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.

Processed with VSCO with sum2 presetProcessed with VSCO with sum2 presetProcessed with VSCO with sum2 presetProcessed with VSCO with sum2 presetProcessed with VSCO with sum2 preset

 

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:

20190109_114548.jpg

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.

Processed with VSCO with sum2 preset

Processed with VSCO with sum2 preset

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

Processed with VSCO with sum2 preset

Processed with VSCO with b3 preset

Processed with VSCO with b3 preset

Processed with VSCO with sum2 preset

Processed with VSCO with e7 preset

Processed with VSCO with sum2 preset

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.

Processed with VSCO with sum2 preset

Processed with VSCO with sum2 preset

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.

Processed with VSCO with sum2 preset

Processed with VSCO with b3 preset

Processed with VSCO with al2 preset

Processed with VSCO with sum2 preset

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.

Processed with VSCO with sum2 preset

Processed with VSCO with sum2 preset

Processed with VSCO with sum2 preset

Processed with VSCO with b3 preset

 

Leicester Square

Processed with VSCO with sum2 preset

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

Processed with VSCO with sum2 preset

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.

Processed with VSCO with 1 preset

Processed with VSCO with sum2 preset

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.

Processed with VSCO with sum2 preset

Processed with VSCO with sum2 preset

Processed with VSCO with sum2 preset

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.

Processed with VSCO with b3 preset

Processed with VSCO with sum2 preset

Processed with VSCO with sum2 preset

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.

Processed with VSCO with sum2 preset

Processed with VSCO with g7 preset

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

Processed with VSCO with sum2 preset

Processed with VSCO with sum2 preset

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.

Processed with VSCO with sum2 preset

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.

Processed with VSCO with sum2 preset

Processed with VSCO with sum2 preset

Processed with VSCO with sum2 preset

Processed with VSCO with sum2 preset

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.

Processed with VSCO with sum2 preset

Processed with VSCO with sum2 preset

Processed with VSCO with sum2 preset

Processed with VSCO with sum2 preset

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

Processed with VSCO with sum2 preset

 

And finally…

This:

Processed with VSCO with bbma preset

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.

DSCF0023-2

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.

Processed with VSCO with sum2 preset

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.

Processed with VSCO with b3 preset

Processed with VSCO with e5 preset

Processed with VSCO with e7 preset

Processed with VSCO with 1 preset

Processed with VSCO with e5 preset

 

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?

Processed with VSCO with e6 preset

Processed with VSCO with e3 preset

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.

Processed with VSCO with sum2 preset

Processed with VSCO with sum2 preset

Processed with VSCO with b1 preset

Processed with VSCO with sum2 preset

Processed with VSCO with e5 preset

Processed with VSCO with e7 preset

Processed with VSCO with e5 preset

Processed with VSCO with sum2 preset

b430449f-c10c-449c-aaac-4f10a3649ee0

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.

Processed with VSCO with e8 preset

Processed with VSCO with b3 preset

Processed with VSCO with e5 preset

Processed with VSCO with e5 preset

Processed with VSCO with sum2 preset

Processed with VSCO with sum2 preset

Processed with VSCO with sum2 preset

Processed with VSCO with sum2 preset

Processed with VSCO with sum2 preset

Processed with VSCO with 3 preset

Processed with VSCO with sum2 preset

Processed with VSCO with b3 preset

 

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.

2019-01-04 12.22.06 1.jpg
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

 

London Diaries 1 – Wednesday 12th December 2018

Hi. Here’s the 411:

London Diaries is a blog documenting the street photography adventures of Kate (@that_fujifilmgirl) and PJ (@pj.pix): two women who, through some sort of bizarre mid-life crisis, inexplicably choose to frequently wander the streets of London with cameras in the name of art.

We have been best friends for 14 years, having initially bonded over a mutual dislike of everybody else at a baby group that neither of us wanted to attend in the first place. In 2016, we invested in a pair of Canon Powershot SX420 IS cameras, so that we could take an ungodly amount of photographs of squirrels and trees and interestingly-shaped fern. Unsurprisingly, within a year or so, the thrill of capturing robins with a 42x optical zoom got a little less thrilling, and we needed a new game plan (and camera upgrades). Despite really loving photography, the problem was we had quite plausibly photographed every tree in the local forest already. We needed to find new locations to shoot, where the subjects would be ever-changing. Enter street photography. And better gear.

