Archive

November 2018

Browsing

London’s Chinatown is great fun to explore with your camera especially if you enjoy street photography.  The atmosphere is always festive and reminiscent of Hong Kong’s Night Market (without the street vendors and stalls).  Is Chinatown one of the best places to photograph London?  Yes, for the pure enjoyment of it all.

Once home to Huguenot and Maltese immigrants, the area of Chinatown as we know it today started to form in the 1950s when a handful of Chinese restaurants opened. With other businesses and services moving in, by the 1960s and 1970s the neighbourhood had become a hub for Chinese culture.
The original London Chinatown was actually in Limehouse, in London’s East End. Chinese employees of the East India Company settled at the docks in the late 19th century and helped to create a Chinese community. However, a decline in shipping and large-scale destruction of the area during the Second World War saw this quarter dwindle by the mid-20th century.

Geographically, Chinatown is bound by Shaftesbury Avenue to the north, Rupert Street to the west, Charing Cross Road to the east and Leicester Square to the south. The main focal point is Gerrard Street, which runs through its centre. Chinatown is part of London’s West End.

Where is Chinatown in London?  How do I get to Chinatown?
London Chinatown GPS Coordinates ::  51.5118° N, 0.1311° W

There is Tango, then there is Milanga.  Milanga houses can be found throughout Buenos Aires and this is where the locals go dancing for themselves.  The scene is genuine and so very romantic.  Men stay on one side of the room and women stay on the other.  When a song begins to play the men will approach the women asking for their hand to dance.  Such chivalry and I love it.

The woman is free to decline, but mostly dance partners changed throughout the night.  Young, older and middle-aged dancers from every part of society became one in the dance hall.  There were more sensuality and beauty in this room than “The Last Tango in Paris.”  I’ve never felt anything like this before and I was merely tucked off to the side of the dance floor with my camera.

The milonga is a very special thing. A simple description is an organized event where people can dance the tango. The word milonga also is a type of tango music and a style of dance that is performed to that music. On any night in Buenos Aires, you can find a milonga filled with people sitting around the dance floor, drinking their wine or champagne and watching, and being watched. But not everyone in the milonga is the same. Oh no, that would not be tango. Everyone has a role to play and there are definite hierarchies in place. There are maestros that travel and teach around the world, there are tangureros that perform on stage and for your tourist pleasure in La Boca and San Telmo, there are the organizers that provide spaces for dancing, there are DJ’s that keep the dance floor moving, there are live orchestras and tango singers. There are the tango “sharks” that prey on tourists in the milongas. There are the old milongueros who were probably one of the above in their youth, but now they come to the milongas, not because they want to dance, but because it is what they have always done.

The people that go to milongas are not professional dancers. They have “real jobs” and simply love tango. 

The night at the Milango was one of the most beautiful nights I experienced in Buenos Aires.  The scene was straight out of a romantic movie except this night was real.

Where can you see the Milonga?

La Catedral del Tango
Sarmiento 4006 (Casi Esquina Medrano) Buenos Aires
Tel: 15-5325-1630
When to go: Any day of the week, but Wednesdays and Saturdays are the most popular.
When to arrive: The milonga starts at 11 pm.
When things get good: Lots of people stay after the class to practice what they have learned.
Why you should go: La Catedral is an institution. It is definitely one the unique spaces in Buenos Aires and has a very relaxed feel. You won’t see a lot of top dancers there because the floor is not the best but this is what makes it a comfortable space for beginners to give it a try. They have classes for beginners every day starting between 6 and 7 pm. Contact them for details.
Pro tip: Dress casually; the atmosphere is something like a dive bar.

La Milonga de Los Zucca
Humberto Primo 1492, Buenos Aires
Tel: 15-6257-7513. (text only)
When to go: Thursdays
When to arrive: Before 11 pm.
When things get good: Around midnight.
Why you should go: If you want to see men in bespoke suits and women in their best dresses, this is the place to go. Located in a grand old hall there has been a milonga every Thursday in this space for years
Pro tip: Make a reservation and dress to impress.

