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London Light London Life

 - with Chris Shepard

This week Mid-Cheshire Camera Club invited Chris Shepherd from H2 Photographic Society in Harlow, London. Chris has been involved in photography for 20 years. He currently uses Olympus micro 4/3 camera as they are lighter and smaller for his type of work. In terms of what photographs Chris likes to take, he takes a lot of street scenes and architectural images however he does shoot a lot of landscape as well.

Chris’s presentation is all about how we can utilise our time better to practise our craft. His opening statement to his presentation recounted Malcolm Gladwell famous phrase from his best-selling book ‘Outliers’ It takes 10,000 hours of practise to master a particular skill. One of the many frustrations for amateur photographers is finding the time to dedicate to our passion around work and family life. Chris identified that he could make use of his lunch hour which would give him an extra 250 hours a year practising his photography. Working in the City (London) Chris has a plethora of architecture, street and people type genres to photograph. As Chris started to go out in his lunch hour, it suddenly dawned on him that he had lots of photographic opportunities all around him but he hadn’t realised it.

Working in the square mile, Chris decided to concentrate initially on architecture and this was the theme for the first half of his presentation. Chris showed us lots of good examples of images of prominent buildings in London where he had found interesting shapes and shadows especially if the building was partly built. Changing the perspective of the camera to the subject allowed Chris to get interesting images of buildings. Chris showed the 20 strong Zoom audience how he used an ‘Angle Finder’ attachment to be able to take vertical shots of buildings. This simple device worked extremely well and doesn’t hurt your neck.

Chris used a number of building in his presentation to help evidence a specific point he was making. One of these buildings was the Walkie Talkie building, named after its unusual shape. Chris added that you can go up to the roof and take landscape shots of the City. Another building that features a lot in Chris’ work is the Shard – the tallest building in Western Europe – changing the angle of the shot can make the image more interesting. Modernist architecture has strong patterns and shapes embedded within it and is great for images especially when the sunlight interacts with the patterns and shapes. Southwick Cathedral has lots of great shapes with soft and hard light types to accentuate the scene. Borough Market has lots of food stalls offering a bouquet of vibrant colours and shapes in the form of gingerbread, bread and fruit. If textures is your thing, then the rubbish dump has an amazing group of articles with lots of textures.

Chris talked a little about his ‘London light London life’ project which is an ongoing project to document his own unique view of the people and the things that make central London the City it is. This involves taking an image in central London every day. Chris described how difficult that concept is but he provided solutions as to how he makes it work, for example, using his mobile phone is a good way to achieve good results and exercise compositional muscles.

Shard by Chris Shepherd

Canary Warf Station by Chris Shepherd

Chris did talk a little about the security guards that are protecting some of the buildings in the City and his interaction with them. This was a useful input as any of us travelling to London to see the sights would be prepared for this type of potential confrontation.

Practise is the key theme in Chris’ presentation but it is easy to get stuck in a rut taking the same images. Spicing your photography up by using aids such as the angle finder and also a Lensbaby can help change an image to make it more interesting and keep you focused on improving your art. A Lensbaby is a manual lens that gives a similar effect to a tilt-shift lens. The effect can be added in photoshop but nothing beats the enjoyment of getting things right in camera.

Practising every day allows you to get to grips with concepts. For example, just practising with depth of field – becomes instinctive. Practising taking multiple shot panoramas - having dedicated practise time allows you to do it.

A lot of images shown by Chris have been converted into mono which gives a very strong crisp composition. Abstract patterns also make great compositions. A good example is the roof at Kings Cross station which has a fantastic lattice covered roof that is well worth a visit. The Gherkin Building is also a good example of a building with a strong pattern and also worth photographing.

After tea, Chris’ presentation focused on people and events. London offers such a lot of opportunities to photograph people going about their business. Seeing people and their juxtaposition with unusual street furniture is a great photo-op and one which Chris has documented in his work. There are light festivals near to Canary Warf at certain times of the year. Chris showed us how he photographed people interacting with lights despite difficult conditions and having to use high ISO to get the result.

Chris talked about Henri Cartier-Bresson – 'The decisive moment', which meant Chris was prepared to wait around in a location for people to pass by and react accordingly to obtain the composition he wanted. This is typical of Chris and his style is well evidenced throughout his work. He is always looking for a story, a strong narrative that allows his viewers to immerse themselves into the world of the picture in front of them.

This was indeed a great and well-presented presentation accompanied by some excellent photography. The learning I have obtained from Chris’ presentation starts with practise, it does actually make you better and our photography, like any skill, needs to be honed and polished. I also need opportunities to fail but more importantly to learn from my own failures. I also agree with Chris that practising helps to train your photo artistic eye to see compositions in everyday things around us.

Chris’ final message to us all is to just get out and practise – it will make you a better photographer and you know, there may be something to be said that practise makes perfect.

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