London Diaries 6 – Sunday 3rd February 2019: Free Hugs in the East End


Neither of us felt in the mood for a mad one. I carried around the Sony FDR-X3000R action cam, thinking that I might possibly make a video this week, but that never happened. Mainly because I discovered that I can make slideshow videos of my photography on the iPad with minimal effort. It’s kinda nice not to give a second thought to those downvoting jerks on YouTube when a video has only taken five minutes to put together rather than five hours. Or days.

The day got off to a bit of a delayed start, as we had originally intended to travel into Central London from Burnham train station, only to rock up there and discover that there was a rail replacement service going on. We’re not fans of rail replacement buses (who is?), so we hopped back into the car and went to Slough train station instead.
Finally about to leave Slough. This is the happiest PJ has ever looked.
Playing with those camera settings on the train to pass the time.
Our plan was to spend a leisurely day strolling around Brick Lane. Once we’d finally made it over to the East End, it was pretty much lunchtime, but we made the odd decision to ignore the McDonald’s at Liverpool Street station, and walk over to the one in Whitechapel instead. Heads up: it’s further away than you’d expect. Especially on foot.

Fun fact about me: I don’t enjoy photography when I’m hungry. But here’s a little gallery of images taken pre-lunch, in those moments “in between locations”.

Once we’d refuelled ourselves with Whitechapel’s finest processed crap, we were ready to head over to Brick Lane.


Brick Lane

We love Brick Lane market on a Sunday. There’s a tangible atmosphere so strong, it’s almost a sensory overload. On a good day, there are so many musicians busking the streets, it’s quite surreal to hear the different performances merge into each other as you travel down the road. On sunny days, the light fills the intersections between the main stretch and the side roads, illuminating clusters of people, all of whom are wrapped up in the laidback spirit of the area. There are food stalls of every description; each one filling the air with the scent of their cooking. The street art that dominates nearly every available wall space is a fittingly vibrant backdrop to an equally vibrant area.

I spent too much time being indecisive about whether or not I was shooting video or photographs though, and ended up not really doing anything, other than going totally against character and accepting a “Free Hug” from a stranger. Damn my weakness for Japanese guys…

I wasn’t anticipating the “Free Hug” to be as enthusiastically delivered as it was. PJ captured my surprise well.

Colombia Road Flower Market

On a whim, it suddenly seemed like a really good idea to walk over to Colombia Road Flower Market. We’ve often been rather bemused, watching people wandering down Brick Lane carrying enormous plants and huge bouquets of flowers on their journey back from the nearby flower market, so we thought we’d go and check it out for ourselves.

We had no idea of the best route to get there, so we just used our best detective skills and retraced the steps of everybody who was carrying foliage. Just call us Sherlock and Watson.

Here’s another word of advice (this blog is just one big old public service announcement today): EVERYBODY is at Colombia Road Flower Market at 3pm on a Sunday, so if crowds aren’t your thing, avoid that time like the plague. I genuinely had no idea that plants were that popular. All the plants in my house are made out of plastic, because I appear to be the victim of some sort of curse that prevents me from keeping real ones alive.


A bit of B Roll…

I think in the end we were only taking photographs for about three hours. We got a little lost on our way back to Liverpool Street station because there was no trail of clues to follow like there had been with the plants, and I’m normally too stubborn to admit defeat and resort to Google maps, because darn it, I should just KNOW instinctively how to get everywhere. We had to hastily hide our cameras when we did eventually get back to near the station though, because an enormous giant of a man had taken HUGE offence to being photographed by another street photographer, and was storming down the road, yelling obscenities and out for blood. It made me pretty thankful that we’ve never experienced anything like that. Yet.

There’s a real-time ten day hiatus between this London Diaries instalment and the next, because our schedules don’t permit us to get out shooting in that time. However, I’m so terribly disorganised/busy (delete as per your kindness level), the next blog will be online within the next 24 hours of me posting this one, in which you can find out the effect that a ten day break has on me creatively.

Be sure to say hello in the comments so that I know that people are reading this blog during my lifetime, and it’s not just going to be used as a posthumous look at the ramblings of “that quirky girl with the camera”.

Stay Curious,

Love From London x

London Diaries 4 – Sunday 20th January 2019

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.


Trafalgar Square

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.


South Bank

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.


Tate Modern

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:

  1. I just got a Huawei P20 Pro
  2. It boasts 40mp Leica lenses, so that’s gotta be worth a try
  3. 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
  4. 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.

Love from London x

London Diaries 3 – Wednesday 16th January 2019

Wow, it’s been a busy week so far! The Curious Camera Club HQ (AKA whatever branch of Costa Coffee we’re closest to at the time) has been unofficially hosting planning meetings, and we’ve been buzzing with ideas about how to grow the coolest camera club in London.

You may have noticed that we’ve started featuring some of the amazing photographs that you talented lot have been hashtagging with #curiouscameraclub. We’re really impressed by the standards that you’re setting with your submissions, and can’t thank you all enough for getting involved so early on in our development.

There will be so many opportunities coming up to get involved, help build our community, and get your awesome photography promoted. But that’s for another blog…

Today’s blog is a London Diary with a difference.

Firstly, in an unprecedented (and probably never to be repeated) fit of enthusiasm, I’ve actually managed to publish it within 24 hours of actually shooting the photographs. You’re impressed, right? We all know its probably a one-off, but you’ll tolerate me fondly reminiscing in the future about “that one time I managed to efficiently adult without procrastinating” because we’re friends now. And friends let friends overhype their little triumphs. Just ask PJ.

On the subject of PJ, that’s the second difference today. I shot without my wing woman. I went to London to have lunch with my “Wicked Stepmother”, who is wicked only in the positive street-slang version of the word. I’d originally intended to go armed only with the Pentax P30 and the remaining shots left on the roll of Dubblefilm Sunstroke 35mm film, but there are no words adequate enough to describe just how terrible the light was. I don’t mind wasting film, but I DO mind wasting money, and there’s no way I would’ve taken photographs with it yesterday that I would’ve been happy to pay to get developed.

So: Fujifilm X100F, six hours, 26k steps, a lot of coffee, Wanna One through my earphones, and a bit of a preconceived plan that I hoped would get some good results despite the weather. Let’s do this London Diary thing…

This week, I’ve split my photographs into six mini-series of themed images, rather than grouping them by location.

 

MIDWEEK MISCELLANEOUS

For this first series, I played my standard game of looking for cool people and compositions on the fly, with little forethought to specifics. This was a pre-lunch wander around my familiar territory, but with a massive difference: due to the terrible weather, the streets were pretty much deserted, which I hadn’t really considered might be the case beforehand. This meant I had to up my observational skills a LOT, because opportunities definitely weren’t going to be as frequent as they are on weekends.

Midweek Miscellaneous 1

Walking past the windows of various cafes and restaurants, it was clear that that’s where everybody was hiding. I couldn’t blame them – it definitely looked far more cosy in there than it did outside. I was really pleased with this shot – I like the juxtaposition between the warm colours through the window, and the cold bleakness on the righthand side of the photo. I also really like the fact that nobody noticed my camera, so the scene feels far more natural than it would’ve done if anybody had made eye contact. That “hot” portion of the sign inside the cafe was an added bonus, because it emphasises the distinction that  I wanted to make between the inside and outside.

Midweek Miscellaneous 2

Incoming pigeon! There were far more pigeons in Leicester Square than there were people. This guy was sitting quite happily absorbed in his smartphone, whilst an enormous flock to his left jostled for discarded McDonald’s. I took about three photographs of this scene in the hope of getting some kind of decent “bird action”. This one, with my shutter speed at 1/800, worked well.

Midweek Miscellaneous 3

One of my planned projects for today was to shoot a “Cool Women of London” series. And, spoiler alert, I did. It’s coming up next. Outside Charing Cross Station was this guy: embodying “effortlessly cool”, but sadly the wrong gender for my project. I was still genuinely concerned at this point that I wasn’t going to capture any decent photographs all day through lack of options, so I snapped him despite his Y chromosomes.

