It was my sister-in-law’s birthday the weekend before last (on a related note, it’s my other sister-in-law’s birthday next weekend. This is technically stuff my wife should have to worry about, not me, but she’s not great with dates so I tend to have to remember these things for her).
For her birthday, she decided to take some friends and family along to the London Eye and the London Aquarium.
I’ve not actually been on the London Eye before. I’ve posted quite a few pictures of it, both here and on the Daily Photo, at night, in the sun, in silhouette, but none of these have ever been taken from the London Eye. So, I obviously made sure I had my camera.
I had hoped to also use the opportunity to get some photographs of people, but ultimately most of the shots I took of people were all of my niece (the ones that came out, at least). One of them was the subject of my last post; the rest will be reserved for another ‘portrait’ collection down the line.
After a bout of epic queuing (the ticket office also doubles as an effective queue simulator for any tourists wishing to experience the British way of life) we found our way into one of the pods.
I’m still considering ways to make that image a little more appealing. It possibly might look better in black and white, but I’m getting worried I’m overusing it as a processing option. That is, if it’s possible for me to overuse black and white? Plenty of people shoot exclusively in black and white. I guess they don’t use it to make duller images more exciting.
In my last post I raised the issue of over-processing photos. This next image, if anything, has more done to it than the image of my niece from that post.
There are varying levels of processing going on in this image. Most obviously, it has been desaturated. I’ve not used the standard technique, however – I’ve used something called ‘colour monochrome’. That may sound a bit oxymoronic, but ‘monochrome’ really means ‘one colour’. ‘Colour monochrome’ is is the same device used to turn images sepia – instead of black and white, it’s the colour of your choice and white. This image has used a dark grey, which has allowed for an interesting tonal range. There is also a slight tweak of the contrast, but the brightness and exposure has not been adjusted from the master image.
I’ve also performed a couple of repairs; the slight chromatic aberration has been fixed, a few specks on the lens which showed up on the cloud above the bridge have been removed, and I cropped the image in a little to eliminate some excess sky and position the bridge a bit more centrally.
Oh yes, and I also removed a boat from the foreground, because it made the image look untidy. It hasn’t fundamentally altered the image, but is it, perhaps, a case of over-meddling?
For those not familiar with London, we’re looking at the Hungerford Bridge. It is a railway bridge flanked on each side by pedestrian walkways (which are themselves not bad spots for London cityscapes). The railway leads into Charing Cross, a not particularly likeable station terminal which I spent two years commuting into. On most of those occasions I was late.
I managed to get a closer shot of Charing Cross, because from the outside it’s quite an interesting looking building.
With this image, I’ve partially desaturated it (saturation = 70%) and nudged up the contrast a little to give the photo a slightly aged feel. It seems to have worked, and ironically has actually brought out the colours more from the as-shot master (especially in the red and green buildings in the top right).
This image has also highlighted something I’ve not seen before, which is a bit of distortion in the lens. I’m not sure how visible it is in the image above (and the lower-resolution image as uploaded for this blog) but when looking at the actual pixels of the full image, the buildings at the very top seem to lean outwards from the centre of the frame. Not ideal, but since I’ve not noticed it before for now I’m not going to worry about it.
The London Eye spins clockwise as you look at it from the opposite bank, so you get great views downriver on the way up and upriver on the way down. Downriver from Charing Cross, just on the other side of Waterloo Bridge, is Somerset House, an 18th Century building that has survived since then despite housing the Inland Revenue for more than 150 years.
For this image I’ve ‘selectively monochromed’ – that is, removed all of the colours except one, in this case red. This has brought out the red of the buses on the bridge, but also – and this is one of the things I enjoy about this technique – left red in the cranes and buildings in the surrounding area (and, for some reason, it’s left a bit of green around too).
A nudge of the contrast, much like the image before it, has brought out a lovely amount of detail in the photo, although this one is a bit more cluttered with similarly coloured buildings, not making anything in particular (apart from perhaps the buses) stand out.
As the wheel brought us a bit higher, we began to get better views of the Houses of Parliament (one of the nice things about the London Eye is the pods allow for roughly a 270 degree field of unobstructed view most of the time).
This is where I learnt another lesson: if I want to photograph the Palace of Westminster from the London Eye, this is best done in the morning, not the afternoon, as in the afternoon you find yourself shooting into the light.
