Saturday, 31 October 2009

boooo hooooo

Where have I been for the past fourteen years? well, let me think..? here in London! Yes but where have I been for the past fourteen years on Oct 31st, Halloween?! let me check ... well, here in Tooting, South West London. Yes, OK but have I ever been paying attention to Halloween over these past fourteen years .. well, actually, the answer to that is a clear NO.

Today, everything changed!

Cycling back from a Buddhist meeting on Trinity Road, I had to suddenly slam on the breaks. I could hardly believe what I saw!
Prescott and his Mother Wendy were in full swing decorating their front garden for what would certainly become the most haunted house in South West London!

I tentatively got closer ... ghosts, skeletons, sculls .. even bats were taking up their annual positions.
Let's be brave, I thought.. after all I had been chanting and elevating my life state for the past 40 minutes :) these creature won't harm me :)

"Hello, I'm doing a blog on London. Do you mind if I take a few photos? This looks great!"

"Not at all. Please do! Hope you can wait a few minutes we are just about to also hang up the ghost!"

No chance for me to miss out on that spectacle! Sure I'll stay!

For the past fourteen years since coming to London from New York, Wendy has not been short of ideas and put her all into the spirit of Halloween... every little corner of the front Garden of 263 Trinity Road, SW18 was declared haunted.

"You must come back this evening, I have a fog machine and spot lights too!"

"Ok I will. See you then!"

Coming back at night was even scarier! Wendy was definitely in her element! waiting for her prey!
Roll on 31.10.2010! thats if you survive tonight!

Friday, 30 October 2009

Time to bond

I don't particularly like wide angle lenses. Anything below a 50mm lens is classified as wide angle. In my view 35mm is, however, a very handy lens to have for interior shots or certain landscape images for example but anything below that really begins to distort an image.

Of course one can get very effective results using a wide angle lens and every serious photographer is bound to have a wide angle lens in his/her camera bag.

I own a very good Canon 17 - 35mm f 2.8L lens but hardly use it for the above mentioned reasons. I always enjoy getting in close to a subject and for that purpose prefer telephoto lenses (anything above 50mm).

But as of late I have been getting on very well with my Canon 50mm f.1.4 lens. I started using it more and more because it is so handy. It's not imposing and people seems to hardly notice it. How often have I worked with my Canon 70-200mm f.2.8L (quite a beast of a lens-heavy and fairly large) and caught the eye of many ...
I usually get approached with a friendly "great camera" to which I smile - it's not the camera they are attracted to, it's the lens ... but anyway bottom line is, attracted they are and I can't move around taking shots as unnoticed as I'd like to :)

Today, however I wanted to choose a location where I could bond a bit with my wide angle zoom.

I decided to go the the city and try my luck on some of the imposing buildings around Bank tube station. As soon as I reached street level I felt overwhelmed. One financial building next to the other and one bigger and more grand than the other. The streets seemed positively narrow compared to the heights (and widths) of the surrounding constructions.

Where to begin? I take a look through my lens and really don't like what I see. If you want to get the height you inevitably get too much foreground as well as the surroundings ... often coupled with an unpleasant dis figuration.
But hey, I'm here to make friends with my lens and to get to forge a greater understanding for its qualities ;)

So I get on with it and start pointing it at everything in sight ;) my first subject is the Royal Exchange. (Founded in 1565 and first opened by Queen Elizabeth I)

I'm not quite sure what the second encounter represents - but you may have a clue?!

On I went down to The Monument- There, I played around more freely and started to get a feel for what I can do with the lens. The surrounding buildings helped enhance the effect.

Then I moved on to more strange looking buildings - sorry don't know what they are called ... main thing is that I'm still having fun with the lens!

Finally I spot "The Cucumber" from a distance and make my way to it - It has become such a landmark and I have always wanted to see it up close and personal! Pretty impressive to say the least!

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Sister Act

Who would have thought that a simple trip to the bank would turn out as eventful as mine was today?!

Cycling down to Balham to pay off my AMEX card ... "never leave home without it!" I have that motto well ingrained in my mind and as from the day I started my blog I have applied it to: Canon EOS 5D, never leave home without it!

Here I am, cycling along Balham High Road at a fair pace - so I thought :) ahead of me on the pavement I spot a mobility scooter. Not just any old mobility scooter. No, the lady driving it seems to be in a real hurry. I see a lovely photo opportunity and have to get a move on to catch up with my subject.

I step a bit more into the pedals and I'm soon alongside the lady. Without stopping I take a couple of shots. Not bad but maybe I should try a slower shutter speed to capture a bit of movement. Still peddling, I quickly turn the shutter speed dial down and take another shot. This thing is moving fast! Just a few pedestrians to dodge which happens very skilfully :) I have to make a real effort to keep up because I have a few cars and a lorry slowing me down ... Let's see who can make it first to the traffic light.

Can you imagine, I just get pipped at the post! Well that's what happens when you're faced with racing a well rehearsed Sister Act!

"You beat me to it sister. You are flying along in this!"

"Yes, it does 4 miles an hours!"

How lovely, I thought. Certainly beats walking!

It felt good to see someone enjoying herself so much when it was clear from the crutches in the "boot of her car" that she must find it difficult to walk without help...

I must have carried my good humour forward to the bank. No queues. That's a great start! And, Jahinah, the bank clerk, emits lovely vibes from behind the glass that separates us. I take a quick shot and get a lovely smile!

"Jahinah,What a lovely name!"

"It's African and means Gift of God."

Next, on my way back to my bike I spotted my Buddhist friend, Ian, hanging out at his local coffee shop. He spots me too. Again I get a great reception!

I love it when people appreciate the moments a photographer can seize!

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Being sensible

Today, I just had to make getting underwater shots at The Tooting Bec Lido my blog assignment!

You know by now how passionate I am about my daily splishs :) Early in October when the SLSC (South London Swimming Club) members were allowed to take pictures again, I was straight in there with my new toy - A mask with incorporated camera - I got so carried away that I stayed in the pool without really swimming for far too long. This resulted in a spell of bronchitis - not too pleasant but to be fair with the help of acupuncture and inhalation and (sadly) abstinence (from swimming!) I shook it off pretty quickly.

Now that my fitness level and endurance for swimming in cold water is back up, I have been itching to take a camera back in the water.

The leaves from the trees that surround the Lido are falling. To every member's delight most of them land in the 100yards long water hole!

The lifeguards look at that in a different way ...

I always want to see more and more leaves in the pool - it is so amazing swimming and seeing them suspended on the water surface ...

"You lot are far too romantic. The leaves are bad for the pool! We have to clear them constantly. If we were to leave them the water quality would deteriorate rapidly!"

OK, fair point ... I guess :)

Pushing off the edge of the pool was magic though - That was yesterday ... when I noticed that the camera battery was flashing red ... ! I had to content myself with simply experiencing the feeling of loads of dead leaves brushing against my tingling body. Sometimes my fingers would hit a leaf and bring it down to the bottom of the pool where the leaf would join many more...

I saw pictures all along ... sadly, no camera to assist me in my description...

Toady, was going be different! I set off armed with my fully charged Canon IXUS 70 camera and wetsuit in my bag. I wasn't going to miss out and by being more sensible I wasn't get cold while taking shots!

Shock horror, the first thing I noticed when getting to the pool is that there were hardly any leaves today ... these lifeguards meant business yesterday ... they got rid of what, at first sight, seemed all the leaves ...

Quite disappointed I walked down the side of the pool towards my cubical counting leaves :)

Before deciding whether I should put my wetsuit on (I don't really like swimming in it) I sent my scout Sue ahead to report back on the leaf count!

"Yes, plenty of leaves."

I breathed a sigh of relief! On with the wetsuit! Quite a few people swimming - I was in for a photographic treat!

I swam along side them, behind them, even underneath them to get some shots.

I was struggling to keep up with them. Holding my breath for long enough was quite tricky too. Specially as the wetsuit being quite buoyant kept pushing me back up. Nevertheless, I got some interesting shots! Apparently my underwater struggle looked ballet like :) I can't quite see how but, hey, I'm glad it kept the swimmers amused and motivated enough to get to their goal of swimming a mile! That's 18 lengths of the pool in 11 degree Celsius! Mind you they looked a bit weary by the end of it when we caught up in the sauna...

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Landmark with a twist

What do you do when you surface from the underground and realise you have take the wrong exit?
Do you
a)go back the way you came from and have another go at finding the right exit underground?
b)do you stick with that exit and try and make your way to where you want to be over ground?
You see, I was up there, so close and yet so far from where I wanted to be! Other people where already there ... they must have taken the correct exit, right?! or maybe some had done what I was about to do:
Take my life into my very hands and cross over a busy round about! Buses, taxis, cars, lorries, vans, motorbikes, even bicycles ... all trying to get in, around and out again ... preferably taking the right exit for them!

Sounds worth than it actually is :) yes, I had to be quick and look very carefully - other than that : a piece of cake!

