A Taste of India at the South Bank

A couple of weeks ago – you know, almost all of my posts on this site begin with a time-based scene setting: ‘a couple of weeks ago’ or ‘yesterday’ or, when I’m trying to conceal just how long it has taken to to turn a photo trip into a physically complete post, ‘the other day’ – I headed into London to meet up with some friends. There was no plan in mind, no great scheme, just meeting up with a few people from different directions for lunch and whatnot.

The weather would turn out not to be in our favour, but to be honest April has been a very wet month in the UK. I had also made the mistake in dressing for the season, not reality, so I was wearing a coat that was a little thin.

During a lull in the rain after lunch, we found ourselves near the South Bank outside the South Bank Centre, where a ‘Taste of India’ festival was taking place. This was essentially a market selling foods of an Indian origin, which, yes, is as nice as it sounds.

We walked around for a little bit, my eyes catching all sorts of sights, angles, and subjects. I was with friends, making me reluctant to get my camera out lest I be left behind again (I know I mentioned last time I was at the South Bank that the next time I would leave my friends behind, but to be fair one of them had a pram this time which slowed everyone down a bit). Eventually I could resist no more. There were pictures to be had here, and I was going to take them.

pile of yellow spice
1/160sec, f/5.6, ISO 1250, exposure bias -0.33, 62mm

Now, my inability to accurately or even remotely identify species of plant life, animals or birds is well documented over the history of this site. This week I learned that this highly specific agnosia also extends to spices. I have no idea what the spice is in the image above, but I do know that up until my last trip to the supermarket that’s what I thought saffron looked like. Stop laughing at me like that.

The weather being overcast and at times rainy, combined with the market being relatively crowded, meant lighting was constantly a bit of an issue. Even shots like this one and the one that follows, shot in daylight, needed a pretty high ISO to get the shot.

some sort of kebab thing
1/640sec, f/5.6, ISO 1250, exposure bias -0.33, 135mm

I was in two minds about keeping, let alone posting, this image because although I like the lighting and the food itself looks delicious, it isn’t exactly the prettiest of foods. It’s still enough to make me hungry however.

There are inevitable parallels between this post and my post from Borough Market almost two months ago. There were very similar sorts of sellers here as there are at Borough, catering for all types: people looking for supplies to cook at home, people looking for sweet deserts, people looking for lunch. So, not unlike Borough, there was at least one stall cooking food on a borderline industrial scale.

vat of curry at a market stall
1/125sec, f/5, ISO 1250, exposure bias -0.33, 44mm (cropped)

Usually, the risk of repetition isn’t that worrying to me. I’ve returned to Richmond Park or Bushy Park numerous times, and each time I’ve come back with at least a few different images from the trips before.

The feeling is slightly different when shooting something so similar to Borough Market, simply because it was the post that bought most of my readership here in the first place, and one most of you are familiar with. I can’t get away as easily with repeating something.

Fortunately, there was a lot of different, interesting stuff to be seen at this festival. Not just in the food, either.

row of lightbulbs above market stalls
1/400sec, f/5.6, ISO 1600, exposure bias -0.33, 85mm

I really like this last image, it’s certainly one of my favourites from this set. I know I’ve used this reasoning before, but I love the colours and the bokeh.

One thing I don’t remember seeing at Borough Market was macaroons. I have absolutely no idea what they are, but the bright colours and creamy looking fillings have always been appealing to me.

macaroons at a market stall
1/125sec, f/5.6, ISO 1600, exposure bias -0.33, 79mm (cropped into portrait)

Without warning, we were best upon by a sudden hailstorm. Heavy, instantaneous, and made of ice. Just a typical April rainstorm. As we weretaking shelter under the canopy of a nearby building, I randomly looked through my viewfinder and decided I liked the shot. At home I decided it would look better in black and white.

people's feet in a crowd
1/60sec, f/3.5, ISO 1600, exposure bias -0.33, 18mm

In hindsight processing the shot like this is very reminiscent of a shot I took in London in February, and this one is not as good to my mind.

As quickly as it began, the hail subsided, which meant back to the stalls.

1/160sec, f/5.6, ISO 1600, exposure bias -0.33 (+0.81), 100mm

I love cupcakes. Especially ones like this, with thick soft frosting and light airy sponge. I maintain it’s not possible to bake cupcakes like this at home, because I’ve never known them to come out this way. I think I may have to buy a packet mix and bake this weekend.

This next shot is an interesting one. Although all I’ve really adjusted is the exposure and contrast and added a vignette, it has created an almost watercolour-esque look to the final image.

Indian veg in a bowl
1/160sec, f/5.6, ISO 1600, exposure bias -0.33 (+0.78), 120mm

Before long we found ourselves back at the macaroon stall. I was obsessed by them a little; they look so very tasty and above all visually and aesthetically appealing.

macaroons at a market
1/800sec, f/5.6, ISO 1600, 62mm

The bloke behind the macaroon counter looked a bit grumpy whenever I returned. I was genuinely expecting him to complain about me taking pictures, although I can tend to be paranoid about things like that. To make it up to him I eventually returned and bought a bag, which I took home and used to experiment with my food photography. Those will probably turn up in a later post.

Eventually I had checked out all of the stalls a few times and taken a few pictures, my friends had grabbed some food, and my wife had bought some of those cupcakes, and we found ourselves on the outskirts of the market, engaging in the usual chatter as we prepared to go our separate ways. By this point I was feeling confident enough to wander off, which I did as soon as I saw the bridge we were next to, and the effect the rain had had on the ground next to it.

black and white shot of a railway bridge
1/640sec, f/3.5, ISO 1600, 18mm

I’m pleased with this shot; after not wanting to risk pushing the contrast too much in the opening shots of my last post, In the Church Grounds, for fear of darkening the image too much, I think I’ve (hopefully) gotten the balance right on this one. The darks are black, the lights are white, and there is a load of great texture on the wall.

I enjoyed the wall, and the small sign on it, enough to go in for a closer look.

warning: forklifts
1/500sec, f/5, ISO 1600, 52mm

For this image I’ve turned to using a brush to ‘paint’ the areas of the image I wanted to be monochrome. I might have been able to get away with just removing the reddish tones from the image – the brick wall was mostly red – but I wanted to preserve the strong yellow colour of the sign. I’m not sure why the sign was there, however, as I don’t recall ever seeing a forklift in the area. Perhaps that’s the reason for the sign – to warn against the least expected. If I knew there’d be forklifts, why bother with the sign?

We headed our separate ways, my wife and I heading towards Waterloo Station to get a train home. As we walked under the railway bridge I caught sight of an interesting shot.

people walking under a bridge
1/500sec, f/3.5, ISO 1600, 18mm

I love the silhouettes of the people in this image, as well as their shadows caused by the indirect diffused light of an overcast day. There was a natural vignette caused by the way the light was shining under the bridge but I enhanced it with a hint of a digital one. Definitely made things better but I worry the top half of the picture is a little lacking.

A little further on I came to another shot that is a favourite of mine from this set.

two security cameras by a London street sign
1/400sec, f/5.6, ISO 1600, 79mm

I love the Orwellian feel of this image, something I tried to emphasise by desaturating the image a little, which helped boost the already grotty look of the subject. I actually entirely desaturated all colours except red, using my usual ‘selective chromatic removal’ method. This has managed to keep the colour of the bricks and the sign and, I think, helped great a more interesting dingy look than an across-the-board desaturation (as a side note, ‘dingy’ looks like it should be pronounced ‘dinghy’ which has confused me more times than I can imagine).

My final shot on the trip was an unusual self-portrait.

photographer in mirror
1/500sec, f/5.6, ISO 1600, 75mm

I’m not entirely sure what I was hoping to achieve with this photo. There was an intention to do something with the stranger in the background, but ultimately I don’t really know what the image is trying to say about anything.

I’m quite pleased with this set; there’s not much truly Borough Market quality but there are definitely some very nice shots that are among my favourite few hundred shots. Which isn’t as bad as it sounds – being in the top 300 of a 10,000 image collection puts you in the top 3%.

I’m also fully aware that for the first time since the turn of the year the first post of the new month is not a retrospective of the old one. Don’t worry, that’s coming, but there are a few posts I want to get published first.

2 thoughts on “A Taste of India at the South Bank

  1. You make the food look really good! Lovely post and thanks for sharing.


    1. Thanks, glad you like it!


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