Mind the Darkness - a personal take on mindful photography

Through my whole life I have been prone to periods of dark moods, anxiety, a lot of ‘what if’ and worries about the future, health, everybody and everything and all in between. When in my teens and early twenties I didn’t even understand what it was as I couldn’t verbalise it, just feelings that crawled inside and outside the body that I tried to push away and in doing so just made it worse. Through the years often fleeting and passing but sometimes for longer periods and that’s where I had to get a little help with the likes of CBT and Mindfulness to get some tools under the belt and if nothing else a better understanding of myself and what my triggers are. One of the best advices I got from a friend that is a psychologist was to ‘invite your anxiety for tea’, acknowledge those feelings rather than push them away as they then fight even more to invade your being consequencently caused panic attacks.

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With time I have learned that the big triggers are when sudden ‘out of my control’ life events happen (you try to deal with it there and then but in the aftermath you put a brave face on and try to emerge out of it like the phoenix from the ashes if a bit singed and dusty) and stress - be it work, home and family, extended family or friends , I also used to obsessively worry about future events that are out of my hand, big gatherings, presentations, routines/work changing, family - the darkness does not discriminate.

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Early on I realised I needed more than just talk and tools, I needed something tangible for me to do and occupy myself with. Gym and exercise is great and I have done different things on and off but never quite stuck by it and it didn’t quite still that mind. Theatre, film and music are great but still not enough immersion and escape. Due to some surprise money around 12 years ago I picked up my first DSLR and I was sold. Initially just family, London landmarks, macro and aesthetically pleasing shots but as everybody around me now know the camera started to come with me everywhere and I began capturing what I saw and observed around me to and from work. That camera being heavy I soon upgraded to a Fuji mirrorless as smaller, sharper, love the output and colours and not so in the face for the people I capture.

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My walks before work got longer in distance and time. I started getting off at tube and train stops way before that days specific work destination. Taking earlier trains to catch the low and golden morning light streaming across the faces of my fellow commuters or pounding rain bouncing off their umbrellas. Grabbing a cuppa around the corner from Charing Cross at 6 am and then slowly make way through the backstreets of Soho to emerge an hour or so later for the job in hand but with images on the camera to review with excitement when I got home. I’m also very lucky to somewhat self manage my time and workload so when finished on site for the day and no meetings before going home to write reports I can wander off for further exploration and capture the inhabitants of our fair city.

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If working in Tuffnell Park or Belsize Park I will walk down through Camden, Mornington Crescent until Warren Street and then West End & Soho until I reach Charing Cross. If in Angel, Islington I would route my movements through either Old Street, Brick Lane, Spitalfields, City & then London Bridge or Camberwell, Farringdon, St Paul’s & Cannon Street. The other day I was in Bayswater and did a little spin around Portobello and Notting Hill then Marble Arch to follow the sun down Oxford Street and Regent Street. For me most routes lead through Soho at some point, even this weekend. Started in Liverpool Street & Shoreditch at midday with my friend Shel to then end up in the middle of Soho and Pride what an amaizing atmosphere.

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The majority of the time is spent alone, this is when I destress and put my demons to right. The walks exercise both the body and mind and whilst concentrating on observing events and details of what is around to capture niggling thoughts and fears tend to become much smaller and fade into the background like just little whispers. I find that if I feel a bit wired from life and work these walks slows both heartbeat and breathing down and everything resting on my shoulders a bit lighter and easier to manage. There is nothing quite like putting 25k steps on the Fitbit immerse yourself in an area with light, shadows, smells and movements to come home and then go through your treasure trove even if you only like to or three out of the 700 images taken. It’s that bone tiredness, creativity and achievement that still those little snapping snakes in the pit of the stomach, sleep suddenly comes easy and it also makes me a happier, kinder and a more patient mother, wife and friend.

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I said often alone but through photography I have also made amazing friends that I meet with regularly for walks and talks. We have rarely if ever met each others partners, families or friends but freely share worries, problems, stress and anxieties but also laugh a lot, discuss, help and coach and put the world to right. We explore and roam the city together, capture and share images (incredible what different things we see despite being in the same location at the same time). We then say goodbye until the next time and go home with spring in our steps.

