On November the 26th/27th November 2012 I was lucky enough to spend a night in London taking part in a photography workshop. Something I certainly wouldn’t have done on my own, it was a organised workshop with the photographer Doug Chinnery and London taxi driver Terry Gibbins who is also an excellent photographer. Besides Doug and Terry there were 4 other photographers on this trip including myself. Of course Terry drove his taxi he knew the best places for our night photography and how to get to them. It was just as well we had a London cab because we just about all fitted in with the equipment we would require for the evening; along with our cameras of course tripods were essential. We got used to popping in and out of the taxi with all our gear, setting it up and then packing it away for the next shoot.
I was picked up by Terry at Waterloo station after a journey up from Gillingham. It was raining quite hard but Doug had assured us that rain would not dampen our photography night and as I was to find out it gave me some better photographs than if it had been dry! I was whisked away in the taxi towards Kings Cross station to pick up the rest of the group. I felt quite important sat in the taxi on my own taking in a few sights on the way!
Once we were all together we made our way to our first shoot, at around 8.45pm, which was the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square. We stopped for a short time to allow us to take a couple of images. It was then I realised how the rain helped in my pictures giving a lovely reflection on the paving in front of the gallery. There were a couple of security guards hovering but they left us alone, probably thought we were mad taking pictures in the rain. Apparently they can get quite officious about picture taking in the square, not sure why, but usualy only if you have a SLR camera a phone or compact camera no problem!
After staying for a short time we all bundled into the taxi and stopped near Westminster bridge and Big Ben at around 9.15pm. Our first experiment was to attempt to take pictures of Big Ben with light trails from buses as they went past. It was hit and miss and it took several attempts to get a picture I was happy with.
We walked over Westminster bridge, I tried to take pictures of the London Eye but it decided to pour with rain so it was difficult trying to keep the lens dry and getting a good exposure so we ended up sheltering for some time hoping that the rain would subside. Luckily it did, although it was still in the air and would walked along the Embankment taking images of Westminster the bridge and the Embankment itself. Because of the weather it was very quiet with just a few people walking about.
We left the Embankment around 10.25pm and we were dropped off near the Tate Modern Gallery at 10.40pm where we were to spend about 21/2 hours exploring the area around the Millenium bridge and then walking over to St Pauls cathedral. We all went in different directions looking for that composition and I found myself alone, a little worrying, but I didn’t need to be again, there were a few people about who passed the time of day (or night!) and left me to it. I found the Millenium bridge looking towards St Pauls and up river to the Shard and Tower bridge really beautiful. I am certainly not a city person but this was the way to see the sights of London!
At times there was a cloud over the tip of the Shard as the rain was still about although it wasn’t causing too much of a problem.
We took quite a few pictures in and around the Millenium bridge, there were so many pictures to take of different views and compositions. But then we crossed the bridge and made our way to St Pauls cathedral. Terry had bought his taxi round to the other side from the Tate Modern and he produced coffee/tea and a muffin for us all, which was welcome as it was quite chilly by then, particularly on the bridge. On our way to St Pauls I noticed the scene below and asked everyone to hold fire while I took the view. I loved the railings and the steps taking you up to St Pauls and just knew it would make a good image also the reflection of the rain on the pavement improved it no end. So it proved itself in a number of competitions within the Blandford Camera club and outside. I even sold some copies at one exhibition which I was pleased about.
We spent sometime taking images around St Pauls, we were lucky as the clocks had changed the weekend before so the floodlights on St Pauls went off at 1am instead of 12pm. We left just after 1am and went to an extremely dodgy cafe for something to eat. Doug had been before and said it was good but that night we all ended up leaving the food. I went down to the basement to the loos and they were horrendous. A case of putting it down to experience! Doug crossed it off as a place to visit.
It was time to go to Canary Wharf, we got there around 3.30am and again there were a number of interesting views to take around the area. I was amazed at how many lights were on in the high rises. They have left the old cranes on the old part of the wharf and I took an image including the old and the new. I went back to my wide angle lens to take the two pictures below around Canary wharf. The weather was pleasant then not too cold and it had stopped raining. I still didn’t feel tired, I was determined to enjoy every moment although the eyes got a bit heavy when we were in the taxi.
Close to Canary Wharf we walked to a bridge that overlooked the O2 Arena it looked impressive in the dark as it was all lit up and there was lovely reflection in the Thames in front of the Dome.
It was time once again to move on and it was about 4.15pm. Before we went on to our final shoots for the night we stopped in a little cafe near Smithfield market. It sold huge meals and builders tea for the workers in the market, it was very busy and an interesting experience. A huge mug of tea was only 50p!
We headed back towards Battersea alongside the Thames at around 4.50am stopping to take the London Eye from across the Thames, again it was lit up at that time of the morning.
Then on to a view across the Thames to the old Battersea Power station. It was quite difficult to see but I still managed to get some pictures of the iconic building.
Then on to our final shoot for the workshop where we had a view of the Shard and down the Thames to Tower bridge, which was not lit up at that time but worth taking a few pictures of, who knows when I would ever be here again! By this time the rain had started once again and it was to stay for most of the day.
I was taken back to Waterloo station in the taxi and only had a few minutes to dash along the platform to get a train, tired but very happy, just after eight in the morning, back to Gillingham and Dorset. It was a fantastic night, everything seemed to fall in place, the rain helped and didn’t cause too much of a problem so it’s something I will remember for many years to come.
I’ve produced a slideshow of the night, below, which I posted on YouTube which lasts about 10 minutes with more pictures.