Top ten 2018 photographs – one by one
2018 top ten photographs by Michael Assmann

Top ten 2018 photographs – one by one

Following my previous blog post about the selection of the top ten 2018 photographs, I’ll go over them one by one in this post. I’ll share the background story behind each of the images and some of my considerations when taking it.

Red lanterns

Whenever I am on a business trip I have a camera with me, and so I did when I was in China early 2018. The day was filled with work in the plant, but I used the little time off I had to explore the place.

Suzhou is a “smaller” city to the west of Shanghai – with more than 10m people though. Like its larger neighbor, the city is growing and constantly rebuilt. While there are still old places (actually approx. 2000 years old), modern architecture is omnipresent. In combination with the global brands that have settled in (Starbucks, Toys ‘R’ Us, …), some streets could be anywhere in the world.

When looking for something traditional in the area around my hotel close to Jinji Lake I found this underpass illuminated by red light. I knew the lanterns would be subject of the photograph, but I wanted to show the surrounding as well. After experimenting with the angle for the shot I ended with one that allowed me to show passersby in the background. When I saw the couple arriving I waited to have them in a position between two lanterns and took the final photograph.

Red lanterns

The image was taken at ISO 6400, and the Fujifilm X100F is an excellent camera for such lighting conditions. The raw file contains so much information that minimal processing was required. Taken with 1/40s at f/4 I lifted exposure by about half a stop and reduced the highlights slightly, and that was it. The Classic Chrome film simulation added to the look.

More images from this trip can be found in the related blog post from last year.

CSD Berlin #4

I am fascinated by street photography and I have tried for some time to engage in this genre. Still I struggle with approaching people and getting close to take their portraits. Recent changes to legislation contribute to my issue as they limit even more than in the past the ability to take photos in public spaces here in Germany.

However, events like the Christopher Street Day provide an excellent opportunity to overcome the fear of rejection. With people being so joyful and proud to present their personalities it is way easier to take pictures. So I grabbed my X100F and dived into the crowd where its 23mm lens forced me to get close.

CSD Berlin #4

I felt happy that day as I was able to make several images like this one. I ended up with a small series, most of them in square format. All of them were in color which I find appropriate for occasions like this as they add to the story. Classic Chrome was my film simulation of choice for this purpose.

Exposure was somehow a challenge that day as I photographed both in shadows and bright sunlight. I had my camera in manual exposure mode and needed to adjust numerous times. Luckily the Fuji files have some leverage and allowed for the exposure increase I needed in post for this image.

Berlin, Potsdamer Platz

This is another image from my attempts in street photography which started as an exercise. I was looking for a place that provided both shadows and patches of bright light. The underground section of Potsdamer Platz in Berlin was perfect as it also offers simple, non-distracting backgrounds.

Berlin, Potsdamer Platz

While I prefer B&W for street photography in general I felt that reprocessing this image in color was a good choice as the few colored break the monochromatic pattern of the scene. Unfortunately, the short glance of the left lady on the escalator back to the gentlemen didn’t hold up to the moment I pressed the shutter. It would certainly have made the photograph more powerful.

The image has been taken with the Fuji X100F, my camera when I am out in the streets. It is unobtrusive and using it for more than a year as my main camera has trained my eye for the classic 35mm perspective.

Wittenberge

My mother lives about 2 hours from our house and on one of the trips there I saw the scene captured in this photograph. It was still winter and the low afternoon sun created this wonderful warm light. I had to stop at a gas station and found this play of colors. Red, green, yellow and blue – all strong and contributing to the confidence that spring was not too far away.

It was clear that this picture needed to be taken in color, so I used my preferred Pro Neg. Hi setting in the X100F. I also tried a horizontal format but decided against it for the final composition.

Wittenberge

There was minimal processing to the out-of-camera JPEG in Lightroom. I have enhanced contrast and clarity and cropped to the final 4×5 format. To further balance the final image and guide its reader I added graduated filters to the top and bottom.

Misty lake

As much as I love documentary and street images I also enjoy landscape photography. I have high respect for those photographers who patiently wait and revisit a place again and again until it presents its beauty for the shot they have in mind. And as beauty lays in the eye of the viewer some of them manage to discover and show to us new perspectives in a location that has already been visited by many people.

Berlin is a city with a lot of woods and lakes around it. One of these lakes on the northern border of the city is among the favorite places for weekend walks with my family. I had been there numerous times in the morning trying to make a nice shot of the light during sunrise. On this May morning I was up very early again as I wanted to have set up everything in time.

It had been a cold night so there was a lot of mist over the lake, beautifully backlit by the rising sun against which I was shooting. I tried a number of compositions and knew that I wanted to integrate both the mist and the branches of the tree reaching into the water. I had seen the swan already earlier and could only hope that he would make his way into the scene. When he did I knew I had to press the shutter button.

