South Bank Street Photography

Isolating a subject from their surroundings using long shutter speeds

A few weeks back my friend Lucy sent me a message asking if I would be prepared to spend some time talking about photography and sharing some techniques. Lucy studied photography at GCSE (proper “wet” photography) and has been getting into digital photography recently. Of course, I said “yes” and on Sunday we met up on the South Bank.┬áIt’s a great place to explore, with plenty of colour, shade, textures, areas and angles. That’s even before you look at the collection of street performers, which on this particular day included a fire-belching euphonium and a man stood in the Thames playing electric guitar.

I’ve never tried to teach anyone photography skills before, even in an informal setting like this. I’d been thinking through what I wanted to talk about beforehand, but kept feeling overwhelmed by how much detail I found myself including. It was reassuring to me that I understood all the technical stuff in that depth, but an interesting challenge to pick and choose the most important bits. Lucy wanted to focus on the technical stuff, so we didn’t talk about interacting with people too much. Hopefully next time!

A street performer juggling fire sticks on the South Bank

We started by working through the “exposure triangle”, the mixture of shutter speed, aperture and ISO that gives the perfect exposure. I made Lucy take photos of me (poor thing!) until we had a good exposure, then varying one setting and adjusting the others to compensate. We also talked about the artistic impact that each setting has on an image, using aperture to separate a subject from their background and shutter speed to freeze or harness motion. Oh, and I also managed to blather on about direction and quality of light, metering, white balance, focal length, composition, angle, patterns.

Lucy posted some great images after our walk. Hopefully my witterings were of use, but I enjoyed catching up with Lucy and talking about my favourite subject with her.

Detail of a sculpture at the Oxo Tower on the South Bank

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