Experimenting with street photography

For the past couple of years I’ve mainly been concentrating on improving my landscape/seascape photography. It’s what I’ve been most naturally drawn to, not least because I find it relatively calming. However, since trying to take my photography more seriously, I’ve been determined to push myself and to learn new skills. So I’ve been trying my hand at a bit of street photography.

Fairly recently I watched a video by Josh Katz about street photography. Josh outlined four main approaches (or phases) of street photography:

1) Phase 1: Photograph people when they don’t know they are being photographed (eg finding an interesting scene and waiting for people to walk into shot).

2) Phase 2: Taking the shot as they walk towards you, but pretend you are photographing something else (eg by keep firing shots even after they have walked past).

3) Phase 3: Approaching strangers and asking if you can take their portrait.

4) Phase 4: Candid photographs where it is obvious you are taking their picture but you haven’t asked for their permission

I tend to see both Phase 1 and Phase 2 as my go to approaches. I’m not particularly comfortable with street photography generally, and certainly not that confident at approaching and talking to people (even less keen on blatantly taking their photo without permission). I’m fairly shy and reserved, so those first two options are about the only ones I feel remotely comfortable with doing (I’ve done Phase 3, but I have to build up a lot of courage before I do it).

Summer seems to me to be a great time to delve into a bit of street photography though. Bright sunshine and harsh shadows make for difficult conditions with landscapes/seascapes, but make great conditions for pounding the streets with a camera in hand. Even better when you are in Spain for two weeks in July/August every year and face boring blue skies without any interest and often unexciting sunsets.

In fact, this summer, during our usual two week holiday in Spain, I decided that I was going to particularly concentrate on my street photography. Seville is a beautiful city with lots of interesting buildings and structures, and it makes a perfect backdrop for a bit of street photography. Luckily I managed to get out and about a few times with my camera and a 35mm lens (aps-c), even managing to spend a morning in the city the day we were due to fly home, catching a few more last minute shots.

Now, I’m not one that is ordinarily too bothered about likes etc on Instagram, it’s not important, what is important is that you like the shots you have taken. But I have noticed a marked difference in the number of likes I get for my street photos. I’m not sure if they’re either not very good, my followers follow me because of my landscape photos and they’re less interested in street, whether it’s holiday time so fewer people are flicking through Instagram than normal…I don’t know. Regardless, I’m largely happy with some of the ones I have taken (although of course you always feel you could do better) and maybe that’s all that matters. I’ll be interested to know what you think.

casa morales
street tourist
orange splash
calle betis

A life in cameras

Last week I had a ponder over all the cameras I’ve had over the years. As far back as I can remember I’ve always had a camera close by. For me, cameras were second only to personal music players and headphones as something I couldn’t ever imagine being without. Some cameras I loved. Some hugely frustrating. But I learnt something from all of them and I would be half the photographer I am without having had them.

So, here is my life in cameras…

1. Kodak Instamatic

Image c/o  Atelierele Albe  on Flickr.

Image c/o Atelierele Albe on Flickr.


I’m not 100% certain of the model number, but I’m pretty sure this is the first camera I used. And…well…I did not get on with it at all. Mainly I hated the shutter button. I used to find I’d have to really put some force behind it to fire it off, which inevitably meant blurry photos due to camera shake. I could not get it right. I’m sure there were the odd one or two that worked, which is maybe why I perservered and didn’t just give up. But it sure was a frustrating camera.

2. Halina 260

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This was the first camera I remember really using regularly. I mainly remember the little switch to turn the flash on and being really excited whenever I fired it up (you could hear this powering up noise when you switched it on). It wasn’t the best camera in the world, but it was the first one that got me taking photos regularly without getting frustrated!

3. Canon Sure Shot AF-7

Image c/o  Steve Harwood  on Flickr.

Image c/o Steve Harwood on Flickr.

Yes, I actually had a Canon camera! I bought this one when I started working on the photographic counter in Boots back in the early 90s. I seem to recall this was also the camera I took to uni with me. So mainly it was used for lots of drunken photos…I mean, field trips. Ahem. Actually, I really liked this camera and I think it was probably the best I had used at this stage. Of course, I didn’t stick with Canon…

4. Olympus Mju II

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This was the camera I really fell in love with. It really was a beautiful little camera. It felt super compact (it literally fits in one hand) and I took some photos of it I was really proud of (at the time). It really was a joy to use, and it is one of many reasons why I held off switching to digital for a long time. I absolutely loved this camera. Even now, I look back on it with great fondness. To the extent I really need to go up in the loft and seek it out again…yes, it’s in the loft…somewhere…what a way to treat something you love!

