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!?


shopping (offline)

Its a small thing but this made me happy. 

I walked to shop and spoke to somebody who worked at the shop. I asked for Cinestill and Portra film, 35mm. The man replied with 50 or 800? I replied with 800. (Referring to the speed of the Cinestill film.) The man left the counter and went through a door. The man opened the door and returned to the counter. He placed two rolls of film onto the counter.

Another man was behind the counter he was older looked like he'd been in the game for years, the owner I expected.

The original man pulled out an invoice book from under the counter. He wrote in it with a pen. He entered the two items and added VAT giving a total amount. He then said the total amount to me. I then gave the man some money. The man then gave me (less) money. The man gave me a copy of what he had written on pink paper. I picked up the 2 rolls of film along with the pink piece of paper.

I said thanks very much. He said thanks very much. I turned around and left the shop.

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Instagram - following 39

Instagram is an app that I use quite a lot I look at it more than a few times a day! I am currently trying to post to it daily. Whilst there are a number of things I could talk about regarding Instagram, today I just going to talk about the 39 accounts that I follow. Firstly I follow some friends and family which is a good way to see what is happening in their lives, children growing up, where they have travelled to and what they've had for breakfast?! The remainder are a mixture of musicians, photographers and artists.

I will say I am strict with who I follow - there are a number of reasons why I may unfollow: annoying content, no content, repetitive content. There are also some followers who I have a soft spot for, for example 'I like to paint monsters'. This is the account of the Chet Zar film and has been with me since the start. If you don't know who Chet Zar is, you should!

Looking at the 6 music accounts I follow Sarah Lipstate is the one I will talk about. Sarah is a alternative guitarist, she is a one woman show. She is a genius with an electric guitar and an array of pedals. Always making cool sounds that I like.

The 7 artist and photography accounts I follow are all people I admire and enjoy their work from the cinemagraphs that Nico Goodden produces to the candid street shots of New York that Daniel Arnold will post. Below is a full list of the accounts I follow. I am also lucky to personally know some of these people!

In summary I enjoy my followers but I am careful not to follow too many accounts. I don't want my feed full up of crap and what people had for breakfast. They must be accounts that I can gain inspiration from. Try it, go through the accounts that you follow and get rid of the dead wood so you don't have to filter through shit that some people post.

Erik Kim the photography blogger deleted his Instagram account even though he had thousands of followers as he said it was a 'life distraction' and that Instagram own the followers and not you - its their platform right! Actually Facebook own Instagram so more opportunity for them to make more money and have data on us. I get this and may be I will delete my Instagram account one day but currently I enjoy looking through the photos as I said. An alternative suggested by Erik is delete the app for a month and see how bad or good it can be?

Daniel Arnold 

James Barkman

James Jean

Jimmy Turrell

Nicholas Goodden

Rhiannon Rebecca Salisbury

I like to paint monsters


Adam Jones

Sarah Lipstate

Lawrence English



Ben Howard

Brixton, Sunday 30th July 2017

It was Sunday afternoon and I had a spare few hours. So I went for a walk around Brixton to see if I could find anything to photograph. Using my Leica C in P mode I took a number of shots of what I saw. With it being a Sunday a number of the shops were closed thus the shutters were down. Some colourful some not so, but these give a good background and a starting point. Its a case of framing the shot and waiting for (something or) someone interesting to walk in front. Another method was shooting from the hip as interesting people are walking past all the time. This method if you time it right can work well, whilst also being a non-contact way of shooting.

The four images below are some of what I captured. I like each images as they include a range (a loose sequence) man, woman, child and a caged animal.


sunday 11am. I got the tube from Brixton to Pimlico. My aim was to shoot some long exposure shots of some of the architecture (near the river Thames) and include the moving clouds giving the sky that silky look. However once out of the tube at Pimlico looking up at the sky it was just white, overcast type clouds that weren't moving. Exactly what I didn't want.

But this was my only real opportunity to get out and shoot today so I wanted to make something. As I had my long exposure kit with me including my Manfrotto tripod and Cokin 10 stop filter I looked around to see what else would suit a long exposure shot, the river obvs! So I found a little paved balcony section on the north west side of the Vauxhall Bridge. I set up my tripod and set my camera to shutter priority I got it to 1/13 second whilst keeping the ISO as low as possible 100/200. I then used the Long Exposure Calculator app on my phone to work out what the shutter speed would be for another 10 stops. This gave me a shutter speed of 1 min 18 seconds. I put the camera into bulb mode, fixed the 10 stopper filter in place and using the Canon wireless remote I started the camera.

