Mulled wine

Mulled wine

 

Decorations

Decorations

 

Decorations

Decorations

 

Decorations

Decorations

 

Eagle in Goslar

Eagle in Goslar

 

Goslar night at 35mm

Goslar night at 35mm

 

Goslar night at 50mm

Goslar night at 50mm

 

Santa hanging out at 35mm

Santa hanging out at 35mm

 

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Comments ( 5 )

  • Marietta Winchester

    Hi Ed,

    I have been admiring your photography thanks to my wonderful son in law Bryan, and I have enjoyed your trip through Siberia and Fall in Chicago. You do what is a lost art of photography, where and when did you study the craft? I took my first BW class at Oakton College in Des Plaines from Bernie Krul, probably the last of if the icons of photography and then he decided to go digital! ARRGGHH!!!!!! And he has no interest in coming back!

    Although I sold my Haselbladt (and all the wonderful lenses) and Leica M5, I purchased Nikon N90 (because I owned several lenses that were compatible) and that is when the photography lost its magic for me. Yes, it is easy, but so uncreative! I took some abstract classes, but I think what keeps me coming is the street photography and close up photography….would love to meet you one day, I hear you are Chi town boy.
    Merry Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year!
    Marietta Winchester

    • Ed Graham

      Thank you so much for the kind words Marietta. Yes I do live in Chi town and it would be awesome to take pics together some time! I’m so glad that you follow the website and thanks again for taking the time to comment. Happy New Year!

  • Jeff Bell

    Do you use a camera with a full frame sensor or a cropped sensor? I have a 50mm and a 10-20 Sigma and they serve me well but I’ve been thinking about adding a 35mm.

    • Ed Graham

      Hey Jeff I have a Canon 5D Mark III and a Canon 60D. I used the Sigma 10-20 lens and found it was very soft especially on the left hand side and towards the bottom. It was probably just my copy but I was not impressed. I have been quite happy with the 5D III overall aside from some minor maintenance issues along with poor support from Canon. Still, it is a fantastic camera and one that drives me to take better pictures.

  • Julika

    Such a funny coincidence that you actually ended up in small town Goslar! I was there two weeks ago and I loved the Christmas forest there! This city definitely was a photographer’s dream, but sadly it was way too windy and rainy when I was there so I didn’t last to photograph it in the dark! But your photos prove that it looks just as pretty as I imagined it would!

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