Category Archives: Street Photography

Today at Apple

Today at Apple. Well, last Saturday at Apple in their brand new Singapore store on Orchard Road for a photo talk and walk. It was great fun.

I got into Singapore on Friday morning and after a quick meeting with Apple staff, where I was told that the talk had reached maximum occupancy in 24 hours, my good friend Arik Chan – whose photos populate this post – and I hit the streets to scout for good photo opportunities.

Now in a big city on a busy Friday evening of course you are going to find them. I was looking for shots which could guide the participants the following day when we headed out as a group.

I have been on a new photographic path since I began to shoot in Portrait Mode. Why? Two reasons: 1. It slows me down – which is always a good thing to help you improve. And 2: it means I get to engage with people on the street. I get to talk to them as I shoot.

Singaporeans are a friendly bunch. Here are some of the portraits I shot.

iPhone Portrait Mode: Singapore

iPhone Portrait Mode: Singapore

iPhone Portrait Mode: Singapore

We had been worried that the weather might not be kind to us. The talk was scheduled was 5 p.m. At 3 p.m on our way to the store it was lashing, but I had a feeling this would not last.

The structure of the talk was to give a background to myself and my work and to guide and inspire them as to the type of shots we could get on the one-hour photo walk.

Here we go Reviewing some of my favourite photos Some of the participants

I love photo walks. Everyone walks the same route, passes the same things, but sees things so differently I am always amazed at the shots participants bring back; very often shots I wish I had gotten myself.

Shooting

With a group of 50 people it is not easy to give individual attention to each person. So with the help of some Apple staff we broke up into 3 groups and I spent 20 minutes with each.

Look up

It was a blast. Particularly seeing people putting what they had learnt into immediate practice.

Putting Olloclip into action

When we eventually got back to the Apple Store for a 30 minute review of each other’s shots I found myself exclaiming – “Wow!” – many’s the time. If you check the hashtag #todayatapple you can find some of their shots.

Reviewing photographs

I got to thank Monogramasia for their continuing support in all I do. Means a lot! Thanks to Olloclip also – really appreciate the backing. To Apple’s excellent staff in Singapore and of course, to the wonderful people who came to the event and made it such a fun experience for me.

With some of the participants

And last, but not least, to Arik Chan for these great photos of the event. Check Arik’s work here and here.

With my good friend, Arik Chan

Until the next time, Singapore…

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Clare versus Tipp

Down the pairc again. Been a while since there was a match in Cork, but today saw the newly-refurbished stadium packed as Clare and Tipperary battled it out to see who would qualify for the All-Ireland semi-final. The game was no classic. Clare squandered chance after chance and Tipp without ever really hitting the heights managed to get over the line with an impressive 28 points.

Enjoyed the afternoon down there. Here are some shots.

Tipp yahoos not sure where the hell they are

Larry Mackey

A steward with the right idea

In we go

The new Pairc Uí Chaoimh

Stop phoning my camera

Girls

Tipperary

A mother’s nightmare

All to play for

Or maybe not

Tipp win

Home we go

Some bedtime reading

 

 

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Rebel Street Photography

Met up with the good folk of Cork’s Rebel Street Photography group on Saturday to give a street photography workshop to their members.

In preparing for the workshop it was fun to look back through images I had made here in Cork. Made me think I need to get out more and shoot in my hometown.

CORK

CORK

I have given talks and workshops in various parts of the world and shared the stage with some big lights in street photography, but for some reason I was very nervous for this workshop. Maybe because it was in my own backyard. But like most things in life that you get worked up about, it never turns out to be as bad as you have made out in your head. 

Hitting the streets with Cork’s Rebel Street Photography group

I’ve been working on putting together a series of portraits shot on iPhone. This has led to a change in approach for me. Instead of looking for candid moments, I am now enjoying engaging with people, getting to know them a little as I make their portraits.

Linda and her dog Bud

A man from Tyrone

Kofi from Ghana

Andre from Italy

Cork

Cork

Nothing but the truth in this, boy

The People’s Paper

Bam Artist Artiste

Bam Artist Artiste

Bam Artist Artiste

You can learn more about Bam Artist Artiste here. 

Big thanks again to all in the Rebel Street Photography group, particularly Stela who was absolutely brilliant in making the workshop happen!

Rebel Street Photography Group

Kiss the future…

 

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Cork: Munster Hurling Champions 2017

A Sunday in Thurles in July. The Munster Hurling Final. The hurlers of Cork and Clare ready for battle. The sun breaking through the clouds. The crowd anxious and excited. The unknown awaits. This is the stuff of dreams.

Cork versus Clare. Munster Hurling Final 2017. (shot on iPhone)

I fell asleep as a child dreaming of the stories my father told me at the foot of my bed of the glories of the Cork hurlers. From these stories and from going to matches with my dad through the years, Cork hurling has always been one my greatest loves in life. In recent years we have had to watch from a distance as our great rivals Kilkenny and Tipp racked up All-Irelands. This has not been easy. Yesterday, in Thurles was a chance to put things right. I’ve travelled to many’s the game through the years and Cork supporters travel in large numbers, but yesterday was one of the best. Walking around Thurles before the game it was amazing to see just how many Cork people had made the trip up from Cork for the final.

Up for the match

A few pints before the game

Thurles before the match

What way will the game go?

Taking it easy before throw in

Taking it all in

Rebel support

Thurles before the match

The Rebels

The Banner

Getting into the stadium and seeing it awash with red and hearing the rebel roar was electrifying. We were back, but we had to win. The Cork minors set the tone with a great win, beating the Clare minor.

Cork support in the stadium

Ready for action

Cork management team: Kieran Kingston and Diarmuid O’ Sullivan

The game itself was no classic, but it was not short on excitement. Both sides will look back at this game and think they can, and need to, do better. Cork led throughout the game. The early goal from Alan Cadogan and a string of points from Pat Horgan saw Cork lead at half-time and even though Clare got to within two points of Cork when Conor McGrath scored a great goal, Cork had enough to rally and run out five point winners at the end.

Getting close to the final whistle

The Cork line waiting for the final whistle

And there it is! The ref blows it up and Cork are Munster Champions for 2017.

And with that and with thousands of other jubilant Cork fans I stormed the pitch.

Champions!

Champions!

Champions!

Champions!

Champions!

Champions!

Champions!

Alan Cadogan

Man of the Match: Alan Cadogan who still had time to sign autographs for fans

Cork goalkeeper: Anthony Nash

Champions!

Clare fans still flying the flag

 

And on it goes. Five weeks to the All-Ireland semi-final. The dream continues….

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Cork versus Kerry

I won’t get into the match. The less said about it, the better. Suffice to say the little boy in me who dreamed of Cork beating Kerry in Fitzgerald’s Stadium yesterday left the stadium with about 10 minutes still to go in the game as Kerry strolled past an awful Cork team.

But winning isn’t everything as they say. Usually they say this only when you lose. I never say it when we win. But, no, yesterday was about being with friends, catching up. I drove down with a good friend who was home from Australia and who wanted to bring his two kids to their first Munster Final. It was great just to be with them.
Down in Killarney I met up with Tim Bingham and we shot the streets for about an hour before the game began.

Thirsty supporters need their beer. (shot on iPhone 7)

Two confident Kerrymen. (shot on iPhone 7)

(shot on iPhone 7)

Two Kerry lassies. (shot on iPhone 7)

An always-confident Cork fan. (shot on iPhone 7)

A cheerful Cork fan. (shot on iPhone 7)

A barber’s delight. (shot on iPhone 7)

Another delight for a barber. (shot on iPhone 7)

A Kerry fan. (shot on iPhone 7)

A Kerry lassie. (shot on iPhone 7)

Beautiful red hair. (shot on iPhone 7)

Making memories. (shot on iPhone 7)

Some of the crowd. (shot on iPhone 7)

Careful now! (Shot on iPhone 7plus)

That is a big plaster. (shot on iPhone 7 plus)

The lads. (shot on iPhone 7plus)

Shot on iPhone 7plus

An 99. (Shot on iPhone 7 plus)

Some pre-match entertainment (shot on iPhone 7plus)

Some food before throw-off. (Shot on iPhone 7 plus)

A family day out. (shot on iPhone 7 plus)

Game on! (shot on iPhone 7plus)

All to play for. (shot on iPhone 7plus)

The crowd. (Shot on iPhone 7plus)

Kerry lording it over Cork. (Shot on iPhone 7Plus)

 

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Make or take a photo

Can I take your photo? Can I make your photo?

 

Jakarta. April 2016. Shot on iPhone 6s

There is that debate in photography about whether you take or make a photo. I think far too much is made of it to be honest.

Basically the idea is that if you make a photograph you are inclusive of those being photographed in the process, and with them, you as the photographer adds something to the scene.

The idea of taking a photo is that you are extracting something; perhaps not inclusive of those being shot. I understand the ideas and agree with them.

