Brian Micklethwait's Blog
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Category archive: Cranes
Another French picture, but this time taken in Paris, by my friend Antoine Clarke (to whom thanks):
That would be La Defense, unless I am much mistaken, that being Paris’s new Big Thing district.
I cropped that photo slightly, to moderate that leaning-inwards effect you get when you point a camera upwards at tall buildings.
The email that brought the above snap to my desk, earlier this month, was entitled “warmer than when you were here last”. When I last visited Paris, it was indeed very, very cold, so cold that water features became ice features (see the first picture there).
Today, Antoine sent me another photo, also suffering somewhat from leaning-inwards syndrome, and also cropped by me, more than somewhat. See right.
Mostly what I think about Antoine’s most recent picture is: What an amazing crane! So very tall, and so very thin. It’s amazing it even stays up, let alone manages to accomplish anything. I don’t remember cranes like that existing a generation ago, but maybe that’s merely because no towers that high were being built in London. Not that Antoine’s crane is in London. It is somewhere in America, but where, I do not know.
I just did a bit of googling for books about cranes, and if my googling is anything to go by, books about construction cranes and their history are a lot thinner on the ground than are construction cranes. When you consider how many tons of books have been written about the buildings that construction cranes construct, it is surprising that so little is written about the mighty machines without which such construction would be impossible.
It reminds me of the analogous profusion of books on the history of science, and the comparative neglect of the history of scientific instruments.
As I think I have written before, one major defect of my blog-posting software is that I do not get an accurate picture of how the final blog posting will look, and in this case, whether there is enough verbiage on the left hand side of this tall thin picture of a tall thin crane, to prevent the picture of the tall thin crane impinging upon the posting below. Hence this somewhat verbose and superfluous paragraph, which may not even have been necessary, but I can’t now tell.
I am in the town of Thuir, near Perpignan, for a few days. Last night, in fading but still fabulous light, looking more amusing sights. I was not disappointed.
I’m guessing that the thinking here is that nicking a crane, or even getting inside a crane, is quite an operation, what with cranes being rigged so they’re unenterable if you are not the designated owner. But, nicking a cement mixer is just a matter of lifting it onto your vehicle. So, here is how you protect your cement mixer when you go home at night:
Cranes. Is there anything they can’t do?
Typing text is a struggle in Thuir, because in Thuir, they have slightly different keyboards to what I am used to. But photos, which in Thuir need different software to work, are also a struggle. So, blogging here for the next few days will probably (I promise nothing), as always here, be light and perfunctory, the difference being that here I have an excuse.
And I was deliberately retracing steps I used to do make a lot of around eight or ten years ago, to see what had changed and what had not. A lot had changed, in the form of a few big new buildings. The rest had not changed.
Did I say that that sunset I recently posted photos of was last Saturday? Yes. Actually it was the Friday. Get ill and you lose track of time. That evening I also took a lot of other photos, on and from the south bank of the river, between Blackfriars road bridge and Tower Bridge, and here are some of the ones I particularly liked:
That array of small photos (click on any you like to the look of to get it a decent size) really should not now be misbehaving, on any platform. If it is, please get in touch, by comment or by email.
As to the pictures themselves:
1.1 A Deliberately Bald Bloke standing at the bottom of 240 Blackfriars. (You can see the top of 240 Blackfriars in 3.1 here.) That Deliberately Bald look is, I think, fair game photo-blogging-wise. The guy is choosing to look this way. It’s a fashion statement, not an affliction. Blog-mocking the involuntarily bald is not right, but blog-celebrating those who embrace their baldness is fine. Especially if the guy obligingly turns his face away.
1.2 is one of my favourite weird London sites, namely the topless columns of the Blackfriars Bridge that isn’t, in between the two Blackfriars Bridges that are, the one on the right now sporting a new station on it. The twist is that this was high tide, and waves were rhythmically breaking against a corner in the river wall and filling the air between my camera and the bridges with bits of water.
1.3 is a building on the other side of the river. Just beyond the Blackfriars Station bridge. I do love what light and scaffolding and scaffolding covers sometimes do.
