Tuesday, 30 November 2010

One New Change Revisited.............er...Revisited!

I really don’t want to go over old ground as my opinion of this developement has been covered here and here but I just wanted to round things off by commenting on the view from the building rather than the unredeemable view of it!

I think that I was particularly lucky with the timing of my visit. I had intended to get there in full daylight but best laid plans and all that………..the light was rapidly fading by the time I walked in between the legs of the building. I took the glass lift, conveniently located in the building's crotch, directly up to the terrace area.

The southern area is relatively small and disappointing It has a quite tall and steeply angled glass wall, presumably to prevent you throwing yourself off in desperation. However, the northern section is something else altogether. Angular and sloping down towards St Paul’s, it really is quite dramatic. As you walk down towards the west, the focus of your attention really is the great dome of St P’s but there is so much more. The wall on this section is of a much more manageable height and, although you do get a view to the north the thing that really grabs you is the vista to the south.

As I said, I was very lucky with the timing. It was very cold, the sky was crystal clear, deep blue and heading towards black. South London was lighting up and never looked better. It really was something to be seen.
I suppose that, at some time, I will have to go back to see what it looks like in broad daylight, but I doubt that it will have the impact of that first visit.

 My opinion of the rest of the building has not changed. There are shops and restaurants, if that is your kind of thing, but I can only recommend the terrace as being worthy of your time. If you are passing, do go up and take a look.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Take Your Camera Out At Night

Cameras are not just for sunny days, high days and holidays. They are for use all year round, at any time of the day or night and this is the perfect time of the year to use it on the streets and after dark.
I suppose that if you want to do this properly, you really need to give it a great deal of thought, work out exactly what want from the shoot, plan your locations and equip yourself with a tripod, cable release or remote control and half a dozen other “useful” accessories ………………….. but to hell with that. Just get out there and shoot stuff!

 London is a fantastic place for night photography, although calling it night photography is a bit of a misnomer, sometimes twilight is the best time as the residual light gives some definition to the sky and helps to make the subject stand out from its background. Look around you as the light begins to fail and you will soon see suitable subjects appearing just about everywhere. Buildings illuminated either internally or externally. Featured lighting and at this time of year, in particular, Christmas decorations. Reflections in windows or on shiny surfaces and, of course, the river and its environs.

Start out just by using your camera’s auto setting and see how things work out. Then move on to trying the various program options.. Virtually every camera will have a night option, an obvious starting point, but try the other settings too. This is digital, you are not going to do the camera any harm, it won’t cost you anything and you can delete all of the pics that just don’t work.

A tripod is, of course, the ideal accessory for this kind of photography. As the light fails, shutter speeds inevitably get longer, and equally inevitably shaky hands begin to come into play, particularly as the weather gets colder. As useful as tripods are, they are a bit of a pain to haul around with you. Very often you can get away with hand holding (try breathing in deeply and slowly exhaling as you release the shutter, it sounds strange, but it really can help!). Otherwise try wedging yourself into a corner, resting your elbows on a wall or actually resting the camera on a solid surface. A small bean bag (either a purpose made item or a home made job) or even a rolled up wooly hat or a pair of gloves will help you to move the camera around to enable you to frame the shot properly. Just use a little imagination and try different ideas, you will eventually find what suits you. A small point to remember if you are shooting on a bridge is that bridges move and this movement will result in the blurring of your photograph. As heavy traffic passes you will feel the vibration under your feet just wait a few seconds until that traffic has passed. And then fire off the shot.

It is also worth considering what you intend to do with the photograph. If you only need small or low res images you can get away with a lot more than if you intend you intend to print at large sizes or view at full screen on a decent sized monitor.

The best thing to do is just try it. You’ll get some good shots and you’ll get some very bad shots but when you’ve had a few decent ones you may well find yourself hooked.

Have fun!

For more night shots click here

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Peeping Tom

There has been a great deal of fuss recently about the film Peeping Tom, mostly centred around the fact that its new release has been championed by Martin Scorsese. As I had only ever seen it on TV, I thought it would be a good idea to see it on a bigger screen, so I went to see it at Screen 5 of the Empire, Leicester Sq.

In a theatre of only 51 seats, I probably had the best. In the middle of the back row (there were only 5 rows!) with an aisle in front of me, so no heads to get in the way. The seats reclined backwards and were very comfortable. Initially, I thought it was going to be fairly empty but the punters spilled in during Pearl & Dean and in the end there were only a couple of empty seats. It was, however, at £12.95, vastly overpriced.

Despite being so small, the relative size of the screen and the seating positions meant that it was actually very similar to watching on a "proper" big screen.

It was pretty much as I remembered it. Very period, very stylised, even comic bookish (in fact it has the look of a graphic novel but from a time before such a thing existed, let alone a time when the cinema industry relies so heavily on them as source material!) and is somewhat overacted by modern standards. The colour process was extraordinary, adding to the overall sense of discomfort.

The film itself is an interesting idea, deeply flawed by the fact that this was a clearly unbalanced young man who insisted on drawing attention to himself by whipping out his cine camera at the most inappropriate moments It took most of the film before anyone noticed either of these things! Also, he had already moved far beyond being a peeping tom by the beginning of the film and had become what I suppose you could call a homicidal voyeur, but, then again, that wouldn’t have made such a snappy title!

The German accent of Mark Lewis (Carl Boehm) is unexplained and inexplicable as he grew up in the same house in which he eventually died and the sheer naivety of Helen Stevens (Anna Massey) would be unacceptable were it not for the fact that in the real world there are something like 150 British Women engaged to men on Death Row in the US! All other cast members played their parts with varying degrees of subtlety, but none of them played the parts with too much! Moira Shearer just looked great!

