Out of about a hundred photographs that I shot today, 27 of them were taken at the South Bank’s famous Undercroft skate park. Despite being famous since the 1970s as “the spiritual home of British skating”, as well as a very popular tourist attraction, the skate park was under threat of being eradicated completely as recently as last year, but thanks crowd-funding and petitions led by the campaign group Long Live Southbank, the skaters have won their fight to stop the area being redeveloped.
As somebody who has very little balance and co-ordination merely walking down the street, I’ve always been fascinated by the skills that so many of these people have – watching a little awe-struck as they do their tricks. I’ve been visiting the Undercroft as a spectator since I was in my early teens, and I’m really happy that I own a camera nowadays that has shutter speeds capable of capturing these skaters’ skills in a way that does them more justice (click any image in the gallery to enlarge).
All of these photographs were shot with my Fujifilm X100F in shutter priority, with an ISO range of 200-1600. I am shooting JPEGS, with ACROS + PRO Neg. Hi film simulation bracketing, and editing my images using a Kodak Ektachrome E100G base simulation in VSCO X to give the photographs my preferred analogue feel.
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.
This time last year, I regularly took nature photographs. PJ and I had never been into central London together, despite being friends since about 2005.
Twice a week, we wandered around Black Park or Burnham Beeches, photographing… well, I’m not exactly WHAT we managed to photograph so much of. Macro shots of insects, interesting leaves, the light through the trees… we were like 1970s hippie women: “at one” with nature.
Fast forward to now.
I wasn’t all that enthusiastic about going to Black Park today. For one thing, it’s suddenly cold outside, and I’m still getting over the flu. But mainly, I think I photographed enough trees back in 2016/17 to do me for a lifetime. Ultimately though, the desire to photograph something over nothing won.
It’s beautiful at Black Park. Because of its proximity to Pinewood Studios, it’s often used as a location in many movies and TV shows (notably in several of the Harry Potter, James Bond, and Carry On films). I’ve just learned of a movie called Eden Lake (2008), which was filmed entirely at Black Park and Burnham Beeches, so I might give that a go later. It’s a slasher movie, so it might make my next visit a little more adrenaline-fuelled if I’ve seen the area from a scarier perspective.
As you can see from my photographs, it was one of those typical January days, with flat light and a white-out sky. I wish I could say that the walk rekindled my love of nature photography, but I spent most of the time complaining that I was too cold.
There were far more people out and about than I was anticipating. Mainly dog walkers. We saw a lot of incredibly happy, frolicking dogs during our walk, which pleased PJ. I’m a cat person, so I wasn’t that fussed (hence the absence of any dog photographs here).
By 12:30pm, I was back home again, thankful for my central heating. It really was a very brief visit. I’m really excited about our first street shoot of 2019 coming up on Sunday, so this little outing was always going to be a little bit “meh” in comparison. Still, I’ve got some pretty tree photographs out of it, I suppose. My flu-addled brain meant that I was shooting RAW only, despite originally intending to shoot JPEG only, so all these shots have been post-processed with Lightroom Classic CC and VSCO X. I’ll almost certainly be shooting RAW only on Sunday, but I’ll write about that in the next London Diaries blog.
Hope you’re all having a good 2019 so far… and staying warmer than I was today.
I’m not gonna lie. 2018 was not my favourite year.
No year is ever going to beat 2015 for sheer suckiness – it was the year that I lost my dad, who was both my best friend and my muse. But 2018 had a damn good stab at the competition. That said, at the risk of sounding incredibly cheesy, something happened. I “discovered” street photography (on a personal level, obviously. I’ve not yet reached a level of arrogance that would have me claiming to have literally invented the genre. Although according to the precedent set by a handful of other Instagrammers, I’m potentially only a year or so off of that. I’m joking. Probably).
I inherited my love of photography and enormous hair from my father
In reality, it’s impossible for me to ever develop any kind of arrogance, and that is because I am the mother of teenagers, who keep my feet firmly on the ground. Case in point: on Christmas Eve, I walked to Sainsbury’s with my fifteen year old. Mid-journey, and completely unprovoked, she glanced at me and announced, “It’s funny: I’m still at an age where I prioritise style over practicality”.
I’ll admit, I was sans make up (because we were going to Sainsbury’s, and I’m not out to impress anybody there. Jamie Oliver’s not my type), but that aside, I genuinely thought I was also still at an age where I prioritised style over practicality. She smiled when I told her so. “It’s like your jacket,” she said. “I’d never wear that. Those jackets don’t look good on anybody”.
The moral of this tangent is that obviously I have no idea what’s good. But I’m deluded enough to think I do, so I’ve written a blog post about precisely that.
My “official” Instagram Top 9 of 2018 keeps changing. It’s like the Grand National with no potential monetary reward (but an equal amount of dead horses).
