I'm a city boy. I was born and raised in London, and I’ve lived there my whole life, yet there is still something about a big city that brings excitement to me. It’s like my own playground that I get to run around and explore. There’s always so much to see, and cities are constantly evolving. It provides so much scope to be creative.
If I’m exploring a new city, rather than shooting something specific, I want to shoot with something small and lightweight. For this, I’ve started shooting with the Sony Alpha 7C. I absolutely love that camera. It’s small and barely weighs anything, yet it offers me a full frame sensor with great dynamic range and all of the colour profiles for video that I am used to using. I usually accompany it with a range of compact prime lenses, the FE 24mm f/2.8 G, FE 40mm f/2.5 G and the FE 50mm f/2.5 G. The Alpha 7C combined with those small primes gives me a great kit, without having to carry a huge camera bag. I can just put the camera around my neck and go and walk around a city.
But I also love using the Sony Alpha 7R IV for commercial worked and planned projects, because the high resolution is just incredible and gives me more scope to play around with the image.
Over the years I have become a lot more methodical in my approach. A lot of my research is done online before I go. I find that photography forums, or Instagram, can provide you with some interesting locations and points of interest. Even using Google Maps to look at Satellite or Street View can be a great tool for finding interesting architecture - you can almost get a 360 degree tour without leaving your house!
But there is more to it than simply finding a location. I need to work out where I should be to take a photograph, which requires more research into accessible public spaces, or whether I need permission to shoot in a certain location. Then, of course, there is working out when the best time to shoot is to get the light that I want, which is usually at sunrise or sunset or during ‘blue hour’ - the hour just before sunrise or after sunset.
Making Images Your Own
With so many images out there, it’s important to make images your own, rather than copying someone else’s image. I will often shoot at times when other people won’t bother to take photos - it may be raining or there may be a lot of fog. However, the key differentiator is nearly always your vantage point. If you can find a unique view, then your images will stand out amongst the thousands of others.
One tip I have is to look out for rooftop bars, restaurants or gardens. These places often have great views over a city, and often require a little bit of local knowledge. It’s perfect for me to combine having a drink or something to eat with friends whilst taking some amazing sunset images, but you always have to be mindful and respectful of the venue and surroundings. I will ask permission and often offer to send the venue a photo that they can use, and most are accommodating, so don’t be scared to ask.
Sometimes you may be restricted from having to shoot through a glass window. I use an accessory called a Lenskirt, which is like a large black cloth lens hood that goes around the end of a lens, and a stick via suction cups to glass. It removes any glare or reflection from the glass, including the reflection of the camera, or even myself!
One of my favourite recent images is of some children playing in the fog. I spent about an hour at the location, just snapping street images, just waiting for something to happen. I didn’t know that those children were going to run around and line-up like they did in that frame, but by waiting and being aware of what was happening around me my patience paid off. As soon as I saw the image through the viewfinder I knew that was the ‘the shot’.
"Photography provides the ability to process, appreciate and interpret the world around me"