London Diaries 9 – Thursday 21st February 2019: …and finally, Greenwich

LONDON DIARIES 9

The problem with enthusiasm is that it’s not always the most practical mindset, which is why I’ve recently found myself juggling about five different projects simultaneously. Individually, they’re all awesomely fun… Take photographs? Sure. Start a street photography collective? Oh, hell yeah. Create a magazine publication, write a blog, sort out my “real life”… absolutely. But when the twist is that I have to do all these things AT THE SAME TIME: well, I’ve found myself taking a lot more power naps recently.

With that in mind, I’ve found myself several blogs behind schedule. If I had one scrap of common sense, I’d shrug them off and pretend those shoots never happened. Instead, I’m using an unusually quiet Saturday to catch up on the backlog. I didn’t make notes (I’m not that organised, unfortunately), so I’m writing from memory. I mean, it helps that I’ve got the photographs to trigger those memories 😉

PJ and I used to always shoot street on Thursdays in 2018, until other circumstances forced us to change our regular weekday. We took advantage of it being school holidays to allow us to shoot on a Thursday again this time. I’d originally mentioned Greenwich as a potential new location to check out, but PJ hadn’t felt like making the journey, so I’d filed it under “at some point”. But we had no concrete plans for today. Plus, it was the fourth anniversary of my dad’s passing, AND my ex was due in court that morning to face criminal charges against me, so I needed a massive distraction. Here’s the diary of the day:


SOHO

We did our standard Paddington to Oxford Circus tube journey, and walked over to Chinatown. I just checked my IG account, and I’ve already shared 11 shots from this day onto my account, so technically this was a good day’s shoot. But I wasn’t really with it all day. I kept feeling awfully emotional about the significance of the date. There wasn’t much going on to photograph during the walk – or maybe there was, and I just wasn’t in the right frame of mind to notice. I loved those Mulberry posters on the phone box, though. They’ve since been replaced by Wrangler ones, and they’re not as good.


CHINATOWN

We arrived in Chinatown at approximately the same time as every delivery van in existence, so it was difficult to get decent compositions, although in two of the examples above, the vans actually added to the shots. We decided to go to Leon for an early lunch (Korean chicken burger and goji juice, in case you’re interested. Why would you be?…), and then returned for a few more photo opportunities. The sun was out enough to cast some interesting shadows, which is normally our cue to get ourselves over to the South Bank.

I’ve been avoiding shooting in RAW recently. There are several reasons for this, not least because I don’t have time to spend hours in Lightroom. I think the Pro Neg HI and ACROS JPEGS out of the X100F are decent enough for my requirements, and VSCO X is sufficient to add that analogue look to the tones in my JPEGS that I personally like.


TRAFALGAR SQUARE

Off we went towards the South Bank. Our regular route takes us via Trafalgar Square, which is my least favourite place to shoot in London. The light is too harsh, the people are too “touristy”, and there’s no interesting backgrounds to contribute to compositions. But today, there WAS somebody in an enormous (and I mean ENORMOUS) panda costume, so for once PJ was spared my monologue about how they should just let the pigeons back so at least we’d get interesting shots there (she doesn’t disagree, partly to shut me up, and partly because she doesn’t like the guy who handles the hawk, employed to scare off the pigeons, because he wouldn’t let her photograph him one time).


SOUTH BANK

It was worth going over to the South Bank for the shadows, and for an interesting crowd. It was at this point, around 2pm, that I casually slipped into the conversation that “seeing as we’d already managed to capture some decent images so far today, wouldn’t this be a good time to check out Greenwich? If it sucked for photography, we’d lost nothing, but if it was good, we could definitely go back for longer another day?” And because PJ is good like that, and because I was still being a miserable cow because of what day it was, we walked over to Bank and got on the DLR.


GREENWICH

So, it turned out we both really liked Greenwich. As an (admittedly weird) teenager, I often used to walk the Greenwich Foot Tunnel underneath the Thames on weekend for no reason other than it was there. But I’d never explored Greenwich itself. We got off the DLR at the Cutty Sark, and were pleasantly surprised how the area had “seaside town” vibes, like a Cornish village or Brighton (but without the beach, obvs). Greenwich Market had a great array of oddities and street food, and I got an excellent flat white from Crosstown Doughnuts.