Now approximately once a week, PJ and I get on board a Great Western train out of Slough, accompanied by her Sony A6300 and my Fujifilm X100F, and head into Central London. Inevitably, she will provide the soundtrack to our day – randomly bursting into vague snippets of songs (often with brand new lyrics) that she deems fitting to whatever moment we find ourselves in. Recently, this has mainly been Peaches by The Stranglers, for reasons that are unclear even to her. If you don’t have a friend like this, I highly recommend finding one. We drink a lot of coffee, walk a lot of miles, talk a lot of nonsense, and shoot a lot of photographs. It’s the best mid-life crisis I could’ve hoped for.

 

Today’s shoot

Despite the presence of advent calendars and dwindling bank balances, we suddenly had a shock realisation that Christmas is just around the corner, and therefore our opportunities to get out and shoot would be somewhat limited over the next couple of weeks. So we squeezed in an impromptu midweek shoot, with the vague idea that we would head over to Shoreditch in East London to check out the Wednesday vibes, having only shot there at weekends previously. Shoreditch is famous for its street art, hipster eateries and vintage shops, so it’s always a good spot for a wander.

 

 

IMG-20181213-WA0000.jpg
Photo courtesy of PJ ( @pj.pix ), who has managed to capture my best side. The side where my increasingly infamous “concentrating” photography face/borderline-murderous look isn’t visible. One of the many reasons she is my best friend.

 

 

My vague objective: To shoot .jpeg only today (partly as an experiment, and partly because what is life without a little stress?)

Camera settings: Shutter priority, film simulation bracketing (ACROS, ACROS+R, and Classic Chrome).

Camera: Fujifilm X100F, 23mm lens.

Time of shoot: 11:29 – 15:43.

Number of coffees consumed: 3.

Distance covered: 4.5 miles.

Screenshot 2018-12-13 at 09.52.39
Today’s route

 

You might have noticed from this map that we didn’t actually go anywhere near Shoreditch. There were three contributing factors to this:

  1. Once we arrived at the train station, every train out of Slough was either cancelled or delayed due to an earlier incident. We didn’t end up pulling out of Slough station until about 10:30am, and we all know how there’s only about five minutes of daylight this time of year to shoot in as it is.
  2. Because of all the delays, the train carriages were PACKED full of passengers. I spent the next hour stood squashed up against the door, effectively being given an unsolicited lap dance by a burly stranger, whilst the couple next to me had one of those entertaining, under-the-breath style arguments about the inappropriateness of the woman’s patronising tone towards her partner. The journey was hot, and not in a good way. The train also had some kind of electrical malfunction partway to its destination, and the driver was forced to literally try “turning it off and back on again”. Not just a quick fix for computers, it seems.
  3. By the time we arrived at London Paddington, it was 11:30am, and it was FREEZING. The kind of freezing that forces you to go to Primark to buy additional layers. And once we found ourselves outside Primark at Marble Arch, it seemed daft to get on the tube to go elsewhere to shoot. Today’s route was decided: a standard Marble Arch to London Waterloo wander, via Oxford Street, Soho, Regent Street, Piccadilly Circus, China Town, Leicester Square, Trafalgar Square, Jubilee Bridge, and the South Bank. Potentially a whole wealth of street photography opportunities.

 

OXFORD STREET

 

Ah, Oxford Street. Shopping Mecca for masochists. Especially in December. It has a well-deserved reputation for being… busy. Ordinarily, this would suck, but for street photography purposes, it’s pretty awesome because you’re automatically super close to a whole range of interesting people, all of whom are so focussed on getting to their destination and away from Oxford Street, they barely notice your camera at all. And if they do, they don’t care. They’re busy surviving Oxford Street.

Six months ago, I had a tendency to “spray and pray” in this area – put the camera in burst mode and hope to catch a chance interesting facial expression or outfit. Which was fine. It served its purpose as an exercise in building my confidence and reassuring me that people, even Londoners, don’t generally punch people in the face for taking their photograph. There’s no shame in doing this, and in fact, if you’re new to the world of street photography, I’m going to go right ahead and recommend it. Succeeding in capturing a few chance images that are beyond your expectations is a really good incentive to get out shooting again, and over time, you will refine your technique, develop a more natural eye for composition, and come home with more quality over quantity on your SD card (and disable that burst mode). That old adage about your first 10,000 images being your worst is really true, and whilst you can gain pointers from other people’s experiences, nothing will improve your results better than just making the effort to go out with your camera and shooting as much as possible. Don’t compare your images to those taken by other people. EVERYBODY you are inspired by had to start somewhere, and when they first started, they absolutely were not producing the quality photographs that they share with the world now.

