Night street photography workshop

On Saturday night, I decided to skip watching Eurovision and get myself over to Bristol to attend a night street photography workshop with Edo Zollo (organised by Wex Photo Video). I’ve not shot a massive amount at night and this seemed like a good opportunity to get some hints and tips from someone who is making some great work in the dark (I’d recommend checking out his work www.edlondonphotography.co.uk).

There were 13 of us in the group, all with varying experience in terms of how long we’d been shooting and also what kind of work we’d been producing. There were landscape photographers wanting to try something different, someone who was just beginning with their photography (although from what I saw they did have an eye for a good shot), motorsport enthusiasts used to working with long lenses, and a couple of us who were already used to more street-orientated work. So it made for a mixed bag of people.

After introductions and a natter over our kit and a drink, it was time to head out into the night.

Edo had been scouting out locations already and had found some dark alleyways around the Lewins Mead/Christmas Steps area. We were looking for capturing shadows and light - usually one light source and seeing what that gave us.

From the outset we were to try and get all our shots manually. No cheating with auto ISO, exposure and aperture. We were testing ourselves to get these shots old-skool. I did go a bit overboard and thought we were meant to be manually focusing everything too… and after finding out I was in the minority doing so, I thought I’d carry on just to make life interesting.

So I was shooting completely manually - ISO, exposure, aperture (which was pretty much on f1.7 throughout the whole shoot) and focus. It was pretty hard work in a couple of places to nail the focus in the dark, but generally speaking I got there.

One thing that surprised me was Edo saying to set our ISO at 400, maybe pushing up to 800. This wasn’t what I was expecting in such low light - I was just expecting to be at 1600 and possibly getting grainy at 3200. But I’m glad I went with his suggestion. Although some shots had a bit of motion blur, they did end up a lot cleaner and had more punch. Besides, most of my favourite photographers were shooting on film when the fast ISO that we’re now used to wasn’t available - and they somehow managed it!

I was using my trust Oly OMD EM10ii with the Panasonic 25mm f1.7. I did have my Pany 14mm f2.5 and Zuiko 50mm f1.8 in my bag but found they probably wouldn’t have been practical for how we were working. Thirteen of us in tight alleys meant I’d be further back getting heads in the way with the longer lens, and having to get up too close with the wider lens… which would mean getting in every one else’s shots constantly. Now, I’m probably guilty of getting to the front to get my shot quite often and am usually pretty mindful not to get in the way too much… but that wide lens would not have made me popular!

It was a fun evening, added to with some unexpected interaction from a lass from a nearby bar who came over to see what we were up to and then became our model for the next 5 minutes. Edo was excellent - very personable and making sure he went and chatted to everyone as we walked between locations. And I certainly learnt a few things, probably mainly on a technical level; shooting with a lower ISO for example is going to give me cleaner shots with more punch but is also obviously affects what I take a shot of. So if I’m doing that then I want a subject which is more static.

At the end of the evening we were to look through and find our five favourite shots to share. We didn’t actually get around to all sharing five, but I think I’ve narrowed mine down to these…

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365 Challenge - the first couple of weeks

Somehow the past two weeks have zoomed by and I appear to be in the thick of my 365 Challenge.

As I said in my last journal entry, my 365 Challenge has two rules: it’s all to be in monochrome and there has to be someone in shot that is important to the composition.

I’ll be honest: I’m finding it a bit trickier than I thought. Some days more than others.
This is for a couple of reasons….

Firstly, my rule of getting someone in shot. That in itself isn’t an issue, but getting someone in there which is important to the composition and isn’t just incidental makes things hard at times. There have been a couple of days when I’ve become very aware of not many people around, although a wander round town at lunchtime always seems to give a couple of photo opportunities. Added to that, weekends have been tricky - working in town means weekdays aren’t such a problem. But there’s less people on the weekends near where I live.

Secondly, sometimes finding the time to get some shots is harder than I thought. I usually shoot quite a lot but some days I don’t get anything. Now I’ve set myself a challenge I have to get something! But I don’t want it to be anything - I want good shots (even though I’m well aware that not every day of the year is going to bring something fantastic). And this past week has been hectic at work so I’ve often not had the time to get out with my camera.

However, I am finding that it is changing my approach to my photography already. I’m finding that I’m shooting with more sense of purpose and also noticing possibilities for a shot more than before. I’ve taken to hanging around in a spot for something to happen to make a shot work (see the puddle shot below) or scouting out a location (the guy on the rooftop - I walked round that building several times for a good angle), as well as my usual opportunistic shots.

The Flickr link to the 365 Challenge is here

These are some faves from the last couple of weeks….

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A big new addition to my lenses...

A couple of months ago I bought myself a 135mm Zuiko lens (see previous post). And since then I've been using it quite a bit - particularly on my OM10, although I need to scan the images from those once I buy a new scanner (more on that in future posts).

However, I knew that for a telephoto I'd still need even longer for the occasional use at race circuits. So I started looking at 200mm lenses - mainly Zuiko, and also some Vivitars. I wanted as fast as possible which is f3.5 or f4. And after casually watching things on eBay and looking at various secondhand sites, I discovered a 200mm f3.5 Mitsuki lens.

Mitsuki? Never heard of them. But it was £15. And nobody else on eBay seemed interested in it. So I did a bit of research. And it appears that it was a rather obscure lens from the late 1970s which was made using the (at that time) state of the art computer system at Tokina. So really... it was made by Tokina. And even more interesting (if you're a geek like me) is that it came out of the Tokina factory at the same time Tokina were making lenses for Vivitar. Which is a good thing!

So, I got it for £15. And I've taken it out and about a bit.
And here are some tests I did with it.
 

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I think it was quite a bargain. Wide open it does have some fringing - on high contrast areas there was a bit of purple but I soon managed to clean it up. And in the last photo you can see a bit of green fringing. But stopping down sorts it out too.

Quite heavy though!
And long. Very long. Even longer with the retractable hood out.
To be honest, it's so long it looks a bit silly on my Olympus.

But hey.... it was only £15 and should work nicely for shots of Fernando Alonso heading in to Stowe corner in August!