Street in Southport

We’ve been to Southport a couple of times this year, just for a couple of nights to get away from the noise and hustle of our family home which bursts with three generations of our family. As the Oldies we probably need the peace more than anyone! On the last visit we decided to go and sample the delights of Southport’s retail experience. At least the wife went shopping! I went for a wander around an indoor shopping arcade. I just so happened (!) to have the Fuji X100t in my coat pocket.

Southport 1

Elizabeth Gray on the photographylife website defines street photography thus: “… street photography is about candidly capturing life in public areas.” It is one of many definitions that I have seen. Often partly contradictory, these definitions all have a slightly different take on the topic but all include reference to public areas and the word candid, or variations, crops up very frequently. However, the biggest variant I’ve found has been the inclusion of people. For some street photography seems to feature exclusively candid images of people going about their daily business. Some , like Bruce Gilden, best known for his candid close-up photographs of people on the streets of New York City, using a flashgun, are definitely in-your-face street photographers. Others take a less intrusive approach.

Southport 2

Do Street Photos Need People?

So, whether or not street shots need people in them is something that remains the subject of much debate. For myself, I do not feel that street photographs must contain people. That said, there needs to be something in the image that hints at the involvement of people. People are often in my frame, often as small but necessary elements of the composition and sometimes just as shadows or reflections. I will sometimes photograph things left behind by people, less though with the intention of leaving the viewer wondering what the story is behind the discarded objects but more as a comment on the crassness of a small element of the human race.

Southport 3
Three people, two walking into frame and a third reflected in a shop window (I/3rd way up on the left) but to my mind people are not a mandatory part of all street photographs.
Southport 4
A hint of the future presence of people perhaps?

So, with that said, what do I like to photograph on the streets? Well, pretty much anything as it happens. It’s all a matter of what takes my eye at the time and how bullish I’m feeling. It also depends on where I am. I will photograph on the streets of a small town such as Halifax but am considerably more conspicuous as you rarely see folk wandering about with a camera. A city like Liverpool or London however is a different kettle of fish as can be seen in some of the images on this earlier post many of which were taken with the same camera that I was using in Southport.

Southport 5
Next enclosure along …

The X100T, and to a lesser extent the X100 which I used before the T, is great for street and candid photography and the image quality at ISO 6400, when exposed correctly, is superb in my experience. An aperture of f4 is ideal with the 23mm lens of the X100T when shooting in public although if the main subject is a person I often open the lens up to f2.8. When the prime subject is not human however an aperture of f5.6 or f8 if the light allows is preferable for my taste.

Southport 6
Fuji X100t. 1/140th ISO 200 f5.6
Southport 7
All good street photography finishes with a cuppa!

So, an interesting hour. The wife only spent a few pounds and I enjoyed a wander around an admittedly quite arcade. I need to be in the mood for full-on street photography and the genteel peace of this old arcade was the perfect setting that morning.

Social media

It’s been a while since I’ve posted on the blog but that doesn’t mean I’ve stopped making images or thinking for that matter. I have material for a couple of VLOGs, although I hesitate to call them that, they are more accurately personal video diaries to my mind, ones that I don’t mind sharing. There’s a lot of very well executed VLOGs on YouTube at the moment with exceptionally high production values hence my hesitation. There’s even a newly formed Facebook group celebrating UK landscape videos/VLOGs on YouTube.

I see in fact that it was October 20th that I last put electronic pen to digital paper, when I reflected on the phenomenon that was Ophelia,.  Which isn’t as long a gap as I’d thought but long enough.  I have made a token effort to process the images from the last five weeks and a selection have appeared on my Instagram feed and on my Facebook account.  Not my Flickr account though. I seem to have completely fallen out of the habit of posting on Flickr, even though it’s the account I’ve had for the longest and is after all designed for photographers (allegedly, but that’s another story).

When I look back at what I’ve posted I will no doubt find that those I’ve processed so far are those that have instant appeal. The more thoughtful photographs will follow in due course and these will be the most fulfilling for me personally. As they are also those that are less likely to have that instant appeal they may not make it to Instagram at all. I find it amusing that I happily post anything that interests me to my blog, which is my more “grown-up” social media outlet yet hesitate to share the more challenging images to Instagram or even Facebook where the only people I interact with are people I know and in the main, are people I have met in the real world. It seems that my social media usage is falling into three buckets almost:

  • Instagram: Instant hit – an ego boost?
  • Facebook: sharing my best work primarily with my friends
  • Blog: sharing what I like, what I feel and think.

Arguably, this blog is my more honest face on the social media merry go round.

© Dave Whenham
For Sale … to Let. The changing face of the high street in a small, former-mill town in West Yorkshire.  (63-2017-1)

Throughout 2017 I have been following the “365” exploits of Maxwell Law, a member of the same camera club as myself whom I interact with mainly via Facebook, email and very occasionally the telephone. This has inspired me to do the same in 2018 and I’ve already applied to join the Flickr 365 group to which he belongs who hopefully will have space for me in the new year.  I really do carry a camera, and not just a mobile phone camera, everywhere but whilst I use it regularly I do not use it every day. It will be interesting to see what being a member of a 365 group does for my photography. Will it reenergise my photography, will it become a chore, will I end up photographing the garden in the dark to grab that days shot? Will I last the year? A month? The first week? They don’t call them a challenge for nothing and I am at least going into this with my eyes open. It’s possibly the most social thing I will have attempted in recent years and no doubt I will cogitate on the subject over the next sixty-three days as we count down to 2018 and may even post a few words on the subject here.

An afternoon at 23mm

(C) Dave Whenham
Into the light was a regular feature of my afternoon

Finding myself needing to be in Leeds on Saturday with a few hours to play with I decided to grab a shoulder bag for an impromptu urban shoot. My Fuji x100t was in there, I really do take it everywhere, and I popped the Fuji X-T1 in for good measure with a couple of polarisers and an ND graduated filter.

(C) Dave Whenham
Harsh light, strong contrasts and processing to match

I wandered through the city centre with the x100t in my hand and as always thoroughly enjoyed shooting with this little camera. It’s fixed 23mm f2 lens has a character all of its own and as it equates to a full-frame equivalent of 35mm it is perfect for my style of street photography. I’m fast beginning to realise that if I had to give up all my toys apart from one then I would probably chose to keep this camera. It was a bright, sunny afternoon with barely a cloud in the sky. Very harsh light with very strong contrasts. The camera coped with it all and I found the EVF very handy in judging what degree of exposure compensation to apply.

(C) Dave Whenham
Heavy shadows called for some heavy duty processing in Snapseed

Because of the light I decided to work with black and white in mind. I would usually set a black and white preset but for reasons that are still unknown to me I chose not to today. The images were processed on my phone whilst I was out and on my return home and also processed a few on the iPad. In both instances however I only used Snapseed for the processing. The other stylistic choice for the first part of my afternoon was to work in the square format. I usually shoot in 3:2 and crop later but today I went for the 1:1 option so the screen was showing me the square crop and the resulting JPEGs were also square. I know the RAW files will be 3:2 which might be useful later but for now I’m working with the original JPEG files.

(C)Dave Whenham
I did get eye-balled a couple of times but kept smiling and kept moving

Since I closed my Facebook account I have posted a few images to Instagram and have also posted to this blog far more often too. When I sat and processed these images I deliberately chose a “grungier” look and feel to these images largely with Instagram in mind. The strong, contrasting light was also a big factor in this decision.

(C) Dave Whenham
Easy Rider

Leaving the city centre behind I headed to Clarence Dock where I swapped over to the Fuji X-T1 and it was only then that I realised it was sporting the 23mm f2 lens. It was the day of the 23mm lenses obviously. I will share the images from Clarence Dock and the waterfront in my next post.

Luminar

No, not a product review but as I’d mentioned this new software in my last post I thought I’d share a few images that have been processed using some of the presets. All have been tweaked from the original configuration of the preset as some of them are a bit too in-your-face at 100% but work really nicely at 60% opacity or thereabouts. All shot with the Fiji X-T1 and 18-55 lens.

© Dave Whenham
Luminar RAW conversion plus Angels in the Marble and Moonlight Falling presets.

© Dave Whenham
Luminar RAW conversion and B&W Standard preset (tweaked).

© Dave Whenham
Luminar RAW conversion and a tweaked version of the Moonlight Falling preset with a digital ND graduated filter applied over sky.

© Dave Whenham
Luminar – Bladerunner preset (tweaked). I still can’t decide if I like this or not!

Place: London Dateline: 2010

Yes, a wander back in time today and four images from the archive. All shot in London whilst I was down there working. As I was working all day these are of necessity night-time shots which at the time was a relatively new experience for me.

© Dave Whenham
The Ghostly Legs at St Paul’s

© Dave Whenham
St Paul’s from the South Bank

© Dave Whenham
St Pauls

© Dave Whenham
Canary Wharf from across the Thames in Greenwich

ISO 6400 anyone?

© Dave Whenham

During a short trip to London recently I used the Fuji X100T for some “street” photography. The camera handled brilliantly but some of the resultant images were a little hit and miss. With the benefit of looking through the files in Lightroom I realise that I could and should have used a far wider aperture. Probably as a result of using full frame cameras for so long I instinctively went for f8 or f11 and occasionally wandered to f5.6. But as the shot above shows even  f5.6 on a 23mm lens with a cropped-sensor camera gives far more depth of field than is needed especially when you consider I was not zone focusing but focusing each image separately.

More importantly it meant that the camera was regularly selecting ISO 6400 which is the maximum I have set in Auto-ISO mode.  Now that isn’t necessarily a problem as this camera handles ISO 6400 respectably well but I have found that it is vital to nail the exposure on your subject. The image above was underexposed by almost two stops, probably as a result of light bouncing back off the floor fooling the camera’s meter. I had turned the LCD screen off to avoid chimping and also to be more discrete on the streets. The JPEG was unusable to my taste but fortunately I was able to rescue the shot by careful processing of the RAW file.  A tick for my RAW+JPEG strategy.

The second image however, below, also shot at 6400 ISO, was properly exposed and as a result apart from a crop this is the JPEG as-shot. No noise issues and almost no post-processing time required.

© Dave Whenham

The third image here is not my finest hour by a long chalk but it illustrates the major knock-on problem of setting too small an aperture. I was stood by the top of the escalator in St Pancras and looking to capture an image which showed the hustle and bustle of such a busy location. This composition pulled together everything in one frame I thought; the traveller with his luggage, businessmen talking but clearly in a hurry to move along and the ubiquitous traveller on the phone as he rushes to his destination. It looked great on the back of the camera. If only I’d been watching all of the  information in the the Fuji’s viewfinder though.

© Dave Whenham
Hustle’n’ Bustle – St Pancras

The EXIF data for the image above tells everything that is needed. It was a stop underexposed so needed brightening (which at ISO 6400 increased noise). It was also shot at f11 which necessitated a shutter speed of 1/17th second!! Hand held!!!  So we have camera shake and a degraded image through under-exposing at such a high ISO.  As I say, not my finest hour but some good learning points.

And wider apertures are perfectly adequate for this type of candid imagery. Take the image below, ISO 6400 again but with an almost perfect histogram, 1/45th second which is on the border of what I would typically opt for in terms of shutter speed when handholding and an aperture of f4. The image is sharp front to back, from the edge of the table to the wall socket (which I will probably clone out for the finished image).

© Dave Whenham

So, all in all some useful learning points here and I have added to my personal experience of using the camera. My choice of setting a maximum ISO of 6400 is vindicated but with the important caveat that I need to ensure the shot is correctly exposed as pushing exposure in post production exacerbates the noise present in the file.

The next time I get the opportunity for street photography with the Fuji X100T I am going to try using f2.8 as my go-to aperture, leaving the Auto ISO at a maximum of 6400 and keeping an eye on both shutter speed and histogram.