Wednesday, 30 September 2009

When patience pays off

The month of September has been good to us Londoners. Since the downpour we had the day I started my blog, September 14th, it hasn't rained once!

Taking the camera out when the sun's out is simply so much more inspiring than when the light i poor and dull. No light means lack of contrast. It means lack of vibrancy. Nothing reflects. I struggle on such days...

Today was such a day.

As beautifully as the sky lit up yesterday morning, as dull and dark was it today. Come 7am, when I left the house to go chanting with my friend Simone, the thick layer of clouds was still hiding the sun.

Short of giving you a detailed hourly weather report of the entire day, suffice it to say that it remained dull and overcast...

What was I going to do for my blog? Where would my inspiration come from and when would the slightest beam of light make it through the layer of clouds? When would I get the photo of the day?

Well, I had lots to do at home. E-mails to write, Buddhist schedule to organise, design, print out, send off and even hand deliver to some members who don't own a computer ... yes, there are still some people who resist being a slave to that form of communication :)

However I was getting a touch itchy. There is no way I'm not going to produce a blog and shot. Patience.., I guess it was time to make a start at fine tuning that virtue.

The days are getting shorter and shorter each day .. so around 5pm I thought I'd better make a move. Nothing caught me eye. Absolutely nothing! A man leaning against a wall, a beer can next to him, just about summed up how desperate the situation was getting!

Out for an hour and I didn't get anything better than that. I walked home thinking that I have to tell it how it is and if this was going to be the best shot I got, so be it. After all, I have to be honest.

But England wouldn't be England if come 6.30 pm, when the day's almost over, the sun wouldn't decide to make an appearance!

Excited, I grab my equipment and make a dash for the common. This is where the sun sets.

Finally some interesting light to play with! I am determined to get a better shot than the one of the man and his empty can of beer!

I reach the common and, to my delight, I notice that I'm not the only one out to play.

A man and his dog are having fun. Not sure who is enjoying the walk more actually? The man whom is throwing the tennis ball or the dog retrieving it?

Or could it by any chance even be me?!

Following the dog in full flight certainly brightened up my evening! Playing with the shadows the low lowing sun throws can be quite tricky too. One has to be carefull not to get ones own shadow in shot.

The photo was shot at a 30/s

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Early bird catches the worm

It's this time of year again when it's still pitch dark when one gets up "relatively early" at 6am.

Why so early? Well, things to do, places to go... besides, I am a morning person. I usually wake up at least a nano second before my alarm is due to go off. Why even use an alarm then?! I wouldn't want to be missing the break of a new day :)

I think my affinity with early mornings stems from my riding days. Even as a child living in the countryside I used to love taking my pony out for early morning rides with my father. He used to draw my attention to the lovely light and point out all the wildlife one could see then. Summers in Austria can get very hot and it just made sense to take the horses out when the temperature hadn't risen too high yet. Watching the sun gently rise I notice already then what a difference light makes and how it affects life.

Traveling to South Africa this spring was another reminder of what I had experienced as a child.
On Safari, we got up around 4am each morning to be sure to catch as much wildlife as possible. The backdrop early morning light offered was spectacular.

This morning was no different. I woke around 6am. It was still dark. I waited half a snooze before leaving the warmth of the bed.

Time for the customary back exercises. Laying out my mat in the east facing front room I could notice the first brightening. The day was finally getting on its way. No sooner than I had my first couple exercises done, did I spot yet another change in the light. A pink glow was hitting the mat. Up I got. Looked out the window and, there it was: a magnificently lit sky.

I grab my camera. Lens is still mounted. I open the window and point to what I see.

The ISA was set to 400, the lens was wide open at f2.8 which worked well.

The top of the roofs coupled with the chimneys added to the drama that was unfolding in the London sky.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Sweet dreams are made of this

Monday, and we are all rushing around again. Mind you, almost all of my days, with the exception of yesterday, remind me of a spinning wheel of events without breaks. Not the slightest breather factored in ... even sending a quick text message to my mother, telling her that I posted a small packet for her, is done while I'm on the phone to organise the Buddhist schedule for next month.

No sooner has the text message left my mobile phone, do I receive a text message back from my mother.
"Thanx, I can see you are in hurry from reading your blog. Afpelstrudel looked good, was it as good as it looked? Did poor Polish woman have a bite of it?"

Amazed (and delighted) about the fact that my Mum (and Dad I suppose) are reading my blog, I quickly replied.

"Wow you are reading my blog!"

"Yes, a sure way of getting your news!"

That made me laugh out loud! Well, it's not as if I didn't call my parents to keep in touch ... but I must confess that as of late my phone calls haven't been as frequent as they used to be ... but we all know what it's like ... busy, busy busy :) Besides, my parents live in Austria. So not just round the corner either!
Ok, you read it here first. I promise to call more often again :)

Time to get on the tube and head into town for my one to one session at the Apple store. I want to know more about putting a blog page on my website using i.Web. The idea being that one can put a lot of info on a blog. Lots of links which makes my site more interactive, more interesting and hopefully more people will find me on the World Wide Web.

Laptop packed and favourite camera and lens at hand I make it to the Tooting Bec tube station in 2 minutes flat.

This time, I thought of keeping an eye out for what's happening on the tube. I wanted to see if I could capture something quirky around people on the tube.

I board the Northern Line up to Stockwell... nothing... At Stockwell I have to change over to the Victoria Line. As I'm walking up and down the platform I see a lady reading a book ... but not just any book! No, the title of the book suggest that she means business.

As I'm deciding on how best I could capture her, the train pulls in. We both get on. I make sure I sit diagonally opposite her so to get a good angle. The train is moving, gathering speed and shaking it's passengers a fair bit around. The lady is engrossed in her book. How am I going to get a good shot of her?

