Paul had been trying to arrange this get-together for months and I could sense his rising level of frustration as our diaries refused to co-operate. Then finally it looked like the stars might be aligning. I already had a date to be in London for an Underworld gig at Wembley, Paul was due to fly in from SA the following day and Pascal had a couple of days to make the trip; a coalescence of free days. As they used to say in Five-O, “Book ‘em Danno.”[Steve] I only know a few areas of London even passably well and so with a couple of new additions to my kit bag I duly followed Paul around some wonderful parts of the city shooting this and that. As it turns out, Pascal knows far more of the place than me!
The first of my recent additions is the tiny Laowa 7.5mm f2.0 for MFT. This was my second outing with it and I set it at f4 and focussed just shy of infinity and forgot about it. It’s not in my nature to be a lens reviewer and look at the difference in focussing ability in each corner and so on, I’m more, “Does this work for me? Do I like what I see?.” The answer to these simple questions with the Laowa is a resounding, “Yes!” I love this lens.
Whilst shooting the above images I was approached by an official with a coiled spring in his ear and a lapel that he talked to and was informed that I, “could not take pictures of the buildings. This is private land and it’s a security risk.” When I pointed to the surrounding hoards busily snapping away with their phones we were told that we could take pics of each other but not of the buildings. When I asked if I could snap Paul in front of the building he confirmed this was OK. But if Paul moved out of the frame this was not OK. As Paul said, “You can’t argue with stupid!” For the avoidance of doubt, the above image is the UBS building, Broadgate, 51°31’11.688″ N 0°4’59.082″ W
My second new piece of kit was an iPhone 11 Pro, jumping multiple generations of iPhone from my SE in a single bound. As others have written, the 11Pro is a three lens camera system with a high power computer and a phone thrown in for good measure. No, it won’t be replacing any of my camera kit but it is a more than worthy addition to my pocket.
I found the 11 Pro to be just great for wandering around the city as the daylight faded and the electric lighting gained prominence.
To be able to take pictures like this with a device that is almost always with me is an absolute pleasure. Whatever you may think about computational photography, pattern matching and so on, it’s hard to argue against the results.
I should add these images were shot in point and shoot mode as I have yet to delve into the vagaries of changing the depth of field after the event, altering lighting etc.
I also had my Ricoh GRiii with me as it fits so snuggly in a pocket, has a wonderful lens, is lovely to use and is great for snapping the street.
Images aside, there is something really special about meeting up to wander about the city in this way. As an excuse for meeting and hanging out, photography really works for me. I find the balance of social and personal time really interesting. The social warmth of pals engaging in a common activity is energy giving, (the regular stops for resuscitation helps that) but being a bit of an introvert I really value the quiet of walking and observing as well. It means I get to spend time with folk I love, doing something I love, in places I love. Bit of a love fest really! Should do it more often.
****************************************************[Paul] I have a Freedom Pass. issued by the London Borough of Hackney, it permits travel free of charge anywhere inside London’s Zone 6 – pretty much anywhere that buses, Underground, or any other form of trains reach.
Lately, I suspect Hackney has done a pretty big firmware update, possibly while I have been away in Africa for a couple of months. Trouble is, they’ve not shared the how with me yet, no explanatory letter, accompanied by helpful illustrations as to how to use this new enhancement. Nothing.
It’s a problem; walking London’s streets with Steve and Pascal last week, we were about to hop on the Tube and I was frantically scrabbling in my pocket for said Pass. Those of you of middle age – over 65 that is – will know that you must learn to always put things in the same place or they’re never where you expect them to be.
Here we were, helpful Steve and Pascal already had their contactless credit cards to hand, ready to tap and pay at the turnstile, but short of ripping the pocket out of the lining in my jacket, I was convinced that my fricking Pass had dematerialised.
“Quantum pocket” said Steve and suddenly I realised how clever those helpful folks at Hackney council had been. Clearly my Freedom Pass was in the other place when I first looked and now, at a second attempt, there it was, exactly where I had replaced it just a few minutes before.
So, there you have it. The Quantum pocket isn’t real of course, it’s just the manifestation of much more complex science, where you are led to believe that something could be in two places at once, except that is, when you really need it.
