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

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

Light Comfort

It can’t be denied that snow makes the world just a little bit more colouful, brighter as well as colder.

While the rest of Germany has been deluged with storms and heavy snow falls, Berlin has seen very little of the bad weather, which has been both great and not so great.

The occasional long snow fall made Berlin brighter, but the weathers switching between warmer/colder temperatures has made the ground underfoot in the park where I take my daily walk treacherous and uninviting, no fun at all.

But for photographers snow is a huge bonus. This picture, taken in the rear courtyard of our apartment house comes alive because the cold blue-toned light contrasts subtly with the yellow incandescent lights, which to my eye makes for a warm and inviting picture.

Odd when you consider that it needs to be cold to give the picture a feeling of warmth.

 

FujifilmX20, f2, 1/30sec, ISO400

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, Job Done

If you’re like me and have sometimes wondered how many screws are in a colour laser printer then I have the answer, lots and lots.

So many in fact that I gave up counting while deconstructing a modern marvel – the malfunctioning home printer.

I prefer to repair rather than replace, but modern technology doesn’t allow this. It’s no secret we live in a throw-away world, but I thought if I could preserve a small part of this machine for later use it all helps the enviroment and besides, I like to save screws, because you just never know when you might need the odd hundred or so.

It also occurred to me as I prepared this post that no matter how crazy an idea you have, like how many screws in a printer, someone has posted the answer on the net.

But who knows, maybe I’ve just done a public service. It could be in the near future a desperately lost soul may look glumly at their printer and wonder what it would look like if all the screws were removed, and tragically they didn’t have a screwdriver.

No worries.

Job’s done,

Answers here.

Isn’t the Internet wonderful?

35mm, f8, 1/125sec, ISO100, single 100watt flash head without modifier

A Post Revisited

I received a comment and a request to enlarge on a post done on May 26th of this year. I put the post up just after I bought a battery grip for my camera in effort to induce myself to break the long established habit of shooting in the landscape position and shoot more in the portrait position.

In this post I explained I spent the day shooting with the camera in a vertical position to become overly  familiar with the compositional elements of this format.

Why did I think this necessary? Because one of the main problems I’ve always had with shooting in this style was negative space either at the top or bottom of the frame, as is evident in the first picture of the car, which was also the first image shot on the day. The unwieldiness due to the large expanse of black at the top of the picture easily demonstrates my lack of familiarity with the format when shooting street work.

The second image (according to the metadata), was shot about an hour later, and still evident is my need to fill the bottom of the frame which in this case left the top a little empty .

The frame is getting fuller and more controled by the third image, which was about two hours later. After aprox three hours and a couple of hundred frames the format has been tamed, as is evidenced in the last photo, which is obeying rules of two thirds but ignoring the time-honored tradition of not placing the center of interest in the center of the frame.

Since the May post the battery grip has remained connected to my working camera and I now work comfortably in either landscape or portrait position. In fact, I’ve begun to notice many of my contemporaries still shoot only in the landscape position, whereas now I’m constantly switching as I seek to optimize the compositional elements of the image within the frame.

The first two images were shot using 50 mm and the bottom two images using a 70-200mm.

I’ve also found that a when shooting in the portrait position a lens’ length of 50mm or more is often an easier option than a wide-angle lens.