So, here I was in the middle of the Marble Arch roundabout - bang in front of the famous Arch itself. I'm a bit disappointed. Looking at it with Park Lane behind me, Marble Arch doesn't look very good at all. The big buildings behind it spoil the shot.
I walk around trying to find an angle that would help throw the background out but ... no, nothing. Looking around me I see a strange looking sculpture and can't make out what it is. Looks impressive so I get closer ... Ah, now I know why I can't make out what it is ... I was looking at it from behind!
Being in front of it makes all the difference! In a strange thought of way, or because of my background, I like it ... but I can't figure out why on earth it's been placed here ... no plaque to read who made it ... nothing ... let's just say it's any body's guess .. and leave it at that!

I am yet to get a good picture of the Arch itself though! So I keep walking around it. No easy way across. I have to walk through the Arch itself, (that's a lovely feeling!) before I can cross over to the other side.

That's better! I can get it all in now without having something unwanted sticking out of it! I still have to be careful not to get run over though..:) I take refuge next to a van that's (illegally) parked there... engine still running, no driver in sight ... I just wait until the lights turn and bingo I get a good full view of Marble Arch without cars. I'm happy. Seeing Marble Arch in detail and paying that much attention to it brings me back to when I first came to London.
I guess it is a bit odd that it should stand here but then again, there seems to be an explanation which reads as follows:
It was built in 1828 as the chief entrance to Buckingham Palace, but when the Palace was extended in 1851, the Arch was moved to its current site as an entrance to Hyde Park. By tradition, only senior members of the royal family, the King’s Troop and the Royal Horse Artillery are allowed to ride or drive through the Arch... and I!

I walked further along and to my surprise two policemen asked me:
"Do you want us in the photo?"
"We don't charge!"
Now, that would be even stranger. Just image the police started to charge people for being in a photo!
I take another shot of the lovely Arch but without them!

Now I'm thinking I should have taken them up on their offer if only to carry that photo around with me should I ever get stopped again by a policeman because I'm taking pictures ;)

Monday, 26 October 2009

Staying South

Back from my wonderful excursion to North London's Hampstead Heath which took well over an hour by tube, I felt like staying a bit closer to home today.

When the sun is out I always feel drawn to either green spaces surrounded with contrasting buildings or water. Mind you, the water fix gets taken care of each morning come rain or sunshine when I go for my daily splish splash ... but now I'm referring to getting some inspiration and making the most of the light and how it can bring subjects alive for a photograph.

This time of year when the sun doesn't rise as high anymore the rays are so much softer which produces warmer images. Soft light is gentler on the eye and colours come to life with real punchiness.

With this in mind and wanting to stay south of the river .. or just ... I cycled to Battersea Park which runs along the river Thames.

The first thing one comes across coming from Clapham is the famous Battersea Power Station. A very striking image from which ever angle. Sadly I couldn't be on the river itself to take to shot...

Lots of development is going on around the site. New modern homes as well as office spaces are mushrooming along side the imposing building and overlooking then river.

Battersea Bridge is certainly not as well known as other bridges along The Thames but today with the lovely light and the dramatic backdrop it most definitely jumped out at me and deserved to be taken!

Battersea Park has lots to offer with regards to entertainment, arts, culture, sports facilities and natural beauty, no doubt about it but the towering stillness of the Peace Pagoda holds a special place in the park and in my heart :)

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Another London

Take the tube from London SW17 to London NW3 , i.e Hampstead and you are sure to be transported into another world altogether!

You immediately get the feeling that North London ticks differently; the vibes seems unfamiliar too... and you begin to question whether you are actually still in London :)

Funny that because I'm sure that North Londoners would experience the same unfamiliarity when venturing south of the river!

The reason for travelling north on this wonderfully sunny and relatively mild autumn Sunday was to explore Hampstead Heath. I've been there before. Last November when a group of South London Swimming Club members organised a "Lido Crawl". We started at home at our Tooting Bec Lido, then we swam at The Serpentine, then at The Parliament Hill Lido and finally at (get this!) the Men's Pond on Hampstead Heath! Yes, we had special permission and by the way, the women amongst us didn't get to see anything we hadn't seen before anyway :)!

Today however, I wanted to swim in the Women's Pond .. and I did!

Hampstead Heath is huge. It took stopping a few people to ask them for directions before actually getting close to the pond.

The walk was fabulous. Endlessly long avenues led through the forest. Beautiful old Oak trees showed off their colourful plumage - Some had shed quite a few leaves already. It was like walking on a soft carpet. And with the sun catching the leaves that hadn't fallen yet I definitely had to pinch myself to remember that I was actually in London!

The swim in 10 degrees Celsius was fab too.

A short walk to Kenwood House, which has been bequeathed to the nation by the late brewing magnate Edward Cecil Guinness in 1927. Now part of English Heritage it's well worth a visit.. even if it's only to take advantage of the wonderful food they serve! By now I was starving... A lamb shank hit the spot and sorted that quickly!

