Alternative London's "free" (pay what you like) walking tour certainly lived up to the hype... despite it being a dull and drizzly day the tour engaged us thoroughly in the sights, sounds and smells of Brick Lane and surrounding areas of Liverpool Street, Spitalfields and Shoreditch. It ranks highly on Time Out and this is how the site itself describes the tour: "This is our original tour which was established to showcase East London's incredible creativity whilst giving insights into important historical and cultural events that have made the area what it is today. "
Our guide (Doug) was incredibly passionate yet informative - all the guides have a personal connection to the street art they are showing - whether they are street artists themselves or have a strong interest in capturing it - Doug runs Fifth Wall, an independent short film company focusing on London's creative scenes.
I don't want to give too much away - I strongly recommend signing up and going on one! You can book on the site here: http://alternativeldn.com/walking_tours.php
I enjoyed the tour so much I returned a few weeks later to explore and re-capture some of inspiring street art in the area.
Technical details: Fuji X-M1 with Fujinon 35mm and 16-50mm lenses.
The 18mm f2 lens was the first of the trio that I sold shortly after today ... spending an afternoon with it initially led me to believe that it wasn't the right focal length for me (27mm in 35mm equivalent). However looking through the photos, I think they have a different feel to my usual - I can't quite put my finger on it but its more than just the wider perspective and greater atmosphere caught by using a wide angle.
The dreary clouds tempted me to switch into monochrome and my walk started by crossing Lambeth bridge when the Garden Museum caught my eye. Well worth a quick visit, the homespun milieux seems almost out of place within the church, while the Garden Cafe serves vegetarian and vegan meals prepared from seasonal produce grown in house.
The view over the Thames and the millennium foot bridge was taken from the restaurant at the top of the Tate Modern, also worth the climb for the views alone. Although I didn't realise it at the time, I've photographed the same woman twice, the second of which I found quite amusing. Another Friday afternoon of rambling finished several miles down the Thames path, past London Bridge, Butlers Wharf and Bermondsey before concluding at Rotherhithe.
Technical details: Fuji X-M1 with Fujinon 18mm lens.
Another beautiful Friday afternoon lead me to Greenwich is internationally recognised as the home of time. This is where to find the Prime Meridian of the World - every place on Earth is measured from here. Not only that, but its where the hemispheres meet and home to a World Heritage Site and London's oldest Royal Park (Visit Greenwich).
My wonder started at Cutty Sark - built in the late 19th century, it is the only surviving tea clipper; the fastest and greatest of her time. "The National Maritime Museum is the world's largest maritime museum, revealing inspirational stories and breathtaking accounts of discovery and adventure connecting Britain's maritime past with our lives today" (ibid). But perhaps the greatest gems of all was the Old Royal Navy College - a riverside designed by Sit Christopher Wren (perhaps one of England's most highly acclaimed architects in history, also creating St Paul's Cathedral). I had to give in and switch the film simulation (colour) mode on the camera to capture the outstanding majesty of the Painted Hall as well as the exquisitely decorated Chapel. Hours later than planned, I headed towards the Royal Observatory through Greenwich Park, offering fine dusk views over the City of London. The clock pictured in the last photo is one of the earliest electrics clocks to ever be produced and was installed in 1852. Wikipedia states: "The network of master and slave clocks was constructed and installed by Charles Shepherd in 1852. The clock by the gate was probably the first to display Greenwich Mean Time to the public, and is unusual in using the 24-hour analogue dial."
Technical details: Fuji X-M1 with Fujinon 16-50mm lens.
Winter is officially over and the crocuses are in spring bloom! In an attempt to escape the flooded plains of the countryside, Dan and I joined a guided walk (highly informative with quirky anecdotal tales, run by London Walks) in St Albans, AKA Verulamium - that's the Roman name of the old town. Yes, its about two millennia old! Here's an extract of their blurb: "The most fascinating small city in England... St. Albans is an essence of England. You can stand on the bank of its little river, the Ver, and suddenly feel yourself touched, saddened by the great passage of time – Romans, and Saxons, and Normans, and Lancastrians rode across this stream, galloped up that hill, and disappeared into the centuries. And the same goes for the little town itself (little town, hell, long, long ago this was the most important city in Roman Britain!) – here you see it all – from the Legions of Julius Caesar to the dynasty of the Churchills. These streets are corridors in the vale of time. Here's the only Roman theatre in Britain; here's the oldest street market in this sceptered isle – it dates back to the Saxons; round this corner there's a 600-year-old Moot hall; round that one a clutch of mediaeval and Tudor coaching inns; hard by, a rare curfew clock tower; up these lanes a sprinkling of half-timbered Elizabethan houses; over there, streets and buildings that are essays in Georgian England; here, a Victorian prison. Let alone all sorts of hidden, curious places and things – and a skein of enthralling history. Not to put too fine a point on it, St. Albans is England in miniature and London's best kept secret!"