The available light in the carriage is poor to say the least. Up goes the ISA setting. I choose 800. Set my shutter speed to 100/s and am hoping for less movement. It's not happening The Victoria Line must be one of the most uncomfortable ones ;)

But anyway; I wasn't going to give up as easily as that. We are pulling into Vauxhall station. Here is my chance. I've got my camera resting on my knee. Aiming my lens at the immersed lady, I release the shutter. Click. I hope that wasn't too loud. I don't want to draw her attention.

No, I'm OK - she is so ensconced that nothing would phase her. I have another go at the next station. Both shots felt good. But there is no knowing for sure. Now I can't wait to get home to check it out. Yes one can aways check on the review screen of the camera ... but it doesn't compares to seeing it in large.

Walking down Oxford Street after my fantasic i.Web session I get a few more interesting shots.

But, I tell you what. My decision is made. I'm sticking with my "tube lady".
Watch this space because I may very well catch her again some day. This time hopefully accompanied by the real thing :)

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Family outing

Last night's dinner was a success - a lovely evening in fact - we shared lots of laughs - I think the menu went down quite well too - at least the wine went down - very down, that much I know!

Guests and hosts were very jolly and none the worse for it :) not even the following day ... :)

So, what's on the agenda for today then? Well, it's Sunday, the sun is still out to play.

What an amazing September this month has turned out to be!

There is no way I can stay in doors and declare Sunday to be a lazy, non blogging day :) too much out there to see and capture.

Fortunately, I live very close to Tooting Bec Common.

What better idea than to take a stroll to the common and see what activities the open green space has attracted.

Reaching the end of my road I hear a squeaking sound of bicycle breaks creeping up from behind. Beep beep ... A father on his bike and his two daughters are in a mad rush.

I take a step to one side.

"Thank you" says Dad. The two small kids right on his heels.

"You are welcome."

Ahhh but the traffic light slows them down. This is where I catch up with them again... and just as the light turns green again and the three set off, snap. Got them!

The walk to the Common leads down Streathbourne Road. A lovely wide road flanked by beautiful trees either side. Leaves are catching the light which in turn throws interesting patters on the terraces of super sized Victorian houses.

Walking down it I catch two beautiful shots. In the first one a young man striding out pushing a pram. In the other shot, I caught a man back from purchasing a "flymo" he has affixed on to the handlebars of his bicycle. The light on both these shots is soft and rather special.

But something tells me that there is more out there waiting to unfold in front of my lens.

Approaching the common one could already hear loud voices calling out "pass, pass, pass" and before one could even see what it was all about, there was no doubt in my mind that lads were having a game of football. I have never understood why football players scream so much?! Played well, it is a beautifully skilful game to watch. The level on show here ... more farcical than entertaining!

Nonetheless, I stop. No, nothing much to be had.

Time to measure Shirley and my skills at Frisbee! No wind at all and the disk flies beautifully. We are even quite good at catching it!

Enough. We need a rest before heading home and straight back out again to catch the last long Sunday at the Lido. From October the Lido will only be open until 2pm. And that only for SLSC members.

Yes, of course I got my splish in.
Now back home it's time to take a closer look at my photographic exploits.

Tough choice! But my decision is made.

The friendly father and his daughters who seemed on a real mission to make the most of this beautiful sunday gets my vote.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

All engines go

I can't keep up with my day ...

I've been going non stop since 7am - the usual back exercises plus morning Gongyo .. shopping and cooking! when will I make time to do my blog? well, right now between .. this and that!

Let me tell you what's on the agenda.

You see, we are holding a dinner party tonight - yeah great ! And the Lido is holding an event - the 103 length in celebration of 103 years of Tooting Bec Lido. Great too!

Of course I must, must, must take part :) registration is from 1pm- I don't know when I'll be in the water to do my bit - I'll be teaming up with a few people - don't know who yet - am aiming to do a bit more than my usual 10 lengths - sun's out - that's good! The sun was out all day yesterday (even better!) so, who knows, the water temperature may very well have crept up by 1/2 a degree :)

What all this means, however, is organising each minute of my day, so no minute gets wasted ...:) stress alert, I hear you say ... ! yes, could be. If I let it ... I practice Buddhism so that I don't :)

What's on the menu;
Courgette fritters, Beef Goulash and Apfelstrudl!

Shopping went well - got all I needed - I'm doing the Goulash and the Apfelstrudl - Shirley's doing the Courgette Fritters - when she gets back that is - she's in town - she's got a few clients and will be back .. when? when I'm in the water probably!

All this would be fine if I was not doing a blog on ... cooking?! - Like Julia did in the film Julie and Julia - fun film! a recipe a day ... but no. I'm not!

I'm doing a blog on photography. I'm going out each day to capture something exciting in the streets of London. Choosing one shot and sharing it with you.

Back to my cooking though! chop chop chop - onions, garlic, peppers ...
diced beef is ready - coconut milch bought, fresh parsley too - mild sweet paprika , and cayenne pepper, salt and ground black pepper, white wine all neatly prepared. Doing it all according to recipe. Looking fine - and while the Goulash is bubbling along I'm already busy preparing the ingredients for the Dessert : Austrian Apflestrudl.

More chop chop chop: Cooking Apples this time. Lining up the Lemon Juice, Cinnamon, Sugar, melting Butter to brown Bread Crumbs. Uffff that's all done too. Ahh and now most importantly, the thin Strudl dough! My friend Tamara brought some over from Austria when she came to visit a few weeks ago. Sorted!

Laying it out carefully is the trickiest part - that's done too - now filling it and rolling it - bit tricky too - Oven was preheating .. ohh yes, nothing gets forgotten!

Rolled and ready for the baking tray - looking very good! and in it goes - for ca. 30 minutes - got to play it by ear and watch it doesn't burn on top!

12.00 and I'm done - can you believe it - The Strudl is looking mighty fine!

On to my blog ... photo ... what, no time for that?!

Sorry, I must break the rules.

