Chelsea, London

london

Time for another Sunday photowalk. This week I went to Chelsea in West London. Chelsea has the reputation of being a wealthy area. I was expecting rich ladies in 4×4 cars (known as Chelsea tractors), plastic surgery, Lamborghini’s with Qatar plates etc.

But, it was more like churches, cute houses, old buildings and classic cars.

We did see one guy in a large new Rolls Royce / Bentley and he actually asked us if we wanted a photo.. haha.. I was like, “eh, no”

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Chiltern Street

london

Today I went for a walk around Chiltern Street in Marylebone. I think it’s quite a famous spot with it’s beautiful red brick town houses.

I also spotted a couple of nice cars.

I normally take candid street photos, but I’ve been wanting to work on my confidence to ask people if I can take their photo. I saw some friendly looking people outside of ‘Trunk’ store, it was a lovely scene, so I asked if I could photograph them. They kindly agreed.













10 Tips on Geometry for Photography

Photography Technique

Composition, colour, focus… so many options to consider when taking photos. It’s impressive how some photographers combine different things to create unique looks.

I like colourful, geometric images with people in interesting situations.

As I am always looking for interesting lines and shapes for my photographs I thought I would write a few tips related to geometry.

Tip 1 – Clean Framing

If we consider the verticle and horizontal lines of the frame of our photos; in most situations an image looks cleaner and more comfortable if people and objects are not cut off.

This picture of Bonjour; a beauty store in Hong Kong, is a good example. I did a pretty good job of framing the store, the top is aligned just above the sign, the sides are almost even. However I cut people off on the left and right. I think it’s still a decent shot, but would have been better if had avoided this. In this situation you can try taking several photos to capture the right moment.

bonjour cosmetic store hong kong

The example below was taken on Brick Lane, London. It’s a little better, I kept people fully in or out of the frame.

I think clean framing is one of the most common mistakes in photography. I believe we want to see a complete scene. When we cut people off it makes us uncomfortable; perhaps it destroys the illusion of the scene being fully captured?

Tip 2- Using Horizontals

The most common examples of strong horizontals must be horizon lines. Perhaps we are trained to see horizontals as major points of contrast or separation in an image. In nature we see them split the land / sea / sky.

In the photograph of the ramen counter I liked how the horizontals break the seating area from the staff area.In the rail station photograph the horizontals provide a clean break between the people and map. This picture also illustrates that it’s often visually appealing to place major horizontals at 2/3 on the vertical.

The below picture of the national theatre is an example of brutalist architecture. There are a lot of lines here, but I think the horizontals in particular add a lot of strength to the image.

Horizontals often calm an image down; they can also increase the sense of width, provide a strong content break and draw the eye from side to side.

Tip 3 – Using Verticals

Verticals can add a  sense of height and tension. A classic example is when we have rows of tall buildings.

Looking back down from the top of the hill in Hong Kong, all the verticals add a lot of detail.

I think verticals can also be used well in portraits. Take the below example of metal chains in Shanghai; I thought at the time this would be a good backdrop for a model shoot.

Tip 4 – Using Diagonals

A lot of striking images have strong diagonals. They add energy and excitement. Perhaps there is something unexpected about them.

The below example of Christmas lights on The Southbank in London shows that lines don’t have to be straight or perfect to provide a geometric pattern.I love this shot of vinyl in a record store I took in East London.

Tip 6 – Using Shapes Incl. Frames

Framing is another favourite topic of mine. The photo itself has a frame, but within the photo you can find another frame and place your subject inside it.

In the below photo; taken in Tokyo, inside the camera frame the tree and bushes provide a second frame, the stone ‘tori’ then provides a third frame and the red/orange wooden ‘tori’ a fourth frame, with the path leading into the distance.

I noticed an opportunity in the coffee shop below to get the classic London bus framed through the window also capturing some customers talking outside.

wider scene - bus framed in window

A personal favourite of mine is to frame people inside bars and restaurants.

curtain barIn this last example, I loved the corridor, and to add more interest I waited on people to walk past and caught them in the frame provided by the windows and doors at the end.

Tip 7 – Using Geometry For Perspective

I take a lot of photographs that have more of a 2D look and feel. I quite like a flat look. But having said that, I also love taking shots with a strong sense of perspective. When dealing with perspective we can look for lines that lead the eye into the image. Or so called ‘leading lines’. In a 2D sense these are simply diagonals, but they create the illusion of 3D in our photograph. It’s really popular and effective to start them from the corners of your frame. The below shot is off the new rail station at Canary Wharf in London.

I also used the station exit as a strong diagonal to give a sense of depth to this picture outside Old Street station in London.

Another classic example of a bottom corner diagonal providing a sense of depth. Also combining soft focus to add mood.

Perspective shots often look nice when taken along pathways framed by trees or other objects.

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Tip 8 – Looking For Geometric Patterns

A little more abstract; and particularly popular in architecture and nature photography, is looking for simple or complex patterns which combine different aspects of geometry.

The below picture was taken inside the South Korea National Museum in Seoul.

And the design of The Gherkin in London is pretty cool.

Even with simple verticals and horizontals on a flat view I thought this shot of lanterns in Man Mo temple, Hong Kong was pretty interesting.

Tip 9 – Other Shapes

There are other composition theories such as the golden mean / rule of thirds etc. A lot of beautiful photos have patterns that follow these. I think it’s because these mathematical patterns are the building blocks of nature. However I don’t think it works when you force it.

In addition to straight lines I often keep my eye open for curves that enter and exit the frame taking interesting paths across it. I think these really guide the eye.

