An old metal gate taking on the appearance of abstract art with many years worth of graffiti and fragments of posters layered and torn.
On the corner of Tsar Osvoboditel and Vasil Levski the entrance to the Sofia University metro leads to an open air concourse before disappearing from view under the road. From ground level a wide angle lens results in a nicely layered image. The light and shadow of the concourse leads into the bright band of sun illuminated cladding of the station wall and then the curved facade of Sofia University, topped off by a spring blue sky.
Walking past a few days ago I was drawn to the hard contrast between the sunlight reflecting off the light coloured stone of the concourse and the dark shadows of the interior. This is another one of those situations where, having found a good spot to shoot from, it’s good to hang around for a while watching scenes unfold. So after taking the initial wide angle shot I waited by the same spot for a while watching people come and go and trying to catch them as they moved between the darkness and the light, or were illuminated by the sun against the background shadows. Sometimes it’s a waste of 30 minutes, often you will get a few decent shots, occasionally you might come away with a gem. No gems this time, but I did get a few decent shots.
As with most of my recent photography I used my Panasonic LX5 with its small and, in digital years, ancient sensor. So given the very extreme contrast of light and dark I was not at all confident about how they would turn out. So when I saw the pictures in Lightroom I was very pleased with the outcome. While the unprocessed RAW files often looked like the highlights were blown, one click of the auto tone button transformed most of the images, not only retrieving detail from the highlights but also pulling detail out of the shadows, as you can see from the comparison below.
In fact, in most cases the camera performed so well in retaining detail in the shadows that I had to darken blacks and shadows to get the effect I wanted. Here are a few that I liked.
Vitosha Boulevard is a pedestrianised zone in downtown Sofia lined with shops and restaurants which spill out onto the street. On the weekends it’s packed and probably the busiest street in the country. Despite this I find it hard to photograph since visually it is chaotic. On Saturday past while walking down Vitosha I noticed these two plant holders in the shape of stylised human heads.
I had noticed them before without really noticing them, if that makes sense, and thought they might give a little shape to the chaos of the street. The opposite side of the street where I’m shooting from has the same raised flowerbed and lamppost design that you can see here. So I sat down on the edge of the flowerbed where I was slightly hidden by the lamppost and waited for the passing stream of people to walk into my frame. Most of the shots I got were down to luck. It was too bright to see clearly who was coming before they entered the frame, and the slight delay in focus and shutter release with my LX5 makes the timing of shots difficult. Here are a few of the shots I most liked.
Even though this last shot totally overwhelmed the little sensor in my LX5 with the direct sun on those spectacular orange trousers, I liked the way this turned out. The bright colours of the two nearest the camera and that tattooed arm give it a real punch despite the technical flaws.
I think I took about 40 shots in total and deleted most of them, but here are the rest of the ones I kept.
I’m too eclectic of a photographer to have a style, but there are certain practices that I return to regularly. Probably the most common of these is to find an interesting backdrop and take up a position nearby where I can photograph people as they enter into the frame. This brightly painted complex of electricity distribution boxes, overlaid with graffiti and old posters, worked well with the vivid red wall in the background. I took a few shots and this was the best of them.
I took this with my Panasonic Lumix LX5, my current representative of a camera range I’ve always liked ever since I picked up the earlier LX3 in 2009. Using it a lot over the last few days I have begun to wonder if I really need anything bigger. There are some constraints of course. Despite the little sensor performing well most of the time it is limited in difficult lighting situations (though Lightroom can compensate for a lot.) The biggest issue is speed – both the slow autofocus and shutter lag make it very challenging to take this kind of picture if the subject moving into the frame is moving at anything more than walking pace. I tried a few shots against this backdrop with cyclists, trams, and electric scooters moving into the frame but never got the timing right and ended up with the subject either too far into the frame or already leaving the frame.
It’s a shame Panasonic never consistently followed up the small sensor LX range. The LX10/15 looked like a potentially viable update at one point but it seems that Sony owns this market with the RX100. I did have one of the original RX100s but eventually sold it primarily because of the slow lens. I’m occasionally tempted by the RX100 Va but that near $1,000 price tag holds me back.