Home Events Pounding the mean streets of Medway

Pounding the mean streets of Medway

Stormtrooper – Shot on Nikon Df, 50mm 1.8G – Taken at Chatham Comic Con.

During these days of enforced homestay, my thoughts have been turning increasingly to those carefree days when I could grab a camera and take to the streets of the Medway towns, here in Kent — the “garden of England” — although my time is mostly spent in urban bit of the garden. We’re luck because of the surprisingly large number of special costume events hosted locally, much of them inspired by one of our most famous sons, Charles Dickens.

The Joker image, below and a personal favourite, was shot in the Pentagon Shopping centre in Chatham during comic con, and is testimony to the adage of always be aware of your surroundings.

The Joker

I passed a group of young people all wearing a variety of costumes, but what stood out was how good this young man looked starring as the Joker from the recent DC universe film. I enjoyed the film, and think it is a unique perspective on how the Joker became the Joker. It is worthy of the awards it has been taking. I stopped to ask him if he was up for an image, and he happily pulled the pose now included in this article. This was shot on the Df, with the 50mm 1.8G kit lens. He seemed suitably chuffed that someone had shown an interest in his costume, and taken the time to get an image of him.

Mild, beige and boring

I started this article last year, in an attempt to write about something after a poor week in Yorkshire that produced no images of a quality I could use. The sky was poor, the weather didn’t pull the goods, and then other issues interfered in the last opportunity of 2019 to catch something decent. This year (2020) has hardly been productive, the winter has been mild, beige, and boring, and now we have some viral input to hamper our efforts further.

I have come back to the article as Covid 19 is currently biting the human race on the backside. Why? Well, the mean streets of Medway are a wonderful place to practice your photography. The rich background of historic buildings, cobbled streets and people dressed up at the plethora of events, just makes it feel like fun.

Virus stops play

That is until Covid cancelled the Dickens, the Sweeps and potentially every other decent street event for this summer, and perhaps beyond — who knows? I was rather looking forward to seeing Queen at the 02 arena in June, but I have now been notified my tickets have transferred to 2021 when the gig will now happen.

Is it possible that for a whole twelve months we won’t see any goths, steampunkettes, Micawbers, Princess Leicas — um, Leias — and those other interesting characters on the streets of the Medway towns? That is almost a tragedy on its own. As Covid-19 drains the life out of the Spring and Summer, our well-stocked hard drive memories are perhaps all we can expect from the 2020 season.

Medway characters

This article is a mix of images from the Seargeant archive. I took a leaf out of those other Macfilos contributors and dipped in to the unpublished files from my backup drives. The humorous part of mine is that as I delved in the 2019 files, I discovered a batch of never-used images from the 2019 Dickens, Sweeps, Chatham Comic Con and the Winter Dickens and Steampunk events. I hope you find the bunch of images enjoyable, and a little vignette to keep you engaged until our event return.

There is often just an enjoyable randomness to street events, often those things you cannot plan for — they just happen in front of your camera. The art is being in the right place at the right time to capture those gems. Or as I often put it, milling around on the high street looking lost for hours at a time until something happens. The hope is that our little magical box of electronic gubbins does its job as advertised.


At the big street events I attended in 2019, I spotted a number of new actors driving (or is it riding?) around on Segways. They seemed to pop up at every event, and whizz around, introducing a new-found mayhem to street events. Segways seem to be the ideal basis for a one-person float.

I like the creativity that comes with these new contraptions. I spotted Christmas elves, two fairies, balloon riders and Granny Turismo over a span of eight months in 2019. Perhaps this is catching on in the street performers book of world tricks.

Two cameras, more batteries.

One of the important lessons I learned from 2019 was in checking batteries. I went to the Sweep’s festival in May armed with my trusty Df, and contently set about enjoying myself. I got a decent position for the street parade, and started to shoot away. And then the camera died. The legendary long-life battery on the Df, however legendary, was clearly exhausted. It does shoot around a thousand images minimum but therein lies the trap. Sometimes, too much battery life inspires carelessness.

