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Category archive: Cranes

Monday March 17 2014

Last Wednesday, I snapper a whole lot of my fellow snappers, but I did not neglect inanimate objects.  Here are some of the “I just like it” photos I also took that afternoon, as afternoon turned into evening and as the sun started hitting particular parts of those objects.  Click at will for the bigger versions:

image image imageimage image imageimage image imageimage image imageimage image image

I make that: four Wheels (1.2 behind trees; 2.1 behind a little scaffolding; 4.1, bottom of, end on; and 5.2, in a piece of art in a shop window, behind a bird); two Big Bens (2.3, with all its spikes (most pictures of Big Ben include the clock, which then upstages all the spikes) and 4.2, serving as blurry backdrop for two street lights); two Millbank Towers (2.2 and 5.3, the one with the crew cut hairdo of roof clutter); one Shard (3.1, weird top of); one Spray Can (2.3, next to the Millbank Tower -will “Spray Can” ever catch on?) some cranes (1.1) and some tourist crap (4.3), which I love to photo even as I would never buy.

See also a vapour trail (3.3), part white, part dark, depending (presumably) on whether the sun is hitting it or not.  (One of my best (I think) postings here concerned a dirty looking vapour trail.)

And see also that St Thomas’s Hospital car park under a park with a fountain (5.1), than I mentioned in the earlier posting with the photographers.

For someone else’s earnestly anxious ruminations about London’s incurably crowded and bustling state, try this.  Not enough “affordable” housing, he says.  This would suggest to me that building “affordable housing” is not affordable for the builders.  Why not?  What rules make affordable housing unaffordable to build?  He says, of course, not enough rules and subsidies.  I say too many rules and subsidies.

Maybe I’d start with the Green Belt, a huge doughnut of dreary fields through which commuter trains race and commuter cars crawl.  In a free market, some of the green belt would stay fields or become parks, and some of it towns, that are affordable to live in. I wouldn’t just free up all of it, in one go.  I’d carve out the prettiest bits of it and say: don’t build here.  And I’d point at the boring bits (very numerous) and say, build here, whatever you like.

But that wouldn’t “solve” all London’s problems.  These are caused by London being a great city that millions of people want to live and work in.  “Solve” whatever is considered to be London’s biggest problem now, and you merely make all other London problems that bit worse.  London will always be overcrowded, and lacking in this or that thing that Guardian opinion-mongers consider necessary and regard as an excuse for bitching about capitalism and for recommending more regulations and subsidies.

First you fuck with the free market and stop it doing its stuff.  Then you blame the free market and fuck with it some more.  See also: environment.

But I digress.  Last Wednesday was a very nice day.  As is today, by the look of it.

Wednesday February 26 2014

Seconds after I’d finished photoing that camel, I took this photo:


But whereas I was quickly able to find out about the camel, and about how there’s a pub called that (partly), and so on, I was unable to find out anything about “SOUTH BANK ARCHITECTS” other than a phone number, which I dare not ring because I don’t really have a proper question to ask them other than: do you exist?  There is no website.  The www knows of no buildings that have been designed by SOUTH BANK ARCHITECTS.

So, if you work for SOUTH BANK ARCHITECTS or if you know anyone who works for SOUTH BANK ARCHITECTS, please add a comment.

My theory is SOUTH BANK ARCHITECTS used to exist, which is when they put up that big sign.  But, before the www came into existence, they went out of existence.  And now, nobody can be bothered to take the sign down.

Saturday February 15 2014

Tomorrow evening the 2014 BAFTA Awards shindig will be happening, at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden.  Roger Hewland, proprietor of Gramex (Records and CDs), Lower Marsh, told me this afternoon that BAFTA is paying the ROH three quarters of a million quid for this privilege.  Where RH picked this titbit up, I do not know, but it sounds a lot, doesn’t it?

Below is a picture that I recently took myself of the ROH.  If you google for pictures of the ROH, you mostly get either interiors, or else the big Parthenon-like front entrance.  But when I was at that Rooftop Bar I recently visited, I took this snap of the ROH:


What strikes me is how modern it looks.  It’s just a big box.  The decoration is no more than a gesture.  I know, I know, that’s because nobody can see this bit, this being before the age of buildings taller than this, from which people can look down.  But even so, you can see architectural modernism all present and correct, just waiting to emerge.

Thursday January 30 2014

Much humour is to be had by modifying a cliché, and something similar applies to photography.  The Eiffel Tower features in many photos.  The chimney pots of Paris, not quite so much.


