Brian Micklethwait's Blog
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Michael Jennings on Pictures from Georgia and Warsaw
Brian Micklethwait on Big Things blocked by the trees of Southwark Park
Carolyn Mohr on The ups and downs of English
Michael Jennings on Big Things blocked by the trees of Southwark Park
priscila on The ups and downs of English
Simon Gibbs on Wedding photography (4): Preparations
6000 on Bookshops as Amazon showrooms
Darren on Bookshops as Amazon showrooms
Michael Jennings on Wedding photography (2): Signs
MarkR on Feynman Diagrams on the Feynman van
Most recent entries
- Pictures from Georgia and Warsaw
- Cats without tails are not scary
- Big Things blocked by the trees of Southwark Park
- Wedding photography (4): Preparations
- Bookshops as Amazon showrooms
- Reflections on a strange coincidence involving an Android app and a malfunctioning bus stop sign
- Feynman Diagrams on the Feynman van
- Rothko Toast
- Wedding photography (3): Technology as sculpture
- And another posting from my smartphone
- Posted from my new smartphone
- Google Nexus 4 photos
- Wedding photography (2): Signs
- Wedding photography (1): The superbness of the weather
- A Fleet Street lunch
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Category archive: Cranes
I’m still on about last Tuesday, and about what a fine day it was to be taking photographs, and about what sort of photographs I took.
I confirmed that the weather was going to be just as fabulous as the weather forecasters had been saying for the best part of a week that it would be, from the moment I stepped out of my front door. Because, what I then felt was that very particular early spring experience, namely: feeling warmer than I did indoors. It comes from the bricks in my home being a heat store, or in the case of winter a cold store. To be more exact, the sun outside is hot and it warms up the air outside a treat, but it will take way longer for it to warm up those bricks, still busy sucking the heat out of my indoors.
So, I was in a fine mood from the start, and duly ticked off my official objective (plus second semi-official objective close by), so that the other half of the fun might begin. For me, the point is to get out there, preferably to places I have not visited lately, on a fine day, and to make sure I set forth with appropriate resolve and soon enough for it still to be light, I need an official objective. Those coloured buildings served that purpose very well. But then, there followed the unofficial pleasure, so to speak, of just meandering about and noticing things.
If you only click on one photo of those below, click on the first one, top left. That scene was actually quite a long way away, but thanks to the brightness of the sunshine and the power of my zoom lens, it looks like I’m right next to it.
Otherwise, there are my usual preoccupations. There is scaffolding, the other scaffolding being on Blackfriars Bridge, middle middle, where they are still finishing the new station on the bridge, with its oddly fluctuating roof. There are cranes, the same cranes each time, I suspect, on the top of a new erection arising somewhere on the other side of the river, between Waterloo and Tate Modern. And there is a particularly choice reflection effect, this time (I am almost certain) Tower 42 (the NatWest Tower that was) torched by the evening sun and reflected in the glass at the top of Tate Modern. There are bridges, no less then three in the picture bottom left, and five different bridges if you also count the ghostly columns of the Blackfriars Bridge that never was, next to Actual Blackfriars Bridge. And seven if you could the three views of the Millenium Footbridge as three different bridges. There is the Wheel, twice. And photographers of course, thrice.
I sought out the river because, as the light began to fade, by the river there would still be a huge (completely cloudless) sky full of the stuff to sustain me, in contrast to the streets north of the river where the light struggles to reach ground level.
“Grubbings” is a word I inherited from my late father, along with his fondness for the thing that grubbings describes. Grubbings are big building projects in their early, especially below ground level, stage, when they are … well: grubbing, rather than building upwards. My father loved grubbings, and so do I.
It’s often hard to photo grubbings, because they often put a high fence around them and there’s no convenient high-up spot nearby to look over. But at this site, you can climb up some steps (top left) to a Centre Point entrance on the first floor, and photo through the mesh that you see in most of the other pictures.
Even with the internet, it can be hard to know how these kind of things are going to end up. Okay, here are these computer fakes of how they had in mind two years ago for it to be, but who knows if that’s still what they’re thinking.
There is also the fact that there are often so many images of how, at various stages in the design, they envisaged things looking, that it’s hard for a more casual onlooker to keep up. Simpler to just wait and see.
