Which camera ?

I continue to enjoy the immediacy of ‘Street’ photography and the potential creativity of ‘Urban’ photography.  From time to time and perhaps inevitably, I wonder whether to change my camera to a one specifically suited to these genres.  Nothing wrong with that of course and ease of use, image quality and fitness for purpose are clearly important considerations.  That said, it’s not all about more and more megapixels and emulating past-masters of photography.

My camera of choice, at least for now, is the Fuji S9600 – certainly not the most suitable for street photography but one which I’ve used for some time.  It’s sometimes frustrating, particularly when focusing and with the slight but irritating time-lag but its feel and comfort in my hand outweighs those negatives.  In short, it’s like an old glove – one that may not always keep me warm but which I still like to wear.

The S9600 is certainly not the most capable of my current cameras but it is the one I prefer in street/urban situations, at least for the moment.  I will change before too long (probably in favour of the Fuji X Pro 1 or similar) but before then, I will continue to wear out the one I have and make it work hard for me.

To quote the exceptionally talented and creative American photographer, Chase Jarvis   [ http://www.chasejarvis.com ]  :

             “The best camera is the one that’s with you”

I try to bear in mind too that the likes of Weegee created timeless ‘street’ images with a camera as cumbersome as a house brick.  So, whether I have an iPhone camera, a Fuji or Leica M9 with me, I will strive to take the best street/urban shots I can.  My best camera is the one I have with me.

 VWAdams ©

Muscat

The following photographs show aspects of street-life in Muscat, Oman and were all taken in 2012.   Some of the images have been converted to B & W in post-production.

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Entering the Souk, Muscat
The strong shadows evidence the contrast between the outside heat and the cool of the Souk. White Arab dress is highlighted by the bright sunlight on what was a beautiful day.

Street trade, Muscat styleI wondered why one of the Arab traders appeared to have his legs tied together. My conclusion was that it must have been to take the strain off his legs, to enable him to sit for long periods.

Street trade, Muscat style
I wondered why one of the Arab traders appeared to have his legs tied together. My conclusion was that it must have been to take the strain off his legs, to enable him to sit for long periods.

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Friends, Muscat
These three friends were deep in concentration and didn’t seem to notice me as I took their photograph.

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Concentration
This man, sitting in the shade of a marble gazebo, was deep in concentration as he gazed out to sea.

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Resting
I saw this old man taking a break in the Gulf heat and had to take his photograph.  He is wearing the intricately patterned hat and the crisp white gown  (known as a Thawb or Dishdashi) commonly worn by men in Oman.

Urban-eye

Urban-eye

Urban-eye
CCTV camera, which had seen better days, painted to brighten up the rusted casing. Perhaps surprisingly, the artwork blended in with its surrounding, graffiti laden, urban environment. It had a kind of compelling attraction – beauty is, after all, in the eye of the beholder.

Hanging out

I came across the C & D Access & Inspection Services rope access crew on one of my street photography sessions.  Watching them prepare for an ascent, I became interested in their type and range of work.  I struck up a conversation with Spencer, abseiler and MD of C & D and took his photo and that of his crew.  Check out their website:  http://www.cdais.co.uk  – interesting stuff.

Spencer – Rope Access professional
I had an interesting chat with Spencer, the MD of C & D

Preparing for Rope access

C & D Rope Access crew

Street Photography

I have always been fascinated by the constantly changing aspects of urban and more particularly, city, life.  The variety, dynamism and vibrancy of city life has, arguably, been captured most effectively by the documentary (street) photographers who emerged during the 20th. century.  The stunning images of luminaries such as Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Doisneau, Weegee, Robert Frank, William Klein, Joel Meyerwitz have subliminally entered the human psyche.   Most of us would instantly recognise their powerful images but not necessarily know who took them.

The technical constraints of early photography meant that most early documentary or ‘street’ photographs were captured on film, in monochrome.  Indeed, despite television and motion pictures largely being screened in colour nowadays, there is still something appealing, comforting if you will, to see static images in black and white.  In fact, perhaps because of its artistic, stark quality, many documentary/street photographers still work in black and white and sometimes, despite the explosion of digital imagery, with film.  However, that said, there are some notable documentary/street photographers, such as Joel Meyerwitz and Martin Parr, who work in colour and use it very effectively.  Martin Parr, for example, is well known for his bold use of bright, saturated colour in his documentary-like images.

Documentary/street photographers often have very distinct and personal approaches to their craft.  Comparing the patient, ‘decisive moment’ approach of Cartier-Bresson with the ‘in your face’ style of New York photographer Bruce Gilden, illustrates the point.  Gilden is also unusual among street photographers in that he uses an off-camera flash at very close range, which often results in his subjects looking surprised, even startled.

