Tag Archives: streetview

Canterbury at Night and Brassai’s “Paris de Nuit”

One of the most precious photography books in my collection is Brassai’s “Paris de Nuit”.  This was given to me by my father about 20 years ago and is a well loved copy which detracts from it’s monetary value (it remains the most valuable book I own despite the wear) but in no way detracts from the images.  These images, along with those of Sudek have formed one of the back-bone of my photographic education. Interestingly though, I never felt moved to emulate any of their work at the time.  But last year, or it may have been the year before, I spent a number of winter nights tramping around the streets of Canterbury doing a Canterbury de Nuit series.

By way of background to Brassai, this Hungarian born photographer forms part of that rich stream of photographers that flowed out of Europe during the early part of the 20C.  He worked mainly in Paris and died there in 1984, after a life of work in photography.  His commercial commissioned work is largely forgotten now but his legacy of personal work is formidable.

And so to Canterbury at night…

Canterbury Junction Canterbury Junction Canterbury Junction Canterbury Junction Canterbury Junction Canterbury Junction Canterbury Junction Canterbury Junction Canterbury Junction Canterbury Junction

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Some snaps taken out of the car window whilst driving back through London today

Making use of those idle minutes waiting for the lights to turn green.

There are some very colourful buildings going up at the moment and some curious naked women too!

London Streetviews London Streetviews London Streetviews London Streetviews London Streetviews London Streetviews

London Streetviews

With two shoots, I had a busy day yesterday but found myself with a two hour gap, sitting in my car, without a trendy coffee shop in sight, in the rain, in one of London’s less pictorially celebrated areas and not far from that wonder of sixties civil engineering(?), the A4 Brentford flyover.

A4 Great West Road, West London

Sorry, it look rather pathetic this size, it really does need to be be big to be effective!!!

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My professional work is all about focus, not (only) in a technical sense but also in the sense of needing to get a particular and predetermined result out of every situation. So to be able to wander around the streets of a city that is not my own just taking pictures, like I did in Amsterdam, is a visually liberating experience.  I don’t do a huge amount of “traditional” street photography but here are couple from the Amsterdam trip…

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Amsterdam 2012

Amsterdam 2012

Street View vs 360/180 Panoramas (vs single Images)

City of London

City of London

I started writing this thinking I that I would have something critical to say about Google’s Streetview.  However, once I got started and my thoughts fell into some sort of order it became clear that even though the world through Streetview is entirely pervasive and inescapable and has transformed our perceptions of what is familiar and unknown, it is not the creative bogey man I thought it might be.

First off I should acknowledge that I use Streetview extensively for work and find it an invaluable tool  but nevertheless I felt that my own efforts to shoot stitched panoramas were rendered somehow rather pointless given that Streetview has revealed every corner of the world in 360 degree glory (with very few exceptions) at the click of a mouse. My thoughts were inspired by a panorama project that I started a couple of years ago and that is ongoing.

I started (along with millions of others) to shoot 360/180 panoramas in the early naughties. My first efforts were predominately interior views of public buildings and considering the ropey software that was available at the time, they looked pretty good.  This is a view of the Cloisters of Canterbury Cathedral done in 2004.

Cloisters of Canterbury Cathedral

More recently, I embarked on a long-term project of landscapes of London using stitched techniques. (The recently posted images of the QEII Bridge are part of this endeavour). There is no part of London (or anywhere else for that matter) that is not covered in 360deg by Streetview.  As a result 360/180 views are commonplace and do not have the intrigue that they once may have had… so how can one work with stitched panoramas in a way that retains a degree of intrigue and uniqueness?

Looking back over the views produced since the London project began, (around 25 or so) I now realise that by shooting at dusk and/or night and by positioning myself in slightly more unusual places I have achieved images that are to a degree different and unique.

At it’s core all photography is about selection and timing.  (Perhaps I should qualify that by saying “straight photography using a camera”!)  In a sense 360/180 images negate the first of these in that there is no selection other that where you position the camera but that in itself is a form of selection.  And timing is simply a matter of when you take the image so on both counts a 360/180 image scores.  By using a combination of unusual vantage points and working in non-daylight or semi daylight hours one can, at least to a degree produce images that are at once similar but different to Streetview and that have their own integrity.  In addition I rarely produce full 360/180 images and nearly always crop in to the image.

That said, even though they are quite fun things to make, nothing beats a great single image!

This one was shot in 1989 with my battered Nikon FM2 (and as an aside, clearly demonstrates the difference between film and digitally originated images but maybe that is a subject for a separate post).

Holy Island, Northumberland

Holy Island, Northumberland