Another day in London found me following the steps of George Washington Wilson who took the above image of the Royal Exchange in 1975. I love this image, the movement of the people walking appear as ghosts, but he still manage a pretty sharp image of the young buy standing, watching him. The building and the statue are clear, as is the simple street down on the right of the image.
Today it is dwarfed by nearby buildings. The street to the right is still the same but you can see the backdrop of the modern buildings to the left. I could not stand in the same spot as George did, as it was the middle of a busy street today. If you can look past the traffic lights you see a monument in front of the Exchange. That is a monument to WWII. The statue of Wellington is still standing strong all these years later.
Below is a pano of the street outside of the exchange. Here, George Wilson stood to capture his amazing image of the Exchange. I doubt he would recognize the street however he sure would recognize the Exchange.
My wife and I decided to escape the suburbs of London and travel into the city for a light walk and a good meal. I took the day off of work, got on a train and went into town. The goal was St. Paul and Covent Garden.
St. Paul is an amazing building but they do not allow photography inside. Some people try to sneak some images using their iPhones however I believe in respecting those rules. We spent a great deal of time walking around that amazing cathedral but I have no images to share.
One of my hidden agendas on this trip was an old photo of Covent Garden taken by Valentine Blanchard in 1860. I wanted to try and find the above shot of the Garden and the building in the back to see how it has changed. I was not sure if I would be able to find it or recognize it but it was a goal.
The market today is a far cry of its humble beginnings, however as the population in London changed so did the needs of the people. Today it is a tourist sight which is wonderful to walk around and people watch.
If you are planning a trip I recommend absorbing Covent Garden in a bit of a different way. I suggest stopping for some tea or a cool beer in one of the cafes. Stay away during busy lunch times but in early morning it is rather empty. As you watch the people come in and fill the place, contemplate how Covent Garden is an example of a city that is in constant change.
After the tea or beer is done, step out into the street and watch the street performers. They are amazing as they have to audition for their time slot. Here I managed to get behind the performer to capture this image. I love the energy of the picture and the rapture of the audience.
Valentine Blanchard may not recognize Covent Garden today, he would appreciate seeing the people of London and visitors from far off places, mingling and enjoying the energy of the place. I enjoyed walking in his footsteps on a gorgeous afternoon day in London.
Photography is one of the most universal languages we have. Any person who can see, can interpret a photograph and derive an emotional response. Everyone approaches photography in a different form, some only absorb it through advertisements while others actively take pictures daily.
In todays socially connected world we are looking to photography to transmit emotions that would normally be expressed in person. The ever improving cell phone camera's and "filters" stand as proof of this growing demand. When I travel to far away places, seeking to capture that unique, hard to find scene, I often find that I am blocked by an iPad or cell phone taking the same image.
Hidden in this universal pursuit are the hobbyists who want to understand photography more. For those it is less an issue of sharing photographs and more about understanding the medium and how it has evolved over the years.
I am sure there were more 'serious' photographers who would have questioned the artistic merits of this photograph. Some would have looked disapprovingly at the gear he chose to use, the lighting he ignored or the simple composition used. All of those serious photographers were taking impressive pictures of the flora around the lake, while my grandfather took a simple snapshot of his father drinking the Argentine tea called Mate.
Today all of my grandfather's images of flowers, monkeys and airplanes showing great artistic abilities just fill the album. The ones that make you stop and really look into the photograph are these simple portraits. The gestures of a man I never knew but who is responsible for my being here.
When that iPad jumps out in front of my artistically composed shot, I will no longer curse under my breath. I will be reminded that the photograph I am fighting to get will become, at best, filler in an album. I will then turn my camera to my family, regardless of what they are doing, and snap my most simple image of the day...and the only one that will matter in years to come.
Everyone has their own post trip ritual and I am no different. At the end of each trip I unpack all my camera bags and lay everything out on my desk. I then set up my back up drive and copy all the files onto my main drive. I will need another post to describe my back up set up but suffice to say I have three drives in two different locations.
While the files are backing up, I clean all my lenses and cameras. I do not clean the sensors again unless I spotted (pun intended) an problem. Most of the cameras will get a rub down with a lint free cloth. This is to wipe off any oils or moisture that was left on the cameras.
