Brian Micklethwait's Blog

In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Category archive: My photographs

Monday June 29 2015

The question mark in my title is because I do not know whether or not this bench is unusual.  Is it truly odd?  Or did it merely seem odd to me, when I photoed it earlier this evening, because I noticed something I had never noticed before in such a bench, but which is actually not that unusual?

Anyway, this is the bench:

image

And what struck me as odd is those extra arms, dividing the bench into three individual spots.  There are other seats like this, but I have never seen a wooden bench of this very trad sort, with those very untrad internal arms added.  To me this was and is very novel.  I found myself thinking: Is there something particularly London (It says “City of London” on the bench) about this, to me, very odd arrangement?  Is this some sort of device to guarantee not being touched by the people who sit next to you, perhaps because there are three such people and they squeeze up against you?  And is that very London?  Something you definitely would not find in other more socially easygoing, less atomistic, places?

Also, somehow, given those extra arms, I expect also extra legs.

I encountered these benches (there were several, including the one I was sitting on when I photoed this other one) outside the Museum of London in the Barbican area of the City of London.  In case you wanted to know.

Sunday June 28 2015

I’m now knackered.  For reasons too complicated for me to explain in my present knackered state, I didn’t get as much sleep last night as I would have liked.  And then today I went on a photo-trek with Goddaughter 1.  This was great, and I am entirely glad that I did this, but about two thirds of the way through these photo-treks I typically arrive at a state of knackeredness, and so it was today.  Mostly it’s the feet.  They ache.  But, sitting down and resting only makes it worse when I try to resume.

We both took lots of photos, many of the best ones that I took being after I had become knackered, as also tends to be the rule with these photo-treks, hence my determination, every time, to keep trekking after becoming knackered.  This is often because at the end of the trek there is a destination which keeps us going, and which is really good.  This time, that destination, it gradually became clear, was Alexandra Palace.  And Alexandra Palace is a great place from which to photo London and its Big Things, especially if the light is as good as it was today.  The light at the end of the day is often the best, which is another reason to keep going, even if you become knackered before the day ends.  So I kept going, and so, a great day.

But a knackering day, and I am now off to bed.  I can, or so I hope, write when knackered.  But working with my primitive little laptop, I now find it impossible to contrive any links or post any photos, So no links.  No photos.

No photos also because, although it was a great day, I don’t know if I took any great (by my undemanding standards) photos.  I have looked at them, once, but am now too caught up in what I was trying to photo and am not yet able to be objective about what I did photo and to pick out any truly good ones.

Good night..

Saturday June 27 2015

Photoed by me today at the top end of Victoria Street, aka Victoria, where there is a hurricane of new building going on, a horizontal slice of an old building:

image

If you click on that, you will be able to see, from the daylight in the windows and from the big horizontal chunks of metal between the windows, that this is another of those facades from olden days that’s being held up and behind which indoor modernity will be put.

Tuesday June 23 2015

This afternoon I went walkabout, with quite another object in mind than the Shard.  But, the Shard was looking peculiarly beautiful this evening, at any rate from where I was standing, on the Millennium Bridge.

image

At present I am not seeing this picture nearly as clearly as you probably are, because my proper computer (Godot) is ill and my laptop (Dawkins) only has a very small and inadequate screen.

What I hope you are seeing is the sky looking very earthly, but the Shard looking almost heavenly.  The sky looks rough and the Shard looks smooth.  The sky looks matt and the Shard looks gloss.  Sky behind the Shard is dark, the Sky reflected off the Shard is light.  London is dim, but the Shard is bright.

Renzo Piano, who designed this wondrous Thing, saw all this coming.  He knew that the Shard would reflect in a quite different way to a merely vertical Thing, and today this effect was to be seen at its very best.  I can only hope that my photo gives at least a clue of what was going on.

Monday June 22 2015

Indeed.  After meeting the extended family and photoing those Dinky Toys, I made my way back to Egham Station via the RAF Memorial at the top of the hill that overlooks Runnymede.  Runnymede and a lot else.