That was taken on February 2nd 2012, from the Pompidou Centre.

I an still stunned by how brilliant my new, cheap computer screen is.  Pictures like this one become hugely better than I remember them first time around, and wandering around in my photo-archives is more enjoyable than ever before.

Here is another picture taken at the same time from the same place.  Also lots of chimneys, though you have to look a bit more closely this time.  But in the background there, La Défense, Paris’s Big New Thing district.


What that big dome is in the foreground, I don’t know.  I was staying with Antoine Clarke when I took these snaps, and in fact he was up there with me when I took these.  Maybe he can tell us what that big curvey thing is.  When you take pictures of some big thing, there is a presumption that you do care what it is, but personally, in this case, I don’t really care.  There are more than enough mysterious buildings like this in London to keep me wondering, without me fretting about mystery buildings in Paris.  But maybe you would like to know.

And yes, I am almost certain that is a crane.

One other thing.  This new screen has me thinking that maybe the size of pictures I am putting up here may be a bit wrong.  When you click on the above two, you’ll get them at 1200x900, which is bigger than I usually do, because now my own screen is bigger.  Is this either too big, or too small?  I’d welcome anyone’s opinion on that.

Tuesday January 21 2014

As I said in the previous post, my talk about digital photography at Christian Michel’s last night went well, in the sense of me feeling it went well, and it seeming to be well received.  I occasionally put my sheets of paper down and extemporised upon some point I was making, but mostly, this was it.  No links, no photos, no extras.  (They may come later, I hope, but I promise nothing.) Just the bare text that I read out, complete with all the errors of grammar and spelling, of fact and interpretation, that may or may not be present:

I have given several talks in this 6/20 series, but until now this has been because I have had both questions and answers to offer to the assembled throng.  I have had theses to present, clutches of facts to pass on.

This time I don’t know the answers.  I merely want to know the answers.  What is the impact of digital photography? What is it doing to us?  Since fixing this subject matter with Christian I have made, I think, some progress in arriving at answers, but only some.  Tonight I expect to make further progress.

Luckily, for my purposes, we have all been alive throughout the period of digital photography’s mass use, and have observed it in action, even if we may not always have wanted to.  Has anyone here not taken a digital photo?  Just as I thought.  (It actually says that here.  And this.)


I will start my remarks by quoting a remark made by an American whom I overheard about fifty years ago, on the Acropolis in Athens, the place where what is left of the Parthenon stands.  I was there trying to do some sketching, a skill I never got any good at but spent a few years attempting.  He was doing pictures with his seriously pre-digital camera.  As soon as he had finished photoing, he wanted to leave, presumably to get to his next photoing place.  But his family were enjoying the Acropolis in the morning sunshine.  Said he to his family: “Come one, come on!  We’ll look at it when we get home!”

This outburst captures a great deal about what people object to about digital photography, but it also reminds us that photography, by Everyman as opposed to by professionals, is nothing new.  Digital photography is partly just the intensification of a process that has been in place in our culture for well over a century.  But it is more than that.

Friday January 17 2014

Incoming from Simon Gibbs:

Interesting building

Near the mayors blob

And there was a photograph attached to this message, “sent from my Sony Xperia™ smartphone”:


On the left there, as we look at it, is the Mayor’s Blob that Simon mentions, near the Shard, and a building I am very familiar with, at any rate from the outside.  In the middle, something new, which Simon knew I might be keen to check out.  So, he photos it, and sends it to me. 

Neither Simon nor I are asking anyone to think that this is a good photograph, in the technical sense.  Don’t click on it, because it is quite big enough as is.  Simon is probably a bit appalled that I am even showing it to anyone, even in the almost total privacy that is BrianMicklethwaitDotCom.  But the photo suffices for its purpose, which is not to delight attenders at an art gallery (real or virtual), merely to provide me with information, should I be interested.  (Although actually, this is the kind of thing you often do see in an art gallery nowadays, put there by an artist trying, as most artists must these days, to be contrary.  “Good” photos are so twentieth century, my dears.  Imagine the blurb, as written by this guy.)

I show this casual snap because it illustrates a typical use of digital photography, which is the communication of information, potentially in real time.  Me being so hopelessly twentieth century in my uses of twenty-first century tech, I don’t know when he took this photo.  It duly arrived on my desk, via my clunky old twentieth century desktop computer.  Was it taken only seconds before Simon sent it to me?  Perhaps he can tell us.  But my point here is that he could have.  And like him, I could have been as much on the move as he clearly was, while still as connected to the world as he was.