Midweek Miscellaneous 4

I love watching people take selfies. Let’s face it, we’re all guilty of that “OMG, do I really look like that?” panic whenever that front camera opens. But it was cute to see how much effort this guy made to get his already sleek hair perfected for the shot.

Midweek Miscellaneous 5

I’m still not really sure exactly where that blue reflection in her glasses came from, but I like it almost as much as her contouring. It had been drizzling with rain all morning, so by this time, I now had crazy frizzy hair, hair-envy over selfie guy, and now cheekbone envy too.

Midweek Miscellaneous 6

I can’t even explain how much I wanted a solo shot of this pizza-toting, tartan-fabulous woman for my series, but I just didn’t have time to position myself in the sudden onslaught of pedestrians. I was happy enough with this shot, especially with the complimentary extra pop of red from the man behind her. This repeat in colour helps to draw the eye (like you weren’t going to be looking at the stand-out awesomeness anyway).

Midweek Miscellaneous 7

The nineties called. They wondered if your time machine was broken, and you needed help getting home.

Midweek Miscellaneous 8

Not the most exciting photograph I’ve ever taken, for sure. But that’s a beautiful window behind him, and I imagined that he was phoning the enquiry line for the letting agents because he was smitten with it too. Extra love for that gorgeous shade of blue paint.

Midweek Miscellaneous 9

A little part of Oxford Street that’s gone all Shoreditch. I love stickers… maybe not the random £20 price tag that someone’s whacked up there to join in, but generally I really like checking out sticker art.

Midweek Miscellaneous 10

The very first time that PJ and I ventured into Central London to do street photography (almost exactly a year ago), we chatted to one of the bicycle taxi guys about the Windmill Club, which at the time was lit up with all its glorious neon. This place survived the Blitz, but it couldn’t survive the scandal it faced last year, and is now empty and abandoned. It had a pretty rich history, and is worth a Google. Without the bright lights, this image works better in a more sombre black and white.

 

 

COOL WOMEN OF LONDON

I was looking for ten different women for this series who were all uniquely cool. I think I found them. I’ll not caption them individually – I don’t think words are needed. It’s useful to go out on street shoots with potential themes or projects in mind. It helps to kickstart your creativity, and keeps you focussed. Look at me, going all “guru” like Ash.

Cool Women of London 1

Cool Women of London 2

Cool Women of London 3

Cool Women of London 4

Cool Women of London 5

Cool Women of London 6

Cool Women of London 7

Cool Women of London 8

Cool Women of London 9

Cool Women of London 10

 

NOT HUMAN

Not just a way of describing a pre-coffee me. I made an effort to look for things to capture that were still interesting without a human element. Granted, there’s only five photographs in this series, but it’s way out of my comfort zone, and everybody’s got to start somewhere, right?

Not Human 1

Five dead pot plants on a windowsill. I found this totally relatable: Those pretty coloured pots, the good intentions, and then the inevitable, neglectful demise. It’s why I only have plastic plants in my house nowadays (true story), and why I’m amazed that I’ve managed to keep four children alive for so long. I’m joking, obviously. Motherhood is the sole aspect of my life that I feel I’ve got down. If only I could figure everything else out.

Not Human 2

I’ve photographed the lower half of this building countless times as a background, but it really is beautiful when you look up.

Not Human 3

I’m not even gonna lie – it took a substantial amount of tinkering in Lightroom to get this photograph looking remotely like it was shot in Golden Hour, despite the fact that it was. But hey, that’s what an Abode subscription is for.

Not Human 4

Because everybody loves a good dog photo. Even me, despite being totally a cat person.

Not Human 5

Moody London skyline, which looks even moodier in monochrome. This really shows the kind of cloud cover I was trying to shoot in.

 

ABSTRACT

Abstract 1Abstract 2

Oh, how very Instagram. In fact, they’re so Instagram, I’ll probably post them tonight to promote this blog article. This might be the grubbiest phonebox I’ve ever seen, but it did make for an interesting frame for my shots. I liked the extra pop of red from the umbrella in the second one. It definitely pays to be patient sometimes to wait for the right elements to elevate the composition.

