Molecule Man – sort of behind the scenes

Molecule Man is a series of of aluminium sculptures, designed by American artist Jonathan Borofsky says the Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Wikipedia .

One of them can be found between Oberbaum- and Elsen-bridges in Berlin (Germany). And at this time of year the sun is setting roughly right behind them resulting in stunning photos – if you do it right. And the weather plays along.

Molecule Man Sculpture at sunset

Plan ahead

Every time you are intending to take photo at a special location, you should prepare yourself thoughtfully. That’s what is being taught on youtube, in Blogs, Vlogs, and workshops all over the place.

So I had the intent to take a sunset photo in Berlin that day. Location – to be decided. So I opened and scrolled to Berlin. Something with water it should be. And I quickly found the Elsen-Bridge with the Molecule Man sculpture. It indicated, sunset would be almost right behind sculpture. Checking weather: blue skies and (only) little chance of clouds. Almost perfect, since I love a dramatic skies with many clouds. But I only had that evening in Berlin this time.

Getting there in time

You should be at your desired destination in time to be able to scout the location. That requires a relatively good knowledge on how to get there and how long it will take you to reach your location.

On my way to Berlin I checked the local train schedule. With my hotel close to the main station I could easily take the S9 train and be there well before sunset to make myself familiar with the location.

What I missed: S-Bahns (commuter trains) in Berlin are currently obviously not operating on a reliable schedule. Actually, Berlin newspapers are making fun of it for quite some time now… And it’s not the only thing which is not on schedule in Berlin. But that is another topic.

However, without recognizing my luck at first I only waited for five minutes for the next train. Other passengers spend a little longer on that platform…

Scout the location

Scouting the location beforehand (ideally hours or even a day before you shoot), allows you to choose the best position(s) and aim for them directly when you arrive for the shoot. Especially, at touristy locations, other photographers but also normal tourists will be there, too. Knowing were to go and a strategy on how to occupy your favourite spots in advance can be crucial for great photos.

Arriving in time allowed me to scout the location thoroughly. I carefully decided to shoot from the Elsen-bridge. Actually, there was not much of an alternative available.

Getting there early

So I put up my tripod after checking what the other photographers on the bridge were intending to shoot. I was prepared to take a shot with the sun behind Molecule Man and then move with the sun to get a sunset behind the sculpture and ideally another with the sun setting next to it.

I decided in favour of my 70-200mm to be quite flexible and have the Molecule Man sculpture as a foreground, the Oberbaum-bridge behind it and in the distance the sun with a few clouds.

Tripod and ND-Filters

Since I was travelling light, I had my medium sized tripod with me. However, it turned out to be a non-optimal choice, to say the least.

My medium tripod is designed to hold up to 7kg of weight. But with all leg parts extended I still had to extend the centre column to some extend. That was necessary to come up higher than the bridge’s railing. That made the whole setup a little unstable – with the 70-200, the camera body, and filter holder plus 10-stop ND, Polariser, and 3-stop medium grad.

Setting things up

Stabilizer turned on? – Yes! And here is why.

When taking photos, I noticed – mainly due to wind – a camera shake in the photos. Of course, I had turned off my stabilizer – since the camera system was resting on a tripod, right?

However, turning on the stabilizer served the purpose of stabilizing the situation surprisingly well. 30 seconds exposures at focal lengths of more than 100mm were no problem any more… I guess a lucky coincidence.

Lesson learned: Never without my sturdy tripod for those kinds of adventures (and a possible future acquisition of a more robust medium sized one).

Sun behind Molecule Man

Wind, wind, and wind at Molecule Man

I have mentioned the wind before. It had an effect on my tripod setup. It also had an effect on the water. A 30 second exposure made the river Spree look like having an ice surface in the winter. It also revealed the paths little boats had taken travelling through my image while exposing. However, there was hardly anything I could do about it.

Sun behind bridge

In the end I am happy with the photos I have taken. Nevertheless, there is room for improvement.

I will definitely comeback in late summer on a weekday if time permits to create an exposure blending from sunset to late blue hour – showing also the houses and streets with lights turned on. Since it was Sunday, hardly any lights showed in the blue hour so that I decided to move to another location. But that is a story for another day.


Interested in my Iceland Tour? Look here!