But coming from a language-teaching background, I feel much is overlooked in this dynamic.

The first thing is collocation. What it that? That is commonly-occurring word partners. Example: take and photo most frequently go together. This means that the vast majority of people use this phrase when talking about photography. And from that the expression make a photo can be a little jarring for them when they hear it. It just does not sound natural. 

The second thing is requests like Can I take your photo? are so much more well received if accompanied by a smile and if you can display honesty when you make eye contact. Who cares if your phrasing is make or take a photo if you look like a prick who just wants to exploit someone.

Jakarta. April 2016. Shot on iPhone 6s

This brings back to my winning photo in the recent iPhone Photography Awards and its subsequent media appearances all over the world as the press features the winning photographs of the competition. I was fortunate to have an interpreter with me that morning when I wanted to photograph the man’s hands and feet, but still I believe that despite the language barrier I could have connected and communicated with my subject through body language, smiles, a tilt and a nod of the head and eye contact.

But the curious thing is that with this win and the subsequent media attention I cannot help thinking about the guy whose hands I photographed.

Those hands tell a story; one of hard labour. The photograph also tells another story; one of privilege and good fortune. Of someone who has time and the means to travel and to get excited about the dirt encrusted on a labourer’s hands in a, to-him, exotic part of the world.

Jakarta. April 2016. Shot on iPhone 6s

So did I make or take this portrait? If I made it, what did I add?

I recall when I showed him the photographs I had shot, he nodded, raised an eyebrow to me and nodded acknowledgement again. I thanked him and his co-workers with my limited Indonesian. My friend Elife gave the workers some cigarettes and we left.

I would love to be able to give something back to this man. I cannot imagine him being interested in a print of his hands. Vanity is not something I would associate with him. But what to do? The time has passed and I doubt I could ever locate him.

Jakarta. April 2016. Shot on iPhone 6s

Kiss the future…

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Shandon Street Festival

Beautiful sunshine in Cork today for the Shandon Street Festival. Headed up there with fellow Cork photographers Johnathan Leahy Majaraj, Dee McCaffrey, Gerry O’Riordan, and Tim Bingham who may not be from Cork, but is an honorary Corkman.

Shandon Street is home to the iconic Shandon Steeple and is the symbol of Cork. You cannot come to Cork and not visit to ring its bells and climb to its top for the magnificent panoramic view of the city.

The following photos are of the scene, the crowd and some of the characters of the day. They were all shot on iPhone and processed on Snapseed.

 

 

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Tokyo at night

A little series of images shot on my last trip to Tokyo, in and around Shibuya. All photographs made with Nikon D7000 and edited in Lightroom.

Tokyo: April, 2017 (Nikon D7000)

Tokyo: April, 2017 (Nikon D7000)

Tokyo: April, 2017 (Nikon D7000)

Tokyo: April, 2017 (Nikon D7000)

Tokyo: April, 2017 (Nikon D7000)

Tokyo: April, 2017 (Nikon D7000)

Tokyo: April, 2017 (Nikon D7000)

Tokyo: April, 2017 (Nikon D7000)

Tokyo: April, 2017 (Nikon D7000)

Tokyo: April, 2017 (Nikon D7000)

Tokyo: April, 2017 (Nikon D7000)

Tokyo: April, 2017 (Nikon D7000)

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Photography and mindfulness

Mindfulness.

Edinburgh: 2010 (Nikon D40)

Seems like we are missing out if we cannot tune out. We are always on.

I know my mind is a bit like a tumble dryer – always on – always spinning. Wish I could just switch it off – vacate the premises – leave no lights on. Just go!

The pip-pop life span of worries (Nikon D7000)

There is always something churning, something burning.  I do not neglect my worries. No, I tend to them carefully. One may slip off, but I can skilfully substitute. I might wake and feel all is right with the world and right with Brendan, but then I sense it. This hollow echo slowly vacuuming.  Then it returns. This slight uneasiness; a nagging knowingness that something is just not fully right.

Dublin. 2016 (Nikon D7000)

What utter nonsense it is to feel like this. I can rationalise it, intellectualise about it, but I cannot rid myself of it. I feel – on – all the time.

But do I?

Recent conversations I have had about photography with friends has gotten me thinking. First one was with Sheldon Serkin in Bangkok. He asked me what getting in the zone when shooting street meant to me. He was to give a talk the following morning about this at the 8 x 8 Street Photography Conference. About how when you are out shooting, that you get in the zone. Whatever that is. For different people it is different things.

