LONDON PHOTOGRAPHY WORKSHOP 1st December 2018 – A STORY OF THE WORKSHOP
I run two or three workshops in London each year. The focus is very much cityscapes, architecture and interiors. I also tend to run them in the winter months as it’s easier to make use of dawn, dusk and night light and there’s always somewhere to hide if the weather is bad!
This is my account of my December 2018 workshop; a pretty wet day but we still managed to get some great images with architectural compositions, reflections and interiors so it’s really a question of adapting your shooting style and locations to suit available conditions.
So with thanks to James, Adam, Jeff, Sharon, Nigel and Richard for your company and for your images, here’s my blog. You’ll see that we captured a wide range of locations in a day!
Here’s my London workshop itinerary (subject to change at any time!)
Dawn start on London Bridge
I arranged a dawn start at 7am on London Bridge with a view over Tower Bridge. Three brave clients (James, Adam (who had to come as he’s 15 and James is his dad!) and Richard turned up despite the very unpromising forecast. The forecast didn’t disappoint with rain starting as soon as we arrived!
The most interesting light was a reflection of the building on the right with golden light on it. The problem with the view of Tower Bridge is HMS Belfast and the Pier in the way and the backdrop of Tower Bridge with few significant buildings. London is surprisingly short of decent sunrise spots, partly because none of the high viewpoints are open to the public at that time of the morning. I used to use the view of London Eye from the Embankment until someone put a huge barge in the way.
We then made our way to Borough Market after taking a few reflections in pavements.
We then went on to Hays Galleria for a coffee break to meet the other workshop participants Sharon, Jeff and Nigel, all of whom had done workshops with me before so I had a pretty good idea of their levels of experience. Unfortunately all the café’s there only have outside seating and it’s December in an open courtyard!
Our task after a cold half hour drinking coffee outside Starbucks (and breakfast for some!), was to photograph Hays Galleria itself. It’s a new roof on beautifully refurbished buildings and hosts a wide range of shops and galleries.
It was formerly Hay’s Wharf which was built in the 1850s and was a warehouse for deliveries from ships from all over the world”. It is now a shopping centre
More London – some great contemporary architecture between London and Tower Bridges
We then decided to go out and walk down to More London which is a development built around 10 years ago. It’s on the way to Tower Bridge from London Bridge and includes some great contemporary architecture. There were lots of opportunities for perspective shots and architectural details. The Shard is also closse by although difficult to capture from a low viewpoint..
We then spent around an hour exploring this area, concentrating on the strong perdpective lines of the buildings. One of the most interesting buildings was no 6 More London Place as it had a mix of black and red colouring. We used wide angle lenses to capture the strong perspective lines. The main difficulty was keeping lenses dry in the light but persistent rain. The grey sky worked well as a simple background for the building colours.
One of mine – an interesting perspective view of More London
This image creates a strong reflection in the revolving doors at 6 More London Place. It almost looks like a building itself! Unlike the others, this image needs perspective correction in post processing. The one below looks to the building opposite and makes an interesting pattern
We then walked further towards Tower Bridge through More London to The Scoop. The wet pavements made some interesting reflections
The Group gathered in the rain at More London
There’s an interesting framed view of part of Tower Bridge from More London. The wet pavements reflected the tower perfectly.
With this type of shot, a low viewpoint uses the paving lines to draw your eye into the picture
The best opportunities in this area of London are the perspective shots looking up the buildings. The flat grey sky meant that there were no shadows on the buildings and provided a simple backdrop to the buildings.
A perspective view at More London combining the building structures and the foreground trees which makes an interesting composition of nature and manmade elements. This type of shot works best if the building lines are taken from the corners of the frame and set up on a diagonal to draw the eye to the centre of the frame.
The PWC building at More London has a striking ‘spiders web’ form which is interesting to photograph from a variety of angles. It’s a colour image but the limited colour palette makes it look monochrome.
We went to The Scoop (still in the rain!). We walked around the area and used the grey conditions to bring out the architectural form and landscape design.
A wider view at The Scoop
Richard at the dominant feature of a huge handrail at The Scoop. This view needs a wide angle lens to capture the curve of the handrail. The Shard can be seen in the background. The rain started to come down again here!
It’s always interesting when a brightly coloured umbrella appears on a grey day! These always make a good black and white image with the colour painted back!