The lenses get a full cleaning. Once completed I put all the cameras and lenses into an air tight tub with a Desiccant moisture absorbing package. The idea is to remove any moisture that has found its way into the equipment. I will leave the lenses off my cameras and leave them all uncapped. I leave it this was for a minimum of two days but often times will leave it this way for a week if I was in a very humid environment.
On the next sunny day, I will expose the lenses to some direct sun light. I have a UV light which I can use in a pinch but find that laying them out in direct sunlight works much better. The idea here is to decrease the chance of fungus growing on my lenses. I have some old lenses which are more prone to fungus, exposing it to some UV light helps a great deal.
I then clean all the peripheral equipment such as lens caps, filters, cables, tripods and tripod heads. This is your chance to get all the gear in good working order. I will also charge my batteries or remove any batteries from equipment which will not be used in a short period of time.
I catalog the film rolls and put them together according to film type and ISO shot at. I will then plan my development plan and mix fresh chemicals. I will then slowly get through all the film.
Finally I scan the negatives and select some key shots to take into the darkroom.
That is it. Nice and simple but with a little Tender Loving Care I ensure my gear is ready to go. I enjoy the process and I do not see it as work. It is part of the entire trip enjoyment.
So on the last blog post I spoke of preparing for your trip, packing for it and ensuring that all your equipment arrives safely. This post will be a short one as there is no need to spend too much time one how to take a photograph but just because it is short does not mean it is not important.
As I explain what I do to ensure that I get every shot possible, I will follow the path made on Monday's post and put up the pictures we took.
Travel photography means that you are someplace unfamiliar and are out of your element, which can prove a recipe for disaster. If you shoot digital, this is less of a concern because you can look at the back of your camera to see the images. With film you do not know how badly you did until you get home. In either situation the best thing to do is stick with the basics.
So in Monday's blog post, I explained how I plan for a photography trip. I assumed we had three days in Paris but only one of them would be spent dedicated to photography. Maybe this is when your partner goes out shopping, or perhaps the family want to see something you are not too interest in. So we have one day to use how we want!
So we have our shot list, a map of how we are going to move around and, most importantly, the sequence of the shots we plan to take. Now we need to pack for the trip!
If you are smart, and only have a single camera, this is easy. Unfortunately if you love gear and have a ton of it then you have the difficult task of deciding what to take. I decide based on the shots I am planning on taking and what is inspiring me at the time. Lets assume that for this trip I finding inspiration from Henri Cartier-Bresson and his street shots of Paris.
But B&W images of Paris would be a bit overdone. Perhaps some nice color images as well? Something a bit more contemporary, less masterful but very talented. Lets go with Serge Ramelli who seems to jump all over Paris with his digital camera capturing some good photographs and makes them wonderful through post processing. Serge is all about the wider angles, capturing as much of the scene as possible.
So what gear do we need for this? The HCB is easy we have to go with a 35mm film camera. For the film we will need something with higher ISO to give the grainy feel. Perhaps a 400 ISO film we can push to 800. So in goes the 35mm camera with some normal lenses. A 35mm and 50mm lens should be plenty.
For the Serge inspired shots our DSLR, wide angle lenses with a tripod would be perfect. The great thing about Serge is that it is not about the gear only about the post processing. He does some great work and is eager to teach everyone.
For my walk around bag, I will go with a messenger bag. A backpack could also work and in winter would be my primary choice. But in the heat of summer, a messenger bag will help keep me cool.
Finally, I clean all the gear including digital sensors, I charge all the batteries, pack the chargers and my back up hard drive. I pack the tripod, film, and come lens cleaning supplies. Everything goes into my carryon back with the exception of the tripod which goes in my checked luggage. Even the tripod head comes with me. It makes for a heavy bag but very important to protect everything.
This ends Part 2: Packing for the Trip.
Travel is a modern day luxury. If we go back 80 years or so the only way to travel over great distances was on a boat. A sailing vessel could take a couple of months to complete the crossing, while steam ships reduced the time considerably. Still, trips of any distance took time and a ton of money to make happen.
I travel a great deal, due to work and pleasure. The work trip gives me the airline miles that help fuel my pleasure trips. I also appreciate how lucky I am to be able to travel as much as I do. Even in this day and age, few people have the disposable income to take too many trips. Because of this, I decided to write a series of blog posts on how I plan, execute and follow up with all my trips. Hopefully you will be able to get some ideas from these posts.
