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Category archive: Cranes

Monday June 27 2016

Usually, I do quota postings in the small hours of the morning.  Today, I am doing my quota posting in the big hours of the morning, to get it out of the way before a rather busy day, at the end of which I do not want to be fretting about doing a quota posting.  Although, actually, this posting has now turned into something a bit more substantial than that, and I changed the title to something more meaningful.  So anyway, yes, cranes:

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Ah, cranes!  Those structurally perfect votes of confidence in the sky.  Those cranes were snapped from the south bank of the river, looking across at The City, on the same day earlier this month that I snapped yesterday’s quota photo.  What that new Moderately Big Thing is, that some of the cranes there are ministering to, I do not know, but I like how it looks, in its incomplete state.

With Brexit, will the cranes vanish for a few years, until London sorts itself out and finds itself some new business to be doing?  Crexit?  (You can always tell when a word has well and truly caught on, because people immediately start trying to apply the same verbal formula to other things.  Brexit, verbally speaking, is the new Watergate.  Frexit, Swexit, Thisgate, Thatgate, etc. etc.) I thought that the cranes were going to depart after 2008 and all that, but the money people managed to keep the plates spinning on their sticks, and London’s cranes carried on.  How will it be this time?

Here is a very pessimistic piece about Britain’s prospects, for the immediately foreseeable future.  Does this mean that my crane photo-archive will, in hindsight, be the capturing of a moment of the economic history of London that will now pass?  If the cranes do go, how will they look when they return?  When the new cranes move in, in ten years time or whenever, will cranes like those above look strangely retro, like digital cameras circa 2005?

Or, will the cranes never return, but instead be replaced by magic electric guns which fill the air with muck and sculpt a building out of the muck, 3D printing style, all in the space of an afternoon?

Sunday June 19 2016

Here is a photo taken by a friend with her mobile, of a construction site in New York, complete with cranes:

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I love it when friends send me snaps of things they know I will like.

I am particularly glad to see New York construction cranes in action.  After doing that posting about how there has been no construction in the southern end of Manhattan, mentioning absence of cranes as evidence of no construction, I started to wonder if, in New York, they do things differently.  I wondered if they built skyscrapers without using cranes, but just lifting all the stuff up the building, as they built it.  Or something.  But of course they use cranes in New York, same as everywhere else.

Just to be quite sure about that, I googled “construction cranes new york”.  And I was greeted with scenes of crane carnage like you would not believe.

Apparently cranes in New York occasionally fall over, and this is the one time when the average person is interested in them.  As a result, the average person has a totally distorted idea of the positive contribution made by construction cranes to modern society.

Thursday June 09 2016

Indeed, with cranes and with intervening roof clutter in the foreground:

image

One of the oddities of the internet is that if you google new us embassy london, you get lots of Big Boxy Things, all looking different from each other.  By which I mean, it’s the same box, but the architectural wrapping is different.  Basically what you are looking at is all the different guesses or early suggestions about how it was going to look or how people thought it ought to look, which then just hang about for the next few years.  Until such time as the Big Boxy Thing is finished, at which point huge numbers of new photos of it will drown out the guesses and the failed propaganda.  This makes it hard to know, now, when the Big Boxy Thing is still being constructed, if what you are seeing is the Big Boxy Thing in question, or some other Big Boxy Thing.

But, in among all the imaginings, I found actual photos of the new Embassy as it actually is, in the process of being built, and the above photo is definitely of the actual US Embassy.  No doubt about it.  More views from the same spot, above my head as I write this, here.

What is happening is that Spook Alley, which starts near Waterloo Station, continues via all those James Bond enterprises in anonymous Big Boxy Things, and then takes in the new MI6 building, is now being added to with an American strip of boxes of comparable scale, further up the river on the south side.  This is the Special Relationship in steel and concrete form, and the idea that this relationship is now cooling is visibly absurd.  It has never been more solid.  A whole new district of London is being created, basically for spying on terrorists, and on anyone else that the spooks take against.