1.4 and 2.1 illustrate the universal photography rule to the effect that if you want to photo something very familiar, like St Paul’s Cathedral, you’d better include something else not so familiar, such as some propaganda for a current Tate Modern show that I will perhaps investigate soon, or maybe four big circles that you can see at the Tate Modern end of the Millennium Bridge.
2.2 is an ancient and modern snap, both elements of which I keep meaning to investigate. Those two buildings, the office block and the church, are like two people I frequently meet, but don’t know the names of. Luckily, with buildings, it’s not embarrassing to ask, far too late.
I know what that Big Thing behind the Millennium Bridge in 2.3 is, under wraps, being reconditioned, improved, made worse, whatever, we’ll have to see. That’s Centre Point. It even says most of that on it. I have always been fond of Centre Point, one of London’s early Big New Things.
2.4 features something I have tried and failed to photo several times previously, a Deliveroo Man. Deliveroo Men are usually in a great hurry and are gone before I can catch them, but this one was taking a breather. Deliveroo Men carry their plasticated corrugated boxes on their backs like rucksacks, which I presume saves valuable seconds.
3.1: Another ancient/modern snap. The very recognisable top of the Shard, and another piece of ancientness that I am familiar with but have yet to get around to identifying, see above. I reallyl should have photoed a sign about it. I bet there is one.
3.2: The golden top of the Monument, now dwarfed by the Gherkin and by the Walkie Talkie.
3.3: A golden hinde, which is to be found at the front of the Golden Hinde. I’ve seen that beast before, but never really noticed it.
3.4: Another ancient/modern snap, this time with Southwark Cathedral dominating the foreground. The combined effect yet again vindicates Renzo Piano’s belief that the Shard would blend into London rather than just crow all over it. Those broken fragments at the top echo the four spikes on the nearby Cathedral. It looks that way to me, anyway.
4.1: Another delivery snap, this time of the old school sort. A White Van. But with lots of propaganda all over it, notably the back door, in the new school style.
4.2: Yet another ancient modern contrast, this time the Monument, again, with a machine for window cleaning. Note that small tripoddy object on the top of the Monument. I suspect that this is to give advance warning if the Monument starts to wobble.
4.3: Two exercises in power projection, now both lapsed into tourist traps. Behind, the Tower of London. In front, HMS Belfast.
4.4: Finally! Modern/modern! The Walkie Talkie and the Cheesegrater, and probably my favourite snap of all these. Not a view you often see in other photos, but there it was. Should the bottom be cropped away, to simplify it even more. I prefer to leave photos as taken.
5.1 shows that thing when reflected light is the exact same colour when reflected as originally. Photography is light, so photography sees this. But eyes always try to create a 3D model of what is going on, rather than just a 2D picture. Eyes deliberately don’t see this.
5.2 and 5.4 take me back to my beautiful-women-taking-photos phase, which was big last decade. These two were too good to ignore. They were just so happy! But, mobile phones, which is very this decade. Just like my cameras, the cameras in these just get better and better.
5.3 is another view of that amazing cluster of footbridges.
Being sick as in feeling sick, and occasionally being sick as in being sick. As in expelling stuff I had previous eaten from my mouth.
Quota photo time:
There is so much light crashing across London from west to east that evening the eastern clouds were lit up pink, like they were a sunset or something. So I know what you are thinking. It must have been one hell of a sunset to do that. And you are not wrong:
If I wasn’t sick I probably wouldn’t indulge in such a lurid sunset, which I photoed last Saturday evening on Tower Bridge. But I am sick. I can do what I like.
Actually, it’s already getting better. But wish me well anyway.
There is, as I write, deep joy, a crane in operation, right outside my kitchen window. I can see it now, lifting steel girders onto the roof of a building that is being revamped, from an office into flats, across the yard from me.
Yesterday, I did something I haven’t done for a while, which is I attempted to get onto the roof of my block of flats. I succeeded. More deep joy. The door was unlocked.
