Bristol Street day with Gareth Danks

The original plan was to go camping around Elan Valley and up until the weekend before this was still in motion but then winter returned and brought heavy snow to the region and freezing conditions.

Now, we’re all for a good winter camp but we all skipped the thought of doing this. We are now in full warm weather mood and get some clear nights again for the stars. So, with heavy cloud and snow now falling you already know what we decided instead.

Instead we made our own plans, I planned to head to Burnham-on-sea for some long exposures and Gareth arranged a last minute Bristol trip for street photography. Having seen his message out across social media and knew that Bristol was just up the road joined Gareths little escapade around Bristol and Gareth now planned to get up earlier to join me at Burnham-on-sea. Our Saturday was now going to be a full day of photography.

What made it even better was the weather drastically improved with sunshine and plenty of breaks in the clouds to create some drama and contrast for our street photography later in the day.

What I wasn’t expecting was the some-what booming sunrise and sunset we had. Much like the original plan for Elan Valley it looked to be overcast and cloudy which was fine for long exposures as I wanted some movement in the sky. The pair of us set off around 4am in the morning and made the two hour journey down South to Burnham-on-sea to head to the Low Lighthouse. With a high tide at 8:30am and sunrise a few hours before, gave us plenty of wiggle room and enough light for an early sunrise long exposure. We only spent a few hours here but that was plenty and with the fast tide we had to work quick. When trying to do 1 minute exposures made it interesting to say the least.

Set up and frame the shot - tide 6 foot away

Hit the shutter - tide still 6 ish foot away

10 seconds in - tide 5 foot away

30 seconds - tide has reached your tripod and feet now

60 seconds - wet feet

Gareth’s photo here shows the measure of how fast the tide comes in! My little island was only here for a mere 20 seconds longer before I had to get out of there before getting cut off.

I didn’t do any wider landscape shots which having seen Gareth’s shots after instantly regretted but instead I worked on the tighter shot of the lighthouse and nailing this. Below are a couple of mine from sun rise and a few hours later at high tide.

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Gareth’s Vlog from Burnham-on-sea

Now approaching 9am the pair of us had wet feet and beginning to feel the early start with lack of coffee and food. With the tide now heading out and the best of the soft light gone we opted to leave the coast and head in land to begin our photo walk around Bristol. I have to say I was nervous, although I shoot portraits and video events/conferences, street photography is another level of courage needed. I know we were going to be doing nothing illegal but the nerves of someone complaining if we snapped a photo was always at the back of my mind.

This is likely what puts most people off this medium and makes it something very difficult to do. It’s a confidence game, not just knowledge of a camera and composition.

Our photo walk started at a cafe called Woodes for some grub and pitstop. Here we would meet the others who were joining on the photo walk around Bristol. Joining us on the day were photographers; Adrian Strong and wife Tina and Craig Pitts. You’d think for street photography five photographers wondering around snapping photos in a group would be off putting but in this group it was the best thing as a novice in the area of street photography.

I’ve shot with Gareth numerous times but with landscape photography and when were out wild camping but this was great seeing him work in a different field, closer to his usual day job. Gareth shared numerous tips on how to get the focus, depth of field and what to look for in the compositions and that if someone asks what you are doing, don’t freeze up and just be polite (That’s pretty obvious to do) but having someone as a guiding light as such was perfect!

For the next five hours we spent our time wondering around the streets of Bristol and despite the early start it was a brilliant day. It was only until me and Gareth reached Clevedon pier that evening for sunset did we start to feel the effects of the early start and 10 miles walking about Bristol.

What I learnt doing street photography with Gareth was very similar to the same mediums and practices we apply in landscape photography.

Find your composition and wait, rather than waiting for the light you wait for the right person to walk in to shot. Okay I said rather than waiting for the light, you need this too but thats just one small element to the story.

Don’t be afraid, think of all the people out there using their mobile phones to take pictures, no different between you and them.

Primes. One thing I don’t shoot with or use all that often. You could call me lazy or clever depending on your opinion but I typically use zoom lenses to cover a wider focal range which is ever helpful when photographing events or the outdoors. Keeping kit lighter and removing the need to changing lenses all the time.

Using a prime lens for street photography helped keep things simple, throughout the day I typically shot between 17-25mm at f/5.6-6.3 in aperture priority, auto ISO or 400 and let the shutter do its own thing. As it was a bright day the shutter speeds were plus 1/500th second and just used exposure compensation to adjust. Back to the original point, primes would have been easier and simpler plus makes the camera pocket sized. Yes Gareth, my rucksack was certainly over kill.

After a day of wondering the streets of Bristol we finished of at the YHA Bristol for burger, chips and a beer! A great reward after a solid days photography but the day wasn’t over yet. We saw the sunset was due to be a colourful one and quickly began planning locations, looking at various apps we saw the best of the weather wasn’t in England but in fact Wales, ironic after we abandoned the trip over the Mid-Wales.

Myself and Gareth opted to head back down to the coast around the River Severn and visit a seaside town called Clevedon, famous for its pier if you’ve never seen or heard of it before. Like the issues we faced that morning at Burnham-on-sea the tide here was another fast tide but having got wet this morning we stuck right back to avoid any more soggy feet.

Back to sunsets it wasn’t a disappointing one and the skies lit up in bright orange. Sat on the beach with the sunsetting and cameras set for long exposures we could sit around and enjoy the views and by this point the down jackets had come off where the sunshine and warmth finally made an impact. A stark difference from the snow and bleak cold weather we had days before.

A brilliant end to a long yet very fun day of photography. We will be doing this again in the future so keep an eye on our channels and comment if you wish to join us.

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