Statue photo project – Heinrich von Kleist

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The best thing about being a juggler is that the main activity of a juggler is learning how to do things. And because a juggler is learning a lot, the best way to get better at juggling is to learn how to learn better. Which is why, when I do learn things that have nothing to do with juggling, I try to apply the lessons and ideas and techniques to the new thing.

One way I learn new tricks, or come up with new tricks, is to keep one element fixed, and find as many new ways to approach that element as possible. By the end I’ll not only be able to do the original trick better, but have many new variations, some of which will be better than the original.

So last year I decided to do something similar with my photography. I walk through Victoria Park (Viktoriapark) in Berlin quite often, as it is close to my home. In the summer I juggle there with other local jugglers just as often. In the center of the park is an unassuming statue without any name or identifying features, though I’m guessing it’s someone like Goethe or Schiller. The identity isn’t important.

What is important: take a different photo each time I walked through or juggled in the park.

All but the first photo were taken in March, April and May in 2011. I tried loads of different ideas, different angles, time of day, weather, closeups, long distance shots, including other subjects in the frames, and much more. I used it to learn how to use my strobe in different ways too. I finally stopped due to the statue being enclosed in the bushes so much I couldn’t get a clear shot except for one angle. Maybe I should have taken that as a new restriction, but instead I moved on to other photography projects.

The project was a success, in many ways. I did improve at photography, but it also came in super handy when taking photos of real people. Instead of just taking a boring portrait, I have a whole load of more dynamic shots in mind, that I know work, because I tried them out on an inanimate object.

A side-benefit is a fun little 31-photo record of a single statue over the course of a few months, with the addition of new graffiti, how people treat the statue, and more. I’m thinking of printing out some of these images for a series to hang on my wall.

EDIT: I guessed at the statue’s subject matter, Goethe or Schiller, but the googling expertise of my girlfriend discovered it is another Romantic poet/playwright/writer called Heinrich von Kleist. Coincidentally, 2011 was the 200th anniversary of his death, a double suicide, on the banks of a lake just outside of Berlin.

Also from this page: “Marmor-Original im Hof der Leibnitz-Oberschule; Schleiermacherstraße 23. Es wurde 1990 durch den Aluminium-Abguss im Viktoriapark ersetzt.” So it’s good to know nobody is spraying paint into the eyes of the original.

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Statue at night

Statue at night: The statue stands way higher than me, so this shot turned out to be way trickier than I imagined.

The statue stands way higher than me, so this shot turned out to be way trickier than I imagined.

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Statue: Watching the sun go down.

Watching the sun go down.

Statue: Statue and flower.

Statue and flower.

Statue: Off-camera flash fun!

Off-camera flash fun!

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Statue: After easter holiday.

After easter holiday.

Statue: At night.

At night.

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club classroom #5: floor bounce 423

On Tuesday I got slightly obsessed with this old chestnut. Thankfully lots of other jugglers tried it too, so it wasn’t just me annoying everyone with the noise.

EDIT: On Facebook, Norbi mentioned “I think we both did that (or similar) in our duo.” This refers to an act we performed together in 2005, and after this reminder, I do have vague memories. So I’ve been doing this trick (or similar) since then.

This is also shot on my new(ish) iPhone, as a test of the video quality. As the video is turned sideways, it is difficult to judge the exact quality, but I think it’s acceptable. The aspect ratio is weird though. 3:2, not 16:9 or 4:3. Not sure why. Maybe I’ll be able to use this for capturing International Juggler video clips.

Previous classroom videos:
#3 club slide to balance
#2 club hit-launches
#1 club squeeze catches

Number 4? I guess I didn’t mention that here on the blog. So here it is:

“I wasn’t sure if this trick looked impressive or not, so I videoed it. I’m still not sure.”

Burnie, Tasmania

I’ve written a new script that automagically compiles a blog post out of a folder of images using EXIF data. It took about an hour longer than I thought it would due to Lightroom 3 not using standard EXIF fields and labels, but in the future it should make posting photos to this blog way easier and less time consuming than my previous blog-post-creation script. Over the next week I’ll catch up with as many old batches of photos that I never got around to sharing here when I took them.

But first a quick test.

In December I visited Tasmania for the first time. I only had one goal: to spot a wild platypus and take a photo. Thankfully I found a very cheap and handy bike hire place and cycled out to a small reserve near Burnie, the port where our ship had docked.