I’ll post the final figures on my Instagram on NYE, because apparently that’s the done thing. In the meantime, this is my personal “Instagram Top 10 of 2018”. That’s right. 10. Because what is the point of owning a website if I don’t make my own rules? I noticed once I’d selected them that they were all taken during the latter half of 2018, which I’m quite pleased about, because that shows progress, right? And not just that my photography was terrible for the first six months.
Let’s do this…
This one was fun. He knew what I was doing, and he did an awesome job of pretending that he didn’t. I loved all the red accents – the band on the girl’s sleeve, the drink, the broom handle, and the stool – and it took a while to frame everything up the way I wanted it. In the meantime, he occasionally looked up suspiciously from his phone, and I in return loudly commented about how much I liked the magnets he was selling. Good times.
Date Posted: 10 September 2018. Likes received: 343
“Oooh, roller-skates…” I muttered excitedly under my breath as she walked towards me. London is packed full of cool, interesting people, but occasionally someone will cross my path who’s just a whole other level. I’ve mentioned in my Instagram captions before that I like to play a game when I’m doing street photography where I fantasise that I’m shooting models for Vogue. A girl can dream. So this candid street portrait has become my favourite “editorial” shot of 2018.
Date Posted: 17 November 2018. Likes received: 369
I don’t know what’s going on with the funky border, either. I do like to play with edit styles when I’m bored, and apparently back in August, I was feeling funky borders. I captioned the Instagram post with “You never see Mickey Mouse shoving his head into a bag at Disneyland #londonthings”, which I think was the first caption that opened the floodgates to me writing whatever the hell I wanted on my Instagram posts. This was also probably one of the first times that I’d consciously waited for complimentary colours in my composition, rather than just snapping optimistically.
Date Posted: 3 August 2018. Likes received: 373
I LOVE low contrast photographs. I’d half-jokingly asked Instagram for recommendations of colours to look out for on my next shoot, to give me a little project to focus on. “Orange and blue” was hard, but it was really satisfying when I spotted this girl in the crowd at Brick Lane market. I’m definitely going to take a more planned approach to my street photography in 2019, with more deliberate series and themes. When I’m consciously looking for specific elements, it really focuses my observational skills and makes for better compositions.
Date Posted: 22 October 2018. Likes received: 398
I love this photograph, not only because it shows Chinatown’s most popular fire escape/al fresco dining location, but because this is legitimately the only time all year that I spotted any fly posters in the area. They had been removed by the time I returned the following week, which was a shame, because they were super cute.
Date Posted: 29 July 2018. Likes received: 275
I’ve tried to like night photography. I really have. But this is the one and only time all year that I’ve succeeded in taking an after dark photograph that I’m actually happy with. I need to spend more time in 2019 watching helpful YouTube videos to work out where I’m going wrong.
Date Posted: 17 September 2018. Likes received: 328
Work that London attitude. This was one of those photographs that I really hoped looked as good as it did in-camera. According to the dates, this is apparently the first street photograph that I was truly happy with having taken, and I suppose that’s probably true. I did have more of a “spray and pray” style in the first half of 2018, which I think is necessary to build up confidence, but doesn’t really produce the greatest images.
Date Posted: 20 July 2018. Likes received: 291
As the year has progressed, I’ve favoured taking wider images, but I like the shallow depth of field on this candid street portrait, and the unusual angle of the shot. I was feeling really brazen that day, and took quite a few close-ups of various people around Brick Lane market. I went for more muted tones in post-production than I had done before on previous photographs (I think this was based on an Essence preset in VSCO X), and I was really pleased with the result.
Date Posted: 23 October 2018. Likes received: 1333
I tried for a similar shot every time I’ve been out. I can’t even explain the immense feeling of satisfaction when I finally succeeded on my very last street shoot of the year. It’s by far my most liked Instagram photograph of 2018, so it was worth the constant frustration to finally get it. Personal satisfaction, and hollow social media-based validation. The ultimate combo.
I over-optimistically claimed that I would write a London Diaries blog post for last week, despite the fact that it has been Christmas, and obviously I was never going to find the time. But as promised, here’s the three shutter clicks that it took to get this photograph.
Date Posted: 21 December 2018. Likes received: 5623
This is the only photograph I’ve reposted on Instagram all year, because it absolutely had to make it into my Top 9, goddammit. Thank you for listening to my pleading and liking it all the way up to number 3. For me, it’s totally number 1, though. I hope to take everything I’ve learned from my first year of street photography, and produce many more photographs that I’m equally as proud of in 2019.
Date Posted: 13 September 2018. Likes received: 702
Reposted 22 December 2018. Likes received: 2181
I started 2018 with the hope of reaching 3K followers by the end of the year as @that_fujifilmgirl , and miraculously it happened. I’m so grateful for everybody’s support for the past twelve months, and I really appreciate all the encouraging comments so many of you leave me. I hope that 2019 WILL be my favourite year, and that all of us remain happy, creative and inspired. This is descending into a cringefest, and I’m too British for such an Oscars-esque speech, so I’ll leave it there. Happy New Year to you all.