The best double act in urban photography is an irresistible way to spend a Friday night/Saturday morning in the big smoke. Doug Chinnery’s legendary all night London photography workshop is certainly a crowd puller among the Landscape fraternity and with Terry the Taxi Driver as our chauffeur for the evening/morning, we are in for a treat. We were not disappointed. We started proceedings at Westminster Bridge. A sunset with the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben as the subject matter. Then across the bridge for traffic light trails in front of Big Ben. When you are waiting for one bus, three come along after a long wait! Terry gets the coffees’ in and we’re off to the next destination. A blow to the proceedings is that the lights of Battersea Power Station have just gone off just before we arrive at our next place of interest. Damm! Nevertheless, with the Battersea Power Station as the backdrop, the train tracks makes very interesting light trails with trains coming in and out of the shot. Next on our list is the Albert Bridge, a road bridge over the River Thames connecting Chelsea on the north bank to Battersea on the south bank. Designed and built by Rowland Mason Ordish in 1873 as an Ordish–Lefeuvre system modified cable-stayed bridge, it proved to be structurally unsound, so between 1884 and 1887 Sir Joseph Bazalgette incorporated some of the design elements of a suspension bridge. In 1973 the GLC added two concrete piers, which transformed the central span into a simple beam bridge. As a result, today the bridge is an unusual hybrid of three different design styles. It is a Grade II listed building. A night it is extremely illuminated, full of LEDs which replaced the aging 4000 light bulbs. Next it was a stop by the Thames to photograph Battersea Power Station. It is currently undergoing a massive regeneration project. However from the north side of the river at just before midnight, all you really see are the iconic structures of the building. Battersea Power Station is a decommissioned coal-fired power station located on the south bank of the River Thames, in Battersea. It comprises two individual power stations, built in two stages in the form of a single building. Battersea A Power Station was built in the 1930s, with Battersea B Power Station to its east in the 1950s. The two stations were built to an identical design, providing the well-known four-chimney layout. The station ceased generating electricity in 1983, but over the past 50 years it has become one of the best known landmarks in London and is Grade II listed. Next it was off to the Millennium Bridge at the Tate Modern and across to St.Pauls. We had until 1.50am to photograph as that’s what time the lights on St.Pauls go out (and they were bang on time). The Millennium Bridge can be a bit wobbly, so you need to be careful with your exposures, especially when idiots cycle across it. How inconsiderate! The view to the right of the bridge as you go across to St.Pauls is a fabulous skyline with The Shard on the left, through to Tower Bridge and then the Walkie-Talkie shaped building on the right. By this time, I was getting pretty tired. The reward at the end of the bridge, was a break for supper at Tinseltown, an all-night restaurant in Farringdon. Apparently they are a rare thing, an all-night restaurant where you can sit down and eat. Who would have believe it, in London, the city that never sleeps.
Break over and back in the cab for our next destination. This time to the bright lights of Canary Wharf. It’s now just gone 4am! Even during the middle of the night, time flies when you having fun. We find ourselves in among people’s homes, so we have to be very quiet as we capture the World of Banking asleep! Across from there is the Blue Bridge, a moveable bascule bridge installed in 1969, which is the entrance to the West India Dock. From there you have great view of Canary Wharf and the historic cranes on one side and the Millennium Dome on the other side across the Thames. Our final destination and ready for the sunrise was the iconic Tower Bridge by City Hall. Here we spent a great hour with the sky constantly changing. It was a wonderful end to a tiring but great workshop. Doug was always on hand with tips, technique and advice in getting “the shot”. Terry provided us the transport for getting to these landmarks. Their enthusiasm for this workshop really shone through. Yes around 4 am there was some flagging moments for us all, but we soldiered on, and I’m sure everyone has some great pictures to review to family and friends. Doug is an excellent tutor and his workshops are extremely popular. Terry is the finest cabbie in London, and would happily spend all day with him travelling in his cab driving around the sights of London.
The main technique to these images was very much tripod based with remote control in hand (which obviously played up at times). Shooting mainly at ISO 100, exposures range from seconds to the longest one which was over 3 minutes. It is a chance to take your time, get your composition right and then wait whilst the data is recorded. Sometimes you won’t believe what the sensor records. That’s half the fun. You’ll see things on the back of the camera, that you think, where did that come from! Being the capital city, it was actually really light considering it was the middle of the night, not like the Peak District, where it is really dark. It makes a difference. I didn’t really think about light pollution. We were there to capture the light of the buildings and surrounding, not really the natural light. We left that until we got to Tower Bridge. The beauty about this, is that you could go again and get a totally different set of images. That’s the magic of photography.