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.
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.
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.
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 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.