Posts tagged street photography
Back in London - some local street shots

I’m back in London for a short period, so our kids can visit out grandparents. It’s also a good opportunity to bring my Fujifilm X-T1 for all kinds of photography while I am here.

My mission is to really work my exposure triangle in these little projects. For my street shots, I’m trying to keep the shutter speed up at around 1/1000 and my ISO down at 200 as much as I can. The light needs to be stopped from about f5/6 to 11 to get good sharpness throughout the depth of field, but with the 35/1.4 lens I’m using for most of this trip, stopping outside of this range brings its own special something anyway.

Here’s a few shots taken in the 4 days we have been here so far.

Another judge commendation for 'Waiting for the Greens' street shot

Really pleased to see this morning that my market street shot, 'Waiting for the Greens' got another judge commendation in a 'Close-up bland and white candid street photography' competition. It didn't do badly in the crowd voting either, finishing in the top 10%. Check out the competition and the results here. It's interesting that the judge comments how many people didn't stick to the brief, but were popular with the crowd anyway, and he laments this fact.

My new online exhibition launched today: The Fallen

I was on my  way into my office one morning, and I just happened to have my Fujifilm x100 in my hand. I saw a flash of brown and yellow, fluttering in the wind on the ground before me. As I walked up to it, I experienced a dawning realisation that it was some kind of bird of prey lying motionless by a pole on the pavement. I wondered what to do. Was it a protected species? Was it dead? If not, what had happened to it and how should I care for it. It's wings fluttered weakly before me, being pushed by the wind upwards and over its face, shielding it from my view. One of its eyes looked half-open. It looked stunned rather than dead, but I couldn't be sure.

Still, I decided to take a few quick photos of it to see if someone could identify it, go into the office to get rid of the bags I was carrying, and come back out with a towel to see if I needed to pick it up and remove out for a while before I could get someone to come and take care of its needs, be it alive or dead.

I must have been inside for all of two to three minutes. But, but the time I emerged back onto the pavement, it had disappeared.

I did a little research after I got back inside, I called the City Council that has a team that deals with this kind of thing. They didn't know what to make of it but asked me to send in the photos that I did take , as it might be helpful to identify the species of bird. I sent the photos in, and sent a follow-up email a couple of weeks later. I still have heard back from them . Some people thought it might be a Morepork (and native New Zealand species of owl), but others thought it might be a Karearea or New Zealand Falcon. I also came across this, saying that for Karearea, the risk of electrocution is a real one.

I then recalled that I found the bird lying on the ground at the foot of an electricity pole.

To see the complete series of 5 images, please click here to go to my online portfolio. Thanks - and do let me know what you think.

App review: VSCO

I've got a new little gig as the photography app reviewer for the UK cellphone service provider, giffgaff In this, the first of a weekly set of blog posts, I'm reviewing the VSCO app trailed as a community and tool for creators. Click here to read my short review as to why you might find this a useful alternative for your smartphone's native camera app.


Absolutely Positively 100% Pure - Behind the photographs

I have been working in the area of disaster mental health as a psychologist for over 10 years. During this time, I’ve seen a few responses to emergencies, and some recovery processes too, as well as being involved in the work of preparing for disaster and understanding how people perceive risk, and actions they take on those perceptions. Or, sometimes how people discount risk so that they don’t have to contemplate uncomfortable truths, meaning they can carry on as they are rather than be forced to take action that would greatly disturb how they currently live their lives.

One way I try to represent this in this series of photographs that I have made is through our relationship with place and time. The end of the day means it is  time to be with the people we care about, to leave work and to re-connect with each other as the day draws to a close. We live in a beautiful country, so what would be better than to move to a high viewpoint to watch the sun set and the light fall on the sea, with big open skies to watch the colourful show as the stars begin to twinkle in the twilight, and to share that experience.

But to share in modern life means more than to share with just the people we are physically in that place with. It means to share with a much wider community online. And when I take the photograph with that mobile phone, perhaps I become a little less connected to the people I am physically with, and more concerned about who might be watching what we post online from afar. How will they judge what I post? Maybe I need to exaggerate the photograph, just a little, to make sure they understand what an amazing moment this is that I am sharing with them. But as the screen dims to our eyes, as it does when our eyes have been looking at it for a while, as we judge that the colours aren’t quite popping off the screen as we would like them to, we perhaps turn the sliders up to far, causing our photograph to become quite disconnected from the scene we are actually looking at.

