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

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Monthly Favourite - Seaside Shelter

I have forgotten to post a monthly favourite this month; so I thought I should squeeze it in before June.

This is an image of a seaside shelter at the seaside town of Deal in Kent.  It seems to be quite art deco in style; whether it was buit in the 20s to 30s, I am not sure.  I took this shot on a cold and windy day when the town was half closed and mostly deserted.  There is something about these small seaside towns which I like. Many of them struggle to compete with the famous towns like Hastings, Brighton & Blackpool etc; relying solely on summer visitors. They almost seem bipolar in their status; welcoming and bustling in the summers with all the usual family fun filled entertainment, and isolated and wind-blown ghost towns in the winter.  I actually like both sides of the story in terms of photographic opportunities.  I took this photo with an old Nikon Coolpix with very limited capabilties, but with a little post processing I was happy with the final image.

Deal does have a charm of it's own, with a pleasent old town centre and attractive seafront.  It also has a very impressive maritime history with a fantastic castle. It is quite close to Dover and the magnificent white cliffe coast.

Friday, 25 May 2012

London - The West End

One of the great things about blogging is actually meeting up with fellow bloggers. I have been following Iesha Small's blog, One life, many shots, for several weeks now; especially as she is a Ricoh GRD3 user like myself, and also because her images are accompanied with well written explanations and back stories.  Check her blog out.  We finally arranged a meet up in the West End of London this week, where she also introduced me to yet another photo enthusiast, Nick.

At 6.30pm, life around the West End is still full of day time people, shoppers, workers and commters. Here are a few shots I grabbed on arrival:

After meeting up, first visited the new Photographers Gallery, which I would highly recommend. After this, we wandered around the back streets of Oxford Street and Soho, which are amazingly vibrant and colouful, packed with after-work drinkers and early evening club arrivals. We walked by a constant stream of bars and restaurants, with tables and customers flooding out onto the pavements outside.  It was the hottest day of the year so far (27 degs in May); and even though the light was fading, and the evening became night time, the air was still warm and the public dress code seemed to reflect this.


We had about one hour of very useable day light before I was restricted to making use of low light and high ISO.  My two friends were making use of their flash units with fair success, which I was a little apprehensive about at first. I have never used or owned a flash unit in recent years, and haven't really been interested in flash photography. I am slightly shy about my street photography, and have always thought that those who use flash for street portraits are rather brave or just plain confident.  Although, after a few drinks in a Soho bar, I decided to just try and use the tiny built in flash on the GRD3, to see if I could get anything reasonable within it's 3 meter limit. These are somewhat 'walk-by' shots, taken mostly from the hip, with the little Ricoh flash doing it's best to get me some kind of image. I still prefer to have images of just one or two people in a shot, and so I tend to avoid crowd shots.

You can see that my very first attempts are not exactly great, but I quite like the slightly uncontrolled movement blur, considering I have got some sharpish facial features. I am looking forward to my fellow bloggers' flash assisted photos from this night, as they seemed to know what they were doing! I think I will keep my eye on ebay now for a cheap and simple flash unit for my Ricoh, even though there is a dedicated TTL flash for the GRD3/4, as I am not yet sure if I would use it often enough yet.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Chappel Viaduct

Within two miles of my home lies one of the largest brick built structures in England; the Chappel Viaduct.

The Chappel Viaduct is 1,066 feet (325 m) long, has 32 arches of 30 feet (9 m) span and its maximum height is 75 feet (23 m). It currently serves the Marks Tey to Sudbury branch line just outside Colchester, which connects regularly with trains to and from London's Liverpool Street Station.  An estimated 6 million bricks were used !

The first stone was laid in September 1847. The viaduct took two years to build, and is thought to be the second largest brick-built structure in England. The first passenger train from Colchester to Sudbury, ran on 2nd July 1849. Trains still run across it several times a day.

I actually drive under the viaduct some mornings on my way to my place of work, so I am very fond of this amazing example of 19th century Great British engineering. It is a well photographed local landmark; and of course I have had to stop my car and take a few shots of the old beast myself.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Japanese Gardens & Temples - Part 3

Although the following images are not exactly gardens, they do fall into the theme of peaceful meditation and ancient beauty. So here are a few more images taken from Japanese places of quietetude. (it's a word).  One of the strangest and most interesting places I visited in Japan was the Okunoin Graveyard; a very large and ancient forest of graves and tombs. The forest was beautiful in itselt, but the added masses of tombs, shrines, statues and graves gave the whole place a touch of magnificent eerieness.  This is actually one of the most religiously spiritual places in Japan. The founder of Japanese Buddhism is believed to rest in the forest in eternal meditation, awaiting the second Buddha.  My photos do not really do the place justice, and give no clue as to the sheer size of this cemetry. I have seen some unbelievably good photos taken by far better photographers than myself.  These were taken quite a few years ago; and I would relish the chance to go back and take photos with the knowledge I have gained since.

See also part 1, part 2, and part 4 for more of my Japanese Gardens & temples.  

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Local Photography - part 2

Once again, I decided to take a wander around my home town of Colchester, with my Ricoh GRD3 in my hand. We've had terrible weather for the last few weeks; not how May should be at all. However, today the sun managed to break through the clouds throughout the day.  (I am writing this post just four hours after my local wanderings, which makes a change for me).

These are not all street photography per se, as I do not want to fall into that genre blind to all other photographic oportunities.  Sometimes I just take photos of things I find aesthetically pleasing.

I'll start with this dude in a hat. Smoking and looking pretty cool, or confident enough to have a go at least.

Another hat...  this time on a survivor of the 1960s.  A real hippy pensioner out in the spring sunshine.

 An old dog patiently waiting with owner for the green man.  Good boy.

I like taking shots like these...  something about this bric-a-brac shop front drew my attention.  I have 'cross processed' this image through photoshop. It adds a little age to the image without going down the sepia route.  I wanted to keep the basket colours.

 A spot of lunch in a middle eastern cafe.  I always play with my camera at the table.  To my wife's annoyance, I have often spent ages positioning items around the table to get an interesting photo. I just like cafes...   they are great places for candid photography.  Not the sort of place to wave your 200mm lensed DSLR around; but perfect for the GRD3.

I took this shot of a church, which is open to public daily as a charity run cafe, second hand market, and live music venue.  It is known as CO1 Cafe, and is a youth based charity, helping the young people of Colchester get something out of life. The church itself was built in 1050AD. One thousand years old and still in good use!

Heading home as the clouds start to gather. This nice building at the top of my road is named 'Hollytrees', and is museum about Colchester's local and social history.

Friday, 11 May 2012

London - Shooting at Night - part 4

Yet more images from my recent wanderings around London in the late evening. Although they were taken at night time, most of these were taken in and around railway stations and therefore are not exactly 'night shots'.  I think stations are great places for photography as they often encompass great architecture and engineering, cafes and bars,  and of course...   people.

The first shot shows a rather petite girl, attempting to ascend the stairs, with her instrument case on her back. I think the case maybe as tall and as heavy as the girl. Just goes to show that studying music can also keep you very fit.  This was shot on the wonderful London Underground with my Ricoh GRD3.

Waiting for a train, or a person? She stands in the middle of the enourmous St Pancras station platform, while others all dash around from place to place. She looked a little lost.  I framed the image so that she was positioned to the very right hand side, which allows the background of train and platform to hold some importance. Once again, the GRD3 allowed me to take her shot from the hip, at a distance of just 3 meters away, while the wide angle included a nice background.  This area was actually quite dimly lit, and although I pushed the ISO up to 800, this is not as pin sharp as I would have liked, but still good for a low-light hand-held shot.

Still in St Pancras Station; I found a nice place to take shots of people as they walked into my frame. The background was was clad in stainless steel, while the floor was a simple granite finish. It had a simplicity which I thought would make a great canvas.  This was still not very well lit, and so I was capturing a certain amount of blur, which I think is forgivable with fast walking people.  I was about to capture the guy with the hat as he walked by, when the lady stepped into my frame and looked straight into my lens!  I was not sure about the image at first, but ended up keeping it (and posting it).

I can never resist cafe images. There is always something about the atmosphere and style of a cafe. This is one of many paces to eat at St Pancras Station. Most of the cafes inside the main station building are all of a very high quality and style. Maybe this guy is having one last coffee and cake, and a little peace and quiet, before he has to catch his train to Paris (or maybe not). 

At 10pm many of the station's cafes start to close. I liked the uniformity of these chairs stacked on tables.

Outside and back on the streets. It's late now and very dark.  I made use of the bright light from behind these gates to capture a walking sillhoutte.  I particularly liked the radiating shadows on the pavement. This is something I may try again, as there are so many good places to capture such images. I think with a little practice I will maybe get a better shot in the future. 

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Osaka City - Night Shots

Osaka City is Japan's third largest city, behind Yokohama and Tokyo, with a population over 2.7 million; but this doesn't truly represent the true population of the greater Osaka area. The huge built up metropolitan landcsape, known as the Keihanshin area, which encompasses the cities of Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe; has an overall population of 18 million, making it one of the largest populated places on Earth.  The Keihanshin area is home to many of Japan's industrial giants, and is in it's own right, the seventh largest GDP area in the world.
  1. Tokyo
  2. New York
  3. Los Angeles
  4. Chicago
  5. London
  6. Paris
  7. Osaka/Kobe

So...   all I am saying is it's a big city, just not on most people's lists of large cities.  Everything in Osaka is illuminated, automatic, noisy, electronic, computerised, and chaotically efficient. It is full of shops, restaurants, offices, amusement arcades, bars and rail stations. There is a general blurring of boundaries between all these things as much of the city is based around miles of covered shopping arcade and underground shopping malls.  It is almost possible to walk from Umeda (central north) to Namba (central south) without ever seeing daylight. The undergound (subway) rail system is simple and fast, but all the stations are shopping malls in disguise. There are restaurants absolutely everywhere, and most of them seemed eternally busy.  I guess the Japanese people like to eat out.

I am not going to pretend that it is a beautiful city in the way of European cities (most of it's history was flattened during the war). Osaka holds something else which is hard to pin down...  it has a heart and a soul, which beats throughout it's modern lively culture of art, music, comedy and food. It virtually throbs with life.

This post is really supposed to be about night shots.  These are some images I took during my time in Osaka. They are mostly scenes of city buildings and streets, without focusing on the underlying nightlife, which I will post on a later date.

I often wonder if the people of Osaka (and Tokyo etc.) have ever seen the stars in the sky?