Debate often rages over the type of camera and/or lens (prime or zoom) to use in street photography, how close the photographer should get to the subject, whether shots should be posed, candid or staged and so on.  For some, the resulting image (however achieved) is paramount, for others (let’s call them ‘purists’) nothing but a close quarters B&W image, using film and taken on a Leica rangefinder, will do.   However, it could also be said that with the advent of smartphones, compact digital cameras and more affordable DSLRs, the range, popularity and ease of street photography has never been greater.

VWAdams ©

Markets

Markets, of all kinds, are among my favourite photographic locations.  They provide so many opportunities for a wide-range of subjects – people-shots, portraits, candid, abstract, architecture, documentary and so on.  It doesn’t matter where in the world you are, a market, for obvious reasons, will always be fairly near and readily accessible.  They can also provide the perfect opportunity to develop your ability and style as a budding ‘street/documentary’ photographer.  Market traders, for the most part, are not shy of having a camera pointed at them and this can help to build the photographer’s confidence.  In some respects, though, photographing a market can seem a little ‘too easy’.  You can fall into the ‘point and shoot’ trap of not thinking about the image you wish to create – something we all do from time to time (and not always a bad thing !).  I find it helps, particularly in developing a personal style, to be consciously selective in the shots you take. Market images can work well in either colour (more easily capturing their vibrance and dynamism) or B&W (which gives that timeless ‘documentary’ feel) – so try both.

Having recently visited and photographed markets in Bristol and Tynemouth (both in the UK) I have attached a few images to give a flavour of my approach.  I hope you like them.

VWAdams ©

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Cafe – Bristol Indoor Market
The use of colour more effectively portrays the vibrance of the small cafe. On a ‘documentary’ level, just imagine how the chalk-board price-list may look to someone in, say, fifty years?

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Cheesemaker – Bristol Farmers Market
The obvious pride of this trader is what attracted me to take this photograph – in particular, his wide smile and the rosette he proudly displays.

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The mustachioed gent
This is Alex who I saw, in Tynemouth Market, sporting his wonderful waxed moustache. In order to get a close-up portrait, I asked him if he minded if I took his photograph and as you can see, he was happy to oblige. Thank you Alex.

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Eccentricity
Markets often attract colourful, eccentric characters. This Tynemouth market-trader was, I feel, best captured in colour.

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Hammer & Sickle
Another Tynemouth market-trader – Graham – who didn’t mind me getting in close. While the image was suited to B&W, I couldn’t resist leaving the hat badge in colour (OK – I know it’s twee but I like it !)

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Two heads ….
Markets offer plenty of scope for quirky images.

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Bygone days
The wide-range of goods sold at markets can include those that conjure-up nostalgia. I loved the battered sandwich tin and worn football boots.

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Telephones
I am often drawn to the eclectica which can usually be found at markets. The goods can make interesting subjects for the documentary photographer.

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Guitars
There’s not just ‘tat’ sold in markets. This stall had expensive guitars on sale including a Gibson priced at just under £2,500.

Salut Elsa

My family and I did our bit for Anglo/French relations this past week.  We were happy to host Elsa, a French student from the Alpes-Provence region of France.  It was our pleasure to  introduce Elsa to a small slice of UK life, including the delights of the  ‘Full English’ breakfast.  Hope she enjoyed the experience and visits us again.

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(l-r) Gabi, Elsa & Hollie

Demolition

Demolition works invariably provide an abundance of opportunity for the urban/documentary photographer.  Recording the moment of destruction often epitomises the very essence of the genre – capturing, if you will, the ‘decisive moment’ – the moment when the building in question is no more.  The image, as always, can never be replicated but neither can the building – at least not precisely.  This is, perhaps, why I have always enjoyed witnessing the sights, sounds and even smells of demolition sites.

There is, inevitably, the underlying sadness that a part of social history is disappearing, which is why documenting the process is, to me, important.  I often try to image the lives that have been lived in those buildings being destroyed – whether occupied by individuals, families or businesses.  There are often the reminders of habitation – damaged light fittings, torn wallpaper, bits of furniture, children’s toys and so on – the human touches that personalise the scene.

Images of demolition can have considerable impact, whether in monochrome or colour.  I have chosen to upload some of my recent colour shots, which I hope will be of interest.  As demolition is most often undertaken to make way for new development it is often good, I believe, to juxtapose the ‘old’ with the ‘new’, as I have done in some of these images.

I have long admired the quiet, unassuming approach of the late documentary photographer, Jimmy Forsyth, who worked exclusively in b&w and who, on occasion, I had the pleasure to see taking photographs of buildings which are now part of history.

VWAdams ©

Demolition man

Old & New

Old & New

Jaws & Staircase

Jaws & Staircase

Signs of life

Signs of life

A Place for Reflection

A Place for Reflection

Random ‘Urban’ shots:

Big John

Big John

Daily Dose

Daily Dose

Urban transport

Urban transport

Masks

Urban poppies

Naked Re-bar

Home for birds

 

Demolition Crew

Demolition Crew

The urban environment provides a huge range of subjects and opportunities, not just for the ‘street’ photographer but also for those interested in documenting the urban landscape.  Beauty is not only found in picture-postcard townscapes but can be found in the grittier scenes of run-down urban environments, dereliction, demolition and the like.  Indeed, such areas can provide photographers with almost limitless opportunities, whether to document the world around them or to use their skills to create visual art.  In my work I strive to do both and I hope that, on occasion, I succeed.