There are three options:

1 - I publish a shot that so very nearly became yesterday's shot .. it's soooo cool, specially as it was shot out of the hip! the guy came out of nowhere. I was sitting on a little wall.
I quickly reacted, turned the shutter speed right down to a 30th of a second to capture the movement and took one shot - one shot only!

2 - I take a photo of the lovely meal and publish that! a bit boring right?

3 - As it is the weekend and we are all celebrating the end of the summer ... sniffff, I know! I will publish 2 photos - How's that?!

Hey let me quickly put yesterday's shot up though - I like it so much! I can always add the other one later! cause it's time for me to cycle up the Lido. Can't wait for my splish!

Ok here it is - the famous Austrian Apfeltrudl in its full glory!

Friday, 25 September 2009

Looking forward to the weekend

Another glorious autumn day and I'm out and about, eyes wide open.

Actually, I have quite a busy day. Heading into town for the afternoon and on my return preparing for the monthly Buddhist Discussion meeting which I am hosting.

So, around 11am I set out with the aim of "killing two birds" in one go...

I cycled over to Furzedown, not far from the Tooting Bec Lido to meet with Sue Rentoul. Sue is a graphic designer and also a passionate swimmer ... and, yes, of course swims at the Lido come rain, snow or sunshine. Sue is the lady behind the SLSC Logo. She gives a lot of her time to promoting various activities that club members get involved in. Last Saturday's Free Art Event was one of those activities.

I took all the "official shots" at the event - some of which Sue will use for the newsletter that's about to be released.

So, being in a part of South West London I'm not very familiar with ... in fact, whenever I have been in that neck of the woods I have managed to get lost :).
I decided to park my bike, take out my equipment (favourite lens already mounted!) and to hang around a bit.

The day is glorious and I got good vibes. To my surprise, there were photo opportunities galore!

I discovered a friendly little row of shops including a coffee shop - It was around 11.30am and the autumn light was getting a touch harsh ... however, still OK depending on where I positioned myself.

The very first shot I took just made perfect sense. And, it is the shot that makes today's blog : It's Friday. It's sunny. The leaves have started to fall, indicating the season. The day is not quite over. It's time for a coffee. The week has been tough. I wonder what the rest of the day has installed...? And, one thing is sure, it's definitely time to look forward to the weekend!

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Delight in afternoon light

Waking up this morning I felt a bit deflated.

I have been giving what I shared with you yesterday a lot of thought.

I have come to realise more and more how important it is for me to be taking photos. I love taking photos. I love reporting. I love capturing the essence of what people are about. I love documenting things and events that are happening around me, around us. Some people are oblivious to it all. They don't see what I see.

Some object to seeing what I see. They don't see the meaning of it. This is the part that deflates me.

But I have also realised that I cannot let this disturb my mission.

I know I can catch a subject and bring another dimension to it. Honing in on a particular part of an overall impression is what I am good at.

So when I see things I feel the urge to frame it and snap it. And, bingo - you have a photograph - you have a story. You give the viewer of your image the opportunity to reflect, to feel.

My ultimate goal is purely and simply to inspire.

Day in day out for over 20 years I did that. I have had so many positive reactions to my books and my images. To which I always replied. "My images are only as good as what is happening in front of my lens."
"My job is to react, frame well and be aware of existing light."

There is nothing more exciting than having ones lens pointed at something and creating that magic connection between you and your subject. It is only a split second and it cannot be recreated. You miss it.. it's gone... forever. You see it, react to it and capture it... you encapsulate it forever.

How great is it then to be an observer, visually reporting on events?! It is what I enjoy most!

Now, with my reignited mission, I am reminded daily that I go through life seeing photos everywhere. It is as if I have my favourite lens permanently affixed to my retina :) I can't help but see photo opportunities everywhere. And, I feel the need to capture those.

Street photography heightens my visual senses even more. I have to go out and look, be alert at all times. I feel that my eye is becoming even sharper.

How easy it was photographing horses over fences or in a dressage arena.
With it came a sense of satisfaction, for sure. However, knowing horses and the sport as well I did, I felt it became a touch too predictable.

But back to yesterday's event. Remember the "unhappy polish woman"?

Well, today, I received a mail from her! Reading it has turned my feeling of slight deflation into one of hope. Specially hope for her!

I must share it with you in its entirety:

that is very interesting...yours mission!!!...and yours comments...You made me depresd and anhappy till I came back and enter the blog...sorry about that scene but it is just like....I could not belive it when i saw tthat lens looking straight at me doing that imberessing job...and You a photographer...doing pictures of what ever You like...not like me-doing this shit which I f.. have to...and my dream to do photography in my life.I am so tired of being a slave of parking...I am keep on looking...You as me what do I do...hardly trying to go back to normal...this rubbish killing my personality...sorry to going up set with the camera...I promisse to let You take one when I will could to finish this distress........Yours blog makes me cheer up at the end of the day.......thanks....................................................unhappy traffic worden

sorry about my english

and of course I replied:

Hi no longer as unhappy traffic warden,

Thank you so much for your e-mail.

Your words touched me and I am sure that if your desire to be a photographer is as strong as I can sense it is, then you will make it happen!

You are young and full of energy - use this wisely and don't let others rule your life. You are the master of your life - Don't give anybody the power to shatter your dream.

We all go through stages in our life where things seem so hard and we don't know how to get our life back on track. The truth, however, is that we can get the life we deserve. Yes, it takes a bit of effort and a firm believe that we can.

I have been practicing "Nichiren Buddhism" for a few years.This has helped me tremendously.
Please go to this link and watch the video. Am sure it will inspire you. If it inspires you enough you are welcome to come to my house this friday, tomorrow sept. 25th - I am hosting a Buddhist meeting and you are very welcome to attend.

Let me know how you are doing and let me know if you want to come.

regards, Elizabeth

PS your English is great.
is case the hyperlink did not work ... here is the link again

So off I go on today's mission. Check in later.

What a delight! Donovan was over the moon when I asked him whether I could take some pictures of him in action.

Donovan is the best, most conscientious decorator I have ever seen at work.

