Every person has their own unique way of storytelling – photography is mine. Its comes to me naturally like leaves to trees. I have always been an avid observer of human behaviour and now, my camera is enabling me share what I observe with you.
If thoughts of Great Britain conjure up romantic images of cosy cottages with roaring fires, country walks with Hunter ‘wellies’, and pub lunches with friendly locals, then a visit to The Lake District won’t be wasted on you!
“Discover, Explore, Inspire” is the strapline used by the local tourist board, which perfectly sums up a visit to this much treasured destination in England’s North West.
What you need to know?
As England’s largest national park, you can expect breath taking backdrops, lakes, mountains, fabulous outdoor scenery, great walks and even greater pubs to enjoy.
Nestled in Cumbria’s back garden, the Lake District is a national park and UNESCO world heritage site. It’s beautiful backdrop of still lakes, rolling hills and mountainous greens, make it an extremely popular destination for those seeking refuge in England’s green countryside, especially hikers, walkers and outdoorsy types.
Its opening hours can vary depending on the time of year you visit, it’s always worth checking in advance at the official site: http://www.lakedistrict.gov.uk
If you’re planning to visit, give yourself a good few days to indulge in the beauty of nature and soak up the slow pace way of life. And of course, be sure to pack good walking shoes too!
Everyone comes here for The Lakes, but where to start?
Well, the obvious place is Lake Windermere – possibly the most famous of them all. Take a boat across this expansive lake, then scale Scafell Pike, England’s highest mountain. For a less rigorous walk, Barrow and High Rigg are some of the lower mountains.
As well as Windermere, Coniston and Ullswater are other great lakes to enjoy, and if you’re feeling brave, the lake in Estwaite is said to be warm and clear enough for a dip!
Beauty spots are waiting to be discovered all over the district. Favourites include Holme Fell on Hodge Close in Coniston for stunning views and Crackpot Hall for scenic walks. If you happen to pass the Falcon Inn in Arncliffe, do stop in for a winter warmer.
With its fresh air and calm scenery, this is truly a haven for peace and rest – the perfect escape to recuperate from the hustle and bustle of daily life. Somewhere to practice stillness, meditation and mindfulness.
During the many walks here, there’s lots of little small charming villages to discover dotted all over the place, including Derwent water, Grassmere, Keswick, Amberside, Windermere and Burrowdale Valley.
The area is also well known for its bustling wildlife, and the Lake District Wildlife Park is a fun place for a family day out.
When to visit?
The question everyone wants to know is when is the best time to visit? Of course, this entirely depends on your preference. It can get bitterly cold in the winter months especially at the start of the year, and blissfully warm in the summer – take your pick!
For me, autumn is the perfect time to come, since the weather is perfect for gentle walks. The landscape is at its most beautiful, with phenomenal colours of fallen leaves reflecting in the still lakes, reminding us of the simple beauty of nature. With the changing of seasons, there’s a freshness about it all that is grounding.
There’s a brilliant slogan on a shop in Keswick that simply says: “There is no such thing as bad weather. There is only wrong clothing”!
Where to stay?
If you’re looking for a hotel as picturesque as its surroundings, then stay at the Laura Ashley Hotel in Bowness for a treat. As you’d expect from Laura Ashley, bright floral prints and feminine colours ordain the hotel. Guests also come here for the six acres of luscious ground, stunning views of Lake Windermere and AA rosette winning restaurant.
It’s fair to say that the Lake District is a popular destination for a romantic break. If you’re looking for something seductive and secluded, then the Love Shack is a special place where you can get together… as the song goes!
Of course, many visitors who come here want a traditional experience, and what could be more British than a Lake District cottage!? There’s plenty of choices catering to all budgets. Lakeland Cottage Holidays offer an extensive range, including farmhouses and holiday cottages.
With its heated roof terrace and modern British menu, Porto Restaurant (3 Ash Street) offers an elegant spot for those in the Windermere area.
Rustic and ravishing, the menu at Lake Road Kitchen is perfectly suited to its country surroundings. Not to be missed, it offers some of the finest cuts of meats, including its trademark aged stakes in collaboration with Lake District farmers. For a special occasion, the five-course menu is quite something.
For all the views and Michelin star dining, the 19th century hunting lodge of Holbeck Ghyll is one of the most desirable destinations on the Lake District map. Foodies have long flocked here, more so since it was featured on the BBC hit show ‘The Trip’.
Get here now!
Since the Lake District welcomes some 18 million visitors annually, it is well connected, despite its remoteness.
By air, the nearest airports are Carlisle, Newcastle and Manchester.
By car, it’s about an hour and half drive from Newcastle and just over two hours from Leeds.
By train, the nearest station depends on which part of the lake district you plan to visit. However, Oxenholme is a central point many visitors tend to use, along with Windermere and Carlisle.
As a helpful guide, the train from Newcastle to Oxenholme requires a change in Carlisle and can take 2-3 hours. While, a direct train from Manchester can take 75 minutes.
From London, Oxenholme is served by London Euston, with direct trains taking 2-3 hours.
For more information on train times, download the free app from National Rail Enquiries.
All images in this article can be purchased as museum archival fine art prints. Multiple sizes are available. Send me an email if you have any questions.
It’s amazing how contrasting England can be – a six-hour drive from London will take you to one of the country’s natural beauty spots, Cornwall, England. Its beautiful coastline, plethora of beaches and summer weather makes it one of the best beach holiday destinations in the UK.
The peninsula is often used as a backdrop on TV, you might have seen it in Poldark and Echo Beach among other shows.
Known for its cream teas, surf, art and chilled-out vibe, Cornwall makes the perfect coastal destination, especially popular with families.
St Ives art
St Ives in Cornwall has a strong relationship with art. Once it was connected by the Great Western Railway in 1877, the town attracted artists thanks to its idyllic and dramatic setting, including breath-taking cliffs, windswept beaches and picturesque harbours.
Not long after, the St Ives School of Painting was established, which really helped to put St Ives on the art map. Specifically, in the 1950s, the St Ives movement came together which was a group of modern painters, including Roger Hilton and William Scott. The artist and sculpture Barbara Hepworth is one of the most famous artists from the area.
Today local art is widely available in boutique galleries dotted all over St Ives. The Tate is one of the best places to see this celebration.
Where to stay?
Known as the Cornish Riviera, Cornwall lends itself to some great apartments and rentals. There’s a wide variety of choice on AirBnB including idyllic cottages with sweeping vistas for a truly British experience. Camping in the area is also popular.
For a touch of luxe, St Moritz Hotel with its Cowshed spa is a real treat, plus they offer great rental options too.
When you think of England, you might not automatically think of surfing. Yet, Cornwall is the place to catch a wave. As such, it attracts a young ‘up for it’ crowd. There’s plenty of classes for ‘Groms’ (children) at the top beaches with full kit available to rent. It’s great to see the little ones paddling and learning to catching their first wave!
Popular beaches like Fristal beach and Watergate bay beach are well serviced with lots of lifeguards on hand. Yet, it’s wise to be cautious and only surf in designated areas indicated by flags.
Offering powerful big waves, Fristal is one of the most famous of the 300 beaches in the area, and is home to the annual Boardmasters event. If you’re not quite ready to dip your toe in, Bodhi’s Beach Café has become a popular hangout to warm up!
By car is the only way to see the local area, get yourself a Cornwall map and head to other noteworthy beaches nearby, including; Tolcarne Beach – a similar beachfront resort, Porth Beach – for those who’d rather sunbathe than surf, and Perranporth beach, offering one of the biggest stretches of golden sand.
If you come during British summertime, be sure to head come between June 16-17 for their awesome ‘Electric Beach Festival’, promising lots of fun to a backdrop of great tunes. It’s also worth mentioning that Newquay Zoo and Blue Reef Aquarium are both nearby and great for little ones.
Your greatest problem will be deciding where to eat, since there’s so many great options.