We then moved on to Kings Cross Station with its fabulous roof design. On the way we noticed some lovely glass mirrors on the ceiling of the walkway to London Bridge station.
We then took the tube to Kings Cross to photograph the amazing station roof. It was built as a part of the station redevelopment from 2012 and has become something of a London landmark.
The roof seems to have added colour since I was there earlier this year and makes it much more striking. We captured the roof from a range of angles using wide and close up views. If you go there remember that you can’t use a tripod (tricky with long exposure / people movement shots!). Explore the roof looking up from below and down from the upper level. A great way to spend your time before catching the latest train delay!
The Cecil Brewer Staircase was built in 1913 on the opening of Heals Furniture Store on Tottenham Court Road in London. It’s 5 stories high so has great height and features to capture. We photographed it from a variety of angles and positions. They all had to be handheld to get the right positions (it’s not a requirement of the shop who are great with allowing people to photograph the staircase).
I captured a shot of my group photographing the staircase from the second floor looking down. There’s a great variety of shots of and from the staircase; walk up and down the stairs, looking both upwards and down. Be aware that there are other users of the staircase so be mindful of them, particularly when placing your camera equipment on the floor.
While you’re at Heals, have a look around for the furniture and the café does lovely soup – the least the staff deserve for being so accommodating with photographers!
We then walked south to St Pauls Cathedral. One of the best spots to get a clear view close up is from Carter Lane Gardens south of the Cathedral. More wet pavements so again good for reflections.
Tate Modern Gallery and views over London for dusk and the night sky
Our final destination in a busy day was towards the Tate Modern Gallery to capture dusk and the night sky over the city of London. The Tate Modern has one of the few high level publicly available locations without glass in the way at the viewing gallery on the 10th floor However, you can’t use a tripod due to the restricted space on the balcony. Leave plenty of time for the light to drop as the lifts can be crowded and if walking up the stairs, the floors are big)!
As you can’t use a tripod, you’ll need to compromise with your camera settings. Resting the camera on the balcony top which gives you some stability but it’s quite narrow so not easy. Use your largest aperture and as the light drops be prepared to increase your ISO to at least 2000 to get sufficient light in. At near darkness this will still only give you about 1/25 sec so you’ll still need a steady hand. This does make telephoto shots requiring faster shutter speeds difficult.
The Tate Modern Viewing Gallery is a great accessible place to capture London at sunset and night. However be prepared for a slight disappointment when taking a wider panoramic view over the city as the Tate was originally a Power Station and the main tower is right in front of the building and gets in the way.
Finally, on the way back down from the viewing gallery we saw some potential in the staircase with its very 1950’s concrete form and some interesting geometry. Be aware that the lower few floors of the building are very confusing due to its split into 2 towers with connections only on two floors. It’s very easy to end up in the wrong part of the building. I’ve been there 5 times and still get confused!
Review Session and Goodbye – and my morning spent at Leadenhall
After a review session where we looking at images taken during the day in the Tate Modern Gallery over a coffee, we waved goodbye. Many thanks to James, Adam, Jeff, Sharon, Nigel and Richard for attending the workshop and hope to see you again soon!
On the Sunday morning flowing the workshop I went over to the Leadenhall area of the city of London; we didn’t have time to cover this area on the Saturday and I had not photographed it before so decided during the day to leave it to the next workshop. The closest tube stations are Bank or Monument then around a 10 minute walk. Head towards the Walkie Talkie Building. It was good to be there on a Sunday morning with no-one about apart from a man walking his dog!
It was originally known as the location of the Lloyds Building, probably the first examples of what we now recognise as contemporary architectural style. The Lloyds Building itself is known for its ‘inside out’ design where features like lifts were placed on the outside of the building and you could see structural elements.
Two further images of the Leadenhall development.
The colour version above captures the faint glow of early morning light while the monochrome version is a long exposure image. Notice how the reflections in the glass are used to great effect and the strong geometry in the compositions.
You’ll find lots to work with in the glass and its reflections and make sure that your compositions are precise!
With the light looking increasingly flat, I decided to make my way home
If you’d like to book on next years London workshops have a look at my website. You can book one or two days (either the Saturday or the Sunday or both) and take your chance to capture images of the locations I’ve covered in this blog.
On the Sunday I’ll also be adding others, with options both further east at Greenwich and further west towards Battersea Power Station, a great night photography spot!