I have watched him near to two months now as he's been working his way down the road I live on. He's on house number four! There is an undisputed consent that our road will be renamed : Donovan Street.

I have a whole series of Donovan - the image I ended up choosing shows the concentration on his face in the soft afternoon light. I made sure I had a bit of the hedge in the bottom of the frame so to add a bit of colour. Looking very carefully one can even detect a drop of sweat on the end of Donovan's nose!

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

What would you do?

No excuse to stay indoors today. Chores done. It's time for my wander around.

"The car needs washing, why don't you come with me and see where it takes you today!"

"Hey, why not. Sounds like a good idea!"

Favourite lens mounted on the 5D in one hand and Crumpler bag in the other, I jump in the passenger seat. Shirley and I are off the local car wash.

No one other than us two around, I start taking a few shots of Shirley struggling with two hoses and a jet gun :) Water and foam everywhere! Getting a good angle of the spectacle was quite tricky. I really didn't want to see my equipment on the receiving end of that irate water jet :)

It's fair to say that we were all glad when a chirping sound coming out of that bizarre machine announced the happy ending to the affair.

On to cleaning the inside of the car.

"Rather you than me."

Besides, I am on a mission, right?! At this rate, I really wasn't sure where my shot of the day was going to come from...

Fortunately, the petrol station filled out. I observe movement wherever I turn to. The light is proving to be quite interesting too. Maybe something will come of hanging around here a bit longer?! Besides, Shirley was still giving the car a good clean!

I have my eye fixed on a biker tending to his good looking Triumph motorbike. Memories of having had a ride on the back of one of those a couple of years ago, keeps me interested.

Oblivious to being studied by my keen lens, the guy filled the Triumph up. He strolled across to pay. Strolled back out and over to his motorbike. Glancing carefully at it, he started the engine, mounted it and smoothly took off. Finally, I release the shutter and catch the pair.

I like that shot! I feel what really makes it is the balance between the smooth action of the main subject and the pedestrian who happened to just pass through the frame at the right time.

However, the day was still young and at this stage I wasn't sure yet whether this shot would be the one that makes it onto the blog.

"Let's go for a little drive and see what else we encounter."

My driver showed willing.

Stop, stop : two elderly black men engrossed in a conversation on a street corner - window wound down I took a shot. Oh boy, that didn't go down very well. They noticed me and came straight over.
"Why are you taking a photo of us? You shouldn't be doing that!"
I never know how to reply when I sense a certain disgruntlement. Would they know about blogging, I wondered .. and out came : "I'm doing a feature on Wandsworth"

"Well, you should ask before you take a picture!"

Deep down I know they have a point... If I was aware of a stranger taking a photo of me I probably wouldn't be very happy about it either, I thought ...then again, what is there to fear?

I think that people in London are very suspicious. And as soon as one is seen with a bit of a weighty lens, I suppose it looks imposing and heightens people's suspicion.

However, what people don't realise is that if I see a good shot but, would have to ask them first whether they would allow me to take their photo, the mood and quality I am after would be totally lost...

Still reflecting on their comments, we drove on. Next I saw a traffic warden in one of the side streets. She was carefully issuing a fine. Let me get out of the car - maybe that's less offensive and, who knows, maybe I can get a shot of her?

A few shots in the bag, I made my way closer. Just as I wanted to get on the other side of her to get a better angle, the young woman burst out in tears.

"I hate this job! Please don't take a photo of me in this shit uniform. I have been studying photography for two years in my country and I can only do this terrible job. I hate this job!"

Oh my God what have I done now?

"It's not you .. I just hate this job. I hate this uniform. I don't want to be seen in it nor end up on the Internet in this shit uniform!"

I tried to calm her down. "Ok, I won't."

Believe it or not, the polish woman actually looked good in her shit uniform! All the paraphernalia traffic wardens are equipped with these days dangling from her neck. She even had a camera herself!

But it's true. She looked very unhappy.

I wanted to cheer her up. So we chit chat about photography. I give her the address to my website. She promises to check it out .

"Send me an e-mail Anna, maybe I can help."

Reflecting on the two incidents I encountered today, I realise even more so that doing my blog is really not only about getting an interesting, spontaneous shot. It is also about the people. Talking to them and getting to know a bit about them makes this challenge I set myself even more special.

And, giving this more thought I understand that being an onlooker and stranger to most people I see, I will have to be more careful.

After all I want to be successful at capturing the essence of what's happening around the streets of London.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

How streetwise are you?

Waking up this morning I was all set to have a productive day!

I had a few thing lined up. The major one was to research (and hopefully find) a gadget that will assist me in capturing the best ever under water footage anybody has ever taken at the Lido :)

The next task was to update my website by adding a page that would inform people about my blogs.

Number one was done in good time! Amazing what one can find on the Internet - And, I must tell you, I have the coolest brother because this "thing" :) I will introduce you to in due cause, is a belated birthday present from my brother ... yes, I had a bit of a "big" birthday back in April I'm afraid ...:)

Number two - adding a few details on my site went fairly smoothly too. Up until it was time to upload the changes that is. I'm designing my site in i.web 09 and, as of one week ago, I have installed Snow Leopard, the latest Apple OS.

Well, what can I say. Apple has let me down a bit for the first time. Snow Leopard has proved to have a few issues with certain applications. One of which is uploading to your FTP directly from i.web. The connection failed, failed and failed again. Time to call Easily, my host and figure out what is going wrong.

I'm sure you are familiar with the scenario when calling any technical support:) Yawn, Easily is no different!

Suffice it to say that by googling forums on the matter, I ended up figuring out myself what to do. Tip: should you by any chance have similar difficulties using i.web/snow leopard use the forum.
And as we are on the subject, should you be using Cyberduck and it worked well in Leopard, note that you will be needing Cyberduck version 3.3b1 if you are running Snow Leopard.