I waited 78 seconds for the camera to do its magic, and the results of my shot is the first image below. In Lightroom I changed the image to black and white and made a few adjustments. As you can see the image would have been so much better with definition in the sky, I could have added a graduated filter in Photoshop but to be honest I wanted to highlight (excuse the pun) what had happened. 

The second image was another long exposure even though you can't tell, this is again due to lack of movement in the sky. It would look much better with a smoky sky, but even so, I quite like this image. I used the same method as for the previous shot and amended a few things in Lightroom. I had to take the highlights down but apart from that not much was needed. I like the shape of the building - curves and lines etc.

Whilst these 2 shots weren't exactly what I was after I'm still happy with them. I will definitely be back at this location later in the year and shoot in the autumn/winter. Aiming to get more even longer exposures at night and probably looking to shoot colour, capturing different colour lights across the river etc.

Sunday Learning's

Last Sunday, my friend Matt and I ventured out for a bit of a photo walk. Matt had his Ricoh G2 and I had my Leica C - both good street photography cameras. Small and understated camera's that have great results when used on manual or program settings. My Leica has the zoom option which I find very useful allowing me to get some good abstract shots.

We met up at Shoreditch High Street overground in London early afternoon. It was packed with people being cool (it's Shoreditch!) and just being out in the sun. After walking around trying to find interesting things to possibly photograph some things were getting in the way. People, there were too many, yes of course you want people in street photography (actually not everyone does). 

Too many people, they were all getting in each others way and obviously ours.

Secondly it was too hot the light was so bright and not a cloud in the sky, it was difficult to get a good shot and see it.

Thirdly everyone seemed to have a massive camera, I think there were some graffiti tours or something going on as lots of people were taking photos with huge expensive looking DSLR's.

Whilst its great that people are out taking photos as soon as I saw this I almost hid my camera, I didn't want to be a tourist. I'm not I know, but being seen with my camera I could be one. So stealth became part of the walk, however after being out for an hour dodging people and tourist groups, I noticed the red battery indicator was flashing. Within 5 minutes the battery was dead. (My fault.)

So rather than take no more photos, I started taking some on my iphone 5s. I used the hipstamatic app which is cool for street photography. After a few minutes of shooting I was used to it and it was cool and I enjoyed it, however the heat had gotten to both of us. We retired to Victoria Park which was again full of people but there was ample space for us both to sit down and have a can of beer whilst reviewing some of the shots we'd taken.

Learnings - I don't need a massive camera, I made the best of what I had, check the weather, dress accordingly don't go where there are too many people, charge your battery before you go out (school boy error).

why i shoot film

anyone can shoot digital all you need is your phone. This is only possible because of digital. When I want to make a photo I want to have full control how I make it. Meaning I understand the settings I am using and how that will help me make the picture I want. 

In addition to this (capture) freedom, you are able to choose the type of film you want to use. There are the obvious ones portra 400 and the trx one (which are both lush) but I like to buy a load of 35mm expired film off eBay and see what results they produce. These films whilst all having their own qualities have different speeds. ISO rates. This again in my eyes makes the film camera process a more intricate, involved and a more appealing process.

Not seeing your photos is also cool part. Yeh I just said that! But when you shoot a roll of film and don't see the results immediately to look at for 5 seconds you will understand. The fact that I mentally leave those pictures and keep them on the film. Makes them all that more sweeter when I get the film developed and then get to see the results. Allows me to reengage with them remembering the time, place, people etc

Making less photographs is also cool. Yeh I just said that as well! Each shot is a more careful act. As you only get 36 or 24 exposures each film (if shooting 35mm film) each capture is more precious. I think it's just as good not to take a photo as it is to take a photo. It means that you have seen a point of interested, composed it, thought about whether it will work. And your photographic analysis that film requires says theres something better around the corner.

From a commercial point of view film probably won't work for me due to the limitations. But from a personal aspect I am definitely a more film kind of guy.