When I first tested my Olympus 35 SP after changing the light seals, the photo walk turned into a challenge of finishing a roll of 36 frames in a single hour. I wrote a blog post about it and speculated that this might evolve into a real project…and it did:
In 2019 I took one-hour breaks on the final day of each month to shoot a roll of film. I used the consumer grade Kodak Gold 200 (shot at ISO 160) throughout the project for its very vivid and natural color palette. The camera was always the Olympus 35 SP and the majority of photographs was shot in automatic mode. The best photograph (to my liking) and the runner-up image of each month’s last day are displayed here with some explanation as to where and why I photographed it.
Looking back at all the images shot during the project (around 370 frames over the whole year) it becomes clear that abstract images containing a few elements sharing a relationship through form, arrangement and/or color are subjects my eyes are drawn to. Using color film for this project was inevitable, because in b/w it’s all about contrast and the color dimension is completely lost. Still doable without color, but it would have been way more complicated.
Any conclusions or lessons learned from this project? First and foremost I must admit that I fell in love with shooting a rangefinder camera. Being a SLR-guy I wasn’t sure whether the different way of framing my images and looking at my subjects through the rangefinder window would hold up to my typical “what you see is what you get” attitude I am accustomed to. But my Olympus 35 SP did a fantastic job in this regard. Its ultra-sharp lens, small size and weight and its perfect light meter in combination with the full automatic mode was pure fun to use. And whatever I was shooting during the project I never missed interchangeable lenses!
December 31, 2019
Finally, we’ve come to the very end of „The Last Day” project. It’s new year’s eve and once again, my direct neighborhood will have to provide enough interest to shoot 36 frames. This time I focused on bright colors and rather abstract subjects. Both photographs, winner and runner up fall into the abstract category. Walking down Bahnhofstrasse in Lichtenrade the silver birch stem infested with a large ivy caught my eye for several reasons. The complementary colors of the ivy leaves and the red frame of the gate was one aspect. Another and even stronger element though was the contrast between the straight and graphic architectural elements (the gate and the wall), which form a zigzag line through the frame and the organic and rather chaotic intertwining stem of the ivy plant clinging to the silver birch, which forms the central focus point of the image. After cropping the image slightly to eliminate some distracting elements, which could not be excluded by changing position, I think the image works.
Runner up: LV
The runner up image shows a part of a house wall. The straight red line at the top, the air grid underneath and the “LV”-graffito form a perfect triangle. The contrast of all three elements against the white wall and the red color of the broad line add some extra interest.
November 30, 2019
This photograph of the Berlin Mauerweg (former patrol path behind the wall) has been in my mind for a very long time. I even shot it on my very first walk with a medium format camera in December 2017, but the quality wasn’t good back then. It’s still not ideal because of the suboptimal light conditions, but I think the idea behind it is quite clear. All lines run towards a central focal point and the concrete road together with the sky triangle form the shape of an hourglass.
Runner up: Birch party
The contrast between the whitish bark of the birch trees and the brown tones of the fallen leaves caught my eye. Unfortunately it was impossible to separate all the trunks. When scanning the image I realised that I made a classic mistake when shooting this image: the rather chaotic arrangement of the trees requires a clear focal point. The only candidate for this is the birch tree in the centre of the image, but this is slightly out of focus. You never stop learning…
October 31, 2019
Winner: Gingko chimney
When coming back from my one hour photo walk in the parliament district of Berlin I strolled along Invalidenpark with its Gingko trees in full autumn colors. One branch of a Gingko tree was pointing towards the huge chimney of a power plant, a relationship I found interesting especially because the current Fridays for Future demonstrations in Berlin always end up in Invalidenpark amidst the Gingkos.
Runner up: Red-White-Green
This pole at the banks of river Spree was standing out against the dark water and the grey tones of the granite cobble stones. Additionally, I liked the diverging lines of the pole and the embankment as well as the complementary colors of the red stripes and the green weeds growing between the cobble stones.
September 30, 2019
Winner: The blue bench
At this time of the year I usually give a field course in marine biology. Accordingly, September’s last day was documented on the island of Sylt. Wind-shaken marram grass in the foreground, sand dunes in the midground and a blue park bench as a focal point in the background. Blue skies with fluffy white clouds. All these natural and man-made elements together with the color combination perfectly represents the landscape in the northern part of the island and, therefore, made this month’s winner image.
Runner up: Southern Italy
The incoming tide waves when running up the beach form interesting shapes of wet sand garnished with red and green algae and some sea shells. It is an ever changing contour plot and similar to cloud patterns it makes you see all sorts of well known shapes and forms like country lines, animal heads or basic commodities. And here it looked like the heel and toe cap of the Italian boot.
August 31, 2019
Winner: Left over
An early Sunday morning walk along the S-Bahn track from Yorckstraße to Priesterweg, and it is already September 1, 2019! Yesterday was so busy that there was absolutely no chance to steal an hour for photography. I am being late, but look what I’ve found: A left over bottle of cheap red wine sitting on a park bench with a graffiti arrow pointing towards it. A perfect reminiscence of the previous night and, therefore, a clear winner of August’s last day.
Runner up: Stairway to heaven
These stairs at Südkreuz train station seemingly lead nowhere. I liked the zigzag leading line of the hand rail and the numerous and regularly arranged shadows on the steps. Due to its graphical appearance, the photograph would have been even better in b/w.