 

GOING TO BE ALRIGHT

It’s no secret that I’m terrified of heights. But when it’s pouring with rain, and you know there’s a decent cup of flat white to be bought on the tenth floor at the Tate Modern, what can you do? Suck it up, remind yourself that there’s some cinematic post-processing techniques you want to experiment with, and focus on that handy, reassuring self-help lighting.

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MONOCHROME ART / KATE AT THE TATE

This last series has two titles, because “Kate at the Tate” is so cheesy. I knew I wanted some black and white shots in the Tate Modern today, and I also knew I wanted some shots of “Ash‘s Staircase”. You know, just so I can wind him up and challenge him for ownership.

 

Kate at the Tate 1

I saw this lady sitting framed by the doorway as soon as I entered the adjacent gallery, and I really  wanted to take this photograph, but she was totally on to me, so it was awkward. So I did whatever any good street photographer would do: I started to fake making a video with my camera, commentary and all, panning the room and hovering my shutter finger to take this once I was facing the right direction. I’d mentally composed the shot, and I was so relieved when I captured it on the first attempt. This is exactly why Ash is in charge of writing tips, by the way. Mine are a little… flamboyant.

Kate at the Tate 2Kate at the Tate 3

Photographing people looking at art is one of my favourites. I didn’t intentionally follow this man around the gallery like a creepy stalker, by the way. It was purely accidental creepy stalking.

Kate at the Tate 4

Like the effect of double exposures, but suck at composing double exposures? Try getting really close to a window at nighttime, angle your body so your pesky reflection doesn’t end up in your shot, and hope for the best. I know, I know, these tips are bloody awesome.

Kate at the Tate 5Kate at the Tate 6

And finally, here are the shots of the newly renamed “Kate’s Staircase”. Which is a good place to end on, because I feel like if I push it any more, Ash will use our workshop on Sunday to announce that Chinatown is henceforth going to be known as Ashtown, and I don’t think I could handle that.

So that was my experimental Wednesday shoot. I really enjoyed trying new things, although I missed PJ immensely (love ya, babe). Don’t forget to let me know in the comments below which series you liked best out of the six. Today has been the last day of the Launch Features on @thecuriouscameraclub Instagram page. Tomorrow is the start of Daily Features, which once you know all the details, is even more exciting. And once I hit publish on this baby, I’ll start writing something that’ll let you guys and girls in on all those details. Sleep is for wimps. And sensible people.

Until next time,

Love from London xx

London Diaries 2 – Sunday 6th January 2019 (Pt. 2 – The West End)

For Part 1, click here. I’ll wait.

Have you ever seen something that’s just totally blown your mind and made you question everything you thought you knew?

In between Christmas and New Year, I was looking at Google Maps (because that’s how I spend my free time. Dontcha wish your girlfriend was hot like me?), and I noticed Charing Cross Road. I’ve been to Charing Cross Road in the past, to go to Foyles, and Tin Pan Alley (Denmark Street), but for some unknown reason, I’ve spent the past year being completely oblivious about it connecting Tottenham Court Road underground station and China Town. Instead, every time we’ve finished taking photographs for the day, but really wanted to go to Primark at Tottenham Court Road, we have walked this clockwise route as seen on my excellent illustration below:

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PJ and I have walked literally thousands of unnecessary steps over the past twelve months because WE WERE TOO DAFT TO LOOK AT A MAP. Well, no more. It’s 2019, and things are changing. So, we got on the tube at Liverpool Street and took the Central Line to Tottenham Court Road.

Charing Cross Road

After about five minutes’ walk, amidst much exasperated swearing upon realising that Google Map wasn’t lying, we arrived at China Town. Charing Cross Road itself also provided some decent photo opportunities too.

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Above and below: Two very different ways of wearing headphones…

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We could almost be back in Shoreditch with this street art. Although I pushed the shutter button because of her decision to dress entirely head to toe in red. She means it. I admire that.

 

China Town

You can tell when I’m completely “in the zone” because I keep my camera in one orientation.

