Normally, I only cherry-pick the images I post on this blog, because this is not a travel blog, but rather about photography itself. However, when I went through the pictures I took last year in Los Angeles, in particular the ones I had taken with the Leica MP and a roll of Kodak Portra 160, I thought although they will never win a price, they are still a good reflection of what LA feels like. So here you have it.
All images are untouched (only one is leveled, because as usual I couldn’t hold my camera straight :)).
Farmers Market in Los Angeles has a plethora of photographic motives. So if you ever visit LA, I would highly recommend you stop by. Not only for photographs, but also to just sit down in one of the many kiosks and have a sip of ice tea and watch the sellers in their booths and the people strolling by.
It was my last day in LA. I had already checked out of my hotel, but thought that on my way to the airport I had to stop by some more “must-dos” in LA before I head back to Germany.
Among them: Farmers Market. It’s a bunch of small kiosks thrown together, mostly offering fresh food and snacks. I loved the smell and the colors there. I also had my M Monochrom with me, but quite frankly (and no surprise, really) none of those B&W pictures cut it for me. So I had to wait almost a year until I had finished the roll of Kodak Portra 160 that was still sitting in my Leica MP to discover the color versions of the photos I took back in April 2016 in LA – which I liked a lot more than the black and white images.
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/)