Using a Ricoh GRD III and a Nikon DSLR to photograph streets, people, architecture and anything else that catches my eye.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Some more from Kyoto

Once a year, all across Japan, people go slightly crazy and very happy for a few days.  This is when their country changes from winter greens into spring time pinks and whites almost over night.  This is the cherry blossom week, or 'hanami', when all the millions of 'sakura' cherry trees blossom with the advent of spring and better weather to come.  People will go out and have picnics under the trees, take photos, take part in celebrations; and the television media will report on the progress of the blossoming 'front' as it makes it's natural way up the country from south to north.  The Japanese are rightly very proud of their cherry trees and all of the historical and cultural meanings attached to them. They truly are an iconic image of Japan. Here is a shot of a crowd of people in Kyoto, who were having fun under the lightly falling blossom leaves.

I talked about bikes in a previous post, but have since found another shot which I quite like, processed in my favourite square format.  Kyoto is a great place to cycle around, and is probably the most popular method of travel. The vehicular traffic in central Kyoto always seemed to be very light compared to other cities.  This image is a good example of showing how the Japanese do not differentiate between a gents cycle or a lady's cycle. They all seemed to have little handy shopping baskets and no cross bars on the frames.  All very practical as opposed to cool or technical.  Simple works.

This final image I have always been pleased with.  It is not necessarily a technically great shot, but I have always liked the lady in white at the very forefront, dwarfed by the huge torii gate.  These gates are absolutely everywhere in Japan, and more so in Kyoto than anywhere else.  A torii gate represents the entrance to a sacred place or area, and are often part of shinto shrines.  This particular one is probably the biggest by far.  As this is black and white, I should just add that the torii gate is bright red.

Monday, 26 September 2011

The green stuff

I guess the vast majority of my photography is of places and people, objects and abstracts, buildings and cities. Most of the images I have taken seem to mostly contain inanimate subjects, mostly man made creations, often mixed with human activity.

The stuff that is not man made is called 'nature'.  Or as I often refer to it as 'The Green Stuff'. Trees and grass, flowers and landscape, sky and sunshine, water and rock, are all nature.  It is impossible to avoid these natural objects appearing in many shots. Every city is full of trees and parks, grass and plants. All towns have birds and bees, rats and weeds. (thankfully the rats don't make too many appearances in my photography).

Most of the time I wander around looking at buildings and people; concrete, tarmac, flesh and fabric.  These are the things that I am interested in.  So for a city shooter like myself, it is a real challenge and change of habit to attempt photographing the green stuff.

I have very little knowledge of trees, plants and flowers.  As far as I am concerned; they grow out of the ground, are green with additional bright colours, move around too much to focus, are homes for bugs, and create pollen.

But anyway, I like to try anything a few times just for the hell of it.  Here are a few unidentified examples of green stuff which I have found growing within the realms of the city and town.  I have tried to concentrate on purely the nature, whilst removing all traces of the town and city. Some of them are sharper than others; some are better composed. But at least I tried.

 When I look at nature photography taken by really skilled photographers, I am amazed at how they capture the very essence of nature itself.  They have a patience beyond which I can only imagine, a far steadier hand than my own, and a greater knowledge of their subject.  I know there are more suitable lenses for such work, and I am sure a technique for capturing this kind of imagary is well known...  by those who know.  

I prefer to just capture a little of the green stuff, every now and then.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Doors and Windows

I was looking through my archives of images taken using my Nikon D80, and trying to come up with an idea of what to discuss in this latest post. My last week has been incredibly chaotic and I have not had a chance to update until now. Im writing this as I watch the amazing The Story of Film: An Odyssey. I recommend this to anyone with even the slightest interest in the history of cinema.  It is not always a good idea to combine writing and photography processing with other distractions, but here I go anyway.

I have to admit that I have no method or process in picking images or discussion subjects for my blog. I have so far kept loosely to my history of camera ownership, whilst displaying my evolving style in photography. When I scan through my old images, ideas always jump out at me, and sometimes they certainly do not.  This week's subject came to me through inspiration from a fellow blogger's blog.  Cheryl's  Look This Way photography blog presented the theme of 'Doors', which inspired me to throw up all my door images. I find doors very interesting, although I am not entirely sure why. Windows also fall into the same area of interest. As Cheryl pointed out in her blog, there is a certain mystery behind a door; a story that may be told.  I have a general interest in architecture anyway, and doors and windows are one of the key components of any building.

It's obvious really that a building is of very little use without a door! Also, windows make use of the natural light, to illuminate the interior; and also allow the occupents a view to the outside world.  This has been the case for centuries, which is a good excuse for me to start with some medieval doors and windows.  Luckily, I live in a small town which is actually older than medieval; so here is a selection of local doors and windows:

I like the shape of medieval doors and windows, with those pointed arches of strong religous architecture.  I think the first window image has been caged with metal bars in recent years, and I am not sure about the second door. My favourite is the third door, with its ancient oak and heavy locks and hinges. The stone grey and earthy brown tones add to the centruries old feel.  All taken in my home town of Colchester.

