The Bauhaus Archive in Berlin
Berlin’s Bauhaus-Archiv is a Museum presenting the impact of the Bauhaus, a college of architecture, design, and art situated initially in Dessau, south of Berlin. Its collection is the biggest in the world on the subject. Even though the Bauhaus only existed up to 1933, its ideas continue to be influential in a wide variety of ways up today.
Furthermore, the museum designed by the first Director of the Bauhaus, Walter Gropius, is also a famous landside and a protected monument since 1997.
A treat for Designers and Photographers
Everybody with an interest in design and architecture who happens to be in Berlin should visit the Bauhaus-Archive. The unusual architecture of the museum with its clear lines and strictly functional forms, a principle of the Bauhaus, is also a treat for photographers. Assuming that anybody who is into photography also has an interest in design makes this is an even more excellent place to visit for photographers.
Recently, I visited the Bauhaus-Archive with the goal to take pictures of the building itself. Unfortunately, it was a very dull day, with grey skies and lots of fog. Initially, I wanted to shoot high contrast pictures of blues skies and white walls which were not possible. I will come back to do that.
While everything was already pretty grey that day, I decided to turn most images into black-and-white or at least desaturated them quite a bit. The primary focus of my shooting was lines and layers of lines. In my post-processing, I tried to enhance this by straightening converging lines. I aimed to make verticals look vertical, and horizontals look horizontal as much as possible while avoiding any artificial look. Which was tricky as most photos were taken upwards which creates converging lines, a lot of them.
My Lightroom processing followed a simple routine which was very similar for all pictures. I did barely use the exposure and the contrast controller if at all. I opened the lights and the shadows and added some detail for the micro-contrast. I added mid-range to high sharpness while keeping detail and radius low and using a mask around 50 percent. This maintains the overall sharpness of corners and lines up but avoids too much sharpness on surfaces.
The contrast was added mostly through the gradation curve and by adjusting the colors in black and white. My emphasis was to create a high key image with lots of lighter grey tone but without highlight clipping.
After I did the more significant part of the editing, I had to come back to the lights and shadows to make some minor adjustments. I made sure that the white walls would never be completely white. There should always be some texture visible. The approach towards the sky was a bit different. I made it look washed out as I felt that this would serve the abstract character of the image. To make the pictures look a little bit cleaner, I used the dehaze filter very slightly.
Highlighting Blue and Green
Parts of the roof are covered with some greenish metal. This green and the blue caused by light reflexions in the windows are the only noticeable colors on this very dull day. To enhance their visibility, I desaturated all colours except green or blue in Lightroom. This created a nice contrast with the various shades of grey that dominate the images.
Order and the ordinary
Maybe I was looking too much for structures and lines on this day, but somehow the sewer located under the concrete pathway to the entrance at the back of the building intrigued me. I would like to believe that the architect planned it exactly like this to create this arrangement of the two pillars and the sewer cover.
Creating the Atmosphere
The Bauhaus Archive is situated next to the Landwehrkanal where the dullness of this day became visible and created a very dark and haunting atmosphere. I have tried to capture this in the image below. The original RAW-file looked less haunting which is normal as RAW-files are always less atmospheric than the original scene. When I shoot RAW, my aim is not to create the perfect photo straight out of the camera but to gather as much, e.g., details, dynamic range, color range, to have as much information available to recreate the scenery in post-production as experienced. For this purpose, RAW-files are much better suited than JPG’s.
First some contrast and detail
The first step to create the dark atmosphere as I have experienced it on that day was to turn the photo into a black and white image in Lightroom. Which is just one simple click. Then I opened up the lights and shadows a little bit, less than I would typically do. I enhanced contrast and detail a bit. I also added some sharpening and some more contrast by using the gradation curve. These steps did add more contrast and detail to the image than needed to re-create this foggy day. Nevertheless, it still added some punch and detail that helps to draw the viewer’s eye into the picture.
Then less contrast and more haze
Then I toned down some of the contrast. Not globally but only in specific areas. Firstly, I used the gradation filter tool to darken the bottom at the front and the sides. Then, I used the brush filter tool to add some more haze at the top, especially in the middle. I used the new dehaze tool. By pulling the controller to the left (minus), it creates more haze. This also means less contrast. At the same time, I darkened this area a bit as the dehaze tool adds some light when pulled to the left. Finally, I did some dodging and burning with the brush filter to add some light or darkness wherever I felt it was needed.
All images are done with Fuji X-T10 with either the 27mm F2.8 or the 35mm F2. This makes a very small but capable kit for which I don’t even need a camera bag. The camera with the 27mm fits comfortably into pocket of my jacket while another pocket holds the 35mm. I could have also taken the 18-55mm instead of the 35mm for greater flexibility. This might have been a better choice as I did not need the 35mm’s superior bokeh and shallower depth of field for these images. Especially the longer end of the 18-55 could have been handy to focus on details and compress the scenery. While we tend to shoot architecture mostly with wide angle lenses I feel that very often a moderate to mid-range telephoto lens would be a great choice as well. Longer lenses are very useful to create density which is nice for architecture.
Anyways, I will give it a try for next time. At least, I have plenty of reasons to pay another visit to the Bauhaus Archive.