Welcome, and thank you for stopping. It is very kind of you to do so. There are so many demands on our time and attention so I appreciate you taking the effort to pause here a moment.

My name is Stephen Taylor. I work full time (as an e-learning developer and instructional designer) but in my spare time I take photographs. You can view some of my work on this website. Some of it is also for sale on Alamy and nuMonday, either as digital downloads or physical prints. More of my photographs can be found on Flickr and Instagram as well.

We are always learning (I learnt that in my early days as a trainer) and this blog is a part of my learning process (and possibly yours?). Some of the postings will be on the subject of photography itself, based upon my reading on the subject and viewing other photographers’ works. Other postings will be on my experiences as a photographer seeking to improve my art; some of these will be less about the photographic process and more about the subject itself.

I am sharing them because I hope that people will respond with their own ideas so that together we can learn. I am not an expert in the subject but I am happy to share my thoughts and to have them challenged. I hope that in some respects this blog can become a conversation on the subject of photography.

Things I have carried with me

I have been having a clear out (almost!)

The new year is a good time for new starts, decluttering your home and your life and moving on unencumbered. But we never do, do we?

Here are just a handful of the things that I have carried with me through my life. They include an old bellows camera that does not work any more, an LP even though I don’t have a record player (and there are more LPs in a box under the bed!), a very very worn out teddy bear, an anthology of poems edited by Walter de la Mere which I have not looked in for many years, a pair of binoculars that might not actually belong to me and, finally, a book given to me by my Dad on my fouteenth birthday back in the last millennium!

All these things and many more I have carried with me down the years. Each time I have moved I have packed them away and brought them with me, unpacked them and placed them on shelves or in cupboards possibly thinking that at some point I really ought to get rid of them. But each time they have stayed connected to me.

It is almost as if objects like these, the ones we can’t throw away, become a part of us and they are as much us as our character, our memories, what we look like.

The question is now that have I photographed them does these images become the objects? Can I now make that trip to the charity shop or the tip (sorry, Teddy!)?

Somehow I think not but I will keep you informed.


A reflection of 2022 in the photographs I made each month.

The year has turned and we are all stepping tentatively into 2023. Before I travel too far into the new year I thought I would spend a little time looking back on the past year. This, therefore, is a short walk through each month of 2022.













Making photographs

I am always fascinated by the process of photographing. Not necessarily the technical aspects of it such as the exposure settings although that is interesting and of the joys of photography is how it melds the technical with the artistic. What sometimes interests me is why I photograph and what actually goes through my mind as I choose to take a particular photograph.

I have been thinking about this a great deal lately. I have been taking photographs for a long time now (many decades!) but very often I did not give much thought to my motivation – I just liked carrying a camera and taking photographs.

Lately, though and perhaps with age I am beginning to reflect more on why I take photographs. I have written a little bit about this before but here I want to focus on the actual process of photographing. What happens when I head out to take photographs? What goes through my head as I walk along? What makes me lift the camera to my eye in one case but then leave it on another occasion?

My jumping off point for these thoughts is Jerry L Thompson’s monograph “Why Photography Matters“. The photographer’s teeming brain, he suggests, has a vision of the world and is trying to make sense of it. This is something I recognise in myself. In the rest of my (non-photographic) life I like a sense of order and everything in its place. One of my habits is to endlessly play patience or solitaire on my iPad; there is something about trying to make order out of the random cards that appeals to me. That is what photography feels like to me; I am trying to make order out of the world around me.

Thompson suggests a photograper goes through an interative process as they take their photographs. They take a first imageand then they review that image and look at the world in a different light as a result. They then go on to take further photographs building upon their altered perception. Thompson does not explore why that first photograph is taken. In fact he suggests it does not matter.

It is that first photograph I was interested in. I am very conscious sometimes that I can take a little while to “warm up” as it were. Maybe it is a self conscious thing; it can seem a strange and certain circumstances intrusive thing to take a photograph. You are marking out as someone different to everyone else (unless you are at a traditional tourist hotspot where everybody is taking photographs!) Or it could be quite simply that I am not sure what to photograph or I am not motivated to photograph; nothing seems to appeal to me.

