Talking about a trip isn’t always easy. Too much and it comes off like you’re bragging; too little and it can seem like you didn’t have any fun. Much like a photograph, a trip needs time to settle in the memory–if you try to go over it too soon, emotions can overwhelm the objective view of it. Likewise, if you wait too long, details become murky and memory can change and warp the reality of events.
With that introduction, I’m going to try to recap my recent trip to England as best I can. Being that this is a blog about photography, that was the focus while I was there and will be the focus of this post, too.
(And no, this was not my first rodeo: my father and I have previously been to England in 2006, 2009, 2010, and 2011. This trip was the 2012 edition.)
I spent the time planning my trip to England the same way I plan for every trip: by going over various possible combinations of cameras, lenses, and films that I could bring with. My thought process on this is generally to think about a variety of factors:
- Where am I going? And as a follow-on from that, what will I be doing? Have I been there before, and what kinds of activities am I planning? If I’ve been somewhere a lot–like England, for example–I’m more prone to take risks and limit my gear in order to challenge myself. If the place is new to me, then I tend to stick to focal lengths to cover a standard range. Activities matter, since gear choices will be impacted based on whether I’ll be cliff-diving in Belize, hiking in the mountains of Colorado, or meandering the streets of Tokyo. This is pretty self-explanatory, but it’s worth stressing.
- What will the weather be like? This will help to determine how much time I will spend outside shooting. For example, my trip to Portugal in March was a lot different than my trip to England in January. Then again, I went to Alaska in August, when it’s light almost 20 hours a day, or more; had I gone there this month there would have been almost no light at all. What time of year is it? This will alter the amount and quality of light, which is kind of a follow-on from the previous point.
- What cameras am I enjoying at the moment, and which ones haven’t I used in a while? I go through periods when I use a certain camera almost all the time, and others will sit unused. Sometimes this indicates a sea change in my interests or style of shooting (as has happened recently), but more often it just means that I have too many cameras and I need to use the ones I like more.
- When it comes to film: what kind of film do I have laying around, what’s expiring soon (or has already expired), what kind of film speed do I need, and will I be working in color or black and white? I have, in the past, brought a variety of color and black and white, but I have learned that I prefer one or the other; this provides a more consistent visual thread when I return and look at my images. Film speed will be impacted by the weather and light I expect to encounter, and color vs. black and white might be termed an arbitrary choice, but it’s also stylistic and helps to inform the kind of photographs I will make when I finally start my trip.
Those are some of the things that need to be considered before traveling. There may be more, but that is what I came up with for the time being.
Early on, I decided to make the trip all black and white. Why, you ask? Well, having been to England a few times, I wanted to make this set of images different. One way to do that was by eliminating color, although I also wanted to challenge myself to avoid color since in reviewing my recent work I came to the conclusion that much of my color work was not as strong as my monochrome work. The other way I decided to challenge myself was to make the photographs all film. Initially I was tempted to bring along my Hasselblad as my secondary camera, but it was too large to be a backup camera (I always travel light), and so I left it at home.
I decided to take my Leica M6TTL 0.58x as my primary camera, and brought along my 35mm f/2 Summicron ASPH and the Summicron-M 50mm f/2 as my lenses. As it was all black and white, I brought along Ilford Delta 3200 (20 rolls) and Kodak 400TX (30 rolls) as my films (I know, you’re thinking that’s overkill for an 11-day trip, but since it’s damn near impossible to find film anymore, I didn’t want to run out). At the last minute my wife convinced me to bring along my Fuji X100 as a backup camera, lest anything happen to the M6 that would prevent me from making images (loss, theft, damage, etc). I was hesitant as I wanted to make this an all-analog trip, but against my better judgement I brought it along. Boy, was I glad I did.
You’ll never guess what I found when I got to England. It rained. Every…single…day.