For something special, head to Fifteen overlooking Fristal Bay (On The Beach, Watergate Rd, Newquay TR8 4AA), headed up by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver.
You might also like Ben’s Cornish Kitchen (West End, Marazion TR17 0EL) which offers creative combinations in a rustic setting.
But, no trip to Cornwall is complete without sampling a local Cornish pasty (meat pie) and a Cornish cream tea – hearty, heavenly and thankfully available everywhere. Why not go whole hog and try their local cheese ‘Cornish Yarg’ too. Delicious!
Trains are serviced by Great Western Rail – or you can fly to Cornwall airport from select destinations within the UK and Europe.
If you’re looking for the heartbeat of London, then Piccadilly Circus is in many ways its epicentre. Today, Piccadilly is a place where different worlds collide, where tourists mingle with workers and the well-heeled tip toe around hen nights. Yet, all are welcome.
A bygone era
With its small characterful streets and hidden archways, Piccadilly reflects the 1819’s when it first came to be known. The ‘Georgian era’ was an important one for London as it marked the beginning of the Industrial revolution, confirming London’s status as a destination for both work and play.
Today many places remain the same, including Piccadilly Arcade. This boutique luxury shopping experience first opened in 1910 and will take you back to a bygone era. Around this area you can get your shoes shines, caricatures sketched and grab your free copy of the London Evening Standard. Nearby Regent Street is a great place to shop too.
Eat, drink, be merry!
Bustling Soho is not to be missed, welcoming a large LGBT community and media luvvies often seen lighting up outside Soho House!
Vibrant, buzzing and a tad risqué, Old Compton Street is a destination in itself. As one of London’s most famous streets, it is a mecca for the LGBT community with lots of gay friendly bars and shops.
A few streets away bordering Leicester Square, is China Town – one of the rare places where tourists and locals dine together enjoying oriental cuisine.
Other notable eateries include – The Hawksmoor (Air Street), which is super hip and the place for a good steak, Fortnum and Mason (42 Jermyn Street), iconic for afternoon tea (it’s said to be one of the Queen’s favourites), and fashionable ‘La Bodega Negra’ (16 Moor Street) for upscale Mexican street food. When you’re ready to wash it all down, Jewel (4-6 Glasshouse Street) is a fun place for a cocktail or Lucky Voice (Poland street) for karaoke.
Most significant of all, people flock to the West End because of its famous ‘Theatreland’, with theatres dotted around Shaftesbury Avenue, Leicester Square, Aldwych and Haymarket. Les Miserables, Aladdin, Mamma Mia and Thriller are just some of the most popular, and you can get some great deals on Love Theatre.
It would be wrong not to mention the iconic Windmill theatre on Windmill Street, which has been around since 1932 and is a stalwart in London’s history.
And finally, a photo opportunity not to be missed is the illuminated neon sign as you come out of Piccadilly Circus tube station on the Piccadilly Line. It has been around since 1908 and the lights have only been turned off during World War II and for the funerals of Winston Churchill and Princess Diana.
While it’s undergoing renovation at the moment, you can still see the curved wall of adverts that light up the streets. While some compare it to Times Square, in reality it’s much smaller, but arguably with just as much character. That’s Piccadilly for you!
Did you know that Charing Cross, on its outskirts, is the point from where all travel distances to and from London are measured? It goes back to the days of King Edward I, who erected a plaque in its place to mark the death of his wife, Queen Eleanor. Since then all distances to and from London are measured from that point, and the memorial can still be found where King Charles statue stands.
It’s one part of London where you won’t look out of place with a map! Covent Garden is positively brimming with tourists intermingling with Londoners.But, it’s best enjoyed when ‘done like a Londoner’ and so, to sample it the authentic way, I’ve picked out some of my top recommendations for you…
A brief history
Covent Garden market spans back to the Saxon era. It has been a slum, a haven for rich investors, a fruit and veg market (the interior still stands today) and even a flower market. But, these days it’s best known as a destination for meeting friends, enjoying some of London’s finest shops and bustling bars and restaurants.