The photos below were mostly taken around the centre of the historic market town, the clock tower and the St Albans Abbey.
Technical details: Fuji X-M1 with Olympus OM 28mm lens.
A bumper set (primarily referring to the the quantity - perhaps I've been lazy to filter down) of photos taken around the square mile and the City of London. After the first photo set in Baker Street station (on one of the original first 150 year old platforms) the journey starts in Farringdon and heads towards the Barbican Centre (photos 4-7) via Smithfields Market. Photos 8-10 are taken at and around the London Wall - which used to surround the city of London for many centuries until the great fire in 1666.
The next set of photos are taken outside the main entrance to St Pauls Cathedral before reaching the southern courtyard of Guildhall, London's ancient town hall, with its funky flooring. The nearby road names share a glimpse into the town-planning of old London: Masons Avenue, Ironmonger Lane, Milk Street, Wood Street and Gutter Lane to mention a few. In fact, there is not a single Road in the City of London. Plenty of Streets, Alleys and Lanes and Squares but no Roads. Why? Because "this sense of the word ‘road’ was not coined until the late 16th Century, after nearly all the thoroughfares in the ancient City had already been named" (Londonist.com).
Our next stop takes us the the aptly-named Bank area within the City - outside the Bank of England and the Royal Exchange. The ultra-modern skyscraper near the gherkin is Tower 3 belonging to Lloyd's. The penulatimate destination is attractively decorated and one of London's oldest markets - Leadenhall Market. Lastly we end our route crossing London Bridge - older wooden versions dating back to the medieval times (although this box girder bridge replaced the stone one that followed the timber predecessors).
I feel like I've built a bit of a relationship with this strange lens over the duration of this afternoon! It certainly made me think more creatively about my composition and how I could shoot a series of photos without getting tired of the special effect it gives. Although I'd intended to crop the photos and remove the vignetting, the curved edges have grown on me - especially as I took them into consideration when composing the shots.
Technical details: Sony a850 with Samyang 8mm lens.
Photos taken during another visit to the old-favourite Natural History Museum with Jai Shah, a pro wedding photographer (check out his inspirational 365-project in which he takes a new photo daily through 2013 - harder and more creative than it sounds!). Charged with inspiration after viewing the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibit, we made the most of the time experimenting with our new cameras (and an old lens).
Technical details: Fuji X-M1 with Olympus OM 50mm f1.8 MF lens.
This evening was the first proper chance to test out a new toy - the Fuji X-M1 and its 16-50mm kit lens. A near cloudless sunset over the Thames provided an apt setting and the camera did not disappoint. In comparison to the Olympus E-PM1 (not a fair comparison, although there are good promotions and cashback offers with Fuji at the moment) I loved how they squeezed in so much manual control in a small body. Having a tilting screen is something lacking on both the E-PM1 and my Sony a850 (the latter, being a "traditional" photographer's tool, doesn't even have live view anyway!) The jpeg engine and colours seem good (one of my favourite things about the Olympus cameras), however what blew me away was the lack of noise produced by Fuji's X-Trans sensor. Several of the below photos are taken at ISOs between 1250 and 4000, and are even on full crop, essentially noise-free while retaining reasonably strong detail. More on this later in upcoming posts, but I can see this becoming a favourite camera to use with the old manual focus lenses too - I'll post up more images soon.
Back to the photos - the Palace of Westminster (AKA Houses of Parliament), Big Ben and sunsets taken from Westminster Bridge. The lantern is taken at the entrance of the cloisters of Westminster Abbey (photos 6 and 7) and the last 5 photos are taken in the Victoria and Albert museum.
Technical details: Fuji X-M1 with Fujinon 16-50mm lens.
Like last year (click here), here is another round-up of some of the most memorable images taken over the past year. Click the photos to navigate to the associated full blog post. Happy viewing!
Please take a few minutes to vote for your favourite photos - click here.
More experimentation with the Dramatic Tone filter - photos taken in Wokefield Park (home to the BMW Group Academy, hence the photos) and walking along the amusingly named Goodboys Lane.
Technical details: Technical details: Olympus E-PM1 with 14-42mm lens.
The elegant Mansion House interior at Wokefield Park provided a opportune setting to experiment with some "old-school" photography - shooting in monochrome and using manual focus lenses.
Technical details: Technical details: Olympus E-PM1 with Olympus OM 28mm f2.8 lens.