Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
Tom on Pavlova reflected in double glazing
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Tom on The Shard was looking very special today
Alan Little on Out and about with GD1 (2): How mobile phones both cause and solve meeting up problems
Brian Micklethwait on Unusual bench?
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6000 on The Shard was looking very special today
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Southall on A posh white van and a not so posh white van
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Most recent entries
- Cannon Street Station at the end of the street
- Smoke over west London
- Moving speaker – unmoving listeners, video holder and books
- Pavlova reflected in double glazing
- Out and about with GD1 (3): Baritone borrows my charger
- Out and about with GD1 (2): How mobile phones both cause and solve meeting up problems
- Unusual bench?
- More keeping up of appearances
- Cats and cricket – cats and drones
- Two strangers photoed by Mick Hartley and show there (and here) without their permission
- You can tell that drones have arrived because now they are being turned into a sport
- The Shard was looking very special today
- Windsor Castle from the top of the RAF Memorial
- Photoing old Dinky Toys in Englefield Green
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Category archive: Cranes
Today I was out and about in the sweltering heat of London, and unusually for me, I found myself noticing a news item:
The news item being that big cloud of smoke, somewhere up river from Tate Modern. Seeing as how I myself live up river from Tate Modern, this was a bit troubling. Was it a moderately big fire, quite near to me? Would I return home to find my home ablaze? Had I started the fire by leaving something switched on that shouldn’t have been? Or was it, as I found myself ignobly hoping, a bigger fire, further away?
I consulted the www about this fire when I got home, my home not having disappeared, and there being no smoke anywhere near it. Eventually the www revealed what had happened. The fire was - and alas, as I write this, it still is - in Perivale, which is way out in the west of London. And this was one very big conflagration.
To quote the Evening Standard:
An enormous fire is raging in a warehouse in a west London suburb, with smoke visible for miles around.
Some 100 firefighters are tackling the inferno at a large building in Wadsworth Road, Perivale.
About 30 people fled before the London Fire Brigade arrived, with flames erupting just before 7pm.
That’s what I was seeing, no question about it.
According to my camera, the above photo was taken at 8pm, so the fire had already been raging for an hour before I noticed it enough to take photos of it. Not that photoing smoke is my forte. Presumably photoing smole is like photoing anything else in particular, the more you do it, the better you do it.
No matter. Many others will undoubtedly have been photoing that same huge cloud of smoke. It was, like the ES said, visible for miles around. You’ll have no difficulty finding better Perivale warehouse fire pictures, in the event that you want to see such things. For me, it is enough to know that nobody died.
A BIT LATER: Looking at the above photo, and at some of the others at the other end of the link immediately above (notably the one from beyond Tower Bridge) I realise that one of the tricks of smoke-photoing is the put the smoke behind a very definite and recognisable building. So here is another photo I took, of some of the smoke that had already travelled a bit further, to the area behind St Pauls Cathedral from where I was:
Trouble is, although St Pauls is very definitely St Pauls, the smoke is not so definitely smoke. It could just be clouds, in my photo. Like I say, smoke is not a speciality of mine.
As you can also see, there is a crane to be seen there. I also photoed smoke behind a crane cluster, but showing you that would be to change the subject.
But, there is light. And there is light.
Here is some light, earlier this evening, bouncing off the Millbank Tower with its superb roof clutter, next to a crane, and arriving upon the little square of electro-magic inside my camera:
Yes, that is excellent roof clutter. Yes, that is a crane. But … it’s not a very remarkable scene.
But here is some light, earlier in the week, bouncing off the same Millbank Tower with its same excellent roof clutter, next to the same crane, and arriving upon the same little square of electro-magic inside my camera:
Put it this way. Had I not taken that shot earlier in the week, I’d not be showing you the one I took this evening. Which I only took at all to illuminate that earlier one.
A while back I visited a friend in Epping, and during our ramblings in Epping Forest that day, it was mentioned that there was a spot in that general area where the Big Things of London could be seen. Seen from a great distance, but seen, in a gap between the trees.
