We didn’t anticipate just how much it was going to rain that day.
In all honesty, I’ve had a lot of difficulty writing up this particular Sunday, because it wasn’t a typical London shoot. My original plan was to spend the day experimenting with the photographic capabilities of my newly-acquired Huawei P20 Pro smartphone. The unanimous advice I received from friends was also to take the Fujifilm X100F “just in case”, so that’s what I did.
To cut a long story short, it was apparent pretty much instantly that to take anywhere near a decent photograph with a smartphone, I’d have to stand pretty still – the polar opposite of my usual street photography technique, which can only be described as “hyperactive”. Well, it COULD be described in other ways, but none of them as kind.
So the X100F made its appearance relatively early on in the day. But so did the rain. PJ (@pj.pix) and I spent a little time strolling around Soho, met up with fellow Instagrammer Gav Hardy (@gavhardythings) for a coffee at Soho Grind (home of the “French Lessons Given Downstairs” neon sign that’s a seemingly permanent inclusion on the London Street Photography Bingo Card), and then wandered around in the rain a little more.
Today’s edition of London Diaries has ended up as more of a mood board than a diary, for several reasons. Firstly, I’m not sure what’s going on with me at the moment, but I’m having some kind of creativity overload, which sounds pretentious AF and probably is. I can’t seem to give any one project my complete attention, and instead I’m dipping in and out of things constantly, completely buzzing with ideas. It would be much better to just do one thing well, but it is what it is.
With that in mind, the second reason for this smorgasbord of “stuff” is that once we left Soho Grind, I spent the afternoon playing with the video capabilities on the X100F, something that I’ve not tried before despite owning the camera since October 2017. Interestingly, I discovered the same problem as shooting with the Huawei – any movement made the footage unusable because there’s no in-built image stabilisation. Ive bought a Sony FDRX3000R video action cam for future videography, so that I can actually film and walk simultaneously. I’m pretty sure that a logical step would be to do vlogging, but it’s completely out of my comfort zone, so I can’t imagine that I’ll be doing that any time soon. I’m going to have to find a more creative way to make my videos more personal without having to actually get in front of the camera, feeling and acting ridiculously awkward and self-conscious. Aspergers is a blessing and a curse.
I found an abandoned umbrella on a side alley off of Carnaby Street, which cheered me up immensely, and allowed me to shoot more than I would’ve otherwise been able to with my non-weather sealed gear. Below are the results of my day flitting between camera and phone, and photography and videography:
Provia JPEGs with Fujifilm X100F
I set the X100F to shoot Provia simulation JPEGs only. Normally, I tend to shoot ACROS simulation JPEGS + RAW – I like the black and white JPEGs straight out of camera, and use Lightroom Classic CC to edit and convert my colour RAW files. Plus, I prefer using the LCD with a monochrome display rather than colour when shooting, because I can gauge the light and shadows better in my images.
But this time, I opted for Provia JPEGs only, because I knew that the following week was going to be super busy, and I wasn’t going to have the time to spend in Lightroom messing around with RAW files. I get asked a lot about my editing process. Generally, I use a combination of Lightroom Classic CC, Snapseed and VSCO X to edit my photographs. Why? Because I don’t know how to achieve my desired results using just one program. It really is down to ignorance, and nothing else. Having only shot JPEGS meant that I could skip the Lightroom step and just make edits on the iPad with Snapseed and VSCO X. I’ve put before and after edits on here today. I’d have liked to do sliders, but I don’t know how to do that either.
The two photographs above just worked better with a black and white edit. Each photograph has its own individual mood that needs bringing out. I have about twenty base preset options that I’ve created in Lightroom as options, although a lot of the time I don’t use them. In VSCO X, I gravitate towards various strengths of the AGA, B, E, SS or SUM ranges of presets as starting points for most of my second-level edits. And that’s enough spoilers for one day. This is only the fifth instalment of London Diaries after all.
Huawei Pro P20
There’s quite a lot of features to the camera on the Huawei P20 Pro, but as you know, this isn’t a technical kinda blog. If you’re after all the details, Google is your friend. There IS the option to shoot RAW files, but I wasn’t about that today. First impressions: the black tones are REALLY black, aperture priority mode is pretty stunning, and the black and white shots don’t look like they’ve been taken with a smartphone (even a 40MP smartphone). Stick it in standard “photo” mode, and it’ll automatically select the optimum settings for the scene. There’s zero image stabilisation going on, so it’s important to take your time and shoot carefully. It’s never going to be my first choice for street photography. But if I’m out without the X100F and I’m relying on the old “the best camera is the one you have on you” thing, I can think of worse options to be stuck with.
Videography with Fujifilm X100F
I had to just bin all my video taken whilst I was walking around Soho, once I realised that videoing whilst in motion resulted in nauseatingly shaky footage on playback. This little video that I’ve cobbled together with what was left certainly isn’t the best video I’ll ever make (by a long shot. I hope), but it was fun to make, and that’s what matters. I try to remind myself all the time that everybody has to start somewhere – that this time last year, I’d never really shot any street photography at all, and yet now I feel comfortable that it’s my “thing”. I look at my first street photographs and remember how I would nervously “spray and pray”, and then spend time editing the hundreds of pointless resulting photographs with frankly horrendous presets. Maybe in 12 months time, I’ll be making videos that are a million times better than this one. Maybe not, but I can only hope.