Another Turn of the Wheel?

I once thought they couldn’t build out my view, well they can’t totally, but they (whoever they are) are doing their best to prove that they can.

Yes, I know it’s a first world problem, but for a number of years now I have not been able to escape the cacophony of mind-deadening roar resulting from the cornucopia of tools that grind tear saw pound bore bludgeon rip and render as part of the building process. The visual pollution of man’s mechanical assistants don’t give me a warm fuzzy feeling either.

Today is a beautiful fall day and I would expect that those working on the building sites in this picture are enjoying the weather while they work, I would like to be happy for them but my empathy doesn’t extend that far.

Cheap money is fueling the building boom, plus banks taking equity positions in large  building projects stokes the appetite of the risk takers. I’ve got a bad feeling that the genius leaders of industry are once more racing each other to turn our savings into debt.

This begs the question; why do they only build luxury apartments? When the bubble bursts, nobody but those who benefit from social destruction will have any equity.

Oh yep, I see.

The sharks can buy the worthless luxury cheap and hold until things get better.

Check your pension fund, bad shit is on the horizon and you don’t want to be caught holding the deeds to worthless paper

28-300mm, f 6.3, 1/2000sec, ISO100. Camera set on aperture priority

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meeting expectations

Berlin’s Night of Music takes place on the longest day of the year, and that was yesterday; consequently, we are now on the slow slide into winter. That’s not really a bad thing as I like the winter months. It’s also the signal to begin the marathon of festivals and events that make the summer months interesting.

Like we have done for the previous two years, I – along with a group of intrepid artists from the Brücke Kunst – took up our positions on the crossover bridge at Berlin’s oldest harbor near Jannowitz Brücke. We do this to engage with people, both young and old in the process of painting, modeling, etching rubbing, playing an unplayable instrument and posing for an almost instant photographic portrait, all for a bit of loose change.

It may sound odd but we are getting repeat business, especially for the portraits. One family has gone from one child to three over the period and they have sat for a portrait with each new addition, becoming old friends, although I was assured that there would be no extra child in next year’s picture.

The two young ladies in today’s image are sisters from Melbourne, Australia who are travelling Europe and only in Berlin for a couple of days.

And if you were to ask ‘Why do I find this picture interesting? Because it looks like any standard tourist snap shot” then I would reply, “Where are the flash marks, why aren’t the highlights (faces) blown out by the flash, and isn’t the light nicely balanced to bring out the blue in the night sky?” It’s a movie version of what a snapshot should look like.

It looks like a travel snapshot because it’s designed to look like one.

In post some grain was added, a vignette filter to darken the top and warmed the image up a little, but other than that it’s straight out of the camera.

The soft even lighting on the young women is not the product of skillful lighting on my part, but modern technology in the form of a ring flash that cost just over €100. that I was using as a key light in portraits for the first time yesterday.

I think it is important to consider what a photograph will be used for, which in this case is memories of Berlin, and that’s why it is the way it is.

50mm, f5.6, 1/180sec, ISO320, Yongnuo Ring Flash at ½ power

Quiet Moments

At heart I am a bit of a minimalist, and I do love a good photorealistic painting, which is why the late Jeffrey Smart has been one of my favorite painters ever since I first saw his work in Sydney back in 2003.

So it would come as no surprise that I look for similar-style scenes to photograph. It’s the precise positioning of every element in a Jeffrey Smart painting that I find most engaging. Unfortunately, the very mechanical nature of the photographic medium under normal circumstances prohibits such fine placing of the elements at least for someone of my Photoshop skill level.

Photography does have the decisive moment, but that’s more about capturing a fleeting moment, a slice of time as it flashes by. What appeals to me in this picture is its contemplative restfulness. We can see that this isn’t a fleeting instance of action but a period of quiet stillness, made visually enjoyable by what we know as the appeal of vertical lines, disappearing perspectives and frames within frames. But without what Kandinsky explained as the tension within the frame, a tension that’s supplied by the almost perfect positioning of the people, it would be a dull lifeless image.

If it was a painting it would be ­­possible to correct the problems of left leaning, but in a photograph, despite the wonders of PS, when you correct that problem, other dimensions change, so more work is required.

The end result would be different, more constrained image, and not a picture I like.

 

FujifilmX20, f5.6, 1/250sec, ISO200

Framed

Another thing I like to do when photographing events like writers festivals is to include the audience in the picture while maintaining the viewers concentration on the principle author on the stage, which in this case is Samanta Schweblin, who is both centered within the frame and in the brightest part of the picture­.

Naturally I have headshots of her and the other authors, such shots are mandatory and everybody does them because they’re expected by the organisers for the web etc.

