I had recently travelled to Manchester as a break and also to do some street photography. I had never been to Manchester before and I thought it would be a good experience to broaden my horizons and improve my photography. For the first few days of the trip, I explored the downtown and surrounding areas and was mainly photographing in colour. I used these days for scouting areas which would contain interesting scenes and people, and also to identify any areas to avoid.
My preference for street photography is still black and white film and I chose to use the expired Ilford FP4+ film stock for this purpose during the last couple of days of the trip. I brought my 50mm lens for general shooting but also used my 85mm lens for some shots where I wasn’t able to get close enough to my subjects in time. The benefit of using prime lenses with these particular focal lengths is that it forced me to move around and keep my eyes open.
I Want to Ride My Bicycle [Ilford FP4+, 1/500 s, EF 85mm f/1.8 USM]
Sometimes, there’s no time to think about composition and you need to take the shot and hope it turns out well — especially with a medium such as film. This was one of those times.
I was resting on a bench in front of the town hall when I had noticed a boy performing tricks on his bicycle. As he was about to pass by, I turned around quickly and readied my camera for less than half a second before I snapped the shot. Thankfully, the autofocus on the 85mm was fast enough to focus on the boy as he performed a wheelie across the tiled floor.
The positioning of the boy in the scene ended up being even better than I had expected. The negative space in the image is perfect as the light-coloured floor and pillars in the background contrast against the boy’s dark-coloured clothing and bicycle. Due to the faster shutter speed and longer focal length of the 85mm lens, the other objects in this scene are not in focus, placing an even greater emphasis on the boy.
Street Portrait [Ilford FP4+, 1/350 s, EF 85mm f/1.8 USM]
This photo was also shot in front of the town hall, but on the other side on the bench. I was watching the trams pass frequently and figured that I would be able to work with the windows to sub-frame the passengers within the tram. I noticed this scene as the tram had pulled up to the station at the perfect location.
The metal pole and seat inside the tram, the border of the tram window, and the metal framing around the glass pane all combine together to form a frame for this “portrait” of a woman. I had intentionally metered so that the woman would be underexposed and appear as a silhouette against the white pillar in the background.
Unlike the previous photo where I did not have time to react, I had a bit more time here and noticed another pedestrian walking down the ramp from the station. I had adjusted the shutter speed to be able to freeze the motion as well as capture both the man and the woman in focus, and waited patiently for the man to come into the frame. Both people have similar postures, but the bright visage of the man provides contrast against the darkness of the silhouette.
Child-like Curiosity [Ilford FP4+, 1/250 s, EF 85mm f/1.8 USM]
In this scene, I was walking along the sidewalk and I noticed a little girl walking alongside her father. They had stopped at the bus stop and were likely waiting for the bus. I realised that the bus stop would be perfect for framing subjects and possibly be a subject in itself.
The adults are obscured by the signs and supports of the bus stop, leaving the children as the focus of the scene. The girl is interested in something outside of the frame while the child in the stroller is preoccupied with something in front of him.
I attempted to use the rule of odds in this composition with the three panels of glass of the bus stop. The scene may be enhanced with the addition of a third child in the last glass panel. Of course, part of the fun of street photography is unpredictability and oftentimes I find that the scenes are not exactly as I would like them to be.
City in Motion [Ilford FP4+, 1/2 s, EF 85mm f/1.8 USM]
I had wanted to capture the motion of the city while still having a stationary subject. Due to the placement of the tram tracks and the openness of the roads, many pedestrians were interrupted momentarily in their crossing of the streets by the crossing of the trams or other vehicles. With this knowledge, I took an opportunity to photograph a man who was waiting for a tram to pass before continuing on with his journey.
The difficulty of photographing motion in the scene arose from the high amount of light present. I did not have a neutral density filter available so I would need to use the smallest possible aperture in order to achieve usable images with slower shutter speeds. Thankfully, the slower film speed of FP4+ was a huge boon for longer exposures even in the daylight.
The blurred movement of the tram, together with the darkened trunks of the trees, frame the man perfectly. The trio of trees to the right also draws attention away from the other parts of the frame.
I feel that the man represented myself. While I was remaining stationary and resting on a bench, the world wasn’t going to stop and would continue on moving without me.
I hope you have enjoyed these images and I look forward to sharing more photos from this trip in the future.
The images have been shot on a Canon EOS Elan 7e (EOS 30) film camera using either a Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM lens. The expired Ilford FP4+ film stock (expired in 1996) was shot and developed at 125 ISO. The majority of the photos have been taken using shutter priority with an adjustment of EV +0.5. I have only listed the shutter speeds for the images as I do not recall any of the corresponding apertures.
The film was developed using Ilford Ilfosol 3 for 5:30 minutes at 20C. Ilford Ilfostop was used to halt development for 0:30 minutes at 20C. The film was fixed with Ilford Rapid Fixer for 3:00 minutes at 20C, followed by a water rinse for 3:00 minutes at 25C. The resulting negatives were scanned using the Epson V550 and edited in Photoshop.