Some months ago Days Out organiser Pat Catlin asked me if I would act as guide to set up and lead a Club photowalk in Birmingham. As a long time fan of the city I readily agreed. I was pleased when Al Haden, who has an extensive knowledge of the city and whose photography is admired by us all, agreed to help me out.
Because Birmingham City Centre is such a vibrant, changing environment some parts may be less accessible than others or even taken up by temporary exhibitions so some “classic” views may not be possible – but we should perhaps regard this as part of the challenge! A recent recce with Al confirmed our joint view that a daytime walk through Victoria Square through to Chamberlain Square and finally reaching Centenary Square would provide an abundance of varied material to engage with. I hope that you will be able to join us on 20th September.
I thought it might serve to set the scene and perhaps whet your appetite if I offered a few words in advance about likely subject matter, camera techniques and kit. So here goes – in no particular order.
There is a range of architecture to admire. Try perhaps juxtaposing old and new, or perhaps the organic shape of trees or branches against the glass and steel of modern buildings. Remember that converging verticals are a perennial problem when framing buildings, although Lightroom and Photoshop both offer quick and easy means of addressing this in post processing. Alternatively you can be bold and deliberately emphasise and exaggerate the convergence for dramatic effect.
The human form can be useful in architectural shots to deliver a sense of scale. Silhouettes, for example in doorways or entrances can make great subjects in their own right. Street shots are a bit more of a challenge. Two differing approaches are worth considering. Firstly try being ready to grab anything interesting at a moments notice by pre setting the camera on, say ISO 400 at f 8, and if you can, pre focussing, so that you can almost literally point and shoot when something gets your attention. Secondly try locating a promising location, say an interesting or amusing advertising hoarding, and then waiting for someone interesting or appropriate (or inappropriate!) to walk into the scene.
Try thinking more in the abstract and consider trying to reduce part of what you see into an interesting selection of shapes, textures and tones. This is a technique that really pays dividends when seeking out black and white images. For a really “out there” look try Intentional Camera Movement to give blurred images. This works better in my experience when the subjects (usually people) are against a light background.
If the weather and lighting allows, try seeking out reflections or shadows. Both can add interest to otherwise “ordinary” shots.
As to kit, I’d suggest that often the simpler the better. One lens can work. Either a slightly wide prime perhaps (say 35mm) or a “standard” mid range zoom. If you do want to carry a second lens a telephoto can be very useful for isolating aspects of detail. And don’t underestimate your smartphone! This has major advantages in terms of portability and speed of use, as well as allowing you to remain inconspicuous in the crowd. You can be taking your street image with no-one the wiser, least of all your subject, who may write you off as just another digital fiddler sending a text or email or checking something online.
Al and I look forward to sharing the day with you. We will be pleased to assist and advise you further as required or simply leave you to your own devices to explore if you prefer.
N K Reader
Droitwich Camera Club