Sunday, January 29, 2012


Over the years I have tried to successfully photograph a tulip, yearning to capture it's essential beauty in colour, shape, and form.  My houses walls are plastered in the outcome of these exercises, decorative photos that brighten a room or corridor, but somehow miss the mark.  I have tried printing on gloss paper, on water colour paper, shot individual flowers and bunches.  Somehow I never quite achieve what I want, yet I continue to strive.  I think the problem largely comes down to defining what I am trying to achieve, that essential "Tulipness" that will define forever a tulip.

My recent thoughts about how death permeates photography are best represented by a tulip, a bloom that one picked has a few days of glory before the petals fall and the bin beckons.  During that short period I can capture that unique flower and attempt to preserve it's delicate colour and texture.  This weekend was another go at the tulip conundrum.  I wanted something very soft, but without a huge amount of work.  Guess I was feeling lazy after days tromping around in the snow.

I decided to shoot with a black background using a macro flash system attached to the lens of the camera

A back cloth and the very localized flash has prevented the background intruding into the photograph and I have managed to capture colour and contrast.  Using f/2.8 I have minimized the depth of field, but failed to generate an image of softness.  I really need a white background for this style of shot to work, which would need studio lighting to achieve.  These were shot with a 100mm macro which means that I must shoot pretty much the whole flower as I am limited to 1:1.

I switched to a 65mm macro, a rather special lens that enables 1:1 to 5:1 magnification on a full frame camera.  This is not the easiest lens to use as focusing at a fixed magnification requires moving the camera or subject, there is no conventional focus ring on the lens.  I have a macro rail, so that can be readily accomplished.  Enough of the technical and onto the intent.  I wanted to lose the overall structure of the tulips and look deeper into the colour and texture of the petals, in particular in the way they overlap. At 3x - 5x magnification I captured the following

I have left behind the domain of shapes and entered a world dominated by colour.  In each image a portion is in focus, but at f/2.8 and high magnification there is almost zero depth of field.  In a sense I am exploring the landscape of the flower, these images can only be seen through this lens, as I move the camera up and down I enter the folds of the petals encountering new textures and colours.  I feel these photos get much closer to my emotional response to these flowers, an abstract view of a fragile colour field.

P28: intimate landscape

I am currently spending a lot of my time shooting winter images for my portfolio.  Recent snow and a dramatic drop in temperatures means that world is gradually turning white yielding the images I need for my portfolio, but also an opportunity to shoot some stark imagery that captures the sense of winter.  I have always been interested in the details of landscape, and frequently try to avoid inclusion of the horizon in my shots, attempting to pull the viewer into the photograph, asking that the image be inspected more closely.

With snow and a cloudy overcast day, the horizon begins to lose its integrity, where the ground meets the sky is frequently a simple line delimited only by a few shrubs or trees, the ground and sky have almost the same tonality.  I enjoy this bleakness and try to represent it in my photography.  The following photograph illustrates this effect, the ground bleeds into a featureless sky

In this photograph I have accentuated the already blue caste that the snow carries with a little split toning, adding blue into the highlights.  I have chosen this frozen landscape as the location for my "intimate landscape" photographs.  I have, however, gone in the other direction and removed all colour from the photographs, presenting this set in B&W.  I have also adopted a very high key processing approach, almost reducing the images to a binary black and white toning.  The whites are white and I have risked a loss of integrity in the edge of the frames, clearly something that would have to be carefully considered in printing these photographs.

The first close up still has the sense of a landscape image and in fact has a horizon, though in this case it is the meeting of water and land.  I have eliminated the sky from this shot, but it still has the formal structure of landscape with horizon.

I have used this project as an opportunity to explore the man made structures of the Olympic park, reduced to their very basic structural elements.  The lake side amphitheater covered in snow reveals its stepped seating in the following image.  Without the snow the stone steps blend together and the structure is harder to see.  The footprints in the snow serve to indicate the presence of people in this bleak white world.

Another set of steps leads up a grassy embankment, a popular picnic spot that is now deserted. The steps form a pyramid structure leading to a nothingness.  I have cropped the sky from this photograph and very deliberately allowed the frame edge to vanish, bringing the structure of the steps to the fore.

My final shot, lifts above the snow and considers the structure of the roofing of the stadia.  In fact snow is in the shot, but on the other side of the roofing, creating the mottled pattern in the transparent roof.  Without the snow the roof would be very much whiter.

