This week, @that_fujifilmgirl, @ashsmithone & @pj.pix headed into Central London on a Curious Camera Club mission to chase light, characters and caffeine.
This is the first and last time that I’ll refer to myself in third person. Apologies for London Diaries 4 being published a day later than planned – I’ve spent this week attending a business course, editing photographs, revamping the website, and giving myself muscular injuries. I’m going to pretend that that last one was due to some fabulously glamorous pilates-on-a-tropical-beach mishap, rather than just overestimating how many overladen supermarket carrier bags I could carry in one trip.
Sunday was one of those gloriously sunny, not-a-single-cloud-in-the-sky kinda days. In other words, the complete opposite to the weather I dealt with the previous Wednesday in London Diaries 3. Shooting in any extreme condition has its challenges, though. Before we’d even begun, I knew I’d come home that day with less candid street portraits and more artsy shadow shots.
The three of us met up in Trafalgar Square about 9:30am, and were forced to go to Caffe Nero because the local Costa Coffee doesn’t open until midday on Sundays. How do they expect people to function without them on a Sunday morning? Our plan was to spend the morning around Leicester Square and Chinatown, and then head to the South Bank and Tate Modern in the afternoon. And for once, the plan was adhered to. Once sufficiently caffeinated, we headed back onto the streets to get some shots around Trafalgar Square to check our camera settings and get “into the zone”. Recently, I’ve been favouring shooting with continuous zone autofocus, three interchangeable ISO ranges programmed, aperture set to AUTO, and my shutter speed set to the rear command dial. In case anybody cares.
I’ll be honest: I don’t generally enjoy doing photography in Trafalgar Square. It’s too open, too busy, and often full of unremarkable tourists. It’s extremely difficult to create interesting compositions in these conditions. I took several generic snapshots, before renouncing the little dignity I have by laying down on the floor, in a desperate attempt to come away with at least one photograph that I’d be pleased with. Sometimes we all do strange things in the pursuit of art. But to be fair, I think this was the first photograph that I’ve taken in Trafalgar Square, aside from during special events like Japan Matsuri, that I deemed “good enough” to post on my Instagram feed. It was well received, and joined my 1k Club. Worth it.
Leicester Square & Chinatown
The morning yielded twenty photographs that I was happy to spend time post-processing. I get asked a lot on Instagram about my editing process. In fact, it’s almost my most frequently asked question, second only to “are your eyes real?” (to which I always want to answer, “Well, they’re more real than my boobs…”, but I normally behave myself). Once I’ve got into the groove of running this website and I’m managing my workload better, it’s my plan to make a video all about my post-production. Bear with me in the meantime. Good things come to those who wait.
Since the New Year, I’ve been consciously trying to approach my photographic style differently. I began experimenting with street photography in January 2018, and towards the latter part of the year, I felt like I became stuck in a bit of a comfort-zone rut. Whilst I have an instinctive tendency to shoot candid street portraits, I think it’s important not to limit my attention solely to those kind of shots. I gave Alice the Living Doll a quid to take a posed portrait, captured people from wider angles than I normally would to get more of a sense of context with their locations, and tried to get images using shadows or reflections. There’s even two shots in my final collection with no people in them at all (but one of them DOES have some pretty awesome looking cakes). The best discovery of the morning was that the Odeon in Leicester Square is staffed by possibly the nicest people I’ve ever met, who not only tolerated us entering the cinema with the sole intention of shooting photographs from their upstairs gallery window, but actively encouraged it. They even allowed us to use their surprisingly clean toilets without expecting us to make a single purchase. Odeon employees: you are the greatest. Your gallery window, not so much, as it was covered with some kind of frosted effect film to promote a movie that was ironically titled “Glass”, and was impossible to shoot through on this occasion.
By some bizarre coincidence, I also ended up post-processing twenty photographs from my afternoon on the South Bank. Although I opted to give several of them black and white edits to really emphasise those impressive shadows, I had a lot of fun trying to make my more cliched South Bank shots look more original. I sometimes use the coloured flash filters on my Instax SQ6, and I tried to emulate a similar effect with the second photograph in the gallery above. I learned from my mistake about not getting close enough to the man in the fourth photograph to get my intended focus of his phone screen, and managed to get a vastly improved similar shot at the Tate Modern. But that’s not for now.
Much as I try to avoid cropping my photographs as much as possible, that last image needed a fair bit of cropping to get the look I was striving for. But what can you do when you’re shooting from an opposite roof terrace, and your fixed lens doesn’t allow for zoom? Because of the crop though, the image quality isn’t as crisp as I would like.
Our last destination of the day was the Tate Modern. We headed straight for “Kate’s Stairs” (as previously pilfered from the ever-tolerant Ash). Obviously I took the opportunity to shoot Ash walking up his beloved concrete staircase, and became disproportionately excited when a child on his bicycle started constantly riding back and forth through my frame. The less cliched shots, the better, eh? For the second time in a week, I sucked up my major fear of heights and ventured up to the tenth floor in the name of photography. Well that, and the fact that the always-awesome @martynlphotography was camped up on the viewing balcony with his camera gear, and I wanted to say hi.
I think overcoming the paralysing fear was worth it for both the skyline shots and managing to rectify my whole stealth “photographing somebody else’s photograph through their phone screen” attempt. If you follow me Instagram, you’ll have already seen that shot on my feed. I was feeling pretty smug that I’d managed it in the end.
And that was that. We all said our goodbyes and went to our respective homes to continue our lives for the next week. Cue subsequent pilates injury.
On Sunday 27th January, PJ and I are heading back into Central London to hit the streets again. But this time, it’ll be a little different, because I plan to only shoot that day using the camera on the Huawei P20 Pro, for several reasons:
- I just got a Huawei P20 Pro
- It boasts 40mp Leica lenses, so that’s gotta be worth a try
- It’s taken me an entire week to get this blog post up, because my life is manic. A large part of that is because I shot all the photographs this week in RAW format, so they needed post-production. Even though the Huawei P20 Pro has the capability to shoot in RAW, I’ll be using images straight out of camera/phone, and eliminating a whole lot of extra work
- I’m actually really embracing this whole “It’s 2019, get out of your comfort zone” philosophy that seems to be my thing now
So, as always, thanks for reading, and let me know your thoughts in the comments. Also, thank you to everybody who indulged me in my request to leave random words in my comments section on Instagram last week. I now have some very awesome titles for several upcoming photo series. And it confirmed an algorithm theory. I’ll write a Coffee Thoughts blog all about that soon.