Saturday, November 19, 2011

P18: sunrise and sunset

Sunsets and sunrises?  Not the most intellectually challenging of subject matter, although as the text suggests a time that generates some of the most dramatic lighting conditions.  My initial thought about this was, "been there done that", however, with a little more thought I realize that sunset/sunrise are simply times that offer a change in ambient lighting conditions, if a little unpredictably.  Whilst I have taken very many sunsets in my time, popular holiday subject, I have never really set up and simply studied the process as the sun drops below the horizon, watching the subtle changes in light.

At the same time that I came up to this project I had been doing a lot of early morning photography, attempting to capture soft ethereal light suspending in mist.  I have been working on this for around 6 weeks and whilst it is opening a new approach for me, I am still wedded to carefully constructed strong imagery with bold colour and contrast.  For this exercise I decided to work with a subject that would support my more "normal" style.  In the North of the city the A9 autobahn comes to an end in a junction with the city ring road.  Adjacent to this intersection is the Marriot hotel to the South and to the North a very newly built modernistic slab of a building, another very controversial addition to Munich's skyline.  Within the city ring road it is not permitted to build tall structures as these might interfere with the classic city skyline of church spires.  This was shot looking South over the entire old city:

The only objects that really compete with the churches are the almost omnipresent construction cranes.  Any high building thus attracts a lot of attention in Munich and generally complaint.  The fact that the Fujitsu building was placed just a few meters North of the demarcation line between inner and outer city added to the debate about modern versus traditional.  Personally I like the juxtaposition of new and old, Munich needs to retain some of its medieval character, but at the same time move a little with the times.

I had not been to this location before, indeed this was as much a scouting mission as a photo opportunity.  I arrived about an hour before sunset, although with the skyline of Munich the set effectively sets sometime before the technical sunset of passing below the horizon.  It was immediately clear that I would have to explore a little to find a vantage point that allowed me to image both the building and the setting sun.  As is the case in most parts of Munich there were a lot of trees close to the building, obscuring any close up view, so I had to move further away than originally intended.  I found my vantage point about 2-300 meters North East of the building on a bridge overlooking the autobahn.  This was not a bad shooting position, but it came with a couple of distinct issues.  Firstly I had my 17mm and 24mm tilt-shift lenses with me, chosen for closer in shooting of the buildings.  Now I was some distance away.  I had planned for this eventuality by packing a 1.4x tele-extender, which works very well with the distinctly no-tele wide angle shift lenses.  This provided reasonable framing, although I would have liked to be closer.  As I was now using an effective focal length of 35mm from a distance, perspective was not a problem and in retrospect a 35mm or 50mm prime would have been a better choice.   The second problem was something i could not alter, the bridge was not 100% stable, large trucks passing underneath created a noticeable vibration.  The meant that my shots would not be perfectly sharp, although careful selection of when to shoot minimized the issue.

Having determined location and foal length the next problem to be solved was framing.  I have framed the shot to include the highway and the buildings to the right of the road, placing the Fujitsu towers to the left of center, hoping that this would yield a composition driven by the diagonals of the road and the tower top. This meant shooting directly into the setting sun and resulted in a clear silhouette of the foreground in the earlier shots.  I have metered for the sky as this was the object of the exercise, but increased the exposure by 1 to 2 stops to capture some foreground detail.  As the shoot progressed  I gradually brought the over-exposure down.  I spent about 75 minutes at the site, starting at 4pm and finishing at 5:15pm.  The sun was due to set at  4:34 with twilight lasting for another 30 or 40 minutes.  Aperture was f/11 or f/16.













I have selected 12 out of the 80 or so images I took from the bridge, selecting each image when a significant change occurred in the lighting.  The exposures ranged from 1/60s at f/11 to begin with to 10s at f/16 by the end.  I decreased the aperture by a stop part way through to better image the light trails in the foreground.  I anticipated that as the shoot progressed the foreground lighting would begin to balance out the background, although some experimentation with the shutter speed was needed to get the best out of the scene.  This meant that the earlier shots have a greater silhouetting of the buildings and although the sky is interesting the photograph is not very satisfying.  I could get around this with either HDR or a lot of processing, but the current process illustrates the sunset better in the sequence.  As the light got lower it changed at an increasing rate, the last 10 minutes of twilight generating the biggest changes in lighting.  A number of times I wanted to pick up and move as the reducing light changed the dynamic of the image.  With hindsight I would have shot a longer focal length and pulled more attention into the tower.

