Thursday, 28 February 2013

Day 59 : a secret room

So I'm off to meet everyone for drinks after work tonight at the chosen venue of Wilton's. Wilton’s is a local much loved bar in addition to be the world’s oldest music hall. It is unfortunately suffering from a rather large need for renovation, they are starting to work on it but that need a mere £2 million plus to get everything back in order. I’m late leaving the office but sure they will still be here, they have few hours (well about five) ahead of me but that’s fine by me. I can’t find them in the several crowded rooms downstairs so climb up the rather dilapidated stairs to the two rooms above. Hmmm, they're not there either. I check downstairs again, there's a Great Gatsby event going on and various flappers dancing around swinging their pearls. But I can't find anyone so I go outside but no one is there either. I figure whilst I’m here waiting for someone to respond to my messages, I should take a few photographs. It is fascinating building, inside and out. Yes it’s crumbling in places, many places, it's quirky, the straight lines are not very straight at all. The paint is peeling, seriously, and the woodcarvings need some TLC but it’s a great building.

I am standing by the front door and look up to the wonderful ornate metal lamps and canopy of fairy lights illuminating the chatting smokers below. I am determined that this will make a good photo so I position myself directly underneath the lamp, square to the building but there's a problem. Nothing about the building is square. The lamp is skew, the walls are leaning and no matter where I stand nothing lines up. But it is beautiful!

I never find the rest of the group. It turns out that they are upstairs after all, but when it got crowded they were move into a room none of us even knew existed before. But the weirdest thing is that room the outside of the door to this new room is a fake bookshelf disguising the room behind. Sneaky, no wonder I couldn't find them, they’re in a secret room. How fabulous, Wilton’s just gets better on every visit.


Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Day 58 : Old versus new

Thought I'd continue my mission to capture some of the historic views around my work environs before we relocate to a place not so photogenic. To capture this I balanced my camera on the wall protecting the Tower of London from possible invasion. I love the fact that in one image you have the incredibly historic Tower of London with, further into the ’square mile’, the iconic Gherkin (more boringly called the Swiss Re tower) and then the ubiquitous cranes on the horizon helping even more new skyscrapers spring up.

Sadly the Tower of London hasn't remained entirely intact since William the Conquerer started building his huge fortress to “safeguard against the fickleness of the huge and fierce population” and to “bring the Londoners completely to heel”

The picture would have been complete with one of the Tower’s infamous ravens casting a beady eye on all the proceedings. They, however, should be tucked up in bed by now. The legend goes that if the ravens leave, the Tower would fall and then the Kingdom would follow. To ensure the safety of the Kingdom, their ’lifting’ feathers are clipped. I am positive I've seen an escaped Raven on more than one occasion strutting along the edge of the balcony of our old building, a little nearer to the Tower, but this has been strenuously denied by the Beefeaters. And sadly that photo opp has gone forever. Though I’ve since read that one of the gang escaped for a few days in 2010 so maybe I didn't just dream the visit from a very large, shiny, black bird. The legend says that six ravens have to remain at the Tower of London, sensibly they have at least one spare just in case!

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Day 57 : a good day to photograph hard

Tonight I scored a ticket for a private viewing of Die Hard 5 - a good day to die hard. I have to admit I haven't actually seem Die Hard 1, 2, 3 or 4 so I didn't really knew what to expect other than lots of action. Almost immediately I was rather taken by the cinematography, often odd, in the initial close up shots I was mesmerised by the camera moving all over the place making a quite moment feel very dizzy. Later the CGI kicked in with a vengeance so much so I felt I was watching cut scenes on a good graphic shoot ’em up. I kept pondering if there was any intact car left in Moscow, that would be a huge clean up bill! Then more spiralling camera shots, I wondered if they'd utilised the new Canon 5D Mark iii instead of more traditional video camera, hmmm how to check? Not being able compare to previous films as said my main thought is that John McClane (and son Jack) seem curiously impervious to being shot at, involved in all manner of major vehicle pile ups, run over, falling through floors, impaled by metal rods, jumping through glass windows, attacked by helicopter blades, blown up...repeatedly. And they end up with a few artful grazes. Hmmmm.
Anyway I was right, kind of...Canon 5D was referred to in the credits but I don't know if they shot the entire film using them, just the weird shaky bits (tripods people!) or none of it.
On exitting the cinema into the quiet of Soho Square, I was immediately drawn to a restaurant or bar opposite all lit up in the pretty colours. My first thought was - that's exactly what I need after that film...pretty colours!


