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Berlin 2018
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Berlin 2018
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Berlin 2018
28th Sep 2018   -   BY ALEXANDER WRIGHT
Berlin 2018
BY ALEXANDER WRIGHT
          As with all semi-spontaneous trips, the idea of going to Berlin started on Instagram. On Christmas Day 2017, I shared a post to some friends of the U-Bahnhof Brandenburger Tor (Brandenburg Gate Metro Station), and after some brief research, we decided that we would venture to Berlin over our Easter break. So, in the first week of Easter and two days after my birthday, my friends and I left Southampton at 3am to start our trip to Berlin.
The four of us reflected in an art installation in the Birkenstraße Metro Station. (Left: Adam Pietraszewski, Alex Wright, David Evans, Christian Obe)*
          Before heading to Berlin, I had done very little research on photographic locations in the city. Apart from the few shots of the marvellous u-bahn metro network, I had absolutely no idea what to expect when I arrived. In this blog post I’m sharing some of my favourite images form the trip, along with some background info to why I took the shots and how I edited them!
ROAMING THE STREETS
          The thing I loved most about visiting Berlin is how easy it is to travel around the city, all down to it’s extensive and efficient transportation system. We decided that for some of the time we would stop at random stations and explore the surrounding areas.
          We started off exploring the area of Birkenstraße, where our AirBnB accommodation was located. Some exploration behind the buildings led to us finding these simplistic stairs connecting a raised communal area to the street level. What I loved most about the photo was the footprints in the snow leading up to the stairs, giving the scene a sense of life and movement. I also enjoyed the brightness of the wall and snow compared to the brick wall and dark stairs. When I was editing the photo, I wanted to keep the simplicity of the structure by only brightening up the exposure and applying simple colour-grading. Back on the main road, we came across this perfectly composed shot of a bearded local walking along the street and I couldn’t help myself from taking a snap.
          We then hopped on the U-Bahn to the Schöneberg region, getting out at the stunning U-Bahnhof Rathaus Schöneberg. This metro station, whilst below the road, has ornate windows along both sides of the platform with views along the stunning Rudolph-Wilde Park and lake. Above ground, we explored the surrounding streets of the station, which was predominantly residential. At first, I wasn’t particularly bothered about the tower block pictured in the first photo, but then my friends seemed fascinated by it and were taking photos, so I decided to join then. In the end, I was actually happy with the shot I took, and it only needed some simple colour-grading and perspective corrections. And since it was a nice sunny day, I didn’t even need to replace the sky!
          We came across this archway with a bike leaning against the wall and I instantly fell in love with the scene. Again, the editing on the shot was fairly minimal as I liked the colours as they were, although I did end up removing a tree from the right-hand side!
POTSDAMER PLATZ
          Our next point of exploration was Potsdamer Platz and the Tilla-Durieux Park, which lies along the route of the former wall. As the area was destroyed during the war and has undergone major redevelopment over the past 30 years, there are multiple nice modern buildings there to explore. The first 2 images are the facades of a couple of my favs. In the second I liked the strange geometry of the building, with the orange section cutting the image in two. The third is one of the stranger photos from the trip. As we were wandering around the shopping streets, we came across this panel of many different fire alarm lights and 2 hidden door panels. It seems strange that they need so many alert lights on the outside of the building when a simple fire alarm control panel would do the same job. Anyway, as I already have a collection of photos of external fire apparatus, I couldn’t resist taking a photo to join the others (and another from later on in this trip).
          As it had started raining, I decided to venture inside to the shopping mall underneath the Potsdamer Platz intersection. At each side of this underground maze were entrances to the Platz’s U-Bahn stations, access via elevators to a mezzanine level. I loved how the transit levels joined via the elegant lit up escalators, which when smoothed via a long exposure, makes the shot nice and simple. To add some more life to the shot, I also waited for someone to use the escalator, which can be seen in the second shot. I kept the editing quite minimal as well, only removing excess yellow tones to give the concrete a cold grey look and brightening the image up.
U-BAHNHOF BRANDENBURGER TOR
          My next destination was the U-Bahn metro station at the Brandenburg Gate, which was the location of the photo which started this trip. The platform for the U55 line is something extraordinary. Many people who have seen my photos from the station ask if it’s a computer-generated image. I can assure you that this place does exist and looks like this. These have far become my favourite photos from the trip and up there in my all-time best photos taken!
          Whilst I was at this station, I set up my tripod for some identical shots and long-exposures at the point where the crack in the floor, wall and roof all perfectly lined up. Something that’s very different with Berlin’s metro system compared with others is that they don’t shun photography on its networks. I even got a police man apologising and being worried for being in my shot, where if this was on the London Tube they’d be harassing me to leave! As there was no train in the station, I spent some time trying to make the perspective of the shot correct by having the platform edge perfectly horizontal, the pillars parallel to each other and the joint in the floor, roof and wall perfectly vertical.
