It’s quite fascinating, even when there doesn’t seem to be hardly any color left on a trist and foggy winter morning, nature still preserves little specks of color that catch our attention. Add a little bokeh and if you are lucky sometimes nature photography can look like a painting.
I can hardly remember a time where we used to have a sustained snow cover over at least a couple of days. Even temperatures below zero degrees Celsius seem to become scarcer and scarcer. Not that I’m a huge fan of winter, let alone winter sports, but the sight of a snow covered cityscape or landscape can warm you heart. OK, I hear the irony in that.
When I was visiting friends between Christmas and New Year – or as we Germans tend to say “zwischen den Jahren” (as in “between the years”) – we, as a matter of tradition, went on a little hike around a sort of lake (which in reality is just a bit of a bulge of the river Isar near Mammingen).
It was pretty cold, but there was not a hint of snow. Now, I wouldn’t even expect the fake lake to be frozen over but some hint of winter would have been nice. In particular for taking photos and trying to capture a “winter scene”. But as of late that seems to be almost an impossible undertaking.
For the time being, the images below will have to do as “winter pictures”.
All pictures taken with a Leica SL and a Leica Summilux-M 50mm f/1.4 ASPH.
When I have to stay overnight in Berlin, I usually stay in a very nice hotel close to “Bahnhof Friedrichstraße” train station. I was always fascinated by the architecture and the maze of underpasses and small alleys in that station. It’s extremely confusing. But normally you rush through a train station, you don’t have time to take photographs – or better: you don’t take your time to make them. This time, I was so amazed by the light in the small overpass that crosses Friedrichstraße and connects to the U-Bahn station that I quickly checked into the hotel and went back with my camera and took a few photographs and then edited them right away on my iPad during dinner with Lightroom Mobile. I increasingly like the ability to work on the photographs right away – when they are still fresh in your memory.
Later on today I was then reading a bit about the history of “Bahnhof Friedrichstraße”. I knew a little bit about it, that it was one of the train stations that basically got cut in half and truncated East and West Berlin after the Berlin Wall was built in August 1961. I also faintly remembered that it was one of the biggest gateways for East German Stasi (East German State Police) spies to get into West Berlin. In September 1967 alone 1,700 of those spies crossed the border at Bahnhof Friedrichstraße. That’s a couple dozen per day. One of the reasons why the train station was so heavily frequented was because it was extremely hard to oversee and observe. So it was not only used by Eastern spies but also by Western RAF terrorists to get more or less undiscovered to their Stasi contacts in East Berlin.
When you wander through the train station today you can still see and appreciate why it was such a great place for the Cold War spy business – even I get still lost here sometimes.
The Dresdeners among us know the guy on the left by heart. He is standing in the middle of the busiest pedestrian street in Dresden every day and is promoting his “movement” or “party” or simply his views of life. He seems to be a very smart person, very kind and – I believe – just loves to talk to people. He is not bothering anyone, but whoever he catches he can talk to forever. So beware, you have been warned :).
Taking photographs can be very rewarding. Taking photographs of people can be even more rewarding. But usually you know nothing about the people who you photograph on the street. They are just passers-by. In a best case scenario they are a collection of well exposed and hopefully equally well composed pixels on your camera sensor or film.
The icing on the cake, however, is when you get to know your photographic subject at least a teeny bit and scratch the surface of his or her thoughts and ideas. In a crowded pedestrian street in the middle of the city where everybody is rushing from shop to shop or appointment to appointment that seems highly unlikely to ever happen. And yet, sometimes, fortune is with you. As it was with me today. I was just strolling through the streets trying to kill some time until my next appointment, the weather was extremely nice, although very cold, but the sun had this very winterly glow with harsh shadows and crisp air. So I thought I take my camera out and just try my luck.
And then I saw this guy in my picture leaning against this city-light ad thingie. I was only pointing the camera at him and not even taking a picture yet, and he began speaking to me. So I approached him, and of course the very first question was what I was taking the photographs for. So we engaged in a very nice conversation about my blog, what he does for a living etc. etc. etc. And this, really, is what makes photography such a pleasure. Without my camera I would have never spoken to him, never heard his story, would have never been able to grasp what was on his mind.
After five minutes of conversing he agreed that I may take some photos of him. And he was a natural. No stupid posing, no looking into the camera. Just a very relaxed pose, as if I would not even be there. Perfection.
At the end of the day, a nice photograph can be something beautiful to look at. But sometimes the story behind these photographs can be much more interesting than the surface of what you are looking at – more than a collection of pixels and electric current.
I was always a bit skeptical about using Lightroom Mobile. I couldn’t quite fathom how a mobile application could deliver results that could stand up to what I can achieve with a full blown desktop application on my computer. Until recently I hadn’t even touched Lightroom Mobile although it’s included in my subscription. I just couldn’t be bothered.
But since I got my Leica SL that changed. Because with the SL comes a very nifty mobile application “Leica SL” which (among many other useful things) lets you sync your images via WiFi to your tablet or mobile phone. When you are on the road this is an incredible advantage that I had ocassionally missed on my DSLRs but also on the M Monochrom. Sometimes you just want to immediately share what you encounter during your travel. For Instagram, that’s a huge plus – it’s called “Insta” for a reason :).
Once you have the image on your tablet, it’s easy to load it into Lightroom Mobile and start editing it. And – at least to me skeptic – it was quite an eye opener how powerful that small mobile app is. You can use the vast majority of the functions that you are used to on the full-blown desktop application. With one incredible advantage – the touch screen lets you very easily zoom, apply and change radial filters and adjust curves. On a desktop you would need a graphic tablet to accomplish the same.
Of course the smaller screen is a drawback, and you can only work on the JPEGs, not the raw files (at least I haven’t figured out yet how to do that). But I can certainly live with that, since the primary purpose is to quickly edit an image for sharing on social media channels rather than the big screen or even a print. Another plus is that the edits you make are transferred into the desktop version of Lightroom once you are at your computer and load the images into Lightroom. So you can continue to adjust where you left it off and even go back in your editing and undo adjustments you had made on your tablet.
So here you go. The picture below of the altar at the Kölner Dom was taken with the SL and then edited during my waiting time at the Cologne/Bonn airport so I could share it on Instagram. No further editing in the desktop Lightroom version was done. Enjoy and let me know what you think. Oh and of course, feel free to follow me on Instagram :) (https://www.instagram.com/monokuro2k/)
Normally I’m not very fond of the sort of dreamy images with glow and glare which are a bit reminiscent of wedding photography or equally romantic genres. But in this case I thought, why not. This castle has probably been photographed so many times from so many different angles and perspectives that a pinch of tackiness (if that’s a word) can’t hurt :).