Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
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
MNB Achari on Google Nexus 4 photos
MNB Achari on The ups and downs of English
Robert Hale on Feynman Diagrams on the Feynman van
Laurence Sheldon on Bookshops as Amazon showrooms
Bryn Braughton on Bookshops as Amazon showrooms
Most recent entries
- 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
- So painters also used to “take” pictures
- Funniest run out ever?
- Shadow photography
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Category archive: Architecture
So, on with the wedding. I’ve done the weather. I’ve done signs. I’ve done weird technological things. Now for some preparations. The signs, the technological things and the preparations all having been snapped while I waited for things to get properly started.
The good thing about signs, technological things and preparations is that they stay still, and are hence rather easier for a photo-dumbo like me to photo. Especially in all that bright sunshine.
But when it comes to preparations, there is also the fact that the work done by those preparing all these preparations deserves recognition, before all those damn people arrive and muck everything up. One of the particularly nice things about this wedding was the way that the help was, as it were, included. The people being paid to help make the wedding all just so were all treated as humans, rather than as invisible wage slaves. They were included, so to speak. Various paid helpers were, for instance, thanked, by the Groom, in his speech. Nice touch that, I think.
Note the big circular greenhouse-like structure featured in photo 1.2 there. Chatting with one of those helpers, I learned that it was the fairly recent addition of this piece of architecture to all the other architecture at this place that really turned it into a great wedding venue, because then they had a nice big space where people could shelter if the weather was not good. The floor, being made with big stone slabs, could get wet without any permanent damage being done. Imagine what it would be like on a rather rainy day, with sunny intervals and scattered showers, with people going out and getting mud all over their shoes, and then coming indoors to avoid the scattered showers. On carpets: nightmare. On stone slabs in a big greenhose, containing big mats to clean your shoes if you wanted to venture onto the carpets: no worries.
But on the day of this wedding, the weather was perfection. It has now reverted to being cold and miserable, which just goes to show that this wedding’s weather luck was better even than it seemed on the day. Not only did this burst of perfect weather follow two months of weather misery; it also preceded more weather misery.
So, photographic possibilities temporarily exhausted, I sat down in the sunshine and read some more of Matt Ridley’s The Rational Optimist, until other people finally started arriving. I have been thinking quite a lot lately, as a particular thing, about the matter of optimism and pessimism.
In the last of those pictures, the “Thank You” is to us guests, for showing up.
I was at Wembley last Saturday, to see Wigan beat Millwall in the FA Cup semi. I am doing a longer posting on the crowd violence that happened during the second half, but will also be referring also to the architecture of the place. Hence me posting this picture here now:
The point being that the Arch, as seen from inside the stadium, is not that special. It only gets interesting photographically if something else happens in front of it, or beyond it, like if a helicopter were to crash into it or if behind it there was an eclipse of the moon, or in this case if there are balloons in the frame. The Arch’s purpose is to draw attention to the stadium from outside, and especially from afar, rather than to make much of a difference to the experience of actually being inside the place.
The Arch does make the process of approaching the stadium from Wembley Park tube more interesting than it would otherwise be. Here is a shot I took after the game, looking back at the stadium, in the wet and gloom of the evening:
Talking of shots like that, does anyone know how to get rid of that upwards perspective effect, in the programme I use (ArchSoft PhotoStudio 5.5)? I want to widen out the sky there, if you get my meaning. I want to make the buildings, on the left especially, go upwards rather than inwards. Any suggestions?
LATER: My favourite Wembley Arch picture.
My thanks to my next Last Friday speaker Rob Fisher, for the link to these photos:
My inclination is not to discuss the matter of supposed overcrowding, more to note that here we have more Art without Artists. Although perhaps photographer Michael Wolf would say he is an artist.
The idea of that category of photo is that here is a photo of something real, which resembles (reduces the thing to?) abstract art.
Were all those abstract modernists prophesying the inceasing rectangularity of regular life to come?
British Summer Time began last Sunday, and I surely wasn’t the only Brit taken by surprise. According to our excellent and invariably accurate short range weather forecasters (the long range climate guessers are something else entirely), the current (bitterly) cold spell that we are enduring will only end around the middle of this month.
