Street Photography

Post Fools Day!

So April the 2nd got me out of Saturday’s ‘Monday morning blues’.

No banana for brunch!! I had a fab breakfast in bed up & out to shoot some rehearsal images for a mates band, out for dinner with the wife & a quick catch up with some friends. All in all a much better day, as were the third and today.

A little bit of axe playing at home, some reading, some photography and I’m almost ready to go back to work tomorrow. Its been nice to have some time off and even have a good nosy around the world wide web looking for a bit of inspiration for my 365 project. Its tough to do. Really tough and I have struggled.

I think it was on flickr or somewhere that I got directed to a blog of a fella that was doing a 365 of selfies. If you know me or follow my flickr, instagram or on here, you’ll know I hate being on the lens side of the camera so when I had a look at this blog here: Idiot with a camera. I did my norm and headed to the beginning. Why? Well I like to look at the images at the beginning and then see how their photographic style and content may have changed. It just makes sense to me, in fact the only reason I have a blog page is primarily so that I can look back over the pages and see how I have grown as a photographer, if at all…….

Anyhow I ended up getting drawn into the above blog partly because the selfies were not the kind that scream Hey! Look at me.

They also appear to be mostly normal day-to-day images and not the elaborately planned style found here. Again, great photographs but for different reasons.

One thing that is very clear reading his blog is that Australia and the UK appear to be worlds apart.

Another person whose life is worlds apart from mine is that of Sir Elton John. I went to see an exhibition at the Tate Modern today The Radical Eye.

Hells teeth he has a lot of important photographs and it was great to see some of these in this format rather than published in a book.

So, hopefully if you followed the links you are not all photo’d out for the day because here is one of mine from today:

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These people had become art as they walked around a smoke/dry ice installation. It was really interesting to see how different people behaved while we observed them.

As always, thanks for stopping.

Kind regards,

Jim Jimmy James

 

 

10 of 365photo project.

To see the album please follow the link: My 365 photo project on Flickr.

These following images are just three random photos taken on the way home.

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Images all taken on a Fuji XT2. Thanks for stopping and looking.

Kind regards,

Jim Jimmy James

Book Review #10

Well I wasn’t expecting to do a single book review so its a bit of a surprise to be sitting here typing review number 10.

The New Street Photographer’s Manifesto by Tanya Nagar: ILEX Publishing. Okay its not a new book. It was first published in 2012 but I’ve only just discovered it as I plan a street photography project.

This little book is small enough to almost be a field guide. Very handy size for reading on the tube (London Underground) and also just sitting in a little coffee shop. That might sound obvious but some photography books are just a bit too big and bulky when commuting.

The book is well laid out in bite sized sections with good advice that some will say is just common sense but to the more novice photographer and those inexperienced with the genre of street photography, this book is really informative and is going to give you the-heads-up.

There are good examples on composition as well as other hints and tips along with a handful of suggested street photographers for the reader to review. In doing so, Nagar introduces the reader to the serious nature of street photography and photojournalism as-well-as the odd and humorous.

After reading this book I’ve felt inspired in ways that I wasn’t expecting and have ideas for a couple of additional projects. (Bonus!).

Was it worth the £9.99 that it cost me? Yes & it is one of those books that I will keep for future reference.

I do have one criticism & I hope, if the author sees this review, they take note for any reprints….

There is a suggestion that you, the photographer may want to wear headphones as this might make people less likely to approach or confront you when they suspect you have taken photos of them. This may well be true and it may well give you some confidence to take those awkward shots that everyone starting out feels uncomfortable taking. However, this is not necessarily the best thing to do in London.

We Brits drive on the correct side of the road, while much of the world thinks they are in the right because the drive on the right, they’re wrong! (But thats for another blog or conversation).

Our roads are busy and it is my personal opinion that driving standards are not what they used to be. Vehicles are also quieter than they used to be and many collisions between buses and pedestrians involve tourists that have looked in the wrong direction before they go stepping out into the road… Best not to stick headphones over or in your ears because even without playing music, they will reduce your awareness of your surroundings.

Now we are talking about your surroundings, as a Londoner I am going to tell you that I live in a fantastic city. I would love to visit London as a tourist. Its beautiful and it has so so so much to see and do.

In London we have a lot of CCTV to help solve crime but unfortunately this does not necessarily prevent crime!

The metropolitan police service does a great job at keeping Londoners and visitors safe but the police officers cannot be everywhere.

In busy tourist areas there will be a number of undercover officers looking pickpockets, distraction thefts and old fashioned muggers but as I said, they cannot be everywhere.

That said, London is a safe city; its a very safe city. Really, you should feel comfortable walking around any part of London BUT I want you to be aware of this: If you are walking around with headphones on, you may well look distracted. As with any city a distracted person is more likely to be a victim of crime compared to someone who appears alert to their surroundings. Common sense?! But sometimes the obvious needs to be pointed out.

If you are planning a street photography project buy this book but scrub the suggestion of wearing headphones. Even somewhere as safe as London.

If you’re a street photographer why not share some hints and tips or even feel free to post a link to your site in the comments.

Kind regards,

Jim Jimmy James

Ps. The usual disclaimer: I have nothing to do with the publishers or Author Tanya Nagar.

 

Street photography project

I am about to start a street photography project. While I have shot strangers in the past, this will be different.

In the past I have felt a safe distance away from the subjects in candid shots and those that I have taken portraits of, I’d approached and sought permission.

Street photography is going to take me right out of my comfort zone, candid shots up close and personal. I have a great deal of anxiety about doing this.

Partly because I feel like I stick out like a sore thumb. I wouldn’t say I’m a handsome chap and I’m not the ugliest creature to walk this earth. I’m not tall or particularly short. I’m a little over weight but I carry it reasonably well… With the exception of sometimes looking like I am stuck in the ’70s & ’80s I think look really very average. so why do I think I stand out..

I’m using a DSLR that is big and unsubtle. Even in soho and the west end of London people do notice the larger more pro looking cameras.

On top of this is body language. This is my Achillies heel.  I have watched a few videos and observed a couple of street photographers and for the most part I am the polar opposite. The photographers that who produce the images I like are almost anonymous in the crowd, even when they are the subject and the photographer are the only two people in the street. They have a way about them; their body language is relaxed, they look non confrontational, they don’t make eye contact, they are quick and agile leaving the subject wondering if they had just had their photo taken and then thinking nothing of it.

Conversely I often get asked if I was in the military and on occasions get asked if I am a police officer. I’m always the person that gets asked for directions; even when out with a group of friends, the baffled looking person that is holding their mobile phone or an A-Z makes their way directly to me.

I think I am observant and aware of my surroundings but I put that down to where I grew up as a kid. I do tend to make eye contact and I can’t help that, I come into contact with a lot of people in my working day, eye contact, facial expression & body language are important. The visual clue is an important part of communication and because I rely on this I may hold eye contact longer than the average person.

Even wearing “normal clothes” I’m just the sort of person that does not blend into my surroundings. So, the reason I have chosen street photography is the challenge. As a genre of photography I have a huge range of options open to me.

I want to shoot soho life, the buildings, the people, the characters, the transient population and the resident community.

My big question at this point, and it really isn’t something I should be concerned with at the moment, is whether to shoot in black & white or colour.

Naturally as I go through the images I will get an idea of any theme in the content but here is the thing:

Lots of street photos are in black and white, often high contrast.

Some say the colour should be as seen and the image processed in a way to reflect the reality.

I personally like slightly desaturated images and this is likely to be my preference for the project but I’m just not sure it will show the grim or vibrance, the poverty, the glamour or the undercurrent of the area.

There seems to be no obvious consensus and it is really just a matter of taste.

If any readers can point me in the direction of any street photographers that use desaturated colour that would be extremely useful but I’d also like your opinion. What is your preference?

Black & white, Coulour: Desaturated or realistic?

No need for postcards, you can answer below…

Kind regards,

Jim Jimmy or James

Faulty Camera (Part 2)

A while ago I wrote ‘Faulty Camera (Part 1)’. The short version of the story is that I had a camera that I though was too clever for itself and that made it slow.

I started to look for another compact camera (just because of their convenience of being carried day to day). I had pretty much decided on The Canon S120 as the reviews suggested this camera would meet my needs & the other Canon products I have (6D & L-series lenses) are excellent.

However, I had the S100 purchased for me as a present on the back of reviews. Yep you guessed correctly, it was the faulty camera mentioned above & I had some concerns that the S120 would not meet my expectations.

Looking further into this I discovered that there was a fault with my S100 camera……… Lots of emails backwards and forwards with Canon and a little research, along with some helpful advice from the Canon Community forum, led to Canon very kindly offering to carry out a repair at a greatly reduced price. They also provided me with some valuable UK consumer advice.

On the back of this advice the camera was returned to John Lewis.

I’ve always had a positive shopping experience with John Lewis and found the staff knowledgable within their working area, they have also been incredibly polite and helpful. So it was a bit of a shock when I visited a department to discuss the camera and any options for obtaining a repair or upgrade. If I was typing this within an hour of leaving the store it would be full of expletives. The air would be as blue as a blue thing could be!

So it began, a few emails, then they wanted to “send the camera to Canon to get their own report”. Not a problem and finally some movement.

A phone call was received asking me to pick up my S120, then my lap-top! It was very clear that I was not getting any form of  customer service that anyone would expect from John Lewis who really do have a good reputation.

Eventually a qoute was received…… funny thing was that it was to fix something completely different and the camera never went to Canon.

I again had some correspondence with Canon who kindly confirmed that the company that John Lewis had sent the camera to, are not associated with Canon and are not a recognised repair agent for Canon and were wanting to charge for repairs that were not required. Tut Tut!!

John Lewis did end up sending the camera back to Canon to have it repaired at full cost and at the expense of the department.

The ridiculous thing is that I would have been happy to pay the difference between the Canon quote and the cost of the S120. As far as I was concerned this would have been a win win for all involved.

One member of staff not taking two minutes to engage in a polite conversation resulted in what has been a long old, totally avoidable kerfuffle.

I’m pleased to say that I do have the camera back and it is everything I had hoped it would be.

I would point out that Canon were extremely helpful and John Lewis has a good reputation for good reason & I believe my experience was out of the ordinary.

The one bit of advice I would offer to anyone in a similar situation is to make sure you get the right consumer advice for your country/state/provence. Keep accurate records of events, take down names and contact details of people you deal with. Especially if they are helpful. This way you can send a letter/email of thanks rather than just being a moaning mini.

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Taken with a Canon S100. Kaleidoscope telescope inside John Lewis.

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John Lewis shopfront window linked in with their christmas advert.       “Man on the Moon”

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The Canon S100 is convenient & great for ad-hoc composition practice.

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As if by magic and a little reminder that despite a thundery rainy moment, the sun comes out in the end! Looking east along Oxford Street, my beautiful city…. London.

The John Lewis advert “Man on the Moon” supports age UK.

All images taken with a Canon S100.

Thank you for stopping, thank you for reading, thank you for looking at the images. Feel free to comment and do come back again.

Kind regards,

Jim Jimmy James.

City and guilds Photography, Level Two, Part One.

I have finished my city and guilds in photography.

This had two main submissions. In each case there were topic areas such as still life, landscape and portraiture.

There were no set in stone rules so landscapes could be the more traditional mountains and fields or could be city-scapes. The only stipulation was that the topic area and theme had to be agreed by the tutor.

For theme one I opted for portraiture of people in the age range of forty-plus years but specifically those with a strong visual identity relating to street styles, youth cultures and sub-cultures that I grew up with through the 1970’s into the 1990s.

The vast majority of the people I photographed were strangers and it took a bit of effort on my part to approach them.

Only one person declined which surprised me. The remainder seemed either bemused or flattered.

Although most were happy for me to use the images in any way I wanted, some have stipulated that they would be happy for me to take their portrait and use prints for my course work but they did not want them published in any public forum.

I was able to photograph some Punks, Skinheads, Mods, Scooterists, Rockabillies and Rudies but didn’t find the full range of street cultures that I wanted to.

This was partly because of the time of year and there being no major events that would bring large numbers of particular groups together. I also had some issues around time management; primarily having a full time job that involves some rather unsocial shift patterns.

The dark nights and poor weather meant that when I did spot someone I wanted to photograph it was in poor outdoor lighting or inside pub/club/concert venues.

I found that this restricted me a little as I did not have a good working knowledge of using small off camera flash or lighting modifiers. Going to some of the venues I wanted to travel light and not be weighted down by having lots of kit.

The following two portraits are examples of the work I submitted.

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Biker at The Ace Cafe in London.

I suspected I would find one or two bikers at The Ace but did not expect to get any portraits. The only person to decline was a Hells Angel patch wearer. I have limited knowledge of this group but know they keep themselves to themselves and for that reason I suspected he would say no. No harm in asking and his refusal was never going to be any skin of my nose.

Its a shame he declined but I fully unerstand his reluctance and distrust.

So, I was at The Ace and was actually looking for people with a classic 1940s 1950s rockabilly look.

This biker arrived and looked like he would fit with exactly what I was looking for and fortunately he agreed to be photographed. Once we chatted for a little while it turned out that we had mutual friends in the past and that I may have even been at a couple of venues that his sister occasionally frequented.

The problems I had taking this portrait were the strong contrasting light, I wanted to hint at our location without making the location as equally important as my subject, The Biker.

The location was getting busy and I was limited with composition options and didn’t want to capture people in the background wearing more routinely accepted clothing. That would have ruined the aesthetic of my shoot and removed the impact of my models style and genre.

My next subject is a Mod.

I had been to a number of locations where they are known to meet but again due to the time of year and weather, not very much was going on.

I had met and spoken to several people from the Mod scene but many were a kind of oasis style brit pop hybrid of the real McCoy. Some had the right jacket but the wrong shirt, the clothes but not the right attitude and so on.

To be honest I was struggling until I met David and his good lady who agreed to be photographed.

They both looked the part, not only in what they were wearing but also their confidence and demeanour.

I opted to submit this portrait as I felt it was the strongest of the images that I took with them.

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I was very lucky to have meet some really nice people and everyone that modelled for me were simply awesome, relaxed easy going, a dream to direct and just made my job effortless.

Each person that agreed to be photographed were sent jpegs and it is my intention to invite them all to a private showing so they can see the collection in its entirety as well as have a glass or two of wine.

If anyone of the people modelling for me happen to see this, I’d just like to say thank you again. Without you there would have been no project. What ever your genre……. Keep The Faith.

My second project theme was Film Noir. If you’d like a quick preview of some of those images before I make my diary entry, a handful have been uploaded to flickr.

Thanks for visiting and as always your opinions are always welcome.

Kind regards,

Jim Jimmy James

Abbey Road, London.

In my quest to finish finish my 100 candid strangers project on Flickr I headed to a zebra crossing on Abbey Road in London with the intention of capturing candid stranger 99/100.

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It just a normal crossing and there are lots of them around the UK & there is nothing unusual about someone crossing the road. Think again!

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This zebra crossing at Abbey Road is kind of famous as it appears on a Beatles album cover.

I can not tell you how long I have spent sat in a car or on a motorbike waiting for tourists to take their photos. I would estimate hours and hours. Maybe even days!

Hell, it might even be a month of my life [yes thats an exaggeration] wasted sitting in traffic thanks to this rather standard british road crossing.

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As a motorist this section of road is extremely frustrating but sitting there as a photographer there was actually a palpable sense of fun. So many people were getting so much joy out of using the crossing.

