Never a dull moment. by Hugh Rawson

Cafe Mila

I find that when I go out specifically to take photos that I can’t allow myself other distractions or it just doesn’t work. I’m not the kind of photographer who can listen to headphones while I shoot (much as I wish I could) or text, eat, drink or any of the other things which seem to count as essential to modern life. Maybe it’s a bloke thing - after all, I’m not half as good at multi-tasking as my wife or female colleagues. I have to be in the zone and focused on just that one task.

I am rarely bored. Whenever I find I have time on my hands, my camera seems to magically create a host of photographic opportunities. If I’m alone, even in the most familiar of places, give me time and a camera and suddenly the scene has great potential. It doesn’t matter if I’ve never been there before or I know the place like the back of my hand. There is aways something to see.

Obviously, having time means I will look around and notice things that otherwise may never have caught my eye. Throw a little patience into the equation and, of course, opportunities will appear the longer I wait.

This morning, sitting alone in a cafe I know well, I became aware, for the first time, of the light coming through the doors. These are doors I’ve walked through many times. This time I was alone, with time to kill. That light was just waiting for the right character to silhouette themselves there. And suddenly my morning was transformed.

London Light - Feb 2018 by Hugh Rawson

My blog thus far has tended to be philosophical ramblings about photography; musings on settings and gear; or the occasional “how to.” That probably begins to explain why blogging tends to happen fortnightly - fitting around the day job and collecting my thoughts gets in the way.


I have decided that perhaps the blog space is the place to try posting photos that I have been taking recently with a view to seeing how they look published, out there in the world, for all to see. Be prepared for more photos and and more posts - though just as many words.


Last Saturday I was in London with the camera, though not specially to take photos - this was a family outing. The trusty Fuji x100f is never far from my hands. The light was fantastic, even if the clear blue skies meant the air was shockingly cold, making holding a camera a challenge at times. I can’t do gloves. Gloves seem to introduce some kind of layer between camera and brain - as well as between hand and camera. I just can’t seem to function properly as a photographer in them.     


Here is a mix of colour and black and white images from the day - all shot around South Kensington and Brompton Road.

Working the scene - fishing for photos. by Hugh Rawson

Most street photographers will favour one method of shooting over another. First, there are the "hunters" who go out looking to see what they might find and satisfy themselves with unplanned, unexpected stolen moments that happen to come their way. They rarely stand still and will walk around following their noses, the light or an interesting character or scene as it plays out.

Then there are the "fishers" who will go out specifically to work a location or scene. This may be somewhere that they have been successful before or somewhere that they have made note of and planned to visit for some time. It may be a chance discovery which anchors them for a while until they are satisfied that they have what they came for. Some will wait a short time, but many will wait patiently for an hour or more until they are satisfied that they have what they came for.

Temperament must play a part in whether a street photographer is more hunter or fisher. The weather must surely be significant too. I suspect that there are more fishers in sunny Mediterranean climes than there are in London.

Personally, I am more of a hunter. I get restless and bored in one place unless there is a lot going on. Waiting for a character to enter a scene (who may or may not turn up) fills my mind with all the images I could be getting if I moved on and found something else to shoot. Furthermore, if I stay put I risk being moved on or arousing suspicion. Easier to keep moving.

Like all hunters or fishers, I can change style if I find the right circumstances. And one of my photographical resolutions for 2018 was to slow down. So... nothing for it then!

On Monday I was shooting around the City of London. The light was fabulous - strong and directional through the towering monuments to capitalism. In one dark walkway there was a reflected rainbow of sunlight from a high window that slanted across the pavement like some heavenly dancefloor. It was just waiting for the right feet to break the rhythm. As you can see, I stayed for some minutes and enjoyed the carnival of legs and feet that tripped their way through that fabulous light. The problem is that I now find myself unable to decide between a gallery of similar shots. Three are posted above.

How about you? Hunter, fisher or bit of both. Let me know.

It Don't Mean A Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing. by Hugh Rawson

 Jazz and Cocktails. London, Jan 2018.

Jazz and Cocktails. London, Jan 2018.

“Writing about music is like dancing about architecture. It’s a stupid thing to want to do.” Elvis Costello says; at least he is just one of several musicians who this quote has been attributed to. The more attributes, the more pertinent - perhaps. So, if writing about music is like dancing about architecture, how about writing about photography? And what about about the connections between jazz and street photography? That is what is currently occupying one partially lit corner of my mind.


