London Calling! - Jay Birmingham

London Calling!

As it was my birthday, we took a trip to London for good food, excellent cocktails, and of course… photography. We are more used to standing in muddy fields than we are to the lights of the big city, so it was a good opportunity to see what was on offer. We arrived after dark and went for a wander. Tower Bridge is an incredible sight in the evening – it’s one of the most iconic landmarks in the UK (if not the world) and the engineering is impressive, particularly considering it opened in 1894. These days it is full of traffic, and street vendors, and was a bustling atmosphere to stand in as I was waiting for buses in order to take light trail photographs.

The next day, we awoke early and headed to London Bridge for sunrise. This bridge only opened in 1973, so certainly isn’t as iconic – however, it has a good view of Tower Bridge. The sky was clear, so I didn’t think I’d get the sunrise I wanted, so headed down under the bridge to take long exposures of The Shard instead.

The next stop was The Shard itself – we thought we would do at least one ‘touristy’ thing, and we have wanted to ascend The Shard for years. This is the tallest building in the UK, and definitely the fastest elevator I’ve ever been in! When it was being built, English Heritage criticised the design and said it would be like ‘a shard of glass through the heart of historic London’, hence where it got its name! I love the look of the building, and the way the light plays upon it. As we were staying in that area, I spent a lot of time taking pictures of the building through the leaves and reflected in the water sculptures.

The view from The Shard itself was amazing; although not easy to capture through the glass with a camera! We also went up in the evening where the vast city was a mesmerising sight.

St. Dunstan in the East Church was somewhere I was keen to see in the sunshine. This is a unique place with lots of history. It was built around 1100 and was damaged in both the Great Fire of London, and in The Blitz. It wasn’t rebuilt the second time, and over the years nature has taken over. It was turned into a garden in the 1960s, and is a peaceful place just a short distance from the busy riverside.

I like interesting architecture, so I was keen to visit the Cecil Brewer staircase. This is in the Heal’s shop, and they are very welcoming to photographers. This spiral staircase was opened in 1916, and is incredibly aesthetically pleasing. Heal’s added some lights a few years ago, which complement the original design. 

For sunset, we went to the shore of the river under Tower Bridge. The unseasonably warm weather again meant there weren’t many clouds, but I won’t complain about three days of sunshine!

Just before the evening light disappeared, I took another shot of The Shard through the Autumn trees.

The next day we started with another iconic view – The London Eye. This was only built in 2000 but is now a key landmark within the city. I captured it with a long exposure across The Thames, and had a look at some of the other views from the nearby bridge.

The rest of the day was spend wandering (and taking the underground) around the city. There really does seem to be something new around every corner – we visited the Crossrail tunnel at Canary Wharf, which has been designed to reflect the maritime history of the local area. We took a walk around the Canada Water area, which was incredibly peaceful, considering it how close it is to everywhere else, and I was engrossed in taking long exposures over the Thames. I continued with these shots outside the Tate Modern, as there were good views of the Millennium Bridge here.

We also visited some of the more picturesque underground stations (we definitely got our money’s worth out of the travelcards!) – Canary Wharf has glass domes over the escalators and is a fairly recent addition to the underground network. It is a wonderful piece of design, and we loved looking at it. Southwark is also on the Jubilee Line and the intermediate concourse feels like the inside of a spaceship. These are just two examples of the unique underground stations – this city is packed with bold design, and every place has a story behind it. The new and the old seem to merge seamlessly, and the ever-changing skyline of could hold my attention for hours.

London is a city to get lost in; to wander the streets and drink in the view. I’m not ready to give up my cold hillsides and flowing rivers just yet, but I would like to return before too long and visit more of these magnificent places.

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