On the street – with an iPhone

Bold contrasts for Bold Street

The ultimate street photography camera is a bit of a holy grail amongst enthusiasts. Each system has its own proponents, mine is a Fuji X100t, but despite what they may think no one system is the ultimate in my eyes. Each has its strengths and weaknesses and used correctly each can produce very satisfying results.

“Selfie” Processed on the iPhone using #snapseed

I use the Fuji X100t as my main “street camera” (in reality its my always-in-my-pocket-camera) and also when I want to shoot film a pocketable Ricoh 35ZF. Whilst I’d used my smartphone whilst out to take snaps I’d never seriously considered using it for “proper” photography. Until last week.

Some scenes have to stay in colour! Straight out of camera(phone)

The results of this experiment were very pleasing and a selection of iPhone images have been used in this post. More will follow in a subsequent post. The beauty of using the phone is that, should I so desire, I can immediately open the image in Snapseed (other post processing software is available) and create the finished image right there and then. I can do this with my Fuji X100t too by wirelessly transferring it to my phone but compared to the direct iPhone capture this is a little cumbersome.

Another candid making use of shadows and strong contrasts Processed on the iPhone using #snapseed
Not as sharp as I’d lke – but couldn’t resist the shadowy figure peering in at the two business men in their meeting. Processed on the iPhone using #snapseed

On the Street – again!

It’s been a while but the X100t and I took to the streets over the past couple of days after quite a long gap. With an open mind and a fully charged battery we pottered from Liverpool Lime Street down to the Albert Docks with many a detour along the way.

For once I left the splash of colour

I’m back home now and have just had a little chimp at the back of the Fuji. I’d posted a handful of images Thursday evening to Flickr so knew I had some “keepers” but the acid test will come when I download the files to the computer and have a proper look.

A second too quick in pressing the shutter!

Some of my iPad edits look promising and there are a couple which will warrant a blog post of their own. It wasn’t just the Fuji that I used however so expect a “Street – shot on iPhone” post too. I also explored the RC Cathedral and it’s crypt with a 360 camera before I left so that is to follow in due course I hope.

Grittier processing than usual – shot and processed on iPhone

Morning constitutional

I have captured this with many different cameras

Most mornings I wander down to the local newsagent for the wife’s paper and sometimes venture as far as the local supermarket. Reading my recent posts it would be easy to think that I only go out with a film camera these days but that wouldn’t be accurate. My Fuji X100t still accompanies me everywhere.

This morning I took the Diana F+ in order to shoot the last six frames of Lomography 400 colour negative film that had been in the camera for months. It’s a camera I will be selling as soon as I’ve confirmed it’s working properly by developing the roll of film. With those six frames completed I pulled the Fuji out of my pocket and shot the equivalent of a roll of 35mm film with that.

With “red filter” option

The X100t is an old friend and a camera I’m completely at home with. When the X100f came out I didn’t even look at the specifications of this successor such was my total faith with the “t”. The X100v was released recently, with tilting screen and a new processor, but other than briefly looking at the press release I’ve not even considered it – within the X100 series I’ve found the iteration of this camera that suits me nicely. I did buy the original X100 but it’s idiosyncrasies were too much for me and I sold that camera before returning with the third iteration in the guise of the X100t.

Versatility and great tones straight out of the camera are key features of the Fuji X100t which is why it lives in my pocket

So, three images here all captured whilst I walked to the supermarket this morning using the Fuji X100t digital camera that I carry with me everywhere even when primarily shooting one of my film cameras.

Loving the Ricoh 35ZF

A week or so ago I was considering selling this little camera … but since then I’ve shot five 36 exposure rolls with the Ricoh and haven’t left home without it.

Elland, West Yorkshire

I’ve shot with it in the rain, on the bus and even in the sunshine (although not many sunny frames) and it hasn’t missed a beat. So, it will be staying – it’s sat on the table next to me already loaded with a roll of TMax – but I still need to decide on a camera or three to release back into the wild!

Contre-jour
Time for a Cuppa

“Street” with the Ricoh 35 ZF

I think he spotted me!

I’m in the process of down-sizing my camera collection and am currently considering my small rangefinder style cameras. Today it was the turn of the Ricoh 35ZF.

Loading with a roll of Berlin Kino black and white film I hit the first key consideration: could I push the film beyond its box speed of 400? It was dull and overcast so rating the film at 800 would have been useful. The ISO selector goes from 64-800 so that was a tick in the box. In the event I chose to rate the film at box speed but it was nice to have the option.

The Ricoh 35 ZF is a zone focus, shutter priority (or fully manual) 35mm film camera from the mid-1970s. It has a fixed 40mm f/2.8 lens, shutter speeds from 1/500 to 1/8 (plus B), and an ISO range of 50-800. When shooting in an urban setting I have tended to set the shutter speed to 1/125th with the Ricoh, putting the aperture on ‘A’ and setting the focus pictogram depending on how close I expect to get to my subject.

Repeating shapes are always something I look for

The camera’s diminutive size means it fits in the palm of my hand so I carry it without a strap to make it even more discrete. It’s small size and unobtrusive shutter sound, a brief “click”, means I can shoot from the hip as I did for the opening shot here. Pre-setting the aperture and shutter speed and by using the zone focusing pictograms means I can also shoot quickly from the eye too as in the image above.

I won’t comment on the film beyond saying that it has its strengths and weaknesses both of which I tested today. For the very varied lighting situations I encountered today, indoors and outdoors, I would usually use HP5+ but that said there are some images on the roll that I’m very pleased with.

As for the camera, I think that it’s ideal for a walk-around, shoot-from-the-hip camera and I’ve had an enjoyable morning with it.

I’m 90% certain it’s staying in my collection too!

9 in 45: Take 3

Something different for this take on Mr C’s 9/45 Challenge. Colour and a walk that apart from the first few hundred metres covers an area of Halifax that I’ve not been to before nor indeed passed through as it is an area of back streets beyond the town centre itself. I walked in a meandering loop ending up not too far from where I started.

A fairly standard shot for me and an easy first shot in many ways

Starting at Bull Green at around ten past eleven, my first shot was taken as I turned into Gibbet Street and the second at the other end of the same street. The first makes use of the colour contrasts and a bright blue sky. It’s a safe composition but a good start and set me up for the rest of the Challenge, which was indeed more challenging than I’d expected. I’d normally not take a photo walk so late in the morning, especially with a bright harsh sun in a blue, virtually cloudless, sky and this coupled with the environment I was walking in made for an interesting walk. The second image is a historically interesting image, so lets precede it with some history.

The Halifax Gibbet was an early guillotine , estimated to have been installed during the 16th century, it was used as an alternative to beheading by axe or sword.  Halifax was once part of the Manor of Wakefield, where ancient custom and law gave the Lord of the Manor the authority to execute summarily by decapitation any thief caught with stolen goods to the value of 13½d or more, or who confessed to having stolen goods of at least that value. Decapitation was a fairly common method of execution in England, but Halifax was unusual in two respects: it employed a guillotine-like machine that appears to have been unique in the country, and it continued to decapitate petty criminals until the mid-17th century.

I was a minute or two late taking the image as I got distracted by the information board

The device consisted of an axe head fitted to the base of a heavy wooden block that ran in grooves between two 15-foot (4.6 m) tall uprights, mounted on a stone base about 4 feet (1.2 m) high. A rope attached to the block ran over a pulley, allowing it to be raised, after which the rope was secured by attaching it to a pin in the base. The block carrying the axe was then released either by withdrawing the pin or by cutting the rope once the prisoner was in place. Incidentally, the axe head fitted to the gibbet is a replica – the original is in a museum.

Greenmount Retail Park

From Gibbet Street I turned down Bedford Street North, ending up on one of the main roads into the town centre and the third image was taken on the corner of Pellon Lane and Hanson Lane by the retail park.

I can rarely resist a chance to shoot into the sun

I then proceeded along Hanson Lane and from here I wandered, taking turns at random and initially when I sat at the computer I could not be sure where these next few images were taken but Google Maps/Street View has helped me reconstruct the route and I’m now pretty confident on where I took the remaining images. The one above was taken along Hanson Lane looking over the fence into the Hanson Lane Memorial Garden.

Francis Street

A few twists and turns led me to Francis Street, a long, mainly residential street with cars parked pretty much everywhere. I stopped when the phone bade me do so and if I wanted to avoid cars then there was only one direction in which to point the Fuji.

I had just turned into Parkinson Lane when the timer sounded again. This was at the farthest end of the Calderdale College campus and I was grateful that the timer hadn’t gone off before I had turned the corner as the street was full of students and tutors on their lunch breaks. I was therefore particularly pleased with the simple composition I found to my left.

I so wanted to crop this square but was sticking to the rules!

Continuing down the lane I turned left onto one of the main roads back towards the town centre. I quickly took another left though, into Park Road, to get me off the busy, and noisy, dual carriageway. This was a broad, tree-lined street which hinted at the prosperity this part of Halifax once enjoyed. These old villas were largely multiple occupation now or undergoing repairs and the whole area was consequently a little shabby around the edges.

Yes – my thumbs itched to correct the converging verticals

The bright blue sky contrasted well with the stonework of these magnificent old villas. At the end of the road is the entrance to the park which runs along most of the length of the road and from which the road clearly takes its name. I couldn’t resist a peak inside and so my eighth image is taken in the peaceful surroundings of The People’s Park.

Stepping back onto Park Road I then turned right down Hopwood Lane towards my final destination which turned out to be the Elsie Whiteley Innovation Centre, home to a thriving community of creative, digital and innovative businesses, according to their website. For me it was the final shot of the set and another chance to play with shadows and contrasts. I used pretty much all of my allotted minute waiting for someone to walk into frame and whilst I’d hoped for someone approaching along the sunlit strip this was the best I saw before my minute was up and so “snap” the Challenge was completed.

Walks end … and another ten minutes saw me back where I’d started!

These 9 in 45 walks are challenging me in a way that I was not expecting. I’m forced to resist the temptation to take images which is counter-intuitive. I usually walk the streets looking for images and taking whatever opportunities arise. This challenge focus me to keep my camera in my bag until the appointed moment and I find that hard. Yesterday I was tempted to walk back to one location once I’d completed the Challenge to take an image that had caught my eye earlier in the walk, however a raging thirst and a desire to sit down with a coffee took precedent. Instead I shall go back next week at some point.

The mix of horizontal and vertical images shows I’m not afraid to turn the camera on its side too!

Image recap

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.