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


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.

Ah Berlin

Love it or hate it, this city often offers up the most unusual images for the dedicated street photographer and what more can a man and his camera ask?


24-70mm, f3.2, 1/100sec, ISO200

Works Rewards

Today I was out shooting textures and backgrounds, which is about as boring work as it gets photographically, made worse by the biting cold winds that were a feature of Berlin today.

On the up side, if you’re out working there’s a good chance an interesting image will appear in the viewfinder. One I would never have seen if I’d stayed comfortably warm at home.


28-300mm, f5.6, 1/160sec, ISO500

Bridge to Nowhere

As days go, today was both busy and unproductive. I’ve continued working with composite images to move the process further along as I search to find the limits of what I can do with the process. But despite my best efforts the results from today were mediocre, with this picture being the best of the day’s work.

And while the image is ok, therein lies the problem, it’s just ok.

The good news is that tomorrow will be another day and like all new days it holds the untapped potential for exciting discoveries. Well, that’s what I usually tell myself at the end of tedious days like today.

The original picture is a simple photo stitch of fifteen images shot in the early morning. The image was then been processed by layering eight different textures to create the effect of a flawed old image. As I said above, it’s not bad, but not good either, which is even possibly worse.

85mm, f3.5, 1/800sec, ISO100

In the Streets of Berlin

Bright sunshine means high contrast in the streets of Berlin and with the weather being so great, what better place was there to be than prowling the city streets with my camera in hand.

It may not be summer yet, but it is sure knocking on the door and in the warmer weather the light is just marvelous.

This joy at the bright sunshine may be an overreaction to the long months of winter grey but it doesn’t matter, give me a little warmth and sunshine and my world is almost perfect.

I shot this picture around the bus center at Rathaus Steglitz this morning, a location I’ve visited before on sunny days like today because more often than not there is going to be a good photograph somewhere near.

85mm, f1.8, 1/160sec, ISO100.