It’s a bit like a Kindle which can last for a month or more — you put off charging until one day it runs out. A more power hungry tablet used as a book reader, in contact, needs charging every day so it becomes routine and you never run out of juice. Anyway, I whipped out the reliable old X and continued unfazed.

Alongside the Segway actors, I find that with the combination of steampunk, Dickens and other gothic or historical creations, the costumes make a great part of the scenery at Rochester’s street events.

The fairies attended the Christmas Dickens and Steampunk 2019 event. There is a really nice guy who creates this wonderful attire, and attends every year with an armada of interesting and different concepts floating around the cobbled high street. I was looking forward to what he would bring to 2020, sadly now I may never know, unless there is an outside chance the Christmas Dickens and Steampunk event manages to make it.

Personally, and rather morbidly I have grown to view Death as the character portrayed in the late Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels: A being who presides over the world, maintaining the egg timers of us mere mortals. It should come as no surprise to find that he is a routine star at the Dickens events, probably because of the Pratchett imaging of the character.

All of Death’s images were captured on my Df, another thing that seems to have started its route to demise during 2019. Perhaps Nikon will wake up to the viability of a still-image-only shooter, like the Df, but with a better autofocus system.

So, there you have it, a brief visit to the mean streets of Medway over 2019 through the eyes of the Nikon Df, and the Leica X Typ 113. An inevitable mixed bag of Dickens characters, Star Wars personae, Segway street artists, Death — oh, and the Joker. I’ve been looking forward to the start of the 2020 event season, just to see what new ideas the creative participants had dreamed up.

Sadly it seems we may have to miss an entire year and look what 2021 brings, and hope there is enough of us left to put on a good show in memory of those that haven’t made it.

I am still enjoying my Leica X Typ 113 camera with its superb fixed 35mm Summilux lens, and I am thinking of adding a Visioflex to see if it adds a new dimension. Once the trade embargo at Red Dot Cameras lifts, perhaps I can be the first customer through their electronic door. It may even lead to a future article on my experience of using it. I have a few other articles in prospect, including a new lens review and a different type of story that may surprise.

Read more from Dave Seargeant on Macfilos


  1. Yup Waldorf Salad are the life of the party. I really can’t pick out a favorite, but I can give you an idea to plan future frolics. You are aware of Mardi Gras in New Orleans, well on New Year’s Day in Philadelphia they have the oldest American folk festival, George Washington even took part, called Mummers Parade. You have something like it, not sure to what scale, on Boxing Day South Gloustershire. Mummer in Philly region are clubs and they spend the better part of the year getting ready for this day. Their costumes are hand made and you are talking in some cases thousands, the music is strings or brass.
    Now I mention all this and I want you google them, my idea for the man you call the organizer I suggest he work with your Chamber of Commerce establish sister city relation with NewOrleans and Philadelphia and get one or two of the city to visit Medway, Kent or Rochester with your costume group and really get the city blood pumping. I used to watch mummers when as a kid we would be at one of Aunts, you have to see them to believe em, and all done on their dime thru fund raisers. I also think you should add a European accent to Dickens, Mike goes as. Quasimodo and you as Esmeralda. You would have fun.

    • That sounds like an interesting plan, my preference would be to see it all first hand done the original way, and capture it all with one of my cameras. Or with all of them.

      I am not sure Quasimodo will agree with shuffling along the highstreet though. 🙂

  2. A fine series of pictures, Dave, with interesting narrative. Delving into my archives yields many surprises, often the rediscovery of potential gems which escaped the first trawl and have languished unseen on hard-drives for months or years. I have more than enough to review to occupy many a self-isolating hour in the weeks or months ahead.

    • Thats sounds like a plan, and a future article in the making David. I will look forward to seeing what you find.

      Thank you for your kind comments.


  3. Interesting article Dave, thanks. Must visit your way someday, have tended to go past further east so must make a diversion. Are you really trying convince us this isn’t the way you dress every day in Kent?

