The Happy Accident in Photography

The creative process can be a deceptive thing. Sometimes we end up with a happy accident that reflect exactly what we were looking for.

The mind, well known for playing tricks on the eyes, can fool you into believing that what you are looking at is nothing but a pile of stone, a bunch of people, and a lot of chaos.

I took the above shot of Brandenburg Gate in Berlin as the light was fading. It was difficult, but seems to work well.

I took my camera out for a walk. I wanted to test the ISO in very low light, and see if I could get away with an ISO setting of 4000, with the shutter speed at 250th of a second, and the lens set at F9. High flow of light in a darkish setting, and a limited amount of time to grab that intense shaft of light flowing into the lens.

There was a little noise in the end result, but with a slight tweak in photoshop, no sharpening — which increases the noise, but a slight smoothing out by using the colour noise — which “blends” colours into each other.

I always take the shot in colour, the convert to black and white during processing.

The colour noise adjustment is very useful in creating a painterly feeling. I do this very little, then I reduce the texture a touch to help it along.

When I opened this photo on the computer, I saw that I’d caught a little extra light on the man in the foreground. This helped a lot with creating a stronger perspective, or line of sight that can be followed as you look at the photo.

The dark figures help more, they are forms and shapes that naturally build a dotted composition all the way into the middle ground. At the same time, they’re interesting to look at.

Brandenburg Gate in the background, with dark evening clouds to help its grandeur. Gives the whole photo context.

Brandenburg Gate 2021

I particularly like the small composition of the person on the right, sitting against the pile of street barriers which have been stacked, and the small slivers of light that highlight each barrier frame.

I love the fold of clothing. The man standing in the foreground is having his photograph taken by a friend, he is waiting, and his clothing is full of creases and folds, the light catches it perfectly. If I could have got closer, he would have played a bigger role, and made it a better shot.

A composition like this, with everybody playing a small role, reminds me of eighteenth century paintings. It was common to commission an artist to paint a special painting to commemorate an event.

Normally, the event involved local dignitaries, the town mayor, and anybody who wanted to pay into the commission might get his or her face in the painting.

If you visit a gallery with classical paintings that look like a town hall event, you will notice that many of the faces are very well depicted, and seem to shine a bit brighter than the general crowd. These are the people chosen to be highlighted in the painting.

The local corn dealer who supplies the markets, the businessman who palms the local politicians with a few quid to ensure good policies to his benefit, and many others. You can be sure that the faces that seem blurry, are those of hard working locals who actually mill the grain, the writers, printers and artists, and the town comedian who performs vaudeville for the mayors’ wife.

Brandenburg Gate, on this summer evening, clouds, low light, crowds spread about the place, reminded me of an old town square. A place where people go to meet, talk, and exchange the latest news.

After taking a few shots, I had a feeling that it wasn’t working for me. So, I headed back home. This shot didn’t seem like much at the time, but as I say, the mind is deceitful, the eyes faulty, and the camera lens sees more than the eyes behind the camera.

I have a blog with similar articles on Medium, which is a platform for writers and bloggers. It’s worth a look too.

On this blog, Sean P. Durham, you can discover all types of articles and photographs that reflect my thoughts on photography, writing technique, and basically how to live more creatively ; if you want inspiration and motivation, you are sure to find something that fits your own thoughts today.