Yes, I know, tedious stuff :) But hey, I got my revised site uploaded! Monumental success I will have you know :) Specially as, while I was on the phone, trying to make sense of what Easily were (falsely) instructing me to do, a deafening racket that was going on in front of my house.

The windows of my office were vibrating and the noise would simply not stop ... here I was holding for Omar from Easily to ask his supervisor for advise ... cause his colleague managed to instruct me on how to delete my entire site but wasn't able help me upload it :)

Great stuff! The commotion outside didn't help in the slightest!

Time was ticking away. When was I ever going to go on my blog journey? Can't stop now. Have to fix the website first.

Still holding for Omar.

Suddenly Shirley had the brilliant idea of sending me out with my camera to document what that ear-splitting racket was all about!

"Ok cool, why not. You talk to Omar :)"

Off I went. No bicycle, no tube to take, not even a bus! I opened my front door and bingo: Action!

The lads were not enthralled having a camera being pointed at them. Not a smile - no, on the contrary, they went about their business looking rather grim faced. Well, I guess I didn't have much to smile about either at his point ... other than proving to be a touch more streetwise today than had been yesterday :)

Monday, 21 September 2009

Learning the hard way

Another week another blog - and I thought I was going to be a bit smart today :) Instead of walking the streets, my eyes wide open, constantly on the lookout for a good shot, I decided to ride by bike. It took a bit of planning though : Once my choice of two lenses (70-200 f2,8L and 17-35 2.8L) was made, I put them and the 5D in my rucksack. I wanted to explore a certain area in Wandsworth and I imagined that I could just put my gear in the rucksack, cycle there, meander around for a while and get what I was after.

Little did I know that my first photo opportunity was already waiting for me at the bottom of my road. The traffic on Trinity Road was bumper to bumper and in front of my very eyes (and the eyes of other onlooker) a guy jumped out of his van. Shouting abuse at the driver of the car behind his van he proceeded to approach the car swinging a heavy tool around. To my amazement he violently smashed the front windscreen of the car! I heard a voice on my head say "That would have made an amazing shot! What good is it to have your camera neatly tucked in a rucksack on your back?!"

Anyway, it turned out that the van was actually towing that car and that the guys were fooling around .. so one hopes! As you were not present it's probably best I leave it to your imagination. As for me, I could only reflect that I missed my chance to capture a split second of an extraordinary scene...

No point crying over spilled milk, onwards and upwards was the motto.

However, things didn't get much better - being on a bicycle when you want to take photos really doesn't work. Specially not if ones most favoured lens is a fairly long and heavy telephoto lens. Balancing that while keeping an eye on the traffic and potential photos is simply impossible :)

I cycled down Magdalen Road and on to Garrett Lane. Now I needed to stop, get off my bike and look around for real inspiration. Not a lot to be seen - 3 people wearing T.shirts that said "Street Pastor" on the back caught my eye ... I didn't feel like chatting ... I was still a bit disoriented and not really in a chatty nor receptive mode.

On I went. Soon it was time to park my bike at the Arndale Shopping Centre and observe. I managed to get one or two fairly interesting shots in the Sainsbury car park but nothing I felt truly happy with.

I decided to move on again. This time pushing my bike. Up a soft hill, cutting through the back so to avoid having to stay on the main road and the Wandsworth one way system.

Holding the handle bar with one hand and the camera with the other feels so awkward - needless to say that this arrangement didn't make taking photos much easier either :) "Just don't give up" I thought... "something will still materialise. It has to!"

Of course I saw some "things" - no point telling you about them as I was consistently too late capturing any of them!

By now I was concentrating. I sensed that something would change. I pushed the bike through the back of a little churchyard, clutching my camera best I could but far from being ready for action. However, as I made it out the other end I saw two boys approaching, head on. I quickly got the camera sort of in position and mustered the shot I'm sharing with you today.

Although it could be better framed I still find the image quite dynamic and feel that it sums up my day. At least it does for me :)

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Thumbs up

Sunday and I have survived my first full week of blogging! That's a mighty big achievement for a BB :) = beginner blogger :)

I was seriously debating whether Sunday should, or could for that matter, be considered a day off?! But hey, no rest for the wicked, I suppose, so I went out for a stroll through Tooting Bec common ... on my way to .. yes, you got it : the Lido ... I even persuaded Squirlie to come with me with the prospect of her perhaps also having a splish herself ?! hmmmm

By the time we reached the pool, preparations for the customary sunday club races were well on the way. No, I don't take part ... but that's another story ... the short version is that I don't really enjoy competitions.

So we watched ... the race was all over by 10am and it was time for my splish ... without Squirlie ... she wasn't even tempted :) I wonder why? well, I guess it is hard for someone from South Africa to find these temperature in the slightest bit appealing ...

I must admit, I was still rather shattered from yesterday's full day - 2 swims in 15 degree Celsius - and staying alert, snapping away all day.

I only swam 6 lengths - and really enjoyed those.

On our way back through the common something caught my eye that sums and "thumbs" up what British Sunday mornings are really all about.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Spoiled for choice

Today, I had my work cut out! Remember I told you yesterday that I was getting so much better at organising my day around my - self afflicted:) - daily assignment?

We had an open day and free art event for kids and grown ups at my beloved Tooting Bec Lido and I was asked to document the event.

As usual I had an early start to my day ... and I wanted to get my swim in before the event begun.

Easy peezy ... I enjoyed my swim while the sun was just trying to find a way through the clouds.
Come 10 am a whole bunch of kids were ready to let their creative juices flow. I was ready to jump into action too.

It was lovely to see the kids totally ensconced in their world of pastels, paint brushes and crayons. What better back drop for inspiration than the Tooting Lido on a late summer's day!

Some children even went for a quick dip after having finished one painting and before throwing their colourful inspiration onto another fresh sheet of paper. There was no stopping them.

Parents and adults were itching to have a go themselves. Some couldn't wait their turn and threw themselves in the deep end even before the children's session was over.