La Milonga del Indio
Plaza Dorrego, San Telmo
When to go: Sundays
When to arrive: Go find a good spot to sit when the market closes.
When things get good: Most dancers arrive around sundown.
Why you should go: This milonga is located in the middle of the San Telmo market. It is very casual and relaxed and happens every Sunday, cancelled only if it rains. It is very relaxed and you definitely won’t be the only tourist taking photos.
Pro tip: Bring bug spray… the mosquitos come out after dark just like the tango dancers.

La Viruta
Armenia 1366, Buenos Aires
Tel: 4774-6357
When to go: Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays or Sundays
When to arrive: Around 2 am (I said late night didn’t I?)
When things get good: Around 3:30 or 4 am the dance floor is at its max and everyone has arrived.
Why you should go: La Virata has the feel of a dance club that just happens to play tango music. It is something like the after party of tango – EVERYONE goes here when the regular milongas end but they don’t want to stop dancing.
Pro tip: Ask the waiter to seat you or expect to be moved from your seat later. Also on Friday and Saturday after 4 am they serve “Desayuno” (medialunas and coffee). Don’t wait too late to order on busy nights; they have been known to sell out. All the tango dancers agree they are some of the best medialunas in the city.

Confitería Ideal
Suipacha 384, Buenos Aires
Tel: 4328-7750/4328-0474
When to go: They have matinee milongas (starting at 2 or 3 pm) every day of the week except Tuesdays and evening milongas (10 pm) on Saturdays.
When to arrive: around 3:30 pm
When things get good: between 4 and 5 pm
Why you should go: Located inside a famous confitería (pastry shop) in the heart of downtown Buenos Aires, since 1912 Confitería Ideal is worth going just for the beautiful architecture. Many famous Argentine politicians and celebrities have dined there.  Pro tip: It’s a great place for merienda while you watch the dancers.

El Yeite Tango Club
Av. Cordoba 4175, Buenos Aires
When to go: Mondays or Thursdays
When to arrive: Around 1:30 am if you want to sit down. 3 am if you don’t mind standing by the bar.
When things get good: 3 am when everyone heads to El Yeite after leaving the other milongas
Why you should go: If you want to be part of the “scene” and see the best up-and-coming dancers this is the place to go. They go to see and be seen. A young crowd the keeps the environment and the dancing high energy.
Pro tip: The milonga is held upstairs. If you go on Thursdays there is salsa and bachata happening on the downstairs dance floor.

Throughout Buenos Aires, you can find tango performed on the streets and tango in huge dinner theatres.

Destination:  Buenos Aires

When people think of London, Piccadilly Circus is usually one of the first places that pop into their minds.  For visitors, Piccadilly is a destination and an area not to miss.  For Londoners, it’s an area to avoid especially during tourist season.

The name ‘Piccadilly’ originates from a seventeenth-century frilled collar named a piccadil. Roger Baker, a tailor who became rich making piccadils lived in the area. The word ‘Circus’ refers to the roundabout around which the traffic circulated. However, it’s not a roundabout anymore.  In fact, the configuration of the roads and pedestrian crossings has changed numerous times just over the last few years.

Derived from the Latin word meaning “circle”, a circus is a round open space at a street junction. Piccadilly Circus refers to a road junction and public space at London’s West End located in the City of Westminster. It was built in 1819 for connecting Regent Street with Piccadilly. Providing a convenient direct link to the theatres on Shaftesbury Avenue and to Haymarket, Coventry Street and Glasshouse Street, Piccadilly is an important area in the heart of London. Piccadilly Circus offers close proximity to the various major shopping and entertainment areas in the West End. It is a major tourist attraction as well as a busy meeting point. The Circus is famous throughout the world in respect of the various video displays and neon signs that are mounted on the corner building on the northern side. The other important features of the circus include the Shaftesbury memorial fountain and statue which some believe is that of Eros. Several notable buildings surround it such as the London Pavilion and Criterion Theatre. Piccadilly Circus tube station is located directly under the plaza.