Once I get warmed up, though, I can be snapping for hours, paying no heed to what might be going on around me beyond observing what could make a great photograph.

A few weeks ago I decided to try an experiment. One evening I was photographing along the Embankment in London and every so often I stepped back from the photography and outside myself to reflect on what I was doing. I paused to make a few notes of my surroundings, what had caught my eye and the process of making each photograph.

Here is the journal I kept that evening along with some of the photographs I made. Reading it back a couple of things stand out. First of all, most of the note seem to have been taken earlier in the evening; writing took second place to the photographs as the evening wore on! Secondly and perhaps more importantly I noticed one of my key motivations standing out early on – the act of creativity, of making something that doesn’t yet exist.


On the 91 bus to go photographing along the Thames. At the moment the memory card is empty and none of the photographs I might take exist. I have a few ideas of what I would like to photograph. My plan is to walk along the north side of the Thames from Charing Cross to Blackfriars and to capture iconic riverside landmarks agains the setting sun and in the golden hour and the blue hour.

As the bus travels down Caledonian Road I am anticipating the return journey in a few hours time, sitting on the bus home and looking through the photographs I have taken. What will I have seen and how will I have captured it?


On the Embankment. Overhead dark clouds are rolling in from the west. There will not be much of a sunset. There is still some hazy blue light above Waterloo Bridge. It is high tide on the Thames and the water is choppy. Perhaps I could capture the motion of the waves?


It is half an hour until sunset. The dark clouds have blown away but the sky is covered by a low haze. I am standing by HQS Wellington, a white training ship moored on the Thames. The lighter colour of the bow contrasts with the darker water. A slower shutter speed might turn the water to a blur.


The sun has now set but there is still plenty of light left in the sky and I am still standing next to the white ship waiting to catch in the right light.


The sun has set and the city lights have risen. I am walking back along the Embankment pausing on the way to photograph Waterloo Bridge. The moon is almost breaking through the haze above the London Eye.


Trafalgar Square. It is after dark now but the Square is busy. I wander around the fountains watching how the light plays upon the water, and the way the reflection of the National Gallery blurs to an abstract as the water ripples.


On the bus home still photographing out of the upstairs front window.



Almost took 100 pictures although many of them are variations on a theme. Later on I will need to identify which are worth keeping.

The photographs

After a major editing process, here are a few of the photographs I took that night with the comments I made about why I was taking that photograph.

HQS Wellington – I was interested in the contrast between the chains, the hull and water. I stood here for some time as I wanted to get a version that blurred the water to emphasise that contrast

London Eye and Waterloo Bridge – taken after dark. I have photographed several of the bridges along the Thames that are illuminated. I was pleased to see the moon through the hazy clouds. With a little bit of strolling around I was able to position it just about right with the street lights on the bridge and the London Eye.

Old phone box – somewhere along the Embankment. I have been looking at the works of Saul Leiter and Ernst Haas and how they use light and colour. This might have been inspired by their work.

Hungerford Bridge – looking up at the tension wires as I walked along the Embankment, a moment to look up, quickly photographed and then moved on.

Diversion/road closed – yellow and red signs. Towards the end of the evening I was walking up Northumberland Avenue towards Trafalgar Square and a bus home. I was attracted to the colours of the two road signs. I took various versions with pedestrians, cyclists and cars in the background. I think this one works the best.

National Gallery – reflected in one of the fountains of Trafalgar Square. My evening taking photographs was almost done but I still wanted to take a few more. I took numerous versions of this image, some hand held and some on tripod.

It was fascinating to step outside myself a little bit. It made make think a little more about what and how I photograph. It also made me focus more on the subjects I chose and what I was trying to achieve with each of them.

If like me you have sometimes wandered why you take photographs and you are looking to make sense of your own photography it might be a useful exercise for you to try as well.

New Year’s Day

I cycle; I stop; I photograph

Sometimes when I go out cycling I will take the camera. I might have no particular subject in mind, just whatever I see along the way. Sometimes I may come back with no photographs at all (or I end up deleting all of them!) Sometimes I will cycle for some time before stopping to take a photograph, and on other occasions I will be stopping every hundred yards or so, sometimes even doubling back on myself if I think I might have missed something.

I live in London and I have written before about cycling out of town, the shackles of the city slowly loosening until they have fallen away and I am released.

This particular ride took place on the first day of a new year (2022). The previous years had been turbulent but little did we know as the year turned that there would be further turbulence on the way. For the moment, though, as with each new year there was a moment to pause. I took the day to ride out of London through Barnet to a small village called Ridge.

At this time of year the soft light mutes the colours such as the remains of last year’s harvest or the spread of green promise on the dark earth. Close up, the winter trees stood stark but further out softened into the light.

My destination was the church in Ridge. A project I have been exploring for some time is all about what I have been describing as the quiet corners of churchyards where the evidence of the practical day to day activities of tending graves and remembering the dead is found.

Behind the church and within the shelter of its wall stands a small bench. I noticed an array of glass vases lined up beneath it in preparation for flowers. On this occasion I was drawn by the light of the setting sun that had barely risen all day. It cast a glow through the church and upon the window above the bench, creating an aura of tranquility in this quiet corner.

The low light reminded me that I would have to turn around and head back into the “Great Wen” very soon so I put the camera away and headed for home.

Click the link below to view the route I took.


To the sea

Behold the sea!

Walt Whitman

I grew up by the sea and try to revisit whenever and wherever possible.

It was never in the sense that I wanted to sail upon it or dive into it or fish from it although I have many friends who do all of those activities. I like simply to stand at its edge and look out on it. For me the sea is more about its possibilities; what it represents.

One of my earlier photographic projects was all about taking the road to where it ended at the edge of the sea. I photographed my cycle ride from my home in London to the edge of the land. I was fascinated by the idea of the roads running out and eventually stopping. As I rode out of London through its busy city streets, then into the suburbs and then into the countryside where the roads thin out and become quieter I felt as if I were shedding something, a second skin perhaps that I wear the rest of the time. Only when the road petered and left me at the edge of the land contemplating the sea did I feel that carapace fall away.

So that’s how I feel about the sea; an endless expanse upon which I feel I can cast away a part of myself. It is what I hope I express in these photographs of the sea taken throughout my time as a photographer.

This post was inspired after hearing Ralph Vaughan Williams’ “The Sea Symphony” from the BBC Proms. It opens with Walt Whitman’s inspiring words, “Behold the sea!” which I always think when I climb over a hill or turn a corner and uncover the sea rolling away before me.


We’ve all done it (at least I hope we have and it’s not just me!). We’ve been out taking photographs and seen something that would make a great subject so we raise our camera to the eye, focus and fire the shutter. Then we take a look at it later maybe on a larger computer screen and we discover something we missed at the time. That empty landscape? There’s someone having a picnic over there! That “decisive moment”? There’s something in the way at the wrong moment!

Everything the photographer sees through the viewfinder becomes a part of the photograph. There will be something that caught your eye – that is your subject and where you want your viewers to look first. Then there is everything else. This should in some way contribute to the photograph by placing the subject in context to help tell your story or it should not distract from the subject.

In another post I will take a look at what you leave in the photograph but this time I want to discuss what you should leave out and a few ways of decluttering your images.

So, you’ve seen something you want to photograph, and you raise your camera to your eye to take it. But wait…

Whenever you raise your camera to the eye get into the habit of doing a few things to check for and remove unwanted objects.

Check the edges.

If you are like me you can be so distracted by your subject that you miss something at the edge of your photograph that could prove distracting. If you do see something like that there are a few things you can do:

  • Wait. If you wait, could the distraction move out of the way if it is a person passing by, for example?
  • Move. Can you change your viewpoint to eliminate or minimise the distraction?
  • Change focus or exposure. If you cannot remove the distracting elements can there be thrown out of a focus or into shadow, so they are less obvious?

As you take more and more photographs all of these things should become instinctive, and the time taken to carry out a few seconds.

There is one other thing you can do, of course. Fix it afterwards. If you can’t get rid of it all can you remove them in post-production?

Once you have removed or minimised the distracting objects everything else left should have a part to play in your photograph and we will take a look at their role later.

Looking at photographs

When was the last time you stopped what you were doing and simply looked at a photograph?

