Street photography: Moving subject

This time the prompt from David Gibson’s box of Street Photography Challenge cards asks to capture blur of movement. The goal is to keep the subject identifiable.

This is a shot I took when out for a walk, hoping to meet this challenge by photographing cyclists haring past. What I found instead was a large group from the  local high school having an afternoon in the park. These two girls were thoroughly enjoying themselves on the tyre swing. They had several rides together, which gave me plenty of time to take a number of blurred photos! Some pictures just looked like mistakes, but this one seems acceptable. My pet project this year is black and white, and all my pics so far for the street photography challenge have been colourless, but converting this particular photo drained it and made it mediocre.

In colour, the branches of the tree make a nice green diagonal blur, especially blown up on a big screen…


Street photography: Ugly ducklings

The prompt I pulled out of the box of David Gibson’s Street Photography Challenge cards this week was to find something in the street that you find ugly at first, but after a longer look can see something beautiful about it.

By coincidence, his prompt title “Ugly Ducklings” suits my photo, for I found a swan that fits the bill. A twist on the fairy tale.

Gibson says on the prompt card: “Even if you can’t immediately recognise what you’re looking at, if it attracts you at all, for whatever reason, photograph it.” This is exactly why I took this photo, as I’d looked at the swan and asked it “What are you doing?”.

Though there’s no street in this picture, I was indeed walking along a riverside drive when some black swans swam up to the edge. I went over to admire them, and the sight of this one looking backwards made me think about the ugliness of the pose. I knew that soon it would straighten its neck and look forwards, and then it would resume the elegance that we all love in swans.

As a bonus, the rocks at the edge of the river make a beautiful background pattern in black and white beneath the black swan.


Street photography: From above the street

On a rainy afternoon last weekend I went into the city and walked around the main indoor shopping centre where I found good vantage points on the upper floor for photographing people below. This was my goal, with that very prompt in mind from the box of Street photography challenge cards by David Gibson.

While this was not exactly in the street, I’m calling it street photography since my city has very few outdoor shops. Most of them are in major shopping centres which are, nevertheless, public strolling places.

Over the past two weeks, thinking about this prompt, I’ve taken a number of photos from bridges, upper floor windows, tops of staircases and tops of escalators, but none was as good as this one of a man quietly writing with pen and paper, taken over the glass barrier of the floor above him. It immediately struck me as a great subject with its tile patterns and several unoccupied tables and chairs. I had my camera set to monochrome, so I could already see the blacks and whites on my little screen and knew it would be a good picture.

I’m often on the lookout for people reading a physical book in public, and though I’ve spotted the occasional pedestrian still reading a book while walking, I’ve never had my camera ready. So I was thrilled to catch sight of someone writing with pen and paper, an activity almost as rare now as publicly reading a book made of paper. I zoomed in to try and read his notes but my camera isn’t that good. Oh well.


Street photography: Split image

This week the card I randomly chose from the box of David Gibson’s Street Photography Challenge cards asked me to compose an image that is split in two in an interesting way. I walked the streets looking for such a scene and took a few photos, but none is as good as the one below. In fact, I took several standing at this spot, but this one is best because a woman and her dog both caught sight of me in the same moment. I didn’t notice it at the time, but when I later checked my images on a monitor, there they were, looking at me. A good surprise.

I didn’t notice the strip of sunshine on the footpath either, nor the white strip of roofing above it, which together form two converging lines that direct the eye towards the central vertical white line, that is, the edge of the bus shelter’s glass wall. I had my camera set to monochrome, and when I looked at the image on its little screen, the three white lines were glaringly obvious. That’s one of the pleasures of black and white photography.

This street photography challenge is a lot of fun, but I have to be on my own when I’m searching for the right picture. I’ve realised I have to stand in one spot for some time and snap as often as possible in order to get one suitable image. When I’m with other people I feel pressure to click and move on.

But I’m discovering arty tricks which I would never think of myself, like finding a scene which can be interestingly split in two.

I recommend this box of challenges.


Street photography: Someone looking into my lens

I pulled a new card from the Street Photography Challenge box by David Gibson and found myself with a task that would take time.

The challenge laid down was to catch someone catching me with my camera. These two shots, the walking man and seated woman, looked at me as I passed them by. The first photo turned out quite clear even though I was moving and clicking, but the second one is slightly blurred, showing that I flinched when spotted.

After spending hours trying to snap candid photos, one thing I learned is that people mostly avoid looking at me, even when I’m looking at them.


Street photography: Upside down

This week I chose a card from the Street Photography Challenge box by David Gibson that asked me to look at things from a different perspective.

Take a photo of reflections and turn it upside down, he writes. The photo above of a casuarina branch arching up from the pond surface is one I took simply because it was the only clearly reflected object on this windy day when the rest of the water was choppy. When the image was still in colour and the right way up, I took little notice of the low-hanging branches in the foreground. It wasn’t until I turned it to black and white and turned it upside down that I saw the value of these dark verticals in the lower third of the image.

I like the arched branch and its reflected other half, looking like a skeletal fish sculpture.


