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The Best Pictures Are Always on the Other Side

Posted By Ellen Fisch On January 6, 2014 @ 9:00 am In Art of Photography | No Comments

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I recently took a solo photography trip to Germany to shoot architecture and look at art. It ended up being a wonderful experience, but I had some trepidation before I left about traveling in a country where I didn’t speak the language. Hopping on and off trains can be harrowing and challenging if you can’t understand the signs, read the timetables or converse with the conductor. Thankfully, all travel was fairly easy and most all the people I met were very kind.

I was also concerned that the architecture I wanted to photograph would be badly damaged. Everything looked fine on the Internet and in guidebooks, but friends had told me of visiting Germany years ago when the country was trying to rebuild after WW II.

Lucky for me, all was well and reconstructed. I traveled from Ulm to Munich to Dresden to Berlin over a two-week period. Only in rare instances in those cities were vestiges of destruction evident. The cities were painstakingly rebuilt with great care given to the architectural details. Many of the buildings are exquisite replicas of Gothic and Romanesque architecture. Modern buildings cohabit with the old in dynamic and aesthetic ways that are marvelous. Bauhaus architecture, painting, design and furnishings were especially inspiring to see, as is the earlier art of Durer and Holbein. Modern artists, architects and photographers gave me wonderful insights into new areas of creativity.

My only complaint was the problem I usually have: the best pictures are invariably on the other side. I love to take photos while traveling in a moving vehicle. (As long as I’m not driving, of course!) The movement of the train brings to light new qualities of the architecture, landscape and photography in general that I don’t ordinarily notice.

It is also instructive to see composition with a blurred effect. Composition that is out-of-focus brings forth form and design qualities that are often sacrificed for the sake of crystal sharp clarity. Further, shooting while moving often blurs color into mid-tones. While I generally create in black and white and sepia, color provides vast information on the grays. I almost always shoot digital RGB because there are far more mid-tones in the color spectrum than in gray tone.  Blurring color takes out the strong darks and lights. However, taking pictures of guard walls; endless fields and refuse dumps gets boring! Why is it that no matter what side I’m on, the other side has better views of architecture and scenery?

The first-class trains in Germany, ICE, are luxurious. Even better, there aren’t a lot of vibrations to jostle the camera. The train moved quickly through the countryside, perfect for my purposes. Posing my LUMIX on the small table the train allowed me to shoot frequently during the ride. I also used my Canon 5DMark II for some shots. The information I accumulated from train shots is very helpful for understanding the architectural art photography on which I focus. Just like quick sketches in life drawing class, moving vehicle images are preludes to a more studied photograph. But, it seemed to me that whichever side of the train I was on, the best pictures were on the other side!

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