Extremely controversial in its day and resulting in the end of director Michael Powell’s, previously illustrious, career. It remains an interesting, though uncomfortable, film.

It was certainly worth seeing on the big screen during this 50th anniversary season.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Another Royal Wedding

It was announced yesterday that Prince William is to marry his long term girlfriend Kate Middleton (now to be referred to as Catherine, apparently. As if that’s going to happen!). I wish them both well but what a terrible situation to be in. He has grown up with the inevitability of this thing happening but just how prepared can she be for taking on this job, because a job is what it is.

The intense curiosity of the public and the intrusive probing of the press has already gone into overdrive and will only get worse as the event approaches and that, of course, is just the beginning. The pressures on the relationship are, and will continue to be, immense. William has had a privileged, though very public, upbringing and by all accounts Ms Middleton hasn’t done too badly in that area either, but I doubt that anything could really prepare her for what is to come.

 It does appear that William is a very different man to his father and seems to be more grounded in reality. He also has the dubious advantage of witnessing, first hand, what media pressure did to his parents relationship. In hindsight, of course, it is clear that that was never a marriage made in heaven. I just hope that all of this will help them find a way to get through the next few years. 

Don’t make the mistake of believing that I’m overly sympathetic to their situation. Nor do I have a strong opinion, either way, about the monarchy, but you certainly can believe that I am glad to have never been in a similar position to this particular couple.

They really do have an incredible challenge facing them, but us lesser mortals also have to face up to a major reality. We are all going to have to live with this thing being thrust down our throats every day until they eventually trundle down the aisle and even then, the media machine will simply change gear and stride off in a slightly different direction.

There is a precedent!

Oh well, we can at least hope that the day of the wedding will be a public holiday and that is always something to look forward to.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

St Paul’s……and One New Change, Revisited

Yesterday I visited St Paul’s Cathedral, which was allowing free entry as part of the celebration of the Lord Mayors Show. In a former post, I complained about being charged for entry whilst, at the same time being denied permission to take photographs here. With the exception of the Whispering Gallery, photo denial had been suspended for the day, which made me very happy. The day was also enlivened by several recitals of Peter and the Wolf narrated by Jo Brand to a very appreciative audience.

I’m not sure what the problem was in the Whispering Gallery. Perhaps they thought we would be so overcome by the view that we would throw ourselves, or our cameras, over the guard rail, thereby spoiling the day for some, or livening it up for others. Whatever the reason, it was heavily policed by the red coated guardians, one of whom even suggested that I might like to desist from texting until I was back outside the building!

Although we were denied access to the Golden Gallery, the Cathedral’s highest viewpoint, we were allowed up to the Stone Gallery, which encircles the base of the Dome. Despite it being a generally gloomy day, the views from there are breathtaking (quite literally, for the less fit amongst us!). And well worth the effort. There is, however, a fly in the ointment. Looking to the East, you find your self gazing down on the building that calls itself One New Change.

I have said before that I do not like this building here, I can now confirm, that it looks even worse from above than it does from ground level. Uncompromisingly ugly and with no symmetry or grace. It has been suggested that it’s two pronged ground plan is an open legged gesture, flashing it’s private parts to it’s surroundings. Or perhaps it’s a cuckold gesture relating to it’s relationship with the City and the Church. To me, it just seems to be sticking up two fingers to all of us. Perhaps it's just an elaborate and very expensive joke. Whatever.  It really should not be there.

Enough of all that, I think. I was pleased to visit St Paul’s again, It is a beautiful building and, niggles aside, should be seen by everyone.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

I Love Fireworks

Last night I went to see the firework display in Battersea Park. I have to admit that I still have a childlike love of fireworks. I can’t really see the point of a back garden display, unless of course you have a garden the size of Alexandra Park. I suppose that kids like to see these things in a familiar environment but there really is nothing to compare with a good organised display.

At the end of September, the closing act of the Thames Festival was an after dark carnival parade finished off with fireworks over the Thames (a brilliant event, well worth putting in your diary). Displays over water are, I think, particularly effective, you not only get the air bursts but you also get the reflections on the water surface. On our river, you can also throw in the way that the familiar buildings are lit on either bank, to me that make things pretty well perfect.

The other thing about organised displays is that they are amazing value for money). I don’t know what a box of Standard or Pains fireworks costs these days, but what ever it is you really don’t get many bangs for your bucks. Many organised displays are free, and usually with some sort of charity collection associated with them, but even if you have to pay they represent a good a return for your cash. The Battersea display had an adult entry price of £6.00 and the display lasted 20 minutes. Even with my rudimentary grasp of maths I have been able to work that out as 30p per minute. Who can complain about that?

It was a very fine display orchestrated by Pains, accompanied by good music, a very warming bonfire and in an excellent location. A splendid time was had by all!

Sadly, some excellent displays have dropped off of the calendar over the last few years. One of my lost favourites being Primrose Hill, a fantastic location. With the backdrop of our favourite city, to my mind it couldn’t be beaten. Inevitably, some more displays have been cancelled this year due to the current economic situation and this may become more of a problem as time goes on.

 Apologies for the sound quality!

On the 13th November, the Lord Mayors Show takes place in the City of London. This will also be rounded off by a free firework display, launched from barges on the Thames between Blackfriars Bridge and Waterloo Bridge (the same location as used for the Thames Festival)

Guess where I will be next Saturday?

 ............and then, end the day with a bang, always sound advice in my experience!