Many great photographers have shot evocative images of many great jazz musicians, it's true - deep blacks, crisp rim-shot whites, all filtered through a haze of filter-less Gitanes smoke. You can almost hear the flattened fifths of the tenor saxophone. The music and the stylised black and whites take us back to a bygone age when cigarette smoke was de rigeur and a kipper tie, pork pie hat and blacked out shades was the uniform of the new school of jazz. But that particular alley is not where we are heading.


Instead, I want to explore the connections between jazz and shooting on the street.


Music and photography both have their own distinct subcultures or genres, each demanding a different appreciation and I think there are similarities here. Take landscape photography. This requires a considered approach, taking time, preparation and precision to create the greatest images. In this it is a kin to classical music. The holiday snapshot; surely that’s pop music. Immediate, brash, unsophisticated for the most part, disposable yet relevant and life enhancing. Street photography must be jazz. 


Jazz relies on certain rules or forms. Structures are learned - scales, cycles, blue notes - forwards and backwards and around. Well known songs, standards, are revisited time and time again as new elements are unearthed and discovered or rediscovered by new bloods eager to make themselves heard. It requires a great deal of technical proficiency. These structures are echoed in street photography with its foundation in other genres of photography and of visual art - the rules of composition, the work of the greats on whose giant shoulders the photographer attempts to climb.


Perhaps the defining feature of jazz is its reliance upon improvisation. True, this is not confined to jazz. Classicists will tell you that the great composers created frameworks for improvisation. However, it is improvisation which defines jazz. This, to me, is where the arcs of jazz and street photography swing closest to one another.


The dictionary will tell you that improvisation can mean making do. Who would want to sit on an improvised chair, or tuck into an improvised meal? Improvisation in jazz is not about making do. Far from it; but it is about making, creating something afresh. It is about an artist at the peak of his/her powers, creating something on the spot whilst referencing the traditions that preceded them and demonstrating their technical prowess in response to a given situation. It means a high level of technical proficiency combined with a high level of creativity.


Isn’t this what the street photographer does? In creating a new image, they bring to bear the knowledge of every image they have ever been influenced by. They use their technical expertise coupled with the inside-out knowledge of their camera, each button and lever falling into place instinctively just as the keys of every piano or saxophone do in the hands of the most skilled jazz musician. And they do this instantaneously; responding to whatever happens along.


It is this ability to react quickly to whatever is going on around them which makes a great street photographer or  great jazz musician. It is part anticipation, part learned technique and part luck. The challenge is to rearrange the world into something beautiful from whatever ingredients you are handed at the time.


The moment of creation is one of stepping off into the void. For a jazz musician, it means being able to imagine the sounds before they have been made; for a photographer it is about envisaging the image before the shutter is pressed. Nether moment is repeatable in quite the same way. This is what puts the energy into the piece or the image. This is where the excitement lies.


Perhaps most significantly, jazz also likes to throw away the rules. At its most free, it is simply a celebration of sound and reaction to an environment. Street photography, too, is at its most creative and innovative when it bends the rules, breaks the structures and surprises our expectations. A celebration, a riot of light.


As the great Charlie Parker said: “They teach you there’s a boundary line to music. But, man, there’s no boundary line to art.”


Jazz has always doffed its pork-pie hat to tradition but forged bravely forwards into new territories and this, to me, is what street photography does best.

Resolutions: 2018 by Hugh Rawson

Having allowed myself the indulgence of reflecting in my last blog it only seems right to think about the challenge of resolutions for the new year that has just started. I’m not talking about any of that dry January, veganuary, or any other personal “anuary” stuff but purely about a photographic perspective. However, it is a subjective consideration of where I need to put in some hours and resolve to improve my work with the camera. Join in if you want to.



It’s always good to begin a list with at least one thing you can tick off already so straight in at number one is “Enter more competitions.” Of course, the more bit is the easy bit here because even one competition entered would mark a massive percentage increase on last year’s zero competitions entered - but I am delighted to announce that I can already tick this particular resolutionary box. I succeeded in entering three candid street shots into the Sony World Photography Exhibition, sneaking in just hours before the deadline of 1.00 p.m. GMT on Thursday 4th January. 

This is one of my favourite events of the last few years, visiting the exhibition each April/May in Somerset House with a couple of good camera comrades. I’d definitely recommend it if you haven’t been before. How incredible (unbelievable) it would be to see an image of mine represented this year.

Of course, there will have to be other competitions entered to really feel that I have fully embraced the whole resolution thing.


