Street Photography: Roman Road market in London
One of the best ways to improve your confidence in street photography is to go out shooting with at least one other photographer. Somehow, a couple or group seems less threatening than an individual. Recently I have joined several organised photography groups via the Meetup.com web site. Photography seems to be a popular pursuit and there is no end of groups dedicated to different aspects of the craft.
One of the busiest groups is the London Photographers' School organised by Zara Matthews. Yesterday I had my first outing with her group at Roman Road market in London's East End. There were a dozen of us from all parts of London and sporting a range of equipment. The Monochrom was odd boy out, with all the others favouring DSLRs, from a large and impressive D800 with a nifty fifty prime to several entry level models with their standard 18-55 zooms. But it isn't about cameras, it is about having an eye for the subject and the spotting of opportunities. That's what street photography is all about. Any of these cameras was capable of producing excellent results and most did.
While I said that a group is often seen as less threatening, we were sent off individually by Zara on various projects so there was an element of being thrown in at the deep end. With a dozen cameras criss-crossing the relatively short stretch of Roman Road we soon became known to the stallholders and encountered a range of reactions. Some were chatty and willing to pose while others were suspicious or downright negative. On one occasion I was asked aggressively for "my papers". It certainly helps to offer a card with your email address and the promise of a copy of the picture.
Roman Road, unlike the nearby Brick Lane, has not been taken over by tourists and photographers are not a common sight. As a result it is possible to find more natural situations and make the most of opportunities
The Leica Monochrom is an unusual beast and was not known to any of my companions. Since this was a black and white photography event, I had thought it would have been a natural, but I suspect it was seen as an oddball. While other participants were able to show excellent processed jpegs on their pixel-perfect camera screens, all I had to offer was a collection of lacklustre, pasty images on the Monochrom's ancient 230k-dotter. It was like comparing a jerky silent film with a modern blockbuster.
Fortunately, as I knew deep down, the Monochrom is not to be underestimated. The lifeless, flat shots bloomed in the care of Silver Efex Pro 2. The depth of detail, structure and tonal range for which this camera is renowned became obvious.
I enjoyed the morning in the market and it was a pleasure to upload my efforts and take part in commentating on others' photographs. I think we can all learn from one another, some in terms of composition and and eye for a good photograph; others in the importance of imaginative use of post-processing. In the near future I shall be joining Zara for night-time photography in Waterloo and low-light photography in Borough Market. Again there will be an M in my hands but I shall not be tempted by either tripod or flash, neither of which I use as a matter of principle. All my hopes will be centred on a Summilux, either 35 or 50, although these will probably be occasions when a Noctilux would come in handy for even greater light hoovering. Sadly I don't have one.
See my detailed review of the Leica Monochrom here.