Category Archive • London
January 28, 2005
Make that the three most expensive puddles in London

So I went past that puddle again today, on the bus again, and guess what, I photographed two more puddles in the same place - Duke of York Square, right at the Sloane Square end of Kings Road. I spotted the third one on the way back, and thought I'd missed photo-ing it, but when I got home I found that you can just about make out that one way behind the one I photoed properly, on the way.

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I'm starting to rather like these damn things. At least they are different. Different because stupid, but different.

I am going to have to take a closer look at them. Maybe there are more that I have yet to observe. Expect lots of reflections in puddles photos, although I promise nothing.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 12:29 AM
January 25, 2005
The most expensive puddle in London

Now you people all know that I love a good puddle, but really, is there any need, in London, with London's weather, to create a puddle?

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In some baking southern Italian town with two hundred days of hot sunshine every year, this would make sense. But here? Stupid, I think.

This photo was taken, as was this one of the school bus (not the yellow one – the other one), from the top of a double decker bus in the Kings Road, looking south.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 04:41 PM
January 11, 2005
Lights that change colour (2): Natural

Monet had his haystack. With me it's 355 Kings Road.

355 Kings Road is a big boring refurbished sixties blockhouse tower, refurbished to look not quite as ugly as it used to look, by being covered in sheeting of some sort. Or maybe it was like this to start with. Who knows? Don't answer that, I don't care.

What I do care about is the amazingly different coloured pictures I have of this edifice.

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The one with two different colours is the best, isn't it? It looks like it's painted, and they ran out of orange. And look at where the two colours meet. It's a paintbrush join on the left, but a spray gun join on the right. But it isn't that. It's setting sunlight, coming in from the West, with part of it in shadow. Buildings on the left and trees on the right.

No Photoshopping by the way, not even cropping. Those were the pictures, straight from the camera. And here's Lights that change colour (1).

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 11:56 PM
January 09, 2005
My back yard from the air

Incoming email from Billy Beck, who reckons I might like this photo, of my part of London, from an airplane. He reckons right, partly because of the cute little union jack, shining forth in the gloom, but mostly because of what's on the ground.

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Not to be used for any reason blah blah, so maybe it will vanish from here, but either way you can find a bigger version here.

I live pretty much in the middle, and can pick out all my local roads and walks. Top(ish) right(ish): the Wheel. Bottom in the middle: Battersea Power Station. Three famous parks (left to right): the right hand end of Hyde Park, Green Park and St James' Park.

Did some more rootling at the same site, and also came across this rather striking picture of an Airbus A320 control panel.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 12:32 PM
January 07, 2005
German photographer in London

Via this Samizdata posting, I found my way to these excellent London photos, of which this one, which he posted last October, is now particularly thought-making:

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In general, if you like the kind of photos I like to take (minus the self-portraiture that I indulge in), then (as Michael Jennings suggests) you'll love these. Architecture, statues, oddities, and lots of interesting signs and adverts.

What's the German for Billion Monkeys?

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 01:31 PM
January 01, 2005
… and a Happy New Year

Despite all the tsunami horrors of 12/26 and onwards - this guy looks like a good man to read, if you can take it - London nevertheless celebrated the arrival of the New Year in style. BBC1 switched back and forth between appropriately doleful reportage from the smitten East, and the rather subdued celebrations that were nevertheless happening in London, in Britain and in general.

There was nothing subdued, however, about the firework display which was staged in London, in and around the Wheel. You can't tone down a firework display, I guess. You either have it as originally planned, or you don't. And London had it.

As soon as I saw how impressive it was going to be, I started snapping away at my telly.

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Click and enjoy.

I seem to recall hoping here that as part of the London effort to get the Olympic Games, good things would happen to London. This, I suspect, was one of them. Look! We may have hopeless public transport and no proper stadium, but at least we can do fireworks!

I really envy those who got out to see all this for real, and here are some reaction shots of the envied, to end with. Brian's Culture Blog wouldn't be Brian's Culture Blog without a picture of someone taking pictures, so I end with a regulation Billion Monkey. This was the one shot I had to exhume from darkness with a bit of photoshopping. All the others are as snapped.

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The footage of the two ladies and the moustachioed gent was very artfully set up, and recurred several times. I'm sure the BBC liked it for the beauty of the ladies, and for the ethnic mix. And what the hell, so do I. I'm glad I got Lady in the Middle brushing away a tear.

As for the other pics, I probably shouldn't have had so many of the Wheel, but really, has it ever looked better? And it must be the answer to the pyrotechnicians's (?) prayers. About the only thing missing was giant rockets attached to the Wheel to make it spin round madly like a giant catherine wheel. As it was, each pod was crammed with explosives and the entire frame must have been festooned with bangs and wires of every sort. Even on mere TV it looked remarkable, and though I say it myself, I love how it looks in some of these photos.

Brits will have seen all this on their TVs if they cared, even if they were at parties (I myself was hosting one), because at parties the TV gets switched on for the chimes of Big Ben, and to make sure you get the timing of the New Year right. But non Brits may not have seen this particular show. Even those who did see the TV may agree with me that stills of it all do add something, in an oil painting sort of way.

I wonder what Turner would have made of all this.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 04:14 PM
December 22, 2004
Remembering John By

Remembering John who? and by what? – is what you may well now be thinking. Well, pay attention.

This afternoon I found myself on the south bank of the Thames, just up river from St Thomas' Hospital. It's the bit where you get this familiar London view:

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Then I turned through about forty five degrees and got this rather unusual view of the Wheel:

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The light was fading fast, but my little camera makes the least worst light it sees into good light. I actually had to Photoshop it a bit darker.

But enough of such tourist shots, which I only show you to say where I was when I saw what really got me interested, which was what I saw when I turned around some more, and faced away from the river. It was a plaque, which I had never noticed before.

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Do what I did. Take a closer look. And be grateful for the lamp in the second picture above for lighting it up. The plaque commemorates a man and an achievement of which I had previously known absolutely nothing.

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When I got home I found out more about John By, and was also able to satisfy myself that the phrase "introduced malaria" is not a mistake, but an all too real a condition. More about Malaria here.

Just one of those little London pleasures, and this one is quite recent. As you can maybe make out from right at the bottom of the plaque, it was erected by the Historical Society of Ottawa as recently as 1997.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 11:03 PM
December 09, 2004
Three bears

No time for anything profound today. So instead something superficial, not to say rather sweet.

Three bears, in a playground, just south of Waterloo station, photoed by me about a fortnight ago, and kept on my hard disk for just such an eventuality, i.e. being caught short for a quick posting. (Busy day, blah blah.)

Two pics, the one on the left showing the figures a bit more clearly, the one on the right showing a little more of the surrounding context.

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Don't know which is best, so there's both. Click to get either bigger.

This is all part of the welcome trend nowadays in the direction of representational realism in public sculpture. Sculptures these days, have an overwhelming tendency to be of something.

All of which reminds me that I really must get down to writing something about the obligation that so many bloggers feel to sling up any old something at least once a day, rather than just nothing. I feel this obligation myself, and when I have the time to explain why I choose to feel this feeling, I will.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 11:57 PM
November 27, 2004
London's Billion Monkey Rugby World Cup celebrations

Just under a year ago, on Monday December 8th 2003, the triumphant England Rugby Union squad paraded the Rugby World Cup which they had won the previous month, against Australia, in Australia.

I found the final almost too painful to watch, and even now I can hardly bear to watch the DVD I now have of it. England should have finished off Australia an hour sooner, but they just couldn't, and in the end only Wilkinson's famous drop kick at the death won it for England.

