Scott Kelby has been running an event every year for 5 years and this October was to be the 6th. In its first year 236 locations were covered with 8,324 people taking part and in 2012, The 5th annual event had grown to 900 locations with over 32,000 participants, so all things looked good with already over 1000 walks arranged by the time I heard about it. Having owned Scott Kelby books and followed him online I felt it was sufficiently high-profile that it would probably be safe to tag along on one and be a part of something global. So I asked a friend if he'd be up for joining me on 5th October and we duly searched the organised walk listings at Worldwidephotowalk.com to see what was available. To my surprise there were only 3 walks in the whole of London, one was too far away and another one was too early, so it left an intriguing option of the Westminster, night-time photo walk.
Starting on the onset of “blue hour” (around 15 minutes before sunset) by looking at Camera settings, ISO and white balance.
Our first shot we look at speed v depth of field (f-numbers) taking a shot that will involve motion blur and continuous exposure. The next looks at the difference of speed settings.
Using a tripod, we will photograph 19th century neo gothic Houses of Parliament and Tower Bridge, 13th century Tower of London, 18th century St Pauls. Coupled with the modern Millennium Bridge and the modern London Eye, all from interesting angles.
Ignoring the fact that blue hour is actually the hour AFTER sunset and that the meet time was already 40 minutes past the scheduled sunset time (according to a quick google search) and the dauntingly far apart London landmarks, my friend Sharne and I signed up. Plus what could go wrong after all they also stated that:
A professional photographer will be on hand to ensure that you are taking images that you won’t be able to wait to show others."
Nothing to lose eh?! hmmmm famous last words perchance?
Well we navigated across London to Westminster station, on the way discussing how we'd know who was doing the walk when we saw them?!?! Deciding that a group of photographers would be obvious, we were stunned to realise that almost everyone on the street outside Westminster station in the shadow of Big Ben (erm I mean Elizabeth Tower), had cameras - aaaargh!
Taking the opportunity of being early and a beautiful sunset we took some pictures on our own.
Feeling suitably smug that we had taken some nice pictures without the professionals, things were looking up.
7pm arrived, as did a whole host of very large cameras and their owners, who all suddenly started moving away - we followed assuming (correctly as it happens) that this was our group.
There was a whole lot of people gathered around 2 guys who were waving their arms around and gesticulating to big Ben and the river Thames. Could not hear a word so we just prepared for the off as best we could (mainly consisting of pulling out the tripods, taking off the lens cap, and setting up my Infra Red remote shutter release), determined to make the best of our night even though we had no clue what the plan was and it seemed not a single other person was any more clued in than us - WHAT A START!
Pausing on the Westminster bridge, we were spoiled with 2 choices for view so to the left was the London eye on the opposite bank of the Thames and behind to the right was Big Ben and the houses of Parliament. First up I tackled Big Ben and set my tripod up in the middle of the pavement (just as had the other apparent members of our group). Swathes of people walking past, not one complaining of us monopolising the pavement (much at least). I took my first few pictures - hit and miss as it was now fully dark and I was in realms of the never before tried.
Of the first few this is my best shot and the lovely light trail was courtesy of a sightseeing Topless London bus - bonus!
Next I turned my attentions to the Left and the London eye. Slightly more awkward due to the arrival of illegal betting shenanigans going on mid bridge, combined with the fact that the street hustlers did NOT take kindly to any of us pointing cameras at them, so I moved on leaving another fellow to tussle it out. At this point a chap who I recognised from the initial roundup thrust a leaflet in my hand which outlined the details of the photo walk and promised a prize of studio tutorials to the winner of the picture competition. Cool I thought, something to aim for, then I jostled to the edge of the bridge and took several exposures of the London eye and the old GLC building.
Again this is the best of that bunch:
By the time we were ready to move off of Westminster bridge, it was becoming amusing to Sharne and I that the walk "Leaders" were nowhere to be seen. So we trudged along and prepared to take a picture of Westminster bridge and Big Ben from just before the London eye on the South side. A quick tap on the shoulder and 2 officious gentlemen with ID badges informed us that the use of Tripods was prohibited as it was private property. A fact that Sharne and I have since never been able to find formally documented anywhere but hey, not one for getting arrested or anything and the fact that they hadn't said no photos, just no tripods, we attempted to take the picture leaning on the river bank wall - not great and we were a little flustered so took the walk along past the London eye to recompose and prepare for our next shots.
A lovely carousel was busy spinning and churning out fairground music, brightly coloured and hypnotic, we spent a few moments here and this is my favourite from a series of shots.
Things were really going well and literally everywhere we looked there were more potential images to be framed and captured. Photographer heaven. We had a brief chat with a few of the other obvious Photo walkers, none of whom really knew where the walk leaders were either and who had also ALL been accosted for tripod use back by the London Eye too. At least we weren't alone in that respect. We moved along the South bank gradually stopping and taking pictures as we went. My remote trigger seemingly yielding much better results than trying to press the shutter remotely, a realisation that crossed both Sharne and I's minds at the same time and in the absence of a remote, he began using the self timer feature to eliminate jogging the exposure. A huge revelation, that really should have been obvious or at least suggested by the illusive Photo walk leaders, whose absence was bothering us less and less.
Playing with different apertures and exposure times, we were experimenting with the effects that variations could produce. An example of this is when you widen the aperture to allow more light in, you could actually take pictures that at first glance aren't obviously taken at night. Here is an example of an airstream trailer food wagon:
Wandering further along the South bank to Festival pier, we stopped to take some more pictures of Festival Hall and Somerset House on the opposite bank. It was at this point that 2 fellows starting walking between the tripods giving advice etc, we though great finally some guidance (even though we felt we'd been doing ok). Taking pictures of the pier and several neon signed buildings it came to be our turn with the professional. A quick glance at Sharne and I's LCDs and a quick statement of "ITSa Niiiice", he wandered off muttering about whether we should all get the bus to the Tate modern or carry on walking. Deciding that as "Itsa Niiice", was probably all we would get, we decided to take the final part of the walk at our own pace and take pictures of what we wanted without constantly watching out for everyone else.
Eventually we rounded out the bend in the Thames, walking through the Millennium Gardens, emerging to a view of St Paul's Cathedral and Blackfriars bridge along with the Shard and what we later found out were the Walkie Talkie and Natwest buildings. Here I took probably my favourite image from the whole evening. A panoramic view of St Paul's Cathedral on the North Bank, with Blackfriars Bridge and part of the Thames beach in the foreground.
By the end of the walk, we estimated that we had trudged the grand distance of five miles, a pleasing shock to both of us and it had taken nearly 4 hours and we had enjoyed every minute of it.
To give the walk leaders some more credit than I have so far, it appears that the walk for WWPW was for 50 Photographers and the 2 professionals had only EVER conducted walks with a maximum of 12. And after all without their setting up of the event Sharne and I would never have done the event on our own.
So come October 2014 and the 7th Annual World Wide Photo Walk, I hope there will be a few more than 2 of us up for the challenge?!?
I'll leave you with a couple more of my favourite shots from the walk: