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The Holocaust Memorial, Berlin, Germany

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!



Brandenburger Tor, Berlin

The Brandenburger Tor, or Brandenburg Gate in Berlin is an iconic structure that can elicit emotions all over the map. At one point in my career I kept finding myself in historic cities like Berlin for only a few days, which often led to serious jet lag issues and loads of very late nights or very early mornings. I started a series of “architecture at night” photos (which is very convenient—interesting lighting and no people at 4am!), and some of my favorites images came from this amazing city. Berlin remains one of my most-loved cities in the world, and one that I hope to live in one day. It’s full of artists and creatives, has a very progressive mentality, and the clash of old East and West architecture, idealism and of course the rebuilding of the city since the fall of the wall has made Berlin an intensely vibrant metropolis that everyone should visit one day.

Brandenburg Gate (Brandenburger Tor) in Berlin, GermanyBrandenburg Gate (Brandenburger Tor) in Berlin, Germany @ Sept 2006 | Canon EOS 5D & 14mm ƒ/2.8L Aspherical @ ISO 800, ƒ/3.5, 1/20

I have several more photos from this series, and most have never been seen. I’ll continue to share them over the upcoming posts.

Our Cross Country Drive

I’ve only had a few suggestions for our upcoming cross-country drive, and we leave in a week! Last time I had dozens of tips and modifications to my map by this time, and they made the trip so much more enjoyable. So again, if you live along the way, or know the region well, please do share some traveling tips. You can leave comments here (or on the original post, preferred), and the Google map is fully editbale—just click that map on the top right of this page! You can see I’ve been advised to take a slightly more southernly route between St. Louis and Salt Lake City, putting us through Kansas and Colorado (the red line) instead of Nebraska and Wyoming (the blue line). Any contrary opinions?


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Axel Springer "iPhone in Business" photo-story on is live!

A few months ago I traveled to Europe for Apple to shoot an “iPhone in Business” story about the publishing giant Axel Springer. We shot at their headquarters in Berlin (the publishing hub) and in another office in Hamburg (where much of the iPhone application development happens). Audio interviews were recorded and ultimately edited together with music and my photos to create the narrated photo slide-show that you see here. We had some great environments to shoot in; the Axel Springer offices are beautiful and the staff were all very into being a part of the story, which made the shoot an absolute joy. The client is very happy, so I am very happy!

It just hit today and is currently the lead story on Hot News. It’s in German with English subtitles, so I had to watch it a few times myself to get the whole story ;-)

Axel Springer “iPhone in Business” story on

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May Day in Hamburg

On this trip to Hamburg, I couldn’t get a flight home right after the shoot so stayed an extra day. Little did I realize that that Friday was May 1st, or May Day. Most of the shops were closed, and it seemed everyone in the city was on the lake enjoying the sun. It was a gorgeous day, and I made the rounds about the city doing a little exploring.

This is a view from St. Michel Cathedral. In it you can see St. Nikolai’s Church, also in the following photo.

More photos after the jump, and as always, clicking on any photo opens a larger gallery.

View from St. Michel Cathedral

St. Nikolai’s Church

Truth be told, much of the day was spent on the lake ;-)

The good life on the Außenalster and Binnenalster lakes in Hamburg


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Heading home, can finally work on the blog!

As you may know if you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, I’ve been a busy bunny lately. April had me traveling all around Slovenia (holiday), then New York (where I shot the Seal concert), Las Vegas (family stuff), home for one night then back to Europe for Belfast, Nottingham, Berlin then Hamburg for another client. I’m on my way home now, and will be working on photo-edits and blog entries on the flight. I do try to keep my posts in order, so while some entries are already written, I’ve held back posting until the in-between ones were done.

So just to give you a taste of things to come, here’s a parting image from Hamburg, Germany, made yesterday on May 1 during their “Mayday” holiday, which was a gloriously sunny day that begged to be enjoyed on the lake with a proper German beer—like this Weißbier here. Yum!

A glorious Weißbier, enjoyed on the lake in Hamburg on the Mayday holiday

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Dinner at Al Contadino Sotto Le Stelle

Al Contadino Sotto Le Stelle is an amazing little Italian restaurant in old East Berlin that I went to once two years ago and have been gagging to get back to. The experience I had the first time there was something remarkable -- a table of 8 people I didn't know (one couple was a newly introduced friend of a friend who invited me along), and we never saw a menu. The food just came, and came, and came. I think we were there for six hours. Now, the food was absolutely amazing, but of course the experience was made that much better by the people and the wonderful time I had. So of course, I had to go back.

This time we were a smaller group; only three of us. And without knowing the owner, we got 'regular' service, which was just great, especially considering we had to communicate in engligermaspanitalian! The food was very good, and each dish was somehow unique. I wouldn't call this traditional Italian (although perhaps it is, from some part of Italy I don't know), but it was all very good.

Unfortunately I forgot the proper camera, so these are iPhone photos. Not the greatest so you'll have to use your imagination.

Kinda forgot to take a photo of the shared appetizer before it was nearly entirely devoured. All the menu called this was Salsiccia e formaggio alla griglia, or "grilled sausage and cheese". I suppose it's their little secret just what the sausage and cheese is, but let me tell you -- order it. It's fabulous. And it's served with this spicy sweet chutney thing that's to die for. YUM!

Salsiccia e formaggio alla griglia

My main course was Gnocchi di patate e zafferano con stufatino di coniglio, or

…"Potato gnocchi with saffron and… stewed rabbit? Rabbit stew?" Not sure, and I didn't really taste any rabbit, but the saffron gnocchi was delicious. Perfectly cooked, melt-in-your-mouth smooth, just lovely.

Gnocchi di patate e zafferano con stufatino di coniglio

Overall a very good meal. Not the same memory as before, but one really shouldn't expect to re-live those kinds of memories. Definitely a restaurant worth visiting if you're up for good Italian in Berlin.

Dinner at Al Contadino Sotto Le Stelle Auguststr. 34 10119 Berlin +49 302819023

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rating: 4 feet

verdict: I really really wanted to come back and rate this one 5 feet. If I'd only been there this one time, it'd get only 3. So I'm gonna split the difference and go with 4 here. It really is a good restaurant, I was just expecting more from it that night -- probably unfairly so.



Berlin. A city under construction.

Arrived in Berlin Wednesday afternoon. The weather is glorious! The sun and the people are out in force, and the view from the Radisson SAS is remarkable.

View from SAS Radisson Hotel room

Unfortunately it seems that Berlin is undergoing a major face lift. There is construction everywhere -- far more than I recall when I was last here, nearly two years ago. The fabled Bebelplatz is devoid of the towering books sculpture that was there two years ago, and every building façade is completely covered.

Berlin is a city under construction.

Cranes as far as the eye can see

archive photo, September 2006 -- Bebelplatz



A Month in Europe

I spent basically all of September '06 in Europe. Starting in Amsterdam for IBC, and ending in Cologne for Photokina, with a bit of Berlin and Munich in the middle. Business is business, but who says you can't have a little fun along the way. The unique site is here