Number Two - Slow Down. Something I’m not particularly good at - which is probably why I’m more Mister Street than Mister Landscape, Mister Macro or Mister Portrait. I habitually shoot at a fairly fast shutter speed (1/500th) as I ricochet through town centres. I don’t want to stop that completely but I am aware that there are times when taking a more considered approach will pay off. Heck - I could even bring the viewfinder to my eye from time to time, like a real photographer. I think this may also mean carrying two cameras and shooting slowly with a longer focal length. I have the beautiful Fujinon xf56mm f1.4 lens which is equivalent to an 85mm full frame lens and produces beautifully creamy bokeh. I’ve tried shooting fast and furious with it from the hip - gunslinger style - but I miss almost every time. If I could slow down and shoot from further away, taking my time to compose and get just the right shot, it would bring a new style to my work with compressed foreground and a magical fall off. 


Number Three - I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling that I only know part of my camera. There’s so much more that I could utilise if I only knew how. I can get it to do the things I need fairly quickly but my needs are simple and mainly based around getting a quick result. However, I know that there are shortcuts and settings that would help if I took the time to get my head around them. I read other people talking about how they’ve customised their settings or watch You Tube clips of magic fingered photographers working their camera like it’s some kind of Rubik's cube. I could never do them either. An afternoon by the fire, working out my optimal settings, is probably all it needs  - there just always seem to be better things to do with an afternoon.  


Number Four - is a processing issue. It seems that most people think of my work as black and white. That’s fine. I love monochrome. But I do love colour too and some of my favourite photographers have a real strength in colour - Saul Leiter, Harry Gruyaert, Ernst Haas, Alex Webb, Fred Herzog. I know I like my flavours strong and perhaps that’s the problem. I find it all too easy to overdo colour processing. I think it’s finished and publish it; then I look at it and feel that I’ve overdone it again. More subtle in 2018, that’s the plan.


Number Five - keep on keeping on. By this I mean to continue taking the kind of shots I want to look at; photographing for me and not for anyone else. This way I will continue to develop my own style and voice. I know I’m good at getting close - often too close that I lose the setting - but maybe I should step back a bit to contextualise a shot and then not be afraid to crop in should I need to; perhaps take some of the clutter out of a shot and focus on the key elements of an image.


So, there are my photographic resolutions laid bare. What about you? What will you change?

2017 Reflections by Hugh Rawson

According to Lightroom folders, I’ve taken about 20% more photos this year than in 2016. I already shoot too many. Of course, the number on file is nothing compared to the number taken - I delete a huge proportion of the number I take. And, I guess, like any street photographer, many of these will include the nearly shots - the ones that would’ve been classics if I hadn’t missed a head off or framed the action too far off the edge, or forgotten to switch the camera on/insert SD card/bring extra batteries. Ah the ones that got away.




Crucially, have I improved? As Yoda puts it in the latest Star Wars movie “The greatest teacher failure is.” Perhaps this is the new hope - that we continue to learn from our mistakes. I have to believe I have and looking back at last year’s photographs I certainly feel that this year’s crop are more knowing, more intelligent. They have probably lost a certain innocence or naivety. That, in itself, may not be such a good thing. It isn’t good if my images have simply aligned themselves to others' perception of what makes a good shot. I hope that I have maintained an essence of me and even developed a more recognisable style. I still try to take the pictures that I want to see - rather than trying to conform to someone one else’s view of what works.


This year I have even discovered the joys of printing. For as long as I’ve been taking photos seriously they have existed only on a computer screen or a mobile device. My first exhibition at the tail end of the year necessitated finding out about printing and seeing the first fifteen black and white images printed was such a proud moment, eager to unwrap them at my desk and showing any poor soul who happened to be passing. Thanks to the Printspace for doing such a great job. The exhibition was a far greater success than I could ever have dreamt and I loved giving my talk - who knew I’d love talking so much? (Ahem!) Following the exhibition, some of the prints now hang in my home and in my office and I do still enjoy seeing them, adding to the sense that I am shooting the shots I would like to see. Long may that last.


A year ago my website was only a few months old. A year on, blogging hasn’t exactly been frantic but it has been fairly regular and consistent - enough to see the site in the top 50 street photography websites online - though I wonder how many there are… I’ve bashed away on Instagram and Twitter and seen my following increase, now approaching the 1,100 mark on instagram (not huge but not nothing). More importantly, as a result of plugging away on these I secured an interview and feature with Digital Photographer (Issue 195) and a feature on Both of which I thoroughly enjoyed.


Honestly, if you’d told me at the beginning of 2017 that by the end I’d have achieved half of the things above I would have struggled to believe it. I’ve been very lucky and very well supported. You know who you are... thank you.


Artistically, my photographs are better. I know they are because I am more fussy about quality control and what I will allow through. I have improved my editing workflow and become better - more subtle but still with some way to go especially with colour. I have honed a style that uses sub framing a lot and is better for it. I have improved my techniques with night shots and my street work is now more about capturing well composed moments and not simply catching a passer by on the way to the supermarket.