So for me, the big thrill was not the final itself, but the celebrations in London, which I watched on the telly. This brought two of the things I have most enjoyed looking at during my whole life, the England rugby team in all its many variations, and the great city that is London, ditto, into one grand jamboree.

You can find far better photos, technically speaking, of these celebrations than the ones I took, but here are mine, which I snapped in a technically ridiculous fashion which I am sure was unnecessary, with my newly acquired Canon A70, of the digital TV coverage of the celebrations by the BBC, which I did not (and still do not) have the technology to record properly. (The only telly tapes I have are still of much inferior analogue reception.)

I couldn't even pause the pictures to get them less blurred.

But I love these photos. They capture a moment in the life of my country and my city, and of my own life, in a way which will surely never happen in the same way again, even if England win the next Rugby World Cup and parade that around London also, as is not impossible. For by the time of the next World Cup, I will surely have some means of digitally recording digital TV, and quite possibly I will by then have worked out how to capture such imagery on my computer, with some kind of card thingy or something. This, I feel sure, is what everyone else except me does already.

But for me, the technical bizarreness of it all only all adds to the fun, and it adds even more to the atmosphere of these pics that I think I started snapping away at the telly pretty much on the spur of the moment, having never tried doing this before.

All part of the oddity of them is that it has taken me so very long to finally get around to sticking them up here, the excuse being that it was a year ago. Also, today, at Twickenham this time, an almost brand new England side is playing against Australia.

Anyway, enjoy them, skip in among them, get the picture with one picture and move on, ignore them, scorn them. In short, treat this like any other brand-X blog posting. But for me, these will be a diary entry to treasure.

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As you can see, the Billion Monkeys were out in force, many of us, it turns out, being England rugby players. My favourite Billion Monkey shot being the very first one here (which I'll call 1.1 – first row, first from the left), of Josh Lewsey, seen from above, photoing the Cup itself.

2.2 preserves in photo form all the clobber that surrounded my TV set at the time, and is one I will therefore particularly enjoy. And speaking of irrelevances, I especially struck by an individual I had completely not noticed at the time, namely the little blue guy whose job was to see that the Cup itself came to no harm. See especially 3.2, but he's in others too. What a day he must have had.

3.5 is a classic heroic shot from street level of Richard Hill on the bus, breathing it all in and making sure to savour these magic moments, with Jonny W for once rather spoiling things. And although 4.4 is very blurred, it gets Dallaglio very well, I think.

4.1 is another classic Billion Monkey pose, this time of the guy you have asked to try his best to do one of you with your camera. Jason Leonard is having fun, but he wants to get it right. And 5.1 is another generic Billion Monkey shot, the one where the Billion Monkey fiddles with the nobs in a somewhat puzzled way, with the strap hanging down over his hands. That's scrum half Matt Dawson.

In 5.2 and 5.3 we observe a veritable Billion Monkey Troop in full capture mode. A cameraless Mike Catt looks like he swallowed all the cream in England, but maybe Jason Robinson wishes he'd brought one of these camera thingies with him too, like all the other guys.

And who is that, just about makeable out in 6.1? Why yes, it's Mayor Livingstone! And quite right too. London needed to shake hands with these guys officially, and he was the man to do it. He did it well, not trying to barge in on anything, just making sure to be there, at the side.

There's even an artistic one, 7.5, and 1.4 is in a similar vein, with stuff flying through the air past the bus. And 5.6 is pretty artistic too, of the cup itself in reasonable focus and almost everything else blurred.

And through it all, the dominant personalities of the occasion. Captain Martin Johnson (4.3, 6.2), Head Coach Woodward (perfectly focussed in 4.5, then distracted away from the interviewer in 4.6), and Jonny Wilkinson (7.4 is especially good). And of course there are lots of pics in among it all are of the ecstatic fans, flooding into Oxford Street, Regent Street, and finally Trafalgar Square.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 11:22 PM
November 10, 2004
One London drama and two London tourist snaps

I kind of, vaguely, it must have happened, realised that the Houses of Parliament got burned down some time around when it actually did happen, which was 1834. But I never knew Turner had done a picture of it. Better yet, he actually witnessed it.

This (click to get it bigger) is my favourite of the pictures he did of this dramatic occurrence:

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Those miniature Twin Towers must be Westminster Abbey.

This other painting looks odd to me, although it seems to be a bit more famous. The smoke and the bridge collide in a strangely unrealistic fashion, I think. Although, maybe that's what it did look like.

No fire for Turner to paint, and there would have been no this …

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… snapped by me a few evenings ago. Commonplace to Londoners. A picture postcard view. (I only did it because I was trying to get the pink vapour trails.) But this is the Internet! I find it hard to believe sometimes, but there are wretches who do not live in London, and who, worse, seldom even visit. And some of these pitifuls have computers and Internet connections, to keep them in touch with civilisation. These people badly need to be shown views such as this.

And I might as well get shot of this shot too, another tourist view, which I took a few moments earlier, looking the other way along the river. The Hungerford Footbridges, which you can just about make out, are the ones with the oddly directed spikes, on either side of the original and very mundane rail bridge.

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By the way, the bridge I was on when I took this (Westminster Bridge) is not the one featured in Turner's painting, for that too has been replaced.

Will I ever myself witness anything as dramatic as that fire? If I do, will I have my camera with me? And will my pictures come out as well as Turner's (good) painting?

If the Wheel fell over, would there be warning and could I rush out to catch it falling? Would they replace it? They might. It's very popular.

I wonder what a photo of the fire Turner painted would have looked like. If Photoshop had been invented first, would oil painting (like paper compared to computer screens) have been regarded as an improvement?

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 10:16 PM
October 05, 2004
Venice on Thames

I took another trip up to the top of Peter Jones, in different and sunnier light, but I'm afraid that the nice part of the view that I already photoed was silhouetted, again, i.e. no change except that the sky was duller, and only the drearier part of the view was differently and better lit.

But I did take this remarkable photo of Venice:

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Click on it to get the bigger and real picture. Ha.

Also, you can have a lot of fun pointing cameras upwards. This is the Peter Jones stairwell:

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See also this photo. And while you're there, scroll down to this amusing image, also snapped by Adam Tinworth in Budapest.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 02:26 PM
October 02, 2004
At the top of Peter Jones

Peter Jones is a big (by London standards) department store in Sloane Square. Yesterday afternoon I went there with my friend Elena (who I hope may one day become a blogger – she'd be an excellent one, I think). We like to meet for coffee from time to time, and I wanted to see the view from the café at the top of Peter Jones. Peter Jones has recently been closed for refurbishment, but I was seeing the inside of the place for the first time. The view did not disappoint.

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Click to see these photos bigger. The first three are mine, but since mine of Elena is a little unflattering, I have added one taken a while ago of Elena by my friend Bruce The Real Photographer, which Elena uses for all her various attempts to become an Award Winning Actress. His is by far the best photo, I think you will agree.

The interior of Peter Jones is also very fine, but I took no photos of that yesterday. I definitely intend to go back there soon on my own and go Billion Monkey mad, both inside and looking outwards.

Does anyone know what all the various pointed towers are? The ones with the horizontal bits at the top are, I think, the Science Museum. Certainly, they are in that part of London. And could the one that looks like a crown, featured in the thumbnail photo above, perhaps be the Victorian and Albert Museum? Yes.

By the way, does anyone know of other high-up places with good views out over London from which members of the public such as I can take photos? Elena says that the Oxo Tower, just downstream from the National Theatre, is another such good vantage point. Anyone know of any more? Anyone work in a skyscraper and like to invite me to lunch? Just asking.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 12:34 AM
September 26, 2004
More Blackheath pictures

This posting is being done to test out the spacing of thumbnail photos, to see if they will fit. Don't bother yourself about what this involves or why. Just click on the small photos to get the bigger versions.

