Explore London 2014 Workshop

London TaxiThere are still spots available for the “Explore London 2014” workshop being held from 19-25 September this year.

If you’re looking to get out of ‘Auto’ mode on your camera and would like to see London with fresh eyes, why not head over to the workshop registration page and reserve your space?

The Crown Jewels

Entrance to The Crown Jewels, inside the Tower of London

I will also be covering basic editing and processing using Adobe Photoshop Lightroom so you can be sure you’ll leave the workshop with images you’ll be proud of.

Explore the banks of the River Thames; around the royal palaces and within the original Roman city of Londinium, learning some of the history of London as we go.

Our accommodation will be at the Park Plaza Riverbank Hotel (or similar) on the south bank of the River Thames, only a short stroll from Westminster Bridge and Big Ben. We’ll be eating at local pubs and restaurants with all breakfasts and most dinners, plus one lunch included. Eat, drink and sleep photography while forming new friendships that can last a lifetime.

Workshop highlights include:

  • Palace of Westminster (Houses of Parliament)
  • Elizabeth Tower (Big Ben)
  • London Eye and South Bank
  • The Tower of London
  • Tower Bridge
  • Borough Market
  • Leadenhall Market
  • Chinatown
  • Piccadilly Circus
  • Trafalgar Square
  • Thames River Lunch Cruise

I hope you can join me and I’m looking forward to meeting you in September!

The White Tower

The White Tower, inside the Tower of London

Southwark Cathedral

Historic Southwark Cathedral

The Welsh Guard

Two new Welsh Guardsmen exploring The Tower of London

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Old Books in Paris

10 Euros a piece

Old books for sale in an open-air book market, Paris, France

Today is simply a collection of images made at an open-air book market on Boulevard Saint Germain in Paris. There were all manner of books, from very old to very new; fiction and non-fiction; historical classics and modern thrillers. But there was one thing that stood out above all… the smell. The smell of old, worn books. Books that have been pre-loved and cherished. Pages that have been thumbed and flipped. Ah yes, there’s nothing quite like the smell and feel of old books!

Dictionnaire Historique et Critique

Dictionnaire Historique et Critique at an open-air book market at Boulevard Saint Germain, Paris, France

A selection of old books

A selection of old books at an open-air book market on Boulevard Saint Germain, Paris, France

A man looking at old books

A man browsing through old books at an open-air book market on Boulevard Saint Germain, Paris, France

Book Market

A stack of old books at an open-air book market on Boulevard Saint Germain in Paris, France

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Night photography

Elizabeth Tower (Big Ben)

Elizabeth Tower (Big Ben) and the Palace of Westminster (Houses of Parliament) taken just after sunset

Getting out at night to take photographs is always good fun. Whether you shoot using a tripod or not, you can come away with some great images. The shot above was taken from the south bank of the River Thames in London just after the sun had set behind Elizabeth Tower (Big Ben). The exposure time was two seconds at 200 ISO, so the camera was stabilised on a tripod to ensure everything stayed sharp.

Modern cameras don’t always have to be mounted on a tripod though to make a pleasing image. The high ISO capabilities of most cameras made over the last few years is very good. Hand-holding your camera and selecting a high ISO can be very rewarding. There will of course be some digital noise in high ISO images, but the combination of modern camera sensors and image editing software such as Adobe Photoshop Lightroom make that somewhat of a moot point. Removing digital noise will result in the image becoming a little softer with less detail, but generally that won’t be a problem unless you plan on printing the images billboard size.

Eiffel Tower at night

This image of the Eiffel Tower was made at 6400 ISO without using a tripod

This image of the Eiffel Tower in Paris was made using an OMD E-M5. It was hand-held with an exposure of 1/50 sec, ƒ6.3 and 6400 ISO. There is some noise, but with basic adjustments in Lightroom 5 that included some noise reduction, the image is perfectly useable. I’ve printed this particular image at 17” x 22” and it holds up very well. The reason I didn’t use a tripod is simple – I didn’t have it with me. I had been out to dinner and was returning to my hotel when I saw the Eiffel Tower all lit up. I knew I wanted to make an image and all the components were just falling into place for me. The traffic conditions and number of pedestrians were just enough to add to the feel of the image and I didn’t know what it would be like by the time I got to my hotel room and back again with the tripod. So, I adjusted the ISO up to 6400, waited for the rotating spotlight to move into the position I wanted, then I made my image. Having the image you want, albeit with some noise, is better than missing the photograph all together!