Burnie, Tasmania

Burnie, Tasmania: A platypus! I tried taking a good photo, but this was the best I could do.

A platypus! I tried taking a good photo, but this was the best I could do.

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Burnie, Tasmania: Bike ride.

Bike ride.

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Broken knife!

Broken knife!: Thankfully this happened during a practice session, not during a show.

Thankfully this happened during a practice session, not during a show.

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2011 Juggling Log

Everyone who reads this blog knows I’m a total nerd when it comes to keeping track of personal improvements and achievements. That’s the main reason I started this blog three years ago! I’m also a nerd about juggling. What happens when you combine the two?

The 2011 Juggling Log

I know I’m not the only juggler who keeps track of this stuff. I’m not even the only professional juggler called Luke who lives in Germany who keeps track of this stuff. However, in 2011 I decided to go all-out, and track everything I felt might be interesting.

Fact 1 – total time spent juggling.

In 2011 I juggled for 404.05 hours.

Is that a lot? Personally I don’t think so. I think back in 2003 I juggled way more than that. But how can I be sure? I don’t have a juggling log from 2003.

Still, that’s almost entire 17 days I spent juggling. Or, at a daily rate, 1.11 hours per day.

Fact 2 – days off.

Of course, I didn’t juggle 1.11 hours per day, because I only juggled on 265 days in 2011. That means exactly 100 days when I didn’t juggle at all.

404.05 divided by 265 days is 1.52 hours per day.

Fact 3 – sick days.

I was too ill to juggle on 19 days. Personally I didn’t think I got ill so much, but when I do get ill, physical activities like juggling are the first things that get kicked out the schedule.

Fact 4 – travel days.

39 travel days. On these days I don’t have time for a full juggling practice session. If there was time (and I have the energy) I spent it practicing ball-on-head tricks, spinning a 10cm stage ball on my finger (getting pretty good!) and basic contact moves.

And if I was passing through somewhere interesting, or visiting a new country, I’d spend 2 minutes getting a video of me juggling.

Fact 5 – days working.

I’m a professional juggler. As a professional, I keep track of how many days per year I perform.

25 days.

That really doesn’t seem like much work to earn a living. Believe me, there’s a lot more to being a professional juggler than just those 25 days where I have an audience!

I performed my 50-55 minute juggling and multimedia and comedy show 23 times. Usually I perform this twice in one night.

On top of that I performed 26 shorter shows. On cruise ships these are typically 10-20 minutes, usually way less comedy and more time actually juggling choreographed routines. I also performed at some juggling conventions in return for (admittedly very little) money, and each one of these acts last about 8 minutes.

That makes, of course, 49 shows in total.

Fact 6 – dropless shows.

Being a professional juggler doesn’t mean I don’t drop on stage! To the contrary, I drop quite a lot.

In 2011 I performed 8 dropless shows. Of these 8 shows, 7 were short shows or juggling convention gala show acts.

I performed a grand total of one dropless 50-55 minute show. Yay me. And, to be honest, that is not just in 2011, that is in my entire career as a professional juggler!

Fact 7 – total drops on stage.

In non-dropless shows (the vast majority) I made 151 drops. 151 drops in a total of 49 shows sounds really, really bad, right? But then you’ve got to remember my shows are typically much longer than the average 8 minute variete show act.

After some rough calculations I estimate that I spent about 1650 minutes on stage in total this year (this doesn’t include hosting shows at the EJC or other conventions).

1650 divided by 151 drops means that I drop in stage, on average, once every 10.93 minutes.

Suddenly it doesn’t sound so bad!

Fact 8 – Combat!

I love 3 club combat. I decided to keep track of every “match” “I” won. This included two kinds of combat:

  • Team Combat – If I was on a winning team, I counted that as a win.
  • First to five combat- everyone agrees to play until one juggler wins five games.

I played 169 combat matches and won (or was on the winning team) 119 times. This means I won 70.41% of the matches I played.

On top of that I played countless games of the traditional melee combat. Not included in the juggling log are many memories from late night convention sessions. For example, at the EJC in Munich I wrote this in my diary:

“And then combat. I did pretty well. Won quite a lot. My hands felt like they were working. As some others dropped out, I felt in total control. Even with the Irish guy distracting me all the time.

I won 3 games in a row, and didn’t mention it. And took it to 5. And then up to 9. At the tenth game I got to the last two, and then we made each other drop.”

