2009-10-31

Lines


This one was taken in September 1995 at Hanover's main train station. I don't recall that particular day, but it is pretty obvious that I liked the interplay of the wooden planks on the right with the lines of the coat and the traces of rain drops on the poster. I still think the photo ain't too shabby.

Leica M4-P with 50mm Summicron on Ilford HP5 Plus.

2009-10-30

The Tube

While entering a subway station in London I noticed many people dashing around a corner in a hurry. I decided to skip a couple of trains, trying to capture this movement instead. I opened the aperture to f/2, set the shutter speed to 1/8, and took a shot whenever someone passed by who was particularly fast.

In spite of the slow shutter speed, I managed to get a couple of photos where the background was as sharp as it would have been with 1/125. This ain't one of them, but still I think it's the best of the series. And it eventually ended up in the BMW spread.

March 27, 1996, Leica M4-P with 35mm Summicron, Tri-X.

2009-10-29

Bread and butter


When you're in France, you're almost obligated to come home with at least one photo of a guy with a baguette. I'm a striver, so I'll give you two baguettes and two guys here.

July 14 (their national holiday) 1995 in Solliès-Toucas (Provence). Taken with the Nikon and the 50mm lens on Tri-X.

2009-10-28

Kafka


I like cemeteries and I like Franz Kafka, so when we were in Prague in 1994, I definitely had to visit the New Jewish Cemetery in Žižkov where Kafka was buried. It's a beautiful place and it has all what I like about cemeteries - peace, quietness, hints of the past, and sometimes signs of neglect and decay.

I had just started to photograph "in earnest" and I don't think any of my photos from Prague are really good. But this one at least captures the mood of the place on this particular afternoon quiet well.

Taken in September with the Nikon on Ilford HP5 Plus.

2009-10-27

X-rayed


When I was in Cambridge in October 2008, I took my old Leica with me. I hadn't had undeveloped films on a plane for several years and so I somehow managed to make the big mistake of checking in the Tri-X rolls with my luggage which you really, really shouldn't do. Only when the films came back from the lab did I realize that they had been essentially ruined by the X-rays on the airports.

Well, they're not totally unusable, but it's hard work to get at least some of them in a printable state. Even worse, I think that in this particular week I had more keepers than usual. This here is one of them - the reflections of two bridges in the water of Boston's harbor.

2009-10-26

Not too abstract


I already mentioned Saul Leiter. He - more than anyone else - inspired me to look for colors, patterns, and reflections. It's an interesting challenge to find a good combination of these that on the one side results in a painterly, almost abstract picture but on the other hand is still a photograph in the sense that it actually depicts something you can recognize. And, at least for me, it should be an objet trouvé (as opposed to, say, something you arranged in a studio) or else I don't care.

This one here is a view into a shop window in my hometown Hamburg. Certainly not a Leiter and not where I want to be, but it's a step into the right direction.

Shot on July 26, 2009 with the G1 at ISO 320 using the kit zoom at 41mm with the aperture set to f/10.

2009-10-25

The opposite of chimping


I read somewhere that Garry Winogrand thought you should let some months pass before you look at your photos for the first time. Maybe he was overdoing this a bit, but digital photography - where you can immediately look at what you captured - definitely changed the whole game. Of course, you don't have to do it, but it is certainly tempting. And even if you don't chimp, you usually see your photos the same day once you upload them to your computer. With film, you will at least have to develop and print them first which gives you a kind of "grace period" you don't have in the digital world. I'm beginning to think that Winogrand was on the right track and that a certain "emotional detachment" due to time lag helps you to see things more clearly.

Anyway, back to this photo. It was taken at some flea market in Manhattan in 1998 and maybe a week or two later I saw it on the contact sheet and that was it. I forgot about it. Only when I scanned the film eleven years later did I see the picture again and I suddenly saw it not with the eyes of the photographer but like someone who just happens to look at it. And now I'm sure I like it a lot, for various reasons. If you don't, maybe you should come back in eleven years...

Leica M4-P on Tri-X.  (By the way, look at Winogrand's M4 here. Mine is pretty old and worn by now, but compared to his it looks almost pristine.)

2009-10-24

A day at the races

Before I bought the M4-P, I briefly had a Russian FED 5 to see how a rangefinder feels. A girl I knew had to write an article about greyhound racing and asked me to accompany her and take some pictures for the article. In a bold move, I took the FED with me that I hadn't really tried before. I also used the Nikon, but this "action shot" was taken with the FED and eventually published in the magazine she was writing for.