One of the shots is a little poignant, as I was setting up a number of emergency vehicles headed North at speed, later a lone ambulance raced back into the city, its flashing blue lights creating a punctuated blue line across the frame.  I am wondering if one of these photos or something similar could make its way into my Assignment 3 on Transient Light.  It would certainly shake the set up to include such dramatic lighting.  On one hand the brief asks for variety, on the other this might be too much.  Question for my tutor.

 A little I shifted position and shot the following two images.

By this time, around 10 minutes after the last in the sequence, night was more or less full.  The contrast in these shots is a little too much for me, they are way too stark.


  1. Sunset/Sunrise is not a cliche, balancing the lights of a city with the twilight can produce very striking imagery
  2. A great deal of planning is needed for these shots, the peak lighting condition will last for no more than 15 minutes, not enough time to move around very much.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

P17: Adding light at dusk

As is the case with many of the projects in this part of the course, this one seems to be a rehash of earlier work, but with a slightly different objective.  Ultimately the point here is to learn how to balance flash and ambient light when shooting into a light source, exposing the background properly and then providing just enough flash to illuminate the foreground.

This is a technique that is pretty much second nature to anyone shooting a wide angle lens underwater.  Unlike above water photography most shots are taken into the sun to either produce the clearest blue or to use the sun ball as a feature in the image.  Getting the exposure right takes practice, however, a general rule of thumb is to expose for the background water column (dialing in some underexposure to manage the sun), with a little and then use fill flash to brighten up the foreground subject.  The following is a good example.  This was taken very early in the morning shooting up the reef at around 15m below the surface.  We went into the water in near darkness, so the sun is very low on the horizon, if the sun is high in the sky it is much harder to balance the exposure.

The real challenge is positioning the two flash guns to illuminate the reef fully, in this case I have strong light fall off to the right of the frame, not disastrous, but this would have been much better if I could have got the balance better.  Difficult to do in current whilst floating free off the edge of a reef.  The next shot is another example  this time shooting along the side of the reef with better strobe balance but not so interesting a subject.

Another place that this technique is used is in outdoor portraiture and in particular for weddings where there are frequently very strong light level variances in a shot.  In the photograph below, the bride would have been a dark silhouette if I had not fired in some fill flash.  In the second shot, she stands under a shade to make a speech  again without the flash the background would have either blown out or she would again be a shadow.

So whilst fill flash is used in many situations, some of which I have a little experience with, I had not really thought of using a flash gun for landscape photography, but am always willing to try something new.  I have chosen dawn rather than dusk as I can make time in the morning more easily than the evening, and this project is "optional", so forgive me for a little artistic license.

The challenge with any use of fill flash is always going to be balancing the flash and ambient light.  In particular when shooting at dusk or dawn there are 3 elements to any exposure, the sky (very bright), the background (very dark), and the foreground (dark, but within flash range).  There is no solution that will work for all of these as the next two shots indicate.  In the first I have exposed for the scene and asked the flash for TTL without any adjustment.  The result - crap, the shot is badly exposed and rather boring.

Trying again I have now exposed for the sky, accepting silhouetting of the background and dialed in -1eV on the flash gun.  This is a little better, however, the bright foreground still looks fake to me and I am not sure how to make it look good.  Anything set against a rising or falling sun should be dark and the brain knows it.  However, it creates an interesting look.

The other potential problem with this technique is the limitation of camera mounted flash, anything in the middle ground will be dark and again there will be a visual contrast between the fore and middle ground that is not very convincing.  To get around this I could use multiple flash units slaved to my camera or battery based studio lights.  But, hang on, this is meant to be landscape photography, I don't want to compete with Gregory Crewsden.