On April 20th, two friends of mine are to be married, hopefully in the warm outdoors, and I hope to be taking photos of it, in the warm outdoors. They hope, as do I, that the cold will soon abate. Fingers crossed. The weather is getting sunnier now, but is still amazingly cold. Coldest March Britain has had for over half a century, they are saying. It was several years ago now that they (i.e. the long range climate guessers) changed Global Warming to Climate Chaos. Wise move. Wiser would have been to shut the fuck up and let Western Civilisation (a) proceed without them fucking with it, and (b) deal with any climate dramas if and when.
Meanwhile, the cold has kept me from roaming London taking snaps during the last week or two. Instead I roam through my recent archives, looking for interesting snaps taken on warmer days.
Here are some more:
This time there are more of those commonplace things that look better in good photos, as I hope you think these somewhat are, than they do when you actually see them. That’s if you even do see them, as in notice them.
Besides which, a double decker bus advert may be pretty obvious stuff to a fellow Londoner. But what if you are one of those lost souls who lives outside London? Or worse, who has never even been to London? Or perhaps never even set eyes on a double decker bus? A double decker bus advert must seem, to such a person, almost unbearably exotic and glamorous.
Note, in the first picture, top left, reflections of these buildings.
Either it was the London air (my preferred story) or my camera, but I wasn’t able to do very spectacular panoramic views. Or maybe panoramic views show regular computer screens at their worst. (I recall being delighted by panoramic print-outs in the past. Wow, it was that good a photo!) Some combination of all that means that I prefer zooming in on distant objects. And you will notice that in the first and the last of this first lot of pictures, when getting near my destination and when leaving it, I included nearby buildings. This made for prettier photos, I think.
It was a bit of while back when I chose those pictures, and now I realise that although they show what you can see from Blythe Hill Fields, they supply only a limited idea of what Blythe Hill Fields is. It’s a big, but quite gently sloping, hill. Covered mostly in fields, with a few footpaths and benches to sit on and admire the view. Surrounded by inner suburbia.
So here are some more pictures I took which show a what those Fields actually look like:
Another look through the complete set, and still there are significant views missing:
Left: the Crystal Palace tower, way off to the left of the big central London views. Centre: looking in the opposite direction from London over … Kent? Somewhere like that. Right: looking out over Far East London to the right of the Docklands Towers view. The views really are panoramic.
And that about covers everything. I think the reason I am being rather completist about showing these pictures is that since I’d never heard of Blythe Hill Fields until about a month ago, I’m guessing the same might apply to you. It certainly is a lovely spot.
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.
Ever since I was reminded of those highly coloured buildings near Centre Point I have been meaning to check them out.
Yesterday, as I had been intending to do for several days, having known for several days of the excellent weather that would prevail yesterday, I did this.
Almost as striking as the buildings themselves are the reflections of their bright colours in nearby windows, and in fact my first clue that I was in the vicinity of my architectural prey was just such a reflection.
Here are some of the pictures I took, in the order I took them in:
I really liked these buildings. I had feared 70s style vulgarity. They are better than that, much better.
And I came to this conclusion before I learned, this evening, while concocting this posting, that they are the work of Renzo Piano. That’s right, the very same man who also designed the Shard:
You might also have once said the area was grey, but not any longer. If you go there now you will see a series of slabs of colour - orange, red, apple green and lemon yellow - vibrant as a row of casseroles in a Conran shop, rising 12 storeys into the sky. These belong to Central St Giles, a nearly complete office development by celebrated Italian architect Renzo Piano. “I wanted to make a building that smiles,” he says in explanation.
And to my eye he as succeeded. He hasn’t just supplied bright buildings. He has brightened up the whole area. I hope they don’t fade, or that if they do, they will be easily restored to their current brightness.
When photoing these colourful slabs of modernity, I concentrated on their sunny side, the south side. When the weather is warmer, I will surely return and check them out some more.
... 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.
