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

Street Theatre

It’s been a few weeks since I simply wandered the streets of Berlin with my camera idly looking at and photographing the street theatre. Every city and town in the world has its own rhythm that induces a specific style of image making and while New York was once the center of street photography, the genre moved on decades ago, but the lessons remained. I firmly believe that a major ingredient of what makes NYC street photographs so interesting is large groups of people in motion juxtaposed against the hard slanting light and massive structures of stone, glass and steel, which are features of the city.

Naturally there is more to a good picture than contrasting light and architecture, something also needs to be happening but strong sunlight and hard shadows help a lot in making the image visually interesting as well as making it very pleasant to aimlessly wander the city taking pictures.

70-200mm,f4, 1/650 sec, ISO100

Slip Sliding Away

Now, after my fourth day of reorganizing my library, some things are beginning to make a little sense, I would have preferred to say a lot of sense, but why lie. As of this writing I’ve managed to isolate and properly file a single genre of images, which is encouraging and therefore rubs away a little at the boredom.

Sitting at the computer for extended hours isn’t the healthiest of things to do, so occasionally I venture out for supplies and I have to say, that while the temperatures have risen dramatically from last week, the conditions underfoot have got very slippery and nasty. It’s too cold for the ice to melt and to warm for the snow to stay, so in my area we currently have half frozen sludge on the ground, which often makes it hard to stay upright with only two legs.

Suffice to say that my daily walk now requires a lot of careful attention and daydreaming is not an option. But the white does make even the treacherous ground look beautiful.


70-200mm, f5.6, 1/125sec, ISO160

Continuing On

Yesterday we had the last image for the year, therefore, it seems only fitting that a post with a picture shot this year, should be a post with the first shot picture of the year. In truth, it isn’t the very first picture I’ve taken this year  because I often shoot anything and everything around the house just to hear the sound of the shutter, but this is the first picture that I fully intended to shoot this year.

It was a miserable cold day out and despite my best intentions I accomplished almost nothing. Later, after shooting this image I wandered around and shot few more. Some of the later images I like a lot more than this one, but there are a few unresolved issues in these images, which means I need to think a little more about why I shot them.

On the plus side, it seems all my bugs and germs have decided to find a new host and have left me for brighter opportunities, for which I am eternally grateful.


Fujifilm X20, f2.8, 1/200, ISO400.

woooeeee winter…

It was warm in 2015, but in spite of the sunny warmish days I managed to catch a cold, and then came New Year’s Eve, which was cold, cold, cold. Naturally I spent the evening on my balcony taking pictures, not venturing out because it was – cold.

The good news is my chest cold is gone, modern medicine is such a wonderful thing.

Stupidity, on the other hand, is injurious to the health. You guessed it – I now have a head cold from being out on the balcony without proper clothing (after all, I was at home and naturally thought the alcohol would protect me).

Now that it’s 2016 the temperatures have plummeted to minus 12 or so, too cold to go out with a camera so we have the very last picture I shot in 2015.


24-70mm, f4, 5sec, ISO100