Or, from the French Juggling Convention in Rennes:


Not epic. The French jugglers aren’t good enough, although as time went on some better players joined in.

So instead I made it epic for myself. I set myself a goal, and said to Kyle and Namer “3 wins in a row, no, 5 wins in a row” and they said “And end with a double pirouette.”

And I did it! It really makes me focus. Bring out the high level skills. Not mess about. And most importantly, not fuck up in stupid ways.”

And at the same convention:

“And then combat! Flo joined in too. And Patrik Elmnert, who I’d been watching in the gym.

And Kyle reminded me of the challenge: “Swap all your clubs for another three different clubs, and then win.” This is really tricky! Fucking hard, in fact. Just making it so you drop your own club, and not one you’ve already stolen, is a brain fuck.

But I rocked it! I had just one of my own clubs left, and just Flo was left in, and somehow I managed to catch his high throw and knock him out. Yeah!

Epic! I think these challenges are fun. Hopefully nobody else thinks I’m taking the piss.”

Fact 9 – 5 club backcrosses

In the spring I decided to get 100 catches of 5 club backcrosses. I knew it would take a lot of work. I put in a lot of work. In February, March and April I worked on it on 69 days. Sometimes I’d work on it for over an hour.

The longest unbroken streak was 27 days in row when I practiced the pattern. What a fucking pattern.

Removing the days I didn’t practice, here are my best runs per day.

This shows pretty good progress, I think. My top record was 50 catches. But better than just improving my all time record, it improved my average run in my average juggling remarkably. Even in November, I visited Dunedin in New Zealand, and the jugglers where wanted to film me doing some hard tricks. Even without practicing it seriously for six months, and with very little warmup, I was confident enough to say “I’ll go for 20 catches of 5 club backcrosses.” It took (I think) three attempts, which is about all anyone will wait for if they have a camera on you and want to see something cool.

The two “off” days in the middle of the chart, where my best run drops down to 15 and 13, really stands out. I took a look at the juggling log, and I’d taken 5 days off from juggling completely before those days. It looks like this:

very ill
still very ill
travel day
illness recovery

So if I was doing so well with 5 club backcrosses, why did I stop? Well, it was totally fucking up my hands. And my shoulder. The only way I improved my skill level was by pushing my body beyond its comfort zone. In the end I had to make a decision: good health to enjoy all my juggling, or get better at a single pattern. I think I made the right decision.

Fact 10 – I had fun.

I tracked a whole lot of other info, but not enough of any one thing to be worth analyzing here. One thing which is almost impossible to quantify is how much fun I have juggling. Should I track how much I’m enjoying my self in practice sessions, on stage, and at juggling conventions? This would be meaningless, I think. I’m not sure I can bring myself to be that much of a nerd.

But tracking the juggling I do do has been fun, and has, in some ways, allowed me to have more fun with juggling this year.

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2011 end of year blog thing

I have a few hours free this afternoon, so I thought I’d do an “end of 2011 look-back review type thing” blog post. I did a whole series of blog posts for the end of 2010, looking at the goals I set for that year, but this will be way shorter I guess. Why much shorter?

Well, last year I didn’t post my “list of plans and goals for 2011” to the blog, and I don’t think I referred to it here during the year. One reason was that my new year’s resolution (if you can call it that) was something like “Set fewer goals for the year!”

I didn’t want to be beholden to what January 2011 Luke wanted to spend time on when October 2011 Luke had changed his mind about it. On a weekly basis I have a larger creative output than almost anyone I know, so I have nothing to prove to myself or anyone else that I’m wasting my time, or that I’m a failure if I succeeded at only “35.05 out of a possible 50 plans and goals.” And yes, that was my success rate in 2010.

So in 2011 I intentionally didn’t work towards to plans and goals on my list. If I had time free, I’d look over the list, and see if it inspired me, but otherwise I just worked on what I wanted.

And, as it happened, some of the things I most proud of accomplishing weren’t on the list at all. For example:

  • The list said “Perform live set of my own music” inspired by spending time in New York with some awesome live performers.
  • I started performing at small music open stages in Berlin, and discovered that people really enjoyed my performing. They liked the fun songs, and how I chatted between, but hardly anyone commented about the pop songs and love songs that I’m so proud of.
  • I discarded other music plans and concentrated on writing more quirky and clever comedy songs, that I perform with just me at the piano.
  • This led to me performing more at comedy shows than music-only shows, and my comedy songs got a great reaction.
  • I now have 10-12 “comedy” numbers that I could, if the opportunity arose, put together into an hour-long show.

