Monday, July 4, 2011

Projects 5/6: interacting subjects and framing the view differently

Whilst the text does not explicitly suggest making any photographs for Project 5, the theme of interacting subjects is a key one for landscape photography, indeed it is the relationship between elements in the frame that makes or breaks a photograph.

Although, recently, most of my time has been consumed with the wedding processing and completing the two books mentioned in the previous post, I found time to include some work around the concepts of interaction and framing.  It was my wish to include in the wedding book a few images of the church in which the couple were married, and how it related to the surrounding landscape.  The church is adjacent to a large hill, made entirely out of landfill, this is a Schuttberg, in German.  Munich has several of these, the most poigant consisting of rubble cleared from the city following the second world war, mountains that probably contain many human remains blasted beyond recognition.  This one, however, is made of garbage, landscaped into a natural reserve, but covered in warnings not to light a fire or smoke, due to methane seeping from the decomposition.

There was a battle to preserve this church, the Heilig-Kreuz-Kirche, the oldest still standing in Munich when the hill was built.  It seems incredible to me that there could have been any discussion, this is a simple but beautiful building, standing in woodland, isolated from the world around it.  As such it made a perfect subject for this project, an exploration of how the church stands in its environment, and how it relates to other features in the adjoining landscape.  The key feature is the futuristic Allianz Arena, Munichs new football stadium, home to Bayern Muenchen and 1860, in the first and second leagues, but also the location for the opening ceremony for the 2006 World Cup.

Within this blog entry I am going to look at how these buildings sit within their own space, but also how they relate to each other, as I try to juxtapose the small church against the massive stadium.

First of all lets go back to the wedding day.  I arrived at the church with the groom about an hour before the ceremony, so had some time to walk around and get a feel for the place.  Whilst I had this project in mind my primary goal was to capture some images to include in the wedding album.  Three problems confronted me, firstly the church is embedded in woodland, which was very attractive, but limited the scope of shots I could take.  Secondly I was equipped to shoot a wedding, not architecture or landscape, the 16-35mm zoom I had would be wide enough but would generate terrible distortion.  Finally the sky was completely overcast, great for portraiture, crap for anything that needed to include the sky.

I did my best, using either the 16-35, or the 24-70 I also had in the bag:

My first attempt at a complete view of the church is informative, but terrible, such a side on view simply does not work, even with the foreground details.

Looking at the church from the entrance to the graveyard, the spire is nicely framed by the trees, but everything is too dark.  Lifting the shadows in software creates a highly fake image, even if the composition is now in a better place.

Moving to the side of the church I captured the above image, again informative, but lacking in scale.  I was now quite frustrated and realized that I would be unlikely to get the image I wanted.  Stepping out of the graveyard and into the surrounding parkland, I found this aspect, which I really like, but it is not exactly a happy photo for a wedding album.  The church seems to loom over me and the dark clouds present an ominous sense to the photographs.

Looking at the church from all angles I had to conclude that the combination of weather and the lenses I had with me were going to limit my ability to capture what I wanted.  So, a week later, I returned with a more appropriate set of lenses for landscape photography, a 17mm TS-E Tilt-Shift lens, a 24-105mm IS zoom, and a 70-300mm IS zoom.  The sky was also a fine mixture of cloud and blue, ideal for a happier feel to the photos for a wedding book.  This time I also had the time to climb to the top of the hill from which I would be able to shoot down onto the church and superimpose it against the stadium.

The first shot is a wide landscape view dominated by the arena, but showing the church on the right side of the image.  There appear to be two churches, one is a fake, an art work built to symbolize the destruction of a village when the landfill site was initiated.  This is the building to the left of the photograph

This photo is merely a scene setter it was not where I wanted to go with the project.  Dropping the horizon a little and framing tighter provides a much better portrayal of the church relative to the stadium (from the church you cannot see the stadium due to the trees). I like the construction of this shot, the foreground illustrates the hill I am on, and the church is much more prominent, but still not strong enough in the picture.

Moving about 200m North I was able to get into a position from which I could obtain a much tighter framing. Switching to Portrait framing, I was able to produce the following shot, neatly placing the church up against the stadium.  This is the shot I included in the wedding album, clearly setting the church in its place in Munich

For the album, I wanted to retain the foreground trees, however, that placed the church far too central in the frame, so I have reworked the crop to something more harmonious to my eyes:

An alternative framing, and now moving into present the church alone, is the following

In the case of this and the following photograph I was not able to eliminate the fact that the church exists in a highly artificial space, surrounded on one side by an Autobahn and in the foreground by access to various parts of the refuse management.

In each of the above photographs I have tried to place the church up against the edge of the frame and add some foreground detail.  Next task was to get closer to the church and look at how I could take an interesting, but representative photo of the building to add into the wedding album.  Arriving at the back of the church and switching back to the 17mm, this was a good capture, but too much shadow.

Closer in I went to the back of the church, too little space to use even the 17.

Around the front, I found some space and set the camera up with enough shift to keep everything straight and then waited for the cloud to clear enough to give me the following shot:

This is the one that found its way into the album as a double page spread.  The angle presents the church's simple structure well and contains a nice lead in line to the door.  I think I should have tilted the camera slightly upwards, the very square perspective is not the way the human eye sees the world and looks a little stark.  Light was a challenge, it would have been better with the light slightly behind me rather than in front, the graves are still very dark, however, on the whole I am very please with this and the overall experience of shooting the church.

Using a variety of lenses from telephoto to ultra-wide and varying my physical location has allowed me to place the church into it's environment in many differing ways.  I particularly like the juxtaposition of the old and new in these shots, together with the green of the surrounding parkland.

The stadium called out for its own investigation, so as a second part of this project I have shot a series of photographs that consider how to frame the Allianz Arena.  In this case my goal was visual exploration of a massive structure, working from distance to actually entering the structure.  I am still using techniques of juxtaposition, but with a greater emphasis on structure rather than space.

Back on the top of the hill, my first goal was to place the stadium into its surroundings:

As mentioned earlier there is a fake church built into the mountain side, positioned ideally for a compression shot using the long end of my 24-105:

Closer yet to the stadium it dominates the skyline, creating odd looking landscapes in which the plastic outer shell appears to replace the sky

Leaving the park and heading across a bridge the stadium emerges from the forest and exposes itself as a truly modern edifice surrounded by concrete and steel infrastructure.

Arriving at the entrance gates this is the view the fans have, the foreground is empty, emphasizing the bulk of the arena.

Changing angle slightly this is a very abstract image

Changing view now, from my 17mm, back to a normal framing of 55mm, the structure of the shell is apparent:

Entering the stadium, you can see gaps in the inner  structure that permit access to the seats:

However, the most interesting element of the stadium is the geomnetric simplicity of the exterior and its interaction with the surrounding infrastructure.

The Allianz Arena is an almost ideal subject for a landscape study, it was designed to be prominent and boldly stand out as a symbol of the modern Munich.  As such it is an ideal contrast with the oldest church in the city a mere couple of hundred meters away.  Both represent temples dedicated to the worship of what at the time was the all consuming passion of the populace.  I suspect that in another 800 years the stadium will be gone, but the church will remain...

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