The walk back was just as spectacular.

Which is more than I can say for the tube ride back to Tooting. Signaling failure meant that our train was stuck in a tunnel for what seemed like ages... however we did resurface in the right place and as nice the pond experience was, I do look forward to my daily splish at the Tooting Lido!

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Change of format

Ok, in celebration of our last day of summer daylight saving I thought of changing the format of my blog... for today only :) then again I have been known to break my self inflicted rule of only publishing one photo per blog .. so who knows what will happen in the future ;)

Anyway, I am going to bring you this autumn afternoon of changing weather spent walking along the Southbank in pictures... many of them!

So get ready : The journey started at Borough Market and led all the way down to the London Eye.

Friday, 23 October 2009

A bit of history

The sun is out, the autumn colours glowing and I'm off to Merton Abbey Mills. There used to be a lovely arts and crafts market there to which I quite frequently went. The atmosphere was pleasant and one could usually walk away from an afternoon's browsing with something memorable to keep.

It is actually quite a historic site with buildings dating back as far as the 18th century. It was then called the Merton Priory Estate. The river Wandle runs through it. Calico printing works were established there in 1724. Learning about it I found out that the area was already associated with textiles and adjacent land was used for bleaching since the late 17th century. Printing soon developed into a profitable industry. It passed through many hands and eventually was sold to Liberty & Co in 1904 - you may be familiar with the shop on Regents Street/Great Marlborough Street. Liberty's renovated the area tearing down three of the old buildings replacing them with new workshops five of which are still there today. In 1972 Liberty sold up and quality fabrics were still printed there. In 1982 a disastrous fire sadly brought about the final closure of the works. And today, although less than I had remembered it to be, the existing premises are being still used for the crafts market. Mostly on weekends.

Today I was drawn to the river. There I met two guys fishing. I wanted to know the name of the river which helped start up a conversation. It's actually one of the guys, beer can in hand watching over his fishing rod who told me all about the history of the area. He seemed pretty passionate about it which, I can't deny, surprised me.

"My Godfather was a historian. He could have told you even more about it. Sadly he is dead now"
I also learned that the river Wandle was one of London's most had worked rivers. Apparently the natural properties of the river was claimed to possess special qualities that made it ideal for the dye and cloth connected trades. The water was exceptionally pure and clean. Also the fast running water of the Wandle was vital in providing power which was another reason for the growth in the textile industry in Merton.

Today's activity is reduced to guys fishing in it.

"There are big carp fish and even black trout" they enthused.

All I got to see today, however, was one of them dangling a dead rat he had just found... and I shot out of the hip which looks like becoming quite a familiar technique :) which I'll show you now before showing you....

... some prettier sites too!

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Bill, George and Bumblebee

Busy day. I had things to do and places to go to in Balham.

I lock my bike and who do I bump into : none other than Bill - he doesn't really remember me ... no a real surprise there as he has the same glazed yet cheerful look on his face he had when I first set eyes on him months ago...

I do my chores including a visit to the bank and the supermarket.

Not far from where I left my bike I spot George. I push my bike over the zebra crossing and get recognized immediately!

"Ah you took a photo the other day!"

Now how about that, I didn't even have to start the conversation :)

So we get chatting. Customers come, get served and take their coffee with them. They all seem to have a smile on their face and leave happier than when they placed their order!

"I never stopped before because I don't drink coffee... but I have always noticed how friendly you are with your customers ...!"

"So now you stopped because I'm friendly. That's OK too!"

"Sure! And I can see that you do teas! Not a huge selection but tea it is!"

"Peppermint or Green Tea?"

"Green Tea, please."

"Large or small?"

"Small is fine, thank you."

Strangely enough, George's coffee is not from Brazil but from Colombia. He seems to believe it's the better coffee...
As it happens he loves photography and wants to buy a camera.

"When you do, make sure it's a Canon!"

The tea is piping hot so I stay a little longer... for more chit chat. Apparently George often sees me on my bike ... probably as often as I notice him. It's funny how even strangers can be part of other people's lives ... I notice things all the time and run a story in my mind whether I take a picture of it or not ... naturally one recognises people in ones area... one even notices them changing growing up, youth getting older ... As I cycle around almost daily, I often wondered whether I too play a part in people's lives ... people who don't even know me?

Today was definitely also a day of bumping into people I do know a bit better. Still on the highroad, heading back home I stop to chat with Sharon who lives a few doors down from me while nodding hello to Leanne, a neighbour from only two doors up from me.