The next few images are all of doors and windows from the last two centuries, which I feel are attractive in different ways. They had something about them which begged me to photograph them.  Some of these are just architecturally attractive, some have industrial purpose, some are slightly hidden or almost camouflaged into their backgrounds.

 Not all windows are nice and pretty.  Not all doors are friendly and welcoming.  We live in a modern world of security, crime, paranoia and decay. I also find this interesting to photograph. There is something about the gritty urban neglect and brutal architecture which I like. I just feel that I want to record it, warts and all!

Not nice at all.  So I thought I'd show a couple of images from my Japan archives, which hopefully lighten the mood.  The first is a huge wooden gate to a five hundred year old temple, and the second is a very typical restaurant sliding door. I love how the Japanese, who do not have front gardens, decorate their entrances with small flowers and plants on the pavement outside. I am also impressed by the fact that these decorations can be left outside overnight, every night, without being stolen or kicked around by drunken youth at night.

I thought I'd finish this post with my favourite window.  The window to my living room, which illuminates my daily life, and sometimes tempts me into sitting and gazing outside for hours.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Battlesbridge Market

One place I have always enjoyed visiting is a market.  I was brought up in a market town, and even as a child I enjoyed the sights and sounds of the market place.  Fruit & veg, meat and fish, tacky cheap fashions, bargain footware, possibly dodgy electrical goods, terrible toys...   just to think of a few.  This was a typical large town market in the 1970s.  I think nowadays, markets have changed to survive. Many markets offer a different experience for the public, selling the things that Sainsburys and Tescos wouldn't even consider.  We now have many speciality markets in most cities and towns.  I think these fall into the three main catagories:

Antique and collectable Markets, including crafts and hand made goods.   These are my favourite kind of market. I can wander around one of these for hours, rummaging through old books and records, old tat, and brik-a-brak.  Unlike most of my friends and peers, I have a real love of 'old stuff'.  I don't mean necessarily antiques of any value or worth; I am talking about the everyday things that people had around their houses throughout the last century.  Books, records, toys, (old cameras!), tools, pictures, lamps, radios...  etc.    I just love the look and feel of old gear!   I also have a real interest in 1970s technology...  early hi-fi, instruments, totally redundent electronic machinery, early computers,  and of course old cameras.   This digital age we live in really has no soul or character in any of its components.  We live in a throw away consumer society, and people constantly need the latest gadget.  But the old stuff is just wonderful (even if it doesn't work).  The biggest example of this is a new smart phone, which does everything except mow the lawn, compared to an old 1970s black household telephone, which had just one purpous, but still was one of the most important objects in any home.  Beautifully designed by hand, and lovely to hold in the hand.  I guess I am a luddite and will always have one foot in the past.

Food Markets. What can I say about these amazing places that any of you don't already know. Possibly the most exciting markets in any city in any country. To walk around and take in the sounds, colours and smells of so many different foods.  Obviously fruit and veg is the base of all markets, followed by the meat and fish. I am getting hungry as I write this.....     How many different cheeses can you find?  Snacks, sweets, drinks, savoury dishes, asian food hot from the counter...   spices, herbs...    jams, preserves...  pickles...   I could go on forever. Food markets are amazing places to try things you have never heard of before, and great places to just wander around with your camera.  The most famous in London is Borough Market,  but there are many others across the city which are not so famous.  It is best to see these places start up early in the morning, especially while sipping a hot coffee and a bacon sandwich!

Fashion Markets.  My knowledge of fashion is somewhat limited.  Although in my rebellious teens and early twenties, I used to frequent Camden Market, and other such places, picking up cool things to wear....   the things that your high street never sold.  Second-hand was very cool in those days; all of us wearing 1950s and 60s style gear...  with our hair quiffed or punked up..   Most of the items were one-offs..  individual...   and very cheap.  Things seemed to change in the mid eighties, when most of the youth needed to be seen in expensive labelled brands from particular designers and styles. In my opinion, the world became very materialistic, and eventually quite boring in their fashion sense.  No sense of rebellion anymore.  I recently went to Camden Market though, and it has tripled in size since I last went twenty five years ago. I am quite happy to say that it is still one of the busiest and vibrant places in London; full of students, trendies, hippies, goths, soul boys, tourists and many interesting individuals...   all spending their cash on market led fashions and styles.  There is hope.

So..  finally onto my pictures.   These are all of a very quiet and pleasant antique market in Battlesbridge, Essex. I took these with my Nikon D80, with a 50mm prime lens.  Apart from the above black and white image of the antique centre bulding, which was using a nice wide 10-20mm zoom.  I like to use a 50mm prime lens, as it forces you to work harder to get the shots.  In these shots, I deliberately kept it free from people, as I wanted to concentrate on the brik-a-brak itself.    So, just check out all this old junk....

I have visited Battlesbridge more recently, using my latest camera.  I will post thise another time.  I never get bored with photography in markets.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Kyoto Street Shots

Japanese springtime is wonderfully sunny; sometimes crisp and sometimes warm.  The skies seem clear for weeks, with very little miserable rain. Japanese people seem happiest in the springtime, and the climax of their happiness is the nationwide cherry blossom phenomenon. More on that another time.  They are probably making the most of the fine weather before the summer rains arrive, and the country is thrown under a blanket of intolerable humidity and heat. Japanese weather runs like clockwork, and the seasons are very defined. This is very much unlike the British weather, which is unpredicatble, complex, annoyingly wet, and most overcast. This is why the weather is the British national conversation obsession. Whereas the Japanese know how every month will be, they can relax and enjoy the seasons.

Here are a couple of street(ish) images taken with my Nikon D80.

This is a shot of a small path in Kyoto along some small market shops and stalls. The sun is bright and the weather is lovely. The parasols are out all across Kyoto. I rather liked this couple of girls marching along together, with confident and happy expressions.  I just had to get a shot before they marched out of my frame. Just about got them then!  I think she is just opening the parasol as they approached...  or was it the other way round?

The main river which runs through Kyoto, is one of the most calm and peaceful rivers I have seen.  It is wide enough to require many road bridges, but shallow enough in many places to wade across without getting your thighs wet. (not that I would try that).  In some places there actually are stepping stones.  It seems to be clear and clean, with thriving fish and bird life.  All along both sides of this river are wide banks of grass and paved areas, where people cycle or walk along, sit and relax, or in the case of the following image, enjoy picnics in groups of friends.  I took this from the other side of the river with a 70-300mm lens, (probably about 100mm). The buildings behind are riverside restaurants and bars, and I have only just noticed the dark sillhoutte of a person sitting in the top left window.

I am still a little hooked on the 1:1 square crop on any street images. I don't know why, but I find myself automatically cropping them this way as soon as they are in my computer. (of course, I always keep the originals of all shots, on several back up places).

Thursday, 8 September 2011


I love black and white photography. It's cool, serious, artistic and respectable. Some of the greatest and most important photo images of the 20th century were black and white.

In black and white; architecture look amazing, portraiture becomes art, street photography gains gritty realism, abstract gains purity, reportage commands authority.

But sometimes I just love colour! Day-Glo and Neon can only be in full and ridiculous colour. Here are my favourite London splashes of sectrum-tastic artwork.


These were all taken with my Nikon D80, and I have to admit, in full auto mode. It is interesting that I took many shots in various modes of all these items.  I wasn't sure how to photograph these kinds of subjects.  It just so happened that all the full auto shots came out easily the best images.  These were taken around four years ago, and I am of course now not using full auto (unless I am badly lazy).  

The next shot is a little thought for the people of Japan who suffered badly from the recent earthquake.  We have large earthquakes around the world every few years, and it is often too easy to detatch oneself from the reality of these natural catastrophies.  The shocking television images of that huge tsunami wave moving through those buildings, fields and roads, was just unbelievable.  Japan is probably one of the most advanced and modern countries in the world; and yet for them to be so crippled by such an event just goes to show that no society can be truly prepared against such an event.

This television tower sits on the top of the hills above the city of Sendai, the largest Japanese city most affected by the earthquake and tsunami. This tower helped to transmit those terrible images around the world. It is also a beautifully multi-coloured landmark, which can be seen for miles around.  My wife was born near Sendai, and her family there are only just getting back on their feet.  Last time I was in Sendai, I was transfixed by this lovely transmitter, whose spectrum of colour changed beautifully.

I hope Sendai and the people of Japan can find their true colours again soon.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

River Thames - North Bank

One of my favourite destinations in London for photography is the River Thames.  It is one of those great rivers that is steeped in history, with hundreds of famous places, buildings and landmarks along its banks; as well as hundreds of smaller secrets and surprising hidden gems to discover.  Generally, on any given weekend, the South Bank is amassed with thousands of people, as it has quite a few major tourist destinations, as well as being a very pleasent place to stroll. 

The North Bank, known as The Embankment, is less of a touristy type of walk, and is basically a busy main road along the river. There is less to look at and visit for tourists (not counting the Tower of London of course).  To the city-end of the embankment, however,  there is a mixture of 1960s 70s & 80s architecture, with some brand new developments forever appearing.  Take a stroll away from the actual river edge, towards the side roads of the city, good opportunities can be found for photography.  St. Pauls is nearby, which is a mixture of city office workers and tourism.

These are some of the first images I took with my Nikon D80 in London, around 2007. Not beautiful buildings for sure, but a mixture of architecture which ended up on my SD card.  The ugly Guys hospital building, would now of course be dwarfed by the new Shard tower, which is currently rapidly rising next to it.  I often include footbridges, street lamps, staircases etc in my photography, because I just happen to like them.  I design steelwork and architectural metalwork as part of my work, and I have always liked slicing architectural images with some good old metal hardware.