Every now and again in my day job I get to do something quite amazing and unique. This week was one such occasion as I got to go on a tour of one of the City's tower developments.
Now this is a building that is going to be 52-storeys when it's complete and it's definitely not complete, well it is nearly at full height but such 'fripperies' as glazing have only started being fitted on the lower levels.
Access to the upper floors (30-ish is as high as we went) is via an external hoist and then an internal hoist. We finished off the last few floors using a temporary staircase which is scarily close to the edge of the building.
On the upper floors there is just fresh air and a chest high metal barrier between you and a plunge. My hands are sweating just thinking about it. To say it was a monumental battle of mind over matter for someone who doesn't like heights is an understatement but I was determined not to miss such a fabulous opportunity. The views are incredible and there is no glass to hinder photography.
Sadly there will be no public viewing platform and I'm quite jealous of those people for whom it will be their work place when it's finished.
What I loved the most was being so close to the City's other iconic towers, you get to see detail on those buildings few others see.
London was dusted with the white stuff yesterday (more forecast today). It's become an annual thing in recent years or so it seems to me, I'm sure it never used to be thus in the capital.
Expect more snowy shots later but here are a couple I snapped, in my slippers, from the front door about an hour into the first flurries (it's cold ;0)
I like Leake Street's contradictory appearance. On the one hand it looks threatening and gritty. It runs underneath the railway lines behind Waterloo Station and you can hear the trains rumbling overhead. It's exactly the sort of street your mum told you never to walk down.
But when you do it is something quite different, a gallery of graffiti, a showcase of urban artistic talent. It has its own page on Wikipedia and is known as 'Banksy Tunnel' having hosted the artist's 'Cans Festival' five years ago.
It's a place where graffiti artists are encouraged and unlike the graffiti gallery underneath the Queen Elizabeth Hall on the nearby South Bank, you can get up close without fear of getting in the way of skateboarders.
One day, I'm going to go back with my big camera. One day.
London is getting very good at putting on free stuff.
Take today, Regent Street and Piccadilly Circus were closed to traffic and a series of stages were set up for a variety of circus acts - even high up between the pillars of one building a long rope dangled begging for a performer.
From professionals to newbies from schools and clubs: trapeze, juggling, dance, acrobatics, tightrope - almost too much going on at once you could just wander from stage to stage. And, among the crowds there was the odd character or two to spot as well as pot plants and park benches down the middle of the road on which to take a bit of a break.
Yesterday I caught one of the trapeze acts rehearsing and you can see those pics here.
Official website with lots of pics posted on social media
Just catching up with a bag log of photo editing...and if it carries on snowing all night then I'll have plenty of time to do some more tomorrow.
Anyway, while I was off at Christmas, one crisp cold day I walked up to Hyde Park where there is a fun fair every year.
Walked into town today which I haven't done for a while owing to the convenience of the Boris bikes (and not leaving enough time). Wasn't exactly planned as someone was convinced that it was an hour later than it actually was*, ahem, so I only had my iPhone on me. It was a beautiful crisp, cold winter day...
I know you aren't supposed to take shots straight into the sun but I actually love the effect. The light always give the picture so much atmosphere and the colours can create a different time frame and sense of place.
You can see the rest on my Flickr account
* I woke up stupidly early so it felt later as I'd been up a long time. And that's the excuse I'm sticking to.
Took a trip on the Firth of the Forth recently (it was work, honest) and it just happened to be a beautiful clear Autumn day, just about mild enough to stay out on the upper deck.
Have traversed the road and rail bridges many times but never got to see the latter from the water before. It was quite stunning.
Had a breakfast meeting at the top of Centrepoint a few weeks back. I've wanted to go up Centrepoint for a long time as it's one of the few towers in the West End and so you can look back towards the City and Docklands. Fortunately it was a bright and clear early Autumn morning and the light was magical. (And of course I had my camera with me - the grainier shots were taken with my iPhone.)
London had a distinct holiday feel to it today. No surprise because it's Good Friday but that combined with the unseasonably warm sunshine and the Royal Wedding being just a week away gave the city an extra air of festive spirit.