As the rest of London expands down river, towards places like the new Container Port way off to the east, governmental London moves in the other direction, up river, west.

Friday June 03 2016

Here is a picture of the Lower Manhattan end of New York, the bit with the tallest skyscrapers, topped off in 2001 by the Twin Towers:

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And here is another picture of the exact same scene, taken fifteen years later in 2016, this time topped off with the single replacement tower for the Twin Towers:

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The guy who took these pictures was interested in which photograph is photographically superior.  The first one was taken with old-school film and the second is digital.

To me the two pictures look nearly identical.  Their technical identicality does not interest me.  But their architectural identicality, aside from the Twin Towers alteration, is something that I find fascinating.

Skyscrapers have exploded all over the world in the last decade and a half.  New York is one of the world’s great cities.  And yet, here are two photos of New York taken at opposite ends of the last fifteen years, and aside from the rather dramatic change imposed upon the place by terrorism, nothing at all seems to have changed.

Things were not changing in 2001 and they aren’t changing now.  Consider the cranes in these pictures.  Basically, barring a few microsopically invisible ones, there are no cranes.

I don’t know why this is, but it strikes me as an extremely remarkable circumstance.

It’s not that you aren’t allowed to build towers in New York any longer, unless you are replacing something like the Twin Towers.  In the part of New York a bit further to the north, just to the south of Central Park, there is an explosion of skyscrapers under way.  Skyscrapers that are very tall, but very thin.

Here is a picture of how these new New York Thin Things look like they will look:

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People have long feared that skyscrapers would make all big cities the world over look alike.  But the shape of individual skyscrapers varies from city to city, and does the shape of skyscraper clusters as a whole, and as does the variations in the heights of buildings.  A city where the newest and tallest towers are a lot taller than the older buildings is one sort of city.  A city where new towers are only slightly taller than old ones looks very different.

New York’s newest towers are, as I say, these tall Thin Things, a lot taller than their surroundings.  In London, the typical new tower is a much fatter looking Thing, the extreme recent case being the Walkie Talkie which is big on the ground compared to its height, and which then bulges outwards as it goes upwards.

Interestingly, the Walkie Talkie is the work of Rafael Vinoly, as is this new Thin Thing in New York.  (You can just see the top of this new Thin Thing in the second of the two Lower Manhattan photos above, bottom left, in the foreground.  That’s the one big change in these photos aside from the Twin Towers having been replaced.) It’s like Vinoly wants to do his bit to make great cities look distinct and recognisable, rather than them all looking the same.  Good for him.

Thursday May 19 2016

Another French picture, but this time taken in Paris, by my friend Antoine Clarke (to whom thanks):

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That would be La Defense, unless I am much mistaken, that being Paris’s new Big Thing district.

I cropped that photo slightly, to moderate that leaning-inwards effect you get when you point a camera upwards at tall buildings.

imageThe email that brought the above snap to my desk, earlier this month, was entitled “warmer than when you were here last”.  When I last visited Paris, it was indeed very, very cold, so cold that water features became ice features (see the first picture there).

Today, Antoine sent me another photo, also suffering somewhat from leaning-inwards syndrome, and also cropped by me, more than somewhat.  See right.

Mostly what I think about Antoine’s most recent picture is: What an amazing crane!  So very tall, and so very thin.  It’s amazing it even stays up, let alone manages to accomplish anything.  I don’t remember cranes like that existing a generation ago, but maybe that’s merely because no towers that high were being built in London.  Not that Antoine’s crane is in London.  It is somewhere in America, but where, I do not know.

I just did a bit of googling for books about cranes, and if my googling is anything to go by, books about construction cranes and their history are a lot thinner on the ground than are construction cranes.  When you consider how many tons of books have been written about the buildings that construction cranes construct, it is surprising that so little is written about the mighty machines without which such construction would be impossible.

It reminds me of the analogous profusion of books on the history of science, and the comparative neglect of the history of scientific instruments.