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I think it is incredibly important for each and all of us to have something that is ours, a hobby, an interest, a sport, an activity and /or outside friends to help with the stress in life and to aid mindfulness and happiness and for me - the camera has done all this and more.

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Light plays a huge part in my photography and I try to capture how it disperses the darkness and the negative space, the shadows it creates and then how it warmly displays or puts a spotlight on my chosen frame. Looking at past and present images I think they are brighter and more positive but then all that depends on the day. Weather and mood can very much influence the output and I think it is probably quite easy to see how I feel if you look at that days clicks.

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The darkness is not so dark anymore, always a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel and those feelings doesn’t worry me as much as it used to in the past. I feel much more philosophical about life and not obsessing about how things are supposed to be or behave.

A tip is also to surround yourself with people you truly want to be with, people that equally give and take as much as you do in the friendships and relationships, truly loves and respects you for who you are and don’t try to change you.

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London Bridge to Bethnal Green........and back

So what do you do with the days between Christmas and New Year apart from stuffing your face further, flake out on the sofa and watch rubbish TV? 

Well if you happened to have given yourself and 35mm f/2 prime lens for your Fujifilm for Christmas then it would be really rude to not take it out for a test run to see how it performed. So on the 28th I got together with my dear photography friend Joe O'malley for a walk through the East End, and boy did we walk. London Bridge to Bethnal Green.....and back

Light and fog on London Bridge

Light and fog on London Bridge

The Crow & the Fog

The Crow & the Fog

The journey which was around 17km by the time I had made it back home took us through Liverpool Street, Petticoat Lane, Whitechapel, Spitalfield, Brick Lane, Columbia Road, Hackney, Haggerston, Cambridge Heath, Bethnal Green, Shoreditch, Old Street with loops and twirls and back streets. Such an experience, almost empty and so tranquil (it will seem most of London were still away or still sat at home on the sofa in PJ's). The weather kept changing from clear blue skies to thick mist and fog that hung over the rooftops which made the most nondescript places look eerie and spooky and put an edge to the street art and candid captures we took along the journey. 

Through of all this I had Joe telling me about the artists that had created the murals and street art we came across. To boot he is also a walking talking encyclopedia when it comes to the history of East End. I learned so much about anything and everything from Jack the Ripper to architecture, estates, transport, storefronts, jobs you name it - brilliant!

Original Store Front

Original Store Front

What was even more brilliant was how the lens performed. No disappointment whatsoever with crisp and clear captures, it didn't keep chasing for focus like the 23mm and did great in the low light and fog. I love the Bokeh and found little if any distortion. I had done a lot of research beforehand as there is also a 35mm f/1.4 on the market but at a much greater cost. The majority of all the reviews seem to suggest it was hardly anything between them so at the lower cost this one was the preferred lens. Well this is my new favourite thing and I have had it with me everyday since  and it just keeps giving.

Below are some of the  many captures from our walk around, I had a somewhat hard time choosing. 

Petticoat Lane

Petticoat Lane

Contrasts of old and new

Contrasts of old and new

Spooky

Spooky

Old derelict Victorian Building

Old derelict Victorian Building

Fun

Fun

Mural near Spitalfield

Mural near Spitalfield

Murals just off Brick Lane

Murals just off Brick Lane

Alleyway of urban art

Alleyway of urban art

Two fingers

Two fingers

Keep breathing

Keep breathing

Watching the world go by

Watching the world go by

Overgrown Bridge

Overgrown Bridge

Spooky park behind Brick Lane

Spooky park behind Brick Lane

Urban Explorer

Urban Explorer

Cold

Cold

Classic Mural 

Classic Mural 

Feeling observed

Feeling observed

Bright boozer

Bright boozer

Columbia Road without the market

Columbia Road without the market

Cheese London, Hackney

Cheese London, Hackney

Beauty and the Beast

Beauty and the Beast

Dining next to Brilliancy

Dining next to Brilliancy

Dundee Arms

Dundee Arms

Foggy Walk

Foggy Walk

Fog in Bethnal Green

Fog in Bethnal Green

Mural in Bethnal Green

Mural in Bethnal Green

an early exit of Chrstmas

an early exit of Chrstmas

Wooden mudguards

Wooden mudguards

I've got my eye on you

I've got my eye on you

E1

E1

Magic light in Old Street

Magic light in Old Street

Sneaking a peek

Sneaking a peek

Shoreditch

Shoreditch

Colourful

Colourful

Stickman oh Stickman.....

