...when you're surrounded by 200,000 Arsenal fans celebrating winning the F.A Cup.
OK, so most of these pictures won't pass a street-photography purity test. 'Street' is meant to be entirely candid, without any interaction at all and timed perfectly to capture a unique, completely un-posed moment. When I say 'street' I mean 'I'm out on the street with a camera taking pictures of people'. Simple.
There was little chance of not interacting with the ecstatic swarm around Islington on Sunday. I wasn't there as an candid observer or anything other than an Arsenal fan with a camera. I'd impulsively booked a flight to London from Scotland the night before after watching the game online and thinking "why not?".
It was ridiculous game. An absurd victory. In typical, beautifully-frustrating style Arsenal won their first trophy in nine years. Coming back from two goals down to win in a frantic period of extra-time. It was special.
I knew the celebrations would be special too and, after nine years of waiting, bring out a eclectic mix of people happy enough to have their photograph taken by a strange guy in a wheelchair. I wanted to try and get a few well-lit street-portraits so I'd stuffed a small carry-on backpack with a lightstand, beauty-dish and a couple strobes in the hope of getting a bit creative. I quickly realised setting up a lightstand would be daft.
Sometimes I can only see the backs of people, or children who are at the same level as myself. Children can be ecstatic one minute, and completely unfazed the next. Chilling out in their own world, amongst 200,000 football fans going crazy.
When I see something that might make a good photograph I'll just park myself up and wait for a gap in the crowd to appear. Anticipation and patience. Sometimes once the gap finally appears the subject has gone, moved off into the swarm again, but sometimes I get the shot.
Obviously as far as street photography is concerned this is practically cheating, it almost seems as if everywhere you turn there's something perfectly framed for you. Shooting fish in a barrel.
The next photo is a classic mistake when shooting with a wide aperture. A really fun young family enjoying the day, one of the first people I approached to photograph and I nervously rushed it. Shooting at f2.8 just isn't enough to get them all in focus if they're not all on the same focal plane. Mum and Dad are perfect, I obviously must have had the focus point on there faces, but the cool little boy with an interesting smirk is just out-of-focus. I learnt my mistake too late. If I'd knocked my aperture to f/4, or pushed them back a bit to increase the distance between us, it'd probably have come out better.
As with all the images, click to enlarge.
This man and his son had flown from Thailand to watch the F.A Cup final, and be part of the victory celebrations around Islington and The Emirates. There were so many families, so many fathers wanting to give their children the gift of memories.
This time I made sure that they were both more side-by-side, than one in front of the other, so they're both on the same focal plane and both in focus at f2.8.
As the afternoon wore on I drifted away from the stadium, following the crowds down roads. Roads completely devoted to Arsenal and celebrating the cup triumph. Shops, cafes, restaurants, everywhere you looked there was Arsenal, and big, happy smiles.
Self portrait in a pair of mirrored sunglasses?
Why not....look closely.
CSI: Islington....enhance! Can you see me now?
A fun day, and a reminder of how easy it is to just go out somewhere and get some great photographs. The weather has been terrible in Scotland so far this year, so I haven't been able to fly at all yet. Which sucks, thankfully Arsenal won the F.A Cup to cheer me up and inspire me a little.
So I just wandered around with my old D90 and a 50mm, shooting things that caught my eye. Being in the middle of a crowd, in a wheelchair, is a different experience. Obviously I can't see over people so my focus shifts to details within the crowd itself, rather than what the crowd is there to see. I don't know if it's street, reportage, and portraiture. I don't really care either. It's fun and I enjoy the results.
Shooting all day, from about 0900 until I had to head back to Heathrow for my 1730 flight home, only one person said no when I asked if I could take their photograph. The carnival atmosphere meant everyone knew why I wanted to take their photo, no awkward silences or suspicious questions. I gave out so many cards to people so they could email me for copies.
Here's another awesome looking family. Same thing, shot at f2.8 again.
To get the full length body portrait I was further away than the first young family, in the middle of the road actually. No zoom with a 50mm.
So even though they're not all on the same focal plane, the distance between us increases the depth-of-field to cover them all and they're all looking sharp, sweet.
I was shooting mainly at f2.8 all day, with a circular polariser fitted to try and knock out a bit of light.
I'd packed at 0400 in the morning and forgotten to throw in my 4-stop ND filter which would have been a bit better. I knew things would be busy and it'd be difficult to separate people from the background without a wide aperture.
"F8 and be there" would have definitely worked but probably not given me the style I was going for.
I made close to a nine hundred exposures in about four hours. Of which maybe two hundred are keepers, and about twenty I really like. Edited in LR5, a gentle tonal curve to control the harsh highlights from a blistering sun, and lift some of the facial shadows. The exposure is boosted by half a stop too, with a gentle vignette if needed.
I don't usually venture into 'street' but I think I'll give it another go for sure. It's fun, though not as much fun as celebrating Arsenal winning the cup of course.
Thanks for looking.