My favourite urban images of 2022
Well, that seems to be it for 2022, and what a fantastic year it’s been. Time for a recap of my favourite images.
Just like the cider and mince pies saw in another Christmas holiday season, it’s time for a little more self-indulgence. This is always a highlight for me because despite being a photography teacher, I still get to do this photography thing we all love, and 2022 was a good year.
“I find it particularly exciting when a picture evokes anything near the word, ‘mystery’.”- Jeff Mermelstein
Where possible, I’ve tried to stay away from the many personal projects I’m working on in this selection. They do consume my thinking when out doing urban photography, so I’ve selected work from outside many of them. I firmly believe that my imagination and muse work better within the pressure of a framework of a body of work/project. This is why I love our cities and the urban warriors fighting to hold back nature while trying to carve out a life. There is simply so much to shoot.
Here are some of my favourite photos, plus as many reasons, tips, and tricks that I can jam into a single post to help you with your photography.
As many of you know, I’m a colour junkie, so I’m always looking for one-colour-dominant places. The yellow paint acts like a cocoon for the descending steps that hold the promise of something interesting just beyond our reach. I waited for someone to walk below to add that human element, although the photo would have worked okay without a person. The traffic cones themselves are a sign of human presence. Taken in London.
It was the two-woman sitting on the bench that drew me into a possible shot, especially since one of them had her legs swinging off the ground. Then as I watched, I noticed the horizontal lines of the paving stones at the bottom, the horizontal bench, horizontal railings, the blue horizon, and the lighting cable at the top. All aspects are balanced off by the vertical people and flagpole. I love the symmetry of it all. One of my favourite moments this year. Taken in Ilfracombe, Devon.
My favourite London dawn image
Thirty-plus years in the wildlife and natural environment ingrained in me the opportunities of dawn and dusk. Those special times when the daylight is at its most haunting. I travel into London by train and arrive at London Bridge station, so this vantage point at dawn is my first stop. Most days, it’s an average scene, and I don’t lift my camera. Sometimes though, you get the breath thumped out of you. A tip here is to always work your patch regardless if nothing promising seems to be happening. It only takes one occasion to get that photo you love. I handheld my camera with my elbows on a low wall, taking extra care when pressing down on the shutter release button. Taken in London.
An easy photo to take with the vertical lines of the smoker and the giant columns offsetting the blocks in the horizontal steps and wall. The diminutive nature of the person accentuates the scale of the building he may work in. Always look for differences in scale in your wider photos, whether doing street to travel photography. Taken in London.
A central fountain flanked by large blocks of granite and two people having lunch, oblivious to the passing world. Symmetry is a favourite compositional tool of mine but not always easy to find. The washed-out colours of the scene help to add punch to the blue clothing, which draws the viewer’s eye in quickly. Taken in Oxford.
As an urban photographer, mobile (or cell) phones are your friend. In the past five years, I’ve noticed a more distracted public out there because of their phones. If you’re an introverted person or someone who doesn’t enjoy the possible conflict that may happen from time to time on the street, this is a blessing. This woman had no idea that I was even near her. I love that she’s sitting on a step while a bench was available is nearby. When we get lost in our thoughts, anywhere is a chair. Taken in Oxford.
St Paul’s Cathedral
Working a small patch or a particular project means that you need to be creative with common subjects or landmarks. This will force your imagination to work overtime within a smaller structure/framework.
“When forced to work within a strict framework, the imagination is taxed to its utmost and will produce its richest ideas. Given total freedom, the work is likely to sprawl.” – T. S. Eliot
Now, London is not a small city, so it’s easy to lose yourself and get good random photos. Nothing wrong with that at all. In fact, one of the items on your project list should always be a “getting lost with no projects to shoot” day. Keep changing up what you love shooting, and your wider photography experience will grow. Taken in London.
