Lumiere London

Way back in January, longtime collaborator Catherine and newbie Zoë went out for our first and so far only photo walk of 2016. It’s proven to be a busy year in many other ways and so photo walks just haven’t been something we’ve been able to sit down and even plan, let alone go on. I’ll have to take a look at the list of walks we didn’t quite achieve in 2015 and see if it’s practical to go on any of them before the year is out.

Our walk, as you can probably guess from the title of this post, was to the Lumiere London light festival. The festival ranged from the large, such as massive projections onto landmark buildings, to small illuminated displays in shop windows, with all sorts in between, such as this line of weird HAL9000/Cylon/TARS hybrid things that lined the Regent’s Canal near King’s Cross, where our walk started.

1/80, f/4, ISO 200, 28mm
1/80, f/4, ISO 200, 28mm

The lighting wasn’t all artificial – the moon also joined in as a beautiful crescent, which I quite liked framed amongst a sky of London rejuvenation.

1/6, f/4, ISO 100, 4mm
1/6, f/4, ISO 100, 24mm

We had chosen to do our walk on the first day of the festival, technically a couple of hours before it officially kicked off in earnest. Despite it only being a few hours away some installations seemed far from finished; this pond was to contain some sort of oversized diver model, but there were still crews around setting things up whilst we were there and no sign of any diver.

1/4, f/4, ISO 250, 24mm
1/4, f/4, ISO 250, 24mm

From this angle I had a decent shot of one of the cranes, against the gold to deep blue gradient of the last vestiges of a winter sun.

1/20, f/4, ISO 250, 45mm
1/20, f/4, ISO 250, 45mm

Near to the absent diver’s pond were some of the small shop window displays. The most eye-catching was this wedding dress made entirely of I-don’t-know-what, lit up by some magic I don’t understand, changing colours every so often. It was a challenge to photograph without catching lots of reflections of the others taking pictures in the glass, but I got a clean shot in the end.

1/30, f/4, ISO 640, 24mm
1/30, f/4, ISO 640, 24mm

The Lumiere Festival faced the often common decision facing any night-based major event: do it in summer when it’s warm, or in winter when it gets dark at a sensible hour? From the fact it took place in January you can tell what they settled on, but the flipside of not having to stay up until 10pm for it to be sort of dark meant it was absolutely freezing that day. Near to where we were there was the University of the Arts London, whose students were also participating in the festival, and crucially whose displays were inside.

Most of the works by the UAL students involved plastic bottles as a tie-in to some sort of environmentalism thing (admittedly I wasn’t paying attention to the specifics). These were illuminated in various colours earning themselves some wide and closeup shots.

1/10, f/4, ISO 640, 40mm
1/10, f/4, ISO 640, 40mm
1/8, f/4, ISO 640, 24mm
1/8, f/4, ISO 640, 24mm
1/125, f/4, ISO 640, 50mm
1/125, f/4, ISO 640, 50mm
1/250, f/4, ISO 640, 80mm
1/250, f/4, ISO 640, 80mm

Not everyone appeared impressed by the works.

1/8, f/4, ISO 640, 50mm
1/8, f/4, ISO 640, 50mm

And as is my usual wont, I took a shot of my photographic companions.

1/8, f/4, ISO 640, 24mm
1/8, f/4, ISO 640, 24mm

Some of the more interesting pieces there were sculpture made with bottle lights. Most of my shots of these didn’t come out due to the low light but I got this one of a heart.

1/6, f/4, ISO 1000, 24mm
1/6, f/4, ISO 1000, 24mm

We returned to the TARS things, and set up tripods on the canal bank to get some longer exposures of them doing their thing.

3.2sec, f/8, ISO 100, 24mm
3.2sec, f/8, ISO 100, 24mm
4sec, f/7.1, ISO 100, 24mm
4sec, f/7.1, ISO 100, 24mm

Finally some of the building projections started which, it turns out, are quite difficult to photograph effectively.

1/30, f/4, ISO 1250, 24mm
1/30, f/4, ISO 1250, 24mm

The cold soon got to us again and we went for a wander, and soon came to a fountain which, though illuminated, probably wasn’t part of the festival, but was appealing nonetheless.

1/10, f/4, ISO 500, 24mm
1/10, f/4, ISO 500, 24mm
1/6, f/4, ISO 400, 65mm
1/6, f/4, ISO 400, 65mm

In the other direction from these shots, across the water, there was one of the sculptures lit up for the event.

1.3sec, f/8, ISO 100, 55mm
1.3sec, f/8, ISO 100, 55mm
1sec, f/8, ISO 100, 24mm
1sec, f/8, ISO 100, 24mm

We walked closer to the sculpture, which was a sort of giant birdcage. It was here some fortunate happenstance took place – as I tried to take a shot, I messed up the exposure and in my confusion, moved the camera about as I turned it to look at what had gone wrong. The resulting shot, a mess of light squiggles of different colours, was pretty cool, so all three of us played around, opening our shutters for seconds at a time, and seeing what abstract forms would result.

15sec, f/16, ISO 100, 70mm
15sec, f/16, ISO 100, 70mm
20sec, f/16, ISO 100, 102mm
20sec, f/16, ISO 100, 102mm
8sec, f/16, ISO 100, 47mm
8sec, f/16, ISO 100, 47mm
13sec, f/16, ISO 100, 75mm
13sec, f/16, ISO 100, 75mm
15sec, f/16, ISO 100, 28mm
15sec, f/16, ISO 100, 28mm

After a while I tried to become a bit more precise about what I was splunging into my camera, and waited until the changing lights on the birdcage were arranged in a traditional rainbow, and tried to minimise my movements to keep the structure more intact.

5sec, f/14, ISO 100, 40mm
5sec, f/14, ISO 100, 40mm
5sec, f/14, ISO 100, 47mm
5sec, f/14, ISO 100, 47mm
3.2sec, f/14, ISO 100, 35mm
3.2sec, f/14, ISO 100, 35mm

At this point we decided to call it a day, due in no small part to the cold. All of our respective journeys home went through King’s Cross Station. Here we had our last sights of the light festival, as the tunnel walkway to the station proper was lit up in all sorts of colours.

1/60, f/4, ISO 100, 24mm
1/60, f/4, ISO 100, 24mm

The colours were changing constantly, and were to be honest a bit feint; in these shots I’ve nudged the saturation a bit to bring them out a bit more. Sometimes the colours weren’t so impressively varied.

1/60, f/4, ISO 100, 24mm
1/60, f/4, ISO 100, 24mm

I also found myself debating between waiting to get empty shots of the tunnel, or making it look like the busy part of London that it is.

1/30, f/4, ISO 100, 24mm
1/30, f/4, ISO 100, 24mm

My final shot is me getting abstract again, taking a shot of one of the corners of the tunnel. I found the light interesting, and looked pretty good in monochrome.

1/4, f/4, ISO 100, 28mm
1/4, f/4, ISO 100, 28mm

In the end I’m not sure we got the results we were hoping to get before we embarked on the walk, but they’re pretty good nonetheless. We got some pretty different shots to our usual walks as well. Hopefully we can organise something else before too long (although it may actually already be too long), but that requires us to actually be organised.

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