Brick Lane, Sunday – Cultural Contrasts

london, Thoughts on Life

I had a plan to take some street portraits last weekend.

Plan vs. reality…    Friday late night – no camera, saw lot’s of cool people. Saturday – camera, got soaked in the rain. Sunday – camera, saw no cool people…

But I do have a couple of interesting images to share from Sunday.

The first is a hackney carriage mobile coffee shop. Isn’t it a perfectly cute package of a traditional London icon and modern city culture?

Sometimes I regret the dilution of traditional culture. I remember visiting London when I was really young. The vibe that Camden used to have. The greasy spoon cafe’s. The old vans and cars. The time when London really had it’s own style. Nowadays, huge swathes of London are ‘generic international city’ zones with international chains like Pret etc.

On my last trip to Tokyo I was so annoyed to see a Fernandez & Wells store open in Omotesando. A coffee / light food etc. chain from London. I desperately don’t want to see my favourite parts of my favourite cities diluted to the same look, feel, behaviour, culture.

Development and change is good, but we desperately need to support individual style, culture, small businesses etc. and stop proliferation of generic, bland chains everywhere. There is a place for these in demand businesses, but surely they don’t need to take over every corner of our cities.

Rant over…  :)

As usual around East London I also saw some of the ever changing street art. I saw a load of people taking selfie’s in front of some art below one of the rail bridges near Shoreditch High Street.

I was thinking it’s another interesting contrast. Street art must be at least in part about making an individual statement, customising an otherwise regular wall into something unique.

Are selfie’s not the opposite?

Self portraits that by the nature of the phone camera / angle tend to look similar and are usually taken from a shallow perspective of showing off.

Are selfie’s so unartistic that maybe they become a valid candidate for contemporary art!

OCD photography tip – it’s so important for me to get the bridge line starting from the corner :)

 

 

Portrait Shoot with Andrew and Rosie, London

london, Photography Technique

If you’ve read my blog or looked around my website you might hazard a guess that I’m in love with photography.

That’s kind of true, but I’d rather say I love is the way the world looks. By that I mean people, places, objects, colours, light etc. There is nothing more magical than a stroll through an area with interesting sights and scenes – at home or abroad.

It’s not just the stereotypically beautiful scenes, it’s also the abstract and even conventionally ugly. Although I’d be lying if I said I didn’t find some people and places beautiful in the traditional sense.

But it’s often more than. It might be that a scene and a moment tells an interesting story about a person, place, or culture. The possibilities are endless.

If you look at my photographs you will find it’s a mix of mostly candid shots of either street scenes, travel destinations or architecture. This fits my interest in simply looking at the world and trying to capture interesting moments.

I’ve done less in the way of traditional portrait photography. In part because I am extremely shy about attempting to direct a model / subject.

However lately I find that I want to work on some projects with people to try and document something about their life, personality, interests, passions, skills etc.

As a stepping stone towards that I decided to spend a few hours with a portrait expert and model to learn some basics of working with models.

I was lucky enough to meet with Andrew from 36exp photography and Rosie; a London based dancer / model.

The session with Andrew was just what I needed. As I hoped, the focus wasn’t on the camera, gear etc. but it was on working with a subject, I got lot’s of great insight and tips from someone who lives and breathes portrait photography.

In this post I am going to share the top 15 or so photographs. However I have 100 or so (from 500) that came out not bad on flickr.

I’ve also been studying photoshop re-touching and I thought it might be interesting to highlight the difference from ‘in camera’ to ‘post photoshop’.

In Camera

Here is one of my favourite shots as it came straight out of the camera in RAW format (i.e. not processed at all by camera / laptop)

Post Lightroom (basic developing)

Here is the photograph after basic processing in lightroom. Note I normally process the highlights, shadows, clarity etc. a bit more aggressively in lightroom, but as I didn’t want to affect Rosie’s skin much I kept it to minor adjustments:

  • tiny adjustment of exposure, whites, shadows
  • tiny bit of contrast and vibrancy
  • I also cropped in to 4:3 dimensions

Here we go ‘lightroom edit’:

Post Photoshop (editing / re-touching)

Now for the photoshop edit. The photoshop work is based on a study of re-touching techniques. I’ve kept it relatively subtle, however keeping in mind I am new to this, it may still be a bit off in certain ways. I changed

  • A bit more volume to hair (to capitalise on Rosie’s already amazing hair)
  • Smoothing skin texture under eyes and colour
  • Removing minor blemish and some of the stand out hair strands
  • Adding a bit of light and colour to the iris of the eyes
  • Adding a bit of colour to the highlights in the hair
  • Slight teeth whitening

Here we go ‘photoshop edit’:

For a beginner it takes quite a bit of time to make even small adjustments, do you think it’s worthwhile from picture 1 to 3? Hopefully it’s subtle so that it is still clearly Rosie, but just a tiny bit polished.

Other than the re-touching topic, here some of the other images that came out well. Note these only have minor lightroom adjustments – no re-touching.














I don’t like to focus on equipment; but for any reader that’s interested, I use a simple combination of a Nikon D610 and a 50mm prime lens.

What do you think, how did my first real portrait shoot come out?

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.













I’m in Travel + Leisure Mag (June 17)

china

Good news!…

I’m in Travel + Leisure June 2017.

A couple of months ago one of their researchers contacted me about Shenzhen photos. Last year I spent a day in Shenzhen’s contemporary art centre; OCT Loft. I really love the ‘former industrial building’ becomes ‘contemporary art centre’ thing.

I think re-purposed industrial buildings hold a certain artistic commentary on life and hence provide an interesting contextual background to contemporary art.

I often enjoy art that makes surprising / interesting / thoughtful statements on life, a big part of which is work.

If you are into this kind of thing I also recommend Moganshan 50 in Shanghai. There is also Tate Modern in London, even if the art on display isn’t great, the former power station is a delight.

If you can find a copy of Travel + Leisure I recommend picking it up, the article on Shenzhen is fascinating, – I wish I had the author’s knowledge before I went.

This inspires me to research my destinations better in future, think like a journalist!

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It’s tough to be commercially successful with travel photography – I am so delighted to get into a major magazine!

It’s especially awesome to contribute photographs to an article that focuses on the development of creative and artistic culture in modern China.

Looking Back at 2016 Photos

germany, hong kong, japan, london, scotland, south korea, taiwan, thailand, Thoughts on Life

I thought it might be fun to spend one of the last hours of 2016 taking a quick look back through this years photos and picking out a few of my favourites by month.

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I took 6390 photos this year, that’s almost double what I took in 2015 and 2014. And I was a bit surprised to see that 2420 of them were taken in Thailand. It really is one of my favourite places to be.

There is a direct correlation between how I feel and how many photos I take. I was feeling pretty awesome in Thailand at the start of the year, but as the year moved forward I struggled to eat healthy and get into better shape; two big ongoing goals. And that coupled with difficult work meant my mood wasn’t great for the second half of the year.

I travelled quite widely, but didn’t really take full advantage of it. I’m glad I am thinking this through now as it’s now my main goal to improve eating, fitness and mood in 2017.

Without further ado, let’s take a look month by month through my pics of the year.

January

Only 55 photos taken in January and all in London. However there are a couple of nice ones including the Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park and the New Crossrail Station at Canary Wharf. I was back to using my old D3100 and 50mm lens.

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February

February and more London shots. I went around Soho / Chinatown / Shoreditch with a new ‘used’ camera. A D610 with the kit lens. I used this and my 50mm for the rest of the year.

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I also went to Thailand for a bit of rest and relaxation. Highlights were a great flight on Eva air with the nicest air stewardesses, the sunset at Bang Sare and the cocktail VW buses popular in Thailand.

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I also started a collection of photographs to capture ‘motorbike’ life in Thailand, they are such an integral part of Thai culture.

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March

1152 photos in March. A lot of motorbike and beach shots. I also discovered the awesome Baa Hop Fang festival / market in Pattaya. At the end of the month I went to Bangkok and started working my way through a book of Bangkok walks.

Pattaya

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Bangkok

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April

April was another Bangkok month. I had a great time walking around the city. I think my best pictures of the year are from April; especially one shot of the Maha Nakhorn building. I also enjoyed Songkran; the Thai new year festival. That’s an unmissable experience!

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May

May was back to London for work. I got some nice spring shots in Shoreditch. I also went to Scotland to see family but got a chance to take some pictures in Edinburgh, Crail and my mum’s garden.

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June

No photos! – My work project was managing the half year report for Standard Chartered so I can only guess I had no time at all to even think about the camera!

July

I think I was quite busy in July too, only a handful of shots from city walks in London and another Scotland trip.

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August

With work coming to an end I went of to Tokyo with an unexpected layover in Frankfurt due to a Typhoon.

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September

More Tokyo where I enjoyed some of the best Karaoke nights out and a few visits to my local Maid Cafe. I then went onto Taipei.

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Taipei

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OCToBER

This was another good photo month. Some more shots in Taipei and then off to Hong Kong and Shenzhen before heading to Seoul.

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Hong Kong

(I need to revisit the processing on these HK shots it’s not great)

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Shenzhen

The highlight was OCT Loft

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Seoul

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November

Last few photos in Seoul. Korea really has the most beautiful a palaces.

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December

Back to the UK, and I had a lovely chance to finish the year with some pictures in Scotland and London.

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That’s it, 2016 in photos. I do need to take some time to go through all the photos, there are some picks in their that haven’t been processed yet, but it takes a load of time to review photos.

I’m really grateful for the chance to see the places and people I have this year. On the other hand I know that I didn’t push myself with a positive attitude to get the most out of it. That’s my big goal for 2017.

So, watch this space, hopefully there will be a lot more interesting sights to come in the year ahead.

Reflecting on The Foggy Tay

scotland

Last night I was the lucky recipient of a lovely Christmas meal at The View restaurant in Newport-on-Tay, just opposite Dundee (Scotland). My mum kindly treated me and her husband.

This is the view. I don’t think I’ve seen such a long stretch of light reflections before (it went on further). I don’t normally take this kind of photo and so don’t carry my tripod often. In this case I put my camera on a fencepost; 30 seconds exposure at F16.

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The last couple of days in Scotland were frosty and beautiful. The green landscape with a light covering of white. But this morning I woke up and the frost was gone, replaced with a light fog.

It’s been on my mind to take a river / bridge shot in the fog for quite some time. I drove down to the River Tay at Dundee just after lunch. The fog wasn’t really sitting on the river, but it was visible in the distance. Between that and the complex shades of grey of they sky and the very still river it was really lovely, but freezing!

I was lucky to spot a Heron. Unfortunately I don’t use / carry long zooms, but I managed to get a recognisable sharp shot with the bridge in the background. The shot below shows the Heron and it’s Shadow on the calm water. 3/20 shots came out sharp using 3D tracking – wildlife photography really requires the best gear.

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Another couple of shots highlighting the curve of the bridge:

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And after a short wait I caught one of the red Virgin East Coast Line trains passing. The red and white livery of the train was a fantastic contrast to see crossing the grey landscape.

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I also saw a Seal in the middle of the river, but  unfortunately there was no chance to get anything other than a little circle representing it’s head with my 85mm zoom.