July 31, 2019
Winner: Weed, wood and gravel
Summer holidays in Denmark. A walk along Veddinge Strand in Odsherred, Sjaelland. Overcast sky, no wind and no waves – an absolute calm day. A small weed growing through the gravel, a piece of drift wood and bits of dried seagrass. The different grey tones of the stones perfectly matched those of the sky and the sea.
Runner up: Road kill
Walking back home at the end of my photo walk I passed this sunflower run over by a car. Quite some contrast, not only between the bright yellow of the petals and the black asphalt but also between the sunflower symbolizing happiness and good mood and the very situation this particular specimen was in. One is used to animal corpses strewn along the side of the road, but I have never seen a sunflower ending up as a road kill.
June 30, 2019
Winner: Two old friends
Again, a sunday late afternoon in my home district. I pass these two boxes every day on my way to work. The backlit grass adds some interest to the scene. And the yellow post box reminds me on a comic character with its slit eyes, square nose, a thin black line of a mouth and a pair of skinny legs.
Runner up: Others have flowers in their front yard
Walking through my neighborhood I realised to what extent estate owners bury their gardens under concrete to build drive ways and garages for their cars. Easy to be kept neat and tidy, but awful to look at. Unfortunately, the sun came out just before I pressed the shutter. An evenly lit scene would have made a better image.
May 31, 2019
Winner: Green square
A former switch yard of the German railway, Berlin’s Südgelände is now a public park, an art exhibition, a nature reserve (the only place in Berlin with a wild population of praying mantis!) and home of an open air Shakespeare theater. This tunnel still contains the old railway track now transformed into a walk way. The path leads directly into the greens and the form of the outlet determined the square crop of the photograph. In auto mode the camera set the aperture to f/1.7 resulting in a rather soft image. I will definitely shoot this composition again with a smaller aperture, but this will require a tripod.
Runner up: Iron orb web
Using scrap metal from the historical steam engine repair halls, artists have welded all sorts of sculptures displayed in a separate courtyard. Here, I stood underneath an iron canopy looking straight up into the overcast sky. This also would have made a perfect square crop, but the 42mm lens of the camera was slightly too long to get a symmetrical image fitting a square format. Next time, a medium format camera, a wide angle lens and a tripod will do a better job!
April 30, 2019
Winner: Four trunks
Choosing Gleisdreieckpark in Schöneberg as my destination for April’s last day photoshoot promised to provide plenty of opportunities. It was early afternoon with blue skies and a few clouds – a perfect day for people to hang out in the park and for a lot of action going on. Alas, the opposite was the case. So I was forced to focus on rather abstract subjects. After 1,5 hours I had walked the park twice and still had 10 frames left in camera. It was unbelievable. Since 1 hour is the given time frame for this project I decided to call it a day and send the film for development, regardless.
The Four trunks would have made a perfect b/w image, but they are equally suitable for color especially with the small leaves in the upper part of the thinnest trunk.
Runner up: 14 feet
There are several playgrounds in the park with all sorts of items to climb or jump on. I found this board with cut-out giant feet and a metal frame underneath. To support the abstract look I had to crop the image to a square format.
March 31, 2019
Winner: Sunday depression (Red)
The last day of March was a Sunday. I explored my neighbourhood in the afternoon and as expected found most public areas deserted. Despite the sunshine and the warm spring temperatures there were no people in the streets. Empty public spaces all around me. A rather depressive mood, especially in the main road with it’s ugly street furniture from the late 1990s. Even the hot red colour of the benches didn’t help!
Runner up: Sunday depression (Blue)
It’s not surprising, that no one’s sitting here! Worn paintings of rabbits and butterflies on a spring meadow…a hapless attempt to cover the concrete container. The cool tones of the hetch and the (empty) blue bench add to the sadness of the scene.
February 28, 2019
Winner: Floating neon
Today I took the tram to Prenzlauer Berg for my one-hour photo walk. A lot of haze in the sky produced very soft shadows and a rather subdued light. Walking along Kastanienallee I saw this neon sign inside a very dark entrance of a house. The glass door was a perfect mirror for the scene behind me. I just had to wait for people passing by and had a nearly perfect shot. Looking at the image now I realize that I should have moved slightly to the right to match the stem of the neon plant with that of the tree!
Runner up: Schwalbe
The Schwalbe scooter was a very famous East German motorcycle. There are still quite a few in use on the streets of Berlin, but Prenzlauer Berg is a district where you have the biggest chance to see one. I liked the matching blues of the metal and the graffito on the wall behind the scooter.
January 31, 2019
Winner: Wedding Graffito
I spent my lunch break in Wedding, a central district of Berlin just a few blocks from my workplace. It was a clear cold day with bright sunshine. Walking along Max-Josef-Metzger Platz I came across this Graffito next to the entrance of an apartment house. I liked the color contrast and the b/w figure separated from the red/green tag by the black line. A branch of a nearby tree casts a shadow over the figure mirroring the graphic form of the colored tag.
Runner up: Plastic dreams
Just down the road from the Graffito I found this shop display with yellow and red plastic chairs and a bunch of plastic sunflowers. Very Seventies, same as my camera. The plastic dream is contrasted by the church and the blue sky reflected in the shop window.