Street Photography - asking for a photo

Can I take your photo?

Up until a few weeks ago I had not crossed that boundary, “hi there can I take your photo?” I have been able to shoot street photography without having the need. On a few occasions  I have been caught taking people's pictures and I have had someone turn away hiding and covering their face. The large majority of people have never noticed and even if the they have nothing has been said, I just smile and move on. But there have been many occasions when I have spotted someone who I think would make an interesting photo but before you know, the person and the moment has gone. If only I'd have asked them. It's not the easiest thing to do though.

Street Photography in Leigh on Sea

However a few Mondays ago I was in Leigh on Sea a small seaside town in Essex, UK. I walking along the high street armed with my Canon 1000fn (film camera). When I spotted someone who I thought was Wilko Johnson, I looked again and I was now sure it was him. He was looking up and down the street, he was wearing all black carrying a small black case. The first thing that came to me was, I wanted to take his photo! I literally ran across the road and straight up to him. I simply asked him, “hi there I'm a big fan, is it okay to take your photo?” He said of course. I quickly prepared myself, the camera was on, in shutter priority mode, 100/1. I lined up the shot and I had to manually focus (as it doesn’t work on the kit lens that I have). Obviously with it being film I wasn’t able to tell if I had captured Wilko as I wanted. I thanked him telling him that he was an inspiration after what he has gone through. I shook his hand (a solid handshake) and I left him. 

It all happened so quickly, I was buzzing afterwards. I had managed to ask somebody I massively admire to take his photo, and he said yes! All I had to do now was look after the film and get it processed. Hoping that the film gods are looking down on me and the photo came out okay. I have never treated a film with such care.

So if you don’t know who Wilko Johnson is, his story is an amazing one. You should watch the interview of him on BBC’s Hardtalk, also check out his website.

A few days later I got the film processed at Bayeux in London and this is what I shot.

East London - street photography

Sunday street photography

I met Matt at Highbury and Islington station. From there we started our street photography walk heading south towards the canal. We passed by the Get Stuffed shop and also had a quick look at the Banksy on Essex Road - you can still see quite a bit of it. Matt was shooting with his Olympus Trip and I was shooting with my Leica C. It was good conditions for shooting relatively cloudy and dry.

Regents Canal

Once at the canal we headed east. The walk along the canal was cool apart from the having to move out of the way of all the runners and cyclists. We're a nation of runners you know! Along the way there was quite a lot to shoot. Lots of colour, mainly found within graffiti that was about. We continued to walk, chat and shoot. We made it to Victoria Park where we explored the Sunday Market there. The park was busy lots going on, we watched a bit of Sunday League football (brought back old memories). From there we walked towards Hackney Wick and made it to the Crate Brewery and Pizzeria. Crate is a micro brewery, its a cool place where cool people go. Its also right on the canal so it was a welcomed place to rest up for a bit. Over a beer and a cider (in my case) and a spicy pepporami pizza we reviewed our photos (well I did Matt was shooting film)! 

Olympic Stadium

From there we walked towards the Olympic Stadium in the area we found so much graffiti - probably the most I've seen in London. It was quite quiet as well so good for shooting as you can see in the photos. From there Matt got the train back to his. I then decided to walk back to my house in Leyton. (I walked over 25 thousand steps during this day!)

All in all I am happy with the shots I got, the conditions were ones that I favour. Looking through the shots their quite a mixture, but I didn't go out with any rules I just shot what I saw. Let me know what you think.

Photography Project 1 - everydayeveryday

This was the first monthly project that I set for myself. I posted what I captured online via Twitter using the hashtag #alseverydayeveryday

I was hoping this form of project would give my photography direction as I had a frame to work within.

The project itself should be easy, just take pictures of everyday things. But to be honest it was more difficult than I thought. I think I was worried whether the captures would be good enough to post. However thinking about it this isn't the point, the point is to capture the everyday! The pictures shown as a collection would be better than just one shot shown by itself.

The main learning from this project is that I need to think at the start of the month how I am going to get the shots. As in what camera do I need, when and what should I be shooting. With the everydayeveryday project I think I needed to be more disciplined in getting these shots. This reminds me of the Project365 I did back in 2012, I need to have the project at the front of mind at all times.

Each of my monthly projects will give me things I need to improve on, (that's kinda the idea!). I also need to understand why it wasn't a major success and try and improve on that within next months project. 

Trinity Boy Wharf - Sunday Street Photography

It was an early start and quite a journey to get to Canning Town for 9.30am. Once there I met Matt and we then walked toward Trinity Buoy Wharf. It was cold but not raining and slightly overcast which are some of my favourite conditions. I didn't want bright blue skies burning out my photos.