I’ve attempted to darken the highlights in this image, but I could only go so far before the reflection in the water started looking peculiar. I like how it’s turned out though; it looks like a wartime shot.
Shooting into the light in a glass capsule caused another problem: reflections. I didn’t have the issue looking out of the other side of the pod, but in this direction, with the sun in front of me, it was causing problems. It has, however, reminded me that all of the shots from the eye have a piece of curved glass betwixt camera and subject – could this be the source of the hitherto unnoticed distortion I’m seeing in some of these images?
As you can see, the day was not an entirely clear one, but it has created a lovely, misty feel to the buildings in the distance.
As any regular readers will know, I often forget things. I forget to change the aperture when moving from one subject to another, I forget to readjust the ISO, and I all too often forget that I actually own some filters. Nothing fancy, a UV and a polarising filter, but useful nonetheless. The UV filter would’ve helped cut through the glass and the haze. Fortunately, increasing the contrast can also help in this regard, as seen in this next shot.
The reflections I was battling with are far more apparent in this shot; a side effect of boosting the contrast is it brings them out against the sky.
I could’ve again darkened the highlights to bring out the horizon a little more, but I found it was making the water look too unnatural.
I was keen to also get a reference shot of where I was. Fortunately the capsule ahead of us was empty.
One of the appealing things about the London Eye to me when photographing it externally is its wireframe structure. It photographs well, especially in silhouette. I wanted to also try to capture that whilst on the Eye.
I also took a wider shot of the Eye’s framework, but for this one, I really can’t decide if it’s better in colour or black and white:
The colour version has the sky, which is a fantastic blue. I guess the black and white version is my way of trying to make a shot look ‘artistic’ when it doesn’t necessarily need to. I need to stop doing that.
For the best views of the actual Thames, rather than the various bits surrounding it (those pesky landmarks and suchlike), the best direction is to look upriver, where you can see the river for a fair distance before it meanders out of sight (it took many attempts by my geography teachers in school to get us to remember that the bend in a river is called a meander. They even went as far as bolding it and making it two out of the three options in the multiple choice tests. The end result? The only thing I remember from GCSE geography is the name for a bend in a river). Looking downriver, all you can see is one big meander surrounded by landmarks.
Unfortunately I was still having reflection trouble. So, I decided to get out of the direct sunlight and have a look at the views away from the river.
The most obvious thing to be seen was the Shard, still unfinished but coming along nicely.
The Shard is, or will be if it isn’t already, the tallest building in Europe. I’m not sure what they’re going to put in it.
Also at this end of the capsule was the doors, with a lovely warning notice that caught my attention.
You’ll note that I’ve been shooting at a slightly smaller aperture then I usually would. The intention being to get the landscape nicely in focus. For shots like this, however, which I have taken without much thought to the settings, the resulting image is not the one I would have intended to capture originally. However, having attempted a blur tool on this image, I actually prefer it like this, with the background reasonably in focus, rather than what would have resulted had I opened up the aperture.
As we began our descent back downwards, the wheel moved out of the way, allowing me a wider shot of the river.
It was roughly around this point that I remembered that I had a UV filter in my bag that might help with the haze. So I screwed it on to see what difference it would make.
I’ve still had to push the contrast high to get this result, but the end result seems more natural than some of the other shots. Alas, still a big chunk of reflections on the left side of the image.
As ever, I was hoping to photograph something a bit unusual whilst I was there, and the Thames duly delivered.
This is another shot with all of the colour removed except orange. I’ve also added a digital vignette.
Before long, we were disembarking from the Eye. As we headed down the ramp to the exit I turned and grabbed a quick shot of one of the pods.
After our trip on the Eye, we headed along the South Bank to get some food before going on to the next part of our day. Due to this post already being a bit long, those photos will be published separately.
I enjoyed the London Eye. Maybe someone without a camera just looking at the views could get bored during the thirty minutes or so it takes for the wheel to complete a full revolution, but I never had a lack of things to point my camera at.
I’d like to return to the Eye, preferably when the visibility is a little better, but also at a different time of day. I’d love to go early in the morning, when the run is rising and lighting up the Houses of Parliament from behind me, rather than bleaching out any image I try to take of it.
The wife and I are considering annual passes for a variety of London attractions, so maybe this will happen sooner rather than later.