Lured by the promise of this view, I returned, the Sunday before last, and was duly shown this view. You could see what appeared to be the BT Tower, and when I got home I confirmed that it was indeed the BT Tower. But, handsome though the BT Tower is, there is more to the towers of London than the BT tower. Never mind. I contented myself with photoing decaying farm machines.
But there are no decaying farm machine photos in this posting, and for that matter no photos of the BT Tower. Because. About an hour later, in weather that (as had been promised by the weather forecasters) was improving, we stumbled (if you can stumble in a car) on a vastly improved view of London. We only got to that because my friend was using a hoped-for short cut to show me an antique railway station or a church or some such thing. But suddenly I yelled that the view I had hoped to see an hour earlier was now viewable. Stop the car. Stop the car. Let me get out and photo … this:
There they all are: Strata (the one with three holes in the top) Shard, Walkie-Talkie, Gherkin, Cheesegrater, Heron Tower, Natwest Tower, Spraycan. They’re all there. Apart from the BT Tower which is away to the right and hidden behind a hill.
As so often at this blog, what you are looking at is a great photo, taken just about technically well enough for you to realise what an even greater photo in all respects this could have been, if taken by a Real Photographer at the top of his Real Photographer game.
The only reason it has taken so long for me to stick up this picture is that, as you can surely imagine, I took a great many shots like this one, but later could not decide which one was the least mediocre. All were very striking (because of what was in them), and rather blurry (because I’m a blurry kind of photographer when I take shots like these), and interrupted by wires in the foreground (because I did not see those until I got home).
I took that photo on the right, of our location displayed on its map by my smartphone, in the car, just before we continued to what had been intended as our next destination. As you can see from this, we were well beyond the M25. The small blue blob in the middle is the location. Subsequent google mappery confirmed that we were twenty miles and more from the centre of London.
Sadly, the small blue blob in the middle is pointing, very misleadingly, in a completely different direction to the direction in which I pointed my camera to photo London. London is located below and to the left, i.e. towards the south west, the M25 being the road around London and the M11 being the road from the territory to the north east of London (involving such places as Cambridge), to London.
This spot is not all that far from Epping tube station. On a better day, I will return.
This view combines great distance with definite visibility to a degree that I have not experience and photographed from any other place. Does anybody know of any place that scores higher by this combined measure?
I include cranes in the category list below. There are, as always with big pictures of London, cranes.
Today, two snaps taken in April 2012 from the top of the tower of Westminster Cathedral, this being the Roman Catholic cathedral in the middle of Victoria Street, not the regular CofE Abbey, at the Parliament end of Victoria Street:
On the left, the Gherkin, the Parliament tower that is Big Ben, and the above-mentioned Abbey. And, in between the twin towers of the Abbey, we can also clearly see the tower of Tate Modern, and also the
Stock Exchange Lloyds building. On the right, the Shard (not yet finished) with its smaller elder brother Guy’s Hospital, and the Parliament tower that isn’t Big Ben.
It is possible that I have featured one or both of these views here before, but not lately, and anyway, my gaff my rules.
Lots of cranes. Always, there are lots of cranes.
Indeed. Photoed by me in September 2005, i.e. just under a decade ago:
Had I known how interested I would later become in white vans, I would have done a proper picture of the white van there. At the time all I cared about was the new Wembley Stadium, in the background there. But it says something that I considered this particular white van to be a worthy foreground to all that Big Arch activity. It also shows how white van graphics have progressed since then, the ones there being very straight and rectangular, like they’re done with Letraset, as maybe they were.
On the day I took that shot, I also took other shots like this one ...:
... and this one, which I recall especially liking at the time:
Blue sky. That never fails. Not then, not now.