Stickman oh Stickman.....

The streets of London

London is amazing! 

Rich in history with a  beautiful architecture, every shop and eatery you could ask for. Markets, theatres and glitzy neon signs; the ultimate bright light big city. 

But in this enormous commercial melting pot you do forget that there are big communities, Soho, Paddington, Shoreditch, Whitechapel, Mayfair, Dalston and so on. A mix of multimillion pound houses and flats plus highrises and social housing. In this you have the resident people from all areas of the world getting on with their day to day lives. Often mundane, but sometimes sad, dark and gritty and it will spill out on the street corners and back streets where the visiting workforce are doing its best to ignore it. Walking past minding their own business and looking away.

Due to the fantastic way my job works I drift in and out of different areas of london at all different times. From dawn to dusk and sometimes later. As I have become more familiar with the areas and also began to notice the local people and the little individual stories that are playing out all around them and us. I found that with my camera on me at all time I started to document and capture this.  

With time I would love to publish a book called 'Streets of London', focusing on the real city behind the bright lights.

 

A photographic take on Woolwich

So my camera and I decided to go out for a walk and instead of heading to my usual haunts in the East End of London I thought we'd go local. I jumped on the bus 122 and et voila, 10 minutes later....Woolwich. 

I often pass through there because of work (even photographed a wedding in the town hall) or because I need to jump on the DLR or overground due our train line being out of action or tube strike or the likes but, I have never just stopped and paused or taken the time to sit down on a bench in the square or on the pedestrianized high street to watch the world go by. 

Well today I did and wow, it blew me away...... the mix of people, market stalls, shops and stories unfolding in front of me was fantastic - a village in the City. I spent several hours walking around capturing one thing or another, literally spoilt for choice andinstead of  jumping on the bus to go back home I decided to walk so I also could get a shot of the beautiful Woolwich Barracks. 

Here are a selection from today that I wanted to share.

A busy summer working

I was incredibly lucky to work on a couple of big advertising projects this summer which fulfilled everything that I enjoy with photography. I was challenged by the creatives that had visions and ideas that I needed to transfer into images, hard but so rewarding and I learned a  lot from it and it made me grow as a photographer. 

The very interesting thing is that one of the jobs I only got because of my street photography and candid captures (which is my passion), to my delight that is what I got to do, for several days I walked the streets with police officers in different parts of London, some areas more challenging than others and a little bit scary at times as well. I got to capture all walks of life and the fantastic characters out there, especially in the East End

For the commercial shoots I strictly use my Nikon 7100 with a 35mm prime but my Fujifilm x-t10 came out to play to and from my jobs and when just hanging around waiting for people. I have also embarked on a diploma in Street Photography to challenge and develope myself further.

Here are a few of my captures but with over 3000 pictures taken I'm still going through them to see what gems I can rustle up.

Spring & Bluebells in Oxleas Wood - Eltham, SE9 (Greenwich)

Spring is truly upon us and I am so lucky to have these woods & meadows on my doorstep where I can go and explore daily if I so wish.

What was great fun this time around is that I finally feel more comfortable with the settings on my Fujifilm X-T10,  I now tend to shoot in aperture and it is very easy to tweak when needed as well as to adjust exposure and ISO. Quite pleased with the bokeh & DoF but plenty to still discover and learn.

This walk was late in the afternoon so approaching golden hour and very few people about, I could hear the blackbirds, robins and the odd schreek from the green parrots and the squirrels and foxes were darting about in the undergrowth (need to invest in a zoom for this). It almost felt like I was in a fairytale and that a Disney princess would suddenly appear amongst the animals and flowers in the golden light.

Mirrorless & Weddings

I was incredibly flattered to be asked by a friend of mine to capture her and her hubby's wedding day last month. I loved the theme of rock'n roll and as luck have it, just down the road at Woolwich Town Hall and then a party in a pub nearby,  I was even more over the moon when they wanted most of it to be captured in a candid format with the exception of a few posed family pictures as this is my default style and at my happiest capturing

It dawned on me then that I could use the mirrorless Fujifilm as a back up and second camera to my Nikon so I didn't have to swap lenses around and it is actually quite good in low light and almost soundless if you turn the mechanical shutter noise off.