Some interesting facts about Piccadilly Circus ::

Open Air Circus: The south side of Piccadilly Circus was pedestrianised in the 1990s and ever since then, the area has had the feel of an open-air circus where you can find many dancers and gymnasts. Although ‘circus’ is derived from a Latin word meaning ‘ring’ or ‘circular line’, Piccadilly Circus has assumed the 18th century meaning of ‘buildings arranged in a circular line’.

Coca-Cola Sign: The bright Coca-Cola sign was set up in 1955 making it the longest existing sign in Piccadilly Circus. However, products were for the first time advertised in neon lights at this place in 1908. The promotional pioneers for these projects were Bovril and Perrier. During World War II, these lights were switched off and not even the power of corporate could stop this from happening. The switching off has also occurred on two other occasions, first for the funeral of Winston Churchill in 1965 and also for Diana, Princess of Wales in 1997.

Statue of Eros: Although the statue is named after Eros, it is not so. Actually, it represents Anteros, the god of selfless and mature love and not his twin brother Eros, the god of frivolous and romantic love. Moreover, it was the first London statue that was cast in aluminium.

Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain: The name of the centrepiece is Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain, named after the great Victorian philanthropist Anthony Ashley Cooper who was the 7thEarl of Shaftesbury. The financing of the project was done by public subscription, indicating his charitable work.

Drinking from the Fountain: You can drink water from the fountain just as the Duchess of Westminster had done at its unveiling in 1893. At that time the basins were not as large as the designs of Alfred Gilbert and as such when the fountain was fully turned on, there used to be too much water leading to drenching of passers-by. Gilbert did not turn up at the unveiling because he was upset that his design was altered.

Tube Station: The Piccadilly Circus Tube station on the Bakerloo Line was opened on 10 March 1906 and on the Piccadilly line in December of that year. To handle an increase in traffic, the station was extensively rebuilt in 1928. The electric advertisements on the junction first appeared in 1910 and traffic lights were first installed on 3 August 1926.

Portugal Street: The world-famous Piccadilly was originally named Portugal Street, in honour of Catherine of Braganza who was the queen consort of King Charles II, in 1692. However, in 1743, it was named Piccadilly. Piccadilly Circus was created in 1819, at the junction with Regent Street, which was being made as per the designs of John Nash, at the site of a house and garden that belonged to a certain Lady Hutton. The area was briefly known as Regent’s Circus around 1858 and in 1886 the construction of Shaftesbury Avenue led to the loss of the circular form of the circus.

This video is my first attempt at using the Ricoh Theta S 360 Camera.  The sky is dark and cloudy – and I didn’t really know what I was doing with the camera.

For the complete 360 experience, head over to my YouTube Channel.  At YouTube, you can use your cursor to move the video left, right, up and down for a full 360-degree view.

Backgrounds can be used to help fill the frame of your photo and strengthen the composition. You can also use backgrounds to your advantage by making them a part of the story you are trying to tell. You can’t usually leave out the background completely, but you can control it to make a strong composition and direct the viewer’s eye where you want the eye to go.

Let’s take a look at a variety of images so you can see how the effective use of backgrounds has been used to complement the main subject.  Pay close attention where your eye goes first.

Do you notice how the backgrounds help to make the main subject stand out and our eye goes directly to where it should go? – the main subject.

What a great smile this man has. Do you notice how your eye goes to the man’s face straight away? The background with various shades of green works beautifully with the shirtless man. Do you also notice the man is off-centre, he has a bit of space to move and the leading line created by the handle of the shovel?  Very nice composition.

Are they looking at the heavens above or is there a sea monster ready to attack?  We are not quite sure but the woman does have a look of apprehension on her face. She’s not looking happy. The light on the subject’s bodies is beautiful and the blue & aqua background makes not only the people stand out but also the white boat. The eye goes directly to the off-centre subjects. The image is well done with a nice composition.

The rich colours of this photo make it stunning.  I love flowers but don’t usually like photos of flowers. Isn’t that odd?  But, I do like this a lot. The green background is perfect to make the red flower stand out as it should because this is the main subject. The photographer wants our eye to go to the red and mission accomplished.

