Return to Borough Market

The third trip in my recent series of London photo walks with my friend Catherine is a bit of a retread of one of our older, very successful walks from a few years ago.

My first visit to Borough Market was without question the most successful set in the history of this site. It made the front page of WordPress, pulling in thousands of views and forever skewing the averages of my stats pages (as an idea of the traffic, 69% of all hits this site has ever had came in March 2011, the month Borough Market was posted – in fact, 20% came just on the first full day the post was on the front page).

Even putting the clinical analysis of statistics aside, Borough Market is one of my best posts from a quality standpoint. The images in that set remain firm favourites even after three years. So in short, in my mind as we were walking around there was no way this second trip would beat the first, which meant the pressure was off.

We met shortly after a partial solar eclipse totally failed to impress anyone in London, thanks to thick grey clouds and the fact the city is full of office workers who are never usually outside at 9.30am and so had no idea where the sun usually would be in the sky at that time of the morning (far too many were standing on the South Bank looking north, however, which didn’t exactly fill me with much hope for humanity).

After the success of the shots we got on our last walk, we both decided to use our 50mm primes to start off with. We met up about 10am, planning to be able to spend some time walking around before the place packed out with Londonites getting lunch. There was still plenty going on to be seen; some stalls were already set up, some were being set up, and the hot food stalls were preparing their stuff for the lunchtime surge.

1/320sec, f/1.4, ISO 1000, 50mm
1/320sec, f/1.4, ISO 1000, 50mm

Not a huge amount had changed at Borough Market since our first visit in 2011. There was still plenty of things to see and photograph, some new products and some more familiar. As ever, there was the usual assortment of delicious-looking bread that looks great in both colour and monochrome…

1/250sec, f/1.4, ISO 800, 50mm
1/250sec, f/1.4, ISO 800, 50mm
1/250sec, f/1.4, ISO 800, 50mm
1/250sec, f/1.4, ISO 800, 50mm

Cheeses you could smell from miles away (which is as it should be)…

1/4000sec, f/1.4, ISO 1000, 50mm
1/4000sec, f/1.4, ISO 1000, 50mm
1/500sec, f/1.4, ISO 1000, 50mm
1/500sec, f/1.4, ISO 1000, 50mm

… and a great assortment of fruits and vegetables in all shapes and colours.

1/320sec, f/1.4, ISO 500, 50mm
1/320sec, f/1.4, ISO 500, 50mm
1/1000sec, f/1.4, ISO 1000, 50mm
1/1000sec, f/1.4, ISO 1000, 50mm
1/640sec, f/1.4, ISO 1000, 50mm
1/640sec, f/1.4, ISO 1000, 50mm
1/640sec, f/1.4, ISO 1000, 50mm
1/640sec, f/1.4, ISO 1000, 50mm
IMG_8194
1/2000sec, f/1.4, ISO 1000, 50mm
IMG_8197
1/640sec, f/1.4, ISO 1000, 50mm

Not all the fruits were on stalls. We found this solitary strawberry in one of the quieter corners, sitting alone on the tarmac.

1/500sec, f/1.4, ISO 1000, 50mm
1/500sec, f/1.4, ISO 1000, 50mm

Colourful fruit and veg is one thing, but by far the most tempting things at Borough Market are the baked goods. Cookies and cakes and doughnuts, oh my!

1/1600sec, f/1.4, ISO 1000, 50mm
1/1600sec, f/1.4, ISO 1000, 50mm
1/160sec, f/1.4, ISO 1000, 50mm
1/160sec, f/1.4, ISO 1000, 50mm
1/400sec, f/2.8, ISO 1000, 100mm
1/400sec, f/2.8, ISO 1000, 100mm
1/250sec, f/2.8, ISO 1600, 100mm
1/250sec, f/2.8, ISO 1600, 100mm

One of the more popular images from my last trip to Borough Market was one I titled Owl Biscuits. I’m not sure why but they seemed to attract more hits than most of the other images. They were still there three years later in all their glory (not the exact same ones, of course – these were probably a fresh batch).

1/1250sec, f/1.4, ISO 1000, 50mm
1/1250sec, f/1.4, ISO 1000, 50mm

We weren’t just there to photograph the food. Based on our successes photographing people whilst out in the West End earlier in the month, we also were keen to try getting candid pictures of humanity too.

1/800sec, f/1.4, ISO 1000, 50mm
1/800sec, f/1.4, ISO 1000, 50mm
1/500sec, f/1.4, ISO 1000, 50mm
1/500sec, f/1.4, ISO 1000, 50mm
1/4000sec, f/1.4, ISO 1000, 50mm
1/4000sec, f/1.4, ISO 1000, 50mm

This included Catherine, who looked a bit shifty as she reached into her bag to change lenses.

1/800sec, f/1.4, ISO 1000, 50mm
1/800sec, f/1.4, ISO 1000, 50mm
1/320sec, f/2.8, ISO 1600, 100mm
1/320sec, f/2.8, ISO 1600, 100mm

There were plenty of customers around to photograph. I was quite keen to be as unintrusive (as well as unobtrusive which is apparently actually a word) as possible, as these were customers going about their business, on their lunch breaks and such, and the last thing I wanted was to make them feel uncomfortable.

1/6400sec, f/1.4, ISO 1000, 50mm
1/6400sec, f/1.4, ISO 1000, 50mm
1/3200sec, f/2.8, ISO 1000, 100mm
1/3200sec, f/2.8, ISO 1000, 100mm

One of my favourite shots of people I took was this next one. Admittedly the framing is a bit out and the depth of field a bit narrow, but I like how it’s lit.

1/160sec, f/1.4, ISO 500, 50mm
1/160sec, f/1.4, ISO 500, 50mm

The stallholders, however, weren’t all so keen to be photographed. One caught me taking his picture from a small distance with my 100mm macro and put his hand up in front of his face, clearly telling me he didn’t want me taking his picture. A few others seemed to more subtly block their faces from shots. Since Borough Market is a bit of a hotspot for photographers I guess they must be a bit tired of it by now. Despite this, I managed to get a few candid shots of them at work.

1/125sec, f/2.8, ISO 1600, 100mm
1/125sec, f/2.8, ISO 1600, 100mm
1/320sec, f/4, ISO 1600, 24mm
1/320sec, f/4, ISO 1600, 24mm
1/250sec, f/2.8, ISO 1600, 100mm
1/250sec, f/2.8, ISO 1600, 100mm
1/320sec, f/1.4, ISO 500, 50mm
1/320sec, f/1.4, ISO 500, 50mm
1/1000sec, f/1.4, ISO 500, 50mm
1/1000sec, f/1.4, ISO 500, 50mm
1/1250sec, f/1.4, ISO 500, 50mm
1/1250sec, f/1.4, ISO 500, 50mm

Back in 2011 we spent a couple of hours walking the market, living off free samples and not actually spending any money. This time we actually bought lunch (I’d have bought some cake too, but I was paralysed by too much choice. I’m not good with decisions). We both settled on a fresh scotch egg with sweet potato fries. I took a shot of the food as we sat down to eat. Makes me hungry again just looking at it.

1/1250sec, f/1.4, ISO 100, 50mm
1/1250sec, f/1.4, ISO 100, 50mm

Much like last time, the images I took on the day were all a bit of a random assortment, making them less suited to the usual format of post I usually write, so all of the images are in a gallery below. Take a look, and make sure you check out Catherine’s images on Flickr, because they’re very good – her people shots especially are much better than mine.

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8 Comments

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  1. A great post, Rob, and a lovely set of images that really sell the vitality of the place. It’s been a couple of years since I was last up at the market, and I’ve now got a hankering to go there again!

    I particularly love the b/w shot of the bread; there are great tones and depth to it. 🙂

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  2. Excellent stuff, your results from the f1.4 compared to my f1.8 are interesting, especially with some of the angled shots of the fruit & veg. I think your people shots by far better than mine though!

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    • It is impressive how much a difference you can see at f/1.4 compared to f/1.8. Unfortunately because I have a lens that opens that wide I don’t often step it down.

      We will have to agree to disagree on the people shots – I think yours have captured more emotion than mine.

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  3. Very nice. It also made me hungry! Markets are great photographic subjects.

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