Now, having been very skeptical about this technique I did find a place where I felt it worked and I was quite pleased with the result.  I shot the following directly into the rising sun, using -2eV fill flash to splash the tree trunk and just bring out some detail. I think this still looks a little false, but in an interesting way. 

Well, it was fun to play with this concept, but I cannot see it becoming part of my normal practice, especially as I want to work on some much larger objects in the future.  Apart from the challenge of generating enough light in a subtle way this technique has another technical drawback and that is the sync speed limitation of the camera.  For the 5D2 this is 1/200s, not normally a challenge, but when shooting into a rising sun it is. the last shot needed f/11 to avoid problems with the shutter speed, fine if that's what you want, however, I suspect this is a technique that would work well with shallow Dof.  There are always ND filters.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Assignment 3: Decision Time

After a very useful discussion with my tutor I now have the confidence to go forward with this "Transient Light" concept as Assignment 3.  Although I will bring the current series to a point with the production of a book containing the best 30-40 thus far, I will continue to extend the series as winter changes the landscape once again. I started this set in late summer, just as the air cooled and mist started to become the morning weather.  Now Autumn is nearly complete, few trees still have any foliage and the temperature is starting to fall below 0 overnight. This will bring a whole new dynamic to the series, changing the property of the early morning light as reflection from the icy ground supplements the effects of refraction and transmission through the morning mist.

I will still be very much at the mercy of the climate, these photographs only work with a clear sky.  Recently heavy fog or low cloud has resulted in a couple of wasted trips to the park.  The conditions I need require a clear bright sky that will support a strong sunrise, plus very cold air at ground level.  My current plan is to continue to shoot in the small space within the park I have used so far.  I believe this brings an intimacy to the project as I watch the gradual change in the landscape and can better anticipate changes in the light.  I admit this has some limitations, however my goal here is to image the light and its interaction with the air and the ground, this should be the subject not the drama of the location.

I plan to continue this Assignment into the new year, targeting completion towards the end of January.  I have two reasons for this, first I do not want to rush the activity, I still have many projects to complete for the chapter that Assignment 3 belongs to.  I will try and combine these with the shooting for assignment 3 and also have much reading to do, something I have been very lax with recently.  Secondly December and January will bring the drama of winter weather to the shots, we will almost certainly get snow at some stage as well as hard frosts and clear skies.

In reviewing my images so far a clear element in the feedback was to be careful with the softer images, they risk looking very muddy and uninteresting.  I am not fully in line with this, as I quite like the simple boring aesthetic of misty landscapes, however, I realize that this is not to many peoples taste.  The goal of the course is to develop as a photographer and part of that is to balance my own taste against that of others, in particular anyone likely to be on the examiners panel.  As such I have revisited the images and selected a new group from them, that I think starts to embody some of the compositional elements I want this set to capture:

  1. Inclusion of people within some shots to add a point of interest and dynamic
  2. Greater contrast in both colour and density
  3. Variety in angle and composition
  4. Retention of a rigid adherence to a 2:1 aspect ration to deliver a continuity of form in the set
The first shot is an example of these principles, capturing colour and mist, but with a great deal more contrast than others I have chosen

I still like the misty nature of some shots, so took this one and reversed the processing decision to greatly reduce the contrast - a key feature of this shot and the following one, being the emergence of a figure from the mist:

The next two contrast cyclists traveling through the park against a backdrop of trees just being lit by the rising sun.  These have strong movement and very clearly image the riders and the trees, but retain a layer of mist that adds some atmosphere (literally) to the photographs.

In his feedback my tutor was most positive about the images shot into the sun, showing the light streaming through trees with the mist carrying the shadow.  The first is one of my personal favorites and one I gave as a gift to a close friend, the first time I have ever signed a photograph.  The following two extend that aesthetic with the inclusion of people.  I am particularly drawn to the cyclists in the park, this could also add a common thread to the set.  In assignment 2 I commented that there are bicycles everywhere in Munich, the difference here is that people are actually riding them.