When did you take time out to wander round an exhibition or look through the pages of a book of photographs? If you’re reading this I am guessing you are already interested in photography and so probably more than most people.

The question, however, struck me a few weeks ago when I was helping out at the Royal Photographic Society London Region Members Exhibition. My role was to greet visitors and explain the purposes of the exhibition to them, and answer any questions that I could. I was in the gallery for four hours and in between chatting to people I was able to spend time simply looking at photographs.

I would wander to one particular photograph, pause and stand in front of it, looking deeply into the image. Then, after a while I would move on and do the same for another picture. Sometimes I would end up going back to certain photographs more than once, maybe the ones I liked the best.

The length of time we spend looking at works of art in gallery is about seventeen seconds

Most of that time is taken up with reading the caption! Even the greatest artists’ works are afforded little time – the Louvre has found that people look at the Mona Lisa for fifteen seconds! I didn’t record how long I spent in front of each photograph at the RPS exhibition but I think it was a lot longer than that. Of course the length of time spent looking at a work of art, whether a photograph or a painting does not necessarily equate to the intensity of feeling – a single glance might be enough.

These days we are exposed to a vast number of photographs every day.

There are in adverts in magazines and newspapers (which many of us still see even if just in the newsagent) and there are on roadside billboards and the backs of buses. And then there are the adverts we see online. And I haven’t even mentioned social media. Nearly two trillion photographs are taken each year and many of them find their way to Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc. How much attention do we give to all these images? If Leonardo can only manage fifteen seconds how much attention do our posts on Instagram get?

Perhaps it’s time to pause.

Most of the photographs we see (or are exposed to – do we really see them?) are there for a purpose, usually to try and sell us something. But what about taking a moment to simply look at a photograph as a photograph? To view the subject, to look at the composition; the relationship between the objects in the image and the background. To look at the tone of the photograph; the light and shade. What can we see and what is hidden? If the photograph is a print can we look beyond the image to the texture of the paper it is printed upon? And how do respond to it emotionally? What do we feel about what we can see?

Diane Arbus used to display photographs (her own and the works of others) around her apartment so that she would see them regularly. Perhaps it is a good habit to get into, to take control of the images you see. Instead of being exposed to other people’s photos find the ones you like whether your own or other people’s. Maybe choose one photograph at a time; print it or cut it out and put it on your wall. Each day take time to look at it and think why you chose to put it on display in your own private gallery. Every so often choose a new photograph to look at.

Another option I have taken to trying is, ironically, another social media site. It’s called ClickaSnap and it encourages people to pause and look at photographs. It pays its members a small amount every time one of their photographs is looked at for over five seconds (rather similar to how some music sharing sites work). As a result I tend to spend more time looking at other people’s works there, zooming in on the image and scrolling around, and taking time to comment. Unlike on Instagram where I spend more time scrolling down the screen barely pausing at some photographs.

Pausing is a good thing, taking a moment to take a breath and reflect. As photographers it’s a great thing to stop and just take time to actually look at photographs. It can be good for our mental health and it can even help us take better photographs. When you get a moment (and try to make that moment) why not give it a go?

If you would like to find me on ClickaSnap go to https://www.clickasnap.com/stephentaylor

Queens Wood

The road from the west to the Mossy Well runs through woodland. Once the trees would have extended much further:

… a vast forest, its copses dense with foliage concealing wild animals – stags, does, boars, and wild bulls.

Now the Mossy Well has become the North London suburb of Muswell Hill and the forest has shrunk to two small patches along either side of the main road from Highgate tube station (some parts of it still exist elsewhere, although sometimes only in name such as at St Johns Wood).

The woodland to the north of the road is called Highgate Wood and is the least interesting. It is run by the City of London and is managed more as a park than a wood. To the south of the road lies Queens Wood; this one is managed by the local authority, Haringey Council, which does not have the same budget as the Corporation so it is left to its own devices, which makes more interesting.

It still has a feel of that ancient and vast woodland. As you stroll along the footpaths that lead up and down perhaps you may disturb the ghost of one of those wild aninals that used to call it their home?


One of the best times to visit Queens Wood is in the autumn as the leaves turn and begin to fall, covering the ground burnished by the low sunlight.

Here are a few photographs I took on a recent stroll through the woods at just that time of year. I hope you like them.

Along the Riverbank

An afternoon photographing

Late one Saturday afternoon I took the half hour train ride out of London to the small town of Hertford. The purpose of my trip, apart from getting out of London for a short while, was to revisit and rephotograph the Gauge House at the head of the New River.

The Gauge House is an imposing building standing out from the King’s Meadows just outside Hertford. It is on the River Lea where the New River starts. The purpose of the building is, as its name suggests, to gauge the amount of water taken from the River Lea into the New River. The New River was built in the early seventeen century to supply fresh water to London and continues to do so.

When I first learnt of the Gauge House a little while ago I wanted to go visit it. I have explored other parts of the New River closer to home and it seemed appropriate to visit its other end. I was also struck by by the building’s grandeur as befits a piece of Victorian engineering. I had explored it a few weeks ago but as with most of the subjects I photograph I am always drawn back to them time and again. There is always something new to see or a new way of looking at them.

Hartham Common

My walk to the Gauge House started at Hartham Common on the outskirts of Hertford. This sits at the confluence of the Rivers Lea and Beane (two other rivers also flow through this area – the River Rib and the splendidly named Mimram). Today much of the common is now playing fields but it looks like it is prone to flooding; dotted between the football pitches were a series of concrete blocks with covers on top of them; from deep below I could hear rushing water.

Rising above the predominantly flat space and under a suitably dramatic sky they seemed an obvious subject to photograph, especially as the rays of light broke through the clouds. Last time I visited there were beautifully blue skies – which made for a pleasant stroll but more mundane lighting. This time there were banks of clouds with the late afternoon sunshine breaking through.

Gauge House

The clouds also became a feature when I reached Gauge House. I explored different angles on it including coming in very close and looking up at the walls against the sky, and then going further back and including the River Lea and a conveniently positioned canal boat. I also wandered around the back of the building and looked at the head of the New River. Last time there was more evidence of construction work taking place here. Whilst it is still going on (to strengthen Gauge House) the work in the water had been removed and I was able to capture this reflection of the building and the sky.


Two other features struck me that day and played a part in my choice of photographs. One of these was the reflections of the sky in the river and the way the water rippled over them. I took several photographs, some of people walking and cycling by, others of just the sky itself broken by circles and ripples on the surface.


The other thing that struck me (and I was conscious of all the time) was the brutalist A10 viaduct thrumming with traffic; its brutality had been partially softened by the graffiti that adorns its pillars. Photographically the road offeres a brilliant structure with its sweeping lines and strong shadows, especially in contrast to the meadows below. In the end, though I focused on the artwork – I loved its sense of creative subversion.

(Full disclosure – this photo was taken on my earlier visit. I was rather disappointed by the ones I took this time.)

An unexpected sunset

Eventually I needed to turn around and head back into Hertford, leaving the rest of the River Lea to be explored on another day.

This time I followed the River Lea back into the town centre. On the way my eye, and the camera lens, was caught by the lock keeper’s cottage at Hertford Lock; the eraly workings of a new riverside development in its early stages; and, closer into town, some allotments. I was struck by a group of sunflowers still mostly standing proud although towards the end of their season. Elsewhere the beds had already been cleared.

I left Hertford before the sun had set but on the way back I (along with my fellow passengers) were treated to a spectucular sunset.

Wick Wood

This is one of a series of posts exploring some of the more obscure parts of London and their past.

If you have arrived on this page from the 2022 calendar, welcome! Thank you very much for buying it (or having it bought for you). I do hope you like the photographs it contains.

If you have arrived here by other means, also welcome.

I hope that however you came upon this page, you find it interesting. If you have any comments, please let me know below.

Wick Wood didn’t really exist thirty or so years ago. It was planted as part of the building of the M11 extension – the usual bit of greenwashing.

Before that it was open land, some it marshy. During the second world war gun emplacements were located here to defend London and the nearby docks. Now it is a relatively tranquil place and it is quite a thought that once the space was heavy with the sound of gunfire, the smell of hot metal and the grim determination of the gunners to carry out their deadly tasks.