We wandered down to the river to get a closer look at the Cutty Sark and the skyline, noticing that there was a river taxi service back to the London Eye, but neither of us were willing to queue with the seemingly hundreds of half-term families. Something for another day, definitely.


Greenwich is definitely going on the list of places to return to – it’s a shame it’s so far out of zone 1 though. It’s also a shame that I spent so long procrastinating today, and wrote only one of blogs that I was supposed to. I blame Ricky Gervais for making a new show that I needed to binge watch, and the people I follow on Instagram for putting out such engaging content.
The next blog will be the final instalment of London Diaries, because I would rather spend my time blogging about other specific things, rather than feel obligated to keep up a series that repeatedly journals the same areas. Next time, I’ll be combining photographs from my two most recent shoots, and sharing images from another new location, Notting Hill.

Stay Curious,

Love from London x

Shots from the Undercroft

WEDNESDAY 27TH FEBRUARY 2019

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.


London Diaries 8 – Saturday 16th February 2019: Nearly Everywhere

We don’t normally go shooting on Saturdays.

“You know what’s good on Saturdays? Camden Market,” I said to PJ. And I was technically correct. We just went there a couple of decades too late.


Camden Town in the 1990s was so much fun – an area famed for being a Mecca for subcultures. Cyberpunks and Goths and Indie Kids would mill around the streets, each sporting the styles of their respective scenes. The whole place was a feast for the senses: loud music blaring from every stall, the scents of street food and incense filling the air, stalls filled with bootleg records and outlandish clothing and bizarre handmade goods… there was always a vibe around the place that encouraged individuality, and told the misfits that this was the one place they could comfortably be themselves.

Camden Market wasn’t just one market. It was a collection of several smaller markets all in close proximity to each other, linked by Camden High Street. The roads offered a variety of small pubs that doubled as music venues, where a lot of the Indie bands of the nineties first started out. Fast forward to 2019, and that whole atmosphere has gone. Camden these days is just another tourist trap. I’m in my thirties now, and so I don’t know if “scene kids” even exist any more (I’m the mother of teenagers though, and from what I can tell, it doesn’t), but if they do, they’re not hanging around Camden, that’s for sure. Long story short, we didn’t end up spending much time in Camden in the end.

This London Diary instalment is relatively short, due to poor light, indecisiveness, and a lack of inspiration. Not every shoot is a success.


Walk from London Paddington to Camden Lock

We left ridiculously early and ended up at London Paddington before 8:30AM, so we decided to walk to Camden. We’ve been consciously trying to stay above ground as much as possible over the past few months to get more of a sense of where locations are in relation to each other. We’ve been surprised on several occasions about the proximity of places compared to how they look on the Underground map. The walk from Paddington took us along the Grand Union canal path, so it wasn’t the most exciting journey in the world, aside from the section that passed through London Zoo, so we got to see some warthogs from a distance (always a novelty in London). I took a few snaps with the Huawei P20 Pro en route (above)…

… a couple of selfies with the Samsung Galaxy S7…

…and a couple of photographs with the Fujifilm X100F (which, for reasons that made sense to me at the time, are all in 1:1 format this week).

Then onto Costa for a quick coffee before hitting the markets to take some photos.


Camden Town

This was the result of shooting around Camden: eight mediocre photographs. The ONLY exciting thing that happened the whole time we were there was that I found a vintage camera stall that had a Mamiya RZ67, which the guy let me have a play with. I didn’t buy it, because a) it was £1000, and b) it wasn’t the Pro II version, which has extra fine tuning on the focus dial, but it was great to get an idea of the size and weight of it, and to actually look down through that viewfinder. And now be lusting after owning one even more.


Brick Lane

So we headed East, heading for Shoreditch and Brick Lane, defecting en route to Starbucks by Spitalfields Market purely because they sold pancakes (I ordered some bizarre frappe thing instead of their coffee, because I don’t hate myself). The light was still woefully flat, and neither of us appreciated beforehand that Brick Lane Market is really an exclusively Sunday thing.

Still, I was a little more in the mood to photograph people, having held that Mamiya earlier in Camden, and there were far more interesting looks going on around Brick Lane than there had been in Camden.