I find myself drawn to these types of images, and in many of the assignment shots for this course have steered away from the inclusion of a traditional horizon line.  Landscape as a genre need not be constrained by convention, it is a study of the environment we find ourselves in not a statement of a specific aesthetic.  The text suggest looking at the work of Elliot Porter, a photographer whose style I have considered and has influenced my recent work.  He frequently brings his camera into the landscape, losing the sky and filling the frame from edge to edge.  These photographs are perhaps some way away from his style, but they do attempt to drive towards an intimate view, but, not a friendly one.  I have striven to portray the cold bleakness of winter, a hostile and forbidding place, intimate may not be the right word.

Death and Photography

A couple of evenings ago I watched the documentary "Four Beats to the Bar" chronicling the life and art of David Bailey.  The hour long documentary covered his emergence as the trendy celebrity photographer of the swinging sixties, his relationships, and his many high profile friends.  However, it was his recent still life work and sculpture that struck a chord with some of my own thoughts about photography.  The recent still life images take dead flowers and bones, particularly skulls, which are then set against an almost blown out white background.

BJP Article on David Bailey

Whilst very dramatic and beautiful the images are also terrible.  As Bailey states: "Flowers are the first civilised thing in a way, when we started to grow things not to eat but to look at. Skulls are natural sculptures in a way and they’re our legacy, all that’s left in the end".  This work clearly references the temporary nature of life represented by the flowers and the finality of death, the end point for all of us.

In the documentary he echoes a thought that has been with me ever since I started to think about seriously about photography.  Photography is about death!  Unlike any other medium a photograph captures a moment in time and freezes that point for ever.  As time passes the people in the photograph die, the places crumble, the flowers decay, but the photograph persists; the fragile photograph has a longevity that far outlasts those elements that make up the scene it captures.  Although I rarely do still life these days, one of the reasons I like to photograph flowers is to capture that fleeting moment of bloom and through a print on my wall preserve it for years to come. The flower is long dead, but its beauty persists.

When my father died, he left a void in my life, one that I still struggle to fill, gone is the man who argued with almost everyone about almost everything, I miss that critical voice on the phone that I could share ideas with and receive sage advice. In Autumn 2007 a vital seemingly healthy man went into hospital to have a tumor removed, a mistake was made and 6 moths later after a painful struggle, he was no more.

Since then I have not been able to look at photographs of him, they signify death.  Although usually captured at times of happiness, generally after a few glasses of wine, these seemingly cheerful photographs now have a completely different meaning to me.  I am trying to force myself to deal with this, 4 years on, but it is a struggle and I suspect always will be.  His memory cheers me, his art work is carefully preserved, but photographs...  They capture an instant and then remain as a record of what was and will never be again!

This is the last photograph I have taken two months before the operation after that I could not photograph him, he was so diminished - I think I did not want that memory.  That last Christmas was the first time I took no photographs of the celebration.

When he died I tried to preserve another portrait of him, this is his shed, a space he had transformed into a workshop in which he built marvelous sculptures of zeppelins and cities made of wax with LED lighting.  After retiring as a particle physicist he was studying sculpture at the local art college.

A day or two before the funeral I could not sleep and waking early I went for a walk to clear my head.  I had my Dad's 35-350mm zoom on my camera, not ideal for early morning, but somehow right.  This photo and many like it captured my mood at the time.  Dark despair, but a hint of light slowly creeping into the sky.

Photographs are powerful objects, they contain huge emotion and experience in ephemeral packages.  They can gladden the heart, but will ultimately signify death.

Friday, January 27, 2012

P26-27: the moon

These two projects having been bothering me at a few levels. Firstly the need for close to full moon at or around sunrise/sunset has not furnished weather conditions that permit the type of shot needed to illustrate the concepts behind the projects.  Secondly, using the moon in landscape photographs is simply not of great interest to me, sure it is romantic an interesting light, but it is also very cliched and overdone; a city generates enough light to neither need nor indeed be able to use the light of the moon.  Finally it is something I have already explored and a problem that I consider solved from a technical learning perspective.

The next full moon is expected on 7th February, so roughly 10 days from now.  If the weather is anything like today, there will be nothing to see.  In the meantime I have looked at some recent photographs and also delved a little into my archives to a least be able to illustrate the project and demonstrate that I understand the conceptual basis of what is being asked.  On my early morning trips to the park, the moon is occasionally present, a few days ago on the 16th January I captured the following scene

The moon is at its Last Quarter heading towards the New Moon.  I only had a 24-105mm zoom with me, so could not frame the moon very large.  The photograph is OK, the man standing beneath the Monopteros adds some mystery to the shot.  The moon does not do very much, other than add a small point of interest.  My goal that day was the following shot, a 24mm wide angle of the park and city, with an even smaller moon.

Cropping this shot to vertical, makes the moon a more significant element of the image, but still very limited in its impact.  I do not as a habit carry a telephoto around, I like to travel light and have found the longer focal lengths to be of limited value for my shots in the park.

For that reason I have turned to a set of images captured in May last year on vacation in Borneo, a trip that contributed Assignment 5 of DPP, so part of my studies as well as great fun.  We had an East facing room nicely positioned to capture the sunrise, but also to capture sunset.  Whilst we were there the moon was full resulting in very low tides that exposed the coral in the lagoon.  My goal with these shots was to explore the shapes and colours of the lagoon, moon light simply offered an alternate colour palette.

I set my camera up on the balcony railing, a gorilla pod providing some stability, although the wooden nature of the building revealed itself in some of the longer exposures, slight vibrations causing a degree of blurring.  Not too bad, but enough to limit the photographs to illustrations of principle rather than as pictures in their own right.  I am using a Canon 40D a 1.6x crop DSLR with a 15-85mm lens, I will note the exif data below.

As the sun went down behind me the light is still being provided by reflections from the thin overhead cloud.  For the first photograph I managed to balance the light quite well and the moons surface is quite visible.

85mm, 1/60s, f/5.6, ISO200

With a wider angle shot the moon is more of a point light source, although the cloud pattern perspective makes it look like it is radiating red light.  Just an optical illusion

15mm, 1/45s, f/4.5, ISO400

As the moon rose, sunlight finally faded away and now most of the light is being provided by the moon, however, in both of the following photographs, the colour is still predominantly blue as I am photographing a lagoon reflecting the blue night sky.

70mm, 1/20s, f/5.6, ISO400

50mm, 1/6s, f/4.5, ISO400

The following night there was some cloud in the sky and I elected to shoot a wider angle that would permit a view of the beach and the trees fringing the sand.  These photographs were also taken 2 hours later in the evening and so it is now fully dark and the tide has filled the lagoon once more.  As I am on a tiny island far off shore there is also little or no light pollution.  As I mentioned before the long exposures were degraded by vibration in the wooden building I was in, however, they work well to illustrate the final point.

15mm, 20s, f/4.5, ISO100

15mm, 30s, f/4.5, ISO100
In each photograph the colours are almost those of daylight, even though to the eye it was pitch black out there.  This is simply because the scene is illuminated by the moon which is simply reflecting the sun and so the full spectrum of daylight is present, just very much diminished in intensity.  The clouds and blue sky yield a quite eerie scene, with the moon appearing to be the sun, but not really.  The second photo demonstrates that this was night-time, the streak of light along the beach is a group of nature wardens on turtle patrol shining torches.  This is an egg laying island, although not a major one - but it did give me the chance to see turtles hatching and making that fateful run to the sea.

The nature wardens would transfer any eggs laid to a protected area where they could be monitored and then once hatched the turtles would travel to the beach in a red washing up bowl, not very glamorous, but much safer than walking.  The second shot talks to the ubiquity of camera phones and the way that our lives are being lived out on line in a deluge of photographs from phones.

Whilst I know I have not really fulfilled the strict brief behind these two projects, I have tried to show that I have used the moon as an element in my photographs and understand the issues behind longer exposures and the advantage of the colour balance that the moon delivers. It is simply that I neither can nor want at present to introduce the moon into my photographs at present.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Photographer: Alfred Stieglitz New York by Bonnie Yochelson

Two years ago when I started with the OCA I began reading a number of histories or reviews of photography, encountering a great number of different photographers, whose names were completely new to me.  One photographer caught my attention , someone very firmly on a pedestal and a key influence in the development of photography as an art form rather than a mere reproduction technique.  This man was Alfred Stieglitz!  His impact on the world of art extended beyond photography as he was also instrumental in introducing many modern artists to the USA, including Picasso.

In a weeks time a major retorspective of Georgia O'Keeffe will visit Munich.  O'Keeffe was Stieglitz's second wife and some of his photographs, together with those of Paul Strand and Ansel Adams will accompany the exhibition.  Anticipation of this exhibition led me to reconsider Stieglitz and in particular a book I purchased a year ago that collects together photographs of New York.  Stieglitz grew up in New York, apart from a brief sojourn in Germany to further his education, taking many photographs during his time there.  He initially set out to perform a very systematic study of the city building towards a broad portfolio of images, however, this never really came to pass and his city photography progressed in a series of stops and starts.

The book looks at three distinct phases in his photography of the city.  The first relates to his initial leaning towards the Pictorialists, photographs that have much of the atmosphere of painted work, in a sense an attempt to show that photography could be as much an art form.  These photographs form a fascinating record of turn of the century New York often captured in the freezing fog of winter.  The second section dwells on a modern fascination, the juxtaposition of old and new, back in the 1910's this was the growing city backdrop of skyscrapers against the aging low storied buildings they were replacing.  Stylistically there is no great change that I detect between these two stages.  It is in the final set of photographs, taken between 1930-37 and through the windows of his apartment or studio, where a significant difference can be seen in composition and subject.  He is clearly influenced by exposure to the cubist movement, something his New York gallery did much to promote.  The photographs capture the array of boxlike forms of buildings piled one atop another.  By varying the focal length he was able to shoot the same view over again, but with dramatically different impact.  These photographs represent the city as an almost abstract place, early morning absenting human activity from the images.  There is a stark formalism to the photographs, but also a personal element, these are the views Stieglitz woke to every day.  It is this attachment of art to person that makes these photographs special to me.

As my ongoing exploration of the Landscape of Munich continues, Stieglitz's different responses to his city fascinate me. From a very soft almost romantic view, to the hard edged realism of the skyscrapers, these photographs chart Stieglitz's transformation from a pictorialist to the father of modernist photography.  I find myself bouncing between these extremes, with the study of the park driving a soft view of the world, contrasting with the very sharply defined study of the Synagogue.  Where Stieglitz spent hours contemplating a single shot, I rattle off dozens of electronic captures, shifting electrons from one place to another.  I do wonder if anyone looking back on my photography in 100 years time would be able to discern any form of style from my current work, but then perhaps that is the nature of a student versus a great artist.

The book contains an excellent short biography of Stieglitz, looking at how his galleries, friends and loves, influenced his relationship with New York.  However, this story also contains a little technical nugget that made me smile.  There is a never ending debate about getting a photograph right in the camera versus capturing a scene and making compositional decisions later on with a cropping tool.  The purists generally refer back to the golden age of film, when it had to be right in the camera.  TOSH (Technical term for I disagree).  The first 3 plates in the book show 3 separate prints from the same negative, the first printed in 1907, the final one in the 20s or 30s.  The first print was portrait format, the final landscape.  The first clearly used half of the available negative, yielding a dramatic picture of a coach and horses driving through heavy snow.  The later image provided much more information about where the shot was taken and peripheral figures removed from the initial print.  I learn two things from this; cropping is a legitimate process clearly practiced by even the elite of photography, but most importantly that a photograph exists in its time, returning to it 20 years later might result in a very different desired end point that that which existed when it was taken.  A photograph once presented to the public carries inside it the intent of the artist, it is always a personal statement.  This statement is read in different ways by the viewer, but significantly the artist can revisit that work and modify the statement.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

P25: Snow

Living in a city in which we average 2 weeks of snow cover each winter, this project should not have been so troublesome.  However, recently the winters have been getting warmer and snow fall is gradually declining.  This year has been exceptionally mild with very few days when the temperature dropped below zero, hopefully not a sign of things to come.  Yesterday the snow finally came. I woke up with around 3-4 inches on the ground, so hurriedly pulled my camera out and headed out of the door.

A solid snowfall like this completely transforms the city, gone is the dirt and darkness of winter, replaced by a gleaming whiteness punctuated by areas of deep shadow.    For a photographer this changes the way I look at things, shape and form become dominant, colour ceases to exist.  Occasionally, a heavy snowfall will be followed by brilliant clear days, offering dramatic contrast between the blue sky and white ground, the low sun creating long dark shadows against the gleaming snow.  Yesterday was not so, the sky started leaden and grey, a cold wind whipping across the snow, then at around 10am the snow once more started to fall heavily.  Sadly the air warmed and this turned to a cold dismal rain, turning the ground into a thick freezing soup.

This was the hand that I was dealt.  I managed 3 hours photographing the snow before the rain became too much.  The first hour was in my usual haunt of the southerly Englischer Garten and is part of my ongoing dawn light series.  At about 9:30 I jumped on the U-Bahn to the Olympiagelande to grab some winter scenes for my portfolio.  The work in the park was straightforward, I just had to ensure that I balanced sky and ground in the imagery.  Once I was at the Olympic park the problem became driving snow.  This limited the angles I could shoot, wanting to avoid snow on the lens and after an hour or so I was beginning to tire of fighting the weather.  I am quite familiar with the challenges of shooting snowscapes and the need to override my cameras exposure meter by adding a couple of stops, all of the shots I captured were 1-2 stops over.  The bigger issue was the falling snow and the simple fact that this effectively fogged my photographs and reduced the contrast in the images I could get.  Fortunately my Canon 5D2 and 24-105mm zoom are weather sealed and so the snow was not a major issue for the camera, other than avoiding getting the lens dirty.  I did try to work the falling snow into some shots, but my goal was more to present the stark bleakness of a snow bound landscape.  Ah well, we have to play the hand we are dealt.  By the time I finished there was about 8 inches of snow, today 24 hours later it is all gone.

Shooting in the snow permits a different form of photography, subjects and scenery change.  My first goal was to capture some families enjoying the snow, parents with children on sleds:

Such shots are charming, and tell the story of the joy of the winter landscape, it reminds me of those few snowy days in Northwest England when I was these kids age.  The other aspect of such shots in the snow is the ability to strongly contrast the bright colours of clothing with the whiteness.  The next image does this more effectively, the runner very visible as the only colour in what would otherwise be a B&W image.

Colour, on the whole, become more dramatic set against the snow.  In the next two photographs I have accentuated the brown of leaves or tree trunks against the frozen background:

The overall effect on the landscape is to draw focus to outlines and structures.  The next two photographs, again both in colour, virtually reduce the landscape to almost a lino print quality of blacks on white.

Colour cast is also a challenge, the next photo has a distinct blue tone, which is probably correct, but somewhat arbitrary.  I have no way to tell if this is an artifact of my camera or what the light really was.  My eyes simply saw white.

Another great feature of the snow is to imply absence and bleakness.  The two following photographs are places that in the summer throng with people.  The snow accentuates this absence.  In these two photos I have tried to use the falling snow as an element of the photograph, however, I am not sure if these will be good enough to make it into my portfolio.

Finally, the snow clearly lends itself towards a B&W treatment and a reduction of tones to the extremes.  In all of these photographs, I have gone for very extreme contrast and blacks, bringing the eye to the shapes rather than the textures.

Snow is a great leveler it reduces all photographs to bright and dark. Colour, if present, is merely an accent.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Assignment 3: Feedback & Corrections

Once again, I received my tutors response with a degree of trepidation.  My greatest concern was whether or not I had sufficient variety within the set to meet the requirements of the assignment.  By now I appreciate that it is largely up to me to set the parameters for the assignment, however, there is still a standard to be met.  As it turned out my tutor was fine with the assignment and in particular felt that this work "Appears to be leading you on a path to positive, future development".  This is what this assignment was all about for me, development.  In other assignments I have had more of a "demonstrate ability" mindset.  With Transient Light I deliberately set out to do something very different from previous work and adopted a new working methodology.  I start to understand the need for patience and perseverance in photography, especially when trying to build a coherent statement, versus a disparate set of images.

Within the feedback was a paragraph that discussed the reasons for making such photographs and the degree to which the photographer leaves an element of themselves within their photographs.  In particular the degree to which the digital photographer can set the mood of a photograph in the post processing process.  This assignment, more than any other to date, got to grips with personal questions about why I take photographs and what I value.  This assignment seduced me into wanting to take more and more images, always searching for that perfect juxtaposition of light and form together with the softening affect of the mist. Each week the space evolves, the sun angles in from a progressively different direction as the days now start to shorten.  I want to understand this place and the light within it, I feel drawn to continue, there are still many puzzles to be solved.  I do find myself struggling for "newness" in the photographs, but that comes with time, even if it is simply that a tree loses or regains its leaves.