As I have mentioned before the battery life is poor on the mirrorless (I only seem to get  about 285 pictures per charge, this is possibly because I have both the eye detector and back display activated) but I have invested in a few extra that I had charged up in advance and kept in my bag for an easy swap. It is also so incredibly lightweight in comparison to the Nikon with the artlens attached that you hardly notice it round your neck.

It's a stressful time I find when you get back home to download and go through the pictures to see that you have captured those special moments and that they are sharp and not blown out or too dark before choosing which ones to post edit, I was very pleased with the results and here are a few pictures from the day.

Street Photography, a joy with mirrorless

So my new toy Fujifilm X-t10 arrived and I have to say, it has been great fun to get to know this sleek and lightweight addition to my gear. Initially I felt lost as all of the dials and settings were different and frankly, the electronic viewfinder first made me feel a bit nauseous but that quickly went away after I hade tweaked the viewfinder sharpness.

I can't get over how light and small it is compared to my Nikon and how well it works in a street photography setting, it doesn't draw any attention to you and it is super sharp.

Polished in Leadenhall Market

Polished in Leadenhall Market

I also find that you can easily 'shoot from the hip' and it comes out surprisingly sharp, in addition the exposure compensation is really powerful and I have played some with the shutter speed but yet to delve deeper into the aperture as that works a bit differently.

Man and his pooch in Greenwich

Man and his pooch in Greenwich

The colours come out beautifully and to my pleasant surprise this little beast competes really well with the architecture, lowlight and landscape captures as well.

Dawn stroll across London Bridge

Dawn stroll across London Bridge

Melford Hall, Long Melford -Suffolk

Melford Hall, Long Melford -Suffolk

The only couple of drawbacks I have found so far are that the battery only lasts for roughly 300 captures (but a spare or two doesn't cost that much) and the lenses are very expensive so I will try to get a converter and see if the Nikon primes I have will work sufficiently. Possibly also the DoF but then I need to experiment more and get to know the aperture settings further before I can really make a call on that.

Hey ho, hey ho, off to work we go -  Bishopsgate, London

Hey ho, hey ho, off to work we go -  Bishopsgate, London

Street Photography

I have found that I am getting more and more passionate about street photography, candid people shots and the day to day life in London. I am incredibly lucky in that my normal job takes me to a different place/area in London every day of the week -  So with the camera always living in my bag I come across everything from gorgeous sunrises over Tower Bridge, cityscapes, steel and glass  in the City, mad hatters in Camden and markets in Spitalfield Greenwich  and Hampstead...all with people getting on with their lives whom are just screaming out to be captured. 

It's very heavy gear to carry as I tend to walk to my destination from main railway stations ( especially with paperwork and laptop that are supposed to go on my journey as well) so I am actually contemplating changing gear, or well adding to it and go down the mirrorless route as it is much less intrusive, incredible clarity in the pictures and  very good in low light. Hours have been spent scouring websites and reviews and have narrowed it down to Fujifilm either the X-T1 or XT10, all depends on the deals out there. The Nikon will stay but more for the specific advertising and commission work that I do now and again.

So watch this space ,another exciting path to go down on the journey of photography.

Here are a few examples what those morning walks to work have produced so far.

tunes on the move in Camden

tunes on the move in Camden

mad hatters

mad hatters

an oxymoron

an oxymoron

arrival

arrival

fenwick

fenwick

look behind the scene of the glitz

look behind the scene of the glitz

high holborn 

high holborn 

photobombed at London Bridge

photobombed at London Bridge

rainy walk to work

rainy walk to work

Cutty Sark views

Cutty Sark views


A collaboration with Capital Art Gallery in Eltham, SE9

Couldn't believe my eyes when I walked past the Capital Art Gallery today, the cheeky collaboration between myself and Karl (the proprietor) had been finished and was on a display in the window, more beautiful and vibrant then I remembered when I saw the first draft. it's a fusion of two locations in London, South Molton Street and New Bond Street.