VWAdams©

Random ‘Street’ shots:

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↑  Wait your turn !   A slice of ‘street life’ captured on a sunny spring day in Lisbon, Portugal.  It was clear that the dogs look to this man for their welfare.

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↑ Man in a hat.  Understated style encapsulated in a misshapen Trilby hat.

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↑  Cheers !   The man in the flat cap, on suddenly becoming aware of his photograph being taken, projected a warmth that I was pleased to capture.  I returned his smile.

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↑  Spot the dog.   I spotted this dog in Lisbon, Portugal.  Strong directional sunlight, although problematic for exposure, gave  a high-contrast, punchy feel to the image.

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 Fish & Chips.  These two guys are enjoying a fish & chip lunch.  They made a good subject for a ‘street’ photograph, although actually taken in an indoor market – one I couldn’t miss.

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 Shopfront.  I was attracted to this shopfront and its imaginative use of imagery – particularly that of the Triumph motorcycle, which oozes ‘cool’

 

The above images are a random selection of ‘street’ photographs, which illustrate the range of subjects available to ‘street photographers’.  Those willing to seek out the opportunities out there, will reap the rewards.

vwadams ©

Who’s looking ?

Who's looking ?

It should, I think, be obvious that I like Urban landscape and city life. Even unused shopfronts can look good ….. although they are better used ! I thought this was a particularly imaginative approach to what would otherwise have been ‘dead space’.

Thanks ….

I’m taking a minute to thank my followers en bloc and those that have ‘liked’ my posts.  Enjoying blogging and reading the blogs of those I follow.  Hope you all enjoy my posts and please comment/like/feedback on anything that interests you.  V.

Peter

Peter

This is Peter. He’d been cycling and stopped for a rest and a cup of coffee. Sitting outside despite it being a freezing day – it was snowing just minutes later. Check out the sign – the Cafe sells ‘proper’ food !!

Michael

Michael (WordPress upload)

Enjoyed meeting and chatting to Michael on a cold, snowy day. He’s a plasterer and was happy for me to take his photo. Meeting interesting people is one of the joys of street photography.

Daniel

Daniel

A chance meeting with Daniel Spree, in my home city, led to this photo. I enjoyed chatting with musician Daniel, who is Bass player with The Drills.

Walking boots

Walking boots

To me, the essence, challenge and enjoyment of street photography is to capture a moment which sums up the movement and vibrancy of the ‘street’. I hope I achieved it here. It’s a simple image image but for that, one of my personal favourites.

Photographic Memory

Like many others, I don’t have the best of memories.  Recalling detail, names, academic facts, childhood memories, even important events and occasions, is often difficult and almost always frustrating. Paradoxical as it may seem, forgetfulness and memory lapse are, I suppose, as much human traits as is that of the ability to remember.  Perhaps it’s a mechanism to blot out the ‘bad’, with the unfortunate side-effect of sometimes eradicating the ‘good’.  Some people have a ‘photographic memory’ but I’m not one of them …….. but then again ……

It has only recently occurred to me that I DO have a photographic memory (and so do most people) …………. namely, all the photographs I have taken over the years provide a ‘memory’ to call upon.  That might sound self-evident; indeed that’s often, for many of us, the very purpose of taking photographs – certainly at weddings, baptisms, birthday parties and so on.

However, that’s not really what I meant.  It occurred to me that I can look back at a photograph I took many years ago (it could be of someone, something or somewhere) and I vividly recall almost everything relating to the image.  Not the f-stop, speed, ISO and so on, you understand – that would be really sad !   No, I mean it brings back so much more than might be in the frame itself – I can usually recall exactly where I was when taking the shot, the surrounding sights, sounds, context – weather, atmosphere, mood and the like.   Think about it for a moment …………….. it is difficult to think of any other medium (film included) that can generate and regurgitate such memories.  That, to me, is why photography (when mine or others) is so important.  It’s also why, I guess, in having to decide which of our possessions to save from fire or flood, most of us would save the photographs.

I think it’s an interesting topic to discuss and wonder whether others use photographs to enhance recollection the way I do.  Please comment and let me know.

VWAdams

Chow Chow

Chow Chow

Not usually my thing …….. but couldn’t resist snapping this lovely fella. I thought he was a lion at first (lol) – apparently he goes by the name of Harvey.

Vanishing point

Vanishing point

I was drawn by the symmetry, converging lines and perspective this urban scene promised. It’s unusual to see rubbish bins so neatly arranged and I smiled at the irony ….. as I hope you might in my choice of title, intended to be a double-entendre.