Photoessay: Morning at Charlottenburg

_Z732697 copy

Charlottenburg Palace was built at the end of the 17th century as the seat of King Friedrich I – and subsequently made even larger and more ornate by his son. It was heavily damaged during the second world war, and most of what stands today has been reconstructed or heavily rebuilt. It is currently a museum housing the crown jewels and an extensive porcelain collection; some rooms have been restored to their former state and serve as a snapshot of life in the period. Perhaps intentionally, the building lacks the sense of scale and massiveness that these kinds of buildings typically have; the rooms and passageways felt very much sized to human scale and not something you’d expect either of royalty or that level of wealth. That said, the decoration was so heavily done – in true baroque rococo style, of course – that that I wouldn’t be surprised if the undersides of the tables were also gilded. Still, it proved to be an enjoyable diversion for the morning, as well as yielding some interesting details thanks to strongly directional light streaming through the tall windows. MT

This series was shot with a Nikon Z7, 24-70/4 S and 85/1.8 S lenses, using my custom SOOC JPEG picture controls.

_Z732549 copy

_Z732439 copy

_Z732388 copy

_Z732420 copy

_Z732504 copy

_Z732400 copy

_Z732397 copy

_Z732407 copy

_Z732432 copy

_Z732423 copy

_Z732411 copy

_Z732523 copy

_Z732444 copy

_Z732672 copy

_Z732657 copy

_Z732582 copy

_Z732374 copy


Prints from this series are available on request.


Visit the Teaching Store to up your photographic game – including workshop videos, and the individual Email School of Photography. You can also support the site by purchasing from B&H and Amazon – thanks!

We are also on Facebook and there is a curated reader Flickr pool.

Images and content copyright Ming Thein | 2012 onwards unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved


  1. Malcolm Pigford says:

    Your images bring back memories of our visit to the palace in 1980 when Nefertiti was on display. Now to dig out all those photos of Berlin and the Wall.

    • She moved to one of the other museums in Berlin, actually – I remember seeing her on the same trip. The Pergammon? Or Nues? I can’t recall…but what an amazing piece of sculpture given the age!

  2. I visited here when I was 16, in 1984, when the Wall was still up. I have a few photographs, but none from inside. I have to assume they prohibited flash photography inside, and the only way my crappy 110 camera was going to make an image inside was with flash. I remember precious little from inside but when I saw your sixth photo it unlocked a memory I thought I’d lost. Thank you!

    If you’ll indulge me these are the only photos I appear to have from my visit. Both are scans of prints. The second is two photos I took in sequence and, a few years ago, stitched together in Photoshop.

    Schloss Charlottenburg
    Schloss Charlottenburg

    • Amazingly, it doesn’t seem to have changed that much. Was the inside similar to now? There was plenty of light on the day I was there, but it was also pretty sunny…

      • My memory of the inside is poor – it’s been 35 years. As you can see I photographed it on a gray day. My photos render the building as more yellowish than yours. I would love to visit Berlin again one day and see how places there match my memories.

        • Could it have been the film or the prints themselves yellowing? Lots of places I’d love to revisit but given the current situation, none of that is going to happen anytime soon…

          • Good question. I have the negatives and the ability to scan them. I should find out.

            • Looking at my own, I suspect there is some possibility of degradation here, too – but not sure whether it’s the celluloid substrate itself, or something else (such as the plastic they’ve been stored in decaying, yellowing and transferring onto the negatives)…

              • The bottom line for me is that my photos match my memory – but after this many years, the photos may have become my memory.

                • Good point: in a lot of ways, photos are mnemonics for what left an impression on us at the time; even though they usually are grounded in reality, there’s always the whole curation in/out of the frame and that in itself reflecting one’s biases at the time…

  3. Wolfgang Bohnhardt says:

    Probably just a typo – the name of the king is Friedrich I.

  4. jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    I can’t decide which one I am enjoying more – your photography, or a free tour of a destination I will almost certainly never be able to enjoy otherwise! 🙂
    I didn’t notice any particularly small rooms or low ceilings, though. One doorway has figures beyond it, from which you can guess that the door itself is more than 4 yards/metres tall – and the ceiling ! – pity the poor mugs whose job it is to clamber up there and repaint it, although I guess that’s all done on a mobile gantry these days.
    One or two shots show a touch of soft focus. But overall, I can see why you chose that gear – light and easy to carry, excellent optics and image quality, and two fairly convenient lenses covering all that you needed. Remember the days when we were all nervous about zoom lenses – LOL

    • Either/both are good!

      Having somewhat higher than normal ceilings myself…I pity the maintenance crew, but then again if you’re King XYZ I don’t think that’s as much of a problem. Meanwhile, I have a very long ladder…

      Soft focus: I know which images you’re talking about; one of them was shot in the reflection of an old (read: bad) mirror, and the other two through thin gauzy curtains. Not soft focus at all, but an accurate representation fo subject and mood… 😉

%d bloggers like this: