Where I Go Away For Work

Last week I was working away, up in Morecambe in the UK. Knowing I was going to be very busy with the meetings I was attending, I decided not to take all my camera gear and instead took my Fuji X70 and a few spare batteries. 

I was staying at The Midland Hotel, a gorgeous Art Deco building on the sea front, overlooking Morecambe Bay. As it turned out, I managed to grab some free time each day to take a walk along the sea front and grab some shots. The weather was very British, that is to say, it was changing every five minutes (some might call it bracing), but the light was beautiful. Sometimes strong, sometime subtle. 

I did see both a sunrise and sunset, but didn't have the right gear with me to capture it. I met another photographer, tripod at the ready, to capture the sunset, and he told me that Morecambe Bay has the best sunsets he has ever seen in the UK. We chatted for a few minutes, but I am not one to keep a fellow tog from their shots, so we parted company in search of photogenic scenes. 

Morecambe Bay, Fuji X70

Morecambe Bay, Fuji X70

Morecambe Bay, Fuji X70

Morecambe Bay, Fuji X70

The Midland Hotel, Morecambe Bay, Fuji X70

The Midland Hotel, Morecambe Bay, Fuji X70

The Midland Hotel, Morecambe Bay, Fuji X70

The Midland Hotel, Morecambe Bay, Fuji X70

I really needed a tripod for the shot above, but took a flyer on a high ISO Shot, in this case ISO2500. The low light performance of the X70 is amazing. 

The Midland Hotel, Morecambe Bay, Fuji X70

The Midland Hotel, Morecambe Bay, Fuji X70

Given I wasn't planning on anything special in terms of photography I am pretty pleased with what I captured and will definitely be going back for a dedicated photography trip. 

Where the Light is Gorgeous

The light this morning, was gorgeous and so I took my trusty Fuji X70 out for my morning walk in the woods.  When the light is this low and bright it can be hard to control it. I tend to use the objects in the view finder to block direct, and overwhelming sunlight which can blow out the photograph.  In this case the trees and branches helped a lot. I stopped down to f/16 to help keep the exposure under control and give those lovely rays of light. 

Fuji X70 - Sunlight on ferns

Fuji X70 - Sunlight on ferns

Fuji X70 - Sunlight through the trees

Fuji X70 - Sunlight through the trees

I love autumn, the colours are so beautiful, but it is rare that I will take a colour photograph. Today I couldn't help myself!

Fuji X70 - Gorgeous autumn colour

Fuji X70 - Gorgeous autumn colour

Where it is a Little Bit Foggy

In keeping with the Halloween vibe, the weather here as been spookily foggy.  I decided to go out and test my Fuji X70 in low light and foggy conditions just to see what it could do. So I bravely headed out into the early morning murk.

garage.jpg

The Fuji cameras are well known for having good high ISO capabilities, and so I had cranked up the maximum ISO to 3200 in preparation for how dark it was outside. I realised very quickly that I didn't need that high ISO. The light from the traffic, and the garage was reflecting off of the fog and with a nifty bit of spot metering, I could shoot at f/2.8, 1/60s and ISO200. 

This shot is straight out of the camera, and I am really pleased with the range of tones in this. The subject matter is a little mundane, but the fog gives it a certain "horror movie opening scene" feel. I have a feeling the zombies are about to appear on the zebra crossing at any moment. Lets hope they observe the green cross code.

Where I Attend a StreetSnappers Photography Course

Fuji X100F: This lady looks like the leader of an international crime fighting syndicate. She's so cool!

Fuji X100F: This lady looks like the leader of an international crime fighting syndicate. She's so cool!

Regular readers will remember that I reviewed the marvellous Mastering Street Photography book a few months ago. I loved the book so much, and particularly the style and approach, I booked myself on a course run by the author, Brian Lloyd Duckett, via his company, StreetSnappers.  This is a long post, with a fair few photographs, so you might want a cuppa and a comfy place to sit...

On Saturday, Fuji X100F in hand, I headed off to meet Brian and the other four students at a cafe in London, close to Trafalgar Square. I arrived in good time, no thanks to South West Trains (replacement bus service) and London Underground (Bakerloo line closed for engineering works). I will admit to being somewhat nervous. I rarely shoot with anyone else, apart from The Delightful Mr F, and street photography is not something I have done much of. I need not have worried. Brian is lovely, an excellent teacher and all round good egg, not mention being a bit handy with a camera. 

He started by talking us through the work of various influential street photographers, and then went on to talk about camera settings, including aperture, shutter speed and ISO appropriate for street photography. Next, we moved on to how to zone focus. After some more chat about the legal and ethical issues of street photography we headed out into London.

Fuji X100F: The agony of choice. I loved the colours in this shop window and the anxious look on the man's face as he tried to choose his next purchase.

Fuji X100F: The agony of choice. I loved the colours in this shop window and the anxious look on the man's face as he tried to choose his next purchase.

Fuji X100F: A shot through a window in Chinatown

Fuji X100F: A shot through a window in Chinatown

Brian had a route planned for us, and checked we were all happy with it. We walked from Trafalgar Square, to Chinatown and then on to Soho. This wasn't a photo walk, this was a targeted set of locations to allow us to try out techniques, with Brian stopping us when he spotted something interesting which we could use as a practise scene for exposure, or composition. At times we split off on our own to seek out that "decisive moment" as working as a pack armed with cameras does rather make being incognito a challenge.  He also set us little challenges to practise particular techniques.

At times we split off on our own to seek out that “decisive moment” as working as a pack armed with cameras does rather make being incognito a challenge. 

A course is supposed to teach you something, so what did I learn? Well, I learned, that with the right techniques, shooting on  the streets is easy, but getting those amazing shots, is darned difficult. Brian was extremely encouraging, and gave us ideas for how to approach our street photography with purpose, and to help us develop an eye and how to focus our photography in a particular direction. 

Fuji X100F: Soho was taking full advantage of Halloween

Fuji X100F: Soho was taking full advantage of Halloween

One of Brian's strengths is his open mindedness on how people choose to photograph and the subjects they gravitate towards. There was no hint of a "do it my way, everything else is wrong" attitude. I had somewhat of an epiphany in Soho, when I realised that when I take shots with people in them, they are almost always lone figures. I love that idea of solitude, not something easily found in central London on a Saturday afternoon. When I voiced this to Brian, I was worried I might have offended him, but not at all. He fully understood and supports finding the type and style of street photography which suits the photographer. I told you he was a good egg didn't I?

 I had somewhat of an epiphany in Soho, when I realised that when I take shots with people in them, they are almost always lone figures. I love that idea of solitude, not something easily found in central London on a Saturday afternoon.

I had a fantastic day and would recommend this course to anyone with an interest in Street Photography, whether you have done a lot of it, or like me, not much at all. This course will teach you how to see those interesting moments, not just take random photos of strangers. The groups are small, so you get to talk to Brian on a one to one level and also to the other students, who all have different backgrounds in photography, different interests and different perspectives which all adds to the learning experience. The day was relaxed, no pressure to present Brian with a Magnum award winning shot at the end of the course, we were all just there to see what we could see and to practise the techniques Brian showed us. Brian also runs a Facebook group for Alumni of his courses, so we can go on to share our Street Photography adventures and get helpful critique on our photographs. I am itching to get back out there and do some more, so I can improve and perhaps one day happen across that decisive moment. 

Spitfire at Duxford

Today, The Delightful Mr F had a flight in a Tiger Moth as a birthday treat. He flew from Duxford in the UK and while he was airborne, I took this shot of a Spitfire on my Fuji X100F. I had decided to shoot in jpeg only mode for today, and all I did was set up a custom black and white pre-set in the camera.  The weather was changing rapidly and when there was this break in the clouds I had to grab the shot. I love the fact that I can set up the camera to give the look I want and trust it to capture the shot when I only have seconds to compose and press the shutter. 

What are your photographic plans for this weekend?

2017-10-13 Duxford821.jpg

Faces of Fleet #2

Following on from my first trip out to take street portraits in my town, I have been out and about once again. The people of Fleet didn't let me down, either. 

First up I met this lovely lady, Face #5 waiting for a bus. She had moved to the town a few years ago and was preparing for her 80th birthday the following weekend. All her family were coming to visit to celebrate with her. 

Face #5

Face #5

Across the road was Face #6. This gentleman was collecting for the Salvation Army. I had a wonderful chat with him about my grandfather who was also in the Salvation Army. We talked about the choir and how they would be singing in the town at Christmas, so I promised I would keep an eye out for them. He then sent me down the road to his wife, who was also collecting. Again, a lovely chat ensued and portraits were taken. 

Face #6

Face #6

Face #7

Face #7

Finally I spotted a man having a break from work in the sunshine. I approached and explained my project and told him that I would like to take his portrait. He was immediately enthusiastic and suggest that I go over to his shop and shoot there. It turned out he works at the local barber's shop, so in I went and took many photos of the barbers and customers. I asked if I could come back and do some more, so I have held those photos back until I have taken some more so I can release them as a batch. 

I think I am over my fear of asking strangers for portraits now. My hands have at least stopped shaking, which is a bonus if you want clear photos!

If you live in Fleet, I hope to see you soon!

Where I Step Right Outside My Comfort Zone - Faces of Fleet #1

Sometimes it is good to do something a little bit different. It stretches the creative muscles and can give you a new way of seeing the world. I am a big fan of the Humans of New York project, where photographer Brandon Stanton set out to take street portraits of 10,000 people living and working in New York. He chats to each person and gets their story before taking their photograph. The results are gorgeous, human, joyful, touching and a reminder of reality. 

I will admit it straight off, I am not a natural portrait photographer, but I had been itching for a while to document my home town in some way. This seemed like a good way of capturing the people who live in the area. I mulled this over for several weeks. The idea excited me, but the thought of walking up to complete strangers and being able to make enough of a connection that they would let me take their portrait terrified the living daylights of me. I am not sure what happened, but one Wednesday afternoon, shortly after lunch I was overcome by a strange sense of recklessness/courage and headed out armed with my Fuji XT1. It takes about 15 minutes to walk to the town centre from Fennell Towers and by the time I had reached the high street my bravado and ebbed somewhat. I then spent the next 45 minutes walking up and down trying to muster enough courage to speak to someone.  

Finally I found Faces #1 and #2 sat on a bench outside M&S. They looked friendly, and kind, so I reasoned, even if they said no, they weren't likely to punch me in the face. They didn't say no! They looked slightly shocked that I had asked, but were up for it. They were lovely, and gave me much needed confidence to go ahead and ask other people. I don't know who you are, but thank you!

Face #1

Face #1

Face #2

Face #2

Emboldened, I headed off to find more friendly looking residents of Fleet. Next I chatted to Face #3, a lovely lady who sells jewellery in the shopping centre. She hand makes and mends all sorts of beautiful things. The lighting was shocking*, but I took a portrait to add to the collection. After that it was time to go home, and I was almost back at the gates of Fennell Towers when I met Face #4. This lady was delivering building materials to a house, and was driving one of those big trucks with a crane on the back**. She was rocking a powerful "This Girl Can" vibe, and I desperately wanted to take her photo. I hesitated a little bit as she was working, but decided to ask anyway. We had a little chat, I took the shot and then she went on her way. 

Faces of Fleet 3.jpg
Faces of Fleet 4.jpg

I got home feeling pretty good. I had overcome my major fear of taking street portraits, and as an added bonus I had had some lovely conversations with people I would never have met otherwise. Some people said no, fewer than I would have thought, and that was nice it it's own way too. People had the choice, and even when they declined they were nice about it and we had a chat anyway. All in all it was a great experience. I am going to continue to take street portraits, and add them to the gallery on this site. I hope to build up a collection of portraits which represent Fleet and the people that live here. 

* Note to self, lighting in shopping centres is horrible...

** It probably has a proper name, does anyone know?

Where I Show You My Holiday Snaps

The Delightful Mr F and I have been on our holidays. We went to the West Country, an area of the UK in the, well western part of the country. The weather was typically British. There was rain, and wind, glorious sunshine and dull clouds, sometimes all within the space of an hour. This, however, did not stop us from venturing out in search of photoghraphic opportunities (and ice-cream). 

I had packed all my cameras and lenses. I was planning on taking a minimal kit, but then I ran out of time for packing decisions, and just chucked both my kit bags and a tripod in the boot of the car to save time and angst. In the end I shot mostly on my Fuji X100F with the occasional shot with my Fuji X70. I also shot the Olympus Trip 35, but that is for another post. 

With the weather being so unpredictable we got some great moody skies.

Clevedon Pier, Fuji X100F

Clevedon Pier, Fuji X100F

Clevedon, Fuji X100F

Clevedon, Fuji X100F

Swans, Torquay, Fuji X70

Swans, Torquay, Fuji X70

We spent a day in Weston-Super-Mare, and had glorious weather. I have been experimenting with the in camera settings in my Fuji X100F to see what type of effects I can create and how to control them. I love the Fuji film simulations, and I have come to realise that I much prefer controlling things in camera if I can. That isn't to say that I don't have a dabble in Lightroom when required. The next set of shots are all straight out of the camera, with settings adapted for the light. For example, highlights, shadows, colour, noise reduction etc. When I posted these on social media I was asked about settings. I have quite a lengthy blog post in development on this topic, so if you are interested, I hope to have it published in the next week or two.  

Weston-Super-Mare, UK, Fuji X00F

Weston-Super-Mare, UK, Fuji X00F

Weston-Super-Mare, UK, Fuji X00F

Weston-Super-Mare, UK, Fuji X00F

Weston-Super-Mare, UK, Fuji X00F

Weston-Super-Mare, UK, Fuji X00F

The results from the Fuji X100F are quite staggering, I mean look at the gorgeous blue in the shot above. No lightroom, no filters, just adapting the in camera settings. I get so much joy from using them and isn't that the point?

So, how did your holiday snaps turn out?

Where it All Began...

Imagine, if you will, a 19 year old Chemical Engineering student called Helen who heads to Scotland in the mid 1990s, for an industrial placement. There she meets an industrial chemist,   who had a camera, a Fujica STX-1N, which he showed Helen how to use. And that, dear Readers, is how I met my lovey husband, The Delightful Mr F,  and learned photography. 

Being a student I didn't have much in the way of ready cash, and so it wasn't until I had my first pay packet from my first proper job that I could buy a camera of my own. The Delightful Mr F and I hotfooted it to a camera shop in Guildford where I bought a Nikon FM2 with a 50mm lens. For about 20 years, this was all I used. 

Nikon FM2

Nikon FM2

Nikon FM2

Nikon FM2

For those of you who are too young to remember much before the internet, and all things digital, this is a film camera, totally manual, no autofocus, limited centre-weighted metering and a battery that lasted me about 15 years before I had to change it.* For many years I only had one lens, a 50mm f1.8, which is still my favourite lens. I later bought a 28mm f2, but didn't use it a great deal.  I shot hundreds of rolls of film, and still, even now naturally gravitate to a 50mm field of view. 

Nikon FM2 top plate

Nikon FM2 top plate

The top plate is very simple. on one side you have the shutter speed/ISO dial, film wind on (with multiple exposure), a little window which tells you which frame you are on, and the shutter release button. On the other, the film rewind handle. That's your lot. 

Nikon FM2 top plate

Nikon FM2 top plate

The FM2 is built like a tank, no flimsy plastic casing here. I have dropped it multiple times, taken it out in the rain and wind,  and it has quite a bad dent on one side from a nasty collision with a patio, but it marches on, image quality unimpaired. It is a joy to use. There is a very satisfying shutter release sound and the manual focus lens is smooth and accurate. If you are used to the multipoint metering of modern digital cameras, then the simple metering of an old film camera like the FM2 will be a little bit of a learning curve, but it really teaches you about light.  In addition, the battery only powers the light meter, so if your battery runs out, the camera is still useable. 

These cameras were made between 1982 and 2001, so there are loads of them around. They are known for being really hard wearing, so even if you find one that looks a bit beaten up, it is quite likely it will still work. The range of lenses available is massive, and they are all high quality and dirt cheap, so if you fancy a try with a film SLR, this would be a great camera to start with. 

This camera still comes out with me, and I shoot mainly Ilford HP5 on it, and the odd roll of colour film. I'll scan some shots soon and share them here. I love all the tech of my Fuji cameras, but this one taught me photography. I learned how to compose, to understand light and exposure and how to develop film. Most importantly though, with my FM2 in hand, I discovered my passion for making photographs. My Fuji cameras will be upgraded as and when, but this one, my beloved FM2 will always be in my camera bag. 

Do you have a nostalgia for your first camera? What was it?

 

*No carrying multiple spare batteries in those days, but you did have to carry film...

Mastering Street Photography by Brian Lloyd Duckett

Mastering Street Photography by Brian Lloyd Duckett

Mastering Street Photography by Brian Lloyd Duckett

Street photography and I have a love hate relationship. When I see a brilliantly executed street photograph I am in awe, but much of what I see just makes me angry... or worse, bored.  I am not sure when the trend started, but much of what I see produced under the banner of street photography are candid shots, taken on the street, of people not really doing very much at all. The light is often dull and the subject is not terribly interesting and I am left wondering what the point is. Don't get me started on photographing the homeless, or people in distress, that is just voyeuristic. Just because you manage to take  photo of someone without their knowledge does not make it a good shot. I was glad to read the same sentiment in the introduction of this fantastic book on street photography. As Lloyd Duckett points out "Do you really want to look at a picture of someone's uncle coming out of a hardware store? Is it interesting? Is it art?"

 I am not sure when the trend started, but much of what I see produced under the banner of street photography are candid shots, taken on the street of people not really doing very much at all. The light is often dull and the subject is not terribly interesting and I am left wondering what the point is.

So what else does this book have to offer, other than a huge dollop of common sense on the first page? Well, firstly there is that front cover. What a wonderful shot! That dog looks like it has just realised the futility of life and is none too pleased about it. The book starts off with a short history of street photography, recalling Cartier-Bresson and Louis-Jacques-Mande, as well as highlighting some contemporary photographers such as Martin Parr. 

Chapter one covers equipment. Focal length, compact cameras, DSLR, CSC, film or digital? There is no bias here, pros and cons of each are evaluated, and the reader left to decide what would suit them the best. The next chapter follows up with advice on the technical front, with the aim to get the exposure right in camera, using post processing only in an emergency. The basics of aperture, ISO and shutter speed are covered with their application specifically to shooting on the street.  Focus is also explained, and in particular zone focusing, something which I rely on when doing my own street photography. 

There is a great section on composition, which is what I think many street photographs lack. Lloyd Duckett provides examples of all sorts of different composition techniques, dealing with colour versus black and white, as well as shooting in low light. For me, this chapter and the following one titled "inspiration" were fantastic. There are lots of ideas for how to shoot different aspects of street photography, along with tips, and the most wonderful large prints of his own photographs. 

The book is also punctuated with assignments and challenges for you to try out the concepts explained in the previous chapters. The book finishes with tips on security and legal issues. 

This is a wonderfully accessible book, with bags of useful technical content and inspiration. Once you have read this book, there will be no excuse for taking dull street photographs.

Where It Doesn't Rain

I have been feeling a little off colour of late, and so haven't been out and about as much as normal. The weather this summer hasn't helped, and let's face it, has been pretty awful hasn't it? I was itching to get out with my camera again when I woke up one morning to find that it wasn't raining. Not only was it not raining, the forecast seemed to indicate it wasn't going to rain, and it might actually be sunny. Cue frantic camera battery charging. By the time I had gathered all my photographic accoutrements together, the sun was well and truly out. I was feeling in a floral mood, so headed off to see if I could photograph some horticulture.  Here are my efforts.

They are both shot in situ in the local RHS Wisely Gardens, natural light only. I used my Fuji XT-1 with the 35mm f2 WR lens.