Friday, February 5, 2010

Assignment 3: Your Neighbourhood - Submission


The initial challenge of this assignment was working within the requirement of a theme that yielded complimentary photographs, but also offered “a variety of scale, of colour, of composition, and referring back to 5:Natural Light, of quality and intensity of light”. My initial thoughts were to look for tightly related subjects, building details, natural features, related activities, but I could not find a concept that would also deliver the variety asked for in the brief.

My conclusion, presented here, was a series of photographs taken progressively through the day in my neighbourhood, from dawn to dusk. I have been quite liberal in my understanding of the word neighbourhood and have selected various locations within the city, but in each case having a personal connection or meaning to me. The photographs are mounted in twos (per the requirements) and so I have tried to find complementary pairs of images.

I have selected a variety of subjects that build upon the learning from the complete course to date. I have also deliberately looked for challenging lighting situations, but have only worked with the light available at that time of day, I have not added any lighting of my own. Much of the lighting is natural, but I have also selected situations where there is a mix of natural and artificial light, and in one case where there is only artificial light.


These two photographs were both taken at around the same of day and in a similar location, but with very different weather and lighting conditions. The location is the southern section of the Englischer Garten, Munich’s equivalent to New York’s Central Park. From here the roof tops of Munich’s churches and Royal Palace rise above the trees offering a contrast between the natural forms of the trees and the curved outlines of the church domes. The first image is shortly before sunrise on a clear day, shot into the sun capturing the silhouette of a church against the brightening sky. There were only a few bands of cloud in the sky, so I framed the shot to capture one stripe reflecting the rising sun.

A few days later I returned to the same area, but this time positioned myself on a small hill overlooking the flat ground from which I shot the earlier image. I arrived in darkness but with a weather forecast of clear sky; sunrise revealed complete cloud cover. The pre-dawn shots all had a sickly orange colour caste as the cloud reflected the city lights. Then as the light brightened I found myself looking at a black and white landscape epitomizing the cold greyness of a typical Munich winter. The path crossing just below my position had a steady flow of walkers, cyclists and even parks vehicles spreading grit. The headlights of the vehicles added colour to the image and a point of interest, but I preferred the bleakness of the image I have chosen, however, I have selected an image with a cyclist crossing through the frame to add some scale and life to the image.

Whilst working on this assignment I was very much drawn to this kind of bleak landscape and did consider creating an image set themed in this way, but recalling the brief realized this would not show enough variety of image to show my learning of the lighting concepts from the course

Canon EOS 5D2, 300mm, f/8, 1/200s, ISO 100

Canon EOS 5D2, 120mm, f/8, 1/15s, ISO 800

White - Midday 

However, I could not resist including a couple more images in which the snow is a dominant feature. This pair of images is deliberately heavily overexposed, in each case by around 2 stops. Once again I wanted to convey the bleak whiteness of the snow bound city with a pair of high-key images, but with very different subjects.

In the first image I have composed a pair of related points, with the cyclist passing by a no-cycling sign! The blue of the cyclist’s jacket provides a colour contrast with the red of the sign and the remaining foliage on the trees. I chose a longish exposure of 1/30s as I did not want to capture the cyclist (one of many passing by) in detail, but to convey a sense of movement.

The second image is of an apartment block across the street from where I live, these high rises are well maintained and comfortable (I have a friend who lives in the building), but like many such buildings are gaunt angular edifices without any soul or human scale. This is also the one image I have taken recently in which I was inspired by a classic photograph, “The Flatiron”, Alfred Stieglitz 1903 (from the textbook). I wanted to achieve a similar impression of a building growing out of the ground alongside the trees surrounding it. By overexposing the image so much I tried to lose the top of the building and have it taper into the whiteness of the sky. I was also drawn by the repetition of the trees bending to the right.

Canon EOS 7D, 55mm, f/8, 1/30s, ISO 400

Canon EOS 5D2, 47mm, f/5.6, 1/90s, ISO 400 

Apartments - Midday 

Where I live many of the apartment blocks were constructed during the immediate post war years to replace housing destroyed during the bombing raids on the city. Many of these are not very attractive and so an attempt has been made to cheer them up by repainting them in bold colours. These two photographs are typical of the results, contrasting yellow, light blue (verging on turquoise), and magenta.

In the left hand image is the entrance to one of the blocks with a hallway window and a single apartment window. The plate to the left of the door reveals how many people live at number 14. A personal touch is added by the resident who has put out a small bird house adding a little asymmetry to the frame. This is a simple document of the lives of ordinary M√ľnchners. I would have preferred to add some space above the Windows and below the door, however, opening out the angle would have brought in unwanted clutter, sitting just outside the frame to the left and right. I accept that the image is flawed, but is a document of everyday life in my neighbourhood and pairs well with the second image.

