Thursday, June 30, 2011

#27 Yet Another Smoker

Another smoker from an after party club near Spitafields Market. He was happy to pose and brag about his partying adventures. He was as cheeky as he looks. I liked his shades and the smokes. He was happy to blow the smoke for a while for my photographic entertainment. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

#26 Brick Lane Man

Feeling tired after a very stressful week at work, I headed out to Brick Lane last Sunday in hope of a bit of street relaxation as I call it. I was hanging around the Vibe Bar with my best mate people-watching but wasn't really feeling it. Then I saw HIM. I thought Warrick Brown straight away., a character in CSI for those unfamiliar with the name. 

He agreed to pose with a big smile, happy that someone spotted him. His mate tried to run off saying that he saw me and knew I was going to ask him before I even approached him.

I asked them what they were up to. My model responded with a laugh 'My mate wants to pick up some girls.' It's funny that he said that because he was the one who chose my business card with a photo of a stunning model while his mate went for a BMXer boy. 'I am worried about you, mate.', he said.

Monday, June 27, 2011

#25 Black Beauty

Another one from yesterday. I saw her walk past earlier but didn't stop her as she was too far away and Brick Lane was quite crowded. I was lucky enough to spot her walking back and approached her in the middle of the road. She was happy to pose and I nearly got run over. The car was beeping behind me, she kept laughing that there was a car coming and I still aimed and snapped a couple of shots.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

#24 Dougie Wallace

After a couple of weeks of marking exams, I managed to hit the streets again. And a fabulous day it was. Finally, the sun came out after a very very gloomy June.

I was walking back to Brick Lane with my best friend Pola and headed over to Columbia Road Flower Market to see if Jules was having her photo taken there. I saw this guys walk out of the cafe and sit down with his beer. I loved his colour coordination. He was more than happy to oblige when I asked for a photo. He asked me if I wanted his camera in the picture. "What you got there?', I asked and he showed me his beautiful Fuji FinePix x100. I recognised the beauty straight away as I've been lusting after one for a while now. He then told me he was a street photographer and his show 'When I Grow Rich' was opening on 7th July as a part of London Street Festival. I couldn't believe my luck! I already made plans with a couple of mates to attend the opening party so to bump into the photographer like that! London is a funny town.

Friday, June 24, 2011

#23 Cool dude

This one was taken on my first street outing all the way back in February even though it still feels like February here now with all the rain.

As we were walking up and down Portobello Road, I noticed a bunch of boys wandering around the market checking out girls. I thought 'Hm... should I stop one of them?' but did nothing about it. There were so many people around to stop, they always felt a bit too far away to approach and someone interesting was always closer. The day was coming to the end, I was busy chatting to a stranger I stopped when someone else in our group approached one of the boys and started taking their picture. The setting was perfect. That crack in wall, the setting sun so I asked one of the other boys in the group to pose for me or maybe it was Emil who said 'Why don't you take a picture of one of the others?'.  I don't quite remember but I do remember that they were French.

Whenever I look at this picture, it reminds me of Leonard Cohen's 'Anthem'. 

"there is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in'

Monday, June 20, 2011

#22 The best bagels in town!

This lady together with her twin brother runs Columbia Cafe on the Columbia Road. They are very popular with the flower sellers of the Columbia Road Flower Market as they are the only cafe open at 5 a.m. but that's not the only reason why. They serve the best bagels in town. Yes, I know most people think that Beigel Town in Brick Lane is the best bagel shop in town but really if you look at the delicious choices on offer in Columbia Cafe, you'll agree that they are the winner. Not to mention the friendly service and this lady's smile that brightens up your morning. She always has a kind word for everyone and a bit of a joke if you need one.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

#21 Tog girl chic

WARNING: Today's blog entry includes a lot of girl bag talk and no street photos.

What to wear? Which handbag goes with my outfit? Now all girls (and yes, some men too) struggle with those questions pretty much everyday of their lives while every photographer spends a lot of their time looking for the perfect camera bag. And if you are a girl photographer, oh boy are you in trouble! For too long camera bag manufacturers have been ignoring the female population of photographers assuming than we want to be carrying around our kit in bags that are not particularly flattering. Don't get me wrong, when I am heading to a studio shoot or for a photowalk in the countryside, I couldn't care less what I am wearing as long as it's comfy and the same goes for my bag. My priority is that I carry as much of my kit as possible without my back ending up in pain but if I am heading out to shoot street, a formal event or a fine restaurant, I want the bag I am carrying to go with what I am wearing. I want to look stylish, I want to feel like a girl.