In a similar vein, here I have imaged the sun just after it rose above the trees, capturing the rays in the mist and a reflection in the river.  I am not sure about this photograph, personally I love it, however, it could be seen as rather cliched. It is also very heavily processed, necessary for such extreme lighting variance.  There are some artifacts, which I think add rather than subtract from the shot, plus a couple of people on bikes.  It is very rare that I get such an unbroken sky, I will return to this type of image when I get the chance.

My attempt at a "Gursky" aesthetic was too soft, here is a slightly harder version with more layers.  Not sure that one of these will make the final set, but one never knows.

Finally, I also need to turn the camera up a little and include the sky, plus more of the landscape I am working in.  This would provide necessary context to the photographs.  With many of the earlier images I have avoided including any element of the sky, trying to take the viewer into the trees and not over them.  Whilst this works to a degree, it limits the scope of photograph.

That was 12 photographs that I consider have potential as part of my assignment submission.  They are directional rather than final.  Some may make it into the final selection of 8 images.  I now have 3 months of winter ahead of me to add to this set and produce further refinements.  I will continue to blog any major changes, especially if I get the hoped for freeze and snow.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Assignment 2: Submission

Assignment 2: one acre - "Sankt-Jakobs-Platz"


With my second assignment I am continuing to examine the legacy of Munich’s past and how the city is looking to the future. I have shifted location from the large expanse of the Olympiagelande into the tight confines of the city streets and in particular to a recently rebuilt area. Sankt-Jakobs-Platz. Sankt-Jacobs-Platz is a controversial space within the city centre, one of the few areas that has been rebuilt in an acutely modern style, versus the more traditional reconstruction adopted after the war. Significant objections were voiced from an architectural and aesthetic standpoint; however, the real venom came from the far right who brought their hatred to bear upon the new occupants of the square. Sankt-Jakobs-Platz is the new centre for Munich’s Jewish community, comprising the Ohel Jakob synagogue, Jewish Museum, and a community centre.

In recent years immigration from the east has swelled Munich’s Jewish population to upwards of 9,000. Lacking any permanent place of worship a decision was made in the late 90’s that Munich would once again house a permanent place of worship for the Jewish community. On the 9th November 2006, the 68th Anniversary of Kristallnacht, the synagogue was opened a few blocks from where the last Ohel Jakob synagogue was destroyed in 1938. The Jewish Museum and Community Centre followed on the 22nd March 2007, the anniversary of the opening of Dachau, Nazi Germany’s first concentration camp on the outskirts of Munich. The symbolism of the dates is important to the story of the rebirth of Judaism in Munich; respect is paid to the past, whilst the new buildings look to the future.

In recent years Munich has started to address the Nazi history of the city. Immediately after the war people wanted to move on and forget; there was very little to indicate that this was once the home of the NSDAP. Munich has often been accused of avoiding the subject, the cities self-view alternating between the cozy “Gemütlichkeit” of the beer kellers and the technological prowess of their industrial base. Recently a new generation of Müncheners are coming to terms with the past, wanting to know and to ask questions. Whilst it is unlikely the city will ever see blue plaques on the walls of Hitler’s old apartment or the former HQ of the party, a new exhibition has opened that examines Munich’s involvement in the birth of the movement. Symbolically this museum is housed on Sankt-Jakobs-Platz, directly opposite the Jewish centre, and within the Munich City Museum.

Sankt-Jacobs-Platz is now an integral part of the city, housing several very popular cafés, as well as the two museums and Jewish centre. It is located between the cities main market, the Viktualienmarkt and popular shopping streets, so there is a steady stream of people passing through. The area is pedestrianized and a variety of seating areas, fountains, and a children’s playground fill the space. The pedestrianization, whilst welcome, is sadly also a security feature. In 2003 a Neo-Nazi plot was discovered together with partly completed car bomb, 30Kg of explosives, and numerous weapons. The target; the half-finished synagogue. Munich is stepping away from the past, openly accepting its history; however, it is still stalked by the spectre of far right hatred and violence. A permanent police presence, close circuit surveillance, the armouring of doors and windows, and the fact that every entrance to the Platz is blocked by retractable bollards, point to the fact that there is still much work to be done to eradicate racism and hatred in the new Germany.


