Warning! This is not the normal 5 photo blog… (There’s more images!)
This last Sunday (30th April) I joined a London walkabout with Michael Rammell of ‘Ready Steady Pro’ on Facebook. We met at the Department of Coffee and Social affairs, Carnaby Street when the route was set, through China Town, Leicester Square and Covent Garden with the intention to finish on the Southbank. We started out shortly after 1.00pm moving along Carnaby Street where a number of Vespa and Lambretta riders had parked their scooters up. All the riders were great characters talking of the good old days in the sixties, when Carnaby Street was the place to be seen in London, especially if you were a Mod!
So we all set off with great expectations of capturing some good street images and at the same time have a good old chat about photography, cameras and lenses, all that sort of typical subject matter that we photographers talk about when we get together! I had hired from Hireacamera.com a Fujifilm XF16mm f1.4 for this occasion. It’s a lens that I have been interested in for some time and felt that this walkabout would be an ideal time to test it out. I’d like to add at this point that to hire a lens is a superb way to test one out in the field rather than waste money and decide later. You can’t fully test a lens in the shop, out in the field is really the best way. I cant praise Hireacamera.com highly enough their service is second to one. Not withstanding the lens arrived by courier in a well protect ‘Pelli case’ but a courier is scheduled to collect the item at the end of the hired period. They offer a great back-up service and are really great people to talk to. Make a note for yourselves Hireacamera.com for cameras and lenses and at really decent rates of hire as well!
So on with the walk…. With so many characters around it was an ideal time to ask to take some portraits of these classic riders a great bunch of guys who were all only to willing to pose with their pride and joy. My Fuji X-pro1 and the XF16mm f1.4 worked hand in hand and gave me a real chance to get in close but allowing me to include the decorated scooters . It was at this stage I was thinking, could I make 100 portraits in a day? Further down the street – now on my own, and that always happens, I met a guy taking some shots of a window display he happily agreed to me making a portrait of him. Great start… So far so good! And then the wheel’s fell off – I got two flat “No’s” following that and I lost my confidence and so, the project was put to bed! Now I know a lot of you would say I should of kept on asking, after all in one of my earlier blogs I had said “enjoy the No the Yes will always follow!”… But I didn’t, mainly I suppose because I was concentrating on making sure I kept up with the group for the next stop over and of course chatting away with fellow walk-abouter’s! You know the usual subjects cameras, lenses the Arcanum, Facebook, Google+, You Tube shows, Social Media and all that!
It was at about this time I was also beginning to suffer from what I can only describe as a “photographers block” – What to shoot and what to take a photo of! I didn’t have a clue! It was really starting to get me down. I’ve heard of this before, especially writers who hit an unseen wall of no imagination or idea of what to write next. It was the same for me I just didn’t know what to take. I tried the old tested method, for me at any rate, by falling back onto my other projects (ie. Life at 1/15th sec), I also tried some zone focusing, standing in the middle of the street and just firing away looking for that ‘face in the crowd’! All of these ideas have generally worked and have got me back on the shooting trail. But ‘No’ it wasn’t going to work this time… I had really hit the wall!
We went through China town and I made the usual shots of the street and the restaurant windows the place was buzzing, with so many tourists around but, I still couldn’t find anything of note, that would get – shall we say – ‘the photography juices flowing again’. I just couldn’t see anything – Was it the lens – surely not?
Next stopover was Leicester Square, where I bumped into (not literally) my daughter Joanne; it was her first street walkabout and she was really enjoying the experience : She had taken some great shots as well and just with an iPhone! I could see she was getting the bug for street photography… Me, I was just lost!
On to Covent Garden where it was packed and no change there either, I was still searching for something to shoot, I was now beginning to think, was it a case of ‘over familiarity’ of the places and the route that we had taken? Carnaby Street through, Soho, China Town onto Leicester Square then to Covent Garden is probably one of my most often ‘trod’ routes, that I take in London for street shooting. It was at this stage that I came to the conclusion that that was probably the reason! An over familiarity thing! I wasn’t seeing anything new that caught my eye or attention. The weather had been a little overcast as well… So light and shadow? Nada nothing! And it was now threatening to rain well it did but for only about 5 minutes and enough for everyone to change the plan and retire to a nearby restaurant for a well earned ‘Burger’!
Attempts to revitalise myself with face in the crowd, motion blur, looking down and buskers’s
Images from Convent Garden.
At this stage of the blog I think it would be a good idea to talk about the Fuji XF16mm 1.4 lens. The quality of the build is first rate. It has a confusing focus ring which you pull in to allow manual focus and pull out for Auto focus. When I first got the lens I was a bit confused with that at first but this really is a minor point and as soon as you know its there, it is a simple practice to use if need be. Auto-focus even with an X-Pro1 was sufficiently quick (Yes I know the X-Pro2 is quicker still – but I don’t need that!). The aperture ring has sufficient tightness to not feel too loose that it could be easily moved with out knowing. Sharpness of the lens is superb : All the images in this blog are SOOC .jpgs using the ‘Velvia’ filter simulation (that’s the reason for the slightly rich and warmer tones in earlier images). So that leaves me with the 16mm angle – do I need that? Well this is where I’m not so sure. You see what Fujifilm did when they created the X system was to produce a superb (2nd to none) ‘kit’ lens – the Fujinon XF18-55 f2.8-4. It’s because of this lens, its quality and its aperture range, which many of the wide angle Fuji prime lenses (I find) have to compete with. If I were solely a prime lens user then the 16mm f1.4 would be a must have. But I’m not just yet. I still cling to that belief of lighter gear means a smaller bag – if at all – and fewer lenses! For me, can I sit on the fence and suggest ‘maybe’? One thing is for sure though I mustn’t let this walkabout be the decider on whether this quality lens is for me in the future. There are huge advantages having it; Obviously the slightly wider view, over the 18-55mm (by the way its almost the same size – a little wider in diameter), but it focuses closer and you can get some really good perspective on your shots. I’ll definitely hire again – I think the lenses deserves that at least.
So my over-riding thoughts of this walkabout? Let me set the record straight this was a fantastic well supported photo walk through London. It was well organised by Michael Rammell and I met some great people. We had some superb conversations and put the world to rights – well about photography anyway.
For me photographically well I have to be honest I’ve hit the proverbial ‘brick wall’! To criticise my photos ‘harshly’ and they need to be at this stage; They lacked inventiveness, imagination and most of all lacked observation. The route was not to blame, certainly not the company and it wasn’t the equipment either. No it was me…
So what to do? Crawl under a stone and hide?
Well I wont be that harsh on myself but what I will be doing over the next few walk-about’s either on my own or with friends, is to take a different direction… Shoot some architecture, some urban graffiti, definitely look for some new areas and routes, plus I’ll change the time that I go out to shoot -perhaps an evening shoot might get the photography juices flowing!
#photography #walkabout, #fuji, #16mm, #London, #CoventGarden, #leicestersquare, #chinatown