I note each place I like, the time of day it was shot in and how important that image would be to my portfolio. I then look to see if I can guess the kind of lens used to capture the image. Was it a wide angle, a normal or a zoom lens? Was the vantage point high or low? You can even print out the picture, cut it out and stick it into your photo notebook, I usually just write the name and location of the image.
I then download a map of Paris, usually aiming for a tourist map which usually has the key places marked on it. I start to look over the different potential routes, starting with he scene I want to capture in early morning and ending with the scene I want to capture at dusk. I route my path through the city which will allow me to capture everything I want.
In the example above I show what I would typically do. So I will start with the Eiffel Tower and end with the Sacre Coeur church. You will see that my walk takes me across the Seine river and allows me to cross a few bridges. This increases my chances of shooting some nice shots along the way. Remember it is not just about the designation but about the walk itself.
People who have been to Paris will ask me if I would take the subway and my answer is no. Subways are very practical but you see very little of the city. A nice walk is always better that a dark tunnel ride.
I put a small copy of the map in my photo notebook along with my shot list. I will even draw a few of the important shots so that I can visualize it better. Once all safely put in my notebook my planning is done and I am ready to pack. I should mention that I will usually pick a place to have lunch at. Something with some character. With a bit of planning you can avoid finding yourself far from any nice restaurants and lunchtime...remember "tea first, then photography".
This ends Part1: Planning a Trip
Nothing motivates me more that traveling to a new place. We have just been informed that we are being moved to Jakarta Indonesia. I made a quick trip there to pick a house and start seeing what is needed in order for us to settle in properly. It was business trip so no real chance to take some good pictures.
The good news is that as I ran around the city, I found that there are some amazing possibilities for photography. So as we plan how to move a family of five with a dog, halfway around the world, I thought I would spend a few blog posts discussing travel photography.
Below is a short video of a street in Jakarta. Now I should mention that Jakarta is a modern city with some high rise building like you find in any large city. Obviously, I am not interested in the Starbucks or Wendy's. I am interested in the traditional Jakarta, the one that emerged after colonization. So this is what draws my eye. Take a look below and let me know what you think.
Enjoy the short video and if you are interested in travel photography, check back over the next week to see the blog series.
During our last vacation, we spent a bit of time hanging around a small town near my father's ranch in Argentina. The town's name is Bovril, named after the English meat packing company. Two days spent in a small town is enough to drive anyone up the wall however, with camera in hand I set about to try to capture the essence of the town.
Before going on I should explain that the locals were very wary of me. A stranger running around snapping pictures was not something they were used to. So I spent a bit of time just focusing on little details and stayed away from some shots of the local people or their homes. This was a large limitation and one that impacted my photographic options, however after being warned that the police were keeping an eye on me I thought it would be best to calm everyone down.
I love the shot of the vegetable market with the old pickup parked out front. In the back you have a part of the church, the tallest building in town. The town is filled with very nice people and I did not want to bother them too much. I tried to stay as unobtrusive as possible and answer any questions that came my way.
The train station, once the life blood of the town, is now a museum. The old sign is still proudly visible and I could not pass up taking a few shots of it. As mentioned above, the town name comes from a meat packing company that set up shot here years ago. They imported German workers and settled this empty area. The train allowed them to take in the cattle to the slaughter house and process their meat.
If you are an iPhone shooter or a point and shoot photographer you will find Stonehenge very friendly and easy to photograph. You will not be allowed up to the stones and this vantage is about as close as you will be able to get. The good news is that it is plenty close enough for good selfies or nice shots to post on Instagram (I posted a few myself).
If you are shooting with a bit more gear here are my thoughts. Take a tripod, they are allowed and even when there is plenty of light there is a reason to take one. There is plenty of space to set up and no one will push you around. A 28mm lens will get you the shot above. You will have people in your shot, and there are three ways to deal with this. First is to make them part of your image. It helps show dimensions after all. Second option is to photoshop them out. I did that in the image above.
Third, and more interesting is to take a tripod and take a shot leaving everything exactly the same. Wait for 30 seconds and take another. Do this for four or five images. Then stack them in photoshop and erase out the people. Since people move it is easy to get rid of them.
One difficult aspect of shooting Stonehenge is finding something a bit more unique. The required shot (the first one on this post) is a must but once captured you kind of fumble at a different shot. One option is to go in close so a telephoto lens will be useful. The other option is to go wide....very wide like the image below.