It was all happening in Balham Today! Policemen galore stopping cars left right and centre. Policemen, I noticed, are a touch suspicious seeing people with cameras. I hang around wanting to know what the fuss was about when, surprise surprise, an officer comes over to me.

"I see you are interested in what we are doing. Maybe it's best you come off the road however.We are pulling cars over here ... and you are not very visible."

No, I wasn't and nor was my camera by the looks of it :)

"You may have heard of operation "Bumblebee"? Beginning of October the Metropolitan Police has relaunched this very successful campaign to crackdown on burglaries in the capital."

"Yes, I do remember it. It was in the nineties wasn't it?!"
"Yes and it was very successful. Londoners seem to remember it well so the Met have decided to bring it back. What we are doing here is clamping down on drivers who are driving illegally."

Wow, OK ! Yes, I am interested in what the Police is doing but my instinct tells me that I also want to document it. So while talking to the officer I take a photo from the hip.
Not sure whether this guy is "guilty" or not ...

The evidence I get a few minutes later, however, points towards the fact that the operation conducted here today has already proven very successful. I counted three arrests so far.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Out of nowhere.

Another day, another blog. Another day, the same dreary weather... and still, I look forward to the challenge of picking up a shot each day ... not just any old shot ... no, a shot with a story.

Come to think of it, every shot actually tells two stories. Firstly the story of how it came about. By that I mean the photographer's story that is linked to having taken any given image. How the photograph came about, what inspired the photographer and prompted him/her to take the shot and what the photographer intends to convey with the image, all is concealed within a story.

Secondly there is the story the image will invite the viewer to have when seeing any given photo. Sometimes the viewer knows nothing about how and why a picture was taken and yet he or she will start running a story for themselves. Naturally, the intensity and strength of an image will have a direct impact on the intensity and longevity of the impression it will (hopefully) provoke.

Street photography is pretty unique in that sense because unless the photographer focuses on a particular aspect of street photography, let's say poverty or life in a shopping mall for example, anything could happen. Without a specific approach or brief for the assignment, the photographer has to stay open to all eventualities.

I choose to stay open. For the time being at least. This means that I am observing everyone and everything. I am literally constantly on the look out for "something".

When setting off I sometimes only know in the very last minute where to go. Nothing is pre- planned as such. Today, I thought of Streatham. I soon noticed that nothing much was inspiring me to even stop and consider taking a shot.

I am sure you will have come across the feeling of almost doing a "double take" when you see something, or stopping in your track to look at something. This is the feeling I get when I feel the urge to take a shot. Only I don't do a "double take", I immediately take a shot. Sometimes even two! However, today, it wasn't happening so far.

Other than seeing an old man on the ground in the middle of the road surrounded by people, nothing prompts me to stop. Not knowing the story behind the old man's incident I move on. He was looked after so no need to rubber neck for too long.

The only urge I felt in Streatham was to leave... quite quickly :) The highroad is usually very busy. Today was no different and my feeling that it lacks atmosphere gets reinforced. In fact I feel a bit at a loss and out of place in this part of Streatham.

The days are getting shorter and the light being the way it has been for the past few days, I was beginning to wonder where my shot of the day was going to be coming from :)

I got back to my parked bike and cycled another route into Balham. I wondered where I would stop. I knew something was about to jump out at me ... but what :) Relax, I though!

Something guided me to get off at the back entrance of Sainsbury's. I swing off Bedford Hill and left into Sainsbury's car park. As I passed the back entrance an image that simply told the story of how I felt for a while today, caught my eye.
Quick, I need to get rid of my bike so that I can get closer without disturbing the scene. Luckily, a pole came to my rescue. I untangle the camera from around my neck and shoulder. I get close enough to place my camera with the 50mm f.1.8 just below hip height and release the shutter (without looking through the lens). My subject is oblivious not only of my action ... but probably of a lot more too! Nobody else in sight ... at least not while I was taking the shot :)

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Up up and away

I got a phone call from Fixation to say that my Canon 70-200mm f2.8 lens was repaired and ready!

With little delay I jumped on my bike. EOS 5D and 50mm f1.8 lens round my neck. It wouldn't take me long to get to Fixation. They are literally a 25 minute bike ride away, on the other side of The Oval Cricket Ground. Not the most scenic journey but hey, I can't wait to get favourite lens back and into action!

