Month: March 2014

The British Museum.

Architectural photography. I think its all lines, angles and abstracts? 

I see some images that look great but I can not put my finger on what makes them stand out. 

So here are a few images from a trip to The British Museum today. 

I’m fairly happy with them but as usual, I think I will revisit this genre and try to improve. 

Constructive criticism is always welcome (As long as its constructive). 

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As I’ve loaded these and had another look, I’m wondering if I should have batch edited them with the same exposure, white balance and contrast. I think maybe I should have as it would probably tie them together better. 

 

Cheers for stopping and looking. 

 

Jim Jimmy or James. 

Shooting Traffic Wardens!

I would like to think that the people that matter to me and really know me would consider me to be straight forward and honest. They’d certainly know that the one thing that bugs me is double standards. Especially when it comes to Government, Local Authorities and The Law. 

Moving traffic violations in my opinion should be dealt with by the police. Specifically traffic police. I think far too many people are of the opinion that driving is a right rather than a privilege because nowhere near enough drivers get stopped for driving badly (Not enough traffic police).

Speed cameras don’t spot bald tyers, they don’t see people with no lane discipline, they don’t see people speeding between cameras. More police is the only answer to moving traffic violations. I accept that this is not going to be a popular view, especially for those intent on breaking the law. But hey, speed cameras don’t get dangerous drivers or cars off the road. They don’t get the drivers off the road that drive our insurance premiums up either. 

Now traffic wardens in London were linked to the Metropolitan Police Service. They were never popular but they did keep London traffic moving and that was their main goal. To some extent ticketing motorists for shoddy parking was down to their own discretion; often giving drivers some leeway and hurrying them to move on.

The modern traffic warden is not really to my liking. Their job is not to keep traffic flowing around my beautiful city but to give motorists a hard time and raise revenue for local authorities. 

Don’t get me wrong, if someone parks at a dropped kerb making life difficult for those in wheel chairs and so on; then they are fair game. If they obstruct the public highway then they are fair game but what is not cricket (Thats an idiom like ‘it ain’t kosher’. It means something is not acceptable, its not on) is these little cars with the telescopic cameras ‘spy cars’. 

You’ll have your own opinion of cameras with regards to traffic offenses but you must surely agree that this Camden camera car is bang out of order. 

I expect people to lead by example and this particular car is parked on double yellow lines. 

It had its camera facing a ‘no right turn’ but why should a motorist doing a ‘no right turn’ receive a fixed penalty fine when the car capturing the potentially dangerous maneuver is itself illegally parked. 

As far as I know, these spy cars have no exemptions from obstructing the highway or dangerous and illegal parking. 

 

I’m not overly concerned by these cars, mostly because I either walk or use our public transport system which is actually very good. 

 

The images are not going to win any awards but they are just a snap-shot used to illustrate one of the issues that frustrates London drivers. 

 

Its a typical double standard and contradiction; the usual hypocrisy of local authority and government ‘Do as I say not as I do!’

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Traffic ‘spy car’ parked on double yellow lines.

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The rear of the car confirms it is most definitely on  double yellow lines. 

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Would you just look at the state of that window. Filthy! Difficult to see through windows that are that dirty. Especially on a bright sunny day. I wonder if that is another traffic offence?! 

In the interest of fairness It is not just camden and ‘spy cars’ that wind up London’s motorists but the general privately contracted traffic wardens. 

Here are a couple of Westminster traffic wardens ticketing NHS Emergency Ambulances. 

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Ticketing ambulances outside an ambulance station. 

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Westminster traffic warden ticketing an emergency rapid response vehicle belonging to the London Ambulance Service. Its always nice to see someone getting a lot of satisfaction and enjoyment in their work. 

Please note, no traffic wardens were hurt and the only shooting was done with a camera. 

 

As always, thanks for visiting my page.

Jim Jimmy James

Another dimension!