Yes, again, but I do love her, especially now, when she presides over all that noisily aggressive building work all around her at the top end of Victoria Street:
Nothing says old school femininity like a ballerina, and nothing says old school masculinity like one of those extendable (but not at the time fully extended) temporary cranes. Men are here. But if here is the top end of Victoria Street, so too is the ultimate lady.
Take a train from … anywhere, into Waterloo. Exit your train, and go through the barriers. Turn right in the big concourse and carry on walking until you have gone as far as you can go, and you get to an exit. Step outside. You are in “Station Approach”:
I’ve messed with the visuals there, to make “Station Approach” readable.
You are wisely prevented by some railings from stepping out into Station Approach itself and being run down by a taxi. But turn right out of the exit, and make your way a few dozen yards along the narrow pavement, to the point in Station Approach where you can cross the road, to some steps that lead down into “Spur Road”. (The steps are right next to the S of Spur Road, in the image above.) But, don’t go down these steps. Stay at the top of the steps and enjoy the view.
To the far left, you can see the Walkie Talkie. To the far right, the Spray Can. Between them is the sprawl of south-of-the-river London.
It’s one of my favourite London panoramas, if only because everyone else who ever sets foot in this place is either in a hurry to get somewhere else, or in a hurry to catch a train. Nobody talks about this view, the way they do of the view from such places as Parliament Hill or the top of some of London’s big or even not so big buildings
What stops this view being talked up as a “view” is the prominence of all the foreground clutter. In the background, there are Big Things to be observed, but they do not tower over the foreground. If anything, the foreground clutter dominates them. Even the Shard is an almost diffident, even sometimes (depending on the light) spectral presence rather than a “tower”. Recently there was a TV documentary about the Tower of London, and the impact of it and the Shard, each in and on their time, was compared. The message was that the Tower then was like the Shard now. But these two buildings could hardly be more different. The Tower then was telling London then that the Tower was the boss. The Shard now politely concedes to London now that London is the boss.
And of course I love this view, because I love London’s clutter, especially roof clutter, and I love it when Big Things can be seen between and beyond the clutter, without necessarily dominating:
Those shots were all taken within moments of one another, just over a week ago, on a sunny afternoon, the same sunny afternoon I took this.
Stations are great linear photo-opportunities. This is because railway tracks have to be pretty much dead level. If the lie of the land is high, the tracks have to be lower, and if the lie of the land is low, the tracks have to be higher, which is also convenient because it enables the railway to jump over the roads on bridges and viaducts rather than compete with them at such things as level crossings. This causes the platforms of many a station to be at roof level rather than at ground level.
Level crossings will get road traffic across a mere double track out in the country, but are hopeless for getting past the tracks out of Waterloo, one of the world’s busiest railway stations. The traffic would wait for ever. So, bridges and viaducts it is, and that means that Waterloo Station itself is dragged up to regular London roof level. So even if you can’t see anything from Waterloo Station itself, you can from just outside it. You can from Station Approach. Well, I can, because I want to.
Until very recently, Centre Point, the Big Thing at the corner of Tottenham Court Road and Oxford Street, used to look like this, and quite soon, it will presumably look very much like that again. Just rather cleaner.
But, for the time being, Centre Point is looking like this:
The crane is there because at the bottom of Centre Point there is a frenzy of Cross Rail and London Underground station building activity.
At the point where the east end of Oxford Street connects to the south end of Tottenham Court Road, marked by Centre Point, there is now much building activity. Centre Point itself is being turned from offices into swanky apartments. And at the bottom of Centre Point there is to be a new Crossrail station which is being attached at vast expense to what is already a complicated tube junction stroke station.
Urban building activity is often described as being like a wound. But for me, such a temporary space is a photo-opportunity. It opens up unfamiliar views of clutter clusters, of entertaining comings together of and alignments of the temporary and the permanent, the ancient and the modern, the mechanical or the eletrical and the architectural.
Here are a few shots I recently took just to the south of Centre Point:
Mostly quite (to me) anonymous stuff, but with a couple of bits of favourite modern architecture in there, the BT Tower and that colourful Piano clump.
