Bird’s Eye View of Bern

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Bicyclist on the Cobblestones of Bern, Switzerland

Bicyclist on the Cobblestones of Bern, Switzerland

“Let’s spend the morning on Nydeggbrüke.”

We were only in Bern, Switzerland for a couple days. The Nydeggbrüke is a bridge over the River Aare.

It was a partly cloudy day. My goal was to have high contrast shadows on the cobblestones of the street below (Mattenenge).  So it had to be a time when the clouds had passed. They were moving swiftly, so the openings were brief. But I also wanted a bicyclist riding in the sun with no cars driving on the street. Three uncontrollable elements.

At this time of day the shadow outlined a broad arrow shaped patch of sunlight pointing away from us. What I was hoping for was for a bicyclist to ride on the right side of the street and toward the apex of the sunlight arrow. I was also trying to include a wide angle view of the old town, the River Aare, and the hills nearby. This would provide a more complete setting for the bicyclist. I composed the photograph and waited for these things to come together.

Sometimes a bicyclist would ride under the bridge, but a passing cloud blocked sunlight and there was no shadow, or there was a car driving on the street obscuring the shadow. Or when the street was deserted and the sun was forming a sharp shadow, no bicyclist would ride through the scene. Although there are lots of bicyclists in Bern.

There is an obsessive aspect to street photography. The world narrows to the scene you are imagining, as seen through the view finder. But with the other eye you scan for other things moving toward the frame. You hope and wait, but sometimes miss opportunities. Other ideas emerge as you think about the scene. This is a time when creativity is active. But you have control over only a small part of what you have imagined. And so you wait.

In this case I was lucky that my wife was patient. We organize our travel around photographic themes. But sometimes she is with me when I am working, and other times I go alone and she finds other activities. It is easy to completely escape into the obsessive side of photography when working alone.

Finally the elements of this photograph came together. The street was deserted. The clouds parted. A bicyclist rode down the cobblestones directly at the point of the arrow of sunlight. And I was ready.

Some may ask, “What’s the big deal about that?” (Especially on this small version of the photo.) Well it’s just that, this is what I had imagined and waited for. It’s the obsession part.

At last, time for lunch!

The bird’s eye effect is from the uncorrected wide angle view. This was a 16-35mm lens at 20mm. Photo:  1/200 s at f/13




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