First stop is the traffic light at the corner of Balham tube station. It's been a while now that I have been wanting to stop and chat to the chap who operates a little coffee van just outside the tube station. He looks so friendly... but, I don't drink coffee ... so I never dared cause I didn't know how would I start a conversation?! Today was no different ... and yet... I had my 50mm lens and I was at perfect shooting distance for the lens. He served a man and then saluted a lady who was next in line for her fix ... sadly I was too slow to get that... but he saw me from the corner of his eye and waved at me ...I smiled ... and then noticing an old man approaching and heading straight into frame I released the shutter anyway! The lights turned green and before you knew it I was off! I'll have to strike a conversation to find out more about the coffee business some other time :)

On I went, my little legs were giving it their all. Up a slight hill and down another. Clapham, Stockwell and finally the turn off at The Oval tube station. A quick shortcut (around the best part of The Oval) took me bang opposite to where I had to be.

Soon after entering Fixation I was £315 lighter and I had favourite lens back! How good does that feel? Awesome!

Off I went to try it out. A funny object on top of a building catches my eye. I squeak to a halt take shot. I love it! So much so that I want to share it on my blog ... but the story that enfolded soon after I had taken the shot sadly doesn't allow for it. No, I didn't get mobbed, in case you are worried :) I'm absolutely fine! Suffice it to say that I may have landed a job that should it materialise I wouldn't want to use that particular shot on my blog ...

On I went, still wanting to use my repaired lens. I stop at Clapham Common and play with the ducks at the pond. It's all looking so grey and uninspiring though... My challenge is to catch a pigeon in flight. Not easy as they flap their wings around pretty wildly!

But hey, I'm fast, the lens is fast and the pigeon up, up and away.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Bucks House

Londoners have definitely been spoiled with plenty of good weather during the month of September. In contrast, October has become fickle and very unpredictable.

Today, the light was flat, flat, flat ... ! Nonetheless, I headed to Green Park in search of an image that would help brighten up my day and the blog!

I love that small park! Just off Piccadilly, it has a majestic avenue that leads down to Buckingham Palace. Filled with beautiful old Oak trees and a lovely open green space where people can hire deck chairs, oozes with charm.

Today, however, Green Park felt almost abandoned. All the better for the me and the hundreds of squirrels that were rushing around undisturbed busy looking for food :)

Fortunately the trees still bear plenty of leaves and yet it was just as lovely to also see the carpet of dead leaves that surround the foot of the tree trunks. If only the sun would have made a quick appearance ... but it wasn't to be...

I carried on and took the short walk down to "Buck's House" :) Would have been a crime not to:)

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Absolutely Fabulous

Catching a good shot for my Sunday blogs seems to be more of a challenge than on any of the other days. It's funny but although most shops are open and business as usual seems to be the motto, London still gives the impression to be operating at a slower pace. Not a bad thing actually!

What's most striking is that there are just different kinds of people on the streets. Or maybe it only looks that way because I went to a part of London I hadn't been for a while and never on a Sunday, Sloane Square and Knightsbridge.

I took the 319 bus from Trinity Road all the way to the beginning of The King's Road. Sitting on the top deck of a Double Decker bus is a fun experience. Luckily, the front seats were available.

The view from up there is great. Primarily, because of the superb view one gets of London's architecture. The sun was out too and the light catching some of the buildings prompted me to already take a few shots.

Nothing much was happening while driving over Battersea Bridge. Soon after it was time to get off and start walking up The Kings Road.

Yeap, no doubt, the people are definitely different there. The atmosphere and shops too! It all feels a bit pretentious I'm afraid ... with a touch of "Absolutely Fabulous", darling, sweetie :)

Time to explore some of the lovely little narrow lanes with coloured houses that lead off the main patch. Back onto The Kings Road itself and a must stop at Peter Jones! Would you believe it, Christmas decorations are up! Now that's what I call over the top if not simply scarieee!

Anyway, no stopping me now. On to Sloane Square, Sloane Street and all the way to Knightsbridge. Got to check out HA.RRods! That experience, let me tell you, makes me feel quite uneasy and almost claustrophobic. Definitely too many people for my liking. But, hey, gotta check out the famous Food Hall :) Not as impressive as I remembered it. Or was it that I have changed? Yes, that must be it!

So, what do most people get up to on a Sunday other than shop, shop, shop or eat, eat, eat?

I'll show you what they do. One clearly had enough and moves out of Knightsbridge while the other takes his pack of Great Danes out for lunch.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

From dull to bright

There is always lots happening at London's South Bank and well worth a visit ... even on a dull day like today!

I took the tube to Waterloo and walked towards the river (Thames) - One can't but help immediately see The London Eye. At a second glance, however, it looked a bit odd today ... hey, one of the capsules was missing ... I wonder how much that cost the company in revenue?!

The main cultural attractions of the South Bank are The Queen Elizabeth Hall, The Royal Festival Hall, The Hayward Gallery and The BFI as they offer a variety of cultural events.

One may be forgiven for not liking the modern architecture of these building but they are bang opposite Big Ben and The Houses of Parliament which means a great view is virtually guaranteed.

