Each year at Christmas, across London, temporary ice rinks are put up in various areas for a couple of months. My daughter being an ice skater of 6 years with her friends always likes to go and visit one of these rinks and it has become a yearly chaperoned tradition. In 2010/2011, the trip was to the rink at Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park, the year later 2011/2012 we journeyed to Somerset House, on the North bank of the River Thames just slightly East of the London Eye and Big Ben. This year as with last it was the 2nd year running of the temporary rink at the Tower of London, purely due to its location and ease of travel links. A lovely family evening out. I'm glad of these jaunts, as I have an ulterior motive in that a trip up to the big smoke at any time is a great excuse to grab my camera and tripod and take some lovely pictures at the same time. A slot on the rink was booked at 8 pm so arriving at 6:30pm was perfect. Within a stones throw of the Tower there are lots of well known London landmarks. Like a toddler in a sweet shop I went off to scout out the photographic opportunities ahead of me. I hadnt planned this trip particularly well. At least not as well as I should have in hind sight. I set about scouting out the general area.
Here's a pic of the Tower itself, ancient, foreboding and now very prettily lit.
After the World Wide Photo Walk back in October 2013 (read about it here), the art of night time photography was no stranger to me. Whilst still very much learning, I now had done all of the main experimenting previously. I now knew that you needed to use a remote shutter release to prevent blurring the frame when pressing the shutter button. I now knew that removing the strap to prevent it blowing in the breeze to prevent joggage was advisable. I now knew how to focus to infinity or what aperture and ISO were the best starting point. Now it was just about taking the best pictures in terms of composition, framing and styling.
To my unprepared delight, I found that within a 5 minute walk of the rink and each other there are lots of photographic delights. The building commonly known as the Walkie Talkie due to its shape, (also known as 20 Fenchurch street), the Gherkin (again name is shape related), The Shard (hmmm, sensing a naming theme here?!), Tower Bridge, HMS Belfast, Tower Millennium Pier and London City Hall, aka The Greater London Authority (GLA) building. My word! such a photographers dream (at least this Photographer at any rate).
My photographic exploits in highlights of the 90 minutes before the rink beckoned, are shared here for your enjoyment:
This is a shot of the Oldest Church in London, All Hallows by the Tower (having since Googled it), Shadowed by the brand new Walkie Talkie. Reflectively, I personally adore the juxtaposition of the old against the new and plan to revisit this to get some more detailed shots.
The next is a shot across the river Thames taken from down by the Tower Millennium pier. Captured in this shot is the panorama of City Hall (the GLA building) on the left, across the "More London" complex to the newly constructed Shard on the right.
Looking to again pick out the old and new, I framed up a specific Portrait orientation shot of the new Shard building with the old WWII & Korean war Royal Navy Cruiser HMS Belfast moored in the foreground.
A closer in shot of City Hall, lit in a yellow glow, and the "More London" complex to the right.
Here again my old and new theme accidentally shows itself, a panorama depicting Tower Bridge and City Hall taken from within the grounds of the Tower on the North bank of the Thames.
Just an observation at this point - it is quite amazing the number of people that see you with a camera mounted on a tripod and then ask you to take their pictures. Some of them with the landmarks behind them, some just of the landmark because they're not too sure on how to use their camera. In the space of and hour whilst taking my pictures, I had at least 7 different sets of tourists ask me. I should have set up a "I'll take your pictures stall". Even one couple where the woman had her camera and tripod quick release but had left the tripod at their hotel. (I'm getting there with my point haha) she and her partner came out of their restaurant and it wasn't until then that she realised how lovely London looks after dark (and it does). Long story, short, she borrowed MY tripod for 10 minutes. So picture taking AND gear rental stall may have worked too hehe.
It was now 7:50pm and the ice skating was about to start, unfortunately, so too was the rain *sigh*. I high tailed it back to the rink at the Tower just as my daughter and her friends were getting onto the ice.
I thought that I would get loads of fantastically great shots of them skating and being graceful and acting as typical teenageers. Fantasy and reality couldnt have been so far apart at this point. With the rain, I had blobs all over the lens, I had lots of skaters going in circular paths holding onto the barriers. The kids having skated for years didnt need the barrier, so they hung out right in the middle where there was acres of clear space. I proceeded to take about 250 shots of the backs of peoples heads and rain smudged blobs.
This shot however stood out to me and while it may not appeal to anyone else it spoke to me.
Whilst I have no further images to share (until I re-go through them with a less jaded eye), the factors which limited me were twofold; One, the rain, it is never great to photograph in the rain unless you are under an awning or have a lovely weather proofed set of gear (I dont (Yet)). Two, the speed of action vs Low light performance of my camera (and lens). The pic above demonstrates the second point because it was one of the few times they stopped spinning and jumping, allowing me to snap a relatively in focus and framed nicely shot. Taking the digital passions for tack sharp perfect images and crumpling it under my boot, the shot provides other asthetics. My view is that the back drop of the buildings on the other side of the Thames, the hazey and ghostlike effect due to high ISO, rain and my shivering and the relative isolation of my daughter and her friend regardless of all that is an appealing snapshot in time.
Lessons learned, new camera, new lens, dont shoot in the rain, oh and if those prove too expensive or unattainable, NOT every shot needs to be perfectly tack sharp and detail tastic (in my view and that may get shot down in flames). I leave you now so I can go and review the other 249 ish shots to see if any others were asthetically pleasing without my "grr my camera is naff" eyes on. (watch this space because if there are I will add them here). :)