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


Lessons Unlearnt

It’s sad, really, the way history repeats itself.
Now more than ever the dogs of war are straining at their leashes and as the rhetoric increases those with pretensions of greatness are on a one-way track to mass slaughter.
Or am I just being an alarmist?
Hopefully I am. If some control is exercised, common sense and a collective urge for species survival will hold the lunatic fringe in check, but I’m not hopeful.
I know, I know, we’ve been here before.
Yep, we dodged the bullet in ’62, but today’s strutting peacocks have arsenals just itching to be tested.
Am I being paranoid or does the American political class seem to be awash with Strangeloves Brig. General Jack D. Ripper clones?
Spooky when it’s the military urging caution, pressing for the diplomatic option.
This picture was shot 14 years ago during the lead-up to the never-ending war in Iraq.
Then it was about oil, now it’s about egos. There never was and never will be common profit for the world in either set of lies.
Canon EOS RT, 50mm, Formapan 400asa, processed with Agfa Rodinal diluted 50-1.

Basic Instructions

It never ceases to amaze me that no matter how many times one picks up a camera to shoot the potential to learn something new is always a pregnant possibility.

On Saturday I had an event to cover, a 12-hour day/night shift so naturally I checked all my equipment the day before and double-checked on Saturday that everything was there and working properly before I left: spare batteries, spare SD cards, all lenses as well as the camera itself.

In the past, when camera manuals were small books that came with the camera I always included it my kit bag. Why? Because if something can go wrong it will go wrong and it will always go wrong when you are working, so the book helps immeasurably with little quirks that sometimes happen – quirks that are interesting when you are at home and just playing, but stressful when someone is paying for your time. After doing this work for a few years one begins to think that there is nothing about the camera to learn, but a camera can always surprise you.

So I take my camera out of the bag, check that the dial is set to manual (I always shoot in manual) and then try to adjust the aperture, a flashing L appears in the information window and that’s it. The aperture changes in Aperture priority but nowhere else.

Things were happening and I needed to take pictures immediately so I worked around the problem for the entire event.

I thought at the time it was a software glitch, what else could it be my computer wire brain told me

It was the dedicated lock button. Three minutes at home the next day in a bright and quiet atmosphere was enough to solve the riddle.

My old 5D had the feature on the on/off switch, which often irritated me but I’ve never used the lock button on this camera, nor do I understand who or why one would. I think that, as I took the camera from the bag I inadvertently moved the sliding lock button half a centimeter, enough to cause the problem.

I now know what the flashing L means.

24-70mm, f2.8, 1/125sec, ISO 8,000

Filming in the Streets

I have often wondered if one of the reasons old photographs are admired is due to the style of dress at the time, the shape of the cars or the other myriad things that tell us the picture was shot many decades ago.

When I learnt that the local TV station was filming scenes from a long running period serial near me I thought I would test this theory. The series is set in Berlin during the 1950’s and titled appropriately Kudamm 56.

As you can see, even a banal scene of actors standing around waiting for the filming to start has interesting style elements. Elements a photograph of the same scene with the actors dressed in modern clothes and todays shapeless cars would lack. In fact, when film staff, who were dressed casually modern, moved amongst the actors adjusting items of clothing and explaining additional roles, they (the staff) looked boringly dowdy in comparison.

Therefore my question is: am I right in thinking that it was the styles of the day that interest us (me)? Or do the many modern photographs that leave me cold, even though they are similar to hugely famous pictures from the past, have elements I’m not properly grasping, possibly because I am living in the period being photographed, or is it simply a case of nostalgia for a mythical, simpler time, which means maybe I should get over it and move on….

Way To Many of Me

Recently we were in Scotland for two weeks and it soon became abundantly clear that many of the interesting parts of the world are clearly suffering from too many of us tourists. Our guide on a five-day-tour was making his last trip and seeking greener pastures due to the overcrowding on many of Scotland’s roads, which he maintained had become extremely dangerous due the massive increase in self-drive holidays, and after experiencing some of the craziness in the Highlands and around Skye I had to admit he has a point.

Skye in particular is ruined, he said. A once beautiful fishing village has morphed into a tourist hot spot where the exhausted cashiers at the local mini mart can no longer service endless stream of customers.

Want to buy a nice piece of local fish for dinner, good luck with that.

Berlin also has mass tourism, but the city’s size helps to absorb most of the problems. Not so the picturesque small villages and mountain tops of Scotland, which are collapsing under the strain. I shot this picture from a window at Edinburgh airport. This photo is nothing less than remarkable when you think that on a Tuesday afternoon, a city with a population of 500,000 citizens can fill to capacity a car park this size.

It’s a clear indication that too many are trying to do the same thing in the same place.

Fuji X20, f5.6, 1/400sec, ISO 200



A Momentary Moment

On Saturday I was taking photos for the Literarisches Colloquium Berlin or the LCB for short. It was the annual Garden Party day held at their stately chalet at Wannsee. A day full of reading, music and good cheer that went off exceptionally well marred only by the occasional shower of rain. It was a wonderful day, but after a few hours of photographing literary luminaries, reading, chatting and sipping drinks in a beautiful garden setting my mind began to want a little more photographically.


Late in the afternoon I was taking a break and talking to the writer Milenko Goranovič when a beam of light speared into the room as the day faded, transforming an otherwise dully lit space into a visually exciting Hopper-like environment. Milenko, who I have photographed before took directions without dissent, thereby enabling me to get a couple of very nice images in the short envelope of time before a door was closed blocking out the light. You might say a modern version of the decisive moment, where I took advantage of a lighting opportunity and posed someone nearby for no other reason than that a creative moment existed momentarily.


24-70mm, f2.8, 1/30sec ISO400.

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