As I think I have written before, one major defect of my blog-posting software is that I do not get an accurate picture of how the final blog posting will look, and in this case, whether there is enough verbiage on the left hand side of this tall thin picture of a tall thin crane, to prevent the picture of the tall thin crane impinging upon the posting below.  Hence this somewhat verbose and superfluous paragraph, which may not even have been necessary, but I can’t now tell.

Wednesday May 04 2016

I am in the town of Thuir, near Perpignan, for a few days.  Last night, in fading but still fabulous light, looking more amusing sights.  I was not disappointed.

I’m guessing that the thinking here is that nicking a crane, or even getting inside a crane, is quite an operation, what with cranes being rigged so they’re unenterable if you are not the designated owner.  But, nicking a cement mixer is just a matter of lifting it onto your vehicle.  So, here is how you protect your cement mixer when you go home at night:

image

Cranes.  Is there anything they can’t do?

Typing text is a struggle in Thuir, because in Thuir, they have slightly different keyboards to what I am used to.  But photos, which in Thuir need different software to work, are also a struggle.  So, blogging here for the next few days will probably (I promise nothing), as always here, be light and perfunctory, the difference being that here I have an excuse.

Saturday April 16 2016

And I was deliberately retracing steps I used to do make a lot of around eight or ten years ago, to see what had changed and what had not.  A lot had changed, in the form of a few big new buildings.  The rest had not changed.

Did I say that that sunset I recently posted photos of was last Saturday?  Yes.  Actually it was the Friday.  Get ill and you lose track of time.  That evening I also took a lot of other photos, on and from the south bank of the river, between Blackfriars road bridge and Tower Bridge, and here are some of the ones I particularly liked:

imageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimage

That array of small photos (click on any you like to the look of to get it a decent size) really should not now be misbehaving, on any platform.  If it is, please get in touch, by comment or by email.

As to the pictures themselves:

1.1 A Deliberately Bald Bloke standing at the bottom of 240 Blackfriars.  (You can see the top of 240 Blackfriars in 3.1 here.) That Deliberately Bald look is, I think, fair game photo-blogging-wise.  The guy is choosing to look this way.  It’s a fashion statement, not an affliction.  Blog-mocking the involuntarily bald is not right, but blog-celebrating those who embrace their baldness is fine.  Especially if the guy obligingly turns his face away.

1.2 is one of my favourite weird London sites, namely the topless columns of the Blackfriars Bridge that isn’t, in between the two Blackfriars Bridges that are, the one on the right now sporting a new station on it.  The twist is that this was high tide, and waves were rhythmically breaking against a corner in the river wall and filling the air between my camera and the bridges with bits of water.

1.3 is a building on the other side of the river. Just beyond the Blackfriars Station bridge.  I do love what light and scaffolding and scaffolding covers sometimes do.

1.4 and 2.1 illustrate the universal photography rule to the effect that if you want to photo something very familiar, like St Paul’s Cathedral, you’d better include something else not so familiar, such as some propaganda for a current Tate Modern show that I will perhaps investigate soon, or maybe four big circles that you can see at the Tate Modern end of the Millennium Bridge.

2.2 is an ancient and modern snap, both elements of which I keep meaning to investigate.  Those two buildings, the office block and the church, are like two people I frequently meet, but don’t know the names of.  Luckily, with buildings, it’s not embarrassing to ask, far too late.

I know what that Big Thing behind the Millennium Bridge in 2.3 is, under wraps, being reconditioned, improved, made worse, whatever, we’ll have to see.  That’s Centre Point.  It even says most of that on it.  I have always been fond of Centre Point, one of London’s early Big New Things.

2.4 features something I have tried and failed to photo several times previously, a Deliveroo Man.  Deliveroo Men are usually in a great hurry and are gone before I can catch them, but this one was taking a breather.  Deliveroo Men carry their plasticated corrugated boxes on their backs like rucksacks, which I presume saves valuable seconds.

3.1: Another ancient/modern snap.  The very recognisable top of the Shard, and another piece of ancientness that I am familiar with but have yet to get around to identifying, see above.  I reallyl should have photoed a sign about it.  I bet there is one.