Monday, 25 February 2013

Day 56 : the obvious Tower Bridge shot

Normally me leaving the office and the relationship to my last train is officially “cutting it fine” so that doesn't leave time for little flights of photographic fancy. But tonight I had nearly 3 hours before those tube doors would close for the last time today (or strictly tomorrow morning as it departs at 00:21) so I could use some of this “fee-time” trying out some night shots without my three-legged friend. This is one of those situations when you think about what you take for granted. I pass this spot several times a day on the way to and from the office, I've worked in three different buildings, one of them twice and despite some days feeling there are more tourists than you could shake a stick at, this certainly is a beautiful place to work. There’s St Katharine Docks and all the little “and sometimes big) boats. All the history of the Tower of London with the occasional glimpse of a Beefeater, the majestic Tower Bridge and the sweep of the Thames with the illuminated bridges and cityscape beyond at night. And I really take it for granted. Here I am with my camera everyday and so much of my photography is on the tube trains or elsewhere and this needs to be addressed. We are finally upping sticks from this area soon, possibly in a matter of weeks and I should take these perfect opportunities when I can.

Tower Bridge with a time release of the traffic passing over it is rather a cliched shot but I haven't taken one of those photographs. Bring without my tripod, it’s not something I just keep in my work bag, means I have to get creative. I have my teeny, tiny tripod which helps with tipping the camera up or down but I need to stand it on a flat surface of suitable height to perform. The only vantage point I could ascertain was the metal crash barrier separating the pavement from the busy traffic. The sort of worked but only get me one angle. I really needed a slighter flatter area on top. All I could think of utilising was my iPad. But then sanity prevailed. Really what could go wrong in this scenario? I would be balancing my iPad precariously on a crash barrier dangerously close to passing transport whizzing hither and thither, and then balancing my camera on top. Hmmm that would be a fun conversation to have with the insurance company when the inevitable happened. So instead I promised myself I'd return on another day, soon, but with with a proper grown-up tripod!


Sunday, 24 February 2013

Day 55 : nightmare on clutch bag

I seem to have reverted back to the skull theme again. I was admiring a new fabulous, but rather impractical, black leather clutch bag I'd purchased recently and thought it might make an interesting subject to photograph in the dwindling daylight. I added an extra lamp to warm up the gunmetal crystals and noticed the eerie red glow of my Leica daylight filter is adding an extra touch of macabre. After focusing in on the far from discrete skull motif on the front flap, I realise that this is one scary clutch bag!


Saturday, 23 February 2013

Day 54 : candy wall

On the train back into London after our photographic excursion to Rochester we are comparing our “tuck” from the retro sweet shop. LA suggests that my Cola Cubes stacked up would make a fine wall accompanied by my miniature people. I thought I'd try it, clearly the scale is completely bizarre but I like the pale sunlight adding a slight translucency to the cuboid wall. I need a counterpoint to my candy structure so I introduce a tiny black cat! Much to my surprise he can stand up unsupported on his four pin head legs. He won't stand on the wall, I'm guessing the sugar crystals are too challenging but next to the wall, he will happily strut his stuff.


Friday, 22 February 2013

Day 53 : duck à la snow

Traditionally on Friday we indulge in some pre-weekend gastronomy at the St Katharine Dock food market. I'm late today because of various bits of client gubbins so I may actually have missed it all but I head over anyway. It’s cold, it feels like it might snow but there's no sign of it yet. As I walk by the tied up boats a pair of mallard ducks waddle past. The dowdy female’s striding ahead but the iridescent male stands and fronts me on the path or maybe he's just showing me his good side.

As I carry onto the market the snow that has been threatening starts to fall. Not big fluffy flakes but tiny hard crystals. I turn round to see where the ducks are but they’re not waddling down the path anymore. Hopefully they've found shelter from this bitter cold. Brrrr!


Thursday, 21 February 2013

Day 52 : green line

I just couldn't resist. When I spotted a woman wearing vibrant green trousers on the District line I had to set my camera to one-spot colour, focus on the nearest green grab rail and then attempt a sneaky over the shoulder shot to capture her. As a bonus, her neighbour seems to wearing khakis and even his ginger hair has been given a greenish glow!



Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Day 51 : brave little daffodil

Combing Carnaby Street tonight for fashionista inspired moment for the Photography Social I spotted a brave miniature daffodil. Tonight it is bitingly cold and the tiny harbinger of Spring is valiantly standing proud. It's a windy night as well and I was struggling on my haunches to get a clean shot. Thankfully the lovely J (pronounced H) my intrepid partner, if not in crime, photography acted as the perfect Spanish windbreaker for me.


Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Day 50 : tunnel love

Just occasionally a place you rush past regularly makes you pause in your dashing and take another look. This morning it was the tunnels at Bank station after disembarking from the Waterloo and City tube that momentarily stopped me in my tracks. Despite being at this station many hundreds of times I'm fairly sure I've never been in the tunnel at this end, as I always get the travolator and leave the station or hop onto the Central line. Normally the commuters scurrying hither and thither block the view down the tunnel but there was a sudden window of opportunity of emptiness so I could grab this shot.

I love the look of it, a little sinister, something curiously reminiscent of an old episode of the Avengers or a spy thriller. Perhaps this isn't entirely implausible as because the less than 1 1/2 miles of the Waterloo and City line is closed on Sunday, it often doubles for random platforms and tubes in films and dramas. The game changing incident on the tube in Sliding Doors was shot here don't you know. Next time I see a chase through tube passes as I’ll have to check if it matches my photograph.


Monday, 18 February 2013

Day 49 : priority seat!

This resolution to notice more, see more and photograph more has achieved its aim and has really got me observing the curiosities, the beauty and the pleasing about me. Today it’s the newly upholstered seats on the tube train. These patterns are generally vivid coloured squares, lines and rectangles but this is a fabulous abstract mini skyline of London, showing the London Eye and possibly St. Paul’s cathedral and Big Ben. I waited for the passenger sat in front of me who looked at me nervously adjusting my camera settings to get up and leave so I could capture this design. So for a change, today’s decisive moment was when someone had vacated the spot not occupied it!


Sunday, 17 February 2013

Day 48 : taking the time!

The intrepid photographers have been lured into one of the several retro sweetshops lining the windy lanes of Rochester. The thoughts of Sour Apple Cubes, Sherbet Fountains, Cola Pips, Space Dust, Liquorice Laces and Cinder Toffee drew us in away from capturing the castle we’d been planning to. On leaving that little school days moment, clutching our crumpled paper bags there is an artist painting a picture of said sweetshop, totally dressed as you would if you were going to a fancy dress party as an artist. Outside also is an old man, looking rather dapper with a wonderful charismatic face. LA starts talking to him and asks if he can take his portrait. I can tell he’d make a great photo but I'm not inspired enough to lift my camera to my eye because it’s not generally the sort of photo I'd take.

The elderly gentleman mentions he’d like to include his pocket watch in the portrait. And in that moment, if there was any doubt how LA and my photographic influences differ, I immediately step forward to take a macro shot of his hand in fingerless gloves holding the watch (closed in my previous post) and open exposing the intricate workings here. LA gets him to pose looking stately, holding his watch proudly and has probably captured an amazing, touching portrait as is his wont. I’ll have to make do with the gold watch glistening in his palm.


Storming the castle

After the eccentricity and garishness of Chinese New Year this morning in the gaudy streets of Chatham we were after a change of scene. We were getting rather chilled so headed back towards the station but then carried on in the other direction and found the entirely different world of Rochester, winding cobbled streets, quaint boutiques, retro sweetshops and a cathedral.

After fortifying ourselves and much banter about our mystery morning over a fine Sunday lunch to carried on a little further to catch the setting sun casting its golden light on the walls of the castle.

And finally before taking our weary and cold bones home, grabbed a few shots of the sparkling water under the last vestiges of the day’s light.


Chasing the dragon

Frui haven't run one of their mystery days for months now so I was keen to congregate again at a London train station and receive our mystery assignment. Today’s plan was to travel to Rochester Station photograph the late Chinese New Year celebrations in Chatham in the morning and then after a pub lunch head into Rochester to check out the castle and environs.

This morning’s challenge was to try and avoid just photographing the parade itself and turn the lens to crowd, the streets and the general detritus surrounding such an event.

I did take pictures of the other photographers and the increasing clumps of people congregating in the streets flanked by the mostly cheap and gaudy shops but the lure of the vibrancy of participants of the parade and their interaction with the crowds intrigued me most.

I liked the fact that some of the costumes were intricate and elaborate and then others were definitely not. Some of the routines were obviously well rehearsed, the elderly Chinese group elegantly demonstrating their t’ai chi moves counterpointed with the sharp cracks of their fans, the spiralling gyrations of the dragon and the exuberant lion dance. There was a sullen group in dark grey and black carrying an oddly formed snake. Various local martial arts groups had turned out to promote their clubs and an incredibly bubbly pink satin clad dance troupe who never tired of posing for the cameras though I didn't spot any dancing from them.

There were several mayors and mayoress all decked out in their robes heading the parade and attempting to deliver an inspirational speech to the masses but sadly it just couldn't be heard at all above the general cacophony and even the performers themselves were chatting during the efforts.

It was a burst of colour in a strangely uninspiring place, once the parade dissipated we reconvened to decide on our next photography opportunities.


Saturday, 16 February 2013

Day 47 : going to work on an egg!

When I'd first thought I'd like to try some little people photography and was browsing the catalogues of available figures I'd been struck with the idea of procuring some teeny, tiny chickens and placing them on an egg. And then these microscopic chickens turned up and I was somewhat defeated by these chicken-shaped dots and put the idea to one side.

However after experimenting with the much larger mini photographer and the tacks or drawing pins earlier this week I figured I give it another go. I just needed some patience and some Pritt stick glue oh... and an egg!


Friday, 15 February 2013

Day 46 : a present!

What's not to like about a vibrant burst of a sunrise? It holds such promise for a colourful day ahead. A poignant reminder that pretty much wherever we are we’re surrounded by such beauty, we just have to see it. And I never tire of being reminded.

Often, like today, it is all too fleeting and then the sky settles into its average, bland just wooly white, a pale blue or even grey mode. And there’s nothing to show for that sudden explosion of colour that you were only privy to if you just caught it at exactly the right time. It feels like I was given a little present of a beautiful sunrise today to get me through the day ahead, so to whomever it concerns, I thank you!


Thursday, 14 February 2013

Day 45 : Valentine's Day roses

These aren't mine, they were just on the table in the lounge we meet our clients in earlier, whether it was a flamboyant flourish or a nod to Valentine’s Day we weren't sure as we hadn't been there before. Having such a penchant for flowers, roses being high on the list, i couldn't resist. Obviously I couldn't take them per se but I could take their picture.

Now I'm on the tube home writing my blog post for today. I often write on the tube, it’s an efficient way to make use of the time as invariably I have ’the daily shot’ in the bag already. If I travelled home in the rush hour it would be unlikely I'd be able to get a seat and hence write, but later in the evening you can spread out a bit in the near empty carriage.

Tonight though, not exactly standing room only but pretty packed and generally in pairs. There’s a greater proliferation of hand-holding that I generally notice, several clutching a solitary wispy rose in a tight wrap of cellophane and one perhaps carting her body weight in roses. And the couple (too) close by to my right are kissing - a lot! Not that I'm looking but I can hear them being mere inches a way. The general mood of the other passengers is “get a room!” but still the slurping continues! There are also two sets of couple are currently in the process are taking photographs of each other, nothing to make one blush but I suspect “look at how cute we look on the tube” for Facebook later.

All this has given a sudden flash of déjà vu. It was either last Valentine’s or the one before. I, going home from the office on a late-night tube and most of the carriage is populated by adoring couples, so far so the same. I'm toiling away at my iPad and a man stumbles on to the tube, clearly a little worse for drink and something about his hooded look, his gait, his entire demeanour makes me think “rogue”, but I haven't decided if I should prefix it with “loveable” or not. He looks a shoe-in for any suspicious looking old miscreant a casting director needs for a East End gangland drama. He seems dissatisfied with the hand-holding pairs, mumbling his discontent shuffled down to my couplet-free zone. And soon he wants to engage me in conversation. Does he not know the rules of travelling on the London Underground? No eye contact, no conversing apart from the occasional “have you finished with that paper?” or “can you move down the train please?”.

I'm very reluctant but he declares it almost rude that I'm still tapping away on my iPad whilst he wants to talk. He makes a few enquiries about my jewellery (oh this old thing?) and asks if my possibly most favourite ring is diamond (of course I deny the truth) as he says he a professional. I'm now thinking perhaps he has a little place in Hatton Garden peddling engagement rings and I've misread him but then follows up with the admission that his chosen profession is “thief”. Fabulous! I feign mild curiosity all the time mentally checking all my valuables are safe. He then adds, “I only steal from people who can afford it...”, hmmm not sure how he ascertains that. And now for the good news “I'm too old for violence though these days, that's a younger man’s game all that!” Great well at least my new thieving BFF isn't going to hurt me if he thinks I have been withholding on the provenance of my pavé Champagne diamond (thankfully not as blingy as their white cousins) ring. I'm hoping he's getting off before my stop, the final one, but no, much to my luck, he could accompany me to my door. That's so not going to happen, I linger back purportedly searching for something in my bag and when I see he's gone on ahead I spot my saviour - a black cab with the welcoming amber light so manage my escape, my jewellery and limbs thankfully intact. This Valentine’s Day has been remarkably uneventful compared to that one. I think next year, however, I should have a better plan than an evening slaving over a hot spreadsheet and then the late-night couple express home!