It reminds me of how the Brits confused the Argies during that Brits versus Argies war. Instead of not telling the Argies their plan, the Brits did tell the Argies their plan, and all the other plans the Brits might just as likely be following. The British newspapers were full to the brim with every imaginable plan. And the Argies were baffled, trapped in the headlights of too much information, all of it suspect of course. That’s sometimes how I feel when trying (admittedly not very hard) to find out how some big grubbings in a big city like London are going to end up looking.
Recently I recycled, at Samizdata, some thoughts about Art from favourite blogger of mine Mick Hartley.
On the subject of “as found” art, the sort when it’s Art entirely because the Artist says so, without having done anything else himself besides stick the thing in an Art gallery, Hartley said this:
The logical conclusion to this line of thinking would be that if anything can be art if its maker wishes it to be art, then anything or everything can be art – and we don’t need artists any more. Curiously this is an argument that artists themselves seem reluctant to make.
I just know that there is a connection between what Hartley says there, and Hartley’s (and my) habit of taking photos (and showing the photos of others) of industrial clutter, outdoor gadgetry (such as the communications kit you see on roofs), decaying infrastructure, etc., that resembles abstract art.
The point of such pictures is that you do not only perceive the objects you are photo-ing as things doing a job of some kind, that is, the way their original creators mostly, presumably, perceived them. You see them almost as disembodied effects, quite distinct from what the kit was originally built for, and often no longer even seeing what the objects once were or still are. You see them the way you see abstract art.
(Related to all this is that I like cranes, but what I really like is how they look (like very superior sculpture), rather than: how they work, which is best, which sort does what, etc. (Here is a Hartley crane snap I just found.))
I say you see all this stuff “almost” as disembodied effects. But I think a lot of the fun is that you can also see what they are originally, even as you observe their aesthetic pleasingness or oddity, or resemblance to some particular work of art or type of art. The pleasure you get is a bit like with those pictures which could be two different things, like an old ugly woman or a beautiful young woman, depending on whether you see that bit as an arm or a nose, or whatever. Is it what it merely “is”? Or is it Art?
Hartley is particularly fond of bright colour effects. As are many more recent sculptors.
In connection with all this, here are four snaps taken by me on Tuesday Feb 19th, when I went on a trip to check out Blythe Hill Fields:
Top left was taken on the way, through a train window. Bottom right was taken on the way home, at Whitechapel tube. The other two were taken in the Blythe Hill Fields vicinity.
Those Artists surely do still have a role in all this, because we photographers of abstract-art-like stuff are responding to their challenges. We are saying: We don’t need you. We can see our own Art, thank you. Mondrian rectangles? I’ll give you rectangles. Big crazy sculptures made of industrial waste? Why not photo … industrial waste? And so on. We are both acknowledging the power of and (some of us – like me and Hartley) seeking to diminish the power of the Artists.
The artists have been telling the rest of us to see and enjoy the real world in new and interesting ways, and we are doing that. They started this.
The question is not so much: Are the Artists necessary? They have been, to the process I have described. But: Can they stay ahead? Can they keep on setting new challenges, or do I and Mick Hartley and all the other As Found Art photoers end up being our own artists?
I am groping my way into this subject. The above may be a muddle. But there is something interesting in among all this, I think.
A final Hartley photographic link that also seems relevant.
I recommend trawling back through his blog, as I just did.
LATER: And, as if he’s determined to illustrate all of the above further, there is now this.
Bosses moving three of the world’s largest quay cranes cannot give an exact arrival date as they could be delayed en route from China.
The 138m tall, semi-automatic cranes are taller than the London Eye and weigh 1,848 tonnes.
Semi-automatic? Does that make them assault cranes?
They are to go here. I smell photo ops.
... all taken last Sunday, shown in the order I took them, the first in Vauxhall Bridge Road, the next two from Vauxhall Bridge itself, and the last one in Vauxhall, outside the Railway Station there.
Click and enjoy:
Top left: Creative use of the law of perfectly focussed intervening foreground objects, in this case causing the crane - one of my local favourites, especially when folded up for the night like this – to become, I think, pleasingly blurred.
Top right: Hardly visible, but what an effect! Turner, eat your heart out. Through the late afternoon London mist and muck, the setting sun behind me picks out two distant cranes (one in particular), away in the City. I’m pretty sure that’s the Cheesegrater they’re working on.
