Sunday 19 July 2015

A Walk In The Park (A Walk In My Head) - Photography

There's been a heatwave in London recently with record temperatures and humidity to put you in a coma. You combine those two things with a general lack of motivation to actually go out and take pictures anyway, and you have the perfect set up for staying at home and doing nothing.

Taking A Minute

Well I finally decided to get out and take some photos, it's been a while. There's an interesting psychological aspect to street (or exploratory) photography. Thinking about it beforehand leads me to generally talk myself out of it, especially if it's in area or theme I've shot before. All of the locations for all of the photos in this post have been visited by me in the past. So there I'll be, thinking if I should do it or not and remembering places, animals, paths and whatnot. This invariably leads to the following chain of thought:

'What's the point of going there (it's conveniently close) but I know the parks, the roads, I won't see any angle I haven't seen before etc.'

I do this all of the time. This epic power level of procrastination even extends to new locations.

'I don't know what it will be like, maybe it'll be a waste of time, boring buildings, usual ugly pigeons, traffic. Crap light today. How BORING.'

Definitely a state of mind I need to overcome.

I guess what it comes down to is having a reason to go and do it. For me that reason is not only always the same, it is coincidentally the one thing I can't think of beforehand to motivate me in the first place.


Regent's Canal Ride

Those things you can't imagine or predict beforehand, they just happen in front of you and you react to it and then it's gone. I know it may not be 'right' and I know there are those that specialise in landscapes, architecture and the like. I shoot all of that but not because 'it's what I do', I shoot it because I liked that moment. The camera is merely a tool to capture it. The more comfortable are you with it, the more confidence you have in its ability to get what you want and the more fun you'll have. That's the theory anyway right?

Not that I don't have my gear head/ nerd thing happening with technology. But that's more to do with my love of science and engineering.

So anyway, I got my lazy butt out and went for a walk. I went through two of London's Royal Parks, Regent's and Primrose. It's actually a nice walk, peaceful, lots of green space, improved dramatically by the baking heat and a gentle breeze. I've used the NX1 plenty in rain and cold (this is London after all) so it would be interesting to see how it holds up in the heat.

Baby See Baby Do

Now, each time I go out with my NX1 I try and do something different. I usually shoot raw but on this day I kept it JPEG. I also usually take a camera bag with a bunch of lenses, variable ND filters, external microphone blah blah, enough gear to shoot a freaking film! This taught me two things:

  1. Carrying lots of gear is just added stress; more stuff to carry, to look after, to worry about.
  2. Having lots of options with lenses / filters etc, can lead to indecision. Too much choice leads you to spend more time thinking about lenses and other technical crap and less about actually enjoying being in your environment.

So I've started taking out a minimum amount of equipment. It's the same thing that happened with my music composing and production. I realised I had become obsessed with plug-ins, virtual instruments and technical points of production and ended up not actually making any music. What's the point of that?!?


As part of this I decided not to do any filming. Knowing just how wonderful the video quality of the NX1 is, even if only using it for frame grabbing can lead to you shooting lots of (technically) sweet looking video when you should be taking photos. This also means you have less content to deal with (or get distracted by) when bringing it into your workstation for editing and that all means increased productivity. Not only 'getting the shot' but 'getting the shot out there', they're both sides of the same coin. The same can be applied to music production of course (I think I'm more telling myself this).

So I took out the NX1 with the S 50-150mm, Samsung's premium telephoto lens. I love it, the lens is sharp, fast, focusses instantly and the balance with the battery grip is sublime. The effect is to move the center of gravity away from your wrist and into your lower forearm, much better. It's so comfortable that I've taken the grip out with me just because I like the feel of it, even with the added mass it still isn't enough to bother me in the slightest.


But back to the walk in the park. I like these two parks for different reasons. Regent's is much larger (lots of animals and separate areas, flower gardens, lakes, protected areas) whereas Primrose is smaller and closer to built up areas.

I go to Regent's first, it's further away so I can hit the other park on the wander back. I walk to Regent's along Regent's Canal (where the shot with the baby looking into camera was taken).

It never seems to go the way I expect it to either. The same location on a different day can yield completely different results, and I don't just mean lighting, I mean people and other animals interacting, all of those things I actually want to capture, the real reason I go out there in the first place.


It was a baking day, people weren't doing much apart from melting into the ground. The NX1 held up perfectly well in the heat, it even got almost hot to the touch when I was filming on the way home. Yes I know I said I wouldn't, but it was worth it.


So I generally just wandered through the park, instinctively snapping away while at the same time making a conscious effort to shoot less. Who needs two hundred shots of roses anyway. The birds were staying close to the water and keeping their heads down, except if there's food.


I do tend to have exposure compensation down about a third of a stop, as I know lifting shadows is better than pulling down highlights with the NX1. At the same time however I don't like to pull them up too much as it risks making the shot look unnatural to me. Nothing wrong with darkness anyway.


Take the bird in the shade in the shot above. I could have exposed for that area, which would risk blowing out detail in the grass in the foreground, along with blowing the highlights on the arm of the man laying there and most probably the leaves too, but because for this shot I wanted all three subjects lined up in that way (geometry is a cheap way to make a shot more interesting) they had to all 'fit' exposure-wise.


Obligatory bird in the water shot there. I don't actually like this shot for the bird, I like it because of the pattern the water makes and it's breaking about the body. The anatomy of a shock wave. On that same lake humans were floating about on boats...


Eventually I wandered back to the ranch. To be honest I wasn't feeling very good, haven't done for a while. I decided to walk back topside and head down a road called Parkway for a short cut but I wasn't paying attention (I took the shot of the guys taking the women on the boat - with the guy playing guitar - on the way home). I went the wrong way... Embarrassing. So I went back down to the canal instead. Turning the corner I saw this guy just chilling out. There was a girl singing, her voice drifting across the canal.

Sam Garrett

At first I just walked past (as I said I wouldn't shoot any video) but I found myself turning around and just having to shoot something. You know that feeling. I was still using spot metering and I was very happy with the results, really helps paint the light in the shot.

I'll just leave it here. For some reason I shot it in Ultra HD, that's how I uploaded it. I didn't have any time to set anything, I wasn't interfering with the performance in any way, so I just crouched down and shot everything hand held. The odd aperture adjustment here and there, everything recorded using the NX1's on-board stereo mics. No grading, essentially out of camera.

I recorded more but I'll put the videos all together in a separate post in the future. For now, that's it! Hope you enjoyed the pictures or the rambling, or the music. Until next time...

The full gallery is available on my Flickr.

Featured in the video are: