Leben mit dem Whisky – Hans Brandstätter und sein Edradour

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Pic Of The Week (12/2013) – Old Railway Depot, Sofia

One of the empty halls in the old railway depot behind Sofia’s Central Station:

Old Railway Depot, Sofia
Old Railway Depot, Sofia

(Image Copyright 2013 © by Johann Brandstätter/ JB Photography)

The windows are overgrown with vines and I had to fight my way trough them to get this shot. I was leaning against the window frame to keep the camera steady while trying to avoid having my jacket (and my face) cut to ribbons on the glass fragments sticking out everywhere.

While there is a big fence closing off access to this area from the new railway depot there is an easy way in over a huge field of rubble between the station and the Sofia power plant. The whole area is an El Dorado for the ruins photographer and a home to many of the city’s disadvantaged people.

Canon EOS 50D & Tokina 11-16mm AT-X 116 Pro DX (@12mm); f/14; 1/25; ISO 500

More images like this on the ‘Industrial Ruins‘ gallery on my website.

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Pic Of The Week (11/2013) – Apartment Blocks in Pernik, Bulgaria

Apartment blocks behind the coal-fired thermal power plant ‘Republika’ in Pernik

Apartment buildings in Pernik
Apartment buildings near the ‘Republika’ power plant in Pernik, Western Bulgaria

(Image Copyright 2013 © by Johann Brandstätter/ JB Photography)

While shooting for my ‘Industrial Ruins‘ project in the city of Pernik, 35 km southwest of Sofia, I saw this desolate scene near the ‘Republika’ power plant. The plant is notorious for its enormous output of air pollutants – most notably sulfur oxides – yet people still live in such close quarters to the facility. Although ‘Republika’ looks like a ruin it is still in operation (not always a contradiction in Bulgaria).

The impression is indescribable, almost like in a war zone, to the right – just outside the frame – huge piles of coal dominate the landscape, behind the buildings two cooling towers blow out steam.

Canon EOS 50D & Canon EF 24-105mm L IS USM (@85mm); f/7.1; 1/100; ISO 400

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Photography – To Manipulate or Not To Manipulate?

Although I am aware that this is a question without a definitive answer I cannot resist to join the buzz that recently re-erupted after two renowned photographers lost their awards over what was deemed undue modifications of their images.

World Press Photo award winner Paolo Pellegrin (Magnum) and David Byrne, Landscape Photographer of the Year 2012, have both been stripped of their awards after it was pointed out to what extent they have manipulated their winning images. David Byrne even added clouds to his shot to make it more dramatic.

I spent most of my photography years (more than 30) shooting 35 mm slide films, so personally I tend to do everything to get it right in-camera because that’s what I am used to. With color slides there was not a lot you could do if you screwed up a shot.

On the other hand I am aware that image manipulation is as old as photography, the question is: how much is too much? I think it depends what the intention behind the photograph is. If an artist wants to make an appealing image I guess it’s all right to do what ever they want in post-processing. Only, they shouldn’t call it photograph then.

On the other hand, if a photographer uses his Photoshop skills to get an unfair advantage over others  in a competition, then it should be compared to Lance Armstrong winning the Tour de France.

Let’s face it, in the photography business nobody would be competitive without a certain amount of image enhancement. As an example let me show you a simple picture I took while working on my ‘Abandoned’ project about ghost villages in Bulgaria.

The first image is as shot, the RAW-file simply converted to JPEG without any manipulation:

as shot, no manipulation

With the exception of the sky which looks nicely saturated, the shot is rather bland and probably would not create a lot of attention. For most shots like this I use a circular polarizer, not only because of the blue sky, also to cut out unwanted reflections and reduce haze.

In photojournalism and documentary photography some people consider even a CP as an alteration of reality.

Next, the same image with some manipulations applied in Photoshop:

after post-processing

The image certainly looks better now, especially with the sky even more saturated. In addition I slightly enhanced the reds to bring out the bricks a little more, added contrast and a bit of sharpening.

As a last step, I transformed the image into black and white and played a bit with the color sliders to get a really dramatic look:

transformed into black & white

The same image, but does it still show reality? In my opinion, as long as I don’t claim the image was taken after the D-Day landing in the Normandy 1944 and add a few C-47’s flying overhead,  it is legitimate to enhance the impact a photograph creates by applying some wizardry of the digital age. (The building in the shot stands in a field near Breznik in Western Bulgaria)

What is still all right or what is too much depends on the circumstances and on the honesty of the photographer. Ultimately, the viewer/customer will decide where the limit is. In photojournalism, though, I completely agree with what Ken Kobre says in an interview: we have to refrain from any manipulation whatsoever because if we don’t it will hurt everybody’s credibility in the business.

(Updated: 13 March 2013)

As always, the reminder: All Images Copyright 2013 © by Johann Brandstätter/ JB Photography.

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History on the Rubbish Dump

While shooting industrial ruins for one of my projects I came across this interesting cardboard box, obviously from an era long past:

History on the Rubbish Dump
History on the Rubbish Dump

(Image Copyright 2013 © by Johann Brandstätter/ JB Photography)

I found this little piece of history on an empty lot behind the Central Railway Station in Sofia (the smoke stacks and cooling towers belong to the Sofia Thermal Power Plant).


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Call of the Wild…

A shot I took last fall from a plateau high up in the Georgian Caucasus…

Mount Ushba
Mount Ushba, Greater Caucasus

(Image Copyright 2013 © by Johann Brandstätter/ JB Photography)

The image shows the north peak of Mount Ushba (4,690 m), considered one of the most dangerous climbs in the Caucasus (seen from the Shagatkhumari Plateau, high above Mestia in Georgia).

More pictures from the Caucasus in the travel section of my website.

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Pic Of The Week (8/2013) – Bagpipers Leading a Protest March in Sofia

Bagpipers leading a march of several hundred government supporters in Sofia, minutes before the government collectively stepped down.

A group of bagpipers lead a march of government supporters in Sofia
A group of bagpipers lead a march of government supporters in Sofia

(Image Copyright 2013 © by Johann Brandstätter/ JB Photography)

Bagpipers leading several hundred supporters of Prime Minister Boyko Borisov and his center-right government on their march to the parliament in Sofia. Meanwhile, inside lawmakers vote on the resignation of the government. An overwhelming majority is in favor, thus paving the way for early elections.

The bagpipers obviously brightened the mood of the demonstrators because as soon as they arrived in front of the parliament an old man started a folk dance, minutes later a whole group was into it.

More images from recent demonstrations in Sofia on my website.

Canon EOS 50D & Canon EF 24-105mm L IS USM (@80mm); f/6.3; 1/1000; ISO 500


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