Bottom left: A bit of a cheat, because not really a crane picture. It’s really Battersea Power Station with sun setting behind it. But cranes are involved.
Bottom right: The Replacement Crane itself, the one that has now replaced the one smashed into by a helicopter. With an elephant. And a castle. Even though this is not the Elephant and Castle.
They kept the crane tower, and only replaced the complicated stuff at the top. With another crane, which I also photoed. I hope (although I promise nothing) to do a posting that tells that whole story, or at least what I know of it.
My Thursday Journey has now reached Parliament Square, where I remembered that one of my subsidiary missions was to see (and of course photo) the state of the crane at the top of the Vauxhall Tower, the Tower whose previous crane got crashed into by a helicopter.
Here how things now look:
As usual, there is clutter in the foreground, as is my wont, this time Georgian or some such thing.
Later, on the day I took these photos, I observed that the old crane cabin, and a small part at the top of the crane tower had been removed. But so far as I can tell, almost all of the original crane tower is still up, and they are now in the process, as the above photo shows, of putting another crane at the top of the old crane tower.
If that’s right, they obviously have ways of knowing that most of the original crane tower is okay and ready to resume duty. On the other hand, maybe they completely replaced the tower, and I just missed it.
But, I don’t think so, because the tower changes colour at the point where I think the old tower turns into the new bit of the tower.
If you see what I mean.
And if you care.
The thing about this tower is that you can see what is happening at the top of it from half a mile away, from all sorts of places in semi-nearby London, and if you have a zoom lens like the one I have. You don’t have to cross the river to see what’s going on up there.
As you can see, there’s now a light on, at the top of the crane. I’m guessing that’s now a permanent arrangement.
And that’s as far as I have managed to take the story of my Happy Thursday, and I still have about four more postings about it to do.
Blogging, eh? Actually doing stuff takes no time at all. It’s describing it that occupies all the time.
Yesterday I waited until it was nearly dark for it to stop snowing, but it never did and I went out anyway, back to see whether the new crane that I spotted last Friday on lorries was up and craning.
As soon as I got to Vauxhall Bridge Road, I had my answer. Here is how things looked from Vauxhall Bridge, and then from closer to:
That I was able to get closer was down to the fact that they have now cleared up sufficiently for traffic to be flowing again. Fast work.
Which meant that I could, without interrupting anything more important, take a closer look at where the helicopter actually hit the ground:
If you click on that left picture, you will see, in line with the two broken windows, a diagonal blue line, which tells you roughly what happened. The helicopter struck the edge of the roof of the building, and then landed in front of it. Wreckage and flames than spread to the front of the building on the right.
So, life in Vauxhall is rapidly getting back to normal, as these next two gents illustrate. In the second of these two pictures, I include the towers and the cranes, visible beyond the smaller blocks in the middle distance. Helicopter crash? What helicopter crash?
Digital photography has, I surmise, caused more snowmen to be created. Because now you can snap them and boast about them to your friends.
Snow is both good news and bad news for photographers like me. The good news is that (in addition to increased numbers of snowmen) it creates wonderfully oil-painting-like effects out of the most commonplace of circumstances, such as this coil of barbed wire on top of a covered footbridge, there to stop people using the top of the footbridge as a way to get across it and plunder:
The bad news is that if you point your camera upwards, which is hard to avoid if you are photographing tall cranes from very close, you get blobs of snow on your lens. Not all of the photos from which these four are selected were the successes that they would have been, had there been no snow still descending:
I was able to get these shots because, when retracing my steps towards home, I found that I could actually get closer to the cranes than I had earlier thought. Those shots were taken outside one of the St George Wharf flats front doors, right next to the cranes.
I would describe myself as a “craniac”, but googling tells me that the word is already taken, not by us crane lovers, but by people bothered about improving their craniums, or something. Pity.
As you can see, the wrecked crane is still up there, the new crane only just having been erected.
Despite the weather, and despite the grim circumstances that I was photographing, this was a most satisfactory little expedition.
Yesterday, again, I ventured back across the river to see whatever I could see in the vicinity of that helicopter crash.
I couldn’t get near to where the worst of the drama unfolded on Wednesday, and I couldn’t yesterday, which is not a circumstance I would dream of complaining about. But today, as on Wednesday, I was able to gaze upwards again at that stricken crane, this time from the other side:
If you compare that picture with my earlier picture (immediately below), you will see that nothing up there has yet changed.
