#946. The London Walkabout a.k.a. the Strange Affair of the Quantum Pocket

By Steve Mallett | Travel Photography

Dec 27

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.”

Underworld, Wembley Arena – (old) iPhone SE
[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!

Slant – E-M1 Mk ii, Laowa 7.5mm, f4

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.

Lone Tree – E-M1 Mk ii, Laowa 7.5mm, f4

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

Lamp Post – E-M1 Mk ii, Laowa 7.5mm, f4

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.

Ten to Twelve – 11 Pro, 6mm, f2
Tate Britain – 11Pro, 4.25mm, f1.8
Father and Son – 11Pro, 4.25mm, f1.8

I found the 11 Pro to be just great for wandering around the city as the daylight faded and the electric lighting gained prominence.

Blue Hour – 11Pro, 6mm, f2
China Town – 11 Pro, 4.25mm, f1.8

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.

The Italian – 11 Pro, 4.25mm, f1.8

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.

Connected – Ricoh GRiii, 18.3mm, f5.6
Fish – Ricoh GRiii, 18.3mm, f5.6
Baubles – Ricoh GRiii, 18.3mm, f5.6
In The Pink – Ricoh GRiii, 18.3mm, f5.6

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.

Too late – Brick Lane
Sculpture in the rain
“Better a mile too long, than an inch too short”

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.

Broadgate smokers
Morning sun, Shoreditch
Christmas lights, Shoreditch style

“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.

Liverpool Street Station – someone’s going to have some fun tonight…
Wet Smithfield
Rain at Farringdon

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.

Regent Street at Christmas
Liverpool Street Station – hurry, hurry, hurry

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.

Jen Café
Peeking duck

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.

Red bag at night, cleaner’s delight
Some random tourist spot
Red and pointy
Roadwork gamut

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.

Bugger off
LLIH sriahc
Singing in the streets
Enoteca de Luca de Lon’on
Balls and neons

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.

Bob was high
I see a white door

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.

Pause …
… and reflect

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.

Bring back the bumbling blue Bentley
Who needs a house?
A Paul in the boot!
West End Camo
Blast from the past

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.

Royal extasy
I was lost, no idea where this is
Goldsworthy, the architect

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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  • Peter Oosthuizen says:

    Thanks for the entertainment – really hard to fault the iPhone shots for quality. Perhaps time to accept and bow to the inevitable. Waiting for the 600 f4 equivalent though 🙂 I’m also delighted that 65+ is now middle age – that makes my life expectancy another 55 years.

    Thanks also for the posts throughout the year – unique and thought provoking. Good light for 2020.

    • Steve Mallett says:

      Peter, that might be a long wait. At least I hope so. As for 65+ being middle aged I wonder how many 130 year-olds Paul knows….

  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    iPhone or Android, sorry & all – yes these things create “images” – but for all their high tech, those images lack something that I see in “photographs” – a certain “je ne sais quoi” – except that I DO “sais” what it is – I just can’t put it into words.

    And that’s before any attempt to compare these images on a non-digital platform – as prints, rather than a quasi-hologram on another cellphone, or on a video screen of one form or another.

    Anyway – the world has passed judgment – 99%-plus of all “images” are now created cellphonetically, and less than 1% photographically. I’m just an “old-ager” (way past Paul’s post-dated middle age) who has always ignored fashion and mob behaviour, I’ve never eaten a “Big Mac” and never will, and everyone else is also going to do what THEY want, so you can’t even get a discussion going on this subject – just “opinion-itis” – at best, sugar coated to LOOK like a conversation, but lacking one characteristic – the ability of anyone on either side to recuse from their opening view.

    And I am on record as having used one of these images – once – turning it to my advantage – winning an argument at the checkout in a supermarket which had displayed the wrong price on a delectable French blue vein cheese – at first they countered by telling me I was wrong about the price on display, they’d checked it after I started claiming it was the lower price and I was just mistaken – but they got very embarrassed when my faithful old Nokia “tradesmen’s model” cellphone was produced, showing an image quite different from what they were claiming, proving they were telling lies to a customer, and I was quite correct after all. I walked out of their shop with twice as much cheese as I’d taken to the checkout, and had 45 dollars’ worth of French cheese for a mere $2.45. That was their punishment, and it proved there is some good in cellphone-ography after all.

    Back to London.

    Yes of course it has lots of colour. To make up for the dreadful drab wet foggy weather and gloomy natural lighting. One pundit on the ‘net suggested that the real reason why Britain wants Brexit is so that it won’t be ordered to fall into line on the climate crisis – while much of the world will then fry, Britain will end up with a more Mediterranean climate, and Brits will no longer need to drive miles, to places in Spain etc, to sun tan! There’s also tons of artificial lighting – no doubt for similar reasons – but other places have artificial lighting too. Around here, a lot of it seems to be turned on at 3 o’clock i the afternoon and not turned off again till around 10 o’clock in the morning, just like the lights in London – but with the sun light starting before 6AM and dusk not falling till nearly 7PM, I can’t quite figure why. Perhaps it’s because this place started life as a British colony.

    Steve, I was interested in your argument with “stupid” – I had a similar one, in the late 1980s, when I did a “visitors’ tour” of Australia’s [then comparatively] new Parliament House in Canberra. I was just about to enter the building through the “tourist” entrance, when – to my great amusement – I spotted a sign telling the incoming flock “Minimum Dress Standard – Thongs”. Laughing at the thought of bogan Aussies trying to enter the building, stark naked but wearing the mandatory rubber thongs on their feet, I started aiming my camera at it, when “stupid” stopped me and told me I couldn’t take any photos “there” – I had to enter the building first. But that meant I’d be past the sign, and no longer able to see it to take a photo. I suggested I could stay outside and take the photo and he said I couldn’t do that either. None of this made any sense. So I felt your pain, reading how you fared. Of course you can have your cake and eat it too – easy enough to crop out the unwanted human, in post processing – and you can get the shots you want, positioning the unwanted human where you intend to make your crop later, anyway, so that you end up with the photo you originally wanted, and the village idiot ends up with what HE wanted, and the only casualty is the unwanted human whose life expectancy is cut short on the cutting room floor. Everyone’s happy! Life is Good!

    You guys might have noticed I’m skipping around the subject matter of this post. I live in a place where our water supply is now largely from desalination of sea water – where you can suntan practically year round, and people regularly go swimming before they head off to work, year-round. Of course the temperature does occasionally descend to about 1 degree celsius (around 33-34 degrees farenheit) but that’s only at midnight or 1AM, so nobody much cares. And using sunblock to avoid getting skin cancers is more of a problem than getting a vitamin D deficiency from inadequate exposure to sunlight. So I can’t relate to London – been there (on various jobs that landed me at Heathrow and holed me up in a hotel in central London, occupying the former MI6 headquarters, with a view across the Thames to the former realm of Boris the Beloved, in the LCC’s headquarters on the opposite side of the river) – and I have to admit, it did NOT rain 24/7, 365 days of the year! – but as the Brits themselves might say, “it’s not my cup of tea” – so I am declining to comment further.

  • Lad Sessions says:

    The photos are wonderful, and convey a great sense of place, and the commentary is great fun. I think triocular vision is a great improvement on the usual monocular kind, and I thank you 3 camera-teers for this experiment. As for quantum behavior of keys, passes, cards and the rest, I like the conceit, however improbable.

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