Shooting black and white has many advantages. Stripping away colour makes you concentrate on utilising the available light and how you want to frame your subject.
And if you’re in a creative rut, although it feels counter intuitive, it can really help to place restrictions on your photography. It makes you pre-empt the final outcome and what affect black and white will have on your image.
It also provides a great opportunity to look over the work of some photography greats such as Elliot Erwitt, Cartier-Bresson and Vivian Maier who only had black and white to work with. You should also check out the work of William Eggleston who was a pioneer and one of the first to make the switch from black and white to colour photography.
I shot all these images on my Olympus MJU II with Ilford 35mm film.
London has long been one of my favourite places to shoot street photography. No matter the time of year the streets are always filled with opportunities to photograph people. In this post I’m going to break down my favourite spots in London.
First up: Trafalgar Square. The square is home to both the National Gallery and Nelsons Column. This provides a great space to photograph people interacting with the architecture and environment around them.
Leicester Square/China Town
Located next to each other, Leicester Square and China Town provide plenty of colour. If you find yourself overwhelmed by the amount of people and finding it hard to spot scenes to photograph, try and focus on shooting one thing such as dogs, the colour blue, people wearing hats etc. Whilst I was here I focused on photographing couples..
Leading you from Oxford street to Leicester square is Regent Street. It’s a wide road filled with shops such as Apple and Hamleys. If you get there during golden hour the light hits just right through the buildings to create some striking portrait opportunities.
Outside of Buckingham Palace you’ll find the full spectrum of emotions from vloggers and excited tourists to stressed parents and tired children..
Street photography takes lot of patience and you have to be prepared for people to watch you taking pictures. But its a great way to see a city and when you take your shoes off after a long day walking theres nothing better than flicking through the photos you shot and coming across your new favourite photo.
More Street Photography
Camden Prague Golden Hour How to Use the Background in Street Photography
Dougie Wallace When the Subject Spots You East London
As a street photographer I have a few favourite spots around London; busy places with interesting characters (and good food is always a plus!). Camden market ticks all these boxes so with an hour before I needed to be at a meeting in central London I hopped on a tube for 10 minutes and explored Camden.
Despite being a week day, Camden was packed with tourists, businessman and market traders.
There is almost too much choice when it comes to food. There are hot food stalls including pizza, Indian and Chinese, but there are also more street food-type options such as burritos and burgers.
Of course you can avoid the British art of queuing and save yourself some money by bringing a packed lunch.
I would definitely recommend a packed lunch if your staying in London for a few days and on a budget. As delicious as most of the food is- it’s not cheap. Camden also has a river running through the market, it acts as a great picnic spot.
If you want to check out Camden I would also recommend heading north and walking to Primrose hill, after a sweaty walk up the steep hill you can see my favourite view across the London skyline..
It’s been way to long since I last picked up my Yashica 635 and shot a roll of film. So long in fact the last time I shot medium format was with the Diana F+ back in February. But after flicking through one of my favourite photo books (Vivian Maier) I was inspired to go out and shoot a roll of 120mm.
My Yashica 635, a beautiful camera with a temperamental focus.
For the last few years I have been focusing on street and travel photography so I thought I’d try my hand at some portraits.
I was shooting on Portra 160 film which is always my film of choice for portraits. And as the sun set we headed inside..
The film performed incredibly well considering I was shooting at ISO 160 in such limited light. If you’ve never shot medium format photography- I highly recommend it! Although it comes at a higher cost than 35mm and on average you only get 12 shots, the detail you can capture with a good camera and the experience is well worth the extra pennies!
To take a great portrait you don’t need the latest high-tech equipment or a studio- although this can help. All you need is a camera, a model and the time to experiment.
I took all these shots within 1km of my flat using my Pentax K1000 35mm camera (around £100/$139).
When shooting outdoors always look for where the sun is in the sky- light is a vital factor in creating a striking portrait. Golden hour is a great time to shoot photography outside but if the light is strong it creates lots of interesting options..