By the way, note how irregular the negative border compared to the Nikon and Leica photos is...

That was on June 4, 1995 in Hanover, the film was Tri-X.

2009-10-23

Lots of dead chickens


When I was in London in 1996, I also went to Brixton and there I found a market hall where I took lots of photos. One of the things I did there is something I don't do often - I asked people whether I could take portraits of them. The picture I eventually liked most is this one with the guy proudly showing off one of his chickens.

Incidentally, I promised to send him a print but managed to lose his address. On the off chance that somebody who reads this blog knows this man, please let me know how to reach him. I'd really like to send him the photo as promised and maybe he'll be pleasantly surprised to finally receive it almost 15 years later...

This is from the time where I really took lots of notes, so I know it was March 28, the shutter speed was 1/60, the aperture was f/5.6, the camera was the trusty Leica, the lens was the 35mm Summicron, and the film was Tri-X, developed by myself.

2009-10-22

Jericho


I briefly visited Jericho - which had just been handed over to Palestinian Authority a year earlier - in the summer of 1995. There was no way of getting there from Jerusalem by bus or anything, so we had to hitchhike from a checkpoint of the Israeli army, but it was easy to find someone who was willing to drive us into town. And although parts of the city looked like on this photo, people were friendly and helpful, you could drink a tea and chat with them, and I felt a general sense of hope in the air.

A few weeks after I was back in Germany, Yitzhak Rabin was killed and it seems like everything went downhill from there.

Taken on August 20 with the Nikon and the 50/1.8, film was Tri-X developed in Agfa Rodinal.

2009-10-21

Just blue

This is lake Mjøsa as seen from the Hedmark museum in Hamar, Norway on May 1 this year.  I almost feel as if I have to apologize for the boring postcard motif with the horizon in the middle. But the reason I value this photo is that (except for a bit of foreground) it only consists of different shades of blue. And that due to the slight fog the horizon almost looks as if it was painted and not photographed.

Shot with the 35mm Summicron on the Leica M8.2 at ISO 160. Except for the removal of some sensor dust spots and a minimal white balance adjustment the photo wasn't modified in any way and it wasn't cropped either. Posted while I'm in Norway again - Volda this time.

2009-10-20

The familiar arrow


Due to my work, I've been in Cambridge, MA a lot in the last years. In January 2009, during what was probably my tenth stay there, I stood outside on a snowy and cold day to smoke a cigarette and suddenly decided to take this photo of a parking garage I had seen thousands of times already. I was pleasantly surprised when I eventually saw the developed picture with its nice tones and the arrow contrasting with the curved line of the lane.

I already had the M8.2 at that time but only had my M4-P with me. Film was Ilford XP2 which I had used for the first time in fifteen years.

2009-10-19

Dove above NYC


New York in 1998.  We were on the Empire State Building looking at the city from above, and this dove did that as well. Although it was probably more interested in gathering food from all the tourists up there. Anyway, it agreed to sit for this portrait and I hope it doesn't mind that I publish it here.

M4-P on Tri-X, as if you hadn't guessed that by now.

2009-10-18

Abandoned swings

I'm not sure if I consider this a successful photo or rather what Mike Johnston calls a significant failure. What I do know is that I like to look at it, so here you are.

This was at Venice Beach, Los Angeles in November 1997 shortly before sunset, so obviously it was pretty dark outside already. That explains the silhouette-like look of the picture and that's what I like about it. And the geometrical pattern created by the palms and the swings. And the different shades of gray at the horizon.

Taken with (yawn) M4-P on Tri-X.

Addendum: This photo was shown in the Bronx Banter in April 2011.

2009-10-17

Not really Mondrian


When I was in Cambridge again in May, I found a used Panasonic G1 in a local shop for a very good price. I was allowed to try it out for a week, so the next day (when I didn't have to work) I drove to Quincy and spent half a day there to take photos with the G1. I like this one from a door near the train station because of its simplicity and its geometrical sternness. As I already said in the headline this is not a Mondrian nor did I think of him when I shot the picture, but when I looked at it later, I thought there was a very faint relationship. Well, or maybe not...

Anyway, I kept the camera (and, sigh, didn't use it much since). Lens was the kit zoom at 24mm, and the photo was taken at ISO 100 with the aperture set to f/4.8. May 16, 2009.

2009-10-16

Apparel


Another one from Italy, this time from Rome, taken in November 1997. I was attracted by this small apparel store which was in stark contrast to the many posh fashion boutiques you can find in Italy's capital. Not sure if it was only closed temporarily (it was a normal workday and other shops were open), but it looks kind of abandoned, doesn't it? Well, except for the stockings...