Trinity Buoy Wharf is a small peninsula on the Thames, its a cool place that I have visited a number of times. Each time I've been there I've seen something different, there have been a number of different art installations. It attracts creatives and different forms of art. From just walking around you will notice different sculptures. There are also music creators such as Daniel Avery in the area. There is also the only lighthouse in London (even though its not active you can go up inside) and a container city.

When shooting I had no agenda or planned way to photograph, it was just a shoot what you see kind of day. I was with my Leica C.

The Wharf was quieter than previous visits, but it was early on a Sunday morning. The cafe that I had been to before was closed and looked like it has shut down, shame it was cool and did a good breakfast.

Matt and I walked around and took some shots of what we saw, it felt quiet and empty, desolate even. From there we walked towards Canary Wharf again this area was quiet apart from groups of tourists. We continued to walk and shoot working our way to the river front where we got a few got shots. But time was getting on and I wanted to make sure I was back home to watch the football West Ham v Shrewsbury Town

In summary the day's photo walk was good and I always enjoy getting out, and even though I have been to Trinity Buoy Wharf a number of times I enjoyed it and would go back again. Its also a good form of exercise as I was actually walking for 5 hours. 

a walk around 'the city'

Street photography is always welcome on a walk.

Up until 4 years ago I had worked in 'the city' of London - the city is basically the financial district of London. Since not working there I have missed the architecture and the history which I only appreciated once I wasn't there. As a result I thought it was time to go back, a tip is to go on the weekend as most of the offices are closed so you can walk around and it's quiet. There are still a few places open such as the Crosse Keys, probably my favourite Wetherspoons pub.

Before we started out I did some research to see if there was some where I hadn't been in the city and there was. Saint Dunstan in the East Church Garden.

We got the train to Liverpool Street and walked towards the Church Garden taking a few shots on the way.

We found Saint Dunstan, it is in between Monument and Tower Hill. I would recommend taking a look at the Monument if you can, its a great reminder of what happened in 1666. The small church garden provides an area of tranquility within the hustle and bustle of the city. You are transported to a parallel London.

We carried on walking down to the river Thames. Then headed back toward the Crosse Keys where we stopped for lunch and a few pints of cider. It is a great pub, at one stage it was HSBC's head quarters.

To sum up its great to get out and see places, even though I know the city, it is changing. New buildings are going up all the time and I found the hidden garden. Better than all this I was able to share and show others some interesting parts of London.

the last week - city version

Street photography - West London style.

It was 28th December and I was trying to get together the energy and enthusiasm to go out and make some photos. To aid this I watched a few YouTube videos one being by Evan Ranft who has a cool channel dedicated to photography mainly city landscapes. These videos definitely gave me a reminder that the only way to make photos is to get out there.

A place I wanted to photograph was a flyover in West London. I kind of knew where it was, so I headed out again with my Leica C and no phone so I didn't have GPS to work out exactly where I was heading.

I took the underground to White City and once there realised that it wasn't the right place but even so I got a few cool shots.

I then moved onto Shepherds Bush, where again I got a few shots. I tried not to capture people I was mainly attempting to shoot the urban area that was in-front of me. Following that I remembered there was some kind of flyover at Hammersmith, which was a bus journey away. So after getting a few more shots I treated myself to a McDonalds and brought two books from Pocket Shop. Work by Joseph Heller and Desire by Haruki Murakami. Both of these books are from the Penguin Vintage Mini collection. They feature excerpts from both of the authors work.

Back to the photography, the picture below shouts 'free party' to me. I bet there's been loads of that type of thing going on down there! If anyones planning one be sure to give me a shoutout!!

the last week - countryside version

With it being Christmas time my office has been closed, this has given me time to get out and make some photos. I travelled by train from London to my home town of Shrewsbury. I was up against a failed rail strike and snow! I had all my luggage but more importantly I had my Leica C in my pocket at all times. Its a habit I am trying to get into - each time I leave the house carry a camera (not including my iPhone).

The further I travelled north the more snow appeared, I attempted to capture this from sitting on the train. Looking out the train window and trying to get some good shots, I found myself looking at the sky, fields and trees - the passing scenery was so refreshing. I normally see 'city', but with the snow also on show it was all a powerful scene. I was also listening to Radiohead the In Rainbow album which I think is great. So that probably help set the mood.