Feels like Europe, looks like London!
With a ‘Euro’ feel to it, the heartbeat of Covent Garden is the pedestrian-only piazza. This can’t be missed, since there’s always buskers and street entertainers to marvel at. Great views can be caught from every angle – the best is the terrace of the ‘Punch and Judy’ pub – best enjoyed with a pint in one hand!
Shop till you drop
Not to be missed, Covent Garden shops are popular with locals and visitors with an excellent choice of fashion, jewellery and vintage shops. Some of the local favourites include; Urban Outfitters, Apple, Ted Baker and Banana Republic. While Marks and Spencer (M&S) is essential for any tourist!
Only the seasoned Londoner knows where to find its boutique shops – head to ‘St Martin’s Courtyard’, off the ‘Seven Dials’ and ‘Neal Street’. If you want to pick up something original, then Rokit (42 Shelton Street) offers the best vintage clothes in town.
Essential Covent Garden Attractions
On the corner of Bow street stands the magnificent Royal Opera House. If you enjoy ballet and opera, this is a breath-taking venue to attend. You might also know it as home to many celebrity events, including the BAFTA’s and GQ Awards.
Around the corner you’ll find one of the capital’s most beautiful churches – St Martin’s in the Field. To round off your tourist ‘tick list’, the British Museum can be found on Great Russell Street. Open since 1759, it’s home to eight million works from around the globe, and is free between 10am – 5.30pm daily.
A bite to eat
You’ll sure work up an appetite walking around, and Covent Garden restaurants cater to all. It’s famous for outdoor dining, but those ‘on-the-go’ can easily grab a bite from M&S or Tesco and enjoy it on a park bench.
For a five-star meal and celebrity spotting head to The Ivy (5 West Street), while afternoon tea is best served at the delectable Savoy Hotel on the strand – be sure to dress up!
Other favourites include the Hawksmoor (11 Langley Street) and Balthazar (4-6 Russell Street). More affordable, but still great, is Wahaca (66 Chandos Place) and Café Pacifico (5 Langley Street), both serving Mexican street food.
No London trip is complete without a visit to a Covent Garden bar. Thursday and Friday evenings attract a local ‘post work’ crowd (5pm onwards), while the weekends serve a large tourist crowd.
Some of the more noteworthy include:
The Lamb & Flag (33 Rose Street) – harking back to the 18th century, this was once known as the ‘Bucket of Blood’!
The Porterhouse (21 Maiden Lane) – a sprawling indoor, outdoor, every-kind of man pub! Popular on Friday nights with an ‘up for it’ crowd enjoying the ‘Temple Brau’ beer.
Freud (198 Shaftesbury Avenue) – Expect to stand in this dingy bar, which serves surprisingly good cocktails – try the ‘Holy Freud Lemonade’.
Not to everyone’s taste but ‘Stringfellows’ (16-19 St Martin’s Lane) is an extremely famous ‘Gentlman’s Club…..
Please note – you must be over 18 years’ old to drink, and smoking is prohibited inside
Covent Garden’s on the Piccadilly line. Knowledgeable Londoners avoid its busy claustrophobic lifts by coming via Leicester Square next door.
It’s true what they say. Londoners like to talk about the weather, a LOT. Having lived here for five years, I think I finally understand why…
Long may London rain…
As a photographer, I try to capture moments in time. I love watching personal exchanges and documenting life as it unfolds without prejudice. Recently I’ve been observing the weather. Well, it’s hard not to when we had the hottest weather in June and now the wettest in August.
But there’s something almost romantic about the rain, because it brings people together. Literally and physically.
On the one hand, rain is the common ground everyone talks about. Taxi drivers to school teachers, shop workers to CEO’s. It seems no-one is immune to having a view on the temperature, making it the perfect ice-breaker or topic of conversation.
But secondly, it unites people in the most beautiful ways.