To achieve an image like this (or the next image below) – keeping the main subject in focus and the background out of focus simply use a shallow depth of field.  This means using a wide lens aperture such as 2.8, 3.5, or even 5.6.  You will also want to zoom in a bit or move closer to your image.  This is a very easy technique and very effective to achieve a strong photo composition.

I especially love this image of the man holding the lighted bulb. What’s really cool is he is the background while his hands and the light bulb are the main subjects. Simple and stunning. The frame is filled as it should be for a simple composition. Well done and a strong photo composition

SaveSave

At first glance, you might think the London Bridge area is nothing more than a high traffic (pedestrian and road). At nearly all times, day or night, there is a lot of activity around London Bridge.

My best suggestion is to start at the London Bridge Underground Station. When you arrive at street level, make your way to any number of side streets off of Tooley Street or Southwark Street. Tooley and Southwark Streets are on opposite sides of the main thoroughfare.

The best plan is to have no plan. Simply wind your way through the many side streets around London Bridge Station and Borough Market. With each turn, you will find something fascinating to photograph. For this reason, I list the London Bridge area as one of the best places to photograph London.

 

Where is London Bridge Station? How Do I Get To London Bridge Station?
London Bridge Station GPS Coordinates ::  51.5047° N, 0.0860° W

 

 

Tango in the streets, brightly coloured buildings, sidewalk cafes and even the tourist trap souvenir shops should lead you to Buenos Aires’s ethnic neighbourhood of Caminito.  

 Travel Destination – Caminito in the La Boca District of Buenos Aires

A visit to Buenos Aires is not complete without at least a few hours in Caminito in the La Boca District of Buenos Aires. Originally settled by Italian immigrants, this area continues to be a popular destination.  Only a few streets, the buildings are painted with brightly coloured hues.  One can not help but be taken by it all. Expect to find street cafés all about, an abundance of tourist shops, artists displaying their works, and tango dancers ready to teach you a few steps.

All in all, I love Buenos Aires, and all it has to offer.  As a travel destination, the city should be on your top ten places to visit.   The culture is incredible, and the people are warm in nature.  I’ve had fantastic experiences here.  Truly, Buenos Aires is one of the cities of the world I often think about long after I leave.  It is also a city where I will return over, and over again.

La Boca can be a fun area to explore, but be cautioned not to stray away from the main streets.  Enough said here, and the local police will warn you as well.

A little more about La Boca in Buenos Aires ::

La Boca is one of Buenos Aires’s 48 barrios or neighbourhoods. It is located at the southeastern part of the city, near the old port in the mouth (Boca in Spanish) of the Rio de la Plata. Nearby barrios are Barracas in the west, and San Telmo and Puerto Madero to the north. Many of the district’s residents are of European descent. This is because the old port was where the Italian, Spanish, Basque, French, and German immigrants arrived.

Inside La Boca, you will feel as if you’ve stepped back in time as the neighbourhood still retains its Genoese look with traditional colourful wooden houses. While some inhabitants still spoke the Genoese dialect in the late 20th century, use of the dialect has been in recent decline. Presently, La Boca is part artist colony and part working-class neighbourhood.

If you plan to visit Buenos Aires make a point to visit La Boca. The colourful houses, pedestrian-friendly walkways, little shops and restaurants make for a pleasant day of sightseeing and shopping. The street of Caminito is the centre of tourist activity in the barrio, and of particular interest for people who are into the dancing the tango. Here, tango artists perform in the many tango clubs found on the street. Tango-related memorabilia is sold in most shops.

Aside from tango, La Boca is also the home of the Boca Juniors, one of Argentina’s biggest soccer teams.  To experience the unique flavour of an Argentine soccer match, grab a ticket and watch the games at the La Boca soccer stadium, La Bombonera.

For those who are more into art than sports, there is the Fine Arts Museum of La Boca. It is also called the Museo de Bellas Artes Quinquela Martin as it used to be the residence and studio of the artist. 

La Boca is touristy, so do know this.  Also be aware of your belongings and don’t stray from the main tourist area.

