I’ve made some odd decisions recently, most of which have been centred around a photowalk I attended in London. lndnwlk 3.0 was organised by Johnny Patience, Rebecca Lily and by Mathieu Gasquet and Heather Broster of MirrorLessons. The walk was to begin at Buckingham Palace and cross through much of central London before terminating at a restaurant in Shoreditch.
Preceding the walk Johnny Patience held a workshop in the Leica Studio in Mayfair, concerning the practicalities of metering for film. The aforementioned decisions were ones that seemed sensible at the time; I was to take my Hasselblad, as it is my favourite, I would use the waist level finder, as it would keep the overall size and weight down, and I would wear my favourite boots. What became immediately obvious, as I was walking from the station to the studio was that these boots, as I should have remembered, are what my partner would refer to as, ‘standing and sitting shoes’.
With feet already sore and irritated I arrived at the workshop, and was immediately met by a group of nice photographers clutching nice Leicas. People seemed intrigued by my decision to use a medium format, wlf camera for street photography. Their level of interest suddenly made me feel very stupid. I know the ‘blad well, and trust it to provide me with images under most circumstances, but the sudden realisation came that I should have brought my GW690, my Texas Leica, to what was clearly a rangefindery event.
The walk was fun, becoming more of a chance to talk with other photographers, and to grab the occasional shot, rather than an out and out photo hunt. My personal practice is often one that I pursue alone, or perhaps in a small group which is then centred around a particular location. With thirty or so photographers walking together across a fair swathe of London, etiquette became interesting. Is it okay to shoot something someone else has spotted? Can you hold up the group to get a photo? How lost will you become if you allow them to get out of sight?
The workshop had been about the freedom one can find shooting film, that obsessive metering can crush the spontaneity upon which photography can thrive. In this vein, I played with my exposure, metering occasionally as conditions changed but ostensibly winging it. I am happy to say that most of what I shot on the day was pleasingly exposed. My favourite part of the walk was when we encountered a post-election demonstration that provided some unexpected subject matter, and I grabbed a few shots of those demonstrating and of those policing the event.
Unfortunately at least three of the images I was most excited about, were scuppered by misses in focus. Those images taken with the greatest level of freedom-infused spontaneity were too soft to publish, even if the exposure was about right. (In my defence nailing focus at f/2.8 on a 6x6 frame using the ground glass, sans loupe, and with a new-found feeling of excited freedom, is a challenge, and one that in this case I missed on a couple of crucial occasions).
Had I taken my big fuji, my experience would have been different, although not necessarily better. The renewed enthusiasm for shooting film borne out of the workshop has not been dampened by my focus issues, although I shall embrace the big Fuji for street in future. I’ve also lined up a fair amount of Portra 400 for use in my EOS3 during some upcoming adventures and hope to regroup with some of the gang from lndnwlk 3.0 in August for another go.
In the meantime I plan to invest in some decent footwear.