City dwellers all over the world like to observe their personal space, no more so than Londoners. ‘Mind the Gap’ you’re reminded at tube stations, giving a fair distance to the person standing next to you where possible.
But with London rainfall comes something special. People come together and if you look closely you will see small acts of kindness everywhere.
The simple gesture of sharing an umbrella, shielding each other against the rain, is when you see the true kindness of Londoners. Something they rarely like to admit, but have in abundance. You’ll notice this as a tourist asking for directions, and their politeness to help, even if it’s “chucking it down”.
I observed in my photos that rain brings people together for shelter, in buses and taxis, in doorways and shared shop fronts. Queues of black cab after black cab line up like carriages for shoppers, tourists and business people to jump in and save them from the wet. The awaiting commentary naturally starts “terrible weather we’re having…”. Even in January, the coldest month!
In a rare act of non-judgment, people put aside fashion differences, because a cagoule is suddenly king, and if you have Hunters (the Londoner’s choice of wellie), you’re totally winning! The rain makes any fashion acceptable, because it’s all about survival, and that’s what Londoners do better than anyone.
It’s what you came for!
There are some things integral to visiting London – riding the tube, having afternoon tea, a selfie in front of Buckingham Palace… and walking in the rain.
As a tourist from warmer pastures, the novelty of rain will not be lost on you. It’s great for a ‘wish you were here’ selfie, even better for outdoor sightseeing as queues suddenly evaporate. Make the most of it.
You may know the opening track to Hotel Costes Vol.4 – “I like London, in the rain”. It tinkles like rain droplets and seduces with its jazzy soulful beat. I found myself humming it to the London weather today. It’s the perfect soundtrack to a wet day in the capital, and a better excuse to snuggle up to that person you love.
There’s a north-south divide in London. This friendly sibling rivalry will separate locals in a way that only politics can! For the record, I’m firmly in camp North since it’s where I live and work. Yet, there’s a part of me that could ‘turn’ and it’s all thanks to the South Bank.
With al fresco dining, food markets to forage and a slower pace of life, this glorious stretch of riverside feels positively European.
Keeping it south of the river
You may have seen it in movies like Four Weddings and a Funeral, or as the backdrop to many shows on ITV whose studios are just behind. But this is far removed from the glitz and glamour of showbiz, offering an altogether more family feel.
From Waterloo station (served by over ground and underground), it’s just a few minutes’ walk. On your journey, you’ll pass the South bank food market, which is usually open between 12 noon till 6pm. Here you can pick up olives, custard tarts, artisan bread and other sumptuous treats.
Tick the box
So, let’s get this out of the way. There’s LOADS for tourists to do here, including but not limited to: the London Eye (actually excellent), Sea Life London Aquarium (a good option for a murky day), the BFI (a must for film buffs), the Tate (free and fabulous art in a huge installation), Shakespeare’s Globe (a must-visit, you can pick up tickets for as little as £5 for stalls), the BFI 3D Imax Cinema, the Southbank Centre (art, art, art!), the skate park (one for skating enthusiasts), and the National Theatre (performing arts at its best).
Phew, that’s a lot to cover, and only half of it. But you get the picture, there’s lots to do…
South Bank Restaurants
Dining options are geared towards tourists, but are affordable and delightful, as proven by the sheer number of Londoners you’ll see here too.
Pizza Express, Giraffe and Ping Pong are great, cheap and easy options, while family-friendly Gabriel’s Wharf is a cute cluster of independent restaurants offering pizza and seafood. If you have time, then a cocktail at Skylon won’t disappoint afterwards.
The newly opened Sea Containers is one of best South Bank bars and restaurants for a special occasion, and forms part of the Mondrian Hotel… if you can afford it, what a place to stay!
Bridge over London water
London is a city that is best served by foot, and its bridges are some of the finest ways to find your bearings.
Waterloo Bridge is grander than it sounds, and given the option I’d take the Hungerford Bridge, which offers a beautiful backdrop for photos.