5. Olympus C-60Z (no Creative Commons licensed images available)

This was my first foray into digital photography. I seem to recall choosing this one as it had a decent pixel count (6.1mp) and a good zoom (3x optical and 12x digital zoom). Looking back now, though, it was light years behond the digital cameras we have now. The screen was tiny and obviously resolution has come on some way since the beginning of the 21st century. Mind you, I have had some shots from it that I’ve been really happy with.

Shot with my Olympus C-60Z

Shot with my Olympus C-60Z

6. Lumix TZ-6

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I still use this camera today (although it looks like some sea water has managed to infiltrate the lens as there are some discolourations behind the front element (I noticed it after a trip to the beach). It’s got a fantastic wide-angle view and takes really good photos. I’m annoyed about the issue with the lens (although it doesn’t appear to affect the photos), but I really enjoyed using this camera. If I were to get another compact at some point, I would definitely go for a Lumix one.

Taken with my Lumix TZ-6.

Taken with my Lumix TZ-6.

7. Nikon D3200

And so now we have the D3200, my current camera. I have to say, it’s been an excellent purchase and entry into the world of DSLRs. My intention when buying it was to finally start to manually take photos rather than relying on the automatic functions of the past. It took me a while to get my head around it and finally start to play around with apertures, shutter speeds, ISOs etc, but I’ve made huge progress since picking this up. In that way, it comes very close to being the camera that I love the most (close second to the Mju II). Question is…what will come next…?

What about you? What was the first camera that made you fall in love with photography?

How do I decide where to go?

Now there’s a big philosophical question to headline a blog. Tempting though it is to launch into a bout of critical self-reflection about my life choices, this is less about the paths I have taken in life and much more about how I make decisions about what location I am going to on any given day. How do I organise the locations I go to? What things do I consider before deciding where to head? How do I organise all the information to help me make those decisions? Well, that’s what this post is about. So, not quite mid-life crisis levels yet…

I haven’t got a huge selection of locations that I regularly visit, but there are a few recurring places that I head to that I am slowly getting to know. Each time I head to one of these locations I notice something new. Whether it’s the positioning of the sun, the different opportunities the tide brings or individual trees in woodland, there is always something different to remember for future trips. There are two main methods for recording these details, one a bit old school and one a bit more…21st century.

Something I have found incredibly useful is a Google Map i’ve put together highlighting some key scenes around Kent where i have found good compositions. The map features good sunrise and sunset locations, particularly good views and good spots for trees and woodland photography and also indicates the options for high and low tides. I find this really useful as at a glance it can really help me choose where to go on any given day (particularly if I can’t be bothered to explore new locations). This helps to make going out with the camera as painless as possible as I don’t have to waste huge time and energy trying to think of places to go to.

Photo location Google Map

Photo location Google Map

The old school method is a notebook that I have scrawled similar details into. The notebook itself is divided up into a number of sections: seasons, sunrise, sunset and locations. Within each section there are several blank pages of spaces to enable me to note down good locations for each of the seasons, good sunrise/sunset spots and good locations in general. For each I note a load of details (again, compositions with tides, specific elements) so that it makes it quick and easy for me to find locations and I identify potential compositions quickly and easily.

My notebook with handy tabs!

My notebook with handy tabs!

Of course, the problem with these things is actually updating them (full disclosure: I soon realised upon writing this post that I hadn’t updated either in a while…d’oh). But when up-to-date, they provide a valuable resources that saves me time and frustration.

There are a number of other things I use as well to help me make decisions as to where I should go:

  • BBC Weather app - for the obvious information on the…er…weather, as well as sunrise/sunset times.

  • Photopills - a great app for sunrise and sunset, could not do without this app, it’s invaluable in plotting compositions.

  • MeteoEarth - this one is great for cloud cover (it also has a website as well as an app). It gives me a good indication as to what the cloud wil be like in any given location (if it indicates heavy low cloud, then I know sunrise/sunset shots are probably a write-off).

I suppose I could split these things into two groups: the recorded information to choose locations I know about, the apps etc help with new locations (as well as the familiar ones).

What about you? How do you decide where you are going to go? Do you keep notes on locations? Share your tips below!