David No­ton On Lo­ca­tion

Grab your ther­mals and join David No­ton as he walks around the im­pos­ing, but his­tor­i­cally rich city of Ber­lin to pho­to­graph all of its cul­tural won­ders

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Grab your ther­mals and head out into the freez­ing city of Ber­lin with David

Limp flags are the bane of the travel pho­tog­ra­pher. A brightly coloured flag flut­ter­ing in the frame is al­ways a handy strat­a­gem, but this af­ter­noon both the gi­ant Ger­man tri­colour and the stars of the Euro­pean Union are hang­ing for­lornly on their poles in front of the Re­ich­stag. It’s raining, and de­spite it be­ing only 3pm the gloom of a win­ter’s day that never re­ally got go­ing is fad­ing. I’m at ISO3200 and will need to go higher soon. Af­ter three days pound­ing the pave­ments I’m foot sore in a way only a city can in­duce. Yet de­spite the droop­ing flags, dis­mal weather and weary bones I’m ec­static. This trip couldn’t have gone bet­ter.

It’s my last shoot, early to­mor­row I fly home af­ter three in­ten­sive days. Why Ber­lin? Well, I of­ten try and com­bine my two main in­ter­ests; his­tory and pho­tog­ra­phy, and Ber­lin does have rather a lot of the for­mer. What’s more I’d not been here for more than 27 years. At that point the Wall had only just come down and the coun­try re­uni­fied…

On my first morn­ing, as the early morn­ing sun­light bathed the Ber­liner Dom, I briefly wished I had some­thing wider than my 35mm prime, be­fore sternly ad­mon­ish­ing my­self. No; the whole point of com­ing with just a body and two lenses was to en­gen­der a sim­pler ap­proach. I com­posed, and waited. What for? Some­thing, some­one…

Two hours later I was traips­ing around the his­toric heart of Ber­lin in a tour group du­ti­fully fol­low­ing Kevin, our guide. I nor­mally avoid be­ing led by the hand like the plague, but a walk­ing tour of Ber­lin’s his­toric land­marks seemed a handy way of lo­ca­tion search­ing with a his­toric over­view thrown in, and so it tran­spired.

The group was a multi-na­tional one with Sin­ga­pore­ans, Aussies, Amer­i­cans, Greeks, Ir­ish and the in­evitable Brits – all freez­ing to death as we stood in front of the Altes Mu­seum lis­ten­ing to Kevin talk­ing about the ori­gins of Bran­den­burg in what was then part of the Holy Ro­man Em­pire. To pla­gia­rize Voltaire; the em­pire was nei­ther holy, Ro­man or an em­pire.

A lone man on his phone wan­dered through my frame and my shut­ter chat­tered. Roam­ing the city with­out a tri­pod and burly bag was lib­er­at­ing and fun! It’s tempt­ing to bring more glass; the TS-ES would have been use­ful, but I stuck to my guns.

By early-af­ter­noon our num­bers were dwin­dling and Kevin’s ex­pla­na­tions were get­ting briefer. We all dis­persed at Gen­dar­men­markt and I headed for the near­est café to rekin­dle my tem­per­a­ture. The tour had worked though; I even en­joyed it.

And so I end back at the Re­ich­stag for the fi­nal ses­sion. The flags never do flut­ter, but I man­age some cap­tures of the im­pos­ing build­ing the Nazis may or may not have burnt down that is now the seat of the Bun­destag.

If you’re not into his­tory, Ber­lin is just an­other Euro­pean city with some im­pos­ing build­ings and good bars. If you are, Ber­lin is end­lessly fas­ci­nat­ing. The city has cer­tainly changed since 1991. There’s now an Es­pi­onage Mu­seum, the Tra­bants have gone, and Check­point Char­lie is a naff tourist at­trac­tion where the Rus­sian hats on sale are fake. But the pub­lic trans­port sys­tem is so ef­fi­cient, and cheap, the loos are clean and the wel­come gen­er­ally warm. I’ve shot nu­mer­ous pass­ing pedes­tri­ans, tourists, cy­clists and I've par­taken in the at­mo­spheric Christ­mas mar­kets which so en­liven the squares. At­mos­phere and jovi­al­ity were not as­pects I re­mem­ber in the bleak East Ber­lin I last vis­ited al­most 27 years ago. But what makes it for me is the his­tory; I’ve been lit­er­ally step­ping over it all week.

Sprachen wie en­glisch? "No one speaks Ger­man here," the bar­man tells me. He steers me to­wards two fun­da­men­tally im­por­tant de­ci­sions; a tall pilsener, and a Bran­den­burg din­ner of goose and dumplings. Sound ad­vice in­deed. I’m so glad I came.

David is an award-win­ning Canon pho­tog­ra­pher with more than 30 years’ pro­fes­sional ex­pe­ri­ence. Dur­ing his ca­reer David has trav­elled to just about ev­ery cor­ner of the globe. In 2012, Canon in­vited David into its Am­bas­sador Pro­gram by des­ig­nat­ing him an Of­fi­cial Canon Ex­plorer. Info and pho­tos at www.david­no­ton.com

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