I live just ten miles from the centre of London and yet, prior to working as a professional photographer, I would probably only visit the City once or twice a year. Shameful, I know! Now, however, my job takes me to the Capital every other day. Despite the extensive amount of time I spend there, it never fails to amaze me. Just wandering around the side-streets unveils new discoveries every time, while the familiar landmarks never fail to make an impression.
The reason for one recent visit was the London Marathon. There to meet friends at the finish line meant I had a good few hours to wander around armed with my camera. My latest purchase is a Canon 16-35mm wide angle lens. The perfect city lens? This was my chance to find out.
I started off in and around Canary Wharf. Despite being packed with runners, spectators and cordoned-off streets, there is no-end to the shots a photographer is presented with. The miles of steel, glass and striking architectural design – it’s all so mesmerising.
Taking the Docklands Light Railway over the Thames to Greenwich takes the scenery from one extreme to another. Brand new becomes historically old. City skyscrapers are replaced with rolling green parks, the Royal Observatory and the National Maritime Museum. If it wasn’t for the presence of Canary Wharf towering high in the backdrop, you could easily be forgiven for thinking you were in any rural English town. Queen’s House (pictured below) was a royal residence from 1616-1619 and is famous for being the first consciously classical building to have been constructed in Britain. A far cry from the iconic modern structures dominating the skyline beyond.
From there, I jumped aboard the river’s Clipper shuttle service. A breathtaking way to see London. I headed towards the City. More specifically, the financial district around Bank, Monument and Canon Street. It’s here where you’ll find the Lloyds building, Gherkin, and Tower 42 – now icons in the ever-changing London skyline.
The Lloyds building in particular is one which really stuns. My first thought upon seeing it? ‘Where would you even start with the design blueprints?’. It resembles a rather large magnet, on to which random pieces of metal have become stuck – which mirrors its ‘inside-out’ nickname. It’s impressive, especially when you consider it was commissioned in the 1970s. It easily resembles something from the 21st century – a testament to its design.
Even if you know your way around London, as a photographer, you will need to revisit many times if you want to come away with anywhere near a complete set of shots.
My five hours still left me wanting. Battersea Power Station, St. Pauls Cathedral, The Shard, Chinatown, Carnaby Street, the numerous parks, museums, monuments, back streets and train stations – such as London’s Paddington, below. Then there’s the London which comes to life after dark. Night photography in the City is a full-on excursion in itself and currently top of the list for my next photo-walk. For now, I just need to ensure I take the opportunity to capture this beautiful city more regularly for reasons other than for work.
Author and Photography – Oliver Pohlmann