Damien Demolder’s Street Gallery

A small selection of Damien’s
street photography work

I hope you like the gallery, and that it will encourage you to go out with your camera in any weather and at any time of day. Please do leave me a comment at the bottom of the page.

I run regular street photography classes around London, both during the day and at night, so why not join me and a very small group of other photographers for some instruction and inspiration – and a lot of fun?

I can help to improve your photography whatever your level of experience. Find out more in the Events and Courses section.

See me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/demolder

Follow me on Twitter at @damiendemolder

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Taking pictures in the rain

SAMSUNG CSCTaking pictures in the rain – let the details tell the story

You would think there was a law against taking pictures on a rainy day, as hardly any photographers ever do. They look out the window, see the drips and drops falling from the heavens, and decide automatically that it is a day for doing something else. But one of the things they are missing out on is a chance of getting unique images – with all the other photographers indoors anything you shoot on a rainy day is going to be an exclusive!

And rain happens – it is part of the experience of life, so we should be photographing it. This shot was taken on a rainy morning in London when the commuters were rushing to work, heads down and brollies up. If you are at all nervous of taking pictures of people in the street a rainy day is great, as no one is going to bother stopping to ask what you are doing.

As I walked along behind this person I enjoyed how the water was forming into big droplets on the umbrella material, and how those droplets were sparkling in the light, and I wanted to make a picture to show that. Obviously the person under the brolly was moving pretty quickly, so I set myself an ISO of 1600 and an aperture of f/2 so I could get a motion-stopping shutter speed – in this case 1/2500sec. Then I set my AF point to the lower third of the screen and followed the brolly trying to walk in time with the person under it. When we walk we naturally bob up and down, so getting in rhythm with the subject is important if we are going to avoid motion blur. I knew I was pretty safe though, with that very fast shutter speed, but the timing was important so I could get the focus point exactly where I wanted it on the moving subject.

I was happy to shoot at f/2 because I knew I didn’t have to get the buildings in the background in focus for people to know what they are. You mightn’t recognise Old Broad Street, but it is enough to see that this is a city scene and you get the sense of the old buildings and the new glass tower block in the distance. Also the narrow depth of field would make the droplets the only part of the picture in focus, so you would know that they are the subjects and what I want you to look at.

It was a pretty grey day in a pretty grey place, so rather than turning the picture black and white I just de-saturated it a bit and then overlaid an orange tone to give it a warmer feel.
It might sound odd to describe to someone else that this is a picture of an umbrella, and it wouldn’t sound very exciting, but it is a picture about the atmosphere of the place at that time. Often it is the small details that can describe an atmosphere more fully than a wider shot of the whole street, as details are filled with clues and you force the viewer to look at them.

I hope you like the shot, and that it has encouraged you to go out with your camera next time it rains. Please do leave me a comment below. I run regular street photography classes around London, both during the day and at night, so why not join me and a very small group of other photographers for some instruction and inspiration – and a lot of fun?

I can help to improve your photography whatever your level of experience. Find out more in the Events and Courses section.

My next street day is on 18 February 

See me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/demolder
Follow me on Twitter at @damiendemolder

 

Taking pictures in the rain - London

Photographing light – when the subject isn’t an object

Light, No Light

When we talk about pictures we are taking, have taken or are going to take, most often we do so in terms of what that picture is of. We talk about that amazing giraffe, or the beautiful river winding through the landscape, the smiling child or the delicate flower. We rarely describe a picture by explaining the way the light was at that moment. And yet light is the most important element of any photograph, so perhaps that is what we should be talking about and when we go shooting that’s what we should be actively seeking out.
I shot this picture because I liked the way the morning sun was reflecting from the side of a modern office building in London, creating these coloured stripes on the pavement. It was the stripes and their colour that made me stop, and they inspired me to take the picture. The stripes aren’t an object, but they are the subject of the picture.

An added element

These pretty coloured bands are enough on their own to make a picture – an abstract set of lines bending from one side of the frame to the other – but I wanted to add some human life to the scene for scale and extra interest. I noticed that as people entered or left the lit patch they cast their shadow across the stripes, making a shape perpendicular to the flow of the scene, and creating a number of intersections that drew the eye.
I waited for the right person, with the right shape, to walk into the right place in the scene, and was reasonably quickly rewarded by this girl strolling into the area that cast her shadow between the green stripes, over the more brightly lit and colourless zone. Her shadow fits perfectly, and as her head’s shadow entered the frame her feet, with the catch-lights on her shoes, were preparing to make their way out. Everything came together in a cocktail of luck, anticipation, planning and patience.

Exposing for the more important tones

Stripes levels. Damien DemolderTo make the most of the colours of the light I had to take control of the camera’s exposure system. To the camera this is a dark scene that needs lightening. To my brain it was a scene in which the lightest areas needed to be a more moderate brightness so that the colours wouldn’t bleach out. I had to make a dramatic adjustment with the camera’s exposure compensation feature, turning the brightness down to -1.7EV. I have black in the scene, and there are light tones that are close to white. Although the picture looks very dark there are actually few real blacks and the histogram shows tones right up to 252.

It is a picture of light, and the exposure has to take that into account. Your camera is designed to take pictures of cats, humans, trees and buildings, so when you want it to just shoot light you need to take full control and tell it very clearly how to do it. Your brain is much bigger than your camera’s so don’t allow your camera to take charge of the situation.

Join me for a street photography class and learn first-hand how to take pictures like this. Choose between daytime classes and classes in the evening and into the night. For details see my street photography workshops page.

Samsung NX20 with the 30mm lens.

 

Stripes black display. Damien Demolder

This frame shows the areas of the image that are completely black

Green reflected light, by Damien Demolder

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Silhouette of a running girl – Exposure, coincidence and making your own luck

Running womanSilhouette of a running girl  – Exposure, coincidence and making your own luck

A silhouette can be a powerful graphic element in a photograph, but to work well it needs the right background so it can stand out and the right exposure to make it just dark enough. When we create silhouettes we reduce the scene we are photographing to just a collection of shapes, lines and edges, so we also need to be careful that they all interact well with each other and that they don’t overlap when they shouldn’t.

This is a picture I took one sunny morning on the pathway that leads to the north side of the Millennium Bridge in London. The sun was streaming between two buildings and creating a river of very bright light in the generally shady alleyway. What struck me at the time was the immense contrast between the area that was lit and that which wasn’t. As people walked to the bridge I could see that they were crossing from the two extremes – one minute light up by the sun and the next in the shadow of the building. By positioning myself at an angle to the path of the light I could get a view of the people in the shade while they were still passing part of the background that was still alight.

Pre-visualisation

Thinking about the shot I wanted I determined that I should expose for the light levels on the sunlit part of the wall, as this would render the shaded part of the scene very dark. Exposing for the shaded area would obviously render the lit wall very over exposed and much too bright. If I let the camera do its own thing it would have made shade just a little bit dark and the light area a bit too bright. You have to take control in this kind of situation, know what the camera is going to do, and then set your exposure yourself. For this shot I set the exposure about 2EV darker than the camera would have done – because I wanted the shade to be black and the wall to bit a fraction too dark so the colour of the brickwork would become saturated and powerful.

I had to wait for people to cross from the light into the shade to take the shot. The area in which they could be to make this work was actually pretty small – probably about six foot – and they needed to be a particular distance from that background wall to be framed nicely. What complicated things more is that to get a completely clean outline they would also need to have cleared the triangular shadow created by the smaller wall on the right of the frame. As you can guess, I had to wait some time to get a person in exactly the right spot – even though it is a very busy area.

The right person

I also needed the right person. Someone with a distinctive outline that would give visual clues to what they were carrying, where they were going or what sort of person they were. I shot a few business people – singles worked and pair became confused very easily – and everything depended on the pose they were in when they hit that exact spot where the picture would work.

I saw this girl running quickly towards the magic paving slab, and with fingers crossed pressed the shutter when she got there. And I was delighted when the preview arrived on the screen. Her pose couldn’t have been better had I posed her myself, and her feet landed perfectly to be in the shadow but without being lost in the darkness. She had just cleared the triangular shadow and there is a comfortable space in front of her for her to travel into before she hits the wall of darkness.

Coincidences

The picture works because of all the coincidences that came together to make the shot. The position of the girl and her pose, and well as the position of the sun and the type of the light – I shot again the next day in overcast conditions to show how reliant the success was on the exact weather at the time.