Here is a picture I took of the crane, yesterday afternoon, just as it was folding itself up after its day’s work. The men in yellow had finished their work also, and the crane was about to descend back into the street whence it came:
I have not seen this process before, which is so central to how these things operate. It is not enough that they must be able to do their job, of lifting up things like girders and depositing them accurately into the midst of a building. At least some of them have to be able to hoist themselves up, and unhoist themselves down again afterwards. I mean, if you could only ever erect a crane with the help of another crane, where would it end?
A crane like the one in the last of these pictures that I showed here last Sunday, is another crane of the sort that can raise itself up off a lorry and immediately start work, and it is pretty clear just from looking at it approximately how it does this, even if its internal workings are slightly mysterious. But the manner in which the above crane operates isn’t quite so obvious. You need to see it to really appreciate it. And now I have.
I’m not exactly sure which it was of the cranes here that I saw in action, but that is definitely the website of the crane hire enterprise concerned.
Last Thursday, I said I would be checking out the Big Olympic Thing, and I did. The expedition was very satisfactory. I got there. I purchased, from a human, a one-year season ticket for a tenner. I ascended to the top. I took photos. I came home again. And I shall return to the B(ig) O(lympic) T(hing) and take better photos, from it if not of it, or at any rate different photos (see below).
First sighting of the BOT, as I emerged from the Westfield Shopping Centre:
Scaffolding, good. Trees mostly without leaves, good.
I still wasn’t sure how to get there exactly, but I was, as the sportsmen say, in the right areas. I asked around, and found my way, and while on my way photoed this part of a bigger map, concentrating on the area I was in at the time:
My destination is described on this map as “Arcelormittal Orbit”. It’ll never catch on.
Photoing maps when on photo-expeditions is very good, especially if the map says “you are here”, somewhere in it, which alas this one does not. Even so, this map shows where I went pretty well.
I started at the DLR station, in the clump of transport signs to the far right. I went through the pale blue expanse that is the Westfield shopping centre, along “The Street”, and then along “Stratford Walk”. Then I emerged into the open and negotiated my way past the “International Quarter”, following that big red arrow that points towards the stadium, and by then it was pretty clear.
Neither the area around the BOT nor the BOT itself is finished. There is a notable lack of any enterprise selling food or drink, and the whole place now has the air of a holding operation.
Here, for instance, was the seething mass of humanity with whom I competed for space on the lift to the top of the BOT:
Next, I’m looking out through the top of the BOT to the Big Things of the middle of London, which as you can see are actually quite a way away. Below is the Olympic Stadium:
I took closer-up shots, of course, of which this is my favourite:
The reason this shot is my favourite is that it aligns two Things you don’t often see aligned, namely the towers of Tower Bridge and, right behind them, the three-eyed Thing that is the Strata. At the time I thought I was photoing only the Strata. It turns out I was photoing an Alignment of the sort I so much like, but by mistake. I love it when that happens.
6k, in a comment on my earlier BOT posting, asked about The Slide. He’s talking about this, which is a graphic I saw at tht top of the BOT just as I was leaving. I left in rather a hurry because the BOT was closing, hence the rather sloppy nature of this snap:
But, as I often like to say about my pictures, you get the picture. That is what The Slide is going to look like. More about that in the Dezeen posting about the BOT Slide that 6k kindly linked to.
6k asked if The Slide is finished yet. Answer: It has hardly started. Not started at all in any way you’d notice. See the next picture but one below.
Meanwhile here is another graphic that I photoed, at the bottom of the BOT, on the outside:
What we see there is how the view from the top of the BOT looks when the sun is off to the side rather than straight ahead, as the sun was in all of my photos of those Big Things. And when a Real Photographer is on the job.
Memo-to-self: Some time quite soon, I shall be consulting the weather forecast and making a trip out to the BOT again, in the morning.
Second-to-last shot, showing the total absence so far of any Slide action, and the Olympic Stadium, soon to be occupied by West Ham United:
Note once again the insane competition from massed humans for the facilities on offer. Not.