I stopped and thought.

I think, I said, for me, it is switching off. I lose sense of my surroundings, of noises. Things become narrowed. I become super-focussed on my immediate environment, and the only distractions I have are visual ones.

Later, with more reflection, I told him – when I am out shooting and I zone out I am on an accelerated path, excited, exhilarated to be in the moment. Scenes, looks, people, flash and vanish. It is dreamlike. I am – off.

When I step out of this moment, I said, it is weird. Slowly, and then suddenly, noises, like traffic, people talking, rush in. I might find myself in the middle of the road, or down on my knees on the pavement, or pushed up against a wall and realise I need to move, to get back into the normal rhythm of things. I feel invigorated, exhilarated; alive! It is euphoric and addictive. Does it happen all the time. Hell, no! But when it does – wow!

He told me for him, when he gets in the zone,  he feels invincible, invisible. Instinct and intuition kick in and he feels on. Conversely I feel off. Freed. But I do agree with the instinct and intuition kicking in.

Delhi, 2016 (Nikon D7000)

Now, for me, I have tried mindfulness. I have laid on a bed in a dark room. Slowed my breathing, drew it into the depths of my tummy, held it there and then exhaled. Repeated and repeated. Tried this for days after days. Did I feel less stressed? Did my worries fall off my shoulders Did they fuck? I am too restless. I lie on the bed and try to free my mind; to just concentrate on my breathing. It works for a few minutes, but then slowly thoughts crowd in and I am not in the moment anymore. They tell you to embrace this, not to chase those thoughts away, that gradually a quietness will come. But I have never got beyond that, to be honest. When this happened, I just stopped.

But when I get in the zone on the streets, it is not a voluntary act or decision. Somehow I slip into this mode and all the noise just gets shut out. Nagging thoughts do not intrude. I am not even aware of this until I slip back out of the zone.

Hong Kong, 2014 (Nikon D7000)

Move on to the next conversation, one I had with my friend, Paul Moore at the excellent MojoCon conference last week. He was talking about how he likes to stay up late at night and work on his photos. He said for him it was a form of mindfulness. Now, I had never ever imagined that editing images could be a form of mindfulness. But once he said it, I banked the idea, and have returned to it over the past week or so, and I have to say he is right. Very right. It is a form of mindfulness. One that suits me. One that does bring me a calm. OK, lots of times it can be frustrating when you learn that your photo is crap. But while editing, I am immersed in the process – with each Lightroom slide, I am willing the photos to life, willing them to be right. And for those moments, I am back in zone, back out on the street and the emotion, the excitement, the connection and all-consuming immediacy of that moment is there with me again, but now it is calming, rather than exhilarating.

Berlin, 2015 (Nikon D7000)

The older I get, the more I realise how dumb I am. How unaware of it is what I do, the things that can make me happy, the things that just add to my stress.

Simple things like surrounding myself with positive people. Those who love grey skies, let the clouds hide them from my life. Be kind. Be kind to myself. From that it is much easier to be kind to others.

Can photography be a form of mindfulness? Do we make the mistake in thinking that mindfulness is only with your eyes closed, your breathing slowed and all the while crippling yourself in a lotus pose? I think I have.

Cork, 2014 (Nikon D 7000)

So often in my photography I fear I will never get another good shot. I find it hard to motivate myself and I can become so self-critical. I feel I won’t rediscover that exhilarating feeling of being in the moment; in the zone. It’s like many things in life, you cannot force it. I cannot explain how it happens, how it comes. But it does come. Not often enough though. When it does, I just seem to slip into it. Feeling the freeing rush of the noise being blocked out in my head, I am in the moment. I don’t need to be in a darkened room. I don’t need to become conscious of my breathing and battle intruding thoughts. It is an intense awareness of what is happening around me and the opportunity to capture it in frames. It is my mindfulness.

Dublin, 2014 (D7000)

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iPhone Portrait Mode

“But it’s not a real camera!”

2017, and we are still hearing that.

Bangkok -iPhone 7plus – Portrait Mode

At the recent 8 x 8 Street Photography Conference in Bangkok I gave a talk on how the limitations of the iPhone resulted in my experimenting and pushing things creatively. It was a fun talk, but a talk that had impact. One that got people thinking, and one that has encouraged people to embrace mobile shooting.