Here we see photography not as the nineteenth and then twentieth century mechanisation of oil painting, but as a twenty first century amplification of conversation.  “Ooh, Brian might like to see that, snap.  Hi Brian.  Take a look at this.” Try doing that with a twentieth century phone.  You could, in this case, after a fashion, but it wouldn’t be nearly so quick, definite and easy.

I am giving a talk on Monday evening at Christian Michel’s about The Impact of Digital Photography, and this is the kind of thing I will be talking about.

Digital photography was, or so I recall reading recently, invented by NASA, not so much to take photos, as to communicate photos, of other planets from robot cameras on space-ships, back to planet earth.  Yes.

The logical mid-to-late twentieth century end-point of episodes like this, after you have thrown in a big dash of this sort of stuff, is (see above): telepathy.

Thursday January 16 2014

And now here are some photos done in much better light.  Even dusk, outdoors, is massively better lit than mere electricity.  They were taken last Saturday, when I journeyed to Docklands, to see if I could take photos of ice sculpture, and of people taking photos of ice sculpture.

Alas, I was not the only person with this idea.  I have the strong suspicion that the size of the crowd dwarfed the event (perhaps because of write-ups beforehand like this), but have no idea, really, what was happening out there.  All I got to photo at all interestingly was the gigantic queue to see the ice sculptures:

image image

On the right, my camera, at maximum zoom, does its best to photo a sculpture, and a sculptor.  I figured: I’ll look at it when I get home.

I headed off in the opposite direction, back across the Docklands peninsula towards the centre of London, and instead took photos like this:

image imageimage image

The top of the Cheesegrater, top left, was taken from outside Tower Hill Tube Station.  All the others from Docklands.

I am warming to the Cheesegrater, which is often the way with me and a new Big Thing.  At first, I disliked it, because it spoiled the view from my part of London of the Gherkin, which I consider to be a modern classic.  But now I am getting to like the Cheesegrater, along with all the other new Big Things, as yet another wonderfully chaotic and uncoordinated contribution to London’s ever more chaotic cityscape.

Says Rowan Moore in the Observer, disapprovingly:

Two of the more celebrated such objects, the Walkie-Talkie and the Cheesegrater, have now tumbled on to the skyline of the City of London, their exteriors nearly finished, with completion dates for both in the first half of next year. They combine high degrees of professionalism in their execution, with multiple consultants working hard at everything from sustainability to cycle storage to lift speeds to lighting, with an impression of randomness. They are better in many ways than the same kind of buildings would be in most parts of the world, and achieve, for example, impressive ratings for environmental performance, yet they attract these unfortunate nicknames.

I love these nicknames, which I believe are affectionate rather than angry.  I love their good-natured mockery.  More and more, I love the anarchic individualism of these Big Things, for exactly the reason that this guy disapproves.

Could it be better? Would it be possible to have variety and architectural invention, and the craftsmanship that the Leadenhall unquestionably has, as well as accessible sky gardens and hypostyles, and yet have a whole that is more than the sum of its parts? Could the expertise and sophistication of all the consultants who contribute to these towers be matched by the City’s planners?

Well, yes, it surely could.  But in practice the choice was probably between the aesthetic chaos we have, and imposed aesthetic tedium.  And I know which I prefer, if only because the aesthetic chaos we have gets up all the right noses, e.g. the nose of this guy moaning in the Observer.  Had those City Planners had enough clout to make everything “more than the sum of its parts”, they would probably have had enough clout to prevent each part, each Big Thing, being nearly as interesting, and they would have.  We can never know for sure about such things, but I reckon the results would have been far less , far less fun.  Far less London.

As it is, people like me love to photo these “celebrated objects” with their “unfortunate nicknames”, and I like to photo such people photoing.

Here are two further Big Thing snaps I took that day, of the Walkie-Talkie and of the Three Eyed Razor, or whatever excellent nickname the “Strata” ends up having bestowed upon it:

image image

And here, finally, are a couple more Big Things With Sunset snaps, this time with leafless vegetation (a constant source of photo-delight) in the foreground:

image image

All in all, an excellent little expedition.  And a good example of how my Official Destination (this time it was those ice sculptures) is really just an excuse to get me out and about.

Tuesday January 14 2014

There is something about a crane cluster shaped like this ...:


... that always gets to me.  A single crane has to have something a bit special about it to be special.  Two cranes is still not enough.  But when half a dozen of them start making giant Xs in the sky, it really looks beautiful, to me anyway.

