Living in Utopia

On a recent rip into London I took a group of photographers round the Barbican. Not wanting to use the tube in these times of restrictions we limited ourselves to using the over ground train into Liverpool Street and walk from there.

From the Barbican we walked down to the Thames at St Paul’s Cathedral. My main area of interest for the day though was the Barbican area. I was intending taking just a film camera with me on this trip as I thought the Barbican with it’s grey drab concrete construction would prove ideal for black and white film.

As early as the late 1940s architects and town planners were looking at how people could live in high rise blocks and moved around the city on high level walkways. The idea wasn’t that they were so much concerned about pedestrians but more to do with keeping traffic flowing uninterrupted through the cities of tomorrow. As is often the case though that didn’t accord with human nature as people were more fond of following roads rather than being remote above where everything is happening,

The outcome of this is that London has some areas of remote and unlinked walkways. One area of extensive walkways though is the Barbican estate.

The gear used for this day was my trusty Olympus OM2n and 50mm f1.4 lens. I used a couple of rolls of Ilford HP5+ and developed it in Ilford ID11 diluted 1+3 for 20 minutes @20 degC.

Scanning of film was done using Plustek Opticfilm 8100 scanner and Silverfast software.

London Photo walk – Jan 2020

Royal Victoria Dock and The Southbank

A walk with members of Bishops Stortford Camera Club.

As we were planning on starting our walk just before lunchtime we started with some of us meeting at a local establishment where we had a brunch to set us up for the day. Following this we caught the train into Liverpool Street.

The group arriving at Liverpool Street.

Following on from this we caught the Cental Line tube to Bank then on to the Docklands Light Railway to end up at Royal Victoria DLR station where we met up with another two of our group who had caught a different train down to London.

On the tube.
Changing trains at Westferry.
The group photographing around Royal Victoria Docks.
The old dock cranes alongside Royal Victoria Docks.

We had to go over the high level walkway across the dock to continue our walk along the south side back to where the Emirates cable car. Some of our group didn’t particularly like heights but we all seemed to manage OK. The lift up to the walkway wasn’t operating so it was a bit of a climb up the steps.

Good advice!
The ruins of the old Millennium Mills building from the elevated walkway.

Once we were on the south side of the docks we walked back toward the western end where we could get on to the Emirates cable car. Before getting on the cable car we found a nice cafe for some refreshments.

There is some interesting architecture on the western end of Royal Victoria Docks.

For those that didn’t fancy the high level crossing to Greenwich on the cable car thay went back to the tube to connect with the rest of us at London Bridge.

Into the cable car and ready to set off.

We went into a couple of cars so we didn’t feel too squashed up!

The first group disappear into the distant gloom!
Greenwich Peninsular and the O2 in the distance.
The sloping cable at the end.

When you get to the end the cable does drop at quite an alarming rate. At this point I was hoping the maintenance people had screwed up tightly the car connections onto the cable !

Walking to Greenwich station to catch the tube to London Bridge.
Didn’t quite know what these things are meant to be?
Reflecting on our photography!
North Greenwich tube.
Movement on the escalator.

Arriving at London Bridge we met up wit those who had decided to forgo the cable car to then proceed along the Southbank taking in the Thames as night fell.

Dusk along Queen’s Walk on the Southbank.
I managed to get a few photos for my series ‘Through a Window’.

We finished the photography in the area in Lambeth called Roupell Street Conservation area, an area of Victorian Terraces which have been used for filming for quite a few TV series.

Victorian terraces along Theed Street in the Conservation area.

We finished the walk around 6pm and we searched out a pub in Roupell that I’d found out about called the King’s Head. It has a Thai restaurant at the back which turned out to be very good and an ideal way to end the day before we set off home.

London City, Rooftop Garden and City Hall photography walk.

MAY. 10, 2019

Starting off at Liverpool Street Station in bright sunlight.

This was a walk planned to visit the recently opened rooftop garden at No 120 Fenchurch Street, London with members of Bishops Stortford Camera Club.

I had been notified of this new venue by a blog called ‘Look up London’ back in February but thought I’d wait until the weather improved. The day before the planned outing almost proved me wrong with storms and torrential rain However, I’m not put off easily by a bit of good old British inclement weather so went ahead with the trip anyway.

I love the way that in London you often get the contrasts of architectural styles.You have the stonework of St Andrew Undershaft Church here contrasting with the steel and glass of the Willis Towers building, then Lloyds

Just as we arrived at No 120 it started to rain but we did manage to get some lunch at Pret in Fen Court. Under cover and with everyone walking through with umbrellas up it proved to be a good opportunity for some street photography. I’d set a couple of assignments for the group, one of them being ‘Gestures in Street Photography’ so this proved to be an ideal time to get some shots.

Diane trying to blend i with the surroundings!
The colour is red!

After a while we did manage to get to the 15th floor and take some photographs before another black cloud came over and it rained again.

The gang minus two. Martin and Hazel and disappeared.

After around 20 minutes we decided to get some refreshment in the pub across the road and wait for the rain to stop.

One drink later we continued on down to London Bridge. Along the way we went into St Olave’s Church, founded in the 11th century it is one of the few medieval churches that survived the Great Fire of London.

The interior of St Olave's

Walking down Old Billingsgate Walk we went along the footpath on the north shore of the Thames and just before London Bridge there is a very good spot to photograph the Shard across the river with a triangular piece of art work in the foreground.

Looking up toward London Bridge.
Looking down toward Tower Bridge.

Crossing London Bridge we went for coffee before proceeding along the southbank to the area surrounding City Hall. There are great views across the river and back to the Shard as well as City Hall itself.

City Hall on the Southbank.
Back across the Thames from City Hall.
I often think this looks like a modern version of a Roman amphitheatre.

On past Tower Bridge is an area known as Shad Thames, one of the Victorian era’s largest warehouse complexes. Here were tea, coffee, dried fruit and spice warehouses which are now apartments. It was known as the ‘larder of London’ and you can still see the overhead gantries which connected the warehouses today.

Shad Thames.
Shad Thames.

Turning back on ourselves we then went over Tower Bridge to end our walk at The Minories pub which is built in one of the old railway tunnels. You can sit having a drink whilst listening to the rumble of the trains going overhead.

Some night photography in Victorian London.

The collection of streets known as Roupell Street, Theed Street, Whittlesley Street, Cornwall Road and Windmill Walk are all situated in the north east corner of the London Borough of Lambeth. They constitute the Roupell Street Conservation Area and are a collection of Victorian terraces just south of the River Thames.

These streets have survived the march of time and the efforts of developers to be one of London’s time capsules of architecture in a modern city.

They have been used for TV for some episodes of Mr Selfridge and Call the Midwife to name a few.

I wanted to do some photography round this area to capture the character of these streets with the lamps lit at night. It is quite a good area for photography as there doesn’t seem to be too many cars parked around some of the streets, unlike some other areas

It certainly makes a nice change from the ultra modern architecture of The City and Canary Wharf and the Brutalist style of architecture around the Barbican.

Royal Victoria Docks , London

Friday 13th December 2019

My target photography subject was the Millennium Mills situated on the south side of the Royal Victoria Docks in London.

I had seen this vaste, derelict building before when on a photography club outing to photograph Canary Wharf and wondered if there would be any possibility to get any closer. This was constructed as a flour mill in 1905 in Silvertown in East London.

Millennium Mills on the south side of Royal Victoria Docks. Photo taken from the high level walkway over the Royal Victoria Docks.

Starting off on the 10:13 train to Stratford we change at Harlow Town for the fast train into London Liverpool Street. Liz exits the train at Tottenham Hale to go for lunch with some friends whilst I continue on to Liverpool street.

Liverpool Street tube station.

Not sure where I’m going to end up for the whole day but but have it in mind to go on the DLR to Royal Victoria Docks for some photography then proceed along the Southbank.

Exiting Royal Victoria DLR station.

The plan is to walk over the elevated walkway to the south side. I want to attempt to get some photos of the dilapidated Millennium Mills building.

The architecture around Royal Victoria Docks.
Walking along the northern edge of Royal Victoria Docks looking East.
Looking in a westerly directio toward Canary Wharf. In the foreground is the elevated walkway over the docks. It can be accessed by a lift at each end. It’s a great spot to take photos of Canary Wharf from an elevated position.
Looking up to the elevated walkway with the access lift in the foreground.

Moving across the elvated walkway I took some photos of the Millennium Mills and then continued across to see if I could access the area any closer.

This was as close as I could get. There is a very substantial security fence so it was a case of just poking the camera lens through the fence.

The mill converted imported grain into flour for the domestic market. The mills were named after their most famous product; Millennium Flour which won the Miller Challenge Cup in 1899 at the International Bakers Exhibition.

In 1917 a nearby munitions factory exploded and devastated the factory. 73 people died.

In 1920 the company, Spillers took over the factory to produce dog biscuits. In 1933 they had the building rebuilt in the current art deco style. The building suffered during the blitz and has since had various projects proposed but remains empty.

It would make a great dereliction subject but as always, it’s virtually impossible to get close enough. I have seen various photographs of the inside on some Urbex sites but they were taken a few years ago. I’m guessing that they have since upgraded the fencing around the site as the only thing I managed to do was to poke the camera through the fence to get some photos.

The building makes a very striking visual statement as a backdrop to the flats on the south side of the docks.

Giving up trying to get any closer to the old mill building I carried on round the southern side of the dock planning to return to the tube at Canning Town. I then had the bright idea of crossing the dock on the Emirates Airline cable car.

Crossing the dock on the cable car.

What I didn’t consider was that the wind was blowing very hard and gusting quite wildly. It turned out to be more like a fairground ride!

Some of the architecture around the Greenwich peninsular.

From Greenwich I caught the tube to Southwark where I found a nice little pub called The Ring, with a boxing theme, for some lunch.

The Ring public house right opposite Southwark tube station.
A rather attractive front entrance to a building across the road from Southwark station.
Capturing a bit of Street Photography outside Southwark Station.

At this point Liz rang my mobile to say she had finished her luncheon with her friends so we agreed to meet up at Green Park tube station.

Some beautiful architecture. Especially at this time of day. Just along the road from Green Park tube.

We finished off the day by a walk round to Carnaby Street for some Christmas lights.

London – The Architecture – Part 1.

The Barbican Centre, London.

A modern Utopian city?

The Barbican scheme was a project of staggering scale and complexity. It took nearly three decades to design and build; involved the design of over 2,000 flats, two schools and an arts centre.

It is built in the style of what is now known as the Brutalist style of architecture.

The distinctive and labour intensive tooling to the bare concrete.

Brutalist architecture, is a style that emerged in the 1950s and grew out of the early-20th century modernist movement. Brutalist buildings are characterised by their massive, monolithic and ‘blocky’ appearance with a rigid geometric style and large-scale use of poured concrete

The raised walkways were part of what, at the time, was considered to be a way of city dwellers moving around the city without going down to street level. Most pedestrians however preferred to walk through the cafes and shops at ground level.

The Barbican scheme was designed by the practice of Chamnerlin, Powell & Bon, who are now considered one of the most important modernist architectural firms in post-war England.

The architects initially suggested a ‘small exhibition hall’ in their first proposal but by 1959 this had grown into a major arts centre including a theatre, a concert hall, an art gallery, a library and a restaurant.

The Barbican’s distinctive tooled-concrete finish is the result of an extremely labour-intensive technique. After the concrete had dried, workers used pick-hammers or wider bush-hammers to tool the surface and expose the coarse granite aggregate. Pick-hammering involved pitting the surface to an average depth of 1.25 cm and bush-hammering to no more than 0.6 cm deep.

At the time of their completion, the Barbican towers were the tallest residential towers in Europe.

London-The City-The Streets Part 2

Part 2 -The City of London.

The area known as The City of London is it’s historic financial district. Home of the Bank of England and the Stock exchange. It’s a great place to wander round during the week as it’s buzzing with all the people. At weekends it’s dead. I love walking round with my camera fitted with my 9.5mm fisheye lens which enables me to capture the vast array of building styles. There is a good mix of the old and the new in some places too.

30 St Mary Axe, more commonly known as ‘The Gherkin’.
As a juxtaposition of architectural styles we have here Lloyd’s Building designed by Richard Rogers, The Willis Towers Watson Building and as a total contrast, St Andrew Undershaft Church which is a rare example of a church that survived both the Great Fire of London and The Blitz.
Lloyd’s and Willis Towers Watson.
You can have fun with tone mapping software to give your photos a more surrealistic appearance.

On a recent trip with members of the local camera club we visited a newly opened rooftop garden at No 120 Fenchurch Street in the financial district.

Typically it rained quite hard but it did prove a good opportunity to get some good rainy day photographs.

The Graden at No 120 Fenchurch Street at Street level
Blue cranes of London.
20 Fenchurch Street, commonly known as ‘The Walkie-Talkie’ due to it’s shape. taken through the rain soaked glass perimeter at The Garden at 120 Fenchurch Street.
A view of The City of London taken from the Boiler House viewing platform of Tate Modern.

London-The City-The Streets Part 1

Part 1 – Nightime London

I do enjoy strolling around a city photographing the buildings and the people all rushing around at their own business. I’m fortunate that I have London on my doorstep. Well, maybe not quite the doorstep but an easy 30 minute train ride away.

I’ve had a few trips into London over the last few years. Often starting with a trip to a gallery or exhibition. The first photograph is taken at night from the north bank of the Thames near Tate Britain and looking over toward the south bank.

Looking south over the Thames

One of the trips was with some fellow members of the local camera club. I had researched the location for some night photography but what I had seen was a bridge of Royal Victoria Docks. What I hadn’t appreciated though was the height of this bridge which one had to get up to with a lift. It makes sense when you think about it as it’s designed to allow tall ships to move under. It was ideal though to set up our tripods for some photography of Canary Wharf with the sun setting.

The bridge over Royal Victoria Docks.
The O2 arena in the settings sun
The setting sun behind Royal Victoria Docks.
Canary Wharf across Royal Victoria Docks

At other times I’ve walked along the Southbank and photographed from the Millennium Bridge toward the east.

The Thames and the Shard looking east from the Millennium Bridge.

Another favourite is to set up the camera on a tripod on the Millennium Bridge and capture the ghostly apparitions of people walking across toward St Paul’s Cathedral. It’s because of having to use a slow shutter speed that the moving people are caught in this way.

St Paul’s Cathedral from the Millennium Bridge

Another favourite spot is just east of the northern ramp of London Bridge. There is a point where there is a staircase to an elevated point to photograph the Shard south, across the river. There is the added bonus of a triangular feature. Not sure what it is but it makes for a nice foreground interest.

South to the Shard from east of London Bridge.

On a more recent trip I’ve searched out the Roupell Street Conservation area, which is an area of Victorian Terraces which have fought off the advances of developers and preserved the area as it was in the 19th century. I wanted to capture the area at night for some additional character.

Theed Street, one of the streets within the Roupell Street Conservation area.