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I was a little concerned that we had made a mistake leaving the East End, considering how awesome the morning had been, but I needn’t have worried. Brick Lane had been relatively quiet compared to previous trips, but China Town was heaving with people.

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Google Maps had also told me of the existence of a French Roman Catholic Church in China Town, which was too bizarre for me to compute, but we found that too, nestled between a cinema and a casino. We wandered in, and sure enough, everything was in French. It’s so strange that I can visit somewhere so frequently, and still know very little about the place.

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Leicester Square

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As the wonderful @mahnyi would say: She was there. As always.

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It was the last day of the Christmas Market in Leicester Square. We’re definitely. “Christmas-marketed” out after our many trips in November and December, so we didn’t wander in, although we were tempted to go and see Santa and ask if he could assist us to become rich and famous photographers by next Christmas.

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We always wander into Leicester Square, mainly to use the relatively clean toilets in the McDonalds there. You can have that bit of information for free. Decent toilets can also be found in Liberty if you’re in the Carnaby Street area. But NEVER go to the ones in Primark at Tottenham Court Road. You have been forewarned.

Back into China Town

Because we were slightly ahead of schedule, as we’d eaten at Liverpool Street station earlier than planned, we went back for more.

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Above: I don’t know why he started miming when he saw my camera. Maybe he was supposed to be working, and was trying to blag it, in case his boss saw my photograph.

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Another thing I’m pretty ignorant about is the Moon Festival. There seems to always be banners up in China Town wishing everybody a Happy Moon Festival. I’m not sure if this is a permanent event, or they just can’t be bothered to take the signs down.

 

The walk to Oxford Circus tube station, via Carnaby Street

I photographed quite a few dogs around London today, but none were as ridiculously cute as this one. They say that owners and dogs start to look alike. I hope that’s not true, because my dog is a living, breathing tumbleweed.

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He seemed super surprised that I took his photograph, despite the fact that he was wearing that hat.

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I went all cliche for this photograph. I think Central Cinema is photographed almost as frequently as that steamy window at Beijing Dumpling in China Town.

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I don’t know where they were heading, but it’s important to note that these people had taken the time to glue Haribo shapes to their shiny crowns, so it must’ve been somewhere important.

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This is probably my favourite photograph I took all day. I love capturing genuine, spontaneous emotion in people. I wonder if there’s a man somewhere in the world who could make me smile like that? Knowing my luck, he’d probably be gay.

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I also really love this photograph. I often wonder whether or not the people that I capture know how beautiful they are.

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And finally…

This:

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I really intend to do awesome things this year. I don’t think I’ve started a new year so full of optimism for quite a while. Even this lingering flu isn’t getting me down as much as it’s trying to. PJ and I aren’t heading into London together until Sunday 20th January, which is also the day of @ashsmithone and my street photography workshop. There’s still places available, so check out all the information here, and drop me a message if you have any questions or would like to book.

I’m heading into London next Wednesday, but I’m considering focussing on film photography only that day. My roll of Dubblefilm Sunstroke still has 21 exposures left, and there’s not a lot of local “things” I fancy photographing and paying to develop. I’m sure there’ll be more Coffee Thoughts blogs in the meantime though, and plenty of Instagram posts. Until next time,

Love from London x

London Diaries 2 – Sunday 6th January 2019 (Pt. 1: The East End)

This post contains Amazon Associates links

I tried to write a blog about our last trip into London of 2018, but I just couldn’t find the time, what with Christmas and New Year and being struck down by the Plague (it might have just been the flu, but it felt like a near-death experience).

In the end, after several failed starts, I decided that it didn’t matter if the world never knew fully about what we did that day. In summary, it was a Wednesday trip into the capital, starting in Shoreditch and ending in the West End. We met up with two other Instagrammers briefly at lunchtime (@ashsmithone and @martynlphotography), saw a man wearing a giraffe onesie in the middle of the City, and had a generally nice time.

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I also took three photographs that day which ended up featuring in my Official Instagram Top Nine of 2018, which either means I was totally on fire, or more people were bored on Instagram in the run up to Christmas, just blindly liking any old crap on their feed. I’m telling myself it’s the former. And you will agree with me, because you’re nice like that.