It is this disconnection from experience that I am interested in exploring. It isn’t the making of the photograph that causes us to become disconnected. I wonder if it is because we show this to others online, to a large audience, that causes us to loosen the connection between reality and representation, to exaggerate the colours and the landscape we see, to meet with the approval and liking of others. To create a hyperreality. To me, this distortion of reality to meet the needs of the audience isn’t new in photography. It isn’t new in the study of risk perception either. Of course, it isn’t a universal experience, for example, the use of the #nofilter hashtag is a nod at least to an acknowledgement of the augmentation of images that happens more often that not.

The idea of solution aversion is one way to understand this; we alter our view of reality to be as flattering as possible. When we look at the world around us and we see problems, like climate change or inequality, people may be motivated to deny problems and the scientific evidence supporting the existence of the problems if we don’t like the solutions being proposed. Similarly, if we don’t think the scene we are witnessing is good enough to share compared to how we think it should look, or indeed in comparison to all the other sunset pictures that are being posted on social media, then perhaps we alter reality to become as flattering as possible. Because the other solution would be to post the picture as it is, and the feared outcome is that we will be ignored.

As we alter reality to avoid being ignored, and to increase the likelihood that our image will be liked, I wonder if we become increasingly disconnected from the reality of the world we live in. Instead, we unconsciously choose to romanticise the land and our experience of it as perfect, ambient, and the envy of the world. I wonder if we do this so often because when and if we take a long look at our world, we see problems that are hard to fix, and will take concerted action by individuals, communities and nations to make the difference that catalyses real change.

It’s easier to alter our perception of reality rather than to grasp the hard solutions to make real change. But, if we continue to do this romanticise our landscape and create hyperrealities, then I wonder what reality waits for us.


1. Connection

2. Romanticisation

3. Hyper-reality

4. Consequence

First exhibition: Absolutely Positively 100% Pure

It's an exciting day today as I launch my first exhibition today. Here are some images of the 4 photographs being displayed at Raglan Roast Cafe on Abel Smith Street, in Wellington. And here's the artist statement I have on display there too. I've put up another post here describing the thought process behind this sequence of images I have decided to explore too. This exhibition by Dr Sarb Johal opens on 26 April and is located at the Raglan Roast cafe, on Abel Smith Street in Wellington. This series of 4 large images explores our relationship with our landscape, and how we tweak the photos we take on our cellphones to get more likes for that amazingly beautiful sunset.

Instagram-able photos - that’s what lots of people want when they grab their cellphone as the sun goes down. Even better if there is a handy scenic backdrop. Pump up the colours before you post on social media, because it just needs to look more dramatic. And, of course, lots of    

I am interested in our relationship with the landscape of Aotearoa New Zealand.  In this work, I look at how we romanticise what we see, trying to create sharable moments that perpetuate our fantasy of New Zealand as we like to see it. This small sequence of 4 images finishes with questioning what might await us if we only see the Instagram-able shot; most likely fewer from the land itself.

The photographs were made on the south coast of Wellington looking out towards South Island in the summer of 2018, at the small dog-friendly park off Bann Street in Southgate. The images were edited in Lightroom and printed out on archival paper. I’m interested in bringing photos back to life by printing them - so many photos live online only. A Fujifilm X-T1 with 50-230mm lens was used to capture the images.


  1. Connection
  2. Romanticisation
  3. Hyper-reality
  4. Consequence

Dr Sarb Johal is a clinical psychologist and photographer.

Instagram: @sarbjohalphoto

Email: to buy prints

Many thanks and humble bows to Raglan Roast for hosting this exhibition.

Why I make photographs the way I do

Of course, I make photographs because, well, I like making photographs. Forgive me if this seems somewhat circular, but it's difficult to distance oneself from a practice that has been so ingrained for so many years, becoming an unconscious reflex. These days, that reflex is to grab my phone when I'm in a situation where it feels like an interesting image may be about to present itself. I'm trying to train myself out of that more recent reflex development, by providing an alternative pathway to an actual camera I try to have at hand. 