Once again I have selected a difficult subject, both from a narrative and a technical perspective. It was not an easy decision, I was aware of a danger being that I could overplay the theme of legacy and reconciliation. However, as an Englishman living in Munich it is hard to escape from the sense of what this place once was and what it now is. As with assignment 1, I want to reflect upon the past, but keep my attention firmly on the present and the future. Furthermore I needed to move into a completely urban environment and set myself the challenge of creating a meaningful photographic study of a confined space.

I had already worked in and around this area, so knew it quite well, both from a geographic sense, but also understood some of the challenges of working there. First and foremost, I had to avoid unwanted intrusion. Being Jewish in Munich is still not easy; becoming a curiosity for visiting photographers is not going to be welcomed. I was approached several times by security or the police to ask (politely) what I was doing and why. At times this was a little disturbing, I was even followed by men carrying walkie-talkies, however, the space is public ground; I had the right to be there and take photographs, but respectfully. This is not a documentary of the Jewish community, rather the examination of a space created for the Jewish community.

In all but two of the photographs people are present, sometimes dominantly, but usually incidentally, adding scale and movement to the images. I was very aware when creating and selecting the photographs that this was not an architectural study, rather an attempt to portray all aspects of Sankt-Jakobs-Platz. The content of the photographs is without doubt strongly influenced by the architecture, and indeed the buildings are the Landscape of this assignment, however, I have endeavoured to create a study that is more than a bunch of photos of interesting buildings.

I found the development of a coherent narrative more difficult than in previous assignments, a single acre offers less variety of location and subject; subsequently less freedom of expression. The narrative is relatively simple: I start with the evils of the past, move onto the brightness of the present, but finish with a reminder of the threat that still persists. I contrast old with new and show how people interrelate with buildings in the space. I have sequenced the photographs with this narrative in mind, however, the photographs are selected to provide a collective description of the space. Normally I add titles to my photographs, this time I could not do so, each photograph is a part of a whole.


The brief asked for the study of a single acre, I have interpreted this a little loosely, more a hectare than an acre, after all we are metric in Munich. In the satellite image below, I have marked an acre centred on the synagogue, together with the location and angle of each photograph in the set. Working within a small area was frustrating and liberating at the same time. Generating enough variation in imagery to sustain interest was not easy, on the other hand I was able to develop a strong familiarity that converted into knowledge of what might or might not work.

The urban environment brought a number of new challenges. The first is light; buildings cast very distinct and dark shadows, the light might only be good in a specific location for a very short time each day. I quickly figured out where the Sun would be and when, sometimes using shade to add structure, other times eliminating it. The second challenge is angle of view; narrow streets preclude long focal lengths, open areas require them to reduce the vast areas of negative space. The third and possibly most challenging problem is that of the straight line. “Natural” landscapes often formed by curves or irregular broken shapes; trees, mountain sides, or rivers. We do not notice a little barrel or pincushion distortion in country scenes and perspective is rarely an issue. In the city any deviation from a straight line is immediately apparent. Although I have access to perspective control lenses and did use them, they only work for a certain style of shot; throughout shooting and processing I was very vigilant to keep walls straight and windows square.

I shot the assignment over a period of 6 weeks, visiting the location on 10 separate occasions. Whilst shooting I did not have a specific shot list in mind nor a pre-determined narrative, my goal was simply to capture as much variety as possible and then reflect on how I would pull a set together. I varied the time of day, the weather and used a range of focal lengths. It was not until very close to completing the shooting that I was sure that I could even present this as an assignment. I was comfortable that I was getting some good shots; I just could not work out what it was that I was trying to say – this was by far the hardest part of the assignment. In retrospect this should have been easier, but at the time was a major puzzle to solve.

Beyond the overall concept a key decision to make was over how I would present the photographs, colour versus B&W and framing. For the latter I have adopted a free approach cropping each image to the dimension suggested by the content not the output medium. This means there are many different aspect ratios within the set. The biggest decision to make, though, was concerning the colour treatment. I opted for Black and White for 3 distinct reasons. First of all it suits the subject, the strong contrast and definition of B&W works well with urban architecture. Secondly the city space was already largely monochromatic, grey walls, pavements, and street furniture dominated most scenes. There was some colour, but predominantly in the sky and some of the terracotta roofing tiles. Finally this is a learning experience, not an end in itself. To develop as a photographer I need to explore different forms and styles.

In moving to B&W I also had to consider the treatment I would use in the conversion process. I have opted for fairly high contrast coupled with a medium to strong degree of sharpening. I have adjusted the colour conversion to generate greater contrast. In particular I have worked with the Orange and Yellow to add texture to the walls of the synagogue. All conversions were done in Lightroom and output as 16 bit Tiffs for printing. I have printed each photograph on A4 Archival Matte Paper. This was also a new experience; the contrast is remarkable, the Matte paper really capturing the density of Blacks in the photos.


  1. It is better to have a narrative in mind before starting a project, however, sometimes that simply is not possible. I knew from the start that this would be about Judaism, but to what degree and how.
  2. Time of day and weather are an even greater challenge working in a city, as the buildings are frequently only lit optimally for an hour or less.
  3. For this assignment I had to develop a mixture of camera handling skills, from working with a tripod to quick fire street style shots that avoided drawing attention to me.
  4. Black and White is a truly expressive medium, but requires a great deal of care when doing conversion and then selection of paper for printing.

The Photographs

LS-A2-1: The recent opening of an exhibit chronicling the rise of the Nazi party in Munich is a welcome step along the road towards an understanding of the cities past. However, it is not an easy place to visit, seeing posters such as the one portrayed here in full size and set alongside other remnants of hatred is disturbing. It provides a striking contrast to the modern and liberal city that is today’s Munich.

This was a technically difficult shot, no flash and very little light, plus a need to juxtapose the poster against the uniform behind it. I have very deliberately processed this to almost black, permitting just a hint of the Swastika to emerge from the shadow. This is the darkness from which I want the light of the following photographs to emerge. This is an image that many modern Germans would shudder to see.

LS-A2-2: The Münchener Stadtmuseum houses the Nazi collection, as well as offering a broad overview of 800 years of Munich’s history. It forms the Eastern side of Sankt-Jakobs-Platz, the 15th century year old building yielding a counterpoint to the modernity of the Jewish centre.

I have tried to portray the essence of this building, with its confusion of overlapping roofs and curved doorways; then capture a moment as two people move past. Throughout this series of photographs a constant presence will be formed by bicycles chained to every available object offering security.

LS-A2-3: From the first floor of the Stadtmuseum the view to the West reveals a very different architecture to the jumbled structure of the museum. There is something very German about the orderliness of the seating area to the right and the stark frontage of the Jewish Community centre. To the far right is a 200 year old house that would once have been the defining look and the source of much complaint when the rest of the square was not redeveloped in this style.

This was not an ideal time to take this photograph, I would have preferred not to have the shadow, however, it is also possible that in direct sun the wall facing would have been far too bright. On the other hand the low Autumn sun casts some interesting shadows through the middle ground of the photograph.

LS-A2-4: A number of things hint at on-going challenges for the Jewish population of Munich, here thickly armoured glass in the walls of the community centre provides a juxtaposition of old with new.

This is one of a small number of shots that tightly frame an element of the Platz rather than provide a broad look at the space. I have framed the shot so that I am not reflected in the windows, but such that the Stadtmuseum is strongly present. This required a lot of work to ensure that lines were straight and that symmetry was preserved.

LS-A2-5: The Jewish museum and synagogue sit in the centre of the Platz, walkways between the buildings offer contrasting views of the ultra-modern against the medieval.

This shot illustrates how the buildings relate to each other within the space and at the same time hint at the foot traffic that is ever present. The Jewish museum is the building to the right of frame. Ideally the lamppost in the centre could have been offset to the left of the eyes, however, that brought other compromises in such a tight space.

LS-A2-6: Following a brief rain shower, the sun came out and illuminated the Platz; patterns of light reflected in the cobbles reinforce the ordered architecture of the adjacent building.

I spent one day shooting in the rain, hoping for something a little downbeat, however, the rain simply took the light away and people headed for cover. When the sun came out, it all reversed, suddenly there was light everywhere. I was particularly drawn to the reflections of the starkness of the community centre. I was lucky with the positioning of the people in the frame, two tourists look at a leaflet explaining the Platz, two men simply look around. I have kept the camera down to avoid blowing out the sky, but also to emphasize the structure of the overlapping buildings.

LS-A2-7: As people walk through the canyons between the buildings, they are under constant surveillance, any suspicion of malice will draw an immediate response.

With this image I wanted to convey two distinct elements of the Platz, firstly the solidity and size of the buildings using people as a measure. Secondly those same people are being observed by security cameras surmounting the roof behind them. This is one of three shots in the set that contain reminders of the on-going threat to the Jewish community.

LS-A2-8: The Ohel Jakob synagogue has several distinct architectural features that convey strong religious symbolism. The lower and outer wall of the synagogue is dressed with roughly cut stone designed to reflect the wailing wall in Jeruselam.

In this and the next photo I have gone in much closer trying to capture people simply relaxing on a sunny day. The subject of the photo is the wall in the background with the man leaning against it to offer some scale. I had tried a variety of shots of the wall, but they all simply said, “Hey look, a rough wall”. Here I am able to portray a key part of the synagogue, but also the fact that this is a place to relax and take it easy.

LS-A2-9: A key feature of the Jewish Museum is an excellent café fronted by a well-designed children’s playground, ensuring that this is a space enjoyed by all generations, somewhere safe to bring the family.

Not the easiest of subjects to photograph these days, children, but a key element of the story that is the new Jewish centre in Munich. This is not a sombre memorial, it is a living environment filled with fun and laughter. Photographers are quite common in this area and so no one really noticed that I took the occasional shot of the play area, however, I used a longer focal length and was quite circumspect about what I was doing.

LS-A2-10: The children’s playground is directly adjacent to the bulk of the synagogue, once again reflecting that this is a centre for the community, not simply a place of worship.

This was good fortune, I had my camera on a tripod exploring the shape and form of the synagogue and the structures surrounding it. The little boy ran over to me wondering what I was up to, I hit the shutter. His earnest look and the fact that something is attracting his attention from outside the frame adds interest into what could otherwise have been a very static composition.

LS-A2-11: As night falls the synagogue is subtly lit to reveal its structure. The lower section represents the wailing wall, the glass cube on top, a tent, symbolizing Moses’ 40-years in the wilderness, whilst the doors feature Hebrew letters depicting the 10 commandments.

Dusk allowed me to image the synagogue more completely as artificial light supplemented the remaining natural light lifting the shadows. The two figures add scale and fortunately stayed where they were for the 10s exposure. This is the first photograph that properly reveals the synagogue that dominates the Platz.

LS-A2-12: Although the Jewish community in Munich has a new home, it is still not secure from threat. Every entrance point to the Platz is guarded by retractable bollards designed to prevent the use of car bombs.

I finish the set with a reminder that all is still not well, these bollards are a symbol of the on-going struggle of the Jewish community for acceptance and peace. When I started this investigation I thought this protection was from Israel’s usual enemies, it was only when reading more extensively that I came to realize that this was put in place to defend against German neo-Nazis. We have come a long way since the time represented by my first photograph, but still not far enough.