Back to today.

I’ve been a little… depressed (?) since January started, and I’m not really sure why, except maybe having the Plague had something to do with it. I also impulsively announced on my Instagram that I wouldn’t be posting any of my archives from 2018 this year, and obviously because announcements on Instagram are sacred, I couldn’t possibly go back on that. Even though I was frustrated beyond belief that I worked so hard during December to build my Instagram engagement up, and now I was having to let it stagnate and lose momentum. Eurgh, I don’t know why I care. But I do.

So the first London street shoot of 2019 could not come quick enough.

PJ and I decided that we would bring along a teenaged daughter each today. Like apprentices, but with facial expressions of Claude and Karen. The day didn’t get off to the best start when what I thought was my alarm clock tone turned out to be Paula calling me to say she was outside my house, and I’d totally overslept.

Eventually we got to the train station, and I was finally going to take some photographs! One flat white and twenty minutes later, we arrived at London Paddington, and headed straight down to the Underground to head over to the East End.

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The tone was set for the day almost instantly, when another Tube train pulled up alongside ours, and I joked that I wasn’t even going to be subtle about photographing this guy on the other train, because what could he do? It turned out he was pretty pleased about having his photograph taken, and suddenly I felt all hyper-inspired. Today, I was going to photograph EVERYBODY.

I took 455 RAW photographs over about a four hour period, and kept and edited 368 of them on Lightroom Classic CC when I got home. I was shooting RAW + ACROS JPEGs, but I decided not to keep any of the JPEGs. I wanted colour photographs, and I wanted them to look exactly how I chose.

Obviously I’ll not be uploading all the photographs here, because load times. Plus that would be insane. I’ve split this blog into two parts – the East End and the West End – because we did cover a lot of ground today.

Petticoat Lane Market

Petticoat Lane Market used to be awesome. I remember my dad taking me there several times when I was younger, but nowadays, it’s very “rough and ready”. I’m sure if you have time to rummage through the racks, there’s bargains to be had, but there’s nothing special at surface level. I don’t normally take many photographs there, but this time I came home with about 40 images. The normal vibe of “WTF are you doing with that camera out?” that I normally feel emanating from the stallholders and customers was completely absent today. Was it my mindset, or a new 2019 thing? I’m guessing my mindset, because when I reviewed my images, there were a lot of scowls going on.

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Trying to find Brick Lane

A bit of wandering around Whitechapel because I’m too stubborn to resort to Google Maps. Seems completely sensible, right?

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Brick Lane

We reached Brick Lane eventually. It was far less crowded than it’d been on previous Sundays – without the familiar buskers, and  with probably only half the food stalls that are normally there. The vintage camera stall was there though, so I was happy. The bakery had sold out of their famous Rainbow Beigels, despite the fact that it was still early. The girls really enjoyed photographing all the street art, and there were plenty of interesting people around for PJ and I to photograph.

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But the best surprise of the day was when we rounded a corner and stumbled upon…

London Fashion Week Men’s 2019

I’ve never seen so many fashionistas in one place before. I was like a kid in a candy store – totally spoiled for choice as far as subjects went. I’ve never thought to look up when fashion events are going on in the capital, but I’d really like to have the opportunity to shoot another one. So many beautiful people! Pretty much every other photographer that was hanging around was carrying a Canon EOS 5D. I had no idea they were so popular.

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And with that, we headed back to Liverpool Street Underground Station to travel over to the West End. We were halfway through our allotted time, and there was a very important shortcut that we’d recently realised existed, and we needed to check it out. And obviously, China Town awaited.

I’ll endeavour to get Part 2 completed and uploaded ASAP. There are some sweet shots in there 😉

Love from London xx

 

 

 

 

 

A Walk in the Woods

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.

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2017. Literally squatting in the frost to photograph some fern.

 

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.

Love from London xx

 

My 10 favourite Instagram posts of 2018

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).

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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…

 

10

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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

 

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“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

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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

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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

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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

5

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

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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

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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

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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

1

Asian man street photo

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.

 

UPDATE

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This is how it “officially” ended over on IG

 

Love from London x