See also, for instance, the second of these two photos.

The above cranes are currently clustered in Battersea, where there will be much digging and grubbing, for the next decade or so, in and around the Power Station.  Middle left in that aerial picture is Vauxhall Bridge, which is where I took my picture from, at dusk yesterday afternoon/evening.

Monday January 06 2014

Taken on Christmas Day:


What I like about the crane is that, in this photo, it looks rather sinister, more like a tower in a Nazi prison camp in a war film than a regular crane.  It’s the barbed wire square, about half way up that does it, I think.  Plus, the slightly spooky light.  It doesn’t look like actual getting dark light.  It looks like getting dark light in a movie.  Blue instead of grey, in other words.  Cameras turn everything blue if given any opportunity, unless they are black and white and nothing else allowed cameras.

Of course, this effect would be greatly enhanced if the plane was not so obviously a very post-WW2 jet.  It should be a plane like the one in the opening credits of Where Eagles Dare, one of my most favourite movie sequences, because of the visuals and because of Ron Goodwin’s music.  In my opinion, nothing else in this movie is as good as this opening.

See also this earlier photo here, also of a big crane and a small plane.  I found out about this earlier posting when I tried to load the above photo with the name “Crane+Plane”, but was told that this photo title was already taken.

Thursday December 12 2013

Photoed by me today:


The golden dancing lady is the one on top of the Victoria Palace Theatre.

Monday December 02 2013

More photos of things past

More because I have already done a posting entitled Photos of things past, as I discovered when trying to save the text file I wrote prior to posting this.

I must say, I do find myself missing this Thing.  If they hadn’t smashed it to bits, I would definitely be thinking that they should, but now that they have, this kind of Thing is on the defensive, and you find yourself siding with the architectural underdog.  I’d certainly not be happy if all traces of New Brutalism were brutally expunged.  We need a bit of it to hang around, if only as a warning of how mad architects can get, when they get mad.

This Thing was situated in the roundabout on the far side of Westminster Bridge, now occupied by the big hotel featured in picture 1.3 below.  Someone told me a few days back, when I was talking about having posted an earlier picture of it here, that it was a G(reater) L(ondon) C(council) office annex, reached by a tunnel under the road from the main building.  So, now that London’s local politicians have moved downstream, to The Testicle, this Thing became superfluous to requirements.

It was destroyed in October 2006, as these photos, taken on October 13th of that year, prove:

image image imageimage image image

On that same day, October 13th 2006, I took other photos, of other things that have moved on, or which soon might.

The first two of these next snaps are of cranes, temporary by their nature.  Who knows what that crane cluster (1.1) was building?  I could probably work it out, but that isn’t the point.  The point is: what an excellent crane cluster!  And I think I found another picture I took of it, this time looking along The Strand.

What that blue crane was doing, floating on the river, posing in front of The Wheel, I also can’t remember.

1.3 is another shot of the Eurostar trains at Waterloo, which in 2007, as reported here, moved on, to St Pancras.

I include the bus (2.1), with its entertaining reflections, because the London Double Decker Bus has now been redesigned, and all other London Double Deckers could soon be Things of the past.

Those wind propellers, on the top of Palestra House, the Big Thing just across the road from Southwark Tube Station, are long gone.

image image imageimage image image

And the final snap there (2.3) reminds us of another kind of temporariness, which is that sooner or later, we all must move on.  That snap is of flowers and pictures, placed outside Westminster Abbey, in memory of the then recently murdered (it’s still unsolved) Anna Politkovskaya.

Wednesday November 27 2013

Anyone interested in new public sculpture should try googling for news about: Falkirk, Kelpies, sculpture, and such things.  And be sure to include images in your searchings.

My favourite photos of these newly completed Kelpies are, I think, these ones, which were taken while they were still being constructed, and in particular, I like this one:


Horses heads, and also cranes.

I also like the one with the road sign in the foreground.

STV (Scottish TV presumably) news report today:

Work complete on pair of giant Kelpie statues on banks of canal:

The Kelpies, by sculptor Andy Scott, are a monument to Central Scotland’s horse-powered heritage.

Each stands at a towering 30m and weighs over 300 tonnes. At a cost of £5m, the project is intended to be a symbol of regeneration in the Forth Valley.