Misty lake

The image was made with the XF55-200mm on the Fuji X-T1 fully zoomed in which maintained the misty atmosphere. Using a graduated ND filter in front of the lens I toned down the top of the frame. This way I ended up with a lot of negative space in the frame which recreates the calm feeling of the morning. It contains, however, enough detail shining through which make the image more interesting.

Initially it was the feedback of my family that made me consider this photograph as a candidate for the top ten. Today we have a print on the kitchen wall, so it’s worth listening to our audience đŸ˜‰

109th minute

We happened to be in England during the soccer world championship. While Germany did not even survive the group stage, England had actually advanced to the semi-finals. Looking forward to great atmosphere my family and I joined the local supporters in a pub to watch the game.

England started off very well with a goal in the 5th minute, but with an equalizer from Croatia the match went into prolongation. And then there came the 109th minute in which the Croatian team shot the deciding goal. The photograph shows one of the reactions in the room.

109th minute

I had switched on my camera all the time, so I could react quickly. Exposure was set to full manual on 1/160th of a second and f/2.8 at ISO 6400. With ACROS+R as my chosen film simulation, shadows set to +3 and sharpness to +1 I got the final image almost straight out of camera. The only final adjustments to the JPEG in Lightroom were a small crop and some toning down of the bright entrance to the right.

Again the Fuji X100F has proven its unobtrusive character in this situation. The field of view is perfect for documentary work. What a jewel of a camera!

Kata score announcement

For some years I have documented tournaments and other events in my karate club. It had started during my time in Montreal, and I definitely wanted to continue in Germany. 2018 provided an occasion with a European championship in which members of my club participated.

For the occasional viewer there are certainly more spectacular moments during a karate tournament. However, I intend to also document other aspects of this sport and am specifically drawn to the quieter moments. The photograph that made it to the top ten represents such a moment.

Kata is a predefined series of moves performed by the karateka. In the finals of a competition judges evaluate the performance and show their scores before the person leaves the court. For experienced karateka this is still a moment of zen where nothing else matters than that moment alone.

In the image I wanted the focus to be on the karateka yet also describe the context. Positioning the lady on the right side of the image and the judge with the score cards on the very left I aimed at maximizing the tension present in the moment. To highlight these two elements I slightly darkened all other parts of the image in post.

Kata score announcement

The photograph was made using the XF56mm lens on my X-T1. ISO was fixed at 3200 that day for a consistent look across all images. I also wanted a shallow depth of field for this image and decided for f/1.6. Black and white was an easy decision for me; all my karate images are made this way.

Arrows

We love the UK as a place for vacation and have visited some beautiful places in England and Wales over the past years. Whenever we go there we use the Eurotunnel, and typically we arrive there in the morning to take one of the first trains. The first thing there is to line up for the boarding of the train (similar to what you do for ferries.)

As we were booked for the very first train that morning there were not too many cars there. We had been guided to the very left waiting lane and still had some minutes left which we used to get out of the car to stretch our legs.

I had already spotted the pattern of lines and signage upon our arrival and took my camera with me. I knew I wanted to have the lampposts as dominant features of the scene in my photograph. Therefore, the decision for the portrait orientation was quickly made. With the 23mm lens of the X100F I needed a strong foreground, and lowering my POV gave me the perspective for the final image.

Arrows

The final image is (except for the vignette) the out-of-camera JPEG, shot with the ACROS+R film simulation. My in-camera settings for this occasion were -1 for the highlights and +2 for shadows.

Shadows of the past

It was a school project of my daughter that made us visit the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin. I have written a blog post about this day, and among the images included there was one that made it to the top ten.

It was mid-day, bright and sunny, and there were interesting shadows all over the concrete stelae. I liked the hard contrast and the structure of the surface. B&W was an obvious choice for these photographs.

Shadows of the past

The images straight out of camera (X100F) were almost good to go. To enhance the contrast further in Lightroom I increased the whites, deepened the shadows and put the clarity to +100.

End of summer

Always having a camera with me was also a key to the final image of the top ten. It was taken on an evening walk during a seminar outside Berlin. I had discovered the village on the lake during my morning run from which I came back with some sketch images in my head. Late in the afternoon I returned with my X100F and explored the place further.

Known as a tourist location I was surprised to find hardly any person in the street when I arrived. Maybe it was because I was there at the end of the season or because it was at the end of the day. So it was that calm and quiet feeling that I wanted to capture in my images. And while there were no people in the images I still wanted to include evidence of their presence in this place.

End of summer

Black and white seemed appropriate to me to express this feeling, so I chose ACROS+R in the camera as my standard setting that day. The only Lightroom adjustments to the out-of-camera JPEG were an increase in clarity, the crop to the 5×4 format and the addition of a vignette.

Up to this day I can easily recall the feelings of that late afternoon by looking at this photograph. You find more images of that day in the related blog post.

More Top Ten

Hopefully you enjoyed the images as much as I do and found the background information interesting. If you like to see more of my images have a look at my galleries and my previous top 10 lists for 2016 and 2017.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. FĂ©licitations Michael!

    So there is a second artist in the familly! Your work is beautifull.

    Marie

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