I don’t know about you, but with the prices of parking in Leeds and Manchester going up and up, I always want to make the most of my daytime trips there. One of my favourite ways is to wander around the centres capturing life as it goes by.

Both cities are in a state of flux, so a scene which seems trivial today may have huge significance 20 years hence, so it’s a worthwhile documentation exercise as well as an artistic challenge.

I’d been doing my bit for charity and the amazing CoHearantVision, centre for the blind and deaf, and had an hour to spare so decided to do a lap of the city, see what was going on.

The first choice was what to take; go minimal, or take a kit bag… the former won. Grabbed a 50mm F1.4 prime lens – they’re small so you don’t get hassled too much and also let in a lot of light on these dark Feb days. The other huge advantage of the “fast” lens (or bright lens) is that yu can make most things in a shot blurry other than what you want sharp – using a thing called “depth of field”. You’ll see it in many of these shots, some things are sharp and jump out, other just blur to nothingness. In  this shot I’d focussed on the words and left the art gallery to go “SOFT FOCUS”

It also helps force the viewer to look at what you want them to in a way a shot where “everything is sharp” can’t quite do..

I’m only guessing, but I’d expect you’re seeing “pagan body piercing” jump out here!

Now the problem with this shallow focus, or “narrow depth of field”, is that you’ve got to be quick and accurate with your focussing. If you’re out by a few inches, your shot is soft and blurry. So you need to be on the ball and practice lots – and needless to say, “take” lots of photos. Street is a bit of a numbers game in many scenarios. You can prep all you like, but life doesn’t stop and pose for you, its there and gone in the blink of an eye.

When I get these shots home, it just seems right to make them black and white, also to give them dark edges, known as a “vignette”. Adds a bit of mood to them.

Anyway – here’s a selection of shots from Leeds, taken last Thursday, a gritty and real February day

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