That everything came together was a stroke of luck, but it was luck I waited for and luck I helped to make for myself. I spotted the potential and waited for the right person to be in the right position. That person may not have come along at all, but I did what I could and hoped for the best – and it happened. A fisherman will put himself in the best spot on a good river and use the right bait, but only luck will bring the fish, and it’s the same with this kind of shot. This fish just happened to have its hair up and trainers on!

Samsung NX20 with 30mm lens.

You could shoot pictures like this too. Find out how on one of my photography workshops.

See me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/demolder
Follow me on Twitter at @damiendemolder

Damien Demolder street photography

 

 

 

 

Multi-coloured artificial light for atmosphere – white balance and metering

Man at the bottom of Tower 42 in London, in the morning

artificial light for atmosphere –
white balance and metering

You don’t have to travel to the city to come across a wide range of different coloured artificial light sources, or to make the most of the multi-coloured displays they put on for the photographer. Unless you live in the middle of a field with no electricity in your hut, and no fire either, you will come across artificial light every day. These are lights such as street lights, the neon of the chip shop window, the warm glow of a domestic bulb or the green fluorescents on the office floor.  Your camera will render their illumination in different hues, and they play a very large part in your emotional response to the night or the place. In fact, there won’t be a night where an artificial light source doesn’t cast it orange, yellow, green or cool blue rays upon you, the sky or the place you happen to be.

There are so many different types of light that camera manufacturers can’t possibly make a white balance setting for each one. Your auto white balance will help you to get rid of some of the caste, but if you are interested in photographing what you see, and in showing the viewer what a certain place is like at night, it is a much better idea to think not about neutralising these colours but about making the most of them. And to do that you should always shoot with your white balance set to ‘daylight’ or the sun symbol. Your eyes and brain see using their own daylight white balance mode, and for your camera to see what you see this is the only setting to use.

In this shot I’ve used the colours of the lights in the scene to create a stage-like and slightly mysterious atmosphere. Remembering that photography is about photographing the light and not just the objects in front of the camera, I set my exposure to capture the colours. While the person in the middle of the scene is important as the eye-anchor, we don’t need to see what he really looks like – his silhouette is enough. The real reason he is in silhouette is that I dialled in a -0.3EV of exposure compensation to ‘under-expose’ the lights, which in turn increased the saturation and strength of their colours. And that is an important point. Left to think for itself the camera would have created a much lighter exposure and the colours would be much weaker and washed out.

Leading lines and colours

I was lucky here that it is not only the lines of the place that lead us into the scene, but also the graduation of colour from the warmth of the foreground and the railings, via the lighter yellow/greens of the middle ground, to the cool blue/white of the gap in the centre of the frame. Our eyes are drawn to cooler colours more quickly, and the warm surroundings only get looked at once the main attention-grabber has been dealt with.

I am pleased with this shot because the message it delivers is very clear and there are a number of elements that lead us to the same conclusion. There is only one place you can look when you first see the picture, as the passage of the lines, the structure of the place and the colours of the lights take you straight to the strong clear lines of the neatly posing human situated on the left-hand vertical third of the frame. He is looking out of the frame, creating a tension that you have to notice – even though he occupies a tiny section of the image area.

The scene looks to me like a still from a spy movie, so I cropped the photo to 16:9 widescreen proportions to deliver the viewer a subconscious sense of being at the cinema.

Black and white morning shot at the base of Tower 42 in LondonThe picture does work in black and white, as it has enough graphic character to remain strong and compelling, but in colour the sense of atmosphere, mystery and tension is so much greater and the scene ends up being far more interesting.

Canon PowerShot S95, f/3.5@1/125sec and ISO 3200

Learn more about this subject on one of my Street Photography at Night classes

See me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/demolder and follow me Twitter feed at @damiendemolder

Smoking in the sunshine – reading the exposure

Man smoking in the sun, Fujifilm X-Pro1This is one of those everyday scenes – man steps out for a cigarette and loses himself in thought. (Or stares blankly ahead with his mind completely switched off, perhaps.) It’s a situation that’s played out thousands of times a day in towns and cities all over the world, but this one made me stop to take a picture for two simple reasons – the curve of the part of the building the man is standing under, and the sun streaking up the street and showing off that curve so well.

