Last week I visited Berlin for the first time, and also returned to Paris for a day on the way back home as it's one of my favourite cities in Europe.
Berlin is a really fascinating city for photography as it has strong contrasts of classical architecture juxtaposed with totally derelict buildings, many of which have remained in an unrepaired state since WWII. One of the things I was most looking forward to seeing in Berlin is the Holocaust memorial in Friedrichstadt; while somewhat controversial for some reasons, I personally found it a sombre, humbling experience wondering through it. It takes up an entire city block, with straight rows of blocks of varying height places along an uneven ground. The blocks vary from waist heigh to towering above you as you walk through it.
When I stopped in Paris on the way back, the weather was pretty bad. It was raining the entire day (I seem to have bad luck with Paris as it rained quite a bit the last time I was there too!) but it actually turned out to be a good thing as the rain adds a lot visually to the scenery, and makes for some dynamic photography. In a rare bout of luck, the courtyard in the middle of the Louvre was almost completely empty, allowing me to take a photo of the famous glass pyramid without anyone inbetween me and it.
Anyway, here are the pics. I'd love to hear any critique or ideas about them, whether positive or negative. I almost always shoot for black and white as it's my favourite look for photography, and I'm always looking for shots that will work in mono. I do all my mono conversions in Silver Efex Pro, spending quite a lot of time on each image to bring out details where I want them and subdue them where I don't.
This first photo was taken in the Holocaust memorial. The memorial is actually quite busy with visitors all the time, but I knelt down with my camera ready, waiting for a moment when the path would be empty. The original photo is a lot lighter, but I decided to make it very low key instead in the conversion, to reflect the sombre event that the memorial represents. I also feel that the darker tones almost skew the scale of the image to the point that the stone blocks feel even larger than they are, which I like. The result is a little dystopian, like something out of Brazil or Nineteen Eighty-Four.
The ground slopes which is why the tiled ground is at an angle. I considered fixing this in Photoshop but decided against it, out of respect for the original design. Am I being too purist in this regard? The slope does visually bother me a little.
Sombre Reminder by onona, on Flickr
This second photo is obviously also taken at the memorial, although it's taken in a different part (notice the lighting fixtures in the ground). I spotted this elderly chap walking towards the edge of the memorial, and thought it'd make a poignant image. I made the mono conversion much harsher and grittier than the previous image as I felt it worked better to draw attention to the shape of the man. I intentionally darkened the foreground stones a little to enhance the feeling of light in the top middle of the image, trying to get a result which felt a little symbolic.
Again, the sloping ground visually bothers me a little, and I wonder if I should have fixed it.
IMAGE LINK: http://www.flickr.com/photos/onona/7980237162/
Holocaust-Mahnmal by onona, on Flickr
Lastly, here's the Louvre's pyramid. Unfortunately there were some people behind me so I couldn't move further back to include the entire reflection of the pyramid, which is a shame. There's some slight haloing around the top of the pyramid that came about in the conversion, but I didn't fix it as I think it creates an interesting effect, and also lifts the shape a little off the cloudy background.
Should the cars and buses in the background be painted out? I'm unsure.
IMAGE LINK: http://www.flickr.com/photos/onona/7979551987/
Louvre by onona, on Flickr
Anyway, thanks for looking.