Portraits, Composition And……

In the very recent past I mentioned different Genres of photography and how they all have their own particular challenges.

Walking up to strangers is one of those issues around getting yourself a portrait portfolio. You might be thinking to yourself why on earth am I thinking about portfolios already when I am obviously such a new boy to photography.

Well I don’t know where I want to take my photography or why I really need to think about a portfolio at this time. What I do know is if I have a purpose and I start to get it right sooner than later, its logical that I will start to capture better and better images more consistently and hopefully this will become noticeably effortless.

Okay, walking up to strangers, I’m not totally uncomfortable with this;  If the person declines my attempt at engaging them I’m too long in the tooth to dwell on their refusal. If someone says no then they have their reason. and thats fine & dandy. Polite refusal results in no offence being taken.

I’m not dissuaded out of concern people may engage me in conversation. I find this reasonably easy and I have enough life experience to be able to converse with people from most backgrounds.

What really puts me off is the feeling that I am waisting their time.

I was walking along the canal by Trellick Tower, an interesting award winning building that people either love, loath or just appreciate for its architecture. I haven’t met anyone that does not have an opinion of this concrete mass otherwise known as a living space.

I was trying to get some shots using ‘Exposure Lock’ and was not having any real luck. My images were very much exposed from one extreme to the other. I was actually trying to identify areas that had a light quality that I could lock into, recompose and get an image that showed some detail in the dark areas and not lose details in the highlighted areas. No cookie for me!!

Frustratedly I came to the conclusion that its not always possible to get the shot we want.

(As a side note, something was pointed out to me; I will try not to do it too much but… I’m a Londoner and I might use some colloquialisms or idioms. Most are obvious when read in context but if you don’t get it, look em up, check em out, have a nosy or a gander!!) Anyway, I digress, I’m good at that.

Regents Canal; I spotted a chap in a little canal boat and asked if I could take his picture. He agreed. I didn’t catch his name but we chatted about the boat, I asked if it was a weekend thing (Cos it was tidily). It turns out he lives on it, has owned it for two weeks and so far is enjoying his new lifestyle. He told me that there is a bit of a community amongst people living on the boats, that he feels secure and does not get hassled from people on the towpath. A friend of mine used to own a boat on the canal near Paddington Basin actually another friend also had a narrow boat somewhere in Hounslow. I never went on these boats because I get sea sick very easily. Yes, even on a canal that is virtually motionless.

Anyway, the hard part is done, engaging someone, getting permission and chatting. But its that sense of waisting peoples time that makes me rush what should be the easy part or at least the part that others find easier.I seem to have got it completely the wrong way around.

I had a conversation with a chap called Bruce Pinkard,  a nice man that gave up photography due to age related matters.

It was his wife that told me he was a photographer. Very modest too. It wasn’t until I looked him up I realised quite how modest he was being. I could almost veer off yet again! I won’t…… Bruce Pinkard told me to relax and take my time; “Anyone you ask to take a portrait of should and will be flattered’” he said.

Well I’m not sure I caught a very flattering image of The Boat Dweller or Mr. Boat. I have no idea what to call him. As I said, I didn’t catch his name.


I have had to crop this image a little and tinker around with it a tad. I have a reasonable depth of field but I could have composed the shot better. There is after all, no sense that this chap was on a small narrow boat that he now calls home.

He told me he has some friends that are professional photographers and that really put the pressure on to be quick.

The reality is that it was me, I, myself, no one else that personally put the added pressure to be quick. He, Mr. Boat even said “We all start somewhere”.

I’m sure people that are experienced in all things post production will be able to work some magic with this portrait.

It would be nice if someone copied it, worked on it and re-presented it. Just to help give me an idea of what can be done. Anyhow, if Mr. Boat gets to see this, I hope the portrait isn’t too disappointing and I thank you again for your time.

The next two images are of Gordon.  Gordon is not his real name. Gordon told me he is known as Gordon and has been for a long time. This came out because my card (I’ve had cards made up because I think it is only fair that people that have given up their time for me to practice photography should see the images I have taken. No matter how my current skill-set allows me to present them). My card, as with the blog/diary has Jim Jimmy James.

Gordon asked which I prefer, I don’t think I’ve ever been asked that before? For me its Jim , Jimmy or James. It all boils down to what time of my life someone has gotten to know me.

When I was a kid I would not answer to Jim or Jimmy. As I grew up I started to accept Jim as my name and even introduced myself as Jim. Male friends would call me Jim, female friends & girlfriends would sometimes call me Jimmy.

From then on it would all depend on who was introducing me to someone new; Jim Jimmy or James. Once introduced that person would call me…. You get the idea right!?! So on it goes.

So I just happened to type Jim Jimmy James as a user name for this blog/diary because I didn’t know what to call myself.

My birth cert says James. To really add to the confusion some of my neighbours call me John and some of my extended family call me Seamus or Hamish. At the end of the day with the exception of John, they are all derivatives of James so Gordon decided to address me as James. Again, no issues with engaging in conversation and explaining why I wanted to take the photos. Gordon was extremely patient and like most people he has an interesting life story.



As far as composition goes, I don’t think I have done too badly. Its apparent to me that I could make some improvements with regards to exposure. The Book Gordon is reading is a history of barbed wire. The images were taken at the Subway Gallery.

This place has some great exhibitions and is where I managed to get a previous photograph of Keira Rathbone. Its a great little gallery and we are lucky to have it open as the entire subway was nearly closed. Gordon told me a little about the history of the subway, some I was aware of but I didn’t know the finer details.

I couldn’t do the place justice in this short blog. The history of the Gallery and Subway or Underpass would need someone more expressive than me and a lot more detail than I can offer you.

Personally I would suggest you look at the website for the gallery to check their opening times and then go see Gordon.

I have been told and read that composition does have some rules. Well not rules that are set in stone but some accepted components that are naturally pleasing to the eye. Such as the use of the rule of thirds, balance and colour. That said, as a new photographer I should also be looking for something unusual, different or at least interesting. I took the next image at the gym.


While you may well have seen similar images, this was new for me and presented its own challenges.

The lighting in the gym was harsh, I thought the colour of the walls would help in reflecting the light but it didn’t help.

A moving subject only added to the difficulty. I would have liked better focus but over all I think it is a reasonably composed image that tells a clear story of a hard working gym.

The final image is looking at shutter speed and considers how to make portraits fun. Image

This took a bit of experimentation to get the timing and exposure right.

I’d love to say this was my idea but it wasn’t. The idea is from a photograph at Morley College Art Gallery. They are displaying images from a competition made up of a collection of photographs that were produced by students completing City and Guilds photography courses. On display were the runners up, placed positions and naturally the winners photographs.

Some of them were fantastic and others just looked ordinary. So ordinary that I was surprised to see them on the walls. But I guess its a matter of taste.

I try to be optimistic but in a world of dog eat dog, cronyism and nepotism, I found myself wondering who the judges were and how that impacted on the competition.

Thanks to the above for posing for these photos and than you for dropping by and reading my photography diary.

Oh just one more thing on my name; it is always James when people feel the need to tell me off and when they are shocked its always Jimmy (Surname)!!

Bye for now.

Jim, Jimmy or James.

One comment

  1. I always called you Jimmy, and I am definitely not a girl! It is the same with Mick, Mike, and Micky, Terry, Tel, and many others. Perhaps a London thing? Other cities use the ‘s’ or ‘z’, as in Baz, Des, and Tez. All part of our wonderful language!
    Cheers mate, Pete.

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