What is street photography? by Thomas Kercel

The main aim of street photography is to capture those moments which take place for a fleeting second, it can be an alignment of the street furniture which makes an interesting pattern, an interaction between two people on the street, or something as simple as the unexpected lack of an item on the street.

For instance; I have a friend who currently only takes photos of faces which appear from random patterns in the street, this can be windows, puddles or lights.  He may take only a handful of photos on a walk but those he shoots look great.

Street photography has two key styles; in your face photos of people during their daily life or a more reserved stand back to keep an eye on the world around you.

I'm of the second school and like to observe and watch the oddity that is human life, I love to see how street scenes are different in each country I visit, but still have those same basic qualities of people going about their business.

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Street Photography shouldn't be mistaken with street portraiture; that is pictures of people on the street. Street photography tries to capture living and the some of the bigger questions in life.  The beauty of street photography is you don't need a fancy camera, just a keen eye and a sense of humour.

So get out onto your local street, have the confidence to take the shots that speak to you, and once you are comfortable being out and about with your camera, chat to some of the interesting people you meet along the way. If you're lucky, they'll let you snap them too.

Black and White Film by Thomas Kercel

I was asked a while ago which were my favourite black and white films to shoot with. This is a bit of a leading question and you'll know if you've ever thought about it, that there isn't really a short answer!

So far I have shot with the following black and white films:

  1. Fomopan (100 and 400 ISO),
  2. Kodak Tri-x (400 ISO),
  3. Ilford Delta (100 and 400 ISO),
  4. Ilford HP5 Plus (400 ISO)

To be honest these are only a few of a great number of films which are available on the market today, as well as being the most commonly used black and white films.  I've shot these both in 35mm and 120 (medium format), the format can change the end result a lot as well as the processing method, but I'll not discuss that here I'll leave it for another post.

Fomopan; I discovered this out in the Gulf, my local camera shop stocked it, so I thought I'd try using it in 120. I found it has great detail in the highlights and low lights.  When shot on 35mm the grain really starts to appear, If you like grain this is the film for you.  I've found Fomopan not to be very forgiving, but if exposed correctly can give some amazing results with very deep low lights.

Kodak Tri-X; this is the black and white film that many judge other black and white films by, it has such a cult following.  It produces very precise and sharp images, with great contrast.  Tri-X has great flexibility and forgiveness, it also has the ability to be pushed (adjust the iso from it's rated iso) well beyond what you would expect and still give great results.

Ilford Delta; this is another fine grain film with great tonal ability, producing shots with superb depth of field.  With its fast iso, rich and deep black like velvet, it's great for capturing action and low light scenes.

Ilford HP5 Plus; this is one of the greatest film emulsions of all time, in my opinion. It is especially worth trying if you want to support local British manufacturing.  With fine grain and medium contrast, this is a film for every occasion, with great ability to push and pull.

In conclusion (I said it wouldn't be a quick one liner!), all the above film emulsions are world class and produce great results. The only outlier would be the Fomopan as you need to get to know it well to achieve high quality shots.  It's a case of finding the image you like and playing with the different options to discover your favourite or even shooting with them all.  There are many other black and white films on the market and in a few weeks time I'll write about a few more obscure emulsions I've recently ordered.

 A selection of film

A selection of film

Why Film by Thomas Kercel

I started to write a short piece on my favorite black and white film to use. However, I thought before that, I'd best put a few thoughts down about why a year ago I choose to start using film for photography after a hiatus of 15 years. 

I was encouraged to try film again by a good friend in Qatar, so I fished out my dads old Olympus OM10 to try it again. The first few roles weren't that good and I was a tad disappointed, but I persevered.  The five reasons below are the main reasons I have stuck with film.

Creating Art

The process of developing the film at home makes it special,  it gives me the feeling of producing a piece of art; not just an image.  With film there is a lot of scope for creativity with the film type, processing chemicals, developing processes and even more if you print your own pictures; I'll discuss this further in another post.

careful shots

When the whole process of developing and scanning takes an hour for 12 images on medium format and the same for 36 images on 35mm format; I started to take a lot more care over what I shot and how I composed the shot.  From this my photography started to turn out better with less wasted images and more thoughtful compositions.

equipment variety

You can pick up decent second hand camera equipment off eBay and local markets for very cheap prices, this has meant that I can buy cameras which a few years ago would have been well out of my price bracket, or I can try lots of different cameras.

back to basics

Leading on slightly from the point above, the cameras of yesteryear were very much manual cameras; meaning that they're very back to basics and only some come with the luxury of a light meter, meaning that you have full control over the shot and no fancy technology to distract you from the composition and creativity.

image depth 

Film over the years has had so much development and research that the colour representation in the varying film emulsions has become, to many pleasing to the eye. The same is true for black and white where tones and shades are represented so well.  This also leads to something which offers a huge advantage over digital in that film is often very forgiving if you over or underexpose it.  The reason being that film has a greater dynamic range and means that highlights and shadows are expressed well when it is correctly exposed.

 Film bought in bulk.

Film bought in bulk.

Conclusion

There are many reasons for choosing film, but the above are the ones that I feel I really notice when shooting.  There are also many draw backs to shooting with film which is in part why professionals have moved to digital.

I enjoy the creativity and the back to basics nature that film offers, for some it is just too much effort but, in the end can be very rewarding.

 

UK by Thomas Kercel

I've been back in the UK about 7 weeks now and I'm settling in, although I still have to be reminded how to do things having been out of the country for so long.  

One thing I've noticed is that my photography subjects have changed, in Qatar the life and street photography was my main passion, maybe this was as a result of the lack of landscape photography or my feeling of familiarisation with the area.  Now in the UK I've found that as the landscape is so lush, green and beautiful that it's taken my attention.

With this I feel that I need to focus back on my street photography and capture the people around me a lot more.  However over the next few months I'll be setting up my developing and enlarging studio in my new garage, so check back on the progress, maybe I'll attempt a few vlogs.

Have a look at my latest photos from my first few weeks back in the UK by clicking on the busker of Bracknell, remember to look at my other projects through the Projects section of my site.