After our visit to St-Dunstan-in-the-East, Catherine and I headed deeper into the City of London, chasing the sights of the modern high-rise skyscrapers that have cropped up over the last couple of decades and, as ever, anything else we might find along the way. We didn’t plan to visit any particular landmarks, we just wandered in that general direction to see what we found.
The first building, which we could see from the gardens of St Dunstan to help guide our way, was 20 Fenchurch Street – the building known as the Walkie-Talkie (and recently declared the worst building in the whole of the United Kingdom).
Still without a wide angle lens (I borrow one occasionally, but the one I’d most want to buy is quite a bit expensive) and not wanting to slow things down with multiple exposures so stitch together later, I’ve made do with as wide as my main lens will open. It hasn’t always been possible to convey the sense of scale in these shots, but I’ve done my best. There’s also a lot of shots looking straight up, enough that the built-in accelerometer in my camera couldn’t always tell what orientation it was in, leading to quite a few needing to be rotated in post, something I’ve not had to do in a while.
Looking up at the Walkie-Talkie as we approached it, I could see lights in the windows, which I tried to capture.
We walked right to the base of the building. The Walkie-Talkie is not exactly a straight building, with lots of curves and bends – the upper floors are actually larger than the lower ones. This led to the curved front of the building acting as a giant concave mirror on a sunny day and melting cars (the architect blamed the fact that the sun coming out in London was been something they had not anticipated).
These two images are an interesting comparison. The first is a ‘faux’ HDR shot, where I’ve tweaked the shadows and highlights in order to boost the dynamic range of the shot. The second is a true, three-exposure HDR.
The pictures are clearly different; I prefer the second, mainly because the colours are deeper and the image looks brighter. The first, however, arguably looks more realistic.
One of my favourite shots of 20 Fenchurch Street was taken from the very base of the building looking straight up, emphasising the lack of any straight lines anywhere.
The other side of the building is not quite so curved.
This side is arguably the front as it’s the one that faces Fenchurch street itself. It’s also the one that has the welcome sign outside.
We continued on our way, and shortly found ourselves in Leadenhall Market.
Leadenhall Market is the spot where all of the City workers go for after work drinks after a busy day fixing the Libor rate (allegedly), which which makes it a little bit surprising that there wasn’t any beefier security. You can easily imagine some disgruntled person taking out some anger on the perceived causes of what is often referred to as the current financial climate. Me personally, I was much more interested in the lights.
A bit past Leadenhall Market is the Lloyds Building, one of the most industrial looking financial buildings ever. Most of the lifts, stairs, power and air conditioning conduits are on the outside of the building to maximise the space inside. Architectural photographers have loved this building for decades. It’s easy to see why.
Underneath this section of the building was a cafe, so I was able to get right to the base of the pipes in the shot above, stick my camera into the middle, and shoot blind straight up.
My favourite part of the building was the lifts. This was the part that looked the most industrial.
For the most part, all of the shots of this building begged to be in monochrome. But the sun was just beginning to turn the light golden which also worked really well. It gave the images a look reminiscent of the models from Thunderbirds. I also really liked the blue lights on the bottom as they contrasted nicely with the yellow glow.
It could be argued there are few angles from which you can’t get an interesting shot of this building.
The undersides of the lifts looked like something from a low-budget science fiction show.
For a lot of the shots of the exterior pipes and conduits, because I was shooting straight up the accelerometer in the camera didn’t recognise the orientation of the shots. For most of them I left that untouched, the unusual angles adding to the abstract nature of the images.
Immediately facing the Lloyd’s Building is the Willis Building, and nearby is 30 St Mary Axe, known as the Gherkin. Nestled amongst them all is a church, making for an interesting juxtaposition.
We walked a bit further away from the Lloyd’s Building, and I got this wider shot of it.
The City of London is amongst the oldest parts of what we now call London. Which means that nestled amongst the modern skyscrapers are far older buildings, such as this church.
It was here in the shadow of the Gherkin we encountered a somewhat horrifying giant girl, part of a series called Sculpture in the City 2015, in which a number of pieces of artwork have been scattered around the financial district, presumably to add some sort of colour and culture to the drudgery of the people who work in the financial district.
We continued on, and soon came to the Leadenhall Building, known as the Cheese Grater: another building with an informal name you can’t quite tell if its meant as friendly or derogatory. What caught my eye about it was the exposed lifts, all of which had brightly coloured frames.
We found another church. In the grounds there was a sightline to the Heron Building with a few other buildings in the foreground. The gradually decreasing age of the buildings and their inverse height was pretty cool.
Starting to see more older buildings, we walked past a place called Gibson Hall, which has statues lining its roofline, covered in nets presumably to keep pigeons away. Silhouetted against the setting sun gave them a quite unnerving quality.
From there, we could see the Cheese Grater again. I loved the assortment of colours on show.
We headed away from the financial district, and started shooting more general sights. Catherine and I both saw this ornate shopfront which looked pretty cool in the evening light. I was never able to get a completely clean shot of the shop, but settled for an aesthetically pleasing alignment of pedestrians.
We rounded out the finance zone by the Bank of England itself, which it turns out isn’t all that photogenic. But nearby is the Royal Exchange, which is. Outside was a garden area which was pretty packed with people at the time.
There was also a statue of some guy, which looked pretty good in the golden light.
The area around the Royal Exchange is one of those parts of London where the streetlights and associated street furniture are all kept in a traditional style to match the buildings.
This streetlight had a little dragon atop the centre.
The garden area in front of the Exchange contained a lot of red flowers. Historically my camera has struggled to cope with large blocks of solid red, so I took this image initially out of spite – but actually it came out all right.
We walked around the Bank of England, where we found an interesting corner of the building that could have been used to provide people with shelter in the rain… if someone hadn’t designed it with a massive hole in the top. Still, as you can see through the hole to the golden statue on the roof it was ripe fodder for a HDR shot.
Our wander continued, this time with considerations of getting home. Our route out of the City ended up taking us past St Paul’s Cathedral just as the sky was looking interesting.
Once we’d gotten to St Paul’s, we were back into well-trodden territory for us, so we took no further pictures, and soon went our separate ways.
Catherine and I have a couple of other walks planned before the year is out. One is planned for October and may be retreading old ground with a new angle, and the other is exploring a new part of London we’ve not been to yet. We might even have some company as some other people are starting to be interested in coming along on our walks. I’m going to choose to think that means we must be getting good results, and not that we’re so bad that people are keen to come along and show how easy it is to do better…