Street photography: Obstructed View

This week, having randomly selected a card from The Street Photography Challenge box by David Gibson, my task was to photograph a scene where an object blocks the view.

At a charcoal chicken shop one night I was surprised when I looked in the window to see a number of chickens roasting nicely on a rotisserie, and idly took some photos through the glass. I had assumed the chickens would be cooked out the back, and hadn’t expected to see them turning on a spit near the window. But neither did I expect to see the reflections of people behind me, nor the balloon which floated down in front of me. The owners were celebrating 20 years in the shop, and were giving away Greek sweets to customers and even to passers-by like me, even though I hadn’t bought any chicken! I got a Greek shortbread covered thickly in icing sugar. Delish.

My camera was set to monochrome so I wouldn’t be attracted to colours, and while I was taking a photo of the chickens the balloon was being blown up and down by a breeze, blocking the picture I was trying to capture. But I like this photo of people and objects I didn’t mean to include.


Street photography: Feet

(This is Take 2 for this post. I published Take 1 after midnight last night but this morning my feet photo has disappeared. Never give up…)

Last year I gave myself a challenge of writing about unusual things I saw every day in my life. This year I planned to take a photography course and write about the challenges I met in it. So when I recently had a birthday, and was asked what I’d like for a present, I answered that I wanted a photography course. I didn’t get it. 

Never mind.

Yesterday, still wondering how I could improve my photography skills, I typed “Street Photography challenge” into Google. Up came several links to bookshops selling a box of cards with this very title, put together by David Gibson. Luckily it was for sale at the bookshop in the National Library where I needed to do some research. Amazing.

Today after my research was completed I went into the bookshop, and there was the box of cards on display near the door. I bought it, opened it, randomly chose a card as recommended, and came up with Feet.

Down beside the local lake I sat watching the feet of workers walking, cycling, or scooting on their lunch break. I set my camera to silent and monochrome, and aimed it towards the ground. The most surprising feet were on the woman in the photo below. You can’t tell but she was quite old, and scooted slowly slowly along, stopping and starting. I wondered if she was in pain. What was her reason for riding the scooter? I’ll never know. But her feet with their bandaged ankles were the most interesting and completely unlike any others I saw on the strolling and exercising workers.

It’s good to choose one photo from the many that we’re tempted to take with our digital devices nowadays, and consider why it has more to offer than the others. In the photo above, it’s the bandages. They evoke surprise, curiosity, even pity. The woman was passing me so slowly that I could have stopped her to ask my questions, but street photography is by nature a stealthy pursuit, like people watching. I hid my camera and turned away, though she had looked straight at me.

It was a good day. Within 24 hours I’d had a wish and it had been granted. Next week I’ll pull another card from the box and go back out into the street with my inconspicuous camera.



365 Unusual Things: 358-365

358. Christmas Eve. Spent a quiet afternoon beside a dam because several members of my family have Covid.

359. I was given a purple shamrock for Christmas. Its leaves look like purple butterflies on stalks.

360. In a newfound café I was enjoying good coffee and half an hour of peace and quiet, when the staff put on loud Indian music. I got up and walked towards the door to leave and they turned it off.

361. Watched a hovering dragonfly till it was suddenly snapped up by a passing peewee (magpie lark).

362. Very hot last night so I opened my window wide. At 1.30am a police car turned its siren on right outside my window. A car chase ensued.

363. An old man collapsed on a rooftop carpark and then it started to rain. An ambulance eventually arrived and put up a little tent over him.

364. Accidentally deleted my photos from 25th December till now.

365. New Year’s Eve. Went for an early morning walk thinking I’d avoid people but a “Running Event” began and hundreds of runners filled the path I’d planned to walk on alone. I did however find something unusual, the beauty of a bird’s nest built from natural and man-made strands.


And so I reach the end of my 365 days of unusual things. Thank you to all of you who have followed me each week.

Black and white brigades

For my last black and white post comparison, I’ve played with a photo from my father’s WW2 album, darkening the image to bring out the words taken from Churchill’s most famous speech in June 1941: “We shall never negotiate with Hitler”. I’m comparing it with a photo I took in 2017 in Amiens, France, of a fire brigade training in front of the cathedral. My darkened version of the old photo is on the left, and the original is below it. Most likely the location is Cairo where my father was stationed. The mosque domes, minarets, and Moorish striped arches suggest it’s at least in a large city.

There are similarities in the two images: large old buildings behind groups of helmeted men. And there is contrast: in the old photo, the people are in white uniforms and white pith helmets before a dark building. In the photo in Amiens, the people are in dark uniforms with silver helmets before a light building. The great detail in the new one, especially in the sculpted decoration on the cathedral, is what draws the eye. But the old photo – in spite of its lack of such detail, its blurriness around the arches and verandahs, its unidentifiable faces – tells a good story simply because of the writing.

I’ve been looking at the big sign in this photo since I was a child, but when I scanned the small black and white picture and then digitally decreased the light, the writing on the sign became clearer, darker, stronger. A reminder of what it takes to defeat an enemy.

Thank you all for reading my thoughts this year on old and new black and white photos. And I thank my father for bringing the photos home.