It was turning into one of those days where we didn’t know where we wanted to be or what we wanted to do. But where do we normally go when all else fails? Chinatown and Soho… so we walked back towards Liverpool Street to get the number 8 bus westbound, capturing a couple more shots along the way, including a pretty epic soft tiger toy that somebody had left by a bin.


Chinatown + Soho

I haven’t been particularly excited about ANY of the shots I took on this day. Writing this blog forces me to review my photographs far more than I have done previously, and everything that I shot this Saturday just reminds me of the kind of images I was producing a year ago. That’s why it has taken so long for me to get this edition of London Diaries published on the site: I’m not proud of these photographs, and I’m reluctant to post them as examples of my work. However, I think that if I’m going to write this blog, it needs to be honest, and so what if I had an off day? Everybody has off days, right?


Some very angry people, + a bit of photojournalism

Just as we were about to leave Central London and begin the journey home, several police riot vans sped past us and turned just off of Piccadilly Circus. Two separate protests had inadvertently merged – one a group of Pro-Brexiteers, angry about the UK not leaving the EU swiftly enough, and the other a group protesting the lenient sentencing of a hit-and-run driver who had killed three teenagers. We followed the sound of the angry mob, and came across this scene. The atmosphere was horrific, a police officer had just been punched in the face when we arrived, and it didn’t feel like a particularly safe place to be taking photographs, but it was interesting to try to capture the moment. First time in ages that I wished I had a telephoto lens, because I definitely didn’t want to get any closer than where I was standing.


So that was that. The moral of the story this time is to have a plan (and a back up plan) when you go out shooting, especially if your time is limited. There isn’t normally a moral to these diaries, but it’s an added extra to compensate for the mediocre photography.
On the plus side, the next instalment is going to look totally fantastic in comparison to this one.

Stay Curious,

Love from London x

London Diaries 7 – Wednesday 13th February 2019: Instax and Artefacts

Photography is like an addiction. Generally, I manage to get out once or twice a week to shoot street photos, and that seems to feed my habit enough. But occasionally, circumstances prevent me from managing to get into Central London. Which would be fine if I lived in a remotely photogenic area that I could grab half an hour or so to take photographs around here and there, but I don’t. It’s not pretty enough to be typically “British”, nor gritty enough to be interesting – just mundane suburbia.

Whenever these forced hiatuses from street photography occur, I tend to get withdrawal symptoms after about seven days. And then something dangerous happens: I start “researching” things. This is the nicest way to describe my habit of becoming intensely interested in something new, and this time, that “something new” was medium format cameras and 120 film.

When I was considering buying the Fujifilm X100F for my street photography, I researched hard… to the point that when I actually bought one, I’d watched so many hours of YouTube videos about them, I felt like I’d owned one for years. I seem to be going the same way with the Mamiya RZ67 Pro II, my desired medium format camera. This interest has stemmed from my increasing love of Japanese analogue portrait photography, which generally has a distinctive soft, bright aesthetic achieved by using Kodak Portra 400 film. The stylings and compositions are thoughtfully lit, calm, dreamy and tranquil… and I REALLY want to create portrait photographs which are that beautiful. That’s the dream. But that’s for a different blog.

Today was all about getting back onto the streets with the X100F after my ten day break. I’d recently purchased an extra pack of Instax Square film for the Fujifilm Instax SQ6 camera, so I had 12 shots to play with. The light was terrible and Wednesdays are always pretty quiet in Central London, but at least we’d escaped suburbia. I knew I wouldn’t have a lot of time for post-processing this week, so I shot JPEG only, and did my editing on the iPad with VSCO X. Here’s the story of today’s shoot:


I shot with a soundtrack today, which is a new thing for me.

Instax Square

I used 11 out of my 12 Instax shots around Soho at the beginning of the day. I love how unpredictable Instax film is. I have the Instax Share SP-2 printer that uses Instax mini film, which can be wirelessly synced with the Fujifilm X100F to produce prints on the go, but it’s not the same as using an Instant camera. Bonus points to the Huawei P20 Pro this week, for having a neat little scan feature in the camera that makes it really easy to make digital copies of my Instax photos for uploading online.