Further to what Alastair James said about the panoramic views of central London from Blythe Hill Fields, incoming from Rob Fisher:
Seen this? It’s a gazillion megapixel panorama taken from BT tower. You can zoom in a lot.
I think maybe yes, but it’s good to be reminded of such things.
Plus, I learned something, which is that I must check out these brightly coloured buildings just past Centre Point:
I wonder how such technicolor baubles as these will look in fifteen years time? Drab? Naff? There’s a definite 1970s feel to quite a lot of architecture these days, especially for some reason in the vicinity of the Dome. Look out for (although I promise nothing) further postings here about that rather distressing trend.
There’s lots more stuff happening around Centre Point, in connection with Crossrail, so lots of stuff to photo there. Or at least to try to photo. Sometimes building sites can’t be seen no matter what you try.
Regarding the London panorama, this is but one of many such urban views, there being a website devoted to such things, panoramicly showing you cities all around the world. How long has that been going?
There’s even an app. Above the button for that, it says:
Now with motion-sensitive panorama viewer!
Does this mean that you can hover two hundred feet above yourself? Taking virtual snaps as you look out from your virtual dirigible? If so, cool. And probably cool whatever it is.
Immediately after my first relaunched Last Friday, the one at which Sam Bowman spoke, I suffered a dose of success depression. This is when you achieve a goal, and then feel not happy but empty, because deprived of the goal. The event had gone well. But I expected a little too much from it by way of immediate good consequences. A wise friend who attended the evening later told me that good results would indeed happen, but more gradually than I had been assuming, and that is now starting to happen.
One of the better consequences of these events is that because I send out emails to anyone I half know or know of who I think might be interested in attending, I have re-established contact with a number of friends and semi-friends who I was in danger of losing touch with.
One such, Alastair James, a libertarian friend from way back, recently sent me an email which included this:
I know you mostly like shots of one thing (often with some clutter in the foreground), but if you are also interested in panoramas I wonder if you’ve ever been to Blythe Hill Fields in Lewisham. I think it has some of the best views in London of Canary Wharf and the City but I rarely see it mentioned.
For years I have been nagging people to tell me about good spots to photo London from, but mostly without success. And now that turns up, pretty much unsolicited, merely through me being in touch with Alastair and discussing his son’s sporting triumphs, they being the reason that he often finds Fridays rather hard to do.
As it happens, I had never heard of Blythe Hill Fields, but it immediately sounded very promising, the clues being in the name. A hill, with nothing in the foreground getting in the way, just fields. Ideal for wandering around on, to find the best shots, and so, yesterday it proved.
I immediately found out where Blythe Hill Fields is (from Google maps), identified the nearest station, Honor Oak Park, and soon discovered (from this train website) that there is a train direct to Honor Oak Park from Victoria, which is very near to me. I also learned (from a weather website) on Monday evening, that the short-range weather forecast for Tuesday was, in a word: superb. Not a cloud in the sky, they said, and so it proved. So, a superb forecast in the other sense also.
Yet again, we see here the working through of one of my favourite Laws, which says that new methods of communication (in this case the internet) do not replace older methods of doing things (in this case going there). Rather do the new methods complement and as likely as not reinforce the older methods. Writing gives people more to talk about. Printing makes writing massively more productive, and gives rise to masses more talk. Television adapts books and sells books and provides yet more conversation fodder. Email makes meetings, at which we can all talk to each other some more, far easier to organise and publicise. And now the internet makes wandering around London (also the world) massively easier.
This posting is already getting rather unwieldy, so I’ll hold the photos I took at and around Blythe Hill Fields yesterday for another posting. Instead let me finish up this posting by quoting and commenting on another bit of the Alastair James email, which further emphasises the point about how the internet makes travelling easier, and in his case more fun:
BTW I recently finally got a Smartphone and I find it much easier to follow blogs since I got it – I’ve always felt guilty sitting in front of a PC reading a blog that I’m doing something unproductive. Anyway I just wanted to say that I’ve been reading yours and how much I enjoy it!
You might be surprised to learn what a difference declarations of that sort can make to the morale of a blogger like me, who doesn’t now get many comments, still less comments like that. Without my Fridays, I never get to hear that, which is a perfect example of a somewhat delayed effect that my friend in paragraph one above talked about.
But note also the smartphone thing. Presumably Alastair now uses his to read blogs in circumstances where more serious work would be difficult, such as while travelling.
I am myself currently engaged in buying a smartphone, helped by my friend Michael Jennings (who is giving the next Friday talk this Friday – do come if you want to). Whereas for Alastair James a key app is reading blogs on the move, for me the killer app is definitely being able to learn exactly where I am at any point in my various wanderings, and how to get to where I want to go to next. It would have come in quite handy yesterday, but because of some serendipity that occurred without it (more about that later), I am actually quite glad that yesterday I did not have Google maps with me. That’s another story, for which stay tuned.
I suspect that Alastair and I are not the only ones now, finally, kitting ourselves out with smartphones. I sense a general society-wide stampede in this direction, as the iPhone works its magic. The iPhone defines what a smartphone is, and all those for whom money is no object get one. That tells the Taiwanese copyists what to copy at half the price, and now they have pretty much got there.
I will also be buying a “bluetooth” (Michael J says that will work) keyboard, much like the black keyboard in this posting (scroll down a bit), to go with my smartphone, the idea being that I will be able to type stuff in as well as read things. (That keyboard is also a straight copy, in black, of an Apple keyboard, incidentally. Again with the Apple influence.) A smartphone screen too small for typing, you say? My very first computer, an Osborne, had a screen that was hardly any bigger, and I loved that. Osborne equals a very stupid version of a smartphone, plus a keyboard, plus half a ton of electro-crap that is no longer needed. Discuss. I feel one of those ain’t-capitalism-grand postings for Samizdata coming on.
The trouble with my current laptop is that, like the Osborne if with less extremity, it is still quite heavy. This means that I don’t always have it with me, in fact I pretty much now never have it with me, because when I do take it with me on my travels I often never actually use it, and in the meantime greatly resent its weight. The idea is that I will always have my smartphone with me (obviously), and always (fingers crossed) with the keyboard. So whenever a blogging opportunity beckons, when I am out and about, I will be able to respond.
The smartphone I am getting also has a rather good camera included. It’ll be interesting to compare that camera with my present one.
The reason for all my meandering about in the London Bridge stroke Southwark stroke Waterloo area last Thursday was that I needed to be at London Bridge to photo the bottom of the Shard before it got too dark, in other words around 4pm, but then had to wait around until after 7pm, before going to the Rose and Crown for the Libertarian Home social. Had I gone home, I’d only have had to turn around and come back again, more or less immediately. Hence all the meandering.
The LH social was a lot of fun. There was no one big conversation, just lots of little ones, and one of mine was about architecture and city planning. The problem of how to switch from a statist world to a libertarian one without destroying lots of sacred buildings was touched on, which I think is a very good question. Libertarians aren’t the Taleban, but the early effect might be the same if we aren’t careful. And if we don’t have answers to such questions, we won’t get very far.
Also on an architectural theme, I was reminded of these photos, by the man, “Ian F4”, who took them. He still had them on his mobile, and reminded me that he had put them in a comment here, on this posting. They deserve greater prominence, and at the very least, another showing:
I love how, in the left hand photo, a bright light (or in this case a bright reflection of the sun) makes everything else go dark.
The one on the right is the shot of the Shard from near the bottom of the Monument,
It was Ian F4 who got me doing this mad series of Thursday Odyssey postings, by telling me about how he reads my blog. This cheered me up no end, and I decided to have a bit of a go here, more than I have been doing lately. So, all these recent postings are his fault.
My Thursday Odyssey continued, and I finally arrived at my first official destination of the day. I visited various other places, but only in passing.
The idea was not to find out how the Shard now looks from half a mile away, because all who care now know that. My self-imposed Shard mission last Thursday was to start learning about how the bottom of it is being organised, close to.