Why not pop in for a look, 

13 Well Hall Parade
Well Hall Road

SE9 6SP
karlsproat@btinternet.com

Tel: 020 88504939

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New Year, New development and fun

So a new year has arrived and I am wishing you all a healthy and happy 2016. 

We spent some of the holiday in Sweden but to the disappointment of my daughter (and the rest of us) the snow only arrived as we literally were taking off to go back to the UK, saying that though we had sunny days with a beautiful and low sun, great light to take pictures in

 

Skirts under in Nacka, Sweden  

Skirts under in Nacka, Sweden  

We took the new family dog Sluggo for walk and came across a heron taking flight . 

 

Sluggo

Sluggo

Heron in flight  

Heron in flight  

Then on our return we went to Hobbledown for a party which was great fun. 

 

Hobbledown maze of tunnels in the sky.  

Hobbledown maze of tunnels in the sky.  

Exhibition done and dusted

So my first exhibition at Capital art gallery in Eltham has come to an end as of yesterday 5th Dec (saying that, the pictures will be up for most of next week).

A long but fabulous day that started off a little bit slow but meant that all of us artists could mingle, network and get to know each other - amazing group of people with so much talent. Well the afternoon arrived and so did the customers as well as my lovely family and friends. I sold a fair bit and got a couple of orders for customised pictires. My hubby and sister brought some bubbly when picking me up so it was a perfect end to the perfect day.

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The time has come - Exhibition at Capital Art Gallery in Eltham starts 30th Nov

Finally, the Meet the Artist Exhibition has arrived, just putting the finishing touches to some mounts, frames and canvases so it is all spick and span and ready for the upcoming exciting week.

The exhibition runs from tomorrow 30th November to Saturday 5th December which is also the day when all participating artists will be there to chat about and showcase their art. I will also be there on Friday between 12-3pm for you that can't make it at the weekend.

Capital Art Gallery, 13 Well Hall Parade, Eltham, SE9 6SP - Hope to see you there.



Exhibition coming up at Capital Art Gallery in Eltham, 30th Nov - 5th Dec

I am just so excited, myself and another 12 local artists will be exhibiting our work at the Capital Art Gallery in Eltham, Greenwich. It will be everything from photography (my images are a mix of Iconic London, Street & Art photography on canvas, in frames and smaller mounts) to collage art, watercolour, oil, embroidery, acrylics......something for everybody.

The art works will be displayed from Monday 30th November to Saturday 5th December and the 5th is the day when all the artists will be present in the gallery to show off their work, mingle and chat. I have also decided to be at the Gallery on Friday the 4th between 12-3pm incase some people maybe can't make it on the Saturday. The good news is also that the few of us that  were early birds with handing our work in are already up on the walls for anybody that wants a cheeky preview.

Summer is gone and Autumn has arrived

Well that summer was over and done with quickly, Autumn literally snuck in from one day to another and I have to confess that the heating has had to be turned on a couple of times already.

To my absolute delight I found out on my return from holiday that I had sold my two large macro canvases at the Capital Art gallery in Eltham and  there are a few more that has gone up on the wall there for this weekend. Some small jobs are also trickling in and I love each and one of them as much as the other as I come across so many lovely people it is so lovely to get such positive feedback.

I have been very lucky with photo opportunities over that last couple of months with Sweden & Somerset being the highlights but also  a candid walk in Greenwich and as I almost always have the camera in my bag I came across a rainy London as well as some classic shots of our city and the heartbeat installation in Covent Garden. I have also started experimenting with some more macro and lights indoors and love the results.

Here are a couple of pictures...

 

 

Sweden delivers

Finally holiday, two weeks of no work phone or computer, switched off and left at home so can't even access if tempted to check what is going on. 

The weather forecast said it was going to be utterly horrible with rain, cold and wind - to our surprise the sun was out, 22C and the most glorious calm evening with good food and a lot of laughs - camera at the ready and I managed to capture some moments of my Swedes as well as nature

my handsome dad

Hampstead work

Did a little mini job for The Flask in Hampstead today as they have a brand new pub sign to show off, rain, light, bins and vans were against us but I got a couple of usable shots.