With great light comes shadows, always be on the look out for unusual shadows to add some depth to the portrait
BUT if you live in England or somewhere similar, the chances are if you’re waiting for sun you’ll never take a single photo. So if the light is dull look for an interesting composition or location to detract from the lack of light.
Think about your background wether it adds to the image or detracts the focus. Graffiti can be a great way to add some colour to your image. If you just want the subject to be in focus make sure they’re standing at least one step away from the background to allow some depth in your image.
Framing your subject
Use what have around you; trees, building, graffiti etc. For example, in the image below by looking up at the building it not only frames the image it makes the subject more imposing. Flowers are also a great way to add colour and fill the frame.
Have fun and experiment
Photography is all about enjoyment and learning from the mishaps. When shooting portraits on film I would always recommend shooting different angles of the same shot.
Thankfully I took two shots in this location, despite the frame counter telling me different, the first image just happened to be the first of the roll.
Belém, a district famous for it’s custard tarts and monastery, is just a short tram ride away from the city centre. Unfortunately for us the tram didn’t turn up for half an hour and the queue was so long we wouldn’t of got on the first couple of trams that arrived.
So we made the decision to take the metro- only problem was the metro doesn’t go to Belém. So just two metro’s and a train later we finally arrived. First impressions was busy- so so busy. Filled with tourists and students spilling out the cafe’s and taking in the beautiful architecture of the monastery.
Like many visiting, first stop was lunch. After trying to find a seat in a few restaurants we stumbled into a burger place. Turns out this place was a cosy, artisan burger joint and the best decision we made all day- it was absolutely delicious. Unfortunately I was so hungry I ate it before I could take a picture but this is the front of the restaurant, if you ever visit Lisbon I highly recommend a visit..
With our stomachs full we headed to the windy riverside to see the gigantic monument; Padrão dos Descobrimentos.
The 171ft tall monument was finished in 1960 after 2 years of construction. It sits on the edge of the Tagus river and has a viewing platform at the top. There are 33 sculptures surrounding the monument representing figures (mainly white men) from history, with Henry the Navigator leading from the front.
The size and detail makes this a must see for a visit to Lisbon, as is the most famous Portuguese custard tart cafe. Pastéis de Belém house’s the most secretive recipe in the whole of Europe. The recipe was first created by monks 200 years ago and the recipe has not changed since. It is so secretive only 3 people know the recipe-and they won’t travel in the same car together. The custard tarts are so popular on an average day they sell 20,000!
The queue came out the entrance all around the block. But as we weren’t planning on returning to Belém during our time in Lisbon we joined the masses. And to be fair, the queue went down extremely quickly and before we knew it we were inside ordering a couple of custard tarts to take away. And boy, did they live up to the highest of expectations, well worth the wait.
To end the day we headed back into the centre of Lisbon, this time by bus, and took a funicular up to a stunning viewpoint across the city to watch the (cloudy) sun set.
Our second full day here in Lisbon started with a free walking tour I had booked. I had done them in Prague and Bratislava a few weeks ago and really enjoyed them. Learning about the history of the places we stood really helped me feel more connected to the city and understand the city in the context of Europe.
The meeting point was in the Chiado neighbourhood- named after Antonio Ribeiro, a 19th century continually drunk poet with a high-pitched voice (Chiado means squeaky).
Antonio Ribeiro Statue
The tour was led by Luis, a small but energetic 25-year old local who has lived in Mozambique and all around Europe before moving back to Lisbon to lead walking tours.
The tour was 3 hours long, but they really did fly by. Lisbon has enough interesting history to entertain for days from numerous invasions, revolutions and finding Brazil to how they stayed neutral in the Second World War by selling tungsten to the Nazi’s and lending land to the allies.
The tour also took us pass a bookshop, but not any old bookshop. The oldest bookshop in the world! (or universe as Luis put it).
On every travel website or book you look in the Santa Justa elevator is recommend as a much do. Yet both our tour guide and hotel receptionist said that it is overrated- yes it provides great views at the top but it’s not worth paying €5 to queue for half an hour to then go in a lift for a few seconds. So instead Luis led us to a staircase- after climbing for a few minutes we were right at the top of the elevator! No queues and no charge! The panoramic views gives you a real sense into how the streets of Lisbon were designed and you can pick out all the different, individual neighbourhoods.