In January last year I never imagined I’d have the skills and material to do a whole new hour-long show. This is on top of the two hours of juggling material I have, AND on top of the (maybe) two hours of other music I could perform, and all of it original material.

I think that’s pretty cool. Right?

Who knows, maybe this year I’ll actually do a full-length solo music show, rather than just performing sets in longer shows.

All that aside, here are a few things from my list of plans and goals for 2011 that have been fun to track.


  • Visit another 20 new countries.

Partial win! I don’t have much control of this one, as I don’t make most of my travel plans. As it happened I visited 18 new countries in 2011.

I also made sure I got a video of me juggling in every country I visited in 2011 (win), even those I only passed through without leaving the airport.


  • Berlin and EJC and at least two other conventions (to be confirmed), one in a new country.

Win! Berlin and the EJC, plus the French Convention, Brianza Convention in Italy, Portland in the USA, and Passout in Germany at the end of the year. I’d never been to a convention in Italy before, so that was cool.

  • Win Fight Night Combat (against JJ for bonus)

Win! I won in Berlin, but JJ didn’t take part. I lost badly at the EJC. No bonus.

  • Run open stages and other events at EJC (with zero stress)

Win! 8 open stages over 8 nights. There was stress in the organization as a whole, but I deflected it all by being more professional and confident than others, and hopefully the stress didn’t leak out too far into the venue I had to control.

  • Track and break some personal records.

Win! I broke a few. The most “impressive” record was 5 club backcrosses. I worked on it many hours in the spring, up to an hour day for many days, and smashed my old record. It now stands at 50 catches, though my 5 year plan back in 2001 was to get 100 catches. I’m okay with never reaching that goal, even after 10 years.

  • Practice more (log hours per day).

Win? I’m not sure if I did practice more or less than previous years, because this is the first year I’ve tracked how much I juggle. I think I’ll release the nerdy numbers as a separate blog post.

Other juggling and performing goals included working on new material (win), building new props (win), developing routines which don’t need more equipment than I already carry (win), finishing the construction of “The Room” set (progress, but nowhere near finished), writing the show “Powercut” (fail), and working with other jugglers and artist on material for the above shows (win).


I had some writing goals, but this was tricky. Half way through 2010 I decided to keep a diary, and writing about 1,000 words per day for my private diary took up so much of the energy that would normally be spent writing fiction. I did manage to make progress on various novels. I even completed one novella and recently published it on my website.


I intentionally left this even more vague than others. Photography is something I’m still getting better at on a monthly basis, and until that stops, I don’t think I need to think about setting myself other goals.

My only goals were to learn more about small strobe photography (win), to learn more about self-portrait photography (win), and to set up a photo studio in my juggling studio at home (partial win).


By the numbers:

  • I had 31 plans and goals for 2011.
  • I succeeded at 15.9 of them.
  • I failed at 11.1 (the decimal is from visiting 18 and not 20 new countries).
  • At the end of the year I was still actively working on 4 projects (for example, an audio recording of one of my science fiction stories).

The numbers are nowhere close to last year’s success rate, but last year I put down loads of things that I knew I would succeed at anyway. Things like “continue to record the SFBRP podcast”, and even without trying I put out 32 episodes of science fiction reviews. And a lot of them were really simple too, like “buy a new camera bag”. How much effort does that take? Nothing compared to writing a whole novel!

And, as I said before, I decided to be happy to go on flights of fancy with my plans and goals and dreams.

I’m super happy with 2011, and how much I achieved in terms of life accomplishments and creative output. I even found an awesome girlfriend, and she is going to be included in many of my plans and goals for 2012.

But that will be a whole other blog post.

New for 2012: I’m turning off comments on my blog. Since early 2009, when I started this blog, there have only been about 10 comments really worth my time reading and approving. And for each of those, I responded individually by email, or created a new blog post. All the others were fine, but not worth wading through the spam.

So from now on, I’ll just leave my email address at the bottom of each post. If you have something to tell me, please email me. I’ve done this since 2008 on my SFBRP podcast, and have developed really strong relationships via email with my listeners. I’d love to replicate that here. Just so you know, I reply to every email: