Exposing Experiments

I’ve had a friend who is also a photographer visiting me in Berlin the last few days, so naturally we talked about photographic trends like the ubiquitous selfie/selfie stick and all the other happenings in the photographic world.

As we discussed these things we looked at images I had shot in Vienna and when we saw this image (which was grossly underexposed in the shadows and consequently never processed) we both agreed that it was a shame the underexposure made it useable and yet it was indicative of the quintessential Vienna café society I had heard so much about.

After she had left Berlin I thought I’d process the picture just to see what would happen and found the result very interesting.

What I’ve learnt.

Digital sensors are so remarkable it’s very hard to make a picture with the coarse grain of high speed film in camera . Normally lots of post-processing is required.

To get a photo with soft, course grain, that resembles high ISO film, early experiments have shown that it is imperative to grossly underexpose to create the film like characteristics that the digital revolution disposed with.

The whites are already in place so only the mid-tones and blacks are going to be excessively noisy/grainy, which is what I’m after

Post-processing of this image was very basic; I increased the brightness until I had details in the dark shadow areas, cropped, toned it and added a faux border for effect. Even the most basic free software can do this.

50mm, f3,2, 1/125sec, 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

Good Times

It is an odd thing really when you think about it but a cold, wet, stormy, grey day in the city is a miserable wet, grey, dreary day, whereas walking by the ocean on a wet, wildly stormy, grey day is both bracing and invigorating, considered good for one’s health. That such weather is both bracing and invigorating is important to one’s enjoyment of the outdoors, because our weekend days away were wet, wild and windy so we must have had perfect weekend weather.


This picture was shot in Laboe.


28-300mm, f5.6, 1/200sec, ISO250

Oceans Away

Took the train down to Kiel and then the ferry over to Laboe on the weekend. Kiel is a major container port and embarkation point for Nordic ocean cruises.

Kiel itself is quite pretty but coming from a small harbor town and having romantic notions of both the sea freight and ocean travel, then seeing these giant containerships and cruise liners up close for the first time was a bit dispiriting for me. That’s the problem with nostalgia, it’s usually cluttered with distorted memories of things that never were. After all, the ocean has always been the principal route of commerce, despite the plethora of adventure books and films the hard fact has always been, the bigger the ship the bigger the profit. These ships are simply the fullest extension of this principle, nevertheless, with these soulless monsters of the sea-lanes it is hard for someone like me to wax lyrical about adventures on the high sea. Although, to be fair, I imagine there is a talented writer who has already found a way to make life on a six- story container ship seem romantically dangerous.


28-300mm, f7.1, 1/400sec, ISO100

Walking Berlin

When I first came to Berlin I would spend long hours walking around the city, just looking and occasionally taking photos. These were the days of film so I was a lot more circumspect about shooting frames than I am today. I would be an easy throw off line to say that there’s a world of differences between then and now, but then I’m not so sure there is.

The landscape has changed slightly and the process of developing film requires a different skill set than working with the computer, but other than that it’s a case of  ‘the more things change the more they remain the same’.

In bygone days I would return from my walk, develop the film, proof the roll and if I thought a neg had something worth while, I would print it. This took a lot of time because that’s what the process required, and while the sequence today is sightly different, the rythm remains the same.

Walk, load the pictures into the computer, proof, develop/process ( I print a lot less today).

This picture was taken at Westhafen, an area of Berlin that has possibly become more industrial today than it was a few years ago, a local in which I once spent many hours strolling and taking pictures, so it’s no coincidence that the photos processed from today’s walk are burdened with nostalgia and were processed accordingly .

Fujifilm X-20, f9, 1/400sec, SO100

Life Imitating Fiction

While I was at University I spend seven months in the US and travelled extensively throughout the country by car. When one travels, it’s normal to see things that you would not normally see while at home and this picture is a case in point.

Stopped at a traffic light in an isolated piece of country America, I noticed a citizen on the other side of the road  with a shopping trolley burdened by his worldly possessions diligently obeying the rules of the road and waiting for the lights to turn green. It was surreal, almost like a scene from Cormack McCarthy’s apocalyptic novel (and later film) The Road.


It also made me brutally aware that despite the beauty of the landscape, homelessness is not a problem that is confined to cities.


Konica Hexar, with fixed 35mm f2. Fuji Reala negative film, ASA100