I am on the quest to find the perfect girly camera bag but it seems the US are doing so much better in that department that the UK.

I looked at Jill-e Bags and I quite like the look of small red bag but it wasn't just quite what I want, not entirely my style. The interesting and shocking thing though is that if you live in the UK, you need to pay double the price, it costs in the US. It actually costs less to buy it online and have it sent from the US.

Continuing my search, I came across Kelly Moore bags and loved the cranberry croc one. I was just about to press Add to Cart when I noticed the magnetic snaps that allow you easy access to your gear all the time. Fabulous idea! Except not for shooting street in England when well, let's be honest it rains a lot. Have you heard the term British summer? It means 'not summer, autumn really with lots of rain and plenty of miserable faces' so I sighed with resignation and continued my search.

River Island have just released three camera bags as a part of their bag range and I absolutely loved the look of the navy one. I was a little concerned that it's fairly narrow strap might not be the best one for my fairly heavy Canon 5D Mark ii and 24-70mm f2.8 L beast but I thought I'd give it a go and order one since let's be honest I absolutely love the look of it.  

When the bag arrived, it left me wandering what the River Island bag designers know about camera bags? My guess is not much. It's a beautiful handbag but there is nothing about the bag to suggest that it is a camera bag. There are no cushioned compartments to protect your camera from accidental bumps. It fits my beast and a Speedlight nicely but there is nothing to protect the two from knocking each other as you walk. It's a handbag and not a camera bag as they claim so I asked for a refund.

Frustrated by River Island fiasco, I searched the net again and found this beauty from Jill-e Bags designed for Canon. Sadly, for most of us UK peeps it's only available online in the US. After a few inquiries with friends across the big pond and the help of fabulous Maite (thank you Maite for your kind heart and internet for online friends!), I am now waiting for this beauty to be delivered to me. I just hope I love it as much as I do when I look at the photos of it as no chance of returning this one. I'll let you know if I've found THE bag when it arrives.

Friday, June 17, 2011

#20 Musician

I stopped this young gentleman in the middle of the road even though I could see he was struggling with his bags. I just couldn't keep my eyes of the red case. I was fascinated with its vibrant colour in the middle of a rather dull road. 

As it turned out, he was on his way to a music competition. His band reached semi-finals and he was on his way to take part in the final round of audition in the hope of winning a recording contract. I felt bad for stopping him knowing he was carrying a heavy load but he was super friendly and chatted with us quite happily. I later posted his picture on flickr and one of my mates recognised him. They work together. London is such a small world.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

#19 Tourist from Sweden

Emil was the one who spotted him and nudged me 'Why don't you ask him?', so I did. He was a little impatient waiting for someone. He said he'd spent a fab week at a conference in London and chose to spend the weekend here too. He was heading back home to Sweden the next day. I liked his smart casual look although he was difficult to capture as he was fidgety. I knew I only had a chance to take a shot, maybe two.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

#18 Lily Vanilli

Sometimes you just get lucky! When shooting in Columbia Road a couple of Sundays ago, we got stranded by pouring rain. While we waited in the courtyard off Ezra Street hoping for the rain to stop, we found ourselves in a way of a lady running out one of the cafes there. You can imagine how pleasantly surprised we were when it turned out she was running to us with a bunch of delicious cupcakes as she felt sorry for us standing in the rain. I love random acts of kindness like that.

Meet Lily, the woman behind Lily Vanilli. And what a bakery it is! They use old fashioned tools that have been in one of the bakers' family for over 30 years. They bake for Harrods, Elton John and many many more names. You must try their cupcakes when in Columbia Road. They are beyond delicious!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

#17 Jason The Cabbie

One cannot have a blog about Londoners and not include a Black Cab driver. Now I have always known that to become one you need to pass 'The Knowledge Test', which demands you know every little street within 6 miles radius of Charing Cross. But I never knew that each driver gets their unique number and will get in trouble if not wearing the badge. If they lose it, they need to pay for a new one and will be given another unique number.