Soon, most if not all of these views will be gone.
Fantastic weather anyway. I’m still not feeling a hundred per cent. (Perhaps I never again will. (This is one of the facts about getting old. When bodily functions malfunction, they may never well-function again. (And it feels like that even more often.))) But I went out anyway to do some shopping, and then went out again with fewer clothes on, to enjoy the first real warmth and sunshine of this year instead of getting too hot in it.
Here are some snaps I took that show what a good day it’s been.
On the top left, the top of the tower right opposite me, seen from Vincent Square, through the leafless trees. Top middle, the Wheel (through more leafless trees) and that four-pointed Parliament Tower thingy that nobody knows the name of, with the Vincent Square cricket pavilion in the foreground. Top right, the new and rather crass (but I’ll probably end up liking it (perhaps after some clutter has arrived on the roof)) apartment building going up next to Vauxhall Bridge.
The bottom three snaps show what the sun, when it’s out and when evening approaches, does to the buildings on the other side of the river from me.
As you can see, from the all cranes, there is lots of new building activity in my vicinity.
Yesterday I visited a shop called Tiger in Tottenham Court Road. Here is the sign about it that sticks out into the road, even though what I thought I was photoing at the time was the Wheel:
That’s actually one of my favourite views of the Wheel, because it is so weird and unexpected. We’re looking south along Tottenham Court Road, with Centre Point on the left as we look. You hear people seeing this, and saying: Oh look, the Wheel. Wow.
Tiger has lots of stuff in it, which I haven’t time to tell you about now but will hope to do Real Soon Now. But what I will say (today) is that, after a bit of searching, I found cats, in the shapes of: a cat mat, some cat suitcases, and some tigers:
Too knackered to say more now. Suffice it to say that Tiger is a veritable cornucopia of cheap and cheerful stuff.
But still pretty:
One day, a crane reserve (that link being to where the above cranes were photographed) will be a place where they preserve and worship our mighty mechanical lifting devices, not birds. And cranes, of the good sort, will indeed be worshipped, just as soon as they are all replaced by anti-gravitational plasticene which will be stuck underneath heavy stuff, so it can be taken up to the tops of buildings by robot building workers. In the future, buildings will mostly just be sprayed into the air, but some heavy things in them will still have to be made elsewhere and lifted to their required location.
The gap between my eyesight and the eyesight of my camera grows and grows with the passing of the years, as my eyes inexorably dim and as my cameras inexorably improve. Even I can regularly manage quite decent shots with my latest camera. As a result, I become ever more immobilised by having to choose good ones from the enormous piles of decent shots I often come back with, after a day out.
Yesterday was a bit different. I went to the home of Michael Jennings for a Christmas Day lunch, picture 1.1 being the most striking thing I saw from out of his front window. The day was lovely, but the light, though wonderful, was fast fading, so Michael and our mutual lady friend and I went out for a short (by my photographic standards) walk to take advantage of it. Which meant that I took, by my standards, only a few pictures. Which made it easier to choose and stick up a few half decent ones.
Picture 1.2 is my favourite of these. Thank God for London’s religious diversity. Much as I loath what Islam says in its holy scriptures, and much as I am critical of people who go through the motions of worshipping these writings, either because they truly believe what those writings say (very wicked), or because they don’t but think that they it doesn’t matter or that they must (also wicked – yes, I mean you, Moderate Muslims – stop saying that you believe stuff that you also say that you don’t believe), I do like that having Muslims in London keeps shops open and taxis running on days like Christmas Day. Michael fixed a couple of Uber taxi rides for me, and both the drivers had Muslim sounding names.
I don’t know what the church is in 2.1 but it looks pretty behind that leafless tree. And Tower Bridge always looks pretty to me.
Re those two Tower Bridge shots, I’ve always liked how digital cameras do the opposite of the human eye, and turn urban skies bluer and brighter as they actually get darker. It’s all those orange-coloured artificial lights, burning relatively brighter as the sun sinks, together with the actual darkness on the ground, impinging upon the Automatic setting.
