PHLEARN MagazineHow Stevyn Durham Captured This Vibrant, Candid London Street Scene

How Stevyn Durham Captured This Vibrant, Candid London Street Scene

We all strive to live with no regrets – but sometimes, there’s just no escaping a missed opportunity. Instead of dwelling on a perceived failure when he wasn’t able to capture the image he had in mind, photographer Stevyn Durham set about recreating a charmingly candid shot on a bright London street.

On a deliberately extended walk to the station, Stevyn passed by this corner in Grosvenor Square. He was looking for a photo op, and the vibrant colors caught his eye – as did a chic-looking woman he noticed on the sidewalk.

“[She was] stylish and impeccably dressed, in harmony with the Belisha beacons the opposite side of the zebra crossing. I thought the picture could have been a staged fashion shot, the way she stood as if posing for Topshop,” he said. “I hesitated; the girl was gone and so was my chance.”

Still, Stevyn was drawn to the backdrop of the street corner, with its interestingly-spaced objects like the light post and the phone box. He decided to practice a composition anyway, and return the next chance he got.

“It’s an expensive area with expensive people,” he said. “Surely, something interesting might turn up.”

The very next evening, Stevyn headed back to the street corner. After he’d shot just a few frames, not even thinking much about his subjects yet, a woman approached him and asked what he was photographing. Though he said he was self-conscious that she might take him for a voyeur (“which I suppose I am,” he admitted), Stevyn explained what he found appealing about the location – the photo box, the zebra crossing, and so on.

“’Yes, there’s an awful lot of rectangles,’ she noticed, so she must have been more an an artist than me,” he said. “So, I just shot instinctively, looking at shapes and so on. I carried on for a time, hoping for ‘the one.’”

Eventually, Stevyn said, he got hungry and headed home – but he’d already snapped a keeper. He describes it as a “tidy scene,” but with several elements that tie it all together.

“Reading from the right, there’s the yellow top of the [beacon] and the girls’ yellow bags – I like that there’s two girls looking so similar, and one is on the phone (as usual),” he said. “They connect to the man, who’s also on his phone, and the guy and girls are also connected by their striking styles. Then, they are connected to the phone box by way of their phones.”

The entire scene tells what Stevyn describes as “some kind of vague story,” which he said is something he looks to incorporate into his photography as much as possible.

Camera & Settings

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX7

16MP CMOS Four Thirds sensor, ISO 200-25600, 1080/60p/30p/24p HD video

Amazon

While getting the perfect shot took some effort, Stevyn said, technically, the shot wasn’t terribly difficult – and he also had plenty of time to prepare and ensure his settings were perfect. The capture was taken with a Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX7 on a day with plenty of light.

“The scene was quite static and not too deep, the settings could be right in the middle,” he said. “I try not to go below 1/250 for candid pictures, and had just enough depth at f/6.3.”

After adjusting the levels and curves, adding a touch of saturation, and straightening to get the lines perfect, Stevyn’s street shot was ready to go. He said he aims to do as little post-processing as possible, but will occasionally apply a bit of dodge/burn to balance the lighting if needed – but tries to stick of corrections that could have been achieved in a darkroom.

“Simply put, this is a ‘find a nice background and wait’ photo,” he said. “Like a lot of these kinds of photographs, most of it is sheer luck. Aside from spotting the potential, all I can really do is my best to be ready and catch that luck. A lot of the time, you miss it – like I did, the day before.”


Stevyn’s colorful street captures offer intriguing insight into the ordinary scenes we see every day – vignettes that most of us typically overlook. His photography can be seen on Flickr or LensCulture.

Jessi Gowan

Jessi Gowan is an award-winning writer and photographer who specializes in rural landscapes and fine art abstracts, with a focus on form and composition. Her photography has been included in a variety of publications, as well as in exhibitions in Canada and the United States.

 

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