An Afternoon In London…

Our 45th wedding anniversary celebrations included a weekend in London, staying in the rather swish Mondrian Hotel. It’s a pretty cool hotel, with great rooms, good restaurant and it’s own nightclub, but for me it’s killer attraction is a location on the South Bank next to Blackfriars Bridge.

You step straight out of the hotel to the riverside, and it’s just a short walk to the Millennium Bridge, Tate Modern, Globe Theatre and Borough Market. You can see St Paul’s Cathedral, the London Eye, and iconic buildings like The Shard and the ‘Walkie Talkie’ Building. There are any number of talented street artists performing – always something to see.

It wasn’t at all a photo trip, as you can imagine, but I did manage a few quick photos with my trusty iPhone – I say trusty, but I’m still getting to learn all the features that this new model has. Most photos were taken using the Moment Camera app so I could capture in RAW, and I am currently processing them in Lightroom Mobile, with final tweaks like borders in Snapseed.

These photos were all taken during our afternoon walk on a cloudy but dry afternoon.

No Tripod Allowed

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London Eye – Fuji 50-140mm

A combination of illness and family commitments means my Fuji cameras haven’t seen much action over the last month or two, but a couple of weeks ago I was booked on a Light and Land ‘Impressions of London’ workshop with Valda Bailey (Twitter – @tanyards) and Doug Chinnery (Twitter – @dougchinnery) and really didn’t want to miss it. Although I have been taking photos for over 50 years, and feel pretty confident with landscape and urban subjects, I’ve sensed my photography was in something of a rut lately and wanted to try a different approach. So off I headed to London, slightly intimidated by the joining instructions that stated that tripods were not allowed and would be ‘thrown in the Thames’! The reason for this became obvious fairly quickly – this workshop was all about experiencing different techniques like Intentional Camera Movement (ICM), Multiple Exposures and Zoom Pulling, and without the ‘straightjacket’ of a tripod, and the front-to-back sharpness that most photographers are programmed to produce, there would be ample opportunity for creativity and abstract impression. And, boy, was it a different experience!

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Tate Modern Café – iPhone 6

From the outset, it was clear this was going to be a great day; the weather was kind – mainly sunny with cloudy intervals; the location was great – the South Bank near Tate Modern; Doug and Valda were great tutors, and it was a small but enthusiastic group, keen to learn new techniques. After our initial briefing, where it became obvious that my Fuji X-T1 would have some shortcomings (more on this in a moment) we all worked individually to try and capture images that broke all the conventional rules, but still worked.The instructions were clear – experiment, take lots of photos, look for unusual angles, textures, colours and combinations.  Try to build up images from different elements that complimented one-another in some way.  Overlay patterns and abstracts on defocussed main images, and think about how images could then be further worked on via post-processing.

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Trees, South Bank – Fuji 16-55mm

So the start point for me was multiple exposure images and this is where the limitations of Fuji cameras compared to Canon and Nikon DSLRs became apparent.  Some of the Canon cameras can take up to 9 shots to create a single image.  Not only that, but each is created as a RAW file, the individual shots making up the image can be saved individually, and there are multiple modes for blending the images together (like the layer blend modes in Photoshop). The Fuji cameras (X-T1 and XT10 anyway) are much more simplistic – only 2 exposures, a single ‘general’ blend mode, and the only image saved is a JPG of the multiple exposure itself – no original files to go back and have another go with at home… Although this was clearly limiting on the day, I did nevertheless manage several multiple exposure images I was pleased with. Maybe more sophisticated multiple exposure options could feature in a future Fuji firmware upgrade?

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Millennium Bridge – Fuji 16-55mm

Next was Zoom Pulling – twisting the zoom ring during a shot. I found that exposures around 1-3 seconds worked best for this technique – too short an exposure meant there was little effect, while too long an exposure meant all detail was lost.  This is a pretty well known and often over used technique, so to my mind needs to be used with care. First time I think I’ve used it though, and some interesting results, especially with quite bold subjects.

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South Bank Apartments – Fuji 50-140mm

Intentional Camera Movement (ICM) is exactly that – moving the camera side to side, up and down, backwards and forwards, or twisting it, all during the exposure.  This can create weird and wonderful shapes, with these images used alone, or as part of a multiple exposure final image. One interesting thing I found was when using my 50-140mm lens with the image stabilisation switched on. During exposures of 2-3 seconds, providing the camera was not moving too quickly the IS would ‘lock on’ several times during the shot, giving the appearance of a multiple exposure – quite a pleasing result in some cases.