So, if could go back a year, what advice would I give myself?

  1. Believe in what you’re doing especially the black and white - and be true to your vision of what is right.
  2. Keep pushing the social media on a regular basis. Blog too whenever you can.
  3. Don’t underestimate the value of just sitting and looking at pictures - online, in a book or a gallery. If that doesn’t sit comfortably with your Protestant work ethic, then think of it as high class training for the eyes.

Published and not damned by Hugh Rawson

Photographically, things have built to something of a head in the last weeks of 2017 for me. Having finished an exhibition which proved to be more successful than I could ever imagine, I find myself featured in the December 2017 edition (195) of Digital Photographer - available across the planet, they tell me. And online at


For some one who only ever saw their photography on a screen until a few weeks ago, it’s a bit of a head spin. Now I see my images aligned professionally with text and formatting ... and everything. And they look all right! Actually, to coin the old joke about the chap who was run over by a steam train - I’m chuffed to bits. 

So, if you’re near a newsagent and not snowed under five feet of white stuff then wend your merry way down to the High Street and check out my eight page feature. 

Unfinished Symphonies by Hugh Rawson

I never thought knowing when to stop would be so difficult.

I know that for many photographers the actual decisive moment of pressing the shutter is the moment they live for. They carry their fresh new image, hermetically sealed and protected, back to their darkroom, Lightroom or whatever their chosen editing suite is and enjoy the moment of revelation when the image they have brought home with them will be revealed for all to see. They believe that time spent on processing is time that could be better spent pounding the street, seeking out new vistas for that elusive sunrise or framing up new poses for their latest model.


Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy that. But (whisper it) I also enjoy processing my images. Most of my images are grabbed in 1/500 of a second but I can often spend far longer adjusting exposure, contrast, clarity, dodging and burning in the warmth and comfort of my own home. And I can drink coffee while I do!

Then there’s the moment when processing is complete and I can convert the image into a JPEG ready for posting online - frozen forever in its finished state like some prehistoric creature beneath the ice of the Arctic never to change again.

For the first time since I’ve been taking photography seriously I recently had a dozen large black and white images printed (thank you The Printspace - top job). There was a bit of preparation that needed doing to ensure that they reached the printers in the way that was best for them but these were basically the finished JPEG’s that I had tweaked, honed and so proudly posted online to a good reception.

However, one thing I wasn’t prepared for was the feeling that I had finished. There was to be no more tweaking, no more considering, no more trying different presets - this was what they were going to look like. Forever!

Two days later they arrived, securely wrapped and shielded in their cardboard armour. Unwrapping them eagerly, I was blown away. Not only did they actually look finished, they looked great - somehow, exactly how I had envisioned them (well dur....). How could I have created such large and professional looking prints? Yet, deep inside, there was that niggle that no matter how much I wanted to, there was no longer anything I could do to interfere for better or for worse. It was not unlike raising children to adulthood and sending them off into the world to make their own way. The images are out there now.

Not only that, they are installed in their own exhibition space - don’t even start me on what it was like leaving them wrapped and in the hands of the curator!

But, still, I must learn from this; learn to finish more and free them to be bold and confident just as they are.

Always Rattling Something... by Hugh Rawson

"They're not comfy or cosy. You're always rattling something."


This is how my photographs were described to me recently. I’m still not quite sure how to take it but at least it means I’m developing something of a recognisable photographic style. Every photographer, indeed every artist, seeks to develop their own style over time, whilst also acknowledging the debt we each owe to those who inspire, and have inspired, us.



As a sixteen year old with a trumpet in my hand I was keen to hone my own sound and thought the best way was to try to avoid any influences. So turning my back on the Miles Davises, Freddie Hubbards, and Lee Morgans, I tried to reinvent jazz as we know it. That's why you never heard of me.


I suppose that when I think about my musical taste (if taste is the right word - maybe voracious appetite would be a better description) I realise that it is more quirky than mainstream and this probably represents my world view. It would seem that my street photography is also a reflection of that. My personality/interests/quirks are showing through. And I suppose that's a good thing even if it's not for everyone's taste. At least it means my own style is developing. Whether a style ever fully develops and we, as artists, reach an end point is debatable - and probably for another day.


I know some people are shocked by what I do and feel that I am invading privacies; quietly disapproving of candid street photography. Others look but can't imagine getting so close or being so brazen. But maybe this is just me out there rattling something. I certainly don't do it to cause offence. I just like to capture the mundane and shine a spotlight on it, the way I see it.


And with this blog, I now get to write about it.