Saturday was one of those days when just the simplest things put a smile on my face. It was a beautiful blue-sky day with some of the year's first warmth in the sun's rays. I spent a chunk of the day roaming with my camera capturing more signs of spring and enjoying the entertainers that proliferate public spaces in London when the weather is good.
Particularly like the street dancers (more pics over on Flickr)
After seemingly endless gloom there were a couple of days this week that were mild and sunny and very Spring-like. The days are getting noticeably longer - if I leave the office on time there is still a bit of light in the sky by the time I get home which helps lift the spirits immensely.
Today started out bright and sunny and I got out with my camera for the first time. The brightness soon turn to heavy clouds and rain, some very damp washing on my return home the stark reminder that we aren't quite over winter yet. But I did get a few pics of the first signs of Spring before the weather turned:
First blue sky in London for what seems like weeks so I wrapped up against this persistent cold spell, took a Boris bike down to Waterloo and then spent an hour or two strolling about with my camera with the eventual aim of walking all the way home.
Just beyond Lambeth Bridge I was struck by the colour of the sky. In the picture it has come out almost like a sunset or sunrise but the sun was in fact midway through its trajectory.
I purposefully shot towards the sun as I like the effect it can sometimes have in the lens. But the picture turned out to be much better than I imagined as I'd inadvertently positioned the sun right behind the lamp making it appear to be on and radiating light.
Complete fluke but then those often are the best shots.
Another fab opportunity cropped up at work this week. I got the chance to go inside the Shard. For those not from this neck of the woods, the Shard is a Renzo Piano-designed tower under construction next to London Bridge Station. When it's completed next year it will be the tallest commercial building in Europe.
The reason for the work trip is that the central core has been completed up to the 72nd storey making it the highest structure in the UK. I got to go up to the 24th floor (there will be 87 floors when it's finished).
Now 24 floors doesn't sound that high relative to 87 and there was the option to go up to the 31st floor but this entailed going in one of the cage lifts that the construction crew use and which are attached to the outside of the building. The outside of the building. My hands are starting to sweat just typing that so it won't surprise you when I say my fear of heights took over and I chickened out.
But the views from 24th on a beautifully crisp and clear day were still amazing and of course I had my camera. How many famous London landmarks can you spot?
Firstly I went away with my brother. We were close when we were growing up as we are virtually the same age (his Dad married my Mum when were eight) and my biological brother and sister were both older leaving just the two of us at home with the parents when we were 11.
We haven't been away together since we were 16 and, as the years have rolled by, busy lives and greater physical distance has meant we haven't spent any prolonged time together since we left home.
But we rubbed along fine, just as soon as I'd worked out that his propensity to give too much information about bodily functions had not diminished with age and that his peeing with the bathroom door open was a given.
The second discovery, well it wasn't so much a discovery as I suspected how I'd feel, was the 'resort hotel'.
Sharm is like the Blackpool of Egypt. The explosion of budget airlines adding it to their routes and the fact that it provides hot winter sun (34C every day during my visit) just 5 hour flight from Blighty has turned it from a prime dive destination into a cheesy tourist trap full of hotels and malls with Starbucks and Pizza Hut.
Seems like ages ago now but at the end of October I headed over to Ireland to see a play with @polyg.
We arrived at lunchtime and it was a beautiful bright autumn day so we went for a stroll and checked out a photography gallery (and a tea shop!). Sadly we couldn't find the Leprechaun Museum despite it appearing to be well signposted.
The play - John Gabriel Borkman starring Mr Alan Rickman* - was the reason for our trip but I did take a few pictures.
* Have added Professor Snape to my list of actors in Harry Potter that I've seen on stage. Professor McGongal is high on my list now but I don't know whether Maggie Smith still does stage work.
Leicester Square has a fun fair at regular times during the year and I've always wanted to try out taking shots with slow shutter speeds but never seem to have my tripod on me when I'm in the area after dark. Until last night.
I loved the different effects on the carousel as I slowed the shutter down more and more. Once I had the speed sussed I turned my attention to a different ride. Really pleased with my results as its a first attempt. The second ride looks like a catherine wheel.
