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London Photography

I planned this day of photography well in advance, rail tickets are expensive and by planning ahead I must have easily saved in excess of £70 on fares for the two of us.  This was going to be a pleasant day trip to London, a chance to treat my wife to a lunch and dinner, combined with taking photographs of the London landscape...

However, the one thing I couldn't plan was the weather; the mist and drizzle was set for the day, and so this blog sets out to demonstrate that ideal weather conditions aren't necessarily needed in order to capture atmospheric images. 

We stayed well after sunset which opened up the world of night photography, suddenly river reflections and the London lights revealed a whole new world of possibilities. Please read on...

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Low cloud and mist tend to wash out the colour and so for the daylight hours I chose to convert many of my images to black and white.  To my mind mono photography can have a real impact, it strips away colourful distractions and leaves the viewer with the naked character of the photograph.  The image seems to have more atmospheric depth and is always worth a photographer's consideration.       

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Capturing atmosphere in an image can also be achieved by adding a sense of movement.  In the above image a slow shutter speed was deliberately used to ensure the pedestrians were slighty blurred, giving the impression of movement as they walked along the Millennium Bridge. St Paul's Cathedral dominates the background, assisted by the leading lines of the bridge.  

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In this image the red girders of Blackfriars Bridge add a solitary splash of colour to what would have otherwise been a fairly monotone image.  The red arches seem to punctuate the strength of the structure whilst the city's skyscrapers are slowly being erased by low cloud and drizzle. 

How an image is edited can have a dramatic effect on the final result.  Contrast, colour, saturation and exposure will change the look of a photograph in an instant.  My advice is to complement the subject in the way you edit.  For example a portrait, to me at least, should require very little editing work; it should be treated with a very delicate touch, whereas an urban scene might be improved through a stronger, well considered and complementary editing process...

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As night fell it was time to make good use of a camera tripod.  Longer exposures ensured I could still use a lower camera  ISO whilst gaining the benefit of adding a sense of movement in the water.  I could have also used a neutral density filter to dramatically increase exposure time; however, I wasn't going to gain that much and pleasure boats were passing by all the time.  In the end my night shots varied between a second or so, to around half a minute.

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The above landscape shot of the Shard building is one of my wife's favourites.  I chose to add a little more contrast and experiment with the various colour filters I have to see how the feel of the image changed.  Many of my night images made use of Adobe Landscape or Fujifilm Velvia filters.

The mist reflects the city lights pretty well and you can clearly see a dark column flanked high in the sky from the beacon of light at the top of the Shard.  It just so happens that my favourite colours fall in the purple/violet range and the bridge was lit in a wonderful purple hue.

If you do this kind of work make sure you take several images, just in case something goes wrong.  It's far better to use up memory card space with similar shots rather than get home to find your image was spoiled and you didn't realise at the time.  (Make sure you carefully wipe your lens often when there's drizzle about).

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I never get the perfect shot, I doubt I ever will.  There is always something that could have been better; perhaps there's a distraction or the conditions aren't right, there's usually plenty wrong in my eyes.  However, that's what often drives a photographer, striving for perfection is a good thing but don't get too hung up about your photographs.  Most people will enjoy them for what they are, and you shouldn't take pleasure away from your job/hobby just because you can see areas for improvement. 

I didn't think I would get much from a walk along the London embankment in such dreary conditions, but in the end I was pleasantly surprised, and feel that my photography was entirely worthwhile. :-)

Now, on a final note, a word to the wise...

A gentle stroll along the Thames from Tower Bridge to Westminster (and back again) is in fact quite a hike!  If you happen to have your beloved with you then be warned.  My better half won't forget our day out in a hurry, that's for sure! (I did look after her as best I could, but then again this is always true because I love her).

Please visit the full gallery of images on my gallery page.  There's plenty you haven't seen and I hope you've enjoyed pondering my musings on photography on a cold, misty, January day in London... 

P.S. If you appreciate my work please give a 'like' on my homepage too... click here thank you.

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