A bit further down, the Millennium bridge is a modern beacon, introduced in the millennial year. It caused controversy for being ‘wobbly’ and while it’s perfectly safe you can feel a little shudder when you walk over! It brings you out at St Paul’s Cathedral – a must-see since it’s a symbolism of London’s stoicism, having survived the blitz.
Make no mistake, the River Thames is no place to dip your toe! But riverside at Southbank is the perfect vantage point to capture London’s skyline, especially the Houses of Parliament.
Above all, a walk along the river is an opportunity not to be missed. Expect to be courted by singers, performers and people who cover themselves in silver for a photo! You can take it or leave it, they aren’t imposing.
Finally, the marvellous Underbelly Festival is here until 30 September. Family friendly shows, variety performances and stand-up comedy events are just a few to be enjoyed.
A woman playing reggae songs on her ukulele, tourists buying artisan bread, a market trader selling bags as vibrant as the colour of her dreadlocks, and a Dad giving his son a piggyback through the streets. These are just some of the characters you’ll find when you take a trip to Portobello Road market.
London is often described as a melting pot of people, and there’s no greater place where these worlds collide than Portobello Road market.
Portobello Road Market, Where Life Never Stands Still
Like many others, I visited the world’s largest antique market, to see if it lived up to the hype. I was joined by thousands of tourists who came to mix and mingle, shop and mooch around the thousands of stalls on offer.
Not far from Notting Hill, Portobello Road market has its own distinctive vibe. It’s a destination in itself, a place you can lose an afternoon to, or longer.
Something for everyone
One of my favourite photos taken, is a man’s kind of man on his Harley with people mingling in the background. Look closely and you’ll see them taking photos of people in Alice in Wonderland costumes! It’s the perfect snapshot of its unpredictable charm.
There really is something for everyone here.
There’s new goods and second-hand goods, antiques ranging from vintage cameras to bespoke silverware, and all sorts of tiffin that you wonder might have belonged to the Rolling Stones at some point!
Fashion is big and you can pick up a bargain from a new designer, or bag a rare vintage item from a bygone era. Head to ‘Westway’ for the ‘fashion market’.
If anything, this is a great place to bring the kids as they marvel at goods before their time and run off when they see the Nutella stand. Yum!
Portobello Market Food
Speaking of which, street food here is good. Fresh fruit and vegetable stalls are plentiful and there’s lots of juices and coffee shops, one that really stood out is ‘Jake’s Vegan Shakes’. Around Globorne Road there’s lots of restaurants and street food stands, serving everything from Ghanaian to Ethiopian cuisine.
For something perhaps more mainstream, the Hummingbird Bakery (133 Portobello Road) has become a huge tourist attraction, offering cupcakes and tea – very British! Of course, I couldn’t forget the Electric Diner and Cinema (191 Portobello Road), for an afternoon of dining and viewing pleasure.
Believe the hype!
So, did Portobello Road market live up to its hype? Judging by the number of cupcakes and fresh juice’s I had, let alone the unexpected pieces of camera kit I stumbled across, it’s safe to say – yes!
When to come?
Portobello Market opening times vary. It is open six days a week, as follows:
Monday to Wednesday: 9am – 6pm
Thursday: 9am to 1pm
Friday (antique stalls): 9am to 7pm
Click here for a map of Portobello Road market. The full address is: Portobello Road, London, W1.
The nearest tube to Portobello Road market is Ladbroke Grove, but you can also walk from Westbourne Park and Notting Hill Gate, which take a bit longer.
All details correct at time of going to press
I hope you liked this photo documentary/guide to Portobello Road Market. If you are visiting London in the last week of August, do not miss the Notting Hill Carnival which is the biggest street party in Europe. Here is a similar photo documentary guide to the Notting Hill Carnival.
If you have been to the Portobello Road Market, share your experience for the benefit of other readers in the comments section.
When you think of Notting Hill, you think of two things – the film (Notting Hill), and the carnival (Notting Hill Carnival). Indeed, both will make you fall in love with this buzzing west London borough.