Other than the weather. Yesterday, and today, very grim and snowy. Also, I took the above picture just before it got seriously dark. The pictures below having been taken somewhat earlier. I did quite a bit of wandering around before I got that shot of the crane, but was very pleased when I finally got it.
On the ground, it is an entirely different story.
A whole new crane has arrived:
You can just see the edge of the tower there, above the road sign.
And that’s not the half of it:
Altogether, about a dozen different articulated lorries had arrived, presumably earlier yesterday, and parked themselves in the roads at the other end of the new bus terminal from Vauxhall railway station. When I got there, there were still drivers in the cabs of several of these lorries. In total there were about a dozen lorries. These cranes are big. I’m guessing the economic situation means there were plenty of spare cranes to choose from.
And I further guess that these things have something to do with this crane:
I assume that this new crane is about to be erected alongside the old and broken crane, to dismantle the broken crane, and then to finish the job of building the tower. How exactly will that look, I wonder?
Things are moving a lot faster than I guessed, to get the tower-building going again.
The tidying up from the crash seems to be taking place a bit further along the road, crucially not right next to the tower, and that process is happening simultaneously with getting the new crane in. The two jobs don’t clash. On the contrary they go together. Then, when the old crane is gone, and when the crash is cleaned up, the road will open again.
Is the plan to open the road again,after a weekend of feverish activity, on Monday morning? Definitely asap, it would seem.
Yesterday I posted a short photo-piece at Samizdata about the Vauxhall helicopter crash, but had difficulty with the photos. Not having posted any photos on Samizdata for about a month, I had to rediscover how to do it. I am definitely not going to be switching to Wordpress here any time very soon. Although, come to think of it, maybe I will switch soonish, if only to be able to practice posting photos on Wordpress, here. Given that here I allow myself to do any damn fool thing I feel like doing. Like not post anything for a week, for no good reason.
So anyway, here is a photo (a slice out of the photo I did post at Samizdata) which I tried to post at Samizdata yesterday, late last night, but got in a muddle with and gave up on. Now, I will embed a link to this, from there.
The problem with photoing this ruined crane is, for me, getting into a good position. This was the best shot I could get yesterday, given that I was in a hurry because of fading light. What I may now try is photoing it from one of the platforms of Vauxhall Station, which is the other side of the crane from where I was yesterday. Station platforms being long, you can move back and forth until you get the best shot. Today looks like nice weather, so maybe I’ll try that this afternoon.
I need more text here, to fit the photo into this posting without it bashing into the previous posting. So, what else to say about this?
Well, one thing I can say is that I am extremely curious about how they will sort this out. I guessed in my Samizdata piece that it will be a while before they get around to sorting out this crane, because on the ground they have other things to sort out, involving thousands of commuters going to and fro every day, on the road onto which the stricken helicopter fell, spreading flames everywhere. The builders will just not be first in the queue. The builders will be needing the road when they bring in whatever other cranes they need, to remove the ruined crane, and to put up another crane, so I’m guessing they’ll have to wait until the road is sorted and back in business.
Plus, do they mend the crane, or replace it? Does anyone kinow what the routine is for fixing a crane in this state, on a site like this one? As I understand it, the entire tower-building job depends on that crane, and now the entire job comes to a shuddering halt, until they can get that crane mended, or another crane into that same spot. Heaven knows what that delay will cost, per hour.
I hope I get really lucky and get to photo them sorting this out, but am not optimistic. Building contractors are not in the habit of drawing attention to themselves when they are busy building. They just want to be left alone to get on with it. The press-releasing, attention-grabbing phase only gets under way when the building is good and finished.
That ought to be enough text.
Here are three pictures I took last Sunday, of a church and of the Shard, lined up in various ways. And here is a picture I took a bit before that, on the same trip. Instead of looking north along Borough High Street, I am looking west, along a side street adjoining Borough High Street:
When the light is good, London constantly offers fun surprises of this sort.
Yes, there are still cranes operating on either side of Vincent Square, which I see as a great big cluster every time I go to my local supermarkets:
Never the same pattern twice.
Cropped. And “slightly sharpened”, which seems to make quite a difference.