Me, “Hi there. I’m a street photographer, do you mind if I take your picture? I don’t often see girls fixing bikes!”
Girl, right, “Yeah, okay.”
Girl, left, “Uhmm, I’m still wearing my pyjamas!”
Welcome to Shoreditch.
On this particular day, I was walking London’s Chinatown to the Leicester Square exit and I was literally seconds from bumping into this couple.
Either purposeful or late, no idea, but I had virtually no time to react. The light was not good enough to freeze them in their haste and get a long depth of field, so I opened up to f/2.8, raised the camera, tweaked focus and pressed the shutter.
Scenes and backgrounds play a significant role in my work and, as such, they are selected and carefully composed. I intend for the viewer to scan the scene for the details that support the foreground subject.
So I am left wondering whether I like the topmost image with its slightly out of focus background. The couple are more striking and isolated in their thin plane of focus and it is still plain to see what humdrum Chinatown life is going on about them.
35mm is a wonderful focal length for street photography where the street can gain as much presence as the people. Though more of a natural frame, at 50mm, I still prefer the wider 35mm. If you are wary of getting too close to people or relish the creamy backgrounds, the 50 is the wiser choice.
As for achieving narrow depth of field with a 35mm lens you really need to open up to f/2.8 or wider remembering, for any given focal length, the wider the lens the longer the depth of field.
Creative or not, employing short depth of field for any photograph is purely subjective and can be abused into a state of mind numbing dullness as much as images with a long depth of field. Do consider whether the scene adds to the composition.
I’ll keep the image of the hasty travellers, but please don’t expect too many of these. London’s streets are fascinating and I want you to see the detail as I do.
Of course, the dynamic of people photography changes slightly with them not actually wanting to be outdoors, but great photos are still there to be had. We street photographers just need to work a little bit harder
With this in mind, here are my tips for keeping you productive out there in the freeze!
Street photography is still fun in zero degrees, but only when you’re prepared for it!
It has been a great week for the Michael Walker-Toye brand. A few days after London Open House informed me I was their Competition winner I contacted Leica to inform them my winning image was captured on their very own M Monochrom camera. Upon seeing my photography, they were excited to announce my win and formalise this in an interview along with some of my other photos. The internet team at Leica, notable mention to Rachel at Leica Mayfair, did a fantastic job pushing this out through all their social media streams.
What a fantastic response! With amazing support and feedback from family, peers and friends I really do have a big smile on my face, so thank you all!
Please keep watching, there’s lots more to come.
Have a great weekend
I follow the continuing work from a lot of street photographers on the ‘net and I’ve noticed, by far, the dominant orientation is landscape.
I also frequent gallery spaces and exhibitions and the street photography in these spaces doesn’t have a bias for orientation.
For a while now I have been mulling this over I am inclined to believe, for the less experienced photographers, this is a comfort zone issue.
Disregarding the aged compositional rules favouring portrait the more formal orientation and landscape the serene and distant cousin, the decision between the two should really be more related to scale and mood.
Personally, I remain constantly aware of surroundings and context. In the example, above, the railings and steps draw the gaze to the man who might well be reflecting on his book purchases. The framing would be lost in a horizontal scene.
The orientation choice for the top image was purely down to scale. I spotted the phone covering the man’s eyes as he persisted his own gaze to a photograph. I literally couldn’t convey the busy scene without the portrait orientation which, in this case, is all the more immediate and ‘in the scene’.
The reflection image below seems most natural in a vertical format. There’s an intimacy about the couple. The reflection, the lamp post, railings and foliage, draw the gaze up and down so that, maybe two or three times, your eyes fall upon the couple. Were this scene to have more to the left and/or right, you might not connect with these two at all.
Shooting portrait is a bold move and requires confidence; you are effectively widening your focal length and cropping your scene, but your street photography can be massively rewarded.
Landscape is not the ignoble twin, but portrait certainly isn’t as stuffy and formal as the old rules might have you believe.
Despite our plans to visit multiple locations on the weekend of London’s Open House, this year, Suzy and I only managed to visit City Hall.
I was keen to capture the visitors, mostly Londoners I would imagine, looking up and admiring the fantastic work of Sir Norman Foster.
I am so pleased with this win, considering the quality of the judging panel, AJ’s art editor Brad Yendle, The Photographers’ Gallery director Brett Rogers, architectural photographers Grant Smith and Dennis Gilbert, and Victoria Thornton, the founder of Open House London.
My work has become well known for, as this competition’s theme puts it “People in place”, so it’s a great boon for my London based street photography style to be recognised in this competition.