A person drinking a coffee. I love photos like this because of the reflection of the glass, plus the shop is on a corner. You can see through the coffee shop, which brings in the possibility of something happening in the background. I did wait for a while for a pedestrian to come into view on the other street, but none came. I know I’ll get this shot or something similar somewhere else, so I didn’t stay too long. Don’t be afraid to miss photos or fail in an attempt to get something. Taken in London.
A busy shot that has a load of elements to hold your gaze. The behaviour of the photographer, and his expression, bring you in before you drift to the person behind and then onto the shop window. Occasionally, I like minimalist work, sometimes, I like my work like I enjoy life – a little chaotic. Taken in London.
Movement is still a passion I have while taking photos. While I love portraits and still subjects, movement makes our work come alive. I flipped out the back LCD screen so I could place the camera below my eye line to allow me to rest my arm on the escalator handrail. I knew that I wanted to mess around on the escalators, so had set my camera up for shutter speed priority and slowed it right down. Taken in London.
Girl and Dolphin Statue – a long time favourite
Those who have followed my work for some time know my love of this statue because of my early conservation days. Whenever I’m in the area, I’ll swing by and see if there is a new angle I haven’t found yet. Work your passions and keep returning to the same scene to force yourself to find something new. Read more about this stature in a blog post I did a while back. Taken in London.
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but in seeing with new eyes.” – Marcel Proust
Alone in a crowd
More movement. This time, I looked for a person who was stationary in an area that had a lot of hustle and bustle. I also love this elevated viewpoint because it allows for a less intrusive vantage point. A really slow shutter speed was needed here, so I rested my elbow on a nearby railing and drew on all my hand-holding skills. Taken in London.
Smoker in an alley
I don’t do a lot of black and white, but this scene screamed out for it to be processed in that manner. If I do convert from colour, I do love a significant difference in contrast between white and black, as opposed to loads of greys throughout the image. Taken in London.
Okay, not quite in the humorous ilk of the master street photographer, Elliott Erwitt. As you progress on your urban journey, definitely follow and study all of his work. It is exceptional. The rebellious and contrarian side of human nature always intrigues me, and it shows that in the urban scape nicely here. Taken in London.
Fish and chips
An iconic place on the beachfront that could be taken anywhere along the British coastline. It’s a busy photo of a man with his sandwich. I noticed him ordering his lunch and loved his black beret. When he decided to sit and eat it right there, I knew that was the moment. Taken in Brighton.
As the green movement takes hold, bicycles and scooters will form a significant part of the urban space. Again, here I love the vertical elements of the photos. I did take one in landscape orientation, but the vertical nature of the bikes and shadows set against the tall buildings, poles, and scaffolding, made this the better version. Experiment and take different orientations of all your scenes. Don’t just get into the habit of simply shooting one orientation for all your work. Trust me, it happens after a while, so fight that habit. Taken in London.
Lost in music
The reason why I love the city. The frantic nature of everyday life is an energetic fuel for some people but also a heavy weight on the soul of others. Some just like to get lost in their own playlists and shut everything out. I love that it’s almost a black-and-white image without the processing. Taken in Oxford.
Part of urban photography is capturing people doing everyday things. Our furry friends play a large role in that space, as they do as individual companions to humans. Taking the dog for a walk and getting a coffee is such a quintessential activity for urbanites that I wanted the right scene to focus on the animal rather than the human. I could have got a lot closer to isolate the dog in the frame, but I want the urban space around the shop. Taken in London.
These telephone boxes are quite rare in and around London, and when I approached this one from the right-hand side, I took a few photos of the gentleman on the phone through the side glass. They were okay. When I walked past, I had this view and knew all the other photos would never see the light of day. The pose, the black box and the black suit – sometimes, planets do align. Taken in London.
People are essential to any urban or travel work. The locals make for part of the story you are trying to convey. The gentleman was enjoying a coffee all by himself. I took a photo, but it seemed to be missing something. A minute later, a red car came past and stopped, and the young men got out. They balance off the scene even though they are blurred and don’t capture your eye quickly. Taken in Brighton.
