Nice weather with the sun shining at last and nothing to do but shoot some frames. So out I went to photograph a few urban landscapes, an activity which is an all time favorite of mine.
Buildings don’t move, don’t need direction and are never critical of the way they are rendered – what could be a more perfect a subject?
Still lifes, but they are difficult to arrange and you need to light them properly or else they look amateurish and besides, who wants to be indoors in this weather? Not me..
In contrast to many major cities Berlin doesn’t really have a special area where one can go for rows of large skyscrapers throwing the strong contrasty shadows that can add drama to even the most bland of compositions.
I was out near the Messe Nord today and was struck by the view of dramatic contrasts between the old and not so old Berlin, from the Dresselstr. Bridge.
Completing the view was the divide between the two by a valley of the most noisy and virulent consumer of public space, the ubiquitous auto.
50mm, f4.5, 1/400sec, ISO100
Call me a curmudgeon if you must but the city seems to be a huge noisy, dusty obstructionist building site at the moment, and what’s worse, it’s been like this for too many years now.
70-200mm, f5.6, 1/180sec, ISO100
With a free day in front of me I thought I’d take the S-Bahn to Friedrichstraße and get some mental exercise by exploiting the new battery pack to shoot frames with the camera in the vertical position. It’s not that I never use the camera like this, just not for prolonged periods. Also, I’d never taken much notice on the compositional requirements when shooting vertical, it has always just been the format that that picture required at the time.
So today I concentrated on how the compositional elements of the lenses differ shooting vertically from shooting horizontally. What soon became clear is that it’s much like shooting with a wide angle: more often than not there’s too much foreground or too much sky unless you get really close, which is why I tended to avoid shooting in this manner. Also, heavily ingrained habits are hard to control, even with technological help. All morning my brain kept demanding I return the camera to the horizontal position, only by conscious effort did I avoid doing this – most of the time.
The picture was shot with a focal length of 200mm
70-200mm, f4, 1/60sec, ISO100
A painter I very much admire, the late Jeffrey Smart, was the bane of gallerists staging exhibitions of his work. Being an untiring perfectionist, often at the opennings he would see a flaw in one of the paintings on display and immediately set about correcting it, even if the painting had already been sold, which would naturally create a lot of tension and angst.
I understand this constant need to revisit works and fiddle with them. Skills improve, the original vision of the image undergoes change and new ideas can be introduced.
One of the most wonderful things about the photographic process is that the original can be preserved, reworked, remodeled, and renewed without the destructive need to obliterate the initial idea.
This picture was shot as part of a project with my first digital camera. The lighting is a couple of very old East German tungsten lights that are now interesting household curiosities with much lower wattage bulbs.
I always wanted the woman in this portrait to look like an aging vamp, someone ruthlessly trying to hold onto an erotic appeal that was rapidly fading and I think in this manifestation I have come closer to achieving this than in the multitude of its previous incarnations.
Nikon D70, 18-70mm, f8, 1/2sec, ISO200
For those who have begun to wonder why the daily posts have stopped since last Thursday (my 555th post) I offer this simple explanation:
The idea of posting 5 days a week was initially my way of maintaining self-discipline while I was in-between projects more than two years ago. The daily challenge became a very interesting habit and so I kept on with it after things changed.
Lately however, I’ve begun to feel that it has had a negative effect on my output, because, being human I’ve drifted into a pattern where I think more and more about posting what I expect my audience and followers would prefer to see and I doubt that that’s a good thing for my work in the long term.
I will still continue to post but not as regularly.
70-200mm, f5.6, 1/125sec, ISO100, Single flash with soft box on camera left side with white board reflecting light back on camera right side.
“Colour photographs tend to lack seriousness. The colours are exaggerated; not real. But, with black and-white, one can create visual harmony in the sense that the visual noise and distortion in the picture come through like a dialogue.” Raghu Rai
The reporter who wrote this article wasn’t totally convinced but Raghu Rai is an icon in both India and the photographic world so it’s hard to argue with him, although I would suggest Raghubir Singh, who is as famous if not more so for his colour work, would have a very different opinion.
So as an exercise I took a rather ordinary image shot last year around this time and gave it the monochrome makeover. Rai is right, it’s much easier to control the way a picture is viewed in black and white, primarily because colour isn’t there to distort and distract from the form and compositional elements of the image.
Only my opinion and I admit I could be totally wrong, but then I’ve got Raghu Rai on my side.
50mm, f5.6, 1/125sec, ISO100
The photographer Diane Arbus famously wrote, “it’s what I’ve never seen before that I recognize”. This quote is something that has stayed with me and I’m always looking for pictures I haven’t seen before. My problem is that I’ve seen so many pictures in books and through the viewfinder but I’ve never shot anything I haven’t seen before, which is a little demotivating sometimes.
Today was one of those sometimes.
Into the early sunshine I ventured forth in search of the illusionary impossible image and came away empty-handed, again. Yes, I know, I’m emulating Don Quixote and tilting at windmills but goals and impossible dreams are an important source of motivation for getting up in the morning.
The picture was shot in New York at 52nd and Broadway.
Canon EOS5, Kodak Tri-X, asa 400.