This week it somehow found itself in the top 75 street photography blogs in the world. For that, I am very grateful and have a nice new rosette to show for it emblazoned on the site, like a calf length tattoo - but one which I won't be hiding in my sock at interviews. A huge thank you for putting me there. If you'd like to see the list including the other 74 then you can find it here:


Please do click through and take a look at some of the amazing thoughts and images my street photographer colleagues have posted.


Staying in shape. by Hugh Rawson

Writer’s block isn’t something which affects photographers. At least not in the literal sense. However, the lack of creative inspiration must surely strike at every creative soul at some point. I don’t have a solution except to push through it.


Last week, as I mentioned, I visited Oxford with a fellow snapshot junkie. It had been some weeks since I had picked up the camera for anything more than just the chance of a shot on a shopping trip. This was to be a dedicated photo-walk in a place that we knew a fairly well. And where no one was going to recognise us.


The camaraderie was great. The photography, at least on my part, not so good. I just couldn’t get my eye in. I lopped off limbs, heads and halves of bodies. I’m sure part of it was the fact that I hadn’t been picking up my camera as often - muscle memory let me down. It just didn’t come easy. But it wasn’t just the mechanics. My eye was not seeing things it would normally see. It all just went to show that  I really do need to keep shooting to stay “in shape."


I’m quite used to the fact that looking through images on the back of the camera over a pint is usually disappointing. Most of what I shoot (and most street photographers will say the same) is disposable and only fit for the delete button trash can. This time there were even fewer gems. Very disheartening.


And it was made worse by the fact that the shooting conditions and light were fabulous. The early evening sun was a beautiful summer gold that was further enhanced by the yellow stone of the old city buildings. It should have all been so good.


There was nothing to do but push through and keep shooting. Since then, I've gone back over the shots and one or two are okay. I’ve gone back to the masters - Leiter, Herzog, Webb, Gruyaert, Haas for their masterful use of colour. And I’ve gone out again - a short few hours in London. It seems to have worked - although the photos from this particular trip are awaiting the first cut and processing - and my eye is seeing and framing things the way it should.


Lesson learned. 

Looking Back at the Footsteps of Progress by Hugh Rawson

The advantages and disadvantages of any age are always fiercely debated. Being a bit of a techie guy, I do like my gadgets and keeping up with whichever direction my interests are heading. Safe to say,  I am probably something of an early adopter.


I certainly don’t sit down and bemoan the passing of the days of film. I did shoot film but only until I realised that my Praktica camera was going to cost me way too much if I was to become as engrossed with it as I generally do with my interests. As a student, it was not an option and I stepped away from the camera - frittering my hard earned foldables on a healthy music habit instead. 


However, I also don’t think the future is golden and am also something of a nostalgist (bear with me). There’s a part of me that is keen to shoot film again but I never did the whole darkroom thing and that seems a step too far (for now at least).


Digital does at least allow easy, catalogued access to just about every photo I have ever shot - yes, including scanned ones that I shot with my Kodak Instamatic when I was six. Whilst finding those is kind of endearing, if not enlightening, some of the more recent digital outings when I finally picked up a camera again three or four years ago should really have just been deleted and are only taking up virtual space.


What does surprise me is that some of the shots that I never even gave a thought to - missed the moment, chose the wrong settings, completely mis-focused - suddenly have an appeal now that my eye knows more. Didn’t Saul Letter shoot shots like that - out of focus through a window? Isn’t the background actually more interesting than the foreground? Wouldn’t that work in black and white? I will revisit them some day.


It takes time to develop a style and I can’t suppose for a moment that I am there yet. However, I can look back and see the footsteps through the woods on the way to where I am today. Some make me want to wince. Others surprise me. I am glad I kept them all.


Tomorrow I plan to visit Oxford with a friend and his camera. I will shoot street and he will find amazing patterns and abstract geometry in the every day. Both of us seeking out different little nuggets of truth and beauty from our surroundings.


This prompted me to look back at an earlier visit to Oxford. As I suspected, most shots don’t bear looking at. But I was surprised to find one or two black and whites that suddenly pulled me back three years to when I first began to realise that candid street photography was "a thing” - actually a genre in its own right. Something I wanted to be part of.


These photos, which at the time I believe I would probably have shared on Blipfoto, excited me. And today, I can detect that same thrill when I look at them. I had dismissed them as early attempts. I see I shot them at F8 and can still hear one of my friends saying "F8 and Be There.” However, there is a satisfying depth of field and even a certain flukey compositional something going on. Whatever - it was enough to pull me back for another go on the streets … and I keep coming back.


I wonder what tomorrow’s Oxford will bring?