I know, I know. You’re thinking to yourself: dude, it’s the winter in England. Of course it rained every day. And I hear that, I really do. But over the past 4 years it has hardly rained at all that I can remember, and the weather ahead of the trip was optimistic that there might be some rain, but not much. Well, the forecast kept changing and not only did it rain each day, but it was really dark and gloomy too. Despite bringing ISO 3200 film along with ISO 400 film, the rain kept us inside a lot, and the film camera didn’t get near as much use as I’d hoped (as it turns out, that may have been strangely fortunate).
The X100 didn’t disappoint. Then again, it never does. I ended up using it quite a bit, especially since it fits in a coat pocket, meaning that I didn’t have to carry a bag on the days that we went to see football matches. In the past, I have had trouble with bringing camera bags into football stadia, though it varies greatly from stadium to stadium, and even then it varies (seemingly) depending on who is working gate security. Bottom line, there is no consistency in it–so better safe than sorry. Having the X100 at the matches was good, though, as it allowed me to get in a few quick snaps while also not being tempted to take too many and miss the main event…the match!
**Since this is just my blog, I treat this forum as pretty casual and the work I show here isn’t necessarily my best–that includes this post. I wanted to include a few shots from the trip to break up the monotony of reading everything I’m spewing onto the page, but the ones I’ve included are ones that I have already labelled as “rejects”. In other words, they didn’t make the final cut of images I consider the best from the trip. As always, I’m in the process of making a book to cover the trip, and the best images will be going into that. Once the book is finished I will be posting more of the best shots for you all to see here, but the editing process isn’t done. I’m also still waiting on some film to come back.**
We managed to catch four matches whilst in jolly old England:
- 26 Dec 2012: Fulham 1-1 Southampton
- 29 Dec 2012: Fulham 1-2 Swansea
- 01 Jan 2013: West Bromwich Albion 1-2 Fulham
- 02 Jan 2013: Chelsea 0-1 QPR
All in all, the matches were entertaining. Last year was better, purely in terms of results (for Fulham), but being a lower-mid-table side, Fulham won’t always get good results against decent clubs; that’s what made last year’s win at home to Arsenal and draw on the road to Chelsea so special. To top that off, this year the squad is a little weaker than it was last year.
The football on the field was one thing; off the field it was another. We took the Fulham club coach to West Bromwich on New Year’s Day for the match, which we found affordable, comfortable, and convenient. In fact, traveling to away games in the future just got a lot easier! The Chelsea match was a hard one. Not only was the product on the field awful (Demba Ba has recently been brought in in an attempt to rectify that to an extent) but it cost us £75 (~$121.50) per ticket (!) to sit through that miserable spectacle that was presented to us. We both decided that those prices are too much, and we won’t be paying that again. Last year we paid £55 apiece to sit in the away end with the Fulham supporters, and even that felt extravagant.I’m not sure I would go back to Stamford Bridge at all anymore, and I certainly wouldn’t go at those prices. It’s easy to support Chelsea from across the Atlantic, as games are more readily available online or on TV; if I lived in England I certainly wouldn’t support them and I’d be behind Fulham %110. This says something about Americans as consumers, I think, as we have been trained not for loyalty to sporting franchises (the very term franchises exposes them for what they are; insistence on calling them clubs in England is disingenuous and disguises them as a public good, when in fact they are businesses run for profit, and often owned by billionaires, many of them foreign) but rather as consumers. This transaction feels more honest–I attend a game in the States, and if the product you present to me (the team) isn’t any good, then I simply won’t go. Or the team will lower prices to get me in the door; when the team is successful, I expect to pay more. The constant raising of prices in England is starting to feel a bit like extortion, and we both felt it–the Chelsea match may just have been the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Aside from football, there were a good many photography exhibitions we managed to take in. The inclement weather helped to keep us indoors. Some of the exhibits are the usual ones we see every year (Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize, Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year) and others were new. All of them were solid, and none really disappointed. If you’re in London and have a chance to see either, I’d recommend doing so. They have both been consistently excellent for the past few years.
This post seems to be long enough already, so I will cut it short here. As I said above, there will be more posts coming about this trip to England at some point, so I’ll leave something to be said about those when I get around to posting them!