The next two images were both made in Budapest at the top of Castle Hill overlooking Chain Bridge and the Danube. Both were made using a tripod for stabilisation. The first with an exposure of 30 seconds at ƒ16 and 100 ISO and the second with an exposure of 2.5 seconds at ƒ8 and ISO 400. These were planned images so I carried my tripod with me. I had already pre-visualised what I wanted and I knew I would get the best results using a lower ISO and longer shutter speeds. You will always get less noise and potentially better photographs at lower ISO settings.

Chain Bridge in Budapest

This image of Chain Bridge in Budapest was made with an exposure of 30 seconds, stabilised on a tripod, to show the light trails from vehicles on the road

Chain Bridge in Budapest

This image of Chain Bridge in Budapest was taken from the top of Castle Hill, stabilised on a tripod

The last image is of the Opera House in Vienna, Austria. I was walking past just after the sun had set but while there was still a nice glow in the sky. Again, I didn’t have my tripod with me so I adjusted the ISO up to 6400 and made my image at 1/100 sec and ƒ5.6. I was using a 12mm lens on a full-frame camera which means most of the image is in focus at a relatively large aperture. Basic adjustments in Lightroom and the noise is unnoticeable.

Vienna Opera House

The Vienna Opera House taken just after sunset, handheld at ISO 6400

The main thing you should be taking away from this is that if you don’t have a tripod with you, make the image anyway. It doesn’t matter if it’s a little noisy, just make the image. I think it was Rick Sammon who once said “If the image is so bad that you notice the noise, it wasn’t an interesting image anyway”.

Carry a camera with you and make the best images you can at the time. Don’t worry about whether they’re perfect or not, just concentrate on “getting the shot”.

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PhotoQuai 2013

PhotoQuai is a biennial photographic exhibition held on the banks of the Seine. In 2013 it was held between 17 September and 17 November and included images from 40 photographers

PhotoQuai 2013 was held on the banks of the Seine in Paris between 17 September and 17 November 2013

PhotoQuai is a biennial photography exhibition held in Paris. It began in 2007 and I was lucky enough to see the fourth exhibition in October 2013. The exhibition is held on the banks of the Seine between September and November and showcases works from non-European photographers that have never been exhibited in Europe before.

In 2013 the exhibition ran between 17 September and 17 November, with an outstanding array of images from all around the globe. 40 photographers exhibited works that revolved around the human figure. There were landscapes, objects, fashion and architecture – all with a human element.

Images were printed on large displays that were open for anyone to view at any time as the exhibit didn’t close.

People were free to wander through the many images displayed during PhotoQuai 2013

People were free to wander through the many images displayed during PhotoQuai 2013

Wandering along the banks of the Seine after a visit to the Eiffel Tower, the PhotoQuai exhibit was a pleasant way to spend an hour or so looking at the differing images.

A man stops to look at photographs displayed as part of the PhotoQuai 2013 Exhibition

A man stops to look at photographs displayed as part of the PhotoQuai 2013 Exhibition

From people on the beach, to transient workers being transported in the rear of small trucks there were all manner of human interactions. People would stop and stare, maybe in amazement or maybe in disbelief; it was a common occurrence in any event. People would just stop and look for many minutes before moving on to another image. The photographs were engaging on many levels.

A man looks at a photograph of transient workers being transported in the rear of trucks

A man looks at a photograph of transient workers being transported in the rear of trucks

A couple looking at images in the PhotoQuai 2013 Exhibtion

A couple looking at images in the PhotoQuai 2013 Exhibtion

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Street Portraits

A young couple in love on Ile St-Louis

A young couple enjoying each other’s company on Ile St-Louis in Paris

The definition of street photography varies depending who you ask. For me, street photography is all about making images that have a strong human element. That doesn’t mean there has to be a person actually in the image, but there has to be some evidence of humanism. Images of a bus stop, a building or footpath, or even a bicycle could all be examples of street photography.

When you do include people in your image, the question becomes “do I ask them first, or do I just make a photograph without asking for permission?” The answer to that question is – “it depends.” Why are you taking the image? What is your intent? Do you want to make a candid photograph that shows people in their natural environment, behaving as they normally do, or do you want to make a portrait of them? Sometimes it makes sense to make the photograph without asking and other times it makes more sense to interact with your subject and ask permission.

