Wednesday, August 18, 2010

15.Public space, public activity

Unlike the UK, most Germans do not own their own property, even the relatively wealthy, most live in apartments and have limited outdoor space of their own to enjoy.  Thus, on a a hot summers afternoon the residents of Munich escape their hot humid apartments and head to public parks to relax, socialize, exercise, drink and just about do anything.  The most popular and famous of these is the Englischer Garten, so called because it was designed to look like an English country estate, offering a natural looking and yet highly managed landscape.  It is also one my favorite stalking grounds and frequently featured in my Art of Photography course:

However, when these photographs were made it was minus 10 and the depth of winter.  A week ago the weather was very different, temperatures were in the upper twenties and the park was full to bursting point:

300mm, 1/1500, f/4, ISO 400

My goal then was to capture as many activities as I could within the confines of the park.  Camera was my 5D2 and a 300mm f/4 prime supplemented with a 1.4x teleconverter and for a couple of shots a 70-200mm zoom.  The selection of such lenses was driven by two goals.  First of all I wanted to be unobtrusive, capturing people at their ease.  In a busy park people still maintain personal space and using a shorter focal length would have meant getting very close, which even if welcome would be observed a people would react to the camera.  The second goal was that I wanted to shoot along the ground not downwards to gain depth in the images that suggests the open space of the park.  Many people in a park are sitting or lying down, a short focal length such as 50mm would mean I would be shooting downwards to fill the frame.

This was the happy coincidence of material that required use of my much preferred style of using a long telephoto for street photography.  The images here were taken over a couple of visits, the harsh overhead sun on my first tour around meant that I felt the need to go back on a second day when the sun was lower in the sky, however, my image still suffer from the strength of the August sun in Munich.

My first few images are of people getting to the park, 3 modes of transport exist, walking, bicycling, or getting someone else to do all of the work:

The 3rd option is also available to the fee paying adult, although in this case business was quite slack

However, once you get there, its time to chill out

Or if very overheated hit one of the very many streams and ponds within the park, the water is fed into the park from the alps and so can be quite cold!

Another option for taking to the water is on the boating lake

The people in the background occpuy one of the many beergardens in the park, all of which follow the great Munich tradtion of serving colossal glasses of strong lager:

The second photo combines another activity the park is excellent for, quietly reading the newspaper. Beer is not the only drink coffee and preferably a piece of cake, "Cafe und kuchen" is also very popular

Or if you want find a bench and simply pose for the benefit of the world

Or if less than 20, socialize with your virtual friends whilst ignoring the friend sitting next to you:

Or do what I was doing and take a photo or two

It's not all rest and relaxation, though, some teachers take their classes into the park, not sure if they can read their laptop screens, though:

The guy on the left of this picture, seems to have had enough of education for today.  Another popular tradition in the park is the making of music, usually rhythmic drumming that goes on all summer long and is now almost the theme tune of the park

The second image really captures the feeling of the park, the heat is on, the sound is good and the guy in the background is simply shaking loose.

However, the park is also a major sports arena for the locals:

or somewhere to learn new tricks, juggling or tightrope walking (OK not a great shot, but 1 more activity):

Alternatively feeding the ducks or finding a comfy place to sit and watch the world go by can be all that is needed for a great day:

My final activity is also a key part of summer in the park, political activism!  These people were quite worried by me taking photographs and politely asked what my intent was, no problem for me or them, but maybe a sign of the times:

Finally all of this activity generates work for those people who maintain the park (A job very well done as it is extremely tidy).  Not a photo of activity but one that suggests one:

That makes about 25 different activities within a square kilometer of land, involving everything from teaching to simply have a drink or two!

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