If you haven’t yet been, now’s the time, because the capital’s gearing up for its most famous party, and we’re all invited!
What to expect
I’ve been every year and it’s great fun. I like to think of it as one big street party.
Last year I went as a voyeur to capture the essence that makes carnival so special. You can see from my collection that it’s impossible not to get swept along with the party atmosphere – can of Red Stripe in one hand, jerk chicken in the other, guaranteed!
This is of course nothing new – the history of Notting Hill carnival dates back to 1964. It has since established itself as a celebration of Caribbean culture and appreciation of London’s diverse population. Being Europe’s largest street festival, expect big (friendly) crowds.
It kicks off on Saturday evening with its steel pan orchestra (head to Emslie Horniman Pleasance Park, Bosworth Road).
Sunday is the big day for families, with a children’s parade from 10am. From reggae to roots, it’s all good vibes with steel drums and colourful floats to entertain. It’s pretty safe but as with all things, keep your wits about you and your belongings.
Monday is the grand finale, otherwise known as the day for true partygoers. Seek out the best sound systems for a line up like no other. This year it includes 4Play (West Row, near Kensal Road Junction) and the Latin Rave Street Jam (318 Portobello Road) for a bit of salsa in the street. Check out the Radio 1 sound system as well, where there’s always fun and great tunes to be had.
Feeling nostalgic? While you’re in the neighbourhood, find your way to 280 Westbourne Park Road to see one of London’s most famous front doors. You will probably recognise it from the film ‘Notting Hill’.
If you’re more of a late-night owl then there’s lots of hidden after parties to seek out. The famous Notting Hill Arts Club is hosting the Labyrinth Carnival after party from 9pm on Sunday night, tickets start from £10.
Be sure to try the Caribbean cuisine, home-made with love. Charge your phone, pack lots of tissues and plasters and stock up on pound coins, because all that Red Stripe has to go somewhere, and since it’s a street party, you’ll be paying locals to use their bathrooms! This is pretty standard and I’ve never had any bad experiences, although I would advise taking a friend with you to any non ‘official’ locations.
Carnival takes place on the streets of W10 and W11. Notting Hill Gate, Westbourne Park and Royal Oak are your nearest tube stations, but expect them to be busier than usual. TFL have this dedicated website for the event.
I hope I have convinced you that the London Notting Hill Carnival is a cultural celebration worth experiencing. If you have been there before, join the conversation and share your experience with us in the comments section.
Every time I step out to shoot some street photography, I am always approached by other photographers who are also out shooting. Irrespective of whether we are in London, New York or Paris, the conversations always start off the same way. They would make a remark about my Canon EF 70-200mm F/2.8L IS USM telephoto lense, the way it is hanging loosely next to my hip and the speed with which I raise the camera to my face and take candid shots. Evidently they would have been observing me for a while.
The missing piece
I use a Sun Sniper PRO Steel & Bear camera strap. I wear it diagonally across my body from my left shoulder. The height is adjusted so that my Canon 5D Mark III rests perfectly on my right hip. With this setup, I can walk around for four to five hours before I am exhausted. I can also shoot any subject in less than 4 seconds. I am not digressing so stay with me for it will all make sense later on.
They will then proceed to tell me how much they love images of unique or odd moments in everyday life frozen in time in a candid photograph. But they would also add that they are terrified of photographing strangers in public places. We will then look at some of their images on Flickr or Instagram using their mobile phone. And usually I would be impressed. So the issue is not their photography skill because it’s evident from their images that they can indeed take beautiful photographs.
The problem usually lies somewhere else. I totally understand each and everyone of these photographers because I use to be in the exact same boat. For me the issue was a lack of patience. I could stay focused for twelve to fourteen hours shooting a wedding (which is actually a string of candid shots) but I could not bring myself to do street photography for even one hour.
A taste of Tuscany
Let me tell you how my trip to Tuscany changed all of that.
have always felt that a huge part of any culture is embedded in the language and if you cannot speak the language, your experience of said culture will be fairly limited. That is why I choose a guided tour (run by Jarek) for my trip to Tuscany. And boy did he not disappoint. I choose him because he is a photographer, has lived in Tuscany for about ten years and speaks fluent Italian.