However, although these oddly framed shots are rarely used on festival internet pages, they do often appear much­ later in printed matter or online articles and the reason for this is something I find very interesting. Although such pictures appear to have been shot by an amateur they are in fact a part of the professionals toolbox. The deliberate “amateurish” framing of the shot makes the picture appear more spontaneous or truthful than its tightly framed brethren, a “this is how it really was on the day”-type of photo that adds visual engagement and points of reference to an article or review.

However, you do sometimes get some odd looks from people who wonder if you know what you are doing.

50mm, f4, 1/80sec, ISO12,800 (in these situations I always have the ISO set to auto)

StillLife

I hope everybody has had a good start to the year. Personally, January 2017 has not progressed as well as I would have hoped.

To begin, on Jan 2nd the hard drive on my computer decided that as the warranty had expired three weeks previously it would refuse to do any more work. Fortunately all but two days work had been backed up so there was minimal loss.

Yesterday my wife’s computer also decided that it had had enough and wished for a quieter existence on the scrap heap. A logic board failure is the chief suspect, but as the computer is over 6 years old it isn’t worth throwing money at it when we know the end result will be that repairing it will be prohibitively expensive.

While my computer was away awaiting the technicians pleasure I fell back onto my usual fallback, books. So on the one hand, work flow was retarded, but on the other I managed to read a few very interesting books.

I also did a couple of pictures that required minimal processing, because after all one needs to keep doing what one needs to do.

This simple little picture required three lights to get the effect I wanted. On camera right, up close in front of the piece was the key light with a soft box. Also on camera right but behind is the second light with a honeycomb grill attached. I used this light to create the highlight lines on the right side of the piece. On camera left side and almost vertical to the piece is the third smaller flash which was used to both fill in the shadows on the left of the piece and spill light onto the background.

Shooting this picture was both interesting and fun, it also eroded some of the dull free time I would normally have enlivened working on pictures with the computer.

70-200mm, f11, 1/125sec, ISO100, 2 500watt studio flashes and 1 200watt flash with silver umbrella

Altrenative Berlin

While watching TV the other night I was struck by what can only be the inconsistencies in the way people see the world, the difference between one person’s reality and another’s. The speaker, a writer who had recently moved to Berlin for creative influence, stimulation, alternative lifestyle (whatever, the expressions always seem to be the same) was waxing lyrically about what a wonderful city it is, full of excitement and change, grand open spaces and interesting people. He was talking about the area around Gorlittzer Park, where he lives, which is all of those things, give or take a superlative.

Marzahn, a suburb on the far eastern edge of the city, does not have many people waxing lyrically about the superb lifestyle their area offers. In its early years Marzahn did have a reputation as the ideal communist workers’ suburb, boasting wide streets and lots of public space. After reunification it fell out of favour with just about everybody and became renown for racism and other nefarious reasons.

Today it’s just another Berlin suburb and opinions differ as to whether it would be a nice place to live or not. To me it seems a soulless place and the wide-open spaces a bit bleak and intimidating, but the blog GDR Objectified

https://gdrobjectified.wordpress.com/2015/07/28/marzahn/

sees things in a more positive light.

In an effort to be objective I’ve included two views. The landscape was shot from the S-Bahn over pass, it’s what you see when you arrive and the shopping center was photographed from where the buses stop.

Why do I go to places like this in the middle of winter? Because I think it’s important to leave one’s comfort zone occasionally, it makes making pictures more interesting.

 

Fujifilm X20, f5.6, 1/125, ISO200

Deconstructing Bliss

Once I was done taking all those big clunky bits from my deconstructed printer down to the tip what I have left is the interesting shiny bits.

Of course one of the major benefits of being a photographer is that a useless malfunctioning machine can have enough aesthetic appeal to supply endless hours of entertainment taking pictures of it.

With some of the more appealing bits from the printers remnants artfully reassembled, lit and photographed as a modern still life, the reassembled junk emerges as an interesting but useless object, a metaphor for the rampant unnecessary waste that’s a byproduct of the technological superfluity in modern life .

The sad truth is that any small part of the machine could stop it from doing the task it was built to do; but the most frustrating thing is that it’s not economically viable to find and fix the fault. A short second life as an entertaining lighting lesson and a feature in a blog doesn’t seem to me to be justification for all the energy that went into both creating and partly returning the printer to reusable elements.

For those with technical interest in the image’s production: there were two studio lights used to make this picture.

The key life is at 2 o’clock high and 45degrees on camera right side. A 110 cm white umbrella is the light modifier. Under normal circumstances this is a medium-size umbrella but as it is twice the size of the piece, contrast is always going to be minimal, hence nice even tones in the blacks and no specular highlights on the shiny surfaces.

The highlights on the fan blades as well as the rim lighting were created by using a flash head with a snoot placed behind the installation, also on camera right side. This flash was set to one stop brighter than the key light. A small piece of white foam board was used as a reflector to fill in the shadows on the bottom left side of the piece.

 

70-200mm f9, 1/125 sec, ISO 200