September 2007, Ulm

Ulm, Baden-Württemberg, Germany, September 2007 was the setting for the RT07 conference, a conference which focuses on real-time rendering, and in fact, mostly on raytracing. Although my primary task at mental images is rasterization, not raytracing, I am still interested in the latter, and in any case, there are many common techniques. Given the media and advertising circus which Siggraph has become, combined with the fact that you are treated like a criminal upon entry to the States (I was finger-printed last time, something which is now apparently routine), I decided that unless there are very special reasons, I will avoid future American conferences and attend the more interesting ones in Europe, until the situation improves.

RT07 started small, relatively recently, but has quickly gained a strong reputation, so I was keen to see what would be presented.

On the way to Ulm, we saw this neat shadow/rainbow combination. It is not often you get the opportunity to see that a rainbow is actually potentially a full circle, not just an arc.

After arriving, the others wanted to relax a bit, so I went for a walk with my camera with a couple of other restless individuals. This is the Bundesfestung, a fortress completed in 1859. It is exceedingly massive, and apparently caused Napoleon some trouble in the past. It is still the residence of the military, and thus you cannot enter.
The Ulmer Münster has the tallest spire of any cathedral in the world. Others are larger or have larger domes, but this one stands the tallest, and interestingly, you can go almost to the very tip of the spire and look out. The delicate nature of the ornamentation means that renovation is constantly going on. When they finish, they start all over again. The weather takes its toll. Hopefully one day our technology will improve to make things a little less fragile. In one of the pictures of the view from above, you can see the circular white building in which we later ate, and from where the first picture of the spire was taken, with a super-wide angle lens (Leica Elmar-M 16-18-21mm f/4). In the very last picture, the modern building at the right edge of the photo is actually in Neu-Ulm (new Ulm), which is in Bavaria, Ulm lying right on the border between Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria. Neu-Ulm is not so interesting, and as a comedian originating from there once joked, it has the most beautiful view in the world: that of Ulm.
Downtown Ulm is quite traditional and has many old building, with just a few buildings sprinkled in. The further you go away from the town centre, the more modern it is, like so many cities. There are fragments of an old Roman wall, part of which provides a walk-way next to the river.
One of our pauses provided delicious desserts.
There are many interesting little details in and around central Ulm, and I had a lot of fun walking around, looking for images. The last picture demonstrates the famous technique of getting a barbeque up to speed quickly with a hair-drier.
One afternoon Jacopo and I walked around together, taking photos. He has recently bought a Nikon D40, a great little camera with very good image quality. This camera is what I recommend to people who want to get into more serious photography without spending too much money. As the price drops, the D40x will also become more affordable, and gives 10MP instead of 6MP.
The UFO in the three pictures is the conference hall where RT07 presentations took place. The building it attaches to is in the fourth picture. This is also the path to the eating area.
This bar is pretty much the nightlife of Ulm, for those with alternative leanings. There are apparently one or two other decent places, but this one is the best.
Our banquet dinner together took place in a large fortress on a small mountain, somewhere outside of Ulm, the Burg Hohenneuffen, a beautiful location. The view was spectacular and we got some nice Jesus rays to spice up our panoramas. At the end of the evening, the dining area half emptied out as all the smokers went outside. Following, I got a couple of nice hand-held nighttime shots, one of a car making its way along a twisty road down below, and one of people chatting and smoking, with the cigarettes providing little light trails.
As with all smaller conferences, the quality level was a mix, and a few duds did sneak in. Nonetheless, overall I was very pleased, and next year will be a toss-up between RT08 (unless it is in the States, which I think might be the case), and either the Eurographics conference, or the Eurographics Symposium on Rendering.