Creative juices certainly seemed to flow as ceaselessly as the prominent Lido fountain.

From my point of view, I has spoiled for choices. So many cute kids utterly absorbed and unsuspecting of the camera. Even the adults didn't mind having my lens escort their artistic progress.

It was hard not to take good shots...

I'd like to leave you with one of the many impressions captured on the day ....

Friday, 18 September 2009

A bit of black magic

Fifth day into my newly found passion : bogging and I feel like I'm getting a bit more organised planning my day around my assignment. It has almost become what I centre my day around .. well, not quite as I set myself quite a routine from the moment the alarm goes off.

Today the soothing chime went off at 6.30 am - one snooze allowed :) but then up, up AND away! But it's still dark then ... Yes, that's right. That's why the camera has time to make it out of its bag less hastily. Besides, my first move is doing my back exercises. Then on to my buddhist practice. The reward : a bee line to the Tooting Bec Lido for my fix! Ahhh what an amazing morning and swim that was today!

Once back, it's breakfast. My mind ticking away between each sip of Rooibos tea. Where am I going to go today and what does my day actually look like? Well, an appointment in town at 2pm which means leaving home at the latest at 1.15pm.

Ok once that was settled, I quickly checked e-mails ... that's never a quick move though...and always takes up much to much time!

What? it's already 12.15 ... I want to get my shot in before heading into town as I'll be in the same area as I was yesterday and found that rather uninspiring.
I know, I thought, I'll cycle into Balham see if I can catch a my friend, Ian, who always hangs out at his favourite caf. I'll sit with him and see what atmospheric shots I can capture there. London has turned into such a coffee and sitting in the street culture.

As it happens, Ian was no where to be seen.. well maybe I left it a bit too late ... it was 12.30 by now ... but hey, I had things to do, places to go ..:)

The good news was that I had 45 minutes to get inspired and observe Balham High Street and the Hildreth Street market area.

It was fairly busy. Lots of mothers and prams and fathers holding babies - London really has changed!

Pigeons flying all over the place. Some sitting on cars. Some tucked away in a nasty looking corner of Waitrose's car park. Suddenly, I noticed quite a commotion amongst the birds. Excited they welcomed the hand that fed them. I was quick enough to react and get a shot of that- It's a good shot. There is even one pigeon in mid air next to the hand releasing a flurry of bread crumbs.

A quick glance at the time confirmed that I still had 20 minutes in hand before I needed to catch the tube .. no harm to carry on. You never know what else might be lurking around the corner?

Across the road I noticed 2 youngsters on bicycles contemplating a shop window filled with an array of gadgets ... tempting I am sure - will they notice being observed? I have to be quick - and I was - and on they moved.

So did I, into Hildreth Street market - very quiet today - hardly any stalls - I counted 2. A cute Jack Russell tied to a post waiting patiently for his owner. That made a cute shot too.

I look around, still in search of a bit of action .... when what I saw next can only be described as a bit of black magic!

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Meeting a real Angel

Today I ventured further afield - Regent Street to be precise - as I had a "one to one" appointment with a "mac genius" at the Apple Store flagship branch in Regent Street. I love my one on ones there. The guys are so cool, filled with knowledge and passion for the mac - besides it's such good value for money - earlier in the year I sign up to have a lesson a week for a whole year on what ever the mac and its dedicated applications do - cost: a mere £79 - a real bargain and well, well worth it. Ok, enough of a plug - but hey- just wanted you to know : I love the mac :)

In case you're wondering, I'm also into filming - documentary style - and enjoy editing my material. Final Cut Express is a step up from It takes a bit of practice and "genius tuition" just speeds up the learning curve.

So packed like a mule - laptop, external hard drive and my 5D with 20-70mm f.2,8L lens - I jumped on the tube for my 11am appointment with Jake.

Come 12.00 noon I was ready to change medium and focus on getting my shot of the day.

I don't know about you ? But the hustle and bustle of Oxford Circus and its surroundings does not inspire me in the least... but hey, if I'm already here, I thought, I'd better make the most of it and see where it takes me. Come to think of it, Regent Street is actually one my favourite streets in London. No, not entirely because of THE shop! Its architecture is stunning. I love how the buildings at the Piccadilly Circus end of Regent Street curve.

I'm walking down it, eyes peeled and other than taking a few shots of that famously curved street and buildings I didn't see anything worth taking.

Well, I thought to myself, the "safety shot" could be considered being in the bag :) Specially as I have such an affinity with the place ... and who knows, cyber space might deliver my blog to people who have never ever been to Regent Street? :) if only it wasn't for all the people crowding the pavement though :)

I continued down. Hang round a bit at Piccadilly Circus. Nothing but tourist taking .. ohhh my God: PHOTOS! - I wonder which one of them is a potential thread to the capital?

OK, time to drop it! Yesterday's encounter is long gone - I notice, not quite forgotten though ... but time to move on. And, I do exactly that.

On to Piccadilly itself, my internal sat nav programmed to Green Park where I intend to take the tube back home. Walking along, I'm greeted by a big toothless smile and a "The Big Issue" that sounded like a genuine "hello". I smiled back thinking, that smile and wave of the magazine would have made such a great impromptu shot! If only a blink of my eye could have captured that! When will technology come up with a contact lens capable of taking photos?:)

A few steps later I felt the urge to turn around, walk back, to find out what could possibly lie behind that smile other than wanting to sell as many Big Issue copies as possible.

Have you ever spoken with a Big Issue vendor? I certainly hadn't! So here was my chance. Besides, maybe I could get a photo of him after all?! I knew it was going to cost me (not only a copy of The Big Issue) and I was willing to support the man.

So we started to chat. And guess what? This man was actually an American Citizen! That was the last thing I expected.

" I am homeless. A man doesn't need a home. It's only a burden. Women and children need a home. A man doesn't."

"You mean to say that you sleep rough?" I asked maybe a bit naively.

"Yes, have been for some time now. You get kind off hooked on it.