Tip 10 – Combining things.

In reality most of our images combine a lot of geometry. I think the trick is in looking carefully at the world around you and the balance of lines and shapes in a scene and then framing your image to provide some balance and interest. The below picture taken in Fitzrovia in London is an example where I found a 2D flat scene in half the frame and a perspective scene in the other half.

Bonus Tip – Embrace Wide Distortion

If you shoot with a wide angle lens you will often end up with distortion. You can fix a lot of this in post processing. I recommend experimenting with the manual settings for distortion correcting; it’s surprising how much you can fix.

Having said that, I think for most of us correcting distortion might be an artistic choice. I often find the dramatic effect distortion can create to be quite interesting. I like this example from Shanghai, where all my horizontals and verticals are wrong.

Things to Avoid

To my taste the things to avoid are cutting off people & objects. Next try to align verticles and horizontals and use diagonals creatively.

Another thing to avoid would be overuse of dutch angles (camera tilt) unless; in rare situations, you see a cool creative scene – it tends to work well in automotive shots.

How do you feel about geometry in photography?

Zurich – A Hidden Gem

switzerland

This last Wednesday I had an overnight trip out to Zurich for a business workshop. It was a 4.30 am start, but totally worth it.

The reason I love travel so much is the joy of having a change every day. Even a business trip is an opportunity to meet new people, try local food and if lucky have enough time for a stroll at the end of the day.

The Zurich trip was busy, but I managed to fit in an hour long photo walk around the old town area between eight and nine pm.

I hope you enjoy the pictures:

Welcome to Fuxing Park

china, Poetry

The skies were blue
The trees were bare

French in part
Shanghai at heart

Even with the cool winter air
Warm hearts were there

Dance, play mahjong
Or take a stroll with mum

Welcome to Fuxing Park



A little practice poem inspired by this photo I took at Fuxing Park in Shanghai, China. This is a very famous park, it was originally designed by the French; being part of the French concession in Shanghai. It’s a popular spot to see people playing, dancing, exercising, or as seen here – out for a stroll with their mum.

Together (Passengers)

Poetry

Are you going somewhere?
Wouldn’t it’d be fun if I came too?

I remember the daily trip to school
A mini adventure
On a big double decker bus

As a young passenger
It was exciting to see friends
And travel together

No matter where we are
It’s something we share with each other

Squeezed onto a scooter or
Even on the roof of a truck

Could we apply the spirit of the passenger
To more of the things we do?

——————–

I wrote this for the passenger daily prompt

I did the WordPress poetry course over a year ago and I loved it, but due to other priorities I kind of dropped off, I am really keen to get back into it though.

So hopefully this will be the first of a regular practice attempts.

I know it’s not great, but my thinking was that being a passenger brings us together – it often means going to work, to dinner, for a holiday etc, together. Imagine if we could bring a more positive ‘together’ mindset to other things in life, wouldn’t that be good.

I realised how important this is when I travelled and saw the way different people are passengers in day to day life, I’ve included some of my photos from Thailand and Japan.

Barbican, London – The Japanese House

japan

This year the Barbican centre ran an exhibition; ‘The Japanese House: Architecture and Life after 1945’.

I was impressed by the creative layout, a large gallery was used, in the centre a life sized house and garden were installed. This was surrounded by individual galleries telling the story of evolving design in the post war decades.

What better way to celebrate the economical use of space and thoughtful design present in Japanese homes than to make it a central theme of your exhibition. 

Upon entering – the first gallery features a set of movies showing Japanese life in the 40s and 50s; a good intro to the sights and sounds, it gives you a sense of how the space at home was used.

Part of the focus of the exhibition is the identity challenge japan faced after the war. Post war – American design and culture was popular, however as confidence returned there was an increasing desire to return to Japanese values. Designers were experimenting with various aspects of traditional Japanese design and trying to figure out the best way to combine these with western design.

The videos highlight the strange mix of American hairstyles and clothing with the Japanese way of living – eating, drinking tea etc.

The central space with mock up houses surrounded by individual galleries.

The first set of photographs are from Yasuhiro Ishimoto and feature traditional Japanese architecture. I could really connect with Ishimoto’s style, his focus is on the clean geometric lines and this emphasises the beauty and simplicity of traditional palaces and temples in Japan.

These are followed further on with a couple of nice prints of a house designed by Kiyoshi Seike. In post war Japan there was a preference for western style housing, however Seike was designing modern modular homes using traditional Japanese design theory.

The exhibition featured a number of interesting books that go into detail about the different traditional styles in Japan.

One of the things you will see in Japan is extremely creative use of small plots of land. The exhibition features prints of original concrete designs built cheaply by people that held small plots.

A quick web search of Japanese architecture will show the huge volume and variety of styles of these houses. I think the exhibition could have included more variety of the modern houses, however I think the focus was more on the post war evolution.

There was one stunning print of Junzo Yoshimura’s mountain lodge.

And there is Kazunari Sakamoto’s ‘closed box’ house, where the focus is on efficient use of space. At the time I could imagine this felt ground breaking and exciting, however I personally found the concrete narrow rooms to look too cold.

Kazuo Shinoharo’s ‘House Under High Voltage Lines’ addressed a key challenge in Japanese cities; the regulations and restrictions that have to be dealt with surrounding the power lines – one of the things that make Japanese cities so recognisable.

The exhibition also featured some interesting small models.

And some sketches.

A trip to the Barbican isn’t complete without a enjoying a bit of sun in the courtyard and appreciating the rare occasions where concrete architecture works :)