All these photos were taken on the same expedition as yielded these two snaps.

All are good in some way or another, but not necessarily as good in all ways as I would like. In particular, some are of nice things, but didn't come out so nicely. My twin obsessions – London towers (in this case the Docklands towers, again) and digital photographers – are on show, sometimes in the same picture. The lady with her bottom facing us was chasing a squirrel.

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Those who are somewhat distressed by the technical inadequacy of these snaps will not be surprised to learn that I have signed up for a course in Beginner Digital Photography. I did the first day of this last week. I said that the things that bothered me most were controlling light, and focussing. With luck, I will learn how to do these things better. Next week it's "controlling image outcomes", which sounds like what I want.

While at the class, I asked whether it made sense for me to get a more expensive camera, or make do with the cheap (Canon A70) camera that I already have. The teacher brought along a bunch of Canon EOS 300D cameras, which he said were good, costing around £700, he reckoned. Would that be great improvement, or just an opportunity for me to take bad pictures more expensively?

One thing I do know is that this Canon EOS whatever is a whole lot less convenient. The thing I love about the tiny ones like mine is that I can catch opportunist snaps which I didn't go looking for but merely chanced upon, as a result of having it with me all the time. And using two different cameras seems like a really bad idea, never mind the extra expense.

The teacher favoured more teaching. But then he would, wouldn't he?

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 10:20 PM
July 26, 2004
Gherkin stars in Capital Radio bus advert

Today I was in Oxford Street and spotted – and hastily snapped – one of my favourite things, this back of bus advert:

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It's one of my favourite things because it combines three of my favourite things: Johnny Vaughan, London double decker buses, and the Erotic Gherkin. This is an advert for Johnny Vaughan's Capital Radio breakfast show, as you can see if you look carefully.

I'm trying to think of a new building in London which has been such an instant hit. The only other one I can think of which has been comparably successful is what began life as the Post Office Tower, and is now, presumably, called the BT Tower, although by now it could be something else again.

I can't help comparing these two popular hits with that lump out in Docklands, the Canary Wharf Tower, which impresses mostly because it is so big, but otherwise hardly at all. I've recently taken a couple of trips to Docklands. More about that when I've the time, and have mulled over the wording some more.

For another fine use of a bus, see the last of these pictures.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 11:37 PM
July 25, 2004
A Trafalgar Square of thumbnails

Last week I went to photograph a plastic rocket in Trafalgar Square, and you know me. I took some other photos. I really like tourists, now that I've found a way to exploit them, and most of these pictures are of tourists of one sort or another. In fact I rather think all of them are. Many are members of the Billion Monkey tribe. They illustrate many facts about the Billion Monkeys which are becoming pleasurably familiar to me, as I get to know them and their habits.

They keep their bags with them at all times. They don't put them down while photo-ing. On the contrary, the bags hang down in clutches, like ripe fruit, often from the same arm as is holding the camera.

The Billion Monkeys hold their cameras in a special way, and make remarkable shapes with their fingers. This is ensure that they don't get their spare fingers in front of the lens and spoil the picture. It comes of the cameras being so small, such that they can only be held between two fingers, which leaves the others either to get in the way or be held out of harm's way, as if holding a tea cup in Jane Austen world.

The Billion Monkeys hold their cameras out in front of them, so that they can see the picture they are taking on the little screen.

While they are taking their pictures they stay still.

There are no pictures here of any Billion Monkey groups all studying the same picture, like Soviet Workers all entranced by the same issue of Pravda in a propaganda photo, or like groups in old paintings gazing enraptured at the Baby Jesus, lit up by his divine light.

But the best thing about the Billion Monkeys is well illustrated by several of these snaps, which is that when they are taking their pictures they are so busy taking their pictures that they don't realise I'm sneaking up beside them until it is too, and on the whole they don't care even when they do realise it. I'm not shooting to kill, any more than they are.