I walked around concrete jungle for a while ... admittedly there are some interesting angles from which to get some unusual shots but that grey sky acting as a dull backdrop for these grey buildings just put a creative dampener on it for me.

But as I came round a corner, close to the BFI I saw a young man practicing some free run moves. I immediately got a bit excited and and moved my camera up to my eye to. Fortunately I had my Canon 135mm f2.0L lens on and could get a tight enough image without disturbing the athlete.

I guess it's in my blood and I just love capturing action. This guy was pretty impressive! He must have been there for a while cause after performing three immaculate somersaults ( which I all got!) over a set of stairs he took his bag and moved on.

With those shots on the bag I moved on too.

I wanted more action and got it immediately. Below the Hayward Gallery there is an area for skate boarders and BMX riders.

This time I needed to switch lenses and reverted to my Canon 50mm f.1.4. Good choice as I got all of the action as well as the wonderfully colourful background.

Nothing like finishing on a high note!

Friday, 16 October 2009

Lolly Popp Lolly Popp

Today I met Geraldine. The kids all call her Gerry!

"It's easier for the kids to remember."

Gerry must without a doubt be the happiest person I have seen at work... ever! She has been holding her job for 28 years and has loved every minute of it.

Also, I have never ... ever seen as many people and kids smile at the same person!

I came across Gerry very unexpectedly ... It was past 3.30pm when I walked up Northcote Road towards Wandsworth Common to where I had parked my bike. I had been around the area for over an hour, always on the lookout for something interesting. With a couple of fun shots "in the bag" I decided to call it a day.

Little did I know that as I was about to cross the road to get to my bike... there stood Gerry in the middle of the road. Big smile, chatting away to each and everyone she came in contact with.

And they kept coming, first from left and then from right. They all called her name and she knew every one by their name too, children as well as adults.

"See you Monday"
"Yes, see you Monday sweetheart!"

Witnessing this brings a big smile to my face too! Somewhat intrigued I walked over to Gerry. I wanted to know more. I had met people with Gerry's job before. However, so far I had always been on the other side of the coin. I was made to wait! Never assisted in such a kind, up beat manner.

So this was my chance.

"I love my job!"

"I can see that! You are amazing. I usually have to give way to buses but they stop for you ... and the driver even waves at you."

"The kids must love you too. To see a smiling face when they get out of school must be lovely."

I bet she can't wait for Monday morning to come along when she'll see the entire mob again. Twice a day.

"The kids are the same in the morning! We always have a laugh."

I wonder what weekends and school holidays must be like for Gerry?

"I go down to Bogner (Regis). I have a caravan there."

The 20 minutes or so of hard work are over. No more action to be had. I jump on my bike.
As for Gerry, she'll be on her way to Bogner soon too!

Thursday, 15 October 2009

"The sun is out, the sky is blue and so are you dear ..

... Prudence (or as the case may be: dear London!) won't you come out to play ..." Beatles, Beatles on my mind!

What an amazing Autumn day!

London has so many great landmarks and I really think that over the course of time I must bring you as many of them as possible. Specially as I want to strike a good balance between capturing what's happening in the Streets, Parks and Commons of London as well showing off all the lovely landmarks and buildings London offers.

As always, London was heaving with tourists. I had my work cut out as I desperately wanted to avoid having a shot full of people... unless they added something quirky to the image.

With that in mind I made my way to Trafalgar Square. I have always admired the fabulous building of The National Gallery... however, it is never a place for solitude... what was I going to capture there? Pigeons? Plenty of those around .. but .. No thanks! Although one may be forgiven for thinking that they may present a great alternative to having lots of people in shot :)

Great fountains to play with ... water is always such a thankful subject .. but water alone didn't cut it for me either!

The square was literally basking in sunshine. The early afternoon light on the main building of The National Gallery was warmer than I expected. It all looked good and inviting. I only had to find an angle that kept the people percentage to a minimum without eliminating them all together. Trafalgar Square without any people would just not be right!

I feel that the angle I ended up opting for has enough people in it to add atmosphere without taking away from the glorious building and the water features.

My only disappointment is the cloud formation that had suddenly crept in ... almost from nowhere :)

For this reason and this reason alone I simply have to show you a second photo today. It's too strong not to share it and with a sky like today's I simply had to show it off!

Could it be that after having lived in London for 23 years, Eros has finally struck his arrow imbued in magic love potion at me too?!

The Shot of Eros (who unleashes his arrows at Piccadilly Circus) was taken with the Canon 135mm f2.0L lens.