When you do decide to ask permission, you have an opportunity to take control of the situation and make the best portrait you possibly can. That doesn’t mean you need to set up a mini studio with lights and reflectors, but it does mean you should think about your surroundings and use them to make a pleasing image. Perhaps moving your subject a metre or so to the left or right; turning them around so the sun is at a better angle; or maybe even crossing to the other side of the street to get a better background. If they’ve given you permission to make their portrait, take advantage of it. Not everyone is going to be happy about crossing the street, so that’s something you need to gauge on an individual basis, but it is something to bear in mind.

The photograph at the top of this post was made in Paris. I was with a group of other photographers, taking part in a workshop. We were stopped as a group and talking about where we were going to go when I saw this young couple just finishing a late breakfast. It was obvious they were smitten with each other and I had to make their portrait. As I was watching them, I sensed they were about to leave, so I broke away from the group and went over to them. After making sure they spoke English I simply told them they were a beautiful young couple and asked if I could make their portrait. They were happy to pose for me, so rather than have them just look at the camera I asked them to lean in towards each other, touch their foreheads together and look into each other’s eyes. You can see the love and happiness in their faces and I think it makes a much better image than if they were just looking straight at me. By posing them, I also created a heart shape with the tops of their heads, which adds to their story.

The next two images were taken in the Melbourne suburb of St Kilda.

Scotty

Getting Scotty to pose with his arms folded and looking straight at the camera made a more compelling image

Two cool dudes

These two guys were walking along the footpath outside of Luna Park. A quick conversation resulted in this portrait of them

The first photograph was taken inside Luna Park, an amusement park located near the beach front. The park is popular with families, especially on weekends. Scotty was standing outside a confectionary shop waiting for his wife and daughters. I approached him and introduced myself and told him I thought he would make a great subject for a photograph. He was a little reluctant at first, so I gave him my business card and a quick explanation about street photography, then thanked him for his time. Once he knew why I wanted to make his portrait he was happy to oblige, so I got him to turn slightly and posed him with his arms crossed to highlight his tattoos. We ended up chatting for a few minutes until his family returned and then Scotty asked me to make a family portrait for them, which I happily did.

The second image is of a couple of young guys strutting along the footpath outside of the park. I stopped them and got them to pose for me, although they were a little self-conscious. They were in a hurry so they moved on as soon as I had made my photograph and given them my business card.

Bling!

After agreeing to be photographed, I moved this guy along the footpath and posed him leaning on the post, with a Parisienne patisserie in the background

The last three images were made in Paris and Melbourne. The image on the left was in Paris in October last year. I saw this guy walking along the footpath towards me. He had a bit of an entourage with him and was obviously the leader of his group. I made a beeline towards him and after a quick “bonjour!”, I checked that he spoke English before telling him how great he looked. I asked if I could make his portrait, which he agreed to. I asked him to move about three metres along the footpath so I could get him to lean on the post. I also wanted to have a glimpse of the Parisienne patisseries in the background to add a sense of place. I made his portrait, gave him my business card and thanked him before he headed off along the footpath again.

The last two images were both made in the laneway’s of Melbourne. Hannah was standing waiting for someone, but the direct sunlight was very harsh and I knew it wouldn’t make a good image. There was just too much contrast, so I asked her to stand in a recess in the wall, which was completely shaded. I then got her to look down slightly and asked her to think about somewhere she’d really like to go one day. The sunlight reflecting off the ground she was standing on created a great fill light and her contemplative expression made for a more pleasing image.

Hannah

I moved Hannah into a recess in the wall to avoid harsh light, then posed her to take advantage of the reflective concrete floor

Road worker

This road-worker was posed with the graffiti wall behind him, arms crossed and staring into the camera to add impact

Last there was the worker repairing the road in one of the lanes. He didn’t want to give his name, but he was happy to chat and pose for a portrait. By posing him against a backdrop of graffiti, crossing his arms and staring straight into the camera lens, I think you get a sense of who he is. He was great to chat with and really down to earth.

So, don’t be afraid to speak to people. You never know who you’ll meet, or what stories you’ll hear. Make conversations and then make portraits.

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