Light lighting gear

Light lighting gear

I'm not a gear guy. I own one camera and one lens. I don't love gadgets for their own sake. I like a hammer for it allows me to hit a nail into a wall. The past months I have been spending lots a time and thoughts with assembling my first set of flash lights, light modifiers, light stands and all the other stuff needed to do proper flash light photography.

My main interest are studio & environmental portraits. Having gear which is portable is important to me. I can admit that for the most time of my photographic life I really disliked flash photography. When asked, I tend to classify myself as an available light photographer. I didn’t think twice about the fact that flash light is available light just like any other form of light capable of being recorded by my camera. 

I have fallen in love with creating great portraits with artificial light and a minimum of gear. I want to be able to make great portraits in unfavourable surroundings. No excuses that I don’t have a proper studio or those ProFoto studio flashes. I want to create great portraits with a couple of €60 Yongnuo speedlights in any room or corridor or basement. 

A human being in front of a blank white or black background. This set-up is the ultimate test of how skilled one is in building up, controlling and extracting something worthwhile and lasting from a persons exterior and visual character.

I have been testing my skills on friends and family. As a long time street shooter who loves taking unposed people shots, this is an entirely different ball game to me. Doing studio portraits means asking your subject to move their head a tiny bit more to the left and pushing their chin a millimetre forward. In street photography I'm faced with tons of clutter which I’m challenged to include or exclude in my frame. In studio photography I’m faced with a blank canvas confronting me with my seemingly limited imagination. 

Looking outwards or inwards

I was walking up the street, back home after meeting a friend. Few houses down from my apartment I came past a concrete wall with a single bricked window.

According to the Myers Briggs Typology Indicator, I'm a INFP. An introverting, intuiting, feeling, perceiving type. 

Looking at the bricked window, I remembered a quote from photographer, curator and historian John Szarkowski. Using Google unsuccessfully to locate his quote, I tried to remember the gist of his words. I believe it went something like, some photographers look out the window, into the world, and some photographers look inside the window, into the soul. I guess I'm butchering Mr Szarkowski's words here. But anyway, the main point here is the difference between the introvert and extrovert, or perhaps the sensing versus intuiting personality. 

The extrovert sensing type of photographer is a person who loves action in front of the lens. The introvert intuiting type is someone who cares more about what a photo triggers in your mind. For him/her the photo is simply a means to an end while for the extrovert the photograph itself is the end. I believe you can translate this concept onto many professions. 

In my younger years I often believed that my way of perceiving the word, looking inwards, was somehow a tad bit more refined than the looking outwards thing. Poetry versus plumbing. Age has taught me that its wiser to be more tolerant. 

Walking past the huge wall with its tiny little barricaded window, I asked myself, are there people who have neither the ability to look out into the world nor the wiring to reflect on the world within? 

The tablet is the new TV

I hear friends occasionally saying, a slight dismissive tone in their voice, no, I don’t watch TV anymore, I think its a waste of time.

Its Sunday afternoon and I am lying in bed. Looking over to my TV screen, I'm asking myself if I should switch it on or not. Than I'm thinking, my little aluminum MacBook on my lap - come on, there is so much more interesting stuff on the internet. I’m perhaps the generation which switched from the campfire like TV over to the portable camping cooker laptop. Where previously family members gathered around a heat radiating TV screen, its now just me, hunching in front some high resolution screen, feeding my nervous nervous system with hypertext nutrition.

I remember the time, when late nights, TV channels ended their regular program, switching off their programs and the screen showing a static flickering image throughout the night.

I wonder if there will be a future generation, saying, “no no, I don’t watch the internet anymore, its a total waste of time.” 

Keep dreaming and the future will stop pestering you

'The future belongs to you if you believe in your dreams'. Thats how I would translate the writing on the sign pictured below. Sounds wholesome on first sight/thought. But reflecting on it for a few seconds, I'm tempted to put up my own sign, next to this butterfly decorated, peace loving sign, offering, 'The present is here, just stop dreaming.'