Map Showing the Location of La Boca (Caminito) in Buenos Aires ::

SaveSave

Trafalgar Square fountains and traffic in a bokeh video.  Can you find the double-decker buses?  

Trafalgar Square transformed over the years into what it is today.  
Originally, there were no fountains in Trafalgar Square, nor were there lions.   Can you imagine?  The lions are a huge attraction as today so many people use them as props in their photos or selfies.  The fountains were added in 1845 to reduce the space for public gatherings.  The lions arrived 25 years after The Monument to Lord Nelson was erected.

My earliest memories of Trafalgar Square:  one, the road went right around the square.  Cars and taxis could pass right in front of The National Gallery.  And Second, hordes and flocks of hungry pigeons populated Trafalgar Square until they were removed in the early 2000’s.  Little did the pigeons know they were a tourist attraction.  All the dirty birds wanted was the bird seed or bread tourists would give them for the perfect photo op.  I’m guilty of feeding the pigeons as you can see in the photo below (circa 1986).  I must say, however, thank goodness the pigeons were banished from the square.  What do you think?  Do you miss the dirty birds?

 

If you have a walk around the square, you’ll find the world’s smallest police phone box, now used as a storage room for the cleaners.  In case you’ve missed the police box, I’ve included a photo of it below.  You’ll also find a plaque commemorating the very centre of London.  All distances in London are measured from here.  Walk to the roundabout directly in front of Trafalgar Square and have a look behind the statue of King Charles I; you’ll find the plaque there.

 

The current St Martin in the Fields church building dates back to 1721, though the history of St Martin in the Fields reaches back to 1222.  It was King Henry VIII who rebuilt a church here in 1542 to keep plague victims in the area from having a pass through to his Palace of Whitehall. During this time, the church was literally in the fields, an isolated area between Westminster and London.  

Whenever I’m in Trafalgar Square, I try to imagine the lone church standing in the fields.  There actually was a time when this area was outside of London.  Next time you’re in the square, close your eyes and challenge yourself to go back 475 years to the year 1542.  Can you place yourself in the fields?  Below is an image of today’s St Martin In The Fields church.  What a beauty she is.

Destination:  London

Backgrounds.
Let’s look into the whole picture.

Don’t just concentrate on your subject.  Look at what’s happening in the background, too.  This ties in with simplifying the scene and filling the frame.

You should always be aware of everything that is present in your frame, but this takes time and a lot of practice.  When you first begin to shoot, your primary concern is going to be your subject.  While this may seem to make sense in the beginning, you’ll come to find as you look at your photos the ones you initially thought were great are not so good due to distractions in the background.  You might even think – “How did I miss that person walking by in the street behind my model?”  Well, the answer is simple:  you were more focused on the model and not the whole picture.

This is sort of natural because we focus on what’s most important to us at any given moment and filter out unimportant sensory input.  If we don’t filter out our brains would become overwhelmed.  This is exactly why it’s important to recognise that photography is a skill, and you can’t just snap a photo to have it be good.  Part of being a good photographer is learning to become hyper-aware of your surroundings.  However, it is hard to rewire your brain, so don’t feel bad if you always have those photos that have something in them you didn’t notice.  I know it still happens to me.

That said, you can’t usually exclude the background completely but you can control it.  How?  With a depth of field.  A depth of field basically means the amount of perceived distance between the nearest and furthest objects or subjects that are in focus in a photograph.

If you have a shallow depth of field, you’re going to have your camera set on a low aperture such as f4 or f8.  A shallow depth of field makes things look dreamy in the background and the focus is mainly in the foreground.   On the other hand, a deep depth of field provides more focus all the way through a photo.  The higher f-stop the sharper the photo, to the point where you can actually have everything in an image in focus if that’s the look you’re looking for.

You’ll often find that changing your position is enough to replace a cluttered background. that compliments your subject nicely.  Or you can use a wide lens aperture and a longer focal length to throw the background out of focus.

It all depends on whether the background is part of the story you’re trying to tell.

Download a free PDF that shows nice examples of the use of backgrounds in photo composition.