Articles Tagged with: London

Up All Night in the Big Smoke

Westminster Bridge to Big Ben at Dusk

Westminster Bridge to Big Ben at Dusk


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.
Millennium Bridge to St Pauls at 1.19am

Millennium Bridge to St Pauls at 1.19am

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.

Tower Bridge at 5.13am

Tower Bridge at 5.13am


London Photographic Exhibitions

Today I’m visiting the big smoke. Am I mad as its nearly Christmas it will be chocka with people rushing around getting their Christmas fayre! All decent exhibitions are held in London these days. I do wonder at times whether we are a one city nation. But there are lots of photographic exhibitions on show and that’s where we are heading.

Astronomy Photographer of the Year was held at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich with a small number of images on display but nevertheless a good selection. The overall winner was particularly eye catching.

At National Maritime Museum was the iconic American landscape photographer, Ansel Adams. An entrance fee, £7, applies to this exhibition but none the same it is a fine exhibition tracing his early years through to the period pre and post WWII where some of his most famous images are displayed. Highlights include 3 gigantic images which he printed. There are elements within his work I’ve seen for the first time today which I’ve seen in my work. Amazing! The documentary excerpts where also interesting in what he said.

Next was the landscape photographer Michael Kenna. A selection of his prints were on display at Chris Beetles Fine Photographers store near Piccadilly Circus. There were 50 prints on display. A fine selection of monochromatic prints indeed. Some simple compositions, others more complex. Many were taken whilst in Japan and US. The tones on the prints are beautiful with some a much smaller mono palette. I enjoyed viewing these prints, as with Ansel’s prints makes you look at B&W with real pleasure and that colour can sometimes seems inferior.

Final destination was the National Theatre for Landscape Photographer of the Year. A problem year for the competition. However, hopefully lessons will be learnt from this year’s event. Camera club members you have been warned! The images were superbly printed and many large so that you get a sense of being at the scene that the photographer set. A good selection of images. Not sure whether I enjoyed the winner’s work as much as others. Not taking anything from the winner, Simon Butterworth, I’ve seen his work before and he is an excellent photographer, so worthy in that sense? Get the feeling that too many images are over vibrant over saturated. Not a huge amount of B&W. Maybe more sutle needed next time!


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