          Then a train arrived, and oh my god... the centre of the closed doors aligned perfectly with the joint in the floor and roof. Once the passengers had got out of site, I quickly took some photos before the train disappeared. After waiting around for a couple more trains to pass by to see if they perfectly lined up (which they unfortunately did not), I decided I was happy with the shots I had taken.
AFTER
BEFORE
TAP FOR BEFORE
          When I was editing these shots from the U-Bahnhof Brandenburger Tor, I wanted to maximise the simplicity and minimalism of the station, whilst not distorting the image too far from the true scene. The empty train landscape photo, which you can see the Before & After photos of above, was the first shot that I tackled to edit.
          In Lightroom, I stitched the three panorama images together and applied basic colour-grading to the image, including white-balance and exposure, as well as correcting the overall perspective of the image. Then in Photoshop, I removed some distractions from the image, including the Fire Exit sign on the left pillar and a speaker and lights from above the train, as this gives the station a cleaner look. I also spent (way too much) time straightening the joint on the roof above the train, to make it perfectly vertical with the rest of the line. Inside the train, I removed a passenger in from the right-hand door using a sample from the left-hand door. I choose to remove them as I think the passenger does not necessarily add anything to the scene and with Germany’s strict photography laws, I wanted to remove as many people as possible from my photos (although people depicted as "accessories to a scene" are usually allowed, like in some of my other photos). Back to the platform, I severely decreased the yellow tint to give a clean, white look to the image and also brightened the platform edge pattern to make it stand out more.
          Each of the portrait photos was edited similarly to the landscape photo, but as the perspective of the photos were harder to correct the editing was trickier. Therefore, after I had edited the photo of the train sat at the station, I reused the station in the other two photos. The shot of the station empty required some substantial work, as either side of the Brandenburger Tor sign are two large screens showing adverts. To cover these up, I cloned some of the wall panels and arranged them in a random pattern, as before it was obvious that whole columns of panels had been cloned. I also increased the brightness of the Brandenburger Tor sign to make it stand out. As there was no train present in the station, I completely removed the yellow hues from the surrounding station, which can be seen comparing the 2 photos above, and giving the image more of a minimal and clean look.
          For the photo below of the train leaving the station, I wanted to make the carriage more centred, so I ended up copying the section on the right to use on the left hand-side and then shifting the central area of the train to the centre of the frame. You can see the changes made in the Before & After panel below. In the surrounding platform and station, I made similar changes as before, but this time leaving a slight yellow hue and removing the speaker and lights from view.
AFTER
BEFORE
AFTER
BEFORE
          Overall, these are some of my favourite photos from the trip due to the simplicity of the station and how well the photos came out! If you ever head to Berlin I would defo recommend checking this station out!
U-BAHNHOF ROSA LUXEMBURG PLATZ
          The next stop was at the Rosa Luxemburg Platz metro station, which I had also seen on Instagram before I visited. What drew me to seek this station and to replicate the shot was the station’s roof, as I loved how it seems to disappear above the train. After finally tracking down the station, I got out my tripod to take a variety of different shots, of which these two are my favourites from the station.
          Both shots had 2 seconds of exposure to smoothen out the moving trains and add a sense of movement to the scene. When editing, I removed the majority of colour from the surrounding platform to clean out the image. In the left image I removed a "hidden panel" in the tiled wall and decided to keep the clock as it seemed like a daunting task to remove. On both images, I added a gradual fade out where the train enters the tunnel to make it seem like they’re disappearing into the unknown. My only regret for these photos is not waiting around for another lighter coloured train for the right photo, as I think the pattern would have made the photo more interesting compared to the darker, flat train.
U-BAHNHOF OLYMPIA-STADION
          Another station we visited was at the Olympiastadion. Built in 1913 to service the Deutsches Stadion for the cancelled 1916 Summer Olympics, it is nowadays used to connect the city to the 1936 Olympic stadium. I visited this station twice over 2 days, so I had two copies of this shot, one from the evening on day 2 and one from the afternoon of day 3. I ended up liking the evening shot as the inside of the station is illuminated and shines out.
AFTER
BEFORE
TAP FOR BEFORE
          When editing, I increased the exposure and shadows, fixed the perspective and massively changed the white balance, as you can see above. Since this photo was a taken as multiple panorama images, I then took the edited photos and stitched them together, making the complete image. In Photoshop, I then skewed the floor so that the central paving slabs connected the centre of the station to the centre of the image.
          On my visit in the afternoon, I entered the site of the stadium and had an explore. Built from stone, the stadium is a large and impressive structure. Inside was quite dark and gloomy, as it was an overcast day, but it still couldn’t stop me from taking a massive 48 image panorama. The two images on the sides show the simplicity of the design of the building, with the corridors wrapped around the entire structure.