Once I arrived in Shrewsbury I obviously had Christmas shopping to do, but after that I wanted to get out and capture the snow and how it looked. I took quite a few shots on black and white film but I haven't had that processed yet, so above and below are a few captures I made using my Leica point and shoot.

urban street photography in Leyton, East London

This street photography walk wasn't planned. It was just a simple short walk to Leyton, where I had a crepe and took some urban photo's along the way. I was shooting with my Cannon dslr through my 24mm lens. The object was just to capture what I saw and not give too much thought to it all. My camera mode was TV and my settings were iso800 and 1/100, which I kept throughout.

After finishing the crepe (which I enjoyed more than I thought I would) we stumbled upon a cool shop. The Laura Lea Design Boutique & Art Gallery. Helen and I had a good look around and really liked some of the pieces of work. I also had a chat to Laura about screen printing and how good the new Beck album is.

As we walked I don't think I really found any amazing street photography subjects, but I am starting to take my camera out with me every where I go. I think this slightly explains the randomness of these shots, but personally I like them. I am enjoying how using these settings can give a certain look, the pancake prime lens at iso800 captures light in a certain way. It does this whilst leaving the blacks alone which I like.

To sum up, it was only a short walk that I happened to take my camera on. As a result I had a number of shots that I was happy to post. I guess the moral of this is if you go for a walk you might stumble upon a cool shop and meet someone interesting. Added to this if you take your camera you'll get some shots and learn something about your photography.

never turn down a free camera

I expect that lots of people have many cameras tucked away in drawers and cupboards that haven't been used for ages. Lots of people buy a camera or are brought a camera with a view to taking an interest in photography. However for one reason or another the camera is sitting idle and isn't being used, whilst the interest wains. This is where we come in! 

All it takes is a conversation about photography with the right person and you could have yourself an old school film camera. Thats how I came to be with my current film camera, the Canon 1000fn. In synopsis this camera has been passed from auntie and uncle to me. The camera body itself is cheap but thats not the point. They used it back in the 80/90's and now I am using it in 2017 - there's something very cool about this.

Luckily my all of my other Canon lenses fit the 1000fn, so I have mainly shot with my 50mm 1.4. This is a prime lens with high quality glass. The next thing is to work out what film I really want to shoot with. Up until now I have put 5 or 6 rolls of film through the camera. These films have been from an expired batch I got off eBay. None of these will be my preferred choice. However the next 2 films I am will shoot are Portra400 and Cinestill 800 (see blog 5th September). I'll see how they come out and let you know the results. In the meantime within this entry are some of what I have shot with the aforementiond camera on expired films.

street photography walk - Clerkenwell to Finsbury Park

Thursday evening, rather than go the pub and drink overpriced pints and say things that I've already said I walked from Clerkenwell to Finsbury Park. The main aim of the walk was to take some pictures and this time I gave myself a challenge. An idea that I got from Vijce, a cool street photographer. My plan was to shoot patterns and or repetitions. 

With it being November the London streets aren't the most inviting for street photography, but the darkness and the misty rain hopefully would assist in getting a good shot. Once you see passed the conditions you should make them work for you. I was using my DSLR with the 50mm, 1.4 lens. I sorted out my settings, putting the ISO up to 1600 and selecting a shutter speed of 100/1 and set it to TV mode. 

Having a specific remit whilst looking for shots was something different to how I usually think. It was a new workflow and didn't take too much time to get in that mode. Usually when capturing street photography I just look for good shots but now my mind was focussing and looking around for anything that resembled a pattern.

However there are still things that I paid attention to, as night street photography is very different to that in the day. You might already be doing these subconsciously but if not be sure to:

  • look where the light sources are i.e. passing cars, lamppost
  • pay attention to contrasts and possible silhouettes
  • use the lights sources as leading lines
  • view colours and reflections

Above and below are a selection of the shots I took, I have converted a few to black and white. I like the way black and white images use the grain from the high 1600. I think this adds to the mood. 

when I shoot street photography in black and white

Black and white was the original street photography mode. The shots have a timelessness that can't be captured in the same way as when shooting in colour. They give off a certain type of feel. A strong nostalgic and simple feel.

I don't shoot in black and white as often as I do in colour. However when I do, I try and think in black and white. When looking for a good composition or subject it helps to think this way. It sounds a bit weird but with practice and if you go out with this at front of mind it will become easy. There are digital options to set your camera to a monochrome preset, but I quite like the challenge of seeing in colour and converting this to black and white. I think its a good skill to have. You will begin to see and realise what works in black and white and this will come forward within the shots you capture.