Monday, November 14, 2011


As already mentioned this weekend brought a small success in publishing a photo in a national paper, bucked my spirits up, but was not as significant as my other achievement, sending Assignment 2 into my tutor.  Glad to be finished with that work and now turning my mind seriously towards the third assignment.  At this stage I am beginning to notice a couple of differences between this and earlier lower level courses.  First of all the assignments are a very much larger aspect of the program, previously I would probably divide my time 50:50 between assignments and other work, now it is very much 80:20, the assignments virtually are the course.  The second observation is that the assignments are beginning to interrelate   Although I have by choice thematically linked the first 2, I am also finding that one activity leads naturally to the next, and that the follow on assignment is very much decided upon in wake of the previous one.  Although, at present, I am undecided whether to continue my legacy theme or to branch sideways into something quite different.  I'll return to that thought in future posts.

Having completed the assignment, a number of technical issues came up that needed attention and deserve a mention here in my blog.  The first is camera cleanliness, my 5D2 is nearly 3 years old, and has shot nearly 36,000 frames, an average rate of just over 3 per day, or if I had been shooting film I would have gotten through 1,000 rolls of 36 exposure films at a rate of just under 1 per day.  Scary thought and why a DSLR ultimately can save money.  Ignoring the film saving this usage rate has led to a very dirty sensor, so for the first time ever I cleaned it.

This had been worrying me for some time, I am not good with my hands, and was very concerned that I would simply generate a very large bill for a replacement sensor.  However, I was becoming heartily sick of using the dust removal tool in Lightroom so time for a clean.  Here is the sensor before the process, not at all clean:

I followed a step wise process to clean the sensor:

  1. Place the camera on a small tripod at an angle good for access insert mains power into the camera and lock up the mirror
  2. Blow any dust out of the mirror box
  3. Use an electro-static brush, ionized by blowing air over it to lift any loose particles
  4. Finally use a wet wipe to swab across the sensor

The result was, another dirty sensor, except now the dirt had moved around a bit.

I tried again, only this time with very much more swiping and blowing, with the final result:

I was quite pleased with this.  A couple of days later I shot the following test whilst out and about to see how things were, and whilst there are some visible dust spots they are very far fewer and smaller.  So I would have to argue that this was a job well done and something I should have tackled years ago.  Ah well I know how to do it now.

Another activity this weekend was testing a new lens for my second camera system a Samsung NX100 mirrorless compact.  So far I had 20mm and 30mm prime lenses for this camera, plus a couple of zooms.  The biggest problem was that the 20mm was not wide enough, only being equivalent to a 30mm on a FF camera.  This was not wide enough for work in and around the city, although very good for street work.  I subsequently bought  a 16mm f/2.5 pancake lens to add to the kit

I love these small lenses, which combined with the tiny NX100 (well compared to by 5D2) makes for a great carry anywhere system.  I took it for a walk and captured the following images

OK, it will not win architecture awards, no normal prime lens can, however, the colour and detail are quite superb, I am very pleasantly surprised.  Previously I had felt the camera a little flat in colour, perhaps that was more a feature of the lenses I was using.  I am more than satisfied with the saturation.

Continuing my walk into the area where I was shooting my newly submitted assignment, I noticed some strange reflections on the side of the synagogue, looking a little like Hebrew script, but accidental I am sure.  Once again the 16mm lens performed very well on the Samsung and I now look at this little camera in quite a different light.

My final technical discovery over the weekend came in printing my Assignment 2 images.  Prior to submitting any assignment to my tutor I print the images I plan to submit for assessment.  I feel that printing is a fundamental step in the artistic process and whilst I am happy getting my tutor's feedback on the electronic images, I want to know that they will print the way I want them to.  When I started TAOP 2 years ago I printed everything on 5x7 glossy paper, which was not great.  I moved to a semi-gloss pearl paper from Ilford and started to print at A4, finding this to be a much better size for understanding the photos and a far better medium.  For this assignment, I have moved on once more, this time using Epson Archival Matte paper.  As I was printing B&W I wanted to be able to reproduce very deep blacks and also sustain a good tonal range, matte paper seemed the way to go.  I was again impressed, the matte paper really a very deep tonal range and generates a very satisfying print.  I also printed a rich colour Autumn scene, once again with great results.

Not necessarily a major step forward, but I am trying to develop my understanding and abilities in the final set to print.  So, a great weekend, lots done, lots more to do.