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Posted on 22nd November, 2011

The 2011 Great British Beer Festival, Earls Court, and, people photography in South East London.


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It appears that London Calling (by The Clash) is being used from this week onwards in ads for the London 2012 Olympic Games. Well I might not have a ticket for the games, but I'm doing my best to be in the city as often as possible in the shorter term at least. Following my photo / real ale / jazz venture from Camden to Hackney last week, I put the real ale first this time round, with a visit to the Campaign For Real Ale's Great British Beer Festival at Earls Court. This was at the start of my "week-end": Friday that is.


Not easy to read, but a very aptly-named betting shop building, 'The Hope', in Rye Lane, Peckham.


There were thousands of people at the event, and not just us old fogies either: anything but in fact. So it's good to know that there are so many people, even young ones, who are discerning about what they drink. Definitely no flocks of sheep there, who'll drink any gassed-up, tasteless, overpriced knatzenpizz rubbish that they see pushed on TV. Or should I admit that it just might be the music that pulled them in? Well, the Mark Butcher Band had plenty of support, as did Adrian Edmondson, star of Bottom and The Young Ones, with his Bad Shepherds.


But although I personally visited GBBF mainly for drinking, I did take my camera, and eventually gave plenty of prominence to the snapping. Not that the beer was bad: far from it, but I was tempted by a mate to sample the 11% Dutch Imperial Russian Stout (Laphroaig), brewed by Emelisse. And I can't manage that at more than a sip every 5 minutes! That gave me a few chances to wander around the massive floorspace to pick off some volunteers, plus a few others, from the many extrovert (or was it tipsy?) attendees.


I have to admit to a problem here. (No, I don't have 'challenges': I have problems. All that 'challenges' crap I got away from when I retired from that 4-letter-word thing approx 16 months ago). The problem, is trying to work out which camera mode to use for such situations. Ie: where you are in very low light, and there is subject movement. In the past I've tried AV and TV. Unfortunately, this causes the Canon (with Speedlite) to produce a blurred subject, as a result of building up the background lighting levels. At the GBBF, the camera was in P mode. (As was I quite often: something to do with the booze I'm told). Looking at the camera screen, I was reasonably chuffed with the results, as P appeared to give a decent balance of lighting. However, subsequent checking on the computer revealed too many unsharp pics. What I think it boils down to, is that I must try the one remaining mode I think could work (ie: sober mode). Failing that, M mode perhaps, but if any tog out there can point me along the straight and narrow white line, I would be very pleased.


Saturday was an enforced day of rest, with a family birthday party taking precedence. On Sunday however, I was back walking the streets of London. Photography was again going to be secondary, as I wanted simply to wander around south of the Thames, as a sort of reccy perhaps. This is because I've rarely been further south of the river in the capital than the Thames Path itself, and wanted to see the potential for people pics away from the touristy parts.


Anyway, I started on the Old Kent Road, and walked south east. The thing that hit me was the number of faith-type churches and ministries that line the road, and fill the side streets. Not necessarily in old churches themselves, but in office-type blocks, factory units, shops, etc, etc. Everywhere in fact: the whole area is thronging with them. But although I could hear the obvious sounds of worship, there were few devotees in sight. This experience frustrated my trigger finger badly, imagining all those demonstrative souls that could have been in my sights.


Disappointed, I turned north-east towards South Bermondsey, to be met by a similar environment. I did find one kindly lady to shoot, delivering what I think were patties to such a meeting, but the pic will hardly turn a head. I say 'what I think were patties', because this is where my ignorance of South London becomes more obvious. Are these people of African descent, or West Indian I wonder? African I believe, as I can certainly recall from a visit to The Gambia, similar dress styles to what the pattie lady wore. However, I've never been to the West Indies, and they may wear the same for all I know.


Anyway, continuing towards South Bermondsey, in the direction of what I later found out to be Millwall's football ground (The Den), I actually came across a service that was in progress inside a conventional chapel-looking building. I had a quick look inside, to be greeted by a phenomenal mass of colour, with all the women dressed in their traditional gowns and headgear. Feeling an intruder, I hung around outside for a while until the congregation started pouring out, and I got talking to a couple of the worshippers. They were very welcoming people, who invited me to attend a future event (which I intend to do so, as it must be an amazing experience). They warmed even more to my heart of course, when they agreed to let me take a few pics.


Onwards to Rotherhithe, where I was hoping (but not expecting) to find slivers of dock life and people. Well, they must be there if you're in the know, but I'm not. Even so, I did come across the interesting-looking Wibbley Wobbley floating pub at Surrey Quays. I was thinking of popping in for a pint, but could see no evidence from the outside of real ale. So, WW, a sign at the door perhaps, to let people know what you serve?


Retraced my route through South Bermondsey to Peckham. Couldn't see Only Fools and Horses characters Del Boy or Rodney, but passed The Nags Head pub. Also saw the up-market-looking Lyndhurst Grove. Any relationship to Nicholas perhaps? This was just one of many quality-looking streets there, so is Peckham really the less-salubrious location I imagined it was? Of more interest to me though, is the fact that I was invited to take pics of a couple of worldly-looking gents I passed, who were standing in the doorway of a pub there. Moving on, I stumbled across a group of performers, of Bolivian descent, who were rehearsing dance routines in a recreation area just behind Peckham Library. Not for the Notting Hill Carnival I was told, but for an event at their own local church. A friendly bunch they were too, allowing me to snap away right in amongst them.


So my stroll around South East London proved that it could be a fertile hunting ground for meeting interesting folk, and getting great people pics: repeat visits are definitely on the cards. Just one major problem doing pics of the performers though: my favourite lens, the Tokina 12-24 f4 AT-X, is currently being repaired, and I'm making do with a 24-85 Canon. The wider view of the 12-24 makes for pics with much better composition and dynamicism, and I missed it badly when in their midst. So Kenro, please, please make my day and get it back to me before next week-end! In return, I promise less verbal diarrhea in further posts.


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