If you want to get an idea of how busy this crossing can be, especially through the summer months, this link will take you to The Abbey Road Studios Camera. If you do visit the crossing why not wave into the camera and say hello to the world.

So folks, take your photo, have your fun but be sensible; if you look like you want to cross, motorists will stop.

Please also remember that people are trying to get to work, meetings, appointments or home, so think about avoiding rush hour because all you will do is get people frustrated. If you are there during rush hour try to be quick!

I have to say that after watching the little video at the start of my post and spending such a short time observing people at the crossing, I will never look at it in the same way. It definitely has a good vibe (when not sat in a car). I may even do another little project there?

Thanks for stopping.

Jim Jimmy James

Just watching.

While I was out and about at work I grabbed a sandwich & a brew (Tea) at a cafe,  when a chap dumped a bag next to me. He was joined by another fella and a girl.

They opened the bag, the girl started getting some clothes out and the first man (very scruffy in ill fitting track suit bottoms) started setting up camera equipment. 

Being a nosy sod I tried to eyeball the kit. A decent looking tripod, the lens looked like it was a 15-80mm, but I couldn’t make out the manufacturer. He wasn’t using a lens hood but did look like he had a clear UV filter fitted.

The camera was a canon but I could not see exactly what it was.

A couple of minutes latter the woman re-appeared dressed in the clobber she’d pulled out of the bag, now showing off her midriff she changed into high heels. 

The second chap pulled out two pairs of sun glasses and the couple started posing for photos. You know the stereotypical “wearing sun glasses and looking at the sky” type pose.

I was there for forty minutes before I had to leave and they were still at it, same clothes and nothing else really happening. They moved about two feet away and looked into the camera. That was it. 

I don’t know what to think really. I wasn’t overly impressed and it didn’t look terribly professional but then he (The photographer) may have wanted something very specific. Who knows? Also, what does professional look like. He is probably the next Zack Arias and starting off in a coffee shop. It was all no nonsense and he’ll probably have some great images. 

It might have been a few friends putting a portfolio together? However, you may surprise me and say ‘those models are so and so, their the next big thing” or “OMG! you know who that photographer is………”

If they had spoken a word of English I may have engaged them in a little conversation rather than just watching. 

Good luck to them. 

The Shoot

Quick snap taken on my iPhone. Greek Street junction with Bateman Buildings. Soho. London.

Changing the story.

I set out to learn how to take some better pictures so that I would have some nice images of family and friends. So far I’ve enjoyed the learning curve and it has taken me off in a few different directions that I never imagined it would. To be honest, I thought I would learn some basics and then, Bobs your uncle. You’re on your way to being a photographer. Wrong!

There is so much more to it. All the technical stuff, all the artistic stuff, all the different genres and much much much much much more.

I’ve recently been thinking about the editing side of things. Well that and maybe getting a little portfolio together.

You see I’m thinking about signing up for a photography course that will give me a qualification. Yes I know people out there are earning money or just having a lot of fun without gaining qualifications but, I’m going to end up doing several short courses throughout the year; just to give me ideas and to nudge me in the right direction. So, why not do a course that gives me a bit of paper at the end of it?

After all it is something that I can stick on a CV For any job right?

It shows that I have an interest, that I have commitment and an aptitude to learning.

I have a job, I have a good job, a rewarding job (sadly not finically!!). However, its a physically and mentally demanding job and I’m not so sure that I want to do it for another twenty years. Therefore anything to add to my CV is a good thing. So I’m told.

I digress…. Editing and a Portfolio.

I don’t know where to start with a portfolio. I kind of guess I have a body of work with this blog but I need something with printed images. How do you choose what images to put into a portfolio?

There are obvious answers to this, such as your best images, duh!

I might come back to it when I sit down and have a really good think.

Editing is really the key issue here. I’ve just taken a slightly rambling route to get here.

How we edit the photo can change what story we are telling. It is also one of those areas I am having a little difficulty with. I’m not a technical wizard with software, huh! I am barely computer literate. Even the basics of editing can be difficult to know what to do and when to stop……

I’m going to go back to my 100 candid strangers to use as an example.