As our conversation went on it transpired that this man is also a traveller. He's got a wife and a daughter in Eastern Europe (I didn't quite catch where). He used to work with Alice Cooper. Remember him?

"I'm not really into making money, he said, but I have a great idea that would generate a lot of money. If someone gets in on it with me I'm prepared to only take 25% of the profits. I'm a bit cautious though to talk about it because I have had an idea stolen before. So I think I shall save up to get it off the ground myself and keep all the profit."

Fascinating. This visual challenge I set myself is turning out to be much more than simply capturing images. It felt so good to be engaging in this dialogue with a total stranger.

"What's your name", I asked.

"Angel. What's yours?

"That's a great name! I'm Elizabeth, pleased to meet you. I'll have a copy and do you think I could also take a photo of you?"

"Cost you a quid."

"OK, that's fine!"

And then I thought to myself, how funny: usually I get paid to take someones photo ... but then again, I have never had the opportunity to photograph an Angel before!

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Happy snapping everybody!

School's out when I thought it had only just begun.Yes, but school's out every day, right!

Today I got caught up in this afternoon's school run rush ... on foot ... walking the streets of Balham, South West London, "armed" (I'll explain later...) with the same "canon" as yesterday. Memories of my own school days flooding my mind, taking me right back to when as teenagers we used to surge out of the dreaded building as fast as we could only to swamp the streets of Vienna showing little respect... and being as loud and extrovert as only we could be.

Fast forward to today. Street photography - what fun it can be ... striding leisurely along, quietly observing, always on the look out for interesting behaviour that could turn into a story.

Hanging out at Bus stops proved to be the most common occupation and, for me, the most fertile ground.

I walked along Balham High Street clocking up a few bus stops ... nothing much happening other than kids taking up a lot of space ... some kids sharing earphones listening to no doubt the latest rap, others gossiping while staring at another group. no of which really caught my attention - I missed one shot thought which I found quite sweet of 2 small children running round a street post and getting tangled up in one another :)

So on I went another 2 bus stops - from a fare I could already sense that something more attractive was going to happen there. A lot of commotion and loud behaviour - the closer I got the louder the laughs and the more vibrant the mood. Wanting to be prepared for anything I slowly pulled the camera to my eye when out of the blue a group of teenage girls turned around and demonstrated their exuberance, playing full out to the camera. What I like most about the shot is that is was so spontaneous and part of each girl's character shines through.

Happy with my image and in the mood of capturing more images I carried on walking up to Clapham South Tube Station and the lovely common. I was torn between mothers with prams and derelict public toilets :) so on I went.

Crossing the road to reach another part of the common, I turned around and saw a police officer on his bike. Used to taking action shots I instinctively took a photo which prompted the dashing police officer (ahhhh, now I know why I took the shot) to stop, get off his bike and tell me that because I am taking photos I must give him my name. Stunned by such non sense I politely asked :"why? Since when is one not allowed to take photograph?"

"Well, since the act of terrorism -

"Do you mean to say that I am not allowed to take photos in the streets or the common or anywhere in London because of fear that I may be a terrorist?" "no, you are allowed to take picture unless I assess the situation and conclude that you are representing a genuine threat. However, we have to treat every body with a camera as a potential threat and take their name and fill out a form"

"Now, wait a minute", I said, don't you think you are taking things a touch too far?"

I am actually not quite sure how I kept y cool because I was immediately taken back to my days photographing at big international events. Photographers are not allowed to do this, that and the other ... and if there is one thing I dislike most then it's people's who can't help themselves from putting other people in pigeon holes. All kids wearing hoodies are of course criminals :) but people with cameras = possible terrorist? isn't that taking matter a bit too far?

Happy snapping everybody. And good luck to the numerous tourists London attracts day in day out!

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Here we go, the camera is out of the bag.

Oh my god.. it's my first day of "getting visual in london" and it's raining cats and dogs! which brings me straight back to my days as an Equestrian and country pursuit photographer where no matter what the weather did, it was all about reporting, capturing the atmosphere of a certain event,catching the winner and mastering the art of keeping you and your equipment dry! Does nothing ever change? :) Do I have to be subjected to this gruelling regime again? :) I thought that those days were long gone ... well, not quite as it seems!

A challenge will remain a challenge though. And, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, so the saying goes! To top it, this challenge is a self inflicted one! I must be mad! But I am one who aways rises to challenges. Actually, I thrive on them!

So Elizabeth, stop lamenting and get out there. Hey, wait a minute. I haven't actually got my equipment together ... it's been a while since I got my Canon babies out for a spin. Last time was this spring when I travelled to South Africa and went on my first ever Wildlife Safari! How awesome was that! But for today, let me see. Which one shall I get my hands on for this first day's shooting? I don't really need a fast motor drive so the Canon EOS 1D mark II would be overkill , specially as it is quite heavy. How about the Canon EOS 5D. Yes that'll do. The battery pack needs toping up though and as soon as that's done I'll be on my merry way.

While the battery pack is charging I'll quickly check whether anybody has actually been on my blog.

Hey, this is amazing! I got a comment and a follower! Wow - Thank you for your lovely comment Linda! and I got 3 thumbs up from friends I have on facebook. I'm not really very active on facebook ... but when I saw the link to facebook on blogger I thought why not let my facebook friends know... and bingo some of you gave me a sign. That's cool! and I'm thinking that it is good to keep my friends in the loop and that I want to check in with them more regularly to see what they are up to. Oh boy will I be busy! As I'm slowly discovering how demanding this social networking can be I'm asking: What have I let myself into? :)

Catch you later with the 1st image.

I wasn't kidding when I said it was raining cats and dogs! It was in fact pouring relentlessly and with the battery fully charged I simply had to go out, right?! I made it 2 minutes out the house and took shelter by Tooting Bec Tube station - I found out that living so close to an underground station is great for more than one reason :) and this is where I took this shot. I did however, brave the elements more and walked , I repeat, walked all the way down to Tooting Broadway :)
Yes, I took more photos, in fact one other one that I quite like ... cause it shows the ethnic diversity of London. But I felt the image wasn't "strong" enough and I know that I will capture that much better another time.