But it is an interesting exercise to try to understand the path of my life's experience and training, and how that might influence how I see the world, and how I frame images and my use of light when I make photographs. For example, the range of expressions it looks like I habitually capture when I look through my back catalogue. The absences of people or emotions which feel somehow too difficult in one way or another to commit to a photographic process. It is an evolving way of seeing my photographic practice, but here's where I have arrived at most recently, in as succinct a way as possible:

I use photography as a means of exploring the relationship between people, place, and behaviour. Drawing on my 25 years or experience as a psychologist helps me to frame my images and the people and place that I photograph. Often, I won’t know what has drawn me to make a photograph of a particular image. And more often than not, I discover something else as I process and actually physically print out that photo too. Photography helps me to explore the hidden understandings of my character, the knowledge I bring, and the world I live in and how they all come together in the creation of a photograph.

My 24HourProject Wellington, New Zealand 7 April 2018

On the 7th April, 2018, I joined over 4000 participants from 850 cities in 104 countries around the globe, all documenting their cities and stories over the 24 hour period in this street photography project. It was a new experience for me, and another angle was that I was the NZ Ambassador to the project too. I managed to get the story picked up in a couple of local newspapers, but when I pitched it to a couple of radio shows, they didn't seem all that interested, which is a pity, especially when I compare it to the pick-up it got in other cities around the world. Nevertheless, there was a good size group of people participating in the project for New Zealand, mainly based in Auckland, but also in Christchurch and Wellington, and there may be others I don't know about. Here's six of the pictures I took, and a little bit about each one.

This photo was taken in Cuba Street at in the early morning outside the Bristol Hotel, using my Fuji X-T1 and 35/1.4 lens. The duo playing were having a bit of trouble getting attention from the crowd, as they'd only just started and people were pretty loaded. So they were trying to have a bit of fun, and this guy was clearly amused as he walked past. A bit of fun as the evening turned into night.

Of course, as the night went on, the work didn't stop. Part of the project was designed to document humanity as they went about their daily life in their city. In this photo, I noticed the worker starting his shift clearing up after other people's fun. He did his work purposefully and at speed - one of an army that carries its work out mostly unseen to make sure that our city functions as well as it does - and it mostly does here in Wellington, I'm pleased to say.

One of the lovely things about Wellington are the little things that people do to make our city a softer, more interesting place. In this case, clearly someone had woven little patterns of cotton to decorate this city bench to make it more inviting and colourful to sit on. It's still early morning, but at this point, I headed home as I had a full day of work to prepare for, even though that's unusual for me these days it being a Saturday.

The next morning, I changed camera to my Fujifilm X100 (the original version) and took a trip to the market on my way to my meeting. I captured this image of a woman doing her shopping - she was actually comparing produce and something had clearly caught her eye as I pressed the shutter here - just another thing we have to do in order to live our lives, and a task that mostly women do in our families - not always, but mostly. And as this project's theme this year was to document the lives of women in our cities, I thought it worth focusing on and including.

This image captures a young woman running though a War Memorial here in Wellington. For me, the symmetry caught my eye, as well as the symbolism of a woman taking care of herself in a space that was dedicated to sacrifice and honour, as well as the tragedy and horror of war.

Finally, these two young women were representing TheRockFM radio station at the Homegrown music festival happening in the city that evening as I made my way home from the meeting I'd been at all day. The atmosphere was races, loud, but good-natured - but it was still early on. I didn't stick around to see what happened next.

In case you're interested, here's some of the blurb about the project and a link to their website: "We connect emerging photographers, aspiring photojournalist and visual storytellers from every city of the world to document humanity and make a difference by raising awareness about global issues and empowering NGOs.Participants share one photo per hour during twenty-four hours. On one single day we get to see the world from a different point of view, humanity documented by local photographers. Through the 24HourProject’s mission, values and global exhibitions, the project reaches millions of individuals annually showcasing the human connection of images and real live stories."