For the shot of The National Gallery at Trafalgar Square I used the Canon 50mm f1.4 - I love it so much as it reproduces without distorting the image in the slightest.

Anything below 50mm is classified as a wide angle lens. Even a 35mm lens would inevitably distort a bit.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

One month on

One month on, to the day, and I am still producing my daily blog!

Isn't it amazing how one month can just fly by ... and if it hadn't been for creating my blog I'm not sure whether I would have taken my cameras for such regular outings :)

A month ago I set out with the aim of exploring London and to see what it's like to venture into a new field. I wanted to improve my visual awareness and, at the end of my shooting session, share the photo of the day on my blog.

So far it's been quite diverse. I started off roaming the streets of London and found catching photographs of people trickier than I had anticipated. I have always been genuinely fascinated by people. I love observing their natural behaviour at work as well as at play. Being the fly on the wall. My main objective being to catch people as they are - to reveal the essence of (at least) a part of who they are. It is fascinating how an immortalised split second can tell a story.

The same principal applies to every thing one photographs.

Yes, I get a real kick out of observing anything through my various lenses. In fact each lens gives me a different approach and I am very mindful about which lens I use for which occasion. The nature of the subject and what I want to convey will guide me towards the perfect focal length. For equestrian photography which I had been doing for 20 years the obvious choice had always been a telephoto lens. The beautiful Canon 300mm f.2.8L had become my standard lens. It used to never leave my side and produced wonderful portraits as well as stunning action shots. When I got commissioned to do Visions of Polo I moved to the Canon 400mm f.2.8L and had a lot of fun with it. I couldn't be as mobile with it mind you. Forget hand holding it. It weighs a ton!

For most of my other work, having a zoom lens as opposed to a fixed focal lens can be a great advantage. Specially as sometimes there is no telling how close one can get to the subject. As always, framing is everything. Without fail I set out to make sure everything in my frame is there by choice. The nature of my current project will mean that I now favour a telephoto zoom lens - I love the range my 70-200mm lens gives me. It allows for more flexibility. And means that one can get away with not having to physically move towards or away from ones subject. The lens can do this for you. But a piece of advice. Make sure you realise that each focal lens within the mentioned range can create a different effect. The major distinction being the varying capability in depth of field.

I'm not a big fan of wide angle lenses. The widest lens I feel comfortable with is a 35mm. However, I prefer the standard 50mm lens. And have beautiful one!

But enough theory for one day! I have work to do :)

Feeling much better greatly thanks to inhaling and an acupuncture session with Selena I thought of traveling into central London. EC1, Barbican / Farrington area for a couple of hours.

I had my 50mm on the camera and the 135mm with me. Just in case ..:)

I particularly enjoyed walking around Farrington. I took me back more than 20 years. A lot of photographic labs were in that area when I first started off in photography.

I had forgotten how beautiful the buildings around there are.

I was immediately drawn to the unique building style only England and London in particular has to offer.

Then the fabulous and famous Smithfield meat market. Complete destroyed during the Second World War it got rebuild back to its full glory. It still occupies a prime position with London EC1.

I couldn't help hanging around in the wonderful hall. It was 3 pm and the only activity left was that of cleaning the place, getting it ready for the next working morning where I'm sure the place will be heaving.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

It's good to talk

Not feeling great ... but can't let my followers down .. can I ?! :) and what about my challenge? same applies to that!

The sun is out. Also I felt better after my treatment so I decided to take the car for a short drive to Fixation and see for myself what the issue with favourite lens is all about.

I ask to speak with the technician. He is still adamant after having fully stripped the lens that it has suffered a heavy impact and that the three elements have to be replaced.

How bizarre! But, hey, it's not about being right or being adamant myself that the lens has not suffered ill treatment... It's about making a decision whether it's worth having the repair done. Last thing I want is to be throwing good money after bad...

"The glass itself is still in excellent condition. Once I've repaired it, it should be working great. As for now, I wouldn't risk it because sooner or later you will start getting distorted images."

OK, time to bite the bullet after all! I give him the go ahead and am eager to get favourite lens back in pristine working order asap!

This still left me with the task of having to capture the shot of the day.

On the way back, still pondering about my lens ... I'm happy about the decision I made. I'm also glad that I made time to chat with the technician. I'm grateful he took the time to come and have the conversation with me. I trust that his 14 years of experience will be reflected in his ability to do a great job.

I had just been reminded of the importance of dialogue and respectful communication.

I stop at Balham and walk around, camera as always ready for action. I quickly sense that there too, all activity points towards communication and community.

The scene of the policeman taking to school kids just jumps out at me and I grab the shot.

I also like the woman on the right edge of frame looking straight at me. It all adds to the uncertainty and beauty of street photography.