Click on any square you fancy to get the big picture.

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The little black girl and her dad were not using a Billion Monkeys camera. Theirs was a Real Camera, of the sort that required film to be wound on with a little handle. I know this because they asked me to take some photos of them with their camera.

I am aware that these pictures have many technical things wrong with them. Crowds of people are hard to frame, and/or crop satisfactorily. Inevitably, someone gets cut in half, and I don't like that. The light was beginning to fade towards the end, and several of them could have been better focussed. Objects in the background need to be very big or very small, either big enough to be one great big solid background, or small enough to be a patterned background, like wallpaper. In between sized shapes distract, and people behind someone you are photo-ing is often in between sized.

But I had a good time.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 11:53 PM
July 11, 2004
The Millennium Bridge (again)

Recently I had a go at retaking this picture without the pink sky, in other words with the new camera.

There was a beggar sitting on the exact spot where I took the first photo from, so I shifted to one side, which may even have improved matters. The best shot, I think, was this one:

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St Pauls has come out much better. And the way the central figures are lit, it almost looks like one of those oil paintings, the justification of which is that the camera could never do that.

Click to get a bigger version.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 09:33 PM
July 10, 2004
Early evening on Putney Bridge

Last night I was out and about and my friend Gerald said nice things about my photos. So here is another photo, which I took on the way to where I was going. As often happens, the very first was one of the very best.

In the first version of this posting I stuck this picture up exactly as it emerged from the Flash Card, but looking at it again, I decided on a little juicing up of the contrast. This does actually make it look more as it looked for real.

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Magic hour lighting, yes? And look! At the bottom, on the road, that's me. I guess that for lots of Real Photographers that would be a no no, but I love that kind of thing.

Click to get it bigger.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 01:06 AM
June 25, 2004
Reflections

Five photos I took yesterday, on a walk along and then across the river, stopping while it rained at the BFI café. All of them involve reflections of one sort or another.

The first is bounced off a window of the Royal Festival Hall.

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The second is bounced off the outside of the BFI café, but also looks through that window, and through back outside again. The snatch of bright blue sky is actually a poster.

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This next one, of puddles, illustrates just how differently the camera sees things to the way you and I with our eyes (and our brains) see things. Walk along a wet pavement and all we see is a wet pavement, a flat surface. We know it's flat, so we flatten it. The camera sees right through the wetness to everything that is reflected in it.

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Here is a (small and blurred) self portrait, taken on the north side of the river, in the mysterious tunnel leading to Charing Cross station, which was also featured in this set of photos, the one with the blurry arches.

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The final one is maybe even more extreme. This is of an entirely flat, black wall. Outside the PriceWaterhouse building, if I remember it right.

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Have a nice weekend.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 11:52 PM
June 18, 2004
Kings Road statues

I'm fond of these statues. I've photographed them before, and then I had time to explain them.

I particularly like the way that the very human girl sits in such a totally abstract and non-human setting. This emphasises her humanness. And this particular angle of her adds to the effect with more rectangularity.

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And here is her companion.

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I like the accident of, on our right, the lady walking behind him so determinedly. She, by contrast, emphasises the statue's statueness.

That's one of the particular pleasures of my kind of photography. I aim at one thing, and with any luck I get it. But with more luck, I get other things too.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 11:37 PM
June 16, 2004
Waterloo elephant

Once again, no time for anything properly thought out. But I snapped this remarkable beast today, at the top of the stairs down to the Jubilee Line at Waterloo. I've tried to photo this thing a number of times, and they never get much better.

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The redness of the elephant is not painted on. It's done with lighting. The thing itself is made of grey gauzey material.

Hey! Guess what! I found another picture of it. On the Internet! Here. See what I mean. It's grey.

The same guy also supplies this link to a pavement artist.