They are part of the £43m Helix redevelopment of around 350 hectares of land between Falkirk and Grangemouth, including new parkland and pathways. It is hoped the site will attract thousands more tourists to the region and boost the local economy.

The statues were inspired by the supernatural water horses of Celtic mythology as well as the powerful heavy horses that were used in the early days of the industrial revolution.

Mr Scott, who also created the Heavy Horse sculpture on the M8 near Glasgow, said: “During the conceptual stages, I visualised the Kelpies as monuments to the horse and a paean to the lost industries of the Falkirk area and of Scotland.

I just caught the fag end of a TV news report on this, and google did the rest.

Saturday November 02 2013

As I keep saying, photos often age well, like wine.

This, of the City of London, was taken with my previous camera but one, from the inside of the top of Tower Bridge, in December of 2006.  How time flies when I’m taking photos.


Memo to self.  Must go back there, and take the same picture.  Things will have changed quite a lot.

LATER: After further rootling, I think I prefer this version:


You get more of a feeling of where you are, as in where I was, when there’s something in the foreground.

And while I’m adding stuff to this posting, here is another view that will look very different, when I photo that one again:


No Shard.

Thursday October 31 2013

Sunrise from my roof

Rob Fisher asks, in a comment on the posting immediately below, whether my photography at dawn yesterday went as intended.  Yes it did.  Yes the weather was every bit as good as forecast.  I took many photos, but will confine myself to five.  The delay showig them is because the effort of getting up earlier enough to take them knocked all the stuffing out of me for the rest of the day, and had to confine myself to essential business.

What I had in mind was to photo this …:


… but behind this …:


Or to put it another way, this …:


… behind this ...:


… or even this:


In November, not possible.  The sun rises way to the right of the Shard, let alone Parliament.

But if the door to the roof remains open, I will return on an equally clear morning in late June of next year, and see what happens then.

Nevertheless, where the sun did rise, in late October, was pretty good.  Thanks to the presence of cranes.

I was up there before dawn, which was 6.50 am.  As you can see, it was at least 7.30 am (see Big Ben) before I went back down home again.  So, I took many other snaps besides these few, and (although I promise nothing) I may show more of these at a later date.

Monday October 14 2013

Good news sometimes comes in a disguise.

Yesterday afternoon, I paid a visit to my toilet, but was disturbed from my evacuative task by a steady dripping sound.  The dripping sound was drips.  Coming from the flat above.  I placed a bowl under the drips.  Then, I ran upstairs and banged on their door.  No answer.  There were water-related noises coming from above the flat upstairs, so I did the same to the door of the flat above the flat above.  Again, no answer.  And still the watery-related noise seemed be even higher up.  So I went up more stairs, only to discover that the flats had run out.  All that remained was the door out onto the roof.

Which is now always locked, or so I thought.  A few years ago, I went out on the roof to take photos.  But slightly fewer years ago, I tried to do it again, and the door to the roof was locked.  And again a few months later, and I gave up on trying ever to get out there ever again.

But, yesterday, this door was ajar.  I went out onto the roof.  Was amazed at what I saw.  Ran downstairs again, noted that the dripping had now stopped, grabbed my camera and ran upstairs again, in case an invisible Worker might soon shut it.  This afternoon, the door was still open.  More photos. I’ve been on some really good photo-expeditions recently (concerning which I hope to write more but promise nothing), but these two excursions were right up there with the best.

Some favourites:

image image imageimage image imageimage image imageimage image imageimage image imageimage image image

The number of Big Things you can see from this anonymous London place is amazing.

There is Big Ben, and the other Parliament Tower with the four spikes and The Wheel (1.2), Westminster Cathedral tower (1.3), Methodist Central Hall (2.1), St George Wharf (the ones with the winged roofs – 2.25), Millbank Tower (3.1), Big Ben again (3.2), that big tower in Vauxhall just past St George Wharf that the helocopter crashed into the crane of (4.1)), Millbank Tower again (4.3), the Vauxhall tower again (5.1), the Shard (5.2), Battersea Power Station (6.1), Millbank Tower again (6.2), and again (6.3).  And that’s only the Big Things that made in into my picture selection.

Plus, there are cranes beyond counting to be seen.

But even better, this place is Roof Clutter heaven, as you can see, both because of the Roof Clutter right there, and because of all the Roof Clutter you can see from it.

I have also shown the open door (2.3), because that’s how it all happened.  This afternoon, I kept checking to make sure nobody had shut it, because if they did, I’d have been stuck up there.

They’ve painted the floor white, since I last visited.