For the last 15 years I have been running my own one man band graphic & web-design business, with plus/minus 30 clients. Self-motivation is part of my daily routine (slog). A trait which seems to evaporate by the next morning. I understand now the difference between eternal postponing (dream on) and creating a better tomorrow (act now). I read recently a helpful article, titled, Knowledge is cool, but action is power.

... a car isn't just a car isn't just a car isn't just a car...

This wiggled my mind just slightly. An old East German Trabi car, driving past a demolition site in the heart of West-Berlin. I can hear the little Trabi thinking, "finally these lazy Wessis (colloquial for the West Germans) getting their act together and doing some rebuilding themselves". I was actually just doing a boring shot of the crane nipping away the building,  when the Trabi came rolling through the picture, adding a little bit of excitement :-)

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The best guitar player in the world

The best guitar player in the world comes to town and what happens? Vicente Amigo, the Spanish flamenco guitarist, played few days ago in Berlin at the Philharmonie concert hall. I was surprised to see that a large number of seats weren't taken up. Furthermore was I surprised that no advertisement was done for this event. Here you have arguably one of the greatest flamenco guitarist the world has ever seen and people aren't told that he is in town. Katie Perry is doing a better job. Posters on every street corner. Is it that good stuff doesn't need any advertisement?

Doing something correctly or doing something right?

This is funny. Google, the smartest brain in technology and its GoogleTranslate service, translating my front website page. But credit where credit is due. At least my polish surname is translated correctly. What's actually the difference between doing something correctly and doing something right

Weight matters

I sold my Fuji S5 Pro camera on eBay. Why? Weight and size. The Fuji S5-Pro, basically a Nikon D200 body, is still a great camera. But look at the size difference between the Fuji and the Sony C3. Both cameras have an APS-C sensor and a similar zoom range. What if the Fuji would be the same weight as the tiny Sony camera? What's actually the more desirable feature - a small camera or a light camera? Of course - smallight. 

Should I buy a portable sun to alleviate SAD?

Note: SAD stands in this case for Seasonal Affective Disorder not for Standard American Diet.

There is a certain irony in carrying around the most light sensitive camera on the planet (the Sony A7s), while having to hurry outside at 1pm to catch some fleeting winter light sun-rays, for the sake of improving my mood & skin rashes.

This Sony A7s camera must be selling well in low-light Finland and Norway, where people have to resort to sticking beaming lights into their ears in order to infuse their cloaked brain with some nourishment.

After 13 years in Australia and being back in Berlin for 2 years, I feel this occasional thirst for some crazy Bondi Beach sunlight. I guess thats normal. Or should I order one of these portable light players like the Valkee 

I like how the woman from the ad-shot is really upbeat and sun-tanned. Probably a long time Valkee customer overdosing. And the serious guy, that shot must be from some Russel Crowe movie.  • Click on images to enlarge. All pics taken around 1pm while walking around sunny Berlin Kreuzberg & Treptow.

Warschauer Bridge in Berlin

I wish I had a dial in my head with which I could slow down fixed speed reality. So many faces, so many emotions, revealed by 60 frames per second. Life's happiness and heaviness walking past each other on some cold concrete stairs in Berlin Friedrichshain. I like to imagine that all these people, walking across my frame here, are now tucked away safely in their bed. This thought comforts me for some reason. Music, The Lord's Prayer (The Offertory), by David Fanshawe from his album African Sanctus.

A couple of random pics from Berlin Kreuzberg & Friedrichshain

I'm walking across Oberbaumbrücke in Berlin. A double deck Gothic style bridge crossing the river Spree and connecting the districts of Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain. Yesterday night it snowed. The light is a muted blue. Bit further up the road is the train station Warschauer Brücke. I'm listening to Flamenco music on my iPhone and snapping casually a couple of pics.