I was lucky here. I didn’t have to wait for someone to come and occupy the right place in the scene, as he was already standing there waiting for the right person to see the potential. I love that curve and the way the side-on light defines its roundness and the texture of the material it is made from. What works so well is that it is set against the shaded area, and thus it stands out and makes its statement nice and clearly.

The main issue I was faced with here was that of exposure. The hard contrast between the lightest areas and the deep shadow at the top of the frame meant I had to concentrate for a second to read what was going on. The most important area is nearly always going to be the person’s face, but here we have the consideration of the almost-white concrete of the curve too. I didn’t want that to burn out, but I also wanted to show that it is nearly white. The camera would look at all that shadow and open itself up to allow more light in, but I guessed that the power of those highlights might just balance things out. I would normally have exposure compensation set to -0.3EV, but on this occasion I reckoned the multi-pattern metering would sort things out on its own.

I wanted a shallow depth of field and so opened the lens to f/2 – as wide as it would go, and the shutter set itself to 1/4000sec.

The man is set in to the left-hand third of the frame and I allowed the curve to sweep close to that left edge and then come gliding back in again. Shifting my position I slotted the smoker inside the curve, in a way to contain him, and then filled the rest of the shot with the funky white-on-black graphics on the glass.

The upright format suited the breadth of the action, and allows the pavement at the base and the deep infinite shadow at the top to demonstrate depth. And that emphasised depth forces the curve and the man to pounce out of the picture in to viewers’ eyes.

Exposure has to be a conscious decision and, especially when working in sunny conditions like this, can’t be left to the camera to work out for you. You have to read the scene and determine what the camera will see and what it will do. Then you choose to over ride it, or let it get on with it. The most important thing though, is that you thought it through and made that choice yourself. Then the picture can be yours, and not belong to the camera.

 

Fujifilm X-Pro1, 35mm f/2 lens at f/2. 1/4000sec @ ISO 200

Come on a street photography course with me in London. Follow the link for more information.

 

 

The power of eye contact – Dean looks up
Boy looking up at first communion

Catching the attention

I had been asked to take pictures at a First Holy Communion by the father of the boy in this picture. I’d done all the usual shots and had more than enough pictures to keep daddy happy. With the job safely covered I was able to hunt out some different angles, and to take a few risks that may or may not have paid off.
I’d reckoned the organ loft would produce a few good pictures anyway, as I could get the children posing for the congregation at the end of the service, and get that wider view to include the families and guests crowding round to give a fuller account of the story. I used a focal length to just include the kids at first, as I wanted to catch some of their excitement and their interactions with each other. For many of them this was the first special occasion in which they had been the centre point, so they were buzzing.
As I framed the group the boy in the middle, who was my subject, looked up and saw me above him. As his eyes met the lens I checked the focus was right on him and I took the shot. All I got was the one frame, as he quickly reverted to facing forward at the crowd of other picture takers.
I hadn’t known that he would look up, and if he hadn’t I’d have just got some nice pictures of the whole environment, but because I was there and ready, when he did look up I got a picture that I couldn’t have prayed for.
His eye contact demonstrates how we react to other humans. The eyes make us look at him first, and we find it hard to look away for a while. We do, and we investigate all the other things that are going on in the frame, but the first and the last things any viewer will see are those eyes. They are only small in the picture, but their power is undeniable.
As usual I shot this in colour, and converted the file to black and white using the Channel Mixer. The more detailed channel is always green, and its more moderate contrast suits this subject very well. I tempered the bias to green with a touch of red and some noisy blue, but the green channel accounted for 80% of the information.

Using exposure compensation – Walking into the light
Walking towards the light, Millenium Bridge, London
 

Man walking into a streak of light early in the morning.

Here’s a simple but effective way of making a small subject stand out from the background. Early in the morning, or actually any time that the sun is low in the sky, we get great shafts of light that streak between buildings to carve streets in two. Usually, if we allow the camera to do its own thing, these powerful beams of light will appear white and burnt out in the frame, but if you measure and expose for the beam instead of the scene in general, you can use them to great effect.

In this instance I was looking for a way to pick out a single person in this very busy part of London. Often I will do this by using a very shallow depth of field, or by getting close with a wideangle lens. On this morning though the sun was acting as a spotlight on a stage, so all I had to do was use it.

