Archive for August, 2016



When you see a photograph that’s already done, it seems obvious, like “Of course that’s the picture”. Like it’s always been there. A successful image hides everything that went into making it so the viewer can simply experience it. If a photographer has done his work well, it’s invisible. And so, from that point on, we take for granted that it was THAT moment that was captured, that THAT was the shot, that it’s in focus and well-exposed, that all of the elements appear in complex yet exquisite balance, that the hues of the colors and the values of light lead your eye through the story that plays out inside the frame, and that it gathers our attention and it asks us to look.

But before it was done, it was NOTHING.

It seems obvious, but regard it with the respect it’s due – just like a blank canvas, there is no picture until we make the picture.

Interesting things occur all the time, but pictures get made of them because there is a photographer present who is not only able to recognize a photograph before it becomes a photograph, but also has a camera along and knows how to use it. I’m talking about real photographs here, not snaps of my lunch or a friend’s new shoe.

Like this photograph of a teller at the drive-thru at my bank yesterday. I didn’t leave the house to make pictures, it wasn’t a ‘photography day’, I was simply running errands. But as usual I did bring my camera, and I did preset ISO, shutter speed and aperture to something in the ballpark for a proper exposure on the front porch before I got in the car. In the course of my travels the opportunity for this image showed up, but the only reason I get to share it here is because I picked up my camera from the car seat and made this picture – on a real camera with real resolution and real processing for a real print – yup, the real photographer experience.

Happy : )

[ M9 | 35mm Summicron ASPH ]

©2016 Mark Berndt | All Rights Reserved



There’s just a week of mornings left for opportunities like this, in my 90-year-old farmhouse on this street in my hometown. I grew up around the corner, bought this house almost 10 years ago, and moved here with Pilar for an adventure in 2011. We gave it 5 irretrievable years before admitting that this is just not the right town for us, and never will be.

I love my old house. I think I must have dreamed of it my whole life – a classic craftsman, from an era of midwest tradition, with windows, old glass, woodwork and character that feels like a home and conjures up a history of nights of music and years of life. I hate to abandon the familiarity of tradition and comfort from a time that preceded my own childhood yet inhabits my dreams, and would carry it with me if I could. The world inside these walls, the plays of light on the surfaces, rippled through panes of century-old glass, orangey sun on wood floors and sharp cuts of sparkling light on crystal doorknobs, don’t look the same in new home construction. There’s a quality to the air in an old house like this, of echoes and substance and past conversations, that hasn’t had time to accumulate in new-built homes. I’ve tried in my way to capture that sense with my cameras, photographing the patterns and shadows, the telltale expressions of decades of home that hide in the nooks and crannies of rooms, in the layers of paint, in the cut edge of sunlight, especially at the beginning and the end of most days.

And so in a week our era here will be done, we will pass on this container, with the volume of its history 5 years bigger inside. The next house will reveal it’s keepsakes of light for a new collection of photographs. I will miss this old house, and I look forward to the evolution of a fresh space, a new home, with renewed opportunities to observe and celebrate!

[ M9 | 35mm Summicron ASPH ]


©2016 Mark Berndt | All Rights Reserved



I visited the Liberty Memorial here in Kansas City the other evening at about the end of dusk. I’m not a monument visitor as a rule, but I wanted – let’s say I needed – to make a photograph before the end of my day. It’s an impressive experience – the approach, the broad terraces and the 200 foot tower, inscriptions and plaques, on a hill overlooking the core of downtown. The traditional shots have all been done so beautifully, in all kinds of weather and memorable light. As usual, I wanted an unexpected view, that you won’t find in a book, that will never spin with the happy postcards on the rack at the gift shop.

People came and went, gathered in clusters with phones at arm’s length, looking out, looking up, and of course looking at themselves. There was an engagement photo session with a light on a stand, and groups and couples watching the last of the sunset sidelight the skyline. Ninety years this has stood, but I think it looks the same today as on the day of its dedication. I’m impressed by the designers whose creativity and vision built a stone and steel icon that is ageless today. I could feel the power of the structure’s intent, and the presence of people who have paid their respects.

I decided to shoot from the side, not head on, with just the base in the frame but the tower unseen. (This will never make the guide books. If you haven’t been there you’d never know where it is. But that kind of picture was not my intent). I waited for people to pass through my frame so the space could be empty, and timeless, with no reference to now that a proper Nat Geo photographer would include. And I blocked the right side of the tower’s fluted shaft to connect the two parts of the picture with no break from a second sliver of sky, and to lead the eye around that obstacle to get to the message, set back at the edge in both space and in time.

This image, read left-to-right, is a 1/4-frame tribute to lives lost in World War One, and 3/4-frame blackness of cut limestone blocks on the right that is Time, as Time soldiers on. It’s our failure to learn. It’s our choice to repeat. It’s the heaviest part of the picture; the weight of wars waged and the count of lives lost, in The War to End All Wars – and all of the wars that then followed that war – right up to today.

[ M9 | 28mm Summicron ASPH ]


©2016 Mark Berndt | All Rights Reserved


©2016 Mark Berndt | All Rights Reserved


What group of creatives and engineers got into the R&D departments of multiple companies worldwide and invented equipment, and then convinced a conference room full of suits to tool up entire factories overseas to mass-produce, that has all its plugs in the back, that you’re supposed to place on the floor under your desk, and that REQUIRES that you unplug – have a cup of coffee – and then REplug the power and connecting cables EVERY TIME YOU WANT TO USE IT! This is the solution? This is tech support? It seems to be the universal GOLD STANDARD for product design these days.

Let’s see – what would that look like in my business…?

“Hello. Yes, I know that your print is a blank piece of paper again this morning. That’s how we designed it.

All you have to do is remove it from the frame, then in a totally dark room place it in a tray of Dektol for 2 minutes at 68 degrees with gentle agitation (much like what you’re feeling right now), drain it and move to an acetic acid stop bath for 30 seconds and then into the fixer for 5 minutes (or 10 unless you use rapid-fixer). Don’t get any on your fingers (click here to agree to indemnify us).

Now, that fixer can’t remain on the print or it will destroy it, so you’ll need to follow with 10 minutes in a hypo-clearing bath followed by an hour of washing at 68 degrees in constantly changing water. Just squeegee dry (try not to kink or fold the paper or you’ll ruin it), then air dry for a day, flatten it in a dry mount press (you have one of those, right) and reframe. Enjoy your print and thank you for choosing Mark Berndt Photography!

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You will find only questions about this issue online, no answers.

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Yeah, that’ll work.


©2016 Mark Berndt | All Rights Reserved