 

SOHO

 

Even if you’ve never been to London, if you’ve been on Instagram, you’ll recognise Soho. The seediness that the area was famed for in the 20th century has largely disappeared, to be replaced by a whole lot of neon signage, artisan coffee shops and photogenic side streets (although a handful of sex shops remain, and they make pretty cool backdrops in photographs. Just saying). The couple in the coffee shop window cottoned on to me trying to photograph them pretty much instantly. I faked some ridiculous panoramic filming thing with my camera in order to look less suspicious, but unsurprisingly, they didn’t buy it. Her facial expression says it all. Sometimes it’s fun to take photographs in which the subjects are aware of the camera. PJ and I call it “lens love” (or “lens loathe”, as the case may be).

 

REGENT STREET / PICCADILLY CIRCUS

 

Back into the main hustle and bustle of the Christmas shopping district. Regent Street is a good location to get those bus window shots, as there’s a near constant stream of passing buses. I don’t tend to take a lot of photographs at Piccadilly Circus itself – I’m normally distracted by that big LG screen that plays the BTS endorsement advert for the G7 phone. I can’t focus on snapping pictures when there’s an enormous Park Jimin nearby.

 

CHINATOWN

 

 

I make no secret at all about my love for Chinatown. I have taken more photographs in the four main roads of Chinatown that I have collectively anywhere else in total. It’s a very easy area to take photographs in, because pretty much everybody else is taking photographs too. The streets are narrow, so it’s easy to “look past” people and fake being focussed on background buildings. The streets are always busy with deliveries being unloaded, street food being consumed, and fashion being paraded, so there’s plenty of opportunities for interesting captures. And those paper lanterns strung above the street should be compulsory everywhere.

 

LEICESTER SQUARE / TRAFALGAR SQUARE

 

From a photography point of view, Leicester Square is all about the street entertainers and the crowds they attract, and Trafalgar Square is all about light and shadows. Because I’m predominantly more interested in the human storytelling element of street photography, I don’t tend to take too many shots in Trafalgar Square, although I do like visiting there because there’s a Costa Coffee above the Waterstones book shop with nice windows. And toilets. I have the bladder of a woman who has had four children, and therefore know the locations of all the passably-clean toilets around my regular photography haunts.

 

JUBILEE BRIDGE

 

There was a time, not too long ago, that PJ and I would go to the South Bank from Trafalgar Square via Westminster Bridge, but these days we opt for Jubilee Bridge instead. It’s just more convenient, and the shadows up there are pretty special.

 

SOUTH BANK

 

We loitered for a while in the section between the London Eye and the BFI, where the Christmas Market is currently located. We’ve had a little browse over the past few weeks round the Christmas Markets in Leicester Square, Winter Wonderland, and the South Bank, and can confidently report that if you’re after wooden ornaments, candles in antique tea cups, overpriced knitted hats or German sausages, you’ll be able to purchase any of these from near-identical stalls in all three locations.

 

DSCF0985
When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life. Me too, mate. Me too. ISO 10000, f/2, 1/1000

On a less cold day, we would have probably continued walking along the South Bank towards London Bridge tube station, via the Tate Modern and Borough Market. As it was, the warmth (but not the aroma) of the Bakerloo line back to Paddington was too much of a lure to not call it a day at this point. Thankfully, after the morning’s travel fiasco, we managed to get seats on a fast train home out of Paddington with no problems.

I’m pretty pleased with my “straight out of camera” .jpegs. All the photographs I’ve posted onto this blog have been unedited (not even straightened, which was difficult for the perfectionist in me to resist, but I managed). I discarded all the ACROS+R shots – the winter sun lighting conditions weren’t favourable to make them any sort of improvement over ACROS. I really like the tones in a lot of the Classic Chrome simulations. I kept my white balance set to AUTO for the day, and I think this was a good call. I don’t care what anybody says. When it comes to fast paced street photography, there is no shame in using whatever automatic features make the process more efficient.

Our final London street shoot of 2018 is scheduled for next Thursday (20th December). I’m pretty certain that I’ll keep the X100F settings the same as today, and try a repeat experiment shooting .jpeg only. There’s a chance that I was just on form today, and it was pure fluke that I’m happy with my results. I’ll let you know next week. If you have any questions or comments, send them my way, and don’t forget there’s still some places left on the Street Photography Workshop that Ash Smith and I will be running on Sunday 20th January 2019.

 

Love from London x