I don’t believe in ghosts, spirits, other dimensions or life on Mars. That said, I am not a total disbeliever either. Its just a case that any alternative existence other than what we know as fact has not been proven.  

I would actually really like to believe that there is something more to our personal journeys other than the short lives we get to live. (Sadly some shorter than others). 

Sometimes things happen that I cannot explain but I just assume there is a logical explanation. Such as my vanishing subject yesterday. Please don’t ask me to explain it ‘logically’ because I haven’t figured it out yet. Maybe he jumped in the bin? Who knows? 

The actual image that I took yesterday is unremarkable really. In fact I’m wrong, it is remarkable. I can find lots wrong with it to remark on, such as its very out of focus, the light is not brilliant and the exposure isn’t really as spot on as it could be. But here is the thing, the reason I have chosen to add it to my blog……I had the camera set up for something else, I turned around to carry on with my walk and I spotted the chap in the photo right in front of me. He was making a very definite fashion statement and I immediately knew I would try and get a picture. 

I wanted to do this without stopping him and only had what felt like a fraction of a second to try and get my camera settings adjusted. Perhaps in this instance I should have just turned the dial to shutter or aperture priority? 

I tried to get the shot and it didn’t work out. Thats just life and part of the learning curve I’m having to move along.

I’m getting better at guesstimating my settings but unlike the great street photographers, changing my camera’s settings quickly is not an autonomic response. 

I am however getting into the habit of attempting to capture the image, after all, no attempt= no picture. Where as if I at least try, I will get an image of some description that I can self critique and learn from. 

Back to the chap in the picture. He was just walking along by The Serpentine in Hyde Park, London, looked interesting and stood out from the crowed. Definitely stood out from the crowed.

I took the shot and while I checked the screen on the back of the camera, out of the corner of my eye I noticed him sit on the park bench. 

The photo was no good so I turned to ask if I could take a portrait of him. I do not usually do this but on this occasion I did because he  fits a project I want to start later in the year or early next year. But he’d gone! Just vanished in the matter of two to four seconds. It was that quick. 

To my left was some grass, a foot path, cycle path, a horse bridleway and more grass. To my right was The Serpentine and it looked just as it did when it was on my left and I was walking towards the man. 

Behind me was the direction the man had come from and the direction I was  initially walking prior to turning to ask him for his portrait. 

The footpath ahead only had light footfall so he would/should have been easy to spot. Especially with what he was wearing. But Nope! He’d gone and vanished into thin air. Just one of life’s mysteries I guess. Either that or I need to head down to the opticians? 

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Lessons learn’t: 

Try to be quicker with adjusting settings.

Not everything needs to be manual and consider using the semi auto camera settings if needed. 

Keep an eye on interesting subjects so I can either get the picture I want or find the doorway to some other dimension.

Thanks for stopping.

London’s Soho.

London’s Soho has been many things. If we want to go way way way back soho was once a land where woolly mammoths roamed or may have roamed. I’m not a historian and I’m not about to give a long spiel about this small part of London.
What I will tell you is that soho has seen a time when it was considered glamourous with a handful sophisticated clubs. Its been run down with very little investment, its an area that has been associated with criminal activity from the petty criminals to larger organised gangland bosses of London.
There is so much that Soho is famous for, the sex trade, private members clubs, music venues, theaters, famous residents.
Soho still has a bohemian element (but you need to look a bit harder than you used to). It is a kaleidoscope of Londoners; homeless to the wealthy, poorly educated to the privately tutored, street cleaners to aristocracy.
It is a little island in London’s west-end with its boundaries marked out by Regents Street, Oxford Street, Charring Cross Road and Shaftesbury Avenue.