My main discovery was that the bottom of the Shard is a bit like the bottom of a Christmas Tree. The sloping glass that we all see from afar doesn’t go right to the ground. Okay, it’s not one single trunk at the bottom, in the middle, of course not. And actually there are big columns quite near where the sloping glass would have been, had it gone right down to the ground. But it is a bit more like a Christmas Tree than I was expecting.
Here are some of the pictures I took:
What I had not realised was how near to London Bridge Station it would end up being. And in fact, there are parts of that station’s concourse area which are directly underneath the Shard. The last two photos show this. The second last one has me looking up through the roof of the station concourse, and seeing the building itself looming upwards. The final shot includes several tree trunks, so to speak.
In general, I like the way the bottom of the building is starting to look, very much. So much of the harm done to cities in earlier times was blamed on towers, but was actually caused by the bad way towers were often handled at ground level.
It’s not all finished yet. There is a big bus station next to the train station, but the buses are not yet going there, as one of the above snaps in particular shows. There are still fences around the place, with propaganda about how wonderful it would be to live or work or stay in the Shard. The state of the world economy has meant that they are still hard selling the building, and presumably could face considerable losses. As of now, business is (as the old Hollywood joke goes) fantastic, amazing, incredible, amazing … but it’s picking up.
I didn’t think to enquire about what the system is for sampling The View From The Shard, which is the kind of thing I like to investigate in real life rather than only on line, given that I can. And I might have ventured into the station itself, the bit where the trains go I mean, to see how the Shard fits in with the nearest platform to it. But it was cold, and anyway, the joy of actually living in the object of my photographic passion (London) is that I can keep going back, to investigate the things I only wished I had investigated the first time around.
Yesterday, I lived my life, but I am determined, having started, to finish telling you about last Thursday.
So, okay, I have now arrived at Westminster Tube Station.
Most tube stations consist of lots of underground tubes, not just for the trains but also for the people. Westminster Tube Station is different.
In its original form, it was a regular tube station, made entirely out of tubes. But then they built Portcullis House across the road from Big Ben and Parliament, the one with the giant chimneys on top, where MPs now have vast new quantities of office space to wreak their havoc. Many think powerful MPs are a good thing, because they will “hold the executive to account” better, but what they mostly now do is nag the executive to bite off more and more unchewable activity, and complain if the executive ever doesn’t.
While they were building Portcullis House, they combined that with doing a total rebuild of the tube station right underneath it.
And this time around, instead of grubbing about in the ground like moles, they just dug a huge, huge hole, like they do when building any other new building. Just deeper.
As a result, the process of getting from station entrance to train, or from train to train (what with the station now being an interchange between the District and Circle Line, and the newer Jubilee Line - which is the one I was taking), is as dramatic and theatrical as battling through a regular tube station is grim and demeaning and demoralising. At Westminster Tube, you now go up and down inside a huge open space, like a department store with no stuff in it, and grey rather than all spangly and coloured. I love it, even though it has a decidedly fascist feel to it, maybe even because it has a decidedly fascist feel to it. At least its stylish fascism, rather than just lumpy and cloddish. But mainly, I think I love it because it is so different from a regular tube station.
While there last Thursday, I only took one shot, namely this:
Had I known I was on a Blogged Odyssey, I would have taken many more shots, of all that dramatic open space with science fictiony structure in among it, supporting the building above and the escalators within, but on Thursday all I thought I was doing was taking the tube. I would have taken shots like the ones here. Someone really should set a movie gun fight in this place, don’t you think? Perhaps they already have.
As for my picture above, it puzzled me for a while. At first I thought the right-way-round Westminster tube sign was some kind of double reflection, but there is only one sheet of glass involved, so it can’t be that. In the end I cracked it, metaphorically speaking. The Westminster tube sign is where it seems to be, but how it looks is confused by the reflection of the wall behind me. It looks like the sign is projected onto the wall. In fact, the wall behind me is projected onto the sign. To the left, you can see the regular wall that the tube sign is actually attached to.
That white circular thing behind me, actually a fire hose I think, looks like a full moon.
Once again, I fear most may not care. But photographed reflections are a thing of mine.