Criminal podcast: It looked like fire

Edward Crawford throwing a tear gas canister during Ferguson Protests

Edward Crawford returns a tear gas canister fired by police who were trying to disperse protesters in Ferguson, Missouri. Four days earlier, unarmed black teenager Michael Brown was shot to death by white police officer Darren Wilson. The killing ignited riots and unrest in the St. Louis area and across the nation. (Robert Cohen, St. Louis Post-Dispatch – August 13, 2014)

If you’re interested in photography it’s likely you know this photograph. What you may not know is the story of the people behind it; Edward Crawford, who’s throwing the tear gas canister and Robert Cohen, the photographer. The story is told in a recent episode of the excellent Criminal Podcast. If you enjoy good audio documentary I’d recommend Criminal.

This image is part of a series of photographs from the Ferguson riots shot for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch which won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Photography.

Congratulations to Robert Cohen and his colleagues.


Fujifilm x-series JPEG files

A trio in close conversation in Tap coffee


Having read recently read Kevin Mullins’ article detailing how he set the custom film profiles on his Fujifilm X-series cameras I was keen to give it a go on my new Fuji XT1. Although I’ve been shooting with my X100s for some time it’s mainly been in RAW.

Fujifilm X-T1 jpeg file of a cup of coffee in Tap Coffee, London.

I was in Soho yesterday and decided to forgo the RAW, shoot JPEG and see how they came out. Let me be the first to say none of these are going to win any awards but they give a good cross-section of lighting situations.

Fujifilm X-T1 jpeg file of a patisserie shop worker admiring his wares

The commonly accepted wisdom is that JPEG files just don’t give the necessary flexibility in editing.

By virtue of the fact a RAW file includes all the available data and a JPEG doesn’t, then the RAW file has to be the safer way to shoot. However do we always need that additional data?

If I’m shooting for a client then, yes, I’m going to buy the insurance of a RAW file. But if I’m just shooting some street photography as I wander Soho on a Saturday afternoon, then on the evidence of these shots, for me, JPEG is good enough.

Fujifilm X-T1 jpeg file of a darkly light London street scene

Kevin details how he sets his custom settings in his post. I found when I used his settings on my X100s I was losing all the detail in the blacks. As the XT1 has the same sensor as the Fuji X100s I decided to back off the shadow settings a little. These are the settings I used:

Black & white (using the B&W+R film simulation)
Highlights -1
Shadows +1 (KM: +2)
Sharpness +1 (KM: +2) – this change more to see the difference than any science.
Dynamic Range (Auto)
White Balance (Auto)
Noise Reduction -2

Fujifilm X-T1 jpeg file of a man drinking in the Milk Bar, London

Generally, I’m really happy with the look. It’s far more to my liking than JPEGs from my Nikon D700. The blacks in these shots aren’t as dark as on the test with the X100s. If I were going to use these elsewhere I’d like to increase the contrast a little, so it could be my metering that was at fault on the first test. Maybe I’ll give Kevin’s settings another go.

If you’re using the Fujifilm simulations I’d be interested in hearing the settings you’re using?

The World through my Holga : New York

view under the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge from Roosevelt Island

I thought it was time for a little bit of colour around here. I’ve been sorting through some recent shots prior to an overhaul of the web site. In the process, I’ve come across a few Holga shots that I haven’t posted before. No matter how digital I get I still love the look of the world through the simple lens of my Holga.

The first three were shot in Manhattan and the last one was a farm we passed while we were lost somewhere in the Catskills in upstate New York. I remember this very fondly as one of my favourite parts of the trip.

You can see the full Holga gallery here.

The store front of Russo's café, Manhattan

Store front of a Beauty Bar in Manhattan, New York

A tumbled down red barn in New York state

Riding the San Francisco streetcar

A rough sleeper on the San Francisco streetcar.

This guy was in quite a bad way. He’d lost more than the skin off of one of his knees at some point and was wearing the sort of ground in dirt you don’t get in a few days – he’d been sleeping rough, as we euphemistically call sleeping on the cold, unforgiving ground, for some time.

Coming from London I suppose I’ve got used to seeing people sleeping rough on the streets, maybe I don’t always notice them. To a degree they’ve become part of the fabric of the city. I was far from prepared, however, for the sheer number of those inhabiting every public space in San Francisco.

Coming from London I suppose I’ve got used to seeing people sleeping rough on the streets, maybe I don’t always notice them.

Our friend here was in better health than many, he was drinking, yes, but he was lucid, he was aware of what was happening around him. So many seemed to occupy a world of their own. In some way with us and yet somewhere else at the same time. I’m sure drugs have a lot to do with it. But it seems far too easy to dismiss it as something they brought on themselves.

I had to remind myself I was on vacation in one of the wealthiest cities, in the wealthiest country in the world. This is California in the United States of America. The home of the dot com billionaire, California alone has the world’s eighth-largest economy.

Surely it can do more to help him and the hundreds like him.

Street Photography: Princess May boot fair

Part of an ongoing ‘Sunday Morning series’, shooting street photography at the Princess May boot fair. It saves me from hanging around aimlessly while my beautiful wife is looking at the clothes (again).

Street photography: A man & his daughter at the Princess May boot fair

I’ve struggled back and forth between colour and black & white. My eye defaults to b&W for street photography too easily, I’m aware of that, and this market is generally bursting with colour. But then that b&w looks so clean, classic and so beautiful. However that colour it does catch the eye… there’s red in there you know. You see how it goes. I tried to resist the dark side but in this instance I just couldn’t ….

Street photography: A man searching for bargins at the Princess May boot fair

Street photography: A group talking at the Princess May boot fair

Street photography: A woman in a headscarf at the Princess May boot fair

If you’re ever there on a Sunday morning I’m the guy with the camera and the ‘I need a coffee‘ look. Come over and say hi.

Event photography: Multi-story orchestra

Christopher Stark: conducting the Multi-story Orchestra in Peckham, London

The concept of an orchestra basing itself on the seventh floor of disused multi-story car park in Peckham, South London, is not one that immediately jumps to mind. But it works, really well. I had a great time shooting the Multi-Story Orchestra before their concert last Saturday and the concert itself was superb. The event is one of many, in the car park, organised by Bold Tendencies.

Viola solist with the Multi-story Orchestra in Peckham.

Being a disused car park the ceiling is low and the floors are open on all sides, so on a cold, windy, day it would have been pretty unpleasant. However, it was one of those warm clear days that can, sometimes, be a little hard to come by in London. I was lucky with the lighting, the ‘stage’ was lit well with a lot of small spotlights all around. So as the sun dropped the lighting worked really well picking the musicians and their sheet music out really nicely.

2nd violin with the Multi-story Orchestra in PeckhamThe multi-story orchestra are performing twice more this season, Beethoven’s 7th Symphony, on the 12th & 13th September. I’d recommend it if you get the chance to get along.

Double-basse player with the Multi-story Orchestra


Gravesend Street Portraits

I had a great couple of hour shooting some street portraits in Gravesend last Sunday. I took the opportunity to hand out some of my ‘We Are Gravesend’ flyers, hopefully I contacted with some interested participants.

If you’ve landed here after meeting me on Sunday please get in touch, I’d love you to take part in the project.

A portrait of a young couple, Steve & Adele, in Gravesend.

Steve & Adele

A portrait of Wendy on the street in Gravesend.

Wendy – who stopped even though she’d just finished her night shift

A portrait of a young woman, Isabel, in Gravesend.


Thanks to everyone who took the time to stop.

Working with animals

A woman and her dog in a shop in Shoreditch, London

I’d never really considered whether the adage about ‘Never working with children and animals’ was true. Until I approached this lady who was taking it easy in a very ‘Shoreditch’ clothes shop / coffee shop and asked if I could take her portrait with her dog.

She was charming and agreed straight away. No matter how much I tried the get the bloody dog’s attention he was having none of it. He almost has the ‘I know you’re there but I’m ignoring you’ look on his face – I guess I’m lucky she didn’t have kids with her!

Summer at Batemans

I don’t make the effort to get out with my Hasselblad as often as I would like, but when I do I’m very rarely disappointed with the results. If you’ve ever used one you’ll know it’s not a camera to be rushed, but that guides the type of shot you take. So inevitably they’re more contemplative than they might be with a smaller, lighter, camera.

Just to emphasise the scale of the backlog in my film developing, scanning and posting, this shot which I scanned last week is not from this summer, it’s not even from this year, it’s sometime during the balmy days of last summer.

A young boy sitting under a tree at National Trust property Batemans,

This is the former home of Rudyard Kipling, now a National Trust property, Bateman’s.