Soho Photo Doc. (1 of 12)

I was first introduced to Soho when I was about fourteen years old. I was brought up in Hackney but my mates and I would always wonder off to explore our city. Hackney was far too small. Besides that, we were a bit boisterous and we had the benefit of cheap travel thanks too ‘The red bus rover’. This was a really cheap bus ticket that allowed us to hop on and off any bus we wanted. Fantastic!!!
So we used to come up to town from the east-end and explore. A couple of years later we’d head into the area for Carnaby Street. Once very trendy and fashionable with many independent shops. Sadly its changed and is now very much like any other high street.
I’m glad to say that a cafe I used to eat at when I was sixteen has only just changed hands and two of the staff have been kept on. I’m also pleased that one of the clothing shops I have used since I was a teenager (That was a long time ago) is still situated just off Carnaby Street.

Soho Photo Doc. (2 of 12)

Of course one of the things Soho was well known for was the fabric shops and tailors. I have to say to anyone reading this, use tailors. Honestly, if you are not the same shape as a typical fashion model, use a tailor.

Buy your stuff off the peg and get a good tailor to make alterations.

It usually doesn’t cost that much and your clothes will fit better, you’ll feel better and you’ll look better.

You will not be the bloke that goes to the gym, has the big neck and shoulders but really baggy shirt or the tall skinny chap who has no shape to their trousers…. Get your stuff tailored and you’ll be known by friends and colleagues as someone well groomed. Smart & Sharply dressed.

Soho’s tailors range from the small workshops to the very smart and plush shops. Mark Powell has been in the Soho area for about thirty five years. Beautifully made suits and I have to say that I once read somewhere that “we should all dress for the job we want and not the job we have”. If I were required to wear suits at work I’d invest in a bespoke suit from Mr. Powell..

Soho Photo Doc. (3 of 12)

Soho Photo Doc. (4 of 12)
Its nice to see some familiar faces are still around.

I actually set off to Soho with my camera because I was working on a project and wanted to show the seedy grubby side of the area, the sex shops, drugs, drunks and transient population out for a night of titillation.

What I actually found was something very different. I think because I have always known the area and still work in and around Soho I didn’t see what was obvious until I went looking.

The residence and bushiness’ of Soho working in conjunction with the police have cleaned the area up massively. So much so that I was actually very surprised. I think I’m reasonably observant and could not believe my eyes as I walked about. I guess its like seeing someone everyday, you don’t notice the subtle changes but then if you see that same person a few years later you notice all of those small changes.

Okay the seedy side is still there but its not ‘in yer face’.
I worked at The Plazza on Oxford Street when it was being redeveloped. I was an office boy learning about architects drawings & assisting the planning coordinator.
Part of my job was running down to the post office that was on Berwick Street at the Junction with Broadwick Street. Even during the day people would try and proposition you. I remember being asked if I wanted to be in a porn film.

Funny now but not at the time. “Mate Mate, wanna make a movie?” “ Fella ain’t shown up and we’ve got some nice byrds waiting”.

I had it away on my toes, dropped of the parcels at the post office and then hid for a while in a wholesale shop called badge sales. Thankfully I knew two older girls from my social circle that worked there.

Some of the old Soho sex trade still exists but many of the sex shops have closed.

Soho Photo Doc. (5 of 12)

This sign on someones door is a reminder that Soho is a residential area as well as a playground. I can’t imagine what it must have been like having people banging on your door late at night looking for a knocking shop.

Soho Photo Doc. (6 of 12)

Funny what was once considered seedy now has an air of respectability about it. Respectability?! I’m not sure thats the word I want.
Maybe acceptance would be a better choice?

Anyway its not my place to judge the girls or men found in these clubs. I’m a photographer and therefore just and observer documenting what I see.

Soho Photo Doc. (9 of 12)

Soho Photo Doc. (10 of 12)

Despite many music venues closing down it is reassuring to see venues like Ronnie Scotts are still going strong.

Soho Photo Doc. (7 of 12)

Bar Italia is still a 24-hour refuge for those wanting a bite to eat and a damn good coffee before trying to figure out where to get the night bus home.

