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How the magic is done - Compact living

Do you think you live close to your neighbours? Then you should see the rooftops of Bryggen, Norway. Frédéric Verhelst (Papafrezzo) took this wonderful architectural photo and this is how he did it.

Nikon D80, Nikon 70-300 VR 102mm, f/10, 1/100, -1/3 EV, ISO 100.


This image shows the labyrinth of roof tops at Bryggen, the hanseatic settlement in Bergen, Norway. This site features on the UNESCO world heritage listing and is best known from the row of facades along the waterfront. These roofs are taken at the back of the site.

From the late Middle Ages, the German traders of the hanseatic league lived in an enclave on the eastern border of Vågen, the inner harbor of Bergen. Imagine the two thousand male unmarried German traders living here amongst their stock of stockfish and fish oil in this enclosed settlement. No mingling with the Norwegian population was (officially) allowed, this included women. All available space was valuable, resulting in a labyrinth of houses. The current buildings date back from 1702, when a major fire destroyed and almost flattened the complete city of Bergen.

Most important is finding the right POV. This has been a work of trial and error, with me revisiting the site a number of times. In the end, I found a POV that works; somewhat higher at level with the 2nd and 3rd floor of some of these houses, and with a line of sight that goes in between less interesting objects closer by.

The focal distance of 102mm allows to pull the different objects together and the aperture is set so all is sharp.

This side is oriented towards the NE, with the Fløyen mountain behind preventing a direct illumination. Therefore, I have found that it was best to wait for the diffuse light of a light but overcasted day.


It has been a balancing act to get the processing right. My first attempt was rejected. It had the cropping right, but the colors were dull and the lines did not stand out.

My second attempt included the following in Photoshop CS5:

- exposure adjustment layer and set exposure with gamma correction to 1.10.

- selective color adjustment layer to make the individual colors stand out.

- color balance layer.

- brightness/contrast layer.

- Sharpener Pro plugin to sharpen the image moderately.


Some motifs just need to mature. You have to return a multiple times to get it perfect. For this image, POV and DOF are crucial. My processing skills needed maturing as well, where contributing in critiques has been an important learning experience.


Frédéric Verhelst (Papafrezzo) is 42 years old and is originally from Antwerp in Belgium, but does currently reside in Bergen, Norway. He is specialized toward landscape and architectural motifs.