We stayed in a farm called Agriturismo Casa Picchiata. This is a popular concept in Italy called “Agriturismo”. t basically means that tourists are allowed to lodge in a working farm. They get the chance to see how the owners operate the farm on a daily basis. They also get to eat the produce of the farm. Casa Picchiata farms olives, fruits, produces wine, owns cattle etc. Parts of the very popular movie – The Gladiator starring Russell Crowe were filmed very close to this farm.
Gabriella and her mother Nella served us some of the finest homemade Italian food. To watch her 72 year old mother cook breakfast for us and then right after that hop on a tractor and drive around their olive farm was impressive. On one such occasion, I just stood there in awe and said to myself “that is how I want to grow old” – happy, vibrant and energetic. When I was returning, she made traditional Italian almond biscuits for me and when I arrived back in England, I sent her a large pack of Walkers Pure Butter Shortbread.
Being present in the moment
During this one week tour all our days were organized in a very similar manner. We would hit the road at about 4:00, 5:00 or 6:00 AM for a sunrise shoot. We would return to Casa Picchiata for breakfast, then rest for a few hours before lunch. After lunch we would go and explore one of the many small towns in Tuscany. Some of them included Pienza, Sorano, Bagnoregio, Orvieto, Montepulciano, Pitigliano and San Gimignano. In the late afternoon we would go for a sunset shoot and then return to base.
But the most interesting part of the day that relates to the subject matter of this article is the change in my mindset that took place during the exploration of the above mentioned cities. My sense perceptions were magnified because I was in a new place, witnessing and at the same time admiring a different style of life – more laid-back, slow-paced, less hectic and more in sync with nature.
For example, I noticed that the people in Tuscany simply consume the foods that are more available for the season they are currently in. The more I was interested in the culture, the less I wanted to be somewhere else. I wanted to be there. I had totally forgotten about my daily routine of drinking a large glass of freshly made green (spinach, celery, cucumber, apple and lemon) juice. No yogurt-soaked granola garnished with strawberries and blueberries. And I did not even miss them. The point of diving into the ocean is not to quickly swim back to the shore but to luxuriate in the wetness of water and marvel at the power and size of the ocean.
Being confident that Jarek had the best plan for the day photography wise, helped me accept the situation as is. Impatience is usually another way of saying “I would rather be somewhere else and doing something else than being here right now”.
Most of the small towns where practically empty during the day. Imagine walking through a town and seeing only about 10 to 20 people. I had never experienced anything like it before. Sometimes laughing out loud felt like disturbing the peace and quiet. The stillness could not be ignored.
The above mentioned circumstances all culminated into me being present in the moment. When you are in the moment, time suddenly drops out of your consciousness. And before I would notice, 2 hours would have gone by. In that time, I would have also taken some candid shots. It was on the fourth day, when we visited San Gimignano that we again encountered large crowds of people, lack of parking spots etc.
That was when I felt my impatience starting to come back. But coincidentally, that was also the moment I realised that I had been totally accepting and patient for the previous 3 days. I remembered the effect of that mind set on the way I carried myself through the day. So I consciously switched my mindset and carried on as before.
When you understand how your psychology affects your biology (i.e. how your mind affects your body), you are able to re-create mind states that you have had in the past. I think we all do this consciously or unconsciously. I can now do this with regards to street photography. I can bring undivided attention to a single subject in the middle of an over crowded setting without breaking a sweat. I can watch a developing scene and anticipate when a subject is going to do something interesting.
Find below one of the many candid images I have taken since returning from Tuscany. On this particular day, I walked around London for 4 hours in the rain with no expectation of what I would encounter. I was grateful to run into these two monks who made my day.
If you are patient with anything or anyone, they cannot help it but eventually place themselves at your feet to be explored. I hope you feel inspired by the article to explore street photography.