Meet Jason The Cabbie. I saw his polishing his cab in a side street getting ready for a busy Saturday night. He was happy to oblige when I asked him for a photo. He was rightly proud of his shiny cab. 

Did you know that a black cab driver can never refuse a fare under 6 miles? 

Did you know that drivers who have passed The Knowledge Test have been scientifically proven to have bigger areas of the brain associated with memory?

Monday, June 13, 2011

#16 Skater boy

A few of you will know that I have a soft spot for skateboarders having taken my first lessons wearing flip flops from Rodney Clarke! In my previous school I ran a skate club allowing skaters a safe place to skate and helping disengaged students back into education. Check out the video about the skate club project I ran here.

Do you like the background? I saw this purple wall and started looking for a character that would go with it. I didn't have to look for long. Meet the skater boy. There he was on a doorstep of a skate shop in Covent Garden surrounded by his mates. He was happy to oblige despite the fact that his mates were mocking him. By the end of the shoot he laughed that he now knew how his mate felt. It turned out one of his mates there with him was the face of Puma in their 2010 advertising campaign. 

Sunday, June 12, 2011

#15 Another day, another lesson

Yesterday was a day of a lot of walking and not much shooting with a very inspiring conversation about lighting.

I find setting up lights in a studio fairly easy. I usually shoot because I have a photograph in mind and set up the shot with the idea in mind. Street is different. You shoot where and when you stop someone. All you have at your disposal is the natural light and a strobe or two, if you are lucky. And just like with everything else my mind goes blank when I am faced with a stranger. 

Is beautifully lit photography down to talent or training? I believe it's a bit of both. I get ideas, I can appreciate a beautifully lit photograph but I need to train my eyes and I need to get my brain to be more aware of the light, angles and possibilities. To be honest, most of my strobe work is pure guesswork or relying on safe, well-tested set-ups. Sometimes a fellow photographer will point to a photograph saying 'We need more light here.' and I stare blankly not seeing anything. I guess it's time for some eye training.

I am planning on spending the next few weeks going over my favourite strobist books and photographs as well as a few fashion mags too and working out how the light falls, how it works trying to improve my awareness of it so that next time I am on the street before I shoot, I will notice where the light is coming from, I will know what I want to achieve lightwise and I will be able to give light directions to whoever is assisting me to ensure that strobe bring my idea to life.

Yesterday I photographed the eldest of three brothers. I enjoyed meeting them. I saw them outside Old Spitafields Market. It turns out when they are not working, they spend their Saturdays cycling around London. How cool is that?!

The first two pictures are shot with ambient lighting alone while I used a strobe at 5 o'clock for the third one. I like the ones lit by ambient lighting as much as the one lit by the strobe hence the whole lighting entry today.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

#14 Things get out of hand

Top tip: 'Sometimes things get out of hand. Run with it.'

I spotted this beautiful girl getting out of a cab with a bunch of friends. They were all very merry. When I asked her to pose for me, suddenly her mates joined it and started striking poses. Not what I was looking for but I took their picture anyway.

With the silliness out of the way and her other friend in the doorway letting everyone in, I asked for a quick snap of her alone. She quickly moved to the side to the metal curtain and posed. You could tell she has done this many times before. I got three photos before she ran upstairs to continue with the party.

Friday, June 10, 2011

#13 Two for the price of one

Top tip: 'Want to boost your street confidence? Bring a friend.'

I headed out for the streets with the lovely Lady Velo today. After delicious dinner at our favourite dim sum place, we strolled down the Carnaby Street. I stopped this lovely lady below then encouraged Lady Velo to pick someone to go up to. First there was a gentleman with a hat but she was a little shy about asking someone who wasn't alone. Then we spotted the second lady battling with her bike and I suggested she asks her for a photo for her blog and she did! The lady said 'yes' and you can see her picture below. I fixed her bike so really at the end of it everyone was very happy. I hope Lady Velo uses the picture for her blog as I took the shot but she was the one who asked. 

Stopping strangers is so easy when you are not alone.