Only had my mini tripod on me so I was restricted to taking shots from where I could lean on something. Next time I'll take the big tripod....
It's been busy, busy, busy what with the London Film Festival keeping me busy but I've still managed to squeeze in the odd theatre trip or three and this week saw me venture forth from London to Sheffield to see Life on Mars/24 Hour Party People star John Simm play Hamlet.
Now Sheffield is one of the few cities in the UK I've left to visit. My job has taken me to most, so it is nice to tick somewhere off for pleasure reasons rather than work. Lots of people had told me nice things about the South Yorkshire city. Built on the steel industry, it's wealthy past is written all over its grand old architecture.
But what makes Sheffield a particularly nice city is that the centre has seen some tasteful modern development. Not only new buildings but there are some great open spaces that showcase its beautiful old civic buildings alongside some wonderful steel inspired modern public art and fountains. There are a lot of fountains.
The weather was great too so naturally I took my camera for a wander. I played around with shutter speeds on a lot of the water shots. Spot the difference. Oh and Hamlet, well thoughts on that are over on theatre if you are interested.
The weather reports seem to have been promising a warm sunny days for a week. Yesterday's forecasted sun didn't materialised and this morning it didn't look particularly hopeful either.
But the met office website and the BBC both had big sun symbols from mid morning onwards so I risked jinxing things, grabbed my camera and headed off into Belgravia to meet my friend Kate for a coffee.
Am glad I did because the weather turned from this:
So naturally I took full advantage. Here are a some of my favourite shots, the rest you can find over on my flickr site, should be interested.
Had a function in an empty office building out of town yesterday. Such a huge empty space with floor to ceiling windows and lovely end of day light through a stormy sky bouncing off the bare metal flooring. Only wish I'd had my bigger camera with me.
And then at the end of the long and busy day I got to go back to this lovely serviced apartment where I was staying with a couple of colleague. We had a duplex apartment on the 12th floor with a balcony overlooking the city. Shame I didn't get to spend more time there.
It was a lovely day so I went walking with my camera:
Smithfield meat market
Then I met up with Poly for a back stage tour of the Almeida Theatre as it was Open House weekend (all the pics are over here on Theatre if you are interested
After that we got the bus back into town and had a lunch stop at the lovely Soho Thai where I used to eat when I worked around the corner on Wardour Street:
Then we went to the Curzon for a sneaky glass of wine on the comfy leather sofa's while we waited to see I'm Still Here which is definitely a mockumentary, I've since discovered, although I'd pretty much made up my mind it was when I saw it. Listed my reasons and what I thought of it generally over on film
After that we headed out west to Shepherds Bush for a cuppa and then my first trip to the tiny Bush Theatre where Ralph Little of Royle Family fame and Mackenzie Crook of The Office and Pirates of the Caribbean fame were starring in an American play called The Aliens.
August has seen some particularly poo weather - even for England. In fact it has been so cool and wet, tights even made a reappearance for the Rev Stan wardrobe this week. Tights! In August! I'm still in shock as you can tell from the exclamation marks. Here's another one just to make the point!
As a consequence there hasn't been a great deal of point in taking the camera out. Today the forecast was for more settled weather but it was gloomy so camera stayed at home once again. But when I emerged from a basement restaurant in Soho with my friend Kate, after eating half our body weight in ribs, to find newly drenched pavements but beautiful blue skies I was glad to give my new baby an opportunity to perform.
This little beauty I managed to capture while strolling across St James' Park on my way home on Thursday afternoon. OK so cards on the table, I'd had to use the loo and the attendant was standing in the doorway feeding this beautiful mummy squirrel. With nobody else around she was quite content to just eat and have her photo taken. (More piccies over on Flickr).
But this was towards the end of Thursday, my slightly chilled day, having had a nice massage at Relax and then treated myself to tea and cake at the fabulous Mrs Murengo's or rather raspberry and chocolate truffle cake and green tea. All gluten and dairy free, yum, yum, yum in my tum.
Slight cheat by combining two days in one post but Tuesday was overcast so I didn't fancy going out with my camera. Instead I went to the cinema to see the latest installment in the Chanel story: Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky which I wrote about over on my film blog.
Then in the evening I headed over to West London to see the European premiere of a new play by Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Suzan-Lori Park at the tiny pub theatre the Finborough which I've written about on my theatre blog.
Sooo that was Tuesday and on to yesterday.
Weather forecast was a bit more promising so I headed up into town to visit the Banqueting House on Whitehall. Pass it all the time but have never visited. It's in the care of the Royal Palaces being the only remaining building of the Palace of Whitehall which Henry VIII had built. There isn't actually anything left from Henry's original Palace but BH dates from James I who had it built on the site.
There is only one room to look around but, wow, what a room. It was built for ambassadors' receptions and masques which were lavish part theatre/part ball affairs. The partying came to an end though when James commissioned painter Reubens to create a series of pictures for the ceiling at a cost of £3,000 (bear in mind that was an phenomenal amount of money back in the C17th) and didn't want them messed up.
The paintings are significant also because they symbolise the extravagance and lavish lifestyle of Charles who was to earn the wrath of Parliament and spark civil war. He was beheaded on a scaffold built outside the Banqueting House and accessed from just outside the room with the beautiful paintings he spent so much money on.
All very interesting and educational.
A combination of replenishing holiday savings, never having had any more than a day or two off at home during the summer (or what passes for one here) and my deputy about to go off on maternity has led me to deciding on a week's staycation.
Not one for doing too much practical stuff around the home, I want to make the most of London visiting exhibitions and museums and of course going to the theatre and cinema. And as I'd normally keep a journal on holiday thought I'd keep up the tradition here.
So yesterday was technically my first working day off and I had some theatre tickets to buy. I've already got a ticket for a new play at the wonderful pub theatre the Finborough, for Tuesday (technically tonight now) but I got some theatre tokens for my birthday which I save for those specially selected expensive West End plays I really want to see, to help keep the cost down.
So first stop was the Old Vic in Waterloo to pick up something for their production of Noel Coward's Design for Living at the beginning of September (love a bit of Noel Coward).
Then as I was in that part of town I walked over to Tate Modern. Ok, so I'm going to confess, I have this thing which a friend has so appropriately labelled 'bladder leash' which basically means, owing to having a bladder the size of a walnut, I plan my routes according to where I know there are loos. I wasn't planning to actually go to the Tate Modern but I needed a comfort break and knew they could oblige.
And I'm glad I did head there because they have a great exhibition on at the moment called: Exposed - Voyeurism, Surveillance & the Camera which I decided to stop and see.
It explores photography in which the subjects are unsuspecting, a lot of great candid stuff of people just going about their own thing. There are also rooms devoted to the voyeuristic elements of photography with some moving pictures from wars including that famous one from Vietnam of the girl running crying naked away from a bomb.
It's well worth the £10 entry fee and really inspiring. In fact I came out and immediately started trying to take pictures of unsuspecting subjects:
Spent a few days up north with my friend Chris for her wedding.
Chris has a cat called Billy. Billy likes routine. Billy especially likes his 'mummy', Chris's husband-to-be.
So he was not best pleased that hubby was away for the night before the wedding and told us so at frequent intervals during the night after tapping at our doors, just to make sure we were awake.
And he certainly wasn't happy the next morning being in a house with an increasingly nervous and excited bride and maid of honour getting ready for the wedding but decided to save his display of disapproval for later.
"Ha! I'll teach them!" he thought to himself as he was sat on Chris' bed, when the house was finally quiet, and was then sick.
Happy Wedding Day from Billy so to speak.
Had my first chance to put what I learnt on my photography course into practice today.
Light was a bit hit a miss as the sun kept going behind clouds and it was breezy which made some of the close ups a bit tricky to nail but I managed to have a play with aperture and shutter speed. I'm quite pleased with the results - glad I remembered everything, well most of it.
Well, not really school, an adult education college for a three day intro to digital photography course.
Met some great people and picked up some great tips. Almost understand aperture/depth of field now and I know how to use a few more setting on my camera.