And he likes the Gherkin too. But then, doesn't everybody.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 11:53 PM
June 13, 2004
Friend – sculpture – sunset – bridge

No time for anything serious. So two quota photas, both taken during a walk on the south side of the Thames a few weeks ago, with a friend.

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Nice.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 11:56 PM
June 11, 2004
Chelsea Embankment views

I began concocting this posting last night when trade at Samizdata seemed very thin, so that I could put up little versions of these photos there and link to the bigger ones here. But trade at Samizdata then thickened a little and I went to bed. But I had already done the Photoshopping of everything last night, so I now think: here they are anyway. So, here they are anyway.

All were taken from the Chelsea Embankment, just south of Samizdata HQ. I like these ducks as much for the trees of Battersea Park across the river as for the ducks.

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And I like these red sailed sailing boats because I have never seen them before, and once again, I enjoy the background, this time of Battersea Power Station just down stream from the trees, and of the general mundane riverside clutter in the other picture, which is not what you generally think of when you think River Thames in London, and while soon, I should guess, be gone. The boats were fun, because they were trying to sail upstream but not making much headway, which gave me lots of time to photo them.

RedSales2detail.jpg   RedSales1detail.jpg

Then I turned my camera around and got this Bombay thing, on the road next to the embankment, which I like because I just do. I didn't get quite the picture I wanted, but enough of it to satisfy. Without help from a red traffic light, I wouldn't have got anything.

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There is no significance to the confluence of Bombay and ducks. To get the bigger picture, click on these little pictures.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 04:16 PM
April 27, 2004
James Burbage opens London's first theatre and his son gets fat

As threatened here already, John Richardson's The Annals of London is going to be a rich source of postings here. 1576, for example, starts very enticingly:

1576

LONDON'S FIRST THEATRES OPENED

On 13 April James Burbage, who lived in Holywell Street, Shoreditch, leased a piece of ground on which he built London's first playhouse. It was called simply the Theatre, and its site was that of today's 86-90 Curtain Road. Made of timber, it was probably circular or polygonal in shape. At the end of the theatre's 21-year lease, the building was dismantled and moved to Bankside, where it was resurrected as the Globe.

Because of the prevailing puritanical view of theatrical performances, companies of players sought the protection of noble patrons. Burbage was adopted by the powerful earl of Leicester and was granted a royal patent to perform. It is likely that works by Marlowe and many of Shakespeare's plays were performed here during the Theatre's brief life.

Burbage's theatre opened in the autumn. A few months later, probably early in 1577, the Curtain Theatre began in the same road, south of today's Holywell Lane; it is thought to have been built by one Henry Lanman. Superficially it would seem that Curtain Road derives its name from its theatrical past, but in fact there were no curtains in Elizabethan theatres. The theatre and road instead were named from a cluster of buildings which probably supplanted a fortification wall (curtain wall) here.

The Curtain managed to survive until 1627, but was gradually eclipsed by the fame of the theatres in Southwark.

burbage.jpgThe 1602 entry concerns James Burbage's son Richard, the celebrated actor, for it was in that year that Hamlet was premiered, at the Globe, with Richard Burbage in the title role.

But by then Burbage had become rather fat. Which is why …

… It is suggested that the lines:

King: Our son shall win.

Queen: He's fat and scant of breath.

were written by Shakespeare to take account of his friend's unfit state.

It can't have been the first time that a script got rewritten to accommodate an actor who looked different to the originally envisaged character, and it certainly wasn't the last.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 11:46 PM
February 11, 2004
Two nice London photos

I've been trawling through all my photos looking for transport stuff, either to put there, or to put here and link to from there, in the course of which I found these two photos, both river related which strike me as above average. Why waste them?

I could waffle away about what they signify and why they are so brilliant, but I waffled a lot yesterday, so I'll keep the waffle to a polite minimum and just stick them up and hope that at least some of you like them.