Lady #1
Lady #2

Thursday, June 9, 2011

#12 Can I make a mean face?

Top tip: 'Indulge your subjects.'

There's an after party club located in old public toilets by Old Spitafields Market. It sounded slightly surreal when we heard the loud music beats in a middle of busy afternoon street so we came closer to explore.There was a bunch of smokers (thank you smoking ban!) hanging outside.

This chap watched me with interest as I shot another bloke but went all timid when I asked him for a shot too. Suddenly, he was full of excuses 'I don't look good. I'm not photogenic. I have been partying since last night.' but he gave in in the end and asked if he could make a mean face. It was a giggle snapping him as he tried a number of mean faces. He also asked me if I'd teach him photography since he just inherited his grandfather's Pentax. We invited him along to one of our street outings.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

#11 Kathrine The Designer

There are many ways of asking someone for a photo. I find that complimenting people with a big smile often works best. I will usually go up to a person and say 'Hi! I am Tyla. I absolutely love your (insert what attracted my attention to them). We are a bunch of photographers doing street photography. Would you mind if I took your photo?'

Before I even read Emil's invite on London Strobist (mentioned in post #2), I saw Clay Enos' video (see below) about shooting street portraits and was immediately fascinated. He gives plenty of useful advice on how to stop people and how to speak to them. I find his work shown here inspiring.

Meet Kathrine. She grabbed my attention with her clothes. Every detail of her wardrobe was carefully designed for effect. When we started chatting, it turned out she is a designer swapping London for a seaside town. She had the coolest business card too.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

#10 Peace!

Top tip: 'Listen to their stories.'

This lady stopped to watch Emil photograph a couple sitting on a kerb. While waiting for the guys to finish off their shoot, we started chatting and she told me all about her life, her stint as an actress, her hippy days in 70s, her memories of the protests she attended, the abusive relationship she was in with a guy she met in a pub nearby and how proud she was when she managed to leave it behind. She was one of a kind! The guys ended up waiting for me while I stood there listening mesmerised by her stories. All of which were directly related to the place we were standing in: Portobello Road.

Monday, June 6, 2011

#9 "Some people feel the rain. Others just get wet."

Absolutely fantastic day out yesterday. Despite the rain, I managed to get a few really fab street portraits and plenty of 'yes' responses. Rejection blues truly over and forgotten.

This is Gemma from South Africa. She has now lived in London for 11 years. She was standing by Truman Brewery waiting for her friend. I really liked her look. Stylish girls on bikes rate highly in my books.

I spent the afternoon wandering around Brick Lane with Emil, who as always was kind enough to share his expertise. I mentioned a couple of entries before that when I am faced with a stranger, I simply forget what I know about photography and rush into snapping. 'You need a method', said Emil. 'I need a list.', I replied.

Here it is then written down so I don't forget:
1. Set the camera exposure to match the ambient light.
2. Take a test shot.
3. Review the test shot and direct the strobe (choose the ideal angle, power and distance from the subject)
4. Take another test shot and adjust the strobe not the camera settings.
5. Take three or four photographs varying the angles and composition each time.
6. Remember to breathe!

Thank you Emil.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

#8 Natalya

I met Natalya on my worst rejection day ever. Yes, it was worse than that Friday with Sosij I talked about yesterday. Some days are brilliant for street photography and others not so much. Some days you won't be able to find anyone who catches your eye, some days almost everyone will say 'no' to you and rush past you and some days all the people you meet will enthusiastically accept your offer. I met Natalya on one of the 'no' days. We kept walking up and down Portobello Market. The place was heaving with people and yet I couldn't see anyone who would grab my attention. Every now and again someone would give me a glimpse of hope that I have found just the kind of personality I'd like to shoot but then they'd say 'no' and walk away. We ended up standing by this red wall sharing our admiration for it as the perfect background (yup! photographers have some exciting conversations at times) when I saw Natalya walk towards us with that touch of swagger that shows confidence but not yet arrogance. I was happy as hell when she agreed to have her photo taken. When she emailed me to ask for her photo, she described herself as ' that Eurasian chic'. It made me smile, not sure why. It just did.

