Saturday, November 13, 2010

Visiting London

click photo to enlarge
"No Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford."
Samuel Johnson (1709-84), English poet, critic, writer and lexicographer

I visit London about twice a year, a frequency that I find is sufficient to give me a familiarity with the city, but is not so often that I tire of it. Over the years I have sometimes identified a particular location or event to take in during my stay. However, just as often, I have been happy to simply wander and look at what is to be seen. Perhaps if I wasn't interested in photography that wouldn't be enough, though I suspect that even if I didn't have a camera to occupy me I would still find the kaleidoscope that is our capital city a visual feast capable of engrossing me for days on end.

The infrequent visitor or tourist usually has a different picture of the city, one that consists of the famous "sights and sites" that everyone knows through print and film. The other day, when walking down the dark and narrow Shad Thames, I paused outside a shop selling tourist postcards, maps, guides and souvenirs, and took this photograph. I did so to get a literal and metaphorical snapshot of the icons that today say "London". Here they are in no particular order: the red "Routemaster" double-decker bus, Houses of Parliament, Tower Bridge, Queen Elizabeth, Princess Diana (for how much longer?), Princes William and Harry, the Union flag, St Paul's Cathedral, the London Underground sign, red letter-box, red telephone kiosk, the Tower of London, a Beefeater, guardsmen in ceremonial uniform, the London Eye, a black cab/taxi, and (unaccountably) a plate of fried bacon, eggs, sausage and tomatoes.

Along with millions of other visitors to London I've pointed my camera at some of these things. But on my recent visit we decided to depart from the much-trafficed centre, and headed for the old (and new) streets of Bermondsey. And very interesting it was too. I've said before that London isn't a place where I would want to live for a long time - I prefer smaller settlements and the countryside. So, to that extent I can't agree with Samuel Johnson. But, for three years or so, I would find it a fascinating location to explore in depth, and a place of great photographic potential.

photograph and text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 32mm
F No: f6.3
Shutter Speed: 1/30
ISO: 1000
Exposure Compensation: 0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On