Spring Along the Thames #2

I like walking. I feel I should start with that so that you can consider the post that follows in that context, because we can all get carried away doing the things we love sometimes.

I’ve had the last couple of weeks off on leave for some needed (and, I might argue, deserved) rest and relaxation, which has mainly involved the deep cleaning and sorting of things, running of network cables, and configuration of AV amps, which admittedly is all stuff I also do in my day job. I’ve also managed to fit in a fair amount of video games, because I have a backlog of those to play as well. And most importantly, I managed to get outside, go for a lovely walk and take a few pictures.

This post is in many ways a rethink of the concept of my 2011 set Spring Along the Thames, although in practice it’s more of a return to the execution of its 2012 sort-of sequel Along the Thames. One of the problems I’ve had lately is a lack of creativity in things to do, with or without a photography element, and so this was relatively simple: take a walk along the river, and take some long exposures along the way.

My walk took me along the Thames from Richmond Lock towards Twickenham; as planned I was hoping to make it to Kingston, but the walk allowed for several abort modes if the going turned out to be too hard, especially with the full set of camera gear including tripod needed for long exposures.

I started photographing about the same spot that I did in Along the Thames, between the railways and road bridges connecting Twickenham and Richmond.

1/500sec, f/4, ISO 100, 24mm

The bridge we’re looking at here is the railway bridge, which is a lot more interesting than the concrete bridge that carries the road. It’s even more interesting when a train in its red, blue and yellow livery comes past.

1/500sec, f/4, ISO 100, 24mm

I then put on my ten-stop neutral density filter to get some longer exposures. I’ll admit to being a bit lazy here, and made sure I restricted the exposures to thirty seconds as that’s the longest my camera will do automatically without resorting to bulb mode and trial and error (it also emerges that, albeit only in Live View mode, the camera can suitably see through the ND filter to properly expose the shot. I didn’t try focus as I’d already set up for manual focus). I did this, even more lazily, by shooting in aperture priority (as I usually do) and just adjusting the aperture until the exposure was thirty seconds, which in this setting turned out to be f/16.

In my first shot of the same view as above, the barge in the right of frame moved around too much and turned blurry, so I used a technique I figured out on my first turn with long exposures, and borrowed a ‘normal’ shot of the boat from a previous frame and joined the two in Photoshop.

30sec, f/16, ISO 100, 24mm

It was a real quick and dirty Photoshop job but it passes first glance. I guess it also helps that what appears to be a hair in the bottom right of frame that is pretty distracting but which I struggled to remove effectively.

To minimise the movement I opened the aperture back up to f/4, which gave a much shorter exposure, making the boats sharper but still softening the water.

2.5sec, f/4, ISO 100, 24mm

When a boat came past a went back to a longer exposure to get trails.

30sec, f/16, ISO 100, 24mm

Deciding I’d exhausted this spot, I packed up and carried on.

I soon reached Richmond proper, where people were in the process of feeding the birds, watched over by this heron.

1/800sec, f/4, ISO 100, 105mm

These was also this probably-a-goose-but-taxonomy-is-not-my-strongpoint.

1/500sec, f/4, ISO 100, 102mm

Fittingly for spring there were a few animal babies around.

1/1600, f/4, ISO 100, 80mm

And a pigeon with ruffled feathers.

1/800sec, f/4, ISO 100, 105mm

I carried on. Just past Richmond there is some park space alongside the river.There, a few beautifully blossomed trees sat by the benches and a lamp, making for a great shot.

1/200sec, f/7.1, ISO 100, 24mm

As you can see, I’ve tweaked things a little bit to bring out the colours and the details. You wouldn’t want that pink to go to waste.

The day was lovely. The weather was what the forecast would call sunny spells, meaning that although it was for the most part sunny, there were lots of clouds to make the sky interesting.

1/2500sec, f/4, ISO 100, 24mm

After the open parks, the river breaks away to be mainly water and path, with occasional gates through to the spaces hidden behind the line of trees and bushes. There, the path is banked to the right by the river, and to the left by bushes, the latter dotted with simple benches from time to time.

1/160sec, f/4, ISO 100, 40mm

I soon passed Marble Hill House, a lovely historic building who would have been more photogenic if it weren’t for the boats parked in front of it.

1/1600sec, f/4, ISO 100, 35mm

My intention with this walk was to capture the essence of spring along the banks of the river Thames. That means warts and all, which is why when I caught sight of this backlit abandoned traffic cone I had to shoot it.

1/200, f/4, ISO 100, 28mm

I soon reached Teddington Lock (‘soon’ in this case being ‘1.5 miles later’, but the time just flew by). I had intended to shoot some long exposure here, but the angle I was at meant that there wasn’t any of the flowing water visible. I took a traditional shot regardless which again captures the lovely cloudy sky.

1/640sec, f/8, ISO 100, 24mm

In hindsight, this shot would have been great in a long exposure, but the path wasn’t that wide where I was to set up a tripod.

I carried on, and saw a few things sitting in the river that I photographed as part of my warts-and-all approach.

1/800sec, f/4, ISO 100, 60mm
1/250sec, f/4, ISO 100, 105mm
1/320sec, f/4, ISO 100, 47mm

I think the tyre in the latter shots had at some point been home to a bird’s nest.

The miles dropped by surprisingly quickly. My plan had been to walk along the river to Kingston, snapping shots along the way, get there mid afternoon for a late lunch, and then get the bus back home. I hadn’t actually looked up any distances, I just figured I’d made similar albeit shorter walks before. As it turns out I hit the outskirts of Kingston around midday, a lot earlier than I had expected, and despite it being roughly a six mile walk I was feeling okay.