Soho

We initially took the Tube to Oxford Circus station, and decided to wander aimlessly through Soho along streets that were less familiar to us. In preparation for the creation of Curious magazine, I’ve been purchasing a few independent magazines recently to get ideas and inspiration regarding potential layouts, so I was really pleased to find a newsagent that stocked a whole host of them, and bought a couple more (“Huck” and “Hungry Eye”, in case anybody’s interested). I also got some really good Korean Fried Chicken from the @bapfoods food stall in Rupert Street, which was super yummy.


Chinatown

There were even more lanterns strung across the streets of Chinatown than usual after the recent Lunar New Year, but down at ground level the streets were pretty empty. I’ve noticed that Wednesdays are often like this during the daytime in London. We walked our standard one-lap “circuit” of the main streets, found a man cleaning windows who seemed very happy to have his photograph taken whilst he worked, and then decided to try our luck elsewhere.

Bonus photograph of PJ, because it’d be rude not to take such an opportunistic photograph next to a sign like that.


British Museum

“How did they end up in the British Museum?” I hear you cry. Actually, I’m pretty sure you’re not all that bothered, but I’m going to tell you anyway. We’ve been researching potential new street photography locations around London, and had read about Exmouth Market, which is held every Friday and Saturday. Unusually for us, our next street shot falls on a Saturday, so we thought we’d go and scout out the area in advance whilst we were within walking distance today. The route there took us past the British Museum, and it was pretty cold outside, so it seemed sensible to pop inside for a bit. We’ve taken some interesting shots in the past inside the V&A Museum, and were curious what the light was like inside the British Museum. Not great, was the answer. But there were some interesting artefacts, so it was a good opportunity to take some photographs anyway.


Tottenham Court Road to Barbican

So, all in all, it was quite a long walk. And once we arrived at the Exmouth Market location, neither of us were taken enough with it to want to bother coming back on Saturday. However, as well as our detour into the British Museum, we actually passed through a fair amount of photo-worthy locations en route. I particularly liked the Imperial Hotel in Russell Square, with its brutalist concrete facade. I also manage to take my first blossom photographs of 2019, which was surprising given how cold it has been recently.

Given my new-found interest in 120 film, imagine my delight when we stumbled across a camera film wholesaler in Mount Pleasant (I say stumbled “across”… I literally stumbled INTO the shop, thanks to being so fixated on the Portra 400 which I’d noticed on the counter that I didn’t acknowledge the doorstep. Way to make an entrance).

We made a much needed pitstop at a branch of Costa. I don’t even know why I went all MySpace with a mirror selfie whilst we were there, so I’m not even going to try to justify my behaviour. I took a couple of photographs of the same table with different customer sat at it, which I’m filing as a potential idea for a future series. A Day in the Life of a Chair. If nothing else, it’s a good excuse to sit in Costa all day.


Barbican

We had no idea where to finish our day’s shoot. We were both pretty tired by this point (in fact, we’d never really recovered from our decision to bypass our fellow travellers by power walking up a deceptively long and steep broken escalator at Oxford Circus station). My launderette fetish had reared its head earlier in the day, when I thought I’d found one in Soho, only to discover with great disappointment on closer inspection that it was a manned dry cleaners, so I did a quick google search of launderettes within a mile of Exmouth Market. The “prettiest” one seemed to be located at the Barbican, so we set off to find it.

On arrival, a sign on the wall proclaimed that photography wasn’t permitted. But that’s just one of those rules that’s just made to be broken, so I used my last Instax shot on those beautiful blue dryers, and took a quick snap with the X100F. We wandered around the Barbican Estate, wishing that the light was better for some shadowy brutalist architectural photography, took a few photographs anyway, and as always at the Barbican, got completely lost in the warren of high rises trying to find the Tube station.


Now that we’ve decided to bypass Exmouth Market, our plans for Saturday involve a ridiculously early start and a wander around Camden. Will the light be in our favour? Will we walk such a ridiculous amount of steps as we did today? Will I return home with more random purchases that I don’t need, like the awesomely-named “Lip Shit” lip balm that I bought today? Will I fall down any more steps? Find out in the next instalment of London Diaries.
Stay Curious,

Love from London x

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