And if anyone was thinking of getting me roses, beautiful, dark red, velvety blooms in a shiny black spherical vase sound just about perfect!


Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Day 44 : a little light goes a long way!

The earlier rain has slicked the pavements and coupled with the gloss painted wooden panels, the glow from the vibrant Tower Hill roundel and the station office lights are illuminating the final approach to the tube. I love how just a few small lights can totally transform this gloomy spot.

It's a funny little corner of London, on the left of the picture is the best preserved remnant of the Roman London wall and on the right a pair of incongruously sited benches. I can't really imagine why you'd want to linger in right here, the Tower of London is across the road, to be sure, but I'm pretty confident you'd be pushed to see a single turret perched here. Perhaps the journey on the District line has exhausted you and you can droop into this handy bench whilst you recompose. Also there are Jack the Ripper tours that start close to here so maybe if you're really early you have a convenient point to pause, have a bite of your sandwich before hearing of all the gory details.

For me, I'm either surfacing from below ground on my final leg of my commute to the office or at the end of the day, basking in a little brightness at the beginning of my journey home.


Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Day 43 : tack-sharp!

I wasn't too delighted yesterday with a shot that was just a tiny bit off focus, not quite blurry but in the vicinity of and today was determined to do better and aim for “tack-sharp” - a word that gets bandied about a lot when looking at photographs. And whilst pondering what that should be I thought it might be so apt to grab one of my teeny, tiny Preiser HO scale photographers (doesn't everyone have one?) and a few thumb tacks. I've been meaning to play around these little figures for ages, I was inspired by both a project in a magazine and of course on first viewing, totally enraptured by Slinkachu and his Little People in the City project so had been determined to have a go myself.

I carefully chose the figures I wanted to experiment with online, and two things were evident when they arrived. Firstly, I was immediately thwarted by their impossibly miniature size and can see now why Slinkachu glues his figures permanently in his little scenarios. And secondly, the paint colours are random and my photographers are awful, nasty double-denim and just an odd clash of colours. I thought they'd be the same as the images online which were slightly more palatable, however I’m assuming as they're hand-painted it’s entirely due to whim of the painter. I chose this figure because of the typical photographer stance, he’s really working it. But if I can possibly master Slinkachu’s talent for remodelling these figures I would definitely alter them and revamp their wardrobes.

I used Pritt to glue my diminutive snapper to my notebook and hence stay upright. Luckily I always carry my tiny Manfrotto tripod in my handbag, the one you can keep permanently attached to your camera if your camera case has enough depth (mine doesn't!) which is crucial for such a macro shot. I think it’s probably lucky I waited until I had a camera with such a wide aperture as I suspect my previous may have struggled a tiny bit. The image is the original size, no post-processing zooming and cropping, so I'm quite pleased with how it turned out! Tack-sharp today do you think? Not bad for a 1:87 gauge figure!

I don't think Slinkachu needs to fear the competition but I'll definitely be revisiting a miniature world and see what else I can do.


Monday, 11 February 2013

Day 42. : unsharp!

Today the snow returned, well almost! It snowed but then it barely lingered. The cars had a thin layer mostly scraped up into meagre snowballs by the local schoolchildren but the gardens seemed mostly untouched. Relative temperature of plants versus metal I guess. Instead what remained was some of the reminders of the soaking we received yesterday.

On venturing out briefly on a very rainy Sunday I'd been looking yesterday for some examples of silvery rain drops decorating delicate leaves but I suspect there was just too much rain, or as the train operators are fond of saying, the wrong sort of rain.

This morning at the beginning of my commute, I did spot a rose bush, or the heavily pruned shadow of, sporting the quicksilver drops I been seeking. But with the best-laid plans of mice and photographers my photographs of the denuded rose were just not sharp, heinous crime! So no, your eyes are not going skewiff, either the rose moved, the photographer moved or both! So the basic theme for tomorrow’s photograph is sharp, pin-sharp, tack-sharp, razor-sharp!