Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Assignment 5: Above Ground

As well as shooting in the tunnels and stations of the U-Bahn, I also wanted to capture some images of the subway signs juxtaposed with the above ground architecture of the city, a model frequently used in London Transport posters.  The concept here would be to show where the system can take you or what it might help you to avoid.  The following photographs were taken, over the 2 weeks preceding Christmas and so the Christmas theme is very much evident.

Once again I will let the pictures do most of the talking:

This is Odeons Platz:

Munich's equivalent of Fortnum and Mason - Dallmeiers


I also thought of doing some close ups with the lights:

This is an alternative that I deliberately defocused and rather like - the theme would be "If the World looks like this we'll get you home"

Back underground, these are smaller signs in a shopping center

Passing back through the Marienplatz station:

Returning to similar locations, but a little earlier in the day, the light is very different:

Later on I tried a few images in and around the Christmas markets - difficult to get right as the signs are higher than the vantage points I have access to:

Well that's it for the shooting at present.  The question now is whether I have 8 or so images that are strong enough to make a good set and for which I can work up  posters with strong narrative themes.  I suspect, yes, but that will take a little time to finalize.

Assignment 5: U3 and U6 North

BAH, Humbug - Christmas has seriously got in the way of progress on this assignment.  I now have a due date in 3 days, so time to press on.  In fact I have done much of the photography needed for completion, perhaps even all of it.  I have simply not been updating my blog due to travel and other considerations.

A few weeks ago on the 3rd December, I had another day traveling the subway camera in hand.  This time I headed North along the U1, U3 and U6.  I seem to be drawn to these lines, I suspect because they are the busiest and most recently modernized for the world cup.  On this trip my focus was once again upon the architecture and perspective of these modern caves, but with a slightly greater emphasis on the travelers within the system.

I started at Munchener Freiheit on the U3/U6, looking for some images of the food stands at what is normally a very busy late night spot.  I wanted to avoid a focus on the architecture, as this has already been a feature of a previous assignment:

U3 - Oberwiesenfeld

This very colorful station, primarily caught my eye as a result of the lady with the baby buggy, offers some narrative potential

U3/U1 Olympia Einkaufszentrum

This station is a land of dramatic perspectives and bold primary colours

U1 - Georg-Brauchle-Ring

Another very colourful station, but with a strange boxy shape

U1 - Westfriedhof

By far my favorite of all the stations, the strange overhead lighting adds an otherworldly atmosphere to the place, picking people out of the gloom.

I also explored the above ground possibilities offered by the juxtaposition of subway signs with the city landscape.  First of all a very seasonal piece:

Finally I headed home via Marienplatz stopping on the way for the following capture:

Friday, December 3, 2010

Photo Shoot: Works Party

For my sins, I am now recognized as the "guy with the expensive camera" at my office.  For the last 3 years this has translated into my being assigned as the official photographer at an annual joint party.  I work for HP and specifically help to manage the relationship between SAP (A large German Software company) and HP.  This relationship is managed as part of HP's enterprise business and drives over $2B in revenue for HP, so is treated with care.  One aspect of this is an annual get together on the evening before the US thanksgiving holiday, just three weeks after the end of HP's fiscal year.  This is one of the few days in the year when we can guarantee an escape from the perpetual conference calls with the US, so makes a good time for us to relax and party.

Well, when I say us, that is everyone except me, this is one of the most stressful evenings of the year, as not only am I tasked with taking photographs, but also with printing them on demand for the attendees, well I work for HP, so a big part of this is to show off our technology.  So for about 5 hours I alternate between taking photographs and importing them into my PC and then printing.  Careful workflow is critical here.  I import all images into Lightroom for a few tweaks and then print batches.  In the mean time I prowl for more photographs. Sadly this year, I was also quite ill with a fever and so struggled to keep up the momentum during this gig.

The biggest challenge is working in fairly dim mixed lighting.  For this reason I stuck with two lenses an f/2.8 24-70mm zoom, standard lens for such work, and a 135mm f/2 for a little sniping.  I have used a 70-200 f/2.8 in the past, but it is heavy and hard to use in a tightly pack room.  The first thing I did was to decide upon an image quality strategy.  I did not want to produce harshly lit flash dominated photographs, they are unflattering and not greatly different from what can be produced with a pocket camera.  However, not doing so would mean using the ambient light in the rooms I was working in, a mixture of strip and tungsten, with a distinctly yellow cast.  I compromised by exposing for the ambient, but adding fill flash, bounced off the white ceiling of the rooms.  To try and even things up a little I shot a grey card and used that exposure to set a manual white balance.

Interestingly, most people were more than happy with the slightly yellow cast on the images as this warmed up their faces.  I also suspect for many people this was a rare occasion to have their photo taken by something other than a camera with a fixed flash sitting right next to the lens.

This was very much a "People Aware" situation.  The hardest part was that people really did not want to be photographed and it was quite difficult to get agreement.  The people attending had also been at the party before and had already been pestered by me for photographs. After a couple of hours, I stopped hunting and basically worked on a request basis, which seemed to be a good compromise, plus by this stage I was really quite ill and starting to fade badly.

However, this was an interesting introduction to an element of photographic reality, money comes from this type of commercial gig and although banal helps to fund the artistic side of the endeavor.  I did not get specifically paid for this, but was on company time, so technically was being compensated for my work.

I have selected the best of the images, see what you think:

First of all the set up

Portraits, some candid, some posed:

Then group shots

And finally a rather strange one.  The team managing the HP Germany relationship with SAP wanted a team shot to put in a newsletter, so I obliged:

However, they forgot one person and by the time they remembered he had left.  I had a photo of him, he is the guy on the left of this picture:

So Photoshop to the rescue:

One of the few semi-pro gigs that I do each year.  Always a useful learning experience and a reminder that making a living as a photographer is not all about selling art works, there is a lot of hard graft to provide the freedom to be an artist.