Berlin is one of my favorite cities in the world, and certainly in Europe. I think for Europe, Madrid and Berlin are in a running for first in my heart! One of the things I love about Berlin is the clash of old east and west, which is found in the architecture, the food, the people, the politics… everything! That’s precisely the reason I’m so anxious to visit Istanbul as well; to see firsthand the intermingling of the Roman and Ottoman empires over the years, and the visual feast that this conflict has bestowed upon the city.

But this is about Berlin. Completed in 2004, the Holocaust Memorial, also known as the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, is an ominous site to behold. It’s a bizarre experience, and while there, wandering amongst the stelae (the concrete slabs), you find yourself trying to figure out the symbolism. What does it mean? What’s the significance? C’mon, I’m a reasonably smart guy, and I don’t get it!

Looking it up in Wikipedia though, you soon realize that this is entirely the point. From the wiki entry: “According to [architect] Eisenman’s project text, the stelae are designed to produce an uneasy, confusing atmosphere, and the whole sculpture aims to represent a supposedly ordered system that has lost touch with human reason.” I’d suggest that he has succeeded.

The structure is somewhat difficult to photograph as well. Ignoring the people mingling around that you may want to avoid, there are tall buildings, uninteresting trees, and the ever-present construction cranes dotting the Berlin skyline. The concrete slabs are a dull grey, and of course the mid-day sun doesn’t help. I spent quite a bit of time wandering the labyrinth, and only took away a few frames. This is one of them.

The Holocaust Memorial in Berlin, GermanyThe Holocaust Memorial in Berlin, Germany @ April 2009 | Canon EOS 1Ds Mk III & 24-70mm ƒ/2.8L @ ISO 200, ƒ/8, 1/125

In recent entries where I’ve used Nik Software’s Silver Efex Pro 2, some readers have asked if I’d post a preset. I have only one preset that I saved some time ago that’s the basis for nearly every B&W image I’ve posted here, but keep in mind that this is meant to just be a starting point. For each image, I’ll start with this and usually adjust the shadows, almost always add a few control points to darken or lighten specific parts of the image. I’ll usually randomize the border and occasionally adjust the size (I don’t like that it crops in on the image so much; I wish the filter cropped just as much as was needed then added a white border, instead of slapping the white on top of my photo), and then finally adjust the grain. The preset has the Grain per pixel set to 500, which is the highest (smoothest) setting; I will dial it back to get the “grain” feel that I want for any particular photo.

So, this is more a starting point than a preset, but since you’ve asked for it, here you go. Click here to download my Silver Efex Pro 2 preset for free!