Month: March 2017

All you need to know about Londoners

London is the premier international city. You can walk down Oxford Street and easily hear 10 languages in 10 steps, because people come from everywhere and anywhere. (I used to think New York was the most diverse city in the world, but it really pales in comparison to London.)

Even after 9 years living in London, I only scratched the surface of the diversity in this city. But I did learn some things about the lovely ladies and lucky lads living in London as Londoners:

Londoners are accepting

While the UK might have voted in favor the Brexit, London was overwhelmingly against it. Diversity drives their economy. Sure, some jobs are still typically older white British men. But in finance and the creative industries, talent comes from everywhere. And people get along. It is a beautiful testament that a people with different cultural background get along just fine. In fact, it makes life much richer.

Londoners are adaptable

The tube goes down, the traffic jam is backed up, something isn’t working the way it’s supposed to, and people adapt. They find another way.

But they’ll complain about it. Complaining about the weather is not just a favorite pastime, but also a staple conversation starter. In a city where the weather can be gloomy, rainy or moldy, there are hundreds of ways to discuss the drizzly pitter-patter that drops down.

Londoners love their pint

At lunch, after work, the pub is the social scene. Any day of the week, the pubs have a crowd of people popping by for a pint before going home.

Workplaces are much more collaborative for it: when you drink together, you share stories, and you work more effectively together.  I volunteered with the Samaritans… and after every shift we’d stop by the pub. It wasn’t mandatory, but we did it anyways.  Even people like me, who don’t really drink.

Londoners love the sun

Maybe because it is so unpredictable and you live in semi-darkness half the year, when you have a sunny day, it is an unofficial national holiday.

Any warmth, and just a splash of sun, and people are out, covering any piece of grass you can find. You actually have to worry about stepping on people’s toes. (Don’t do that. They don’t appreciate it.)

Londoners live life

They walk fast. Although, not New York fast. When they’re not walking, they’re standing in queues. Even on escalators… but only the right.

Tip: never stand on the left, and you will annoying a true Londoner, who will ridicule you silently for your lack of utter ineptitude of the lowest form of travel etiquette. Of course, you won’t know, because they’re too polite to say it to your face. But everyone else standing on the right will know exactly what they’re thinking.

 


Also published on Medium.

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Culture, Diversity & Mikela Thomas

For this first episode, I had the pleasure of speaking with Mikela Thomas, the diversity liaison at Cheshire Elementary School, about culture and diversity.

How to Get The Perfect London Night Shot

I love photography – and have been snapping shots since my first digital SLR in 2004. (Well, before that I shot some 20,000 photos on whatever digital camera I could find.)

There are 15 minutes, at the end of day (probably at the beginning too, but I’m not an early riser), when the light is perfect for photography. The contrast between the sky and the landscape leads to some amazing photographs. Ansel Adams was famous for capturing this with his black and white photos and is still the best-known photographer. He is also the photographer’s curse, for the rest of us now must also rise at sunrise or step out at sunset to capture this “gold-standard” of lighting.

Even after the 15 minutes are over, long-exposure night shots are fun. They capture movement in streaks, and gives otherwise static photos a sense of movement.

My first SLR photography class was a Groupon deal for a tutorial on the Thames River in London – just at the end of the millennium bridge opposite of St. Paul’s Cathedral. We had a group of 15, along with a professional photographer who guided us on how to use our digital SLRs.

There are three variables when you’re taking a photo: ISO (sensitivity to light), F-stop (how bit the hole is that lets in the light), and the shutter speed (how long the hole is open).

For a night shot, the settings are pretty straightforward. You put your camera on a tripod. Set the ISO to 100 or 200 (which is where your camera is optimally designed to operate), and set the F-stop high (around F-16).

F-stop is confusing at first. A higher number means a smaller aperture, and a smaller aperture requires a longer exposure to get the same amount of light, but also maximizes your depth of field. (With a shallow depth of field, your background and foreground would be blurry when your subject is in focus).

You want to maximize the depth of field when you’re shooting a landscape. (F-11 is a standard for photographing people, I’m not sure why, but it seems to work well.)

From this point, you’ve locked in two of the three settings on your camera, leading to one thing you can change: the exposure. So, you change your camera to shoot in manual and start adjusting your exposure.

Manual mode was always a big mystery to me, but it is not as scary as it seems: with a digital camera you get instant feedback after each shot. Plus, cameras have an indicator when the light is evenly balanced, so it’s easy to start in the right ballpark.

Night shot recipe: ISO 100, F-16, manual mode, on a tripod

Hopefully you’re set up 20 minutes before sunset. There is an awesome app by the way, called “The Photographer’s Ephemeris” which tells you when the sun will set (and rise, and when the moon comes up, for any location on the planet, complete with directional lines of where your light source is relative to you. It’s awesome.)

And now you start taking photos. As the sun sets, you’ll notice your exposures increasing from 1/30th of a second, to 1 second, to 5 seconds, to 25 seconds. As it starts to approach 15–30 seconds, you’ll notice when the photos start popping with that oomph that grabs you.

Long exposures are fun. But when an exposure takes 30 seconds, you spend a lot of time just standing around.

With even longer exposures, you find yourself standing back and observing the world while your camera eats up light. You feel almost like your camera is a sheep eating grass, and you’re the shepherd.

People don’t seem to notice you in a city, and sitting there with your camera, you can sit back and watch all the people walking by. As you’re framing your shot, you notice details too  —  how architecture fits together, what the shapes of the buildings look like, where the cracks and impurities are… the world you see each day comes alive. All the things that you never noticed pop out in their beautiful imperfections.

And that’s all it takes to get started in nighttime landscape photography!


Also published on Medium.

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The Joy of a London Train Ride

Some days you just want to get out of town: one of my favorite escapes was the 45 minute train ride down to Brighton.

London & The Indescribable Value of Kindness

Kindness is one of the rarest gifts we have to give…