Leica M4-P with Tri-X again.

2009-10-15

Vamos a la playa


In 1995, I was in Israel for three weeks. While I enjoyed most of the country very much, I found the beach of Tel Aviv strangely repellent, especially the way to the beach of which I took this photo (and two others which are similar). I'm not sure anymore (I once was) whether this is one of my better pictures, but there's still a good reason to add it to this blog:

Nine years later I sold it (together with a couple of others) to an advertising agency which used it to illustrate a story for an in-house magazine of BMW. OK, the photos were chosen because I knew the graphical designer who did the magazine and I had long since given up my plans to become a pro photographer, but still I was kind of proud of this. Other photos from the same spread will follow in the next weeks.

Taken at the end of August with the Nikon and the 50/1.8, film was Tri-X developed in Agfa Rodinal.

2009-10-14

When doves eat


The photos I've shown so far were from several different venues, but none of them was from Hamburg where I live. Time to change that. Here's one that I took in December 1995, about a year before I moved there.

I was near the city hall when I spotted an odd couple feeding birds (mostly doves) out of about a dozen plastic bags they had with them. There were times when they were literally covered with birds but they seemed totally immersed in this activity, enjoying it very much. I was attracted by the strangeness of the scene and shot more than a roll of Tri-X in maybe half an hour. The two were aware of what I was doing, but they didn't seem to care or maybe they even posed pretending not to pose.

The net result definitely was more than one photo worth keeping, so I'll likely show more of this scene in the future. Camera was the M4-P with the 50mm Summicron.

2009-10-13

Door without chair and staircase



Several years after taking this photo I saw Josef Sudek's pictures of his studio window for the first time.  I'm not claiming that my shot comes anywhere near Sudek's wonderful images, but at least this must have been what I tried at that time, albeit probably without knowing consciously.

Taken in December 1994 on the island of Møn which belongs to Denmark. I think I was there with a couple of friends for New Year's Eve. Camera was the Nikon FM2 with the 50/1.8 lens, film was Ilford Delta 100 developed in Ilfosol.

Yes, I told you the photo with the two dogs was the first one I really liked although this one's older.  The reason is that I only "discovered" this one several years later when I scanned some of my old films.  I like it now (although I still prefer the two dogs) and maybe with traditional analog means I would never have been able to create a decent print from this photo.

2009-10-12

Thanks for all the fish

Together with a friend of mine I was in Tokyo last year. I had bought the M8.2 only a few days before this trip and of course I took it with me and shot lots of pictures. A few nice ones remain, but the majority of them seem strangely alien to me when I look at them now. Maybe it wasn't such a good idea after all to use a brand-new camera for an exciting city I had never seen before - not to mention that I had never shot digitally before. I would probably have taken totally different photos had I been there some months later.

Nevertheless, as I said there are a few which aren't too bad and this is one of them. We spent one morning at the very impressive Tsukiji fish market and we were lucky because only a month later the authorities decided to close it for tourists.

The photo (shot at ISO 320 on November 11) was converted to black-and-white using TrueGrain but wasn't cropped or otherwise modified. Once again a shot where I forgot which lens I used, but I think it was the trusty old 35mm Summicron.

2009-10-11

An almost pristine beach


We were on the island of Rügen in the Baltic Sea in the summer of 2005 when we saw this beach. The beach chairs were lined up with utmost precision and the sand was neatly raked. Although it was noon already, only very few people were around, and it seems these few didn't dare to bring any "chaos" into the system. Well, at least the beach chairs weren't ordered by number...

I took four shots from different positions to capture this and what you see here is closest to how it felt on that day. M4-P on Tri-X.

2009-10-10

Three views of a secret


I like it when a photo looks as if there's a story behind it (or at least as if there could be a story behind it) that you'd like to know more about. I think this is one of those because of the geometric constellation of the three persons and where they look at or move to.

Of course, there very likely wasn't anything going on except for some people dozing in the sun near a hot spring in Tuscany, Italy.

This was in September 2001. Leica M4-P with 35mm Summicron and Tri-X. I told you I used this pretty often. And in case you were wondering - today's headline is the title of a song from Jaco Pastorius.

2009-10-09

Just a chair, a door, and a staircase

This might be a good example of a photo that seems totally boring and pointless unless you've been there. It was taken during a holiday in the summer of 1995 in the South of France. The scene is located in the Hotel de la Poste in St. Vallier (Ardèche) where my girlfriend and I stayed that night. For me the photo perfectly captures the atmosphere of that place and the light of that afternoon.  For you, this likely doesn't mean anything at all - my apologies...

That was on July 8 and the camera was the Nikon FM2 with the 50/1.8 Nikkor, film was Tri-X.

Update: On July 19, 2011 this picture was published here.

2009-10-08

The Pretend Garden-Girl


This photo is of "historical" importance to me as it belongs to one of the few assignments I had in 1995/1996.  I was still at university working on my doctorate but at the same time I was seriously considering to work as a professional photographer and so I was happy to accept small jobs even if the payment was minuscule or non-existent. Here I was shooting a rehearsal of Mozart's La finta giardiniera at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater in Hanover. I shot about half a dozen rolls of Fuji Neopan 1600 using my Leica and the Nikon. (Yes, I told you I had sold it, but luckily I had sold it to my girlfriend who was so nice to lend it back to me for this occasion.) One of the photos (not this one, though) was published in the Neue Presse newspaper some days later.

This particular photo was taken with the Nikon and a 135/2.8 Nikkor lens that I had bought used shortly before I got rid of the FM2.  The date was February 14, 1996.  The film was developed in HC-110.

2009-10-07

Looking up

This is another one from New York City, but this time from 1995. I like the geometrical shapes created by the street lamp and the buildings. And I also like the creamy-dreamy background drawn by the lens from a foggy night and illuminated by a lonesome spotlight.

Taken on October 5 with the M4-P on Tri-X which was developed in Kodak's HC-110. The lens was a 50mm Summicron from 1973 - the only lens I had at that time.

2009-10-06

Window shopping in color

And now, as they say, for something completely different. Here's a photo which is a) in color and b) a digital one. I only started shooting digital in the second half of 2008 after buying a Leica M8.2 and only after working digitally for a while did it ever occur to me to try my luck at color.

Although the most important factor for me probably was my "discovery" of Saul Leiter.  His photos, and subsequently those of others like for example William Eggleston or Helen Levitt, taught me how beautiful color photos can be - something I had ignored for almost twenty years...

This particular shot was taken in Genoa on July 5 this year.  I had a spare Sunday before I had to give a talk at a conference the next day and strolled through the sunny city enjoying its beautiful buildings and colors.  This is a view into a shop window and I like how the reflections render the picture kind of mysterious. The photo itself is uncropped and hasn't been modified except for slight adjustments to the tone curve and the saturation.  I have to admit I forgot which lens I used - might have been my old 50mm Summicron.  ISO is 160.

One other thing that might be worth mentioning is that on this day I really adhered to the discipline of taking only one shot per motif and of not chimping.  It's my way of trying to work like in the olden (analog) days and I don't always succeed.  But if I do I always realize afterwards that it's the right way of shooting for me.

2009-10-05

Siesta

I'm not Elliot Erwitt, but I also like to photograph dogs every now and then and this is already the third one in this blog.  It was sleeping, like almost everyone else, at a beach near Lisbon in 1999. The sleeping dog together with the dormant boats and the emptiness of the beach make this a very peaceful picture for me and that's why I like it.

Once again, this is the combo of M4-P with 35mm Summicron and Tri-X.

Addendum: This photo was shown on Herdeiro de Aécio in June 2011.

2009-10-02

Fake shadows



This one's from 1996, taken in Whitechapel in London. I like the shadows in this picture, the one of the mother, the one of the traffic light that we don't see, and the fake ones of the birds on the billboard. And also how the hairdo of the little girl echoes the movement, both its own and that of the ducks.

I took six photos at the same place in a few minutes, but this is the one I like most.

Again, this is the M4-P with the 35mm Summicron on Tri-X, developed by myself. I took notes at that time, so I know it was March 27, and the shot was taken with f/16 at 1/250.

2009-10-01

Another hole in the head

Although I started with one of my earliest photos, I certainly wasn't intending to continue chronologically. This one here was shot almost four years later in New York City. I tend to think that it was characteristic for a lot of my photos at that time (and maybe today as well) - it is graphical and at the same time depicts an everyday urban motif, a bit like an objet trouvé.

I have two almost identical versions of this shot. One is at the very end of one film while the other one is the first one on the next film, so that was obviously only a safety measure.

The camera was a Leica M4-P - which I had bought used in the fall of 1995 (selling my FM2 for it) - with a 35mm Summicron lens. This is likely the combination the vast majority of my photos so far have been taken with.

Film is Kodak Tri-X developed by a local lab. I stopped developing films myself when I left university in 1997.

Update: On September 26, 2011 this picture was published here