London Skyline and bridges

London on a 50mm Mission

For any photographer who wants to reset their photographic eye, I highly recommend setting out for the day with a single prime lens. On this occasion, I decided to go on my own 50mm mission in the Big Smoke, London, UK.

My mission started with a trip via the London underground, which I figured would be ideal for a quick candid. Many photographers are fond of using a 50mm lens for candids and street photography because of their discretion and fast focusing. I personally love the field of view the 50mm focal length provides. It’s just, right to me. My second and third favorite focal lengths are 100mm (portraits and special landscapes) and 16mm (landscapes and creative low angle photos) respectively.

People getting onto tube
I set my aperture wide open and iso at 3200. This combination left me confident that I would walk away with high-quality images under any lighting condition with the exception of direct sunlight.
people walking on escalator
Cheeky underground shot, on our way to the surface.

Once on the surface, it was time to let my creative eye find it’s focus. Creative and artistic photos come from a different mindset to me than do the candids, but they both kind of come like a flash out the corner of my eye. It’s not that I see the photo, it’s more that I feel them out the corner of my eye and I understand that they’re there. I think it’s because I’ve followed classic composition so ardently, that when I recognize that a scene has some of the classic elements (foreground interest, lead in lines, an “S” curve coming from a corner, midground and background interest, etc.), they seem to subconsciously chime out the corner of my eye. Study the rules to classic composition and follow them.

London walking path under bridge next to canal
Probably my most artistic shot of the day came from under a bridge. Taken in the early afternoon sun, I was quite pleased to find a favorable composition that didn’t suffer from being too harshly exposed. Another advantage to setting out with the 50mm.

Once on the surface, I made my way from St. Johns Wood tube station, to Regent’s Canal and towards Regent’s Park.

London architecture
I love how this building looks so reservedly proud with those shadows wispily obscuring his face. I love a bit of character in my architectural photos.
London architecture
I’m a big fan of framing. Also loving the light and shadow on the green. Oh, to dream.
blue walking bridge over canal in Regents Park London
This photo was inspired by one of my favorite artists, Claude Monet and his painting Bridge over a Pond of Water Lilies.
Landscape of trees and lake in Reagents Park London
I’m a big fan of the classic framing in this more traditional landscape. The 50mm was absolutely perfect in my opinion, as it compressed the scene just enough to still emphasize the green meadow in the distance.

Walking through the park, I was transfixed by this tree. It just stood out to me as special for some reason. I was intent on capturing it, but no angle seemed to do it justice. Just then, this flock of birds came careening across this sky, in and around the crown of the tree. They created the ideal frame and the 50mm focal length, the perfect balance within my field of view.

barren tree tops with birds circling above
One of my favorite photos from the day. I love the correlation between the barren treetops and the birds. Pretty blue skies serve as the backdrop for this apocalyptic scene.
London architecture near Baker Street
If it weren’t for the modern cars, this could be a scene straight out of 1930. It’s one of my favorite areas in London to be with my camera, but the tall narrow streets make finding dramatic lighting a challenge,
London underground tube stop and people
Cheeky underground shot. A great way to practice hitting compositions quicky and correctly is to take street photos like this, in step. When you can nail the balance and focus without stopping, you’re probably on the route to snapping more keepers.
London buildings with golden sunlight reflecting
Another favorite from the day. Very much in my style, there’s the classic foreground interest, lines in the midground from the bottom left corner taking you into a central background interest; just with a 50mm instead of a 16mm, lol.
St Paul's Cathedral and steps
The one part of my challenge where I really rued not having a wide angle lens. In truth, if I had, I would’ve ended up with a fairly basic and touristy photo, not much different than the rest. Stepping outside of my comfort zone and putting the 50mm to task left me with photos that say so much more than my more standard compositions.
London skyline with The Shard and Tower Bridge
A well-balanced photo, in my opinion, detailing some of London’s gems. A little flat for my typical tastes, but still pretty pleased with the unique 50mm perspective.

Another favorite shot, as far as how it was crafted in my mind’s eye. Seeing steam coming off the caramelized peanut wagon, I wanted to capture the crisp sting of winter that the passersbys were feeling. I rode the shutter to capture four or five shots and chose this one because I liked the framing the steam provides on the subjects to the right. The setting sunlight illuminating the steam adds a bit of drama and impact to the scene.

Candid photo of tourists and steam in the cold
Quick street shot capturing the vibe of the day.
London Skyline and bridges
One of the best photos of the day, for me. I’m a big fan of the balance and how it seems to say a lot about life. Just people, near, mid and far going about their daily walk of life.
People walking on bridge with Cathedral in background
Just came around the corner, looked up and snapped. It’s not a photo that I would hang on the wall, but I like the dimensionality and hyper-real look the strong, symmetrical lead in lines give.

I’m often pleased when my photos feel like they might come to life. For me. this one does not disappoint.

commuters walking across the millennium bridge in london
One of my favorite photographs from the day. I like the balance, the two reflections of sunlight, the detail of the commuters. To me, this is a true snapshot of life.
Commuters making passage via the Millenium Bridge in London
Commuters making passage via the Millenium Bridge in London
Millennium bridge in London leading to St Pauls
How fortunate I was to have this scene all to myself.
sunset over Greenwich London from tunnel
Framing is one of my most prioritized aspects in composition and I just love how the lines in this tunnel take you right to the main attraction.

The next time you head out, try going with a single prime lens and I bet you’ll amaze yourself with how much creativity comes to the surface.

I’m a commercial photographer, based in Kent and I specialise in creating dynamic, eye-catching images for my clients. My images are created to add value to every message conveyed across the spectrum of digital and offline platforms alike, including websites, brochures, blogs, social media channels, case studies and any other medium as required. My clients range from BAFTA award winners, multi-national building firms, television personalities and heads of state to local businesses, respected artists and ambitious entrepreneurs. I was born and raised in Little Rock, Arkansas (U.S.A.), and after a stint as a lab technician followed by time out to travel, I began a career as a production rigger, working primarily in television and film. This experience allowed me to become accustomed to pressurised working environments and a demanding clientele! In 2011, I began studying at the London Film Academy, which eventually led to me devoting my time and training to becoming a commercial photographer. Whether you have a specific project in mind or you’re looking for a complete brand identity overhaul, I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at kevan@smithstudios.co.uk or give me a call on +44 77 6666 1253.

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