Irina’s Travels Part II

Last year in winter, we did an interview with our photographer Irina about her journey towards east, through Russia, up to Alaska. At that point, she had already traveled Poland, Slovakia, the Ukraine and Romania. All by herself, she was equipped with a backpack, camera, courage and an open mind. She was in Bulgaria, Turkey, Caucasus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, East Russia and finally in South Korea, before she took a short break from traveling back home in Germany. You can read all about it here. We recently started wondering what she’s been up to since, thinking about what adventures she might have experienced, so we decided it was time for a second interview.

Foto: Irina

Irina in Mongolia (Photo: Irina)

Hi Irina! How was your break from traveling and what happened since?

During my 4 month break, it was hard for me to get back into normal everyday life. I felt like being on a journey through and I kinda actually was. However, after those 4 months, it was as hard to start again and continue. It was a strange phase and I will always think of it as part of my journey.

After the final end of the travels in August 2013, I felt full of energy and wanted to start full speed with my PhD about raccoons in Georgia. Well, it didn’t happen and in those grey November days, all the motivation faded away quickly and my lack of work and perspectives seemed endless. But just then, I received a absolutely unexpected job offer: interviewing Chinese students at the Academic testing center of the German Embassy in Beijing. Ok?! Totally insane, but an absolute lucky find to me. My job there even brought me to the German Embassy in Ulan Bator/Mongolia and will hopefully lead me to Vietnam in November and after that for a couple of months to China again. In between job assignments I travel of course. ;) And so I am on my way back from Mongolia to Germany at the moment. As always backpacking, traveling by bus and couchsurfing.

Please tell us which countries you traveled to during the 2nd part of your journey and what you experienced there.

The second part of my “world trip” led me from April to August 2013 at first 2 months to Mongolia, after that I spent one month China, followed by one month in Alaska and the Canadian Yukon territory. And I would say that this part of my journey was probably the best. I experienced so many great things and met great people. Especially Mongolia turned out to be the dreamland that I had imagined – just like Alaska and Yukon. I found that China was not a suitable travel country for me. I almost only visited cities. But, it was nonetheless interesting and it’s a culinary wonderland – the best food on my whole journey.

In Mongolia, I contacted all wildlife biologists and was pushing an open door with my interview project ( I got lots of info about ongoing projects and was even able to work with WWF Mongolia on their snow leopard project. And so it happened, that I had the incredible chance to see a wild female snow leopard from 20 m distance and look her in the eyes. This was probably one of the happiest moments of my journey and it still feels surreal. Equally beautiful were the Gobi desert and the vastnesses of Mongolia that appeared to be endless.

In Alaska and Yukon, it went on with postcard sceneries and animal sightings, including a grizzly, a black bear, migratory salmon, a humpback whale, caribous, a polar fox and moose. That’s why this part of my journey belongs also to my personal highlights. But it’s also the part where I had the best human encounters! I traveled together with 2 boys from Israel the whole time and the sun was simply shining for us, there’s no other way to describe it. ;) After that I continued my way hitchhicking, and ended up with dinner, a few drinks in several bars and an overnight stay on a yacht! And the most exceptional Couchsurfing bed was at the coastal rain forest in Alaska near Haines in a small, open tree house. Oh and I have a new favorite city: Dawson City in Yukon. The gold mining town sparkles with adventurous spirit, there’s an incredible atmosphere. Especially when it’s summer and the sun still hasn’t disappeared beyond the horizon and you’ve already been to every one of the 15 bars and saloons. I had a great time there. I even crossed the arctic circle and had fresh caribou steak with some First Nations people.

I could talk endlessly about this part of my journey and I hope that I can do that live and in person with some of you in the future.

In Beijing there was even a Photocase user meet-up, right? Please tell us, how it was and how it came about.

Yes, that was totally funny. I read in the forum, that steffne and his girlfriend were planing a short trip to Beijing. I was there in the meantime because of my job at the testing centre. And so we met two times shortly before easter. One day, we walked around the Bell Towers quarter, equipped with our cameras and breathing masks against the smog. The second time, we watched down on the Forbidden City in the dusty evening light from a hill and had very hot hot pot after that. We had a good time. :)

Ein Photocase Usertreffen in Peking. (Foto: steffne)

Photocase user meet-up in Beijing
(Photo: steffne)

Did you stay true to your way of traveling? By yourself, with backpack and mostly by bus, train or ship?

Yes, I do still prefer this style of traveling. I want to be as close to the natives as possible and share their way of moving around. I still use the traffic system in place and that can mean sitting in a rickety bus for 2 days with no legroom and extremely bumpy “roads” but super interesting people. On the way to the Mongolian Altai for example, we were playing cards, sang Kazakh songs and cheered for the bus driver, when he overtook another bus. I love those moments and stories and wouldn’t like to trade this experience with a comfortable 3 hour flight. To Alaska, I had to fly, however. I’m sure, there are ships too, but those were unaffordable.

What about photo equipment? Do you travel with a digital camera now? And how does that work out “on the road”, when there’s not always a power outlet around to charge your batteries. Do you have any tips or tricks?

Yes, I actually got myself a digital camera (Panasonic Lumix LX7). I sometimes do miss my analogue cameras, but not their weight. I will keep on using the analogue ones on short trips and at home (where ever this will be). Charging the camera batteries turned out to be not such a big problem at all. Mine lasts quite long and when it’s down, you can always find shepherds or other people with power outlets. Only recently two Russian guys helped me out. I hitchhiked with them and we had to stop to make a delivery. They knew the cook at the local Stolowaya (snack bar) so that I could charge my camera there and we all filled our bellies. :) Conclusion: Just speak to people and ask – you will most certainly get help. From time to time I asked myself if it would work out like in Germany too.

What’s next on your plan? Where will you go and what will you be up to there? Any new places of desire?

As already mentioned, I’m traveling again at the moment – on a land route from Ulan Bator to Berlin. I already crossed the Mongolian and Russian Altay and now I’m basically on my way to Moscow and St. Petersburg for some cultural program. After that, a friend will pick me up with his motorcycle in Tallin and we will ride across the whole Baltic States and Poland back to Berlin. Fyi, I will be in Berlin for a short time end of July. :) After that I will fly to Israel to visit the two boys that I met in Alaska. I will be back in Berlin for a few weeks by the end of August. In November, I will go to Vietnam to work and then China again during winter.

I don’t have new places of desire, but there are still enough old ones that are waiting for me. I would like to visit Iceland, Greenland, Chukotka and Kamchatka, Scotland, the Scandinavian polar region and I still haven’t been to the Aleutian Islands yet…

Thanks to my job, I can still do travels that last several months. But I don’t know if I want to keep on doing this for the next 10 years or so. It’s also nice to have a place you can call your home. But I haven’t found this place yet…

Here are a few photos from Irina’s journey:


“Oasis” by Irina – To the photo

This photo was taken in a small oasis village in the Mongolian desert Gobi, in the south west of the country. Actually, it’s a black & white photo. I took it with a box camera and photographed it digitally afterwards through a window in Bochum with the evening sky in the background. The colors that have been added this way give the place exactly the atmosphere that characterized it: warm, sandy and sometimes shimmering dusty, somehow lonely and lively at the same time.


“Mongolia Hiking” by Irina

When I was still at Caucasus, I had quite a fear of heights. But during my work with the WWF, I had to climb up and down slip rock hills that were up to 2500 m high, searching for snow leopards. It was physically demanding to keep up with my Mongolian colleagues and in addition to that I felt quite uneasy at the sight of such drop-offs. But after two days my fear of heights was gone. Maybe it was because my Mongolian colleagues always seemed so calm and also treated their environment that way, that it spread on me. :)

Thanks, Irina! This way to her user profile.

Photos: Irinasteffne

La Chamanسبعة
Photocase Day #7 in Berlin


Summer time is Photocase Day time! :) Like the past 6 years, you, our dear photographers, are invited to Berlin for a laid-back meet-up. We are already very much looking forward to “La Chamanسبعة” this year. For those who don’t know how to pronounce it, our personal linguist has prepared a little something. Here’s the new entry in the Photocase dictionary:

Chamanسبعة, La
Word class: noun, feminine
Pronunciation: La Chamansabaa
Meaning: Photocase Day #7 in Berlin
Synonym of: La Chamanwhoopidoo, La Chamanwobbledidoo

The 7th edition of Photocase Day will take place on August 9th at Werkstatt der Kulturen in Berlin Neukölln in their super nice garden! There will be drinks and food and of course a photo contest – we have to find the new owner of the glorious Photocase cup! :)

Here are the details:

When? Saturday, August 9th 2014
Where? Werkstatt der Kulturen, Wissmannstraße 32, 12049 Berlin Neukölln (location on Google Maps)
Starting time: 2 pm
How much? 10 €

To sign-up and learn other important details, click here (event site in German).

This is how it was last year (video with German text):

Come by on August 9th! It’s going to be Chamantastic! :)

RSVP on Facebook (German)

Mama oooooooooooh – Photography with the Lensbaby

This is a guest article by our photographer ginger. and the kick-off post of our new blog category “Photo hacks and effects”. If you have any cool tricks or tips too, that you would like to share with the Photocase community, or if you feel like writing a guest post yourself, just let us know. Thanks to ginger. for the first article and han.lei for the inspiration. We start with the Lensbaby. Enjoy!

Lensbaby “Composer” and “Composer Pro” with “Edge 80” optics (Photos: HapaTeam)

Lensbaby “Composer” and “Composer Pro” with “Edge 80” optics (Photos: HapaTeam)

I love the Lensbaby. When I unpacked my first Lensbaby lens and the word “Mum?” jumped at me, I was already sold. Yes, it’s a baby. You have to do everything, it can’t do anything on it’s own.

Autofocus? Nope. Focal length? Fixed, approx. 50 mm. Aperture? There are exchangeable magnetic insets for most Lenybaby lenses with apertures from f2.8 to f22. A Lensbaby needs toys: extensive accessory kids are available – creative aperture disks in bird, diamond, heart or star shape, create-your-own blank disks, different optics (single glass, double glass, tilt), macro converter, wide-angle and telephoto lenses.

Photo ID 275971 – To the photo
Lensbaby Composer, Double Glass

Photo ID 249172 – To the photo
Lensbaby Composer, Zoneplate-Objektiv

In the last 2 years, Lensbaby produced 2 new lenses, the Sweet 35 and the Edge 80. Both have an adjustable aperture. Almost like: Lensbaby learns to walk, Lensbaby becomes a toddler.

Photo ID 318767 – To the photo
Lensbaby Composer, Edge 80

Nevertheless, you need a little patience and tact with this analogue technique. But that also means that you get to know your camera better. You don’t rely on your automatic setting anymore, you choose your motifs more carefully. And of course it’s fun, it’s a nice toy. With a little practice you can make fantastic photos.

There are several Lensbabys: the „Muse“, the „Control Freak“, the „Composer (Pro)“ and the „Spark“. All Lensbabys are twistable and pivotable. I started with a composer and by now shoot with the Pro version and my Canon EOS 7d camera. The Lensbaby Composer has a spherical joint and can be swiveled in all directions. This way, parts of the picture vanish or blur. By inserting different aperture disks, the so called “Sweet spot”, the focus points gets widened (different from other lenses, where the depth of focus gets raised). Pivoting creates an (artistic) tilt shift effect. I would recommend starting with an aperture of 4 (or 5 in plenty of daylight) and not setting it too extreme, to get the “sweet spot” right.

The eagerness to experiment comes all by itself (at least it was for me). The makers of the British TV series Misfits even used a Lensbaby as movie lens. My favorite book about “Lensbaby” is by Corey Hilz: Lensbaby: Bending your perspective – with lots of pictures for inspiration. There are tons of workshop videos on YouTube.

There are quite a few photographers at Photocase who take photos with a Lensbaby. Here are some examples:

Photo ID 183977 by kemai – To the photo

Photo ID 292829 by dioxin – To the photo

Photo ID 294152 by morningside – To the photo

Photocase photographer’s portrait: katdoubleve

When we browse through our photos, we always stumble upon gorgeous pics. Recently, the wonderfully natural photos by our photographer katdoubleve especially caught our attention. So we thought it was high time for an interview with her and here it comes.


Kat aka katdoubleve joined Photocase in 2011 and has 68 photos in her Photocase portfolio

Hi! Tell us a little bit about yourself. Who are you and how did you get interested in photography?

Hey, I’m Kat. I’m a desperate cat lover, enthusiastic dreamer and full-time media designer. I love good music, buoyant people, diversity with no exceptions and every now and then a glass of good wine with friends. My parent’s camera gave me the first impulse to engage myself in the colorful world of photography. What I’m especially fascinated about is capturing those moments, that many people only become aware of through photos.

la mer – To the photo

la mer – To the photo


la douce tentation – To the photo

How did you find out about Photocase?

Photocase has accompanied me already for a long time and has helped me many times in my professional work. For me as a media designer, authentic and natural photos are scarce commodities. At Photocase you can find exactly those images. That’s why I find it so fantastic, that I can also show my photos here. I’m always happy that my photos find such great enthusiasm. Yet, most of my photos have rather snapshot character. But perhaps that’s what makes them so special.

Quand je suis avec toi – To the photo

What does photography mean to you? Do you have certain themes or motifs that recur in your work and why are these important to you?

My love of nature, diversity and love itself find a special place in my images. Homosexuality for me is absolutely natural and self-evident. But I experience again and again that people still have strong feelings of disconcertion of homosexuals and homosexuality. Because media images of relationships and partnerships are still predominantly conservative, I try to promote tolerance with my photography and raise awareness for this topic. Be gay, it’s okay. That’s why it is very important to me to approach this topic in an artistic manner, to contribute sociopolitically as a photographer. Photography for me is a medium to express things from my perspective.

La joie prolonge la vie – To the photo

c’est une histoire d’amour – To the photo

For that reason, I especially admire those Photocase photographers, who also raise awareness for this topic and deal with hetero normative dominance (you can find some nice examples here in my favorites).

Which camera do you use?

From my first pay check as a media designer, I bought a Canon 5D mark II, together with my cousin. We are both absolute photo enthusiasts. With my favorite lense, f1.2 50mm, I found my personal style. I love to work with sharpness and unsharpness, putting certain aspects in the foreground that way.

La joie prolonge la vie – To the photo

Thanks, katdoubleve! Head this way to her user profile.

Interview by
All photos by katdoubleve

New Photocase Login and Registration

As some of you may have already noticed, we launched an update last weekend and with that, our new login and registration process went live. Here’s a small roundup of what’s new:

New Login

You can now login with your email address + password (previously, you had to use your username, which sometimes led to confusion). Social media-philes can sign in with Facebook, Twitter or Google+.

Photocase Sign in

Here we go. Sign in with your email address or your username.


New users can now register fast and easy with their Facebook, Twitter and Google+ account. For those, who still prefer the good old-fashioned way, we streamlined the login form to make setting up an account real quick.

Photocase Register

Enjoy the view and set up a new account in no time.

Hi! We’re glad you’re here.

After registering, new users now land on our redesigned welcome page with all the information you need to get started (and a warm welcome by us).


“Smashing new profile photo!”

What’s probably most relevant for the old Photocasers among you, apart from the new login process, is the new process of uploading and changing your profile photo. We admit, this was something that could give even a pro-user problems. But now we’ve reworked it to be super easy. Just upload a photo, crop it, and you’re done. :) Also, we unified your profile and avatar pics. Your profile photo (the one shown on your user profile) will automatically be used as the small avatar pic (the one next to your username). A note for long-time Photocasers: the old two pics will remain until you replace your avatar.

You can upload JPGs, PNGs oder GIFs (without animation). So get your cameras ready for new avatar photos. :) Kai shows us how it’s done:


This is the new Photocase Login and registration. We hope you like it. If you have any feedback for us, please let us know. Just send an email to support[at]