    • Ha ha ha – Sadly I dont dress up as a goth, steampunk or Dickens character daily, just to keep the world entertaining. I just like to loiter around those that do.

      When the street events are back on here, it is worthy of the effort to make a visit. And I am sure you will find a unique set of images to mark the occasion with. It is fun.

      I must confess I am missing the events this year, by now the build up would be beginning to the first one.

  4. Thanks Dave.
    It was great to see your chosen images over breakfast this morning. Many of them brought forth a smile – a good way to start the day in these self isolating times.

  5. The “Joker” and the “Stormtrooper” really stand out for me, Dave!

    Sorry to read that your Df “..seems to have started its route to demise during 2019”. W-w-what’s up, doc? ..And sorry that you seem to be having trouble with the Df’s focusing and want something “..with a better autofocus system”.

    Maybe the focus is changing as you move the camera whilst your finger’s half-pressed on the shutter release. I’ve set the focus on my Df to be activated by the rightmost rear ‘AF-ON’ Focus button, and once squeezed, the (instantaneous!) focus stays fixed on that (centre) point I’ve chosen, and then – maybe after altering the composition a bit – I release the shutter with just a slight squeeze on the front shutter button. It’s never failed.

    (There’s a huge (daunting?) number of Focus options within the Df’s menus: press the MENU button, then choose the third item down (the Pencil) and – below ‘Custom settings bank’ – you’ll find “a Autofocus” ..click ‘OK’ on that, and you’ll find EIGHT separate focus-adjustment options, such as the focus area for Continuous shooting, for Single-shot shooting, for focus Tracking (of moving objects), for ‘AF activation’ (and, pressing ‘OK’ on that, I have mine set to ‘AF-ON only’ – that’s just the rear ‘AF-ON’ button), and – three options further down the list – I have mine set to ‘Number of focus points’ 11 points, rather than 39 points. This sets my focus within the centre of the viewfinder, not spread all over it. And then I have my ‘Centre-weighted area’ set to the central minimum 8 millimetres ..so I know exactly where the camera’s going to focus, every time.)

    If you don’t, though, set the camera’s options to how you yourself want the focusing to behave, then you may be disappointed that it’s not behaving how you’d like it to!

    All best wishes,


    • Correction (..and sorry about the accidental excess of italics!):
      “..And then I have my ‘Centre-weighted area’ set to the central minimum 8 millimetres ..so I know exactly where the camera’s going to focus, every time..” should include “..where the camera’s going to focus, and where it’ll measure the exposure, every time”.

      (That last setting I mentioned, ‘Centre-weighted area’, is for the exposure measurement, rather than focus ..you may want the exposure measurement to be something different, though – such as ‘Average’, for example.)

      • Thank you for both comments David, I will delve in to the auto focus set up menu later on today, as it will give me something to tinker with. It sometimes feels a little off to me, but only in shadowy or high contrasty indoor situations. Outside it is usually fine. But I want a little more control over it, and more accuracy – so I trust it that bit more.

        The Df’s demise is that Nikon withdrew them from places like Greys of Westminster etc, and you could only buy one from Nikon themselves. This is usually the first inkling that stocks are low, or it is no longer in production. This is usually followed by extinction for our beloved cameras.

        As for mine, I love it, its a beast in low light, and really useful indoors at events, more so when the X wont cut it. I will take your advice with the autofocus though, and see what comes out of that.


        • “..This is usually followed by extinction for our beloved cameras..” ..?

          Batteries will be available for many years! As long as the camera’s not damaged – or even if it is – it’ll be serviced for many years, too. Just because it’s a ‘discontinued’ model doesn’t mean that it’s dead. Most of my cameras ..and computers.. are ‘discontinued’, or ‘end-of-life’, or long ‘extinct’ for a decade ..or six. (My Sony digital ‘Mavica’ from 1997 still works perfectly ..that makes it 23 years old!)

          ..Why worry?

          • I am just disappointed that Nikon never saw fit to release a Df2, It wouldnt need much – the sensor in it now is epic, and only a few tweaks would improve upon the original.


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