It wasn't until recently that I discovered Bath, my local city, is twinned with Aix-en-Provence. I don't know how it works around the rest of the world, but in Europe there are a lot of towns that have Twinning ceremonies in order to enhance relationships between countries. Often various dignitaries or groups make an annual visit in a kind of exchange. So, interesting to me that my main place to shoot is the city of Bath and my friend Jeff Chane-Mouye shoots almost exclusively in Aix-en-Provence. I've discussed Jeff before and his Street work, I admire it and his attitude to photography as a whole (Jeff's Blog). A talented guy and with a sunny disposition, which isn't at all surprising because he spends his time somewhere that is almost always sunny. Why they chose Bath to be twinned with Aix-en-Provence is anyone's guess, Bath is a place that is almost permanently cloudy! What they do both share is an abundance of tourists. Why am I telling you this? Well if you look at someones photography enough eventually you become under the influence (not drunk by the way), but a small part of their style creeps into your own work and influences your creative process. We have different styles completely, I'm not a close up kind of photographer, I'm more traditional (boring) and prefer to capture a whole scene where possible. I do like contrast though, as I believe does Jeff. Anyway, in utter shock I awoke on Thursday to find wall to wall sunshine and unseasonably warm temperatures for the UK. I decided it was finally the time to spend a day in Bath attempting some High Contrast Street Photography. That's my name for it, I have no idea what anyone else calls it.
Just in case you're not aware of how this is achieved here's a quick explanation, although I suspect there are far better qualified people offering much better advice somewhere on the internet. Basically we're exposing for the brightest area of the scene. If you prefer we could say underexposing the shot, not that there's a correct exposure because it's subjective in any case. We're not bothered in retaining shadow detail and it can disappear completely if it wishes, what we do want are the highlights. Now, this is a very simple technique and one which digital photographers should be doing anyway because blown highlights are impossible to retrieve where as some shadow detail can be during post processing, although and obviously you wouldn't want to be underexposing by as much as some of the examples on this post, the opener of the girl with orange hair for instance unless you're going for that style of image.
The object is to catch someone entering or exiting your exposed light, this is where the tricky bit of timing comes in. Get it wrong or position yourself incorrectly and you'll end up with either nothing or a silhouette (which is fine if you're going for silhouettes, I wasn't!) -
You'll no doubt notice that the last shot was in Black & White, I adore mono and yet I think this style might be best suited to colour.
You should be able to see that I'm not overdoing it, something stopped me. I still wanted a small amount of detail in the shadows and occasionaly it seemed appropriate to process in Black & White -
Although influenced by the work of other photographers such as Jeff, Vasco Trancoso and many of the wonderful proponents of this method I still retain my own style. Incidentally, If you haven't visited Vasco's blog or his other pages then I strongly suggest taking a little time. He offers superb photographs and extremely intelligent commentary regarding photography. Back to keeping your own style; I've always underexposed my images, very rare that I go bright and airy, I used to think that more mid greys and tonal quality were important and they are to some extent, portraiture for example, not so much in Street Photography though. It's only natural that we should be influenced and for that you can read "Learn" from others, that’s a good thing. We must however retain our own style and we will, because how and what we see ultimately defines it .
Another example and one of the day's favourites for me at least. I really like the play of light here -
It was hot strolling around Bath, I took a lot of shots. Surprisingly a lot of keepers which I'm not going to post here for the moment. In the end I settled for one spot. In front of some hoarding which was erected because of building work in the High Street. I leant up against a wall in the shade and decided to wait and see what came along. Next to me were some stalls, the one closest was selling Photographic Landscape Prints. The seller looked at me from the corner of his eye and I guess he was thinking; "I'm at least earning a living from my photography (and he was indeed making lots of sales), this Street Photographer bloke will never earn anything from his work". He's right of course, but I enjoy it so much I'll never stop; well, perhaps when I actually get the hang of it. Lord knows where the story telling has gone with these photographs, oh well, here's a selection of images whereby people walk past a builders hoarding.
Not much of a story there. How about this one -
That's a little better. I called it "Suspicion", actually "Under Suspicion" was the full title. See how we came from "Under the Influence" to "Under Suspicion"?!
There's literally around ten or so of these shots. I'll finish with the one I prefer best and whereby I come under suspicion. You may not be able to see this, our police constable is looking straight at me totally ignoring the oncoming Mafia gentlemen ordering a "Hit" on his phone, no wonder the guy in front looks so nervous!
As usual I would be delighted to read any comments and my sincere thanks go to anyone taking the time to read my blog.
All images can be opened by clicking on the thumbnails and are taken using a Leica M with a Summicron 35mm lens fitted.
If you wish to be notified of new blogposts please go to the Box titled "Subscribe To The Leica Biker Blog" enter your email address and you'll receive an email each time there's a new post. To follow the comments thread on any post all you need to do is click "Subscribe by email".