Another Street Sign

With the way the talking heads in the media are ranting and frothing at the mouth about religious fundamentalism you would be pardoned if you thought it was a new phenomenon. Of course it’s not, the ebb and flow of violent pious beliefs is a historical fact.

One day’s crackpot is tomorrow’s martyr.

On a lighter note; a sure way of recognizing a photograph shot with a medium format film camera is the so-called waist-level shot – so named because the camera is held just above the waist and you look down into the viewfinder to focus and a fine example of what happens is this picture.

The picture was shot about 22years ago so it is also a fine example of the continuity of religious bigotry.

If there is one thing that I find exceptionally hard to understand it’s the large swaths of angry people who believe that their belief in a loving god demands that they abuse and persecute those who don’t have the same beliefs, when in fact such overweaning narcissism is an anathema to all religious teaching with the possible exception of Satanism.
Bronica SQA, 80mm, Kodak Tri-x, asa 400

Deconstructing Bliss

Once I was done taking all those big clunky bits from my deconstructed printer down to the tip what I have left is the interesting shiny bits.

Of course one of the major benefits of being a photographer is that a useless malfunctioning machine can have enough aesthetic appeal to supply endless hours of entertainment taking pictures of it.

With some of the more appealing bits from the printers remnants artfully reassembled, lit and photographed as a modern still life, the reassembled junk emerges as an interesting but useless object, a metaphor for the rampant unnecessary waste that’s a byproduct of the technological superfluity in modern life .

The sad truth is that any small part of the machine could stop it from doing the task it was built to do; but the most frustrating thing is that it’s not economically viable to find and fix the fault. A short second life as an entertaining lighting lesson and a feature in a blog doesn’t seem to me to be justification for all the energy that went into both creating and partly returning the printer to reusable elements.

For those with technical interest in the image’s production: there were two studio lights used to make this picture.

The key life is at 2 o’clock high and 45degrees on camera right side. A 110 cm white umbrella is the light modifier. Under normal circumstances this is a medium-size umbrella but as it is twice the size of the piece, contrast is always going to be minimal, hence nice even tones in the blacks and no specular highlights on the shiny surfaces.

The highlights on the fan blades as well as the rim lighting were created by using a flash head with a snoot placed behind the installation, also on camera right side. This flash was set to one stop brighter than the key light. A small piece of white foam board was used as a reflector to fill in the shadows on the bottom left side of the piece.

 

70-200mm f9, 1/125 sec, ISO 200

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

Permission to Shoot

After jumping through all the bureaucratic hoops permission was granted for me to shoot a portrait in the Berlin Museum of Natural Science on Wednesday.

It seemed like a wonderful location for a portrait and it does have a series of visually interesting backgrounds; however, there are so many different coloured light sources that getting the correct white balance  was often next to impossible.

I was allowed to use a tripod and a speed-light with a snoot, but because the museum was full of visitors I could only take in a small kit and it’s when you get into such places that you find out you need more things than you have with you. In this case it was a warming gel for the speed-light. The tungsten light in the museum creates a wonderful warm atmosphere to view the exhibits, but it is a nightmare to balance light temperatures when using flash to separate a person from the background.

In the end the officially sanctioned tripod  got the job done, but if you shoot in such a location, be careful, the bright spotlights play havoc with the auto focus.

35mm, f2.8, 1/10sec, ISO100

Intellectual Slippage

It was while looking at this photograph taken in Café Central in the very old part of Vienna that I began to realize just how absurd the tourist experience can be.

Café Central is a famous landmark, it’s where in the past, intellectuals from all over the world met. A list of luminaries too long to list, all elegantly dressed, sipped coffee, ate delicate cakes and discussed the meaning of mind here.

It is important to note the word past in the previous sentence. The guidebook may say that it was a quiet haven where the intellectual elite could relax, but today one has to queue to get in.

Also, like almost everybody in the vast room I was dressed to accommodate the weather outside, which means T-shirt and shorts, not what one would call elegant. As you can see, I, like everybody else, was also busy taking pictures.

The staff, who are elegantly dressed are still playing their role, despite the day long manic deluge of gawking tourists, but one has to wonder what they think of the vast, sweating, badly dressed herd that is the current customer base.

Bottom line, it is simply not possible to experience the past as it was. It is not even possible to get a glimpse because there are too many me’s and you’s irreparably altering the social and visual landscape.

It was too hot for coffee so I had a beer. But the room is nice in a crowded, busy sort of way.

Drinks, as one would expect, are not cheap. The cakes are wonderful.

50mm, f2.8, 1/50sec, ISO500

Café Society

Back after ten days in Vienna I have to say that despite the high temperatures we had a wonderful time. Although the historical center of the city is awash with tourists it’s a city I would recommend for a holiday, as there are plenty of quiet areas to sit and relax. The city fathers seemed to have realized that people strolling in parks, around monuments, public spaces and shopping precincts get weary after a while so they’ve put lots of places to sit where people gather. It creates a very relaxed atmosphere despite the vast hordes posing for selfies.

 

Our main interest was to indulge ourselves in the myth of the café society, which like all things one has read about, in reality can never be the same as in the book(s). So we spent far less time in cafés than we thought we would. This could have had something to do with the heat, which made languishing over a coffee in a beautiful but very warm room not high on the want to do list.

Also, call me a peasant but I didn’t think the coffee that special either. In Berlin the coffee is as good and half the price, but to be fair the cafés are nowhere near as spectacular as in Vienna.

And yes, I know it is the elegance of the ambience in Vienna cafés for which one is paying extra and yes, such delightful eye candy is in my opinion well worth the money.

 

50mm, f3.5, 1/80sec, ISO250

Divides

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