You'll find that most people will say 'yes' if you stop them when they are not in a rush or they are heading on the night out well-dressed feeling good about themselves. The perfect place to start looking for your first stranger is at your local market or park where people tend to stroll around in a leisurely manner. Busy high streets especially on a Saturday afternoon are not the best of place to look for a stranger to stop. Too many people rushing to do their shopping, families juggling bags, children and their toys. If someone's on the phone or in a rush, the chances are, they won't be in the mood to stop. However, asking doesn't cost anything.

I'm off to Brick Lane today to hopefully beat the rejection blues. Wish me luck!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

#7 The Archangel

Top tip: 'Sometimes once is just not enough.'

Street photography and shooting strangers often means you get to meet fantastic personalities and sometimes you get to photograph them more than once. Whenever I take a photo of someone, I give them my card. Some people will send an email requesting a photo, others will never contact you at all. Some will say 'thank you' for the shot, some will ask you if they can come along for a bit of street. Sometimes you meet designers or make-up artists who want to work with you. All in all, street photography is a goldmine of possibilities.

Meet Gabriel, the owner of The Archangel Emporium, an incredibly talented young man, who designs t-shirts with a difference. I originally stopped him last Saturday in Brick Lane as he was on his way to get his lunch. I was a little surprised when he said that as it was already coming up to 6 o'clock. He quickly explained that he was busy all day preparing for Streetfest the following day. I really liked his very friendly manner. Yesterday I met him again but this time for a planned shoot to get a portrait for an article about him and his gallery. Check out his website or even better visit his gallery at 151 Bethnal Green Road.

On another note I took Sosij out for a bit of street photography. She rocked the show (click on her name to see her shots) while I suffered a blow after blow. Yesterday was a major rejection day for me as I got turned down by a stranger after stranger. I guess you can't win everyday!

Friday, June 3, 2011

#6 Frank Raymond

Is it still street portrait if someone invites you into their kitchen?

Meet Frank Raymond, a head chef at Mon Plaisir. We were wandering the streets of Covent Garden when I noticed Frank standing in a doorway watching the street waiting for the dinner service to start. I approached him for a portrait, he looked at me, nodded his head slowly and asked me 'Where do you want me? Here or in the kitchen?'. Now when it comes to restaurants and kitchens, you don't need to ask me twice so I happily followed him into his den for a shoot. Does it still count as street photography? I'll let you decide.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

#5 A lady with a cup of coffee in hand

I saw her on King's Road among her friends holding her cup of coffee. I really liked her natural look and gregarious nature. She seemed the life and soul of the party. She agreed to pose for me but unlike most subjects she didn't stand there quietly waiting for me to direct her. She started making conversation. 'Why do you do this?', she asked. 'For fun.', I answered. 

Whatever you may think, spending my Saturday afternoons with a bunch of guys wandering the streets of London is proving quite an enjoyable activity. I have tried many things photographywise since taking it up four years ago. I completed two years of self-portraits, I have participated in and organised photowalks to discover the world around me, I have walked the streets of London and tracked gorillas in Uganda, I have attended and organised strobist shoots, I've worked with models and still life all in pursuit of photographic happiness. I've spent the last couple of years trying to figure out my style and my photographic 'thing' and I am slowly beginning to feel that I have found it. I love the hunt, I take time to watch people and their manner. I get to meet some amazing characters with fascinating interests, personalities and looks. It simply feels right.

#4 Fredi Marcarini

We all act differently as soon as there is a camera pointed at us. Some of us freeze with a broad but rather fake smile that takes away all the natural beauty, some get fidgety pulling silly faces, quite a lot of us strike a pose, which we consider flattering. There are those of us who are what we call ‘natural’ working with the camera and the light to enhance their portraits and then there are the photographers... This bunch takes control, demands to know what your settings are, advises you on the best composition and directs you to what they consider the right background. I know this too well. Just ask any of my friends!

Meet Fredi Marcarini, Italian photographer. Again it was the pipe that got my attention first (it must be the ex-chain smoker in me!). I spotted Fredi in Portobello Market and asked him to pose for me. He was reluctant at first admitting he was a photographer and was more used to being on the other side of the camera. Once we started shooting, he asked to see the pictures and directed the lights. It was fun shooting an incredibly experienced photographer, who through his experience wanted to influence the outcome of the shoot.