I'm soaked to the bone and in need of a piping hot cup of rooibus tea.

Oh, and the camera: none the worse for its outing!

Monday, 14 September 2009

It's official - I have started my blog.

What a day! I have decided to enter the world of blogging! What was I waiting for? An inspiring and worth while idea and reason of course! And, just imagine, I have found not only one idea ... but two!

But don't let me get ahead of myself ... is one not enough? Well, this reminds me of my Dad who waits and waits and .. yes ... waits for ages before making a decision and then when he finally has come to the painful realisation that a decision is only that, a decision, and pull himself together to make IT (the decision that is) well then : stand back everybody cause he means business and things cannot go fast enough!

So, yes where was I? oh yes, I am starting two blogs today! cause, I am after all my father's daughter! and now things can't go fast enough .. For the past months I have been pondering about projects that would excite me and be an outlet for my creativity.

I have been working as a freelance photographer for over twenty years. Two years ago, however, I got let's call a spade a spade, "fed up" and disillusioned with the world I was photographing! Don't get me wrong, for years I enjoyed the horse world and the fantastic sporting achievements I have been fortunate enough to document. However, there came a point where I no longer enjoyed not so much the sport itself nor the skills photographing horses and rides in peak action requires but some aspects that came with it and that simply got worse.

For example the way certain magazine editors dealt with photographers was, dare I say, a touch disrespectful of a photographers profession. But anyway I sort off ignored that the best I could. I had more difficulties with the way certain Press officers favoured a handful of photographers and allowed them, and only them, access to areas that provided interesting, more creative and unusual photos. I can think of one particular press officer who embodied more characteristics of a bullying sergeant major than a helpful press officer :) And, I remember some event stewards who turned into miniature dictators once given that hugely important role :)

The occasion I remember most fondly was when photographing at the international show ground in Aachen, the mecca of Show Jumping, I had to literally fight with a steward for a position I wanted to take a photo from. A premonition or moment of exceptional inspiration, possessed me to choose a position and angle to take a photo from which was outside the area all photographers were confined to. I had to use all my wits. Firstly to sneak out of the arena and take up the position I wanted just in time to take a particular rider I had set my eyes on. I knew I was going to produce a great shot from this position but I also knew I was going to be chased away from it in no time! My adrenalin was running high. I got to my destination in time. Rider and horse approached the final fence of the jump off in Aachen's Grand Prix. A Million $ in prize money was at stake if horse and rider cleared the final fence and won the Grand Prix. I was on a 300mm lens, head on to this monstrously big spread fence. I hand held the heavy beast because there was no time to set up my monopod. The fence was perfectly framed in my viewfinder, horse and rider filling the frame tightly. To avoid camera shake I kept my eye well pressed to the viewfinder and my elbows were firmly tucked into my sides. Looking through the lens I could see horse and rider approaching. Austrian show jumper Hugo Simon, a real fighter himself, just went hell for leather and approached the final fence in full speed. His horse ET was used to his jockey's demands and always took on his riders wishes with all his heart. Here they were, giving their best and I was ready to give mine. To maximise my chances for a perfectly focussed and sharp shot I had to hold my breath. Hugo misjudged his stride by a fraction. ET, getting very close to the front pole of the parallel fence, had to make an extra huge effort. In mid air Hugo did something I had never seen a rider do over a huge fence like that. The Austrian let go of both reins so to give his partner full use of his neck and with it the best possible chance of clearing the fence! Amazing to witness and even more exhilarating to capture! Yes, I got THE SHOT! And guess what? I am the only one who got it :)
Hugo and ET won the GP. Soon after, the organisers of Aachen decided to start a competition for best International Equestrian Photographer. I was lucky enough that this shot won me 1st prize in the The Silver Camera Award 1999.

"Fighting" for ones passion is always worth ones while!

But back to my attempt at blogging.

In fact I have never read anybody's blog and I am not sure at all whether anybody will ever stumble across my 2 blogs ... let alone one! and if anyone should come across it, would anybody ever stop and read or comment on my blogs?!

The reason why I want to start a blog is to reignite my passion for photography. You see, after my 4th book, Visions of Polo, was published I have sort of taken a rather extended sabbatical and neglected my creative outlet.

My interest went elsewhere. Mainly into building a property portfolio which I have successfully done over the past 3 years. But that's another story which I may share else where. But rest assured it's not the topic of my 2nd blog ;)

My second blog is about "an unusual love affair in london". Check it out. It's about to be launched too.

So, in order to get back on track and revive my photography and creativity I set myself a task.

Armed with my camera I will explore London every day. The challenge is to re-stimulate my visual awareness and to produce interesting shots. I will also narrow my daily photographic exploits down to one image alone that I will post on my blog. You may ask why one image and why roam the streets of London? Choosing one image alone is a great exercise. I am hoping that the additional task will strengthen my ability to capture the essence of a given subject. The purpose being that one strong photo should tell the story. By the way, making the right visual choice is not necessarily a gift one is born with. It can be mastered. First step is to train improving ones eye for light, composition and timing: the 3 vital elements for achieving striking memorable images, in my opinion. A photographer simply has to be ruthless when it comes to framing. You don't want to get a surprise after you have taken your shot. You have to be aware and happy with your shot at the very moment of framing and releasing the shutter. No good relying on retouching and spending hours (or minutes depending on how capable you are) on the computer! I am talking about pure photography! What you see is what you get! And yes it can mean putting effort into it! Use your feet to get closer to a subject for example! The lens is the continuation of your eye and the means by which you are able to frame a subject.

And why London? Well, because I live in South West London and I want to discover new areas and gain a better feeling for the capital.

Today, however to get me started I want to share the photo that has won me Best International Equestrian Photographer.