Approaching Kingston the benches became a bit more plentiful, but I wasn’t needing them yet.

1/640sec, f/4, ISO 100, 24mm

I soon hit a bit of a sombre point, because the new life of spring became contrasted with a taste of death.

1/200sec, f/4, ISO 100, 28mm

This bench, and one other, both had dried out, dead flowers left on them, that had clearly been there for a while. It was a weird but appropriate reminder for why the benches were all there in the first place.

It was a little more stark a little further on, with a more dramatic memorial.

1/2000sec, f/4, ISO 100, 75mm

This was a memorial to a young girl who died whilst rowing about six months ago. I’m not sure how weathered such things would look after six months of winter so I’m not sure if they had been updated since.

1/1000sec, f/4, ISO 100, 58mm
1/640sec, f/4, ISO 100, 105mm

I moved on, feeling a bit self conscious photographing a such a relatively recent memorial. Things soon changed tone, with this tree stump carved into a seat, certainly the most unusual seating spot I’d seen.

1/125sec, f/4, ISO 100, 35mm

Just before Kingston proper, I found this submerged cone, which I loved contrasted with the blue of the water.

1/200sec, f/4, ISO 100, 67mm

I reached Kingston, and started looking for lunch. When the few places I felt like eating proved to be packed, I figured I might as well continue on, snacking instead on the cereal bars I’d brought with me.

On the other side of the river I set up for a long exposure of Kingston Bridge.

15sec, f/22, ISO 100, 24mm

At this point my plan was to continue on along the river for a bit, cutting into Hampton Court Park, then into Bushy Park, and then get the bus home from Teddington. At this point, technically the walk stopped being ‘along the Thames’, but there we go.

In Hampton Court Park the beautiful weather continued.

1/400sec, f/8, ISO 100, 24mm
1/1250sec, f/4, ISO 100, 40mm
1/2500sec, f/4, ISO 100, 24mm

I soon reached the Long Water, the stretch of water leading all the way to Hampton Court Palace itself. Myself and countless photographers before me have taken the symmetrical perspective shot looking to the Palace, so I decided to take one at bit more of an angle.

1/320sec, f/8, ISO 100, 24mm

Various aquatic birds spend their time on the Long Water. I don’t know what any of them are called so I’ll concentrate on showing you pictures of them.

1/1000sec, f/4, ISO 100, 105mm

Seeing these guys I crouched on the edge of the water to switch over to my telephoto to get a better picture. Doing this seemed to get their attention and they started heading towards me, so I didn’t need the telephoto any more.

1/250sec, f/4, ISO 100, 47mm

Of course, when they realised I had nothing for them, they left.

1/640sec, f/5.6, ISO 100, 73mm

All that was left behind was this one guy.

1/320sec, f/8, ISO 100, 28mm

They came back soon enough, but were not to be fooled again. I made sure to snap them though, as I loved how the colour of their feathers contrasted with the water.

1/1600sec, f/4, ISO 100, 80mm

There were some new people to investigate.

1/800sec, f/4, ISO 100, 105mm

I looked back to from where I had come.

1/1600sec, f/4, ISO 100, 24mm

At this point I took a short rest on a bench. The weight of my camera bag – which I measured after I got home at 7kg – was bringing to bring aches to my back and shoulder.

The bench had a great texture though.

1/80sec, f/4, ISO 100, 24mm

I got on my way, going through a cut-through from Hampton Court Park onto the main road that runs alongside it, on the other side of which is Bushy Park.

1/400sec, f/48 ISO 100, 24mm

In the field to the left of this image live some horses, and the trough from which they drink caught my eye.

1/1000sec, f/4, ISO 100, 35mm

Soon I was in Bushy Park.

1/400sec, f/4, ISO 100, 35mm

My plan for Bushy Park was to take some long exposures of the Diana Fountain, so I pretty much headed straight there, plonked my camera down on my tripod, and started shooting.

30sec, f/18, ISO 100, 35mm

As you can see, the clouds were moving, but not quite enough to get that lovely motion blur in a thirty second exposure.

Some shots I processed with some harsh tonal contrast, which dramatised the clouds but did undo some of the smoothness of the water brought by the long exposure.

15sec, f/22, ISO 100, 35mm
15sec, f/22, ISO 100, 32mm
30sec, f/22, ISO 100, 24mm
30sec, f/22, ISO 100, 24mm

Whilst I was crouching by my camera with the long exposures, a couple of swans showed up to see what I was up to.

1/640sec, f/4, ISO 100, 98mm
1/800sec, f/4, ISO 100, 70mm

I decided to move on, and it was at this point that I realised how much my legs were hurting. I packed up and walked to the edge of the park, where there was a bench to rest up on for a bit. That last little bit was a struggle, but even at the rest stop I’d found there was still near enough a mile to go until the bus stop that would take me close to home.

By the time I got home, my phone was telling me I’d walked over eleven and a half miles, or over 21,000 steps. This is obviously a lot, but it didn’t really start hurting until mile nine or so. That said, it did take a few days to recover from, and part of the reason this post is a day later than it was supposed to be is because I was laid out on Wednesday with probable sunstroke from the walk, which has only ever happened to me once before.

By Friday, three days after the walk, I could walk properly again.

Like I said, I like walking.

One Comment

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  1. A nice photographic commentary of a lovely walk along the Thames. I’ve been to most of the places you’ve mentioned, but never in one go. I like your exploration of bridges, particularly with the longer exposures. Great work, Rob! 🙂

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