Soho Photo Doc. (8 of 12)

Samples (7 of 10)

The clubs and bars are busy, its a seven day week and a twenty four hour day in Soho.
Soho Photo Doc. (12 of 12)

Soho Photo Doc. (11 of 12)

I love London and I love the sanitised Soho as much as I loved the Soho of my youth.
It still has some interesting characters, it still has a transient population but still has its community. It feels safe, buzzes with an enthusiasm for life and welcomes everyone.

A huge thank you to Mark Powell, Staff at Bar Italia and Peter from The Face for allowing me to take their portraits.

As ever, thank you for viewing my blog.

Kind regards,

Jim Jimmy James

Street photography by day & night.

I have been set a little project to produce ten images in a documentary style.

Okay, its short notice and with work commitments the obvious thing would be street photography. A genre all of its own & not an easy one. There are some well respected and very talented street photographers out there, some well known and others just bumbling along doing their own thing.

I’ve done a little street photography over the last few months and have enjoyed it. However, I have done most of it from afar with a 70-250mm lens. I’ve managed to get some nice shots but they lack that intimacy that the really good street photographers capture.

I guess I looked a bit like this:

A not so subtle way of obtaining street portraits or very subtle?

A not so subtle way of obtaining street portraits or very subtle?

I guess its one way of getting street portraits. After all if you are taking the image from half a mile away; yes I’m exaggerating a smidge, you’ll always get a reasonable portrait but if you are a long distance away from your subject is it really street photography? I don’t know if it is?

Is it?

I decided its time to start trying to get up and personal and hopefully without getting a bloody nose!

One thing I seem to read lots is that the more comfortable you look with the camera the less chance there is of coming into conflict with the subjects I will be shooting. So in order to keep my good looks (He said tongue in cheek) I thought I would probably start off with the ‘shooting from the hip’ method. That doesn’t men snapping from hip level but is more of a term used for not using the view finder.

My first outings were disastrous. Really really really very bad. In terms of poor images but a good learning experience.

I read that street photographers prefer to use fixed 35 and 50 mm lenses. I wanted a new lens with a wider aperture so I headed off and got myself a 50mm lens. What I didn’t take into consideration was that on a cropped sensor that makes the lens an 85mm. Roughly! I’m not doing the maths nor am I overly concerned at this stage of my development.

A fixed 85mm lens still feels scarily close to strangers when you are photographing them on their day to day life. So getting the 50mm by mistake is actually a good thing for me, as it will allow me to build some confidence at getting closer to strangers.

So, off I trot. Only to find when I got home that a wide open aperture for shooting from the hip in street photography wasn’t such a good move. Perhaps for those experienced photographers that have a better understanding of their cameras and lenses it would work but not for me. Nope!

Back out again with an aperture of around 7 to 8 (Somewhere in that region) and better results and with some interesting angles.

 

This image is a little hazy but I’m reasonably happy with it as a shoot from the hip style capture. It also tells a story.

I like the angle of this one. Its much clearer and shows the opposite story the previous image where the guy is relaxing in the warmth of the building and the hazy sunshine while this woman need to get from A to B, do her shopping, drink her coffee and chat on the phone.

I’m just going to put in a couple more images that were taken in the evening. They are all a bit soft and I can understand why I don’t see a great amount of street photography at night. Its an entirely new ball game.

street 4 (1 of 1)

 

So what did I learn? Light! It always come down to light! Yep its light. Again!!!

Street photography at night needs to be done near well lit bars, restaurants or in areas with great street lighting.  I guess you could use a flash but that would be a tad obtrusive and would make me/you as covert as the chap in the first image. Not to mention irritating for the people you are photographing.

When shooting from the hip, closing the aperture down and increasing the depth of field helped massively.

People are so caught up and distracted by what they are doing that street photographers can actually get up very close without so much as a curious glance from many of their subjects.

The big lesson: Practice leads to improvement.

As always, thanks for visiting.

Jim Jimmy James.