I must confess it wasn't quite what I expected and we didn't cover as much as I thought we would but it has certainly whet my appetite to maybe do another course.
Our instructor was Dominic Harris who is a professional photographer. He was one of the people chosen to spend an hour on the spare plinth in Trafalgar Square as part of Antony Gormley One and Other installation. He did some time lapse photography which you can find on his website. Unfortunately the site is down at the moment but will add a link in when I can get it to work but in the meantime it's www.dominicharris.co.uk.
I've embeded a slide show of my shots, some are just cropped and had a bit of colour work and others have had a bit more work done in photo shop, removing stray hairs and bits of dust etc.
A breezy, late spring day with clouds skirting across a beautiful blue sky. Nature is in it's final throws of seasonal renewal and it is so beautiful.
These were taken in Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens the latter of which I haven't really explored before:
This is the Barbican in Central London. I've been meaning to head here on a sunny day to take pics for a while. Now I don't know why I left it so long, the possibilities are endless...
As my job increasingly embraces the many facets of multi-media I get to do more and more different stuff like taking pictures and doing interviews on cameras of new developments.
A little side perk of this is I sometime sneak a few shots for my own collection, taking advantage of the behind the scenes access of empty buildings or views from less usual vantage points.
These were taken in a retail development I toured recently - I also made my online video debut doing my first piece to camera which wasn't as bad as I'd imagined. And no I'm not linking to it, that would be a little bit too much like blurring the work/life boundary.
April is normally the showery, unpredictable month, well more unpredictable than English weather normally is anyway. But this April has seen a long spell of dry sunny weather with unseasonably warm temperatures. Cue: May rain.
So it poured for most of yesterday forcing indoor play. Today dawned dry but threatening downpours. Cabin fever was setting in, so at the first merest hint of blue in the sky I donned sensible wet-weather shoes, dug out the brolley and winter coat (it's got quite cold over the last couple of days) and headed out with my camera to see what I could capture.
And as ever the South Bank didn't let me down...
Came down with another migraine on Sunday (boo hiss) but luckily I got this shot and a few others of The Monument before I was forced to head home.
I have been up to the top once and on another sunny day I will do so again.
Rest of pictures on Flickr as usual
We've been enjoying unseasonably settled weather of late instead of the usual sharp April showers. But I'm not complaining because when I got the train from London Bridge to go to the theatre in Greenwich last Friday evening there was the most amazing sunset.
It was one of those sunsets where the sun is so perfectly round, golden and majestic it doesn't quite look real. I couldn't tear my eyes away from it and wanted it to stay there forever.
Sadly nature and a moving train were never going to let that happen.
Here is what I managed to snap through the train window although they don't really capture it very well. If you look closely you can make out the London Eye at Waterloo in the first one.
A glorious Spring day today. Spring is my favourite time of year with mother nature waking up and yawning in glorious techni-colour. I love the young leaves which look so fresh, vibrant and fragile as they burst out of the branches, even the gangly looking horse chestnut tree leaves.
All these pictures were taken within a 10 minutes walk of my front door on a route that skirted Larkhall Park and took me along the boundary of the Landsdowne Estate towards Vauxhall. It is my regular route into town and compared to the views once I get to the river walkway at Vauxhall it's not normally that picturesque. But this is why I love Spring, it gives us little brief spots of beauty in the most unlikely of places...
On Easter Sunday I headed down to the coast, to Brighton, as the weather was looking promising and I wanted to play with my camera. (Brighton is called London-on-Sea by some owing to it being just an hours train ride away and subsequently has a pretty good restaurant, bar and shopping scene unlike a lot of the UK's tourist-tat seaside towns.)
I took some pics of Brighton Pier but mainly took pictures of the West Pier, which has seen better days. There were plans to restore it to its former glory it but sadly it was consumed by fire seven years ago and has been in the state you see in the pictures since. Oh and the chocolate shop in the first pic? That is Montezuma's. Brighton is where I discovered this dairy intolerant friendly chocolate heaven. (They have since opened a branch in the City).
My brother and Mrs Bro live there too so I hooked up with them after I'd finished taking pictures for a late lunch and a glass or two of wine.