In the foreground, the River Thames.  To the right, in the far distance, London and its towers, just visible, if you are lucky with the weather.  Next to London and a bit nearer, Heathrow Airport, with the Wembley Arch clearly to be seen behind it.  Straight ahead, big reservoirs.

And to the left, Windsor Castle:

image

Click on that little picture to get the bigger picture.

I am having a recurrence of those computer problems I described in this earlier posting, but have discovered that my picture processing programme does function after all, after a fashion.  But very badly, and I am posting this picture of Windsor Castle because I remember that picture to be good, rather than because I know it to be.

The pictures I took from the top of the RAF Memorial yesterday seemed to me better than ones I had taken before from this spot, and I suspect that this is because yesterday was the first time I had used my latest camera at this vantage point.  But my computer problems struck again before I could check this feeling against actual facts.

So meanwhile, enjoy Windsor Castle, assuming that the picture is as enjoyable as I remember it seeming to be when I looked at it last night.

Sunday June 21 2015

Today there was a big old Micklethwait family get-together at the ancestral home in Englefield Green, Surrey.  Me, two brothers, a nephew and a niece plus partners, another niece, plus two little kids.  I took photos of course, and I wasn’t the only one doing that.

I prefer not to show you pictures of my relatives, but I’m sure that nobody will mind me showing you these snaps:

image imageimage image

Those are Dinky Toys, in really quite good condition, dating from the 1950s.  I can even remember a couple of the names.  The red van (which was my brother’s, not mine) was “Mersey Tunnel”, because it is a Mersey Tunnel police van.  And the white car with green on it is a Singer Gazelle.  Ah, Singer.  Those were the days when Britain contained about a dozen distinct car-makers, with distinct names like Singer.

All these toys had already been extracted from all the other goods and chattels in the house and given to N and NP’s two little kids, before I arrived.  Theoretically, three of these four antiquities were mine, or they were mine sixty years ago, but the kids seemed to like them and I was glad for these toys to be passed on.  Such things are only worth proper money if the boxes have been kept, and of course they hadn’t been.  And although these Dinky Toys, especially the two cars, are in really quite good condition, really quite good condition is not nearly as good as mint condition, moneywise.  So, yes kids, you’re very welcome.

But one favour I did ask.  Before you take them off to your home, let me photo them, just to remember them.  Okay?  Okay.  So I perched them on my knees and took the shots.

One of the many good things about digital photography is that with it you can store fun memories in two virtual dimensions, rather than in three actual dimensions.

Saturday June 20 2015

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:

image

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:

image

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.

Thursday June 18 2015

For most of today I was without my computer, and yesterday I could only use it in “safe” mode, the most obvious and lamentable effect of which was that I couldn’t see or manipulate pictures properly.  So, I couldn’t do pictures for the best part of two days.

Pictures like this one, which needed cropping because to the left of this young man (as I looked and snapped) was a close-up of another young man’s face, with nothing in the way and hence totally recognisable:

image

What I liked about this picture at the time when I took it, on Westminster Bridge two days ago, was that the guy’s smartphone had a banknote on it.  And what I liked even more about this picture when I took another look at it just now with my restored computer is that the man on the banknote is Benjamin Franklin.

Franklin, an enthusiastic inventor, would surely have loved the idea of his face being, two and a quarter centuries after his death, on a portable instantaneous communication and computation machine, with the ability to create and transmit instantaneous likenesses of one’s companions and one’s surroundings and to record and transmit verbal messages, and to perform many other tasks and wonders.  Or: whatever he might have called a smartphone.

Monday June 15 2015

Every time a new gadget gets introduced which catches on, in public, there is a chorus of disapproval from unimaginative puritans saying: ban it, it’s evil, it’s stupid, it’s wrong, blah blah blah.

Selfie sticks have caused particular ire.  Other people enjoying themselves, by photographing themselves, seems just too much to bear, for the unimaginative puritan tendency.

I say unimaginative, because it perhaps does take a little bit of imagination to realise that with a selfie stick you can get results that would be very hard to get by any other means.