The camera was set to evaluative metering, which obviously was reading for the whole scene. With no interference from me the exposure chosen worked well for the scene but left the area where the sun was falling as a burnt-out white line. Obviously this wasn’t making an interesting picture, or illustrating what I could see with my eyes. The excitement of the scene was that the sun could pick anyone out who walked through its rays – and that is what I wanted to catch.

I was using a manual focus lens at the time, so set the focus point for the paving right where the sun was shining. I guessed that I would need exposure compensation of about three stops (-2EV) so I set this and took a trial shot. It looked about right. I could have set spot metering and measured that way, but I would have had to have walked over to the spot to fill the spot zone, and a guess, with the chance to make corrections, seemed a better and quicker option.

Once I was happy that the exposure and focus were good, I framed the shot and waited for the right person to come along. This is a popular route for runners, school children and to workers travelling to the office. I didn’t really know what sort of person was going to make the best shot, but I knew that when that person came along it would hit me. I didn’t have to wait long for this chap to pass by and make the scene complete. The face, the pose of the arms and legs and the outfit all work to tell us the story of the moment.

Samsung NX100, with Samyang 85mm f/1.4 lens in Nikon fit via a Samsung to Nikkor adapter. 1/500sec @ f/5.6, ISO 100.

See more of Damien Demolder’s recent photographic posts here

To see more of my pictures visit my galleries at www.damiendemolder.com

To see more of my pictures
visit my photo galleries site
at www.damiendemolder.com

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Walking towards the light, Millenium Bridge, London
Man walking into a streak of light early in the morning.
People walking near The Millenium Bridge, London
Without user intervention your camera will record the scene this way.
Colour toning for reality – Palm Tree Reflections
Palm Reflections

Palm Reflections

I took this picture of palm trees reflected in a swimming pool on the last day of a two-week trip to The Dominican Republic. For the whole fortnight I’d been taking pictures of the beach, the blue sky, the swaying palms and all sorts of views and scenes that to me typified the sense of the place. In the end though, looking back over them as the end of the trip came in to sight, I wasn’t convinced that I had really captured what it all meant to me. I had some great images, even if I say so myself, that were laden with messages and atmosphere, but I hadn’t made the shot that reflected my own personal experience of the country or what I would want to remember most.

Sitting by the pool after another excursion along the coast to take more pictures I was wondering what it was I had liked the most about the place and what view I would want to take back with me to remember. It had been a very relaxing trip that was very much needed at the time. I’d been knackered before we left home, and it had taken several days of doing nothing and pure relaxation to bring me around to a normal human state. Work had been pretty hectic and long days had been running into late nights and early mornings, and I’d needed this holiday.


Sitting there, drinking up the atmosphere I realised that what I’d enjoyed most was staring back at me. The reflection of the palm trees in the rippling surface of the water, and the deep blues of the sky enhanced by the blue tiles of the pool’s floor. It is the kind of view you can sit and stare at for hours with nothing going on between your ears.

Adding  the right colour

I made this image to include enough pool edge so that it could be seen to be a pool but with the majority of the frame occupied by the palm reflections and the lines of the tiled floor. I shot in colour, of course, as one would with such a scene, but was surprised when reviewing the images later on at home that the blue I remembered was not as dominant as I had sensed at the time. I resolved this issue by taking a sample of the blue that I remembered from the image using the sampling tool and then switched the colour file to black and white. I did this using the green channel, in Channel Mixer, and then used the Curves tool to lift the contrast a little. Next I created a new colour fill layer, which I flooded with my watery blue, reducing the layer opacity to 10% to allow the detail of the scene to show through.

The final result is not actually a technically accurate representation of the scene I shot, but it is an extremely accurate representation of what I saw, of what I remember and of the essence of being there, in that place at that time. The camera never lies, of course, but it is a dumb instrument that is not capable of understanding emotion and the way the human eye filters what it sees. The camera often needs help to make a picture that conveys what is happening in the mind behind the viewfinder rather than in physical form in front of the lens – and it was one of those occasions.


Samsung GX20 with Pentax SMC FA 43mm f/1.9 lens. ISO 100

See more of Damien Demolder’s recent photographic posts here

To see more of my pictures visit my galleries at www.damiendemolder.com

To see more of my pictures
visit my photo galleries site
at www.damiendemolder.com

Palm Tree reflections - the original version

Palm Tree reflections - the original version


Palm Reflections

Palm Reflections