3.2: The golden top of the Monument, now dwarfed by the Gherkin and by the Walkie Talkie.

3.3: A golden hinde, which is to be found at the front of the Golden Hinde.  I’ve seen that beast before, but never really noticed it.

3.4: Another ancient/modern snap, this time with Southwark Cathedral dominating the foreground.  The combined effect yet again vindicates Renzo Piano’s belief that the Shard would blend into London rather than just crow all over it.  Those broken fragments at the top echo the four spikes on the nearby Cathedral.  It looks that way to me, anyway.

4.1: Another delivery snap, this time of the old school sort.  A White Van.  But with lots of propaganda all over it, notably the back door, in the new school style.

4.2: Yet another ancient modern contrast, this time the Monument, again, with a machine for window cleaning.  Note that small tripoddy object on the top of the Monument.  I suspect that this is to give advance warning if the Monument starts to wobble.

4.3: Two exercises in power projection, now both lapsed into tourist traps.  Behind, the Tower of London.  In front, HMS Belfast.

4.4: Finally!  Modern/modern!  The Walkie Talkie and the Cheesegrater, and probably my favourite snap of all these.  Not a view you often see in other photos, but there it was.  Should the bottom be cropped away, to simplify it even more.  I prefer to leave photos as taken.

5.1 shows that thing when reflected light is the exact same colour when reflected as originally.  Photography is light, so photography sees this.  But eyes always try to create a 3D model of what is going on, rather than just a 2D picture.  Eyes deliberately don’t see this.

5.2 and 5.4 take me back to my beautiful-women-taking-photos phase, which was big last decade.  These two were too good to ignore. They were just so happy!  But, mobile phones, which is very this decade.  Just like my cameras, the cameras in these just get better and better.

5.3 is another view of that amazing cluster of footbridges.

Tuesday April 12 2016

Being sick as in feeling sick, and occasionally being sick as in being sick.  As in expelling stuff I had previous eaten from my mouth.

Quota photo time:

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There is so much light crashing across London from west to east that evening the eastern clouds were lit up pink, like they were a sunset or something.  So I know what you are thinking.  It must have been one hell of a sunset to do that.  And you are not wrong:

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If I wasn’t sick I probably wouldn’t indulge in such a lurid sunset, which I photoed last Saturday evening on Tower Bridge.  But I am sick.  I can do what I like.

Actually, it’s already getting better.  But wish me well anyway.

Thursday March 24 2016

There is, as I write, deep joy, a crane in operation, right outside my kitchen window.  I can see it now, lifting steel girders onto the roof of a building that is being revamped, from an office into flats, across the yard from me.

Yesterday, I did something I haven’t done for a while, which is I attempted to get onto the roof of my block of flats.  I succeeded.  More deep joy.  The door was unlocked.

Here is a picture I took of the crane, yesterday afternoon, just as it was folding itself up after its day’s work.  The men in yellow had finished their work also, and the crane was about to descend back into the street whence it came:

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I have not seen this process before, which is so central to how these things operate.  It is not enough that they must be able to do their job, of lifting up things like girders and depositing them accurately into the midst of a building.  At least some of them have to be able to hoist themselves up, and unhoist themselves down again afterwards.  I mean, if you could only ever erect a crane with the help of another crane, where would it end?

A crane like the one in the last of these pictures that I showed here last Sunday, is another crane of the sort that can raise itself up off a lorry and immediately start work, and it is pretty clear just from looking at it approximately how it does this, even if its internal workings are slightly mysterious.  But the manner in which the above crane operates isn’t quite so obvious.  You need to see it to really appreciate it.  And now I have.

I’m not exactly sure which it was of the cranes here that I saw in action, but that is definitely the website of the crane hire enterprise concerned.

Sunday March 20 2016

Last Thursday, I said I would be checking out the Big Olympic Thing, and I did.  The expedition was very satisfactory.  I got there.  I purchased, from a human, a one-year season ticket for a tenner.  I ascended to the top.  I took photos.  I came home again.  And I shall return to the B(ig) O(lympic) T(hing) and take better photos, from it if not of it, or at any rate different photos (see below).

First sighting of the BOT, as I emerged from the Westfield Shopping Centre:

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Scaffolding, good.  Trees mostly without leaves, good.

I still wasn’t sure how to get there exactly, but I was, as the sportsmen say, in the right areas.  I asked around, and found my way, and while on my way photoed this part of a bigger map, concentrating on the area I was in at the time:

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My destination is described on this map as “Arcelormittal Orbit”.  It’ll never catch on.

Photoing maps when on photo-expeditions is very good, especially if the map says “you are here”, somewhere in it, which alas this one does not.  Even so, this map shows where I went pretty well.

I started at the DLR station, in the clump of transport signs to the far right.  I went through the pale blue expanse that is the Westfield shopping centre, along “The Street”, and then along “Stratford Walk”.  Then I emerged into the open and negotiated my way past the “International Quarter”, following that big red arrow that points towards the stadium, and by then it was pretty clear.

Neither the area around the BOT nor the BOT itself is finished.  There is a notable lack of any enterprise selling food or drink, and the whole place now has the air of a holding operation.

Here, for instance, was the seething mass of humanity with whom I competed for space on the lift to the top of the BOT:

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Next, I’m looking out through the top of the BOT to the Big Things of the middle of London, which as you can see are actually quite a way away.  Below is the Olympic Stadium:

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I took closer-up shots, of course, of which this is my favourite:

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The reason this shot is my favourite is that it aligns two Things you don’t often see aligned, namely the towers of Tower Bridge and, right behind them, the three-eyed Thing that is the Strata.  At the time I thought I was photoing only the Strata.  It turns out I was photoing an Alignment of the sort I so much like, but by mistake.  I love it when that happens.

6k, in a comment on my earlier BOT posting, asked about The Slide.  He’s talking about this, which is a graphic I saw at tht top of the BOT just as I was leaving.  I left in rather a hurry because the BOT was closing, hence the rather sloppy nature of this snap:

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But, as I often like to say about my pictures, you get the picture.  That is what The Slide is going to look like.  More about that in the Dezeen posting about the BOT Slide that 6k kindly linked to.

6k asked if The Slide is finished yet.  Answer: It has hardly started.  Not started at all in any way you’d notice.  See the next picture but one below.

Meanwhile here is another graphic that I photoed, at the bottom of the BOT, on the outside:

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What we see there is how the view from the top of the BOT looks when the sun is off to the side rather than straight ahead, as the sun was in all of my photos of those Big Things.  And when a Real Photographer is on the job.

Memo-to-self: Some time quite soon, I shall be consulting the weather forecast and making a trip out to the BOT again, in the morning.

Second-to-last shot, showing the total absence so far of any Slide action, and the Olympic Stadium, soon to be occupied by West Ham United:

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Note once again the insane competition from massed humans for the facilities on offer.  Not.

I will end with a shot of the BOT and a crane, snapped from just outside Pudding Mill Lane DLR, which is one of my favourite DLR stops if only because of its name.  This makes the point yet again that this whole area is very much work in progress rather than finished.  The Slide is yet to come, as is a lot of other stuff:

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See the very bottom of the map snap above for the location of Pudding Mill Lane.  As you can see from that snap, even despite its truncatedness, there is a lot of Olympicness for me to explore that I did not explore on this particular expedition.  Like I say, I shall return.

Saturday March 19 2016

Bright sunlight on a basically rather dull day can make the most commonplace objects seem heavenly.  But when a shaft of sunlight slashed across Cape Town earlier in the week, it hit a big container ship and a flock of container cranes, who ended up looking like a herd of giraffes.  Amazing.  And crying out to be horizontalised:

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I was saving that for yesterday, because yesterday was Friday and my day for animals (the more bizarre the better).  But come yesterday, I forgot.

Too good to delay, too good to ignore.