The first is of the Millenium Footbridge, looking up river:

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And the second is of boring office blocks, unboringly lit by the evening sun, somewhere upstream of Westminster Bridge:

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I love that sunlight on the building dark clouds behind thing. And the water emphasises just how sharp the contrast was.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 01:59 PM
December 19, 2003
A magic hour with the digital camera - Hungerford Footbridge - London

On Wednesday afternoon I found myself just south of Waterloo Station with no pressing need to be home at any time in particular. The sky was cloudless, and the sun bright. I was well wrapped up. So instead of going straight home I went on one of my favourite walks, the one across the Thames from outside the Royal Festival Hall, across the now new Hungerford double footbridge, through Charing Cross railway station, and onwards into the West End and its various second hand CD shops.

I had my camera with me, because I had wanted to photograph the new Sainsbury's in Wilton Road, which is now emerging from its wrapping, and had already taken some very dull pictures of that, earlier in the day. The light spoilt them, by lighting up the top and plunging the street into darkness.

But now this same light became my friend.

I am starting to look at things photographically rather than as a person, and I saw the possibilities in this shot.

I'm on the downstream side of Hungerford Railway bridge and looking upstream through one of the old brick railway arches, and this is the Wheel, and one of the towers of Parliament. No Photoshopping at all.

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That's it, exactly as it emerged from my Canon A70. I didn't know for sure if it would come out that good, but I gave it half a dozen goes and was confident. I climbed happily onto the deck outside the RFH, past Nelson Mandela:

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It's not that I violently object to NM. But I do object to most of the people who worship the man, so I don't much care for this object of their worship either. But even that looked good on this magic afternoon. If he looks larger than life, that's because he is. It's not a great photo, but I thought you might like to see this thing.

The new Hungerford Bridge footbridge gives you a choice of two footbridges, up or downstream of the railway bridge itself. They hang by cable from a series of spikes that are like inverted Vs, and the result is to make the original railway bridge, a girdered object of extreme banality and considerable antiquity, look like a suspension bridge, when in fact it is only the pedestrian bridges which are suspended.

Here's how it looked just before I climbed aboard, looking towards the new Charing Cross station on the far side of the river. I tried messing about with the darkness/lightness settings to lighten things up a little, but in the end I left it as was:

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Up onto the bridge. Now I look downstream, to the towers of the city, and as I cross, they come into view. King Midas, in the form of the late afternoon sun during what I believe the movie makers call Magic Hour, has reached out and touched the NatWest Tower, turning it to gold, but has left the Gherkin looking its usual self, for once upstaged. Even those cloddish lumps nearer to us, on the south bank, are turned into things of beauty.

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On to the other side of the river, and a look back across the footbridge towards the Royal Festival Hall:

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Just before we dive under Charing Cross station, another view of the towers of the city, this time through an artistic foreground of autumn arboreality, and this time including St Pauls:

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My next few shots were of one of my favourite secret spots of London, by which I merely mean a spot you don't see in the picture postcards. It's a strangely Dickensian little stretch of the walkway through Charing Cross station, which has been tricked out in cream coloured ceramic tiling. I like it. And I guess it was just one of those days, because the most blurred photo I took all day was also one of the ones I most liked when it came up on my computer screen at home:

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I really like that. It looks like an artist's sketch, probably a watercolour. I love the colours, in fact I love everything about it. It's the arches that make it work.

More snaps, and then the card runs out. Here's the very last picture I took, a few yards further along towards the station concourse. We've moved from ancient to modern, from claustrophic masonry to modernistical metal work. It's a suspension bridge under a building and over a sheltered pavement, approximately speaking:

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It's not the best photo I took all day, as a photo. But I like what it shows, albeit a little blurrily. And then the card ran out of space.

As usual this happened long before the batteries gave out, the battery life being one of the more remarkable improvements on the old Minolta. That, and the fact that the Canon A70 actually works. Which I now carry with me all the time.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 02:10 AM