I will end with a shot of the BOT and a crane, snapped from just outside Pudding Mill Lane DLR, which is one of my favourite DLR stops if only because of its name. This makes the point yet again that this whole area is very much work in progress rather than finished. The Slide is yet to come, as is a lot of other stuff:
See the very bottom of the map snap above for the location of Pudding Mill Lane. As you can see from that snap, even despite its truncatedness, there is a lot of Olympicness for me to explore that I did not explore on this particular expedition. Like I say, I shall return.
Bright sunlight on a basically rather dull day can make the most commonplace objects seem heavenly. But when a shaft of sunlight slashed across Cape Town earlier in the week, it hit a big container ship and a flock of container cranes, who ended up looking like a herd of giraffes. Amazing. And crying out to be horizontalised:
I was saving that for yesterday, because yesterday was Friday and my day for animals (the more bizarre the better). But come yesterday, I forgot.
Too good to delay, too good to ignore.
Photoed by me, when I visited Barcelona in the summer of 2005:
This began like as an advert, but has mutated into Art. It seems to be quite a big deal, over there in Barcelona. My picture is of it supported by a structure which has since been replaced.
I have been a bit ill. Still am, rather. Hence this rather random posting, even by my random standards, and hence also the fact that although I tried to find out what this owl originally advertised, I pretty soon gave up. Anyone?
I was going to put up a picture I took of the Sagrada Familia (the big spikey Gaudi cathedral), with cranes. But the internet is full of pictures of the Sagrada Familia, without cranes, and also with cranes.
How cranes might not keep falling
White vans in Kentish Town
148 to Burgess Park
Orange coloured London
Matt Ridley on Epicurus and Lucretius
Less heat and more light
Remembering the summer sun
Very local fog in London
Man on horseback – and cranes
BT Tower with cranes
Crane on fire
A day in BMdotcom heaven (4): A tale of two penultimate overs
Some quota reflected cranes and a quota white van
Rainbow over Millbank
Photoing down by the river
Cranes and a bridge (but not in a good way)
The light outside the Proud Archivist on the evening of July 22nd
Golden Cheesegrater with cranes
With GD2 in Richmond Park (1): Views of London
Photographers by the river
Smoke over west London
A very distant and yet very good view of the Big Things of London
Big Thing alignments from the top of Westminster Cathedral
The new Wembley Stadium under construction plus a white van
Ballerina and crane
The view from outside Waterloo Station
How Centre Point is looking just now
Viewing the clutter at Centre Point
A weird view of the Wheel - and cats in Tiger
The wrong kind of cranes
Christmas Day photos
In the City with Gus
I just like it
Sunshine - construction work - artificial rain
The ballerina and her support act
Ballerina with cranes again - this time with added spy cameras
Quota ballerina with cranes photo
A tumult of cranes (and the Spraycan)
My week in Brittany 2: A crane holding a bridge at Canning Town!
Big Things through a gasometer
Smaller Old Thing in front of Big New Things
A Sunday ramble
Big Things in the sunset
What to call the sneerquote Salesforce /sneerquote tower? (plus a quite profound tangent)
Compact Cats buried under London’s poshest homes
Pavlova with cranes
I see cats
Me and the first cranes at London Gateway last September
Other things last Wednesday
South Bank Architects?
The ROH from the ME Rooftop Bar
Eiffel Tower with chimney pots – La Défense ditto
The text of my talk for Christian Michel last night on the impact of digital photography
Digital photography as telepathy
Ice sculptures in Docklands – Big Things from Docklands
Battersea crane cluster
Quota crane and quota plane
Ballerina with crane
More photos of things past
The Kelpies of Falkirk
I need to photo this again
Sunrise from my roof
My own personal Big Thing viewing platform with close-up Roof Clutter
Cranes seen through Cardinal Place
Another picture from yesterday
Birds on a crane
Two favourite photos from September 5th
Baltimore: cranes - a bridge - scaffolding
London Gateway from above
Shard with roof clutter and a crane
There are cranes and there are cranes
Wandering about afterwards
Art without Artists
Giant cranes made in China for new London super-port in Thurrock
Four crane photos
Progress with the Vauxhall crane
New crane up
A new crane has already arrived
Close-up of the ruined Vauxhall crane
In Borough High Street
Cranes over Vincent Square (again)