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Golden Jubilee Bridge – Fuji 50-140mm

These techniques (and Valda is a master) are becoming popular, as evidenced by the fact that this month’s UK photo press are carrying a couple of articles about it, so its definitely here to stay.  We were of course mainly shooting architecture and urban views, but I can see it would work equally well with landscapes, nature and even macro. What is rather good is that you don’t need to carry a complete bag of gear (as I did!) to capture these images – a mid range zoom lens is sufficient, and no real need for the highest resolution sensor either. I did find that switching filters to get the correct long exposures during changeable light was tricky – I think a variable ND filter would probably be quite helpful here.

So, I have several hundred images from the day – a few of which I am happy with as they stand, and a good number that can be worked on, either individually or combined in Photoshop.  I can’t wait to get out and try these techniques again – its not often you learn something new after 50 years of doing pretty much the same thing!

Thanks to Doug and Valda (and Light & Light for their great organisation) for a super day out, and a new creative angle for me to further explore!

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South Bank – Fuji 35mm f2

Thoughts On My First Photo Exhibition

After a long wait, and quite a lot of work, my first ever solo photo exhibition is now up and running (runs to 9th May 2015).  Details at http://www.nigelyoung.co.uk/exhibition

OK, so it’s not a big venue in New York, London or Paris, but it’s a start – it’s at our local Community Arts Centre here in Market Drayton, Shropshire, UK.  They have a gallery area that local artists and photographers can book for a 3-week exclusive exhibition. Its completely free of charge, and the space available – 2 long walls, will take around 30-35 decent sized photographs. The audience is obviously friends and family, and of course the mainly local residents who use the facilities like the cinema, and education, fitness and leisure classes. I don’t claim to be a great photographer – years of practice does NOT make perfect, but an exhibition is something I’ve always wanted to do, and this opportunity was a no-brainer

Yesterday was pretty hectic – getting all the mounted prints hung level, labeled, and the supporting promo material setup, so I didn’t really get chance to appraise how it looked.

Today, however, I went back to the venue (with a relative who was keen to see my pix) and it was a really emotional experience – I guess we look at our individual images time and time again on the computer, but there is nothing, believe me, that compares with seeing a set of 30 good-sized prints of just one’s own work up on the wall!

Although I’ve been taking photos for a long time (the oldest image on show dates back to 1974!), I’ve always favoured landscapes with maybe a few architecture/urban images included, and don’t often take photos of people.  I did include some street/people photos in the exhibition, mainly to add some variety. What really struck me today was how compelling the ‘people’ photos are compared to landscapes and urban scenes – I constantly found myself drawn back to the photos of people, rather than landscapes.

So now I find myself more confused than ever – I was planning to ‘rationalise’ my photo interests to landscapes, and maybe some building/urban scenes, but am now questioning whether people photos are the way to go (for me…) I don’t feel a particular affinity for photographing people, and don’t even feel I’ve got a flair for it, but if I get satisfaction looking at the results, isn’t that enough?

I’m really interested to know whether fellow photographers struggle to define what ‘kind’ of photographer they think they are?

Here are a few of my favourite photos from the exhibition…

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EDIT: Festival Drayton Centre have extended the exhibition until 30th May 2015 – yippee!

Feeding the Birds, in 1974!

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Nikkormat FTn – Ilford FP3

Yes, 1974 or thereabouts, I can’t remember the exact date. Taken on a trip to London, I think on my old Nikkormat FTn camera, probably with a Nikkor 105mm f2.5 lens and FP3 film. The negative perished years ago but I found a very damaged and torn 10×8 print a couple of years ago, scanned it, and spent hours restoring it.

One of our friends back in the 1970s was Chief Photographer at the local newspaper (the Wolverhampton Express & Star), and managed to get the photo published for me. I got a series of calls from other newspapers, and it eventually made it into the Daily Telegraph and a couple of other UK dailies via a picture agency.

One day I received a call from the London ‘stringer’ for the Florida-based National Enquirer who was interested in publishing the photo in the US. (Interestingly, his name was Fred Pye, and at the time married to the singer Kathy Kirby…)  I think I got paid $50 (a lot of money then!) for them to use the photo  – its the only photo I’ve ever been paid for… lol