DIE TIERGARTEN REGIERUNGSBÜROS
          The government buildings within the Tiergarten park was an excellent location for my style of photos (thanks Adam for the tip!). The gigantic buildings were modern, sleek and covered in concrete. What more could I ask for! As I was walking along a river separating me and the buildings, I saw a photographer setup a tripod on the buildings stairs and start to take some photos. I quickly moved in to position and lined him up in the centre of my frame.
          Along with the other photos of the government buildings, the editing of the above photo was very lite, as I wanted to preserve the true minimalism of these stunning buildings. I made some perspective corrections and simple colour-grading. On the wall of windows blinds in the background there were some lights shining through which I removed. I also decided to keep the crop at a 1:1 ratio (seen on the full image) as I liked how it shows of the height of the structure.
          In the photo below, you can see the scale of the building as the group of tourists are led on the tour. Just off the top of the photo is the buildings roof, which is supported by the pillars in the photo. The image on the left is a personal favourite, as the bike rack against the simplistic building adds life to the shot and building. I also love the teal coloured glass against the clean, bright concrete. The photo on the right adds to my collection of external fire apparatus. Just a nice simplistic concrete wall with the löschwassereinspeisung pipes!
          As with the photo of the photographer and tripod, the editing was kept to a minimum with only colour-grading and perspective corrections.
DIE BERLINER PHILHARMONIE
          Another location scouted out on Instagram was the home of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, the Berliner Philharmonie. If you’ve ever visited this building, you’d know how remarkably unique its design is with its asymmetrical, tent-like roof design. Apart from the unique shape of the building, I really enjoyed the contrasting façade with its textured golden panels on top and dark grey panels below.
AFTER
BEFORE
AFTER
BEFORE
          At the back of the building was my favourite spot, as the symmetrical portion of wall seen above overlooked a nice secluded garden (although I must admit that it was raining the day I visited!). This section of the building is one of only a few parts which has any symmetry, and I think it highlights the beauty of the golden tiled panels. As it was a gloomy day, these photos all were colour-graded to bring out the colours of the façade and to brighten the image, which you can see made quite a difference in the photo above! Perspective corrections were made to these three images, and in the photo above, the bottom left windows were duplicated and flipped to replace the right window, which had a street lamp in front. Overall, I think this gives the shots a nice clean, minimal feel to them.
DAS FUTURIUM
          My finial photography location in this story is the Futurium. This stunning building is cladded with over 8,000 elements of folded metal reflectors and textured glass, giving the building a constantly changing look in varying weather conditions. As it was fairly overcast and wet the day I visited, the façade had a gloomy grey hue to it nearer the top, whilst the aqua gave the building a splash of colour. From what I could see inside, the entrance hall had a very minimal design and a stunning roof, but unfortunately, I decided not to venture inside as there was no signage indicating to me what the building was. On later research, I discovered it was an exhibition hall with the theme "the house of the future", and I instantly regretted not going in!
          Along the side of the building were several CCTV cameras, which can be seen above. I love how the simplicity and minimalism of the façade is broken by the camera, which is centred perfectly in its tile, and overall adds a sense of modern life to the scene. Simple colour-grading and perspective corrections were made to the above image to make the aqua pop. I added a desaturation gradient filter to the top of the shot to intensify the lack of colour which was already occurring. In Photoshop, I also desaturated the CCTV camera and its mount to remove the aqua tint being reflected from the building.
          Unfortunately, the day I visited it was overcast and raining so I found it hard to get any nice photos of the entire structure. If I was to return to Berlin in the future, I would definitely visit the Futurium again (and venture inside of course!)
FINAL THOUGHTS
          Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my short visit to Berlin. The city surprised me with how well it blended modern and more traditional European architecture and how the ease of its transport system allowed for vast exploring of the cities sights. I would recommend anyone who is thinking of visiting Berlin to go, as I’m sure that I’ll certainly be returning in the future!
BY ALEXANDER WRIGHT
Alexander Wright is a London and Southampton based photographer focusing on architectural and minimalist photography. In his spare time, he enjoys roaming around the streets of London looking for new photo opportunities with his friends. Alexander frequently presents photography lectures and runs workshops at the University of Southampton.
More about Alexander
BY ALEXANDER WRIGHT
Alexander Wright is a London and Southampton based photographer focusing on architectural and minimalist photography. In his spare time, he enjoys roaming around the streets of London looking for new photo opportunities with his friends. Alexander frequently presents photography lectures and runs workshops at the University of Southampton.
More about Alexander
Published: Friday 28th September 2018 at 16:51
Before & After panels contain edited and 'semi-edited' photos.
These 'before' photos have had perspective corrections and cropping applied to provide a like-for-like comparison between photos.

*Image Copyright Adam Pietraszewski 2018.
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