Today I went walkabout in the City of London with my friend Gus, father of Goddaughter 1. This evening I found, for the first time, this short video interview at the Arup (his long time employer) website, done with Gus in 2010.
Here are four vertical favourite-photos I took:
On the left, Gus shows me a magazine picture of the Cheesegrater, taken on a much nicer day than the day, cold and windy, that we were having to put up with today. Next in line is one of those Big Things seen through a gap in the foreground shots, but with a difference. This time, there are two Big Things involved. There is a sliver of Walkie-Talkie on the right, and then way beyond it, you can see the Shard. Then, we see Gus joke-propping-up the miniature Lego Gherkin that is to be seen next to the regular Gherkin. On the right, Gus looks up at something or other, this being the best snap I did of him.
Now for all my favourite horizontals.
I’m too tired after all that walking about in the cold to say much about these pictures, but see in particular 2.1, which is, I’m pretty sure, some of the bolts, a few of which recently disintegrated. Now they are having to check all such bolts, and there are a lot.
1.1: Mmmm, cranes. Grim day, well done my recently acquired camera, good in low light conditions.
1.2: Canon Street tube. Designed like a bridge, said Gus, ace bridge designer, because under it there are tube lines which it is built on top of, like a bridge. This is the building I asked about in an earlier posting here.
1.3: I included this because of the sign saying “all inquiries”. All? You know what they mean, but there is fun to be had on the phone with this sign.
2.2: A Gherkin detail, is there because I said, when I saw it, that looks rather plastic. And guess what, it is plastic.
2.4: Shows us the Lego Gherkin in front of the Actual Gherkin
3.2: A more fun picture of Gus, featuring also: me, in the right hand purple circle.
3.3, 3.4, 4.1: All the Walkie-Talkie.
4.4: For scaring pigeons, something you seldom see from above. I saw this particular cluster of pigeon scarers while descending a staircase at Liverpool Street station. That last was the very last photo I took.
When I emerged from Pimlico tube, near my home, I was amazed at how dark it had become, at a quarter to four in the afternoon. Like I say, my new camera really did the business today.
Sorry for all the cock-ups and mispronts in this posting. I’m knackered and am now going to bed.
The way to photo “iconic” buildings is to muck around with them. You can’t just stick up your basic passport photos of them, so to speak, because everyone’s seen that, even the foreigners.
You have to put your iconic building next to something else, perhaps iconic in a different way ...:
… or, you bounce your IB off a non-iconic building covered in slightly bendy glass.
Or you photo it through a Riverside Thing …:
… or behind an Iconic Bridge (the one that wobbled (see the posting immediately below)).
Or you put something else in front of it, like a photographer, and have the IB itself behind and way out of focus.
That works fine because the whole point of an IB is that you can recognise it even if it is ridiculously blurry, the way you never could a regular building.
Or, you photo it on the screen of another photographer, perhaps even a bald bloke photographer. I am now collecting bald bloke photographers, and believe me, the species is now very abundant. And by the way, if you click and look at bit carefully, you can see that the bald bloke had the same idea as me about photoing the reflected version of the Shard, rather than just the Thing itself:
As the autumn light fades, the screens of other photographers shine ever more brightly. (LATER: And, on the right there, I see cranes.)
I picked those four snaps of snappers entirely because I liked them. But, they are all pictures of snappers using their mobile phones. Mobile phone cameras are getting better and better. But of course. I mean, would they be getting worse?
But having said all that, I do like this:
No frills, no complications, just the top of the IB itself, with a bit of orange light from somewhere.
All of the above photos were taken on my way to and from the Tower of London, about tendays ago, to see all those poppies.
LATER: How in the world could I possibly have failed to include, in this, this?
Shard on camera screen, and poppies. But, this time, a clunky old camera camera rather than a mobile phone camera.