Wednesday March 02 2016

Photoed by me, when I visited Barcelona in the summer of 2005:

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This began like as an advert, but has mutated into Art.  It seems to be quite a big deal, over there in Barcelona.  My picture is of it supported by a structure which has since been replaced.

I have been a bit ill.  Still am, rather.  Hence this rather random posting, even by my random standards, and hence also the fact that although I tried to find out what this owl originally advertised, I pretty soon gave up.  Anyone?

I was going to put up a picture I took of the Sagrada Familia (the big spikey Gaudi cathedral), with cranes.  But the internet is full of pictures of the Sagrada Familia, without cranes, and also with cranes.

Sunday February 28 2016

Popular Mechanics has an interesting article about Why Cranes Keep Falling.  (Thank you Instapundit.)

For me the interesting stuff is about why they may not be falling quite so often in the future:

We’ve already reached the next step in safety. Crane manufacturers are now trying to build in new automatic features to keep disaster from striking their equipment. Modern-day mobile cranes have load moment indicators that, when they are properly programmed, act as limit switches. These switches limit operators from moving loads deemed too heavy for the crane. The high-flying tower cranes have controls to limit loads in various places on the hoist line, depending on the function of the crane at any given point.

Tower and mobile cranes now can come equipped with video cameras to show views of the loads and work zones in the operator cab - the newest cranes include this technology in “head-up displays” that require no looking down to see the images - to manage blind lifts. Additionally, crane operators can expect to use anti-collision systems to stop a crane from moving outside its engineered zone.

The most recent crane malfunction I can find having happened in London was this one, in Ealing.  Nobody hurt.

Different story altogether when a crane recently fell over in Mecca. Death toll: 107.

This prang, on the other hand, was not a crane collapsing, rather was it driven into by a helicopter.  Ever since that happened, in January 2013, London’s construction cranes have all had bright red lights on the top of them.  Gives a whole new meaning to the phrase “red light district”:

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Those cranes are across the river from me, photoed by me last November.  Not the best photo you’ve ever seen, but it does the job of showing you what I’m talking about.

Sunday February 07 2016

On the same day I photoed this stuff, up there in …

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…, I also photoed white vans, like these ones:

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“Rimessa a nuovo e posa pavimenti in Legno” is the Italian for having sex for the first time, very elegantly (like they’re performing), on the pavement, in a place called Legno.  No not really, I don’t know what that means.  Something to do with wood flooring.

As for th van on the right, rather black but with a giant white painted piece of seafood on it, well, I like it.  Although I do miss the times when the Wright Brothers didn’t mean that, but meant the first people to fly an airplane and land it, or whatever it was exactly that the original Wright Brothers did.

Here, on the other hand, is a white van of the sort you don’t want to see:

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Graffiti, badly covered up or badly cleaned up, and then more graffiti.  Not good.  I have never seen a white van that was an graffiti battlefield before.  Graffighting?

So, I’ll cheer myself up with another white van, this time an excellent one, photoed more recently, outside a building site in Westminster:

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A white van for looking after tower cranes.  White vans don’t get any better than that..

Tuesday February 02 2016

Yes, today I was in Burgess Park, which is the other side of the river from me.  I took the 148 bus, to see where it would go, and once in that bus, I spent my time wondering what Camberwell Green is.

I tried to take photos out of the bus, but the best seats, at the top at the front, were taken.  I had to sit right at the back.  But, in the vicinity of the Elephant and Castle, I did manage this:

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I got lucky with the crane shadow, didn’t I?  The development is called Elephant Park.

I never did find out about Camberwell Green, because the bus got stuck in a jam next to one of the entrances to Burgess Park, and I got out at the next stop to take another look at this diverting space.  I visited Burgess Park once before, and liked it a lot.  Great views of Big Things.  Today was also good, from that point of view:

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But the shot of the day, in my opinion so far, on the same evening, is this, of a photographer photoing the sunset:

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You’ll have to take my word for it that the sunset is what he was photoing, and for that matter that he was even holding a camera.  But he was.