Galway – iPhone 7plus Portrait Mode

For me, moving from film to digital changed the way I shot simply because I was able to review the images immediately and shoot more. Result being I made more mistakes and I learnt more. But once I began to embrace shooting on the iPhone it changed the way I see; it changed the way I think. Why? Again, it is simple I went from a situation of having a camera – a big, heavy DSLR (that I love to this day) sitting in a drawer only taken out on occasion, to one where I had a camera with me 24/7. Gone were the times when I would see a scene and say to myself:

“Oh, I wish I had a camera with me.”

I always had a camera with me. And instead of passively happening upon photographic opportunities, I was now actively seeking them and actively creating them. I began to see, think and create photographically.

Bangkok – iPhone 7plus – Portrait Mode

Sure, there were limitations. Small sensor which meant poor quality images in low light. But this allowed me to experiment and create images like this in low light conditions.

iPhone 5 (2013)

No zoom? Ya, and that meant I had to zoom with my feet and get in close getting the shot. I also began to discover how perfect the small and discreet iPhone was for street work.

iPhone 4: 2012

A fixed lens? Again, this resulted in more considered compositions. More awareness of what to leave in and more importantly what to leave out of an image. When I look back now at the images I shot with the iPhone I can see how particular I was about composing images; the attention I gave to what I was photographing in an image, and what I was not photographing (what to omit) in a frame.

Tokyo – iPhone 6, 2015

No changeable lenses? Well, there are add-ons – great lenses like the Olloclip ones. But again, I did not want to use them straight up. No, I wanted to experiment and see what else they could do. Macro lens portraits? Ya, why not?

iPhone 6: 2016

And the latest imperfection that causes people to say: “But it’s not a real camera, though, is it?”

Portrait Mode is Apple’s attempt to mimic the bokeh effect that real cameras can achieve. It creates a depth-of-field effect blurring out background and making your subject in the foreground stand out. Can a phone camera really do that? Sure it can!

Tokyo – iPhone 7 plus Portrait Mode

Again, it is something I can achieve with so much more ease on my Fuji or my Nikon, but for some reason it feels differently on those cameras. Working in Portrait Mode with the iPhone is frustrating. You get notifications from the camera telling you to move closer, mover further away, place your subject within 2.5 metres until the DEPTH EFFECT in bright yellow appears. I imagine in years to come we will look back at these notifications and marvel at them. For now, it is slow. It is frustrating. It is hard to use in low light. But here’s the thing: because it slows you down, you become more considered about composition paying more attention to what to leave in and what to leave out of the shot. You become more deliberate about getting things in focus to achieve that depth-of-field bokeh effect.

Seoul – iPhone 7plus – Portrait Mode

And it has changed how I shoot on the street. It brings me closer to the those I am photographing. I have to get close and I have to slow down. Where before I was in close but I was on the move, now I am close but I am with them. This has meant a change. Before I would rarely talk with people on the street. Sure, I would exchange a smile, at most a small few words. Now, I find I am engaging, exploring, getting to know the people I am making portraits of. I could not have imagined this before getting the iPhone 7 plus.

Tokyo – iPhone 7plus – Portrait Mode

Take this one encounter from last Saturday’s MojoCon photo walk in Galway. I saw this man approach. Before I would have slalomed towards him, got in close and shot a burst of images, not looked back and carried on to the next character who caught my attention. This time, I went up to him, introduced myself and asked if I could take his photo (I think the make your portrait or take your portrait thing is nonsense – it is not the collocation of words – it is how something is said and the manner it is said). Sure, he said. I thanked him and began to compose the frame. I told him I was from Cork, up in Galway for a conference and asked him where he was from. He was from Oranmore, about 10 miles from Galway. He had come up by bus. Usually did, he said, on a Saturday afternoon. What did he like to do here, I asked. Place a few bets, have a few pints. Today was a bad day, he said. He had lost and he now had time to kill before he headed back to Oranmore, but at least it was a fine day. Did I like Galway, he asked. I told him I did. I showed him the photos. He nodded his head as he looked at them. I thanked him. We shook hands.

Galway – iPhone 7plus – Portrait Mode

It is a departure for me to engage so much with people on the street. I never had much problem getting in close to get the shot, but I was, could I say shy or even embarrassed to engage with people. Shooting on Portrait Mode has caused me to slow down – focussing takes time – it is frustrating and you do miss shots. But on the plus side it results in a new, fresh approach in street photography for me and it is invigorating.

 

Galway – iPhone 7 plus – Portrait Mode  

But it’s not a real camera, ya? No, it is so much more than that. It’s a wonderful springboard for creativity and experimentation, fun and learning. Embrace its limitations.

Kiss the future…

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