According to the headlines, singer Udo Lindenberg waited 32 years for tonight. In 1983 he wrote Sonderzug Nach Pankow about taking a (special) train to Pankow, then in East Berlin. Evidently it was a reaction to not being allowed to play a concert in the East. Tonight, Udo Lindenberg’s dream came true: he got to ride his special train to Pankow. And special it was. So drunk he could hardly stand, he gave an interview with cigar in hand and waded through a crowd of fans, press and police to get on his way to his concert at the Ball Sall. The photos show just how special it was.
This post is dedicated to David Hobby, better known in these internets as The Strobist.
Like many photographers, I have been following David for a while and learning from his creativity and wisdom. I consider his following his blog as essential to my education as the courses I’ve taken at college or at ICP.
Wearing my hat as a press photographer, I spent Sunday at the New Music Award in Berlin. The setting is Admiralpalast, a hundred someting year old theater on Friedrichstrasse that has lived many lives, and is a rare old building in this city of reinvention.
With nine acts each getting a fifteen minute slot to show off three songs in the competition, there was as much down time for rearranging the stage as there was live time. One of the photographers from DPA (Deutsche Presse-Agentur, the big guys around here) used the downtime to edit shots and probably upload them already. Though it makes me a terrible photojournalist in this day and age, I wandered around the building looking for more shots instead of starting the uploads. Gasp.
Lucky me, I came across the first act, Ahzumjot, in the VIP area. He was more than happy to sit for me for a couple of minutes. Good that I asked him, great that he said yes, and even better that he had to chat someone else up first – giving me two or three minutes prep time.
This is the corner that I started in:
Where you can see just how the light is falling. I am going to be shooting a few steps closer, right next to that table, and Ahzumjot is going to sit for me on the left end of that bench, where the reclining guy with gray hair is here. Backdrop is the courtyard of Admiralpalast, giving some gentle diffuse late summer northern European window light.
Here is that backdrop at (almost) exposure settings, 1/3 stop brighter than what I settled on, but close enough. Remember that Ahzumjot is going to be framed by the open window on the left, so it’s the background that we care about. And the window frame it gonna be lit up anyway.
What I managed was pure Strobist love. The ceiling was not low and the walls were not white, but it would have to do. I stood pretty far back for the sake of the flash and used a longer lens that I otherwise would have – I shot the winner at the 70mm of Nikon’s mega-zoom, though I would normally be on my 50mm for this kinda shot. The flash (LP160) was pointed up towards the meeting of the wall and the ceiling, half power, widest setting for most diffusion. I even had my go-to 1/4 CTO gel on it. And of course, I had about two minutes so set the shot up and thirty seconds with the sitter.
Here’s the result, a portrait of Ahzumjot in Berlin’s Admiralpalast:
No touch-ups or fiddling needed, all I’ve done is cooled down the image a bit, which had auto-balanced for the outside world since I had forgotten to switch to flash WB.
So thanks, David. Here’s to you.
Throughout the summer, Clärchens Ballhaus puts on a free classical concert series called Sat one of my favorite spots in Mitte, the bridge behind the Bode Museum on Museumsinsel. Appropriately, the series is called Sonntagskonzerte am Bodemuseum, Suday Concerts at the Bode Museum. These photographs are from the opening concert this summer on July 14th, 2013, which featured the Klaviertrio Würzburg.