There was some critique, I still fail to take enough care over the final preparation of my images, in particular stepping back and placing myself in the eyes of the viewer. This was the case for the third image, where I had over-enhanced the contrast to the extent that I nearly was rendering the top right hand corner Black.  This was the starting image, before any developing

The image I submitted, needed a fairly severe Black point adjustment to ensure that the running figure had enough presence in the photograph:

This led to the overly dark top left corner. I have taken the photo and applied a graduated filter to this area, sloping at around 45 degrees and then increased the exposure of this corner.  The great thing about this adjustment is that it is localized to the area of the image having too little brightness.

This is now better balanced and looks more natural.

Otherwise, my tutor was complementary, especially about #7, which he described as "delightful"; I have to confess I agree, this  is one of the best shots I have yet taken.  It is central to my thinking about imagery of a living breathing city.  All that's needed now is to print the corrected image and add it into my new Silverprint A3 portfolio box...

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Portfolio: Winter

With Assignment 3 off to my tutor I have time to turn my attention back to my portfolio.  I found Autumn a difficult period to try and shoot at the Olympiaberg, the challenge being one of trying to escape from the attendant cliches that Autumn always brings.  Whilst I have enough photography to select 3 images that will contribute to the portfolio, at no point did I really have a sense of job well done, there's one in the bag.  I simply could not identify with the subject, enthusiasm was lacking.  I put this down to the fact that once assignment 1 was complete my attention and passion switched to new subjects, leaving the Olympiaberg feeling like a rehash of old work, versus the development of new.

Oddly, I do not have that problem with the subject for Assignment 3, I was back in the park this morning to extend the series and continue to build out the concept.  A larger format book, with roughly double the number of images in the current volume, is starting to formulate in my mind.  An element of shooting in the park is the production of shots for this portfolio, this morning I captured:

Nothing special, but a step in the right direction for winter.  A month ago I caught the following dawn light:

Quite happy with this one, maybe not screaming winter, but with 46 separate images I am collecting great material for this element of the portfolio.

So enthusiasm for the continuing "Transient Light" and the "4 identical seasonal shots" is strong, whilst I am pretty down on the rest of the portfolio.  However, I have to persevere, so headed out to the Olympiagelande with my X100 yesterday.  We have had a scattering of snow recently, a rare occurrence this winter, so I needed to grab the opportunity whilst I could.

The shooting went well enough, broken cloud combined with the frozen ground to contribute to an bleak winter atmosphere.  My first attempt at processing the images created a nice enough set of photographs, but nothing special.  With one image I experimented with a large reduction in the Colour Vibrance combined with very high Clarity and Contrast.  This made the images much whiter and hence bleaker, most colours were severely desaturated except for green.  I was immediately drawn to the photograph, it was a far better expression of what I had experienced that day, cold wind whipping across the hill, creating a real chill.  I have reworked all of the "keepers" with this processing model and present here a selection.  There is a risk with this approach that the photographs start to look forced and possibly take on that awful other worldy affect so beloved of HDR enthusiasts.

The change in my usual processing strategy from colour boost to reduction, has created a set of images that convey winter very well.  They will not sit easily next to my other images, but then again, winter should be different from summer.  I am also extremely pleased with the capability of the X100 to capture what I see.  This is by far the most satisfying camera to use, that I have yet to experience.  The huge viewfinder really brings the scene to life and makes composition far easier that with a DSLR.

I feel that, if pushed, I could find 3 photographs from this set that would work in my portfolio, in particular the final image with the BMW HQ in the background.   I have been trying to tie this building in as it is a key element of the Munich skyline and could form a useful narrative purpose to bring in Munich's industrial heritage.  I feel that I have two basic compositional strategies for the winter set:

  1. Accentuate the lack of people and greenery, to contrast with the lushness of spring and the flood of people in the summer.  This would focus on winter as a hard time driving people away.  I would need snow and ice and would be best photographing in the dawn.
  2. Take an opposite view and show that even though it is winter this is still one of Munich's favorite playgrounds, full of kids on sledges and people out to enjoy the winter sun.  This would need the happy coincidence of heavy snow (normally this happens several times every winter) and then a period of cold but clear skies.
Whichever way I go I have a much better feeling for my portfolio now, and can begin to believe that it might be a worthwhile exercise, rather than what seems like a very academic one right now.