This is the image I recently shot.
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It is wonky, its very wonky! In fact I have no idea how I managed to take it this wonky? Anyway, we’d all agree its definitely wonky. Some people will like this and some will not. I don’t.

So its into lightroom for lens corrections, to straighten the image out and add a slight crop to tidy it all up a bit.
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Personally I think this looks much better but I wonder if my reflection in the window detracts from the image? Does it add to the story? I guess that because it is a candid street shot of the waitress who was folding napkins (until someone at the back of the restaurant hollered something that made her turn around and face me) It doesn’t really matter whether I’m there of not. Again some will like it and others will not.

Here is one without me. Please do not comment on the editing. I am by no means proficient at altering images. I also do not have the tools to do the job. I’m on a lap top that has a small pressure pad, no mouse, no fancy image editing pad and stylet pen type thing. Nothing fancy and I know if I had the equipment and the time, it could be marvelous. The somewhat scruffy alterations took just a couple of minutes and I’ve added the image purely for illustrative purposes.
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My point is to simply show how our decision to carry out any edit can change the feel of the image and the story we are telling.

Taking a much closer crop we then have a candid portrait of the person. Some would say the close crop is better and some would say it no longer tells any of the story of how the image was obtained.
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I actually like all of the images, even the very wonky one.

I guess the three things I would like to know are:
Whether or not the inclusion of the photographers reflection adds or detracts from the image?
If I took time and care over the image with me removed, which one of the last three would be better in a portfolio?
How much should we be altering our images & changing the story?

Opinions on this are definitely welcome folks.

Kind regards,

Jim Jimmy James.

Touching up strangers.

First off, if you’ve arrived here looking for something kinky, I appoligise yet again for another misleading red top style title. (In The UK, the term “red tops” is used in reference to tabloid news papers).
There is nothing remotely kinky here and this blog is just about my photography and the need to make adjustments; touching up the image. In this case, one of the strangers I photographed for a personal project.

I’m not a big fan of overworked photography. Some of it looks great and yet the best stuff tends to be the images that do not look like they have had much done. 

I’m aware of programs like gimp, photoshop and lightroom. I used to use aperture but it just kept crashing so I changed over to lightroom for cataloging my images and it also allows me to make subtle changes. 

I might add a bit of vignetting, change colour saturation or crop an image. People used to do this in dark rooms with film. Used to! They still do!
It is accepted that this is an okay thing to do. 

Although I don’t like photoshop when its over done or when a photographer uses it all of the time, to the point that their work becomes gimmicky rather than standing on its own. I am thinking that I now need to learn how to use some sort of photoshop program that will allow me to add layers. 

In a previous blog I photographed a stranger for my 100 candid strangers project. If you look at the image you will see a floating hand. I’m at the stage where I am feeling comfortable with the camera settings and as stated previously, I am getting a better success rate at capturing images on the streets but there are the small things that I have no control over. Such as the floating hand!

I should really be starting to remove these small distractions to move my images on to the next level. I have already shown you an example of dodging an image. This is simply the selection of an area on an image and making adjustments to exposure to darken the selected area. That was done for modesty reasons.

This next set of images however have been adjusted because I think they generally improve the picture.
Coincidently this lesson by Photofocus also popped up on my reader as I was getting this blog ready. 

Image one has already been cropped. I should have moved a wee bit closer as I was using a prime lens but it would appear that I forgot, just for a moment how to use my feet.
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The changes are very subtle in image two but they include a little vignetting, the overall contrast has been increased just a smidge and the exposure brought down a tad.
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Finally, touching up of the stranger!

The little bit of sunlight hitting her leg has been dodged and healed. I think it adds an evenness and hope you would agree that this small attention to detail improves the image.
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I still feel that I have a lot of practice ahead of me in regard to capturing images but these small adjustments are what is hopefully going to help the images look a little more aesthetically pleasing. 

Tips, hints and comments welcome. 

Thanks for visiting.

Jim Jimmy James.