I blame Steve of course. He mentioned the “Q” word and I swear I felt a tiny rush in my pocket at the bloody Pass whistled off to elsewhere, making good on its unobservable promise.
Dammit. middle age is a bitch.
The longest day might be approaching in the UK, but it’s too early to anticipate the gradual easing of winter. That won’t happen until late March. Meanwhile, the intervening days will be predictably cold, wet and often completely cheerless.
So, a gathering of DS photographers in mid-December was probably well timed. I wanted to catch lots of low angle sunshine and failing that, drama from the rain.
Pascal’s plans were to photograph the contrast between old and new, drab and colourful and – as always – exotic cars in their natural habitat. Steve, new iPhone rarely in his pocket, found computational photography at least as entertaining as his M43 Olympus kit.
Between us, we wandered the NE end of the City, Liverpool Street, both Bishopsgate and Broadgate, Shoreditch, parts of Clerkenwell, Mayfair and Soho.
The weather started promisingly, but by early Tuesday evening, almost as though planning to spoil Pascal’s joining us from France, had turned to a strong wind and rain. Our days started around 10:30, when the sun was well up. Six or so hours later – with Daylight Saving Time (how aptly mis-named) making it dark around 16:00 – we called a halt to the day’s photographic proceedings and headed for a nearby hostelry and some regenerating warmth.
In short, winter-time London can delight just as fully as it can during mid-Summer. It’s really up to the photographer – the images are there, we all just had to work a bit harder for them.
****************************************************[Pascal] Drat. Here I am, having to follow those photographs and clever thoughts. My memory of the three days is blurred by silly giggles and rain, or maybe that’s just my normal state of remembering.
Quantum brain. That’s me. One minute a thought is there, the next, it isn’t.
Let me stick to the strongest impressions, then. To me, London is three things.
What was I saying? Oh, yes. Colourful. London is colourful. Everything in London has colour. The signs, the clothes, the window frames, the lights. Heck even the bin bags.
Second: London is quriky. Well, all of the UK is, but London has an intellectual quirkyness to it that makes it deeply lovable to my quantum brain.
Obviously, those two things often mix into a colourful quirkyness that I find deeply uplifting. Although, let’s face it, the colourful clothes and superficial weirdness are just self-preservation, countermeasures for the excesses of political correctness that permeate the land, they’re still a joy to behold.
Finally, the architecture in London is so photo-friendly, I can’t keep my hands off my shutter release in its presence.
Obviously, in architecture as well, colours can be all over the scale, even in the most hubris-infused financial areas that have been allowed to colonise the whole place by Lord Bojo and his Joyful Band of Quantum Thieves (now you commit high treason – twice – now you’re Prime Minister).
But what I enjoy most of all is the seemingly random juxtaposition of ultra-modern and old, sometimes derilict, that occurs everywhere in the city. If you too enjoy this, I urge you to visit soon. The Thames ain’t the Huangpu, but the local kommandantur seems almost as hellbent on destroying all heritage as Pin in Shanghai. The traditional may well be on its way out … so let’s enjoy the duality while we still can.
And then, of course, with all this wealth comes the fun of exotic cars. Old fashion smokey puffey engines with enough cylinders for a Warhol mural and enough leather to send Brigitte Bardot, the other famous French Brigitte, into cardiac arrest. And, of course, colours that are refrehsing when you come from a country that thinks 50 shades of grey is in fact the ISO palette for a car catalogue.
What can I say … everything about those things is objectively wrong – and, as Pascal O recently pointed out, none of them are truly British anymore – but I just equate those excessive monsters with freedom of spirit. And heck, even in London, it’s hard to escape the grey Beemer/Audi workmobile. So these exotics feel like the last pocket of resistance against uniformity of thought in Europe.
When the UK finally gives in, I’ll move to the US and get myself a pink Wrangler Rubicon.
And let me end this random walk in the colourful quirkiness of London with a couple of B&W shots, because I just can’t … not.
Aaahhhh, that’s better. Quantum colour.
Thank you Paul, for organising this. Thank you Steve for getting the writeup started. Thank you both for the great company. Let me end with another quantum thought. We made of those photographs together, but we are only discovering them here. A bit like trees falling in the forest, then, right?
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