Nico Goodden and Erik Kim have both written great blogs on shooting street photography in black and white. Giving yourself the constraint of shooting in black and white can actually let you see the shots in a different way. The images become less cluttered, with this in mind it makes sense to concentrate the image on a single or less objects. This will create a powerful capture.

Below are some of the photos that I have made, half shot in London and the other half shot in Frinton.


In trying to learn more about graphic design and the structure of images, I thought drawing would help. And it has, I now have a better understanding of shadows, structure, texture and how to achieve these.

Another benefit of is that I find drawing therapeutic, its has a calming influence on me and the more I do and learn from books the more confident with images I become. The way I draw is in silence and if that's not possible with headphones on. Both letting me solely concentrate of the pencil and paper.

From the sketches below you can see how using darker and lighter shading gives the perception of depth and texture within the images.


I don't live in Brixton anymore

So I recently moved from South London to East London. Leaving Brixton I wasn't too disappointed but that's another story. What Brixton is good for, but everyone already knows is street photography. It wasn't rare to see a fellow photographer covertly snapping away, attempting to capture the urban, downtown urban vibe that Brixton gives off.

Whilst living there I tried to take pictures when walking around but I didn't find it as easy as in some places. Maybe because it can almost be too busy, you need to find the quiet(er) parts, well I did. Also not everyone likes having their photo taken, especially the owner of Michael's Meats (maybe a Michael?). 

Below are a few shots I captured from walking around Brixton. Brixton is a cool place. Its real London, its tough and its not for the faint hearted. 

shoot everything, all the time

This is simply a shot of my Dad in a car park. It was a simple iPhone shot, an off the cuff turnaround and snap and carry on walking one. I like the look and the feel of the result. You never know when a good photo will crop up and if you have a phone you most likely have a good camera within. So there is no excuse for not taking photos all the time!!

keep creating

Sometimes not everything works out. This is a simple photo, where I was trying to get a glitch effect in photoshop. I kinda did but it came out quite over the top and more abstract than I'd planned. I think its okay to fail, but I don't really see it as failing. Its just part of the learning curve, any creation is better than no creation.

Oslo, on reflection

A week ago I had the opportunity to go to Oslo, Norway. So with a slightly amended approach to things, I said I'm going and I went. Whilst I was there the weather was good it was warm during the day and colder at night, pretty obvious really. On the afternoon of the second day I had just finished coffee tasting and leaving Tim Windelboe's roastery had just missed the rain.

This was good news in that we wouldn't be getting wet but what I found to be better news was that there were the reflections of the rain puddles everywhere. Some might see this as somewhere to get wet but I saw it as an opportunity to make some cool photos. So I snapped away. I was now looking for reflections everywhere and anywhere. 

Below are some of the images I captured. The first two are rain puddle reflections and the third is a thrift store shop window. Looking at the first two I could rotate them so they seem the right way up. But I like the way they look and yes you guessed it, it wouldn't be a true reflection. The third picture I like the way the building seems to fit into shot.

Vivian Dorothy Maier

I came across Vivian Maier when looking on iTunes. It was the movie Finding Vivian Maier. I read the synopsis and instantly it sounded interesting. I obviously looked at her photos that have made it online and on her website. 

Over time my interest in Vivian continued, her compositions, the camera she used where she went to get these incredible shots. But I held off watching the film. Part of me wanted to save it. I did save it until about 6 months ago, when I purchased the movie on iTunes. I don't mind giving money to fellow creators!? 

I watched the film and loved it, the story was gripping. What a character Vivian was, she sounded so facinating and the element of mystery surrounding her just added to it all. Vivian's story has stayed with me and probably always will.

However on reflection a few things sit uneasy with me. From what I have seen and read, Vivian was a private person. How would she feel with being a well known street photographer? Was the found film undeveloped for a reason, or had Vivian just not got around to developing it all? Did she want her photos to be seen worldwide? I feel with all this publicity and research we are looking in on Vivian's life without her permission, and this makes me uncomfortable. If she didn't see them would she want me to see them? I feel she made pictures for herself and not for the internet world and not to star in film for Netflix.

All of Vivian's work is so appealing but the self portraits are what really stand out for me. The shadow silhouettes tell many stories. In addition the mirrored reflections are captivating and have influenced my own photography.

Vivian's image on the left, note how the legs of the two women sat down are within Vivian's reflected legs and the shoes within the shoes. Amazing composition!

I could write lots more but I don't think I need to or should. If you want to find out about Vivian its all over the internet and there are some great books with all her images. Then there's the film, oh and there is (or was) a legal battle, somebody is making money from her photos and her story! But without any of this I never would have been able to see these images!?