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.

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Prime Time

I would consider myself a very practical person, one who doesn’t buy things unless there is a real need and I’ve had this need for a 35mm prime for a few weeks now. I already own a 24-70mm f2.8 zoom, but it is so heavy I dread taking it out. It is a wonderful lens, but all that great glass weighs more than the camera.

I’m doing portraits on location and as a consequence I’ve learnt the joys of shedding excess weight in the kit bag. At the moment I have the kit bag down to 14 kilos, not bad when you consider this includes a camera, three lenses, a tripod, two stands, three speedlights, four light modifiers, plus ancillary triggers, batteries, etc.

My go to lenses are the 50mm and 70-200mm, but sometimes you just need something a little wider and I struggle to be enthusiastic about carrying the 24-70mm for those few times. So it had become incumbent on me to price a light-weight wide. An original Canon 35mm f2 is €560, a lot more than I was prepared to spend on an occasional lens, and then by accident I stumbled on a page advertising Yonugnuo 35mm f2 for €120, which seemed to be too cheap for a lens of anything but meager quality. Reviews on the net seemed to think it was passable for the price so I ordered one (I finally found it for €95).

Sure, it’s like stepping back ten years to the days when lenses didn’t have super quiet sonic auto focus motors, but the build is solid and it’s as sharp as I’ll ever need. I know the Canon lenes has all the latest developments including image stabilizer, but with usable ISO’s of 3500 I’ve never used image stabilizer and in worst-case scenarios (I will be in such a scenario tomorrow) I will usually default to a tripod or monopole.

This picture was taken yesterday in Dresden with the new 35mm, which I spent the day testing. I’m a little bit in love with it at the moment, but these things pass.

 

35mm, f2, 1/1250sec,  ISO100

 

if your interested in portraits my other site is;

https://peerlessportraitcompany.wordpress.com

 

Renewed Rework

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

Moving Times

Today I was once again out assisting a friend on the move, although this time it’s only a few blocks in opposition to a few continents. Moving, as we all know, is a huge problem because everything that’s been drilled and screwed onto the walls over the years have to come down and the trouble is that the screws were never put in straight or paint has glued them into the wall. But here’s where technology really does come to the rescue. In the June 22nd 2014 post I waxed lyrically about a small but powerful hand-held drill I had bought that makes wrist- breaking work like removing old screws a breeze, and today it earned every cent I paid for it. So much so that it was fun removing the screws instead of the usual frustrations with stripped screw heads, barked knuckles and bad moods, which meant there was plenty of time for coffee, conversation, an occasional pic and a scrumptious lunch

24mm, f1.4, 1/160sec ISO100

Taking it to the Streets

I spent the weekend at the Berliner Hafenfest doing instant (almost) informal portraits for 3€.

I set up a small studio flash connected wirelessly to the camera via a radio trigger.

The camera was wirelessly connected to a laptop via a router (my camera has wi-fi capacity) and to complete the chain the computer was connected to a small Canon Selphy dye sublimation printer.

It was more a piece of performance art than a serious effort to make portraits, but that’s ok because I was there as part of an art group called the Brücken-Kunst.

Essentially we were there to engage with the public and to engage the public in the collaborative effort of making a rubbing/drawing/photo so that the process becomes a little more transparent.

The printer is not mine and was donated for the day by a member of the group, but the beautiful prints it produced made me want one. However, the prints, which are postcard size, cost around 40 cents per piece to produce, so it would need to be used judiciously and I’m not good at being judicious when it comes to photographic prints.

I managed a few very nice portraits from the two days, of which this is one of my favorites.

50mm, f5.6, 1/125, ISO100, 80watt flash head with white umbrella

After August Sanders

As any person who has visited this site before will know I’ve been doing this photo stitch thing for quite a while now, and so the transition from stitching buildings and landscapes to portraits isn’t a big leap, nor is it in any way original.

However, in combining the wet place process with stitch portraits I feel I have stumbled into an interesting stage in my photographic development.

My model for this portrait had been up very late partying the night before, but we had previously agreed that 6 in the morning was the best time to shoot at this location. And in the countryside an appointment is something to be kept. He rose unsteadily at 6 for the shoot, and as soon as I was finished, he thanked me for my time and promptly went back to bed.

I’m not totally happy with the aging process in this picture, so more work will need to be done. But this fluidness of the processing and the potential it offers when it’s done properly is what I especially like about this process. The original stitched picture is technically fine, what is now needed is to find the right combinations to make the picture best show how I saw the person and the location.

I chose August Sanders type poses for all the portraits I shot this weekend because his work has come to embody the classic rural German, and as nobody since has managed to change that stylistic viewpoint, I stayed with it.

There are 31 photos stitched together to make this picture

85mm, f1.8, 1/80sec, ISO160