The right hand image is in the same block and shows a small group of garages sitting within the central area of a square apartment building. These are quite common in buildings that pre-date the now mandatory underground parking in each new construction. They are also heavily prized. By moving in close with a wide angle I have forced a strong perspective and taken advantage of the repetition of shape in the pillars.
Canon EOS 7D, 40mm, f/8, 1/90s, ISO 400

Canon EOS 5D2, 28mm, f/5.6, 1/20s, ISO 400 

The Market – Late Afternoon 

In the centre of Munich is a large open air market, called the Viktualienmarkt, or Vikkie to the local expat population. A great place to buy food, but also fun to photograph and another location I have used extensively in the course so far. The market is surrounded by churches, some dating back to the 13th century, enabling a juxtaposition between the market and the historical buildings. The two images in this section were both taken late in the afternoon before and after sunset, working around the magic hour discussed in the course materials.

The first photo is the “Rinder Markt” or meat market. Small shops are built into the arches on the side of a small hill, at the top of which is a massive and almost brooding church. With this image I wanted to capture the bright cheerful butcher’s shops with people browsing the windows and then contrast that with the bulk of the church above. I tried a variety of framings, some close, some wide; I selected the wide angle as it created the greatest contrast. The 1s shutter speed blurred the people and add some movement; I had plenty of ISO headroom to work with. In this and several of the other mixed lighting images I have struggled with the white balance as I have at least 2 and probably 3 different light sources here. The lights in the shops are very yellow, however, correcting this would make the rest of the frame very blue and I like the warmth of the yellow.

The second image is taken just around the corner and a little later. The sun has now gone down and the sky has turned a deep blue a few minutes before the full blackness of night. The market on the right of the frame is closing and just a few shoppers remain. The viewpoint is chosen so that the road to the left pulls the eye through the photo to the church in the background.
Canon EOS 5D2, 24mm, f/8, 1s, ISO 100

Canon EOS 5D2, 24mm, f/11, 3s, ISO 400 

Going Home – Early Evening 

Munich is well served by a modern and efficient public transport system, the basis of which is the U-Bahn network of underground trains. This pair documents above and below ground elements of the system.

The first image is an evening shot of a subway station entrance, just after the bus in the background has unloaded a group of passengers. I took a sequence of photos from this vantage point all with fairly long exposures due to the limited light. I am not completely sure about the ghosting of the people passing through the frame, but comparing this to images without the people, found that it added life and movement. After all this is a neighbourhood study and people make up the neighbour part of the word. I also like the harmony between the blue of the sky, the Bus, and the U-Bahn sign.

The second image of the station below (in truth a station one stop down the line), is the only image in the sequence with an absence of natural light, all light is strip lighting making for an easier white balance solution. Underground I could not use my tripod due to the risk of tripping someone, so this shot required a high ISO of 800 and full use of the Image Stabilization in the chosen lens. I have composed for strong diagonals in the tracks, and the staircase and then waited for a train to enter the station. As with many of the images in this assignment I find myself drawn to motion blur to convey movement in an otherwise static frame – the life of the neighbourhood is in movement all the time.
Canon EOS 5D2, 24mm, f/8, 4s, ISO 100

Canon EOS 5D2, 24mm, f/8, 1/15s, ISO 800 

City Landscapes – Evening 

My final photographs were the most challenging to take and to process into acceptable prints.

The first photograph is Prinzregentenplatz, an elegant square a few blocks from where I live and the same location as the U-Bahn station image. My vantage point is a small rise in front of a theatre in whose doorway I am standing. The U-Bahn station is out of shot in the distant right hand corner of the frame. The challenge in taking the image was to create an interesting composition that included multiple light sources without washing out any detail (and to keep warm in the -8C air). The exposure of 10s at f/16 meant that the passing traffic became a streak of light. In post processing the challenge was finding a good colour balance. The image contains natural evening light, tungsten light from the theatre box office window and street lighting. Balancing the colour for a natural blue added a purple caste to the foreground, balancing the foreground sent the sky a greeny blue. My compromise was to take a white balance off the building in the top left of the frame. This left the foreground quite blue, but as it was a freezing evening this enhanced the coldness of the scene and seemed appropriate. I could have used colour management tools in Photoshop, but wanted to avoid that process at this stage in my learning.

The final image is a church, the Mariahilfkirche photographed from a hill in the East of Munich known as the Nockherburg. I was attempting to find a location from which to take a panoramic shot of the rooftop Munich for a later project in the course, but had not accounted for the number of trees along the hillside. This viewpoint is one of the few that offered a view through the trees, neatly framing the church and creating a traditional winter scene. The sky was overcast and so I only had a little time to take the shot as I knew that once the sun was fully gone, the sky would once again take on the orange caste of the reflected city lights. Even so, some orange was creeping into the image and again finding a good colour balance for printing was a long exercise involving some trial and error.
Canon EOS 5D2, 24mm, f/16, 10s, ISO 100

Canon EOS 5D2, 24mm, f/4, 6s, ISO 800

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