But there’s no need for selfie sticks, say the UPs.  Get someone else to take your picture, if you really do want a picture of yourselves with all of you included.  And some people do just this.  I often get asked to take other people’s pictures for them, so that all of them get to be in the picture instead of one of them taking it and not being in it.  I do my best, but my best is, I fear, often very bad.  Other people’s cameras are notoriously difficult to use correctly, first time, only time.

Besides which, try getting someone else to do this for you:

image

This couple were photoing themselves outside Westminster Abbey, with themselves in the foreground, and Westminster Abbey’s twin towers in the background.  But not just Westminster Abbey in a general sort of way behind them.  They wanted the camera looking up at them, and past them, to the top of Westminster Abbey, to those twin towers, and to the blue sky above them.  A much more dramatic shot.

Imagine getting a passing stranger to take that shot.  Try getting me to take that shot.  Even if I was willing to crouch down, how would I know what was on the screen?  How would I compose the shot?  I wouldn’t.  I couldn’t.  It would be a random mess.

The only way they could get this shot was with a selfie stick.

I am not saying that they realised they wanted this sort of shot, and got a selfie stick in order to get it.  Well, maybe they did.  But what is far more probable is that they they got their selfie stick, just to take good selfies instead of begging incompetent strangers like me to take bad unselfies.  And at first they took regular selfies, with the camera in the same sort of position as it would have been if someone like me had been holding it in the regular way, at a regular height.

But then they realised that they could point the selfie stick in any direction they liked and could place the camera any place they want to that the selfie stick could reach.  It could go straight up in the air, or straight down, or partly down but right near the ground, as here.  With it, they could choose the exact background they wanted and compose the shot perfectly.  And as any photographer, even an amateur like me, will tell you, background is everything when you are shooting head shots.

Selfie sticks are great.  Personally, I am not into taking self-portraits, except when I am reflected in the scene I am photoing, so I don’t need a selfie stick and I don’t have one.  Above all, I don’t want a selfie stick because mostly I go photoing on my own.  I very seldom need to be taking group shots that include me, the way people are if they are on their honeymoon, say.  But just because I don’t need a selfie stick doesn’t mean that nobody else needs a selfie stick and that all who have selfie sticks should be yelled at.

I took the above shot of the selfie stick in action on the same day I took this photo.

Saturday June 13 2015

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:

image

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). 

imageBut I do have just one more photo to stick up here, containing as it does the vital information tekking Real Photographers exactly where they need to go, to take this picture properly.

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.

Friday June 12 2015

Most churches in London are, if not dwarfed by modernity, then at least jammed up against something else big right next to them.  But earlier this evening I visited a London church that is not like that at all:

image

This is All Saints Blackheath.  I was there to hear Goddaughter 2 and two of her RCM fellow students sing some songs.  Very good.

Here is another and better picture of the same church, in winter.

Wednesday June 10 2015

I continue to photo white vans.  The poshest white van so far is one I photoed today.  Here’s the basic photo:

image

But, this being a posh enterprise, the graphics are a bit thin and polite, and my photo doesn’t help.  So here’s a close up what it is:

image

And here are the services they offer.

Earlier in the day, I also photoed this white van, which also seemed rather posh:

image

Again, for the same sorts of reasons, here’s a close-up of what it is:

image

But, although “piano people” suggests people who play pianos, or at the very least tune them, all that these piano people do is move them from place to place, carefully.

There really are a lot of white vans out there.

Monday June 08 2015

I didn’t put these two covers next to each other.  The Lady did it, outside its big old office in Bedford Street, London WC2.  Here is what that office looks like, that being a shot of the sort I neglected to take at the time.  You can see lots of covers in the windows along the bottom.

So, here are the two covers:

image

Shot December 15th 2014.

For those unfamiliar with Brit TV, the guy on the right is this guy.

Sunday June 07 2015

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:

imageimage

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.

Friday June 05 2015

Indeed.  Photoed by me in September 2005, i.e. just under a decade ago:

image

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 ...:

image

... and this one, which I recall especially liking at the time:

image

Blue sky.  That never fails.  Not then, not now.