After the tour ended at 2pm we grabbed some lunch and our first Portuguese custard tarts. As it was sunny we decided to catch a boat across the river to explore the city of Almada and walk up to Christ Rei (a 25m high statue of Christ which sits at the top of a hill). With my embarrassing seasickness in tow (it was a 5 minute river crossing) we started our walk. The Hill was deceptively huge and took a sweaty 45 minutes to reach the top. But boy was it worth it, although not religious myself it’s hard not to be impressed with the sheer size and architecture.
It costs €5 Euro’s to get a lift to the top, and if you’ve made it this far you might as well pay. Once you get to the top you are faced with a breathtaking 360 view.
After taking in the view at all angles and gawping at the ginormous statue ( which is based on Christ the Redeemer in Rio) we headed back down and started on the long walk home…
A fully packed day here in Lisbon started with a trip to one of the biggest shopping malls in Europe. I don’t normally factor in time for shopping when I’m travelling or visiting a new city but with us both needing new shoes (and an umbrella) it was a much needed first stop of the day.
After spending way too long in the maze-like shopping mall we dropped our new shoes of at the hotel and went exploring. We chose to explore the Alfama neighbourhood, home of the castle and many cathedrals.
Despite the erratic weather we had a great time winding in and out the lanes and keeping warm in the pastry shops. The area is also famed for its graffiti. Whether you like it or not it, the graffiti here adds colour to the streets and the majority is very creative (with a few exceptions of course). The only downside of the area is the entry fee to the castle- you can’t even see the grounds or view without paying a relatively expensive admission fee.
Next up-food. Both a travel magazine and our hotel receptionist recommended the Time Out market. A short walk from the main square along the river you arrive at the grand entrance of the market. Once you go through the doors you are faced with what feels like a hundred potential food options, with kiosks lining the four walls of the indoor market.
Long, communal tables fill the middle of the modern market. It was so busy it was hard to find a seat, but everyone was very friendly and happily partook in a Tetris-like game in order to fit everyone in.
Most food was fish or meat based- you’d be hard pressed to find many vegetarian options. I opted for a very tasty beef burger and was able to watch the filming of a Korean food program, it was extremely humorous watching the presenters and full crew trying to manoeuvre their way through the crowds against a time limit.
After filling up and soaking in the atmosphere we headed back through the streets of the capital back to the hotel. Lisbon is a beautiful, very walkable city but there are a lot of hills so if you visit, get ready to have aching legs at the end of the day.
Once again Lisbon has lived up to expectations and recommendations- despite having to dodge the rain for most of the day. Tomorrow we are taking part in a walking tour then will be exploring different neighbourhoods and eating even more food!
One lost boarding pass, a dropped phone and a two hour delay later we were out of Gatwick and finally on a plane flying to Lisbon.
We landed at 2.30pm and after a brief walk found ourselves on the metro. The station was incredibly grand and decorated with black and white murals.
It’s a relatively short journey from the airport to the centre of town (30 mins) and we soon arrived at the metro stop nearest our hotel. As we clambered up the stairs with our cases out the station we came to a stunning view; statue’s and a beautiful square in one direction and the sun shining on a winding river the other.
After taking too many photos we checked into our hotel. We’re not normally ones to complain but the room we were given in this highly-recommend hotel was very dark, claustrophobic and had an odd bathroom-you could see through from the bed..
But the staff were extremely helpful and moved us into another room which has both natural light and a bathroom with an actual door. So after quickly unpacking into our new room we went to explore.
We didn’t have much time left before the sun set so we just wandered around the local area, got some dinner and headed for an early night after having to get up at an inhumane hour for a delayed flight.
My first impressions of Lisbon are as good as they could be; pastry shops everywhere, trams and a beautiful riverside walk. I am really looking forward to getting to know this city and it’s history more in the next few days.