Any change of angle is worth investigating in your photography. Here I looked over the edge of a railing to the tables below. There were many couples sitting below me. The intimate nature of this man and woman celebrating her graduation with all manner of small elements surrounding them lures the viewer in and holds them there for a while. A good or memorable photo must entice your viewer in with a strong main element, then invite their eyes to explore further. Taken in Brighton.
Never be so old and staid that you forget the need to play and experiment. Despite doing photography for a long time, I love playing with movement in a photo and still get a buzz out of doing bursts like these using a zoom lens. Slow your shutter speed, zoom in and focus on your main subject, then start turning the zoom ring on the lens, pressing the shutter release button midway through. Have fun with your work. It is for you and nobody else, so embrace the child and ignore the critics. Taken in West Sussex.
Simple lines parallel to the horizon. The balance of the bench and trashcans hint at the presence of humanity without needing the people. The weighting of elements on the bottom part of the image are just holding their own against the weight of the sky and cloud. On your journey, learn about balance, weight, and the visual mass of the elements in your photos. These are all things we discuss in my 1-2-1 workshops. Taken in Brighton.
Reflections are the perfect cheat photo in urban and street photography. It’s not invasive to people and can show the urban shops against the products they sell and those who purchase them. Taken in London.
Never forget to look up when you’re out and about. We live in the real-life metaverse, filled with abstract photo opportunities all around us. Break the habit of just photographing things at eye level. Look up and down. This is a typical abstract photo that sells well on photo agencies if you’re into shooting stock for a living. Taken in Oxford
Hats in the doorway
All about the colour. A little more abstract photo here from a shopping district in London. I have a project on the go where I take landscape photos of open doorways and some of the products the shops sell. As a standalone photo, it may be self-explanatory but lacks a little context. As part of a larger collection, it all makes sense as you stand back and see the whole body of work. Never judge another’s work unless you can see their body of work because that gives you a clue to the direction of their journey. All images you take elevate your work a little more, and having long-running projects means you must have patience with your photography. Fight the need to share everything immediately after you take it. Taken in London
Much like the pedestrian here, you need to spend a lot of time walking the streets to scout locations. I found this one after exiting a station on the opposite side to where I needed to be. Knowing I was a little lost, I decided to circle around the outside of the station when I stumbled across this scene. I spent about twenty minutes here photographing passengers and will go back a few times to work this scene. Taken in London.
The big commute into the city is a daily migration of people through the streets, alleyways and sidewalks. The angle (converging lines) of the well-lit concrete floor, columns, and roof point to the reason all the people are coming or going – a train station, bus depot or shopping centre maybe. Show the flow of people and traffic to highlight the hustle and bustle. Taken in London.
A man lost in thought or location looks at his phone for help. A higher vantage point allows us to be voyeurs of our fellow human beings (because we don’t tend to look up as much). The floor was boring, so the frame had to include someone who would stand out, either by clothing or movement. I went with the landscape version here because it allows me to have a big area of empty space that he was looking into. Taken in London.
I’m married to an incredible international wedding photographer who is the complete opposite of me in terms of our photography. Capturing people on one of their most special days and consistently getting all the best shots of the day takes an immense amount of photography and people skills. Occasionally, I will travel along and help with some of the behind the scene shots (BTS) that she uses. Here she is showing what you must do to capture that moment. Have a look at her wedding and branding websites if you’re interested in those particular genres.
I had a few photos done by Mrs M for some social media content, and I love this one she took of me in China Town, London. One of the many places I frequent to capture what I love.
There were many photos that I could have included here, but that would have just meant going on and on. I hope you had a fantastic photography year and are super excited to get cracking with 2023. I know I am keen to share my passion for teaching with many more people who are starting out on their journey.
Happy New Year to you and yours.
For further reading, how about reading about my 35-year photography journey in a short post?
Such an interesting & strong collection of photos and I love the story behind each capture. Here’s to a fantastic 2023 filled with many more photography adventures & stories.